The Hot Pot Blog

August 31, 2011

A New Word (and a non-baby post!)

But I never said no baby pictures?

Anyways.  In the spirit of the coming end of the Foreign Service unofficial summer transfer season and all of the folks around the world getting used to new places and new faces, I thought I’d share a word I accidentally came up with a few months ago.

A word that serves as shorthand for a certain phenomenon one gets used to living overseas and occasionally coming back to America.  A word that saves time and energy, especially when one’s brain is a sleep-deprived mess of grey matter and you are calling the cat by the baby’s name and your husband by the cat’s name and your baby, well you’re referring to him with nauseating nicknames like “Kicky McKickster” and “Senor Grunty-Pants”

Sorry, forgot, no baby talk.  Anyways, I give you a word:

Amerikind (n? adj? adv?).

As used in a sentence: This pizza here at Peter’s Tex Mex is pretty good but I miss the Amerikind.  OR  Wow, this internet is fast!  It’s like the Amerikind!”

See how useful this word is?  When used either in the affirmative or the negative, it conveys so much!  No need to use sentences like “I mean, its good, but Chengdu good.  If you stay here long enough its really tasty. If you were in America, you probably wouldn’t think this is good though”  You can just say:  “It’s good but not like the Amerikind.”

Now just don’t trademark this little gem of genius you guys and start charging me for every time I use it because I’ve started using this noun A LOT.

T-2 Weeks until we head back to the ‘Du!

August 29, 2011

Adventures in Baby: 1 Month

1 month ago yesterday, we met Will.

I could go on and on about how our lives have changed, how we are all of a sudden those people seeking out changing tables in Chipotle’s bathroom and freaking out over bad drivers on the road.  I could passive-agressive joke-brag about my kid’s milestones.  I could do a whole rundown of his stats, nicknames and developing personality.

But mostly I just want to write about how much I love the way his lips form a perfect little rosebud when he’s sleeping on my chest.  How much I love his little sighs of contentment whenever he’s in someone’s arms-which is pretty much all day long.

I want to remember how fragile he seemed just 4 weeks ago and how big he seems to me now.  How sturdy and strong he seems already as he sits in my lap holding up his own head and looking up so alertly into my eyes.  How Chris found a tiny t-shirt in a drawer yesterday that he’s already grown out of.

I want to remember how we swaddled him, sleeping sweetly, for most of those first days home.  Now he’s like a Houdini breaking out of his swaddles in his sleep with his chunky, strong legs.  He used to be content to just lay in anyone’s lap, now he likes to squirm all over, attempting to crawl over our shoulders, head held more steadily everyday.  He’s happiest with new scenes, new sounds, new views.

I want to remember the way he protests when I sit him up to burp mid-feed and how he then sort of sighs resignedly and slumps over my hand, staring at his pigeon toes as we try to break up the gas bubbles together.  I want to remember his early manic-python approach to breast-feeding and the way he waves his arms around when he’s really hungry.

I want to remember how deliciously kissable his chubby cheeks are as he rests them on my shoulder and how amazing it smells to bury my nose in his downy soft hair.  How he’s started to grab onto my shirt, my hair, my hands, as he takes naps in my arms.

I want to remember the look of wonder in his eyes as he looks up at Chris, totally mesmerized by his Daddy.  I want to remember the nights when Chris sits awake with Will sleeping in his lap, just because he doesn’t want to put him down quite yet.  I can’t wait until Will can understand his Dad’s hilarious commentary as he reads Harry Potter out loud to him.

Yesterday we took him for a road trip to Milwaukee to see his Aunt Devin and Lake Michigan.  We marveled at his ability to stay awake most of the day and offer tentative smiles and coos all around.  The way he ate like a champ in the back of the car, in a restaurant bathroom, in a lake-side park and took a grassy-knoll diaper change in stride (By the way, this product is probably the best 10 bucks we’ve ever spent).

On the car ride home, as the sunset all golden over the fields along the highway, Chris and I looked at each other and let out tired, contented sighs and gave each other bittersweet smiles.  “Can you believe he’s already a month old?” we asked each other?

