Wednesday, November 18, 2015

41 Good Points of Pregnancy

So I’ve already mentioned (um...maybe several times) that there are a lot of things I don’t enjoy about being pregnant. I just have a hard time with it. But in the spirit of Thanksgiving and also because I’m feeling pretty miserable at the moment, I’ve been working on a list of things I actually do enjoy about being pregnant.
  1. The first glimmers of hope - “I think I might be pregnant! Maybe? Yes, I definitely feel pregnant. Almost certainly perhaps.” (Of course this is only enjoyable if you actually do end up being pregnant.)
  2. Seeing those two lines confirm your suspicions, and freaking out a bit no matter how “certain” you were.
  3. The first days when it is still a secret and you look back at the test about 100 times
  4. The first week or so before the sickness sets in
  5. Telling everyone about the baby and getting to enjoy their excitement
  6. The relief of a first reassuring appointment
  7. Hearing the sound of your baby’s heartbeat
  8. The first sign of an actual baby bump
  9. Knowing the numbers on the scale are supposed to be getting bigger each week
  10. The first time you realize you haven’t thrown up in a few days!
  11. Not having to fish stray hairs from the shower and comb
  12. Waking up in the morning feeling in awe of a rare night of restful sleep
  13. The ridiculously bizarre dreams
  14. The first time when everything is so new and exciting and everyone treats you like something super special
  15. When you've been through it before and don’t have to freak out about every tiny twinge
  16. Preparing a pretty nursery you will never actually use
  17. The way food really can be deeply fulfilling
  18. Finally getting your taste for coffee back and remembering how much it enhances life
  19. Thinking about baby names
  20. Feeling the first fluttery movements
  21. Making it out of the first trimester, then hitting the halfway point, then finally reaching the final trimester.
  22. The way you can really appreciate feeling good for a few days
  23. How good it feels to put your sore feet up
  24. Prenatal yoga. It’s so soothing. Except perhaps when two wild children are climbing on top of you.
  25. The first time you can see baby doing the wave in your stomach
  26. Feeling justified in closing the door and taking a nap. For the good of all humanity.
  27. Talking to your midwife about pregnancy and birth and whatever. Feeling reassured and supported in all things.
  28. Allowing yourself indulgences like more expensive milk and cheese
  29. Buying a really cute coming home outfit (for baby - you'll probably wear jammies)
  30. Maternity clothes - so comfortable and somehow more fashionable than regular clothes. Probably because they came from someone else.
  31. Commiserating with others who really do understand how you are feeling.
  32. Kisses and pats (and jabs) for baby from interested siblings.
  33. Reading birth stories (actually I do this anyway, but it’s even more interesting when pregnant)
  34. The sense of great accomplishment when another week finally passes.
  35. Not feeling too bad about giving random strangers icy glares. They probably deserved it.
  36. That one time when it really does end up being your last prenatal appointment.
  37. The way people are really nice to you at the end, partly because they feel bad for you and partly because they are a little afraid of you.
  38. Crocheting lots and lots of baby hats and booties because you’re still waiting for baby
  39. The people that don’t say, “It will go so fast. Get some rest. Enjoy the last days of pregnancy,” but instead say, “Oh I know, it totally sucks and will feel like FOREVER. Can I get you some chocolate?”
  40. Labor. No really, much as I dislike pregnancy I kind of look forward to labor. And I actually did even before my super speedy last birth. I wouldn’t say it’s fun, but it’s such an amazing experience.
  41. Finally holding your tiny wailing baby and realizing she already knows you because she has been a part of you. ...And also the happiness of not being pregnant anymore!

Friday, November 6, 2015

Respecting Limits, Releasing Guilt

I had just finished my second year in China and my whole life was in major transition. After months of long-distance dating and engagement, I was eager for my upcoming marriage. But sometimes the crazy changes felt too much to handle - moving back to the US for a year-long leave. Planning a wedding - decision overload! Living in a new, unfamiliar place getting to know a whole new group of people who already knew each other - being the outsider again. Figuring out marriage. Finding a job and a place to live.

That was my second summer of intensive Wheaton masters classes. After packing and moving, saying goodbye to teammates, friends, and students, I flew straight from China to start classes. While I enjoyed the course work, accumulated piles of stress were getting to me. I wasn’t sleeping. I would go to a cafeteria full of (actually yummy) western food and try to choke down half a sandwich. I think I looked half-zombie. But honestly, I had been on this level of barely functioning for so long, I couldn’t even recognize it.

