28 July 2017

About the Baby

If  you're wondering "What baby?"

It's this one:

Due beginning of March 2018

On June 24, we bought a pregnancy test while we were out doing errands. When I say "we," I really mean "Angel," because in this family there is one person who always purchases anything awkward. It's him.

Angel dropped me off at home but had another errand to do. He knew I'd most likely take the test while he was gone because patience isn't really something I do.

When the test flashed "Pregnant" I fell to my knees, crying, praying, and thanking God. And then I lay on the bed in a sort of state of frozen shock until I heard Angel come in the house and I turned on the camera, which is conveniently stored in my dresser.

 A few minutes after Angel found out.
Obviously nothing to see at 4 weeks...

None of my family was in town at the time. But after getting over the initial shock and tears Angel simply had to tell somebody right away, so he got his parents on Skype in spite of the fact that it was pretty late at night, and then Skyped his brother and sister-in-law.

We toyed with the idea of waiting till Mom and my sisters came home two weeks later and greeting her at the airport with the news...but didn't end up doing that. Instead, we waited till my dad came home about 6 days later to tell him in person, and then skyped my mom and sisters the next day since we were pretty sure Dad couldn't keep a secret from Mom, and then I texted a photo of the onesie along with the line, "Hey, look, I got something cute in America!" to my other sister and my cousin/sister. Mom said she'd tell all the grandparents and aunts and uncles.

I thought that the onesie announcement was really obvious but apparently it wasn't because most of the people seemed to respond with, "Oh, that's cute!" and just accept that we would buy a Calvin College onesie randomly for no specific reason. Which, in all honesty, is what we did. I've always loved wearing Calvin t-shirts and while we were in town we decided that, in faith, we'd buy some Calvin gear for our future baby. We didn't buy newborn size because they grow out of those too quickly, so I picked one sized at 6 months. Even in a "faith" purchase, my practical streak sticks out.

The weeks since have been a haze of sleeping, eating, and vomiting. And feeling so very, very happy I would dance if I had the energy. Angel says he finds life more peaceful now that his usual whirlwind of energy is to be found in bed more often than not. He's stepped it up with housework, and I'm very thankful! In a way, I tend to feel like I feel "normal" and I'm not having all that much pregnancy symptoms, but it's only when I look back and realize, oh yeah, I didn't previously sleep for hours in the middle of the day, or avoid leaving my house because I never know when I'll randomly be hit with nausea. I skipped church for the first couple weeks and on my first week back, about 5 people stopped me to ask if I was okay/what was wrong with me so clearly I'm not pulling off the "I feel totally normal" look as well as I think I am. I'm on some additional prescriptions which may be amping up the pregnancy side effects a bit, but I'm sure not complaining! I think this is so fun and I absolutely love being pregnant.

I amuse myself by making up mental lists of all the things that have made me throw up or feel like throwing up in recent weeks. Lists including: Taking a shower, my hair touching my neck, a shirt or blanket touching my neck, an open trash can lid, any food with a "mushy" texture, my neighbors cooking smelly foods, getting too hot, being too tired, being too hungry, brushing my teeth, swallowing my pills, tacos, etc. I find this all rather funny, but even more so, my family finds it extraordinarily hilarious. Particularly my baby sisters.

"Crispy" or "Crunchy" "fresh-tasting" food is my life saver--this baby mostly wants to eat green apples, oranges, cucumbers, and potato chips. Nice balanced diet, huh? Hopefully the fruits and veggies are enough to cancel out the effects of the potato chips...And you don't want to be Angel if we run out of all of those at once. I've also been really, really, really wanting Skinny Pop White Cheddar Popcorn, a delectable snack I was introduced to on my recent visit to America but of course. It doesn't exist here. My baby sister bought me a toaster for my birthday because we haven't had one in three years, and she thinks I'll want to eat a lot of toast while pregnant.

This is so fun. I am enjoying pregnancy immensely even if I have developed a strong dislike for riding in cars. I want to ban speedbumps from the world. I love talking about the baby with Angel. I'm so grateful God gave us another tiny baby to love and cherish. We know that nobody knows what the future brings and we certainly don't know what this baby's future holds--but we're already in awe that we actually got to see our baby AND the tiny heartbeat on the second ultrasound this morning. We've known about this little one for 35 days so far. 5 whole weeks of waking up with this joy. Wow. We appreciate all of you who have been praying for us and our little one so very much--thanks be to God for such a good gift!
19 July 2017

Visiting a WWII Ship in Michigan - USS LST 393

While in Michigan, we planned to visit our cousin Shannon--who used to live in Malaysia and has gone on a number of adventures throughout SE Asia with us, like when we got to visit the coolest deserted island ever. She's in college now and we planned a day to visit her and explore a bit of the city she lives in. We wanted to do some sightseeing and she recommended the USS LST-393.

