Meet Stichting Sjaki-Tari-Us

When I was here in Ubud a couple of months ago I heard about an NGO supporting kids with intellectual disabilities. I thought it was a handicraft shop of some sort and never learned more. So once we were settled in here I figured it was time to learn more.

Stichting Sjaki-Tari-Us (no that's not a typo. unfortunately) is a Dutch-supported non-governmental organization that has launched educational programs for kids with intellectual isability in the Ubud area as well as the North of the island. They have a good descriptive website here.Their play-learn school model for young kids who attend with their parents sounded really interesting to me and they offer a cafe so we decided to go for lunch and check them out.

Brochures aren't fully appreciated yet...except as plates
Arriving at lunch time meant missing the kids that day but we were welcomed to come back so Nava could join them in their open play time one morning. Nava however, didn't let the lack of kids stop her from doing a thorough evaluation of the facilities. Or at least the most important one--the slide.

The staff were very warm and it was great to chat a little bit about special education and learn how things work in Indonesia. Their class for teenagers was still in session and it looked like everyone was really enjoying the lesson too. Lunch was yummy classic Indonesian cafe fare and I was able to pick up a few 2nd hand books in their shop.We'll let you know more when we go back to join in recess!


Gratuitous Pool Pictures

We had fun today.  It's starting to sink in that she won't be my one and only for much longer. Sniff!

Bali Baby: Why Give Birth in Bali?

(This is a non-Nava focused post about the Bali Birth plan. For cuteness just keep scrolling...)

Who moves to Bali to have a baby?


So Lao is a wonderful place to live but the health care is seriously lacking. Hence all of Nava and I jaunts off to Bangkok on a quarterly basis for her medical care. So Mama with options (also known as moolah, dinero, ngern, or greenbacks) go elsewhere for birth. The closest option is a nearby Thai regional center, Udon Thani. Udon is 'not bad'. But just that. Not a lot to get excited about as an option except for the major feature that you can continue to live at home until right up until (up to your comfort level) and just go for your birth, when you feel like it, even in labor (though I'm sure some babies get bron on the way--it's a 1.5 hour trip across an international border and after hours can be 'interesting'!).

I seriously considered Udon because with Nava I didn't really use the hospital for a whole lot and the idea of repeating that trip (see below) for a whole lotta nothing seemed silly. There is an OB who will talk natural birth with you and I carefully watched the story of a girlfriend who chose the Udon route with a strong natural birth plan to see how it could go. In the end though, it just didn't click with me and seeing a girlfriend have a birth go well untilt he hospital got all involved in the pushing phase was way too like Nava's birth and totally put me off.

So that meant moving to Bangkok at 36 weeks. Really, that's what crazy expat (and some Lao) women do. We move to Bangkok for 1-2 months to have a baby. What's more, some mamas have FANTABULOUS health insurance that pays for them to stay in a 5 staff hotel suite the whole time. [Ladies in the US reading this: Just let that sink in a bit. 5 star hotel suite in a building physically connected to a fancy mall and all the gourmet buffet breakfast you can handle right up until your baby is done cooking. ]

Le sigh.

My insurance is not one of those. But I still got a nice apartment in downtown Bangkok for Nava's arrival and had a pretty good time. My work let me work 'from home' until I decided to go on leave and since I live in a 3rd world underdeveloped backwards country, I had 3 months of paid maternity leave and didn't need to worry about getting back to work right away. My dad moved with me to chaperone my confinement until I was 38.5 weeks when Sout would join us for good (he came for weekends prior). 'Cause 1st babies are never early.


Nava arrived after a relatively easy labor (though some static with the OB at the very end) around dawn of 5 of the day Sout was moving to Bangkok. Oh well.

