30 September 2015

Breaking the News

We were eating lunch at Arby's when my mom broke the news to us kids that we would be moving overseas. I started crying into my curly fries while my little sisters started jumping up and down for joy. Somehow, it seemed as if this shocking, out-of-nowhere kinda news was exactly what they'd been waiting for during their entire less-than-a-decade of life. My sister, Anna, to this day, is still the type who feels that life gets a little too boring unless she moves to a different house at least once every few years (she's lived in, like, 7 houses in her 18 years, so I guess she's gotten her wish).

That's never been me. The 11-year-old crying at Arby's had already come up with big plans for her future. I was going to grow up in western Kentucky with all my best friends--when we got drivers' licenses we'd go to the mall in Bowling Green together, and when we graduated from high school we'd all go to college together. In my own mind, Kentucky was the only place I wanted to live, so when faced with the news that we'd be leaving soon, I didn't have the jumping-up-and-down with excitement reaction that the younger kids did.

Mom bought us some Arby's chocolate pies to cheer us up--except I was the only one who really needed cheering up, because the rest of them were already happy--adding chocolate pie on top of that happiness was just a bonus.

{Our first family photo on the shore of the Indian Ocean}

We didn't leave right away. It took quite a while for all the logistics and legalities involved in moving a family of 8 to the other side of the world to be worked out. On our last day in America, Mom and Dad took us all to the movie theater (at this point in my life, I could have counted the number of times that I'd visited a movie theater on one hand, so this was a pretty special event) to see what was probably the only family-friendly movie playing at the time: Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement

They bought me over with chocolate pie and a funny movie. I had no idea what was ahead, but with the vehemence only a preteen could have, I was pretty sure it wasn't going to be great.

I changed my mind 7 days after we arrived.

{This is the first post in my Write 31 Days Series: 31 Days of Growing Up In Malaysia.}
29 September 2015

An Announcement Concerning the Blog

So, this October is bringing about a first for this blog: I will be joining in on the Write 31 Days challenge and will publish a post every single day of the month!

At this point, I know of exactly three people who are excited about this news: myself, my mom and my sister Anna (both of them complain that my blog doesn't normally update fast enough for them).

I figured I'd better do an announcement post, or else all my regular readers will be utterly confused as to why my post count will be going up so dramatically and why I'm talking about the past all the time. So, here's the announcement. Don't be alarmed.

I have a page explaining my series in full, which will be updated with links as the month progresses. The short explanation is that for the entire month I will be indulging my first and truest love in writing--which is the love of telling a good, true, story. Writing advice and philosophical thoughts and all that is good...but story-telling is where my heart is. I'll be dipping into the past and telling a good handful of the stories about what it was like moving to Malaysia as a young teenager and doing life here. My favorite sorts of stories are the funny ones, so expect to laugh, but a few more somber tales will be slipped in, too. And you'll get to see gorgeously awkward photos of me as a teenager. What could be better? Expect tales of theft and science experiments and evil monkeys and durian and mantis prawns.

It felt like good timing for a series like this, as it seems my life has lately come full circle around the globe. I started out in Michigan, ended up in Malaysia, moved back to Michigan, and, just a few weeks ago, Angel and I were officially given long-term visas to continue living in Malaysia for the next few years.

Stick around for the stories--I promise they're good ones. Of course, knowing me, I can make a story out of snowflakes attacking my precious leather cowboy boots, so there's no way to be sure exactly what you're in for over the next month, just that it won't be the normal round of quirky outfit posts and Angelisms and random thoughts. It's kind of nice to do something a little outside of my normal.
27 September 2015

Blue is Back

Some people like fine highlights, others like them chunky. I prefer mine blue.

I gave up unnaturally colored hair before moving to China to teach last year, as I knew I'd need to maintain a professional appearance (blue hair not included). Since I'm no longer working, I figured I ought to take advantage of the opportunity to color my hair again.

Finding hair color product was not as easy here as it is back in the USA. In Michigan, all I had to do was run to the local pro store, pick out my favorite brands, flash my license, and go home to my tool kit and get it done.

Here, I had to go to one of the most interesting 'malls' in Penang, where there was a rumor that stores selling professional hair products existed. We couldn't find any of the shops till we asked a guy working in a salon to point us in the general direction. Once we got going, we actually found four different pro shops--but all were quite small, without the variety I'm used to. At each of the first three shops we struck out where blue color was concerned, but at the 4th and final shop in the mall I finally found blue--not the bright blue I'd been hoping for, but blue nonetheless.

I decided to do a fairly fine slice through my bangs compared to the chunky blue streaks I've rocked in the past, because I wasn't sure how much I'd like this shade of blue. It's very dark, nearly a "navy blue," which feels like an odd shade in my hair--almost like a very 'subtle' blue--if blue hair could ever be called subtle. I feel like to really get the effect I want with this navy blue, I'd have to do slices of the color all throughout my hair. I prefer the insanely bright blue I used to have. (Check out that link to see the variety of styles and colors I've had in recent years.)

I'm still feeling my way with this one--this color is permanent color on bleached hair, in the past I used semi-permanent on bleached hair, so I'm going to see how this one fades and see if it turns into the lighter, brighter blue I'm looking for. It's been a few days since these photos were taken and the blue has lightened a little and become more visible, which I'm liking--when it's too dark, it kind of blends into my dark hair. Weird, huh? I might end up adding a thicker chunk to my bangs or else I'll cut my bangs differently so that the blue shadow shows through a little better.

I missed my blue hair so much, and even though I feel this isn't quite the look I want yet, I love having the familiar feeling of looking up through a blue fringe of hair again. I do wish I could get my old Tressa Xtremers Blue back ...or maybe I'll compromise with another color (purple)...though I do love blue best.

What's your favorite color for hair? I think mine's obvious. If it's not dark's blue!
25 September 2015

Preschool at Home: Week 7

Funny story instead of useful preschool tips this week:

I figured I had to tell this story on the blog, because I've told it to exactly everybody I know in real life ever since the whole thing went down. 

There were some loud construction noises going on close to our apartment the other morning, and of course the girls responded by screaming, "Ahhh! Ahhh! It's a monster!" and running around the apartment in terror. I responded in a more calm and sensible manner myself, and just ignored the noise.

Later, just before lunch, I decided to take the girls downstairs to the community playroom for a little bit. As we were walking toward the playroom, we saw on the tiled walkway ahead of us a man lying down on the ground with his hands behind his head.

