Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Mom Update

Dreamer is making some advancements this week. I want to write them down for my own memory
Dreamer dreaming
more than anything as these minute changes, so significant now, are likely to blur.

She's been tracking motion with her eyes, but now her head follows and she's able to follow motion from across the room. She's gurgling much more often, making cute almost word sounds. A funny moment was when Ryan's mom said something to her about coming to stay with Grandma when she's older and she made a sound that sounded like, "Yeah." We all burst out laughing.

Her favorite toy right now is her little plastic Tigger (like from Winnie the Pooh.) She isn't as enthusiastic about him though as she is about faces, especially Ryan's and mine. It's very easy now to get her to break out in that heart melting toothless grin. She also has started staring at her feet.

Her favorite song is, by far, "The Lion Sleeps Tonight." She calms down almost instantly when I sing it... hilariously, not when Dad tries to sing it to her though. That makes her cry.

She's apparently advanced in how long she's holding her head up at a time. Someone commented on it over the weekend and looking it up she's doing pretty well (not majorly advanced, but by a few weeks) there. This doesn't surprise me at all because she's always been a bit ahead in "large motor development." From the day she was born she could roll from her back to her side, for example. 

Ryan and I are getting good at interpreting her cries ("Oh, that's a wet diaper."or "I think that's a hungry cry!") I didn't realize it but when I was looking up developmental milestones that's actually a milestone for her. I thought that was us, as parents, learning her. And, on one hand, that's true. However, apparently it's also her taking a step towards language development! That makes sense, but I didn't realize that before. She's learning how to communicate her needs though via noise, so it makes sense that that is a first step towards language.

By the way, not a milestone for Dreamer but something interesting about this week; we have to be careful when we open the balcony doors because there may be a monkey in the neighborhood. Ah, India. 

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Cat Escapades

Today one thing I'm very thankful for is that Vex is safely home!

That might seem a strange thing to be thankful for, or rather maybe a boring one since normally Vex
Our Vex
is home. Vex is one of my cats and this past week he's been having some adventures.

Apparently he slipped out last Sunday. We're not exactly sure when, he had several opportunities. I'd seen him around 5 or 6pm at least. Then we got ready to go out, and I don't remember seeing him then, but I also didn't notice he was gone. Cats do, after all, take naps. We left the house around 9 or so to go to my in-laws for dinner. We came home around 12:30 probably and it's when we got home we noticed he wasn't there.

First we scoured the house, but he's not normally the kind of cat that takes naps and doesn't come when you call him... or at least shake the food. We knew he had to have gotten out before or when we left, so he'd been loose for hours. I theorized that he could have come home and meowed for us but we weren't there to let him in. Ryan went up to the roof both to look for him there and to shine a flashlight down to the ground to see if he could see him. We looked out our windows and off our balconies.. nothing...

Vex and his sister, Princess, are strictly indoor cats. We got them at 7 weeks old and this is the first time one of them has legitimately been lost. They've both made a break for it, but we were always on their heels and caught them before they left the building. They have no street smarts.

Princess was leaping around, desperate to be comforted because just as Vex has never been outside she's never been alone so long.

Ryan asked if we should go out and look for him in the neighborhood. Because of the hour and not being sure where to start, I said maybe we should wait an hour, hoping he'd come back on his own, and if not go look... but that "hour" lasted fifteen minutes before my worry built enough to send Ryan out. He didn't want me to come because of how late it was...

Vex is a very sweet cat
Ryan went down and talked to our neighborhood guard and asked him if he'd seen a cat.

"A white one?" YES! We had a lead.

Apparently he'd seen Vex come down and wander around before parking under a car and going "Meow, meow, meow, meow..."

Unfortunately, the noise attracted a pack of dogs! They had circled the car for a while before leaving.

The guard said it'd been three hours since he'd seen the cat.

So Ryan went to investigate the area Vex had been seen. Nothing. So he wandered around, calling for him... he had decided to give up for a while and go back to our apartment when he saw some movement.


He was hiding under a car just two doors down from our apartment. Ryan called to him, and he would start to move forward but wouldn't get close enough for Ryan to grab him. At this point Ryan called me.

