Saturday, May 30, 2015

10 Things

Today was just a typical day, a whirlwind of diaper changes, feeding, cleaning up, nursing, refereeing, cooking, more diaper changes, more cleaning, cuddling, and disciplining until we finally got everyone to bed around 9:30 (which actually isn't a typical bedtime, we were out late for a birthday party). With some Chinese thrown in there too.

Sometimes I go an entire day with just a glance in the mirror in the morning and by the end of the day I'm shocked at how I look, an untamed ponytail and smeared mascara on the bags under my eyes. Its not that way on purpose,  I don't intend to loose myself by the end of the day. But it happens. Its just a season I know.

I need to reconnect with myself today, I need to remind myself that its me still in there. Behind that tired mascara, underneath the shirt with spit up on the shoulder, that I, Kacie, exist. Not just as a mother, or a wife, or an expat trailing spouse, but simply me.

So here are 10 things about me today, to remind myself that I'm still here.

1) My muscles are sore from a work out I got in yesterday. My legs HURT, but they feel good because I know I chose to do something healthy for myself, to take care of me.

2) I drank 3 Coke's today. I'm starting my sugar detox tomorrow. Well maybe Monday, but definitely by next week. Or maybe in June?

3) I'm finally listening to the Serial Podcast. I'm addicted, its a fascinating story! I miss listening to the radio and radio dramas! It reminds me of growing up overseas while my parents were missionaries with a radio broadcast organization and hearing my dad on the radio in the mornings.

4) Today a friend and I were discussing our future repatriations, moving back to our homes, and decorating ideas. I really enjoy decorating and creating a pretty space for my family and a welcoming place for my friends. I felt excited about the prospect of having my own place to decorate, but apprehensive since I don't know where that will be next.

5) I collect globes. I love decorating with them, they remind me that I'm a global citizen and have called many places in the world home.

6) My baby is becoming really smiley and starting to laugh. He's so much easier to make laugh than the girls were at this age. I'm so thankful for this kid who is so happy to see me all the time. What a little joy bringer!

7) I use essential oils and just found out I have a new little product on its way to me, a diffuser necklace. One more thing to look forward to when I get to America in a few weeks!

8) Lately, at the end of the day, I've been fighting claustrophobia. I'm not sure if that's the right term, but I start to feel a strong sense of cabin fever. Even if I've had a chance to get out of the house like today, in the evenings I feel an overwhelming sense of being stuck inside.

9) We're going to America for a visit in a few weeks!!! I'm starting to feel EXCITED!!!!!! But also dread, because its really just a short trip and I'll have to return. Although I want to come back here, I also don't want to leave there.

10) I went to what we call the "fake" market yesterday, a place that sells all kinds of goods including knock-offs of everything, from Beats Headphones to designer hand bags. I bartered in Chinese and got pretty good deals and felt incredibly proud of myself. This time last year I had barely visited the fake market, and now I was there by myself, haggling in another language. What a difference a year makes!

What is something about yourself that you are proud of today?
Thursday, May 28, 2015

5 Tips for Travel With Young Kids Part 2

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I realize that this 2 part series should actually be called "10 Tips for Travel With Young Kids" as I shared 5 tips last time and am sharing 5 more today. Oops! That's why I went into social work and married an engineer. I don't do math. I went to school before common core and all that so its pretty amazing that I can even use a calculator.

We're gearing up to travel back to the U.S. for several weeks, and that means taking 2 flights that will amount to a total of 16 hours on planes and a 3 hour layover. Its very likely that our flights will be delayed either while we're still in the airport or after we've loaded up on the plane and are sitting on the runway, as this seems to happen with every flight in China except those going directly to the U.S., so I really need to plan well.

1) Pack as light as possible. When traveling with 3 little kids it can be a challenge to pack light. And actually, traveling with toddlers and babies, it NEVER feels like you're traveling light so the less you can bring, the better. For short trips as a family we typically travel with 2 carry-on suitcases (or one carry-on and one checked bag, depending on how long and where we're going), one diaper bag, and one activity bag for the kids. On our way to China I packed an entire carry-on suitcase full of activities for my then 18 month old. While she definitely got into the toys and books, her very favorite activity was something my mom, a seasoned kindergarten teacher, put together for her, containing plastic easter eggs and puff balls. My point is that it didn't take an entire suitcase to occupy her, it took a few well planned and inexpensive activities of things that my mom already had on hand.

