31 December 2018

10 Things I Did in 2018 that I've Never Done Before

Let's start with the most obvious, shall we?

1. Gave birth.
I wrote about that day. With 5 hours and 14 minutes from the first contraction to the moment he was born, that was a bit of a whirlwind experience. I'm very thankful we both came out of it safe and healthy--or at least I regained my health after a couple of really tough weeks. Recovery was more difficult than labor, that's for sure. I remember feeling distinctly that taking care of the baby wasn't so hard, it was just trying to take care of myself and feel human again that was nearly impossible. I'm so thankful for the family that cuddled Cyrus when I was too weak to hardly hold him. Also, thankful for modern medicine and doctors that figured out what was wrong and helped me get better again.

2. Opened a Language Education Center. We officially opened in August and we're starting small, but we have dreams of hiring and training employees in the future. I love the classroom space that we've got set up now and that the center is a place where kids can go who can benefit from language education outside of school hours.

3. Found a live, wild tarantula in my my baby's bedroom, no less.

Let's file this under "things I've never done before AND things I never want to do again"

4. Become the wife of a high school Spanish teacher.

Granted, this is more something Angel did new this year, but it's also a pretty momentous change in my life, adjusting to the new time schedules and his new commitments. I married a hospital nurse, who has worked the past few years for a company that teaches English to business people, so this has been quite a life change, but one that's impacted our lifestyle for the better. In his new job, Angel does spend some time in the clinic each day as the second school nurse, and next semester he'll be coaching track as well, so he gets to make the most of his athletic talents. In his first semester I've helped behind the scenes with classroom decor, lesson planning, exam grading, and making carnitas for the Mexican food party Angel hosted for his class.

5. Helped run a booth at a craft show.

So terribly fun to help my little sister run her table, talk to customers and package items and make change. A wonderful new experience!

6. Get my first professional family photos WITH A BABY taken, and then promptly break a life-long tradition of sending out handmade Christmas cards in favor of sending out a photo Christmas card.

They say parenthood changes you...

7. Visited a couple of islands in Hong Kong that I've never been to before. I have a fondness for nearly deserted islands and Yim Tin Tsai in Hong Kong was a dream come true! This was part of a larger trip to Hong Kong, a place I explored frequently when we lived across the border in ShenZhen, but it was especially fun to see parts of Hong Kong I had never seen before.

8. I won a kitchen appliance, an air fryer, to be specific, which happened to be an appliance I had never used before. So, this year, we learned the benefits of an air fryer. So far, my favorite application is using it to make "baked" potatoes--because it's fast and the potatoes turn out really, really delicious. We also use it to cook marinated chicken strips on a fairly regular basis. I've written before that one of my extremely random life goals is to win a stay at a fancy hotel...still haven't done that, and I realize what a ridiculous "goal" that is...but hey, I won a kitchen appliance!

9. I definitely got less sleep this year than ever before in my life. Maybe that seems like a typical new-parent cop out...but wow. Seriously. You don't know till you have a baby how little sleep you can get by on.

10. There are a bazillion "firsts" associated with parenting that happened this year. First time taking a human that I am fully responsible for to the doctor. First time wandering the back hallway behind the sanctuary carrying a baby so that he won't make noises and interrupt the church sermon. First time (rather, first two thousand times) telling my child "no." First time experiencing the strange blend of freedom and stress which is leaving my baby with his grandma for a few hours of babysitting. First time realizing how after baby arrives, they really change everything, because even during the hours I'm not with him (which are few, because he generally goes everywhere I go), I think about him, wonder if he's behaving himself or causing trouble, and miss him.

Oh, what fun he has been!

Happy 2019 to you all!
18 December 2018

Lifelong Dreams and All That

I've always loved going to craft shows. I love wandering the booths, eyeing the pretty things talented people make. I don't tend to buy a lot of stuff, as I'm not a very knick-knacky type, but I have bought a few notable things at craft shows.

1) I bought a Christmas sign with two snowmen on it because they have my parents' names written underneath them. The sign was just an example of personalization...but it just so happened to have my parents' names on it, with the exactly correct spelling and all, so I asked the seller if I could buy her example, and she let me. That was about 10 years ago when I was a freshman in college, and it still comes out at their house every year at Christmas.

