Early thoughts on Kuala Lumpur

We did it.  We made it through three flights to arrive clear across the globe.  (Oof, those flights.  More on that later.)

Kuala Lumpur, or KL, is the capital of Malaysia.  The greater KL area has more than seven million people.  It feels like it.  Especially when you’re driving.

KL is 12 time zones different than Eastern Standard Time.  This is farther away than Rome, but I’m finding it to be easier.  It’s a snap to know what time it is back home.  Also, instead of just one call window, I have time in the morning and evenings now when I can call.  I’ve been trying to hype this as a positive for the grandparents.  I’m not sure they are convinced.  Yet.  Muhahaha.

There’s a lot of great stuff here.  And some things we’re finding challenging.  You know, the usual.  Here are some of my early thoughts on KL.  This is my first time in Asia so much newness all around.

Continue reading

Two Things that are Harder than I Realized

12.8_harder cover

So . . . we went to Malta last month.  I promise to talk more about it soon.  (Short recap:  it was awesome, surprisingly kid friendly, you should totes to it.  Oh, and I flew by myself with the chitlins.  What???)

Being there made me realize some things though.  Just like it is OK to admit things can be hard, I think it is OK to acknowledge that some things are tougher than I realized.

Continue reading

3 Weird Things about Italian Day Care

As I mentioned here, our routine has changed recently.  Henry is doing a few hours a week at asilo nido AKA Italian day care for ages 0-3.  (Nido means nest.)  After age 3, kids go to public scuola materna.  A friend here is doing the process for her child.  It involves multiple passwords and secret handshakes and sounds more difficult than college applications.  Luckily, Henry’s asilo covers up to 5 years so we shouldn’t have to change in a few months.

Why did we decide to do this?  Two main reasons.  Number one is for the interaction with other kids.  Henry does get to see friends at least one or two times a week and he has his brother, but we wanted to up the ante.  Henry has been practically tackling other kids at the playground because he wants playmates.  OK, message received.

Second, we wanted to give him a shot at some Italian.  I was previously skeptical, but that kid really is a little sponge.  He’s not getting much of an opportunity to advance his foreign language skills around me.  This way he will at least have a fighting chance.  (Some of his teachers speak English; we didn’t throw him completely in the deep end.)

Although this was not a primary reason, we did want to give me a breather as well.  The jury is still out on whether this is really a break.  Getting out of the house in time for school can be a pain.  Henry is only doing two hours at a time.  Granted, this is two hours more than before, but it isn’t a ton of time away.  And I still have Mac.  But getting out of the house is growing easier, and I’m able to do some things with Mac that I haven’t attempted with both kids.  The idea is that eventually Mac will do a few hours at day care as well, and then I will have no idea what to do with myself.  (“FREEDOM,” William Wallace styles.)

We certainly did not decide to do this for the free helping of illness we’ve all enjoyed.  Once Henry started, I think we were all sick for about a month.  Thankfully, that has evened out (furiously knocking on wood), but I’m holding my breath until the next outbreak.

Henry has been going for about two months.  Sometimes I’m frustrated, but I think it is a positive development overall.  Henry has a new bestie named Isabella.  He has started looking forward to school.  Here are some things that have thrown me for a loop as we’ve been figuring this out.

1) You can park your baby

What Henry is doing is called baby parking.  I’m not translating.  That is what they call it.  Baby parking.  This means you just drop your kid and pay by the hour.

Crazy, right?  Technically, it isn’t as willy nilly as it seems.  They do ask for you to have a general schedule.  But still.  Hourly coverage when you need it.

I can’t see how this would fly in most places because of required teacher to student ratios.  If you don’t know how many kids are showing, how do you know how many teachers need to show up?  I think the answer is either a relaxed or nonexistent ratio law here.  Henry’s asilo claims they have a 1 to 5 ratio.  I’m skeptical.  Obviously, I feel comfortable or I wouldn’t have Henry there, but I don’t think it is 1 to 5 every minute of the day.

