A weird milestone

… And possibly a late one, too.

Sam is 4 1/2 and until now he’s been drinking milk from a bottle in the morning and at nap time when he was at home with me. I know, I know… He’s too old for a bottle. But I had such a hard time weaning him off. He insisted so much and it brought him so much comfort. I think it was the whole ceremony of sitting on my lap, playing with my hair, drinking warm milk from his bottle.

He’s always been one of those kids who did things when he was ready and I sort of thought that he’ll let me know when he doesn’t want it anymore. We tried half-heartedly a couple of times, but he always said “no, I like my milk in the bottle.”

So I took the bottle with us to Hungary and we had no problems taking it through security on our way over. In the U.S. they make exceptions for milk and juice for kids at the airport.

Not so on our way back. At the Hungarian security checkpoint I had to dump his milk. And as I was pouring it out of the bottle I dropped the entire thing into the trash can. A very deep, smelly, dirty trash can. There was no way I was going to reach down and fish around for it. So it stayed in the trash.

We’ve been home for over a week now and Sam’s made no mention of his bottle. He naps without it and wakes up without it in the mornings. I was nervous about the lack of bottle on our first day back, but there was really no need. He’s fine. I am fine.

So there. Bye-bye bottle.



Notes from Budapest

A couple of bits and pieces from my notebook:


May 12, 2014

So this is Sam’s fourth trip to Budapest and my first without my parents or any other relatives being here. Once you are not greeted by family at the airport you really do become and feel like a tourist in your own country. I really don’t want to get all melodramatic again about who I am, where I came from, etc. I need to get use to the fact that this is it. It should be OK and it should be enough.

May 13, 2014

The air is warm but fresh, unmistakably Budapest: hints of trees, pollen, dog poop, metro station vents. People are bundled up on the metro where the air is stuffy. They wear coats and boots and scarves. I am only wearing a t-shirt and a light sweater. It’s like we are in different climates from everyone else. I look at my reflection in the metro car’s window — it feels good to stretch my arms as I hold on in the swaying car. Then I realize that the reason I am dressed so differently is because to me Budapest is always in full springtime bloom. My throat tightens at the thought. I look away from my reflection at the somber, sober faces behind me. My face becomes invisible as we reach the station and leave the darkness of the tunnel. I am OK with that. I don’t live here anymore.

May 14, 2014

Rainy day in Budapest. A couple of years ago when we were in London and it rained I remember thinking that the rain felt different there somehow… wetter… or something. I have the same feeling about Budapest rain. It’s more desperate, grayer, colder, yet also makes you feel cozier. There is a certain sound to it as the drops hit the tiled roofs. I remember it from my childhood well. The rain does not sound like this anywhere else in the world — at least not for me. The trip is going OK. I think this is really the first time that the three of us are on a vacation tother that does not involve visiting family members. It’s both exhausting and exhilarating — the freedom of it all. I am trying hard to read Sam to see what he thinks, how he’s doing. He whines a lot and if it were up to him we’d stay in the hotel room all day, every day. I am not sure if it’s because he’s four and half, or if it’s because he is overwhelmed by everything around him. I’d guess it’s a little bit of both. I want to treat him kindly and gently, but I also want him to buck uo and pull it together. I want him to not be fazed by change, by travel, by strange foods. Is this the way to do it? Start him early, throw him in the deep end? I hope so.

May 15, 2014

The minute I start walking the streets of Budapest my first instinct is to go home and put on some makeup. I always feel so schlumpy and underdressed — so American. It’s not that Hungarian women are so glamorous. They are on buses and in dingy metro cars, dragging grocery bags and kids. But man, they do have their nails done. And hair. Even if their clothes are not that fashionable, or don’t fit right, they are still put together. You can tell that effort went into their outfits — there’s a scarf or a pin or a hat — something that says “style.” A lot of them look tired, defeated. Maybe their clothes and makeup are the last things they can control and use to say “fuck you” to the world. I totally get that. After our trips here I always vow to do that more — to doll up, no matter the occasion. But then it just becomes too easy to throw on a pair jeans and put my hair in a ponytail.

