17 October 2017

Day in the Life (on a day off)

Angel and I had a bit of a 'unicorn day' on Monday--no work, no events scheduled, no obligations for either one of us until 4:30 when he left to teach his only class of the day.

So, obviously, we did what all adults do when they get a day off together: catch up on errands and chores!

And vlog, for some reason, because we had more time and because I love videos of real life. Enjoy these glimpses of our day and our neighborhood and life here in SE Asia.


- I'm not responsible for the music Angel plays in the car. No one ever has any idea what he might have on the current playlist--anything and everything from 80s hits to country songs to Rich Mullins to Ryan Higa's song parodies to Camilo Sesto to Chris Tomlin to a dramatic reading of "The Raven" by Edgar Allan Poe. Any new person who rides in our car is usually mystified by our playlist. At this point, it all just seems normal.

- Angel received a gift card to a department store for his birthday in July. This was the first time we had time to go out shopping to spend the gift card. Spending birthday money is always a very serious business. I joke that no one else but me would have the patience to shop with Angel...but I love shopping with my man who thinks very, very carefully about what he wants to choose. On this day, he went with an "ultra-practical" birthday theme, choosing: a water pitcher, packing tape, white-out, bathroom cleaning spray, and a serrated knife for the kitchen.

- I should have vlogged at the post office because I waited in the car while Angel went in and had such a fun time watching the roosters strutting around acting like they're all that.

- Christmas card-making projects begin early in our family because making over 200 Christmas cards by hand, writing them, and addressing them, and getting them in the mail in time for them to actually arrive in the USA in a timely fashion is long process. Also, a long-standing family tradition begun many years ago when we first discovered that you couldn't buy big boxes of Christmas cards here. Now it's a project that I look forward to and a few in the family dread. We're getting started earlier than usual this year, though, since other upcoming events make us think we need a headstart. Angel and I send out our own Christmas cards, but I always get involved with Mom and Dad's Christmas card project.

- Things we did during the day that didn't make it onto the vlog: we ate leftover chili for breakfast, Angel talked to his parents on Skype, we dropped off a package at the post office, Angel took a nap, we hung up two loads of laundry, wrestled the sheets and pillowcases back onto our bed after they dried, and I worked on Christmas cards at Mom and Dad's house while Angel was at work, and later, while he ran 10k. And other stuff but this was two days ago, how can you expect me to remember everything? We must have eaten again at some point...I think I ate ramen in the afternoon.

How do spend those rare and precious ENTIRE days off? :)
11 October 2017

Elevator Etiquette

I have to admit that, in my misspent youth, I once, cheekily, pushed a whole bunch of buttons as I got out of the elevator, forcing the elevator to stop at every other floor. This happened a long time ago, and I'd like to think that there was no one actually riding in the elevator at the time, but I can't swear to that being true.

In more recent times, concern about Angel's behavior in elevators has surfaced. We were once riding in a very crowded elevator, with no room for anyone to move around, when he started baring his teeth and indicating to my second-youngest sister, MaryGrace, that he was intending to bite her arm. This was quite effective in freaking MaryGrace out, but because we were trapped in a crowded elevator, she had no way of escaping Angel's menacing teeth until we reached our floor.

Fun fact: If we take a selfie, it is most likely taken while waiting for the elevator to get to our floor. We also have a lot of in-elevator selfies, because Angel loves to take photos in the elevator, but these rarely turn out well, as you can imagine.

On another occasion, Angel was mid-describing a Youtube video he'd watched of laser eye surgeries gone wrong (apparently medical people watch odd things in their spare time) to my cousin, who was interested in the subject. Even in the elevator, he continued his description, although the rest of us surrounding the conversing pair noticed the gradually more horrified stares that strangers shot at him as he continued to describe the method of cutting an eyeball's lens with a laser and tragic ways the surgery can go wrong.

Elevators present an interesting conundrum to me. During the time it takes to ride an elevator, we are squashed into close physical proximity with complete strangers. Sometimes you have to judge whether you need to hold the door for someone who is approaching or if they are simply planning on walking right past the elevator, in which case, you feel pretty awkward while holding the door for them. But you'd hate to not hold the door if they were planning on getting in the elevator, because then you just seem mean. Sometimes conversations between strangers arise. In the elevators around this apartment complex, Angel receives inquiries as to where he's from on a regular basis. Pakistan? Oman? Sometimes someone takes a look at me in the elevator and says, "Oh, I know your father, he's a ___(career title that does not in fact apply to my father)___." 