Nope we can’t.

And before this post gets too sappy, I’ll sign off and leave the interwebs with this gem: what two parents and a one month old baby look like before they start smiling for the camera appropriately.  If I recall, he may have been in the process of ruining his diaper.  Thanks Auntie Devin for the photos!

August 27, 2011

Adventures in Baby: It’s Poo-tastic

They warn you in all of the baby books that after your precious son or daughter is born you and your spouse will find yourselves discussing poop more often and in greater detail than you ever wanted to think was possible.  As in what color, when, how much?

But also, with what velocity?  Onto what non-diaper surface?

Before Will was born, Chris and I adhered to an unspoken policy of never discussing bathroom matters with one another.  We use euphemisms like “my stomach is upset” to describe what happens when one consumes Sichuan food at a less-than-sanitary establishment.  Chris has peed in front of me exactly once–when he landed in the emergency room with horrific back pain and they wanted to make sure none of his kidneys had exploded-or something like that.

Some couples can do bathroom talk and I applaud them.  Chris and I just can’t for some reason.

Or at least couldn’t.  Before Will was born I don’t think we’d ever used the word “toot” or “fart” in conversation with one another.  But its hard not to when there is a little creature in the room breaking wind like he’s trying to solve the energy crises all on his own with the gaseous contents of his wee little stomach.

Which brings us to the word of the day: poo.

I’d always heard the myth on baby websites of adorable little infants unloading their diapers…onto walls 15 feet away from the changing table.

People, turns out this is NOT A MYTH.  IT HAPPENS.

Or rather, it would happen if Mama wasn’t standing in the way, acting as a human shield protecting the rest of the room from the projectile stream.  That’s right.  At 5:45 in the morning me and my nightgown found out this particular myth is rooted in fact.  Actually, me, my nightgown, the changing table, and a towel that happened to be in the area as an innocent bystander.

Now granted, most experienced parents reading this post are either a) yawning with boredom or b) laughing at us, but this is all new territory for us and it turns out there are an infinite number of bizarre and fascinating ways we have been exposed to our baby’s “outputs,” shall we say.  And most of them end up being pretty funny, at least to our sleep-deprived brains.  We’ve since experienced the poo-up-to-baby’s-belly-button, the 3 dirty diapers in 30 seconds never-ending diaper change poo, the how-did-that-get-on-the-couch-cushion-poo, the-on-the-clean-bath-towel-poo, and my favorite: the bathtub poo.

Now honestly, I don’t find breastfed baby poo all that gross.  It doesn’t smell bad at all, its a fairly innocuous looking substance.  It is, however, something of a menace substance when combined with a baby and bath water.  It coats baby in all sorts of incovenient places like baby’s hair, daddy’s forearms, and the back of the hand that baby is desperately trying to gnaw on because pooing in the tub makes him suddenly very hungry.

Luckily baby likes showers apparently.  And we like baby so much we think he’s cute even as we go through diapers-and laundry-at an astonishing pace.

Coming soon: an initial review of Bum Genius, FuzziBunz, and Charlie Banana cloth diapers?

August 16, 2011

How He Got Here: Will’s Birth Story

More off-the-cuff-whilst-the-baby-sleeps-word-spewage today. Again with this disclaimer: very minimal time to edit so my apologies for bad grammar, bad spelling or bad taste. 🙂


While I was pregnant I read a ton of “birth stories” on blogs hoping to glean some sort of wisdom as to the process of bringing a baby into the world. As such, I sort of feel like I should share my own-albeit a PG version. My parents’ friends sometimes read this blog, don’t want to make things awkward.

Tuesday, the 26th, Chris and I visited my doctor for my 39 week appointment. Doc told us that I was 2cm and 40% effaced and offered to induce me on Wednesday since he would be on-call Wednesday night and on vacation for my actual due date August 1st. I told him thanks, but no thanks and reminded him that I was pretty sure our little Will was going to come early on his own. I half-jokingly said “see you tomorrow!” on our way out of the examination room.