"I found him. Come out onto the balcony."

"Is he alive or dead?" I hated the vagueness of his language.

"Come out onto the balcony."

"Is he alive or dead??" The fact that Ryan hadn't immediately said he was alive freaked me out.

"He's alive! Sheesh! Just come out onto the balcony!" WHEW.

So I came out and watched Ryan try to coax him out. Dreamer was on my hip and growing fussy so I brought her back in. Ryan called me back.

"I can't get him to come out. Maybe you can." We agreed for me to come down, hand Dreamer to
Ryan and have Ryan take her back up, and then I'd try to get my fur baby home. That way Ryan didn't take his eyes off Vex, but Dreamer wasn't outside long.

We made the trade and as soon as Ryan left I knelt down and cooed at Vex to come out. He came out tentatively, but wouldn't come close enough. I tried just calling for a few minutes, but it was clear Vex was spooked. (Now that I know the dog story, I can understand why!)

I spotted a dirty sock on the ground. Gross. But also could be helpful. So I grabbed it started wiggling it like a snake. He couldn't resist, and soon I had snatched him up.

I took him up and set him down. Princess ran over, sniffing and then grooming him. He "graciously" allowed her to minister to him. Ha. I went and washed my hands from touching the sock.

Within twenty minutes of being home, he was already looking at our front door like "let me out??" Sigh.

The next day he was clingy, coming and snuggling both Ryan and I extra, being very cute. We were both very happy to have him back.

Ryan went to work overnight and I was awake. He was good throughout the day, and I ended up opening the balcony doors in the early morning on Tuesday to let a breeze in. I had one eye on him. The cats love going out on the balcony.

I knew instantly when he disappeared. I didn't actually see it, but my gut told me something was off, I hadn't seen Vex prowl across the breadth of the balcony in enough time. I looked out and it was empty (Princess was in the living room.) I quickly went and checked the bedroom and bathroom, the most likely places for him to hang out, then went back to the balcony and looked down... just in time to see Vex stroll out of our stairwell.

Our balcony is not connected to the stairwell. However, the stairwell has a glass-less window in the wall next to it. So he had leaped the four foot gap to the window and let himself into the stairwell, then climbed down and out. Now we knew how he had escaped. (And dangerous acrobatics! We are on the Indian second, American third floor. Too high for a cat who slips to make it. Foolish risk taking cat!)

I called to him, and he looked up at me... then ignored me and kept walking to leave the little fenced in area in front of our building.

I was wearing Dreamer in my baby carrier, so I quickly tugged on my night gown (yes, I was in my night gown) to make sure it covered everything decently and scurried down the stairs after him. Dreamer thought this was great fun, blessedly.

Once I got downstairs I couldn't spot him at first... turns out he was hiding behind a neighbor's car. He was fine with me being there, but refused to get close enough for me to pick him up. He kept going from car to car, using them to keep me at bay. I was calling to him..

Neighbors started paying attention. At that hour mainly maids and the guys hired to wash cars were out and they were looking at me like "what the heck?" Then they'd spot Vex and break into huge grins, understanding. Vex was maneuvering from car to car and I kept losing him. I'd almost have him, then he'd dash away. Different people kept stopping and pointing to me where he was hiding, laughing. I was laughing too, feeling ridiculous but not giving up.

At one point one of my actual neighbors came and I tried to speak my broken Hindi to her and she replied in English. Haha.

Upstairs, I had left the balcony door open, so Princess had come out to watch and started yowling at us. Now I wasn't gathering a crowd or anything, people were just interacting with me as they walked past. The maids who were walking past at this point had their jaws drop and pointed up at Princess and looked at me.

"Yes," I said, "Billi" I pointed to myself (Billi means cat, so I was saying both my cats.) I pointed to
Vex and then Princess saying "Laraki, Laraka"... then I realized that was wrong and pointed again saying "Laraka, Laraki" (I was saying girl, boy, then boy, girl.") They smiled and laughed.

Finally Vex dashed out from a car but I was faster and I grabbed him. I held him up triumphantly to the people nearby, who grinned and laughed, and I carried him up. He struggled, so I had to hold him slung over my shoulder and arm in a way that he couldn't accidentally hurt Dreamer, who was in her carrier against my chest.