It wasn’t until my mom came to visit and expressed her concerns, immediately echoed by my roommates and fiance, that I realized I wasn’t doing so well. Looking back, I’ve probably never been closer to a total breakdown. Under great persuasion, I made the difficult decision to drop out of my second class and go on vacation with my family instead.

I would never have made this decision on my own. I was pretty sure that quitting was never the right option. The point was to push as hard as possible, as long as possible, and then deal with the end result later. This was surely the spiritual answer.

And sometimes it is. There are a lot of verses about pressing on, fighting the good fight, not losing hope, and all that. There are times to challenge our limits. But sometimes we forget those other verses, the ones about comfort and shelter and hiding. Those are alright for children, but they are not the words of a spiritual superhero.

There are times when God gathers us up in our weakness and pulls a Gideon. There are other times when God allows us to be weak and just cares for us like Elijah in the wilderness.

It can take some time to relinquish the superhero mask. It can take some time for the voices of “you should do more, you ought to be better” to fade. It’s hard to admit you can’t handle it all.

As I’ve mentioned, pregnancy is a place where I find myself running up against my limits a lot. And it’s frustrating. There are so many things my non-pregnant self can do so easily that my pregnant self finds exhausting. But I have decided that this is a season of recognizing and respecting my limits.

One of the parts of the limit setting process I find most difficult, and most necessary, is consciously choosing to release the guilt. I catch the voices of “I should, I should, I am not enough...” and examine their validity. Sometimes I turn them around. While my first response is, “I haven’t done that much, I shouldn’t be tired. I should be stronger,” if I think about it I realize, “My body is working much harder than normal growing a baby. I should be tired.”

How do we know when to challenge the limits and when to respect them? Sometimes we need guidance from others. That summer at Wheaton, I could not recognize how far I had run past my limits. It’s hard to see when you are in the middle of it. Listen to the people who know you, who can look into your life and say, “You’re not doing well. You need to step back.”

Sometimes it means listening to your body. I got sick a lot in college, and most of my colds turned into sinus infection, bronchitis, or even pneumonia. I thought I could keep pushing and doing everything, but instead I just got more sick. That summer at Wheaton, I could barely eat or sleep, and I should have paid attention to that. Right now, when I get sick or super sore, when I feel “deathly tired,” I realize my body is probably telling me it needs a break.

As an “intuitive” person, I also listen to those inner feelings of rightness. At the moment, messages about being stronger and trying harder fill me with anxiety and a weight of condemnation. God may speak with a voice of conviction, but not one of condemnation. So I know these voices are not the ones I should to listen to.

Instead I have been continually brought back to messages of comfort. One of my favorite rediscoveries in this season has been Isaiah 40:11: "He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young."

I have also been reminded of another verse in Isaiah 30:15: "In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength.” What I had forgotten was the rest of the verse: “...but you would have none of it.” How many times have we rejected the salvation and strength waiting because we are too busy for quietness and rest?

Are you in a season when you need to sit quietly and respect your limits? Don't miss out on these “gifts of mercy.

[Linking up with Velvet Ashes: Limits]

Friday, October 30, 2015

Losing the Illusion

I write about pregnancy a lot lately because I find it so consuming. Right now it is the most time consuming, physically challenging, energy demanding, emotionally draining area of my life. However much I feel like it should be a side thing I just add on to normal life, that is not my reality. It has also been my primary platform for learning, a lens that colors my whole view of life. Thus it’s pretty much always on my mind.

One reason I think pregnancy is difficult is because of the lack of control. Before you even get pregnant, the process begins. Maybe it is a surprise baby that you totally weren’t prepared for, or maybe it is a baby that was a long time in coming. Either way you may find yourself saying, “I did all the right things - why did it still not go my way?”

Then there is the first pregnancy scare or pregnancy loss, the frightening diagnosis - the first realization that you have so little control over this new life growing inside you. My confidence has actually decreased each time I’ve been pregnant, likely because I know more and more people who have experienced loss at every stage. Beginning this pregnancy I honestly felt like there was about a 40% chance I would actually end up holding a baby at the end. The actual odds are much better, but aside from a few obvious areas, there’s really not much you can do to increase them. 

We also have little control over how our body handles pregnancy. We can make choices that have an impact, but in the end, some people will throw up for 9 months despite their best efforts, and some people will feel great with very little effort, with a lot of variation in the middle. Things we used to be able to do, like get restful sleep or climb stairs without pain, slowly fall by the wayside. Which is unfortunate if you happen to live on the fifth floor.