Of course, Shiloh's immediate response was to shriek, "AUNTIE RACHEL! THERE'S DEAD PEOPLE!"

This caused Anna to instantly join in, "Dead people! Oh no! Auntie Rachel, dead people!!!!! Look! He's dead! Oh no!"

I was in damage-minimizing mode, whispering through gritted teeth, "Shhhh. Shhhh. He's not dead, he's just taking a rest. He's not dead, don't worry."

My reassurances went unheeded, and the murderous plot thickened, "Oh no! The monster from upstairs came down here and killed him. Monsters!! Dead people!!"

It was to a repeated refrain of "Monsters! Dead people!" that I hurried the two girls right past the guy lying on the ground.  After we passed him, the two of them were still looking back at the supposed "dead people" when the guy decided to sit up. 

Anna grabbed at my hand in relief, "Oh, good. Auntie Rachel. He's not dead. He was just sleeping!" 

They found their mistake to be hilarious and laughed the rest of the way to the playroom, in relief that the walk hadn't been quite as gruesome as they'd initially thought. My gritted teeth earlier had been due to repressed laughter the whole time. Do you ever just wish you were 4 years old again and could get away with screaming "DEAD PEOPLE!!!" at the sight of anyone taking a nap?

Week 7:
Major Themes: The Letter H and Shapes

-Write in the number of the day on the calendar each day.
-Point out which day of the week it is.

-Sang the Sing, Spell, Read, & Write letter sounds song.
-Sing the short vowels sounds song.
-Practice writing names. 
-Practice writing upper and lowercase letters with workbooks.
-This week we focused on the letter H and had several associated activities:
  -Found things in the house that started with the 'H' sound.
  -Asked, "Does your name have the letter H in it?"
  -Listened to the Letter H song.
  -Looked at the H page in our picture dictionary
  -We made hearts, using the art technique of folding the paper in half to cut a symmetrical heart
  -Made handprints with paint. Shiloh missed the footprint day during Week 1, and she's wanted to do something similar ever since, so this was fun.
  -Made this cut-and-paste H worksheet.
  -We practiced carefully combing each others hair and talked about how to keep hair clean and looking nice.

-Number flashcards up to 20
-Practiced writing numbers on whiteboard
-Math worksheet from Abeka 1st Grade Math
-Counting blocks.

-Books 1 and 3 from Sonlight's Fun Tales. We've just barely started with book 3.
Shiloh: this week I had her read letter blends with short vowels: ha, he, hi, ho, hu
We practiced adding an end letter, too: ha-t, hu-t, he-n, hi-d, ho-t.
Both:  Teach Your Monster to Read for 5-10 minutes a day.
-Four sight words we're working on now: to, is, has, and the

Bible and Storytime: Week 7 from Sonlight Core P4/5 Instructor's Guide.

Months of the Year: We use this song.

7 Continents of the World: Memorizing the seven continents with this song.

PreK Math Manipulatives

Telling Time: I use this song with a little clock that had movable hands. 

Science (Sort of): Shapes
-They already know all of their basic shapes in English, so we worked on more advanced, 3D shapes like a cube, cone, sphere, cylinder, and pyramid. We found things in the house that had these shapes.
-Among my math tools collection (also known my mom's collection that I'm borrowing), we have a bunch of these 3D shapes, so we did some adding and subtracting with the plastic models.
-Watched this 3D Shapes video by Teacher Tipster and this one. After a week, they are pretty close to actually knowing Teacher Tipster's rhymes by heart. I think we'll continue practicing these every day for about two more weeks.

Mother Goose rhymes are terrifying sometimes.

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom
-This was a first time read for me, and I had the girls point out the sounds of all the letters on the pages after we read it.
The Sneeches and other Stories by Dr. Seuss
-We taped green stars to our bellies, and took them off, and experimented with whether we could still be friends with someone whether they had a star on their belly or not. (Spoiler Alert: Your friends are awesome whether they are Star-Bellies or not. I posted my stylish belly star on Instagram).

This week's unit is shapes in Bahasa:

Triangle = Segi Tiga
Circle = Bulatan
Square = Segi Empat
Rectangle = Segi Empat Tepat
Star = Bintang
Heart = Hati

-We brought out the shape puzzles I've used in the past and identified the different shapes using our Bahasa vocab.
-We always review old vocab and the two sentence patterns (basically, two verbs) we've used so far.
-We also listened to the Didi and Friends song Bintang Bintang ("Twinkle Twinkle Little Star") for obvious reasons.

Life skills: 
-Wiped my glass table.
-Helped pick up all the rugs so that I could sweep and mop the floors.

Crafts + Play:
-Visited the playroom (as mentioned in the dramatic tale above).

Previous Weeks: 
Week 1
Week 2
Week 3
Week 4
Week 5
Week 6
23 September 2015

Instagram Newbie: Tales from my first week with a smartphone

Since I whined incessantly about how I was forced to purchase a smartphone on the 12th of September, I thought I'd reflect on my first 10 days (give or take) using a smartphone in general and Instagram in particular.

First, it should be noted that getting used to recognizing a new phone's ringtone is harder than it would seem. When I'm at home, I'll notice a funny noise, and only eventually it will dawn on me that that's the sound of my phone. I was out a few days ago when one of my sisters had to point out that the ringing coming from my purse was probably my phone, begging to be answered. It's funny, I jump at the sound of Angel's phone, but mine is so unfamiliar I don't yet register it as a sound that requires an immediate action.

Second, I still don't like Whatsapp. Group texting is just awkward, in my opinion.

Third, real keyboards are awesome. I can type probably 70 words a minute on a standard keyboard (when I'm not slowed down by having to think about what I want to say, of course). It feels like I can type one word a minute on the little smartphone touch screen, but in reality I'm probably up to like 7 words a minute, so that's good, right? Still if you want any real information, just ask me to email you, because I'm too lazy to type it out with one finger.

Fourth, Instagram is interesting. I have amassed 43 followers, between family members, real life friends, and bloggers. I have found that in my case, I sometimes think of a caption first, and then I want to take a photo to match it. A lot of the instagramming I've done so far has occurred solely in my head because I'm too lazy to take a photo to match the imagined caption.

I'm going to do the least-cool thing in the Instaworld (see, I do know a little about what's cool and not cool when it comes to Instagram) and recap my first-ever week using this form of social media, just to show a little about what I was thinking when I took each photo.

