09 January 2020

Christmas Break Festivities

Particularly when your lives are tied into a school schedule...something about the couple of weeks surrounding Christmas and New Year's feels a bit if they are quite disconnected from the rest of the year completely, because the way you're living at that time looks almost nothing like life during the rest of the year.

As soon as Angel finished school for the year, the fun began! His school has a yearly staff Christmas party, which was Glenn's first visit to the school to meet Angel's coworkers and he dressed up for the occasion:

Cyrus loves holding "baby" but they have some work to do when it comes to posing together...

On Sunday before Christmas, we had our own little family celebration, opening gifts together.

Cyrus got the hang of opening presents really fast, and was happy but not terribly excited about the new t-shirts and shorts he got. I was happy, though. Some of the shorts he'd been wearing were 9 month size was well past time that they were retired. :P

Glenn only got one present, which Cyrus opened and did get pretty excited about--this little set of jungle animals. Sorry Glenn, that's just life when you're 6 weeks old for Christmas. Cyrus will happily play with your toy until you are old enough.

We also got Cyrus this little set of construction vehicles which came with a puzzle piece wooden train track. All of us wonder why contruction vehicles are riding around on a train track...but whatever, it was a good discount, I love wooden toys, Cyrus loves "dump trucks," and he has played with it multiple times a day ever since. He loves building the track in different ways. One time he brought the set to Angel at around 7 in the morning while Angel was still in bed--no sense wasting any time not playing with new toys!

We had a couple outings to the beach, pictured is Glenn's first-ever time visiting the ocean!!

Christmas with my family was celebrated on Christmas Eve. Pictured is a gift from grandma--a treat that Cyrus's mom would NEVER buy, haha! Leave it to Grandma to repeatedly introduce snacks that Cyrus never knew existed...

My sister and her husband came into town to spend the holidays with us, so we had a big crew--11 of the family around for Christmas breakfast at my parents (technically, Glenn doesn't count since he wasn't eating at the table with everyone else...but he is still counted in the number of family present!)

Another reasonable attempt at a family of four photo! Not too shabby, everyone looking!

My artist sister gave notebooks with handpainted covers to everyone in the family, each one suited to that person's personality and likes. Her notebook for Angel was especially perfect--a "close up" interpretation of the scene from "Road to Emmaus," Angel's favorite painting, along with the words, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road" lettered beneath. I'm not sure there could have been a more perfect gift for him--he told me later that he very nearly cried when he opened it.

Cyrus and Glenn's big gift from Grandma and Grandpa was a toy kitchen! This is pretty special to me, as I have many happy memories of the Fisher Price toy kitchen I had as a kid, playing with my brother and sisters. So far the kitchen has been a huge hit in this house! The first morning that he woke up with the kitchen in the house, he played with it for two hours straight! His most favorite thing at the moment is reorganizing the kitchen equipment in the shelves (ultra-practical mom confession: I wrapped up some kitchen utensils that he's already had and played with for about a year and let him re-open them on Christmas to go with his kitchen. Also the bowls I gave him to play with are plastic bowls that were already in my kitchen cupboards. The kind of things you can get away with when your kid is 21 months old for Christmas...) He also got a little set of play pancakes and burger because my mom and I chanced up them on mega-clearance at Toys'r'us, for $3 a set! Score!

My sisters definitely spent more time playing in the pool during break, and Angel took Cyrus quite a few times, as well!

My big surprise for Christmas was a Lego gingerbread house set. The funny story behind this was, I had seen that it existed online,  and thought it looked really cool. I had never had a big Lego set before, but always liked the concept, and this one, that seemed to be designed like a dollhouse with a Mom, Dad, and Baby gingerbread man, seemed too adorable! I could already imagine that if I had it, I could set it up every year as part of my Christmas decor. But that was when I was in confinement with Glenn after he was born. I asked Mom to check it out at the Lego store and see if they had it in stock, if it looked nice in person, etc.
Some time later, I asked my Mom if she'd had a chance to get to the Lego store and see the gingerbread house and she told me, "Yeah, I saw it...but it was kind of disappointing. Maybe I had just been imagining something too amazing after your description, but it wasn't as cool as I expected it to be."
Which seemed like a kind of weird response to me...from what I had seen online, I couldn't imagine what she'd been picturing for a Lego gingerbread house that was so amazing that this one would be a big disappointment...because it sure looked awesome to me!
But I left it at that...until Christmas! It took me about three days to build in between taking care of my babiesm and is in no way a disappointment. It's my only piece of Christmas decor that I still have on display because I haven't been able to bear to put it away for next year yet. It was quite a special Christmas gift and one I will always remember! The first big Lego set that was all my own!