And perhaps what I find most difficult, I feel out of control of my every day life. I try to make lists so I will remember everything, but things still elude me. Or I forget to even look at my list. More than one day of missed laundry means no diapers, more wet clothes than will fit on the laundry porch, and all that is remaining is 15 unmatched socks. It is amazing how fast the house descends into messy chaos. And darn it all, people expect to eat everyday! So many simple things that don’t cause much trouble in normal life start to snowball as soon as I am feeling bad. I have to ask for help or leave it undone, and I hate either of those options.

I hate feeling out of control. And as I’ve mentioned, I don’t love pregnancy. But I have decided - it’s probably good for me. Sometimes we all need to come to a point (or many points) in our lives when we can’t control it all. The illusion is up. We’re not as great as we thought. 

The realization comes in all kind of forms. Illness. Infertility. Moving overseas. The “why are you still single?” question. The first time your child acts like Ruler of the World. Unemployment. Returning ‘home” from overseas. Honestly, there are so many things in life that humble us, that make us cry out, that bring us to the place we perhaps needed to be in the beginning. A place of realizing “I can’t do it all” AND “It’s not all on me anyway.

I just finished re-reading a memoir called As Soon as I Fell, by Kay Bruner. I read it last year for the first time, but it already merited a re-read. There is one particular section at the end I read through several times. Kay was an overseas worker, working on translation and raising her family in the Solomon Islands until her whole life fell apart. As she walked through a painful process of breaking and healing, she shared an experience of talking to a pastor at a retreat.

I went and sat down in front of a pastor I’d never met before, and haven’t seen since. I wanted to tell him a little of my story, but all I could do was [tell him my work] before I started sobbing.

I sat and cried for a long time, and the only other thing I could get out was: “When will it ever be enough?” It was as if I hoped that, one last time, I might seize back control.
That man looked at me and said, “It is enough already.”

With those words, a sense of freedom and peace came over me, like I had never known. For the first time I actually experienced the reality of Jesus’ words, “It is finished” on the cross. Those words covered everything. Everything is done already. God has taken care of it. Sure, there is work, and I can participate. But I’m going to walk in the cool of the evening and know that it’s not all up to me. God is in control. I am not. It is good.

[Linking up with Velvet Ashes: Control]

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Chinese Style Check-Up

When I was pregnant with Juliana, we made several overnight treks to Beijing for prenatal appointments. It was our first baby, and I thought they actually did important things at prenatal appointments.

The next time I was pregnant, trips to Beijing seemed costly and highly inconvenient, so I decided the local hospital would be fine. But I did go to the newer hospital where you have to pay almost $2 to see the doctor.

But were always tons of people at the newer hospital, plus the 20 minute taxi ride is kind of inconvenient, so this time I decided the older, closer hospital with the 80 cent doctors was sufficient. Third baby, right?

Wherever they happen, I don’t look forward to doctor visits in China. Today I was scheduled for a 25 week check-up and 4D ultrasound. Apparently 4D ultrasounds are standard procedure to check the baby’s facial features. It seemed like it could be interesting, so Kevin decided to come along as well.

We arrived at the hospital for an 8am ultrasound appointment. That’s right - I guess 4D ultrasounds are fancy-smancy enough to warrant appointments. First we had to go pay the money (you always pay up-front), but fortunately it was early enough the lines were still short. Often there are 20 people in line - and you may have to go through the line several times to pay for each separate procedures.

We didn’t have to wait too long for our appointment either. The ultrasound tech scowled when Kevin entered the room.
“You have to wait in the hallway.”
“Why?” We asked. “In America the husband is allowed in.”
“This is China,” she said.
Kevin retreated to just inside the door where he could still see, and the tech apparently decided it wasn’t worth fighting over.

You would think a 4D ultrasound would be interesting, but you know what’s not interesting? Lying on a table for 40 minutes when you can’t see anything and the doctors don’t tell you anything. The monitor is positioned so the tech can see it, the only one who needs to be in the know. I might have fallen asleep except it was very uncomfortable to lie on my back for that long.

At one point we tried asking what they were looking for in this ultrasound. The tech gave me a Look and didn’t talk to me the rest of the time. Oh right, it is not the patient’s job to ask questions or receive information. Every so often the tech gave me an unpleasant look and pushed down a little harder on the ultrasound wand. I contemplated whether this was a “something is wrong” look or just her permanent facial expression.

For about half of the ultrasound, we could hear a woman crying just outside the door. I wasn’t sure if she was in pain or distressed, but the ongoing, animal-type moaning was rather disconcerting.

After a long while, she called in the head tech to take a look. Apparently she couldn’t find something, although I’m not exactly clear what. The head tech also ignored me completely, but she did look moderately pleasant while doing so.

