Tuesday, April 28, 2015

12 weeks pregnancy update

 Our first travel in China came right around the 12 week mark of pregnancy, so I couldn't resist taking this month's pictures in front of the beautiful West Lake in HangZhou. With nausea all but ceasing and a energy slowly returning, it was nice to enjoy traveling some. More photos and a post on the trip coming later. :)

My baby bump is definitely showing earlier this time. I've heard your uterus expands quicker after the first child, as it's used to stretching. And I know I'm definitely not in the shape I was the first time, coming off of years of intensive dancing. I'm hoping it's those two factors and not the french fries and potato chip cravings I've been having...

With baby 3 inches long and major body parts fully developed, it was special to see him/her on an ultrasound screen yesterday morning. While I don't like the assumed every-visit ultrasound (it seems unnecessary), seeing our tiny baby, wiggling some and moving his/her little arm, with the cutest little nose... it was pretty special. Truly God has made babies in the womb fearfully and wonderfully!
Our baby's first photo is on our fridge. So special to see it and be reminded of the little one growing inside!
The doctor's visit this time clocked in 1/2 hour shorter than last time, which was a relief! However, we left the house at 6:30 AM and didn't get back until 11 AM... the downsides of living an hour away. It was pretty crazy how crammed the subway was first thing in the morning. Each stop I'd see people waiting outside and think "surely they won't fit!" and yet, once the doors closed (and sometimes reopened and closed again because people were so tight), everyone had fit. Ryan was crammed like a sardine while I got a seat - people are always very kind to mothers. Poor Hadassah had to leave the house 15 minutes after waking and eat her breakfast on the subway, but she didn't seem to mind. Fourth day in a row we traveled quite a ways, so by the end she was quite tired, and had her share of minor meltdowns. But, all things considered, she's a great little traveler.

Despite a vast number of pregnant ladies at the doctor, they had a system set up which kept things moving pretty well: check-in, another place to pay, a room to take weight and blood pressure, another for urine sample, an ultrasound room, and then waiting to see the doctor. Thankfully there was a nurse and a receptionist that spoke English well, and they guided me through. Ryan kept Hadassah well occupied (crackers are a charm sometimes!) and she recognized that there was a baby on the ultrasound screen. :)

The doctor assigned to us was nice, and didn't mind our detailed questions about what they require/allow during labor and delivery. We were glad that the room would indeed be private and the husband was allowed to be involved at all times. It sounds like during labor we can be fairly free to move and do as we like, and they even provide a big ball that was my solace during most of labor with Hadassah. An IV won't be required unless I get an epidural, which I'm not planning. The delivery positions there was some push-back on... they encourage semi-reclining or side-lying positions, and while she didn't full out say that I couldn't squat, she said they don't encourage it as it can increase tearing. All I'd learned in the Bradley class seemed to suggest the opposite: that it helped you open up much more, and after all, women have done it for centuries! Some online research when I got back was mixed: some said it increased chance of tearing, others didn't. The doctor ended by saying we'd just have to talk to the midwife who would meet with us at 34 weeks to plan the delivery. I guess she will more oversee it.

She also said it would depend on how big the baby was measuring... When she learned Hadassah weighed 8.8 lbs at birth, she was shocked and said "So don't eat so much this time!" It kind of irritated me, as I tried to explain that all the babies born to my mom and sisters weighed over 8 lbs, that it's more common in the states (after all, I'm not Asian nor built like one!), and that I was able to deliver her naturally regardless. She kept saying, "Well, we'll see when we take an ultrasound at 34 weeks how big the baby is and what to advise." Which, I've heard measurements that late by ultrasound can be way off... Her instruction to aim for a 7 lb baby just seems impossible - my genes don't lend themselves to small babies! So I'm missing my midwife who never cared about weight, just that I was eating healthily. It seemed so wrong to just tell a pregnant lady to "not eat so much" with no instruction on a healthy diet at all.

