Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Zaijian 2013, NiHao 2014

It's New Year's Eve here already.

Aside from my calendar telling me so, it certainly doesn't feel like it.

Here in China, the New Year doesn't start til the last week of January, so we Americans are jumping the gun a little in saying goodbye to 2013 on December 31st. I'm okay with that.

2014 holds promise for our family. A new baby. More traveling on this side of the world...and one year closer to returning to California. I'm seriously thinking of making a countdown chain when we get down to the "one year left mark".

If I had to chalk up 2013 for the Zentils, I'd have to say it was a good one. There were a few hiccups along the way, but overall, we have been really fortunate this past year. I'm thankful for so many opportunities that came our way and thought I'd do a little year in review post to recap our year.

January 2013 
We celebrated Salvatore's first birthday with friends who also had January birthdays. Nick and his friend Pere have birthdays within days of Sal's, and my friend Anna shares Sal's birthdate. It was a great little get together, finished off by what else, but fireworks. 

February 2013
Snow! Can't say I love it, but having a snow day was a memorable experience for us. 

Along with the cold weather came Sal's first real sickness, which got us aquainted with the local Chinese hospital for breathing treatments. Pretty sure he was the only laowai there.

March 2013
Slightly warmer weather sent us in search of outdoor playgrounds. Our family spent most weekends taking walks and exploring our neighborhood.

We Went to the Lingshan Buddha and also spent Easter weekend with our international club at the Hilton Doubletree resort in Lingshan.

April 2013
Can we say busy? We enjoyed having NZ's mom visit for a week. We took her to Lake Taihu and Nanchansi and had plans to take her to see the Lingshan Buddha...

Until this happened....
Sal had his first stitches at the local hospital. By this time I think we should have a frequent visitors card. Two visits within two months is two too many.

After Nick's mom left, we took off for Osaka, Japan where we survived a 6.0 earth quake at 5:45 in the morning.. 

Later that morning we jammed ourselves onto a subway....

...and ate our weight in sushi. Real sushi. 

Once back from Japan, my sister arrived for two weeks and Sal and I showed her around our 'hood.

May 2013
We bought a family scooter...

..and found it hard to say goodbye to my sister, so Sal and I booked some last minute tickets and flew back to CA with her. While at home we visited family...

And had a delicious dinner with my former boss & his wife...

...a beach day with the cousins...

And found out that by some miracle,  I was pregnant again!

June 2013
After a week back from the USA, we boarded a flight bound for Bali, Indonesia. We spent the Dragon boat festival holiday week enjoying a beachside resort far from China. NZ found a swell, a board and a motorbike, and had a chance to surf a bit while there.

July 2013
 To be honest, I don't remember much of July. I'm going to blame the extreme heat and humidity on this one... It was that hot. We spent many afternoons with our friends the Ratliffs, playing in their basement and watching movies together.

August 2013
We let the world know we were expecting again by way of this announcement.
...and found out that the next baby is a girl!

September 2013
We took a holiday to the USA. 
Nick and I celebrated our 7th anniversary. 

NZ got to surf. 

We ate real Mexican food (I took the term holy guacamole to a whole new level with the amounts of avocado I consumed during our 2.5 week stay) and had a good time visiting friends and family. 

Sal took his first trip to underwood farms to pick a pumpkin...

October 2013
We traveled back to China. 

Sal spent most mornings stuffing pompoms into silicone trays. I think this is still one of his favorite activities.

...we rounded out October with a visit to the facility NZ has been so busy getting up and running..

November 2013
Sal and I went to school. Well, sort of. We toured a prestigious 1,000 year old school here in Wuxi with our international club. 

I celebrated my birthday in Chinese fashion with some of my girlfriends. We got "dressed up" to go out to Muslim noodles...yes, those are pajamas and rhinestones wedges I am wearing. It's all the rage here. I promise.

December 2013
My friends hosted a baby shower for me, and spoiled us with gifts.

Nick had the grand opening for the factory he has started for his company....and we did our best to get into the a Christmas spirit with a cookie exchange, Christmas Eve dinner and opening presents Christmas Day.

Now it's New Year's Eve, 9:30 pm, and Sal is fast asleep. We celebrated with some chocolate chip cookies that we baked today, and have now settled in on the couch in comfy sweats to watch a Bull Riding documentary on Netflix. 

As fun as it is was to go out and live it up in my younger years, I can't say I feel like I'm missing out on anything other than a cocktail or three with my ol man tonight. 

