Friday, November 21, 2008

Welcome to my igloo!

Seriously. Our apartment reaches absolute zero at least fifteen times a day. Here's why:

1. We have no heating system. Chinese apartments come equipped with... well... nothing. No heating system, which means you can definitely forget about having AC in the summer. But no heating system means we have to go buy an electric heater. Last winter we borrowed one, but that option doesn't look doable this time, so we need to get a heater for ourselves. And being the procrastinators that we are, we still haven't gotten one. Which means we are freezing.

When you live in America, or most Western countries, you really take it for granted that you have heat in your home. Sure, it makes the bills go up a bit, but at least you don't have icicles instead of eyebrows.

2. We have "wood" flooring. No carpet or rugs to keep our tootsies warm. Carpet is like a big deal here for some reason. Rarely do you come across an apartment with carpet, and when you do, it's like heaven. I'm not joking. But you know what? At least we have wood and not tile like most Chinese apartments have. If we had tile, then not only would we have no need of a refrigerator, but we would have frostbite up to our knees. 

3. Our apartment is built from cement. That's all. No fancy schmancy insulation or two-by-fours. Just plain, cold, calculated concrete.

4. Our windows are single-paned. If there were any heat in the house to be found at all, the menacing (and LARGE, might I add) windows would sweep it up into their frigid grasp and cruelly switch it out with the freezing air from outside. Evil windows.

Even if we have a sunny and relatively warm day (like this morning), it doesn't mean a thing. It honestly takes two full weeks of fabulous weather to warm up our apartment. But you get even one cloudy day, and it's all over. 

I can't imagine living somewhere in China where the weather actually does get pretty cold. Here I am whining, and the coldest Kunming gets is probably around 35 deg F. That's not unbearable. 

But since whatever temperature is outside means that it's inside as well, it's pretty... uh... frustrating. Unbearable? No. But definitely annoying.

Maybe I should just stop complaining and go out and buy a heater.

Eh, maybe not. I don't wanna go outside. 

Too cold.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

But what about ME?

I never knew that taking care of a baby would be SO time-consuming.

Seriously. I feel like I have no life at all. And I'm sure all you moms out there are smirking and saying to yourselves, "We coulda told you that." In fact, many of you probably did, in one way or another. The thing I remember hearing the most was, "Having a baby changes your life!" Indeed it does. Indeed it does.

There are so many good and wonderful things about having a child. The love you feel for them is unequal to any other, the joy you get when they smile and laugh...

But they require so much attention! At least, mine does. It's a rare occasion when we leave Liam alone to play by himself and he doesn't cry. Today was one of those days. He can sit up now by himself, which is marvelous, so we had him playing with his toys for a good half hour without a whine. (There was drool, however, and LOTS of it. I've started putting bibs on him during the day to catch all the drool so his shirts don't get soaked.)

Anyway, it was really nice for me that I didn't have to hold him or pick up his dropped toys for him. He did good all by himself. A rare occasion.

I wish this behavior would continue. I want to do other things sometimes, like reading or crocheting or learning how to sew. Honestly, there are so many things and ideas in my head about what I would like to do, but I can hardly do any of them. I'm lucky if I get the dishes or the laundry done. I feel so exhausted at the end of each day. And I feel like I haven't really accomplished anything at all.

Do I sound selfish? To me, this sounds a little selfish. Aren't I supposed to be attentive to my baby's every need? Sometimes I feel like a lazy mom because I would rather be doing something else than wiping the cold spit off his chin while he's crying miserably at me.

I don't know where the balance is. I hear about all these moms who have anywhere from 2-7 kids, who are doing a fabulous job being a mom - teaching their children creative things, going on outings, etc. - but who also have their own lives. To me, that sounds like the ultimate. How do they do it? 

Maybe I'm just getting ahead of myself. Obviously Liam is too young to do art projects now. Will these desperate thoughts disappear once Liam starts being able to do more things on his own? But then at that point, isn't it about time to get pregnant with number two?

AAAAGGGHHHH!!! It never ends. For now, I guess the only thing to do is just do my best to love Liam and give him what he needs. 

I suppose I can be content with only crocheting two rows a night.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Be imperfect!

I've realized that changing your mind and stance on some things is pretty common when you're a parent.

Some things, little things. Definitely not things like: "Don't worry about brushing your teeth, kids! Woo-hoo, sugar is GOOD!!"

When I was pregnant, I would read SO many books and articles about parenting. It is a big deal to take care of a child and train him/her to become a responsible adult. I wanted to be as prepared as possible for when Liam came into the world. So I (and my husband, but mostly I) read books like The Baby Whisperer, thinking that I would have the best routine ever for my baby and he would never cry because he would know what was coming next. Ha.

Now, don't get me wrong. I actually really enjoyed The Baby Whisperer, and I thought it had a lot of good advice and information. And we did incorporate many things it suggested into taking care of Liam. But, you can read and prepare all you want, but you'll still never be fully ready for the child that God gives you. 

Especially with us traveling so much, there was never really a chance to establish a good routine with a set bedtime and everything for the first two months of Liam's life. And I don't really regret anything at this point either, because hey -- he's sleeping 12 hours a night and takes decent naps during the day. What more could I ask for?

I used to think, Oh my gosh, he's crying! We just fed him two hours ago! Why would he be crying? He can't possibly be hungry - that's what the books say! And I would be a little scared to feed him thinking that his routine would be so thrown off. Well, I realized that sometimes babies are hungry before they're "supposed" to be. Just like adults. So I would give in and feed him. By the time we left the States to come back to China, I was a lot less rigid about Liam's feeding times. Especially, especially, on the flight here.