2) Hairclips. Those with a sharp eye might have noticed that I often wear either a pink flower clip or a blue flower with feathers or a teal flower with feathers. I've had these three hair clips for years...probably since about 2011, 2012. They stay so nicely in my hair, and the "flower clip in the hair" is just a signature Rachel move at this point. I bought two of them one year, and went back to the same seller at the same craft show the next year and bought another because I loved them so much. 

3) A bracelet made of forks. And earrings made from the handles of spoons. Angel bought these gifts for me, but I helped pick them out. They're pretty much perfect.

Always, secretly, as I wandered the aisles at craft shows in the USA, I thought about how fun it would be to have my own booth. To sell my handmade wares. But I'm not a business person, and through I'm crafty in my own way, nothing I might make is the sort of thing people would buy. I'm not really cut out for the job, anyways. I just always thought it would be really fun. Ever have really impractical dreams of that sort?

And then, this month, I got to live out a little piece of that lifelong dream as I got to help my little sister prepare for and run her booth at not one, but two craft shows. The first was at Angel's school. He'd asked if she could join the craft fair they were having, but we didn't want to tell her about it till we knew what the answer would be. We got a "yes" answer Wednesday night. The show was on Friday.

She flew into a frenzy of painting on Thursday as I dutifully cut paper, laminated bookmarks, washed jars, punched holes in gift tags, wrote out price lists, and did my little part to support her creative genius. Sarah watched the babies. It was truly a team effort to complete everything in time for the show!

I went with her to set up the table and help with adding and subtracting and nearly burst at the seams with excitement as I watching my baby sister selling her art.

On Sunday, we got word that the following week, on Saturday, there would be another craft show that she could join, at a different venue.

Six days notice to prepare for a show seemed like a luxury of time after the previous week, but again, it was a week full of paper cutting and laminating and painting and lettering and creative chaos until we left early on the morning of the show. This time, I even colored her hair vivid red the night before the show because...everyone's more confident when their haircolor is great! It takes a team! Angel watched Cyrus while I spent the morning of the craft show with MaryGrace, and then we traded places in the afternoon. 

It was fun to sit back and watch her chat with strangers, make new friends, and become a little more confident in her artwork. We sometimes fumbled with the wrapping paper for the glass jars. The bags we brought were too small for some of the artwork. We learned a bit about what sold and what didn't. At the first sale she received multiple requests for Dr. Who-themed bookmarks, but didn't have any. She made some for the second sale, and sold several of them. Her velociraptor and jellyfish illustrations were popular, and the handpainted gift tags sold like hotcakes. Even the watercolor galaxy ornaments--my idea that MaryGrace was not really convinced was actually a good idea--nearly sold out, much to her surprise.

So, it wasn't my booth, but it was my dream, and I think that helping with the practical background stuff while watching my little sister's talent blossom is just about the best fulfillment of said dream that I could imagine. Sometimes dreams don't always turn out to be all about you, after all. 
29 November 2018

9 Months with Baby

Babies are a mystery.

Pretty sure that's the biggest thing I've learned about babies now that Cyrus has been on the outside just about equally as long as he was on the inside.

- Sleep: He has never slept through the night, but he does sleep in his own room now, and he seems pretty comfy in his crib. He'll sleep a 5 hour stretch...but not the whole night. As they say....definitely by college they'll be sleeping through the night so no need to worry, right?

- Clothes: He's definitely in 12-18 mo. sizes now. The doctor didn't tell me how much he weighed or measured in length last time he was in, so I'm not sure. I bought 2-3 yr. sizes for Christmas presents (which I think are smaller here than they are in the USA). I was wondering why most of his shirts seem way too small for him now until I looked back at some pictures of him wearing the same shirts at 4-5 months old and realized, oh, yeah, he's a lot bigger than he used to be.

- Food: We're trying more and more of what I call "human food." I fed him some zucchini that my sister had made and he ate it with gusto, only later, when I actually tried it, I realized how spicy it was and thought that maybe I shouldn't have fed baby such spicy veggies. Sorry, Cyrus. As a firstborn myself, I know what it means to be a "guinea pig." He really loves pureed veggies and fruits but I'm trying to give him a chance every day with grown-up food and feeding himself. I've met so many five-year-olds who don't feed themselves that perhaps I am slightly overly-worried about a baby boy never learning how to eat his own lunch.

- When we're not at home, maybe we're at my parents' house or church or a friends' house, and we're eating, he's developed the "puppy" habit of walking from person to person around the room and making it very clear that he'd like some of their food. Probably not a good habit to encourage, but so's just too cute.

