26 November 2017

Baby Update: 26 Weeks

These weeks are flying by! 

Weight Gain: +10 pounds total. The ultrasound machine estimates baby boy at 1.9 lbs.

Symptoms: I still try to sneak in naps when I can, but I've had more energy in the past month. I still walk to the front of our apartment complex instead of riding in the car because going over speed bumps feels very uncomfortable. There are a lot of speed bumps on this island. I yell "SLOW!" at Angel before every one of them. Still having a bit of nausea or stomach upset, and definitely sensitive to smells, but generally feeling as well as could be expected and loving to feel the baby move! His favorite wake-up times are 5 in the morning and 10 at night. I sleep great, haven't bought any maternity clothing yet...the few times I've peeked into the few specialty maternity stores I just hated them. We'll see if or when I get over that. Leggings and tunics/dresses work fine for now. I've been taking all the clothes that don't fit out of my room and storing them in the other room. Let's say my wardrobe is becoming gradually more "streamlined."

Eating: I still tend to feel like I think about food more than I actually eat it. Fruit remains a favorite, although grapefruits may have surpassed green apples in popularity. I was actually able to eat my favorite homemade yeast rolls at Thanksgiving dinner--which shows how far I've come, because I requested them for my birthday back in July but was not really able to eat them due to nausea. I swear, my stomach is my greatest weakness, which might be surprising given the scrawniness of my arms. :P The lady from church who gave us 30 eggs and a 5 lb. bag of Milo back in September gave us another 30 eggs and another 5 lb. bag of Milo, so we're all set there. So sweet!

Questions: Everyone asks how many months along I am, and I never know what to answer, because months are hard to figure out. Weeks are easier. I know 24 weeks isn't really 6 months because a month is more than four weeks, but as of today (26 weeks + 1 day), we found out about baby boy 5 months and a few days ago so I'm guessing this must be about 6 months? How about you just let me answer in weeks? I always know weeks.

Emotions: The usual crazy happiness and excitement as baby boy gets a little bit bigger each week. My favorite thing is talking with Angel about dreams and hopes for the future. And "parenting decisions." We've had a bunk bed in our guest room for the past few years, a hand-me-down from my parents from when they downsized on their bed needs after a few kids moved out for college. Angel and I decided we didn't feel safe about having a bunk bed in a baby/toddler's room and decided to take off the top bunk and get rid of it, our reasoning being that it's still so many years down the road till baby boy would be old enough for him to be safe to sleep in a top bunk, and there's no point storing a bed you know you won't use for years just in case you do want to use it someday. That's when Angel said, "And besides, if we ever get to the point where we don't have enough beds, he can just sleep on a mat on the floor." 
My response was: "Wait, who can sleep on a mat on the floor? Our kid? The kid who lives here every day?"
Angel: "Yeah, why not?"
Me: "Seeing as a bed is something that literally gets used everyday, I think an actual bed would be a worthwhile investment for non-temporary your own children." 

#minimalismgoestoofar #realbedsareawesome

Preparations: We are significantly more prepared! Angel and I made our first and so far only baby purchase--a crib! And then Dad and Angel put it together over Thanksgiving weekend, so that makes things a lot more serious now. I asked my sister to mail me some gummy vitamins because I was running out of the vitamins we'd bought in the USA this summer (story: I was not yet pregnant when we bought the vitamins, but I strongly suspected that when I was pregnant, gummies would be a whole lot easier for me than swallowing giant pills, and we found several bottles on clearance at Meijer, so we bought them. They've been a lifesaver because all the prenatals I've tried here have been making me quite ill). Superhero Anna saved the day and her package arrived a few days before I ran out of vitamins, and she included some other treats, including 10 onesies and baby mitts. So now I think we have his newborn wardrobe all settled. ;) We also got the date and location set for a baby shower in mid-January.
19 November 2017

"Under the Sea" Birthday Party

Sarah's request for her 11th birthday party this year was a mermaid/under the sea-themed celebration. Our children's birthday parties tend to be a bit unusual in that we don't tend to have a very targeted guest list--this party had both boys and girls, guests as young as 4 and and some nearly 50, with a whole bunch of teenagers as well.

It can sometimes complicate things to try to plan a party that will have something for everyone. Of course, the one thing that appeals to everybody is food, so we started off with a whole bunch of on-theme dishes. Because most of the guests at this party were 17 and under, we erred more heavily on the side of fun snacks than on actual hearty cooked dishes.

Sand dollar inspired sugar cookies

Seaweed snacks are super popular here--these were the first to disappear!

Odds are, a good percentage of our guests would eat real octopi or squid if offered, but we took the easy route and cut up hot dogs to look like octopi

"Sea Foam Punch" out of blue Mountain Dew (the only blue drink we could find!), Sprite, crushed pineapple, and lime sherbet.

"Fisherman's Pie" was really Shepherd's Pie...with goldfish sprinkled on top.

And can't forget our veggies!

