Yes, we are still here, still alive. No pictures probably until we have internet in the new apartment though. It’s been an insane week/weekend between the giant CoDel (cat’s out of the bag here) and the marathon, 2 week long, moving process.
A nugget of hard-won wisdom from Chez Dumm: while is is entirely possible move an entire 2 bedroom apartment using nothing but your luggage, your reuseable grocery bags, your car, and your husband’s back, I’m not sure if it is entirely adviseable.
Last night I finally hit the wall, wimpering into a dirty comforter over a dinner of peanut butter on Wheat Thins, convinced that this move will never be over.
But it will be, eventually, hopefully by this coming weekend when the movers come to move the furniture and a few of the heaviest items.
Why aren’t they moving everything else? I can’t remember anymore. Moving is not as cheap in China has we’d originally hoped and I think we decided we’d rather spend our discretionary income on Thumper gear rather than moving boxes.
I think we also thought it would “not be that big of a deal.”
I no longer know what kind of masochistic crack we were smoking when we thought that.
We are surviving though and still happily married. It’s good stuff.
Chris has been amazing, cheerfully hauling the heavy stuff in and out of the 2 apartments even after working a stressful 80 hour week. He’s still cracking jokes. He yells at me anytime I try to pick up anything over 10 pounds. He rearranged the bedroom furniture twice for me. He also tries to make me eat something besides Wheat Thins for dinner. How did I get so lucky to marry this man?
As for me, I’ve been washing and organizing and putting away as many hours of the day as I possibly can.
Chris likes to joke that when we go to the hospital to have Thumper, he gets to be management and I “get” to be labor (har, har). I’ve started joking that, for this move, I’m management and he’s labor. He does all of the heavy lifting and I decide where everything goes. It works for us.
Which brings me to (finally, I know!) the point of this blog post: post-it notes.
You know what’s easier than unpacking a box, putting away a whole bunch of stuff and then taking everything back out to reorganize several times over with each new box o’ stuff discovered?
I don’t know why I’ve never thought of this before but post-it notes are an excellent way to preserve your sanity during the un-packing phase. Maybe this is someting the whole world does that I’m just catching onto but, in any case, indulge me as I lay out my time and stress-saving post-it note process:
Step 1. Enter a space in need of putting away and organizing. Survey your options-drawers/cabinets/shelves.
Step 2. Make a list of all the different kinds of items you need to find a home for in the space and put them in logical groups like “knives” or “baking utensils” or “orphan tea bags.”
Step 3. For each group of items, scribble a post-it note.
Step 4. Pretend your post-its are the actual stuff and “put them away.” Stick them to whatever drawers or cabinets make sense to you. Maybe “mugs” go next to “orphan tea bags” by the coffee pot. “Dish clothes” go in a drawer next to the sink.
Step 5. Take a breather and go do something else. Come back, try putting away a few of the real items in their designated spots to make sure they fit. See if there are any other arrangments that make more sense.
This is the real beauty of the post-its right here. I “rearranged” our kitchen 5 times before I put away anything. Do you know how easy it is to move a post-it versus a stack of skillets? Soooooo much easier.
Step 6. Do you have any post-its left without a home? Do they really need to be in this room anyway? Reconsider your options all over the house/apartment.
Step 7. Put everything away. It takes a lot less time when you’ve got a map of sticky notes to follow. You don’t even need to be fully awake! Rejoice. You are an organization god/goddess.
Optional Step 8. Leave your post-it notes on the outside of your drawers and cabinets for a few days/weeks until everyone in the house figures out where everything is. Relax in the satisfaction of not having to tell your spouse for the 5th time where you put the silverware-there’s a post-it for that.
What are your favorite moving/packing tactics?
Technically the photo above is from 24 weeks, but you get the idea: big belly, stretchy shirts, still can’t take a good self-portrait, etc
Baby Movement: Kicks when I lay in bed at night, after a sugary snack, whenever I’m sitting around for a few hours, oh and whenever I’m slouching badly. Baby doesn’t like bad posture. Baby also kicked Chris in the face while he was talking to my belly the other morning. It was actually kind of cute.
My Movement: At a bbq last Saturday I accidentally kicked a friend’s sunglasses across the patio because I couldn’t see them lying on the ground underneath my ginormous belly. Strange but true.
