Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Mr. Independent

My parents may be proud that the college education they paid for is finally getting put to use, although the payoff is not exactly monetary. I majored in Human Development, emphasizing in child development (aka. The "I plan to be a teacher" major). I taught for a few years after college, but ultimately became a nanny for two families and then went on to work for a surgeon when we returned to Southern CA.

And now...I'm a mom.

When Sal was an infant, education aside, I was at a loss for what was normal (maybe I slept through those classes?), but now that he's a toddler, and starting to assert his independence, I feel like I am able to understand the "why's" of his behavior and it all comes down to him trying to test boundaries and become independent. 

He wants to do things on his own.

My job, as his mom, is to make his journey to independence and autonomy possible with age appropriate (and maybe a few challenging) tasks that he can master without assistance. It also makes my husband and my life a bit easier.

Here's what we've done to help Sal gain some independence and pride in his abilities to accomplish tasks:
Toddler friendly snacks placed on his level that he can choose from. 

Today he chose a tangerine.

And peeled it himself into an accessible garbage can.

Plates, bowls and sippy cups in a low unlocked cabinet. He can get his own cups and plates for mealtimes.

We turned off the hot water, so he can now fill his cup with water unassisted. The rule is that there must be a cup under the water spigot or he loses his privilege of filling his cup for the morning/afternoon.

Books and boxes of toys easily within reach.

A couple of 3m hooks placed at his level so he can hang his hat or jacket alone.

A bucket of easy to put on shoes. He finds the matching shoes but still needs help getting his foot in the shoe. Until he is ale to put shoes on easily himself, I plan to stick with Velcro closures. I really like pedipeds first walkers because of the tongue that flips out and wide Velcro closure. They slip on easily. 

I've moved his weather appropriate clothes to the bottom drawer. He chooses his shirt and bottoms for the day. Sometimes they match, sometimes they don't. It's his style. His choice.

A work in progress...self dressing. He tries himself but I am there to offer help if needed. 

It's been really fun and rewarding to watch him exceed my expectations of what he is capable of at this age.

My hopes in terms of giving him tasks he can do himself is to curtail some of the tantrums and frustrations that kids his age often exhibit. Don't get me wrong, we still go through the daily tantrums (how dare I close the bathroom door--he was playing with the flusher!) but I think that the more he feels in control the smoother his late teen months will go. In just the last week of making the household changes above, we've had much smoother days.

Lesson of the day: never underestimate what your kids are capable of. They rock!

Qtips in a bottle

This activity seemed too easy (& clean) to be true, but we had the items on hand so we tried it. An empty Parmesan shaker with the large hole, and a travel pack of Qtips kept these little hands busy for over twenty minutes. 

This activity is small and easily portable for dinners out, Dr. appointments , car rides and I'm thinking it will make out airplane travel bag next month. 

Have any of you tried this or something similar? Please share!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Bagel Sunday

I did it!

I brought Bagel Sunday back into our lives!

Having tried to make bagels a few times before, I wasn't very optimistic, but with my latest infatuation with cream cheese, I figured I'd give it another go using a recipe from and they worked.

Don't get me wrong,I'd rather pay a buck for a Noah's or Old New York Deli bagel, but these don't suck, either. 

Even more noteworthy, I may finally be mastering the yeast beast that's been my nemesis for years (although really,I think patience with yeast is more likely my nemesis...I hate waiting for things to rise!).

Lets see if  next week's batch is equally successful.


Wednesday, August 21, 2013


Another cultural phenomenon that I just.don't.get.


Last December, we found that the shower in our guest bathroom was leaking under the floor tiles. This resulted   in paint (lead based, I'm sure), peeling from the saturated interior wall and staining our wood baseboards black. 

We notified management, and they set up a crew to come fix the problem. Starting Christmas morning, we had jackhammers going, concrete dust permeating the air, and a useless shower. This lasted a week. 

