Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Pregnancy: Week 8 and a doctor's visit!

Today marks week 9 of this pregnancy, though the above pictures were taken for week 8. Life has a way of moving rather quickly this time around!

I think I have a little bump now, but often it depends on whether I've just eaten or not, so there's not a huge change yet. Clothes still fit, though by the end of the day sometimes I'm wishing the waistband were a little more loose!

Baby is still so small, about the size of a grape, or the blossoms I am holding in the above picture (which are so small they are hard to see!). It's pretty amazing to know that all of the essential body parts are there (though they'll change plenty in weeks to come), the heart is dividing into four chambers, and even tiny teeth are developing in the gums!

Hadassah continues to be excited about baby, though I don't think she fully understands. A few weeks ago when I came in first thing in the morning, she reached through the crib slats to put her hand on my tummy and said "goo goo ga ga" (her way of saying baby). She also often brings baby up in random contexts, like when we were outside having a pretend picnic, she said "Mama. Dassah. Baby!" I told her it was true - we were all together have fun outside! It's pretty exciting to think of her and this little one being best buds.

Training Hadassah, going through seasons of hard decisions and then coming through to realize she's learned some things (finally!) only to have another one come... It makes me realize how much more training there is ahead with this one! But, I feel like we'll know a little more about what to expect and how to anticipate and help. All children are different, but having a second is kind of nice, because you know what you want to do better from the beginning. Hadassah is learning and growing so fast, too. At 17 months, she is testing limits but also so sweet and full of life. Discipline has gotten a little more defined, and along with the correction I taught her her first Bible verse yesterday: "Children obey your parents." We'll add to it later, but I explained each thing, how she was the child, that obey means to do what mommy and daddy says, or NOT do what they say not to do, and that "parents" just meant mommy and daddy. She loves repeating it after me, for the praise she gets! She latched on to the word "obey" too, and has been saying it sometimes after I remind her to obey mommy and not touch the buttons on the dish dryer (or whatever it happens to be)! Today at lunch she was saying "obey" but I didn't recognize the word until she said "obey Mama Dada!" It's really amazing and so rewarding to see her learn and start to understand key truths.

The morning - any-time-of-the-day sickness is still quite present. I broke my "no throwing up" streak on Sunday. Riding on Ryan's e-bike (it's finally warm enough to again!) right before dinner, past so many smells of food cooking left me feeling quite queasy, and then I lost it when we got home. But, it does seem to be getting better. Perhaps I'm just learning to manage it. Drinking warm water with lemon sometimes helps, as does light snacking. I don't like to eat right before a meal, but sometimes it's the only way to get through cooking.

Though, in all honesty, last week we ate out 4 nights in a row... and 3 of those nights I had french fries. WHY that is THE thing that always sounds good (both in this pregnancy and my last one) I will never know. Ryan tells me Hadassah turned out really well, so I should eat as much as I want, but I'm still trying to show restraint. ;) The cravings still hit really hard for things I don't have. One day it was Subway, Arby's, and Chickfila all in one day... and while I know they have Subways downtown, we are not going to drive an hour to get supper! Another time as I was falling asleep I had trouble as I could almost taste cubes of cheddar cheese on wheat thins... I have been splurging more with groceries and being okay with going out a little more often, as I know this is a season. Just 4 more weeks and we should be through the weird nausea at least! The biggest recent blessing as been the arrival of watermelon at the fruit stand. It surprised me how sweet it is this early, and I won't admit just how much I've been eating lately...

As Ryan posted in a shorter, less-detailed post, two weeks ago we had our first doctor's appointment. It wasn't much - the hospital just required you to have an ultrasound and get registered early in order to make sure there was space for you.

With only one time slot given us to choose from, we had to wake Hadassah up about half-way through her nap. She did surprisingly well, especially since we allowed her to bring her "ni-night" lamb with us (a rare treat!). I had composed and I thought sent a message to a friend downtown, asking if we could drop Hadassah off there so she wouldn't have to wait with us, but never hearing back and then checking to see if it sent the day of, somehow the message had disappeared. I felt bad that she had to wait with us, but for the most part, she enjoyed time with mommy and daddy.

