15 May 2019

Letters to Everything

Dear Green Apples,
Thank you for keeping me alive. Against all odds and all normal advice for good things to eat while nausea reigns supreme, you are the only food that remains consistently edible. Thanks for that. Consistency is much appreciated. Although, I'm not sure if a diet primarily composed of green apples is what those who study nutrition would call "balanced," but this is not the time to quibble over such small details.

This was 12 weeks.

Dear Summer Break,
I am very excited for your imminent approach. This is a first for our family--Angel is off of work for a whole six weeks! And we are all looking forward to the time together and the work we can get done together during that time. Maybe not everyone in the world can quickly renounce their chosen career and become a teacher instead, because that might not work out for the world, economically, but you really can't beat the job when it comes to time off!

Dear Apartment Building,
Whose idea was it to build all of the apartments with kitchens that vent into the communal hallway? I mean, it's been relatively fine for years, but all the cooking smells of all of our neighbors waft into my own kitchen as early as 6:30 in the morning, and braving a walk down the hallway as any mealtime approaches is like unto taking my life into my hands--chicken curry, stir-fried seafood, roasted chilies--I don't care what it is, I just can't bear to smell it. However, I have always thus far made it INTO my apartment again before vomiting so that's still a win.

Dear Jeopardy,
Maybe other people in the world think other shows are far cooler, but I'm not sure there's much better than the sheer innocent fun of watching this show some evening and trying to answer the questions faster than the participants. Also, I love the look of awe Angel gives me when I get an especially obscure question right. And it was so fun the time that Angel said, in response to the "Final Jeopardy" clue, "Oh, it's the guy who wrote The Picture of Dorian Gray." and I was like "Oscar Wilde? No, I don't think so." And then none of the Jeopardy contestants got the answer right...and the answer turned out to be Oscar Wilde???!!! How did the man who has never willingly read a work of poetry or fiction get this answer right?

Dear Cyrus,
You are so ridiculously fun. There are so many countless moments I want to memorize, and I know I'm going to forget anyway. The way you "dance" as soon as you hear any music, even if the "music" is just me humming some sort of invented beat. The time I heard you suddenly start whimpering, a sort of "fake cry," while you were looking at a book, and I found out that you were looking at a page that showed a sad little boy on it. You were fake crying in solidarity. You now do that every time we read the book and it's the funniest thing. You have so many things to learn! I love how adventurous you are and that you always want to go somewhere and do something. I love that you try to put my shoes on my feet when you are ready to go somewhere. I imagine many fun travels with you in the future! You got the "Let's go!" gene from your mama.

Dear Mother's Day,
With all celebratory things, we tend to either go really big, or be really chill. This was one of the chill ones. We thought about going out to eat together, but braving the weekend crowds in this city? No, thank you. So we ate random leftovers at home. Angel brought me flowers from market and my sisters gave me a gift and a young man from our neighborhood brought me a second bouquet. How sweet! After church, Angel took an afternoon nap and then went to play basketball with the Sunday basketball crew. But the very best part of Mother's Day was this photo, the result of a photo op in the church nursery. It really needs to be printed out and framed. Even since ultrasound days, when I said, "Wow, that is one grumpy-looking baby!", this has been Cyrus's "resting face." This photo makes me laugh every time I see it.

Dear Date Night,
I think since late March we've been saying, "We really should have an actual date sometime soon." But then I was supposed to be resting with my feet up, and have usually felt too horrible to go anywhere even if it was allowed (I have no desire to vomit in public when I could vomit at home, thank you), and Cyrus really is a fun person to hang out with and our babysitters have a busy schedule of their own...Maybe this weekend will work out.  Or next week. I joked with Angel that last week's OB appointment where Cyrus cried when they did the ultrasound was kind of like a date...because at least we drove in the car together and went somewhere. Everyone says you "need" dates....I'm not sure that's true as I tend to be strict with what I consider needs...all I know is that I do "want" them and it's okay to want something and to be patient till the opportune moment arrives. I know lots of couples don't go on dates at all...but I also know us, and that we've always loved making the most of the chance to go out and do something fun together when we have the opportunity. I've also learned that date night pre-baby and date night post-baby is a totally different thing. Perhaps that's a blog post all of it's own.