When finished, they sent us out into the hallway to await the report. Since they didn’t say anything, apparently everything was okay? Kevin used my phone to quietly video part of the ultrasound, so at least I could see it in retrospect. Most of it wasn’t 4D anyway, since they were also doing the anatomy scan.

They handed us a report with a couple of cute pictures of the face. My student friend, who came with us to help with translation, tried to make sense of the report.
“This is the size of the head...the length of the arm. The heart looks okay. They could see the kidneys but not the liver. I think everything else is okay, but I can’t understand some of these things.”

Kevin headed off to teach while my friend and I went to get the glucose blood test done. More waiting in line to pay (16 cents), then upstairs to the laboratory. They said we first needed to go back to the OB doctor.

Back to a different section of the hospital where the OB nurse said we needed to pay the fee again. I was feeling a little woozy since I was fasting for the test, so my friend kindly told me to sit and wait while she went downstairs again to pay the money.

Like most doctors, there were no appointments, strictly a first-come-first-serve basis, so we were pretty far down the list. The waiting area was filled with women in various stages of pregnancy and a few of their mothers. Men aren’t allowed even in the waiting room of this area.

Eventually we were called back to the doctor. We crowded around the desk with 10 other people. Privacy...not such a big concern. The doctor asked the women to weigh themselves and then call out their weight for her to record. I can imagine that going over well in America! Fortunately I have been in enough embarrassing hospital situations that it takes a lot more than announcing my weight to a group of strangers to faze me. (Besides, one the other ladies weighed more than me.) While the doctor measured waists, listened to heartbeats, and prescribed medicines, I examined the cheery posters showing pictures of babies with various birth defects.

When my turn came, she carefully examined my ultrasound pictures. “It looks like a foreign baby! Look, it has big eyes and a big nose!” After she asked several simple questions I could easily answer, she told my friend, “I don’t know why she brought you! She can understand everything fine!” Yes, but there is a little difference between understanding “How many weeks are you?” and other medical details!

After a 3 minute check-up, we said we needed to do the glucose test. Well, apparently at that point it was too late to do it (that’s my guess, who really knows) and she said we would have to come back another day for the multi-hour extravaganza. I’m so excited. So much for fasting.

When we finally left at 11am, I was glad for my granola bar. Also, I was happy I will not be having my baby in Yinchuan.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Self Care is not Selfish

[While this is addressed specifically to mothers, the ideas are all pretty universal.]

Dear Mothers,

Self care is not selfish. It’s understandable that we get confused, when advertisements tell us things like “Take care of yourself (with our $30 skin care product)” and “You deserve the best (aka. our cruise to the Bahamas).”

On the other hand, we are continually inundated with stimulating activities for our children (only 90 minutes prep required!), the newest current-most-important-health-ingredient recipes which will require every pot in your kitchen, and incredibly important causes to which we really should devote our whole heart and soul. Who on earth has time for self care, when our children’s health and development, and possibly the state of the world, rests on our shoulders?

It’s tricky because some of those basic human needs and desires take a back burner when children enter the picture. Things like sleeping all night or sitting through a whole meal or being able to lock the bathroom door (without anyone screaming outside it). We do have to give up some of our pre-child expectations. In light of children, they do become selfish.

And yet we still have needs. Our bodies need sleep and food and exercise. Our minds need adult stimulation and an occasional quiet moment to air out. Our spirits need space to connect with God. Our soul needs emotional health.

Neglecting these needs is not selfless; it is foolish. We have limits, and if we keep pushing we will reach those limits. We will eventually crash and burn.

If we are paying attention, we will recognize the warning signs as we draw near the edge of our limits. Warning signs like being irritable all the time. Yelling at our kids. Ending every day feeling drained and exhausted. Feeling disconnected from God. They only become stronger when ignored - resentment toward our children or spouse, illness, feeling depressed or out of control, dreaming of escape (if only to a really quiet hotel room). We all have warning signs: what are yours?

There are times when we are pushed to our limits by circumstances outside our control, when we operate in what my mom calls “survival mode.” There are times when health is just not a reality - say if you are pregnant and throwing up for months. There are times when your needs will definitely move to the back burner, like when you are up every 2hrs with a newborn or when your children are sick. There are crises and deadlines and moves and jet-lag. But these times should not be all the time.

So how do we make self care happen? It might look very different for each person depending on our circumstances and our personality, but some good question to start with are “what are my most important needs?” and “what fills me?”