This works out great for us.  I only pay for the hours I use.  I came into it thinking I would do 1-2 days a week.  They suggested 4-5 because they think a child thrives more with regularity.  We compromised on 3.  But if I don’t feel like taking him, I don’t.  Yesterday, it poured rain all morning.  I didn’t feel like walking around in the rain.  We didn’t go.  No cost to me.

I prepaid for a bunch of hours and they gave me a sort of punch card.  I mark down as the hours are used.  They claim they are also tracking, but I’d be surprised.  Again, I trust them with my kid, but I don’t think it is the most organized operation.

2)  $$$

Speaking of paying for hours, day care seems so CHEAP here.  The hourly rate is 9 euro.  8 euro if you prepay for 50 hours.  7 euro if you prepay for 100 hours.  You can guess what we did.

But the full-time rate also seems super cheap.  Looking at this day care and other local ones, full time care is in the $400 – 700/month ballpark.  That is 1/3 to 1/2 what we paid in DC.  And Henry’s day care has an organic chef on-site, something ours did NOT have back home.  So this could be considered pricey in other parts of the US, but it is a steal compared to DC prices.

3)  Stairs, the bane of my existence

After about a month, Henry’s asilo moved to a new location.  Everyone raved about the new place.  Bigger!  Better courtyard!  So much light!  And the building is lovely, but we went from a scenario where I could walk my stroller in and park it under a covered pavilion to STAIRS.  Not just a few stairs.  A lot of stairs.

3.26_asilo 1

These are no-way-around these stairs.  You get buzzed in off the street, and there is a little landing.  Then you have 8 stairs to get down to get inside.  I end up cramming my stroller to the side of the landing beside some other strollers.  Unloading both kids.  Schlepping down the stairs.  Repeat in reverse for pickup.  It’s a huge pain.

3.26_asilo 2

The stairs mystify me.  More than 90% of the patrons here walk and drop their kids by stroller.  How are people not up in arms?  A friend tells me that most places have stairs.  Just because of the older buildings.  All the day cares have it so no one complains.  They are just used to it and deal with it.  The vast majority of people I see also seem to be dropping only one kid.  I’m sure that helps.  Me with the spaghetti noodle arms though, I’m not making it up and down the stairs with a the double stroller.  I would like one ramp, please.

There are other differences from DC, like having to change Henry to inside shoes when we get there, but nothing earth-shattering.  The teachers seems positive, energetic, and excited about kids.  That’s probably the number one thing I look for.

Anything else you are curious about? 

Psst.  Want more differences?  Differences around the house here.  Differences on lifestyle here.  Differences on starting solids here

Are things different? Glad you asked: Starting Solids Edition

As I mentioned recently, we just started solid foods with Mac.  I forgot how much of a pain solids are.  Yeah, it is awesome seeing your kid doing a new thing.  Yeah, they look really adorable.  But, man, it is messy.  Now I get spit up and random bits of food.  Cleaning the giant high chair tray in the not-quite- big-enough sink is a pain.  And then you have to remember to bring food for them when you go out.  And spoons.  And bibs.  And even more wipes than usual.  Luckily, we haven’t reached that point because we’re just dabbling with one meal (or so) a day, but it is coming.  And soon.

As many things, Italians have a different approach on starting solids.  Our pediatrician is supportive of us doing it “the American way,” aka rice cereal with milk or formula, but wanted us to know about “the Italian way.”  (She is also supportive of our current approach for Mac, “the what worked for Henry way,” aka bypassing rice cereal and jumping into veggies and fruits.  Henry is a pretty great eater; I’d like to replicate as much as possible.  If only I could remember what we did!)

Here is a snippet of the instructions she provided:


Making your own broth for cereal?  Cool, sounds good to me.  What cracks me up is that the Italian approach adds Parmesan cheese and olive oil right away.  Priorities!  What cracks me up even more is that an “espresso size spoon” is used for measurement.  Because, of course it is.

After the cereal, babies work on veggies and fruits.  And eventually work their way up to:

11.19_solids 2

Yes, rabbit and veal.  It is safe to say that baby food looks a little different here.  No judgment.  I just have to laugh that they put the most adorable magician’s- hat, want-to-be-your-pet, snowy rabbit on the packaging.

