Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The reason we're here

We visited NZ at work for the very first time in his China office. I can't believe it took me over a year to get the driver to take us out to meet NZ at the end of the workday but it was pretty cool to see what he has accomplished in the last year. 

Here Sal and NZ are in the main reception area.

I'm so proud of him ( and so is Sal!)

Monday, October 28, 2013

How'd we get here?

Twenty eight weeks.

Third trimester.

Ten weeks until our hopeful induction.

How did we get here already?

How did we get here at all?

Is this really our life? 

At the risk of jinxing myself and the rest of my pregnancy, I am elated and grateful to have gotten this far. My only comparison prior to my pregnancy with Sal, was that of loss. Poor outcomes. Dead babies. So while pregnant with Sal, it was really no surprise that I had some scares pop up here and there, unscheduled visits to L&D and restricted activity from weeks 26 on and was considered high-risk..

...I expected the same for this baby. 

It's all I've known. 

But for some reason, this pregnancy, while living in one of the most foreign countries to be while pregnant ( ambulances? Ha! Emergent care? Ha!) has just seemed to fly under the radar and hit viability and the third trimester with only one freak out moment (at 8 weeks) which lead to an unexpected Doctor visit. I'd say--with my track record and nerves, that's pretty effin awesome. I'm still scared something will go wrong and we will face grief once again, but with each day that passes, we are one day closer to a NORMAL pregnancy for the first time in my life. No hi-risk specialists this time, no restrictions, a passed glucose tolerance test....NORMAL. 

If you would have asked me two years ago if I'd ever see myself in this situation, I'd laugh at you. This kind of stuff just doesn't happen to a couple who--for years--tried, wanted, and hoped for a baby only to face hurdle after hurdle. I am beyond grateful for this experience and hope that we continue to have a normal, uneventful, remaining 10 weeks.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

27 weeks

               [hiding under my belly]

How far along? 27 weeks

Total weight gain/loss: probably 24-25lbs by now. Was up 22 lbs last week.

Maternity clothes? Yep. Moved on to living 24/7 in leggings and a few longer tunic type shirts. So thankful for hand me downs. By the time NZ gets home I'm usually in one of his t shirts and my leggings from the day. Mama needs breathing room.

Stretch marks? Still feeling lucky that I don't have any. I brought back my kukui nut oil (Alba botanicals) from the US and have been greasing myself like a pig after my showers. I smell like vacation. I love it.

Sleep: Better some nights than others. NZ was away for a few nights so I had a king size bed to myself and stole his pillow to make myself comfy. I am still napping when Sal naps-about 2 hours a day. 

Best moment this week: Having Sal lift my shirt up and kiss my belly. It was followed by some belly button poking, but I love that he just approached me out of the blue and wanted to kiss the belly. 

Miss Anything? Diet cola. Big time. 

Movement: She has her moments of high activity but for the most part, she is much less active than Sal was...either that, or I am just too busy chasing him to notice each and every kick. She is finally kicking hard enough for NZ to feel her from the outside, which is always cool.

Food cravings: Frozen lemonade. Real Lemonade. All of which are either difficult to find or non-existent here in Wuxi. 

Anything making you queasy or sick: Nope. 

Gender: Girl.

Labor Signs: Braxton Hicks when I overdo it or when I eat too much chocolate. 

Symptoms: Sore back. Difficulty getting a deep breath when she is in certain positions.

Belly Button in or out? Still in.

Wedding rings on or off? On.

Happy or Moody?: Happy with bouts of anxiety over what to do with Sal when we head to Shanghai to have his baby sister. I'm a worrier by nature. 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Whatcha wanna know?

During our recent trip back to the states, NZ and I both fielded a ton of similar questions asked by our friends, family and colleagues about our current lifestyle in Wuxi. I've compiled a list of FAQ's, but if anyone has any questions that aren't listed, go ahead and ask me in the comments section.

1- What's Wuxi like?
    This is a pretty general question, but our answer is usually along the lines of "it's a newer, smaller (million people) city about 2.5 hours north west of Shanghai. There is a lake, called Lake Taihu in our city, but it's not the type of lake anyone from the US would every swim or fish in. Like any city in China, we deal with pollution on a regular basis. Although new, Wuxi is quite dirty and offers fewer western familiarities than a bigger city such as BeiJing or Shanghai would. There is a ton of new construction going up, so new shopping malls and apartments open every month. The big news on the block is that we finally got a mall with Claire's (you got that right-Claire's accesories= big news!) Wuxi's hitting the big time now (:

2- What do you eat?
     We cook most of our own food. And by "cook our own food", I'm talking from scratch. We eat very similar to how we would eat back in CA, but with fewer selections. We eat much less meat --not because it isn't available, but because it just isn't that good here. The beef we do buy is imported from Australia and quite spendy. We have bought live chickens a couple of times and been disappointed. The chickens sold at the local market are often old and straight out of someone's yard. The result is stringy, chewy meat.  Our most popular cuisine here happens to be Mexican. We make our own mock refried beans and tortillas and are thankful cilantro and onions are available here. We do miss ourselves some CA avocados though! 
When we go out to eat, we have two local favorites. One is a Muslim noodle house which make fresh noodles in the front of the store, and add them to broth with veggies like bok choy. The other is jiaozi, which are usually pork mixed with cabbage, celery or mushrooms folded inside little wonton wrappers and then boiled. We also like their spicy green beans. 
 Wuxi has Western fast food joints.  Subway, Mcdonalds, Burger King, Papa John's, Pizza Hut, Dairy Queen, KFC and Dunkin Donuts are the ones that come to mind. I'm embarrassed to admit that although we don't frequent ANY of those restaraunts in the US, we've been to them all a time or two here. What can I say? Our kid is a chicken nugget fiend. 

                               Sal scored some fruit and jiaozi from our fruit vendor

3-Where do you buy food?
     We make an effort to eat a lot of produce, which I purchase at the local produce market about half a mile away. They sell seasonal fruit and vegetables, as well as spices & meats (both alive and dead) --but as I mentioned above we buy our meat elsewhere. The produce market is not ventilated well, and there is no refrigeration. Just imagine the stench of the meat section during summer....it's bad. As for sanitizing our haul? I have found that an hour long soak in a vinegar water or iodine water solution works well. None of us have gotten sick from eating fresh produce yet.

                                        Vinegar/water soak to remove bacteria

       There are two supermarkets we frequent. One is French owned Auchan supermarket, which has the only decent cheese in town. And by decent cheese, I mean they carry more than just processed cheese slices or tubes o' cheese products.The selection still isn't anything to get excited about. They also carry some tortilla chips that we like, as well as fresh baguette bread. 

                                                A typical Saturday at Auchan

       Our main shopping is done at MeTRO, which reminds me of a Chinese version of Food4Less. It's a warehouse style market with forklifts dodging shopping carts during most shopping excursions. We buy most of our grazing food (nuts, popcorn, crackers) here, as well as UHT milk, butter, Australian beef, tortillas and our household items like toilet paper and baby wipes here. 

4- How do you figure out where to find things?
      Word of mouth. Generous fellow expats. My husband's assistant. Whenever one of my friends or I run across something we think the others would like or have mentioned needing, we text one another and buy it for the person-because things are often here one day, gone the next. When I'm out on my own, I use google translate a lot to ask questions or give directions. I managed to find neosporin and iodine on my own at the pharmacy a few weeks ago and high fived myself all the way home. I also use a website called taobao.com for online shopping. The best way to describe it is a cross between amazon and eBay. I need my husband's assistant to help with purchases and some translation, but she is a really good sport about it. I've bought everything from graham crackers to butt paste to toys from taobao sellers.

5- Know any Chinese yet?
     Sadly, very little. Neither NZ or I have put forth the effort to take lessons or do an online program. It's such a complex language. I know a handful of words and phrases and my numbers. Knowing your numbers here is key to survival. 

                              Does he understand what his playmates are saying?
                                                   Only time will tell.

6- Does Sal speak Mandarin?
     We think he understands some words. Our ayi speaks to him every afternoon. The other day I realized he was counting from 1-10 in mandarin with her! He also attempts to say zaijian (bye) when prompted.

7- What do you do during the day?
      The driver usually picks NZ up for work between 7or 8 each day. Sal and I get dressed by 9:00 and head out for some sort of activity a few days each week. We are members of the Wuxi International club, which is growing in size each month. Every month WIC hosts a luncheon, a coffee morning, play groups, BBQ's etc to  partake in. 

Here's our usual week: On Mondays we meet a group of expats in our complex and walk to the local Starbucks for the morning. 

                  At the local produce market having pants hemmed at my tailor

       Tuesdays and Thursdays we usually walk to the vegetable market and then go home to Skype with my sister. Wednesday mornings I try to use the driver to take us grocery shopping or on errands, and on Fridays we often spend the morning at a friend's house playing in her basement.  Lunchtime is between 11:45 and 12:15 followed by a 2-3 hour nap. 
        Our ayi arrives at the end of naptime and works til 5:00p while Sal and I do our best to stay out of her way. Lately we have been taking afternoon walks around the complex, or playing at the playground. NZ usually arrives home around 6:15 for dinner, then it's bath time and bed for the boy while we stay up later watching Netflix shows. 

8- What's the weather like?
     December until the end of March is fuh-reezing cold. Usually just gray skies and rain, but occasionally we get snow. 
                                                         January 2013

April starts to warm up, and May and June are t shirt and shorts weather. 
The only drawback during these months is the higher pollution levels. Puts a damper on outside play some days. 

                        May 2013. Perfect weather for a walk thru Nanchan

By the end of June, and for the entire July and August and beginning of September it is stifling hot and humid. Some days it is so hot that we don't even leave the house. Mid September through November are the best months. Lower pollution levels, clear skies and nice temperate weather. If anyone ever wants to visit us, these are the months to do it. 