I need sleep. Even when I am not pregnant and tired all the time, I need more sleep than some (I like to think it’s because I use my brain so much...). If I don’t get enough sleep, I am cranky. It takes twice as long to complete tasks because I can’t think clearly. Right now especially, I need adequate nutrition and protein snacks to feed my body and baby. I need exercise, especially yoga to calm my mind and stretch aching joints.

Even if the “30 minute daily quiet time” (not a biblical mandate) doesn’t often happen, I need connection with God throughout the day. Maybe that means listening to music, writing out verses, reading the same chapter for a month and letting it sink in, appreciating beauty in nature, reciting prayers or verses with my prayer beads, journaling, reading a short devotional...many small, scattered moments of “practicing the presence of God.” I also need consistent time apart to focus and go deeper.

I am an introvert. Surprisingly (or not surprisingly), that did not change when I became a mother to an energetic extrovert. I need some quiet and space. I need tiny moments throughout the day, and I need chances to get out of the house or be in the house by myself.

If I continually ignore these needs, my well-being suffers. My family also suffers, because I cannot care for them well when I have nothing to offer.

Refusing to accept my limits and take care of myself is not selflessness; it is pride. It is working really hard to show I have it together in every area. It is trying to show that I have super-human strength. It is claiming that I am so very indispensable my world might fall apart if I take a break.

Don't ignore the warnings in your life. Allow yourself to have needs and limits. Figure out how to make self-care a reality in your life.

[Linking up with Velvet Ashes: Warning]

Friday, October 2, 2015

On Pretending to be Useful

I have read my fair share of stereotypical gender roles kind of books, many of them talking about how important it is for a woman to feel beautiful. If you look through the magazines with their 15 step facial cleansing routine, it seems like a reasonable assumption.  But as my 360th day of ponytail might suggest, beauty has never been top on my list of concerns. Sure I wouldn’t mind being beautiful, but it doesn’t keep me up at night.

What I want is to be useful. And I don’t mean in a holier-than-thou kind of way, because as much as being useful, I want everyone to notice how very useful I am and marvel at my mad skills. I want someone to say, “Wow, how do you do it all? Raising bright, creative, disciplined children. Making incredibly healthy meals in a spectacularly clean house. Interacting with students every day. All while being an indispensable leader, writing profound books, being famous, literally saving lives - we are truly inspired.”

And that’s why I don’t want to show how useless I sometimes feel. There are days when I do nothing. Not Gilmore Girls marathon kind of nothing. But nothing outside of my home, and nothing inside of my home that won’t have to be done all over again tomorrow. Nothing that says, “Look at me, I’m leading a super important life here in China!

When we tell people back in America we live in China and they get that “ooh exotic” look in their eyes, or when people (untruthfully) say something like, “I could never do what you’re doing,” I don’t think they are envisioning another day of laundry and hitting and tattling about hitting. Because everyone does that. Besides a laundry porch instead of a drier, it doesn’t even look much different than it would in America.

And sure sometimes I do things with students and “impact lives,” generally in a vague, unmeasurable way. I do the “supporting spouse” thing, which is something like more laundry and cooking and keeping the house livable. And maybe at the end of the day I grew my baby a little bigger and I kept my toddler from eating an entire crayon and I taught my kindergartener how to write a 4. But is that enough? Would it ever be enough?

I don’t want to tell how ordinary our lives are sometimes, how full of the mundane necessities of life, because people want to hear the glory and the suffering, the exotic “this could never happen in America.” People want to hear about The Results. Not The Laundry.

(In fairness, nobody wants to hear about laundry wherever you live; it’s very boring. But it is especially anticlimactic when you are talking about China.)

I don’t want to tell how ordinary our lives are sometimes because I’m afraid people will ask, “Why are you there anyway?” It’s hard enough to hear that question from myself. I know this is where we should be now. I want to be here. But sometimes I wonder if it matters that I’m here.

Especially in this not-so-productive season of my life. This season of limited energy and focusing on what has to get done. This season of learning about weakness and limitations, which is humbling.\\

Some would say growing a baby is productive - it feels like a lot of work sometimes, but it looks more like doing nothing much for 9 months and then you happen to get a baby at the end. Most would say that raising children is important, but often it looks like doing and saying the same things over and over for years and wondering if it’s getting through.

So why are we here, living lives that seem way too ordinary?

This may not be the right answer, or the best answer, but this is the answer I have right now.

We are here to do life in China. Laundry, messy floors, home schooling, all of it. This is not just our jobs; it’s our lives. It’s our children’s lives. China is where we work and play and learn and discipline. We want our students to see that we are not just passing through - we are choosing to live our lives here.