A brand-new park recently opened up in our downtown area, and we took Cyrus and my youngest sisters to go check it out! (a big theme of Christmas break was visiting different parks...I think we visited a total of 6 different playgrounds during the break).

Two things we did a lot of on break were film videos and make delicious food. Here, they combine, into the video about a strawberry dessert recipe we "invented"/"adapted" and have been making a little too often lately. We usually make two dishes of this dessert every time, and my joke is that one is for Rachel and one is for everyone else (it's not a joke). Warning: this dessert is not healthy at all. It is also addicting.

It was a lot of fun having my sister in town and hearing about her adventures in China. However, as a mom, clearly the focus of this photo is actually Glenn. camera is just full of pictures of my babies.

Proof. Cyrus has figured out the quintessential toddler smile. Saying "cheese!" and making this exact face that looks nothing like a smile. It's a childhood milestone, right?

It was really fun having extra family around...and especially nice to have Angel around for 2.5 whole weeks! This next season is track season, which means he'll have later work days and will be traveling with his team a couple times, so it was especially nice to recharge before the new semester, and for him to have a little extra time to get to know Glenn as we've been getting into new rhythms as a family of four!
05 January 2020

First Time at the Zoo!

I ought to and will blog more about Christmas break and the adventures therein, but one adventure deserves its own blog post. Angel and I decided to take our first mini-roadtrip with the two boys to visit a zoo on the mainland. One of the things I get really excited about when I think about our kids is how they have so many "first" amazing experiences ahead of them. Everything from something as simple as a first watching of a great a first visit to their own passport country. Going to the zoo is another big first to experience with them!

I had very hazy memories of visiting this zoo about a decade ago...and said memories primarily involved the fact that there were wild monkey ON and IN one of the public bathrooms (not zoo monkeys, but the monkeys that are native to our region).  That was a somewhat alarming memory. The ticket price for the zoo is very low compared to "touristy" attractions in our local region, which also had my expectations low, but I figured if there was any time to visit, it was with a 22 month old who has never seen "zoo" types of animals. Perhaps it was my already low expectations, but I was pleasantly surprised by the zoo, and found the overall experience one of the highlights of the semester break. It was such fun to just be able to take our little family on an adventure!

We were up and out of the house before 6 a.m., so we stopped at McDonald's for breakfast once we reached the mainland, and then proceeded down the road. Cyrus doesn't really eat much at McDonald's, so it was a good thing I'd packed a bag of snacks for the road.

We arrived right before opening, which was our plan, as we knew that dealing with wandering the zoo during the heat of the day would not be fun. I carried Glenn in the Ergo while Cyrus rode in the stroller, but I think he really had no idea what was going on. The chimpanzees were the first big animal we came to that he could see, and they were very active. An employee walked by, clapping and shouting at one chimp, who was responding to him, and Cyrus watched closely and then tried to follow him and mimic his clapping at the chimp. It was so cute how excited he was getting!

When we passed by the playground, of course we had to stop. Isn't there some old adage like, "A kid's favorite part of the zoo is the playground equipment"? You can see in the photo it's pretty dingy...but Cyrus had a blast, before we put him back in the stroller so he could actually see more animals.

This is what most of my photos from the zoo are: my baby standing and staring in wonder at some cool creatures. I've got a video attached below that has a pretty funny scene with him and this giraffe.

I didn't take any pictures, but throughout the whole zoo, Angel was antsy to find the lions, because we kept hearing occasional roars. I thought maybe it was just some taped audio being projected around the zoo, although that seemed a little bit too high tech...but no, when we finally found the lions (we didn't have a map, so were just wandering the trails), they were indeed roaring!

Glenn was perfect for the which, I mean that he slept in his carrier the whole time.