So far Mac has done carrots, zucchini, sweet potato, banana, apple, and pears.  He was tentative for anything non-sweet at first, but now is pretty enthusiastic about whatever we throw his way.

11.19_solids 3

We have plans to start with the white meats on Thanksgiving.  Still working up to rabbit . . .

What was your approach on solids?  Did it include cereal?  Veal?  Espresso?  🙂

Want more differences?  Differences around the house here.  Differences on lifestyle here.

All the rage in Milan, I mean Rome

Let’s talk fashion.  Style.  What the Romans are wearing day to day.  But first, let me acknowledge that this post would be infinitely better if it was filled with pictures of actual Romans.  I get that.  But originally this post was going to have no pictures.  I didn’t want to stealth photo anybody, and I didn’t see interactions to ask for a pic going well.  (Besides the fact that I generally have hands full of stroller navigating 45 degree angled sidewalks which does not make it easy to quickly pap someone.)

But then I had the “brilliant” idea of at least photographing shop windows.  And asking James to stealth photo people.  (You’ll see; James stalked A LOT of dudes for this post.  I think I’ll actually make that a whole separate post.  I know.  The suspense is killing you.)  So there is glare, but let there be photos!

I like to pretend that James was hiding in the bush to take this picture

I like to pretend that James was hiding in the bush to take this picture

So with that out of the way here are some generalizations about fashion I’ve seen during my two months in Rome.  I would not say this goes for the rest of Italy, or even the other side of the city.

If I had to pick one word for Roman style it would be deliberate.  An outfit may not be my exact cup of tea, but everything looks like it is selected purposefully.  People have really embraced Stacy London’s “completer piece.”  There is usually something–a jacket, cardigan, scarf, or necklace–that ties everything together and makes it look even more deliberate.

10.23_fashion 2_icon

In Rome, people dress the seasons and not the weather.  (This did not seem to be the case at Hadrian’s Villa where it seemed to be acknowledged that wearing a jacket in 85 degree weather is ridiculous.)  Temps are finally cooling, but once mid-September hit, it was all jackets, scarves, and boots all the time.  Even when it was in the 80s.  Strangely, people do not seem to be uncomfortable.  Good for them.  I’d love to know the secret.  Probably something obvious like “be from a Mediterranean climate.”

10.23_fashion 6

The print on this dress. I die!

Clothing pieces seem to be a little more special.  I think this contributes to the deliberate look that is put together.  I’ve noticed pieces with drape, asymmetry, extra zippers, bits of leather, or pockets that just give that little bit of pizzazz.

10.23_fashion 10

For men, styles are generally tighter.  Pants and tops.  I see collars–polo or button-up–more often than not.  When no collar, a large amount of message or graphic tees.  I’ve seen this on both sexes but more for men: a sweater over the shoulders is a prevalent fall look.  Men of all ages wear scarves.

10.23_fashion 7

Men of a certain age almost universally wear utility vests.  I’d like to know how this comes about that these men look ready to go fishing or sweep streets.  Do they hand them out at your retirement party?  “Ah, finalmente, I have space for my keys and tissues!”

But really, what do they put in all those pockets?  I saw a man with a utility vest AND a man bag once.  His umbrella didn’t fit, I guess?

I’m looking forward to seeing how utility vests are styled as it gets colder.  I saw a man with a windbreaker OVER his vest the other day.  Which seemed odd, but after greater inspection, makes sense because then you can take off the windbreaker.  And stuff it in one of your utility vest pockets.  I am also seeing some jackets that look like utility vests with sleeves.  Stay tuned!

Blurry, but an excellent representation of the vest.  Many more vest pics to come.

Blurry, but an excellent representation of the vest. Many more vest pics to come.

On women, styles are both tighter and looser.  They like to play with proportion.  I have seen some amazing harem and parachute pants that would make Princess Jasmine envious.

I'm also seeing 3/4 length sleeved puffer coats.  Sadly not pictured.

I’m also seeing 3/4 length sleeved puffer coats. Sadly not pictured.

