Monday, August 31, 2015

Students Together

Learning Chinese. I now more fully understand the challenges everyone living in a different country faces. Not only does nearly every aspect of daily life take MORE time, not only are you without most of your family and friend's support, you're also somehow supposed to fit in time to learn a new language. And that on top of job and home and family responsibilities that are way more complicated in a different country than you ever thought.

We have been impressed at how much time people do sacrifice for it. Seeing friends who have studied intensively for a few years able to converse with almost anyone and even read characters is inspiring, and shows it really does pay off. But, for our situation in life, tutoring 3 times/week for an hour and studying on your own for even more just doesn't work. Yes, we could sacrifice more to fit more study in, but since we aren't planning to live here for life it's hard to know how much some of those sacrifices are worth it. Less time with a daughter who grows so fast so I can communicate a little more with a few strangers for the next two years? I just haven't been able to reconcile that.

And yet... Knowing more of the language would make daily life easier. We want to be able to connect more with local friends and be able to speak to others we see at the playground or just taxi drivers. We don't want to waste this great opportunity to learn a new language either, as it's rare to have such an opportunity!

Ryan, too, is busy working a full time job, being a great husband, and an amazing father. He doesn't want to take time away from us to study language either, as it seems every day Hadassah is growing and changing in some big way. The weeks fly by, and we're still behind on move-in tasks. Fit in something new?

But, we found a way to study language and bring him and I closer together! It's small - 1 hour/week with a tutor after Hadassah goes to bed on Thursday evenings, plus quizzing each other in the moments we get here and there. And yes, having a lesson together has the downside of less time for us to have individual talking time. But the quizzing each other and just learning together more than makes up for it. It gives us something we're both working on and thinking about, and I just love learning with Ryan, as he thinks to ask more questions than I ever would. He's also amazing at hearing and saying the tones Chinese requires, something I too often slack in, so has been ruthless in holding me to the right ones when we study, correcting me way more than my teacher does, so that I know I will improve with his help. He still has some of an upper hand on me with his grasp of Chinese, having lived here before, studied it in college, and just interacted with more taxi drivers and restaurant staff and so on, but I did get a little further on some vocabulary in my previous lessons. And while he has more time to quiz me during the day (as I'm doing dishes or getting lunch on the table or wrangling Hadassah or whatever), he gets the advantage of learning by teaching (which sometimes helps you remember more) so we're both benefiting.

It's a small step. We only just started, and we'll have to take a break in a month when we head back to America for 2 months. But, we finally decided we had to start somewhere, and something is better than nothing. I am grateful to be able to study with my best friend!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Stories in the Taxi...

Stories in the taxi on the way home from church... This picture captures part of a simply lovely day.

Potty training going well through a whole morning at church. The beauty of singing and hearing God's Word with His body. The first potluck lunch a delicious success. A good nap for the girl and relaxation for the parents. A delicious, summer supper of easy stove mac 'n cheese, salad, and a smoothie. And a beautiful family walk after supper along the river, Chinese flute music playing, a gentle breeze, perfect temperature, and the wonder of bats flying in the sky. Thank you, God, for so many blessings.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Recent Snapshots

I always have way more in my head to blog than I ever have time to write... But here are some recent snapshots of life.

 Certain outfits make me look bigger than others. This one is definitely one that made Ryan go "wow - where did that belly come from?" ;)

 This is one of the cutest sights. I was thrilled to find a small, used chair for Hadassah.  Never mind that her flower lamp fell off the wall with the first fixing method we tried and we still haven't gotten around to fixing it up correctly... She still likes her little spot :)

One of the happiest pictures, because it means I SEWED SOMETHING! For the first time in China! I have a sewing machine again, thanks to IKEA! So we have kitchen curtains that just make it more homey.

Ryan also washed the windows last week, which makes doing the dishes so pleasant. It's crazy how much clearer I can see outside now. Definitely brought to mind the verse "Now we see through a glass dimly" when I'd look up and blink at how clear everything was! We have quite the view from the 14th floor...

Monday, August 24, 2015

28 Weeks and Our Baby's Name!

As usual, though the pictures were taken during the 28th week, I'm closer to 30 weeks as I write this post. ;)

We started the 3rd trimester! And I can feel it! I feel big and much more tired. Carrying around extra weight everywhere is draining. But thankfully I am in good health, everything checks out fine at doctor's visits in terms of blood pressure, weight gain is normal, and I haven't had much swelling of the ankles, for which I am grateful. I do have spider veins and stretch marks in many places, but try to look on them as "badges of honor." ;) Leg cramps sometimes wake me up, but thankfully not as often as last time around. I am experiencing what heartburn is (ugh!) if I eat anything remotely spicy, but even that isn't too frequent. All-in-all, I am grateful!

Carrying Hadassah is getting much more difficult, at least for long stretches while walking. Around the house I take plenty of opportunities to scoop her up and cuddle her, as I know this is still the easiest time to carry both of my babies at once! But between my belly getting bigger, balancing Hadassah on the hip or the baby bump is just more challenging, and it doesn't help that she's getting bigger too. Based on the amount she ate at lunch today, it seems like a growth spurt is going on for her too! She seems to understand though, and Ryan is carrying her more, saying he needs to build up his arms even more after seeing another dad at church holding both his 3 1/2 and 1 1/2 year old while singing. *smile* Hadassah loves Daddy's strong arms, and seems to understand why I can't carry her more too. She'll say "Mommy carry baby in tummy, Daddy carry 'Dassah" in the cutest way.

Doctor's appointments continue to revolve around "too big, too big!" Seriously, I feel that's all I've heard my whole pregnancy... Our little girl IS a big girl, and the measurements are a tad bigger than the average baby, but I am not worried! I keep trying to tell them "this is normal - my family always has above 8 lb babies!" but because I refused the gestational diabetes test (not feeling it was necessary, being in the lowest "risk" category, not recommended by my midwife in the states, and just not a comfortable thing to do, traveling 1 1/2 hours downtown by subway on no food!), he kept telling me "But we just can't be SURE that you don't have it, so although your weight gain is on track and baby is "just" in the 60th percentile for size, you should do another ultrasound before delivery just to make sure baby hasn't jumped to the 80th or 90th percentile! I gave up trying to reason and thanked him for the advice, though I don't plan to follow it...

Another hiccup is the fact that we've heard that in China they don't recommend flying after 32 weeks pregnant. Our airline (Delta) has no restrictions on pregnant flyers, and we've called to make sure, as we need to wait until 35 weeks to fly out. So we're hoping the doctor gives me a flying certificate (it seemed like they would) just in case we have trouble with boarding the plane, as we've learned sometimes the officials at the Shanghai airport do things differently... The plan is just to not call too much attention to ourselves, dress in looser clothes, and pray there's no problem.

I have really enjoyed emailing out midwife, and she recommended I do exercises on the website Spinning Babies. I had wanted some more stretches and exercises good for pregnancy, and these are supposed to help encourage baby to be in the ideal anterior position. Hadassah was posterior, which made for a harder labor and delivery. No clue if the exercises will "work" that way, but they and the stretches just feel so good, that they're at least helping pregnancy be easier! I've started to look forward to doing them during Hadassah's nap time, as they leave me relaxed and with less tension in my neck, shoulders, and back. So thankful for some good, natural advice.