So that was escape number two.

On Wednesday when the sun came up Vex started going crazy, meowing for me to let him out. No, buddy!

However, on Thursday I needed to clean the cat litter and scooping it up stirred up the smelliness and Ryan opened a window...


This window lead out onto a ledge, and yes, Vex ended up getting out on it. Blessedly, he couldn't figure out how to get from the ledge (and the ledge next to it) anywhere in particular and as I stood at the window jiggling toys and calling him he eventually came back and jumped back in on his own. I locked the window.

Luckily, Vex is neutered so he's not being driven by hormones. He's just wanting fresh air and a chance to actually catch the birds that like to torture him from afar. As I said each morning as the sun comes up he's meowing asking to go out now... but that's also when the birds are singing the loudest. I do not think that is unrelated.

So for now we have to be really cautious. We still will need to air out the apartment here and there, but I think Vexy will be locked in the bathroom when we do...

As for Princess, I think she's earned the title of "good cat." Haha. Every time he's gotten out she's had the opportunity to go with him, and every time she's chosen to stay home! Still, we need to be cautious about her as well. Personality wise, she's actually the more hyper of the two so in some ways it's surprising. But she also seems to have less prey drive (just slightly) and she's always been more likely to listen to me. She will get into mischief, but if I yell "no!" or "off!" she obeys 90% of the time. Vex tends to look at me like "you serious?" and then ignores me 90% of the time...

Friday, July 25, 2014

3 Significant Memories from Childhood

Day 20: Describe 3 significant memories from your childhood.

Hmm. "Signficant." 

Well, I suppose a very significant memory was when I found out my mom had cancer. I was 9 and in the fourth

grade and a call came over the intercom that I was to come to the office. This was highly strange, but I got up and went. My parents met me and we got my sisters as well and we went through a drive thru where they allowed us to have junky food. I think we had ice cream. Then we parked in the Autozone parking lot and they told me my mom had thyroid cancer. Apparently they'd known she'd had cancer for a while but weren't sure which kind of cancer it was, it could have been thyroid or another type and had wanted to wait until they knew for sure. They told us thyroid was the better of the two, and very treatable. It was all very scary. 

(My mom beat it. She had an amazing surgeon we thank God for who got all the cancer in one surgery so she didn't even have to do chemo. She has no thyroid at all now, but with synthroid lives a pretty normal life.) 

I have a really good memory so tons of memories are flooding me right now. It's hard to decide what is "significant." The really serious ones seem to leap out, but I don't want this blog post to be depressing...

In South Carolina we had an acre and a half of woods behind our house and I spent much of my youth down there, reading. My dad had hammered a platform of boards into a tree for us that was our tree house (no roof, no railings.) I remember one day laying on my stomach on it, reading and closing my eyes and feeling the sway of the breeze making the tree rock softly. It felt just like a boat, which we'd had in New Jersey and it made me so homesick (I didn't really consider South Carolina home until I'd been there oh, 13 years or so.) It was so comforting, that feeling of water, even though I was on land. Then I opened my eyes and gazed out and realized something I hadn't before: our woods was clearly marked. That is, all our neighbors to one side had woods behind their house that intersected, but roughly following our property line the woods were lush and green and had underbrush, where as beyond that it was mainly just trees and dead leaves on the ground! It made our woods look like the most alive part, magically infused with more greenery. (I know from college botany that in actuality it meant our woods were the youngest addition and were in a different stage of succession, but to a child it was magical.) 

And I should just pick one more? Hmm... oh, I know! My first miracle!

This story is when I was significantly younger. I was probably four or five or so, in New Jersey. The road in front of our house was normally very busy, but they were doing construction work on the bridge that was a few houses down and so had shut down the entire road. The construction workers weren't actually in front of our house though, so that meant that our parents gave us permission to play in the road! What a lark! We were dashing around and playing and we found this really pretty cool looking caterpillar. We caught it in a jar and I put a leaf in it for it to eat and my dad punched holes in the lid and I was going to keep it as a pet... but it died in a matter of hours. I was devastated! I ran out into the road and threw myself down on the ground and wailed to God. I was praying in my anguish, my little heart breaking, when I lifted up my head.

