The Hot Pot Blog

December 23, 2011

Happy Holidays!

I was so excited to write a post about making homemade wrapping paper covered in peppermint-scented baby feet prints but that would have required my crafting to have actually turned out to be something other than an unmitigated failure.  On the plus side, Will’s feet smell really good and I have a recipe for totally edible finger paint for when he gets a little older.

It seems half of Chengdu’s expat population is decamping to Thailand for the holidays and we are no exception.  We will be back soon with pictures from the beach.

Until then, may you have a very merry festive whatever-you-celebrate wherever you are.

May Skype be working perfectly for those of you far from home and may the roads and skies be clear and stress-free for those of you traveling to be with family and friends.

May you hold cups of warm cocoa in your hands, friends and family in your arms, and cute kids and/or puppies in your lap.

And may you be surrounded by sparkling lights, a warm home, good people, and lots and lots of love.

“Someday soon we all will be together/if the fates allow.  Until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow./  So have yourself a merry little Christmas now…”

December 21, 2011

Thankful on Thursday


1. Will letting Chris give him a bottle and put him down last night.  Sure he only stayed asleep for ten minutes and I had to hold him until 10pm but still!  Progress!

2. Chris’ new nickname for Will:  “Argentina” as in “Don’t cry for me Argentina.”  Love that man.

3. My mom for sending me cranberries and pistachios so I can make my annual Christmas biscotti.

4. The rain.  It rained last night which means we’ll have pretty clean air today, I might even get to take Will outside!

5. The hubs.  When I found this awesome arrangement of a great Steve Job’s quote, I almost ordered it…until Apple made Acumen Fund stop selling it.  Darn.  But then my man found a way to get it printed and framed here in Chengdu and it just looks so good and it was such a thoughtful gift.  It’s going in Will’s room to remind him (when he’s older) to always think outside the box.

6. These teething rings.  After 5 tries, I’ve finally found a teether that Will prefers to our fingers!  Bonus: they smell like yum.  I always stop to smell them before I give them to Will. 🙂

7.  We leave for Thailand in 3 days.  ‘Nough said.

8. Our new refrigerator.  Joining the foreign service tends to mean living with 15+ year old appliances that you would have never picked out for yourself.  BUT our new fridge is fantastic.  I mean its still just a basic, white, cheap, fridge but its bigger and cleaner than the old one!

9. Skype and an amazing friend who got online at 5am just to say hi and meet Will.  She did this while sick with a nasty cold, a week before she moves to CA, a week after graduating from Johns Hopkins with an MBA/MPH and 2 days after hosting 7 people at her house for the holidays.  I’m a lucky girl to count her as a friend and it was awesome getting to finally show her Will sort of “in person.”

10. A new macaroni and cheese recipe with carrots and yogurt that is very tasty, borderline healthy and very easy.  I’m keeping this one in the back pocket for that “I will eat nothing but mac n’ cheese” phase that we are likely doomed to endure at some point.  Will post the recipe soon.

December 18, 2011

He Finally Found his Feet…

I called to our housekeeper, “Ayi!  Come see!  He’s eating his feet!”

Her response, what I could catch of her fast Sichuanese was something like “Oh no, this is not good.  If he wants to eat his hands, ok, fine maybe that’s ok, but his feet??  His feet!  No this is not good, not ok!”

I laughed and tried to explain that in America (where generally babies’ feet and environments stay pretty clean) we don’t mind when they eat their hands and feet.  We think its cute.

She sort of sighed and tried to be happy for me but she couldn’t bring herself to watch so she left the room while I continued to snap pictures.

It’s not just feet in Will’s mouth these days, its everything.  It seems like his fine motor skills blossomed overnight.  His hands are fast and his aim is true and now nothing is safe.  He’ll grab my toothbrush, our dinner plates, he even took away a chunk of Santa’s beard last night…

His toys bear the brunt of his gumming…

But Daddy’s fingers are still his favorite.