The first-ever photo taken on my smartphone--of the white board after a Sunday school class covering one of my favorite passages of Scripture. I so didn't know how to use the camera, but I eventually figured out how to make it stop looking at me and turn it around to face the outside world.

A photo posted by Rachel G (@randomlyrachels) on

Sunday evening cookies--perks of being siblings with a baker-in-training.

A photo posted by Rachel G (@randomlyrachels) on

Rainy season is here, of that there's no doubt. This photo really doesn't capture how hard it was raining, I wish that photos could capture the magnitude of sudden downpours here, it's kind of incredible.

A photo posted by Rachel G (@randomlyrachels) on

You can tell that I find myself hilarious, right? This was one of those, oh man, I know what I want to say, now I have to figure out how to use my right hand to take a photo of my left hand (because I wear most of my rings on my left hand) with my book. This is easier said than done when you're left-handed.

A photo posted by Rachel G (@randomlyrachels) on

This is so real. The number of times I mention roti telur bawang in casual conversation to all who know and love me is probably ridiculous. Think of how much the typical human loves coffee. That's half of how much I love roti.

A photo posted by Rachel G (@randomlyrachels) on

It was a public holiday, which meant playing board games instead of doing schoolwork. This was the first time we have every successfully completed Pandemic.

You know those days when even a laundry soap commercial can make you feel all sentimental? This was one of those days. I was sweeping the house and I started thinking about how once up on a time I though this little broom was so weird and hard to get the hang of. Now I think it's nearly impossible to sweep a floor with those tall, stiff Western-style brooms.

A photo posted by Rachel G (@randomlyrachels) on

The pollution has been bad here lately. I've been mostly staying indoors, but this guy has to leave to go to work every day. Good thing we kept the reusable/washable masks we used in China.

A video posted by Rachel G (@randomlyrachels) on

This is called "How much of my house can I walk through in less than 15 seconds?"

A photo posted by Rachel G (@randomlyrachels) on

I like models, especially really tiny ones. I particularly enjoy this brand of tiny metal models. Dad bought me this kit for my birthday, and I finally got around to making it while watching an episode of The Mentalist on Saturday afternoon. My adorable little pirate ship. This is the 2nd of this sort of metal model that I've made--I would warn you that the sharp metal tabs leave your fingertips a little torn up. But it's worth it.

I figured I had to at least experiment with a selfie, since they're such a cultural phenomenon. I think it's so much easier to just have someone else take my photo! You can tell from my eyes that I'm not exactly sure where the camera lens is and where I'm supposed to look yet...
22 September 2015

Ask Me Anything

I hear two themes come up repeatedly under discussion in our social media-saturated world.

The first theme is the desire for what's real. For honesty. For a community that's open with each other about reality--the immense goodness and badness and weirdness of life, all of it.

The second theme is the importance of being extremely careful in what you say to anyone, for fear of causing offense. In particular, I've noticed a frequent conversation surrounding the offensiveness of asking personal questions of others.

It's my opinion that our commitment to the second theme--that of avoiding asking or answering personal questions--actually inhibits the possibility of the first theme--that of reality and honesty and tight-knit community becoming a possibility in our lives.

I will tell you straight out--I cannot relate to bloggers who posts lists of "Things not to ask..." or "Things not to say...". My personal belief on ethics, morality, and general politeness of speech is that I have control of exactly one person's mouth--mine. I can control how I feel about what other people say to me, but I can't tell them what to say to me, and I have no desire to do so.

I honestly believe that real relationships and real community can only come about when we stop trying to dictate what other people are allowed to ask us. What is "real" about a relationship where we are forced to follow strict guidelines lest we step on another's toes?

First, let's talk about some of the questions that there seems to be a growing campaign to ban:

Things not to ask single people:
"So, why aren't you married yet?"

Things not to ask dating people:
"So, when will you get married?"

Things not to ask people who get married as teenagers:
"Are you sure about this? Don't you want to wait a while and think about it?"

Things not to ask people who have a really short engagement:
"Is there a reason why you're getting married in such a hurry? *wink wink*"

Things not to ask people who have a really long engagement:
"Why the long delay? Cold feet?"

Things not to ask married people:
"So, when are you going to have a baby?"

Things not to ask people with a baby:
"So, when are you going to have another baby?"

Things not to ask a pregnant lady:
"When are you due?"

Things not to ask someone who looks sick:
"Are you feeling okay? You look awful."

Things not to ask someone named Angel:
"Is that your real name?"

Things not to ask Bachelor's of Arts majors:
"So, what are you going to do with that degree when you're out of school?"

Things not to ask people in interracial relationships:
"So, do you only like black/Mexican/white/Indian/Chinese people?"

Things not to ask people with food allergies:
"So, like how allergic are you? Will you die if you go in the same room as gluten?"

Things not to ask moms of many:
"Why did you want so many kids, anyways?"

Things not to ask someone who just bought something really expensive:
"So, can you really afford that new car/house/motorcycle?"

Any of these sound familiar? Good. Now we're on the same page. Here's what I want to argue in this post:

I'm not saying that all questions you're asked make sense. I'm not saying they should all be asked. I'm not saying there's no such thing as a stupid question, because there definitely is. What I am saying is that there is something admirable in allowing people to ask you questions. There is value in being okay with people questioning the things that are of most importance to you, because explaining why they are important is a valuable exercise.

It is because of my commitment to reality, to honesty, to community, that you will never hear me making a list of things I don't want to be asked. It is important to me that the people in my life feel free to ask me their questions. Not every question deserves or will receive a thorough and honest answer, but if people are too scared to even ask their questions because I've taken such a hard line on "you better not tick me off by questioning me about the things that are most important to me or else I'll write annoyed blog posts about you"...then I kind of think I've failed at community, at friendship, and at life, realistically.

Our commitment to striving for real relationships and real community should be stronger than our commitment to building up strong walls to prevent our hearts from being hurt by a careless or rude question. I strive to, whenever possible, answer all the questions I receive in a reasonable way. Some questions--sure, even the person who asks doesn't realize till too late that they're basically impossible to answer. Some answers to the same question change over time, and that's okay. But there's power in being willing to answer even the awkward and personal and silly questions that others ask.

