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?
17 September 2017

When the Wildlife Goes Wild

I've mentioned before how we live in close proximity to the jungle and all the accompanying creatures. Monkeys hang out in the tree next to where we park our car, cicaks scurry across the living room walls in the evening (inspiring a book about their antics), and Angel continues to do battle with the fruit bat who lives in the hallway outside our apartment.

Lately, we've had a few interesting encounters with nature that I thought were worth telling you about.

Like when we were driving home a few weeks ago and saw this guy trying to get through the fence into the park that's next to our apartment complex.

Or, when Angel and the family went to visit a bigger park, one that has a swimming pool, and stumbled across two big monitors dueling next to the swimming pools.

Angel recorded the whole fight. Minutes 2-4 are the most dramatic, in my opinion, although the ending is pretty cool, too. I will warn you, the fight is a bit bloody. These big lizards mean business!


For an update on our bat situation: After someone hung up a cd and netting in front of the neighboring apartment to deter the bat from roosting there, the bat moved in in front of our place. Lovely! Angel immediately went on offense, hanging up a cd and making nightly excursions with a broom to startle the bat away. Then he got a ladder and applied VaporRub all over the pipes and the ceiling in front of our house (Why? Because apparently VaporRub is the cure for everything, even fruit bats...I guess). After the liberal VaporRub application, the bat has slightly varied his roosting places, including a spot about 5 feet away front our home's entrance. He doesn't come at the same time every night anymore, though. Angel hasn't been able to startle him lately, but this week  I came home one evening to find a bat flying around between  our place and our neighbor's and I had to rattle my keys viciously to get him to go away so that I could in without the risk of the bat coming a little too close for comfort. I'm not sure who will win this battle in the end. I should probably google the lifespan of fruit bats in Malaysia.


We went on a field trip to a butterfly garden last week, the sort of place where you expect to encounter quite a bit of nature, but I've never been to a butterfly garden where the butterflies were quite this friendly.

A few in our group had purposely worn brightly colored or floral shirts to encourage butterfly encounters, but these butterflies were landing on everyone! Nobody was safe! Little Joshua was rather disturbed by one butterfly who landed on his behind and refused to move for about ten minutes.

Can you see the butterfly on her hair bow?

This one landed on my leg and wouldn't leave me alone! I was beginning to understand how Joshua felt.

Even the cellphones weren't safe!

We loved the butterfly garden, but I always leave that place remembering how much I really, really, really don't like insects. Butterflies are pretty okay, but they have a whole lot of other bug exhibits there, including giant ants...that always leave me feeling very ready to leave by the time we are done.


And, last wildlife encounter of note: We were driving to dinner when we turned down a neighborhood road and ended up in Fort Worth during a cattle drive. Or something.

The moral to these tales is: always be prepared. Never know when you might need to judge a wrestling match between monitor lizards, VaporRub your ceiling in order to persuade a bat to find a new home, or dodge cows wandering the neighborhood.
13 September 2017

Things I Wouldn't Do as a Parent

I know, I know, everybody says you can't know what kind of things you'll do once you're a parent until it actually happens. But I feel like you can at least lay down a few general guidelines. These are the things I'm fairly positive I would not do.

- Cloth diaper. I actually might have done this if we lived in the states. I like saving money, and I cloth diapered babies back in the 90s when it was a totally different ball game. But. We live in an efficient apartment with a washing machine but no dryer and no outside area for hanging laundry. We hang all our laundry to dry from bars attached to the ceiling of the tiny hall next to our kitchen. Oh, and the humidity is about 85% at all times so clothes don't dry well, so I unplug my washing machine whenever it's not running and plug in a fan and point it at the clothing so they will actually dry. No way would I purposely add cloth diapers to the laundry load.

- Have a little boy with long curly hair. Curly hair might be a given with our genes (wonder why Angel keeps his hair so short?), but this cosmetologist gets itchy fingers whenever she sees a messy neckline or hair sticking out around the ears, even on strangers. I love clean-cut, nicely trimmed hairstyles for boys. I've already given plenty of baby and toddler haircuts, so I know what I'm getting into. I also wouldn't let my kid color their hair till probably teens or so.

