Thursday, April 10, 2014

Our First Home School

We usually start our school day with songs.  Except some days we start with role call.  It wouldn't really be necessary ("Juliana?"  Check.  "Adalyn?" Check.), except you know that Juliana can't stand being the only one in school, so she likes to invite imaginary friends.  We have had anywhere from two to ten imaginary friends at our school, either Little People characters ("There is Sara Lynn and there is Michael.") or her own crazy creations ("And over there are Jubia and Sadgee.").  Either way, she expects me to remember their names and locations.
Juliana's self portrait for her "All About Me" book.  She has long, long hair like Rapunzel.  She also included blood and throw up to make it more fun.
Once we've made it through role call, we sing songs.  Juliana's current favorites are "I've got the joy, joy, joy, joy..." (She giggles everytime we sing, "Where?" with exaggerated shrugs and perplexed faces) and "Hear the lively song..." a chorus about frogs which ends with a rousing "buuuuuur-UMP!"  Sometimes she likes to make up her own songs, but I have limited tolerance for that.  I am all for imagination, but Juliana expects me to know her made up songs and sing them correctly.  "NO, it's not ju-be-dra-la, it's ju-be-DA-la.  You're not singing it right."

After songs we talk about which day of the week it is and sometimes sing a terribly annoying kindergarten song cleverly entitled "Days of the Week."  Juliana loves it.  Then we talk about the month of the year, and Juliana says, "It's STILL April??"  I recently told Juliana there are four months in the year.  Now I try to finish my coffee before we start school.

We are working on memorizing Psalm 23, something we started about a year ago but then woefully neglected.  Juliana has gotten to the end of verse four, but sometimes she gets distracted.
"The Lord is my shepherd,
I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures like at Yaya and Grandpa's house because pastures means GRASS and I liked to lie down on the grass with Melissa except that the dog would want to come outside and she would make him go inside.
He leads me by quiet waters but not IN the water because that would be silly and if we lie down in the water we'll get all WET.
He bestores my soul..."
Juliana with her bone-body.  An all-tile bathroom is handy.
Our lessons are based on a different letter of the alphabet each week, partly to help with identifying the letters and sounds, partly just to give some structure to our activities.  I wanted to be unique in our activities - why is it always "A for apple"? - but I've discovered preschoolers basically want what they already know.  Or perhaps they just still have a lot to learn about all those things we've already deemed boring. We did an activity with the life cycle of an apple and for weeks Juliana said, "Let's learn about the apple again."

Our activities are rather varied depending on the theme, but in general they involve a lot of cutting and glue, because nothing says "school" to Juliana like a nice messy craft.  Sometimes I come up with good ideas.  Sometimes we watch youtube videos of little kids dancing and try to imitate them.  I figure this is all good practice for me for the day when I actually *have* to teach Juliana and she's actually supposed to learn something.
Juliana counting and eating "apples" off her apple tree.  The apples are actually raisins, so that's a little confusing.  Nonetheless, Juliana thought it was great and wanted to do it every day.
Our schedule is something like this:
Monday - letter identification and writing practice, discovering items starting with the letter
Tuesday - some kind of activity related to the theme.  This week was "earth" and we have been watching some of BBC's Planet Earth series.  So interesting!  Juliana enjoys the darker sides of nature ("Can we watch the fire again?  I want to see the part when the big tree falls.  Look, he's eating that animal - hahaha!").  Hmm.
Wednesday - a virtue or Bible character (I had her dolls act out "attitude" and "caring"...naturally she enjoyed the dramatization of bad attitudes and for a while afterwards I would hear her dolls saying, in the silly voice I used, "Was that a good attitude or a bad attitude?")
Thursday - animal starting with that letter.
Friday - well, sometimes we just don't get to Friday because by then I'm too tired to think of something.  I have plans of making this a "free day" where Juliana can decide what she wants to learn about.  She'll probably say apples.

Our school is pretty simple, but Juliana seems to like it.  Every day she asks, "When are we going to do school?  Are we all done with school?  Can we do more school?"  Now if only she can keep up that attitude for the next 20-so years...
Doggie Juliana is grateful for her one real classmate.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

6 Months Old

We hear Adalyn's little happy waking noises through the monitor, and Juliana runs in shouting, "She's awake!  Her little eyes are open!  I'm here baby Adalyn!  Don't cry, I'm right here!"  Adalyn looks up from examining her hand or talking to the shadows to give a giant sisterly smile.   Her chubby little cheeks are pink and the tired lines around her eyes are gone, even after a standard 45 minute cat-nap.  I pick her up and kiss her soft chin, which always makes her giggle.