So, really not a bad experience. So what was different this time?

a. Living for 1-2 months in Bangkok as a pregnant lady is fun. You can shop, go to movies, and leisurely eat cake. What's not to like? Living for 1-2 months in Bangkok as the pregnant mama of a toddler? Ha! Ha! Ha! Shop? Movies? Leisure? Ha!

b. I care deeply about my birth. I believe believe that the best birth, the safest birth is gentle birth. While I did had an unmedicated vaginal birth in Bangkok the first time, it wasn't soo gentle in the end. And I still resent having to yell at my OB with a newborn on my chest. So yeah, while Bangkok does offer excellent medical care (and dang if I ain't glad to have it), I'm not sick. I'm pregnant. And I'd like to have a better choice for my birth.

Those were the 2 big factors. I sat on the fence the whole pregnancy about where I was going to deliver. I looked seriously at going to the US to have a midwife-assisted homebirth or birth center birth. I got in touch with no less than The Farm in TN (they were lovely). But my health insurance covers me anywhere in the world but the US. It's a LOT cheaper that way. So while I could pay for the birth out-of-pocket, I wouldn't have emergency cover and that's just waaaaay too scary to contemplate in the US. So I dithered. And dithered.

And then it was time to go to Bali.

Back last August 2011, way before I we even conceived our now-about-due baby, I had found out about an opportunity to do birth doula training in Bali in March of the coming year. And that night (in a bad mood, a work widow alone in the house with a sleeping toddler) I sat in bed with my laptop and checked airfares to Bali, a place I'd never been but of course wanted to go. And I found a crazy cheap fare (like less than $200 return of something ridiculous). And I booked my ticket that night. Before I registered for the course. Before I told my husband. Oh yeah, I booked a single ticket, btw. I rationalized I could but one for Nava and Sout later (!). And I went on the enroll in the course. And get pregnant. And do to math and realize I'd be 6 months pregnant and 2 weeks in Bali doing a birth course sounded like an awesome trip to do alone before becoming a mother of 2. And Sout supported that decision (I think he just wanted 2 weeks of Nava all to himself).

So I went to Bali for Eat Pray Doula, what has got to be one of the best doula courses on the planet (and they're having it again!). And I'd been telling everyone for weeks that when I came home from Bali I'd have decided where I was going to birth: Udon or Bangkok.

On my last day in Bali, having doula'd my first birth, I furtively walked out of the Bumi Sehat Clinic in the complete silence of Nyepi, Balinese New Year (you're not supposed to be on the street lest the spirits see you) and I was an emotional wreck. I still didn't know where I was going to birth. I didn't like any of my options. And while coming back to Bali and Bumi Sehat had been suggested during the course I didn't really think it was feasible. 

It would be another month before we decided.

(To Be Continued)


Rainy Day Fun at Bintang Supermarket

Yesterday it poured.
So logically I thought: Grocery Shopping.
Specifically at a grocery store with playland.
Consider this a review of Bintang Supermarket Ubud, Bali. 

1. Facilities?
 Rating: 5 stars. Well equipped.

2. Accessibility?
 Rating: 5 stars. Well situated. 

 3. Parking?
Rating: 5 stars. Plenty of spaces.

4. Traffic?
 5 stars. Not many other cars on the road.

5. Selection?
5 stars. Every color of ball available.

Not bad for 7000 Rp (75 cents US).


Bali Baby: I've got some explaining to do

And now for something completely different...

A little background
Navagating began over a year ago as an outlet for me to cronicle the life and times of my daughter Nava. I began writing the blog shortly after I had a huge happiness breakdown. Let me explain.

One day we were in the kitchen,  just the two of us in the house, and tears of joy at being Nava's mother, at having such a beautiful daughter that I loved with all my heart, just came surging out. I wept openly and for a long time. Nava got very concerned so standing in the middle of the room, I ended up rocking her in my arms as blubbered on. It was an incredibly cathartic moment.

