Thursday, July 18, 2013

Mark Memory--First day together in Shanghai

WHAT? Blogging twice in the same week!??!?!? MADNESS!!!

I've decided that for myself I should record more memories. Not necessarily the ones going on right now, but memories I have of the past that maybe I won't remember as well later? Even if I do remember, it'll just be something fun to write down. So here's my memory of the day:

Shanghai, China, June 2011

Mark took this picture after I fell asleep talking over Skype
(it became a common occurrence)
I knew I wanted to marry Mark Ackerman. Well, actually I'd known that for a really long time, but I finally knew that he wanted to marry me too! After skyping every day, always saying I love you, Mark being adamant that we should finally "officially" be in a relationship the past April, talks of when we would get married, and finally his flying from Hawaii to China for an internship (but, you know, really for me) made me pretty sure this was gonna happen.

I had been in Weihai, China since February teaching English. It was I think early in May when Mark mentioned when we was going to be in Shanghai and I learned that I would have a long weekend and some of my other fellow teachers were already planning a trip down to that same city. Next thing I knew the first weekend in June came around and I was flying down to Shanghai to see this dreamy guy again. I wouldn't be able to see him until the next morning, though, so I was going a little crazy. We were able to set up a time and meeting place, though, and I was pretty sure I could get their via the subway (or whatever you call it).

That morning I said "seeya suckas!" (probably without the suckas part) to to my fellow teachers and headed off to the main station in Shanghai--the clock tower right outside the station, to be exact. You must know, I had no phone, and almost no clue how to speak Chinese. I mean, I knew a little bit, but very little.

Our first meal together after six months apart
I got to the station just fine on my own, but where was the clock tower? After walking up the stairs and out the station and back and forth the length of the station I could find no clock tower anywhere. Did I get off at the right station? Yes, I was sure of it. But where was the clock tower? Maybe it was across a street somewhere? But there was nothing but buildings after a road that led to some apartment complexes. I walked back and forth, back and forth, but nothing. I would reach one end of the station and it would be a road and then a staircase leading down to the trains. I would walk to the other end and find a McDonald's the rails where the trains crossed. I wanted to ask someone but not only did I feel stupid, I didn't know how. I finally asked someone by pointing to my dictionary at the word, "clock" but all they did was point at the station! Maybe they thought I meant the train times which were posted on the front? I was starting to get more frustrated after getting the same response from two more people.

Rain. It started to rain. Not really hard, but enough to get my clothes a little damp. I wanted to cry. I almost did. I walked along that station for maybe an hour--going inside the Mcdonald's to get away from the rain occasionally.

At the aquarium in Shanghai 
After an hour it finally hit me. The people weren't pointing at the station itself, they were pointing to the OTHER side! But, how do I get to the other side? I couldn't read any signs when I got off the train, but judging by the pictures one staircase just led to more trains and the other led out here. The road I had found on one end didn't look like it went to the other side, but I figured that was my only option. At this point I worried if Mark was still waiting for me at all.

I walked down the road and luckily found it led to another road that seemed like it would lead to the other side of the station. Except, the station was sort of down this hill from the road and there was a cement wall and a small gate lining that hill. I was so excited I could actually see the clock tower down the hill, but there was no sidewalk or anything leading to it. There was only this road. Luckily I saw other people walking along this road, cars dodging them as they drove past. So, I followed. Then came the point where the hill had lowered and all that was in my way of getting to that tower was a small wall and that gate. By myself I would have at least really hesitated before climbing over, but after seeing other people do the same, my courage perked up. I had to first pull myself up onto the base of the gate/top of the cement wall which was probably as tall as my waist. Then I had to swing my legs over this gate. It was a small ordeal, but I had made it!!! How crazy that this was the only way to get to the other side! Who created this?! (Later I learned that in fact that other staircase which I thought led to more trains led to the other side...yep).