Thanks for the tag, Callie!
19 April 2019

Choice Words

Cyrus is not what you'd consider an early talker.

In fact, until just recently, he hasn't said any words at all. Sometimes he appears to be attempting to carry on an intelligent conversation, but none of us can understand him, so in the end he gives up, due to our clear lack of comprehension of baby talk.

Angel and I both dutifully talk to him, accompanying words with actions and items, using both Spanish and English throughout every day. We read stories to him in both languages, sing songs in both languages. He gets plenty of exposure to words, he just doesn't use any.

I'm not worried at this point. Every kid has their own timeline. I mean, he was walking very well at 10 months so I think he just decided that walking was a bigger priority for him than talking.

But he has started using his first two words over the past week or so:




Out of all the words in two of the world's most influential languages...that's what he went with.

What amuses me is that neither of the words have any practical, communicative use. I've tried explaining to him many times that if he will learn words like "food" or "milk" or "water" he will have an easier time getting what he wants. I've tried telling him that if he learns "Hola!" and "Bye-bye!" and "Good morning!" and "Please?" he will win friends and influence people. If he learns Mama or Papa or Aunt Sarah or Grandma or Grandpa he'll woo the hearts of those closest to him.

But no, "Wow!" and "Boom!" is what he decided on.

I encouraged teaching him "Wow!" because it seemed like an easy and generally positive word to say, and saying something is better than nothing when I'm worried that the pediatrician is about to start hounding me on his lack of speaking.

"Boom!" came because it's his favorite page in his Cozy Classics board book: "War and Peace"

He will impatiently wait as we hurriedly read through all the pages that come before, and then as soon as we flip to this page:

He'll say, "Boom!"

It's adorable.

Still, rather useless on the whole.

Here's to hoping more words are coming. This morning we were all lying in bed, cuddling with Cyrus, and trying to get him to talk.

"Cyrus, say Boom!"
"Say Wow!"
"Say Mama."
"No, say Mama."

Know of any other kids who picked slightly non-traditional first words?
16 April 2019

What's New

Well, first of all, to explain my very uncharacteristically long absence from the blog, is the main reason why I've been gone:

Baby Due in November

We found out on March 12. I had been very hopeful, but Angel was more skeptical. I think it took him a few days to believe it was true. I think I somewhat naively hoped that this time around, my body would be a bit more of an "expert" on how to be pregnant and wouldn't cause any drama. But that has not so far turned out to be the case--during week 7, I was sure I was experiencing a miscarriage again, and I was devastated--only to be utterly shocked at my follow-up appt. to see a baby measuring 8+2 with a strong little heart beating.

I don't think words can describe the shock of that moment. Angel said to the doctor, 2 or 3 times (I think the repetition indicates how shocked he was), "We did NOT expect to hear any good news today." I felt like I was "given back" my baby. Indescribable.

The doctor is still quite cautious, letting us know clearly that there's no guarantees of anything at this point and told me to take leave from work and stay resting as much as possible (which is all well and good, but Cyrus can't read doctor's notes...). We are praying and hoping and counting each day with this new little one. I'm supposed to be avoiding basically everything for the next month, hoping this body can get itself into gear.

Sonlight Ambassador

I was thrilled when, early this year, I was contacted by Sonlight about becoming a Sonlight Ambassador--receiving curriculum in exchange for contributing articles to their website. Homeschool has characterized the entirety of my life and it's a topic I love to write about! My first article has been published on their site: When You Are Disappointed: Homeschool Visions vs. Reality

Spring Break

Angel had his first-ever Spring Break at his new job and we spent it in the most teacherly-Spring Break fashion. We had one doctor's appointment for me, one for Cyrus, and a routine car maintenance appointment (only thing missing are dentist appointments, but no way am I tackling that with first-trimester nausea. Summer break).