I use these guidelines to keep things to a minimum:

-What can I do without for this trip?
-Is it something I can buy or borrow at my destination? (For example, I usually can replenish my supply of diapers and wipes when I get where I'm going with the exception of international travel, which may be more trouble than its worth.)
-Follow the "one outfit per day plus 1 extra" rule, unless I can wash clothes, in which case I bring a mini capsule wardrobe of about a week's worth of outfits. For the kids I bring 2 outfits per day plus 1 pair of pajamas per day. I bring 1 pair of shoes each (though I might reconsider this after we had to buy shoes for someone on our last trip); for longer trips I bring 2 pairs of shoes per person including sneakers and sandals.
-Bring travel size toiletries and toss the containers as they run out. 
-Remember that I typically need less than I think I need.

This is an example of what not to do if you want to travel light.

2) Use an umbrella (or super light, super easy to fold) stroller. One of these days I need to do a "best stroller for travel" review. In China we have 2 strollers, a City Jogger City Select double stroller and a MacLaren umbrella stroller. While the City Select is a fantastic stroller and lots of people love it, including myself, its not great for travel (you have to take off the seats and wheels in order to put it in the travel bag and that takes like 10 minutes. Can you imagine doing that at the gate with all the kids and the carry on bags and all the people and all the stares? Been there, done that). Invest in a really quality umbrella stroller that is light and easy to carry and folds up in a flash. We've done many a trip with 2 kids and our one trusty MacLaren because it just is so easy to use, and now that we have 3 I'm planning to invest in a good double umbrella stroller. (As a side note, internationally "gate check" does not always mean "right by the plane door". It means that you turn in your stroller by the airline counter and the gate could be a half a mile down the way, and that you'll get your stroller back at the baggage claim.)

To clarify, I'm not talking about the cheap ones at the check out counter of the big box baby stores. I'm talking about a high quality, well made stroller that will survive being thrown around at the airport and in and out of taxis. It may not provide you with a lot of under-carriage storage, but if you pack light then you should be able to handle everything. We've also done several days at Disneyland with just this one stroller and the baby carriers and it was enough.

3) Use a backpack style diaper bag. Best. Idea. Ever. I know that backpacks are not the most stylish accessory ever. In fact, when I just had Lucy I vowed never to use a backpack as a diaper bag. Then came the diaper bag that had straps to use as a backpack. Then came the diaper bag made as a backpack. Its been one of the best investments I've ever made. And its purple, so that makes me happy! This is the key to traveling light no matter where we go. I typically fit all of the diaper bag things (fodder for another post perhaps? Who really cares?!) plus snacks and a few toys. The kids either have one bag for activities or each have their own small backpack (which I usually end up carrying), and my husband has his carry-on filled with his computer and a bunch of books he never ends up reading. Because someone is almost always being worn in a baby carrier, using a backpack is the most practical bag to have because I can use it while wearing a carrier. It also is the most comfortable and allows all of my hands to be free to push the stroller and wrangle the other baby.

On a recent trip to Hong Kong (minus our 2 carry on suitcases and the girls small backpacks).

4) Plan activities well. Most of the time the kids mostly enjoy exploring their environment and kicking the seats in front of them. But in this case I need to pull out the guns.

The Challenge: 
-Two flights for a total of 16 hours of flight time 
-One 3 hour layover 
-Two highly probable flight delays

The Challengers: 
-One very active and busy 3 year old
-One very opinionated 22 month old
-One 5 month old with unknown variables

In the activities my mom put together for Lucy there were several plastic easter eggs filled with random things such as puff balls, little dollar store toys, a mini troll doll and comb, and stickers. There was also a little box with pipe cleaners and clothes pins and a few other things I'm forgetting. These little things kept her busy FOR HOURS and the best part is I didn't worry about whether or not she lost something. The other things that kept her occupied were a deck of playing cards and a miniature Go Fish game.

Since that trip when we have travelled shorter distances the kids are always most interested in walking and exploring the plane, exploring the "seat pocket in front of you", and eating. Always with the eating. Besides bringing the normal diaper bag stuff and snacks I plan to pack each of the girls a large ziplock size bag of activities that I think they'll enjoy including:

-Stickers (especially the foam filled kind, they're easier to remove) and sticker books
-Color Wonder markers and paper (They don't write on ANYTHING BUT THE SPECIAL PAPER!!!!!!!!! So I can relax and let them color at will.)
-Mosaic sticker activities
-The aforementioned Easter egg activity
-A few favorite books

I will plan to keep a few things hidden away for the end of the trip when they're bored and tired of their activities. And also DO NOT FORGET to save some activities for the trip home. This time it shouldn't be a problem since I have enough time to get some new stuff, but I've pulled this rookie mistake before and the ensuing meltdown after my 2 year old expected her stickers was not amusing.