At six months old, Adalyn is just as sweet as ever.  She is generally quiet and contented, and she charms everyone with her smiles.   Here is what is happening in her life at six months.

Sleep: Adalyn usually goes to bed around 7:30pm and wakes up around 7am. We've had some rough patches lately, but right now she is back to normal, usually waking up twice a night.  She nurses and usually falls back to sleep pretty easily.   If she is restless in the early morning, I bring her into our bed.

Naps: Adalyn is still a pretty consistent 45 minute cat-napper.  She has taken several longer naps recently, and while I hope it is a pattern, I think it has more to do with a bit of a cold.  She usually ready to nap after about 2hrs of wakefulness, so she takes 3 or sometimes 4 naps a day.  I'd like her naps to be longer, but it seems to work for her.

Nursing: I'm not really sure how often Adalyn nurses during the day since I really don't pay that much attention.  It seems like usually she can go for 3hrs or more without complaining, but many times I will nurse her more often if she needs to nap or we are going out.  While there is definitely less spit up than there used to be, Adalyn still spits up quite regularly.  I can't remember how long I should expect that to last!

Solids: I've been waiting until after 6 months to start solids.  I was really eager to start with Juliana, but this time I don't feel such a rush.  We are thinking about doing "Baby Led Weaning," a sort of strange name for giving your baby pieces of "normal", age appropriate food instead of purees.  The idea is for them to get used to textures from the beginning, thus becoming more accepting of a variety of foods.  It also helps them to self-regulate - and it sounds easier than making lots of purees!

Playtime:  Adalyn loves to eat her toys.  She lies on the floor playing with them and at mealtimes sits in her highchair throwing them on the floor.  Her favorites are probably a set of plastic keys, a plastic bath book, and a play food ice cream cone.  Juliana also enjoys Adalyn's toys and frequently takes them.  We are already having many talks about toy sharing.

Motor skills: Adalyn is getting better at sitting up, although she still only lasts for a short time before losing her balance.  She rolled over once almost two months ago and still hasn't done it again!  She gets close, but she still seems happy with rocking from side to side on her back or “swimming” on her belly.  I guess that's what comes of having a very contented baby!  While rolling doesn't seem to be a priority, Adalyn loves standing!  She doesn't have the balance, of course, but she can support herself for long periods of time.

Biggest challenge this age: Well, you know, not enough sleep is always a challenge!  Otherwise, I feel like at this age Adalyn gets frustrated by not being able to sit up well and be more adventurous in her play.  It seems like Juliana was a lot happier when she could sit up and play and when she got more mobile.

Favorite part of this age:  I enjoy seeing Adalyn's personality continue to develop.  She loves watching her sister play and gives her lots of smiles. She also puts up with a lot from her!  Juliana likes sitting on Adalyn (straddling her stomach), which seems like a bad idea except that Adalyn just smiles and laughs.  She is very interested in different people and either gives them big smiles or intense stares.  And she is still very interested in examing the world with her huge eyes!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Super-mom in China

Today I got the kids all dressed up in their abundance of winter gear so we could go out for a walk.   We try to get out most days since some small person gets a little stir-crazy and since we haven't yet figured out how to fit "real" exercise time for me into the schedule.  We only had about 45 minutes until Adalyn would be ready to nap again, and since it takes approximately 40 minutes to get bundled up and out the door, I contemplated whether it would really be worth it.  But since I had already brought up the idea to Juliana, it was too late for backing out.  She wanted to stop and play with Little People for just a few minutes and really needed to do a bit of coloring before we went and oh, look at the stickers!, but I finally convinced her it was now or never.

I've just about gotten the bundling process down to a science.
1. Ask Juliana 5 times to go potty and wash hands.
2. Set Adalyn on the living room rug near the floor.
3. Get everyone's coats, gloves, and hats and pile them by the door.
4. Find Juliana from wherever she has gotten waylaid and put on her coat and hat.
5. Put on my own coat and hat.
6. Set Adalyn inside her winter outfit with the legs in but arms still out so she doesn't get upset.
7. Help Juliana with her boots.
8. Try to keep Juliana in dirty boots near the doorway (we don't wear shoes inside in China).
9.  Zip up Adalyn's winter outfit and put on her hat.
10.  Quickly put on my own boots while Adalyn cries.
11. Find Juliana's hat which was just on her head two minutes ago!
12. Check for keys and walk out the door,
13. Unlock the door again because I have forgotten the rag and Adalyn just spit up all over me.
14. Head down the stairs counting for Juliana on the way down (approximately 64).