December 11, 2011

When One’s Washing Machine Breaks…

Will is wearing this bear outfit because it is cute and because it is the last clean, warm, outfit he has left…

…it’s likely that the replacement will also be broken…

…but that you won’t find that out until 4pm on Friday afternoon…

….in the middle of attempting to wash most of your cloth diaper stash…

…with a full load of baby clothes waiting to go in right afterwards…

It’s also likely that this weekend without washing machine will be the weekend your son…

has a poo-tastic explosion all over his last clean swaddle…

and a catastrophic pee leak all over your bed at 4am…

Which leads me to 2 new insights into this motherhood thing:

1. Cloth diapering is infinitely awesome and easy—as long as you have a working washing machine.  Disposables are quite a charming alternative when your spouse is elbow deep in a sink of dirty diapers.

2.  I once thought it was possible for a kid to have too many clothes and too many blankets.  Nope, not possible.  I will no longer feel so guilty about his stuffed-to-the-gills drawers.  Between all of the usual suspects in the baby bodily fluids department and no washing machine, we’re finally hitting (drawer) bottom.

Not entirely related but this was also the weekend a plug adaptor melted in our laundry room and nearly started a fire.  Which makes me question whether the laundry room is really the best place to keep the fire extinguisher?

All in all though, still a good weekend.

The sun shone.

The air was clear enough to take Will out both days.

I went for a run.

We did a serious binge grocery shopping binge in hopes of not having to do another massive “staples” run for the rest of our tour.

We took a bunch of photos to the artist’s/framer’s shop where I fell in love with a couple of his pieces.

We took Will for Indian food and no one screamed or cried (neither the other diners nor us).

Will experienced his first “cold” temperatures and thought the cold air entering his mouth was extremely funny.

I burned through 11 cups of flour, 7.5 sticks of butter, and 3.5 cups of sugar to end up with 3 different batches of cookie dough in the freezer waiting to be baked and decorated this week.

We got a rice cooker/slow cooker.  We require a Chinese/English dictionary to operate the thing, but omg rice from a machine.  It makes me want to throw out the pot we were using and apologize profusely to Chris for all of these years I said we didn’t need a rice cooker…

December 6, 2011

Thank You and an Update

First off, thank you so much, everyone who commented and wrote me emails and messages and told me to come on down and let them hold my crying baby for a little while.  Wow.  Mamas are awesome, I can’t tell you how much I learned from you all.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.

We’ve made a few changes around here and, knock on wood, it seems like we are moving in the right direction.  Is our kid sleeping through the night yet?  No.  Is he still coming into our bed around 1am?  Yes.  But we’ve managed to eliminate about 95% of the pre-bedtime crying (he never cried in the middle of the night, only before bed) and that was our only real goal for now.  That, and to get him to bed, in his crib, at an hour that would give Chris and I some free time and Will a little more sleep.

We’re definitely not home-free yet.  It still takes us about 2 hours to get Will down at night, and yes, we are still going in there and picking him up every time he cries, but the amount of crying has dropped so dramatically and even the number of times we have to go in there to comfort him is going down, albeit a little more slowly.

Our new routine goes something like this:

Chris gets him in his pjs at around 6:45-7pm while I pump a quick 4 oz bottle so we can give him his Vitamin D (I know a lot of people have stopped supplementing Vitamin D in the States but with Chengdu’s perma-grey he’s actually at a slight risk for rickets if we don’t)

I feed him a bottle in our room with the lights dimmed and we read Good Night Moon anywhere from 1-10 times.  He usually doesn’t finish his bottle and he usually goes at least 6 hours between feedings at night so we aren’t too worried about him getting enough.

He gets another 10 minutes or so of cuddles to help him settle down if he’s not already asleep and then I put him down.

He usually wakes up within about 30 minutes and I go, pick him up, get him settled and then put him back down.  Rinse and Repeat anywhere from 1-4 times until about 9pm when he sleeps straight through to sometime between 11pm-1am.