There, coming straight at me, was an identical caterpillar! It was a miracle! I really felt like God had heard me and sent me a caterpillar in my distress. :)

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Thankful Thursday

I'm thankful for being Dreamer's mom.

I'm thankful for food, both the yummy food I've been experimenting and preparing this week and the meal my mother-in-law just graciously brought over to us.

I'm thankful for spending good fellowship time with Ryan and the Lord yesterday.

I'm thankful for humor and joy.

I'm thankful for prayer. What a miracle it is to be able to approach the Creator of the universe! I can never be thankful enough.

I'm thankful for Dreamer's health and all the cute gurgley noises she's trying out.

I'm thankful my cats are safely home. We've had some adventures this week. More on that later.

I'm thankful Ryan finally accessed my old files from my old laptop. I'm going to have fun going through that!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

2 Months Old!!

Believe it or not my little baby is now two months old.

My little two month old!!
Let's see, changes from last month.

She's sleeping both less and better. That is, she's having significantly longer periods of wakefulness, but when we go to bed she's waking up to feed less often.
Chillin' in just her pre-fold (hey, it's hot.)

She's fussier though. Overall, she's an easy, happy baby. But the past week or so she's a lot fussier for her. I think the longest she's probably cried is a half hour and in that there were a few things she was complaining about (like she'd have a dirty diaper or two in that time.)

as I said, overall, happy baby!

She is starting to enjoy tummy time, if she's in the right mood. If we do it on our chest she confidently holds her head up immediately and keeps it up a decent length. If we do it on the bed she barely lifts it. Not sure why, but if I lean down and help her guide it up, she'll keep it up. I think she's right on target that way. From the very beginning (like a week old) she's been pushing off when we put her on our chests (and is even able to scoot herself a few inches that way!) Now she's doing it when she's on the bed as well, but isn't as able to move (I think the friction of the bed sheet is greater.) I have no doubts she'll crawl, probably early. But she was rolling over onto her side on the day she was born, so we already knew she's advanced when it comes to that kind of bodily movement. She's a strong one.

She's sort of tracking items, but not great at it. Like I will move something to the right and her eyes will follow... after a slight delay. She's not mastered it yet, but she's obviously trying. She'll get there.

She's also smiling enchanting smiles at us. It's awesome. One amazing thing is she'll be nursing and she'll lift her eyes and suddenly see me and can't help herself but to break out into a giant grin. This makes her temporarily lose the breast and stop feeding, but she doesn't care, she's too delighted to see me. It is soooo cute. She will also do it sometimes when she looks up and sees Ryan as well. Makes our hearts melt.

She does not, however, like to have her picture taken when she's doing this. That is, we lift up a camera or phone and her face automatically falls. We've tried. Believe me. So we still only have a tiny bit of it on film, and really none of her full grin.

She WAS smiling at Daddy's kisses... until she
saw Mommy trying to capture the moment
She's been "cluster peeing" as well as cluster feeding. She'll dirty her diaper, I'll put on a dry one, lift her up, and she's dirtied it already. She's go through like four or five in twenty minutes to half an hour, then she'll be good or an hour or more. She does at least one cluster a day. It's not a big deal except when she does it *just* when I'm falling asleep. But most of the time it's more amusing than anything. She's only doing the other one like once a day now, sometimes every other day. When she was born she was doing that more often than peeing, so it's been an adjustment on her digestive system and I think the main source of her fussiness.

Our family! We're hanging out at a friend's here.
We also think she's gotten to the point where she cries if she's overtired too. Whether gas or overtiredness or both, generally swaddling, shushing, or jiggling helps.

Getting Around

She likes to be worn, except not when it's humid apparently. She doesn't care about heat so much. Summer here in India starts in April, so she's never really known anything but heat. She'll be breaking out in heat rash (so we have to be careful) but not cry. However, now the rains are starting, the kickoff to monsoon season and it's been lovely in general. It cools everything off so now it's high 90s during the day, high 70s or low 80s at night (versus high 100s or even 110s during the day, 90s at night!) However, it's also humid and I've discovered if it's super humid she hates the ergo. I admit, it gets really sticky. But she still wants to be held. So basically it means I have to hold her in my arms... making it nearly impossible to get anything else done. But that's only when it's super humid. Mild humidity and she's fine and adores the ergo. It's still hard to do things like cook though when I'm wearing her as I'm nervous of splatters and stuff so while I'm happy to wear her, I'm happiest when she's happy in her swing.

