Nest for the StellaB

One day out from moving back to the good ole US of A, and I figured maybe it was finally time to put some pictures of the Beaner’s nursery up. For posterity, you know.

It seems surreal that Stella is nearly one year old, and it breaks my heart to leave this place so soon. It wasn’t what we had planned, but it is what is happening.

So, one last look before we go.

IMG_6962Stella’s crib. Hand-built by her Daddy, with oh-so-much-loving care.

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IMG_6969 The crane mobile. Hand-folded origami birds + sticks. I love it, and Stella does, too!

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Michael’s mom made the gown above her dresser for her going-home-from-the-hospital outfit.

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The camel is from Egypt, and the puzzle from Ethiopia. Both gifts from my little sister who lives in Africa.

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More paper magic with the chain of yellow flowers.

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We bought this little wooden animals in Bangkok back when we thought StellaB was a he, not a she. My friend Cat made the “Jesus Loves Me” artwork.

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I adore this rocking chair. (Michael isn’t as in love as I am, but he just doesn’t know what he’s missing out on.)

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All the artwork are free downloads from Vintage Printables.

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And that, friends, is StellaB’s room!

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What it’s like to be the center of the universe

Have you ever wondered how it would feel to have the paparazzi on your tail, stalking your every move, documenting your tiniest sneeze, analyzing your clothing choices, rating your performance?

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Well, wonder no more. Just ask Stella!

This girl is princess of the playground, ruler of the one-and-under crowd, queen supreme of have it your way. That’s her taking over some kid’s portable keyboard. (FeiLong, in the gray sweater, is public enemy number one as he also likes to have it his way. Kid is half-American: sensing a pattern here?)

On the downside, this means Stella’s clothing choices are regularly criticized and bringing her out with a runny nose and short sleeves leads to looks of death and judgment. On the plus side, if I’m feeling tired, I just head outside and I betcha 10 bucks I can find someone else who’s willing (desperate! dying!) to hold the Bean.

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There are a lot of things that make me nerve-y about being back in the States for a year. Maybe the biggest? Who’s gonna take care of my baby?

Yes, that’s right: other people regularly grab Stella and go. This is her with her name twin: XuanXuan jiejie (that’s XuanXuan Elder Sister, also known as Stella) and XuanXuan meimei (XuanXuan Younger Sister, who’s smaller by two months). This picture was taken a month ago; on Sunday, Stella danced for 30 minutes or so to XuanXuan meimei‘s stroller boom box and then, like the tyrant we all know is bottled up in there somewhere, made XuanXuan meimei‘s mom walk her around for another 10.

Last week, I was eating lunch with a friend at a fine local establishment. Stella was in the stroller making faces at the people at the next table (who asked if I was ever worried someone would steal her because she was so cute). Next thing I knew, Stella was out of the stroller and the waitress was bouncing around the restaurant with her. Lest you think this was odd, this was the second visit in a row where this happened.

Sometimes I should probably be a little more hands off. But y’all. Seriously. People are happy to entertain my child while I enjoy a leisurely meal. They are happy to make faces and coo at her when she cries on the elevator. They are happy to get the door and open the gate and happy to share their kid’s toys and happy to laugh at her when she pitches a fit about wanting to take said toy home with her.

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I swear that Stella must think her name is yang wawa (foreign baby doll) because honestly, people scream it every time she shows up. And it’s not just around the local crowd.

Our friend group here is disproportionately young and single and that means Stella is disproportionately the center of it all. She does have a few friends her age (see above: hi Jack and Luke! Addie and Noah, we miss you!), but the numbers are so far out of whack that there are always at least 5 or 6 people available to coo and giggle and clap and cheer.

Girl has got a cush life. Oh, well–all that’s coming crashing down in T-minus 25 days when we pack it up and head for ‘Merica.* Tell me, are Americans generally happy to be seated next to one-year-olds on trans-Pacific flights? No? And how do they feel about happy babies who have been traveling for 24 hours before they sit next to you on the Dallas-Atlanta leg? Not great?

Oh well, Asia. Stella (and Stella’s mama) are in for a cruel wakening in the real, harsh world of the SouthEast USA.

 

*Who am I kidding? Gran and Grandpa and Bebe and Papa will pick up the slack right where Asia dropped the ball. Stella, honey, you’ve got it made.


Things I learn in the neighborhood

Spent this week’s sunny(ish) afternoon hanging out in the 小区 (xiaoqu, which means my apartment complex) with the neighbors and their babies. Here, that means a hefty helping of grandmother time (they are usually the primary caretakers for little ones) with one or two moms sprinkled in for variety. Here are just a few of the life lessons I picked up:

-I must hold Stella with my arm underneath her booty. I must never perch her on my hip or I will cause permanent damage.