In reality, our lives do look different than they would in America, especially in a million small ways we hardly notice anymore. We do deal with unique challenges. We have great opportunities and witness exciting change. But much of our lives are just eating and sleeping and cleaning and doing life stuff.

And it’s not enough. It will never be enough. The need is always before us; the plans and dreams are always more than we can realize; the tasks will never be completed. At my most productive, I am not enough. But then, in the end, I don’t have to be. It was never all on me anyway.

[Linking up with Velvet Ashes: Fa├žade]

Monday, September 21, 2015

Adalyn - 2 years old

When Adalyn turned 1 last year, I was in complete denial. The first year had gone by so fast and it didn't seem possible that she wasn't a baby anymore.  There is no denying her toddlerhood now, though.  I still call her a baby sometimes, but she has grown so much in the past year.  She has an intense desire to be able to do everything her sister can (and in fact she started saying she was five instead of two!)  I enjoy seeing her personality develop more and more - even though it sometimes means more wailing and more struggles over actually having to wear clothes.

Daily Routine: Wakes up between 6:30-7am either very happy or totally flipping out. Eats a sandwich or oatmeal with Juliana and one parent, then shares a second breakfast with the other parent. Plays with mama or ayi in the mornings, and sometimes plays on her own for a good stretch. Helps prepare lunch before Juliana comes home from school. Naps for around 1.5 hours after lunch and then joins in home school. She especially enjoys songs and playing with the math blocks. Often goes outside to play in the late afternoon. Goes to bed a little before 8pm and generally sleeps well all night.

Sleeps with: Bunny, dolly, and waterbottle (every night she checks aloud that she has them all)

Favorite Activities: Playing outside, playing with Little People and train tracks, helping mama cook (and sample)

Favorite Books: Smile for Auntie and “Hippos in the Zerk” (Hippos Go Berserk)

Favorite Foods: Peanut butter and honey sandwich, cheese, jiaozi, Mac and Cheese, cookies

Favorite Color: Blue (which she calls pink)

Current Random Obsession: Washcloths, rags, and cloth wipes. Unfortunately she uses them rather indiscriminately, like wiping the floor and then her face.

Words to describe Adalyn: Sweet, quiet, stubborn, skeptical (with new people), fearless (in exploring), strong willed (she has been know to throw a chair - a Mickey Mouse toddler chair - when angry) silly (especially with Juliana), focused.

What I appreciate most about Adalyn: She has a very sweet nature. She often wraps her arms around mama in a spontaneous hug and says, “I love you!” When her sister is upset (even if it’s because she got in trouble for hitting her), Adalyn will give her a hug to make her feel better.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Juliana - 5 Years Old

I was under the impression that I wrote a little birthday update about the girls each year, but apparently I haven’t actually done that since Juliana was two. As you might imagine she has changed quite a bit during that time.

I’d say it’s hard to believe that Juliana is 5 already, but actually I’ve been thinking of her as five for a few months. Especially now that her bangs have grown out, she looks like a full-fledged kindergartener.  She's still been known to throw a good fit, but she has grown up a lot over the past year. Still, it is hard to believe that 5 years and 1 day ago, I hadn't even met this girl yet!

Here are a few facts about the 5 year old Juliana.

Daily Routine: Wakes up around 6:30-7am and gets ready for kindergarten. She is usually excited to go to kindergarten, but she is also happy to eat breakfast in her pajamas on the weekend. She attends Chinese kindergarten from 8-12 every morning, coming home just after school lunch for a second lunch (half a sandwich) at home with the family.  After lunch she has a rest time while Adalyn naps, which usually involves watching a movie, coloring, cutting pictures from a magazine, or playing with dolls. After rest time and a little snack, we do home school. In the late afternoon Kevin has been taking the girls outside for a little bit before dinner. Bedtime is about 8pm.

School: This year Juliana is in Chinese kindergarten and also starting home school kindergarten. She likes Chinese kindergarten because she gets to go somewhere and see people every day. She enjoys home school kindergarten because she likes to read books and have important school tasks.

Favorite Book: It depends on the day. She just listened to Yaya's recording of "Of Course Polly Can Ride a Bike," which she could really relate to since Polly got a bike on her 5th birthday just like Juliana.

Favorite TV Show: Mickey Mouse and the Clubhouse

Favorite Color: Rainbow (because why choose one when you can have them all, right?)

Favorite activities: Seeing friends, going anywhere, playing on the playground, playing with Little People, dolls or barbies, coloring, watching movies as often as allowed.

Favorite foods: Peanut butter and honey sandwiches (a daily necessity), Mac and Cheese, Chinese noodles, cake

Words to describe Juliana: Extrovert, enthusiastic, vivacious, opinionated, loud, fun, talkative, silly, bossy, in love with life.