When we first got married, I answered the question, "When are you going to have a baby?" with "As far as I know, not today." The answer has since changed to a less flippant, "Whenever God gives me one." In reality, every adult knows that there's no possible way to answer that question with an actual date, so yeah, it's a silly question, but I choose to see people who ask it as people who care about me and love me and love my future baby...rather than people whose goal in life is to annoy and offend me.

Because in spite of all the evil in this world...honestly, it is the goal of very few people in life to purposely annoy and offend you. You simply aren't important enough for that.

I got an email a couple weeks ago from my grandpa, asking every personal question under the sun--everything from questions about how much Angel's salary is to how much we're saving each month to when we're having a baby to what kind of visa we have to what our long-term life plans are. Grandpa has always been someone who has openly questioned every single life decision I've ever made--and I'm glad I have a person who cares enough to question everything in order to make sure that I have some sort of answer, some reason, behind why I do what I do.

It's probably the East meets West coming out in me when I say I  see the asking of awkward questions as love, and as real community. Because I live in a community where there aren't really any off-limits questions--and I've come to love that about my community. Sure, not all questions come from a place of love, but what's the harm in acting as if they did, and responding to a sarcastic or antagonistic question with an open and honest answer?

Trust me, it's good for you to have an answer to the hard questions of life, and whether the people who ask you the question have good or evil motives, doesn't matter, You're not responsible for their motives. You're responsible for your own answer. Sure, in the wrong situation or with the wrong question you can always say, "You know, I can't answer that right now" or "I'm not comfortable with talking about that"--but in that case, you're letting it known that the responsibility is on you. Condemning other people for daring to ask the question in the first place really isn't going to achieve a world of truth and transparency the way we want it to.

I've been asked some really sensitive questions in my life. Hey, as a teenager, I was even asked how many baths my siblings and I took each week (by someone who was probably over-curious about the inner-workings of a large family). I was once asked, at lunch, by a young woman I barely knew, if I slept with my husband before I married him. That made for an unexpected lunch conversation. Someone else asked me if I regretted my marriage. As someone who grew up in a small country in Southeast Asia, I've been asked if Malaysia is the biggest state in Indonesia. Trust me, I've been asked questions that have made me raise one or both eyebrows. But I have found it far more valuable for me to strive to be the kind of person who is open and willing to answer the awkward questions asked by others than to put effort into slamming them for daring to be so rude.

Many times, when the awkwardest and most uncomfortable of questions gets asked, the person asking has something going on in their life that they're trying to figure out, and asking other people about their own experiences is one of their methods for figuring it out. Besides, when we have extenuating circumstances going on, and people ask us stuff about marriage or children or life plans--it gives us the opportunity to talk in a real way about singleness or health or the uncertainties of life...and that's the stuff that's going to bring us together. Not lists of questions that you should never dare to ask. Such lists are not the stuff community is made of.

So, single people, answer us as to why you aren't married, whether the answer is, "I have no idea, apparently all the guys I've ever met are blind." or "I'm just not interested" or something totally different.

Bachelor's of Arts majors, go ahead and tell us about both your crazy dream job you'd love to land after school, and the more realistic plan to actually pay off loans and live a normal life, grateful that you got to study a completely impractical subject that thrills you to your core. Go ahead and say you feel self-conscious about probably not working in the field you studied.

People with allergies, talk openly about how your allergies affect your life and the clever strategies you use to make sure that you, and not your allergies, remain the boss.

In the meantime, I'll be over here, talking about the beautiful land that I love and the impractical college major I chose and the awesome husband I married and the kids I dream of having and the lifestyle I seek to live--because you can ask me anything. I might not answer the way you want me to, but you are completely free to ask.

How do you respond when people ask you awkward questions, or questions that somehow touch a sensitive chord in your life?
20 September 2015

I Don't Like Cardigans

Are there any particular styles or articles of clothing that you just really, really don't like? There are a few common things on my "never" list. Funnily enough, the post I wrote about how much I dislike yoga pants is the top-viewed post of all time on this blog. I have no idea why, but the onset of fall in the USA has inspired me to write about another article of clothing that I dislike.

Cardigans. Honestly, I can see more reason in wearing yoga pants than I can in wearing cardigans. Maybe it's my body type, but when I once tried on a cardigan in the past because someone forced me to...I felt like a miniature version of my grandpa. Maybe I have an overly strong association between cardigans and my beloved grandparents.

All I know is that when I see a cardigan, words like flair and rockin' and I'm so cool! don't come to my mind. I understand the need to stay warm, but for me, a denim jacket or a nicely fitted faux leather motorcycle jacket will always be the answer to that problem. When it's really freezing cold out, a cardigan isn't going to do you any good anyways, and a double-breasted wool coat or even an ultra-practical puffy wind-proof coat is completely understandable. I've lived in Michigan for a total of 16 years of my life--I understand the need for clothing that is suitable for chilly weather--but cardigans, I don't understand them at all. On me, anyways, they appear to cling and hang in the frumpiest, baggiest manner instead of providing any structure of their own, and who wants that?

It's not a big surprise, probably, that a woman who, well into her 20s, wears sparkly Converse and studded leather bracelets and belts with a lot of metal bling wouldn't really be the cardigan type. Maybe someday down the road, I'll wear a cardigan, and like it, and then I'll have to eat my words. I doubt it, but then again, I did start wearing skinny jeans after years of detesting them, so anything's possible.

Please don't feel hurt if you happen to love cardigans. They're just not for me. Some of my best friends wear cardigans. Among them, my aforementioned grandparents and my sister Lizzy (I've blogged before about how we're polar opposites when it comes to personal style). It takes all sorts of style to make the world go ' I'll be mystified by the logic behind choosing a cardigan over a tailored jacket, and you can happily go on enjoying your own sense of style. For all I know, you don't think forks make cool earrings, so we're even when it comes to being confused by each other's fashion choices.

What styles do you experience strong aversions to?

(p.s. Remember how I said I frequently don't even carry my own purse? Apparently I can carry it normally for a whole 2 photos if it has strawberries all over it.)
17 September 2015

Stress-Free, Mess-Free Preschool

Some of the techniques I use to make our preschool day one that's stress-free and mess-free:

1. I tackle the harder tasks, that require more concentration and energy, first. For my girls, these are reading and handwriting. I leave the more "fun stuff" for later in each school day in order to motivate them. No one wants to do all the fun stuff first and then have the hardest tasks hanging over you for the rest of the school day.