-In America, the government gives you money to have children and you don’t have to pay for them yourself. I know this because one of the nainais (grandmothers) told me that her cousin’s daughter lives in America and told her this about the law. I tried to explain that this doesn’t apply to everyone, but she gave me the side eye and told me she’s sure this is how it is. (Note to self: apply for Stella’s money!)

-Also in America, you are allowed to keep having children until you get a boy. Sometimes you can even keep going after having the boy!

-Beef-flavoured candy is gross.

-Stella is always wearing too few clothes. Until I told the nainais that her purple suit is down-filled, at which point I am immediately informed that she is overheated.

-Everyone already knows where I live, all the way down to apartment building and floor.

-It is a bad idea to feed my baby yogurt at this tender age.

-My neighbors are the sweetest. They care for me and Stella well, and holding her (and comparing how she stacks up against their grandbabies) is the highlight of all of our days.

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Christmas 2013.

Hi. It’s been awhile, but I’m still here, promise.

Two months later (!!!), here is a glimpse of our first Christmas with sweet baby girl.

Christmas Eve we went to some friends’ apartment for a candlelight gathering and a Christmas feast. Christmas Eve is my favorite of all holidays throughout the year, and this year was no exception. Michael made a delicious tenderloin (that man can cook! but only when he makes up his mind it’s worth it) and StellaB hung out with her favorite, Addie.

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(See the glimpse of green? Finally started cloth diapering. So far I’m a fan, but still figuring out how to avoid diaper rash.)

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With Cat and Adelaide. Addie is totally obsessed with Stella, and freaks out every time she sees her.

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The feeling is mutual, I think.

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Baby besties!

Christmas morning Michael and I exchanged stockings and presents (he made a rolling island for me!–y’all, his woodworking skills are truly amazing) and then friends came over for brunch and presents (our little group drew names for the exchange). Stella was so happy all morning long, and we stayed in our pajamas until evening, when we went out for the traditional (ha!) Christmas dinner of street dumplings.

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Happy girl.

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With Jess and Owens.

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Matching pajamas for the win!

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All in all a great day, and we continue to be more thankful than ever for this little bean we call our own.


Thanks Be

Happy Thanksgiving morn from the other side of the globe.

Michael is out for a run with the pupster man (I regret not having a personal Turkey Trot this year but think Stella is still too little for more than a walk out in the jogging stroller), my crackle candle is making me feel a tiny bit like I’ve got a fire going, and Andrew Peterson’s Christmas music is on. Oh, and Stella’s down for a nap, giving me a happy moment to myself.

I’ve been thinking this week, as most of us have, of counting my blessings. It’s been a long last week, truthfully: Stella quit sleeping through the night a month ago and the last few evenings were particularly miserable. Naps have also gone downhill and there’s been lots of crying. Living in Asia occasionally leads to health issues and one cropped up recently, leading to massive amounts of laundry. Here, of course, that means I’m mostly tied to my apartment as it takes FOR.EV.ER. to run a load through the washer and dryer. So yeah. It’s been a week, and I’m tired. Exhausted.

But. I don’t know if I’ve ever been so grateful in my life. On Monday, as I sat beside her crib holding Stella’s tiny baby hand and rubbing her tummy as she cried, I just thought: this is the best thing that has ever happened to me. (While simultaneously wanting to cry myself–crying babies, at least this particular one, make me so so sad.) For a long time, I questioned God’s goodness in not giving our family the baby we wanted. But having her, holding her, I know for certain there was no way we, I, ever deserved this. This week I heard news of friends who are joyfully expecting but whose little one will face at least one open heart surgery before she is six months, and I hugged Stella near. Why has God given us so much goodness when there is so much pain in the world? And how can I remember to believe this when life is more full of the hard and less full of the joy?

Andrew Peterson has the answer: Behold the Lamb.

Oh, that I would always remember.

Thanks be.

Oh. And here are some pics of StellaB. Because there’s no such thing as too many. Right?

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Five month old girl is sitting up! Well, maybe slight exaggeration. But I’m her mom, so I’m just going on and calling it.

 


So this is parenthood

Years ago, on my first go-round in the East, a friend lent me her copy of Anna Karenina. At the time, I remember thinking: “Ah! So this is what that feels like!” Tolstoy’s descriptions of life, from birth to marriage to death to infidelity and everything in between, struck me as the genuine article. I had no idea what the moment of being married would feel like, but in reading, I lived it. (Isn’t that the beauty of literature? The opportunity to live experiences you haven’t had yourself through the written word?)

Following Stella’s birth, I looked up the passage when Levin, one of the main characters, becomes a father. I was curious if my memory of the vividness and truth of that written moment matched lived experience.