- Not vaccinate. If we lived in the USA, I would still vaccinate, but over here, I think it's even more crucial. Diseases that are unheard of in the USA are not unheard of here--even as an adult, I have more vaccinations in order to live here than I would if I lived in my birth country. They practice slow vaccination for babies here, only one jab at each appointment, which I think is an even better idea.

- Co-sleep in the same bed with baby. The bed is hardly big enough for Angel and I, if one were to add a baby to the mix, Angel would have to be kicked out to the couch, which isn't actually long enough to sleep on, so none of this sounds like a good idea. I'm not much of a social sleeper, anyways. Baby can sleep in baby's own bed in our room. Said bed does not currently exist but hopefully will someday.

- Buy obnoxious and loud electronic toys. Other people can buy them for my kids if they so desire, but if I am spending any money on a toy, it's going to be one that I actually think is cool. BTW, I think basically all classic wooden toys are cool, and dollhouses.

Publicly post photos of baby with no clothes on. Considering that I already told Angel he couldn't post the ultrasound photo because the baby isn't dressed...let's just say I always think clothing is a good idea.

- Raise the baby monolingual. That just wouldn't make any sense. I'm not going to be uptight about it because I don't like rigid structures like "Mommy's language" and "Daddy's language" or "Spanish Wednesdays." English will be primary, but baby should grow up with it being part of everyday life to interact in another language as well. There's plenty of random Spanish and Chinese phrases spoken in our home already and Angel plays music in both languages in the car and at home. We'll just have to step it up a notch, and I plan to incorporate Spanish into storytime books and entertainment (songs, videos) so that the little one at least grows up comfortable with hearing the second language. And then in our homeschool we'll just do Spanish curriculum alongside English curriculum. If baby is a more verbal type, I'll incorporate Chinese early, too, if not, we'll stick to the basic two.

What wouldn't you do?
03 September 2017

Travel Goals

I told Angel recently: "You're lucky, because right now is probably the first time in our marriage that I haven't been planning some sort of future vacation that you'll end up agreeing to."

You see, for the past seven years, I've planned all of our travels, from day-trips to week-long vacations. Our usual travel plans usually come about in this manner: I hear of some location that, for whatever reason, excites my interest. For example: Tung Ping Chau, an uninhabited island belonging to Hong Kong.

I then begin to research the potential destination, collecting all available information on how to get there and what to do once there. I determine if the destination is reasonably budget-friendly and find the most cost-effective transportation and accommodations. Along the way, I periodically tell Angel all about how awesome Tung Ping Chau is and how cool it would be to go there and how I've figured out how to make it affordable and in the end, he ends up agreeing that my adventure plan sounds awesome, and we go. One exception: Our "layover vacation" in Hawaii was all Angel's idea in the first place. But I did all of the planning and mapping out of bus routes and building of our itinerary.

However, I'm currently in a state of mind where even going to the grocery store or to the mall sounds a little too risky most of the time. I do know that pregnant people travel all the time but I'm in a current state of wondering "How??" because I'm sick enough inside my own comfortable home. This is just a temporary state, I know.

Just because I'm not planning any trips right now doesn't mean there's no places on my list, however. There's always a few dream vacations hanging out there that I figure I may get around to one of these years. Here they are:

1. China

Okay, that's broad, but I definitely long to go back to China. There's a few major locations, the trouble is that they are a bit spread out: ChengDu and Xi'An are on my list, as well as ShangHai Disneyland.  Angel really wants to go to the Shi Lin Stone Forest and the Three Gorges Dam (a dam? Why?). Also, I want some authentic SiChuan veggie dishes because I miss them so much, and Halal dumplings and noodles from a Muslim Chinese family-owned noodle shop (That seems really specific, but I'm not a huge fan of pork, so our local Halal Chinese noodle shop in ShenZhen was amazing because they used beef as their meat of choice). I think we'll find ourselves back in China to visit sometime within the next couple years...

