29 October 2017

Baby Update: Certainly Halfway

We're at least halfway there by now, ringing in at 22 weeks, which feels more like a legit middle-point to me if you find out about baby at 4 weeks along. 22 weeks is precisely 18 weeks from discovery and 18 weeks from 40. I have a new hobby of counting days and weeks in my head when I can't sleep (due to the recent cold that didn't let me breathe).

Weight gain: +7 pounds total. Bam. The ultrasound machine estimates that baby boy is 1.1 pounds. He's getting bigger!

Symptoms: Primary symptoms for the past week have been cold symptoms. I feel like I don't hardly notice any pregnancy symptoms, only plenty of coughing, sneezing, congestion, and not being able to breathe. I've learned to appreciate the wonder of Nyquil all the more now that I can't take it. But now I'm feeling far better as the cold fades away. I get tired out quite easily but that just seems normal now. I've mentioned before that my perception of "normal" is perhaps easily influenced. I feel like I feel "normal," but then I remember hiking and scrambling over rocks in Joshua Tree back in May (while jet-lagged) and not even getting slightly worn out or winded and I realize that I don't feel normal. I'm frequently getting scolded about my posture and have to remember to stand up straight and proper.

Eating: I've come to the conclusion I'd be eating a whole lot more if I lived in the USA. I think about Skinny Pop White Cheddar popcorn a lot. And Five Guys, ice cream sandwiches, hot chocolate, hot spiced cider, good Mexican restaurants, etc. In reality, what I actually eat is still pretty much green apples, oranges, cucumbers, carrots, and cereal, mixed in with occasional real meals. Soups are good, like chili or homemade stew. Still not eating much meat or rice. More frequently I've been waking up extra early, around 5, because I'm hungry, so I eat a quick breakfast and go back to sleep for a bit and then eat again.

Baby: We had another ultrasound, which showed he's consistently measuring about 5 days ahead (ambitious little boy!). Everything looks good at this point, but I'm always shocked by how much bigger he seems from one ultrasound to the next. So thankful to be able to see him growing! I've yet to ask my doctor anything like so...what am I supposed to do or where am I supposed to go at this hospital when he's going to be born? I assume the doctor will give me this information at some point. I had to get my blood drawn, and I fell in love with Angel all over again because he handed me his Nokia with "Snake" already queued up and ready to play before I even asked for a distraction. He's done blood draws and vaccinations with me before, you can tell! I'm starting to be able to feel baby move, but not consistently yet, only occasionally, and it's the coolest thing ever.

Wishlist: I do want a baby book. I'm that type of record-keeping, journaling sort of person (if that wasn't already blatantly obvious). I'm thinking an Ergo 360 carrier? I expect Angel will be doing most of the serious baby carrying due to my weird back. Baby will need something to sleep in. I want to find vitamins that don't make me throw up. I want to make some wall art for the baby room (wall art that can be washi-taped up, of course, due to my aversion to nail holes in rental apartments) and make curtains, but first we need to find curtain rods. Thinking about what a tropical climate baby needs...a whole lot less in the way of socks and shoes and blankets, that's for sure.

Emotions: Basically crazy happy all the time. Particularly after a good report from the ultrasound, I feel like I'm walking on rainbows. Angel and I have such fun talking about imaginary plans for this boy...I say we should try to make him a "nerd baby" who is obsessed with grammar and education but Angel is a bit more skeptical of this idea. We talk about funny stuff like the kind of music Angel plays in the car and what sort of music this baby ought to listen to while he grows up, because both of us realized we have a soft spot for the music played in the backgrounds of our childhoods.