I'm pretty sure he will take a rain check on that one for another week or two, til I can celebrate not only a New Year, but a new life with him. 

2014... let's do this!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

37 weeks

How far: 37 weeks...Full Term! We freaking made it. I feel like I should give an Oscars-like speech to thank my friends and family and most of all husband for their support. There were many minutes, hours, days, and weeks I wondered if I would ever see full term again. I know it ain't over yet, but a little weight has been lifted from my shoulders.

                                 Holy belly. Happy to have hit 37 weeks.

Total weight gain/loss: 36 lbs 

Maternity clothes? Pajamas at home. Nicks jackets when I have to go out. I actually wore jeans and a cute shirt and scarf to the store today....I haven't given up completely.

Stretch marks? My belly is so itchy. I think I may have sprouted one on my underbelly so we shall see what it looks like once I can see south of the belly button again. 

Sleep: pregnancy insomnia has come back with a vengeance. I'm usually laying awake from 1:30-5:30 every morning. I tend to drift back to sleep as the alarm clock goes off. 

Best moment this week: Spending time with my son just reading books and counting everything in sight with him. He has recently started counting and is infatuated with reciting numbers. I am holding on tight to our one on one time, as I know that he will have to share me soon. 

Miss anything?: A cold beer on a Friday night, a pair of jeans that fit just right. 

Movement: Yes. Some of it is getting painful. 

Food cravings: crushed ice. Still. Unfortunately, I doubt I will be given ice pellets while in labor. The Chinese tend to opt for hot water to keep the "internal fire" burning. I highly doubt the nurses will let the white lady extinguish her fire with ice. Plus, it's almost impossible to find here. Most soda in restaurants served from an unrefrigerated can. Mcd's is about the only place one can get ice in their drinks.

Anything making you queasy or sick: Every night after dinner I get sick to my stomach for a half hour or so.

Gender: Girl.

Labor signs: not really. Baby had a NST on Saturday and passed with flying colors. She still hasn't dropped, but is head down. My next appointment is in one week with a new OB. My OB is being sent to the USA next week so, she has passed me off to an American OB who happens to be the chef medical director of the hospital. I'm in good hands, but obviously sad that my OB will miss the birth. She really has been wonderful. Hopefully the new OB will agree to induce within the week as we had previously discussed with my regular one.

Symptoms: some sharp pains below my belly button, dry mouth, waddling

Belly Button in or out? Out

Wedding rings on or off? Back on this week. 

Happy or Moody?: Anxious. Especially with the curveball we were thrown at my last visit (learning that my OB will not be able to deliver for us). Happy though, to have the chance to hit full term and hopefully bring a healthy baby home soon.

Looking forward to: Meeting the new OB and having my sister arrive. Getting a delivery day on the books. It's possible that either NZ (1/9) or Sal (1/13) will be sharing a birthday with her. 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

2nd Christmas in China

                                                                Card by tinyprints

This year's Christmas was much more normal than last year's strange Chinese worker jackhammering out our shower at 8:30 Christmas morning fiasco which lasted all day and inevitably left us opening presents well past Sal's bedtime. This year, we slept a bit later than usual, and all woke together. Nick grabbed his camera and went to the living room so he could capture Sal's reaction to Santa's visit.

I'm not sure he really "gets it" yet. I mean, he went from thinking the Duck Dynasty patriarch was Santa on a CNN news story, to  later seeing a Chinese Santa at  Christmas Eve dinner. Poor kid has got  to be confused. He knows Santa has a beard, and that's about it.

NZ and I have given up gift giving to one another while here  to simplify life ( and to be honest, there is nothing here in China that either of us want), but we did receive many thoughtful gifts from overseas. Sal made out like a bandit, and enjoyed his Mickey ball and Duplos from Santa. He also got his very own clock-the kid has a love for clocks and watches. It's quite funny to see how excited he gets when he spots a clock somewhere. 

We are happy to have survived our second Christmas here in China, and even more excited that we only have one more left before we can go back to our friends and family in California. 

Next on our agenda is getting healthy (Sal and I are both sick this week), then getting through New Years, having my sister arrive, giving birth to our daughter, NZ's birthday and Sal's birthday....all before mid January.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

36 weeks

How far: 36 weeks

Total weight gain/loss: 32 lbs 

Maternity clothes? Mostly pajamas. Sal and I caught colds so we've been cooped up inside again in an attempt to get better,

Stretch marks? Still clear.

Sleep: Meh. I take naps whenever possible. 

Best moment this week: Wrapping Christmas gifts by candlelight with my ol man. We are excited to see how Sal reacts to Christmas this year. 