Usually I have Adalyn in the Ergo, which involves a couple of other steps in the middle, but we just got a new stroller for Adalyn so I decided to try it out today.  Naturally, since I was bringing a stroller Juliana also wanted to bring her dolly and dolly stroller.  Fine, whatever.  One large stroller, one dolly stroller, one dolly, one baby, and one 3 year old who wants to hold a hand down five flights of stairs.  No one was injured.  I might be Super-Mom.

Of course the sight of a big eyed foreign baby in a stroller alongside a blond haired foreign girl walking her own stroller was quite a hit.  We generated lots of attention.  Juliana didn't mind.

I realized that in the past three weeks we have been back not one person we've met outside has told me Adalyn isn't wearing enough clothes.  Either my parenting skills have drastically improved since Juliana, or this is not really China.  I'm starting to think they don't really care about her!  Someone, please scold me!  Oh well, there's always tomorrow.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

One Week In

We arrived in Yinchuan just over a week ago and I'd say we are fairing pretty well. The trip went smoothly.  Adalyn cried inconsolably for half the trip to the airport, but then she hardly cried the rest of the trip.  She is still small enough to be content sleeping, nursing, and checking out all the new sights.  Juliana slept the first part of the flight and then enjoyed watching cartoons most of the rest of the time.  She had a few meltdowns by the end of the trip, but overall she did well.  When we arrived in Beijing, we suffered a little anxiety when none of our bags appeared.  Fortunately after some investigation they tracked them down wandering around the airport somewhere, and we were once again reunited.

The day after we arrived, we were able to get the same movers from last time to transfer our things to our new apartment.  Unpacking is fortunately much easier and faster than packing, even though I wished we had half as much stuff.  One week in, everything is pretty well unpacked although it's still a bit messy.  Juliana's room is in the best shape - she even has pictures on the wall.  The living room is looking good and the kitchen is relatively organized - I have even started cooking on my fancy two burner stove!

This has probably been our easiest yet experience with jetlag, at least post-children.  After sleeping at the beginning of the flight, Juliana stayed awake the entire day of travel and finally collapsed close to her normal bedtime.  She just had a couple of days of waking up at4:30am.  Adalyn had a couple of nights in bed with us semi-constantly nursing and then she has gone back to her good sleeping - more 7hr stretches!  Strangely, both kids have had the most problems with naps!  Juliana hasn't wanted to nap at all, and Adalyn has been attempting some 5-10 minute naps.  It seems rather unusual for jetlag.

Both of the kids started coughing and sniffling as soon as we started traveling, and by the time we arrived it was apparent they both had colds.  Somehow Kevin and I managed to avoid them, and the girls are now both doing better.  Kevin has started in on a sore throat, though, either from cold or allergies.

We are enjoying our new apartment.  It is spacious and has lots of good light.  The previous occupant (whom we knew) left things super clean, so our move in was much different from last time - no grime, no random knickknacks and Chinese boy-band posters, and NO MOLD!  The kitchen is much nicer than in our last apartment with real counters and cabinets, plus a little pantry!  I also appreciate the large laundry porch with laundry poles that lower and raise. They have been getting lots of use since everything we packed smelled pretty dusty and musty and the tiny washer has been working overtime.

The campus we live on is at the very edge of town, but there are still plenty of restaurants outside the gate.  Just outside our apartment is a little playground (there are hardly any in China outside of kindergartens, so this is particularly special!) right next to a vegetable shop.  It's super handy to have vegetables, eggs, tofu, and even frozen chicken pieces just a few minutes away.  We also learned that the new milk delivery man delivers fresh milk twice a week right to our building!

And even better than a playground - Juliana's good friends (3 and 5 yr old boys) now live just across the hallway!  She is thrilled, and I see lots of coming and goings in the future!  I realized that all her friends in America were girls, and there was certainly a lot of princess play this fall.  Juliana is still enamored with princesses, but I'm not sad to add trucks, trains, and dinosaurs to the mix.

Next week Kevin (and possibly me, we're still not sure) will start teaching Business English and Pronunciation.  We are happy to be settled back into our own apartment and excited to get back into a regular routine.  As I write that, I think, "Who gets excited about routine?"  but it's true - after seven months away, I am happy to be settled in our China home again.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

My Year in Books

I read a lot.  You might call me a compulsive reader because I find it hard to not be in the process of reading at least one book at any given time.  One time on a trip (before I had a Kindle...or children, so I actually had a chance to read on trips) I finished the one book I brought and had no other choice than to start reading it again.