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“The feelings which this little being awakened in him  were entirely different from what he had expected!  There was neither pride nor joy in the feeling, but  rather a new and painful fear. It was the consciousness  that he had become vulnerable in a new way. And this  consciousness at first was so acute, his fear lest this poor,  defenseless creature might suffer was so poignant, that  it drowned the strange feeling of thoughtless joy, and even pride, that rose in his heart when the infant  sneezed.”

–Leo Tolstoy

Although there is (much!) joy and pride, the ring of truth is there as well. I think, perhaps, that this may be even more true for fathers than mothers.

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Anyway. These pictures are from Stella’s 100 Days Celebration last week. She is wearing a traditional outfit that local infants wear, but unfortunately I’ve forgotten the word for it. Michael’s friend, the local mechanic who fixes our scooters, gave this to us before Stella’s birth.

Her actual 100 days (we were a little early last week), by the way, is tomorrow. Happy 100, Stella B!


100 Days (of life with Stella)

Hi, friends. This is Stella. She’s the cutest (always), the smartest (duh), and the sweetest (except for when it’s time to sleep. Grrrrr.) Tomorrow, she’ll be three months old. Can you believe it?

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Michael and I are smitten with this little munchkin, and can you blame us? Look at that mug. Basically, she is telling us that her adorableness makes up for the fact that she hates tummy time with all the vengeance her tiny self can muster and that she is about to start screaming any second. Just wait: that’s how it goes whenever you flip her onto her stomach.

Life has been busy for us (isn’t it always?) since arriving back in Asia seven weeks ago. See our exhausted faces below, crammed on the subway at the peak of Friday night rush hour to celebrate our anniversary at the beginning of September. We were more than a bit tired that day and I’m afraid it shows. Our friends Craig and Sarah babysat for us so we could make it to the other side of town for dinner, just the two of us. It was our first solo outing since the babester and it was great to be together on our own (after we got off that blasted, crowded subway, that is.)

Five years! I’m thankful for this guy, and also grateful for the years we had with just one another before hopping on board the parent train. God’s plans are truly perfect.

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Stella really is a joy to be around. Her laughs, coos, and giggles are the best things in the world, and I never knew how much I could enjoy hanging out for hours with someone who can’t talk.

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We continue to be amazed at just how quickly she is growing and changing. She was seven pounds when she was born, and she weighed in this past weekend at 13 pounds. Think about it: less than three months of life, and she’s nearly doubled her size! It’s the most normal thing in the world, but I am learning that normal doesn’t make it any less extraordinary. (Caterpillars turning into butterflies is normal, too, but wow! This world overflows with creativity and beauty.)

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Stella and I have been making new friends. This is XunXun, a cute little neighbor boy who we’ve gotten to know since returning here in August. I’m grateful for his mom, who is joyful and open, and has welcomed me into her life with open arms. She’s introducing me around to other local moms, too, and gives advice without being bossy–a balance that’s hard to come by in a culture where so many people express their love and care of Stella by telling me that I’m doing it wrong. (Your baby is too hot/cold; she’s not wearing enough clothes/you shouldn’t carry her like that she is burning up; your baby is too young to leave the house; the stroller is unsafe; why does your family have a dog? that’s unhygienic!) Long before I had a baby, I knew this aspect of the culture would be a struggle. Most days I can laugh it off, but sometimes new mom neurosis gets the better of me and I wonder if Stella’s life really would be 100% better if I just made sure she always had on socks.

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So, re: the title of this lil’ blog post. 100 Days: it’s a thing, and we’re celebrating. Stella won’t technically be 100 days until sometime next week, but Michael will be out of town for the week and I’m not gonna do it on my own. Locally, babies here are allowed out and about after 100 days, and most families make a big deal of this milestone. We will celebrate with a few friends. I’ve never been to a 100 Day celebration so this will be a learning experience for us (and I’m sure I’ll make at least a few cultural faux pas).

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Other, random thoughts? I really, really love Stella’s baby leg warmers, and I think headbands might be a teensy bit tacky but I also love them and don’t care. Albus is adjusting well overall, but he’s a poor, neglected dog these days–I made it halfway home yesterday before I realized I left him tied to a tree outside the vegetable market. Confession: I didn’t even remember on my own, some passersby yelled at me from their scooter that I forgot my dog. Whoops! And Stella really is a sweetheart, but I will be a happy camper when she settles into a sleep routine. It’s three steps forward, two steps back: she slept through the night for more than a week straight and then reverted to waking up twice a night a few days ago. It’s hard not to feel like I’m doing something wrong which is keeping her (and us!) from sleeping well, but I also know that babies just change quickly and this stage, too, will pass.

That’s it for now. Life is good, and we are thankful. Oh! and hoping that neither Stella nor I catch the stomach bug Michael is battling. It’s a semi-regular part of life here, but would love it if you could say a prayer that it doesn’t latch onto either of us. And also that Michael gets better quickly!