After one week of digging up the tiles, then re-applying cement layers, they said the job was complete and we would need to wait one more week to use our shower. We asked that they repaint the section of wall that the paint had peeled away on, and they said they would come back. Someone else had to do that job.

Seven months later, still no paint.


So, a month ago, we reported that the shower was again leaking, but this time into our master bedroom (from the back wall of the guest shower). Our wall was starting to peel, the baseboards and floor turning black. We were told the workers would come back to fix the shower leak the next day. We would need to be home all week.

Sal and I cancelled all of our plans for the week and sat.

And sat.

And sat..

No workers.

Finally my husband's assistant got hold of the supervisor and was told we would receive a call 24 hours before the men would start. I resumed normal life, and got Sal out of the house for some fun. 

Two weeks later, a call. They would start Monday. It would take 10 days. Each day they will arrive at 8:30.

Day one. 8:30. Nothing. 

Day one. 11:00. Nothing.

Day one 3:45. Workers arrive. Want to work until 7:30! 
(I told them they must quit at 5:30, so my family can have normal dinner, bath and baby bedtime)

Days, 2-8, exactly the same..they'd say 8:30, they'd show whenever the heck they wanted to. They jackhammered, made dust, left plugged power saws out and available to my curious toddler and stared at me while I prepped food in the kitchen (presumably waiting for cement to dry? This guy watched me for the better part of an hour while his partner smoked in the bathroom). From what I could see, they were doing the same layered cement "fix" as last time. 

Anyways, after a "bad talk" with my husband's assistant, they finally showed up on time the last day. They caulked the joints and said we could use the shower today. 

Okay, how about replacing floor boards and painting walls?

Someone else must do this, I'm told.

The painter and floor person will come another day.

Wtf?! Isn't 10 days enough? We're going crazy here.

To top it off, Nick examined the shower when he got home last night, and found that there are gaps in the caulk-job, and some sections aren't caulked at all.

Thankfully, my friend downstairs speaks mandarin and is having the same bathroom demo (and caulking problem), so she complained to them for me today. 

Supposedly tomorrow I will be visited by the caulk engineer, painting captain and floor guru.

For being professionals at their jobs, they sure do mediocre work at best.

Unfortunately, this is commonplace here in China. 

Mediocrity sucks.

*** Friday update***

Workers arrived on time, photo bombed my Skype conversation with my mama, helped the,selves to a glass in my kitchen to mix caulk in (what happened to the trigger tubes of caulk?), pulled up the hardwood in our bedroom that needed replacing....

...and this is what I'm left with for what I'm being told will be another week while the subfloor dries.

Seriously? This is right outside our master bathroom which, being pregnant and all, I tend stumble to least four times a night. This is an accident waiting to happen between my frequent bathroom trips in the dark and having a curious toddler in tow.

I hate to complain but I'm seriously 'bout to lose my shttt here.

Monday, August 19, 2013

18 weeks

Showing? Hello maternity clothes, goodbye in-between clothes.

How am I feeling? A bit more relaxed this week since we got a good report last week...I do feel the anxiety creeping in though. I've been feeling flutters but always second guess myself as to whether they are real or not. I learned the hard way that getting up too fast will make me faint. One night last week, NZ locked himself out so I hopped up out of bed to ring him in, and as I waited against the door for him to come up the elevator, I passed out cold. He knocked to no avail so he returned to his friends to get his keys and when he came back home I had come to and was back in bed with a battle wound.
      note to self: get up slowly, or you'll pass the eff out!

Doctor’s Appointment? Nope. 3 weeks to go until our anatomy scan.

 Workouts? Sal and I walked to the vegetable market and I got out my 5lb dumbells for some tricep and shoulder workouts. Just to do something. Going crazy without regular exercise.

 Sleep? My nightmares about the baby dying were replaced with crazy Sons of Anarchy dreams, thanks to marathon watching of season 1&2 in less than a week.

 Weight Gain? Probably. Even my maternity shorts are feeling tight!

