The Hot Pot Blog

June 22, 2011

In America

I’m back, albeit seriously jet-lagged.

The flight home was mostly unremarkable.  I got my business upgrade which was blissful and sat next to a grandmother who spoke no English so I did a fair amount of embarrassingly poor translation for the stewardesses (there was at least 1 bilingual flight attendant on the flight but he had his hands a little too full to assist with our “beef or fish?” sorts of issues).  An aside: it took a solid 10 hours for the flight attendant in our section to realize I was pregnant.  Apparently black really is slimming, even for a beach ball belly.

Our flight was delayed for 2 hours, the computers in the diplomatic immigration line in Chicago were broken, and after finally making it to my connecting gate with just 10 minutes to spare, I nearly missed the flight anyways because the gate guy’s accent was a little thick and I didn’t understand him for the first 3 boarding calls and assumed he was boarding a flight to Philly.  I guess I’m used to to the wrong accent at the moment.

Since being home for 48 hours I’ve taken 4 naps, woken up at 3:30am 2 days in a row, eaten a lot of organic fruits and veggies, slept with open windows, washed a load of baby clothes and blankets, sat outside in the fresh air, driven a car, freaked out because people actually stop at stop lights, accidentally took a walk during a torrential downpour, met my OB during the shortest doctor’s appointment of my life, watched 2 beautiful cardinals go at it in a backyard turf war, started a batch of rhubarb jam and given in to my cat’s relentless demands for head scratches and treats.

My goal for the next 6 weeks is to soak up the last of my kid-free lifestyle doing all sorts of anti-social things like writing all day, cooking all day, and taking long naps.  A dense metropolis, Green Bay is not so I’m already starving a little for human contact (and I miss Chris like crazy) but I’m hoping to make the most of the isolation to do all the sorts of things that won’t be as easy to do 6 weeks from now.   Oh and I plan to do as much of it as possible outdoors in the sunshine or at least with the windows wide open. 3 cheers for clean air.

June 10, 2011

Calling for More Book Recommendations!

10 days until I leave for the States which means my to-do list is growing like woah.  A small sampling if you will:

1. Pack 3 months worth of clothing & supplies–bonus points for packing non-maternity clothes that actually fit after the blessed event

2. Finish washing all baby stuff in Chengdu and put away somewhere everything can’t get too dusty while we are gone

3. Clean the house, clean out the fridge, make sure Chris has food and supplies for the 5 weeks before he joins me in Wisco.  Make sure ayi will do laundry for him while I’m in Wisco.  Make him promise to eat something besides 5 kuai noodles and Peter’s Tex Mex.

4. Interview new ayi, figure out pay/schedule, write up list of chores in Mandarin to be done while we are in the States

5. Get all of my work stuff wrapped up

6. Cook lunch for 15 people-scratch that, cook a Sichuan lunch for 15 people because most of my Chinese colleagues are not the biggest fans of Western food-what was I thinking?

7. Make time to hang out with all of the people who will leave Chengdu before I get back

8. Hang out with my fabulous mother-in-law who is visiting us this weekend

9. Figure out the most awesome weekend in Chengdu ever to pre-celebrate our wedding anniversary/Chris’ almost first Father’s Day

10 . Hope, pray, light incense, do a rain dance, consult an oracle, in hopes of getting my business classs upgrade from Beijing to Chicago.

As it stands now I am booked for the 40th row in economy, in the 5 seat middle row, in the middle seat.  Seriously??  Beijing travel lady, were you purposely trying to torture the 8 month pregnant lady?

I’ve come up with a little equation to express exactly how I feel about this whole situation:

In other words, this upgrade had better come through.

And if it doesn’t, I better have some really mind-blowingly fantastic reading material to distract me from my little quadrant of hell in seat 40E.

But no pressure or anything!

Any good books you’ve been reading lately?

I’m looking for a 3 or 4 books that can last me from at least Siberia to the Great Lakes.  I’ll take long, complicated novel suggestions as well as good baby/childhood development books.

An aside: Did you know that on the flight from Beijing to Chicago we fly almost straight over my final destination in Green Bay, Wisconsin?

Whenever I see it on the flight map I always wish I could ask the pilots to just drop me off on the way to O’Hare, thus avoiding customs, more security, and a 4 hour wait which culminates in boarding a tiny little puddle jumper for the 35 minute flight back up to Green bay.

But that’s neither here nor there.  Let’s talk books, what have you been reading lately that you just can’t put down?

June 5, 2011

Year 1 in Chengdu

Chris and I’s 2nd wedding anniversary is coming up and so I thought I’d surprise him with a book full of pictures from our first year in Chengdu, something he’s wanted since like month 2.

Turns out its sort of hard to hide 5 hour editing jags night after night and he caught on pretty quick.  Ah well, maybe next year I’ll be a little more surprising!

We don’t have the book in hand yet but overall I’m pretty happy with my first attempt at putting together a project like this.  Not all of the photos are my best but they do a good job telling the story of our first year here and it was fun to put this together and reflect on all of our memories.