I did enjoy seeing our precious little girl on the ultrasound, too. According to studies, at this age she can dream, open and close her eyes (I think I even saw some of that on the ultrasound), stick out her tongue, and wiggles all over in fun ways. She was head down at the check-up too, so in a good position!

We also decided to announce her name before birth!

Okay, so it was kind of a mistake. ;) We've gotten so used to calling her by name, that when taking my parents on a skype tour of our new house, Ryan said, "and here's {name}'s room." So we thought we may as well just tell everyone. But we're sure about the name, and just not very good at keeping secrets I guess. ;)

Introducing Eliana Grace Wolfe

Pronunciation: "El-e-ah-na"

The meaning is special to us; "Eliana" means "My God has answered" and with all of the questions and seeking Him for direction from the time we learned we were pregnant, we have seen Him answer, and answer with Grace. He does give grace upon grace. And, with her being born at the start of winter, which will mostly be spent in Shanghai, she will be a special grace during those bleak, polluted and cold days. It's hard to be too down with a sweet new baby around!

Eliana is also the (Hebrew origin) name I gave the slave girl in the musical "Captive Faith" that I wrote and directed in 2012, my last musical before getting married to Ryan. :) So even though it's not *really* the name of a character in the Bible, to us it's so tied to that character (the slave girl in 2 Kings 5 who had faith and told her captor about Elisha so he could be healed) that it fits our desire to have someone in the Bible or Christian history to point back to in the names we give our children.

There were days during the early part of pregnancy, discouraged and not knowing what was ahead, that I felt like I was "captive in a foreign land" and had a hard time pressing on. Ironically, the song I wrote for the character Eliana in the musical encouraged me here:
I choose to find faith
While captive in this foreign land.
I choose to trust God
Though I cannot feel His hand.
I choose to have hope
Even though I’m far from home.
I choose to stand strong
Though I feel so all alone.
I choose to find faith…
God please give me the faith…
I choose to find faith… in captivity.
It's our prayer that our girl Eliana will have such steadfast faith and walk in grace.

We'll call her Ellie for short, which I like as much as the full, more flowery name Eliana. :) I can't wait to meet her in person, see her features in color, and cuddle her IN my arms. It won't be too long now... I have a feeling the next 10 weeks (since I'm writing this post around 30 weeks) will fly!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Hosting our First Tea Party

With a little girl going on two and another little girl on the way, I can see a lot of tea parties in my future. :) Which I am thrilled about! After all, an excuse to enter into childhood again, especially when I was a girly girl myself? I'll take it!

 It was fun to have an excuse to dress Hadassah up, and she seemed to enjoy it more this time. She's definitely getting into anything "pretty" and seemed to like her fluffy dress.

 As soon as the table was decorated this morning, Hadassah kept wanting to sit down at it. I kept telling her we had to wait to eat until her friends arrived, but she spent a lot of time just sitting and waiting!
 When I told her to put her hands in her lap for the picture... little girlness is all over this picture!! Ahh!!

 We don't have a real tea set (yet!) - and we actually only had water - but all the color made it fun. I even made name cards for each of the girls. What can I say? I just have too much fun with little details!

 Food fit for small guests... pumpkin scones, apple cookies, star cheese and flower watermelon. The food in shapes was the biggest hit, so I will have to remember that. :)

A sweet group of girls! I originally thought of doing a little tea party partially to thank the moms of the two older girls for all of their help in the first weeks of us moving in. I figured those girls (around age 3 1/2) would get the most out of a tea party. But I was amazed at how much Hadassah and the other friend her age got it, and enjoyed every bit of the process... Or maybe it was just the excuse to eat fun food! ;)

But my little girl is growing up... Bittersweet as I remember when she was so tiny, but also oh so much fun! Doing things like this with her to make fun memories is such a joy, and knowing that we have another tiny baby coming helps me not get too nostalgic about my girl that's not so little anymore!

3 years of Holding Hands

Tuesday marked our engagement anniversary. It's crazy to think about all that has happened since Ryan proposed just 3 years ago!

From that fairy-tale moment when I saw rose petals and knew the guy I'd fallen in love with might be asking me a wonderful question, to the next year pregnant with our first child, to the next living in Shanghai of all places, until now, expecting our 2nd child in a few months... Life has been full. And so so wonderful to walk through it holding hands with my love.

We aren't able to hold hands as often these days. I still remember how amazing it felt when he took my hand in his for the first time that August 18th... We didn't want to let go. It still feels amazing, but more of a less fireworks and more comforting, loving feeling of being connected. We try to remember to still do it, but between hailing taxis and getting in with one of us having the bags and the other the toddler, or trying to manage keeping a toddler supplied with food and preventing her from spilling her water cup while managing to eat ourselves, or one of us carrying a tot or steering a stroller on Shanghai's bumpy sidewalks... The moments we have to hold hands are more momentary! But, we still try to retain that connection.

The words of Steve Green's song "Holding Hands" came to me the night Ryan proposed, and I sang them to him over dinner. A good friend sang them in our wedding, and I'm reminded of them again:

One day, far away, you gently won my heart;
And one night, by candlelight, we made a vow to never part.
And then it seemed just like a dream
When wide eyed, side by side,
We faced the future holding hands. 
Years fly, they hurry by, the simple times are gone
Bills due, a kid or two, a week can feel eight days long
By fading light, let's kiss goodnight
And then we trace God's daily grace
Thankful we're still holding hands. 
There's a hope that won't let go;
There's a truth we know:
God is holding us
In His arms...
The years really do fly, and the days are long. But as long as the dress still fits and isn't worn out, I want to keep dressing up for my husband like I did that day for a "dressy date" that turned into a proposal... Remembering the beauty and wonder of saying "I love you" and holding the hand of the guy who I knew for SURE I was going to marry. It's a day worth celebrating!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Friday evening by the river

On Friday afternoon as I hung up yet another load of laundry, I felt a cool breeze coming through the open balcony windows. That, combined with the Friday urge I often get to just get out of the house and away prompted me to call Ryan to ask if he was fine with us going on a picnic for supper. He's always ready for a spontaneous adventure, so I set about finding food to bring, excited at the thought of getting out. 

It's summer. Yet we've not been able to do many "summer" things, between lots of energy spent trying to figure out what we were doing, and then a month of moving craziness. And then there's the heat... So it was extra special to have a breezy evening and a peaceful picnic at a not-very-crowded park by the river!

 Hadassah is getting more and more exploratory. While we paused for other pictures, she set off down this path, carefully stepping over each crack. The camera soon turned her direction. ;)

 Good food, great breeze, and getting to watch boats passing by! The only downside was prickly grass, but we had a bag for Hadassah to sit on and as long as we didn't shift position, the poking sensation stopped being too noticeable.

