Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas, Stateside

It's 6am, Christmas morning, and i'm the only one awake.  I just put Jordan to bed after his 5am feeding, and all is quiet.  There's no presents under the tree because, like many big families, we no longer celebrate Christmas on Christmas day.  My brothers and sisters are all off with in-laws, and we will get together on the 27th.

Jorkevstherdan (it's a work in progress) successfully made the trip to Chicago, a mostly uneventful 24 hour journey from Hangzhou.  I lost count at how many people tried to make me worry about the flight, warning that traveling with an infant would be a nightmare.  I never let myself give into the hype, though, and in retrospect, it was truly uneventful.  Part of that if due to Jordan's awesome personality.  Even at 10 weeks, i can tell he's going to be a cool, relaxed dude.  He smiles on cue, doesn't fuss, sleeps well, loves cuddling, and doesn't cry.  I've been keeping count; he's cried 5 times so far, and two of those were when he got vaccinations.  

United also made our trip much more bearable by providing a bassinet that attached to the bulkhead in front of us.  Basically, that made the whole "traveling with an infant" thing simple.  Now if they would only resume giving away free alcohol on international flights, they would continue to be my airline of choice.   

So we arrived in Chicago and immediately made a bee-line for Portillo's.  Obviously.  If you're from Chicago, you understand.

We've been hanging out with whatever local family i have, and getting ourselves onto the new time zone.  Having an infant adds a whole new wrinkle to that problem, but he's basically sleeping through the night now again, so even that problem is mostly behind us.  Now i just need to make myself sleep through the night.

We're spending two weeks in Chicago and two more in Colorado, with very few things actually planned.  We like it that way, and should make it easier to travel with the little man.

I'll leave you with an example of the English we find on baby stuff here.  This was on a diaper changing mat.   It's fantastic!  I mean, are they even trying?  Even with the minimum of effort, like if they copied straight from an online translator, it wouldn't be this bad.  Note: in the first line, "wanmei" means "perfect" in Chinese, so that's at least a decent attempt at Chinglish.  The rest is just madness.

wanmei baby
My best Friend
Too are
go puhhy
and make
me smile!! 
Honestly, they must be slapping together a bunch of random words and letters, randomizing the capitalization and hoping no one can read it. Because, you know, having "English" on a product makes it worth more?


Friday, November 30, 2012

Jordan Returns to Hanghzhou

With the month-long zuo yue zi behind us, the three of us moved back to our apartment in Hangzhou to fend for ourselves. Within a day we were comfortably set into a routine again. A typical day goes something like this:

  • Mom wakes up around 7am, gets breakfast ready, feeds and hangs with Jordan, and pumps.
  • Dad gets up around 9am, eats, and shares Jordan duties. Around 11, he starts getting lunch ready.
  • Dad cleans the floors, dusts, and takes out the garbage.  Mom does everything else.
  • After lunch, Dad hangs out with Jordan, and does parenting.  Mom pumps and takes a nap.  
  • When Mom wakes up, she pumps and watches Jordan while Dad works out.  
  • Dad does the dishes and prepares dinner.
  • Mom and Dad high-five for a while, rejoicing in their awesome parenting skills.  They are in bed by 10pm.
  • Jordan smiles, coos, and continues being an amazing baby.  He's bed around 9pm.
  • Mom wakes up once to pump.
  • Dad wakes up to feed and change Jordan, usually twice a night.
That got us through most of November.  Mid-month, we decided to try going out for dinner occasionally.  We had grown tired of cooking every night and longed for a little variety. Our first meal was at Mango Thai, and our maiden voyage was met with delicious consequences.  Phad Thai and Curries were our reward.  There were no incidents.  The next night we headed out to Zola Brick Oven Pizza and met some friends and their 4-year old.  Again, delicious success!

Being the newly mobile parents that we were, just having the freedom to head outside made us happier.  But mostly we've been staying in cuz it's cold and rainy.  To compensate, i'm cooking a larger variety of dishes.  Yesterday we had Chicken Fajitas with Guac and Spanish Rice. Today, Chicken Minestrone Soup... both came out awesomely.

Which brings me to something i love about China.  When i'm going to cook, i walk out to the veggie market at our apartment and buy what looks good.  I buy exactly what i need and cook it all.  I remember shopping trips in the States required a grocery list, a car, and ten bags worth of stuff costing $200.  Here's what i bought today for Chicken Minestrone Soup.

All that cost me less than $3, including the chicken breast (which i bought at the supermarket and had frozen).  It was so fulfilling to turn all those fresh veggies into a delicious meal that would feed Esther and i for lunch and dinner.  If i remember correctly, a bag of pre-packaged baby spinach in a US supermarket costs about $2 by itself.

So anyway, we're good.

I forgot to post this earlier, but esther and i did an interview for Rueben Marley, the chef at Aima.  Check it out here, i think our part starts around the 10-minute mark.

And now, a selection of photos from the past few weeks...
Air Piano
Jordan's Chinese Visa photo, or Obi Wan Kenobi impersonation?
And i'll leave you with this pretty fun video of Jordan getting his bath and swimming lessons at Aima during his 6 week checkup. 