Miss Anything? Energy. I feel like such a tool. It's all I can do to brush my teeth and put on a bra some days. I miss feeling like myself. 

Movement: Yes. We can feel her foot ( or what we think to be) out my right side and she pushes back with force! 

Food cravings: crushed ice. Still. 

Anything making you queasy or sick: No.

Gender: Girl.

Labor Signs: The BH contractions are picking up in frequency. 

Symptoms: BH contractions, waddling, frequent bathroom trips.

Belly Button in or out? Out

Wedding rings on or off? Back on this week. 

Happy or Moody?: Short tempered

Looking forward to: Christmas Eve dinner and Christmas Day with my boys. Later on this week--seeing my Doc for an U/S, non-stress test and to discuss an induction date. My sister arrives in less than 2 weeks to help us out with Sal while we trek to Shanghai for delivery.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

What Santa wants, Santa gets

Last night I announced to Sal that we would be baking cookies to leave for Santa. NZ seems to think Santa might have a hankering for snicker doodles this year....

Sal and I spent some time after lunch today making snicker doodles. 

We even decorated a paper plate to serve him on. I think we will make one every year. 

What Santa wants, Santa gets. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

WIC cookie exchange

I keep mentioning WIC in my posts, but rarely remember to take pictures from the events we attend. Last week, WIC hosted a holiday cookie exchange at my friend Heather's apartment. 

The cool thing about having a cookie exchange with an international club, is all the truly traditional cookies and sweets we get to sample. For this years cookie exchange, we had guests from all over the world...America, Spain, Belgium, France, Taiwan, Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, Thailand, Canada, United Kingdom and Romania.

                             Some of my international friends  (Photo credit:Heather Ratliff)

Check out the table. It was stocked full of delicious desserts and recipe cards to share.
  (Photo credit: Heather Ratliff)

I made toffee to share, and sure hope nobody broke a tooth on it. It's one of my favorite Christmas treats, but my dentist would probably scold me for eating it. There was apple bread, wedding cookies, peanut butter cookies, no bake oatmeal stacks, brownies, custard, gingerbread and so much more. I was stuffed by the end of the day, but was sure to bring a sampler home for NZ who always happens to miss out on the WIC fun. 

The kids had fun playing together. It has been fun to watch them all grow up, as this time last year they were just babies, and now we are all staring potty training and big kid beds down the barrel. Crazy how fast time flies.
                            Aiden, Sal and Dakota (photo credit: Heather Ratliff)

I had fun too. I love that we have so many events hosted in our complex, so it makes it easy to attend even while massively pregnant.

                             My friend Heather, me & Sal (photo credit: Heather Ratliff)

                                          Happy holidays to all! 

35 weeks

Total weight gain/loss: I gained 2.2 kg since my last appointment to make up for the lack of weight gain from the previous visit. I guess all those cookies at the cookie exchange and my baby shower packed em on. I'm now up 32lbs, just shy of what I weighed while pregnant with Sal at this point. 

Maternity clothes? Baby, it's cold outside. Been wearing my steelers sweatpants, UGGS and Nick's sweatshirt most days.

Stretch marks? Still clear.

Sleep: Much better than last week. Thank goodness! 

Best moment this week: We had an impromptu ultrasound in which we got to see the girl last Saturday. My OB was worried about my cervix so she ordered an ultrasound to measure baby and predict size etc, in case she comes early. She weighed in at 2777 grams which is just about 5 lbs. 

Miss Anything? I miss being able to get up and down off the floor to play with Sal. We've watched way too many cartoons and played with the tozzle app from the comfort of the sofa more than I'd like to admit. 

Movement: Yes. With contortionist proportions. It's the creepiest feeling. Don't get me wrong, I love it...but it's creepy. 

Food cravings: crushed ice. 

Anything making you queasy or sick: Chicken

Gender: Girl.

Labor Signs: My OB was concerned that my cervix may be shortening a bit prematurely, so she has asked me to slow down, and ordered me not to pick Sal up any more than necessary. Other than that, I'm feeling quite well. 

Symptoms: I feel very emotional. I feel exhausted. I feel overwhelmed. I feel anxious. I just want to know that we will make it to the hospital and have a safe birth. I'm not scared, just anxious. 

                    [my out-ish belly button debuted this week] 

Belly Button in or out? Out

Wedding rings on or off? On, barely.