Belly Button: Is now a slit where there used to be an “innie.” Not quite sure where we go from here… Also starting to get that line bifurcating my tummy. I’m thinking about drawing the continents on and using the line as the Prime Meridian. Helpful for figuring out time zones!
Weight: I’m gaining it. So far, so good for “staying in the lines,” somewhere in the neighborhood of 12ish pounds. It’s strange though how pregnancy makes you gain weight in different places. In my previous life whenever I gained a few pounds, it showed up in my arms and in my face. I hated it. Now though, whatever doesn’t go to my boobs or my belly seems to head straight to my thighs and my butt. I consider this an improvement–a little junk in the trunk is never a bad thing in my opinion.
Cravings: A croque monsieur. Prior to pregnancy, I ate very little meat, very little cheese. Now, creamy cheesy + meat = delicious.
Baby Gear: We bought a stroller and an Ergo baby carrier and shipped them to my parents’ house, just to get the ball rolling. I also bought 3 cloth diapers just to check out some different brands pior to Thumper’s arrival. We’ll save the big diaper order for after he’s born and we have a sense for what works best. Dude, they are freaking adorable though:
Gah, I now know the real reason people cloth-diaper. Forget the environment and the cost-savings, they are just too cute!!
In another somewhat related baby news…we’re moving! Again! This has been sort of an up-in-the-air thing for awhile so it feels really good to know finally where we’ll be setting up Thumper’s nursery. And we’ll even have a dresser (and room for a dresser!) for all of his teeny tiny little baby clothes! If I’m sparse around these parts for the next couple weeks it’s because I’m packing and unpacking boxes. Yay! I perversely love moving. So much organizing and purging! It’s the perfect outlet for all of my nesting urges at the moment!
Tomorrow (or today, or yesterday, depending on when I post this) I go for my glucose test. They are making me fast until 9am. I’m seriously wondering how I’m going to last that long without food. I am a breakfast girl. I can’t describe to you what a morning without breakfast is like for me because it has seriously never happened. I’ll skip lunch, dinner, snack, but breakfast is a non-negotiable. In fact, I often eat 2 breakfasts on the weekends-one at 6:30 or 7am when I wake up and one whenever Chris wakes up.
The thought of waiting until 9am to eat-especially now that I’m waking up in the middle of the night with my stomach growling–has me a bit perturbed. I’ll let you know if I make it to the appointment without fainting or throwing a low blood-sugar temper tantrum.
And that’s all on the Thumper front for the moment! I’ll leave you though with a fun pregnancy fact: in the US, women are told to gain between 25-35 pounds, more if you are really skinny, less if you are on the heavier side.
In China, on the other hand, it is expected that you’ll gain anywhere between 20 and 30 kilos. In other words, basically double what’s “expected” in the U.S. I don’t know if that’s the doctor’s orders or just a side effect of pregnancy being such a celebrated event in China, but either way, interesting! I guess in a country where the vast majority of babies are delivered via c-section (many hospitals wont even do vaginal births anymore), it doesn’t matter as much how big the baby gets?
Yes the word I believe you were looking for was “Where” as in “Where Amazing Happen” (We’ll worry about suffixes later).
Actually, underneath that unfortunate basketball placement, there may be a real, live letter “e” ready and waiting to shine. So, A for effort I guess.
Are you a wannabe member of the grammar police? A person who derives a strange and perverse pleasure from copy-editing? Welcome to China: Your Personal English Literary Nightmare.
I suggest imagining your happy place and remembering the golden rule of written English in China: it’s not written for you anyways, it’s written for native Chinese readers, as a sort of decorative element–not a mode of communication.
Similar to all of those lovely Chinese characters tattooed to the back of our fellow Americans’ necks. They think/hope it means “peace” but does it really?? Same deal.
Up next time we talk China v. America: why most Chinese tourists think American food is absolute crap…hint they’re eating “Chicken lo mein” from your neighborhood take-out place…
* It’s Star Wars, Winnie the Pooh and even Calvin and Hobbs all rolled into one. How much better could it get? Well, it’s $5, signed by the author/illustrator, James Hance, and the proceeds are helping to pay for his daughter’s medical care.
