31 May 2018

Marriage: Seven Years Something

You told me the other day, early one morning, as I was washing breakfast dishes and you were getting ready to leave for work: "I'm glad we make such a good team."

And the rest of the day I felt like I was dancing on air--because it's true, and I'm glad for the amazing team we've become over the years.

We're so different. You're strong where I'm not, and I remember everything you forget.

I find everything about you lovable--even your forgetfulness is reliable.

They say people change after marriage, and we definitely have. You've slowly become gentler as you've learned to understand the value of gentleness and the softer emotions. I've become braver, been able to do things that I never thought I'd be tough enough to do, simply because I know you'll be with me every step of the way, and help me when I can't go further.

Our vocabulary has changed because of each other. You taught me phrases that have become family slogans of sorts: "That's normal." or "It was easy."

I have never met anyone else like you, anyone else nearly so prone to making everything sound easy. The normal human is prone to making a day's worth of work sound hard. We want to be praised and admired for our accomplishments, so we maybe exaggerate just a little, stress how many emails we wrote or how many loads of laundry we did or how long it took us to make dinner or how often the baby woke up and needed to eat.

But you're different. For as long as I've known you, everything you've ever done has been "easy" or "normal." I knew you during senior year of nursing school. Every other nursing student I've ever known has talked about what a big deal it is to deal with clinicals and preceptors and exams and the NCLEX. I sat across you while you studied for the exams, and then you were done studying, and then you graduated and passed the NCLEX and started working and paid off your student loans and married me and never even made it seem like you had accomplished anything much.

I was always there when you came home at 8 a.m. after a 12 hour night shift at the hospital, and I'd greet you eagerly at the door and ask you how work was and you'd say "It was easy!" Now you're getting ready to start a new job and I love to see how diligently you're working to gain all the new skills you'll use in your new career.

Whatever job you've had in our marriage, it's been "easy" for you, and I expect that you'll take on your new role with the same grace. You've even offered your opinion that the addition of Cyrus to our family was an "easy" process...though I might be even more mystified than usual by your perception of the early months of this year.

We don't always experience the events of our lives the same way, but we experience them together, and that's what makes all the difference.
28 May 2018

How We're Raising a Bilingual Baby: The Early Months

Spoiler alert: The baby can't talk yet.

And he's not expected to be talking anytime soon.

However, being a multilingual family is important to us, and we know that laying a foundation for language skills begins long before a baby is actually able to talk, so since he was born, we've been incorporating routines into our daily life that will encourage Cyrus to embrace both of his families' languages.

English is more naturally occurring in Cyrus's life, because our community here is largely English-speaking, and Angel and I speak English to each other. For this reason, Spanish is the language that we spend more time intentionally including in his everyday life.

This is what we're doing at this point:

- We read him baby books in Spanish. I have never yet seen a Spanish kids' book available in stores here, but thankfully I have awesome family in the USA who have contributed a variety of bilingual and Spanish storybooks to his library. He's really begun liking books in the last month--sometimes I'll sit down and read him the same book seven or eight times in a row before he starts to get bored of it, haha! A few of the books in our stash will probably have to wait a couple more years, like El Leon, la Bruja, y el Ropero...

- Cyrus loves "dancing" to music with Angel, and most often, the music that Angel plays for him and sings for him are the old Spanish songs that Angel grew up listening to.

- Angel frequently calls his family back in the USA, and, usually, Cyrus is the face everyone wants to see on camera. Because their conversations are largely in Spanish, it's good that Cyrus gets to participate in the video calls in his own way, while listening in on conversations in his dad's family's language.

- Both of us chat with Cyrus in Spanish every day. Angel, more so than I do, but because I want both languages to be languages that our whole family can participate in, I also practice my Spanish on the baby. He is not at all critical of my errors in syntax, which can be both a good thing and a bad thing in language practice.

This is all we're doing for this stage of language development, as it's all that's really age-appropriate right now. I should probably update yearly with what practices get added and what progress is made. With a dad who's a Spanish teacher and a mom who's pretty much obsessed with the English know what Cyrus is in for. Sorry, kid. But not really sorry, because languages are the best.