We didn't know much at all about what the LST 393 was before going, all I knew was that it was a ship and I never say no to a ship, but if anything, this piece of American history highly exceeded our expectations. I strongly recommend taking a few hours to visit this ship  and learn more about its role during the War.

The LST 393 in Muskegon, MI, is fascinating part of our nation's history.

We arrived at the ship and were welcomed in by a veteran who was staffing the front desk. The first thing he said when we all walked in was, "You all must be students, right?" and 3 of the girls were, but Angel and I insisted repeatedly that we weren't students. When he said, "Are you sure, you don't go to school at all?" I answered, "Actually, we're the opposite of students--we're teachers." And then he still insisted on giving us the student price because he said he knows teachers don't get paid what they ought. He was so sweet, and after giving us all discounted admission, he explained to us what type of ship the LST 393 was, how many boats were built in this model, what their roles were in the war, and how many still exist in the present time.

More than 1,000 LSTs or Landing Ship Tanks were built to be used during WWII. Their flat-bottomed design allowed them to sail right up to shore and deliver armored vehicles or troops that could roll or walk right off the ship onto the beach.

The LST 393 was only restored and opened for public touring a few years ago, and now the main chamber in the center of the ship contains a great deal of wartime artifacts and informational exhibits about various aspects of the War.

Then you could take ladders up and down to explore all the various parts of the ship. This was really our favorite part--it made the ship touring experience particularly amazing as we were allowed to go inside the engine room, and to visit the galley, and the quarters for everyone from the captain to officers to those who slept in rows of cots slung one above the other.

I got really excited when I found out we could go and "steer" the ship. The ship is so large that Anna, Lizzy, and I lost Angel and Shannon for about a half hour since they decided to go explore the engine room while we were exploring the top deck.

We stayed on the ship right up until closing time at 5 o'clock--don't underestimate the amount of time you might want to spend here! We arrived at 3 and thought 2 hours would be plenty, but we could have easily stayed longer if we wanted to read more of the information.

There's something very thought provoking about walking the decks of a ship that served in a war that so shaped the history of our world--to think about the men who lived and worked on that ship and where they went and how their lives were different after the war. I highly recommend touring this ship to anyone who's in the area, it's well-worth the ticket price, even if you're not a student. Granted, I am the sort of person who's simply prone to really love any sort of educational experience or historical location, but this is exactly the sort of place you ought to visit and take your kids.

You may notice from the pictures that we all seem to be excessively well-dressed for an outing that involves climbing ladders and touring greasy engine rooms. The fact is, we were going swing dancing together later that evening, and had dressed with that event in mind. My dress wasn't really the best choice for greasy engine rooms...what we did notice was that the ship was actually hosting a swing dance on its upper deck on June 2nd, and we all wished we could have attended, only there was someone getting married on June 3rd so were a little too busy to drive across the state for a dance, even if that dance were on the deck of this amazing ship...

Do you enjoy learning about history? What is the coolest historical site you've ever visited?
04 July 2017

Fun with Family in the USA

I've been writing about various destinations we visited during our trip to the USA, but I feel it's time to underscore the fact that on this particular trip, destinations weren't really the point. They were a great part of the trip, to be sure, and lots of fun, but the point of the trip was


And, when you're lucky like we are, family who are also your best friends.

So, other than visiting cool destinations, our visit included:

Pulling a prank during a wedding rehearsal.

Posing exuberantly near lighthouses while Angel looks on skeptically.

Sister selfies at Chinese restaurants while Angel tries to photobomb.

Getting my photo taken "with" Red Green since I got so excited when he suddenly showed up on TV!

Grilling 15 lbs. of carne asada for tacos.


Lots of arm wrestling.

Cousins who really love each other.

Excessive amounts of arm wrestling.

Swing dancing, whenever we could fit it in.

Decorating my sister's car for the honeymoon. We put about 5 giant bags of wrapped candy all over the car, we figured they'd need honeymoon snacks to keep their energy up for the long drive to Arizona. Decorating wedding cars is a long-standing tradition in my family, but this was the first car that my generation, a whole contingent of cousins, got to decorate. 

Seeing my grandparents--these are the grandparents I lived with when I was in college--they were actually the first of the family to meet this friend named Angel who sometimes randomly came to visit during freshman year. Surprisingly, my friend named Angel who came over was not a girl. We visited my other grandparents too, but I didn't get a picture with both of them, unfortunately. It's surprisingly hard to get ALL the pictures you want!

As a family, laughing at Angel for ordering a hamburger at a restaurant famous for CHICKEN.

This video is a mixture of moments with our family...all of which seem
There are so many more precious moments with family that went unpictured:

-Angel and his brothers sitting around telling stories for an evening of all the fights they got into as kids and attempting stabbings and the like. (stabbings?!)