Preparations: I don't think we've made any new preparations yet. Haven't bought clothes for him. Do cute baby boy clothes exist? Most of the clothes here seem to be covered in Spiderman, and as superheroes go, I'm sorry, but Spiderman is kind of lame. I've bought a couple loose tunic/dresses since I'm basically out of jeans and needed something I can wear with my leggings (new dress pictured above!). Not officially maternity clothes but not as structured or fitted as my usual style. My current idea is to clean the room for the baby over Christmas break and start setting it up, so that when he has some clothes, and some stuff, we will have a place to put them. Angel's finished reading Shepherding a Child's Heart.  He's been researching medical baby-related topics in order to make decisions. I have read nothing, well, nothing other than random novels from the library that have nothing to do with babies. I tend to still feel like it's still very early on in this pregnancy, too soon to start preparing much. But like I think I've mentioned before, after I was born, my parents had to stop at the grocery store on the way home from the hospital to buy diapers because they didn't have any as long as we're not quite THAT unprepared, I think we'll be okay. I have a slight feeling that baby boy may want to arrive a tiny bit sooner than the March 4 due date...based on not much in reality, except his measurements being consistently 5 days ahead and the fact that I and many of my siblings arrived 1-3 weeks early. But no one knows....

24 October 2017

My Unpopular Opinions

-Well, probably the biggest and most glaring unpopular opinion of mine is that I don't like pets. I'm okay with animals in an academic sort of way--looking at them from far away or spotting them in the wild is cool. I like seeing jellyfish in the ocean. But I don't like pets. The outdoor cats that Angel and I used to have are about the extent to which I can tolerate a pet. And those were half-wild barn cats that got into fights with possums...Angel fed them and played with them and I left them strictly alone. I particularly don't like dogs, and feel very uncomfortable around them. Thankfully, lots of the dog-lovers in my life still tolerate me and tell their dogs to leave me alone and go love on someone (like Angel) who actually appreciates them. Safe to say I'm not the right person to take care of your pets when you're on vacation. Again, that's what I keep Angel around for.

-I love it when people talk loudly, become overly affectionate with each other, or generally act strangely in public. Eavesdropping and staring at strangers is so amazingly entertaining. Life would be too boring if people acted normal and quiet all the time.

- Green apples are the best kind of apples (except for possible honeycrisp apples in the fall in Michigan. But that's very specific, so, generally speaking, green apples are the best accessible apples).

- Purple hair is better than normal hair.

- I fully and completely enjoy Facebook. Maybe part of this is related to my real-life enjoyment of eavesdropping. But I love seeing pictures of my friends' lives, I love hearing little status updates that I'd never get a chance to hear otherwise, and I love that Facebook makes it easy enough to stay in contact with people so that we can still get addresses and needed info to arrange real-life meetups on rare occasions when we're back in the same place. Keeping track of phone numbers and dialing international calls is too complicated. Plus, pictures. I love pictures. Angel says he only wishes his Facebook friends would post more photos of their pets. I'm more about the baby and vacation pictures, myself. :)

- I think kids are more fun than adults.

- TV isn't worth watching alone. I only watch TV as a social activity. There's almost no show or movie I would want to see badly enough to actually watch it by myself. I like plenty of movies and some shows but for me it's only an activity worth spending time on if I'm watching something with family and friends and doing something with my hands (like cross-stitch) at the same time.

- Sleeping in is the boring-est way to spend a free morning. I've tried. Not sure I've ever made it past 7:30 even if I try really hard to sleep in after a late night.

-I don't like beards. Or mustaches. Or any sort of manly facial hair. Maybe a couple of characters in a couple of movies have pulled off the look somewhat successfully, but I far prefer the clean-shaved look (and let's add nicely trimmed short hair and a three-piece suit while we're at it). Angel's favorite way to torture me is to only partially shave, leaving a goatee or mustache. This always disturbs me greatly and never lasts longer than a couple hours. Usually not longer than 15 minutes.

- Coffee is not worth drinking. Even the smell. Granted, I've only tried about one cup in my lifetime, but that's because I can't get past the smell in the first place. Also, anything coffee-flavored just tastes bad.