 Baby preparation? I bought a petunia picklebottom layette on eBay (we love their receiving blankets for swaddling) and bid on some gdiaper covers since I need more smalls.  I also ordered fabrics for crib sheets (thank you sister for making them for me!)
                                           Can't wait to see these in the crib

I hate that I'm already ordering things for the baby because I am so worried that something will still go wrong, but because of our circumstances of living overseas, I've got to get the imported things while we visit the US next month.

Dislikes: Garlic, which is cah-razy because garlic is a staple in our household. 
Likes: lemon, gummi candies, tortillas and cream cheese.

Bean transfer activity

I ran across a picture of a friend's daughter transferring beans from one bowl to another with a spoon, and decided one hot humid August morning to give it a try in our household. Sal is a bit younger than the little girl, but not by far. We got out a couple bowls, a variety of "scooper" shapes and sizes, and sat on the kitchen floor. Without any instruction, Sal picked up the spoon, and started transferring beans from one bowl to the next.

Sure, beans ended up missing the bowl, followed by "uh oh", even when they were quite deliberately scattered on the floor, but we are lucky enough to have a kitchen that can be enclosed by two sliding glass doors. Really though, beans scattered on the floor aren't that messy.

In fact, Sal got our ayi's broom and dustpan and helped "sweep". 

This activity kept him busy in one way or another for over twenty minutes. Back and forth with the beans, then cleaning them up and starting all over again. 

It dawned in me that this is a Montessori activity, so I Pinterest searched more Montessori activities for the future and plan to try some. I haven't really subscribed to a particular teaching method for my son, but I guess if I am drawn to activities like this, that don't include tv, batteries or direct instruction, I may lean a bit towards the Montessori way.

I'm excited to try out some new activities especially since I'm already slowing down and looking for things to keep Sal busy within the confines of our home and limited supplies.

Friday, August 16, 2013

It's a......



I found a duck call onesie on etsy and sent a picture of it to my pop along with, "would grandpa Jet take HER hunting in this outfit?"

My dad,an avid outdoorsman/hunter, answered back, "Hell yes, she can".

Gender aside, we are happy to be expecting what has so far turned out to be a healthy, growing baby.

May it be smooth sailing til January!

Thursday, August 15, 2013


                                     My newest faux chalkboard creation

When Nick and I decided to make the move overseas, we liked the idea of having to "make it on our own". Figuring out a new city, culture, language..just the two of us, mano y mano. Turns out we have had help figuring it all out, in the form of fellow expats, and a handful of locals, but really, it's been me and him, him and me....and of course Sal, trudging through the day to day trials and tribulations of living in such a foreign country.

I'm glad we are here. I'm thankful for this experience.

Do I dream about the day we board a flight to LAX with one way tickets? Absolutely.

Southern California is where our roots are, and where we look forward to calling home again.

But for now, we live by a verse from Edward Sharpe and the magnificent zeros, which hangs in our dining room to remind us that "home is wherever I'm with you". It could be anywhere in the World, as long as we're together. 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

She gets me

As I mentioned before, we saw a new OB last weekend at a brand new hospital in Shanghai. It's staffed by a mix of foreign and Chinese OB/GYN's that all lean toward western medicine and philosophy. Having a western-belief OB was my must have, little did I know that I would end up choosing a Chinese Doc. 


Chinese, Chinese. Not American-born Chinese. 

Why do I like her so much?

Because she seems to "get" me.

I had the chance to talk to her briefly during our tour a couple of weeks ago, and we discussed my losses, my surgery, and my somewhat irrational (by my own admission) fears with this pregnancy. She eased my mind during our discussion, pointing out that we did have a full term son following my surgery, and that the statistics ( I hate statistics!) are on our side. 