2. France

This one, my main interest is the Paris Disneyland (these would be my last two Disney parks in the journey to visit all of them around the world), and the Loire Valley castles. I haven't done much research into what else because I think this is one destination that Angel can not be convinced into thinking is interesting. If I go, I think I'd make it a trip with my little sister Anna because we're good travel buddies. She shares my (usual) endless energy.

3. East Malaysia

Angel's never been, and I'd love to take him to see a bit of Sabah and Sarawak one day. Mount Kinabalu and the Mulu Caves would both be major adventures...but both also sound more physically grueling than I would normally be prepared for. Such adventures would require pre-trip training, for sure!

4. Western USA Road Trip

I love road trips, and national parks. Especially after spending a few days in California in May, I'd love to someday explore more of the natural world of California and the rest of the western USA. Maybe work our way across the country. I have no idea when a trip like this would happen, though, as it's not like we often find ourselves in the US with access to a car we can drive across the nation. I utterly detest the long plane flight to the US and that alone will keep me away for a good few years, I imagine.

5. Hawaii

We loved Oahu, and now I'd want to check out Maui and Kauaii. This probably isn't too likely to happen unless we stumble across another "layover" incident, just because Hawaii is so far from everything. But Hawaii is awesome, so, it has to go on the list. AND AirAsia, the budget airline we use most around here, recently started offering flights to Hawaii...

6. A Cruise

I actually don't know much about cruises or cruise destinations but I love boats and oceans so they intrigue me. There's definitely a big part of me that thinks I have too much energy to be cooped up on a boat for much of a trip, but I'm told there's lots of activities on these boats, so I continue to think that maybe we'll go on a cruise someday.

7. The UP

I'm a Michigander but have never really been to the UP, other than just crossing the bridge and visiting Paul Bunyan and his Blue Ox (a random memory from my childhood). I'd love to see the state parks up there someday--but only during the height of summer! I have no interest in freezing!

A few other places that intrigue me but seem more doubtful that we'll actually make it there: Iceland, Mexico, England, Ireland, and New Zealand.

What places are on your list?

25 August 2017

Pregnancy Abroad: First Trimester

The second trimester looms ahead as September approaches, meanwhile, I'm over here so ecstatically overjoyed from looking at the picture from our 12/13 week ultrasound that I thought I'd write an update.

(at the beginning of 12 weeks)

Weight gain: +0. At eight weeks I was -1 lb. but at this last appointment I was back up to normal so I'm trying to tell my mom that's perfectly normal. I even specifically asked the doctor if there was any reason to be worried about my weight so that I could tell all my older family members that it'll be fine, I'll get large enough to please them soon enough. Any corroborating stories I can use as evidence that you're not really expected to gain weight in the first trimester anyways?

Belly: I can tell a difference, and my stalkers (i.e. rather intense family and friends) can tell, since my stomach has always been a completely flat plane, but I think any normal human being who didn't stare at my body to a creepy extent would just think I also look like a normal human being. It might show in pictures if I wore skin-tight clothing instead of my usual round of dresses and skirts but let's be real...if my clothes are tight I will probably throw up. My usual fashion preference for dresses with flared skirts is basically perfect. What's not so perfect is my preference for high necklines, which, let's just say, are not quite baby's style.

Food: Baby appears to take after me as a picky eater, only, in typical overdramatic fashion, takes it to the extreme. Meat of any kind is the most consistent aversion, which makes eating real food challenging. We amazingly found bagels in the frozen food area of a specialty grocery store, so I've been able to eat bagels (even got them  on a 2-for-1 sale), other than bagels my diet still is mostly comprised of fresh fruit, chips and guacamole (I attempted to make a homemade black bean salsa but the baby REALLY hated it. Everyone else in the family thought it was great), and various form of potatoes--chips, fries, and mashed. Also, I cried because someone posted a photo of Five Guys on social media. They have the best fries.