- Everyday, Angel gets out his shoes and sits down to put them on, and Cyrus instantly notices and crawls at lightspeed to try to grab the shoes and/or untie the laces as fast as Angel can get them on. It's too funny.

- He's begun to often crawl while holding a toy, usually a block or one of his cars (my brother sent him a set of wooden cars and they are by far his favorite toys--clearly Cyrus belongs in his family). It always cracks me up when he comes crawling into the kitchen taking a toy along with him. He has also gotten sad when he rolls his car under the couch so far that he can't reach it. Oh, the troubles of a baby!

- No actual walking yet, though he does "walk" all over the house by holding onto the walls and furniture and sometimes pushing our dining chairs across the floor (who needs a walker when you have chairs?!)

- He got his two top teeth this month and they are currently so far apart that it looks like you could stick a whole tooth right in between them. I had really wacky teeth as a kid before I got braces....wondering if he might take after me a bit...

- He has a new habit, when he's sad, sleepy, and hungry, of saying what sounds exactly like "Mom mom mom mom mom mom mom" and I think I've been given a glimpse of my future.

- He thinks his grandpa is the funniest person he's ever met. Angel is also pretty funny but also kind of scary (I agree, Cyrus). I can tell he likes me, because he will play very happily and contentedly until I walk into the room and then all of a sudden he'll start with the "mom mom mom" complaining. Definitely a sign of affection, right?

I often sit back and look at this Cyrus of mine and feel slightly perplexed. I now understand the "tiny human" phrase so much better. I never got why people called babies "tiny humans" until Cyrus and now I get it---he is so very, very human, with a personality and character and strengths and weaknesses. And he is so very, very tiny, too. I mean, he's chubby, but also, very tiny considering that we're used to dealing with much larger humans. It's an interesting combo to live with.

What a marvelous gift! I don't think I've laughed so much in my life as I have in the last nine months. Who knew babies were the best entertainment? Also, maybe when you're sleepy, you're easily amused. Or at least I am.
18 November 2018

When You Lose Your Love of Clothing

But you still have to wear it's clothing. You must. It's very important.

I've loved clothes my whole life. My style varies with the seasons, but I've always taken great joy out of my closet and getting dressed for each day.

Until...the last year-ish.

How typical. Get pregnant and then be a nursing mom and fall out of love with your closet.

I think it's a combination of factors:

- The climate I live in - layering, nursing tanks, lots of ways to make practical 'mom' outfits look more interesting are simply not practical when it's never ending summer. If I'm going to a place with cold aircon like the mall or the hospital, sure, layers can work there, but not anywhere else.

- My natural style preferences - I like woven cotton dresses in bright colors with a quirky accessory or two. As a second option, I like tunics with leggings. Neither of these options makes nursing easy, and accessories and babies aren't a great mix. Just yesterday he got ahold of one of my earrings...ouch! I mean, I do love jeans and a good t-shirt...but that's all I've been wearing and it gets a little boring after a while. And jeans are not all that comfortable in this heat (Many of my days I have to look a little bit like a responsible, semi-professional adult and shorts aren't an option...hence, my preference for light cotton dresses).

- Money - I think it's fairly universal that women find it hard to spend money on maternity and nursing-specific clothing because we have in mind that it's a relatively short season of life and money can't really be thrown away on clothes you're only gonna wear for a year or so.

Because you only have to get dressed 365 or 366 days a year. That's not often at all. Also, although I know that cute and not-so-boring clothing exists that was specifically designed for pregnant and nursing moms, they mostly exist in America. Not here. Actually, for my birthday when I was pregnant, I sat down all excited to buy some cute actual maternity clothes that I'd been eyeing online with my  birthday money...but they didn't ship to Malaysia. So I gave up, bought a total of 4 loose cotton tunics, and with pairing those with leggings and whatever still fit from my normal wardrobe, finished out the nine months. I will admit I was very excited to get back to my old jeans after those nine months were over!

It's been strange to find that a lifelong love has faded in recent months. Even with Christmas approaching, I didn't put any wearable items on my wishlist because...I just try not to think about clothes right now. I like the t-shirts I have. I have some cute ones that my sister made me at the custom graphic tee shop that she works at--those are especially precious to me. I have a cute Mickey Mouse shirt and a Star Wars graphic tee--that's the one I'm wearing as I type this. I have exactly one pair of jeans with the world's most perfect fit--seriously, 'holy grail' type jeans and I love them so. I also have a couple pairs of hand-me-down jeans from my sister that do not have the perfect fit, but they are very comfy, and hence, work out great for baby-chasing.