- Excessive complaining doesn't make people more relatable. I find courage in the face of adversity or even just viewing the normal ups-and-downs of life as no big deal a much more attractive trait. Side note: Angel's one of the few nursing students I've ever met who was like, "Eh, nursing school isn't bad. It's fine. It's just like any normal school. Being a nurse isn't hard, it's just heavy work. It's a good job." Yep. I like these kinds of people. I might myself be naturally more on the dramatic side but I find people who treat the tough stuff as NBD are my kind of people and they inspire me to be more like them. Not that I believe you have to be fake and act like things are fine when they're not...but the personality trait of never being fine, or of being easily flustered or offended by the bumpy roads of life instead of erring on the side of grace and good humor...that's not my type. Although it sure seems very popular in my own generation. I sometimes suspect that it's been harder for me to make friends as an adult because I just can't get into the complaint-fests about how tough "adulting" is with other folks my age. The people I know with the actual toughest lives tend to be those who whine the least about it.

- I don't like candles. Plain old fire is fine, and once in a while pretending the electricity is out and relying on candlelight might be fun, and I think they  have their uses...but I don't like them burning and scenting up the whole room. I would never purposely go out and buy a candle for my house. Angel really likes candles. Once, before we got married, I visited the house where he lived, and during my visit, I left to go to the bathroom, and when I came out, all of the lights were off and Angel was sitting in the center of the room with a whole circle of lit candles. It was the weirdest thing ever. It was at that point that I was calculating how near his landlady was in the living room and how many steps it would take to run to my car in the parking lot. Angel was just acting totally normal and saying, "Aren't candles so cool?" Apparently people like this really creep me out but I marry them anyway.

- Gilligan's Island is a better TV show than just about any other TV show ever, and inspired my life dream to become stranded on an idyllic tropical island with a bunch of quirky characters.

What are your unpopular opinions?
17 October 2017

Day in the Life (on a day off)

Angel and I had a bit of a 'unicorn day' on Monday--no work, no events scheduled, no obligations for either one of us until 4:30 when he left to teach his only class of the day.

So, obviously, we did what all adults do when they get a day off together: catch up on errands and chores!

And vlog, for some reason, because we had more time and because I love videos of real life. Enjoy these glimpses of our day and our neighborhood and life here in SE Asia.


- I'm not responsible for the music Angel plays in the car. No one ever has any idea what he might have on the current playlist--anything and everything from 80s hits to country songs to Rich Mullins to Ryan Higa's song parodies to Camilo Sesto to Chris Tomlin to a dramatic reading of "The Raven" by Edgar Allan Poe. Any new person who rides in our car is usually mystified by our playlist. At this point, it all just seems normal.

- Angel received a gift card to a department store for his birthday in July. This was the first time we had time to go out shopping to spend the gift card. Spending birthday money is always a very serious business. I joke that no one else but me would have the patience to shop with Angel...but I love shopping with my man who thinks very, very carefully about what he wants to choose. On this day, he went with an "ultra-practical" birthday theme, choosing: a water pitcher, packing tape, white-out, bathroom cleaning spray, and a serrated knife for the kitchen.

- I should have vlogged at the post office because I waited in the car while Angel went in and had such a fun time watching the roosters strutting around acting like they're all that.

- Christmas card-making projects begin early in our family because making over 200 Christmas cards by hand, writing them, and addressing them, and getting them in the mail in time for them to actually arrive in the USA in a timely fashion is long process. Also, a long-standing family tradition begun many years ago when we first discovered that you couldn't buy big boxes of Christmas cards here. Now it's a project that I look forward to and a few in the family dread. We're getting started earlier than usual this year, though, since other upcoming events make us think we need a headstart. Angel and I send out our own Christmas cards, but I always get involved with Mom and Dad's Christmas card project.

- Things we did during the day that didn't make it onto the vlog: we ate leftover chili for breakfast, Angel talked to his parents on Skype, we dropped off a package at the post office, Angel took a nap, we hung up two loads of laundry, wrestled the sheets and pillowcases back onto our bed after they dried, and I worked on Christmas cards at Mom and Dad's house while Angel was at work, and later, while he ran 10k. And other stuff but this was two days ago, how can you expect me to remember everything? We must have eaten again at some point...I think I ate ramen in the afternoon.