9- What does your apartment look like?
                                      Our apartment "grounds"

We live in a gated complex along with many other Chinese and expats. By China standards, we live very well. Our apartment has a balcony and is located on the 25th floor of a 27 story building. Minus the garage, it's the same square footage of our house in California. We have three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a small kitchen, a large pantry (even by US standards), a laundry room and a nice sized living room with hardwood floors and tile. 

   Our pantry room...Full of food, car seats and surfboards.

The apartment came furnished and we are the first inhabitants, so everything is "new". The furnishings are cheap and Chinese, and everything we have added to the mix has been courtesy of IKEA. Look around any expat home and you're sure to see an IKEA expedit or two. We all shop there.

Our refrigerator is a side by side, just like we might have at home, but we do not have a full size oven or a dishwasher. We have a two burner gas range and a countertop toaster oven that we work magic with. My washing machine doubles as a dryer--most people in China don't use electric dryers, but instead hang clothes to dry. I'm thankful for imported dryer sheets and my dryer to keep shirts, socks and underwear soft. Too bad a full wash and dry load takes four hours! 

10- What do you miss the most?
                              Someday we will smell the salty air again.

         Family, friends, our neighbors, our house, our yard, driving cars, temperate weather, blue skies, the beach, sewing, fabric stores, softball league, authentic Mexican food, avocados, Target, diet sodas, understanding the language, common courtesy, the beach...oh wait, did I already say that? Uhm yeah, we miss the beach. And family. And friends.

Got more questions? Ask away!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Residency renewal day

We spent our afternoon at the police station today.
 It was time to renew our residency in Wuxi.

As you can see, Sal kept an eye on everything to make sure there was no funny business.

Monday, October 14, 2013

California dreamin'

We've been back from California for a week now, and have finally re acclimated to life in China. Thankfully, we do better with the time change and jetlag coming west, better than when we fly east. One or two nights of waking and we were all sleeping like babies again.

We had a great visit home, although I admit, it was my most exhausting trip thus far. I blame pregnancy, jetlag and a non-napping toddler. Exhaustion aside, trips home are always just what the doctor ordered.

Some highlights included:

Dinner with longtime friends and their kids. Sal got to sit at the big kid table for the first time with Maverick and Makayla. We look forward to many more good dinners and play dates with these two and their parents.

Breakfast at grandma Sandy and grandpa Bob's house. Fresh picked oranges (although I think the fruit pictured was a lemon) and cherry tomatoes. Isn't that what every kid begs for at breakfast? 
Decorating Halloween cookies with Auntie Stephanie. My sister made cookies and flooded them with white royal icing. She then drew Halloween themed designs on them and gave Sal edible ink markers to decorate them. It's been reported that he taste tested each cookie--nick and I took the opportunity to get away to the surf shops while Auntie Steph kept Sal entertained.

Shopping with auntie Steph and grandma Sandy. 

Feeding grandpa Jet's doggies. Sal even pronounced their names "Tess" and "Kate" and took an instant liking to them. Since our visit home, Sal thinks he is a doggie. He often puts his snack on the floor and eats it like a dog and hides out in our pet kennel.

The beach! We spent so many mornings at the beach. 

High school football. We got to watch Sal's future high school (his dad's alma mater) play a game. Who knows, someday maybe I'll be sitting in these stands cheering this little guy on. 

We had many more good times with family and friends that didn't get pictured. Our two weeks flew by, as always, and before we knew it, we were faced with packing up all our stuff and heading out again.

Until next time, California!

Pom Pom stuffing

While in California, I stocked up on some artsy stuff to bring back to do projects with Sal. My sister in law left us some Halloween themed pompoms from Target and they were the first bag opened when we got home. 

I gave Sal the bag of Pom poms and a silicone baby food freezer tray and he went to town stuffing the different size Pom poms into the compartments. In the future, I plan to give him different tools for transfer (chopsticks, tongs, spoons) and work with him on sorting by size and colors.

So, if you're looking for an easy, quiet and cheap activity for your toddler-hit up Target's dollar bins or your local craft store for some Pom poms!

26 weeks

How many weeks: 26

How am I feeling? Exhausted? Our California trip wiped me out. Between our later bedtimes and a non-napping toddler I'm feeling the aftermath of a lack of routine hardcore this week. I felt physically sick the first few days back home. 

Doctor’s Appointment? I was scheduled for the dreaded glucose test and an OB visit last week. Visit went great (still loving my OB) and I passed the test. No gestational diabetes for us.

Workouts? Stroller pushing to get errands done. My friend Mimi and I have been walking laps around the complex for about an hour in the evenings this week. It's nice to have a walking partner. 

Sleep? Terrible. Insomnia plus jet lag strike again.

Weight Gain?  1.8kg since my last OB appt. We enjoyed every minute of our California eating frenzy. 

Baby preparation? Unpacking the loads of clothes and baby paraphernalia we brought back

Likes/Dislikes? Loves: Huberts lemonade from Sprouts market. I miss it already.