Somewhat needless to say, we’ve ordered it. I doubt we’ll spoil our kid too much in most areas but when it comes to books, all bets are off. Especially books that we think are awesome or just fun mash-ups like this one.
*You know those mornings when you open your email and realize maybe you should have waited for your morning beverage of choice before doing so? Yea, I had one of those. The home emergency/first aid kits I ordered from Amazon were returned to sender, the luggage I ordered for Chris as a antidote to all of the baby gear is stuck at a post office in Virginia.
Worst? The distance master’s program at Tulane that I was getting all excited about? Turns out, not so distance after all, there’s a 1 year residency requirement before you can take distance classes. Big bummer.
I didn’t realize how much I’d been looking forward to going back to school, finally crossing a Master’s degree off my list of things to do. I had hoped to do it when Thumper was still little so I could stay home with him while taking classes and hopefully graduate about the same time we’d be ready for me to return to the workforce. Looks like I’ll need to think of a Plan B and that’s ok. Sometimes Plan B ends up being the one you were meant to go for all along.
*On a happier note, our old favorite rabbit restaurant has reopened and (separately) I have recently discovered the delicious joy that is a Peter’s Tex Mex milkshake:
In a place where few non-Sichuan foods muster praise higher than “Chengdu-good” (i.e. mediocre at best but we’ve forgotten what the real thing tastes like) this milkshake is good-good. Rich and creamy and thick, made with homemade icecream. Chris and I split one every few weeks or so and I’m pretty sure I enjoy the anticipation almost as much as the frosty beverage. Baby needs his calcium right? 🙂
*I’m currently obsessed with this song: Skinny Love by Bon Iver.
The chilled out sound fits my mood these days and it’s the sort of song that reminds me of the person I was back in college back when I listened to more of this melancholic sort of thing late at night while writing papers or hanging out on a friend’s porch sipping a beer in the summer time. I was a simpler person back then, more earnest, more idealistic, not always a great person in spite of my best intentions, but I tried really hard.
I wouldn’t trade my life now for anything in the world, but sometimes I like to revisit my Damien Rice, etc days. They were really good ones.
*The next few weeks are going to be insane around here. Chris is the logistics man for the biggest Congressional Delegation that will likely ever come through Chengdu (I can’t say who is coming, but it suffices to say they are very, very important, they want to see pandas, and they are keeping everyone very, very busy). Right after the CoDel leaves, my aunt and uncle arrive for a visit a few days, and right after they leave, we’ll be moving (yes, again but we are happy about it). About a month after that, I get on a plane to come back to the States until after Thumper is born. Holy cow Batman.
Makes me want to go curl up in bed, listen to some of my good old folk/acoustic jams, start reading Bossypants, and enjoy one last night of laziness and quiet before all of the crazy begins.
Next time you need a rhyming couplet, by the way, I’m your girl.
I’m beginning to realize that there are advantages and disadvantages to buying baby gear and having a baby in the foreign service:
Advantage #1: We save loads of money on nursery furniture and suffer little to no temptation (ok fine, a little temptation) to buy one of these beautiful looking (read: absurdly expensive) cribs and any correspondingly modern and aesthetically pleasing furniture:
Because frankly, putting something that gorgeous in the same room as 2 Drexel Heritage Great Aunt Edith dressers seems like a total waste. Like offering black truffles shaved table-side as a topping for a box of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. Or using a prime piece of fatty toro tuna in a hamburger helper. Wrong, just so wrong.
So yea, no fancy cribs or rockers or dressers or changing tables here!
Disadvantage #1: Our child may grow up thinking “18th Century” in a “cherry mahogany” is an acceptable design choice.
I’m kidding…sort of.
Advantage #2: No need for fancy infant travel systems followed by another car seat and stroller purchase by the time he’s 6 months old. We don’t drive much and, even if we wanted to take our baby in a taxi, there isn’t a cab in Chengdu with seat belts in the back seat-there’d be nothing to strap a carseat to. A high-quality convertible seat that lives in our POV and can take the kid from 7-70 pounds (rear facing to 40!) will do us just fine:
Disadvantage #2: Please don’t tell Child Protective Services about Chengdu’s taxis. I promise we’ll avoid them.