One is never quite sure how to respond.

The elevators in our apartment complex are not exactly great. I've gotten stuck in the elevator by myself a couple times, and I've gotten stuck with Angel once. Thankfully, I've never gotten stuck in the elevator with a stranger, because then I could not be my true "stuck in an elevator self" which always tends to be a slightly overdramatic version who naturally assumes that I'll have to live in the elevator for the rest of my life. When the elevator gets stuck the usual recourse is pushing the alarm or emergency escape bell, which I'm not sure does anything, pushing floor buttons to try to convince the elevator to open its doors again, or yanking on the doors until they are triggered into automatically opening. This last strategy seems like it would be the worst strategy, but in fact tends to be the only one that actually works.The correct response, apparently, after freeing yourself from a stuck elevator, is to exit, and walk down the hallway to the next elevator, hoping for better luck this time, or else just heading for the stairs. Let's just say I'm glad that we live close enough to the ground that walking down 5 floors is not too impossible, even if it's not our preferred route, especially when carrying stuff.

Have you ever had a particularly interesting elevator encounter? 
05 October 2017

One Year After Baby Em

It's been a year since she left.

My family has a birthday tradition of asking what you learned over the course of the year that just passed. I dreaded being asked this on my 26th birthday. During the year I was 25, I got pregnant twice--once right after my birthday and the next time, right before my birthday. That alone is something I hold as very precious. It was a year that contained both the happiest and the saddest times of my life thus far. What I said about what I learned from year 25 was, "I learned that you can survive even something you're convinced you cannot survive. But you probably shouldn't expect to survive without scars."

I no longer feel like I'm seeing life through a haze of blackness, the way I did a year ago. I'm so grateful for the second tiny baby that's made it nearly 19 weeks so far, for the ultrasound pictures to comfort the heart of a mama whose arms feel unfairly empty. I'm grateful for the emerald ring I get to wear in memory of the baby we wanted for so long who stayed such a short time. I am not the sort of person who can calmly accept death as a fact of life. I don't believe we were made for death and that the intense love of life and vicious hatred of death that springs up within me is just a reminder that I was not made for a world where death still believes it has won. My hope remains that this world is not the goal. And I'm glad I'm no longer living in the shadow of grief the way I was a year ago.

But the scars are still there. I can still feel them, they still flare up in the most unexpected times. They still make me a little bit of a different person than I was before last October:

--Like when I was innocently watching Wonder Woman, and that guy, I don't even remember his name, blew up inside an airplane, and she screamed this agonizing, primal scream of grief and instantly I was shaking with sobs. Not because I cared about the guy...but because that scream was so startlingly familiar from a day I was all alone in my home and had to say a goodbye I never wanted to say. You think you'd be safe while watching a superhero movie, wouldn't you? But one scream, a scream you've heard before, and you're thrown back in time.

--I feel those scars aching whenever I run into random comments, either from people online or people in real life either along the lines of "literally anyone can have a baby, why should we celebrate like it's a special 'accomplishment'?" or referring to "choosing" to have a baby. It's like they don't even realize that many people choose again and again and again so many times they can't count it to have a baby. They choose for the baby that they do have to grow. And that choice is denied to them.

--The scars burn when people refer to this baby as our "first." And I push those feelings down because everyone means well and many people don't know that my precious baby boy isn't quite the first, and there truly are so many "firsts" about him. I accept that Baby Em will pretty much only exist for Angel and I, that it's different, and I appreciate how when we talk together we can say things like how much she would have loved her baby brother. When it's just us, we can daydream about what our Irish twins might have been like, but with others we just smile and accept all the congratulations on our "first."