We also took Cyrus out to the biggest playground on the island, where we'd never taken him before. I think he was a little bit overwhelmed, he just wandered around looking at all the play equipment, most of which is too big for him to climb on anyways. He very purposefully tried to chase the little birds that were hopping around, but they always hopped out of his reach just in time.

We went to visit the new Ikea that opened up on the mainland--the first time I've left the island since October! I need to get out more. We had nothing too exciting to buy, mainly bedsheets. Bedsheets here are either abhorrently expensive, seemingly made out of plastic, or lose their elastic within a week (I spent our first two years here using binder clips to attach the fitted bedsheet to our mattress after its weekly washing). Ikea is the best option for not-quite-so-expensive, somewhat-better-quality bedsheets, and now that it finally opened, we had our chance to replace sheets! Hurray!

We had lunch at Ikea--I got a croissant for Cyrus and I to split and in hindsight, I should have realized that he is definitely at an age where he needs his OWN croissant because he'll eat the whole thing. Mom might be eating for two but Cyrus has a lot of growing to do...

So that's what's new in our world! How's life going for you?
05 March 2019

First Birthday Party

For Cyrus's first birthday party, I decided that the theme would be simply "Cyrus's favorites."

During the 'pre-party' before guests arrived, the family came over and we watched videos of Cyrus from when he was a newborn, and then when guests started arriving, we put on a playlist of Cyrus's favorite songs as background music. It includes such melodies as "La Chona," "The Drill," "Caribbean Blue," "Can't Help Falling in Love" by Elvis, and "Sergio el Bailador." Basically since he was born, it's been a well-accepted fact that if Cyrus is crying, all you have to do is turn on one of these songs and he calms down instantly and is able to see reason (to the extent that babies are reasonable). You can safely assume that both my car and my parents' car has a "Cyrus Playlist" available for when it's needed. So of course we needed his background music at the party!

Our main dish was BBQ pulled pork sandwiches, as that is definitely a favorite of his, and I joked that I'm glad oatmeal isn't his favorite food or the party menu would have been very bland. We actually fed him before the party began so that he wouldn't be hungry during the party and could instead wander around happily while everyone else ate. We also had chips and veggies and a dip that got a lot of compliments but I made it from a mix so I can hardly take credit for it! :P And lots of fruit, and brownies, because I love brownies.

I got a sparkler 1 for his cake instead of a candle because when I saw sparklers, I thought that was really cool,'s not like he can blow out a candle on his own, anyways!

He was very mystified/intrigued by the cake and the singing, and took his birthday boy responsibilities seriously, if his facial expressions are any indication.

He was very happy when we put him in the high chair with his cake, but didn't actually eat any of it, just mostly looked at it and poked it a little bit. Then Sarah and some of her friends put on black lipstick and that was way more interesting than a piece of cake. was time for the piñata! Angel had insisted that Cyrus's birthday party required a piñata so I made one the old fashioned way, with a balloon and newspaper and flour paste, and decorated it with green crepe paper.

Cyrus enjoyed his turn at hitting the piñata  and loved watching everyone else take a turn, but when all the kids and teenagers had had their chance, I went up to take a turn and that was not okay! As soon as Cyrus saw me hitting it, he burst into tears--this is not appropriate behavior for his mother!

We had more than 20 people for his party--all people who have played a big role in Cyrus's first year of life and who love him very much--a good handful of them were teens and preteens, haha! Cyrus is not age-discriminatory when it comes to making friends.

I think I will plan to do a birthday party with friends once every 2 or 3 years, and other birthdays just do some outing as a family. In my own family, we never had birthday parties with friends when I was little, just with family. All my great-grandparents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins would gather together. But parties of that sort aren't possible when you live so far away from most everyone who's related to you by blood, and having a party with the "family" of all ages that has been a part of Cyrus's life from the beginning was very special. He got some very sweet and thoughtful presents, including a bulletin board all about Cyrus, with printed out photos and growth stats from his first year, nicely designed and handmade by two of his young friends (well, I guess, to him they are "older friends").

Happy birthday, little man! 

How do you celebrate birthdays in your family?
26 February 2019

First Birthday Book

When it comes to gifts, I tend to err on the side of very practical (i.e. food, cleaning supplies, educational materials, etc.) or entirely sentimental. This is one of the sentimental ones.