My daughter was 9 months old. Those 9 months were biggies for me. She was diagnosed with Down syndrome 10 days after birth. She was diagnosed (very late) with bilateral cataracts at 5 months, had the surgery to remove them at 6 months of age, and began wearing contacts. I'd spent those 9 months debating quitting my job, packing up my family's life in Laos, and running to the US for all the services and medical care my daughter would seem to need (nevemind I had no 'home' to run home to, no job there, and the economy was in the toilet). I'd struggled daily with the pain of her diagnosis with Down syndrome. Oh sure, I was happy to be a mother, to be Nava's mother, I loved her. But I was still dealing with shit. And that day, for some reason, the shit took a backseat to joy. My heart really did feel like it would burst from happiness (hey, cliches come from somewhere).

Not long after I decided to start this blog as my answer to a baby book. And as my way of explaining to family, to friends, and to myself what was going on, how we were dealing, and (most importantly) just how kick ass Nava was.

Lets just go ahead and call that Mission Accomplished, mmm'k?

And then I got pregnant again. So for the last 8 months I've been blogging about being Nava's mom while getting ready to be someone else's mom too. It has always been exciting. Unlike some of my friends, I really haven't had the 'oh my god-what have I done-two children!?' panic attack (I credit the having a nanny and help from cousins for this). But I know its been a lot to sort through on some level. The very obvious proof being that the number of posts on Navagating has taken a nose dive these past months.


Well, now its time. My last month of pregnancy officially starts tomorrow (meaning, I could have 6+ more weeks in baby math). And we've decided to have Little Brother Monkey (the current working title for Baby #2) in Bali. So for the next 2 months or so Navagating is 'on location'.  I really wanted to write about this trip, this birth, Bali, etc but I was a little torn as to whether to do it on Navagating or start a separate blog. I've decided to do it here as I've come to the conclusion that I will always be Navagating. It's a permanent condition that started March 29th 2010 in Bangkok and it's not going away. And the story of the arrival of Nava's little brother is a story of Navagating too. He just doesn't know it yet.

So I hope you enjoy this little change up, keeping in mind, that a whole bunch of upcoming posts are gonna be all Nava-in-Bali. So not like that's a real stretch from our regularly scheduled programming. I just felt the need to give y'all a little background before I started talking birth choices and the whole story of Why Bali. 

Lets get started, shall we?
Let's Go!


If they had flower girls here

Weddings in Laos are very different than those in the US.
As you'd probably expect.

Personally, we got married in the US and then had a pseudo Lao wedding/reception 9 months later. Oh yeah and as far as Sout's parents feel, we were already married a month before we got engaged in my books. Clear? Yeah well, it's a loooooong story.
© 2012 Stanislas Fradelizi/laophoto.

But anyways, back to Lao weddings. A fabulous girlfriend of mine is getting married to a fabulous (though non-Lao) man. She has lived in Laos for over a decade so while Canada won as the ultimate place for the nuptials, the couple decided to start the ball rolling with a wonderful Lao engagement/wedding ceremony first. In Lao it is common to have an engagement party with traditional ceremony (and optional local party bosses and village leaders reading out relevant laws and telling you "you're only engaged, you can't actually get it on yet". For some reason, Emma chose to forgo that last part).

Nava was great at the ceremony. She made the 'praying hands' gesture when you are supposed to with just a little prompting. And the highlight was that when shaman paused for the crowd to vocalize encouragement to the spirits (its really hard to explain, sorry!), Nava totally caught on and joined in by clapping! So sweet.

Here's my favorite picture of the whole day to leak out yet. Its customary to get the couple pictured with a baby and perhaps sitting on their bed with a baby so as to 'encourage' them in that department. Nava's quickly moving out of the baby stage but was happy to oblige nonetheless.
© 2012 Stanislas Fradelizi/laophoto. Used with little permission.
She was a little confused by this long involved kissing stuff though...

Congratulations Emma and Gregoire!


State of the Bub Addendum

Two important things in addendum to the State of the Bub report!

1. I forgot to include one of the bestestybest skills of the 2 year old Nava:
She does a big two arm hug around you while nestling her head in next to your neck and its just delicious. Being here in Laos, where hugs can be a little more rare, its ever so much more wonderful getting to watch her cousins and her nanny ask for hugs. Her hugs are the only ones I ever seen them get or give.

