This Babywearing Photo Carries Many Emotions About Life In Laos

As much as I tout Lao culture being the best thing about my identity and how Lao food is an underrated ethnic scene, I actually have never stepped foot into my motherland. My mother hasn’t either since 1979, the year she escaped war-torn Laos with her younger siblings and parents to seek refuge in the United States. My grandfather, my mom’s father, was a farmer in Laos as are most poor families in the land-locked country in Southeast Asia sustaining their own food system to survive. As the oldest female child in each of our families, my mother and I do share one thing: a burden only an older child has.

In honor of International Babywearing Week (yup, totally a thing), I started out looking for images to highlight the ancient and cultural practice of babywearing, the act of wearing a child in a cloth carrier of some sort. I mean, Laos is the home of one of the original “crunchy moms.” Sorry, you’re not that crunchy. Not sorry. I found plenty of beautiful images of fresh-faced moms and sleep-drunk babies on their backs but the photo pool shifted my focus to a more specific theme: children and babywearing. Yes, actually babies wearing babies. Why is a child wearing a baby almost the same size?

As any able-bodied adult may be equipped to pitch in, both parents in Laos tend to the now-yellow fields of rice to prepare for harvesting. *Many farm fields are actually far, far from home in behind mudslides and atop mountains. As a Laotian-American, I cannot recall the age of my earliest babysitting of my three younger siblings because I was that young. Young as in my parents trusted me to have a responsibility to make sure these kids were safe, if that can be appropriate for a child in elementary school. In Laos, this isn’t shocking, it’s necessary for burdens to bear on the entire family, no matter the age, in order to survive. A child wears a burden and keeps a younger sibling safe, warm, secure. All the things every child needs. Ironically the very thing the care-giving child desperately yearns for but suppresses for family duty.

babywearing in Laos

“A young pub thawj girl takes good care of her baby brother while Mum and Dad are out on the farm in the mountains near Luang Prabang, Laos.” – Paul Wager Photography from Facebook

*This scenario is actually very rare as many mountainous peoples’ homes are near the farmlands, even in the mountains. It is unlikely that nursing mothers were that far away from their infants this young. The children were nearby for this reason but out of the actual fields where the others would tend to the fields.

About Paul Wager: “Paul Wager gave up his life of photo journalism in Australia to venture into the ethnic diversity of Laos.” You can see more beautiful and haunting photos from Laos at Paul Wager’s website and Facebook.

How did you celebrate babywearing this week?

You can find me tweeting my hatred for pants on twitter, filtering the shit outta mom lyfe on Instagram, pinning food I’ll never make on Pinterest, and being a SEO creep on Google+

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A Journey From Heavy Partying to Deep Cleaning

Saturday night, 8:45 pm, Rihanna bumping in the background, hips ready to get down. It’s that time of the week.

My hips can’t help it though– they work into something so familiar, it’s inevitable. Safe to me, known to me, and it’s like my body knows what to do. Looking around to check my space and bodies, I bend down… and clutch my chest, with a sleeping baby in the Ergo carrier, and wring out the mop. This is how my Saturday nights are now. Remnants of my life just three years prior, when not pregnant or chasing a kid, peek in every so often. Gone are the dance club days with Rihanna and her Top 40 music friends alike. I just enjoy a bit of that club-thumping music with a little dance partner, who hijacks the mop and wants to drink the bucket water. Last night, my little family did a bit of overdue cleaning since I haven’t had any energy to deep-clean since the night before Lanoy was born.

toddler and his mop

This night, I reminded Gym Hottie of how this wouldn’t be us in a million years if someone asked us three years ago what we’d be doing. He grabs me (and the baby) and requests we dirty dance like we did three years ago, and I giggle at the silly request. Humnoy giggles at Dada humping behind me because he’s never seen us joke around like that before, least not in front of him. I giggle again because I can’t imagine life otherwise.

How did you spend Saturday nights before kids?

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When Solo Parenting Can Involve The Authorities

The uniformed man with an emblazoned ‘Rescue Team’ on his crew neck sweater, steps in to chat with the grumpy toddler. He cheerfully asks the toddler if he’s listening to his mama and Humnoy shoots Rescue Man the death glare. Irony is that my first day of temporary solo parenting somehow has or should have involved authorities. Mainly because the general public does not know I’m suffering from what’s called “husband business trip.” They don’t know my life.