I had the idea, for Cyrus's first birthday, to make him a book about his first year of life. If you've ever spent much time with kids, you may have noticed that they often have a slight streak of narcissism. When my youngest sister was a toddler, she didn't like seeing any family photos that she wasn't in, and would insist that she was merely sleeping or in a different room when the photo was taken, never believing that she didn't yet exist in photos taken of the family years before she was born.

Now, the narcissistic streak isn't necessarily something we ought to encourage all that much, but still, I thought it would be very fun to be able to read to him, as he gets older, a book about the beginning of his own life.

I drafted out the words for his pages, not an actual story, but more along the lines of highlighting different moments from our first year with Cyrus, and then got my sister on board for painting illustrations. We toyed with the idea of making the book digitally--scanning the illustrations in and combining hand-drawn art and typed words and making an actual bound book...

...but that seemed like it would take too much time. Since this was such a short little story, and we only needed one copy, we took the easy way out and I hand-lettered the words of the story onto the pages that MaryGrace illustrated. Then we laminated the pages and bound them with a couple metal rings.

This was an easy project that will be a fun keepsake that we can read together as he grows older! Now that MaryGrace is nearing the end of her high school career, she has finished all of our traditional curriculum and is doing project-based skill-building until she starts college. So, this project can count as a school project as well as a birthday present--double bonus points for her! If you'd like to see more of her watercolor art experiments, you can follow her on instagram @mgsillustrates. She's planning to go to college and study art in some form, possible a degree in fine arts or art education, as she's very interested in using art in a classroom setting. In the meantime, I come up with a variety of ideas for her to expand her drawing portfolio and abilities--like birthday books for my baby! One of my favorite parts is that we purposely decided to include "real" details in the paintings--his toys are the real toys that he has, the rug pattern is our actual rug, Cyrus's clothes are inspired by his actual clothes, Dad is shown wearing a blue plaid shirt just the way he always does...

What birthday traditions does your family have? Do you do parties, practical gifts or sentimental gifts? My family's birthday traditions are asking the birthday person what they've learned this year, and my parents telling the story of the day we were born.
24 February 2019

Unintentional Traditions

I've come to the realization that unintentional traditions are some of the greatest joys of my life. I have noticed this more and more as I move from one season of life to another--what I miss most about various times of life is the "unintentional traditions" that characterized different times.

When Angel worked night shift at the hospital, out of necessity, we started meeting up at my college once or twice a week to have dinner together before my evening class and before his night shift began. We'd go to Taco Bell, or a place that was literally called "Chinese Take-Out," and then we'd wander the antique shop or the estate sale store that was right across the street until the last possible moment and then he'd drop me off back at college and we'd go our separate ways for the night. I remember our tradition of meeting up for dinner with immense fondness.

Or, also during the newlywed era in Michigan, when we took long bike rides together, or went sledding with our cat a couple times each winter, or brought our dinners out to the picnic table during the summer and fall, or picked up Arby's and went to the park to picnic while studying our Chinese textbooks in the year before we moved, or when, every Sunday after church, we'd stand around in a circle chatting with my uncles and aunts and grandparents and cousins so long that the second service was starting by the time we finished our chats--those are the traditions I remember most. I was a "better blogger" back then and Angel would take photos of my clothes at least once a week and I loved planning outfits and he liked finding fun backgrounds. We did the same thing a week or two ago when we went out on a date and I think we were both pretty rusty at the task of behind in front of the camera and behind it.

I miss when we lived in China and once a week after work I'd send Angel out for a 9 kuai (hmmm, maybe $1.50) bowl of 25 beef dumplings and a box of white rice and we'd split the meal in our little cockroach-infested (not an exaggeration) apartment while watching a show.

One unintentional tradition that has followed us to every home and through every season of life is me accompanying Angel on shoe shopping expeditions. I can't even tell you how many shoe stores I've visited with that man, nor how much I've learned about athletic shoes over our eight years of marriage. It's serious business. Cyrus has not yet joined us on a shoe shopping trip. When the time comes to replace the next pair of shoes, I guess we'll see if Cyrus has the patience it takes to participate in this tradition.