2. Apparently a desire to stack bath toys is a sign of great destiny ahead. Nava's Grandpa offers this proof:

And, for fun, here's some recent outtakes from playing dollies! Off to Bangkok we go!


State of the bub report: Nava at 2 years old

Later this week Nava and I will truck down to Bangkok for her 2 year old check-ups. She will get her own seat on a plane for the first time. Because that's what 2 year olds do (i.e. require their parents to buy additional full priced seats....groan). While yes, technically she has been 2 for over a month, mommy has been a little busy with another little thing-upcoming arrival of Little Brother Monkey.

I didn't want to let the 2 year mark slide by unnoticed however, so here is my attempt of a well-rounded (I'm not claiming comprehensive) update on all things Nava at 25 months old. This is for the history books so it will likely be a little boring-forgive me!

She walks. Lots and lots. She has moved out of the hands up beginning walker stage and can now walk with her hands by her side of behind her back, asian grandma style (thank her cousins for that trick). She still needs to concentrate but its becoming easier everyday. She can't do steps or doorways without help on getting on knees first just yet. She can handle walking from tile to rug back to tile ok and usually can maneuver around obstacles well. If you play 'chase' she gets really excited and tries to go faster (aka run) but often then loses her balance. She still thinks its really really fun though. She cannot stand up by herself without something to pull up on just yet (technical term: standing from plantigrade). So she crawls over to your leg, or a cabinet etc and gets up again that way. She will take kicks at balls too.

Other fun gross motor skills:
She now likes to lay on her belly, bend her knees, and kick her feet in the air while playing blocks or watching a video (think tween doing her homework in front of the sofa and you've got it).
She likes to dance and now has moved out of only a Lao 'fawn' and onto a 70s disco finger pointing dance and now even to just a relaxed hand with arm swinging. She likes to carry her mp3 player around while walking and dancing.
She has started to not hate the idea of ride-on toys though she doesn't like not being able to touch her feet fully.
She attempts to throw a ball using the overhead technique. Timing the release is tricky though.
She has started swim lessons and is getting okay with the idea of supported floating on her belly and no longer thinks she are trying to kill her when we practice floating on her back. She deals with being dunked pretty well though I haven't done it for a while because of recent snot situation.

The not so fun gross motor 'skill'?
She now does the dreaded toddler back arch when she doesn't want potty, get back in the car, to be put down, etc.
Also, she can make it to the top of the stairs lickedy split and has given her mom, her dad, and her nanny all heart attacks. 

She plays.
So many people have mentioned this lately I realized I just took it for granted but girlfriend has developed a long attention span. She can play for a long time. She can play by herself for a long time. She will happily play blocks or in the tub or rearrange the cookware by herself for 30 minutes easy. While the tub of balls will never go out of style and gets dumped at least a couple of times a day, her favorite toy at the moment is really blocks. Old school classic wood blocks. She loves to stand them on end, stand them up right next to one another making little cityscapes. She tries to stand everything on end and doesn't like things that don't cooperate. Like butter knives.
She loves to stack. Stack blocks, plates, tubs...I've seen her stacking her boats in the tub and even her balls in a basket (again, she gets a little disappointed that they don't stack well).
She is fascinated with spacial concepts, putting things under the table, around the table leg, through rungs...its fun to watch her building her database on Gravity and How it Effects My Toys.
She loves to call people with phones, remotes, blocks etc.
She has now started to play with her doll. All stuffed animals are still on the fuzzy non grata list but her baby doll has been accepted into the fold and she will hugs her and kiss her and carry her and.... Here's hoping this is a good sign for interactions to come with her little brother.