We took some video--I think the highlights are Cyrus's giraffe encounter and his moment of sheer bliss as he attempts to run through a flock of birds (you may recall he's had a fascination with birds for most of his life thus far).

Also, to go along with the video and news from Christmas break, over the break, my family decided to resurrect the youtube channel, so if you haven't already, you can go over to youtube to subscribe and see more--plans are to include a variety of travel/life abroad vlogs as well as homeschool and DIY-type videos...basically blending our passions and skills along with just life as a big family.
12 December 2019

One Month with Baby

And just like that, we've hit our first month of parenting two little boys.

I took a couple of videos during his first month. I specially requested that my family help get a video of Cyrus meeting his baby brother for the first time, and I'm so glad I did, because I was also a hospital patient at the time (and the hospital did not have ideal timing with their procedures), I didn't actually get to see my two boys meet, so it was very precious to me to get to see the video!

It's been fun. It feels so right to have the two of them. Except for when I'm trying to fry bacon, because I have not yet figured out the magic secret to safely frying bacon while taking care of the one year old and the newborn. It appears to be impossible. We may need to say goodbye to BLTs for a while.
09 December 2019

Life December

The tiniest family member is nearly a month old now, and here is some of what we've been up to.

The first two weeks of his life are mostly a blur (aren't they always?)...I think I really started actually feeling better once I hit that two week mark and then once three weeks came around, bam, walking, talking, coherent human. Well, still slightly sleep-deprived, but isn't everyone?

We've been getting used to being a family of 4. Angel had the first week off of work, but as I mentioned, I don't really remember that week. There were several returns to the hospital for biliruben checks, and Angel was pretty busy working on all the paperwork to get the baby's local birth certificate and then get all the necessary paperwork mailed to the embassy so we can apply for an appointment to get his citizenship officially recorded. Then more of November passed, until we got to Thanksgiving, which was fun and food-filled and was around the time I was starting to actually feel better. Angel had Thursday and Friday off and we spent Thursday with my family, and watched "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" -- first time ever for Cyrus! We've been gradually returning to normal rhythms of housework and schoolwork, and preparing to celebrate Christmas. Here, the cultural norm is that moms and babies don't go anywhere for the first month after baby's birth. As long as I wasn't feeling well, this rule was very easy to follow, but I've gone out with baby a couple times after he hit three weeks old...

Baby is working on his selfie skills although we still have some improvements to be made.

We celebrated our 9th anniversary in small pieces over the course of a week--first with a quick change into our wedding wear to continue a tradition 9 years in the making. This was the sort of year in which the photography took place during both babies' naps, on the couch in our living room, with the camera balanced on the tray of the high chair. Totally works. Maybe for year 10 we'll be a little more professional. ;)

On our anniversary itself, to celebrate, after Angel came home from work at 6, we went out for the very first time as a family of four to a local restaurant that I'd never been to before. They had fresh-made pizzas cooked over a wood fire--absolutely delicious! And both boys behaved themselves, although Glenn did feel like being held for about half of the meal.

After dinner we stopped by a park for a quick visit before bedtime. Glenn's first park trip, but he was not a super big fan. Cyrus was!

This past weekend, I spent some time hanging out with my sister to keep her company at the arts and crafts bazaar she was participating in.

This will be her last year participating in this show, because next year she'll be moving overseas, but I'm so proud of her courage in putting her art out there. Her skills have grown by leaps and bounds over the past few years of practice, and she ended up selling out completely of her greeting cards, gift tags, and journals!

On Sunday morning, we dropped off Cyrus to spend the day with Grandma and Grandpa so that we could have an anniversary celebration that was a little bit more like "Just the two of us." Three is closer to two than four is. ;)

We first decided to try out a few things that were new to us by heading downtown to check out some cafes and marketplaces that are very much catering to the "hipster" aesthetic. It was fun to go somewhere new, as new things are hard to come by when you live on a small island...but we mostly came away feeling like, as usual, anytime we go somewhere "trendy"...that we're just not the right demographic for such places. We're probably both old people at heart, with simple, slightly old-fashioned tastes. I'd much rather have either a very cheap breakfast of roti and dhal, or else a classic American diner hash, eggs, and sausage kind of meal than overpriced, cold-pressed, hand-carved, or whatever other adjective artsy breakfast foods. That's just not us.