 After 45 minutes in a taxi, we arrived at Peace International Maternity and Child Health Hospital. We followed signs for the VIP section and went up to the 13th floor. We were thankful we had an appointment instead of just having to show up and wait like everyone else, but the wait was still longer than anticipated.

Thankfully 2 of the receptionists spoke pretty good English. But that was it. I guess since it was "VIP" I was expecting more English knowledge and more foreigners, but this is definitely a hospital mostly used by locals. We were grateful there was any English at all, though, and the only other foreigner I saw was someone who looked European but looked to have a Chinese wife. Evidently, if locals pay more, they can use the VIP section (which I am glad for - the main section just sounds so hard to go through!).

We finally got all the right paperwork filled out and payed for the visit, and were directed to another waiting room down the hall. We'd arrived just before 2:30 PM, and as I looked around for a restroom, the receptionist asked if I wanted an abdominal or vaginal ultrasound. Thinking I was going to be required to have a vaginal one (since I was only 7 weeks along) I was more than happy to choose abdominal. Having to keep my bladder full, per her request, seemed like a small price to pay. As the minutes ticked by, though, with a toddler who just wanted to move a lot or sit on my lap (uncomfortable having to "hold it!"), it became more miserable. Ryan took her for walks in the hallway, but as usually happens when she's tired or in a strange place, she kept coming back, wanting me. Finally, at the 1 1/2 hour mark, I couldn't stand it. I dashed to the bathroom, then downed 3 bottles of water. Thankfully, when we were finally called 30 minutes later, there wasn't a problem and baby was visible on the ultrasound.

We did wonder why the wait was so long. Ryan asked once or twice, but while the receptionist was able to say what she needed in English, it took quite a few phrasings of the question to get her to understand. "You think the wait is long? This is a public hospital." was all the explanation we got. But as the 3 couples who were waiting before us all went, and then the 4-5 couples who came after we got there also went without our name being called, we wondered if we were being passed over. No way to really know, though... My other guess is that others just know appointments will never be on time and show up late.

The ultrasound was quick. With no way of understanding the technician or asking questions, I just enjoyed the brief glimpse of a tiny little "clump" that I knew was my baby, a little life already growing. They played the heartbeat out loud for 2 seconds to measure the beats, and the sound was reassuring. A heart beat! From inside me! I don't think the wonder will ever get old.

After a little more wait, we saw the doctor on duty. She did speak English, though a little hard to understand. My heart jumped when the first words she said were (I thought), "The baby is no more." But as she went on to say everything looked healthy, I realized she must have said "the baby is normal." It's just one of those things that happens when you speak different languages, and the relief that flooded me when I realized my mistake was huge. She asked the routine questions to date the pregnancy and ask about history, then we were out in 5 minutes.

We were then directed to another desk, that gave us information on the hospital and set up our next appointment. Thankfully the hand-out of information to know for when you go into labor was translated into English, but the above hospital and fee information they had no English translation for. A quick verbal run-down and the fact that our insurance does direct billing for this hospital should hopefully be enough...

By the time we got home, after grabbing supper and squeezing in on the rush-hour crowded subway (Ryan had to stand in the standing-only space, while someone gave up their seat for me - people really are kind when they see you have a child!), we were exhausted. 5 hours for a doctor's visit we spent probably 15 minutes total on the necessary things. It's kind of de-motivating, how long things take. But, we are thankful that there are English options here, and next time (end of April) we'll be with a doctor that will be the one with us all the way, so we should be able to ask more questions.