Women of all ages have great style.  A friend described what they call the “fashion mullet” aka seeing someone who appears very young from the back based on their outfit, but is much older when turning around.  I haven’t noticed this as much, but maybe just because I want to be wearing tight pants and camo when I’m 80.  I saw a grandmother wearing a sheer shirt once, but she was definitely pulling it off.

10.23_fashion 9

Romans do not wear hats.  (Other than moto helmets.)  I noticed because James usually wears baseball caps, and I was hunting for an Italian alternative.  There is not one.  This is true even for kids.  When Henry wears his hats, it means I can pick him out from across the playground.  If you see someone with a hat, this is a likely indication they are a tourist.

Do not be fooled by the hat the mannequin is holding.  No one will buy it.

Do not be fooled by the hat the mannequin is holding. No one will buy it.

Or you can look at their shoes.  I have seen some fabulous shoes here.  Generally not on tourists who go for comfort above all else.  I have seen plenty of women in sky high heels and wonder how they navigate the city.  But I’ve seen other shoes that look more comfortable but still interesting.  There are plenty of boots out there now, natch.  See earlier statement about fall.

10.23_fashion 11

More often than not, outfits are accessorized with a cigarette.  I truly don’t care if you smoke, but it is a peeve of mine when people walk down the sidewalk smoking.  It just makes it impossible to dodge.

I’m probably (definitely) deluding myself, but I don’t think I stick out that badly.  I like tight pants.  I’m not wearing tennis shoes.  I like jackets.  Just not in 80 degree weather.  But my pasty complexion will give me away every time.

Are things different? Glad you asked: Lifestyle Edition

Differences around the house summarized here.

Before the move, I was a full-time associate at a law firm in DC.  Henry was in daycare full-time and Mac would have been headed that way.  Now, I’m home with both kids in Rome.  I’m enjoying it so far.  I enjoy it more because what I did before was so different.  I’m sure my thoughts on this will change, but here’s my biggest positive and negative to date.


On the plus side, I’m more relaxed now.  I didn’t realize how draining I found it trying to get everyone places on time.  And it felt like we were always trying to get some place on time.  Rushing to get out the door in the mornings.  Rushing to make it to daycare on time before it closed.  Rushing to get home.  Even meeting up with friends on the weekends could feel like a chore to get out the door.

Now there are rarely places we have to be at certain times.  I like that.  We do have social engagements (not as fancy as that sounds), but they are pretty casual.  Also, many have been in a group setting so we aren’t making anyone wait if we are delayed.

Ditto for deadlines.  Work was–understandably–filled with deadlines.  Clients needed things at certain times.  That meant I either needed to finish it in time to send to the client or in time to send to the partner to review and send to the client.  Sometimes deadlines felt arbitrary.  But even arbitrary deadlines are important when someone is paying you for that timing.

Now my deadlines are my own.  And are more goals than deadlines.  I’m working to post here every weekday, but the world doesn’t end if I don’t.  I’d like to get a little more on top of tasks like emailing so and so, scheduling a photo shoot, booking trips, etc.  But these are all my tasks to do, and I get to decide when to do them.  Or when James gets to do them.


I like that I can breathe a little easier.  But I do miss what I describe as “bodily autonomy.”  The ability to just take yourself by yourself wherever you’d like to go.  Before I had hours each day where I could do this.  Granted, I was usually just commuting, working, grabbing lunch, etc. but oh the freedom of movement!  Now, we were here more than two weeks before I used the stairs in our building.  Because every other time I had the stroller or a child strapped to me.  Getting out the door now requires packing the stuff and equipment to transport 50 pounds of children.  Even inside the house, things like bathroom trips are strategic.  You always have to know where all the players are on the field.  I remember now hearing other moms saying that sometimes they just didn’t want to be touched by the end of the day.  I get it now.  Oh, I get it.

I know that some of this I’m doing to myself.  If I wanted to head out alone, I could do more.  But when James comes home after work, it’s time for dinner.  And then bedtime.  Which I could skip.  But at the end of the day, I’m not usually jumping to go bounding out the door by myself.  Ditto for weekends.  I could definitely do more by myself, but this is family time.  I hate to miss it.  I’m sure things will change as they get a little older.  Until then, I’m working on putting together some ladies nights.  I registered for the lottery for the Berlin marathon to see if I can cross that off the travel list, and if I get in, that will mean plenty of solo training time.