How do spend those rare and precious ENTIRE days off? :)
11 October 2017

Elevator Etiquette

I have to admit that, in my misspent youth, I once, cheekily, pushed a whole bunch of buttons as I got out of the elevator, forcing the elevator to stop at every other floor. This happened a long time ago, and I'd like to think that there was no one actually riding in the elevator at the time, but I can't swear to that being true.

In more recent times, concern about Angel's behavior in elevators has surfaced. We were once riding in a very crowded elevator, with no room for anyone to move around, when he started baring his teeth and indicating to my second-youngest sister, MaryGrace, that he was intending to bite her arm. This was quite effective in freaking MaryGrace out, but because we were trapped in a crowded elevator, she had no way of escaping Angel's menacing teeth until we reached our floor.

Fun fact: If we take a selfie, it is most likely taken while waiting for the elevator to get to our floor. We also have a lot of in-elevator selfies, because Angel loves to take photos in the elevator, but these rarely turn out well, as you can imagine.

On another occasion, Angel was mid-describing a Youtube video he'd watched of laser eye surgeries gone wrong (apparently medical people watch odd things in their spare time) to my cousin, who was interested in the subject. Even in the elevator, he continued his description, although the rest of us surrounding the conversing pair noticed the gradually more horrified stares that strangers shot at him as he continued to describe the method of cutting an eyeball's lens with a laser and tragic ways the surgery can go wrong.

Elevators present an interesting conundrum to me. During the time it takes to ride an elevator, we are squashed into close physical proximity with complete strangers. Sometimes you have to judge whether you need to hold the door for someone who is approaching or if they are simply planning on walking right past the elevator, in which case, you feel pretty awkward while holding the door for them. But you'd hate to not hold the door if they were planning on getting in the elevator, because then you just seem mean. Sometimes conversations between strangers arise. In the elevators around this apartment complex, Angel receives inquiries as to where he's from on a regular basis. Pakistan? Oman? Sometimes someone takes a look at me in the elevator and says, "Oh, I know your father, he's a ___(career title that does not in fact apply to my father)___." 

One is never quite sure how to respond.

The elevators in our apartment complex are not exactly great. I've gotten stuck in the elevator by myself a couple times, and I've gotten stuck with Angel once. Thankfully, I've never gotten stuck in the elevator with a stranger, because then I could not be my true "stuck in an elevator self" which always tends to be a slightly overdramatic version who naturally assumes that I'll have to live in the elevator for the rest of my life. When the elevator gets stuck the usual recourse is pushing the alarm or emergency escape bell, which I'm not sure does anything, pushing floor buttons to try to convince the elevator to open its doors again, or yanking on the doors until they are triggered into automatically opening. This last strategy seems like it would be the worst strategy, but in fact tends to be the only one that actually works.The correct response, apparently, after freeing yourself from a stuck elevator, is to exit, and walk down the hallway to the next elevator, hoping for better luck this time, or else just heading for the stairs. Let's just say I'm glad that we live close enough to the ground that walking down 5 floors is not too impossible, even if it's not our preferred route, especially when carrying stuff.

Have you ever had a particularly interesting elevator encounter? 
05 October 2017

One Year After Baby Em

It's been a year since she left.

My family has a birthday tradition of asking what you learned over the course of the year that just passed. I dreaded being asked this on my 26th birthday. During the year I was 25, I got pregnant twice--once right after my birthday and the next time, right before my birthday. That alone is something I hold as very precious. It was a year that contained both the happiest and the saddest times of my life thus far. What I said about what I learned from year 25 was, "I learned that you can survive even something you're convinced you cannot survive. But you probably shouldn't expect to survive without scars."

I no longer feel like I'm seeing life through a haze of blackness, the way I did a year ago. I'm so grateful for the second tiny baby that's made it nearly 19 weeks so far, for the ultrasound pictures to comfort the heart of a mama whose arms feel unfairly empty. I'm grateful for the emerald ring I get to wear in memory of the baby we wanted for so long who stayed such a short time. I am not the sort of person who can calmly accept death as a fact of life. I don't believe we were made for death and that the intense love of life and vicious hatred of death that springs up within me is just a reminder that I was not made for a world where death still believes it has won. My hope remains that this world is not the goal. And I'm glad I'm no longer living in the shadow of grief the way I was a year ago.