But I miss the variety. I love a good tee paired with my perfect-fit jeans, but somehow, I just don't get as excited about it as I would when wearing a red-and-white polka dot dress with flared skirt, and a long necklace and quirky pendant.

So I don't love my clothes the way I used to during this moment of life. And I know it's just a moment, one that will be fleetingly past before I know it. But it's been funny to realize that the style I loved for so long just doesn't work for me right now. And I haven't even succumbed to the "mom wearing leggings" stereotype, even though I actually really like leggings with a short dress, because even that outfit is not especially baby-feeding-friendly, either.

The season for dresses will come again...I think. In the meantime, if I ever get back to the USA and go to Old Navy, I'm splurging on a second pair of holy grail jeans.
17 November 2018

Race Recap - "An Impressive Athletic Feat"

When writing down little goals for 2018, one of mine was to accomplish "an impressive athletic feat."

For some people, that might be a marathon or climbing a mountain or biking a couple hundred miles or something of that sort.

At the time I wrote that goal, I had just gotten steroid shots and had been ordered to stay off my feet as much as possible to avoid early labor. And even in the best case scenario, I'm not the most impressively athletic my standards were not exactly high.

This weekend, I accomplished that impressive athletic feat.

Which is...wait for it...complete an approximately 2.5-3 km fun run...while carrying a 20+ lb. baby for most of it.

The senior class at Angel's school had organized a charity fun run, a "Splash'n'Dash," which meant that it would involve water balloons and hoses and buckets and the like...and I decided that this was the right time to do something impressively athletic. I want to participate in the school's events when I can so that I don't feel like a total outsider at Angel's work, and this was a good opportunity. My two sisters decided to join--this would be Sarah's first race, ever! It was my second.

The not-so-athletic among us underestimated the difficulty that the race might entail. And by "us," I mean, "me." I carried the baby so that Angel could actually run the race while I took it at a much slower pace. The baby ended up being a very useful shield, as the people manning the hoses and buckets of ice water took it pretty easy on me as soon as they saw the infant in arms. The course involved flights of stairs and a climb up a bit of rocky trail in a part of the campus that goes into the jungle, so it was by no means a flat, easy run. I opted to wear Chacos instead of actual shoes and I'm glad I did, due to the mud involved.

I was very proud of both Sarah and MaryGrace for running and completing the middle school and high school races. I didn't really run at all, but some of the people manning the race track suggested that I ought to get a special prize for completing the race with the heaviest additional load. I felt like making some kind of joke about "These last 20 lbs of baby weight just seem to stick around." Clearly the everyday baby carrying has been a great upper body workout, because, honestly, the carrying part was not all that bad, although I was pretty tired when the race was over. Or maybe that was the 4 times Cyrus was up last night. Who knows? Whenever I'm on the school's campus I'm amazed by the beauty of it all--the school is right next to the ocean and I love the view out over the water.

Cyrus was only mildly amused by being sprayed with water--I had thought he would like it more, since he loves showers and swimming so much, but he was really chill, instead of being his exuberant self. Maybe this is because he had been happily napping when it was time to go to the race?! (He took a nap after the race and when he woke up he was not chill anymore, so all's well now).

So there, I guess that's my most amazing athletic feat of 2018. Unless it was having that baby in the first place?
13 November 2018

Thoughts on the Holidays

No lie, I am ridiculously excited about Thanksgiving and Christmas this year and have been thinking about it a lot. I think there's a number of factors at play.

1. It's baby's first Christmas. 

It doesn't look quite like I had perhaps imagined my baby's first Christmas might be. I don't have a Christmas tree, let alone a sparkly "Baby's 1st Christmas 2018" personalized ornament to hang on said tree.

Which is maybe a good thing, because we'd just spend the whole month trying to make him not pull on, climb on, or eat the tree anyways. I do have my Christmas garland and banner up, and my collection of snowmen ornaments in the middle of our dining table (since Cyrus cannot yet reach the dining table).

Opening stockings was a big part of my childhood Christmas, and my Grandma bought me a personalized stocking that I still have for my 1st Christmas.