This year I decided to keep track of the books I read.  I have read more than (post-children) normal this year because the first half of the year I spent a lot of time reading to try to distract myself from throwing up, and the last part of the year I spent a lot of time reading while nursing in the middle of the night.  Night wakings are slightly easier if you at least have an interesting book to read!  So here are my 2013 book statistics:

59 - total books read
30 - number of that total that were re-reads
4 - nonfiction books
25 - Amazon free books
4 - books purchased

I did not include in my total books that I started but didn't finish (some of the books are free because they are really terrible), books I read parts of (because I do that), books I referenced (like sections of parenting books), or children's books.

As you probably notice from my statistics, I don't read much non-fiction.  It's not that I dislike nonfiction, I just like fiction a lot more. :)  Generally the non-fiction books I like the most are ones that tell a story.  The non-fiction books I read this year were all related to topics I find particularly interesting.  Since there are only four, I will tell you what they were:
1. A Year of Biblical Womanhood
2. Ina May's Guide to Childbirth
3. The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding
4. Everyday Justice

You will also notice that I like to re-read books.  A lot.  My favorite books (Christy, Til We Have Faces, The Little House books...) I re-read almost every year.   Some people have a hard time understanding this, but it makes perfect sense to me.  I love drinking coffee every day, I never seem to get tired of chocolate, and I like talking to the same friends year after year.  Familiar books become a part of your life like a friend or a favorite food, so that you start to really miss them after a long absence.  If I had to choose between only reading new books or only re-reading books, I would have to choose re-reading.  (And I have already read a lot of books in my lifetime, so I'd have a pretty decent size collection to choose from.)

Because of my voracious reading habits, I get a lot of use out of my kindle.  I hardly ever need to buy books because  there are so many free ones.  Admittedly, I read some and think, "Good thing this was free, because it would not have been worth spending money on."  But a number are decent and some are actually quite good.  We also have access to digital books from three different library systems.  While at home, I also enjoyed a selection from my family's extensive home library.

If you were to read one book I read this year, I would most recommend Everyday Justice: The Global Impact of our Daily Choices.  This is the book that will have the biggest impact on how I live.  Julie Clawson examines the impact of our consumer choices in several different areas (coffee, chocolate, cars, clothes, waste...).  This book causes you to confront the reality of modern-day slavery, unfair labor practices, environmental hazards, and to acknowledge the ways we contribute to these systemic injustices in our every day choices.  Working to live ethically can easily be overwhelming, but the author encourages us to start small and make manageable changes rather than throw up our hands in guilty resignation. it!

What book from your year of reading would you most recommend?  What are you most looking forward to reading next year?

Sunday, December 22, 2013

3 Months Old

I'll probably say this with each new age, but it's hard to believe Adalyn is already 3 months old! That is a fourth of a year! The other day we saw a two-week-old baby at church, and Adalyn looked so much bigger and older than him, even though it seems like she was just two weeks old herself.

Here is the lowdown on 3 month old Adalyn.
Nursing: She nurses about every 2.5-3 hours during the day, although sometimes more in the evening. She also nurses around 3x a night. I know I've done this before, but it is amazing how much easier nursing is once you get past those first weeks. She has now started getting distracted during nursing by wanting to smile and talk. She still spits up a LOT. I think I read somewhere that spitting up peaks around 4 months, in which case we're in trouble!
Sleeping: Well, she's still way ahead of Juliana, but her glory days of sleeping seem to have gotten left behind in Georgia. She has been going to bed earlier (between 8 and 9pm) and sleeps 3-5 hours at the beginning. Unfortunately the 5 hour segments have been relatively few lately. After that, she usually sleeps 1-2.5 hours at a time. 2.5 hours I can live with - 1 hour is rough. She sleeps in a bassinet beside the bed until early morning when she gets very restless and I bring her into our bed. Last night she only woke up once between 9pm and 6am, though! It was pretty great.

Naptime: We swaddle Adalyn up and she usually goes to sleep very quickly - like seriously within a minute or two. We have been working on stretching out her 30-45 minute catnaps with varied success. At bedtime she usually can't stay awake through nursing, but at naptime I've been putting her down while she's semi-awake. In theory, that's supposed to help a lot. We've started using white noise at naptimes to drown out a certain noise maker who likes to yell very loudly or come in to check on her baby.
  Temperament: She is still such a contented baby. The other day we spent two hours teaching Chinese to second graders, and Adalyn just hung out in our arms the whole time, sleeping a little, looking around, and hardly making a noise. She likes to look around and observe the world. She is happiest when she first wakes up or just after she nurses - she gives lots of big smiles and carries on long conversations of sweet gurgles and coos.
Craning her head to watch the fan
Loves: Sucking on fists, staring at the fan, watching her crazy sister, "standing" up for long periods of time, talking, listening to Juliana sing (mostly), cuddling