Well, it didn't matter because I had finally reached the clock tower. But no Mark. It had been about an hour and a half since the time we decided to meet, so maybe he went home? But I couldn't believe that. Was this the right clock tower? What a stupid question, of course it was. But what could I do now? The rain had cleared up on my walk down that road and climb over the gate, but it started again. I circled the tower over and over until the rain started getting harder. I spotted a McDonald's (those things are seriously EVERYwhere there) and ran inside. I heard McDonald's usually have wifi there, but I didn't have a computer or anything to check my e-mail. I stayed in there for a while until finally the rain had turned back to a slight mist.

Shanghai--pretty excited to finally be together!
I walked back across the street to the clock tower and determined to wait there all day if I had to. Then, there was this guy with an umbrella, squatting down, staring at where people come out of the station. He wore flip-flops, a white t-shirt and brown jeans. I was so excited to see him I wanted to yell!

I started off walking, then jogging over to him. The excitement filled in my chest as I saw his eyes light up after turning to see me. Right as he started to come my way the inevitable happened. I slipped and fell on my butt.

The pain in my rear and the puddles seeping through my clothes to my skin had no effect on my spirits though--this was going to be one of my favorite days, dry butt or no.

Mark of course smiled, but also looked concerned as he helped me up and asked if I was okay. I laughed and of course said I was.

What followed was a great day of sight-seeing and finally being together after six months apart. It turns out the moment I had finally gotten to the clock tower is when Mark had gone to buy an umbrella or try to e-mail me from somewhere. He had waited for me for two hours and would have waited all day.

One day later and we were engaged, but that's a different memory for another time. That first day--wandering in the rain and falling on my butt--started out miserably but ended up being one of my favorite memories.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Confessions of a Young Mom

This is my confession:

Sometimes I let myself wonder if I'm "cut-out" to be a mom. Mostly for the following reasons:

1. Boredom. I stay at home with my now eleven-month old baby all day. I don't live close enough to any family members and haven't made good enough friends to feel like I can go "hang-out" all day with people. So, almost every day it's just me and Ellie. It's fun to play with her for a little while, but am I expected to play with her for eight hours while my husband is away at work? Straight? The internet says that if I let her watch too much TV with me that I'm a bad mom because it could cause problems for her later--ADHD or something. Also I can only watch so much TV during the day. I try to read, but of course at eleven months, whatever I'm 'playing' with is way cooler than anything Eleanor is playing with, so then it's really just a constant game of tug-of-war. We both get pretty sick of that game after a while. Then of course I try to write or do other things on the computer, but then she can't stand that I'm ignoring her and once again playing with something cooler than what she has. So, she cries at my feet instead. This is something else I can only take for so long. Eleanor could do it all day though. So, what can I do? Sit there. Just sit there. All day. Watching her play and occasionally interacting--sneaking little moments that I can to read, work-out, or write--those little moments when she's preoccupied for a few minutes or right before she's noticed I'm not paying attention to her anymore. I'm bored SO much of the time. I'm thinking this will change as she gets older, but as of right now I have to wonder, do 'good' moms do nothing but play with their baby all day?

2. Not being able to get out. This kind of goes along with the boredom thing. But, the thing with Ellie is that she really is such a good baby when she's entertained, and entertaining her is usually not that hard to do. She's super social and is great when we do get to go and do other things with other people/kids. I would love to do some kind of volunteer work in the community or get involved with things. But then I think, who would even let me volunteer with a baby tag-a-long? Even if I knew she'd be fine just being in a new place, I couldn't go and try to do anything. Then, of course, even if I did find something to get involved in that Eleanor could come along with, I don't have a car. I guess that has nothing to do with whether or not I'm a good mom, but I'll admit sometimes I think about some of the things I could do if I didn't have to stay at home with her all day.