Ryan just told me not to let it bother me. After all, if we don't do certain things they tell us, what will they do? He took care of asking all the questions we'd written down (I was trying to keep an all-done-with-being-out Hadassah quiet), and I was thankful for his clarity and not backing down on certain things. He's definitely a better question-asker and advocate that I am - so thankful to have him involved in everything! We did learn that the C-section rate is 40% there, but since I had a natural birth the first time, she seemed pretty confident that I could have one again. She did say we'd have an hour to push before being evaluated if things needed to be done (and as one who pushed for 5 hours the first time, I didn't like that seemingly short time limit!). She again brought up the weight, saying if I have a smaller baby, it won't take so long... Anyways. Interventions such as episitomy, manual breaking of water or forceps she wouldn't commit to, saying they would see when the time comes what was needed. I understand, as a doctor, wanting to have the option to do what is best, and I know there is a very small time and place those are needed, but we prefer it to be a last option. So, if we do end up delivering there, we definitely will have a written birth plan and I trust Ryan to be a strong advocate even when I can't be.

I dutifully didn't eat breakfast as they'd instructed, and then after all the beginning steps, with seeing the doctor the only thing left, asked the nurse helping me if I could eat something. Maybe she or I misunderstood, as I thought she said yes, and never did a few bites of a peanut butter sandwich taste so good! But then she told me "No no! Do not eat!" and the doctor was upset, saying I was supposed to get a blood test of my fasting blood sugar levels. I think it had something to do too with the fact that I declined the Down Syndrome screening test, which I think they did at the same time as testing blood sugar. The nurse was quite surprised when I didn't sign the agreement for the test (which was written all in Chinese), saying "Everyone does it!" She told me the doctor would tell me if I needed to have it, but since I'd eaten a few bites the doctor said the blood test wouldn't work, so they would do it next time. I kept saying I didn't want the screening - we will love and keep our baby regardless of any test results, and with the inaccuracies there can be and the extra worry it brings, plus no need to know right now, we just prefer not to have it. But, they just kept saying "Next time." So, we'll see how much push-back we get the next visit. After waiting to eat until past 8 AM this time, next time our appointment isn't until 9 AM...

Anyways, enough on the doctor's visit! It's definitely exciting to be almost out of the first trimester, great to be feeling better, and fun to look down as I walk and see a little bump. :)

Hadassah continues to love the thought of a baby, loving to give baby hugs and kisses through my belly. I talk about how she'll be such a good big sister, and how she'll help with our baby. I can't wait to see them be friends!

Hadassah is 18 months and growing so fast. I remember soon after she was born, thinking 18 months was such a big age and so far away, and now here we are! Every day she learns new words, and her memory amazes me. She's singing a lot now too - "Deep and Wide" and "God Made Me" are two she can sing almost completely! She also enjoys Keith and Kristyn Getty's song "Christ is Risen, He is Risen Indeed" as I play it almost every morning during chores. She'll ask for it now, and enthusiastically sing, "sing, sing hallelujah.... indeed!" It's pretty adorable!

We've officially hit another milestone with her too: weaning. I've never desired to tandem nurse, and had thought about trying to wean Hadassah when we were hoping to get pregnant. But, I knew nothing was certain with timing, and as she was definitely still attached to it, decided not to cut her short. I let her wean some by not nursing unless she remembered to ask for it as the usual times, so we got down to just when she woke up in the morning and just before going to bed at night fairly easily. But she hung on to those for a few months. She still eagerly asked for them, but a few weeks ago I knew it was time. I was feeling like I had nothing left, she was acting frustrated and wanting to nurse more, but it hurt when she did and it never satisfied her. Thankfully, she was finally drinking cow's milk some as well, so one night I just decided it was it, and told her it was all gone. She asked and cried some, but accepted more cow's milk instead. We put her to bed with the normal routine minus nursing, and she cried for a minute or so after closing the door, but went to sleep fine. She continued to ask for a while, and still does occasionally, but accepts it when I tell her they're all gone. Thankfully it all worked out with a lot less trauma than I heard can happen (researching online some people said their child cried for 2 hours the first night...) so I am thankful. It was a good season and a sweet time, but I am ready for a little break before starting again with the next little one! And, it's nice to have a little more flexibility, with Ryan able to give her her morning sippy cup of milk sometimes now!