--I feel the effect of the scars when I'm hesitant to accept the baby stuff and maternity stuff people offer to lend us. I'm grateful, and the items are needed, but it's hard to quiet the voice in the back of my mind, "But will you really need to use any of this?" I've looked up the statistics and I know that at this point, odds for the second tiny baby are good, but statistics don't comfort a mind that whispers that there's always a chance for the worst. You know that Bible verse that says something like: "Some may trust in horses and some may trust in chariots, but I will trust in the name of the Lord my God?" That's not quite word for word, but it's something to that effect. I've changed it for my situation, the one where I realize that these medical reports don't really offer the complete assurance I desire: "Some may trust in statistics, and some may trust in doctors, but I will trust in the name of the Lord my God." All the bright statistics in the world may fail to offer true comfort for this heart, but whatever may happen, the Lord, He is God. I long for baby boy to come home with us and to grow to be a man, but as I've learned, I don't have a complete "choice" in the matter. So I'll be thankful for every day that I'm given and fight as hard as I can to not worry about the days that haven't arrived yet.

--When people ask "How's the morning sickness going?" and I say something like, "It's still going!" with a grin and they say, "Oh, I'm so sorry!"...and I don't know what to say. Usually I come up with something like, "Hey, as long as the baby's growing, I can take anything morning sickness can throw at me. No problem!" Because I already know there's something far worse that vomiting a couple times a week (or a couple times a day in the first trimester). Maybe a good effect of these scars is that I'm probably the happiest person you've ever met about dealing with pregnancy symptoms. You don't have to be sorry for me that I can't keep the food inside my stomach--I'm honestly just as happy as can be about it.

--One more strange-but-good result is that I celebrate pregnancy milestones that don't actually exist. 10 days of knowing about the baby! 30 days of knowing about the baby! 50...70...80...100 days of knowing about the baby! Baby gets to meet July! And August! And September! And October! Isn't that incredible?


I'm thankful for all those who've been with me in this last, challenging year. For my family who's helped cover jobs for me when I've been too sick or too distraught to do them. Sisters who have helped with my housework or brought me food. Friends who brought flowers. For far-away family who sent care packages in the months of mourning. For Angel who still talks to me about Em. For blog friends who emailed me in the month Em was due to let me know they were still thinking about me. For my in-laws who gave me presents on Mother's Day and who let me skip church and spend the morning with Angel that day.

However, the best part is that, though I do grieve, I don't have to grieve as if I had no hope. (from 1 Thessalonians 4:13)
27 September 2017

Baby Update: Boy or Girl?

{Taken at the end of 16 weeks, we're now coming towards the end of 17 weeks}

Weight Gain: About 3 lbs now! Baby's sure growing!

Symptoms: Less frequent vomiting than in the first trimester, now it's more like twice a week rather than twice (or more) a day. We had to see the doctor after 5 days of crazy pain that wouldn't go away (over a holiday weekend when the doctor's office was closed, of course), but that was a reassuring visit because the thing that's causing the pain is not dangerous, just painful, and I can manage the pain with tylenol (made it to 17 weeks without taking any pain meds, but nothing like rest or stretching takes care of this pain).

Preparations: Someone lent me a few pieces of maternity clothes, but I'm still wearing my normal wardrobe because maternity clothing seems rather huge at the moment. I tried on some maternity pants and they're not even close to being able to stay up but it should be a totally different story a few months from now. We attempted to walk into a maternity clothing store some weeks ago but Angel didn't want to go in and I didn't want to go in alone so we just peeked in the doorway awkwardly and all the clothes looked boring anyways. So I haven't bought anything new to wear since May. Good for the budget, right?

We're now more "prepared" for baby than we were in my last update. Thanks to one family who has older kids gave us their high chair and stroller and baby swing--how awesome is that?

An elderly auntie from church found out that I was pregnant this week and called Angel to come to her house to pick up some food she had for me: a package of 30 kampung eggs ("village" eggs, basically eggs that aren't from a factory farm) and a 5 lb. package of Milo (a chocolate drink mix). That was so sweet! I'm slightly mystified as to how two people are supposed to consume 30 eggs.

Angel's been reading Shepherding a Child's Heart in the evenings, sometimes out loud to me while I sleep.

Eating: The food that sounds the best to me is still consistently apples, oranges, raw carrots, raw cucumbers, and popcorn. I actually haven't had potato chips in quite some time. I've been able to eat a bit of chicken once in a while but meat or most actual "meal" type of food still doesn't seem appealing. After I finished 14 weeks I have let myself have caffeine once in a while. Sometimes I just want a glass of lemon iced tea or a glass of Coke. Not every day, but a couple times a week. I don't drink coffee at all and never have so at least I don't feel any loss in that area!

