16 January 2019


When I contemplate what it feels like to be a parent to a small person named Cyrus, bewildered is the word that usually comes to mind.

I'm in that phase of parenting where every day of added experience with a baby primarily teaches me that I don't understand much at all about babies.

It's a mystifying experience, raising a human. They are not robots to be engineered nor standardized tests to study for.

Is this normal, the "the more I do it, the less I'm sure I know anything at all" experience?

I tend to be a 'by the book' person in many areas of life, so because there is no "Book of Cyrus" I sometimes feel a bit at a loss.

There is only your baby, and figuring out what to do about him. It probably doesn't help that much of the time he hardly seems as if he is a baby. When my 8 month old tips the scale at 20 pounds and takes his first independent steps without holding onto furniture at 9 months old and smiles at every stranger he's ever met...I sometimes even wonder if I actually have a baby.

And it's no help at all to realize that even I were to figure out Cyrus completely, the next baby would be nothing like him and have an entirely new set of personality traits and needs. I think if I've learned anything in the first almost-year of parenting, it's that. That there is no such thing as "babies are like this" and "babies do this" and "babies want this" and "babies need this."

I'd heard that it can be pretty hard to wean a baby off of bottles and pacifiers. I don't doubt that at all, but Cyrus chose to give up bottles at 4 months and the pacifier at 5 months, and that was somewhat startling.

I'd heard about "separation anxiety" and when he started crying when I left the house, I thought, oh, how cute, what a normal baby thing for him to do! But then I quickly realized that he cried whenever anyone, including delivery men and random visitors, left, but if he was the one leaving, and I, or anyone else was staying home, Cyrus didn't cry at all. So it's not so much that he missed me, it was that he wants to go on all adventures.

He eats so much food. I did not expect a baby to eat so much. I think he eats more than I do. This morning, he woke up, had milk, followed by zucchini, a handful of shredded pork, half a jar of pureed veggies from the night before, two handfuls of baby puffs, and entire piece of french toast, a jar of pureed fruit, more milk...all before his 10 a.m. nap. I kept thinking "surely he's not hungry anymore!" whenever he finished the food I'd given him, but in five minutes he'd be in the kitchen, crying in front of the food cupboard (he's figured out where we keep food), and so I'd think "maybe he just needs a little bit more food." So that explains the rather random collection of foods. Tomorrow I ought to just scramble up a half-dozen eggs for his breakfast and call it good. Except he doesn't like eggs. That's the one thing. He'll eat sushi, and anything the grown ups are eating, but not if it's scrambled eggs. He hates them.

Bewildering. That's what I'd call it.
13 January 2019

Heresy, Maybe

Like many families nowadays, mine has a group chat.

It's used for sharing important info from one side of the globe to the other, asking questions for updates on family situations, and occasionally devolves into an endless slew of random stickers. At that point I ignore the chat for a few days until sanity has reigned once more. I'm not millennial enough to understand the texting of stickers and emoticons.

I'm here to share with you a shortened version of a recent chat, which all started because my parents asked to see a photo of the new Bible my brother was given as a graduation gift. Many of us in the chat have been given nicknames. I'm Kid 1, my brother is "Holy One" as a reference to the leg injury he sustained during a car crash in the fall. He had a giant hole in his leg, hence, Holy One. I have a variety of sisters, but the only one who shows up in this chat is nicknamed "Sleepy."

Okay, now that we have some context, let's begin:

Holy One:

Kid 1: I like big Bibles and I cannot lie!

Mom/Dad: WhiteBoy DJ? Bibles on CD??

Holy One:


Mom/Dad: My Bible is bigger!

Kid 1: Is this a Bible competition?

Mom/Dad: Yes

And I have more.

Kid 1: 

(Blurry, but hand is for size reference)

Mom/Dad: Well, Mom had her Dake's since before you all were born!