3. I am so much more impatient than I ever remembering being pre-baby. Eleanor is like her mom--utterly depressed without attention. She's also like her dad--bored with things way faster than should be possible. So, the result is a lot of "fake" crying/whining. All the moaning and screaming without the tears. I get so sick of it some days I just want to scream. My worst confession is that I actually have a few times. I'm pretty much completely positive it's impossible for this child to play by herself for more than three minutes at a time. The worst is when I try to do dishes while she's awake--she just pulls on my legs and "cries" the entire time. It doesn't matter how many toys I put on the floor next to me. Who knew someone would hate me doing dishes more than I do! I am, thus, often very frustrated and frazzled throughout the day as I try to do things around the apartment or for myself.

I guess if that's it I can't be doing too terrible, right? Hmmm.

At any rate, I feel like the only things I hear on blogs and from moms is how wonderful being a mom is and how perfect their children are (I'm aware this is untrue and simply my self-pity fooling with my brain). Granted the moms who have a few more kids will usually rant about how crazy keeping track of more than one is--and how their life is constantly going. Those, I'm sure, will be comforting to hear/read in the coming years, but for now I feel like, AM I THE ONLY ONE?!??! I hope not. That would make me feel preeettty stupid.

To end on a much more positive note, these are some of the things that make it all worth it:

1. It's so easy to make this baby girl laugh it's ridiculous. Ridiculously awesome, that is. She laughs ALL the time and all day, so long as anyone gives her any attention. Sometimes all I have to do is make a silly face and she's laughing and jumping and clapping. Too cute. She LOVES to play--way more than she loves exploring. I'd say she's pretty typical compared to her age group when it comes to loving knew things, but there's a reason she rarely leaves the room I'm in--and if she does it's not for very long. She could miss an opportunity to play and laugh with me!! Sometimes I think even her laughing is sounds forced--even if her parents aren't that funny, she'll give us a courtesy laugh just so we'll keep playing. It's really incredibly cute. She's definitely the FUNNEST baby I've ever played with and it does make our days SO fun!

2. Talk about SOCIAL! If you haven't guessed from everything I've already said, Ella LOVES people. Almost all people, though for a while she was really scared of guys (I think she's almost over that). It makes it SO easy to go anywhere because I know people will love her because she will love them and everyone will love each other and it will be a great time! Pretty much every Sunday at church is like this--she smiles at anyone sitting next to us and immediately has a friend: See ya later when I'm hungry, mom and dad, I've got people to meet!! It makes church, parties, hang-outs, reunions, ANY social event even more fun having Eleanor there! She probably cries less outside the house with other people than she does inside the house with just me. That thought could make me sad, but I'm grateful to have such a social baby so I never have to dread leaving the house!

3. Ella Mei is so sweet and absolutely the EASIEST baby to console. Meaning if there ever is anything wrong, all I have to do is hold her for a couple minutes and/or distract her with a toy or a mirror (her reflection is the surest way to make her smile) and it's like nothing ever happened. Aside from when she feels she needs attention, she RARELY cries and it's so easy to stop if she does! She might bump her head or fall, but play with her right after and she'll probably not even notice. It's so uncommon for me to ever feel like I don't know why she's crying--I count myself beyond lucky for that!

4. With how much Eleanor loves everyone ELSE, it's so special to see all the signs that tell just how much she loves me! Before I became a mom I would've found that statement ridiculous--she's my daughter of course she loves me! But, after having Ellie, those signs that she loves me as her mom are always treasured moments that what I do is worth it and wonderful. I feel fulfilled--complete--not just that everything I do matters, but that it matters to me. I feel this way when she cries when she sees me leave the house; when I come home while Mark is trying to put her to sleep, but upon seeing me she gets so excited it takes an extra twenty minutes; when she's hurt and all she wants is me; when I go into her room in the morning and her face goes from crying to complete excitement when she sees me; the moments when all she wants to do is be held by me. Those little things are what add up, making my life the best that it's ever been.

I guess in the end I always have doubts of whether I'm a complete disaster of a mom--and I'm not fishing for any approbation, but I suppose most moms probably have similar feelings at some point or another. And. I'm far from hopeless--I've got plenty more kids to raise before turning in my test scores! ;)