What I most appreciate about Juliana: As a quiet, low-energy kind of person, I appreciate Juliana’s zest for life. She gets excited about everything. She loves new people and new experiences. She tries to squeeze the most out of every day.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The Magical Misery

By the third time around, I shouldn’t really be surprised to find that I have a hard time with pregnancy.

Now I will begin with a disclaimer. Each time, I have been very glad to be pregnant. Each time I appreciate pregnancy even more - the ability to get pregnant and stay pregnant is not something we should ever take for granted. When you have experienced loss and know so many others who have, you can’t help but recognize the miracle of each baby that makes it into this world. However, I do think you can really appreciate something and be glad for it while also really not enjoying it.
Yeah, I was actually 3 months pregnant with Juliana in this picture. Hahaha.
When I was pregnant with Juliana, the jury was still out. I did not enjoy the nausea and the backaches and the hundred other symptoms I never knew existed, but there was all the excitement of the first time combined with the strong belief that pregnancy is a magical time. All this talk about glowing and stuff.

Suuuuper happy to still be pregnant with Adalyn.
When I was pregnant with Adalyn, the jury was unanimous: I did not enjoy being pregnant. 24/7 nausea and throwing up every day for months on end confirmed that pretty quickly. I lost 6 pounds, and I was seriously miserable. Even when I got to the “glory days” (i.e. second trimester) and we were unexpectedly moving out of our apartment, I frequently felt like I was going to die, with only slight exaggeration. And the last month I was an impatient mess of sleeplessness and contractions. Some of my first thoughts post-birth, after “Oh my gosh I can’t believe I just had a baby that quickly,” were “Oh my gosh I’m so glad I’m not pregnant anymore!”

So I had pretty reasonable expectations/dread coming into this pregnancy. This pregnancy has mercifully been much less miserable than the last. I still felt sick for most of the first four months, but thanks to Unisom, I was actually functional most of the day and only threw up 1-2x a week. Do you know how nice it is not to throw up? Really nice.

In the last couple of weeks I have reached the point when I hardly ever feel nauseous anymore! At 19 weeks, I am firmly into the second trimester and everything keeps talking about all the energy I should be feeling now. This right here is the best part of pregnancy. And I think that’s why, even when I make it past the giant hurdle of nausea, I still feel kind of depressed. As a friend said, “I feel so much better than before...but I still feel pregnant.”

I think part of the reason I have a hard time is because of unrealistic expectations. Especially by the time you get to the third, it seems like pregnancy is something you should be able to take in stride. It should be a side thing that doesn’t interfere too much with the rest of life. I should glide through my daily activities with a glowing face and growing belly as the only evidences of the crazy change happening. When people comment on how effortless I make it seem, I say, “Oh that’s right, I temporarily forgot I was pregnant!” With a blissful gaze.

Except have you ever seem a pregnant lady glide? We don’t. Long before the watermelon sized belly, our joints loosen, our muscles stretch, and our organs rearrange themselves, and resulting movement mimics a 90 year old arthritic. Aside from the main show, growing a baby, our bodies are doing all kinds of crazy stuff. I remember trying to think of any part of the body NOT affected by pregnancy. I think the ears stay the same? Seriously, pregnancy even causes blurry vision (I experienced this last time), swollen fingers (one symptom I actually haven’t had!), and all kinds of cool skin changes from acne and dandruff to extreme itching.

It’s no really any wonder I feel tired all the time, when I am not only growing and nourishing a baby, I am also pumping 30-50% more blood resulting in up to 15% higher heart rate. But even though I know that, I still feel guilty that I can’t keep up with things as well as my non-pregnant self.
Just a little visual: Normal body vs. squished organs.

When you think about not only what is happening with your baby, growing from a microscopic collection of cells into a fully-formed baby ready to function in the world, and also with your body, which is bending over backwards to accommodate its new guest, it is really incredible. And slightly disturbing if you think too long about all your poor squished organs. Pregnancy really is a magical time. But that doesn’t mean if feels magical. It feels less like magic and more like being sick for a really long time.

Complicating matters is that everyone’s experience with pregnancy really is different. There are apparently some people who really love being pregnant and feel great. There are also some people who really love Big Freida, so the world remains a mystery. I have one friend who ran her first half-marathon at 20 weeks pregnant. Amazingly, we are still friends. I have other friends who have thrown up pretty much every day for nine months, bless their dear little hearts (and I mean that sincerely).