We also had popcorn, cupcakes, an assortment of fish-shaped candies and crackers, tunafish sandwiches (another extremely popular item that went fast--who would have thought?!), and apple cinnamon tea, which has nothing to do with the theme but is very delicious.

The house was an explosion of sea-related decor--on a low budget, as always. Fabric from bedsheets or old dresses covered up normal household items. The TV table was transformed into a treasure chest with scattered coins from Sarah's coin collection and pom-pom jellyfish hung from the walls. MaryGrace did most of the decor work and as always, I'm impressed with what you can accomplish with colorful paper and random stuff from around the house. Living on an island, the girls have amassed a collection of treasured shells, beach rocks, and sand dollars over the years, so those were scattered on various tables for atmosphere.

Of course, at any party, fashion matters. Angel wore his Ariel t-shirt in honor of the theme. I refashioned Sarah's dress out of an old skirt belonging to MaryGrace, by cutting and re-sewing the skirt to make it narrower, and adding straps made from the extra material. The real exciting fashionable addition were the hairstyles. I'm not sure what, if anything, glittery hair has to do with mermaids, but MaryGrace had seen glitter roots on the internet, and a birthday party is as good of a time as any to paint your hair with glitter. Angel's hair gel was donated to the cause, and I mixed in glitter and painted it on Sarah's roots after braiding her hair.

This was a first time experiment, but I was very impressed with how well the glitter application stays in and I'm sure these girls will find more reasons to need glittery hairstyles in the future.

Of course, no party is any party at all without games. First up, after eating, we played a game I'd heard of on the internet--a "Mermaid Race" of sorts where the racers have to step into trash bags, get their knees taped together, and then "swim" their way across the floor to reach a prize--in our case, a candy bar.

This was very hilarious. Pro trip: When you're the game master, always choose the games that will be funniest for you to watch.

Next up, was the game that no party is complete without (if you ask Angel, anyways): a piñata. 

I had told MaryGrace that I didn't think we had the time necessary to make one before the day of the party, but she took that as a challenge and whipped one up. Here, if you want a piñata, you have to go the old-fashioned route and get out your newspaper, flour and water, because there's no option to buy one. Look on the bright side, it saves money when you have no option other than to DIY.

All adults worked hard on enforcing the traditional rules:
1. Youngest player gets to hit first, oldest last.
2. Must be blindfolded.
3. Must stop swinging the wooden lightsaber when we say "stop"
4. All observers must stand FAR AWAY in order to be out of the danger zone

This is always a scary game for adults. This was one tough piñata. After each kid and teen had two turns for a go at the piñata, we let Angel get a turn and within 2 or 3 hits candy was raining down.

After that, the last game of the evening was Ocean-themed charades. Everyone got involved in this game--I had some more difficult cards and some easier ones so that all ages could be challenged to play. Everything from seahorse to shipwreck to pirate to pufferfish to sea cucumber (that one was possibly the funniest).

Cleaning up was a group effort--it takes the whole family to set up and take down these celebrations in the apartment, but the fun is well worth the effort. My little sister was talking not too long ago about how she sees the act of hosting a party as an opportunity to serve others generously--to give guests a chance to make memories and have an evening of fun and good food. That's what makes it worth the effort involved--the chance to see how much fun everyone gets to have spending time together. Our birthday parties are maybe a bit odd--we didn't even sing happy birthday or have a birthday cake at this one, but they're a tradition we really enjoy.

And now my baby sister is eleven. How could that possibly be?
14 November 2017

What Will Our Baby Look Like?

I mean, obviously that's the million dollar question. Perhaps there are more serious parenting questions that ought to arise at this time, questions regarding lifestyle choices and parental and family values and culture...

But you know it. You just want to know what your baby will look like. Angel's family shares a strong resemblance with each other and my family does as well. I'm going to assume that with our genes, dark eyes and dark hair that will grow into waves or curls are a given...but still, what exactly will the baby look like? I've been trying to find old baby photos of us to solve this mystery.

Angel's newborn photo:

So it looks like there's a chance baby won't be a baldy little baby. Here's me as a newborn, though I couldn't find my hospital photo:

So perhaps baby will be a sleepy type. I don't actually have access to most of our childhood photos, which are, of course, all stored back in the USA. But I did find one photo of Angel that made me aware that he hasn't changed all that much.

Looks like a very responsible big brother, no mischief indicated by that grin whatsoever, right? Right?

In fact, most of the baby photos I have access to are trapped in this slideshow of us growing up, which was played at our wedding. Practically required at weddings back in the day, though probably a bit out of fashion by now, I imagine. Watch the beginning to see photos alternating between us as infants--I'm the super pale one. ;)

How has family resemblance worked out in your family?
11 November 2017

Flood Damage

A heavy rainstorm that began during the day on Saturday, November 4th, and continued all throughout the following night caused some of the worst flooding our island has ever experienced.

Tropical rainstorms are a normal part of life during the rainy season here, and in this part of the world, low-lying areas are prone to flooding from time to time, but no one expected the far-reaching damage that this storm would cause.