God has blessed us. It's still hard to imagine how life will be with two little ones to keep up with, but we can't wait!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Welcoming Warm Days

It's finally here! May is almost upon us, and I think I can safely proclaim that the weather is WARM!

Hadassah and I are enjoying short sleeves, sandals, and not having to wear pants or leggings to keep warm! I've even spent two days in a row not having to wear socks inside (since it's always still colder inside than out) which I count a joy. Hadassah has been pulling off her socks to run barefoot inside for a while, so now I can let her do it without thinking she'll get too cold.

Finding sandals for Hadassah has proved to be a challenge though. Last Wednesday I walked to the supermarket/mall 20 minutes from us, only to see that it's not sandal weather in the Chinese mind yet. Finally, at the 3rd store I checked, I found ONE pair of girl's sandals. They were really cute with flowers on the front, and Hadassah seemed to like them. Over the weekend, though, as she wore them a lot in the warmth, I noticed little round spots on her foot, where the flowers were. I thought she was just sweating with dirty feet, but as the spots continued, I looked inside the shoe and found the metal things attaching the flowers to the shoe were rusty! On new shoes! Disheartened, we threw them in the trash right away, and went back to the sandals I'd found at a second-hand sale, but that are a little too big, making Hadassah trip more easily. She also proclaims "itchy!" from the velcro if she wears them too much. So, Sunday we made a trip to another store and found what I think are pool shoes. But, they seem to fit well and have worked well so far. Hoping it continues!

I've stopped checking the AQI so much, since we get more blue sky and sun these days, but just now checked to realize what I thought was a perfect, clear day is actually at 157 AGI (unhealthy). Sometimes, though, you just have to get out for 30 minutes and enjoy the warmth... it can't do too much harm in that amount of time, right? Realizing looks can be deceiving though, so the AQI checker probably needs to continue being a daily thing... Sometimes I feel like it's my captor. *sigh*

But, overall, there are more not polluted days that there was in the winter. Thank you, Lord, for beautiful, sunny days!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Morning Routine

It's been quiet on the blog lately... I always have more posts in my head than I ever get written down, especially now. Because once Hadassah goes down for her afternoon nap, my brain is usual mush and I just want to sleep too! But, I promised myself that today I'd post something before I take a nap. ;)

I read a random blog post recently about the importance of a morning routine, and it's been really helpful as I've tried to develop one. Even when all I want to do is go back to sleep 2 hours after waking up (impossible when you have an energetic toddler!) having a rhythm to fall back on helps me get going. I don't have much energy for in-depth cleaning these days, but if I can at least get the basics done, it makes me more encouraged. I never knew just how much a dirty house made me feel depressed and like not doing anything until I had a home of my own - Ryan has noticed... it really does affect me!

It's not fancy, and it's not much. But it's something, and it's simple, which means it gets done.

Turning on music really helps me get going. Recently it's mostly been Keith and Kristyn Getty's "Hymns for the Christian Life," with Casting Crowns "Thrive" or Steven Curtis Chapman's "Glorious Unfolding" for an occasional change. Being away from radio means I don't hear a lot of new music these days, but Youtube playlists have been a help. If anyone has recommendation for new Christian music, do let me know as I don't always know what to look for!

Hadassah is always eager to go outside first thing in the morning (really, all day!) but as I've tried to implement this routine the past two weeks, she's come to realize we have to do chores before we play. Once I told her "we'll go outside once we do the dishes" and she walked over to the dish dryer and started emptying the silverware.