2. Before the girls arrive, I lay everything I want to do out on the table, and then as we finish each book or activity, I put it away. This means that I don't struggle with forgetting the activities I had planned (everything is on the table--how can I forget it when I see it!) and there's no big mess at the end of preschool (everything has been put back in its place as soon as we are finished with it).

3. I do all painting projects with the girls on my bathroom floor. I have a "wet bathroom", meaning that the entire tiled room is designed to be a shower. I just use the showerhead to wash any accidental paint smears off the floor later.

4. Since there are two of them, I sometimes give them small tasks of doing review work with their classmate. I will have one hold up the number flashcards for the other, and then switch places. This gives them a fun feeling of ownership--they have to be paying attention to make sure that their classmate says the right number, and it also gives me a few free minutes to prepare the next activity or get some housework done.

5. I only work on each subject for a pretty short period of time, and on the whole, unless I'm interrupted, I offer no breaks. My "break" strategy is to cycle between a variety of activities--because if I just let them go free, it's not the easiest thing to get them back into learning mode.

6. We do our reading on the comfy couch, but there are no crayons or markers allowed in the room with the couch. We have separate spaces for our writing activities and our reading activities, to prevent artwork on the furniture. 

7. We go over the rules for school in the elevator on the way to class. The biggest one is that during school, "I listen with my eyes, I listen with my ears, and I listen with my heart."

8. Because I use Youtube videos and a game from a website, I have them all cued up and the computer on when the girls arrive. Simply the time that it takes to search and find a video or deal with a computer game loading can be enough to lost attention, so I find everything works smoothly because I have the technology prepped ahead of time.

Homeschool Preschool Weekly Schedule

Week 6:
Major Themes: The Letter A and Animals

-Write in the number of the day on the calendar each day.
-Point out which day of the week it is.

-Sang the Sing, Spell, Read, & Write letter sounds song.
-Practiced writing names.
-Practiced writing upper and lowercase letters with workbooks
-This week we focused on the letter A and had several associated activities:
  -Found things in the house that started with the 'A' sound.
  -Asked, "Does your name have the letter A in it?" Anna felt really special this week!
  -Listened to this Letter A song.
  -Made the letter A with playdough.
  -Practiced writing uppercase and lowercase As every day.
  -Cut apples in half and used them as paint stamps. As far as I can remember, I have never actually done any fruit or veggie stamping in my life, even though I know it's practically the most common craft ever, so I was pretty excited about this. The girls thought it was kind of crazy to paint with applies instead of a paintbrush...
  -We made a simple ant craft that required cutting and gluing on their part.

Apple stamping for Preschool

-Number flashcards up to 20. We do a lot of different activities with flashcards--I throw them all on the floor and they have to give me the flashcard I ask for. Or I line up the flashcards in random order and they have to stand on a flashcard when I call out a number. Or they have to put all the flashcards in appropriate numerical order themselves. I try not to ever let things get too monotonous.
-Practiced writing numbers on whiteboard
-1-10 Dot-to-dot sheets
-Counting blocks and making simple patterns

-Books 1 and 2 from Sonlight's Fun Tales.
-We used our letter flashcards to practice sounding out CVC words that we've gone over in the previous 5 weeks.
-Teach Your Monster to Read for 5-10 minutes a day.
-Sight words: is, to, and has.

Bible and Storytime: Week 6 from Sonlight Core P4/5 Instructor's Guide.

Months of the Year: We use this song.

7 Continents of the World: Something new that they've started memorizing this week! They had their days of the week down, so now we're memorizing the seven continents with this song.

Science: Animals
- Talked about different kinds of animals: wild animals vs. domesticated animals
- Did a very basic intro to different groupings of animals, i.e. mammals, insects, reptiles, amphibians

Storybooks: Crictor by Tomi Ungurer
-This story was perfect for a discussion of what kind of animals make good pets and which kind don't--Crictor is obviously a pretty unusual pet.
The Complete Adventures of Curious George by Margret and H.A. Rey
-We read several stories from this anthology and talked a lot about this crazy monkey.
-A lot of the illustrations have different animals pictures in them, so we pointed out the animals in the drawings and called them by their Bahasa names.

We worked on expanding our animal vocab:

Fish = Ikan
Lion = Singa
Snake = Ular
Gajah = Elephant
Frog = Katak
Horse = Kuda
Ant= Semut

-We reviewed old animal vocabulary words from Week 3 as well.
-We looked through the animal pages of our Bahasa/English picture dictionary.
-We also listened to the Didi and Friends song Semut Berkawad. Since it's all about marching ants, this was a perfect crossover for our letter of the week!
-We watched this short, 4-minute, Didi episode about ants and how strong they are and how they use teamwork to lift heavy things.

Life skills: 
-They helped me put laundry in the washing machine and fold and put it away.

Crafts + Play:
-I taught them one of the "clapping games" I played as a kid. This should really go under life skills, shouldn't it? I clapped this rhyme with them, I know there's lots of variations, but this is how I learned it (it seems to be a rather violent version):
"Miss Suzy had a baby,
She named him Tiny Tim.
She put him in a bathtub,
To see if he could swim.
He drank up all the water,
He ate up all the soap.
He tried to eat the bathtub
but it wouldn't go down his throat.
Miss Suzy called the doctor,
Miss Suzy called the nurse,
Miss Suzy called the lady with the alligator purse.
"Measles" said the doctor.
"Mumps" said the nurse.
"Nothing," said the lady with the alligator purse.
Miss Suzy kicked the doctor.
Miss Suzy punched the nurse.
Miss Suzy thanked the lady with the alligator purse."

Previous Weeks: 
Week 1
Week 2
Week 3
Week 4
Week 5
15 September 2015

Date Night Style (Couple's Edition)

Turquoise Tunic

We went out for dinner at the mall the other day. We're still experimenting with finding new favorite restaurants around here. Usually, the two favorites that draw us back again and again are SAB, a shop with outdoor seating and heavenly Indian food...and Chili's, because there's only so long you can go without chips and salsa.

Every once in a while, we branch out from our favorites, but so far, we've not found anything we like nearly as much. Malls have always been some of my favorite places, and I'm loving getting reacquainted with the malls here. In high school, I knew the location of every store on every floor--but things have changed a lot and now I'm lost until I get the new mall map memorized once more. It's so interesting to discover what is and what is not available at the mall here. There's a grocery store in the basement, and a movie theater on the top floor...and lots of shops filled with all sorts of interesting things in between. But Kohl's and Sears and J.C. Penney's and American Eagle are a thing of the past, replaced by Padini and Parkson and Dee's and H&M. (We had no H&M near where I lived in the USA--only when we moved to China did I first experience living close to one of those.)

