Wasted Brain Cells

Monday, March 31, 2014

Not much to say. I've been getting dressed and I don't do a good job of taking photos. Whoops.

We've been re-watching That 70's Show on DVD in the evenings. I really forgot how much we quote back and forth from this series. You, know- silly everyday expressions that you've plucked from a line in Pop Culture. Like, if I overzealously pour granola all over the counter, Rob will quote "Whoa, that really shot outta there," from the episode where Red accidentally eats special brownies and shoots off a fire extinguisher. Or, when offering one another something to eat, we quote, in our best Wisconsin accent, "Hey there Bob, you wanna piece of pie?"

All obscure references and quotables for which my darling husband has a mind like a steel trap. He's like a bad Pop Culture encyclopedia. Anyone else have a loved one with genius skill in something useless?

Good, Small Stuff

Friday, March 28, 2014

It's been a really funny week. Good and bad yo-yo-ing. But that's life, right?

So- let's focus on the little stuff, the tiny anecdotes and small moments that bring a smile.

Spring is always and forever going to be my favorite season. Starting three weeks ago, I saw a flush of lime green lining the canals as Willow trees started to sprout tiny new growth leaves and forsythia blooming literally overnight. Tiny blooms exploding on the trees and watching buds turn into miniature leaves over just a few days. I'm in love with the abundance of fresh and growing things in Suzhou right now.

Finding an H&M kiddo tee of Bruce Springsteen's Born in the USA album- which, for a kid to be born in China, is hysterically false advertising.

While travelling by bus to the train station, Rob totally got shoulder napped-on by the coolest looking dude on the bus. Like, tall, a little punk, tattoo'ed and wearing combat boots. And his girlfriend kept giving Rob a little "Well, sorry, man" side look every once in a while. And I died of laughter.

Playing a game of Taboo in the Ikea cafe, Rob was trying to get me to guess a word... I guessed patio, veranda, porch, and terrace. Not right. When he told me the word, I told him he should have used "Upper blanking a toilet." And he had no idea what that phrase meant. I officially out-gross-dude-ed my husband.

There's an exorbitant number of beyond-cute toddlers running around the city. Several of whom think my dog is the coolest and whose mothers and grandmothers are freaking the heck out about it.

Eddie is still a snuggling machine.

Jif Crunchy peanut butter is my favorite and apples and carrots are both especially sweet this season. Lunchtime win.

My bump is finally big and obvious enough that I've been offered many seats on busses and subways by adorably considerate college boys. So sweet.

I've made quite a few clothes purchases lately (almost all from H&M), and my style has shifted decidedly into dude-inspired (like, swiped from the boys' department) maternity. I can't get enough of wearing oversized sweaters with parkas and maternity jeans. I am doing my mother proud.

Sweatshirts and Positive Attitudes

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Thanks for the flipping a kid tips and resources, you guys! I've found a local expat who has a reputable seller in Shanghai for essential oils (German import) and will try Grace's rad peppermint trick in tandem with some inversions (as carefully as my bruised up tailbone will allow). We'll see how it goes- keep your fingers crossed for me please! My OB was awfully cavalier about the whole thing, saying not to worry about the position, don't force a spin, we can do a C-section, changing the baby's position could be dangerous... Um, a major surgery to remove said child from my person is also dangerous, just more convenient for a busy hospital's schedule rather than allowing my lady parts to do what they do while I'm screaming for hours. So, my very sweet bilingual friend, Yen-Ling, affectionately known for her firm and effective direct approach to communication as "Yelling" will likely be helping me translate a birth plan and joining me for a doctor's visit in the next few weeks to more firmly communicate that I WILL be supported by the hospital, to the best of their abilities, to have a normal labor and delivery, no scalpels allowed. In the meantime, send out lots of good vibes because this is the first time I felt like I was going to run into a culture clash that is going to be tricky to overcome. And I need to keep a good attitude!

Other stuff happening- I'm off work and it feels sooo good. I spent Monday running errands, including picking up a bag full of loaner maternity pants in a bigger size for when my backside and belly inevitably get larger and larger. And errands that happen all the bleep way across town (50 or more minutes by public transit) become a whole lot more doable, as in they actually get accomplished, when one is freed from obligation to a daily desk job. Bonus? My beagle doesn't spend his whole days crated and naps his afternoons away from the comfort of a sofa. Oh, and we're both walking and exercising lots, yadda yadda yadda. Plus, I'm wearing a lot of boy clothes, sweatshirts, and adorably casual jeans. And that always helps.