So after our excursion into the unknown, we went to buy tickets to a movie Angel had suggested, "Knives Out," and then stopped at the Chicken Rice Shop for a plate of noodles for Angel. I opted for popcorn at the movie theater.

The movie was a good pick...however, I learned why nobody brings their infant to the movie theater, not even a very sleepy newborn. Glenn was long as I stood in the back of the theater and rocked him. So that's what I did, for the entire movie. So it didn't quite feel like going to a movie together since Angel had a seat like a normal human...but we got to talk about it afterwards. I have been a big fan of the classic murder mystery genre since my early teens--I used to stay up all night reading Agatha Christie novels when Angel worked night shift (oh, the wise choices we make in our youth)--and I really enjoyed this fun take that included so many of the typical elements of a murder mystery and still felt fresh and suspenseful.

Boys in blue! Taken on Monday morning right before Angel left for school.

And pool acrobatics, as usual. I love seeing Cyrus's joy playing with "Papa" in the pool!
21 November 2019

"Sometimes by Step"

Somehow, almost accidentally, Rich Mullins songs have ended up becoming the soundtrack to important milestones in my life together with Angel.

It started in his old Ford in 2009, when we were headed out on a shopping errand together, and he popped in a mix CD that began playing "If I Stand." 

It was instantly one of those "You too? I thought I was the only one." moments that C. S. Lewis talks about. I don't know how a California boy who grew up Catholic a decade ahead of a Michigan girl who grew up in Asia both happened to become fans of the same artist who passed away over a decade before we met and wasn't exactly crazy popular in 2009...but it happened. And "If I Stand" became the song that we consider "ours," one that we played during our wedding.

Years later, when I had a miscarriage, Mullins' "Hold Me Jesus" became the hymn that I clung to on a daily basis.

When Cyrus was born, we dedicated "Let Mercy Lead" to him, as it truly fits what we hope for his future and life.

A month or so before Glenn was born, I was having a physically very tough day. It was getting near the end of the day, which had begun with the usual homeschool routine with the big kids, and now I was finally making dinner, Cyrus was wandering around getting into things he wasn't supposed to be getting into, and I began to get discouraged with how rough I was feeling, I brought to mind the picture of "putting one foot in front of the other." I didn't have to think about how I was going to make it all the way through till the end of pregnancy and recovery again, I just had to think about the very next step.

And as I thought, I realized how very much that theme had been a characteristic of this pregnancy, how ever since early on when we discovered, much to our surprise, that his little heart was still beating, and we were told bluntly, "There's no way to guarantee anything, at this point we'd call it a 'threatened miscarriage.'" 

All I knew at that time was that I was indeed still pregnant, and all I could do was count each day, each little 'step' further along on the journey. The journey never really got easy, but it wasn't cut short and taken away from me, and for that I cannot be thankful enough.

And then the song "Sometimes by Step" came to mind and I knew I'd stumbled upon my song for Glenn.

Here are the lyrics:

Sometimes the night was beautiful
Sometimes the sky was so far away
Sometimes it seemed to stoop so close
You could touch it but your heart would break
Sometimes the morning came too soon
Sometimes the day could be so hot
There was so much work left to do
But so much You'd already done
Oh God, You are my God
And I will ever praise You
Oh God, You are my God
And I will ever praise You
I will seek You in the morning
And I will learn to walk in Your ways
And step by step You'll lead me
And I will follow You all of my days
Sometimes I think of Abraham
How one star he saw had been lit for me
He was a stranger in this land
And I am that, no less than he
And on this road to righteousness
Sometimes the climb can be so steep
I may falter in my steps
But never beyond Your reach
Oh God, You are my God
And I will ever praise You
Oh God, You are my God
And I will ever praise You
I will seek You in the morning
And I will learn to walk in Your ways
And step by step You'll lead me
And I will follow You all of my days

Now, in the wee hours of the morning as I take my steps around the house, holding close a tiny boy who doesn't yet grasp the idea of sleeping without cuddles, I sing this to him, and think about all the days when I wondered if we'd ever make it this far together.

Sometimes this walk comes just one small step at a time, and that's all we can manage...and we can't quite even manage those little steps but for the grace of God. And that's enough.