Hates: A wet diaper, sitting in an unmoving car, an overenthusiastic fan yelling directly into her face, inaccessible hands, bathtime (mostly), being on her tummy
Why do they do this to me??
The best part of this age is the smiles. Adalyn has a range of delighted smiles, silly smiles, and - my favorite - the adoring smile. It's the smile that says, "No one has ever loved you as much as I do," the one you'd really like to save up for those future days when she doesn't adore you quite so much. Adalyn has also almost started laughing. When I tickle her chin or massage her belly, she gives a big, open-mouthed grin and a little chortle. It's going to be fun when she starts giggling for real!

The hardest part about this age is sleep. I think that's usually the hardest part of the first year. For the first month or two you know you're not going to get any sleep, but after a few months you forget what it is like not to be up several times in the middle of the night. It's frustrating to be dragged from a deep sleep and then by the time you have cared for baby, be so awake you can't get back to sleep.

Still, she is only three months old. I certainly never expected her to be sleeping all night at three months. I will try to promote good sleep habits, and I will try not to stress about it. And I will enjoy the sweet, waking-up smiles. She will grow up way too fast!
The delighted smile

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Case of the Vaseline-Coated Stuffed Animals

By Kevin

It all started with an unusually long nap. Generally, Juliana rests for at least an hour each afternoon in her bed, but these days she only sleeps once or twice a week. Rarely for more than an hour. But today, when she woke up after 45 minutes, I decided to go in and lie down next to her to see if she wanted to sleep a bit longer. Juliana grabbed my hand and drifted back into a deep slumber. So did I. An hour and a half later, I looked at the clock and saw that it was 4:30. This wouldn't bode well for her bedtime routine. So I pulled the blankets off of her and prodded her out of bed.

After shaking out the cobwebs, she was wired, exuberantly running around, screaming, dancing, singing and playing at an abnormally high-intensity level.

After dinner and a bath, Yaya read her some books and we all told her goodnight around 8:30 and Ruth and I started to play a game of 7 Wonders with her Mom and sisters.

We heard Juliana paging through books a couple times and reminded her that she needed to sleep. After the game was over, she was still rustling around in her bedroom, so I went in to tuck Juliana in a second time. Immediately, my nose began nagging me with a question, "What is the strange, slightly sweet smell emanating from her bed?" Then it hit me. Vaseline.

I hesitated for a moment. "Were you playing with the Vaseline?" I asked. She nodded and looked away, guiltily. "Where is it?"

She rolled over and pointed to the alley of about a dozen stuffed animals, tissues, and various other knick-knacks she's hoarded alongside her bed. "Over there." Grabbing for the mostly empty jar, my hand grazed one of the stuffed animals she's packed around her bed. The elephant was completely coated in goo. It was dripping off of the eyes and soaked into the fur. As was her puppy. And a kitty. And Eeyore. Gross goo was everywhere. I dragged her to the bathroom to wash off her hands and saw a glob in her newly washed hair with dish soap. I asked where else she'd rubbed it. "On my face," she admitted, as I rinsed her off.

"Anywhere else?" I asked.

"Not on my feet. Not on my belly," she said smiling tiredly.

"Did you eat it?"


"Did you rub it in your eyes?"


I finished cleaning her up and brought her back to bed, telling her that she was going to have to sleep without a few friends and that if she ever rubs Vaseline on any other toys again she wouldn't get to play with them anymore. She nodded her understanding and I gave her another good-night hug.

Thankfully she's not the first to have turned her stuffed animals into slippery goo-monsters. A Google search for "Cleaning Vaseline from stuffed animals" leads immediately to other similar stories. Seriously, what would we do without the Internet? Grease-removing Dawn, baking soda and hot water seem to have gotten the goo out of the stuffed animals. By the time the goop was out of the animals, she was sound asleep.

Apparently cornstartch or baking soda and grease-removing dish soap and hot water is the way to go with hair. Lemon juice and Dr. Bonner's also seem to be strong contender. I'll have to try that in the morning, because I have a hunch the dish soap didn't get the job done.

I should have taken a picture.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

One Month

It's really hard to believe Adalyn is already over a month old!  Now that pregnancy is over (still rejoicing about that one, btw), time has resumed its normally fast pace.  Besides, there is nothing like a new baby to make you aware of the passing of time, since they change so much every week.  One day I say, "Adalyn doesn't focus on faces very long" or "She hasn't started smiling," and then a few days later she does.