Happy or Moody?: Both. Happy to still be pregnant and healthy, but I feel like I am short tempered. For instance, a lady cut in front of me and walked into NZ at the train station last week. She bumped my belly while doing so. NZ had stopped as the lady walked into him, and then tried to make it hard for her to get around us (she literally walked right into us trying to cut across the path we were walking), so she pushed me a little. I put both my hands on her to spin her around and yelled "look at my belly!" She obviously didn't understand and kept pushing so I yelled really loud (and according to Nick I tried to hit her!) "effing bi+ch!" . We really should be careful doing stuff like that in public here because as laowai, we are more apt to get jumped for public outbursts. I was just so angry that she didn't just wait til we had passed so she could change her direction, and for the fact she knocked my belly more than once. So yeah--my shoving match was not exactly exemplary citizenship. 

Looking forward to: Baking this baby a few weeks longer. 

A huge shoutout and Thankyou to Heather and Mimi this week for offering to watch Sal and for grocery shopping for us. I appreciate all the help, and I'm thankful for friends that will go the extra mile. These two have made it possible for me to take it easy and keep this kid safe inside a bit longer. 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Alcatrazed (al-ke-traz-ed) verb

Naptime and bedtime routines have always been the same, and rarely met with resistance. However, we've suddenly been experiencing some sleep issues for the last few weeks. Screaming at naptime to be rocked to sleep, and waking in the middle of the night ready to watch "Mickey" or throw a tall one (juice) back. 

While I stood my ground the first few days of the naptime meltdowns, I did cave and began rocking him to sleep. This lasted all of three weeks until this past Saturday when my OB laid down the law and said no more rocking unless I want the girl to come early. Today was my first day of being the naptime nazi with him, and after 10 minutes of maaaaaamaaaa maaaaaamaaaa and one return to his room to replace blankets thrown out in anger, he was out like a light. 


Nighttime has been sporadic. Nick has spent a few midnight hours comforting him when he wakes screaming bloody murder and has had luck getting him to go back to sleep on his own. I, on the other hand have been suckered into bringing a pillow and blanket in to lie crib side with him until he drifts off to dream again. I usually fall asleep next to him ( pregnancy is tiring!) and wake to hear him snoozing away. One night I covered my pillow with a blanket and went back to my bed, so if he woke  he'd think I was still there.

Last night as we heard Sal going ape$hit, I rolled over to get out of bed and told NZ, " see ya in the morning." 

He then says, " why don't you pull the Alcatraz on him?"

I waddled into Sal's room asking myself what the heck he was talking about----Alcatraz? 

     ( Sal waking up the morning after mama pulled " the Alcatraz")

But as I laid there with my pillow and blanket, and heard Sal snoozing away, I realized what he was talking about, and pulled " the Alcatraz". I covered my pillow with my blanket and made a clean escape to freedom just like the escapees at famous Alcatraz Island did many years ago.

One thing I love about my ol man is his sense of humor and one liners. They may not be PC but they always keep me laughing. 

He has now turned "the Alcatraz" into a verb, as in, " You alcatrazed him last night."

I sure did.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Lil lady baby shower

I've mentioned a time or two before that the support network of fellow expats here is amazing. I have met many women through the Wuxi international Club that NZ and I joined our first week in Wuxi, and I have to say, we've created quite a village together.

From keeping each other's spare keys (for the inevitable lockouts that happen here), to group walks to Starbucks, to last minute babysitting, to cooking meals for housebound friends, there's always somebody doing something for somebody. This past week--the ladies gave me and our daughter-to-be a baby shower, hosted by Mimi and Heather, and attended by many. 

They chose a ladybug theme for the shower which was adorable. There was punch, a hot chocolate bar (they know I love me some hot cocoa!), cheesy dip and chips, ladybugs made from tomatoes and olives as well as funfetti cupcakes and cookies sent by my sister. 

We played games, chatted, and just enjoyed the afternoon together. 

Oh....and of course, I was spoiled with gifts.

It's really weird being over here in China, and pregnant. Things I looked forward to with my previous pregnancies have seemed to sort of slip by on us without much excitement or build up. We were caught off guard when we were told the sex of the baby four weeks before we expected it. There was no buildup of anticipation prior, because we really didn't think we would have an ultrasound that particular appointment. I didn't register (do people even register for second showers?) at babies r us or target or wherever American's register for baby showers now. I didn't sign up for Enfamil freebies. I haven't shopped to maternity clothes or baby clothes (thank goodness for hand me downs).

It's been all about getting from appointment to appointment without complications. There's less baby preparation excessiveness, I suppose. 