Angel insisted on having his date outfit recorded as well, and also insisted on posing for his "outfit picture." I argue that his is a highly inauthentic pose, as I always smile at the camera instead of giving it an unfriendly glare.

What should be noticed is the fact that yes, he carries my purse for me. I never carry my own purse unless utterly necessary, because I hate all the purses in the whole world. Good thing I have him!

Do you carry your own purse, or do you also have your own personal purse-carrying service?
13 September 2015

The End of an Era

This past Saturday, I was forced to buy a smartphone. I use the word forced in a very literal sense. I was not given any choice in the matter, nor was I even given time to contemplate the pros and cons of the decision, the decision was made for me. It was offered that I accept it as a gift of a free smartphone, and while I appreciated the offer, I chose to pay for my phone, because if it were a gift, I'd have to be genuinely grateful...and I'm just not yet at the point where I can be genuinely grateful for it.

Normally, having a nice and highly functional cell phone should probably be considered a good thing...but unfortunately, I can't help but feel a sense of loss. Having the freedom to be and live differently in spite of societal or peer pressure is a very high priority to me. I stopped wearing makeup when I started beauty school because I saw how makeup itself had become such a weight and a burden to the beautiful 18 year old girls I went to school with. I once heard a girl say that she wouldn't even let her own parents, let alone her friends or her boyfriend, see her without her makeup on...and after that day, I never wore makeup to school again, because I wanted to be one person, one tiny example, of being comfortable in your own skin.

The smartphone thing is pretty similar to the makeup episode. Up until now, I've striven to be one example of a working adult with healthy family and friend relationships, a lifestyle that is involved in the community, and even an internet and social media presence...without a smartphone and without any desire for one. I wanted to be one small example--to be able to say with my life to other people who didn't have a smartphone for any reason to not let that be their excuse for anything, to not let that stop them. I actually haven't had my own cell phone since July 2014, ever since we've moved, I've shared a phone with Angel--that meant I could never contact him when we were apart, but that was fine, I always knew we'd end up at the same house eventually. :)

I have always been quite vocal in my opposition to smartphone use, and I've always said, proudly, I must admit, that I'd keep using a Nokia candy bar phone until the technology was no longer supported. In humility, I'm having to eat my words now, because I do own a smartphone.

In spite of my new status as a smartphone owner, let me just mention a few of the reasons why I dislike them:

1. Smartphones are expensive, and, for many, a needless cost biting into a monthly budget that would do better without the added fees. Thankfully, right now, this really isn't a huge problem for me. I bought a Samsung something--whatever the model is, it's less than 1/6th the cost of the iPhone where I live, so it's not that ridiculous of an initial outlay, less than $100 USD. Also, I didn't get a data plan, and here, we just have pre-paid talk and text--I expect that I'll end up spending less than $5 USD a month on talk and text because...I don't make any unnecessary calls.

2. Smartphones are way too fragile. You have a really hard time convincing me that these phones are truly so "smart" when nearly every phone I see has a cracked screen and when they seem to need regular replacements and upgrades. I literally dropped my Nokia in a bucket of water and multiple times onto the asphalt parking lot and it didn't give me any trouble. It's quite silly that such expensive tools remain so very delicate--which means, if you have one, you have to worry about keeping it safe. I definitely appreciated never having to worry about the safety of my cell phone...or the possibility of it getting lost or being stolen. I don't know, Nokias just seem so low-pressure, if you lose it, it's inconvenient, but not tragic. And if someone stole a Nokia, they would have to really need it, so you wouldn't feel bad about it.

3. Smartphones don't fit into normal-sized jeans pockets. This means you have to either carry a purse, or carry the phone in your hand, neither of which is a very comfortable option.

4. People are tempted to forget their real priorities when they have a smartphone in their hands. It's so silly, seeing a bunch of friends hanging out, checking their phones. I am a big advocate of being present wherever you are. Smartphones create a strong temptation to check out of wherever you are and check in to a virtual world that is easier to handle or more entertaining. But the fact remains that the real and present world is more important.

5. Smartphones make instant communication way too easy. Back in the day, it was a lot harder to cancel a date with a friend, because you actually had to call and talk to them. Now, you can just text or Whatsapp them to cancel the minute something better comes up, without the awkward voice-to-voice conversation. I wholeheartedly believe that more convenient methods of communication do not necessarily lend themselves to healthier and more whole relationships. It's a lot harder to hide your real feelings in an actual conversation, either in person or on the phone, than it is to hide them in a carefully worded text. Really easy and instantaneous communication has a lot of downsides for relationships. That's not to say that there are no positives, but it seems to make it a lot easier for people to flake out on their friends and treat their commitments loosely. Keeping commitments is something I value highly, and I dislike the smartphones role in plans that are changed and canceled at the last minute.

6. GPS. I don't think it sounds fun to have an easily trackable device near my person at all times.

So there you have it. I'm the most reluctant smartphone user ever. You're probably laughing at my silliness now, and that's totally okay. I didn't grow up to be the kind of person who boycotts cardigans, McDonald's, and smartphones, and in addition, expect everyone to agree with me and consider it perfectly rational behavior. But I, like everyone else, crave being understood, if not agreed with, and I appreciate seeing people willing to take stands for what they believe in, even when it causes inconvenience.

I'm trying to look on the bright side of the situation. I'm trying to not be quite so disdainful of my new phone. In doing so, I signed myself up for Instagram, using my usual username: @randomlyrachels. I do enjoy seeing pictures from friends and family. You can feel free to follow my account if you so desire. If you already follow @angelofrachel, you probably know that Angel is the primary poster on that account, and it shows in his choice of photos (and that account is on a 3+ year old iPod which explains the photo quality). If you want to unfollow him and follow me instead, he won't mind. It's not a competition. :)

I'm coming to terms with the fact that I no longer get to be the girl without the smartphone. I feel like I lost a part of who I am, that I have to say an unwilling goodbye to something that's been important to me for a long time, but I'm hoping that this change will turn out to be a very worthwhile one, and that even if I'm not quite thankful yet, that I will be. I am looking on the bright side, so if you have any Android apps to recommend to make me think a little more highly of my phone, let me know. At the moment, I have installed Instagram and Whatsapp and Trivia Crack, and that's all. Angel and I used to play Trivia Crack on his iPod together before we went to sleep every see, it is possible for me to have some good feeling for/memories about these mysterious "app" things. Seriously, if you have any advice or tips to share about the "bright sides" of smartphones, let me know. I've spent a little too long as an anti-smartphone advocate for this to be an easy change.