I’m hesitant to say “oh this works great” about anything that we are doing now but a couple of observations:

1.  Once we start our bedtime routine, Will does not leave the bedroom.  We don’t do anything but snuggles and soft singing.  Even if I’m in the middle of a 90 minute cuddling-back-to-sleep session, I don’t leave the room with Will.  If I need to do something, like throw a load of diapers in the laundry, I’ll put him down in his crib and come back but he doesn’t leave the room.  I think wandering around the house just gives him too much to look at and he forgets how tired he is until he’s too tired to do anything but scream.

2. For now, we’ve given up on Chris putting Will to bed.  It just gets him worked up.  Once we get Will good and used to this new routine, we’ll start having Chris taking part again but for now, the goal is just to eliminate the crying and for now, anyone but me holding him after about 7pm is a great way to make him cry.

3. Shots suck.  I think because all of the literature says kids have a reaction to shots for only about 24 hours, it caught me really off-guard when Will ran a fever for 48 hours and then was out of sorts for the whole week.  He stopped smiling for basically a week and cried all the time.  He’s better now, but wow!  What a reaction.

4. Teething sucks.  Our kid is soooo far from any of his teeth breaking through but you can just tell when they are bothering him.  He’s clingy, fussy, and he ceases to be interested in any of his toys, all he wants is to chew on our hands or a frozen wet washcloth.

5. Our kid still needs to cry a little bit.  We’ve gone from 2 hours of crying to about 5 minutes of total crying each night over the course of the last week.  It seems like Will is getting used to the routine and, while he will cry for me to come comfort him, he stops almost before I can pick him up which leads me to believe we can start moving towards a non-pick-up comfort soon.  That being said though, before Will will really settle down and close his eyes, he still cries for about 2-3 minutes in my arms but it sounds very different than hysterical screaming.  This sounds more to me like he’s just blowing off steam, letting out the last of his energy before he settles down for the night, and that, I think is just normal and healthy and manageable.

6. I can’t treat naps differently than bedtime.  I used to let Will nap in my arms or nap in the living room.  Now, I put him down in his crib, even if it means a really short nap or if it means I spend 2 hours going in to comfort him every 15 minutes.  It’s harder for him to settle down in his crib at night if he doesn’t take at least one nap in there during the day.

So, that’s where are.  It’s not perfect sleep, probably to some people it still sounds like a nightmare but for us its a huge improvement.  I read somewhere that when you are trying to change your kid’s sleep habits you should start with the thing that is driving you most bonkers and spend 2-3 weeks trying to fix that one thing.  At the end of that time you will either have a) fixed it; b) be on your way to fixing it; or c) realized that you can’t fix it yet.  At which point you move on to the thing that’s is the second most bothersome to you and so on and so forth.

So that’s our strategy.  For now we are working on getting him to fall asleep in his crib peacefully, next we’ll tackle getting him to stay there all night… 🙂

Thank you again so so much everyone.  Your comments and suggestions and sweet empathy really made Chris and I’s week a little easier last week, thanks again.

December 1, 2011

Our Not-So-“Easy” Baby

I have not been totally honest with you internet.

My baby is awesome.  He coos, he laughs, he cracks us up with his dinosaur sounds.  He is desperate to figure out the whole crawling thing that he sees the “big kids” doing at our baby group and his attempts are becoming something worthy of the video function on our crack-pad.  He’s a lightweight but he has stayed miraculously healthy in spite of the horrendous pollution and the sneaky Sichuanese grandmothers always trying to touch him when they think I’m not looking.

He is everything wonderful and awesome and he makes my heart want to burst with a love overload.

But he’s not easy.