Time seems to be flying faster with this one. Probably because there's not much time to sit and think about how amazing it is! Not that I don't sit... being in the first trimester means the house is a little more messy all the time, as I'm much more likely to lay on the couch for 5 minutes when Hadassah is busy with toys instead of fitting in a chore like I usually would. I'm also ready to go to bed by 8:30 PM these days, and if we stay up late to get stuff done, am more likely to pass out on the rug instead of cross stitch while Ryan works on the computer. But, this too is a season that should pass. And it's a beautiful one to be grateful for!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Steps in Mandarin

Another step in learning Mandarin Chinese is complete: I finished book two! I have not had much time to practice lately... being pregnant and just exhausted, everything takes longer chores-wise, and when I do have a moment to sit down, I just want to sit! But, somehow I still managed to do pretty well on the "HSK-2" test. My teacher is a great one.

With the completion of level 2, I also completed my lessons, at least for now. With Hadassah down to one nap, I was finding it hard to complete everything I needed/wanted to do while she slept, especially when 2 nap times a week holding an hour long tutoring session. Add pregnancy exhaustion to the mix, and I just wanted time to rest, to nap if I wanted to. I may pick the lessons back up, or they may be over for good. I've always wanted being a wife and mother to be my priority, and at least for now, the lessons were feeling like more of a burden than a help.

But, I definitely have enjoyed learning. I understand more than I can say in the heat of things, and I still am not very confident in speaking with others beyond basic things, even though in the lessons we studied everything from how to give detailed directions to a taxi driver to how to shop for gifts for friends. 

I do hope to continue learning some of the characters on my own, through a handy step-by-step book. Just a few minutes a day... I've found it's a lot of fun to write them and be able to recognize them when out. But it's also confusing just how similar so many of them are.

Every now and then I feel like I'm finally understanding and able to say a lot, only to have a phone call that leaves me tongue tied and completely not understanding a word, or a delivery man at the door who is trying to insist that I take a box I didn't order (I tried telling him it was for the floor below us according to the address, but he was saying something about the phone number on it not being answered)... thankfully I was able to knock on our neighbor's door and let the grandparents who were home take care of it.

Yesterday was also another blow to pride in thinking I knew good pronunciation and tones. Hadassah attracts a lot of attention when we're out still. Often, she now sees grandmas coming, exclaiming over her and how cute she is, and she turns and runs the other way. I'm trying to teach her that she needs to at least be polite and say hello instead of ignoring people, but I really don't blame her... being a star simply due to your hair and eyes gets old really quickly.

There are some sweet encounters, like the above one with college girls who somewhat shyly asked if they could have a picture taken with Hadassah. :)

And yesterday, there were two little girls Hadassah actually enjoyed playing with. It probably helped that both encounters were in a place there wasn't a large group, so a crowd didn't gather around as soon as she stopped to play. The first one was on a bridge on campus in the morning. Hadassah was dropping wild berries off of the side and saying "ploop" as they made a sound, and an 18-month-old little girl with I think her mom came and stopped to play too. It was cute to see the little girls give the berries back and forth, actually sharing for the most part! By the end, Hadassah was calling her Jiějiě (older sister). Hadassah has picked up quite a few Chinese words lately, learning all of the terms for our neighbors (grandpa, grandma, aunt, uncle, and the little boy's name). She also recognizes some of her numbers by their Chinese name, as we count in Chinese each step (all 35 of them, divided into 5 sections, where we start over at one) as we walk up the stairs. Carrying Hadassah up the stairs is getting more exhausting, so this helps encourage her to walk, though it's definitely a lot slower and not always possible when I'm also trying to carry up bags of produce!

Anyways, that afternoon we went out to the square in our apartment complex, and there was a little girl, probably 4 or 5 years old, that kept waving to Hadassah. She warmed up to her, and came closer to play with her, as they dipped long sticks into the water. Soon, the little girl started pointing to things and saying their name in English: cat, fish, "so many fish!" She was really quite good. I repeated the Chinese name to her, playing a fun game where we switched languages for a minute. Before I felt too good about my knowledge, though, I heard her say (in Chinese) "your Chinese is not very good." At least I understood what she said, and laughed and agreed, but still... it's pretty bad when a 4 year old doesn't think you speak well!