So, to have the women pull together a shower to make this pregnancy as special as it really is for us, really touched my heart. This baby is a miracle. I'm pretty sure all babies are miracles, but to have this one come much sooner after Sal than anticipated (based on our lackluster history of pregnancy successes) and so far be healthy and low risk in a risky country is really a miracle.

A huge thank you for all those who showed up to shower us with love. 

Monday, December 9, 2013


Today is a big day in our household.

It marks the "official grand opening" of the company that NZ has come over here to get started. He's been hard at work for the last 18 months, dealing with surprises around every corner. If there is one thing about China, it's that nothing is straight forward, and everything is convoluted and even simple day to day tasks are difficult. I think he has earned a few gray hairs in the process, but I am very proud of him for giving his 100%. 

The owners of the company flew out for the affair, and Sal and I were invited to join for the ceremony and lunch. As with anything over here, there was an overload of red and gold, streamers, fireworks and a ribbon cutting with some "important people". Although Nick's speech was good, Sal was the star of the show, as always, with his big American eyes and soft white skin. 

It is hard to put into words what this experience has been like for us as a family. I know Nick would have a completely different description of his day to day experiences vs mine as a stay at home wife and mother, but one thing I do know, is that what he is doing, and has done, is no easy feat. There is still a ways to go....so don't get your hopes up, we aren't headed home yet...but having the opening today is one step closer to the end zone. 

Sunday, December 8, 2013

34 weeks

Total weight gain/loss: we will find out if my baby shower and a cookie exchange added any kgs at the end of this week. As of last week I was up a total of 26 lbs.

Maternity clothes? Nick had the "grand opening" ceremony for the company today (Tuesday). I broke out fitted sweater dress with leggings under it and a sweater and froze my butt off, but I didn't have any other clothes worthy of wearing to such an event. I'm sure the NĒŽinai's were thinking I was going to freeze my unborn baby to death. 

Stretch marks? Still clear.

Sleep: Aweful. Our son has been waking nightly and having trouble going back to sleep. I can't say that sleeping on a hardwood floor at 34 weeks pregnant is comfortable. We'd usually let him cry it out, but he screams like a banshee and mama needs her sleep so it is easier to just post up crib side with a hand for him to hold until he drifts off again...I'm forming bad habits, I know..sigh. For the record, I did let him cry it out last night and was successful. Even though our wake up call was 5:15a, I felt like a new woman after sleeping in my own bed ALL night.

Best moment this week: Well it was technically last week, but having so many of my Wuxi friends pull together for a baby shower to celebrate our baby really warmed my heart. My group of women here is truly a village. It's one thing that I have here that I don't have in America. I love the collective community that surrounds us. 

Miss Anything? Being able to go outdoors. Our AQI has been over 300 (up to 500) which is categorized as severe pollution for over a week. This means we are housebound. Being housebound for a day is okay--but one week?  I'm about to lose my sh-t. I also miss being able to get up off the floor easily. Cleaning up cucumber chunks and tomatoes off the floor on my hands and knees poses a bit of a challenge after mealtimes.

Movement: Yes. She's definitely slowing down though, but it feel her just often enough to not be nervous.

Food cravings: crushed ice. I go through five ice trays a day. It's a serious addiction.

Anything making you queasy or sick: Chicken

Gender: Girl.

Labor Signs: Occasional BH contractions.

Symptoms: holy moodiness! I skyped my sister in tears one morning because I was so overwhelmed by what's going to happen in the next few weeks, and worrying about our son's sudden issues with sleeping. As always she made me feel better and realize that all I can do is my best.

This too shall pass.

Belly Button in or out? Flat

Wedding rings on or off? On

Happy or Moody?: Moody. My poor husband. 

Looking forward to: seeing my Doc on Saturday and hoping for good growth report.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Hazy shade of...

Pollution level is currently 353 in Wuxi and it's all of 8:00 am. This puts us in the severely polluted classification. 

All I can say is boooooooo!

Add to that the idiots behind us lighting off fireworks this morning...

I'm told it is because people are starting to fire up the coal for heat now that temps have dropped, but I don't know whether to believe it or not. 

This comes just one day after my water was shut off without notice and a load of laundry was ruined by the resulting brown water that ran out our pipes once it was turned back on. Management told us it was "safe" to use the tap after we ran the water through the pipes for a few minutes, but each time we turned it off and back on, it ran brown. 

That can't be good.

Thank goodness for bottled water!

Ahhhh, America (mainly Ventura county), I miss the hell out of you!