P.S. Maybe, just maybe, this entire blog post was inspired by a desire to create an excuse to post that video, because I find it ridiculously cute. Especially Cyrus's probably-accidental-response to the question asking whether he wants to visit his tias.
22 May 2018

Memory Keeping with a Baby

Sometimes I feel a bit like the family historian.

I'm also not always entirely sure my family wants a historian...but they get one, whether they want one or not.

I've always been the one writing things down, taking photos, organizing memories and mementos so that the events of the past never fall entirely out of reach.

I got my first journal for my 7th birthday and I kept a regular journal from then until around the time I started blogging regularly, which was after I finished college. I have an innate urge to record stories and to tell them.

The things that happen in life are too precious to me to allow them to be forgotten too soon.

I knew I wanted a baby book for Cyrus long before he was born. We're a natural fit, the baby book and me. I know plenty of experienced parents roll their eyes at the idea of having time to write down and record memories in a baby book...but I tend to believe we naturally make time for the things we love most.

And I love recording memories.

The stylish part of me wanted a really stylish baby book. A bit modern and minimalist. No cartoonish animals gallivanting across the pages.

I came across Polka Dot Print Shop online and sent a link to my sister telling her that I was pretty sure that these were my dream baby books...and look what she brought me from America:

I love it! When I was a kid, I was famous in my family for going to extreme lengths to avoid the chore of carrying the diaper bag because of how "babyish" it looked. I'll be honest that the lack of appreciation for overtly babyish styles has stayed with me for life. What I do appreciate are high quality designs, and I have been so happy to spend a couple hours filling out my baby book as best as I could.

Because I knew that the earliest I'd get a baby book wouldn't be until little boy was a few months old, I took notes throughout his early months in my planner of anything I knew I might want to record.

I am very impressed with the thick paper of this baby book, and I love that the ring binding with hard covers allows me to add photos and cards to the blank pages included for such purposes without worrying about breaking the binding or bending the covers due to adding extra items to the book.

I will say that a couple of questions aren't quite my style. I guess I'm just not the sort of person to really have a "favorite part" about labor.  In all seriousness, my immediate mental response to that question was: "???"

Also, "Things that helped Mommy relax"


"Relaxing" was not really part of the program when contractions initially began at 3 minutes apart and proceeded to become more frequent than that very quickly. But I doubt little boy will care much about knowing that kind of stuff when he grows up. So the sorts of things I record are more like the stories of the nurse asking if Angel and I had an arranged marriage or a love marriage, and stories of Angel coming back into the delivery room to ask me when we got married and what ethnicity our baby was for the purposes of his birth certificate.

Clarification of such facts is a good idea before they are recorded permanently on legal records.

There are also pages in the book for the dad to write in--while Angel is not as big on the "memory keeping" stuff as I am, he also thinks it's important to write letters and I think he will be glad to have the chance to write a bit about what this experience has been like.

I particularly liked the family tree pages. Because of those pages, Angel actually made sure to find out all of his grandparents' full names so that I could write them down. On my side, I was able to write down all of my great-grandparents names, which is particularly cool because Cyrus is named after one of my great-grandpas.

I've already gotten to write down tales like that of his first roadtrip and the ensuing "Passport Photo Walk of Death," which is a story I won't be forgetting anytime soon, even if I didn't record it.

I'm glad I managed to find my "dream" baby book and I'm so thankful for my sister granting my request and making room in her luggage to bring it here (this woman arrived in Malaysia with 2 shirts, 2 pairs of pants, and 2 dresses for herself packed for a 6-week-trip, the entirety of the rest of her luggage was devoted to bringing stuff that the rest of us had ordered or asked her to acquire. She's hardcore.)

Do you have a baby book? Does memory-keeping come naturally to you, or does it feel like more of a chore?
21 May 2018

Let's Go Climbing! {at Project Rock}

A rock climbing, or more specifically, "bouldering," gym opened up here last year. I'd wanted to go try it out...but was not in the right "shape" when they opened their doors. ;)

Now that my sister has arrived back in town, and since I knew that Project Rock was running a "Buy One Get One Free" special on Friday afternoons, I decided it was the perfect time to visit the gym with my family!

Eleven weeks post-partum with little athletic activity in the entire past year means I should totally be able to rock climb, right?