None of these were intentional, planned, well-photographed traditions. I like "intentional traditions" too. I like filling stockings every year and taking anniversary photos and celebrating holidays and eating ham on Easter. I like documenting important events and keeping records.

But whenever I find myself looking back at these varied times of life, what stands out the most to me are the traditions that began very unintentionally. It just so happened that we did it once, and then twice, and then we kept on doing it regularly simply because it was fun and we liked it. Until life changed, flipped itself over, and the "unintentional traditions" that had become a part of the natural rhythm of life were gone. And I missed them.

I already know what accidental traditions I'm going to miss from this particular season of life. I'm gonna miss lying down on the living room floor as a family in the evenings, after Angel's home from work and everyone's been fed. Cyrus climbing all over us and playing with his toys, Angel and I chatting about our days and the work that went into them. Sometimes Cyrus starts ignoring us a little too much, so then I'll hug Angel and that brings Cyrus right away--if there's any cuddling happening, he has to be part of it! Sometimes I lie on the couch and read our Spanish storybooks out loud to the guys as they wrestle on the floor--stopping once in a while to ask Angel what a word means, or to complain about a grammatical construction that is difficult for this English speaker.

I'll miss coloring my little sister's hair, and brainstorming art ideas with her, and I'll miss the fact that I can't even visit my parents alone anymore, because the first words that will come out of their mouths are: "Where's Cyrus?"

These everyday, simple things, that somewhere along the way, we start to do repeatedly because they are fun and we like to do them...these are what I'll miss most when life changes once again. And while life remains the same...I'll make sure to take a moment to appreciate the unintentional traditions that have become a part of life as I know it right now.

What unintentional traditions have you loved in your lifetime?
13 February 2019

Time Limitations, Dates, and Valentine's Day

"We need a date," Angel texts me.

Which may seem like a semi-normal thing for a husband to say. Or not. I don't know if husbands believe in dates in general, or if it's more of the wife's domain. Because it's probably the first time my husband of eight years has ever said it to me.

We've always liked to have fun together, but in recent years when I've suggested us going out to get a meal or go for a walk or watch a movie, he's said, "Great! Let's invite your sisters, too!" Or my parents. Or friends, or kids that we know. We lived far away for so long that we don't want to waste the chance we have now to invest in our relationships with our family and community on this island. Angel fits very well into the community-based lifestyle where everyone does everything together. He reminds me that we moved here on purpose to serve this community, and we can't lose sight of our purpose. I also cherish the opportunity we have to live with others. I love that I finally get to see my sisters grow up. We live much more closely with others here than we ever did before--as an illustrative example, we had nine different people stay in our house for various reasons over the course of our first year in Malaysia, and it was fun.

When we lived in Michigan and when we lived in China we weren't quite so surrounded with a close community and we went on dates and watched movies alone and had a lot of our own traditions with just the two of us.

Life has changed dramatically since moving back to my hometown: diving deep into our community here and spending weekends with the kids at Awana and the teenagers at youth group and finding times to meet up with friends and having family game nights and making sure we're there for my sisters...oh, and now we have a baby, so that even when we go home at night, there is no more "just the two of us."

And now even Angel's at the point of saying, "We need a date."

Because between nights when he's coming home from school at 9 p.m., plus a couple nights of Angel staying out to watch movies with my family while I stay home to put the baby to bed, and then me going out while he watches baby, and trying to schedule when we're going to do our taxes and me reminding him that we can't do taxes at those times because of Awana and other commitments...we're becoming the two proverbial ships passing at night.

We can get a little caught up in our ideas: we need to make Cyrus a priority, we need to teach him new things and take him out to experience the world...and we need to spend time communicating with faraway family and spend time playing with my sisters....and we need to give haircuts to friends and go to a party at someone's house and bring a dish to a potluck and sign up to lead an extra-curricular activity at school and....all of these are valuable. We believe that our marriage is one of the strongest things about us and we believe that it can go without watering for a time, especially during crunch times like the first year of parenting a baby who doesn't sleep much while I have postpartum complications to recover from and our finances are stretched too thin and then Angel begins a brand new career and has to start from scratch in a new field.