So plenty of other differences, but those are my big two.  Anyone made a similar switch?  What was your biggest difference?

What is your personal Snickers?

The rest of our stuff should be showing up in the next week or so.  We did a pretty good job packing.  I really haven’t felt deprived.  But of this collection, I am most excited to see:

  • The kitchen trashcan.  Our place came with a trashcan.  It has a step on lid that doesn’t really work.  The bag doesn’t really stay on.  And it is so very small.  It looks like a bathroom can.  Even with mandatory recycling, I feel like the thing fills up every time I blink.  Frequent emptying is probably a good thing given the lack of garbage disposal, but it currently seems a little ridiculous.
  • Tissues.  I also miss nice toilet paper, but I can’t remember if I packed any.  The pipes are so old here that Italy has just decided not to let people have quality paper products.  (My working theory anyway.)  Years ago I had a household ban on tissues.  Why bother if you can just use TP?  And then I rediscovered the pillowy softness of a high quality tissue as it caresses your nose and have not looked back.  Surely there are tissues here somewhere.  I’m just having trouble finding them.
  • The boys’ cribs.  We have loaner cribs right now.  These have been perfectly adequate, but they have bars instead of our chunky slats.  I feel like there has been more pacifier escapage.  The loaner mattresses are so thin you could probably fold them in quarters.  This has made changing sheets easy, but I’ll be glad when they have their nicer mattresses back.

Someone told me that when their daughter was in Italy, she craved Snickers but couldn’t find them.  So her mom would send care packages with Snickers.  I totally get missing things, but Snickers surprised me.  This is the land of chocolate and gelato!  I may have an unhealthy relationship with Kinder Chocolate that I have been indulging.

But now that I’ve been here for a bit, I’ve had a chance to think about what may own “personal Snickers” is.  I do have a few.  Unlike the above, these things are not showing up with our stuff.  Many of them couldn’t come even if I wanted them to.

Grocery delivery.  In the year before leaving DC, we converted to Relay Foods disciples and never looked back.  Before, we had been doing double grocery store duty at the local Giant and then Whole Foods to get the nice meats.  Enter Relay Foods.  They would deliver Whole Foods/farmers’ market quality food right to my front door.  Granted, you were paying WF prices, but I thought it was pretty reasonable.  We paid $30/month for unlimited delivery.  You just filled up your virtual cart and they would deliver it the next day.

I miss it so much.  I feel like I am constantly grocery shopping.  1) We need more food because we’re eating at home more and 2) I have to take more trips because we can’t carry that much.  It’s either what I can carry myself or shove under the stroller.

I’m talk more on this later, but grocery shopping is a pain with both kids.  The stroller is unwieldy.  If I take the stroller, where do I put the groceries when I’m shopping?  I’m hoping some day that Henry can walk there and back, but you just never know with that guy.  And then I’m stuck carrying stuff until I find a personal grocery cart we can buy.

Hops.  They do have beer here.  There is a whole aisle in the store.  But it seems to be pretty much a lager party.  I miss good-ole-American-punch-you-in-the-face hops.  We’ve heard there is a developing craft beer scene here.  I’ll report back when I encounter it.

A variety of takeout options.  Where we lived in DC, we could get a range of takeout or carryout.  For $15-40, I could get Thai, Mexican, Sushi, Greek, Vietnamese, Chinese, or Indian for the whole family to eat in the comfort of my own home.  Which is key with the small kids.  We do restaurants, but it is nice not to have to do restaurants, you know?  And we do lots of cooking, but sometimes you just don’t want to cook.

We had been warned that Rome does not have international cuisine and this has been largely true.  There are two Chinese restaurants in our neighborhood.  We’ve heard of a Mexican restaurant across town.  I’m sure there are others, but you definitely don’t have your pick of everything a few blocks away.