Like Novakistan and some other around the blogosphere, I jumped on the Blurb train. I used their Book Smart program to lay out the pages and, aside from a few snags and buggy bits, it was simple to use.  If I was going to be a huge perfectionist I would have probably liked something a little more robust in terms of customization and design options, but then again, I also wish I had a photo editor more advanced than what comes with iphoto.  Ok fine, I’ll admit it, I worship at the alter of Adobe and miss the access I had to Illustrator and Photoshop that I had at my old job. 🙂

Regardless though, this was a fun project for me and, given my resources, I’m really happy with how it turned out.

Wanna see?

June 2, 2011

31 Weeks Update

1. I leave for the States in less than 3 weeks.  Thumper is due 6 weeks after that.

2. Less than 9 weeks until we get to meet him, I remember when he was only 9 weeks along and this moment seemed like an eternity away.

3. I emailed the man who will be Thumper’s pediatrician in Green Bay today.  Talk about a wake up call.  I don’t generally feel very “mommy” yet but figuring out our kid’s first well check ups sure drives the point home.

4. Did I mention that we painted Thumper’s room and bought some Ikea curtains?  The walls are now a very light blue with a touch of aqua-think almost a Tiffany’s blue.  The curtains are a dark blue with a hint of teal to the color.

There is a  checkered Tibetan rug on the floor that we’ve had for forever and a great Air India vintage print on the wall that Chris’ sister gave us as a wedding gift.  Chris is hoping to find some Tibetan prayer flags to hang over the 8 sided mirror that used to hang in our bedroom and now hangs on the baby room wall.

The effect is a little exotic but bright and airy, the way a baby’s room should be.  I can’t help smiling every time I walk in the room.  Even though we originally said it would be a waste to spend any money on a nursery, I can honestly say that the $80 or so that we spent on the paint and curtains was so, so worth it.  It makes it feel like we’re bringing Thumper back to a real home rather than just a temporary place to stay before we’re off to our next post.  It also just feels good to do something for our baby rather than just order him crib sheets online and wonder about diaper changes.

5. Have I mentioned the prodigious kicker we have on our hands?  He’s starting to get a bit cramped in his space now I think and so I constantly feel his little bum bulging out or his little feet and hands pushing out under my ribs.  My favorite thing is that he’s started kicking hard enough that Chris doesn’t even have to put his hand on my stomach to feel him.  If he’s lying close enough next to me, he gets kicked too!

6. I went through a phase a few weeks ago where I became slightly irrationally paranoid that Thumper would come early and we’d have none of the stuff we need ready for him.  I also became somewhat obsessed with having a small amount of supplies all washed and ready to go here in Chengdu so that when we return jet lagged and sleep deprived we don’t have to scramble around at 2am looking for a clean onesie or diaper.

Which is to say that, besides buying the carseat, nursing stuff, a diaper bag/purse, first aid-ish supplies, and a big diaper order, we are pretty much done buying all of our baby stuff.  One huge benefit to online shopping is that it makes me shop a lot smarter.  For Thumper we pretty much stuck to our minimalist baby supply list and read tons of reviews on everything from his cloth diaper inserts to the mattress pad.

The end result so far: Stuff we really like so far and not too much of it.  Plus, we’re still below our baby budget so have room to splurge on a few fun things once we get to the States or run out for anything that we may have originally passed on but end up wanting after Thumper gets here.

7.  On the 3rd Trimester-so far this is my favorite part of the pregnancy.  Yes I’m more uncomfortable than ever, but I’m also loving how much more connected I’m feeling to this baby now that he’s very conspicuously rumbling around in there all day and night.

And hello nesting!!  Our house has never been so clean nor have we ever had such a well-stocked freezer full of homemade meals, breads, stocks, and sweets.  I thought I had a “lazy” day last weekend until I went to bed and realized I had still managed to make a loaf of bread from scratch, make a batch of yogurt, do laundry, iron curtains, and spend 5 hours working on a small anniversary surprise for Chris.  Even though I always fall into bed exhausted every night, I can’t tell you how nice it is to feel so insanely productive again, especially after my comatose 1st trimester.

8. Random other pregnancy things:

-Getting up to pee 4x a night will hopefully be excellent practice for getting up all all hours with Thumper in T-2 months

-I wake up ferociously hungry at 6:30am every. single. morning.  Sucks for sleeping in but, on the plus side, by the time Chris wakes up on the weekends, I’m usually pulling a fresh batch of muffins or a loaf of bread out of the oven.

-I don’t feel too huge yet, I still feel pretty nimble but I am totally over shoes with laces.  Worst concept ever.  Also, all of my maternity tank tops are starting to ride up over my beach ball belly.  What gives?

-I’ve been horrendous about working out, like the worst I’ve ever been in my whole life.  I do maybe one or two short real workouts a week, otherwise I rely on kneading bread for my arms workout and long walks for groceries and running around the house nesting like a maniac for my “cardio.” Isn’t that awful?  I’m hoping I’ll at least do a little more after I head back to the States and have clean air to go for long walks in everyday.

-If I could go to work in sweatpants everyday now, I totally would.

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