You know your kid best and the kind of activities they enjoy, and obviously these ideas may not work for everyone. Perhaps you have the type of kid who will happily sit for 10 hours watching TV. In which case don't even talk to me, I don't even want to know!

My oldest daughter is very into arts and crafts as well as music, so I know if I can find something that isn't messy (like the color wonder markers) she'll be happy to draw or create something for quite a while. My middle daughter is mostly into climbing and screaming, she's only 22 months after all, so we'll see how it goes. Currently she wants to do anything she see's her sister doing and so I need to pack 2 of everything.

5) A fully loaded iPad, in my case I need 2. Both with a few episodes of Daniel Tiger, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Jr, Sophia the First, and Elmo.

I just asked my husband what his travel tips for travel with kids are, and he said "Lots of snacks...and an iPad?" So you could just get by with those 2 things apparently.

Linked up at
Shine Blog Hop Thursdays via The Deliberate Mom
Thoughts for Thursdays via Home of Malones

Do you have a travel tip to share? What has made your travels with little ones easier?
Monday, May 25, 2015

5 Tips for Traveling with Young Kids Part 1

I sat down to nurse the baby to sleep and thought I'd check out this new show. You guys. I'm terrified, in a good way, and can't wait to see what happens next! I've been an M. Night Shyamalan fan for a while and am really intrigued by this show (but having only seen the first 2 episodes I can't say I recommend it and all that). Needless to say the time I intended to use for writing after the baby went down for his nap was spent binge watching the first 2 episodes (well, 1.25, as it takes twice as long to load anything and because shows or movies constantly start and stop-our internet dumb). Plus, the baby is on a sleep strike, preferring to be held at all times, and so I just had to keep sitting there watching TV.

I just read this blog and had a good giggle.

This article really resonated with me (any other Oregon Trail generationers out there?!). I've always felt like I didn't quite fit in with Generation X or the Millennials but couldn't quite decide why.

I'm always looking for tips and advice that will help make travel with kids a little easier. I'm talking about intense, long distance airplane travel here, not a short road trip (although I'm sure these ideas can apply). I can easily find list after list of toys to pack, activities to bring, or tips for smooth airport and airplane transitions. After traveling with my kids a little bit, here are my top 5 things to know about going the distance with little ones.

1) You can't prepare for everything. You can be as prepared as possible, armed with new or favorite activities, spare changes of clothes, fully charged iPads, and lots of snacks, but there are so many variables and things are always subject to change. In my experience, not one flight has gone according to plan and every single time we've travelled has been completely different. No matter how much planning has gone into a trip there are many many things I simply can't control. I cannot be prepared for every contingency but things usually work out. A 3 hour plane ride could feel like a hellish never ending flight (especially if a certain lovey has been lost en route to the check-in counter-ALWAYS have a spare!), or a 6 hour train ride could be delightful tolerable depending on how tired and well fed my children are. I've been on flights where I had very minimal activities or toys, and flights where I had an entire carry-on dedicated specifically to carefully assembled pintrest worthy activities. I can't say which was easier or better, they were just different experiences.

2) Flexibility. Go with the flow. Things are always subject to change: Flights could be delayed for hours, luggage could be lost, all changes of clothes could be vomited upon, security lines could be longer than expected, etcetera etcetera. When I graduated from high school, my dad took me with him on a business trip to England and we also got to visit our ancestral home (is that a thing?), Scotland. Our mantra during the trip was, "Whatcha gonna do?" because of several unanticipated situations. This is a harder attitude to live by when you have little kids who thrive on routine and eating at regular, 17 minute intervals, but it helps to understand that this is part of the travel thing and just go with it. One way or the other, things work out. It may not look the way you want it to or it might take longer than you'd like, but you'll get there eventually. As they say, its about the journey, not the destination...right? I'm not sure "they" had little kids, but they do have a valid point.

3) Anything goes. When flying, my kids can get away with almost anything in order to keep them happy and quiet. They want lollipops for dinner? Done. Endless reruns of the same Sophia the First episode? You got it, kiddo. Rules and routines fly out the window and its all about minimizing crying and meltdowns. Now I know that everyone is different and just because this is my philosophy doesn't mean it will float everyone's boat. And it also doesn't mean that we don't have meltdowns on the plane, because it seems like somebody is always crying around here. I think that has to do with the ages and developmental stages of my kids (for example, from the time they start walking until about 2 1/2 they want to be moving and exploring constantly), although I've discovered that a stash of lollipops "for emergency purposes only" seems to assuage many a nuclear meltdown.