Beautiful crepe myrtle trees were in bloom. With "Hadassah" meaning "myrtle" as one of the meanings, we had more reason to get a picture. :)

 Hadassah is getting more and more expressive, and often recounts things over and over after they happen. Here she may have been telling the story of how the "BIG boat" let out a loud "honk!" as it went by (scaring her and causing her to cling to Mommy for a while - but later being the most interesting thing of the evening to her).

 As we left, the sky was the most beautiful blue... The air here has been so clear lately that I've not even bothered to check the AQI. It feels like such a freeing thing to just go outside if the weather is nice! And blue sky like this always makes me look in wonder...

I love the look of Hadassah leaning on Ryan's shoulder. He's such a good Daddy. We thought we might have to walk for a while to find a taxi, but thanks to Ryan's new phone with 4G that actually works and his new skills at using a Chinese taxi app, we got one to come out to where we were! Life is definitely easier with that app!

Today we went swimming for the second weekend in a row. Hadassah absolutely LOVES it. It took her a while to warm up to it (literally - the water was cool and she didn't want to get in at first) but this second time around she knew how fun it was that she didn't protest too much as we bobbed up and down to get wet. She enjoys kicking her arms and legs and wants to swim just like daddy. :) It gives us all good exercise, and is such fun to see Hadassah have such joy in the water. It's also nice to be doing normal summer-y things... Though I know the season is almost at it's end! 

Friday, August 14, 2015

Date night at Blue Frog!

It seems we're on a "get a date every 3 months" cycle, as this date is 3 months from the last ones that were 3 months from the one before that... Hoping this starts the end of such large stretches between! Another advantage to moving to our new apartment is that the family just downstairs, also from America, is interested in trading babysitting on a semi-regular (whenever it works out with busy schedules) basis. And they let us go first!

We dropped Hadassah off around 4:45 PM, and she was brave to begin with. I'd talked to her about how mommy was going on a mommy-daddy date, reminding her how much she loved daddy-daughter dates, and this time mommy got a turn! ;) I told her she'd play with her friends and that the mommy of the family would feed her supper, and she seemed pretty happy about it. But, the moment of us leaving came and she did want to cling and not let us go. We heard her crying as we left, but were happy to learn later that it only lasted a few minutes, and we could tell when we got back she had a great time. It's nice having friends we actually see a few times a week that she's pretty comfortable with!

We rode the subway to the end of line 5 (around 30 minutes) and it felt strange to be without a toddler... In all of our 14 months here, we'd never left from that subway station together *without* Hadassah! The ride seemed so short without a toddler to corral and instead my best friend to talk to!

 Blue Frog Bar & Grill is located in a large mall in Xinzhuang, and it was incredible. Took us forever to decide what to order, finally settling on their Gourmet Burger, Caesar Salad, and Spring Roll assortment. The first two were incredible, and the spring rolls still good, but not something we'd order again. The best part was the ability to just look into my love's eyes and talk while enjoying good food I didn't have to cook or clean up after. Going OUT on a date will always be our favorite thing to do - while we spend time together at home, there's always those chores and dishes around that can be distracting.

 True love = sharing an absolutely incredibly delicious burger ;)

We needed to make it home by Hadassah's bedtime, so we got a treat on the way out from a place downstairs that makes amazing popsicles and ice cream bars. The one with hearts just seemed fitting, and with white chocolate and fudge it was incredible.

I love going out with my mind. It really clears the brain and reminds me of the time we were courting and engaged... He is such a good date planner too. :) Looking forward to hopefully going out more regularly in the future!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Shorter and Taller

If possible, almost everything in our new apartment seems even shorter than the previous one. Though the Chinese people tend to be shorter on a whole than Americans, or at least the older generation does, I really don't feel that out of place when I'm out. At 5'8" I know I'm on the taller side, but I don't tower over many people. Yet everything still seems set up for a shorter culture. And I'm convinced whoever designed our apartment must have been short of stature.

I have to bend my knees and lean back to get my head under the shower head to wash my hair. The door handles are lower down... meaning Hadassah can open all the doors now. The counters are shorter, which isn't kind to my back... and means Hadassah can grab things off more easily. Oh yes, and she can also quite easily turn on the Berkey water filter since it sits on the counter - anyone want a flood? The desk is also shorter, allowing easier access to her most prized "no no touch": the computer.

Yes, this mom was very weary on Monday, after it seemed all morning Hadassah would go from one thing to the other. To top it all off, we were finally in a normal enough week, with Hadassah in her new, set-up room, to start room time back up again. I've seen the benefits of her having independent play time, first in her play pen and then starting a few months ago in her room. She focuses better, seems to be more calm from a little time alone, and it lets me make lunch uninterrupted! But, this time every few minutes she'd come running out, with glee that she could open the door.

We talked about how she needed to stay in. We disciplined. But it seemed like every few minutes she'd come running out again. I was glad when it was finally lunch time and daddy was home... Ryan coming home for lunch is always a joy, but that day was a particularly "whew" moment. Just some adult conversation does a weary mom good!

On Tuesday we talked about how Hadassah had to listen and obey mommy for room time, and that if she came out before Mommy said it was "all done," there would be consequences. It happened once. The was discipline. And then she stayed! I didn't leave her for long, because I wanted to encourage the small victory. Wednesday came, and despite me hearing her suggest loudly "room time all done!" quite a few times, she didn't come out once. Another big praise and telling Daddy all about it at lunch. :) Now it's Friday and she has continued to obey, though we're only up to 15 minutes at a time. I'm learning when you take break from things and have to re-train, you've got to start low and work back up again... But a mom can do a lot in even just 15 minutes!

Other things are becoming less of a testing, too. Consistency does pay off. I'm not perfect in it - it's easy to let things slide "just once" but especially at this age, I'm seeing first hand just how important it is to be consistent. She then knows what to expect and finds security and peace in that. Noticing and praising and sometimes rewarding restraint also helps her learn it's much better to obey mommy than to throw herself on the floor, touch, and then scream when reprimanded. Yes, we still have our fair share of that. But, small victories, right? I know how important teaching her to obey my voice at this stage is, so we're continuing to work on it. To say "yes mommy" to instructions and come when called. Slowly but surely... and that "yes mommy" when she repeats it after me is the sweetest-sounding thing ever!

The little miss is ever growing taller. I am amazed at what a big girl we have now! And it is such a joy to get to train and impact such a sweet, young life. I get weary at times, but nothing will ever make me regret being a mommy.

And, not everything is shorter at the new place. The fridge/freezer that came with it is - and when our other fridge was still probably only half the size of an American one, we finally made the investment for a larger, taller one. We kept the short one, so having two is definitely making me feel spoiled. My bread no longer molds after a few days, and we can have watermelon again without it going rotten for lack of space! It's nice to not be playing Tetris each time I try to fit new things inside too. :)

Another taller thing I'm thankful for? A long-handled broom! When we moved to Shanghai I searched everywhere local to find a broom I didn't have to stoop to sweep with, but all in vain. But on my first trip to IKEA I found what to me felt like gold... No more multiple-times-daily stooping to sweep the floor. My back is rejoicing!

Shorter and taller... Giving opportunities for new growth and new joys amid new challenges. 