Guys. Clinging to handholds while climbing up and down and across angled walls is no joke. I made it up to the very top of the easiest climbing wall a couple times...and to the middle of the wall on some of the more difficult tracks...and definitely felt like I was using every muscle in my body to do so!

This "bouldering gym" is a bit different from the rock climbing walls I've been to in the past with harnesses and belaying--here, there are no ropes or harnesses, and it's not so much about climbing up, up, and up--but more about finding your way around the wall and various obstacles.

My dad may have recently reached the half-century milestone, but he was making climbing look easy!

Anna was probably the best of all of us, scrambling up the rock walls with ease. Jet lag? What jet lag?

I was especially proud of MaryGrace and Sarah--both were much stronger and much more confident than last time they had visited a rock climbing wall. Sarah was trying out all of the different walls and had a great time! To answer the mystery "Where is Cyrus?"...he was being held by Grandma as she sat just outside the gym and watched all of her loved ones attempt athletic feats just a bit outside of our comfort zone and/or ability level.

We had the gym pretty much to ourselves most of the first hour we were there, which is what allowed us to ham it up for some of these photos, but was also really nice because we had the space to try out all of the different walls to the greatest extent that we could. Towards the end, when most of us had collapsed and were stretching our aching fingers, some climbers showed up who clearly had a lot of experience climbing. It was fun to sit back for a while and watch climbers who knew what they were doing!

Sometimes, living on a small island, it can feel a bit like you "run out of" new places to go, so it's especially fun when a new interesting activity pops up. We enjoyed our visit to Project Rock--and the fact that we got a good deal makes this budget-conscious girl even happier! "Buy One Get One Free" deals are definitely what you want to look out for when you have a big family! Fun to explore and try out a new kind of exercise, and, though I doubt I have any future in serious rock climbing, it really is awesome to climb to the top and look down to see how far you've climbed. I'm glad we took the time to go and try something new instead of merely assuming that we probably wouldn't be terribly good at it.

Done anything extra fun lately? Have you done any exploring in  your own town, or tried out a new type of exercise in order to get active? Regular exercise is one of my goals this summer--this was definitely a bit more thrilling than a walk with the stroller or a pilates youtube video. :)
13 May 2018

Weekend Shenanigans

First of all, the very first thing I did on Mother's Day was wake up bright and early and head sleepily to the hospital with Cyrus to get his morning nebulizer treatment for his bad cough. I'm glad he's on the mend after catching a cold, and although it's sad to see my baby not feeling well, something about that sort of morning activity on Mother's Day seemed just right. It's surreal to be responsible for this little one.

After the hospital, we came home and got dressed up for church:

Cyrus has a long way to go on perfecting a photogenic facial expression. At church, a lady asked me if he was a girl. Note that he's wearing an alligator shirt and cargo shorts. That's exactly how I'd dress up my baby girl for Mother's Day.

In all fairness, however, it must be noted that Cyrus played a minor role in the Mother's Day video shown at church...a role which might have caused some confusion for those who were watching closely. Other actors in the video should also seem familiar to you:

After church, we went home and got to talk with Angel's family a bit over video calling before we joined my family for lunch. Angel and I had given Mom a Mother's Day gift that we deemed absolutely brilliant the day before: steak.

Only, we were certain that the steak would turn out better if Mom cooked it than if either of us cooked it, because Mom has perfected the art of cooking the rather tough steaks that are available out here.

So we gave her a bag of raw meat.

We delivered it in a nice gift bag, too. She was at first confused why we were urging her to open her gift with all due haste until she realized it was meat.

So that ended up being the main course of the Mother's Day lunch. After that, the "little" girls gave Mom their gifts, and we thought that Sarah's presenting of Mom with the crafts that she made looked a bit like a politicians' photo op, so we took this photo:

As for me, Angel and baby boy spoiled me rotten.

In the morning, Angel gave me some sparkly new headbands, and I was gushing over them on the way to church, telling Angel, "You know, I love it when I'm given something to wear as a gift on a special occasion...because then I remember the special moment and how and where I got it every time I wear it. The headbands were the perfect gift!"

Angel was basically non-responsive to my effusive praise of his excellent the afternoon, I realized why. He was trying to be quiet and not give anything away, because he'd bought me another wearable gift: a dress!