4) Eat whenever you can. I've learned this hard way, from being stuck on a plane sitting on the runway in the line up for several hours with 2 hungry and bored toddlers, to a 4 hour flight delay waiting for a flight that didn't end up serving food. Keep those kiddos fed with real food whenever possible and save your snack stash for when you really need it. When traveling internationally you may have less options for food and you just don't know what will be available on the plane or if your kids will actually eat it.

5) You CAN still travel with little kids. It can be done, don't let it intimidate you! Okay, traveling with my 3 mini-macs totally intimidates me. But it doesn't (always) stop me. Do I travel as much now as before I had kids? No. Do I hope to be able to travel more frequently when they're older? Yes. But! You can still do it and make some great memories while you're at it. Its not realistic to think that we can see as much or do the kind of activities we're used to doing, but we've still been able to make it work. Know that traveling with little kids is just that, its travel, not vacation. It could potentially and very likely will be more work than if you had stayed home, but it will probably be well worth it. I have amazing memories from a very early age of traveling around with my family, something I hope to be able to give to my kids too.

Tune in next time for some more practical tips on what to pack and to hear how we travel light with a family of 5.

What are your favorite travel tips and tricks? Have a funny travel story to share?
Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Time That We Almost (But Not Really) Ate Dog for Dinner

And now for the grand reveal! First close your eyes. Imagine how the blog used to look...can't remember because it was so boring? Here's a reminder:

Okay, now open your eyes. TA DA!!! Welcome to luluKanagroo's new look! Isn't it AWESOME!!!!! I just want to keep staring at it because it is SO pretty! Amanda over at The Cutest Blog on the Block created this beautiful design for me and totally got the look I was going for, without much to go by from me I might add. She's an artist and great to work with, I highly recommend her and The Cutest Blog on the Block! Check out their website for great design and blogging tips. Not only that but she connected me with Lauren at HeyHey Designs who created the darling illustration of my family. Don't you just LOVE IT! She even got my beloved PaxBaby Exclusive Natibaby Valentina wrap conversion ring sling (converted by Sleeping Baby Productions) in there!!!! Swoon!

I think I can stop looking at it long enough to write this post. Because I know YOU want to keep staring at the blog, am I right?!

The other day my ayi brought me some suspicious looking meat, wrapped loosely in plastic wrap, and placed it in my freezer.

"Kacie! I. Cook. This!" She told me as she held up her conquest.

Then she confirmed my worst fears.

"You. Like. Dog?"

"Dog?" I was alarmed. I thought the day would come when I was forced, by cultural niceties, to eat a non-chicken-but-tastes-like-chicken type meat, but I had hoped it wouldn't be this soon. And in my own kitchen.

"No! Dog!" She said.

"Dog?... DOG?...doGGG?" I said, louder this time.

"NO!" Now she was alarmed. "Huai...huai...huai" she barked, flapping her arms like wings, and then for added emphasis, forming her hand into the shape of a beak and "Huai...huai...huai-"ing again.

"OH! You mean duck! DuCKKKKK!! Not doGGGG!" I was pretty relieved that I wouldn't be dining on Fido this day. "No thanks, I don't like duck," I told her.

She cooked it anyway and we both had a good laugh.

Evidently ducks don't say "quack quack" in Chinese, they say "haui haui". In case you're every offered dog in China, you may want to try "haui haui-"ing just to clarify.

One recent day I entered my building and was greeted by the door lady asking me to fill out a form, which of course was completely written in Chinese.

Attempting to explain via Chinese and charades, she showed me a locked drop box and a checkmark box on the form. Since it seemed like it was an evaluation form of her performance I signed my name on the dotted line and confidently marked a big "X" in the box which she told me to mark.

As I wrote "X" a collective gasp went up from the door lady and the people gathered in the lobby. A bunch of frantic Chinese was said. More frantic charades were performed.

"You-good!" I told her in 2 of my 10 words of Chinese.

"Yes." She nodded and urgently pointed to the check mark box.

"You-very good!" I told her as I circled the "X" I had marked.

More horrified gasps! More frantic charades!

As she kept making a sign for a check mark in the air and pointing to the paper, I added a big check mark next to the X.

There was a collective sigh of disappointed relief.

I went upstairs and told my ayi what had happened, and through a mixture of broken Chinese, English, and charades I realized that in China, an X indicates something negative, and a checkmark indicates something positive. If you need to give a review to someone, by all means do NOT use an X! Use a checkmark! Especially if they're telling you what kind of review to give! Unless you don't want to give a positive review of course.