Symptoms: I feel like July and August have passed in one intensely fast blur. I suspect this is because I spent the last two months sleeping. The most adventurous Energizer battery-powered being that is myself has temporarily become a low-energy homebody who doesn't go anywhere unless needed. I've learned to prioritize energy for the most important responsibilities of each day--because if I shoot for more, I'll end up sleeping in random public locations. Two of the reasons I've stayed at home as much as possible are: 1) Bathrooms. Too many places here have utterly terrible or non-existent bathrooms, and I'd rather just throw up in my bathroom at home, thank you. I haven't been back to the grocery store after the horribly disgusting state of their bathrooms made me cry at 7 weeks. 2) Car rides. They feel like riding a roller coaster on the ocean. I blame the constant arrangement of speedbumps and potholes that this island's streets are littered with. So...I only leave the house if I need to lead some event or teach something or if there is no more food in my house. 

Doctors: Three appointments so far and three ultrasounds--the last being by far the most exciting. At the second ultrasound, the doctor and Angel saw the heartbeat, but I never did, and at this last ultrasound, they took the time to show me the heartbeat, and I was like, "No wonder I couldn't see it last time, that's not at all easy to see!" Not being a medical professional, I have no idea how these people distinguish what they see in ultrasound pictures. But I did get to see the cutest five fingers on each hand and two little feet. Baby measures at 13 weeks plus a couple days although by dates we think I'm more like at the end of 12 weeks. I have a strong aversion to doctors and hospitals, but we always schedule them for when Angel can go, and he buys me my favorite smoothie bowl after every appointment and that makes for a good reward.  The first trimester has not been without a few rocky moments--hence the three appointments and all the little extra pills I get to take, but we're so thankful for every new day with baby.

Gender: Rather too soon to know, but my entire family is convinced the baby is a boy, to the extent that they're pretty much convinced me and Angel that they are somehow in the know and the baby is,  in fact, a boy. The fact that Angel's family consists entirely of boys thus far provides further evidence for their case. Family has also attempted to nickname the baby "Churro" but I do not approve.

Preparations: I've gotten several questions recently if we've started buying things for the baby or setting up the room or various things like that. I can't help but be bewildered by such questions. My major preparation plan is to wait and hope people with older families are like, "Oh, we don't need our bouncer anymore, I don't know why I kept it in storage for so long, do you want it?" I'm rather minimalist and I know babies aren't that minimalist, but I kind of plan on making do with whatever people happen to give us and buying whatever is an actual necessity shortly before it's needed, rather than a long time before it's needed and having to store it for months in this tiny home. Also, they don't really have much in the way of sales and coupons, or thrift stores, in this country, so there's no point in looking early for budget reasons. What the baby needs now is medicine and doctor's visits, so I get those--fun fact: prenatal care and childbirth aren't covered either by the Malaysian health insurance companies we've looked at or the international health insurance we ended up getting, so you pay for your own babies. And it's my biggest privilege. One of the things I was sad about with Em was that I never got to spend my hard-earned money on her, as seems to be the right of a parent. I tell Angel with every box of pills he buys--how amazing is it that we get to buy this for our baby! What a gift!


If my joy is annoying, I offer an apology, but not an especially sincere one. I'm having so much fun. I have so loved being pregnant for all these days so far. I praise God for every symptom, because I am so in awe of this blessing and miracle. My favorite parts of pregnancy so far are daydreaming about the baby by myself as I try to nap and chatting with Angel about the baby--about anything from names to suspicions that our child may hate brushing their own teeth given how much they hate it when I brush mine.

The only thing that's been running through my mind since yesterday's good report is:
"Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!" 2 Corinthians 9:15
That verse is referencing, of course, the gift of Jesus Christ and salvation. But in my mind I secretly add another gift that hasn't impacted the world and eternity so much, but, to me, still seems rather indescribable: the gift of a baby--with a heartbeat and cute hands and feet.