2008, the last time I was with all my siblings for Christmas

I want to carry on the tradition of having a keepsake personalized stocking that gets filled with little treats and fun snacks every Christmas (I was going to stuff it with baby puffs and teething biscuits this year). What happened in my own family, the reason that my two youngest sisters don't have matching stockings, is because the company where we bought our stockings went out of business.

But they don't really sell stockings here, at least not fancy keepsake stockings that can last a lifetime...

So I had a great plan--I'll search and pick out a stocking from a company that won't go out of business! I found some very traditional stockings that could be personalized at L.L. Bean (surely they won't close up shop anytime soon!) and picked out the pattern I wanted. But then...the international L.L. Bean site wouldn't allow us to add the personalization and international shipping was so expensive and the USA site did allow personalization but then the time and cost of getting the stocking to Malaysia was just not going to work, no stocking this year. 

Maybe next year, if someone visits.

So, instead, we will carry on another time-honored family tradition, which is making do and having fun with what's actually available and being practical...and I will let Cyrus take his treats out of a reusable grocery shopping bag that has been temporarily commandeered for use as a stocking. Hey, it works! ;)

I do think that one of the best perks of baby's first Christmas is that he's not really old enough to have any specific desires yet, so I can just get him whatever I want him or need him to have, and he'll be happy with all the wrapping paper to tear up and with new things whatever they may be. Quickly growing boy has next to no clothing in the next size up so I already got him shorts and t-shirts...and baby wipes and soap for his bath and books I want to read him. *cackles in glee* And I'm planning to give him diapers. I mean, isn't it more fun to have a lot to open on Christmas, even if some of it is boring stuff that you needed anyway? (The same reason I give Angel at least one pair of athletic socks every Christmas) I still need to do a little more shopping when Christmas is closer. Grandma got him toys because Grandma wants the most fun presents to be from her--typical Grandma!

I know I don't have long before he's handing me itemized wish lists, so I'm enjoying this! 

2. Angel gets time off for Thanksgiving and Christmas!!

First year in a new job, and teachers have this amazing thing where they get time off for major holidays since there's a school break. It's kind of wonderful. For the past few years, he worked on Thanksgiving and most major holidays. The place where he worked previously did shut down for one week around Christmas, so he did get that time off, but it also made the end of the year stressful since it meant one week's less pay in December.

Angel's new job is one of our biggest "thank yous!" of the year, and since it does keep him pretty busy, I'm excited that we'll get to see him a lot over the holiday and he'll get to play with Cyrus

3. My December Christmas Countdown

I always do some form of Christmas countdown calendar, usually with activities each day. For practical reasons, a lot of the activities are pretty low-key (I'm pretty sure I've put "Pre-Christmas Housecleaning" in as a countdown activity for a Saturday before...because that's just the kind of person I am). I've figured out what kind of calendar I'm going to make this year, and have the supplies, now I just have to get some time to work on it. An anniversary date is always one of the Christmas countdown activities, with a December anniversary. This is the first year since our first anniversary that we aren't planning to go away for a night to celebrate, but we certainly will celebrate during the daytime (babies change things...)!

We were given a Spanish and English children's story Bible by my aunt, so while in the past, reading the Christmas story has always been a part of the countdown activities, I think we're going to add in another night where we read the Christmas story in Spanish. With the arrival of Cyrus and with Angel's new job, Spanish has taken a much bigger role in our everyday lives this year, and I'm grateful for that.

4. Food

It's the best part, isn't it? What are your favorite foods for the holidays? I want my mom to make up some homemade hot cocoa mix, which is perhaps a little silly to drink over here....but nothing beats a cup of hot cocoa while watching It's a Wonderful Life. I'm planning to make a Bacon Cheddar Jalapeno Dip for crackers for Thanksgiving...and maybe again for Christmas because it's a new recipe I learned over the summer and I may need to eat it twice. I want to make some Andes Mint Surprise cookies for Angel to take into work before the school year is over. And I'll make some molasses cookies for at home--the recipe that made Angel fall in love with me.

Over Christmas break, I want to have at least one "dumpling party," where my family gets together and makes dumplings (in the sense of pan-fried jiaozi) that would break the heart of an authentic chef of Chinese cuisine. We make cheeseburger dumplings, apple pie dumplings, banana dumplings, pizza dumplings...we've talked about perfecting a recipe for carnitas dumplings but haven't gotten around to it yet. Usually, we sit around filling dumplings and talking about how one day we're going to open an East-meets-West food truck and sell all of our crazy dumpling recipe inventions and get rich. Then we eat about 25 dumplings apiece while watching a show like Monk or Psych. It's the best holiday tradition ever, and we only started it a year or so ago.