Thursday, March 20, 2014

Ladies, I need advice. Kiddo is still hanging out breech (actually, it's a little more transverse) at the beginning of 32 weeks. And I know I have no real need to be nervous yet, but what worked for you all to flip and spin your little ones in utero and how did you make sure it stuck? Kindly remember that I live in China, so special products and special spa treatments are both non-options and my ability to communicate safety concerns with masseuses and acupuncturists is limited. Please and thank you.

Second, I love/laugh that this adorable swing jacket that I usually wore belted (like here, or here) is now beautifully fit for my rapidly widening pregnancy hips. And this ridiculous new pair of maternity pants so perfectly walks the line between casual and work-wear appropriate. I love them mucho. I can't wait to wear them with not-sweaters and jackets as the sun keeps popping out to say hello.

Standing Out on St. Patty's

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

I was so hopeful these jeans would fit still. I bought them on clearance in a size above my normal and dryer shrunk the crap out of them the last few years pre-pregnancy. Now that my hips got all wide and funky, they're a little too tight, but I couldn't not wear them- this springy color combination was begging for white jeans. And the most fun part is this weird little scarf in my hair has been my St. Patrick's Day go-to little bit of green(it has green cherries and little fuchsia vines on it) for years and years now and I just decided to go for the loud and bright complimentary look. And all my adorably reserved office mates thought it was the most awesome thing ever.

So, moral of the story is this: in the last week of work, wear whatever you want to and all your colleagues and every other Chinese person on campus will stare unabashedly at you and your pregnant belly. No disguising being one of the only white girls working at the University and dressing up anyway, let alone sporting a huge baby bump, so give 'em all something spring-like to stare at.

Free Fallin'

Sunday, March 16, 2014

A few major steps to manage in our website redesign project, administrative stuff for a faculty meeting, and whatever other madness comes along this week, and I'm outta the office. Just in time for some sunshine coming up!

The bad news? It rained at the end of last week and I slipped on the metal steps of the stairwell of the faculty cafeteria on my way out and landed right on my tailbone. No butt meat or cushion, just tailbone. I don't think it's cracked, just a mean nasty bruise and a little back muscle tightening. And kiddo is completely fine; in fact, I didn't even feel any jostle in my belly when I landed, but daaaaang, it's hard to sit in an office chair all day now. The other bad news? I broke my own fall with my right forearm and sat directly on my right middle finger. The worse news? What should have become a really rocking forearm bruise to rival the mystery table run-in bruises my sister gets faded perfectly after I used coconut oil on it. I didn't even get a chance to long-distance show it off.

To all my pregnant blogging buddies- watch your ass. Literally. A banged up tailbone hurts like none other when you go down with extra little person weight. Oh, and coconut oil is filled with miracles and rainbows.

Mixing in a Bit of Spring

Friday, March 14, 2014

Not my favorite outfit, but I'm so happy I could finally get away with wearing this blouse with a long sleeved shirt underneath and jacket over top. I don't love that I still needed to wear booties with it, but I'll deal with it.

We finally made our way to Shanghai to hunt for the only H&M maternity section nearby last weekend. Up until then, this pair of maternity work trousers was the only thing I had that wasn't regular pants with a belly band. It's tough to sink a whole day into traveling the 85 km between Suzhou and Shanghai for errands. But, oh my gosh, was it worth it. With about 10 weeks to go, I needed pants with stretch!

Happy weekend to you all, friends! Hope you get to bust out a springtime favorite article of clothing and mix it with your winter gear. Maybe if we all collectively get into a spring-y headspace together, it will show up sooner. That's how that works, right?

Raising a Neckline

Thursday, March 13, 2014

We have a joke about my upper half- "small but mighty." I have a little more going on now than I ever have before, but let's be really real. I will never have what could be termed a rack. Which means I don't fill stuff out. Which means I have the potential to show off a lot more camisole than I want to.

Enter my 3rd grade-level sewing skills.

I discovered a while back that 10 minutes with a needle and thread and stitching a few tiny pleats into the shoulders of lowcut pieces makes me like my shirts just a little better. While I appreciate the good work my camisoles are doing in keeping either wind off my back or functioning as a sweat barrier (depending on the season), they should always remain an undergarment, not a visual contrast to a v-neck.

< Nope. No black camisole, please.                 That's better. And visually simpler. >

Super easy fix! Flip inside out, gather 2-3 tiny pleats to the front side of the shoulder seam, throw a few stitches in across the trim to make sure it's secure, and that's it!

My other low-cut top quick fix? Throw a scarf on and hide it.

Gaaaah, I'm lazy.

Popping In

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

This is the very last time I'll wear these ugly boots, I promise.