The last time I shared my glamorous journey in solo parenting, I gave out secret reasons why it’s a good time when Dada’s out of town. I have strayed from good times and have possibly hit a new low in solo parenting struggles.

Scene of the crime: Grocery store I made the mistake of forgoing the ergoBaby carrier for grocery shopping. Humnoy is a child, who literally cannot sit still, and was ready to climb out of the shopping cart by the time I took out my shopping list. I take him out and let him wander and Rescue Man appears within three minutes of me doing so. After the toddler death glare, he then inches a few to bolt down the cereal aisle until the Rescue Man gently reminds him to stay close to his mama. Another death glare but he stayed and decides to strike up a toddler jibber-jab with Rescue Man about the balloon next to the discounted meat freezer, which I quickly bribed for some ‘inside voice please.’ I’m forever grateful that bribery is not against the law.

Humnoy Life solo parenting

Scene of the crime: Mail box There are times when you just don’t think it’s necessary to buckle in a cranky toddler into his carseat just to drive down the hill of your apartment community. So, you don’t and pull a Britney, y’all.

pulling a britney solo parenting

What questionable things have you done in (solo) parenting?

*No children were harmed in the absence of a second parent.

Follow The Laotian Commotion by entering your email under my Follow widget, located on the Home page sidebar. I love when you get to read it from your inbox and absolutely love it when you take the time to comment!

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Seattle Mariners, a Booze- and Kid-Friendly Pastime

Seattle rain? What Seattle rain? The weather has blessed our family’s timely arrival to our new residence on the West Side with consistent 70-degree weather each Saturday since. To top last weekend’s Cheese Festival, we planned an outing with some friends to our very first Seattle Mariners game. You may be wondering why one earth would I, the wife who ignores her husband and Facebook feed during March Madness and the Superbowl, would oblige to a sporting event let alone a baseball game? If I must explain myself, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to view a local professional team in America’s favorite pastime with my family and a couple of my best friends. Oh, and the fact that a baseball game completely encourages alcohol consumption without hiring a babysitter sealed the deal as well. I thoroughly enjoy events where my kid and I can both have some fun.

ERGOseattlelightrail.jpgLast week was the bus and now our family’s first time riding the Light Rail. Humnoy is an official babywearing-public-transport kid! He adoringly gazed out the window for a view of Seattle’s neighborhoods and highways and interacted with fellow Mariners fans through the window in front of our seat.

After a stressful stint at the SeaTac parking lot, I was glad to finally arrive and consume some food and *cough*beer*cough* Once settled with a full belly and a beer, we sat and enjoyed the game with some friends. The beautiful thing about baseball, as discussed with my friend, is the fact that you are able to carry a conversation and sip a beer in between cheering and watching. The above can’t be said for, say, a Seattle Seahawks game or a play date. Humnoy counters that walking around the Stadium as Dad’s chick magnet and ripping a Mariner’s poster to shreds is much more exciting though.

For our next trip, we are:

  • *buying nosebleed seats for really cheap ($8) and find a picnic spot and walk around to watch the game. It will burn those empty calories.
  • *bringing our own contained or wrapped-up food and empty bottle to be filled up at the concession stands, which are both allowed at Safeco.
  • taking the Light Rail each time. It saved us some time and definitely money in what would have been parking and gas. Plus, it’s fun.

Oyster Po’ Boy

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Illegal babywearing public transport!

Have you been to a local professional sports game? What is your favorite kid-friendly thing about them?

*Tips from Ballpark Savvy

Honest Humnoy – Seattle Cheese Festival

Humnoy wants to tell you how he really feels about our first family weekend together in our new location. Here’s an Honest Toddler at his first Seattle Cheese Festival with his family:

Watches Dad yell at Mom for being ‘almost done.’ Leaves house 1 hour later than planned.

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Riding the bus for the first time. No car seat = WINNING.

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Dad says not to touch the bus poles. Touched it and spit out the Binky onto the floor.

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Pissed I fell asleep in the ERGO again to then wake up to people fighting for cubes of cheese sitting in the hot sun. WTF is this place?