Side note: Yes I realize that a checkmark can be used to indicate something positive and an X can be used indicate something negative in America too, but usually when filling out a form with boxes to check, you are free to use either a checkmark or an X.

Do you have a funny cultural miscommunication to share? What is something that surprised you about communication overseas?


Saturday, May 16, 2015

Surviving 3 Under 3

I was getting ready for a new post and saw that a year ago I started but never finished this post entitled, "I am no longer a mom of 2 under 2". I had written:

"Big baby turned 2 last week. And I am no longer a mom of 2 under 2.
I feel like I'm having an identity crisis!"

I suppose that sums it up and describes my feelings now, a year later. I'm still having a bit of an identity crisis. I feel like I reached a big milestone, my oldest child turned 3 years old last week! I no longer have 3 kids under 3 but I do still have 2 under 2 so I suppose I can't loose my identity just yet.

Apparently I've survived having 3 kids under 3. It may not have been easy or looked pretty, but I did it. With a lot of help from my friends.

Now that I have 3 kids I realize that I pretty much know nothing at all about parenting. Every kid is unique and each stage is completely different. Each child has reached development stages at different timing and handles things quite uniquely. Everything that I said in my post about surviving 2 kids under 2 still applies, even more so. Here's what I wish I would have known a year ago when I found out I was pregnant with mini mac #3.

1. Don't "should" on yourself.

Remember how I said you have to lower your expectations when you have 2 little kids? Its true to a greater degree with 3 little ones. Lower your expectations for your standard of cleanliness in your house. Lower them for the number of activities in which you expect to participate. Lower them for the amount of time in which you'd like to loose the baby weight. And lower them again for other things like the amount of television you allow your kids to watch, the amount of gourmet meals you prepare for your family, and etcetera etcetera.

I know that this is a hard one, because every time you let your toddler watch one more tv show per day than you used to do the voice of guilt is LOUD. You feel like you SHOULD be cooking more, you SHOULD be spending more time creating pintrest worthy crafts, you SHOULD NOT let your child watch tv, you SHOULD, you SHOULD, you SHOULD. Few things will steal your joy more than when you constantly feel like you're not living up to your expectations for yourself, like you're a constant disappointment. The truth is that these expectations most often are internal rather than coming from our children or partner.

Don't let the disappointment of what you think you SHOULD be doing steal your joy from what you ARE doing. 

There are certain things you may choose not to compromise on, and that's fine, but there are probably things you can let go of a little bit. Choose what works best for your family. Are your children fed? Check. Relatively clean and clothed? Check. Safe and loved? Check. Take THAT pintrest!

2. Don't wish "this phase" away.

Now that I'm doing this for the third time, I have a new appreciation for how quickly each phase passes. My son will soon grow out of his sweet little baby goat sleep sounds, jerky arm movements, and baby coos. My daughter is quickly stretching out of her chubby baby thighs and and her toddler feet are turning into little girl feet. My older daughter is suddenly wearing high water pants and 3/4 sleeve length shirts and suddenly has a much longer attention span. When I look at my middle child and am at my wits end with her tantrums, I know that she'll soon (I hope!) grow out of these and mature into someone who can handle her emotions more appropriately. I see it happening with Lucy so I know it will happen with Addy too. Jack will soon be rolling and trying to crawl all over the place. Just look at Addy, I thought she would never walk and now she wakes up and hits the ground running!

I used to wish that this phase, these "little years" would pass quickly, and sometimes I still do. But now I'm trying to appreciate this time for what it is. As much as I want to get through some of the challenging parts of toddlerhood, I also want to be present in the present. Once one challenging phase is over another challenge is sure to pass my way. There will always be challenging situations in parenting. If its not tantrums, its sleepless nights. If its not teething, its potty training. I might as well settle in for the long haul and give up wishing that things would be easier. Plus, I don't want to miss the sweet things about these little years, like the funny things toddlers say ("Whoa, I almost fell. That was cwazy!") and do (wearing underwear on the head, anyone?) to sweet cuddles at the end of a long day.

3. Love your children as they are, warts and all.

I'm learning to love my children as they are, where they're at, in the stage they're in. I don't want to keep wishing my daughter wasn't so strong willed, and then realize one day that I missed out on reaching her heart during her formative years because I was too tired and selfish to realize that's part of who she is. I don't want to ignore my other daughter as she has difficult tantrums because I'm tired and busy with other things. I also don't want to compare them to each other because they each have completely different personality types and strengths. During this season, I really want to love each individual child in the way they each need to be loved, and hope I can learn to do that now so that I can continue it for a lifetime. This is hard, it falls under the SHOULD category because I feel like I SHOULD be doing things differently with each of them that I'm sometimes incapable of doing but I'm trying.