{Taken the evening of the storm}

We slept through the storm, periodically waking to the sounds of heavy rain and wind. In the morning, Angel went out first thing to check on our car because he could see that branches were down in the parking lot. The car was fine--just weeks ago, trees around our apartment complex had gotten majorly trimmed down, and that probably was a big factor in how little tree damage we had here. We noticed some leaking in our storage room--an on-and-off problem when we have serious rainstorms, but still weren't aware of the extent of this particular storm.

My parents called to tell us that getting out on the local roads was difficult due to a number of downed trees on all major roads. We then started hearing updates from friends that low-lying areas of Penang had flooded, and we heard of one friend's home that had flooded, so about mid-morning I sent Angel out to see what he could do to help with clean-up efforts.

It felt like it took us a while to really find out the extent of the effects of the flooding, but more stories and situations and photos began to pour in and everything really started to hit home. Landslides had occurred around the island, a road within walking distance from our apartment collapsed, the car ferry had floated up and gotten itself grounded on the pier, and some area homes had already been submerged under water for hours.

This is a mountainous island--to some extent, everything is either built on a hill or in a valley, and in the neighborhoods in the valleys that are suffering most after this storm. Because this flood is so much more severe than any we've experienced before, some residents believe strongly that the constantly growing population and constantly growing building/development/skyscraper industry paired with a lack of growth in drainage infrastructure that has caused the island not to be able to handle this severe of a storm.

But at this point, in the short-term, we can't be most worried about what caused these effects or how to prevent them in the future. Instead, right now we need to find people dry places to sleep and food to eat and electrical appliances and clean homes so that they can return to normal life.

 {The flood level rose to about 4 feet high in this home}

One of the biggest casualties to the flood is vehicles. Hundreds of cars parked on streets and in parking lots were submerged up to their roofs, thousands of motorcycles were in the similar state. In a moment, you realize just how important a car is to life--it's a way to get to work, it's a means of transportation to anywhere else you might need to go, it's a big financial investment. Because flood damage is not typically covered by insurance, many of these cars will be marked a total loss and owners will be left to work with paying the amount still due on their car loans, or, if they owned their car in full, they'll still have to find a way to fund the purchase of a replacement vehicle.

Everyone here who remembers the tsunami of 2004 keeps bringing up how this time brings back so many memories of that disaster. Then, too, no one had any warning of the damage that was approaching, and it took at least a day for the knowledge of the full extent of the disaster that had occurred to find its way to us. For the second time in my life, I'm seeing friends--this time people I've known for literally half of my life--lose nearly everything they own to water damage. Irreplaceable things, like photo albums and journals are particularly vulnerable to floods. So are expensive purchases, like electronics and mattresses...and most things you own, when you think about it. Once again, we see the immense power of water, how the sheer force of it can flip heavy pieces of furniture and appliances upside down and leave a home looking like a tornado has gone through it.

Another thing that feels familiar is how the community responds. How quickly small groups of friends and neighbors and coworkers have mobilized to work together to find ways to meet immediate needs of those whose homes have been flooded. Even some local businesses are stepping up to the plate, offering special discounts on electrical appliances for flood victims. The local government and various groups of people around the state have organized themselves to bring whatever skills and resources they have to aid their neighbors in immediate needs--getting a safe place to stay and to sleep, getting homes cleaned, getting food to eat and necessities of life replaced.

It won't be an easy road for many. The thing about flooding and mud in a humid, tropical climate where mold and mildew grow easily is that it's practically a losing battle to try to clean and dry out these plaster and cement block homes that have been flooded before the naturally hot, moist climate causes unhealthy molds to grow in the walls and floors. My mom is one who has been fighting that battle, cleaning muddy residue off of walls and sanitizing them with a bleach rinse. We hope now for sunny, hot days that will help buildings to dry out, but so far the skies remain mostly overcast.

One thing that's different is my own role this time around. During the tsunami, I was in the homes, carrying garbage out to the dump trucks, elbow-deep in muddy water, trying to rinse the filth of the ocean out of saris. This time, with baby boy on board, it's advisable for me to avoid bacteria-carrying mud, strong fumes of cleaning chemicals, slippery floors, heavy lifting...basically anything and everything that's necessary and normal in flood clean-up. So I've stayed home and done babysitting and switched loads of laundry (from people whose houses had been flooded who at least needed a few day's worth of clean clothing) from the washer to the dryer. Everyone else is out doing the hardcore work, but I'm honest with myself that at this point I'd be more of a liability than a help. Being in this stage of life makes me think even more of the many pregnant women whose own homes were affected, who don't have a safe and clean and dry home to stay behind in while others do the harder work. As is so often the case, it's the most vulnerable in society--elderly folks, widows, single mothers, etc--who have been affected most dramatically by this disaster. I'm so glad that in this community I see bits of brightness, bits of love and light and grace in how so many come together to help whoever they can. But my heart hurts at all the stories of loss and desperation.