There are always thoughts of missing my family members when Christmas comes around, but with a family like ours, some of them are going to be "missing" no matter where we are in the world. I'm glad for those that we get to spend this Christmas with! And I'll be eagerly awaiting all the Christmas photos and stories from the other family Christmas celebrations that we have to miss out on.

What are you thinking about with the holiday season quickly approaching?
11 November 2018

Family Photos: Outtakes Edition

I've always had this idea that once we had a baby, I'd like to get "real" professional family photos once a year or so. Of course, I also was aware that nicely posed photos would get just slightly more complicated once a baby was around.

We had our first-ever family photoshoot as a family of three (and my parents and two of my sisters got their photos done at the same time, because #efficient ) and I'm too happy with how the photos turned out. Our photographer was quick, creative, and reliable, and we are already thinking that we should book her again next year!

One of the unexpected hilarious outcomes of the photoshoot was that our photographer sent me some of the not-as-perfectly-posed photos, the "outtakes," from the shoot. Nearly all of them can be blamed squarely on Cyrus. I will share the beautiful photos in our Christmas card and in future blog posts, but this post is all about humor, so there will be no perfect moments allowed.

Honestly, he was a very happy little guy on the beach, especially when we let him touch the sand and water, but every baby has their moments. Let's consider this a glimpse into the 8-month-old's inner thoughts during family photos:

"These parents are smiling like they're in a stock photo and I'm like, I could be building a sand castle right now. Right over there."

"Absolutely no idea why they're all gazing off into the distance, because I'm definitely thinking that this is more of a 'stare dead-eyed directly into the camera lens' kind of shot."

"What can I say? I can only model so long before I need a nap."

"You're all so happy and I'm just...not."

"This is no laughing matter! I'm serious! I need sand!"

"Now that's more like it!!" (This is his happy face these days)

"I know the camera is over there but Mom's got these really interesting laces on her dress so I'm a little busy right now..."

"I really think this shot would be so much better if I could just slide right down to the ground and crawl to the edge of the pier and look at the ocean. No? Okay, fine then. No one ever listens to my creative ideas."

"See, I told you! This is way better! Freedom!"

All photos by Bayz Creative. It does her credit that I even love the outtakes! Her good shots were really, really good, too. :)
01 November 2018

Hong Kong Disneyland

Angel and I went to Hong Kong Disneyland for our 4th anniversary, but it's been nearly 4 years since then, and we decided that it would be very special if we could experience taking my little sisters to Disneyland before they are all too quickly grown and gone away to college and work (my parents do not like me reminding them that this will happen, but with 5 kids already flown the nest, I feel they must be prepared for the eventuality that the day will come for #6 and #7 to leave, as well).

But I digress.

Disneyland. We announced the Disney adventure to the girls about six weeks before leaving, shortly after my parents had agreed that we could all take a trip to Hong Kong together over Angel's fall break. Our announcement meant that Sarah had trouble sleeping for the next several weeks due to excitement, but it was well worth it.

When Angel and I had gone to the park before, we'd spent just one day, running around, enjoying all of the rides and shows. We kept up a breakneck pace for the day and felt like we'd pretty much conquered the park by the end of it. Hong Kong Disneyland is a smaller park than some of the other Disney parks, and for most people, one day is probably plenty good enough, but given that we were traveling with a baby, a mega-Disney-parks-fan (me), and two sisters who were very, very excited about this most likely once-in-a-lifetime visit, we decided to do two-day tickets. Of course, buying tickets online in advance, the two-day tickets are only about $10 US more than the one day tickets (and, overall, far, far less expensive than tickets to the Disney parks in the USA! Also, Sarah is still young enough for a child's ticket and Cyrus was free), so it was an easy decision.

We ended up being very happy about the two-day decision. We didn't have time on the first day to experience all of the rides and shows and parades, and if we hadn't had the second day to look forward to, I think that would have been a bit stressful. But since we knew we had two days, we were able to relax even though we knew we couldn't fit everything into one day.

And with that, I bring you, highlights of our adventures at Hong Kong Disneyland.

Seasonal Entertainment

Because we were going in October, the seasonal entertainment at Disneyland would be Halloween-themed. This gave me pause when I was considering the trip, as we're not fans of Halloween, but because this was the best time of year for us to travel, we decided to go anyways, and I hoped that the Halloween theme would not be a detriment.