Saturday, August 8, 2015

"I like new house"

With Hadassah finally feeling better, her "all done new house" phrase was heard less, especially after we had her wave goodbye to each room in our old apartment when we returned the keys. She seemed to understand that it was empty and we were in the new place to stay. Though she was still often "all done" after being cooped inside most of the day due to the heat, Ryan taking her out first thing in the morning and having friends close by to come over during the day helped a lot. I forget exactly when, but after such a time she told me, "I like new house." Finally getting to move her into her room on Friday increased her enjoyment - she brings everyone on skype or in person to her room now, excitedly showing them her "pink room" and the cool flower light that she can turn on and off! :)

 On Monday it was still quite hot outside, and I also had to stay here all morning as three deliveries were expected. As 10 AM approached, though, I could tell Hadassah was getting antsy and tired of being inside. So, I texted the friends in our very building to ask if their little girl wanted to come up and play for an hour. So nice to be able to ask last minute!

These two are almost exactly the same age (just 5 days difference!) and having her here to play made her toys seem new again, as Hadassah loved showing her many different things. They made train tracks and squished play dough balls and stars I made them... So cute to see two little ones playing together!

 Hadassah has really enjoyed the toy piano we got her used too. She was fascinated one Sunday when Daddy let her try out the microphone as he practiced singing before morning worship. So when she saw there was a mic with her piano, she knew just what to do. Daily she "sings," mostly making up her own nonsense-sounding songs, or belting out "I will glory in my Redeemer!" over and over (we taught her that line to sing with us as it repeats many time in the song on Sunday, and she latched on to it - so sweet to hear her singing praise songs!).

Also, when did my little girl get so grown up? Hair in one pony tail really makes that fact real...

 We had the weekly Wednesday fellowship at our apartment this week, providing more play time with friends. Though Hadassah still often prefers to play by herself in groups, she and this little girl climbed up on the couch together and were sharing the stacking cups. So cute!

 The other American family's building is just a few minutes' walk from ours, and this 3-year-old was excited to come over as well. Knowing we'd probably want another diversion on Thursday, I invited her to come for an hour. Hadassah walked over with me to pick her up and drop her off. They played dress up and had a tea party, which Hadassah kept talking about.

 They also "cooked," making a pot of "soup" with the fake food. Ever since, Hadassah does the same thing multiple times a day, down to choosing the same pink and green spoon to use. Whether it's her age or the influence of seeing other kids prefer a certain color, she is getting particular about her favorite thing based on colors. ;)

While playing with this little girl, I realized how I was enjoying interacting with other little girls that could actually understand me. When all you can do is smile at a child, not speak in a way they understand much, you run out of things to do. I used to babysit and teach young ones and enjoy playing with them and their imagination, and with these friends I'm able to do that again. Such fun!

On Friday morning a friend I met when walking to the store one day came over. This picture was taken on their first visit when we were still at our old apartment two weeks ago. When I met them, it was an extremely hot day, I didn't have a stroller, and Hadassah was wanting to be carried as much as I'd let her... I was tired and really wishing I had a car. But when a mom and daughter stopped to talk, I realized that chance meetings like this wouldn't happen if I had a car, so there is some good to having to walk! The mom is Chinese but speaks very good English, the dad Romanian. The little girl is just a few weeks younger than Hadassah, so another cute same-age friend!

By Friday, believe it or not, Hadassah seemed almost tired of being with people! But she still enjoyed having a change by having friends in the house.

Our old neighbors also walked over for a visit Friday evening, and it was so good to catch up with them. Hadassah loved showing them around. :) They ended up staying for 2 hours, which is longer than they usually stayed when we were just next door, so it's fun to have an excuse to have longer conversations by being farther away!

She pulls me or Ryan over to join her for a "picnic" at every opportunity. I think she feels like such a big girl to be able to sit at a small table with real chairs (another secondhand find). Scenes like this melt my heart...

This morning we went to a play time at a Chinese friend's house in the same complex. It's crazy thinking back to lonely days when it was rare that we saw ANYONE we knew during the day. Now, almost every day has involved friends. It was almost too tiring, but we know that at the beginning of life in a new place, it's important to make and accept invitations as you get to know people, otherwise the opportunities can pass by. And it just makes real to me that God provides. Life overseas is still hard, but it so so helps to be a part of community.

Friday, August 7, 2015

25 Weeks Pregnant and Planning a Home Birth!

Yup, this post is WAY overdue. First, I didn't get pictures taken until 25 weeks, although I've been aiming to do them every 4 weeks (which would have been week 24). Second, I'm in my 27th week now... But moving is crazy and we're catching up as we can!

Baby is growing healthily and quickly, as everyone exclaims "tai da la!" (too big!) when I tell them how far along I am. People don't mind telling you their opinion over here, and I know I am bigger than most Chinese women, and my doctor is always saying I'm measuring ahead and so must be careful. They want to change my official due date to a week earlier, but I'm really not interested in that. With Hadassah coming right around the 40 week mark, I don't want to be mentally expecting this little girl to arrive earlier than is likely. If she decides to make her appearance earlier than sometime around November 4th, it will be a pleasant surprise. :) My weight gain really hasn't been abnormal, and Ryan helps keep me grounded, telling me not to let things bother me, just eat healthily and exercise as I can. With as busy as life has been lately, I definitely have gotten exercise in out of necessity!

We are thrilled to know we're having a girl, and the thought of sisters makes me smile every time I think about it. Hadassah is going to have such fun being the big sister too. She keeps tabs on my belly, often talking bringing it up, saying: "Momma bigger, bigger, bigger, then pop! Baby!" as Ryan described it as happening that way when I had her. If only it were that easy. ;) The other day she lifted up my shirt, touched my poking out belly button, and said "not popped yet!" I keep telling her that baby has to get bigger-bigger for a while yet. ;)

This new little one is quite active, and it is amazing to feel the movements. I love this stage. Not so big I can't move easily (though certain things are getting more awkward!) and yet baby is big enough and so strong in all of the movements. It makes me laugh, even though at times certain jabs are a little painful! With much to do and a toddler, it's rare that I sit down much through the day, so little girl makes up for it with dance parties when I sit during nap time or finally lay down to go to bed.

I have been blessed to feel healthy (other than catching two colds in the past month), and have everything check out normal at appointments, I definitely am feeling the heat, though. I thought it wasn't too bad to be pregnant during the summer last time, but I'm realizing it's not so bad in Iowa but pretty miserable at times in Shanghai! Especially when you have to walk many places... My face gets flushed, I just have to sit down next to the A/C sometimes after being out, and I am doing my best to drink enough water, though it never quite feels like enough!

 It has been very nice to switch providers and get to talk to everyone in English in a less crazy, not-so-busy office, but getting there and back with the distance continues to be crazy. Which is part of my huge excitement that, Lord willing, this little girl will be a home birth as well!