Wednesday Chris and I spent a perfect, quiet, lazy morning in bed, snuggling and enjoying our last morning as non-parents, not that we knew it at the time. By the time we got up, I was feeling something like cramps but since they weren’t at all painful and were pretty far apart, we just assumed it was false labor and told his parents on the phone that there was no news.

Except during the day they got more frequent. And more telling-I wasn’t hungry. I am ALWAYS hungry and the fact that I wasn’t eating anything seemed suspicious to me. As the cramps got closer together, I realized we might be in for the real thing so I tried to stay on my feet as much as possible to help things along, baking cookies, granola bars, and dulce de leche cheesecake bars (fabulous recipe!) while Chris attempted to sleep off the last dregs of jet lag.

Around 7pm I realized that maybe I should pack a bag for the hospital. At about 8pm I woke Chris up from his nap as my “cramps” were now about 6-8 minutes apart and, while still not horribly painful, they were definitely more noticeable.

After hemming and hawing for a few hours over whether my now 5-minute-apart cramps were worthy of a trip to the hospital, my mom finally drove us in around midnight. My mom is a neonatal nurse practitioner at the hospital I was delivering at and was on call for c-sections that night so it worked out that as soon as she dropped us off, she got a call and headed to her c-section. She was scheduled to work the next day, Thursday at the hospital I was delivering at so the plan was for her to come back and sleep at the hospital until either something happened or her day shift started-whatever came first.

An aside: staying with a grandmother whose job is to take care of babies on a daily basis makes for a much, much, much less stressful first few days with a new baby. No question goes unanswered and the nurses at the hospital were all extra nice to us. 🙂

My doc measured me at 3cm when we came in and promptly broke my water at around 1am. My dad stopped by but we sent him back home. The average first time mom progresses at a pace of 1cm per hour so we were convinced that it would be a looong time before anything exciting would happen and wanted him to get some sleep.

I labored for the next 3 hours. I wouldn’t call it a pleasurable experience, but it was bearable. I thought I’d want to listen to music but mostly I just wanted to pace back and forth and hold Chris’ hand. The worst part wasn’t so much the pain but the way my legs kept shaking uncontrollably and the few times I puked up all of the liters of water I had just gulped down. All in all though, I was feeling alright and hopeful that I could get through without any drugs. I tried to just keep thinking about how every contraction was bringing us closer to meeting Will. I didn’t have any better strategy or jedi mind-tricks than that.

At 4am the nurse came in to measure me and said I was at 4.5cm. I could hardly believe it, only 4.5. Finding out that I’d only made 1.5cm of progress in 3 hours was a bit of a blow to my confidence that I could make it through sans drugs, but I vowed to keep trying.

Just 10 minutes later though I was on the floor of the bathroom, shaking and rocking back and forth in some serious pain. Previously I’d felt ok between contractions, now there was no relief. The contractions were coming one on top of the other and the growing sensation of pressure and pain in between them seemed unending. I was so irrationally paranoid about pooing on the delivery table or in front of Chris that the bathroom became my favorite place to labor. I stayed on the floor trying desperately not to make any scary labor noises, but if this was only 4 cm, I thought there was no way I was going to make it to 10 without fainting or harboring some serious resentment towards my son.

When the nurse asked me if I was finding my happy place, I asked for the epidural.

The thing about epidurals though is that its a 2-3 hour process to get one. If you plan on waiting until you can’t stand it anymore to ask for your epidural, apparently you might want to reconsider.

I spent another half hour on the floor of the bathroom on my hands and knees waiting for the IV bags to be ready, feeling an ever growing sensation that something desperately needed to come out down there. Up to this point I’d been pretty silent through contractions but now I heard myself crying out like someone I didn’t recognize. I wouldn’t let Chris in the bathroom before but he rushed in now.

I apologized for being a wimp and a prima donna (ha! literally!) as I limped over to the bed to get hooked up to the IV. I couldn’t believe I was getting an epidural at only 4cm. I always told myself I wouldn’t beat myself up for needing pain medication but I sort of figured I’d have persevered longer without it. As I crawled into bed, I off-handedly mentioned to the nurse that the feeling like I needed to push was almost worse than the contractions, and she offered to check me again, just in case.