Advantage #3: No need for an SUV stroller or a $1600 baby basinette on wheels. We’ve got 13 million people and cars on the sidewalks here. Oh and lots of really curious grandmotherly-types. If we aren’t in an airport or a space with less than a few hundred thousand people milling around, this kid is likely going to be strapped bodily to one of us.
That being said, we are psyched about the stroller we’ve picked out. So far, it is the one baby recommendation we’ve gotten completely unsolicited from multiple people. And these folks practically squealed with delight. I mean, after all, it folds up with one hand!
Disadvantage #3: With such a cool stroller, I’m going to want to use it all the time and not be able to! Plus strapping an infant to my chest is also an excellent way to learn first-hand how Sichuanese grandmothers might pronounce the phrase “You are crazy! Why is your child wearing only 3 layers? Don’t you know he’s supposed to be red in the face and sweating at all times!!”
Advantage #4: Not being able to receive our layette shipment until our baby is 3+ months old (and not being able to ship many things DPO) will prove to us exactly how few items we really need to raise a healthy, happy infant.
Disadvantage #4: So help me Allah if I can’t get a freakin’ pack n’ play or bassinette through the DPO mail. If it won’t fit, this kid will be sleeping in a drawer…a Drexel Heritage 18th Century drawer, in cherry mahogany.
Advantage #5: By using cloth diapers I can be kinder to the environment…by not using the traditional split pants:
Disadvantage #5: Despite incredibly affordable household help, I will still end up washing all of our poopy diapers myself. This isn’t so much a disadvantage per se, as a could-have-been-advantage to having a baby in the Foreign Service.
Advantage #6: Our child will begin racking up frequent flyer miles at the tender age of 6 weeks.
Disadvantage #6: I will have to fly for 16 hours with a 6 week old infant. We also had to buy new luggage. Hauling around giant duffle bags sherpa-style are no longer an option when one also has a diaper bag, a stroller, a car seat, and a baby to cart around as well. Chris is lusting over this bag:
Advantage #7: Without stores to buy baby gear at (correction: baby gear that hasn’t been banned for import into the US for safety reasons) there is less temptation to buy all sorts of non-essentials.
Disadvantage #7: Amazon.com ‘Nough Said. Reading 1,000 reviews isn’t the same as reaching out and touching something…especially when it takes 3-6 weeks to get to your house after you order it. If I talk myself into and then out of buying the following products sight-unseen one more time, I think I’ll have to call it quits and let Chris buy everything:
It’s a chair! For a baby! It’s a pretty color! It’s also a multi-tasker! You can also strap it to a Drexel Heritage Dining Room chair to use as a high chair…until the kid is like 18 months old. Does this mean we’re eventually going to have to go out and buy another contraption so our kid can sit at the table with us?
It’s a bath! It’s a bucket! An expensive bucket! But it’s so nurturing and womb-like! And it saves water! Plus I can use it to store bath toys and stuff after the baby outgrows it! But seriously, 30 bucks for a bucket? And could I really manage to bath a slippery little baby in this thing without a 3rd hand? (But then again, haven’t women been bathing their babies in buckets for thousands of years?)
It’s a giraffe? It’s 17 dollars? Why the heck is chewing on a giraffe any better than chewing on an old fashion teething ring? Or a washcloth? Am I a bad yuppie mother for not seeing the point? I don’t think we’ll be buying this. That being said, I’m fascinated by the phenomenon.
So there you have it. A few of my baby gear fixations. Be glad I spared you an entire post on cloth diapers…for now.
It’s really interesting looking at all of this gear and thinking about what we grew up with even when I was a kid. There’s just so much more stuff now! Some of it I think probably makes sense and is infinitely more user-friendly than older versions. All-in-one cloth diapers that work just like disposables (except you wash and reuse them) come to mind. So too does the Ergo baby carrier we want to get.
Some of it though, I can’t decide. Does a “nasal aspirator” work that much better than an old-fashioned bulb? Is the giraffe really that big of an improvement on those squishy jelly rings?
Any thoughts? Any “do we really need this?” purchases that turned out to be life-savers? Any total duds?
And where the heck did your kid sleep until your crib arrived at post??
Today we had some of this:
(That’s the sun people!!)