- Playing with my nephew, and we discovered that if he learned anything about his Aunt Rachel, it's that she says "Gentle" a lot. :P I'm from a family of girls, haha, there wasn't much rough-housing when I was growing up!

-Shopping trips at Kohl's with Mom and the sisters where we celebrated finding super-good deals on ultra-clearance prices.

-Early Sunday morning, after the wedding, about 20 family members from 3 generations sprawled all over the living room, half still in jammies, giggling over all sorts of stories of past pranks and shenanigans.

-Meeting Angel's former coworkers, one of whom told me, "We really, really miss him. You know, when some coworkers leave, you kind of...close the door behind them. But when others leave, there's something special missing that can never be replaced."

What fun have you had with your family lately?
02 July 2017

Bois Blanc Island

While in Michigan, Angel and I had the chance to visit my all-time favorite island: Bois Blanc, which is the lesser-known neighbor of Mackinac Island in Lake Huron.

If you want to visit this gorgeous island, usually the best way is to find a cabin that offers short-term rentals for a week or weekend in the summer. We have family with a cabin on the island who offered theirs to us for a few days, which definitely helped lure us to stay.

The typical way to get to the island is by riding the Kristen D., the ferry run by Plaunt Transportation. In the past, Angel and I have gone over with just bikes, since we were staying with relatives who already had brought a car to the island for getting around, but since we were going by ourselves this time, we brought a car over--it is a small island, but not small enough for navigation by foot and bicycle alone.

Now here's the real question: What is there to DO on Bois Blanc?

Well, to be honest, not much. The general outdoorsy activities--hike, fish, kayak, hunt for cool rocks, sit around a bonfire at night. There's a few places of interest for sightseeing--places that seem like they haven't changed a bit in the nearly 20 years since I first visited BBI: a one-room schoolhouse, the airport, the cemetery, the cross near the North Shore.

In a notebook I found in the cabin I read a description which nearly perfectly describes the allure of BBI for me:

That's it. A place where "life takes unto itself a deeper, sweeter, larger meaning than ever before." I know that sounds like exaggeration, but in my experience, it's the simple truth. It's a place for real rest and healing. Bois Blanc Island was the only place I wanted to be last fall after the miscarriage of our first baby--instead, we got to spend a few days of the week that she would have been due on the island, and for that I'm so grateful.

We had three nights and two full days. The first afternoon/evening we were there was sunny and we explored the cabin and the shoreline just a few steps from the back door. I took a "fashion blogger" photo showing off my borrowed cool-weather clothes. The Docs are not borrowed, they are back on their rightful owner's feet, although they currently live in Michigan since they aren't exactly the kind of shoes you want to wear in the tropics.

Our first morning, the water of the big lake was as still as glass, so we got out two kayaks and went out paddling. It was perfection. I got tired/lazy at one point so Angel tied my kayak to his out in the water and then paddled us both out to a large interesting rock that was sticking out of the lake some distance away. We whiled away a peaceful hour this way and eventually returned to shore. Angel had the job of stepping into the icy water to pull our kayaks in. This girl and these Doc Martens had no intentions of getting wet!

By the time we brought in our kayaks, it had started to rain, so we stayed indoors for a bit and read before deciding to go out exploring. I drove--I haven't gotten a lot of driving experience while living overseas, but where better to put in some miles than on an island with few inhabitants, dirt roads, and a 25 mph speed limit? Now that's my kind of driving!

We headed to Snake Island, which is more of a peninsula than an actual island, to do a little exploring and rock hunting. Angel had decided he wanted to find a Petoskey stone, which I'm pretty sure don't exist on Bois Blanc Island, but that didn't stop him from looking! Afterwards we headed to visit the cross at the North Shore and look for more rocks, but it was getting colder and windier by then so we didn't stay long.

We drove back to the cabin and enjoyed a peaceful evening eating warm soup, reading, and watching Netflix. After the first half of our trip to the US, this peaceful break was much needed! The next morning was sunny but chilly and we decided to go for a bike ride to Lake Mary, a small inland lake not too far from the cabin. It was so cold when we started riding that I wore socks on my hands to keep them a bit warmer (remember, we weren't very prepared for the weather of late spring in northern Michigan).

The bike excursion was followed by more rock hunting, a lunch outing to share a burger at Hawk's Landing, the small restaurant/store on the island ("share a burger" means I eat the french fries and he eats the burger, ha!).

The day passed in a perfection of being cuddled up in blankets reading books and wandering out to the lakeshore to enjoy the view in the evening. Once it got dark we were able to spot the light flashing from Lighthouse Point.

The next morning we swept the house and made sure everything was back in its proper place and reluctantly drove to the ferry dock--saying goodbye to the Sasquatch along the way...

BBI is the perfect place to stop and rest--to simply enjoy the beautiful world God made. It was good to spend just a few days there after 5 years without a visit, but I'm already longing to go back.

Where's your favorite place on earth?