This month has gone by quickly even considering all the difficulties of life with a newborn.  It wasn't helped by the fact that I had two bouts of mastitis, complete with high fevers and feeling horrible.  I was super grateful for the extra help of family when I was feeling really sick.  (If you wonder when you will ever out-grow taking care of sick children, the answer is never!)  I think everyone should live with family when they have a new baby - it makes things so much easier to manage!  It has definitely helped Juliana's transition to still have lots of people around to give her attention.
Reading with Grandma Yaya
Adalyn is now weighing in at 9 pounds, so she is still a little thing, but she's growing well.  She is sweet and cuddly - you can't beat a newborn for snuggliness.  She still sleeps a whole lot, but she has longer alert periods when she likes to observe the world with giant eyes.  She is generally a very content baby; she just gets fussy in the evening as most babies seem to do.

Nursing is going well - much better now that the mastitis is over with.  Baby Addie nurses about every two hours most of the day.  It seems like a lot sometimes, but reading breastfeeding books is a good reminder that it's perfectly normal and healthy for a baby to eat often.  I know that it won't be long before she is waiting a little longer between feedings, which does make it easier to go out and plan activities.  Besides, she is going for much longer spells at night, so it's hard to complain.

We are continually amazed by Adalyn's sleeping!  When she was firstborn and then when I had mastitis and then again when I had mastitis, I had to wake her up to nurse frequently, but now that I don't have to wake her up, she routinely sleeps for 3-4 hours at a time.  Last night she actually slept for 5 hours straight!  At 5 weeks old!  It's really hard to believe.  I've heard of babies like this but never thought I'd actually have one.  We were happy if Juliana did that any time in the first year.

Adalyn still prefers to sleep cuddled up next to mama (what baby wouldn't?), and that is where she spends most of the night.  I enjoy cuddling with a sleeping baby, but we have been trying to get her okay with sleeping in her bassinet some of the time as well.  She is usually pretty restless in her bed, squirming and grunting and spitting up a lot, but sometimes she does okay.  We raised the head of her mattress, so hopefully that will help with all the spitting up.
We are enjoying her recent smiles
I keep remembering how things were with Juliana at this age and being amazed by how "easy" Adalyn is in comparison.  Of course, partly the second baby is much easier because everything isn't as stressful and perplexing, but I can already see a big difference in their personalities.  Juliana had the most expressive cries - even from birth she was pretty adept at letting you know exactly what she was thinking.  And mostly she was a happy baby - as long as someone was holding her.

With lots of willing arms around, Adalyn certainly gets plenty of holding in throughout the day, but she is also okay with hanging out in her bouncy chair looking around or sleeping.  She likes being cuddled in the wrap but she is content in the stroller as well.  I feel like Juliana was unhappy almost anytime she was put down.  Which is in keeping with her current desire for continual interaction with others.

Juliana has done well adjusting to her role as big sister.  She calls her "my baby" and likes to hold her and give her hugs and kisses.  She talks to her a lot and says things like, "Don't cry baby!  Don't cry!" and "You're a cute baby!  You're a cute baby!"  She also likes to sing, and if baby is crying she just sings louder.  Adalyn finds all Juliana's noise soothing.  She has also already perfected her "resigned" face for when Juliana holds her or doctors her or sings very loudly in her face.
Sister love (can't you see the resigned look?)
We are really enjoying baby Addie.  Juliana is great fun and has brought lots of happiness and energy to our lives.  We love her vibrant personality...but we're also pretty happy to have a more laid-back baby this time around.  It will be interesting to see how Adalyn's personality develops as she grows.

Monday, October 7, 2013

He Ran Through an Airport With Me

A few months ago I read a blog post which referenced this quote:
"My love life will never be satisfactory until someone runs through an airport to stop me from getting on a flight." - Teenage post of the week via Huffington Post
(The post talks about what love really looks like in real life - well worth checking out).

At the time, Kevin pointed out the absurdity of waiting until the last minute when the girl has already spent lots of money on a ticket and may never see her luggage again - not to mention the guy would have to buy his own ticket to get through security - couldn't the guy make up his mind before then?

Kevin and I have had a lot of airport moments in our relationship, but in 3 months of dating, 8 months of engagement, and 6 years of marriage, not once has he begged me not to get on an airplane while romantically declaring his undying (if somewhat belated) love.  And I'm okay with that.  Because...