Those Korean Air flight attendants, man -- they will stress you out! Any time Liam started crying, they would bustle up in their little blue pencil skirts and lean into our aisle, saying, "Oh! What's wrong? Is there something we can do? Does he need a snack? You can feed him now."

But once jet lag was over and we weren't traveling around anymore, Liam, all by himself, got onto a nice routine with eating and sleeping. He'll eat about 5 times a day, bedtime at 8, wake up at 8. With long and short naps in between meals, usually. It's quite lovely, now that I think about it. In fact, he's taking his first nap of the day right now. This one is usually the longest, so it's the best time for productivity on our part. Hence the blog writing.

All this to say, it's okay to change your mind while parenting on the little issues. Some people are really cut out for scheduling and strict routines, and I really admire them. But if you find yourself getting overwhelmed or stressed about the things you're trying to do to make your child perfect, take a step back and say, "Is this really necessary?"

And it's really okay to trust the Lord that He will take care of your children as well. Where you fall short, that's where He comes in. If we were perfect parents to begin with, what appeal would the Father, who is perfect, have to our children?

Alright, Liam is whimpering from his room now. I'd better go get him and be an imperfect mother. :)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Learning what not to do (the hard way) while traveling...

Hello from the land of smiles -- that is, Thailand! It's hot and humid, but I guess it's fairly tolerable compared to the summer.

Our visit here is twofold: we had to leave the country for our visas (our allowed stay is only 60 days at a time in China), and Liam needed to get his 4-month immunizations. (China does not have vaccines). However, we have learned a lot in the span of just two days about traveling to Thailand to get your baby vaccinated.

1. Do not attend church the morning of your flight. We were thinking, Oh our flight's not 'til 6:00 pm... We can handle going to church. No. We should have remembered that Sundays are not the easiest of days for babies. There are no naps in their own bed, just short little shut-eyes in Mama's arms between worship and the sermon. By the middle of the afternoon, they've had it, and it's hard to relax. This was the first ingredient in the recipe of misery.

2. Do not drink coffee the morning of your flight (if breastfeeding). I love coffee. But I haven't really drank it since Liam was born. I guess I don't like the idea of having a caffeinated baby awake at all hours of the night, but I will have it occasionally when I'm feeling particularly dangerous. Days of planned travel are not days to feel dangerous.

3. Bring the Infant Tylenol with you to Thailand. What was I thinking? I actually considered bringing the Tylenol, then I thought, Psshh, no... what are the chances of Liam coming down with a fever on this short trip? He was going to be vaccinated, hello!!

4. Or better yet, just bring the blasted vaccines back with you to China, have them administered there, and then you can actually enjoy your trip to Thailand without having a cranky feverish baby! This one pretty much explains itself.

So, the plane trip was awful. Liam was all hyped up from the caffeine and cranky at the same time from the lack of sleep that day. He couldn't settle himself down for a good nap at any point in the journey. Good thing it only lasted a couple hours.

And for the rest of the time, he was irritable and was running a pretty good temperature for a couple days.

As you can see, I have taken away much from this short trip. 

And if we need to do this again, I will know exactly what (not) to do.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Phantom Cries are real.

Last night we went to some friends' house for dinner and games. 

(We're game people. Not everyone enjoys playing games, but we do, and that's good because our friends do also.)

Usually when we're over there, Liam will end up taking a nap on a bed in the apartment at some point in time. We kind of lay him in the middle of the bed with pillows making a fortified wall all around the unfamiliar blanket he is plopped down on. Crying is definitely expected. But sleep, most times, will come around eventually.

Not this time.

The crying would not cease. I interpreted his screams as, "I'm not taking this anymore! Put me in my own bed! I refuse to sleep anywhere where the sheets don't smell like drool!!!!"

So, after much of this kind of dialogue -- "Should we go get him?"  "But I feel like he's really tired and just needs to sleep."  "Maybe we could put him in the Moby to help him fall asleep."  "I think he'll calm down soon."  "He's not calming down."  -- I went in and got him.

He was completely fighting sleep -- his eyes were red (probably from the crying as well), they were droopy, and he was all-around cranky. And the one saying in our household (that we have so far) is "Cranky babies go to bed." But, like I said, he wasn't having any of it.

Even all wrapped up and close to Mama, he still refused to miss out on any possible action. His watery eyes were wide open and staring.

Later that night when we got home and finally put him to bed, sleep came like it usually does: quickly and peacefully.

But at 3:49 am......

I was abruptly awoken by very loud crying.

Liam had flipped himself over in his sleep, which is something he's been doing lately, and he doesn't exactly love it. So I went in and quietly turned him back over. He kept crying for a little while, then finally found his thumb and took a trip to dreamland.

I, however, found myself craning my neck and ears once I got back into bed. I could have sworn I heard him crying. And I would tiptoe out to the living room, being very still so that I could hear for sure.... and.... nothing. He was completely silent. So I would go back to bed, and there was that incessant crying again! Tiptoe, nothing, back to bed.

This went on probably four times before I reassured myself that it was just "phantom cries" in the end. My mind was playing tricks on me. I have encountered phantom cries many times before, and it's so weird how I really think that my child is crying. It's quite annoying because I can never relax until I'm absolutely positive that my brain is just being ridiculous and playing jokes on me. "Ha ha! Amy tiptoed again... let's do another cry." *giggle*

Have any of you experienced these phantom cries with your children?