4. Find another new normal. 

For us, going from 1-2 kids was a bigger adjustment than going from 0-1 or 2-3. I know everyone has a different experience of this, but it felt like if we could handle two little ones so close together, we could handle 3. We moved from "man-on-man" to "zone defense". It did, however, take a bit longer for us to find a new normal this time around. I've heard others say that with each new kid it takes a bit longer to adjust to a new normal, and that's been true for us. Jack is 4 months old now and it was a few weeks ago that I felt like I started to surface from the newborn haze and feel a little more in control of the situation. In many ways we're still operating in survival mode, and we probably will be for a little longer. I'm okay with that, and I know eventually things will get easier.

5. Rest as much as possible.

By nature, I'm a night owl. No one will EVER say that I'm a morning person, no matter how much coffee I've started drinking. But I have to get up and *gasp* be NICE not yell function at an ungodly hour these days. I've started going to bed early, like really early. The other night I was actually in bed before 9pm (sob...). I feel so sad about this because I love being in a quiet and cleanish house after everyone is sleeping and I can catch up on a show or surf the google machine. Going to bed early makes me feel old and boring and out of touch with the rest of the world. But it also makes me feel more functional the next day. I realize that the my patience with the kids at the end of a day is directly related to the quantity and quality of sleep I got the night before. I can't always predict how the night is going to go (no one told me that toddler sleep is WORSE than newborn sleep?!!), but when I actually attempt to get a good night's shut eye, I'm better able to make it through the next day with a little more un-wilted fruit of the spirit.

Resting doesn't just mean sleeping when the babies sleep, but doing things that help me relax. I know it can be hard for us busy mamas to relax, but I find that when I take time to do "productive relaxing" (i.e. blogging, exercising, catching up on emails, chatting with a friend, taking a shower), my batteries are recharged and I can make until the kids bedtime. Of course, I love a good Netflix binge or pedicure, I'm not gonna lie, but I feel especially recharged when I do something that's productive but not a requirement.

So there you have it, 5 things I've learned since having 3 kids under 3 years old. I've also posted this on my "Surviving kids close together" page so if you have another crazy friend with a bunch of kids close together, send 'em over there.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Happy Mother's Day!

Happy belated Mother's Day!

I've been trying to get this post out for several days but I've been busy procrastinating mothering. I hope you had a great, restful day! I got to sleep way late, and Greg even brought me breakfast in bed-a cup of tea and my favorite cookie granola bar. When I got up there were beautiful roses and a card waiting for me (beside the play dough that had been mashed into one brown color while I had been hiding in my bedroom). And then! I got to go for a nice, long run. By myself. With no time limit (but lets be honest, a long run for me these days is like 30 minutes). It was a really nice day and I felt celebrated.

I know this may be old news but I saw it floating around Facebook again this year and its good, really good.

I just started reading Own Your Life by Sally Clarkson. If you're not familiar with her work, she's written numerous books on motherhood and parenthood and runs the Mom's Heart Conferences. Check out her blog, its really encouraging to hear from her each week. I am so challenged and so encouraged by her story and her walk with the Lord.

I've really been enjoying reading the A Mother Far From Home blog. She has 4 young kids and has some great tips for different parenting issues, and she's hilarious. I love reading blogs by other families that have a bunch of young kids because they're the same kind of crazy as me.

On my "long" run I listened to my new power song, Girls Run the World by Beyonce (well, the Glee version-no foul language in that version). When Greg listened to it he told me it really wasn't a power song. I mean, he could probably walk to the beat instead huff and puff down the road like I do! But still, I feel empowered. Good ol' Beyonce has done it again (yes I'm behind the times...I think this song came out a bunch of years ago? I can't be sure). How can I resist getting my sprint on when I hear,

"This goes out to all the women getting it in you're on your grind
To other men that respect what I do please accept my shine
Boy you know you love it how we're smart enough to make these millions
Strong enough to bear the children then get back to business"

And its back to business for me. The baby stopped crying long enough for me to post this so until next time...

How was your Mother's Day? What's the best Mother's Day gift you've ever received?

Friday, May 8, 2015


This week I feel like I've just been getting by, you know, just surviving. I wish I was in a season of thriving. Some moments feel like they are thriving moments, but many feel like I am just surviving until Greg gets home from work. I guess the good news is that there are more moments, even whole days now that don't feel like I'm in complete survival mode, so that's progress right? As they say, "Long days, short years".