We've been taking her out places this past month. We started with relatives houses, moved to friend's
houses and the other day we took her on a walk to the local grocery store. We're still slow in introducing her to crowded places, for germ purposes. I always wear her when we take her out now, which makes me feel safer.
Her interacting with her "grand aunt" Vanessa

We own a car seat (but not a car). I knew we'd have to not have her in a car seat when we use an autorickshaw, but we haven't done that yet. Primarily we either walk or get around by getting rides from Ryan's parents or friends. But Ryan's parents and Ryan won't use the car seat. Yeah, you haven't heard that story yet. In the hospital I'd brought the car seat to bring her home in and Ryan's dad freaked out and was nervous and asked my doctor if it was safe... the doctor said not to use it!! She said it was best at least for the first three weeks to simply hold her in my arms in the car because "babies get comfort from their mom's arms." Um, yeah, but... Sigh. India.

So that was nerve wracking, but she only went in the car three times before three weeks (home from the hospital, to her first check up, and back from her first check up.) Then I was all prepped to use the car seat but Ryan was still freaking out and his dad was saying he didn't even think it'd fit in the car... His parents live just a kilometer away from us, all residential, so I told myself maybe I could do the in the arm thing... but there's all these speed bumps and I hated how she was jostled! But then I started wearing her in the ergo it definitely seems safer than my arms as both the straps have her plus I can put my arms around her. I still want to use the car seat if we're going farther than the neighborhood, but we've barely done that and when it has happened it's thus far always been a situation where it was last minute (like I thought we were going locally but then Ryan and his parents are like 'let's go to X!' unexpectedly) or there's been too many people in the car to fit a car seat. (Like the one time we've gone somewhere with friends there were already three friends plus us in a five seat car. And then another time his parents had his grandmother along with them, and they also have a five seater.) Here in India it's only required to wear a seat belt if you're in the front seat and car seats are not required ever, so... Sigh. Be still my anxious American heart!

Clothes and Growth

She's as of yet not outgrown any clothes! She is growing though, for sure, she just started out small and we don't really have any true "newborn" size, so stuff she used to swim in now fit pretty snug, but not too snug yet. I think she's pretty true to size and will be able to wear 0-3 month stuff for most of the rest of the upcoming month, but not beyond. Of course sizes aren't true to anything here in India, I have clothes that say "newborn" that are obviously twice the size of things that say "0-3 months" so it's all relative. But I think she's at the cusp of out growing a few items. For example, her head is growing enough that it's harder to get it through the head hole of some things. So I really should put them on her and take pictures before I can't...

see how chubby her cheeks have gotten?
She doesn't have her "two month" check up until midway through the month. We took her to the pediatrician we chose for her at one month and he said come back in two weeks and then every month after that, so our appointments will be monthly, but midway through each month. Therefore I don't really know her size right now, but I'm guessing somewhere around 10 pounds. Why do I say that? Well at birth she was 5 pounds 13ish ounces (2.63 kg) and at one month she was 7 pounds 12 ounces (3.49 kg). Then at six weeks she was 8 pounds 14 ounces (4.03 kg.) So she seems to grow a little over a pound each two weeks, so she's probably at about ten pounds right now, if she's growing pretty steady (which I know she may not be.) We'll find out in two weeks.


This is one of the most fun things. Now obviously she's not talking or anything. But I'm totally beginning to learn her. I can generally predict why she's crying before I check her in anyway based on her behavior and sounds.

She's beginning to trust us too. It used to be she cried every time she peed. Now I've noticed that she doesn't always, if we're already near her, because she obviously trusts us to notice it and change her. She's also helping to lift her legs up during diaper changes, Ryan noticed. She knows exactly what is happening and is happy to help.