Little steps. I'm realizing how LITTLE each step is when you learn a language. It has definitely been an adventure and good lessons (in more than Chinese) that I'll take through life.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Saturday Cinderella

When you live overseas, you miss a lot of the things your friends do naturally. Which is okay - you get a whole set of new experiences you never would have otherwise. After all, I'm getting to buy my pineapple off the side of the road these days, and it tastes oh so amazingly sweet! But, those things that friend after friend posts pictures on Facebook doing... you miss them.

So it was with the recent Cinderella movie. I mean, I may not have even gone to it in the states. We don't often watch movies, let alone ones at the theater. But as I saw people going with their sisters or close friends, the familiar ache started. Add to it the fact that I was tired and just wanted a break... it had been so long since I've gone out without Hadassah, much as I love her!

Then my neighbor mentioned something about Cinderella on a quick evening visit at her house. "Is it playing here?" I asked, half hoping. Not only was it, it was playing at the fairly new mall just a 15 minute taxi ride from us. It was also in English, with Chinese subtitles, so good for us both. Turns out my neighbor had been wanting to go too, so it gave us both an excuse, to go together! The guys were gracious enough to watch the littles and meet us afterward at the mall for pizza.

 And it was beautiful. It exceeded my expectations. Sure, it was a princess movie. I wouldn't recommend it wholeheartedly to everyone, guys especially, as the dresses were often quite low cut. But the cinematography, the music, the acting, the characters, the way you were caught up in the story and whisked away to a beautiful land in spring time (with blue skies!) as the movie began... We both enjoyed it. Somehow a child's cartoon turned into a movie that gave two moms rest.

My neighbor was an amazing, gracious host. She booked the tickets online and refused to let me pay, saying it wasn't much with the discount she got (and even full price, the tickets here cost less than in the US). I'd be lost trying to get tickets online in Chinese. She even booked the best middle, center seats, as in China you can reserve the ones you want. She was shocked when I told her in America the previews run for as long as 20 minutes sometimes, as they were just a few minutes here. And then afterwards, as the men and littles weren't set to arrive for another 20 minutes, she treated me to a cone from Dairy Queen (insisting, since we planned to treat them to supper) and we sat outside and talked about our favorite movies and books. She, too, has watched The Sound of Music time and again!

It's hard to describe what the break and the fellowship did for me. Ryan could tell - I was just so rejuvenated. I had renewed energy for Hadassah and beautiful sights and story in my head. I am so grateful for a little time to have "girl time" with my neighbor and friend. I didn't realize how much I'd been missing it.

First Picnic of 2015

 On Sunday, we went to campus late afternoon. We were headed to the requested eagle (Hadassah's first word every time we go outside!) but got waylaid by the scent of amazingness. The garden just outside the gate beckoned us in...

After drinking in the beauty, we left it to let the little miss wander, but we knew we'd be back...

Monday happened, and I was tired. It was cooler than I wanted it to be outside (a couple of 70-degree days spoiled me) and the house was a mess. It was hard to get going, and there were chores that needed to be done. The AQI was low, but it was 10:30 AM before 2 loads of laundry were washed and hung, the breakfast dishes done, and just the kitchen cleaned from all the mess a weekend of being out piles up. Soon it would be time to make lunch... no time to go out with Hadassah?

But I decided to embrace the joys we've been given. I called Ryan and told him to meet us in the garden for a picnic. The sky wasn't blue, but at least a light gray. The weather wasn't what I'd call warm, but it was at least high 50s... And the AQI was low enough to go out in good conscious. I decided to be happy. And I'm so glad I did!

The smell of freshly cut grass made me smile as we neared the campus gate. Once again, the sweet scent of flowers hit me as Hadassah and I passed the garden on our way to pay a quick visit to the eagle. I saw a woman riding a bike with her daughter on the back. She looked to be from India, and we exchanged a quick smile of understanding. When you're in a foreign country, you feel a kinship with everyone else who is too. 

 When we went back to the garden to meet Ryan, Hadassah was excited as she saw me laying out the blanket. She kept standing up and then sitting down, trying to find the perfect spot as we waited for Daddy to arrive.