May 18, 2014

It’s our last night in Budapest. Strangely, I feel a little less sad than usual — I think it’s because I know that we can come back here next year. It’s not like I don’t know the next time I’ll be able to make it here. I think the trip has been good for Sam — he always seems to grow up a bit when we come here. I think his Hungarian improved even if he didn’t get to speak as much as usual. Today at the museum he was giving instructions in Hungarian to a Hungarian grandma on how to use a remote control. So there was that… My class reunion was last night and I am still trying to figure out how I feel about it. Nobody seems to have changed — including me, I guess. Everybody seemed to play the same roles: the pretty girls, the class clown, the smart boys, the drunks, the quiet girls… In a way it was like being in a room full of strangers. There were people who were happy to see me who I don’t think ever spoke to me during high school. People were surprised that I came home for “this” and that my Hungarian was still good… The person I was most interested in was my high school crush and he was there in all his glory. This is where I realize that at heart I am still 18 and awkward because I could not think of a single intelligent thing to say to him. Ugh. Really? I am smart, accomplished some things, have a fairly interesting life and I had nothing to say. How stupid is that? High school is never over…


We are getting on a plane tomorrow, bound for Budapest. The last time I was there was for my grandma’s funeral lat winter and in a weird way that felt more like a family reunion. My brother was there from Singapore, my parents came, we saw lots of family and friends. This trip will be different — no funeral, thankfully, but also this will be the first time that I will be there as an adult, without my parents presence. I feel weirdly nervous about it, like I am traveling to some strange, exotic land, when I know that’s not true. I know the city, I know the language. But I still felt compelled to buy a map, just in case.

It is also my 20th high school reunion next Saturday. I sort of surprised myself by how much I want to go. I might regret it, but I think maybe it will be OK. I sort of assume that the people I liked back then will still be nice and that the people I didn’t like will remain the same. But who knows? Also, my big high-school crush will be there. Let’s hope that he is less snooty and I am less awkward. Will report back.

In other news:

1. Twitter, you are on crack:

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That happened in about two hours after this piece went live on The Huffington Post. It was pretty awesome, even if it did come with some unwelcome comments. But also some lovely, lovely ones from amazing, kind women. The good definitely outweighed the bad.

2. Writing and getting published is like… OK, I have to use the same word as in #1. Writing and getting published is like crack. The more you do it, the more you want to do it. The bad part? The waiting. Life wanted to teach me about patience a couple of times before and this is probably just another lesson. I am learning… slowly but surely.

3. Sam gave me the best mother’s day card ever. Writing is so hard for him, so I know how much he must have struggled with this.



Five Things I Learned About Love and Life from Having a Crush on Benedict Cumberbatch

86th Annual Academy Awards - ArrivalsOK, I am the first one to admit it: I am too old to have a celebrity crush. The last time it was cute or acceptable for me to fangirl over a movie star was back in the late 1980s. Since then I’ve been busy with other stuff in life — finishing school, growing up, finding a career, falling in love, having a family. No time for silly crushes here.

But then last spring something happened. I guess a bunch of things happened, none of them pleasant: several deaths in my family and circle of friends, a move to a new city, tensions with my parents, and a nagging feeling that I was somehow shutting down and allowing life to pass me by.

I needed an escape. Sure, there was yoga, and chocolate, and wine, and plenty of friends and family around me for support. But my brain wanted to focus on something — or somebody — that had nothing to do with what was going on in my life. And so I spent many, many sleepless nights in the company of Benedict Cumberbatch, with his handsome, talented face glowing on my iPad screen in the darkness of my bedroom. Trust me, there is no better company at 3 a.m. when your mind is full of scary grown-up stuff.


Head over to HuffPost to read the full article!