I've been trying to take more pictures of our life here when we're out and about, and trying to capture a bit of what daily life is like here in Shanghai. We recently found out that we'll be repatriating next year, which has always been in the plan and is still subject to change but still makes me feel like I'm on the downward slope of cultural adaptation. What I mean is that now that I have an end date in mind, I'm suddenly seeing more positive things about life here. Perhaps its because we've been here almost a year and a half, but maybe its because I know I won't be here forever.

The thought of ending our first expat assignment makes me a little sad too. In many ways, although China is a challenging place to live, I feel like I've come home to my people, the expat community. This is my first overseas assignment as a real adult with kids and financial responsibilities and stuff, and that makes this a very different experience than other cross-cultural opportunities I've had. My experience as a TCK makes me feel much more at home, in some ways, with other expats than I do in my culture of origin. The thought of not being around this community anymore is bringing up a lot of feelings that I didn't realize I still felt deeply. Feelings of loss of friendships, loss of being in a place in life that makes me feel simultaneously both exhausted and alive, the anticipation of the excitement and difficulty of repatriation, and the prospect of feeling out of place again. I know I'm just a triangle pretending I'm a circle and worried that my corners are showing.

Of course I'm looking forward to being "home", and all the joys that brings with it. I'm looking at you, Target. And of course being near my family, friends, church, the beach, and Disneyland!

Funny cultural story of the week. TMI alert!

I was in the bathroom, you know, doing what one does in the bathroom. I heard my phone ringing a room away, and then my ayi calling my name while the sound of the ringing phone got louder and closer. Soon she was outside the bathroom door with my ringing phone. I tried to tell her to wait a minute, that I'd be right there. But, alas. Either she didn't hear me or didn't understand my meager Chinese (or both...?). The next thing I know, as I was sitting on the toilet, she opened the door, answered the phone, and handed it to me, then walked out. Cue chirping crickets. Fortunately it was just the hubs and not some random person with whom I actually had to sound professional. It was an awkward conversation anyway.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Jack's Birth Story

About 1 month before going into labor, the only bump picture this time around!
So it turns out that when I'm pregnant I'm pretty much useless. I haven't had horrible pregnancies; as far as pregnancies go I know some people's have been much, much worse, so I'm not complaining. But I'm not riding a unicorn over a rainbow either. I tend to become an emotional basket case the moment I get pregnant, super sensitive and emotional. And super, super irritable and cranky. My brain basically shuts down and I go into survival mode. Like I said, useless. But I keep doing it so...

The day Jack decided to enter the outside world, there was a lot happening at our house. Some construction was going on in an apartment 6 floors down but it sounded like a jack hammer was above us. It had been going on a week and I was at a breaking point. Our internet was out and for half the day someone was at our house working on fixing it (does it ever really work well in China?). After dinner we realized we had a leak under our kitchen sink and had a workman in the house for a while. I talked to my mom that morning and was a "cranky crankopottomus" (as I say to my kids); I was upset at everything and generally un-enjoying life. She told me later that I really wasn't myself, and looking back on it I realize, through hindsight for the third time in a row, that's a sign that labor is coming very soon.

That evening, after getting the girls to sleep, Greg and I settled down to watch some TV. Around 9pm I realized I was having some contractions. Being my third time doing this I know what labor contractions feel like and thought I should pay attention. I started timing them to see if they were regular and sticking around, and after an hour I told the hubs that we should probably go to the hospital just in case. We live about a half hour from the hospital without traffic and I didn't want to wait until too late and have a baby in a taxi in China!

As we got up and started getting ready I told Greg we should wait, "These are just braxton-hicks," I said as I brushed my teeth. Then I had another one. "We had better go to the hospital," I told him. 

We called a friend who lives in the building next to us who I had previously arranged to watch the kids if I went into labor and my house helper was not here. It was about 10pm when we called an uber taxi, and thankfully the driver spoke English and had a GPS. He turned on classical music and drove calmly and efficiently, telling me to relax and not to worry. He easily found his way to the hospital, which can be a triumph here in China with taxi drivers. Since it was so late there was no traffic and we got there in less than half an hour. 

On the way there I was talking and laughing in between contractions. By the time I got checked in and in bed I was not happy. The contractions were VERY strong and VERY painful, and coming close together. I started to feel pressure and like I was getting close to pushing. They didn't examine me because we told them what happened when I was examined during labor with Addy, but rushed to call in the anesthesiologist and my doctor in order to prep for a c-section. As Jack was breech, I actually had scheduled a c-section for 39 weeks in case he didn't turn, so a c-section was no surprise. 