I swear I’m not sick of Italian food yet.  Just in this one instance of takeout.  It would be great to have something other than pizza or panini to grab when we are feeling lazy.  The pizza and panini are pretty amazing.  But OPTIONS.  And you never know if the pizza or panini place is actually open, but that’s another post.

King bed.  We had a king back home.  We opted not to take it.  Our place here is furnished so it didn’t make as much sense.  Also, others told us that it wouldn’t fit.  Even if it would fit in the room, they might not be able to get it into the place it would have to be abandoned by the roadside.  I figured this could be a good chance to test drive a queen; wouldn’t our room look so much bigger if we opted for a queen later?

I miss it so much more than I expected.  I’ve slept in plenty of queen beds.  They aren’t that much smaller, right?  WRONG.  It seems fine to start off.  But the number of times I have woken up about to fall out of bed is more than I’d care to admit.  The day I wake up on the floor is coming.  I’ll make sure to tell you about it, probably in a post with an ill-advised name such as “Queen are the Worst.”

I’m sure there are others, but that is what I’ve missed the most in the first month.  What is your personal Snickers?

Are things different? Glad you asked.

Are things different here?  Of course.  Plenty!  Let’s not even get into all the big life changes.  Or differences out and about town.  We’ll just start close to home.  Like literally.  These are a few of the main differences around the house.  Nothing shocking for those who have been to Europe.  And now to this hard-hitting bit of investigative journalism.

But first.  Are you guys listening to this song?  Do you love it?  Is it huge back home?  I only wish it had come out a little earlier.  I feel like we didn’t really have a “song of the summer” this year, and I think this could have been a contender.

  1. Ceiling fan pulls.  Maybe this isn’t universal, but for ours, the light is on the shorter cord.  I am finally stopping trying to adjust the fan and plunging the room into darkness.
  2. Light switches.  So they look like this.  Also, for small rooms, like bathrooms, they are only on the outside.  I am finally stopping walking into the bathroom and immediately doing an about face to flip the light.

    More or less toddler tempting than back home?  Trick question, it's a switch so . . .

    More or less toddler tempting than back home? Trick question, it’s a switch so . . .

  3. Trash.  There is no curbside pick-up.  And not just because I don’t have my own personal curb.  Our building doesn’t have a communal dumpster or anything.  There are bins randomly spaced on the street and you have to take care of business.  Why?  Some of this could be sheer numbers and logistics.  And many buildings are on little gated compounds, could be difficult to access.  Also, as explained during orientation, recycling is mandatory so have fun with that sorting.
  4. The outlets!!  European power is different.  This is known.  What surprised me is that there are a minimum of four different outlets in our unit.  What??  If I am using a European appliance in a European outlet, I should NOT need an adapter.
  5. European Toilet.  No surprise here, but we got the European special.  I’ll be on the lookout for even more exotic toilets.  I’ve always wanted to make a “Toilets of Europe” calendar.  This could be my big chance.  Family be warned:  when Christmas rolls around and you are excitedly opening your annual family calendar (just kidding, it won’t be wrapped), don’t expect to see a lovingly curated collection of family photos.  That’s right.  It just might be TOILETS.  Here’s January:

    Choose your own adventure!  Big flush or small: you decide!

    Choose your own adventure! Big flush or small: you decide!

  6. Dryer.  Both our washer and dryer are European.  Because the dryer is not vented, it has this handy “vapor drawer.”  Basically it fills up with water and you have to dump it or the dryer will not dry anymore.  I learned this the hard way after about a week in when I thought it must be broken.  “James!!  I dried this load 3x and it isn’t getting any better! *&*^(&”  I am pretty excited to have a dryer.  I’ve been seeing lots and lots of drying racks on balconies.  (The balconies do seem to be getting more use.)  Our neighbors across the way actually have their washing machine on the balcony.  I guess sufficiently protected from the elements?  Just cutting out the middle man.
Dearie me, I have the vapors!

Dearie me, I have the vapors!

I’m sure there are others.  The windows and blinds deserve their own full post.  I’ll report back if I uncover more riveting differences.  Happy weekend, ya’ll!