Kid 1: I'm reading a book on spiritual disciplines right now, and sending photos of your really big Bibles to your family is definitely a spiritual discipline.

Mom/Dad: What??? You're kidding me.

Kid 1: 

Kid 1: The more Bibles, the closer to heaven, because you can stand on top of the stack.

Mom/Dad: That's what I believe.

Sleepy: I love my family so much!!!


Disclaimer: The Random Writings blog, website, and the author thereof do not endorse in any way the questionable theology contained in this chat. It is shared only for the purposes of shared laughter. 
09 January 2019


No one ever told me how much I'd love the mess.

I'm a self-proclaimed neat freak minimalist, and married to one. Our home has always been clean and simple. Tiled floors, family photos on the walls, the bare minimum of knick-knacks. Only furniture and appliances that we love and use allowed--there are no 8-year old waffle irons still in their original box hiding in our closets. Actually, we don't have closets.

But now, upending the little world we've grown so familiar with is a toddling baby who never stops moving, who crawls with a car in one hand and walks while waving a block in the air. Toys live in my living room on a nearly permanent basis.

I didn't think I'd love the mess.

Everything in my house has a proper place and is always returned to that place in a prompt manner. Kitchen appliances are stored in the cupboard until used. My journaling supplies have their box. Angel's running shoes (in various stages of decay, depending on whether they are used for races, training, or rainy days) are lined neatly in the laundry area, and I make sure to finish and throw out an old bottle of soap before opening a new one.

But when my baby boy is sleeping and I see his wooden blocks scattered from one end of my living room to the other, I smile. When I sweep duplos out from under the couch, I'm in a bit of awe that this is my home--not someone else's. Every evening I'm down on my knees, packing the wooden blocks into their container and the plastic blocks into theirs. Mess lives here, now, and I love him so very much.

He'll learn to clean up his toys someday....and he'll make even bigger messes along the way. Odds are, he'll probably get in trouble an uncountable number of times for making messes that are none too easy to clean up. I'll get my "battle stories" of cupboards colored on, dishes broken, cushions covered in juice (red juice, obviously. It has to be red). I'll wonder why he's careless and he'll wonder why I believe things should always be returned to their assigned location.

Is it weird that I'm excited that I may just have the chance to tell such stories? Right now, I love his muddy feet after we take him out to walk in the grass. His zucchini-covered face and the high chair that needs a thorough wiping after every meal. The empty cardboard boxes that once would have been recycled right away now serve as temporary yet new and exciting toys. It's messy, and sometimes I can't believe that my prayers for this little person to mess up my pristine home were answered.

I didn't deserve this mess, but, oh, I love him so.

Christmas Break Adventures

It's the last day of Christmas break! Our first Christmas with Cyrus, and the first one with Angel working at a school that has a Christmas break, so it was altogether a different sort of Christmas than previous years.

During December, we began little bits of Christmas traditions that we will continue and adapt in years to come. We read the Christmas story to Cyrus in both English and Spanish (how is it possible that I can even cry while listening to the Christmas story in Spanish...shouldn't I be too distracted by all the random words that I don't know?), I took Sarah and Cyrus to a Christmas play at Angel's school. We helped teach about Advent at a children's church Christmas party, attended Angel's work Christmas celebration, attended another Christmas party, hosted a Christmas open-house at our place....and then Christmas break finally began when the social engagements began winding down (an introvert's dream!)

We had our own little family Christmas, and then joined my parents and sisters for Christmas present opening as well.

Cyrus had so much fun opening presents, most of his 9 month video is footage from his first Christmas. And yes, he got presents. Clothes, which I was excited about so that he could stop wearing his too-small shirts that were fast becoming midriff-baring shirts...several books which filled my heart with glee...even a hand-me-down wheelbarrow full of megablocks which has quickly become a favorite toy!

My parents gave Angel a scale, which we have been ever so amused by (along the theme of..what's the one Christmas present you should definitely never give anybody? A scale.) But it's good for him, and he's using it as he's working on getting in better shape as track season approaches.