It felt like forever until the doctor and anesthesiologist arrived and they started my epidural. It took a while to set in and they gave me quite a bit of drugs. During the process Greg was not allowed in the room with me, and my contractions were continuing to come quickly and felt very powerful. My doctor examined me and told me I was only 4 centimeters! I'm guessing things were happening extremely fast, because with Lucy I was at 4 centimeters for weeks before I actually went into labor, and with Addy I didn't have any painful contractions until the very end and I was 9 centimeters when I arrived at the hospital. 

They did the c-section and out came Jack, breathing healthily but blue as a blueberry. Apparently that's not uncommon with c-section babies. They showed him to me and then he and Greg immediately went to another room for some skin to skin bonding. I was very anxious during the surgery. When Greg was there I was able to hold his hand, look into his eyes, and focus on breathing, but when he left, I was in and out of sleep. I felt like things were taking forever. I was parched; I was SO thirsty that I couldn't even get saliva in my mouth, but they wouldn't give me any water except tiny drops. For some reason my nose was completely stuffed up, and between not being able to breath through my nose and my mouth completely dry, I had difficulty breathing. Not to mention that the blanket partition between my face and my body (weird out of body experience??) kept falling on my face. My arms were pinned down and I was unable to move the blanket out of my face. I was really anxious by not being able to move at all and feeling like I couldn't breath. I had to keep telling myself it was almost over, everything was fine, and focus on my breathing. When they finally moved me to my recovery room and I saw Jack, I had so much medication that I could hardly lift my arms to hold him. They held him for me to help me try to breastfeed, which thankfully he did with no problems. 

I was thankful that I went into labor at night and that I could naturally sleep off the medication. I felt panicky about not being able to move, but Greg prayed for me and stayed in the room with me. Every time I woke up I had a little bit more feeling and movement, and I knew that the medication would continue to wear off. By 6am I had complete movement back and was able to try to breastfeed again. I asked for pain medication and a nurse rolled in with some ibuprofen. They didn't want to give me anything stronger than 600 mg ibuprofen, although I had been assured that getting medications would not be a problem. I had to ask my doctor for a prescription when she stopped by a few hours later. If I had given birth in a local Chinese hospital, rather than an international hospital, I wouldn't have been given any medication at all, even for a c-section.

When he was 24 hours old, Jack was moved to the NICU because his blood sugar was unstable. They kept him there for about 24 hours and then he was released to my room. They had told me they were going to check his calcium levels because he seemed to have some tremors that they thought were unusual, but they did not end up checking it. About 12 hours after he was released to me a pediatrician came to check on Jack and then told me she'd like to take him back to the NICU to check his calcium levels and monitor him. I got really upset, telling them they could NOT take my baby back to the NICU when they had told me they were going to check his levels when he had been there but hadn't done it. I was so upset that in order to pacify me they did a blood test in my room and determined that his calcium levels were normal, and they did not take him back to the NICU.

I guess this was a bit anti-climactic after the last birth story, especially since this happened in China; that fact makes me even more thankful that it wasn't a more exciting story! If you're wondering what it was like to have a baby in China, overall it was not a bad experience. My obstetrician, who was educated in the States, was the best I've ever had and I wish that I had her as my doctor for all 3 births (with my both Lucy's and Addy's pregnancies I also saw an OB although my primary care was through my midwife)! The brand new international hospital was beautiful and like staying at a 5 star hotel. My room was SO nice, with L'Occitane toiletries in the shower and an iPad mini to control the TV, lights, and curtains. The customer service was terrific and I was well taken care of.

My swanky digs.

However, there were communication and cultural challenges that I imagine you would face no matter where you gave birth in China. For example, although the nursing staff was well trained, there was no continuity of care. Each nurse had a different opinion about breast feeding and c-section recovery. Some were happy to give me the medication my doctor had prescribed, while others argued with me about it. The pediatricians were Chinese trained and didn't speak any English. Although I'm sure they are fine doctors, there were communication and cultural barriers that made it very difficult to navigate, especially while recovering from major surgery and being in the very early and very hormonal postpartum stages. I was very thankful that neither Jack nor I had any major complications.

Going home!

Jack was born at 36 weeks, 7 pounds, 4 ounces and 19 inches long.

Read up on all the mini-macs! Find Lucy's birth story here and Addy's here.

Check out the Camp Patton birth story link up here.

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