17 August 2018

Life These Days: August 2018


We are firmly entrenched in the nearly inevitable trap of being lured into thinking that our own baby is the absolute best and cutest and smartest and most wonderful baby in existence. I do realize that this happens to pretty much all people in possession of babies. I try to not get sucked in. My siblings play with Cyrus and say, "He's just the best baby I've ever met!" and I always remind them, "We only think that because he's our baby. Everyone thinks that about their own baby, but actually babies are all unique and there's no really such thing as 'best.' Even if we could objectively look at the facts, I'm sure there are lots of babies who are much cuter and smarter and better behaved and funnier and sweeter than Cyrus."

And then I go home and cuddle my baby and say, "I think you're the best and smartest and cutest and most amazing baby in the whole world."

It's a trap.


Angel's new job! He's now a high school teacher at an international school, this year teaching three Spanish classes and one PE class and spending some hours in charge of the school clinic as well. School started this week and it's been very exciting! Angel's been looking forward to work everyday and I look forward to his return home and stories of all that happened. It's a very real new beginning for our family. I spent one day at his school before classes began helping him get the classroom set up, and had a blast.

This really is very much a whole new world...seeing as I never went to school until I went to college, getting to know the inner workings of a high school is completely fascinating to me.


On a similar note, what I've been planning, mostly, is lesson plans. Alongside Angel. He knew going into this that first year is going to be the most challenging since he's starting from scratch in teaching Spanish, so our quality time in the past week has mostly been spent lesson planning together. If we keep this up, my Spanish skills might just become pretty amazing.

Also tentatively beginning to plan a vacation during fall break, a roadtrip to Thailand, but have yet to make any real commitment in the form of bookings. If we're actually going to do it I'll have to start doing some serious planning for it, soon!


Dinner tonight is whole wheat spaghetti  with a creamy and spicy sauce filled with garlic, onions, chicken, and zucchini. Lest you be too impressed, tonight's menu was inspired by "What do I have in the fridge and how can I use up everything before sending Angel to market tomorrow?"


Lots of middle-grade books, since my sister brought a bunch over to serve as literature for my littlest sister's 7th grade school year (how is it possible that my baby sister is starting 7th grade?). I'm really enjoying the books, particularly "The War that Saved my Life" but Kimberly Bradley and "Summerlost" by Ally Condie and "Project 1065" by Alan Gratz.


Apparently nothing other than Cyrus. Literally the entire album for August 2018 so far from my camera is just Cyrus. Many of which are slightly blurry because he's always in motion but I can't bring myself to delete facial expressions like:

How is life going for you these days?

09 August 2018

Screen-Free Babyhood: The First Six Months

Before Cyrus was born, I declared to the family at large that he would be a "screen-free baby." Now, I don't even know if this is an actual term or not, but I knew what I wanted for his babyhood, and it was a life of entertainments other than backlit screens with flashing lights and sounds and colors.

I'm not anti-technology. I'm a blogger! I appreciate social media, and the potential it gives me for creative expression and staying in touch with long-distant family and friends.

But...I am a little bit anti-technology. I appreciate all of the benefits...but...I think in many instances, the plethora of screens and technology we now live with sometimes deteriorate our quality of life rather than add to it. In the smartphone epidemic, to me, I see played out some words written by C.S. Lewis in his work of genius, The Screwtape Letters. Advice from a more experienced demon to his nephew on making his human's life less than worthwhile:

"You will find that anything or nothing is sufficient to attract his wandering attention. You no longer need a good book, which he really likes, to keep him from his prayers or his work or his sleep; a column of advertisements in yesterday's paper will do. You can make him waste his time not only in conversation he enjoys with people whom he likes, but also in conversations with those he cares nothing about, on subjects that bore him. You can make him do nothing at all for long periods. You can keep him up late at night, not roistering, but staring at a dead fire in a cold room. All the healthy and outgoing activities which we want him to avoid can be inhibited and nothing given in return, so that at last he may say...'I now see that I spent most my life doing in doing neither what I ought nor what I liked.”

I have many good memories of family movie nights when I was growing up, and time spent watching Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood while my mom was cooking dinner. I'm not intending on a screen-free childhood for Cyrus, but during this very early time of his life, I see no reason to start laying the groundwork for a future in which he naturally turns to any available screen at any available moment, simply because that's what is his ingrained habit.

We're nearly six months in to screen-free babyhood at this point, and I am under no illusions--I know the first six months are the easiest! But I have every intention of continuing as long as these habits are beneficial to our family life. 

What does screen-free babyhood look like?

For us, it just simply means that the baby isn't allowed to look at screens for entertainment purposes--with exceptions only for video calls with faraway family, and photo-taking. We do use Youtube for Cyrus, but not for videos, just for playing music for his daily dance-parties with Angel...and sometimes for playing hymns or classical music when I'm rocking him to sleep.

In addition, Angel and I generally stay off our computers or phones when we're taking care of him while he's awake. He often can't have our full attention, as there's lots of housework and other work and social activities that happen during his waking hours, but whenever he can have our full attention, I don't want a habit of taking care of him with one hand and checking email with the other to develop. This means that any blog post writing or photo and video editing or emailing happen while he's asleep, and times when Angel and I sit down to watch a movie at home have become rare indeed! Cyrus mainly hangs out in our main room of our home, and our computers are kept in the office, which means that we have to be more intentional with our use of computer time instead of casually turning them on whenever (this is easier for me than for Angel, haha!).