He has run through an airport with me.  More than once, in fact.  Most recently after a ridiculous delay, he ran ahead through the airport to convince the airline employees to hold the flight for us while I ran behind (pregnant and sick) balancing Juliana on top of a cart full of luggage.  They held the flight and we avoided spending $1000 on new tickets.

This sixth year of marriage may not have involved a lot of crazy romantic gestures, but it's been made up of many real life, small moments of commitment and care.

He made me breakfast in bed during the weeks when I was too sick to get up in the morning.  When I couldn't handle walking in the kitchen and wouldn't even let him bring Chinese food in the house, he found something for him and Juliana to eat every day.  He put Juliana to bed every night when I was busy throwing up, and he kept doing it after I had stopped throwing up and was just tired.

He cleaned up throw up - mine and Juliana's - on multiple occasions without complaining.  He was thrown up all over by a sick Juliana and he still kept holding her.  (This year held a lot of throw up.)

He went to the supermarket and vegetable market and to buy milk and carted Juliana around on his bike when I was sick at home.

He packed boxes and repacked boxes when a certain small person unpacked them.  He sorted through stacks of papers and got rid of things he would rather have kept to satisfy my desire to purge.

He relinquished more and more of the bed as I took it over with increasingly large numbers of pillows in an attempt to get comfortable.  He got up with Juliana in the mornings so I could sleep longer.

He fixed the toilet and the light and the vent and put back up the classy plastic in the broken windows.

He occupied Juliana on long plane flights and walked with her in airports so I could sit down.

He drove really fast without endangering any of our lives so we could get to the hospital on time for the baby to be born.

He searched out good deals on plane tickets and found a way to get us extra frequent flier miles for our trip back to China.  He figured out all the logistics for getting passports and visas.

He was patient when I was snappy, difficult, critical, and unappreciative.

He never stopped me from getting on a plane.  Instead he got on the plane with me and has stayed with me ever since.

Happy sixth anniversary, Kevin.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Birth of Adalyn Lucia

Note to the reader: This is a birth story, and while not at all graphic, if words like dilation and placenta make you squeamish or you think storks will be involved in any way, don't say I didn't warn you.

The Birth of Adalyn Lucia
A contraction woke me up shortly before 1am.  I had been waking up to painful contractions for weeks, but this one felt different - deeper and more intense.  I tried to ignore it and had almost drifted back to sleep when the next one came, strong enough I decided I'd better start timing.  They were coming at 7 minutes apart, and I knew I should rest during this early labor but it was already hard to lie down through the contractions.  I went to the bathroom and when another one hit I thought, "Man, this is already painful and I'm just getting started!  I'm not sure about going through all this again..."  I came out and knelt on the floor for one more contraction, realizing they were now 5 minutes apart.  When I got my breath back, I pulled myself up to the bed to tell Kevin we'd better get ready.  As he stumbled out of bed and began collecting our things, I called up to my mom, who was coming with us to the hospital.

I didn't feel a huge rush yet, but I knew it would take a few minutes to get ready, and I was thinking of the 40 minute drive to the hospital.  It didn't take long, but I had to pause several times to moan and sway through contractions.  I told Kevin to drive (the seat was already adjusted for him, so I figured it would be faster), so mom climbed in the backseat behind me.  Mom told Kevin to relax and drive carefully; I told him it was okay to speed.  I vaguely watched the clock and noticed the contractions were now 4 minutes apart.  Kevin noticed as well and picked up his speed; in the backseat mom called the midwife to let her know we were on the way.

Moments after we pulled out on the 55mph highway, the blue lights appeared behind us.  "It's okay," I said, "Surely he won't give us a ticket!"  In mercifully short order, the cop was walking toward the car shining his flashlight toward us.  Kevin started yelling out the window, "My wife is in labor!  We're trying to get to the hospital!" while mom called similar things from the backseat.  The cop apparently decided there was no other good reason for a largely pregnant lady, her mother, and her slightly frantic husband to be barreling down the highway in the middle of the night.  "Well, I guess I can't verify that, but I'll let you go.  Just try to keep it to 70 instead of 77mph."  As he walked away he called back, "Congratulations and good luck!"

We were back on the highway, crawling down the road at 70mph.  There wasn't much I could do during contractions, being restrained in the car, so I just gripped the door handle and moved my head slowly back and forth as I moaned through each one.  I tried to compare to my last labor - these contactions seemed somewhere in the middle - close and intense but still manageable.  At my appointment the week before I was 5cm dilated (incidentally the same starting point for my 16hr labor with Juliana), and I hoped I would be at least 6cm when I got to the hospital.