We thought that because he was never very colicky, because he smiles at anyone who accidentally looks at him and because he figured out breastfeeding within a few weeks, because he doesn’t care if we wipe his butt with a freezing cold cloth or if the tags on his clothes aren’t silky smooth, we figured that he was one of those hardy, “daisy” babies.  You know, the kind who don’t require intense googling every night to figure out what the hell we might be doing wrong because he won’t eat/sleep/stop crying/let us put him to bed before 11pm without serious, exhausting effort.

Our baby is easy to love but he isn’t “easy.”

And we haven’t figured out how to help him.  And we need to.  Because our baby still:

After a brief period of good naps, can no longer nap anywhere but on top of Mama.

Doesn’t go to sleep before 10:30 no matter what time we start putting him to bed.

After 3 months of being put to bed by Dad every night, now screams if anyone but Mama attempts the final night-time walk-bounce-snuggle routine.

After only 2 weeks of decent sleep (up only 2x per night), began his 4 month sleep regression early and now wakes up every 1-2 hours.

Decided 2 weeks ago that he hates breast-feeding.  He arches his back and cries as if, instead of a boob, I’m pulling out a weapon.  He is hungry but can’t stand to settle down and stop looking at the world long enough to eat, unless we give him a bottle. (He does not have an ear infection, thrush, etc we’ve checked.  Alas, if only it were that easy a fix).

After his 4 month vaccinations, cried and screamed and ran fevers for 2 days, who could not be put down without going absolutely ballistic

Cries every single night because he is soo overtired but cannot a) stay comfy in our arms or b) stop his wild limbs from flying about long enough to fall asleep on his own.

Is currently teething, on top of everything else.

I type all of my blog posts one-handed, the other one is supporting Will’s head because, after 3 failed attempts at getting him to nap on his own every day, I reason that the kid needs at least one real nap a day, even if its on top of me.

I shower every night with Chris holding Will in the bathroom with me because otherwise he screams.  That time in the shower is about the only time I am not holding Will after 6pm.  No matter how many times we try to get him to fall asleep with Chris it always ends with him practically choking himself with his sobs and needing me to settle him down.

Chris and I spend approximately 15 minutes alone together each day.  It comes at 6:45 in the morning while he’s getting ready for work.  Will wakes up within a half hour of me getting up whether he is in his crib or in our bed.  He won’t go to sleep before 10pm no matter what time we start the bedtime routine.

Cooking is accomplished in 20 minute chunks through sheer force of planning, organization and having an amazing ayi to help me wash produce and dishes.

I only run on the weekends.  I do sit ups and push ups while playing with Will otherwise they wouldn’t happen.  We spend every night from 6pm onwards attempting (and failing) to get Will to sleep.

And in spite of all of the love and cuddling and rounds of Good Night Moon and swaddling and shushing, we are doing constant battle to get our kid to eat and sleep and it just makes me so sad.  I mean its exhausting and frustrating and inconvenient and all of that but mostly its just sad.

I keep reading these websites that say 4 months is a baby golden age of minimal crying and here’s our kid–a total rockstar at life in general–crying more now than he ever has before in his life.

The eating thing is a phase, I know.  An absurdly frustrating phase especially when your kid is already in the 10th percentile or lower for weight, but a phase.  The waking up at night is a phase, he’ll get over it.

But the fact that he can’t fall asleep or stay asleep, that he wakes up crying instead of happy so often, it just kills me.  We need to figure out how to help him.

Considering that letting Chris hold Will at night is practically a cry-it-out strategy of it’s own, I’m tempted to do a little Ferberizing-it can hardly be more crying than he’s doing already.

But then I watch his arms and legs go so frantic when we lay him down on his own and I just don’t know how on earth he can possibly settle himself.  It’s like he is just physically incapable of relaxing his body down for sleep.  Even when we hold him its like he’s fighting against himself.  He’s so tired but he can’t stop moving.  And every night he’s happy and chipper until we put him in his pjs–no matter whether its 6pm or 8 pm–and then all hell breaks loose.

Tonight’s cry-fest has already started though so I have to go.

Internet, thoughts?

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