These new "cozy classics" are some of my new most-favorite books of all time for Cyrus. We found them for 8 RM apiece ($2) at a book sale in October, and it was love at first sight for me. Thankfully, Cyrus is at an age where pretty much he just gets whatever Mom wants him to have, whether he appreciates it or not. I get way too much amusement out of reading these books to him and explaining the entire story from the pictures (particularly in the case of "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," as I'm a lifelong fan of Mark Twain).

After Christmas we went and took a baking class. A baking class? What?! Why?! Partially because it's a new place that just opened and there are not often new fun things to do on our island, so we might as well appreciate the activities that do exist. And besides that, while we consider ourselves to be adept at baking, we're really much better at baking in large quantities as opposed to baking things that look petite and fancy.

This was my dish, a strawberry charlotte, which does not involve any actual baking, but was a new recipe for me, one that I've since repeated, with great success. Having now eaten this dessert twice, I highly recommend it, because strawberries are delicious, and I'd like to try making a raspberry one sometime.

The ladyfinger cookies on the sides are optional. They make the dessert look very fancy indeed but the filling and the crust underneath are what make it delicious.

(I guess a practical girl can take a fancy cooking class but it still doesn't make her fancy.)

MaryGrace's rainbow cheesecake was my other favorite dessert. It tasted like...a normal yet delicious cheesecake, but looked extra cute. Sarah made a three-layer purple ombre cake, and Mom made a glazed lemon cake. We came home from the class and had a cake-eating party.

Other things that happened during Christmas break that were not pictured (much is not pictured because I didn't have my camera out that often):

- Game with the family: Balderdash and Golf, the card game

- A "Series of Unfortunate Events" Season 3 marathon on January 1st

- Major housecleaning and furniture-moving projects. MaryGrace now has an art table in her room, which means that my parents won't have to complain about her spreading her art supplies all over the dining table nearly as often anymore.

- Took Cyrus swimming, took him to the park, little adventures that we often can't fit into the usual schedule.

- Angel started running daily again, I started exercising daily again (can you tell that in the weeks before Christmas...schedules were a little TOO tight?)

Happy New Year! What did you all do during the Christmas season?
07 January 2019

A Grand Adventure at ESCAPE

Ever since we moved here, I've wanted to go to ESCAPE. All I knew about it was that it was a rather new adventurous sort of theme park, with ropes courses and trampolines and bungee jumping sort of stuff, and it sounded awesome (remember, I am an unashamed lover of theme parks). has never been possible.

Either I've been pregnant, or very recently pregnant, had no money for tickets (the infamous cash-flow crisis of July 2017 which should never be repeated!), or the only days Angel had off of work were days that all public schools were also off, and for that reason, on a tiny island with a large population, you know that you have to avoid any place that is remotely interesting because there will be too many people in that location already.

But finally, everything happened to align at once, and off we went, to ESCAPE. Which has long amused me, because there are signs on the island road, saying something like "Escape 10 km," making me imagine that there exists an escape route off of our island. A handy thing that would be, indeed!

Back to the point. Angel and I and my two sisters were off on our big adventure. We prepared by making sure to wear closed-toe shoes and comfortable clothing, with the plan of tackling the 'dry' side of the park first thing, and then heading over to the waterpark side when the day got hotter in the afternoon.

(Just to start off with, nearly all of our photos of the day were taken by Escape staff. Their system is one in which they have photographers that take photos of guests throughout the day, and tell you to look up their page on facebook to go through the day's photos and find photos of your party. I appreciated that they had photo services with no add-on charge since I didn't bother bringing my camera to a park where I knew we'd spend most of the day ziplining or riding waterslides!)