According to Chris she almost jumped back from the bed after checking me. I was 9.5cm, almost 10. I had gone from a 4 to a 9.5 in 45 minutes. All of sudden the room was filled with nurses and extra tables and I could hear the note of restrained anxiety in our nurse’s voice as she asked whether my Doctor had been paged and how long it would take him to get in. Then I heard her tell someone to page him twice.

“You aren’t getting that epidural sweetie” she said to me, “you’re about to have a baby.”

Realizing exactly how productive the past 45 minutes had been suddenly made me feel loads better. My sense of humor returned, albeit dryly, in between contractions and I weirdly enough started giving Chris a rather intense shoulder massage as a way to get through the contractions while being forced now to lie in bed instead of on my beloved bathroom floor.

The contractions though were a bit scary as we waited for the doctor. The desire to push was so strong but so was my fear of accidentally pushing the baby out before my doctor could get there. I kept asking how far away he was, I asked whether I could just have the baby without him. The nurses thought I was making another joke but I totally wasn’t. I wasn’t sure how much longer I could keep resist the insane urge to push Will out into the world.

I clung to Chris fiercely and heard almost nothing except his quiet encouragement to relax and breathe. He was wonderful, by the way. The best partner I could ever ask for. He’s also the reason we have such beautiful photos from the first few moments after Will’s birth. He picked up my camera and wielded it like a pro.

I tried as hard as I could not to push but as the doctor burst in the door I couldn’t take it anymore, Will’s head emerged just as the Doctor threw on a scrub top over his jeans and t-shirt. Approximately 30 seconds later, the rest of Will slid into the world and he landed on my chest at 5:08am. 4 hours after we arrived in our hospital room, 15 minutes of inadvertent pushing later.

Someone once wrote that pushing their baby into the world was one of the most wonderful experiences they’ve ever had and I’d have to agree. Physically it’s just a feeling of instantaneous, sweet relief, but it’s also something even more.

Chris says the first thing I said as they put him on my chest was “Oh! I love him!” It was as if the whole world changed. I could stop crying and laughing, kissing and touching him. The resentment I imagined I’d feel against Will for the pain of labor now seemed laughable, absolutely absurd. I repeated his name over and over again as Chris and I both just stared at him in total awe.

I can’t describe the moment with words. I wish I could but I can’t. Chris says he had never seen me look as happy as I did with Will on my chest, holding his little hands and kissing his head, delivery muck and all. It’s true, it was happiness but in a form more raw and powerful than I think I’ve ever experienced.

Will didn’t cry at all when he came out. In fact, he only made one little cry until they finally took him away 15 minutes later to weigh him and check him over. He was so quiet, but alert, gazing around the room and up at Chris and I, taking it all in. He’s still not much of a crier and still likes to gaze around the room looking like he’s thinking deep baby thoughts.

All in all, I consider us very, very lucky. Will came out a little smaller than we expected, 6 pounds, 5 oz and with the cord wrapped around his neck but he still came out healthy and strong. Two weeks later, he’s already up over 7 pounds and his cheeks are getting nice and chubby.

I also consider myself insanely lucky to have had the easy, quick, and trouble-free labor. All I wanted going into the experience for myself was to avoid pain medications and avoid getting cut up by the doc. Will came so quickly, I was able to avoid both save for a little tearing and a few stitches. With the endorphins flowing so fiercely after Will’s birth and the world’s cutest baby in my arms (in our humble, biased opinion) I didn’t really feel anything but totally high on Will until at least 24 hours later and by then, some ice packs and some Advil were enough to get me through the first rough few days. I was very, very, very lucky.

So yea, that’s how we got our Will. Before him, I scoffed at people getting overly sentimental about their children’s births, now I totally get it. I’m as guilty as anyone now of whispering into my baby’s ear late in the night about how happy he made us when he joined us in the world.