~Kevsther and JNR

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Triumphant Forest King

We've spent the last two weeks in Xiaoshan, at esther's parents place. We'll be here through the first week of November, when esther completes her zuo yue zi.  During these two weeks, we've managed to give Jordan a Chinese name.  He was christened Jordan Neil within minutes of being born, literally just as soon as we had a chance to think.  In China, it's common to wait a week or two before giving a name.  Jordan got his at about 10 days old.

Also in China, you need to consider fate when naming your child.  You must consult a master who can analyze the circumstances surrounding the child's birth.  Using the time, date, and lunar cycle, the master determines which of the five phases are missing from the child's life.  In Jordan's case he was missing fire.  A dilemma, for sure, but one easily remedied by adding some fire into his name, in this case, wood to build a fire.  After some deliberation, we finally settled on Wang Kai Sen, 王凯森, or loosely translated, Triumphant Forest King.  All hail!!!  Incidentally, his character for "kai" is the same as my chinese name, Kai Wen, 凯文.  Nice.

In other news, King Jordan eats, sleeps and poops.  Thems are his major hobbies.  However, as i'm the designated feeder in the house, i've had ample opportunity to chronicle and study his most common facial expressions.  Here are a few.
At Peace
Air Guitar Solo
Is that breast milk for me
 Hark! Methinks a poop cometh!
Hi Mama. And helllloo mama's boobies.
Now you're just making fun of me.
I've grown bored of you and your camera.
Dad, if you post this on the internets, i'll pee on you. 
Winky Frown

Monday, October 15, 2012

Jordan's First Five Days

We spent four nights at Aima Maternity Hospital, and generally had an excellent experience. The package we got included food for both of us, plus nursing care for Esther and Jordan, all for about $1,700. We found some loophole in the system where Rueben Marley prepared us a custom meal for lunches and dinners, plus the hospital still brought us two meals of really decent hospital food. Rueben cooked us pizza, chicken sandwiches, pot roast, and salmon pasta, among other treats. We ended up eating his food first and the hospital food as a snack. I can't remember the last time i ate so well.  We seriously considered staying a few extra nights.
Esther eats all the foods.
So this experience has been amazing, and i've learned quite a few new things in the last week.

I learned some new Chinese words, like earwax, boogers, and eye crusties.... they literally translate to ear shit, nose shit, and eye shit.  You gotta love when language is uncomplicated.

I learned some differences in Chinese vs. Western thinking. There weren't many as bad as the following example, but here's one situation where i was frustrated being in a Chinese hospital. When we were figuring out breastfeeding, we had a lot of resistance form the nurses, and some from Jordan as well. I'd read a lot in the past few months, so i have a decent idea how to take care of a baby.  I was also reassured by Suzanne (our midwife) that Jordan can get all the nutrients he needs from breast milk, even in the first few days.  But i lost count of the number of times and number of people who told us we need to feed him 1 oz of formula every two hours.  You'd think they were getting kickbacks from the Big Formula Lobby or something.  First off, we don't trust the generic Chinese formula they gave us.  And second, breast milk is unquestionably the best thing for a newborn.  Instead of just pushing formula on us when we clearly didn't want it, the nurses would have better served us by helping us breastfeed properly.  It wasn't until our last day there that someone started to give Esther some tips, and we praised that nurse highly to her superiors.

But we persevered, and eventually we won the war of Force Feeding Formula vs. Let Nature Work Magic.  And don't get me wrong, aside from the few nurses who seemed to not care about our wishes, most of the staff were really excellent and eager to help.

I learned that i absolutely love being a father and caring for my newborn baby. And i'm good at it. Esther is doing her Zuo Yue Zi, which translates to "sitting out a month". Not just common in China, it's a necessity. Here are two different perspectives on it, both very interesting. Anyway, she's not supposed to feed or change or bathe Jordan for the first month, so i'm happily doing all the work. It helps that he's extremely well behaved, sleeps four hour stretches every night, eats well, cuddles, waits patiently while we warm his breast milk... he's just amazing.

I also learned that i'm a very uncommon type of dad in China.  I don't mean to generalize Chinese fathers, but the nurses at Aima were amazed at how confident i was holding, cuddling, feeding, dressing, changing, and cleaning my new son.  They said most Chinese fathers are afraid to even touch their baby, and since the mother has to take a month off, they end up hiring a nanny to do all the work.  Obviously the most unfortunate thing is that the fathers miss a great chance to bond with their little one.  It would appear the parenting roles are still more rooted in tradition here.

I learned the mathematical relationship for when to change a diaper: if the ratio of poop : diaper is equal to or greater than 1, then change. If not, maybe change anyway if he's also pee'd a lot.
Magical Poop Disposal Station
Finally, I learned that my wife is the most amazing person i know, she's my best friend and i get her for life. She's brave, loving, funny, patient and beautiful. I'm so damn lucky.