It was a fun weekend, although the nights have contained less sleep than usual because of a sick baby. We're going to give in and buy our own nebulizer today, so hopefully the week ahead will involve less time at the hospital! Another "first" this weekend was, at the hospital, when the nurse called Cyrus in, she called him "Chris," which I at first didn't respond to because I thought they were calling someone else. It's always good to learn early on which alternate names your kid might end up being called!

How was your weekend? Do you think Cyrus has a future in acting? Based on his first appearance...I'm gonna say I don't think it's likely.
06 May 2018

Life Lately: May 2018

Craving: Chocolate chip cookies. Incessantly. Particularly in the middle of the night. I blame the amount of calories that nursing uses up. I went through the whole pregnancy with low appetite and only craving apples and grapefruit and popcorn...and now I think about chocolate chip cookies all the time. I don't have an oven so I don't actually make them. I could make them at my parents' house but everyone is working on eating healthier and reducing sugar intake, which is a worthy goal and one that I don't want to sabotage by filling the house with the smell of baking cookies. So the chocolate chip cookie obsession is only met if we happen to drop by a Subway.

Creating: Decor for our church's VBS in June. I knew ahead of time that I'd have a three month old during VBS so I purposely decided to not get too involved this year. So I only got put in charge of the decorations...and being the main on-stage speaker for all five days of camp. I'm superb at not getting involved in stuff. We're turning the inside of the church into a jungle. Hence the macaw painting.

Looking Forward to: My sister arriving from America in 10 days. Our grand plans for this summer mostly involve having her assist us in a grand variety of work projects, but even if the activities are of a humble sort, life with her is so very much fun and I can't wait. It's like waiting for Christmas morning.

Recovering From: A bad cold that had me sleeping during any hours I could steal throughout the weekend. The ability to breathe is not underrated, not at all.

Smiling Because: While we have Anna here to help over the summer, I'm going to be teaching my two youngest sisters classes on writing, and having them both write a major research paper in addition to smaller assignments. I'm not super-sure they're looking forward to me expounding passionately on the importance of creating logical arguments and using appropriate evidence and citing sources correctly. I told them that they will be doing a writing course with me this summer yesterday, and the 5th grader spent most of her evening rounding up sources and beginning note-taking on some topic related to the Tokugawa shogunate. I was impressed with her initiative and the speed at which she was working (especially given that the class has not yet begun) and told her so, and she responded, "It's just that I know you're a really serious teacher...I want to get a head start."

It's good when your students know you won't tolerate messing around. This is also probably a good argument for homeschool students to have "guest teachers" once in a while. It scares them just a little to be taught by big sister instead of Mom.

Thinking about: Exercising. I need to get back into doing Pilates every day, something about having a baby made me lose whatever core strength I formerly possessed, and something about needing to carry a 12 lb. baby everywhere means I need to regain strength, stat. I haven't yet been able to find any youtube videos that work well enough to follow consistently. Anyone have any recommendations of people or series to look on on youtube for low-impact, strength building exercise that are good for postpartum life? I like Pilates, but my old favorites are a bit too hard for me to do right now, I need something more for beginners.

Asking: "What does the fox say?" every time Cyrus wears his fox onesie. He isn't amused. He's clearly not a millennial. I'm so glad, Cyrus, that you didn't have to live through the "What does the fox say?" era. Sorry that it's my automatic reaction to your fox outfit.

Explaining: To Angel that it's probably not wise to say to others, in the hearing of your wife, "I'm so tired because I wake up with the baby at 4 every morning." When what you, in fact, mean, is that you wake up momentarily at 4 when the baby wakes up, your wife instantly takes the fussy baby out of the room, and you roll over and go back to sleep for the next two hours. He still wants it to be known that he did wake up for 30 seconds there. ;) I love my Angel so much and it's a good thing I'm a morning person by nature! For some reason, it's whenever Angel does the kind of stuff that makes me raise an eyebrow--the weird stuff--that I notice how much I love him. I appreciate oddities, I guess.

Wanting: An adventure! After not feeling up to adventures for the past year, I am so looking forward to adventures, big or small, in the near future. Maybe visiting the rock climbing gym, or taking Cyrus to the beach and to the park...maybe even going on vacation?!! Adventure mode has hit hard, but for now I'm just getting in some small doses in between work days.

What are you doing these days?