When we met with her for my actual appointment a week later, she pulled out some xerox copies and laid them in front of us. One was a picture of the two surgical techniques used to perform the surgery I had. She wanted to understand which technique my RE had used so she could be best prepared and educated on my needs. The next xerox was a medical journal linking higher live birth rates with completion of the surgery I had. As much as I hate statistics, this article was just what I needed. No one had ever shown me the statistics before. 

Here's what makes me feel better:

Before septum resection:
Live birth rate 3%
Mc rate 88%
Preterm rate 9%

Post septum resection:
Live birth rate 80%
Mc rate 14%
Preterm rate 6%

And the conclusion just makes me even more thankful for Dr. Hubert and his willingness to take our family on and figure out why we were losing pregnancy after pregnancy. Had he not cared about his patients, perhaps we would still be walking the lonely road of infertility and recurrent loss.

Even reading this study, I'm aware that there are manymore things that could still go wrong, but just seeing the statistics gives me hope that maybe just maybe, our losing spree is over. And a huge thank you to Dr. June Shen, my new Doctor for giving me peace of mind, if only for a few days til my head takes over again.

Domestic fail

NZ wanted cookies tonight, so I pulled out what remained of my smuggled butterscotch chips and got to mixing. I found a recipe for oatmeal butterscotch cookies on the Hershey website and with four out of five stars for reviews, I was sold.....

...until I checked the oven after ten minutes and saw this....

What the?! 

The hormonal me wasn't sure if screaming or crying were appropriate responses so I just got angry and started feeling like a domestic failure. NZ came to see what the fuss was about and dared to ask, "did you forget something?"

Oh yes, he did.

I swore up and down I followed the recipe to a tee. I was angry that so many people gave it four stars and fooled me! I scrapped the rest of the dough, scraped the mess from my cookie sheet and just about cried. I declared "kitchen is closed!" and pouted my way through washing up the debris. As I was putting the oats away, I looked up at my flour jar.

Guess who forgot to add flour to her cookie dough?

This girl.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

16/17 weeks

How many weeks? 16/17
      Photo from 16w6d

Showing? Yes.

How am I feeling? Scared out of my mind. Uneasy. Anxious. I was so used to having appointments every two weeks in the states (OB, and MFM specialist) that having to wait four weeks between each visit here really messes with my head. I need constant confirmation that this baby is still alive and thriving. 

Doctor’s Appointment? I saw an OB at the new hospital. She was very attentive and interested in understanding my history of losses. I even had an ultrasound in 3D/4D! I was especially touched by the nurse who accompanied us to the ultrasound picking Sal up when he started to fuss. She brought him to my side and held him while Nick and I paid attention to the ultrasound. We went in not knowing what to expect but I walked out a very satisfied patient. Next visit is in four weeks for the level II anatomy scan.

Workouts? Sal and I walked to the vegetable market a couple of times in the 100+ degree heat. The day we went to Shanghai was 102 f but the real feel was 114! It's brutal. I should find something to keep active as I gained more weight the last four weeks than I thought I had. 

Sleep? I am still napping while Sal naps to make up for my exhausting nightmares and wild dreams that I've been having.

Weight Gain?  Oh my, yes! 2.8kg (that's like 6 lbs, in four weeks!)

Baby preparation? We chose a hospital for all of my care and purchased thE prenatal and birth packages. I also ordered the second seat for the stroller and our cousin has offered to pick up the carseat adapter on craigslist for us. I'm having to break my not-buying-anything-until-30 weeks rule this time around because some of the things we need are only available in the USA and we will need to bring them back with us next month.  