So in conclusion: Pregnancy is a big deal. The only difference between the first and the third pregnancy is that people make less of a fuss. But physically, it’s pretty much the same. Except that you started out older and more tired than before. But you go through it again, even though you know what you are getting yourself into, because that baby at the end really is worth those nine months of magical misery.

19 weeks down, 21 to go!
Why we go through it all

Thursday, September 3, 2015

September Catch-Up

If you were wondering what has been happening in these last few months of blog silence...
1.We spent the summer in America, hitting up Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, and California.
2.I’m pregnant!
3.And it’s a girl!
4.We came back to China.

You probably knew that from Facebook, but in case you missed it, now you’re caught up.
Juliana was particularly thrilled to be getting another sister. I'm not sure Adalyn cared too much one way or the other, but she did like the wig.
We returned to China two weeks ago. It was a 36 hour trip and far less than fun. My personal favorite part was throwing up a bunch in the Beijing airport and feeling truly horrible. I could hardly stand up, but we had to catch another flight - in a different terminal 20 minutes away. So Kevin wrangled all the luggage while I carried a sleeping Adalyn and tried not to pass out. There was also that one time they couldn’t find Adalyn’s ticket in the computer, and the other time we lost my boarding pass as we were about to board, and some other times of screaming (just Adalyn, not me). But in the end, we were all still alive.

We have done a lot of moving over the years - new cities, new apartments, new schools. If you have moved a lot, you know what a great feeling it is to come back to the same place. Our familiar city where we know people and can find things, our same apartment - no moving in required. There is something about coming back home after months away and putting your clothes up in your own wardrobe that is very satisfying. We have now lived in the same city for 3.5 years (a record!) and the same apartment for 1.5 years. I don’t take that settled feeling for granted.

Now that our suitcases are stored and we are once again sleeping through the night (well, theoretically, except my allergies are kind of ruining that), we are working on getting back into routine. Our school technically starts this week, but we our first holiday this week so Kevin won’t actually see his students until Sunday - make up day for Thursday’s classes. While he still has a lot of planning, Kevin has a much lighter class load than in the spring.

This week Juliana joyfully started back to Chinese kindergarten. She has moved up to the third floor with the big kids, but fortunately the same classmates and teachers all stay together! They have graduated from spoons to chopsticks for meals, so Juliana needs to work more on chopstick skills. Juliana had two days of school, then was disappointed to also have a two day holiday.

We also started home school kindergarten! We will continue using Five in a Row (a unit study curriculum using different children’s books) that we started for preschool last year.  We’re also adding reading (Get Ready/Set/Go for the Code and All About Reading) and math (Math-U-See). I plan to take it slow since Juliana is already in school all morning, but I think we’ll enjoy it.
This peaceful attentiveness lasts for at least 5 minutes.
Adalyn is sad to see her sister leaving again every morning (particularly since she has to stay home), but she has done well with a little more quiet play and mama time. She also seems to be remembering her Chinese pretty well with ayi and is picking up new words. She is also happy that home school has started back. She enjoys doing school like a big girl - at least for ten minutes of singing and repeating days of the week and such. She is a big fan of Math-U-See since it has lots of little math blocks she can play with while we work.

As for poor baby #3, who gets so little attention, she is about the size of a bell pepper. I have felt her move a few times when I actually pause to notice. Adalyn likes to pat (smack) her through my belly, and Juliana has already named her Cinderella, and speculates she will be born with rainbow hair. I think the lack of prenatal attention will be made up for in lots of sisterly attention after birth. Adalyn loves being around babies and helping to “take care” of them. Currently Adalyn and Queen Elsa both have dollies in their tummies. No wait, Adalyn’s is a kitty.
When I just told our ayi I was pregnant, she said, "I thought you were looking fatter! But your arms were still thin."

I am 18 weeks pregnant - just two weeks to halfway! I have been significantly less miserable this pregnancy than the last, many thanks to Unisom. I still felt pretty sick this whole summer, but I was much more functional and didn’t even throw up every day. Now that we have settled back in, my nausea has mostly abated. Unfortunately terrible allergies have kicked in to take its place. I’ve never been a huge winter person, but right now I can’t wait for cold weather.

So right now we are getting back into routine. While I have half a dozen organization projects I really want to get at, realistically the house is about as clean as it ever is for more than those rare, glorious 15 minutes. I have started cooking again and been doing a lot of dusting and mopping. The allergies and lack of sleep are getting to me, though, and I’m having trouble finding the energy to do anything extra - like plan anything with students! I’m struggling to figure out how to do the things I’d really like to be involved in (which is more than last semester...hmm) while also keeping reasonable expectations for this year of pregnancy and babyhood.