But the scars are still there. I can still feel them, they still flare up in the most unexpected times. They still make me a little bit of a different person than I was before last October:

--Like when I was innocently watching Wonder Woman, and that guy, I don't even remember his name, blew up inside an airplane, and she screamed this agonizing, primal scream of grief and instantly I was shaking with sobs. Not because I cared about the guy...but because that scream was so startlingly familiar from a day I was all alone in my home and had to say a goodbye I never wanted to say. You think you'd be safe while watching a superhero movie, wouldn't you? But one scream, a scream you've heard before, and you're thrown back in time.

--I feel those scars aching whenever I run into random comments, either from people online or people in real life either along the lines of "literally anyone can have a baby, why should we celebrate like it's a special 'accomplishment'?" or referring to "choosing" to have a baby. It's like they don't even realize that many people choose again and again and again so many times they can't count it to have a baby. They choose for the baby that they do have to grow. And that choice is denied to them.

--The scars burn when people refer to this baby as our "first." And I push those feelings down because everyone means well and many people don't know that my precious baby boy isn't quite the first, and there truly are so many "firsts" about him. I accept that Baby Em will pretty much only exist for Angel and I, that it's different, and I appreciate how when we talk together we can say things like how much she would have loved her baby brother. When it's just us, we can daydream about what our Irish twins might have been like, but with others we just smile and accept all the congratulations on our "first."

--I feel the effect of the scars when I'm hesitant to accept the baby stuff and maternity stuff people offer to lend us. I'm grateful, and the items are needed, but it's hard to quiet the voice in the back of my mind, "But will you really need to use any of this?" I've looked up the statistics and I know that at this point, odds for the second tiny baby are good, but statistics don't comfort a mind that whispers that there's always a chance for the worst. You know that Bible verse that says something like: "Some may trust in horses and some may trust in chariots, but I will trust in the name of the Lord my God?" That's not quite word for word, but it's something to that effect. I've changed it for my situation, the one where I realize that these medical reports don't really offer the complete assurance I desire: "Some may trust in statistics, and some may trust in doctors, but I will trust in the name of the Lord my God." All the bright statistics in the world may fail to offer true comfort for this heart, but whatever may happen, the Lord, He is God. I long for baby boy to come home with us and to grow to be a man, but as I've learned, I don't have a complete "choice" in the matter. So I'll be thankful for every day that I'm given and fight as hard as I can to not worry about the days that haven't arrived yet.

--When people ask "How's the morning sickness going?" and I say something like, "It's still going!" with a grin and they say, "Oh, I'm so sorry!"...and I don't know what to say. Usually I come up with something like, "Hey, as long as the baby's growing, I can take anything morning sickness can throw at me. No problem!" Because I already know there's something far worse that vomiting a couple times a week (or a couple times a day in the first trimester). Maybe a good effect of these scars is that I'm probably the happiest person you've ever met about dealing with pregnancy symptoms. You don't have to be sorry for me that I can't keep the food inside my stomach--I'm honestly just as happy as can be about it.

--One more strange-but-good result is that I celebrate pregnancy milestones that don't actually exist. 10 days of knowing about the baby! 30 days of knowing about the baby! 50...70...80...100 days of knowing about the baby! Baby gets to meet July! And August! And September! And October! Isn't that incredible?


I'm thankful for all those who've been with me in this last, challenging year. For my family who's helped cover jobs for me when I've been too sick or too distraught to do them. Sisters who have helped with my housework or brought me food. Friends who brought flowers. For far-away family who sent care packages in the months of mourning. For Angel who still talks to me about Em. For blog friends who emailed me in the month Em was due to let me know they were still thinking about me. For my in-laws who gave me presents on Mother's Day and who let me skip church and spend the morning with Angel that day.

However, the best part is that, though I do grieve, I don't have to grieve as if I had no hope. (from 1 Thessalonians 4:13)