(Also, can we say, most First World Problem ever? I know, I know. I'm working on growing a lot this week: humility, realizing that your own ideas are not always the truest and a lesson I certainly need to learn.)
11 September 2015

Preschool at Home: Week 5

Thoughts on the topic of preschoolers and crafts:

It's unusual for this part of the world, but I do not do crafts for my preschoolers, and that's a fairly important tenet of my homeschooling system. There are two different schools of thought when it comes to kids and crafts--one, is that you want crafts to turn out cute and perfect. If you visit a kindergarten here, you will see lots of cute and nearly perfect art projects hanging on the wall...this is because the teachers are highly involved in the craft-making for that age group.

The other school of thought, and the one I adhere to, is that the real point of crafts is to give kids experience handling and using different tools and mediums, and because of that, the teacher lets the kids do all the actual craft-making...and the crafts don't end up looking beautiful like an adult might make them. I give the girls instructions, and explain the point and meaning of any craft, and I'm right there as we do it, but they do all painting, cutting, and gluing themselves. I already know how to paint, cut, and glue--and my penmanship is quite amazing. They are the ones needing practice, so I see no point in making up crafts for me to do.

Homeschool Preschool

Week 5:
Major Themes: The Letter R and Weather

-Check the weather and mark the weather on the graph (sunny, cloudy, or rainy) each day. We finished our weather charts!
-Write in the number of the day on the calendar each day.
-Point out which day of the week it is.

Preschool Weather Chart

-Sang the Sing, Spell, Read, & Write letter sounds song.
-Sing the short vowels sounds song.
-Practiced writing names. Counted letters in their names. 
-Practiced writing upper and lowercase letters with workbooks
-This week we focused on the letter R and had several associated activities:
  -Found things in the house that started with the 'R' sound.
  -Asked, "Does your name have the letter R in it?"
  -Looked at the R page in our picture dictionary
  -Listened to this Letter R video.
  -We made a rain craft using watercolor painted raindrops and fluffy cotton ball clouds.
  -I let them play with some of my rings and try them on to see if they fit.
  -Made  rainbows.We paid attention to ROY G. BIV order when painting our rainbows, except we skipped indigo. Sorry indigo.
  -We used Angel's prism to make more rainbows indoors. They thought the prism was really cool. Who knew his prism-collecting hobby would turn out to be educational one day?
  -Had them copy my name because guess what: Rachel starts with R! (A wee bit narcissistic? No way...)
  -They helped me measure and wash the rice for lunch. (haha--we eat rice all the time, suddenly it's a learning point...)
  -Made the letter R with playdough

-Number flashcards up to 20
-Practiced writing numbers on whiteboard
-Math worksheets from Abeka 1st Grade Math
-Counted the number of colors in a rainbow.
-Made patterns with colored blocks, and used the blocks for counting and building towers.

--Books 1 and 2 from Sonlight's Fun Tales. After reading the stories, we acted them out, which they really, really enjoyed. Possibly because Book 2 involves Sam sitting on Pat and then Pat tipping him over...
Shiloh: this week I had her read letter blends with short vowels: ra, re, ri, ro, ru
We practiced adding an end letter, too: ra-n, ru-t, re-d, ri-d, ro-t.
Both:  Teach Your Monster to Read for 5-10 minutes a day.
We now have two sight words we are working on memorizing: is and to.

Bible and Storytime: Week 5 from Sonlight Core P4/5 Instructor's Guide.

Days of the Week and Months of the Year: I use this days of the week song and this months of the year song.

Preschool Rainbow Craft

Science: Weather
-We looked at the weather graph that we've been making every since we started school and counted the number of sunny, rainy, or cloudy days. Sunny days definitely won!
-We talked about what kind of weather we liked best.

Storybook: Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina
-Counted the numbers of caps and monkeys on the different pages (in English and Bahasa).
-We remembered the Bahasa word for monkey (monyet).
-Had them sound out and read the word caps in the title.
-We walked across the room balancing cups on our heads in honor of the peddler who balanced caps on his head.

This week's unit was numbers 1-10!

Satu, Dua, Tiga, Empat, Lima, Enam, Tujuh, Lapan, Sembilan, Sepuluh

-Asked them each day: "How many tangan do you have? How many kepala?" We aren't at the point of answering/asking complete sentences in Bahasa yet, but I try to stick Bahasa vocab into English sentences.
-We always review old vocab and the two sentence patterns (basically, two verbs) we've used so far.
Saya ada.... and Saya suka...
-Listened to this Counting Song.
-We also listened to the Didi and Friends song 5 Buku di atas Meja which reinforces the numbers 1-5 in context with simple nouns.

Life skills: 
-They helped me put laundry in the washing machine and fold and put it away.
-As noted above, they helped make rice this week.
-They wiped down my glass coffee table.

Crafts + Play:
-Played with play-dough
-Made a heart craft using leftover supplies from Sunday School
-Visited the Playroom

Previous Weeks: 
Week 1
Week 2
Week 3
Week 4
09 September 2015

The Quiet Kind of Fun

Ever since our move 2.5 months ago, life has felt a little like a never-ending marathon of stuff to do. After all, in the last two and a half months we've spent a week in Cambodia, bought a car, celebrated both Angel's birthday and mine, attended a marriage ceremony, planned and hosted a goodbye party with 180 people in attendance, experienced severe water leakage in our apartment, and released baby turtles into the ocean. That's on top of the normal busy work involved in moving, like buying appliances and furniture and getting internet set up...and the normal busy work involved in life. Angel started a new job, I have 2 four year olds over to play and learn with me every morning and I stay on top of all the housework and am involved in a variety of other interesting projects.

My little sister left some of her old t-shirts behind when she moved to America a month ago. So now we wear them. And yep, we gave her a t-shirt with a picture of us on it years ago, back when we were newly engaged, and we thought it was the funniest thing ever.

In addition, until the last few days of August, we hadn't lived in our apartment alone. My brother and my cousin were staying with us for the first two months, and then as soon as they left, we housed and took care of a 6-year old boy while his parents were out of the country for a few weeks.