Likes/Dislikes? Apples and peanut butter, apple juice 50/50 with water, cream cheese, frozen grapes, water with lots of lemon

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Dog days of summer

I haven't been posting much on what Sal and I have been filling our heat filled summer days with, because honestly, it'll probably bore you..but, here's a typical day with our almost 19 month old:

We get up, graze for breakfast (he eats more if I put his breakfast out and he grazes all morning on it than if I sit him in his chair), say goodbye to Nick (he blows kisses and walks dad to the elevator now), ride our bouncy bike, push the dump truck, read "go do go" and "little blue truck" til I can recite it verbatim, rollup the living room rug, roll out the rug, dump cereal on the floor, pick cereal up off floor, sweep, vacuum (he loves to vacuum), try going potty (he earns a sticker for each time he pees in the toilet), watch some Disney cartoon shorts on the iPad, remove the sofa cushions, climb under the cushions, Skype with auntie, throw a tantrum, open and close the sliding glass doors over and over til fingers get pinched, brush our teeth, take our vitamins, attempt to use the toilet again, tantrum, bounce on the bed, fix the sheets, empty the kitchen cabinets, put shoes on, head to a friends (phew, 9:30 a.m., finally!), basement playtime, then home for lunch (or in today's case, McDonald's--again), diaper change, pjs, milk, nap 2 hours (both of us nap, actually!) wake up, diaper change/ toilet attempt, snack time, coloring (both paper and self), music and pool time on the balcony, pee in the pool, dump the pool, tantrum, clean the pool, change into clothes, stand on furniture, open and close the sliding doors again, more stories, more iPad cartoons, climb the pantry shelves in search of candy, follow ayi as she sweeps, vacuums and mops, hop in stroller, take a ride to the front entrance to our complex, buy bread, walk back home, press all the elevator buttons he can reach, stop at each floor 1-4 before going on up to 25, shoes off, say hi to ayi, put hands all over windows ayi just cleaned, dump snack on floor, clean snack up, hug ayi, wave bye to ayi, play in the Tupperware cabinet, pull on mom's leg as she preps dinner, toilet attempt, sticker, ride bouncy bike through house, play peek-a-boo in the curtains, dad's home, jump on the bed, jump on dad, eat dinner, climb on dad, climb the sofa bath time, pjs, milk, stories, bedtime........
                   Sofa "planking"

...and I wonder why I'm always tired.

So yeah, until fall rolls in with nicer weather, we're pretty much going ape$hit crazy stuck inside this summer. To all my California friends enjoying beach days, park picnics and all things wonderfully temperate, I'm envious! 

Saturday, August 3, 2013

We've committed!

We chose a hospital.....finally!

A huge thank you to my friend Julie who told me about the OB I have been trying to see at PHS moving to a new hospital. The most popular OB in Shanghai, according to friends and expat forums in Shanghai, has left PHS. So much for me seeing her.

I asked Julie if she knew where this OB was headed and she mentioned a new women's hospital . I did a quick google search and was wowed by their website and the pristine conditions of their facility. The website made some lofty claims of one on one nursing during labor (no shift changes), hotel like atmosphere, internationally trained English speaking OB and GYN's and a special care nursery staffed with neonatologists for babies born with complications. 

I booked a tour for this past Saturday. It turned out to be on the same subway line as PHS, just two stops further, and even's literally right outside the metro station exit. No half mile walks from metro to the hospital. Come December and January, this is a major plus in my book. 

We passed through the security gates and were met by a tour guide. Three couples total toured together. We were the only ones with kids already, so I asked the majority of the questions and at one point realized I was the only one asking. "How many isolettes in the special care nursery? Can we see it? Is it staffed by a neonatologist 24/7? What happens if the complications exceed this nursery's abilities? Do the babies get shipped to Fudan? Who cares for the baby after birth? In the case of a baby boy, who does the circumsicion? How many OR's do you have? What screenings do you do on the baby? Is the epidural administered by an anesthesiologist or anesthetist?" Clearly I have worked for a physician for way too long. Wayyyyy too many questions. 

Shut up, Brie. 

But I did get all my questions answered and hope I asked questions that the new parents to be may not have thought to ask. 