I won't go as far as to say "It's SPRING!" yet, but there are a few buds on trees, the sun is cracking a smile now and then between drizzly days, and the willow trees lining the canals all have a vague light green hue. Nothing you might be able to call recognizable leaves, but Suzhou is trying to let Mother Nature make her move. And I'm so happy!

I'd also like to give a shout out to Mother Nature doin' her thing across my midsection... I had to laugh out loud when I saw these photos- we don't have a full length mirror, so I really don't have a great conception of how this kiddo is changing my body yet since I can't really see what's going on. I'll just let you enjoy the hilariously too-short sweater action that pops out to say hello in the second and last pictures. Not even my attempt at cheerful pink lipstick can detract from the near-miss belly flash. Sorry, friends.


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Winter gave me a major case of the "blahs" this year. I know it doesn't hold a candle to the miserable winter so many of my Midwest buddies had to tough out (sorry you're so snowed in and pissed about it, mom) but everyone here has said last summer was the hottest on record in decades, and this winter was one of the coldest with the highest humidity in the last few years. We got no more than a pathetic sprinkling of snow, but commuting in the soak-into-your-bones cold has been darn unpleasant. Add into that the fact that my favorite coats all now fit like sausage casings and it had been too cold and clammy to leave them unbuttoned. Boo hoo and shut up, Kate. I'll keep reminding myself that my masterful 3-undershirt layering skills kept me mostly warm enough every day without turning me into a puffy coat and Cosby sweater Chinese fashionista. Outer layers, like this cardigan, never did piddly for keeping the chill at bay- it's just for show. What you can't see is that I consistently wore a skintight camisole tucked into my pants so there was never any cold gusts, a GapBody stretchy long sleeved tee, and an outdoor-grade undershirt or two under the sweater of my choice. Every dang day. 

Plus those unattractive LLBean boots. 

I better keep an eye on those poor boots- I'm afraid Rob will send them away before next winter. I just hope he has enough sense to realize that they're my pull-on-dog-walking-shoes, too, and if they disappear, so does my obligation to get up to take the beagle out at 6:30. 

Sausage casing coat. Good look, Kate, good look.

Beginning of the End

Monday, March 3, 2014

Well, I've done it. My 30 days' notice has been submitted, I'm working like mad to help out with as much infrastructure as I can, but I'm going to stop working. And it's mixed emotions.

First of all, I don't want to make anyone feel bad- The only real reason we are able to pull off the stay at home thing financially is because Rob's very normal first year professor's salary stretches a whole lot further in China. Second, my income is quite generous by cultural standards, but still just a fraction of what could be considered a "second income" so we're not losing out on a lot. Third, the cost of having a kid over here is out of pocket doable; not cheap, but not unmanageable- my access to benefits was only linked to my working up until birth and coming back quickly afterward. The healthcare package and coverage was clear within the structures of very standard Chinese public hospital care, which isn't going to be a legitimate option for us since only the "VIP" services, which aren't covered, offer English language assistance reliably. And homegirl isn't brave enough to chance midnight labor at a hospital with no English speakers to call. 

So, what do I gain by saying Goodbye to my tenure as an administrator? Big big big deal gain is that I'll have an available and open schedule. Time to actually attend Expat mom groups to start making friends and gaining intel on how having a kid over here works, getting someone's used German diaper bag for a major discount, and spending time with ladies and kids who will become our community for the next few years. I've already met a few people just from skipping one day of work to go to a mom group before my doctors appointment and got clued into a few seminars that I'll be going to to learn more about this whole mommyhood thing. I'll also have weekday free time to go to Shanghai to shop, rather than spend precious weekends fighting the crowds. There's one Shanghai H&M with a maternity section and I don't fit into any of my pants anymore, so it's an urgent and necessary trip. Same goes for some Ikea shopping, and Rob can't stand the Sunday crowds. Also, for the first time ever in their lives, my critters can get used to a schedule where they don't get crated for a whole workday. And the poor recovering beagle can get some beautiful springtime day muscle building walks before the heat of summer and inconvenience of a human sibling ruins his chances for some TLC. 

But, I do work with some lovely people and have really enjoyed flexing my meticulous organization and protocol creating muscles to help the new School of Music get off the ground. It's a wise step to help me get into the headspace of this next phase for our family since I'm lousy at work/life balance and establishing boundaries, but I step away with a bit of sadness and a little "oh my gosh, how am I really going to fill my time?!" fear. Stay at home mommas- how did you feel when you made the choice to stop working and how on earth did you cope with the post-honeymoon "Freeeeedom!" jolt of reality that comes with stay at home routines?

In the meantime, I'll pump up my work wardrobe a notch to make up for the truly lazy wintertime dressing I'd been passing off as office-appropriate attire. C'mon springtime.

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