Now before you think I'm completely crazy, we are not planning to give birth at home in China. We briefly considered the home-birth option here, but with no midwives willing to practice at home that we know of in our area, the distance to the hospital were there to be complications (and the fact that we've been told ambulances aren't reliable - it's better to go taxi, which can be stuck in traffic), and the difficulty of getting a birth certificate when there's no system other than the hospital set up to issue them, we decided it wasn't for us. I tried to lay down my desires, know God could give me the strength in any circumstance, and trust that babies have been born in all kinds of places at all kinds of times. But, being born at home myself and having a beautiful, peaceful home birth with Hadassah, I was sad that it wouldn't be possible this time around.

Well, God sometimes gives you more than you could hope! Knowing that a dear friend was getting married on October 10th in the states, we looked into every possible way to get there. This was the friend that when we decided we would move to China over a year ago, although she didn't yet even know a guy, we promised we would do whatever it took to get back to the states for her wedding, whenever it would be. But, a month before I'm due??

Yet I couldn't let go of going. We go way back, have shared hopes and dreams since we were 16, and I talked with her through each step of her relationship via weekly skypes. Missing a wedding is always hard, but this was missing the wedding of one I consider in many ways a sister. It made me sob. I knew that having a baby was worth it, and that relationships would continue regardless, but I also just longed to be a part of such a special moment, not to mention having connection with close friends before another long winter in China...

We prayed, we weighed options, we threw around so many different scenarios, but two 14 hour flights across the ocean past 30 weeks pregnant just seemed crazy. But then, we finally seriously considered: what if we went - and stayed for the baby's birth? There was so much more to take into consideration, but one by one, the details worked out. My parents have a guest house where we'll have privacy, not to mention beautiful land in the woods, such a peaceful environment to wait and then labor and bring a baby into the world. And though so many babies are born here, it makes me happy to think that the first air this little one gets to breathe will be clean and fresh, not the start of a heavily polluted winter season.

And, the community! Though God is finally giving us much more community here, being with family and friends that go way back for two months will be so refreshing and encouraging. And being in contact with a midwife who is so supportive and not concerned about a "big" baby just puts my mind at ease, that I won't have to constantly fight to be considered normal as it feels like I always am doing at every appointment. Instead, I'll be able to deliver with a Christian woman who also believes that birth is a natural process that doesn't need to be unnecessarily complicated.

Having grandparents able to be right there and help with Hadassah and also family able to be there and visit to rejoice with us and meet this new little one before we go back overseas... Even a sister who is also currently overseas will "just happen" to be in the states during November, so we'll be able to have Thanksgiving together. It's such a joyful thought!

So, tickets have been bought to leave October 1st. Ryan's boss has been very understanding and is allowing us to use the approximate month of vacation he has (between accrued leave, a Chinese holiday, and paternity leave), as well as permission to work remotely for the other month. What initially seemed like a huge deal breaker in terms of all the documents that we'll have to get after baby's born to bring her back seems still crazy, but do-able, after discovering that there's a 24-hour passport office (if you have international travel plans within 2-4 weeks) in addition to a 3-day visa rush process.

Yes, I'm still somewhat nuts, I know. Lord willing, we'll be flying and changing time zones when I'm 35 weeks pregnant, which is something I hated doing NOT pregnant. But, it will be so worth it. I'll be able to rejoice with a dear friend as a bridesmaid in a wedding I've prayed would happen for many many years, we'll be able to see family when going back at Christmas wasn't really feasible this year, I'll be able to reconnect with the community I poured my life into when single, and our sweet second daughter will be born at a home, in a place I know and love. We are so thankful, and ever so excited that the time is drawing closer to meet her!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

First Guest and Blessings

We didn't have to wait long to have company in our new home!

 Last Wednesday, a dear sister and old friend of Ryan's and his family contacted us asking if we would be around for her to visit on Tuesday. She lives in a city 2 hours by train from Shanghai (plus more travel from her home to the station and from the Shanghai station here!) and had come to visit last October. Ryan and his parents had gotten to know her in 2011 when they visited another part of China, and it is always wonderful to catch up with her and hear what God is doing!

Her email came on one of our craziest, exhausting days, but Ryan and I have from the beginning of our marriage always wanted to be as hospitable as we can with the home God gives us. Never mind that at that point, our home was not in company-ready state! But, we figured in a week things had to be better, and besides, it would give us a reason to make sure some things were. And, after all, we were already used to sleeping on the couch!

We initially assumed she would just stay one night, but we have enjoyed having her here for a few days. She's helped with various things we need Chinese translation for, and Hadassah has absolutely loved having her around. She accepted her almost from the start, loving to show her toys, leading her to the couch to read books, and just being cute to get her attention. I've enjoyed the excuse to cook some of our favorite foods to share, and have enjoyed our friend's sweet help with the dishes!

While having company can be tiring - I know I will probably crash this weekend, as try as I might, I run on adrenaline when there are extra people around - I am thankful for the opportunities God gives. Our sister has encouraged us and we pray we have been an encouragement to her. In one big way, last night her staying home while Hadassah went to bed allowed Ryan and I to go to a prayer gathering with friends in the complex. It has been SO long since we have been to a prayer gathering, and it was so refreshing to be with other Christians, discussing the Word and what God is doing in their and our lives. So, "give and it will be given" is definitely true. We are all blessed.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

First week after moving (cont)

Continuing to record the craziness of our first week in our new apartment.... Though I'm so tired it's getting hard to remember exactly what I was doing a week ago! :) Hadassah seemed to think it a good idea to wake up earlier every day, and even if she was happy to stay in her crib, we woke up to the noises. It being completely light outside by 5 AM doesn't help; though we have black-out curtains in her room, she seems to sense that the sun is up. Usually we'd be early to bed too, but with all that has to happen to set up a new place, after she went to bed was prime working time. But, so it goes. Once we're settled, we're thinking we'll just focus on sleeping for a while!

Thankfully Hadassah woke pretty happy, though it did wear off some as the day progressed. But, I could tell that she was finally on the mend, and even her rash was starting to show signs of retreat. I knew that her fever was caused by a virus because I started to feel the effects. With as much sharing as I do with her, there's almost no way not to catch whatever sickness she gets. I tried to ignore the sore throat feeling and hoped it would just leave, but after a long morning of playing inside, I was feeling the effects of a fever and desperate for a nap myself.

Hadassah wasn't too interested in one, though, despite being obviously tired. The poor girl still wasn't completely comfortable. I'd cuddled and sang her to sleep the night before when she was in the midst of obvious misery (something that would normally not work, so I knew she was out of it!), and so after a few cries, I just gave up. While I'm a big fan of her sleeping by herself, there are exceptions, and sickness is a big one. Plus, I just wanted to lay down myself! And with the painter working in the living room that day, and our room off limits as it aired out after it's previous day's painting, the only place for me TO lay down comfortably was in Hadassah's room. So I went in, announced we were going to have a special mommy & Hadassah nap together, and she was happy about it at first. But then, of course, found it was harder to fall asleep with mommy there than when she was alone as normal. She kept trying to get off the bed, and cried at the idea of being put back in her crib, though, so we persisted. I required her to lay down, we sang lots of songs, and finally, after probably 45 minutes, her eyes started closing...