Anyways, here's how the new hospital won me over:

-special care nursery with six isolettes, staffed 24 hours a day with neonatologists
- neonatologists attendance during delivery with assessment of baby following birth. Neonatologist visits baby each day while in hospital. Hearing & hip screening after birth. 
-epidural provided by anesthesiologist
-Stryker equipment and beds (shout out to Tyson at Stryker)
-six large pristine delivery rooms
-six operating rooms
- post partum rooms have walk in showers, kitchenette with fridge, flat screen tv, Internet hook ups, bed for dad.
-for 12,000rmb/nt (gasp! That's over $2,000usd) your whole family can move into one of their birthing suites. It's literally larger than our flat. Two bedrooms, living room, kitchen....cah-razy cool, but Tài guìle (too expensive). 

But really, the big draw for me is being able to see a multitude of English speaking Doctors in a clean hospital. One of the biggest challenges I have faced living in China as a slight germaphobe is the absence of true cleanliness pretty much anywhere I've been thus far. Like, things get washed with murky water and mops that haven't seen bleach, ever. So dirt just gets pushed around. The new hospital was the first place I've walked into in China (besides friend's houses) that felt truly clean. Sheets were crisp white, floors didn't have hair, missing tiles or questionable stains. The equipment all looked brand new and ready to deliver.

So, we committed to a prenatal and delivery package, paid for it and it feels good to have that question of "where will we deliver?" answered with certainty. I'm relieved. 

If only I could get this brain of mine to stop expecting to lose this baby and just enjoy the ride.


Thursday, August 1, 2013

Anxious, much?

I have to admit, I find myself in denial (even at 16 weeks in) that we are actually expecting again.

I look down at my belly at least fifteen times a day, sucking it in in the mirror and telling myself that I don't "look" pregnant, so I must not be. It must be a dream. It's not real. This isn't happening. 

But the reality of it is, I am pregnant. I do have a belly. It is growing bigger.

I play this game within my head on an hourly basis. I wake up from nightmares almost every morning in which I dream the baby has died, or that we've gotten bad news that the baby will die. Some of the nightmares are so realistic, I cry in my sleep, only to have NZ roll over and make sure I'm okay. I'm always glad when he wakes me, but it takes a moment for me to realize I was dreaming, and everything is okay. I wake up exhausted. 

I think after all the struggles and losses we've experienced in the past, pregnancy will never be a walk in the park for me emotionally. I think I will always expect that something will go wrong, as to not get my hopes up. It stinks to have baggage holding me back from truly enjoying pregnancy. I've got one more week to go before we get confirmation that all is well, and I find myself feeling more and more anxious as the days pass since my last appointment. It's like I need constant confirmation that a) I have a baby inside and b) baby has a heartbeat. 

Sure, I could buy or rent a Doppler, but could you imagine the panic if I don't find a heartbeat while doing it myself? We're two hours from my OB, and 20 minutes from our local hospital...I'm afraid that I would wind up in either hospital on a weekly basis if someone laid my hands on a Doppler. Better left to the professionals. Besides, I'm learning patience, right?

I don't know exactly where this post is going, except that having one baby after loss doesn't make later pregnancies any less worrisome...and having this pregnancy come so easily almost freaks me out that it's too good to be true, so I spend my days waiting for heartbreak, when instead I should be embracing the fact that our chances of having another child are so much higher than the chances of losing it. 

All anxiety aside, I am happy. I am excited. I am lucky. 

This I know. 

Here's to me re-reading this post in 5 months saying to myself, " you worried for nothing!".

Summer weather

I snapped this pic on our walk back from McDonald's today. Morning sickness made a comeback today, and fries sounded soooo good (too bad once Sal and I got home, the bag contained his mc nuggets, but no fries for mama! Oh, china, what would a day without frustration over poor customer service be like?)...anyways, isn't the sky so pretty? We had blue skies all morning but as you can see the thunder clouds are rolling in, and I suspect by 3:00 or 4:00 we will have our daily torrential downpour. This is life as we know it during summertime. This past week has hit consecutively above 100 degrees, with a "real feel" of 111-120 degrees due to humidity. 

Is it fall yet?