I was pleasantly surprised-- most of the decor was more like a "fall" theme, and the evening parade at Disneyland was changed from their normal night parade to a "Villain's Night Out" parade, which was a surprising highlight of the trip for us. I think we enjoyed it more because it was themed to various villains from their various movies. These are not characters that you get to see often, and the parade performers were clearly having a lot of fun. Angel was holding Cyrus up so that parade performers could see him, which was pretty funny because they paid him a lot of attention! Cruella deVil ran over to us and yelled, "Darlings! Where are all the puppies?!!" then pointed at Cyrus and said, "Oh, there's one!"

A "seaweed" dressed performer accompanying Ursula walked over to Cyrus and tried to startle him, but Cyrus's response was just to smile at him, at which the seaweed guy simply shrugged. The Evil Queen stared at us so intently that I was absolutely sure she'd suddenly realized that she had been beaten out for fairest in all the land by young Sarah.

We also got to meet a number of villains, who, as I already mentioned, Cyrus was rather enthralled by. Here he is with the Queen of Hearts.


There were a few rides that were new since Angel and I had visited the park, and I was excited to ride the Ironman simulator ride, and brave enough to ride the Toy Soldier Parachute Drop in Toy Story Land.

It worked out quite well to have a multi-generational trip to Disneyland. My parents aren't much into roller coasters anymore, and volunteered readily to hang out with Cyrus and feed him snacks or take him to meet characters while the thrill-seekers among us rode the rides with height limits. He's my baby, and I always reminded my mom that if there were any ride she wanted to go on, I'd happily sit out with baby and let my parents ride instead, but usually they took one look at the coaster and said, "Go ahead, kids!"

Being Disney, though, there are quite a few rides that are just right for any age, and Cyrus's very first Disney ride ever was the Jungle Cruise. This version of the Jungle Cruise has bursts of flame alongside the boat at one point, which made another young one on the boat start to cry, but not Cyrus, who looked coolly into the flames as if he found them mildly interesting.

I once wrote that Angel absolutely detested the "It's a Small World" ride, but in the years since, he has found a love for the ride, and currently calls it "The most philosophical theme park ride in the world." We rode it twice, but he doesn't want to ride it anymore than twice in one trip, he says, because the ride makes him ponder philosophy too much (he's an odd one).


We weren't planning on meeting many characters, until, as I mentioned, we accidentally met Chewbacca and Cyrus loved it so much that we kept stopping for a few minutes whenever we saw a character out. We went on weekdays so none of the lines were long.

Boy has no idea what any of these things are but if one thing is consistent about Cyrus, it's his appreciation of the strange and unfamiliar. Born for adventure!

Sarah had requested meeting a princess, and on the second day we actually figured out the location and system for meeting princesses. We had to wait almost 15 minutes (nearly unheard of during our visit!) but we got to meet Cinderella, and it was so cute to see her and Sarah chatting it up.

We also ran into Moana late on the last evening and she asked Sarah what the voyage from Malaysia was like.

Family Experience

Going to Hong Kong Disneyland as a family of seven, ranging in age from 50 to 7 months, ended up being just about perfect. I and MaryGrace and Sarah have the most energy for theme parks, and Mom, Dad, Angel, and Cyrus got to take some moments here and there to chill out and sit on a bench. Cyrus took naps in his stroller, even sleeping through an entire parade on the first day!

It was particularly special to experience Disneyland with my baby sisters. I moved away to go to college when they were still so young that neither one of them actually remembers me living with the family--I was the "Skype sister" in America in their memories of me, and I'm really glad that Angel and I got to move closer to family 4 years ago--one of the biggest perks is getting to experience some of their growing up years with them. I love the sense of wonder and excitement and thankfulness at which they approach life.

One of my favorite memories from the first day of Disney was at the end of the day, the rest of the family was waiting for the parade, but there was still some time before it was due to pass by, so Sarah and I quickly headed to Tomorrowland for one last ride on the Orbitron at night.

Cyrus is such an adventurous little guy, not yet old enough for fear or timidity to set in. He was happy through the long days and fell asleep when he wanted to. The only thing he didn't like was the Lion King performance (my favorite show). He cried as soon as it began but then I covered his ears and he promptly fell asleep.

Have you ever been to a Disney Park? What part do you like best?

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