The cuddles and singing and time together was special - a time to cherish as it's rare. But it also made me glad she normally loves taking a nap without protest, as it sure took a while for her to calm down! But that day, I was glad I could just lay myself, and we ended up both sleeping for about an hour before she woke with distressed cries. More popsicles, more computer videos, and watching the clock until Daddy came home. By now I was completely miserable and didn't want to move with my pounding head and chills, and considered calling Ryan to come home early. But with all the work he'd missed already that week, I knew I just needed to last... Never did time seem to be move so slowly though!

Leftover pizza wasn't the healthiest option, especially when I was sick, but it was all I had energy or freedom from a clingy toddler to get on the table. At least I added a salad and we didn't have to go anywhere... And Hadassah actually ate that night, giving me hope she was going to be all better soon. At bedtime she just required one extra song as I patted her back before settling down without protest, so I was relieved sleep was returning to normal too.

Ryan wanted to go to IKEA, hoping to get a mattress topper so we could actually sleep in our own bed soon, but I needed him home that night. I felt miserable and just wanted to be with my man. Even just sitting on the couch researching mattress toppers and bookshelves on felt relaxing after all the craziness of the week, especially when I could lean against him... I fell asleep on the couch as he cleaned up some things, not even bothering with the supper dishes. Ryan said that's how he knew for sure I was out of it!

Hadassah was up early again, and I felt like I didn't want to be alive. After a rough night tossing with fever and chills, I wasn't ready to be awake. Ryan took Hadassah outside soon after she woke around 5 AM, and I meant to get up and make breakfast, but mostly just sat on the couch and waited for tylenol to kick in... When I finally did make breakfast on their return, I made it through tears. I felt that miserable and exhausted and at a loss at what to do. How could I face another day like this? Being a mom while being sick is one of the hardest things I think...

I learned to ask for help. To be vulnerable. I don't like asking for help, and feel like I've had to SO much amid moving in another culture and language, but I had mentioned via wechat to a friend in the complex that I was sick and could use prayer the day before, and she told me to let her know if she could help in any way. So... I took the risk, feeling like I could be a bother, but also knew I couldn't get through the day alone. Ryan wanted to stay home from work, but he was already going to have to work some on Saturday to make up for all the time already missed that week. As it was, he stayed home a little later to be with Hadassah, and then dropped her off at the friend's house. She had been more than willing when I'd asked, and I knew it wouldn't only be good for me, but also for my girl who had been stuck inside all week!

The painter wasn't there that day, as the final room, which Hadassah was sleeping in, we'd asked him to paint the following week while we waited for her room (which had been painted with the lower grade, VOC paint accidentally) to air out. I resisted the urge to do the dishes that were overflowing, and laid on the couch for a whole hour! I took another round of Tylenol, and by the time she brought Hadassah back mid-morning, I was ready to make a simple lunch and get the dishes done. Funny how just getting things more in order helps me feel better too.

I was still feverish by lunch, but I could tell things weren't AS bad. So Ryan made plans to go straight from work downtown to get a mattress and bookshelves from IKEA. We were both ready to be able to sleep in our room, and missed being able to sleep side-by-side with our current couch beds!

Thankfully Hadassah napped fine on her own, and I got to sleep too. We had another quiet afternoon, taking one thing at a time, and I let her watch more than usual again. In sickness, I make huge exception to my usual "very limited video" policy, especially when the heat trapped us inside. ;)

When the little one was in bed I did the dishes as I texted my husband, who was on the subway home. It was so nice to have him finally have a phone that works, after a year of sharing a cell phone and many frustrating situations when we couldn't get in touch. We flirted over texts, smiling as we remembered the hundreds of texts we sent while engaged. By the time he was home we were ready to relax together and enjoy an episode of "Madame Secretary." We're not much into TV shows, but recently found this one free on Youku (Chinese movie site) and have been pleasantly surprised by how it's a great plot that's actually very clean, intriguing enough for Ryan's brain yet a story enough for mine, and portrays a very strong marriage between the main character and her husband, with her mentioning that she'd be even willing to give up her demanding job as secretary of state if it caused her to lose him in any way. It's been a good way to relax when we just can't think about details anymore!

Ironically, despite Ryan going all the way downtown, it's now a week later and we still have yet to sleep in our own room on our own bed! The mattress topper was too heavy for him to bring home himself, and delivery couldn't happen until Monday. By then, we had an unexpected guest coming, so we gave her our room so she could sleep and not be woken super early by an energetic girl, and what we thought was going to be one night of her staying turned out to be three. Which is wonderful - we love her company! - but we laugh with a twinge of remorse that we have yet to enjoy the retreat of our newly painted blue and white peaceful room. It feels like the Promised Land we've seen but have yet to enter... But, soon!!

5 AM always feels like way too early to get up on a Saturday, but a toddler doesn't seem to care. I was thankful to at least feel a little more alive, with the fever finally gone. I was congested and coughing some, but having a clear head makes a world of difference!

It was an answer to prayer, too, as with everything happening the previous week, I'd never gotten to go back over to our old apartment to clean up. Our landlady there has been so wonderful, that I wanted to leave things at least as nice as we found it. So after breakfast, I headed over with rags in hand and set to sweeping and wiping and scrubbing. Ryan had his own challenges having to wait around at home for a guy to come and fix our main door handle (it completely just fell out a few days prior, seemingly rusted straight through). The frustration of not being able to talk to repair men directly, especially when they're late or you're not sure when they're returning continues to be very real. Thankfully we had a Chinese friend kind enough to be called on the phone as translator and go-between, but again... always humbling to have to ask. I know it's good for us, though...

Finally, he was able to set out with Hadassah on a long-promised "Daddy-daughter date." She loves those so so much! She still remembers places he took her months ago, and there's nothing that gets her to light up with joy as much as telling her she was going on a date with daddy! Ryan took her to an indoor play place at a nearby new mall. They had fun, but she also was ready to be done sooner than anticipated, as it seemed many other parents had the idea to escape the heat and let the kids work off some energy! Our little girl is getting better, but crowds are still not her favorite, especially when she gets unwanted attention from the grandmas... But riding escalators up and down makes her just as happy as a pricey play place, so they were occupied until I joined them at the mall for lunch.

I had a talkative taxi driver on the way over. Usually they don't say anything to me, which I'm just as happy about, as trying to understand and word responses makes me sweat! But this guy was really friendly, encouraged my Chinese, and didn't seem frustrated when I didn't understand, just asking questions in another way. He was all smiles when he learned I had one daughter already, as he noticed I was pregnant too. I asked if he had any children, and he beamed as he said he had two. Recent Chinese law allows couples to have two children if they themselves are both from single-child families. He asked how many children I wanted, and I told him "many children. I love children." He kept pressing for a number that I wanted, so I said seven, though we've not set a number and would be quite happy with even more. He laughed and gave a thumbs up, and somewhat sadly said in China, he could only have two. It would be so hard to be under that restriction...

We enjoyed fried rice from a known place for lunch, and discovered a pick-ingredients-yourself delight at Dairy Cream. Ice cream with strawberries and blueberries generously topped with thick whipped cream is just what a hot day required, especially when we had to walk a little ways in the sun to find a taxi.