Here's my morning to-do's, once breakfast is over and Ryan is headed to work:
1. Read Bible
 - I try to get up early and have devotions with Ryan before Hadassah wakes up, but sometimes it seems like she has a sensor that wakes her up as soon as I'm out of bed. We've recently started getting up earlier, which usually helps, but I don't always get out when the alarm goes off... Growing a baby is hard work! So, especially if I didn't get any reading with Ryan, I try to read for at least a few minutes. They're interrupted sometimes, but it helps focus my day right. I used to put it off until I had more undistracted time, but for a mom of littles, that's almost never... So better to do some than none! And Hadassah has seen us read the Bible enough that she is interested in it, liking to page through ours and look at her picture Bible, so I feel like it sets a good example for her too. Sometimes I read out loud (and I want to do this more), both to help me focus and to let Hadassah listen as she plays around me. She's so young, yet I know she absorbs more than we think, so what better thing to hear when she's little than God's Word!

2. Shower/dress
- Again, I try to get this done before Hadassah is up, but it doesn't always happen. I've found the sooner I can do it the better, as it makes me feel more alive. If Hadassah is up, Ryan either plays with her before going to work or she gets some play pen time with toys and books while I get ready.

3. Make my bed and straighten our room
 - Something about having the bed made just makes me feel more productive. I used to not get our room straightened a lot, because going back there with Hadassah was more of a battle, since there were too many things for her not to touch. And besides, the rooms people could see mattered more, right? But recently Hadassah has been better about obeying the "do not touch" rules (if she's heading towards something I'll remind her and she'll say "obey obey!" in the cutest way!) and there are a few things she enjoys that I let her play with. She will also help "pat pat" the blankets as I'm making the bed.

4. Start a load of laundry
- There's almost always enough laundry for one or two loads a day, since our washing machine is so small. So if it's not raining, I'll usually do a load. I get behind on the days it rains and takes 2-3 days for things to dry, so it helps to stay on top of things when days are good. Hanging the load up usually happens later, closer to lunch, but if I start it washing right away, it's easier to get back to later.

5. Do the dishes
 - There aren't a ton of dishes from our simple breakfast of scrambled eggs, toast, and cereal, but if I don't do them after breakfast, the pile after lunch just seems so big and harder to tackle. A clean kitchen seems to promote a clean kitchen. Hadassah usually "helps" me, putting away utensils in drawers she can reach, and playing in the water as I wash and rinse. Occasionally it does require an outfit change, but it's worth it!

6 Sweep floors
- Sometimes it's just the kitchen, other times I manage to get other rooms swept too, if we have time and I'm on a roll. Hadassah will usually get the dustpan from under the sink for me and run from pile to pile saying "uh oh" as I sweep them up. Keeps her involved and makes it a game. :)

Hadassah often goes from place to place with me, "helping" as she can (and I love my little companion!). Other times, she'll get nicely distracted (lately it's been emptying all of her books out of the shelf as she "reads" them) allowing me to work more quickly. She doesn't always like that mommy has things she needs to do - and I do take breaks here and there to read a story or whatever - but I've found that concentrated time of getting chores done actually gives me more undistracted time with her later, and she's learning the concept of work then play.

Sometimes things like making bread or prepping things for meals or putting toys away in the living room also happens, but other times it's all I can do to get the above done before Hadassah is beyond antsy and it's time to take that energy outside (if it's good weather) or at least give her some time with mommy. But it helps having it done. Usually after going outside I'm tired and need to rest on the couch for a few minutes, and before I know it, it's time to make lunch, as Ryan is home at 11:30 AM for it. Then, things don't always happen as much as they used to during Hadassah's nap time...

Do you all have a morning routine? What helps you get going especially when you feel no motivation?

Now excuse me while I go take a nap...

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

A week in pictures

Last week we had four perfect days: sunny, warm, AQI not too high, and just gorgeous! We enjoyed going out many times. Then it rained. And got cold. The sun is finally back out today, but things still haven't warmed up much. But, I know it's coming... trying to be patient, though the warm weather spoiled me and made me want it to stick around forever!