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Jordan Neil Reitz

At 4:10pm, October 8th, 2012, my son was born at 6lbs 13oz.

His timing, which is two weeks early, is also a fitting bit of cosmic symmetry for my parents; their first child and their latest grandchild were both born on October 8th.

Esther woke up at 5am with mild contractions, 10 minutes apart, lasting through 7am. We continued for a few hours monitoring contractions, which sometimes got as close as 5-6 minutes apart, but just as often 10-12 minutes. This is what we in the parenting business call "non-progressing contractions." (This contraction monitoring chart is from a nifty little applet, aptly titled Contraction Monitor.)

At about 8am, she had a small water leak and some pink show. All of this is textbook false labor, which i know, because of my vast experience and the two books i skimmed. Coincidentally, we had already scheduled her weekly checkup for 10am that morning, so we just went in. We briefly thought about bringing all our stuff there, but figured we'd be sent home. We didn't want to be that couple that keeps showing up at the hospital after every few contractions.

The doctor said, "Welp! you're 2cm dilated, your water's leaking, and you're still having contractions, you aren't going anywhere."

They checked us into a room about 11:30 and esther ate lunch. We were settling in and mentally preparing for the common birthing horror story... 22 hours of non-stop, exhausting labor. Esther's contractions were steady at 5-7 minutes apart, and things seemed to be under control. At about 1pm, i ran back home to get all our stuff. At 2pm, i'm back at the hospital, esther's contractions are 4 minutes apart, and she's 6 cm dilated.

We get into the birthing room at 2:30, and Suzanne, our miracle working midwife from Kansas City, started helping esther through the contractions. The most interesting part of her labor for me was that esther was never in a bed, feet up in the stirrups, etc. She rocked back and forth on a gym ball, sat on a birthing stool, walked around, and of course, sat in the water. We used Aima's waterbirth option, and esther is a preaching convert now. From the point her contractions got debilitating, maybe 2pm, it took just over two hours total, no painkillers, no complications. Suzanne said it was a textbook waterbirth.

Since then, we've been resting a lot and basking in the amazingness of our little boy. Jordan took his first bath and went for a swim.  The grandparents came for a visit.  All in all, Aima has taken incredible care of us, with great food and attention from the staff.

So that's our story, enjoy a few pictures from camera one.

~Kevsther and Jordan

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Captain Jack and Prince Go Joyriding

In the midst of preparing for parenthood, i managed to get back to Beijing for a weekend in early September. It was great to see friends again after being gone nearly two months. Although not much has changed, i viewed the city through different eyes. The day i arrived, pollution was awful, and i immediately longed for the perpetually blue or rainy skies of Hangzhou. That weekend, it also rained enough to set off some flood warnings as well, but we were already out of the city.

I timed my trip back to coincide with a one day beach ultimate tournament about two hours away at Bei Dai He. You've probably seen those pictures of the Chinese beaches. This was nothing like that. We enjoyed (relatively) clean beaches, plenty of space, nice views, and good swimming. We only played a few games of the tournament though, because beach ultimate is hard! The sand itself was really rough and destroyed our feet after the first game. We all just drank beer and played pickup after that.

On Sunday we all headed back to Beijing.   We had been blessed with great weather in Bei Dai He, but meanwhile it had been downpouring in Beijing.  As we headed back, we crossed the storm, meaning we missed the rain on both sides.  The bonus was that rain in Beijing also brought beautiful blue skies for my next two days.   And a blue sky day in Beijing is the best of days.

On Monday, i did some training with Vericant, a company started by some frisbee friends that i will do some part time work for in the next six months.  They interview Chinese applicants to US schools and verify their english ability, as well as test their personality and general demeanor. So, training was monday, followed by spades at Great Leap on monday night.

During spades, Jehan came by and we decided to have some fun the next day. Here's how it went down. I had lunch plans with Andy, Nina, Mike and Helen Shyu, and Jehan decide to join us. We were all going to ride bikes, but neither Jehan or i had one at the time. Ken Dry overheard this and mentioned he just happened to have a tandem bike we could borrow.

Jehan and I obviously had no choice but to accept this bike. But we couldn't just ride it... we needed to do something special. It didn't take long before we decided we should go as Prince and Captain Jack Sparrow... Jehan's halloween costumes for the previous two years.

The photos speak for themselves.

Tuesday afternoon shenanigans are awesome.

After lunch, we rode to Sanlitun for a bit of fun. The best was Yashow, where i became an instant celebrity. Pirates of the Caribbean is extremely popular in China, so i wandered the floors talking to people, signing autographs, confirming that yes, i am in fact, a movie star. Occasionally, i would sneak up to a girl who wasn't paying attention, lean in close, and wait for her to acknowledge me. Mostly they thought it was hilarious, but one girl probably peed herself from fright. She also taught me some new swear words.

I'm going to miss these random moments of craziness living in Hangzhou. But then again, i'm living a different kind of life down here. There is so much to be thankful for right now, i don't know where to begin, but having a healthy wife and baby on the way is certainly #1 on that list.