So after a delicious meal of rabbit and addictive hot and spicy Sichuanese shoe-string potatoes, we decided to go sit in a park and drink this:
But what goes best with a cup of tea in a Sichuan park?
A cigarette apparently. In fact lots of them! Smoked incessantly!
But also mahjong!
I’ve felt sort of like a Sichuan poser for awhile now what with not knowing how to play mahjong. It’s a little like living in Green Bay, Wisconsin and not knowing how to follow a football game. Or put on a snowsuit. You know, a vital skill.
No more my friends. Thanks to the deft and patient teaching abilities of Ashley of Ma La With a Fork fame, I’m now ready to play with the best of the Sichuan grandmothers. It’s amazing how much easier it is to learn a game when you have a real professional educator walking you through the rules!
Ok, I’m not really ready for the Sichuanese grandmothers, but I’m now officially obsessed. I mean not so obsessed that I could keep playing while a guy drops dead next to me, but obsessed enough to make sure we go out and buy our own set of blocks asap. Obsessed like I’m already scheming to see how many people I can trick into skipping the bars next weekend to stay home and play mahjong with me.
I think this guy likes mahjong too:
There’s a lot to love about a weekend in Guangzhou:
Hanging out with my mother-in-law.
Folk Art Museums.
More Dim Sum.
Great Japanese Food.
A really nice steak.
An early morning mother/daughter-in law chat filled with baby talk and cute stories about my husband growing up.
More scarf shopping.
I feel really lucky that Chris’ mom is in the same country as we are for this tour. It’s really cool to have family only a quick 2 hour flight away. It’s also really cool to have a mother-in-law as great as mine. Whenever I see her in action, always on the go, always kind, always thoughtful, always ready to explore, I’m inspired to be more like her.
And whenever we are in Guangzhou with her, we always have a great time.
Guangzhou isn’t Paris of course, or even Hong Kong. But it’s still a step up from Chengdu. For one, they have dim sum–real, authentic, Cantonese dim sum, as well as more (delicious) Western restaurants in one block than we have in all of Chengdu.
For two, they have shopping. As in a jade market that literally goes on for miles. Entire malls selling nothing but leather goods. Blocks and blocks of watch vendors. It’s the sort of shopping people think of when they think of China: cheap and copy-right-challenged. I’m no advocate for IPR violations, but it’s a whole world that we just don’t have in Chengdu and it’s a pretty mind-boggling experience to wander through.
The buying halls are filled with hundreds and thousands of tiny counters and stalls, staffed by young man smoking foul cigarettes, young women boredly texting friends, and young mothers breast-feeding and minding children. On every counter sits a cardboard container of noodles leftover from a lunch.
You see young men from across Africa haggling for truckloads of t-shirts to bring back to the big markets in Nairobi, Lagos and Accra. You see couples from the Middle East with giant black garbage bags filled with scarves. While I was at one stall buying a cheap watch (a genuine Chinese brand, I believe, not a rip-off) a skinny guy from somewhere in Eastern Europe pushed me aside to throw down a stack of 100RMB notes as thick as my hand. For 20RMB watches-pure insanity.
Outside the halls, traffic stalls with big trucks and push carts and food vendors negotiating territory in the overcrowded streets. If you’re brave and hungry you can buy anything to eat from corn on the cob to freshly-cut durian to noodles to Uigher style kebabs and flatbread. The air is thick and humid with the smells of watermelon, cigarette smoke, durian and diesal exhaust–delicious and nauseating in turns. Beggers with horrible disfigurements and women with cheap buzzing neck massagers hound the white tourists (including yours truly) who wander through.
It’s all in such a messy, gritty, vibrant contrast to the wide boulevards and carefully manicured flower beds that seem to define the newly renovated parts of Guangzhou-that define all of new China. So much bland concrete, so little character, so little practicality, so much waste, so few seats, so few trees. I have nothing against progress and renovation, but it just seems there is so little thought put into how the spaces could be used, how they could be made unique from the thousands of identical other projects currently under construction across China.
Anyways. Despite all of the concrete, Guangzhou was wonderful.