She'll be screaming and screaming when she's hungry and we always laugh when I put her next my chest and she makes this eager, adorable noise... and then shuts up as she eats. The immediate cut off is so sweet. She's so melodramatic. As I tell her "Don't worry, we don't starve babies here!"

I just feel so blessed to be getting know her more and more so I can interpret her! I know generally what she likes and doesn't like, what will soothe her and what will startle her.

Being a Mom

I love it! I seriously just love being her mom! I was telling Ryan that I loved her when she was born but I love her more and more. Every time I look at her, my heart just swells up. I am so thankful to God to have her in my life and to be her mom. I really enjoy it! Diapers? No big deal. And yes, it is not very great to not get anything else done because she wants to be held. And it hurts my back. But honestly, I love holding my daughter, so it's not exactly a burden.

I will say though, I am in pain. I am so achey it's crazy. I guess it's the relaxin leaving me, but I thought it'd be done by now. But my back, my hips, my arms, everything just hurts. I'm very stiff everyday. I try stretching and working out, but it doesn't do much to help. My older sister, whose baby is four months old now, said her achiness went away between 8-10 weeks, so I'm hoping not much longer. However, since I would have been weakened by the bed rest her recovery  might have been faster than mine. But I am just so creaky. I think this is probably what arthritis feels like.

But honestly, even that is a tiny price to pay for the joy of being her mom!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Culture Shock, Dead On.

I read an article that is by far the most dead on write up on the culture shock I've experienced in India I wanted to share it with you.

This article is written by Neil, an expat living with his wife in India.

He differentiates between culture "shock" and culture "attacks". What he calls attacks personally I
I actually really love seeing the cows... of course I also come
from rural America, so maybe that's why...
call "culture shock" and what he calls culture shock I call "new experiences" or "being in tourist mode." But vocabulary aside, it is dead accurate!

His list of triggers is different from my own. For example so far I've never become exasperated with the head bobble. Actually when Lydia, my best friend from home, came to visit this past November she commented that I did the head bobble! It was totally unconscious, I'd seamlessly picked that one up. I also don't really mind most of the other things on the list (I notice them, but they rarely bother me.)

But the hierarchy, crowds, and too much attention get to me. And since unlike Neil I am a woman, I feel like the hierarchy thing could be expanded upon greatly, since there's the hierarchy I observe with others (for example between employers and employees) and also the hierarchy thrust on me because I am a woman in this culture. I think 90% of my frustrations could be filed under hierarchy, but from different sources so that they still remain shocking.

One of the most interesting comments below the article to me was from "DH" who said:

I was a visitor to the US (from India) once. I am now an American both by citizenship as well as assimilation over a span of 15 years that I’ve been here.
So, here’s my “inverse” perspective: There is some culture shock, especially in the early days, but it quickly dissipates as in most instances you can file it away under the “duh, of course it makes sense” category. As for culture attack: zero, zip, nada, zilch, no such thing. Never had an occasion to vent in an enclosed room. Or anywhere else for that matter.
I found that very interesting and made me understand some people here better. I know several Indians who have been to the US and when I try to talk to them about culture shock they act like I'm crazy (and offensive.) I've actually directly been told by one person, in frustration, that when they were in the US for several years they just got off the plane and were able to deal right away so how come I hadn't already adjusted?? That was when I had only been here two months! I admit I was furious at them and wondered how they could be so unfeeling... but knowing that perhaps the culture shock doesn't go both ways is an insight I needed. So when Indians here who have experienced America talk about culture shock and I talk about culture shock, we probably are discussing two very different experiences. 
I wonder why that is. Perhaps because American culture has been so exported in movies and music and even through corporate business and such it's less shocking? Or maybe because unlike India, America has a very young culture. India's democracy may be younger, but the culture has ancient roots. And plus as an immigrant country, our culture has grown from an intermingling of different influences, making it quite malleable to cultural differences. Sometimes that can lead to a lack of identity, but it makes quite a contrast when put up against India's deeper roots. 
Truthfully, I really like India in many ways! But sometimes those "attacks" come, and as the article says it's nearly an out of body experience. The first time I cried in a grocery store here comes to mind as an example. 
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