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Comin’ in hot, ladies. Will accept your ‘awwwwwww’ but get out of my way.

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No JIF? No, thank you.

Plans escape with Dad to the shiny bike store so I don’t have to witness Mom get ‘a drink.’

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Helps Mom get ‘likes’ on Instagram with a signature face.

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Happily obliges when Dad carries me in the ERGO. Every time.

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Tries to break the table because Mom refuses to hand over her ‘organic’ beer meant for her milk supply. Yeah, keep telling yourself that.

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Embarrassed that Dad’s facial hair is a sign of my beard potential but remembered Mom can grow a mean mustache.

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What’s your favorite family-friendly festival?

Happy Memorial Day Weekend! Honest Humnoy will be going to his first Mariners game today! Check out @HonestToddler on Twitter for hilarious, true-to-life tweets that will make you think your kid secretly got a hold of your phone. Be sure to check out Honest Toddler in honest kid-blogging.

Wearing a Baby and a Grandmother’s Memory

Dear Grandmother Mone,

Although Humnoy was born long after your passing, I strive to provide your presence in his life and mine. You are my constant inspiration – this blog, parenting choices, and in karma. I wouldn’t be where I am without your memory of strong will and instinctive motherhood in a country I am grateful to know of but to not have been born in at a time of war reparation.

I wore your *sinh to Humnoy’s *phakhouane and most recently to Lao New Year. It was an unbelievable honor to be able to keep you and my baby close to my heart. I hope you are proud of me and that the blessings from the New Year reach to you and that you know how much I miss you.

Love,
Theek

*sinh, the traditional Lao skirt made of silk and cotton.

**phakhouane, a symbolic offering to the assembled gods and a a welcome mat and gift for the returning khouanes

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Wordless Wednesday – When You Were New

As my first Wordless Wednesday post since beginning my blogging journey, it didn’t come at a better time because Humnoy turned six months yesterday! It’s been quite a trip.

From the day of his birthday, it’s been such a surreal dive into a brand new identity for me. I still look at him and wonder how a perfect little human belongs to us and fully depends on me to thrive. A fellow Mom-blogger proposed an interesting idea for Wordless Wednesday called “Wordless WHENesday!” It is an ode to what you were doing the same day/week from years’ past. Although six months is not very long ago, it is quite a milestone and to celebrate, I will share his first three weeks of life.

Do you remember what you were doing six months ago? Six years ago?

Fish Sauce for Breakfast, Anyone?

Every weekend with my folks always results in 5 pounds gained and food to take home to The Husband. This weekend was no different where I had at least three different types of Lao food as take-home tokens. Humnoy had his share of kao neow (sticky rice) as Grandma wore him around in her own version of a baby sling.

Supervising Grandma’s kao neow

Why is it that mainstream baby companies make their big bucks from simple ideas that come from foreign mothers with minimal resources? Seriously, my mom found a large scarf and used her Lao talent to tie Humnoy onto her hip while he happily grubbed on a wedge of sticky rice. In my Moby Wrap, a stretchy wrap that retails for at least $45, he’d be fussing and trying to do back flips to get out of it.

Lao Grandma- 1; Mom- 0

Lao breakfast isn’t confined to a simple eggs and ketchup task. Laotians will have lunch or dinner items for the first meal of the day before you see an omelet on the menu. Our last morning of our weekend stay was no exception. Friends, I had one of my Husband’s most-requested foods.
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It’s spicy, coconutty and so beyond flavorful. I had “ga bounkao poun for breakfast. Kao poun can be best described as curry noodle soup (Lao friends, please jump in to correct me if I’m wrong)! It reminds me of Mexican menudo because you have the stock with chicken meat then you add some sort of carb (in kao poun’s case, it’s noodles) then top off with fresh cabbage, cilantro and fresh squeezed lime. Don’t forget the bean sprouts and extra fish sauce, if desired!

Now that I’m back home, tomorrow morning will be unlike regular breakfasts in our household. Forget the eggs and gluten-free blueberry waffle, Mama’s going to have some kao poun.

What is your usual breakfast look like? Have you ever switched it up and had lunch/dinner for breakfast? Any unusual items you’ve had or made yourself for breakfast?