The ropes courses were my favorite activity in the park--these were genuinely very challenging, and probably the reason my arms and abs were sore the next day! I did three different courses on the first and second levels. They also have a third level, where the courses are even higher and more challenging, but considering that during both of the second level courses I did...there were moments when I was not sure if I could really make it to the next platform...I decided to pass on the third level. Angel did one of the third level courses!

MaryGrace and Angel did the big zipline as well, but Sarah was a couple kilograms underweight (be aware, the weight limits are strict for some activities, and nearly every activity has a scale nearby so that you can check to make sure you're within the limits. This is a good thing! Although since it's New Year's and Angel's trying to get in shape for track season...we were joking about the scales at every ride!). While they were ziplining, Sarah and I went to go try out a maze.

I love mazes...but this one stumped us. It's pitch black inside, designed in a "cave" like fashion, and very, very tight, with occasional fake skeletons and tarantulas and stuff inside. The first time, Sarah and I probably made it 10 feet into the tunnel before turning back, worried we'd be lost forever. Then we took a happy selfie because we survived the maze. Sort of. I mean, we survived, but we went back out the entrance instead of finding the exit.

Then MaryGrace and Angel came, and we decided to try it again. How bad could it be? This time we made it probably 25 ft. in before deciding we might get hopelessly lost, or else the torch would burn out (i.e. Angel's phone battery would die) while we were still inside. And we went back out the way we came. Out of all the things at the park...the one that conquered us...was a maze. I can't believe it. I did rope courses 30 feet of the ground without missing a step but I couldn't find my way through the maze?! I might just have to go back someday. I don't recommend the maze if you have any fear of small spaces or dark places. None of us have any unusual fear of such things...but it was still pretty intense.

After playing with some stilts, jumping on trampolines, and other shenanigans, we decided to head over to the other side of the park--the waterpark--in time to watch the high dive show.

I felt like we happened to go to Escape on the coldest day in the history of Malaysia...not really. I mean, it was probably in the upper 70s or low 80s, but for us, that's nearly chilly, and the sun never came out the whole day. It was absolutely perfect weather for the dry park and rope courses, but I was chilly most of the afternoon in the waterpark, in spite of or perhaps because of my long-sleeved rashguard. For this reason, I found that I preferred the dry side of the park, although the water slides and the wipeout-inspired water courses were very fun, it's just that I was a little too cold for comfort.

However, the waterpark was the highlight of Angel's day. He and Sarah joined a diving "competition" of sorts that the park organizes for guests to participate in. Almost no one was actually diving, it mostly consisted of jumping off of the diving board and platforms with a greater or lesser degree of style, and being judged. I was super impressed with Sarah jumping off of 3 meter and 5 meter diving platforms! I couldn't have done that.

Angel also joined the "flipper" competition which you can see in the attached video. He went down this slide a couple of times, all of which created great amusement for me.

And a slight degree this a safe enough activity for me to approve of for my husband and the father of my son? Because man...that's one intense slide! Angel came in second place and did not win the t-shirt he wanted to win. Guess he needs to fly off the slide with a little more "style" next time!

It was all in all a very fun day, and very satisfying after a few years of wanting to visit the park. I'd heard from reviews that the food is disappointing, so we packed a few snacks in the car and went to our car mid-day to have some water from our thermoses and some snacks--this was a very good plan. We did opt to buy a snack at the park later in the day, and even with our previously low expectations...were underwhelmed. We pretended to ourselves to be food critics as we attempted to eat potato wedges that had probably been under a heat lamp for five hours. Escape park is better for burning calories than consuming them, let's just say that. There's plenty of other places to get food in this world. Sarah had probably the funniest comment while we ate our potato wedges: "This is even worse than Disneyland's food!" We all looked at her in confusion, "Umm, I thought the food we had at Disneyland was good?!" She said, "Yeah, it was really good! That's why this is worse."

But...I'm not sure that "worse" was really the right word to use when comparing those potato wedges to any food that was even remotely good.

We loved our adventurous day at ESCAPE!