Realizations: I realized that I somehow always believed during childhood that having a baby meant being huge and pregnant for 9 months and then getting a baby at the end of it. I'm learning that this point of view is not really based on reality, and because this was somehow in my mind, by comparison, having a huge belly for only a few months doesn't sound bad at all. I know a lot of people start saying they feel fat or uncomfortable by this point but I feel like I just feel normal--other than the vomiting, excessive sleeping, and pain. It's funny what can feel "normal," I guess.

Gender Reveal:

It's a boy! So now maybe we'll be able to wrap our minds around baby prep a little better now that we know to picture t-shirts and shorts rather than floral dresses.

We had a really low-key gender reveal. Angel and I found out at the doctor's office, and knew if we tried to keep the secret for any length of time at all, we'd give it away. So on the way home, we stopped by where my family was and chatted with the sisters while I casually stole a bunch of blue Crayola sidewalk chalk. Took home the chalk. broke it up with a butter knife, stuck it in the blender, and then called the family to say, "Head out to the parking lot!" On the way out, Angel said, "I think the blue powder will really show up on the ground." while everyone else was also outside so I was right as far as knowing that a secret would never last for more than a couple hours with us. We barely made it to the parking lot!

My family all said "I knew it!" because for some reason they've known from the beginning. I had three dreams that the baby was a boy before we found out, so the ultrasound just felt like a final confirmation. Angel suddenly feels a whole lot more responsible. I guess he was figuring if the baby was a girl I could handle all the girly stuff like braided hair and dolls pretty easily. Now he's thinking about how soon he'll need to start teaching him how to replace alternators and struts and radiators. I'm not sure at what stage of baby development car repair skills are supposed to be introduced.

And, if you watched the video, yes, baby has a name. I'll tell you if you ask, I'm just not planning on posting the full name on the internet. :)
20 September 2017

Married Life: Texting

This may be a bit unusual for couples in 2017, but Angel and I have never really developed a texting habit.

{Photos I never showed you from our anniversary photoshoot earlier this year}

When we became friends in college and later, for all the years that we lived in America after we got married, we didn't have phones with texting service. Adding texting service cost extra so why bother adding that extra fee? Plus, in pre-marriage days, I'll admit that I especially loved it that not having texting on my phone forced Angel to be a man and call me rather than flaking out and texting (you won't believe I was born in the 90s, will you? It must have been the 50s).

When we lived in China, we shared  one cell phone, so whenever we were apart, we had no way to contact each other and simply assumed that the other would arrive home safely from work or errands. We worked at the same school so we weren't apart all that often.

NOW. For the last two years, we have each had our own phone, and these phones can text. Each text costs something like a few cents, though, so there's no call to overdo it on the texting. So...we've adding texting into our lives as if we also live in the 21st century. But I've noticed that our texts seem to follow a very regular theme. Here are our real-life texts from the last month or two:

Rachel: Wanna bring me home ramen? The same kind I had before.

Angel: Ok


Rachel: Don't forget to pick me up on the way. :)

Angel: Ok


Rachel: I have a stack of books to send to the printer  so you can carry them when you pick me up.

Angel: Ok


Rachel: You must pick up the family at the airport in the big car at 4:45

Angel: Ok


Rachel: "How about bringing home food for us? Is ramen open for lunch?

Angel: Ok


Rachel: Don't forget your tesco shopping if you guys stop at McDs. Need lunch ingredients for tomorrow.

Angel: Ok


Rachel: We are at the Korean restaurant. Haven't ordered food yet. If your lesson is finished you can join us.

Angel: Yes


Rachel: You have a lesson at 3 pm today

Angel: Ok


Rachel: I cooked lunch for us.

Angel: Ok


Rachel: My phone is dying now but don't forget to pick all of us up at 4.

Angel: Ok


And...that's it. I think I also texted "I love you!" once and he texted "Take care of the baby!" once but pretty much it's just information about schedules, meals, and rides going one way with Oks coming the other way. There was that "Yes" one time which I think shows his excitement over the Korean restaurant. Works for me! No wasting of unnecessary cents on needless texts and Ok is easy to type, even on Angel's old-school Nokia!

What role does texting play in your marriage?