Here are some more pictures from Chen Family Temple which houses the Guangdong Folk Art Museum. This is one Chinese tourist attraction that deserves a few hours of your time. Besides all of the models and photographers that took over the place for a photoshoot, my favorite thing in the whole place were these tiny little olive pits carved with minute little pastoral scenes.
You literally needed a magnifying glass to appreciate the milimeter-tall old men perched beneath the tiny willow trees. I tried to take a picture but my camera wasn’t cooperating. Lately it never seems to want to cooperate. I think it needs a good cleaning. It’s only a year and a half old, it can’t be breaking on me already!
Pollution does weird things to a photo. Subjects just a few feet away come out hazy and out of focus. Sometimes the particle matter messes with the shutter speed when I’m not shooting in manual. Sometimes the particles reflect light in weird ways and I end up with over-exposed washed-out shots. I had to do some post-processing on this shot of the model to get it in shape but I think you can get the idea. There were at least 5 models and 25 photographers on the scene.
Bathrooms in China are, as a rule, disgusting, though to be fair, they aren’t any worse than India’s. The green enamel grating on the other hand, is beautiful. This color green is everywhere in Guangzhou, but that’s the only place I’ve ever seen it.
After last night’s post I got a hankering to look back through our wedding photos for a gajillionth time.
One thing I loved about Stephen’s photos was that he caught not just all of the beautiful moments, but all of the awkward, goofy ones too. I believe in this photo Chris has just said to me “this is sort of weird to have someone photographing our every move, I don’t know where to look.”
I think I said something back like “well, let’s just look at each other then.” So we did.
We’ve got over 1500 photos from that day and what I love most about them is how they capture so many of our favorite people looking so happy and so beautiful. I can look at any one of them and suddenly remember exactly what I felt and what was happening at that exact moment.
Plus, I was thin in these photos! Always a nice thing to remember in my current state. 🙂
Anyways, it’s Tomb Sweeping Day in China next Tuesday which means a day off of work, so we’re headed down to Guangzhou for a long weekend to visit Chris’ mom and soak up some much-needed sunshine. While hanging out with Chris’ mom we tend to walk a lot and eat a lot-a perfect combination in my book-but we don’t internet a lot. So, until next week, some random thoughts:
*Heartburn sucks. Before pregnancy, I’d only experienced it once: I was in 3rd grade and I seriously thought I was going to die. I cried and asked my teacher if I could call my parents and my sister and my cat to say my final goodbyes because I was pretty sure there was no surviving whatever was burning up my lungs and heart. She told me to get up, it was just heartburn.
Whatever. The other night I sat up in bed for hours channeling every new age-y breathing technique I could think of and pretending I was practicing for labor, but I still felt a little like I was going to die. There’s something about that can’t-breathe feeling that I just hate.
*When I started this post a few days ago I thought heartburn was perhaps my least favorite part of pregnancy. I was soooooo wrong. Heartburn + food poisoning is the absolute worst part of pregnancy. Throwing up all night is no fun to begin with, but being assaulted with both stomach and chest pain and not being able to lie down between rounds of upchucking makes the whole experience just that much more magical.
*Last week I learned that eating an entire tin of anchovies by oneself while pregnant is an excellent way to gain 6 pounds and grow cankles overnight. 24 hours (and many trips to the bathroom) later, I’m back to my pre-anchovy weight and we’re all relieved that, rather than having preeclampsia, it appears I just lack self-control when it comes to little fishies.
*On the brighter side, after many, many missed connections, Chris has finally felt Thumper kick!! My boys have finally given each other high fives-albeit with my stomach as the conduit. Chris expected something like a stomach gurgle but what he got was a full-fledged round-house. We were over the moon estatic about it and I felt validated when he said “Wow! How do you sleep through that?” Answer: this week I sort of don’t, I’m up deep-breathing my way through heartburn and upchucking.
*My belly has suddenly gotten huge, like I swallowed a basketball-huge, like its hard to put on my socks-huge. Like I got my belly stuck between our car door and a concrete barrier the other day-huge. Chris almost had to repark the car to get me out.
*Anyone know anything about Tulane’s Masters in International Development program? I’ve been doing some research and it looks like I could do a significant portion of it long-distance. I’m working on a email to the contact person to see what they would think of someone doing it all long distance, say from China and India?
Have a great weekend all!