She's independent.
She drinks from a glass water glass very well, grabbing with two hands, returning to the table and pushing it away from the edge. We've had 2 breaks-both times were when she got distracted mid-return and didn't quite make the table fully before letting go. Not bad at all.
She holds straw cups with two hands and uses the straw herself too. We're up to straw 4 in the Talktools hierarchy.
She likes to bus her plate but her walking skills need to get a little better to do it herself (now she holds it and we carry her).
She self feeds via fingers but still is very reluctant to use a spoon/fork. She consistently wants to use them once the food is gone and pretends to eat with them and also does this a lot in her playtime (she has her own set of dishware she can play with anytime) but I think the frustration factor on getting the food to stay on the utensil all the way to her mouth has turned her off.
She'll pick up a big piece of something and carefully rip it into bite size pieces and then snack on them. And she loves chicken legs and corn on the cob in addition to whole apples.
She hates bibs.
She wipes her mouth when eating, sometimes unprompted.
She knows about washing her hands and will initiate sometimes but gets a little overwhelmed with the whole running water and soap set-up.
She lets me brush her teeth and will continue and she likes to brush her own hair, especially just *after* I finally wrangled it into a ponytail.
She knows what "take your shirt off" means but can't quite pull it off yet.

She communicates.
She makes a lot of sounds, more often. Dada, mama, ma, numnumyummm, Yeah!, thissss, ja/jai, unh, ish. Her cousin Goong has been amazing at getting her talking more. She intuitively figured out that Nava gets more verbal if she get loud and animated and does just that with her. She'll now shout out from where she is when you call out "Where's Nava?". She will answer questions with yeah/ugh (Lao informal 'no') when asked. Asking which one or do you want this? will get a point and a 'issss', sometimes its clearly 'thissss'. She 'roars' when asked what a tiger says but hasn't gotten into other animal sounds. We used to get "ish" often when fish was served but its rarer now. As per the game her dad taught her, she picks up socks or diapers and sniffs them and then makes a disgusted "yuck" noise. She will say papa when prompted and has said it a multiple times to dad's arrival for example but its not routine. She started saying mama last week but not really in relation to me. Goong seems to be working her on it tho. Goong reports she said 'ma' (dog in Lao) when pointing at a picture of one and sign it too. She came into the kitchen yesterday and announced Nummyummnum while signing eat.

She signs. Tons. She signs almost every sign taught on Baby Signing Time 1-4. She asks to watch by signing. When I was trying to get the sleep out of her eyes in the morning she signed hurt near her eyes. She woke up last weekend in our bed and signed 'day' and 'diaper' and said Yeah when asked if she wanted potty. She has her own sign for all done-its palms out with thumbs tucked bent against palms. Yesterday she really got into signing car full body style unprompted. She has been taught the lao hand gesture to be made before accepting something to indicate Thank You (called "tuuu"). She knows to do it when she gets something. And if you're slow with the cracker she might tuuu then please then thank you just to cover all her bases along with pointing aggressively!

She's healthy.
Nava went 11 months without a cold. In the last 2 months however she got a cold that turned into major snots and then coughs. Finally she's kicked it to the curb without only morning eye snot remaining. She's had a few bouts of nasty tummy bug but it is kinda par for the course where we live. She started take a very small thyroid pill about 6 months ago and it seems to be doing what its supposed to. Despite what the bloodwork said though, Nava is definitely not meant for gluten. A major bummer just because I hate having to be the mom saying she can't have birthday cake or share someone's cookies but the proof is pretty undeniable. At least we live where rice is almost always on the menu.

And as a reward for getting all the way through that novel of a post...


Future so bright

Fun at the opticians

I love that...

I can still do this.

When Nava was little I loved to sit in a coffee shop, people watching while nursing and cuddling. Talking to people I know as they drifted in and out. I could do the same thing at home (more cheaply!) but at home I'm remembering all the things I should be doing instead. And I go stir crazy without people to watch and chat with. So I sat in public with Nava napping and nursing tons.

But now she's a full blown toddler who wants to get down, run around, and tip out the sugar bowl. I no longer get to rest when we are in public. But today I just managed to pull it off one more time.

Likely it's the one LAST time.

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