What have the results been?

Well, he's a not-quite six month old baby. I don't think there are any results at this point, but I know I sure appreciate our playtimes and watching Angel and him play. I like the family dynamic we have going--because the option of laying baby in front of a video while we busy ourselves getting something done is not an option, we have to be more creative with how we accomplish tasks, and we use available family time intentionally. One interesting comment we received when he needed to get some physiotherapy at the hospital. We got out a toy for him to watch and reach out for during the session, because this boy loves his toys, and the therapist made the comment, "Actually, that's really good that he can be entertained by a toy! Most of the babies that come in here, the parents have to get out their phone and play a video in order to calm them down and entertain them."

What makes screen-free babyhood possible?

I will admit that we have some awesome factors that were in place long before he was born, which have helped us in choosing entertainments other than screens for our little guy.

- My family is totally on board, they understand my heart behind wanting to delay the introduction of screens as fun entertainment for the baby, and completely adhere to Cyrus's rules about screens--yes for Skype calls, no for anything else. If the family does want to watch a movie together (recently they watched The Hobbit trilogy over the course of a week), various people end up taking turns with Cyrus, taking him on a walk outside or reading to him in another room...or sometimes he naps and we all watch a show together for a bit (rare, but it has happened!).

- Angel and I don't have a TV set up in our home. When we do watch a show together, we watch it on the laptop. A small screen works good for the two of us. We haven't had a TV set up since we moved overseas, sort of by accident, but at this point, we're just used to it.

- I don't watch TV alone. I initially imagined that I might want to sign up for Netflix when he was born so I'd have something to watch during long nights of taking care of baby. But I never signed up for it, because I just don't naturally want to watch TV by myself. For me, it's a social activity, which means that my late-night nursing activities have been mostly reading or....semi-sleeping. ha!


I'll write another update when we're approaching one year of Screen-Free babyhood and we'll see where we're at by then! I have some idea that when we do start incorporating videos or cartoons, I'd like to keep all of his video entertainment in Spanish since he has less exposure to Spanish in his everyday life, but we'll see if that works out. All of you experienced parents can go ahead and sigh and shake your head at the bright-eyed ideals of young parenting...but in the meantime, just let us young parents have our fun. Because it is so very much fun, isn't it? :)
01 August 2018

Baby: Five Months

At some point, life with baby just begins to feel like life. I love all of the new "milestones" we're experiencing with him which are probably less of actual baby milestones and more just new experiences as a family!

Notes on the past few months:

- Many of the latest adventures have already been blogged about, but Cyrus met three of his aunts for the first time, went on his first family vacation, and had a tarantula in his bedroom, so we've had an exciting couple of months!

Baby's first hike and first waterfall! Rookies that we are, we packed the Ergo, left it in the car, and carried him without it.

- Cyrus seems to be extremely extroverted at this current stage of life. He loves leaving the house. Whenever we are in an elevator with strangers, he immediately decides that the strangers are his new best friends and smiles at them and "talks." At any large gathering he'll typically be trying to chat with people non-stop. My mom says this characteristic reminds her of me as a baby--always wanting to talk to strangers, always thinking that obviously they wanted to talk to me. Cyrus is making many elevator friends for us.

- He went swimming for the first time!

- He doesn't sleep through the night, but he always wakes up happy and hungry. He just kicks and slides his arms around in his bed until I wake up from the movement, and gives me the biggest baby grins at 2 in the morning because he is ready to eat!

- Cyrus has started joining Angel on his morning or evening jogs, riding along in the stroller for 5k or so.

- He goes into phases where he learns something new and then does it incessantly. When he learned to blow bubble, he'd do it non-stop for long periods of time. He learned how to stick out his tongue and then he was always sticking out his tongue. He learned about how fun it was to grab his feet shortly before I took his 5-month old photo, which explains the pose.

- I love dressing him up in his baby jeans and nice shirts. Angel, on the other hand, prefers him in onesies, and that's what he wears when we're staying home because it is so hot...but when we're going to air-conditioned places, I break out the baby jeans!

- I sometimes wonder what the point of giving a baby a name is. I think we're calling him by his name more often than before, but still it's a lot of nicknames which seem to change daily. Weirdest one is "Chicken Nugget."

- We read a lot of books together. Angel recently read him the entirety of our Spanish translation of "One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish", and I don't think he'd ever read the book before, because when he finished he told me, very seriously, that that is a very funny book and I was like, "I know right?! Dr. Seuss is awesome!"

- My younger sister had a modeling gig for a line of wedding dresses last month, which got us all into joking that we're all going to be different kinds of models (i.e. some of us can be mom models, grandparent models, others can be preteen models, or sports equipment models, eating food models, etc, etc), and baby boy is going to be a "baby model," and because of his good looks, "V" birthmarks on the forehead are going to become the latest in baby fashion.

- One of his favorite games to play is "Baby Godzilla," which you can see me playing with him in his five month video. When he plays it with Angel, it becomes "Baby Chupacabra" and all of the cries for help are in Spanish, so I guess that's being a multi-cultural family in a nutshell, for you.

Linking up with What's New with You?