But, below are a few pictures we took last week. We really take way too many these days (spring is such a beautiful time!) so it's hard to wade through and narrow down ones to post.

We took Ryan to see the gazebo atop the hill, where Hadassah and I sit and have pretend picnics. This one with her expression was irresistible!

 Sunny and warm... I think I could live in the tropics and be happy. I've decided I just don't like cold!

 The trees on campus were glorious... they lined the sidewalks for quite a while, dropping petals that made a white carpet. I was trying to convince Hadassah to look at the camera and smile, but like the way this picture turned out better. She's becoming so talkative these days - such fun to carry on conversations with her!

 We had to go out for another picnic on Thursday, to enjoy the trees and sun before they disappeared!

 Saturday morning gave us enough break in the rain to visit the botanical gardens on campus. Hadassah loved watching the ducks who were all taking a bath :)

It really was quite the show, as they splashed, dunked, fluffed, and some even tried to help out another!

 This was a cool flower we'd not seen before. Somewhat like a lily, but small and many on one stalk!

 Hadassah likes nothing more than to be chased or to run to you if you bend down and open your arms. She keeps us smiling!

 Another cool flowering bush. Hadassah was far more interested in the puddles than in the flowers, though. We took turns looking at the flowers and keeping her from getting soaked ;)

 In China there are many cool bridges. But also many that I don't think would ever pass safety code in America. The gaps you see are true gaps. If Hadassah were to find this alone, she would fall straight in. As it was, she loved going on it with Daddy again and again, and got pretty good at stepping from stone to stone, though she missed plenty enough it was good Ryan was there to support her!

 I love how both this and the family picture near the beginning has Hadassah holding sticks. They're her newest favorite thing to pick up when we're out.

Delicate beauty... There are so many flowers here - China does landscaping well. Ryan and I promise each other that when we buy a house we're going to make sure we plant good trees and flowers... they're just such a joy to have around!

 As we drove around campus on e-bike, we saw this field. Reminded us of Iowa. :) Our neighbor told us they use these plants to make cooking oil.

There you have it: another pictorial week. At least this current one won't have so many. April is living up to it's reputation of April showers!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Early Easter Meal

We had our big Easter meal last night, as I knew there was no way to do it on Sunday, with church being so far and the whole 5-6 hour excursion it takes leaving us pretty wiped out.

And okay, I admit, I didn't really have to do an Easter meal - it was kind of more of an excuse to splurge to make cheesy potato casserole, white butter rolls, deviled eggs, ground beef, strawberry walnut salad, and banana pudding and strawberry cheesecake. But it sure was good!

It's also true that being overseas somehow makes me want to celebrate our holidays all the more. I've always been one to like to have tradition for special days, and the urge is greater here, though the ingredients may be harder to find (and more expensive!).

It was my first time to make the whole Easter meal, and though it took 5 hours of cooking (all afternoon on Friday!), it was a great success. Two of Ryan's co-workers joined us, to share the feast.

Ryan came home a little early to take care of Hadassah for the last 30 minutes, which helped a ton. She was a good little helper, splashing as I washed dishes, playing with playdough as I cut up potatoes, and so on, but, as always seems to happen on the days when we have company over, she was much more emotional and less content for most of the day, making some things a challenge. But we made it through and our taste buds were happy with the efforts. :)

Tomorrow we'll go to church, and friends are coming with us, which we are excited about! We told them Easter was the biggest celebration for Christianity, and even in America, that's when the most people attend church. Instead of the conference room at the hotel our church meets at, this week they rented the large Crystal Ballroom to accommodate extra guests. We are looking forward to celebrating Jesus' resurrection with the Body, and introducing some things to our friends for the first time!

He is risen! He is risen indeed.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Spring Princess Photoshoot

When you discover flowers exactly like the ones you used to make flower crowns out of when you were a girl, you just have to make one for your daughter. Then, of course, the idea to go back and have a photoshoot will present itself. And why not? She's only this age once. The flowers will soon be gone. The weather is amazingly beautiful. And memories preserved are priceless...