 I told her we couldn't eat until he showed up, so the minute he did she tried to open her container of food!

 Family and flowers. What could be better? We were serenaded by hundreds of sweet birds, providing the best music you could ask for.

 Hadassah was too excited to eat much, though. I didn't blame her. Once the novelty of eating outside wore off, she wanted to explore. So, after she finished at least most of what was on her plate, I let her go.

 She headed to the "balls" - a place where trees drop a lot of wild berries. We call them balls so she won't mix them up with something to eat. Ryan ran after her just after this picture was taken. She wasn't scared to just go!

 Ryan captured some of the perfection... Such bright whiteness!

 I loved the delicate loveliness the myriads of wildflowers around us added.
 Hadassah loved the little flowers too! I'd taught her how to pick them on a previous visit, so as I was finishing up lunch, she went exploring and I heard her saying "flower - wowie!" over and over. Pretty soon, she came back with her prize in hand!

 One last glance of the large beauties...

 ...and another of the tiny ones. We serve an amazing Creator!

And today it happened. The rest of the house is still a mess and the lunch dishes not yet done, but instead of cleaning, I took a nap while Hadassah did. 1 1/2 hours to be exact. I really must be pregnant!

Another anomaly? The AQI went down to 42 at last check. In the GREEN (good) zone!! Wow. So, looks like we'll be out again once Hadassah wakes up. Now to see if I can finish the dishes...

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Textures and Contrasts of Spring

These are pictures from our latest jaunt out to the beautiful Jiaotong University campus.

The Chinese name for these flowers literally means "welcome spring"

The iconic flower of Shanghai.  (Yù lǎn huá)

The filter on this one makes it look like snow.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

There's some things money can't buy

[Author: Ryan]
One  trip to the doctor without rush hour.
One hour.

One wait in the doctor's office.
Two hours.

One meal to-go from the restaurant across the street from the hospital.
Fifteen minutes (and $50 USD!)

One trip back home during rush hour.
One and a half hours.

You thought this was going to end with some phrase that ended with "priceless" or maybe some pun about Master Card.  But... lol, yeah, my mind couldn't think of anything.  I thought this post was going to be more clever.  Instead, it's just me saying that we spent a lot of time and money to get on the official "pregnant" list at the "local" Chinese public welfare hospital.  There you go.  A complaint post.  But aren't the pictures pretty?

Sunday, March 15, 2015

A few of my favorite things...

I always have a million more blog posts in my head than I have time to write. Then they get put off until I just don't have time to catch up. So below are some snapshots from the past week, meant to be sung to the tune of the song from The Sound of Music. :)

 Raindrops on roses,

and pigtails on toddlers;

 Peeking through tunnels

and camera captures.

Cold, dreary winters that turn into spring...

These are a few of my favorite things!

First taxi alone with my little companion

 Sitting in sun

In an Asian pavilion;

A toddler that points and then "a, e, oh" sings...

These are a few of my favorite things!

When the cold squalls. When the rain falls.
When the haze is bad...

I simply remember my favorite things, and then I don't feel so sad!

 Crafts made of felt for a tot to be quiet,

Homemade tortillas so we don't have to buy it;

Husbands that make the house also have spring...

These are a few of my favorite things!

 Daughters in boxes with a foot up and resting,

 Mahjong with colleagues

 then with friends while 'a talking;

Willows with leaves

And the joy a girl brings,

These are a few of my favorite things!

When the nausea strikes; when the AQI spikes,
when the toddler is mad...

I simply remember my favorite things, and then I don't feel so bad!

To be honest, remembering things to be thankful is still hard on those harder days. I definitely am just happier all around on the days I get to go outside, to see the flowers, and the life on the streets, from the busy corner bakery to the owners of the bike shop playing badminton on the street, to the sewing machine humming inside the window of the laundromat to the guard at the gate that shares treats with Hadassah. But, "rejoice in all circumstances..." Something I'm still praying the Lord teaches me more of.