Hadassah went down for a good nap, and I envied her some, but knew I needed to get back to cleaning. Ryan had offered to do the cleaning for me, but deep cleaning relaxes me in its own way (while exhausting my body, 'tis true!) as my brain just loves turning mess into orderly cleanliness. It was my way of saying goodbye to a home that held so many memories too, and gave me quiet time to think and pray (a rarity for a mom!). I prayed for all the people we'd had in that home, that God would water seeds that had been planted...

By the time Hadassah woke from a long nap, giving Ryan time to rest and catch up on some work documents, my knees were aching from washing all the floors but I was down to one room and bathroom. I was going to make it! We wanted to see our neighbor too, so after her yogurt snack, Ryan brought Hadassah over by taxi. I was on the last room, the bathroom, which he was gracious enough to take over so I could visit our neighbor. It was so good to see her and catch up, and also be a companion for, as her husband had been gone over a week to a conference. It's just the beginning of his year in America... She is in a hard situation with many choices to make... I pray for her and want to continue to be as much encouragement as I can be even when not just next door.

By then it was dinner time. On more quick sweep of the laundry area, and the house looked sparkling and neat. We went back to the mall for dinner... This week had been a topsy turvy one with many meals not quite normal, so why not continue it? :) We enjoyed another of our shows before sinking into our couch cushions. Good thing about being so exhausted is that you sleep well no matter where!

This day was almost normal! Hadassah was acting her full, normal, happy-and-energetic self. She is growing so fast, and so so sweet!

 This stroller has been the BEST buy, and was even from Shanghai Secondhand. She pushes her beloved ni-night all through the house, always making sure she's strapped in, saying "Don't fall out of the stroller, ni-night!" in the most adorable way.

Ryan continues the tradition of taking her outside just after her morning milk, to get a little of the morning coolness and time walking and playing on the slides. She loves their time together, and when he came back in and laid down for some much-deserved rest, she climbed up to snuggle him. I love watching a daughter with her daddy. :)

We made the trek downtown, but it was at a normal time and for a normal length of time. The smell of smoke in the taxi wasn't pleasant, but so goes life in China - you never know what taxi you'll be given! Lunch was one of our favorites, Element Fresh, and we left soon after church ended and took food to go so we'd be home at a decent hour for Hadassah to nap. Eating in the taxi helps take up part of the long ride too, which helps everyone. Ryan gave me an amazing massage (my body was feeling the effects of scrubbing an entire apartment the day before!) which relaxed me so much I took a deep-sleep nap while he again caught up on missed work. He's a good employee, my man.

We did have to wake Hadassah up to get over to our old apartment to meet our landlady at 4 PM, but she had gotten good sleep and was in a good mood. The beaming smile on our landlady's face as she exclaimed about how clean and nice everything looked made all the sweaty hours of cleaning more than worth it, and we left on good terms. Felt weird to walk out of that complex, knowing we had no keys to such a familiar place! We celebrated a job well done with a strawberry popsicle, and enjoyed good leftovers for supper. That evening we were just a family, no huge chores to do, just enjoying time together. Life is slowly returning to whatever normal is possible when you live overseas!

Monday, August 3, 2015

Heat Rash, Fevers, and our First Week of Moving

Ever have a week you just never ever want to repeat? Last week was like that.

Moving is crazy, whenever and wherever you do it. We knew that. But there were also various circumstances that made this last week especially overwhelming. One day I'll forget the details, so I thought I'd do a day-by-day re-cap. That way, we can look back one day and think life is easy comparatively!

The movers arrived at 8:45 AM - early. There were three guys, and they strapped 5 boxes at a time together, carrying them down the stairs on their back, so the house was empty in now time. Our friends that came to help had hardly anything to do, but no one complained, as we HAD chosen the hottest Saturday all year to move. By 10 AM the last box was in our new place. The movers had hidden fees - like they'd "forgotten" to tell the friend that had hired them for us that, even if they only worked for an hour they'd have to be paid for a minimum of three hours - but we were thankful to be moved so quickly.

Friends in our new complex had us over for lunch (we ordered pizza) and dinner, providing a nice escape from our everything-in-boxes surroundings. We tried to get a semblance of order by moving things to at least the room they belonged in throughout the day, while also trying to give Hadassah a tad of normalcy with family play time. It was late by the time we went to bed, but at least our clothes were in our closet!

Rather than the normal leave time of 8:15 AM for church, this Sunday Ryan was singing, so we had to leave an hour earlier. With an early-rising toddler it wasn't too hard, except I had to open 10 boxes before I found the salt to have with our eggs. Oh, and somehow I'd managed to leave all of my utensils in the drawer at our old apartment. A new IKEA rubber scraper came to the rescue! We made it out just a little late, after Ryan literally had to chase down a taxi.

Hadassah and I got a pastry while Ryan practiced... I was missing sleep and needed some zing to get through the service. Afterwards it was on to Shanghai Secondhand to return some things that didn't work and look at some new ones. Ryan took Hadassah to get lunch to go while I determined what to buy. It was 1 PM before we were in the taxi enjoying our food...

I fell asleep on the couch accidentally ("just sitting down for a minute" - yeah right!) while Ryan left to go to Xinzhuang (30 minutes away) to get internet and paint. Unfortunately he'd forgotten his passport, so the first didn't work out, but he eventually made it home with 2 cans of paint. The doorbell ringing with our washed curtains delivery woke me, and I was able to get my kitchen almost fully unpacked before Hadassah woke up. It felt so good! One of the first things Ryan thought to do for me was to remove the sliding glass doors to the kitchen, which I find no purpose for other than being an extra thing to clean! It makes the small area seem so much larger, and, despite it having no drawers, and the counters being (if possible!) even shorter than our other place, I really like how I've set up everything. It's handy.

We took Hadassah outside after supper, laughing after she slid down the slide, stared at an older gentleman, and exclaimed "Yeye has a tummy!" (there are times we're glad most people don't understand English!) at the site of his bare chest. It's super hot these days.

By Midnight, nearly everything was out of boxes, except books still waiting for their shelves.

*cue crazy music*

Hadassah seemed somewhat tired that morning, but hey, so was I! Moving is exhausting for us all. The painter arrived to do the first room, and I soon set off to get groceries, mentally going through all the things I needed to do and deciding food was priority. I knew taxis were often hit-or-miss in our new, less traffic area, so I didn't even try, walking the shady, slightly shorter way through the complex. I enjoyed having a new-to-us light-weight stroller (that even has a shoulder strap - so smart!) and timed the walk: 17 minutes door-to-door. Despite it being 8:30 AM, though, we were sweating a ton by the time we arrived.

God answered my prayer for a taxi for the way home, and as time went on and Hadassah still felt warm, I took her temperature. Uh oh. She had a fever. She'd been acting sensitive about her mouth too, so I hoped that maybe she was just teething...