Give a girl pearls and she's bound to be happy!

 Her contemplative expressions show she's growing up...

 Though the light and background is perfect, when your tiny princess gives you this look and says "up p'ease" you just have to move on...

 She's like a princess at a ball, preparing to take a step to make her entrance...

And she does it grandly.

 Yet, she's still so little and sweet.

 She has the BEST giggle when she's tickled...

 And when you let her go, she'll dance among the flowers by the lake's edge, like a little woodland fairy.

 She'll investigate the flowers...

...treat the tiny ones gently...

 ...and explore them with all of her senses.

 She's just one and a half. Yet already you can see God preparing her for the path in front of her...

 So you cherish the playing in the flower petals.

 You blinked, and she got this big...

 A little girl, fascinated with the smallest things and creatures... It fits that we learned recently that one meaning of Hadassah is "compassion." She shows it.

 Such a joy and delight.

And while she dresses up so pretty, loves girly things, and makes the cutest tiny princess, this is where she feels more at home, playing in the dirt. :) We love our little one! It's so much fun to experience spring with her!

"Erotic Liberty"

"A liberty that isn’t even mentioned in the Constitution to say the least – that is erotic liberty – is triumphing over religious liberty and that is one of the saddest development we can contemplate." - Al Mohler

Over the past two weeks, Anna and I have been reading through the last two books of the Bible - Jude and Revelation - during our devotional times and one of the things that has really stood out to me is how certain sections of the book link militancy with sexual deviancy.  Both in the church and in the political sphere.

Jude depicts their immorality.  They...
 - "pervert the grace of our God into sexuality" (v4)
 - "likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire" [homosexuality] (v7)
 - "cast... up he foam of their own shame" (v13)

but in the same breath, he links them with a playing political church games.  They...
 - "crept in unnoticed" (v4)
 - "are hidden reefs" (i.e. will destroy an unknowing ship at sea) (v.12)
 - "show... favoritism to gain advantage" (v. 16)
  - "cause divisions" (v. 19)

I remember pointing this weird link out to Anna at that time: I usually don't connect these two.  Do I usually think of people who try to usurp church authority or cause a church split of also being guilty of leading others into sexual immorality?  Not really.  To gain any political ground in church, it seems like, at the very least, your conduct of life has to be above-board.

And then we started reading through Revelation and I noticed the same thing.  The same link going on at the political level.  It's actually all over Revelation.  I could mention several passages, but will spare you and just cite one.  17:4-6 says:

"The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her sexual immorality. And on her forehead was written a name of mystery: “Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth's abominations.” And I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of the martyrs of Jesus."

And I made the same note: I usually don't connect these two aspects.  Take the political powers that are the most militant against Christianity: Islam and communism.  Neither one of these have a very strong track record of rife and liberal sexuality.  In the list of things people say they don't like about Islam, I rarely hear about how much they indulge in the lusts of the flesh.

So you can imagine that my ears have perked up to this latest series of terrible injustice on the part of the LGBT community in my home country.  Right around the time that Barronelle Stutzman was being fined (court case closed) for refusing to decorate a gay couple's (fake) wedding ceremony, several thousand (million?) Americans were speaking out boldly to ensure that the kind of legislation that forced that fine continues.

I just found it interesting that here, we have a clear link between political militancy and sexual deviancy, the exact same kind of thing we are warned about in the pages of scripture that I found so hard to believe earlier.

"As the beast portrays the state's power to coerce religious conformity through violence, so the prostitute symbolizes the seductive appeal of a worldly economic system driven by the quest of affluence and pleasure (18:11-19)" - ESV Study note on Revelation 17:4

Now, just to clarify, I'm not saying America is the beast and the harlot of Revelation and that this means that Tehran is now going to nuke the world.  But if it did, and I was looking at Japanese flower blossoms at the time, there might be a slight millisecond where I would see something like this picture:

(epic end to a blog post if I do say so myself...)