We aren't normally the type of people I would call "busy," so this new pace of life has come as a bit of a shock. I'm not saying any of this to complain. Much of our "busyness" has been of a very exciting and fun nature. Angel loves his new job, and I love the kids I hang out with everyday. My eyes light up when I think of all the stories and experiences we've had in the past few months.

At the same time, I have noticed that even an 'Energizer Bunny' such as myself has started to crave some quiet downtime of the sort that's fun without requiring tons of energy, and I've realized that in our current season of life, fun of that sort has to be strategically planned and enacted

I've started to identify the kinds of quiet fun that are helping me get into a long-term sustainable rhythm for this new and exciting lifestyle.

I've always loved reading. But in the past few years, I largely stopped reading books for fun. Part of that was due to my new interest in blogging--I started reading blogs instead of books. Part of it was because I'd already read all the books I owned and didn't want to buy any more in the year before we left for China, and then I didn't have much available to read while we were in China, either. Now I live close enough to my parents' goldmine of a book collection, and I'm once more devouring books whenever I get a free moment. In the afternoons, I often take a few of the littles to the apartment complex's playroom. There, they climb all over slides and little toy houses and I lay on the floor engrossed in a book. Everyone's happy.

Recent reads include The Girl who Saved the King of Sweden and The Monogram Murders. I just finished reading The Fellowship of the Ring and I'm on to the second in the series.

I don't write well in 15 minute chunks, but when I get a couple solid hours with nothing scheduled in them, I still love stealing away to my computer and writing something. There's a reason I've kept blogging for years. I may never have a gigantic audience, but the words keep coming anyway. These days, I'm also enjoying researching for and writing lesson plans for my preschoolers and for character-building activities for a teens group I'm involved with on Saturdays. Perhaps I should warn you now--at this point, I'm planning on participating in Write 31 Days in October--which will give me plenty of excuses to write. The topic will be stories of growing up as a TCK in Malaysia--I was under the impression that I hadn't written much in the way of true stories of interesting events, lately, so I'm setting out to change that. You can read my page explaining the series here.

Watching TV/Movies
Watching movies together has always been a favorite activity of mine and Angel's. In Michigan, we had the coziest couch, and renting DVDs from Blockbuster and watching one while cozied up under blankets with a big bowl of popcorn and two homemade smoothies made for some awesome evenings. Our couch in China was probably the least comfy couch ever, so that became much less of a habit, but now that the couch we ordered finally arrived (one month after ordering) we are enjoying our old habit once more. Now we just have to get a blender so that we can have smoothies. There's no DVD rental shops here, but this is another area in which it's fun to raid my family's collection.

Here, on Wednesday nights, movie tickets are only 8.50RM (with the current exchange rate, that's $2 USD), which makes movie dates out at the cinema a really feasible option. That's great news for our date night habit! The cinema in China was very expensive where we lived, so we only went when the school gave us vouchers for Teacher's Day or for a really big movie like The Hobbit.

This is something that I've loved doing since I was a little girl. Especially when watching a movie or a TV show, I like keeping my hands busy. Crocheting or knitting isn't my thing, but embroidery is. In China, I embroidered a table runner which I gave to one of our coworkers. Now I need a new project to start on!

What are the sorts of quiet fun that you partake in when you need to rebuild your energy for the next big thing?
07 September 2015

Angelisms, Part 10

{Scene: I walk out of the room, wearing my beautiful new birthday dress. Angel has an irrational dislike of long skirts...this dress has a long skirt.}

Angel: "I can see that you feel really pretty. Girls always like to wear things that make them feel pretty. But you have to know...just because you FEEL pretty in an outfit...doesn't mean you LOOK pretty in that outfit."

{He's always taken pride in being brave enough to say the things most husbands are wise enough not to say...he's free to do this because it doesn't hurt my feelings when he doesn't like my clothes.}


{Scene: We just finished watching Inside Out. This will only make sense if you've seen the movie.}

Angel: {to 8 year old Sarah} "Well, It's a really good thing that Bing Bong died, right?"


{Scene: It's 7 a.m.}

Rachel: You seem pretty happy this morning!
Angel: Yeah, I had Doritos for breakfast!
Rachel: Oh I see...
Angel: Doritos, and pop, and chocolate!
Rachel: Well no wonder you're so happy...


{Scene: Today, apropos of nothing, we're just working on our computers in separate rooms. Angel posts a meme on my facebook wall that says:}

"Tranquila Rachel, comete un Snickers."


{Scene: We were taking Sarah and one of her friends out to "AdventureZone", an indoor children's park, and I was telling them the rules for good behavior when Angel interrupted.}

Angel: "AND! Never....ever....ever...ever...touch...the cheetahs."
Sarah: "Umm, are there any cheetahs at the place we're going?"
Rachel: "No."

{Scene: Sarah asked Mom what the fanciest date she'd ever been on was. Inspired, I turned to Angel and asked the same question of him.}

Rachel: "Hey, what would you say is the fanciest date we've ever been on?"
Angel: "...None."
Rachel: "???"
Angel: "We haven't had it yet!"


{Scene: We're giving two of my sisters a ride. One of them was already pulling on the car handle when Angel unlocked the doors, so her door didn't open, and then he had to unlock her door again to let her in.}

Angel: "You know, one time Rachel and I got into a HUGE fight over that--she kept pulling on the door handle at the same time I was unlocking the door."
{I am looking over at him from the passenger seat in utter mystification. I have absolutely no memory of this "HUGE" fight ever occurring.}
Rachel: "Really? When? I don't remember that at all."
Angel: "Yes! You were so frustrated and got all mad and we got into a big argument about it."
Rachel: "I feel like I would have remembered something like this. That doesn't sound like me. Why would I get frustrated about unlocking the door?"
{The girls are giggling in the backseat over this marital confusion}
Angel: "...Oh. Wait. Never mind."
Rachel: "What?"
Angel: "'re right. That wasn't you, that was...someone else..."
{The three of us girls burst into hysterical laughter and I felt vindicated because I couldn't understand why he was telling this crazy story about me getting mad over something silly when I couldn't remember any such event ever happening.}


*You know, I always heard that eventually you're married long enough that memories get cloudy and you might someday tell a story thinking it's about you and your spouse when it's actually about you and an ex...I just didn't expect it to happen quite so soon...

Has that ever happened to you?