Over lunch we decided to have the painter go ahead and paint the dining room a color too, so Ryan left prepared to go back to B&Q in Xinzhuang immediately after work. We needed internet, and he needed to take my phone for some things, so I had no way to contact him when I realized we might need a lighter shade of paint than we'd talked about. I also needed my kitchen utensils... So I waited as late as I could, thinking 4 PM might be a little cooler (please?), and walked over to our old place pushing Hadassah in the stroller. We were both drenched with sweat after 20 minutes. I emailed Ryan, did some needed online research, collected my precious cooking supplies, and headed back. It was rush hour, and I didn't want to look in vain for a taxi and try to get everything out of the stroller and into a car while those behind honked impatiently, so I made the hot walk back, feeling a little sorry for myself, I admit. July is no time to be walking outside here, and being almost 26 weeks pregnant didn't help matters.

After supper I borrowed a friend's phone to call Ryan, realizing he may not have gotten my emails, and it was a little breezy so we took the children to the playground for a few minutes. Hadassah's fever had gone down with tylenol, but I noticed there was a little rash around her mouth (from teething drooling perhaps?) and her eczema seemed to be flaring up, despite my best attempts to lotion, which normally worked. A nice bath routine, and she was tucked into bed, while I did more organizing waiting for Ryan to get home. We slept in the living room that night, as our new bed's mattress was extremely hard, and the foam pad we had caused Ryan to overheat. The couches have served us for a week now... (thankfully our new IKEA mattress topper got delivered today!)

Hadassah woke up with little red dots covering her body. But I didn't have much time to think about it, as I had to leave by 7 AM to go to a prenatal appointment at 8:30. Thankfully Ryan was able to stay home with Hadassah, so I began the hot walk towards the metro, going the long way hoping to find a taxi... It was 15 minutes before I did as I plodded along.

At the line interchange, I was confused by huge crowds and a blockade, with things being announced in Chinese. I finally learned the subway going downtown had broken down, and when getting a taxi or figuring out a bus looked to be in vain, and I couldn't get a hold of the doctor (the office wasn't open yet), I just turned around. Failed attempt. They understood and rescheduled me for the next afternoon...

By this time I could tell something was wrong with Hadassah. The fever and then unexplained rash concerned me, yet I couldn't research anything (internet wasn't yet installed), and couldn't call my doctor dad (again, no internet). I so wished I had a local pediatrician to call up or drop by, but instead Ryan had a co-worker who has offered to translate for us at the local hospital. Instead of dragging Hadassah downtown to the expensive, English-speaking place, we figured a rash wouldn't be too hard to diagnose, and the co-worker took an early lunch break to take us there at 11 AM.

I hated bringing Hadassah back out in the heat, but I hoped this would help her. There were 20 children ahead of us when we arrived, so we registered and then walked to get lunch. When we were finally seen, the doctor took one look and said "heat rash." Evidently it's common in hot Shanghai. Her throat was inflamed and a blood test confirmed she just had a virus to explain the returned fever. That plus likely teething causing a sore mouth and tons of drooling... I felt so sorry for my little girl who was miserable, crying "all done doctor" after they pricked her finger to get blood, and long past due for a nap.

From then on, my focus turned to caring for Hadassah rather than trying to do much on the house. Not hard to do when she took short naps and was cranky and clingy when awake. I researched how to care for heat rash, and felt so bad... I'd taken her out in the heat with a fever (though we needed food... what could be done?). I'd slathered her with lotion, which I later learned makes heat rash worse, thinking it would help her irritated skin. Thus began a regimen of corn starch on the really irriated patches, nightly lukewarm baths with cornstarch and later ground oatmeal, baking soda, and a little olive oil, which has finally helped her skin start to heal. But the poor girl looked and felt pretty horrible for quite a few days.

I cried that night after she was in bed. I couldn't stop. Nothing seemed to be working out, and I felt like such a bad mom dragging her out in the heat, doing the wrong thing when I noticed a little rash, and feeling helpless and ignorant on what to do right. Ryan was reassuring, and I had to come to grips yet again with the fact that I can't be a perfect mom, I will make mistakes, poor Hadassah has to be the one I learn on as I figure out these various ailments and treatments, and besides, I can't trust in myself - I have to trust in the Lord. Good lessons, but hard in the moment, especially on lack of sleep. We were up late as Ryan scrubbed walls again that night. It felt wrong to have to open windows to air out the painted rooms, after all the scrubbing we did in our war against the black dust that permeates the air...

Despite a late night, Ryan went into work early so he could go back to Xinzhuang. It seems the "good" brand of paint had different types, but how were we to know with almost everything in Chinese? With a strong smell coming from Hadassah's room (while she currently slept in what will be the baby's room), we realized our error. The paint had cost less than expected because they'd given us the normal grade, not the VOC-free kind. Rather than have to sleep in the living room for 2 weeks while waiting for our bedroom to air out, as we began an elaborate system of fans and open windows for Hadassah's room, Ryan went to get new, good paint, taking work documents to read on the way. It was lunch by the time he got home, and I put Hadassah to nap (something normally as simple as putting her in her crib and closing the door), telling her mommy needed to go to the doctor, so daddy would be there when she woke up.

She never went to sleep. I finally had to go, needing to make another IKEA trip for a few items before my appointment. We tried our new all-in-Chinese taxi app, which was a hoot in itself... Ryan met the taxi at the gate and brought it in to our building, loading up a rug we needed to return and telling him to wait while he went up. I then went down to get in the taxi. It took me a few minutes to understand what he was asking and make him understand that it was just me - my husband wasn't coming. The taxi started, only to have Ryan come running out and bang on the window. He'd forgotten to give me back my phone. He took my apartment key, told the taxi "Děng yīxià" (wait a moment) and went running back toward the moment. I yelled to him that if he was home I didn't need a key, that I needed to get going, and told the taxi driver in my limited Chinese, "Go." But he protested - "he said wait a moment!" probably thinking I was some crazy woman leaving my husband behind when he had told me to wait! Ryan realized the problem, came out to motion him to go, and we were finally on our way. The taxi wasn't sure about the route at first, and I could hardly understand or talk to him... The tears threatened. It had already been such a long week, and here I couldn't even hardly communicate after a year in this country. But we finally made it to IKEA - much to the relief of the taxi driver and myself... I wasn't sure what I'd do if he dropped me off in a random place with a large rolled up rug!

Returns happened, I sped through the store in the 30 minutes I had, and made it to my doctor's appointment just 10 minutes late. That took a while (more on it to be covered whenever I can finally write a pregnancy update!) so it was 4:30 PM before I made it out. Rush hour on the subway home...

Hadassah was going crazy (no nap plus sick and itchy and no mommy around) so Ryan didn't get any work done, as he'd planned to do while she napped. It was 6 PM before I made it home, so I picked up McDonalds - pretty much the last thing any of us wanted to eat, and Hadassah was hardly eating anyway with her sore, swollen mouth from teething and cold plus irritated rash. But, it was the only really fast food, and right at the station. We were all feeling pretty low. Hadassah quite a few times said "All done new house" as by then she mostly associated it with feeling sick and having to stay cooped up inside all day due to the heat. Though she normally watches very little, she got a lot of choo-choo trains, youtube songs, and Grandma-grandpa videos as she took shorter naps and had to stay inside, with the apartment topsy turvy from painting around her.

To be continued... I knew this wouldn't all fit in one post!