I couldn't make sense of the clock anymore, but Kevin was watching the contractions go from 3 minutes to 2 minutes apart.  Between contractions I was mainly aware of traffic lights and tail lights.  Fortunately the roads were pretty empty at 2am.  We turned off the highway into Athens - the hospital was tantilizingly close but we were stopped by a red light.  The road was deserted.  I was going to tell kevin just to run it, but he swung right, made a U-turn, and turned quickly back on the road.

Less than a mile from the hospital a pack of cars suddenly pulled out in front of us, blocking the whole road, driving under the speed limit, and waving their UGA flags. "They are probably drunk and don't want to get pulled over!" Kevin groaned.  I've never been less of a UGA fan than at that moment.  Honking, tailing, and loud swearing all seemed like appropriate responses, but I guess you don't want enraged drunk people blocking your way.  A few frustrating minutes later we turned off into the hospital.  I was very glad to have finally arrived, and I didn't feel a huge sense of urgency.  The contractions were strong but still manageable.  We pulled up to the ER; Kevin jumped out, I heaved myself from the car, and mom moved around to take it to park.

The moment we reached the registration desk another contraction hit and I gripped the edge, moaning.  The registration nurse started asking questions which Kevin answered since I obviously couldn't speak.  Suddenly I felt it: that unforgettable, overwhelming need to push.  "Pressure!" I gasped, and Kevin immediately moved to put pressured on my lower back.  "No," I cried, "I feel PRESSURE!"

The nurse kicked into high gear, calling again for transport.  "Don't push!" She said, "You don't want to have this baby right here - don't push!"  Which I imagine is kind of like telling someone having an ashma attack to"just breathe," but I tried my best.  Childbirth books should really include more information on how to keep from having a baby.

A few minutes later a security guard, apparently the only person around, came running up and told me to sit in the wheelchair.  "I can't!" I cried.  Movement at this point seemed impossible.  It felt like she was crowning, but I thought, "No, that's ridiculous.  Not already!"  I managed to lower myself into the chair and we were off.  Kevin stayed behind to sign some forms (he has no idea what he signed) and ran after, catching us just before the elevator closed.  Which is fortunate, since otherwise he would have missed the birth.

As I gasped and panted and tried not to push through another contraction, the security guard said in a slightly panicked voice, "Don't push!  Don't have this baby on me!  We're almost there."  We raced through the back hallways and I heard her yelling for the nurses as the labor and delivery came into view.  (The waiting nurse later said she thought I was the one yelling, until she saw me sitting there calmly while the security guard ran up hollering.)

The nurse led us into a room and began getting the IV antibiotics ready, asking me to get on the bed.  It felt like an impossible task - only the second time this labor that I felt like, "I can't do this!"  I heaved myself onto the bed and landed on all fours just as another contraction hit.  The nurse was saying, "I just need you to lie down so I can get in the IV."  Before I could comply or even reply, I felt the force of my body bearing down and cried, "I feel the head!!"

And sure enough, I reached down and felt that the head was out.  The nurse immediately abandoned the IV saying, "Oh goodness!  Lie down!  I need you to lie down!"  In the third semi-impossible move, I managed to flip over onto my back.  The nurse shoved my skirt out of the way saying, "Okay, give me a little push," and out came the rest of the body.  The baby broke into lusty cries.

The feeling of relief was overwhelmed by the shock of seeing the baby lying on the bed.  I couldn't believe it had happened so fast.  Less than 10 minutes of trying not to push and here she was!  It was 2:35am - less than 2 hours since the first contraction, 10 minutes since we arrived in the hospital, and less than a minute since we got to the room.  The nurse was excited because it was her first delivery, but it happened so fast she didn't even have any equipment.  She put Adalyn on my chest and a moment later another nurse brought in the supplies.  We waited for the cord to stop pulsing, then Kevin cut it.

My midwife and my mom arrived at about the same time, both rather surprised to see the baby already there.  "I should have met you in the ER!" my midwife exclaimed.  As she delivered the placenta the nurse asked when my contractions had started.  When I told her it had been less than two hours she said,  "Yeah, I'd call that a precipitous labor!  Next time, if you even think about going into labor, you'd better head for the hospital!"

Mom and Kevin didn't get to play their labor support roles quite as they imagined, but they ended up playing other vital parts like driving fast and parking the car.  And while I'm sure mom was disappointed to miss the birth, she was probably glad she didn't have to deliver the baby herself!  It was a shockingly fast labor and so different from Juliana's, but I'm grateful for both.  The last one taught me a lot about strength and perseverance and how even a very painful experience can be very positive. And this one, well, it does make for a good story to tell!