August 7, 2011

Passport Photo Attempt #427


The county clerk sadly didn’t accept this photo for his diplomatic passport application. Here’s hoping the vice consuls in Chengdu will take it for his future tourist passport? 🙂

August 3, 2011

1 Week

I’m finally on a computer, typing furiously before our son wakes up and we go for another round of trying to get Will to consume as much milk as possible before he falls asleep again.  The compulsion to write down and remember these few early moments is a little stronger than the desire to sleep (oh wow, sleep) or eat at the moment.

No time for drafting here, just some unedited photos and unedited thoughts.

There was a moment when I was laboring with Will that I thought I could not possibly be a mother, the pain was so intense and overwhelming, I was afraid I would associate motherhood with that pain.  Then out he came and the whole world changed.  Happy isn’t the right word for it.  It’s something better.

It’s such an intense feeling of purpose and duty and blessing that it makes me cry sometimes.  It’s this feeling that I’ve got this perfect little baby in this imperfect world and I’ll be damned if I wouldn’t do anything to make it a better place for him.  The feeling that I’m just the luckiest girl in the world to have a baby like Will and a husband like Chris.  The feeling that I have so much and I never want to lose them or let them out of my sight.  (I have though, obviously let them out of my sight.  Chris and I actually left the house alone for 2 hours yesterday while my mom watched him sleep.  I cried leaving him but I’m glad we did it.)

Will looks like Chris.  We think he’s got a hint of Asian around the eyes and his nose and cheeks are definitely Chris’ nose and cheeks.  I love watching them together.  Chris likes to hold him up close and whisper in his ears about all of his big plans for him.  He’s also far better at burping him than I am and whenever I need him in the middle of the night to help with a diaper change or help me rearrange my tower of pillows mid-feeding, he jumps right up as if he hadn’t just been sound asleep.

We took Will to the doctor two days ago.  When they called his name to come back for his appointment both Chris and I paused for a second before we realized they were calling for our baby.  And then we got all giddy because there’s something about hearing a complete stranger ask for your child by name that makes you remember that he’s a real live person now.  His doctor is one of my friend’s dads and he is probably the nicest doctor I’ve ever met.  He said Will looked good and had already gained back his birth weight and then some by the appointment.  Since he came out a little on the small side (6 pounds 5 oz) and had some trouble breast-feeding the first day, his super fast weight gain made us really happy.  Doc called him an over-achiever. 🙂

On less serious notes:

I never understood parents who can’t help but brag about their kid’s totally ordinary accomplishments but now I get it.  It’s hard to resist the urge to write hear about how perfect our kid is in every way.  And of course, he is perfect to us, but I’m vaguely aware that I may not be a totally unbiased judge.  On the other hand, let me tell you: our son is a champion pooper and boober.  He’s also good with tummy time so far, turning his head from side to side without much fuss.

So far, Will has a sort of zen about him.  Oh sure he fusses when he’s hungry and can’t figure out how to get his hands out of the way of his mouth but for the most part he likes just chilling out and looking around at the world with his big blue eyes.  Sometimes he has such a skeptical look on his face like “what the heck is this place and what are you people doing to me?”  And I gotta say, if I had people constantly shoving boobs in my face and changing my diaper all the time, I might feel the same way.

Will also has an awesome poop face.  I’m still trying to capture it on camera.

I’m still working on writing down the night/day of Will’s birth but I’ll get to it because I want to remember it.  For now let me just say that, for all of my “why do people blow up labor and delivery into such a magical la la moment?” it was actually a big deal to me.  Hands down the most painful experience of my life but also one of the most wonderful.  Getting to finally hold Will and all of those rushing endorphines made for a something of a seriously positive experience.  In many ways, it was much, much less painful that the first few days learning how to breast-feed while sitting on fresh stitches down you-know-where.

Remember when I was being all frugal about this baby?  Yea, not so much anymore.  I sent Chris to Target on like day 3 to raid the baby aisle for more shirts, more swaddling blankets, more lanolin, more everything.  We’re on our way out now to buy our son something called a “snuzzler” in order to take him for a walk in his stroller.  You know you are a new parent when you don’t mind being covered in poo and you don’t blink at paying 20 bucks for something with as ridiculous a name as a snuzzler.  True story.

Babies smell really really good.  More later.

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