And we can. We can. Maybe it's not the best idea, but we can do it. We're a tough pair.

But even Angel can get to the point where he says, "We need a date."

I've started to realize that the homesickness I struggle with sometimes isn't so much homesickness for Michigan as that it's just that I miss Angel. A three-day-a-week hospital job and a rather selfish newlywed lifestyle with few responsibilities...yeah, that was really really fun. No wonder I feel like I miss Michigan. But I don't want to go back, and don't plan to. What I do need to do, however, is schedule in those dates--those nights when we do eat dinner together and watch funny youtube videos. We do need to both watch Cyrus at the same time and play together as a family rather than constantly trading off so that the other adult can get some work done or go to an appointment. Hey, someday we probably need to even both sit in the front row of seats in the car while driving (I always sit in the back with Cyrus...). We're both good at getting work done together, now we just need to remind each other that we ought to have purposeless fun together, too. Put it on the to-do list, maybe. That might just work.

Happy Valentine's Day!
04 February 2019

Approaching One Year

February is a short month, and then it's March, and then, all of a sudden, Cyrus will officially not be a "baby" anymore.

I think this year of having a baby has actually made me more of a 'baby person' than I ever was before. I never really considered myself a particular fan of babies. I mean, yes, of course, I thought they were precious and amazing, but I liked kids more. I loved that little kids had unique personalities and could talk and were so very interesting. I thought babies were very cute, but not quite as interesting.

I learned this year that those unique personalities really do show themselves from day one. And Cyrus can't talk yet, but that doesn't stop him from doing things that already seem "so Cyrus," like carrying not one but two brooms all around the house because he's obsessed with brooms. Crying when people leave the house without taking him with them. Chasing older kids around at church because he thinks he's just as big and as fast as a two year old (but he's not). Never staying in the same room if only one parent is in the room, but if Angel and I are sitting on the couch together, then he stays and plays in one spot instead of wandering the house. Oh, and he also climbs on the couch now. That's not at all scary.

What a year. I learned a lot. I'm not as terrified of him as he was when I first brought him home. I still remember one of the first nights we had him alone at home he scratched his ear--a tiny scratch from a tiny baby nail--but it bled a lot and I woke up to a baby with an ear full of blood and I remember calling Angel and holding him and staying really calm while we figured out what the source of the blood was, but as soon as it was over and Cyrus was back to sleep, I was shaking and crying, suddenly, only after the moment passed, feeling the total fear and terror that picking up my newborn and not knowing why his ear was bleeding. I look back now and watch videos of Angel dancing with Cyrus, and I remember that I took that video, holding up the camera with what felt like all my strength as I lay weakly on the couch, hardly able to move or carry that 7 lb. baby. 

I have really enjoyed him getting bigger. It's much easier to care for a baby when you're not sick yourself, and it's much easier when you're not quite so frightened for their safety at all times (although a mobile toddler brings a whole new sort of safety concerns)...I don't wake up as often to check on his breathing as I did for months and months when he was smaller.

I still have so much to learn, and so does he. We're working on teaching him to be gentle (he loves people...sometimes he loves them with too much enthusiasm), and to obey commands. I know he knows what "No" means because when he's about to touch something he shouldn't, I'll tell him "No", and he might stop or slow down...but he'll stay right there. Only when I actually start moving toward him he'll quickly walk away innocently, like he was never going to touch the electric cord anyways. But he can't fool me, I know him too well.

He's still got just the six teeth, and I'm not sure how much he weighs, but I think it's around 22 pounds. He tries to dance and walk at the same time when he likes the music that is playing, and it's the cutest thing ever. He begs food from anyone who is eating. We take him out to play more often now that he really enjoys exploring different surroundings--the beach, the park, the garden or pool. I love that this is a hot climate so we never have to worry about him getting too cold in winter weather. He's changed our life immensely and while the tiredness is real, the fun is equally real. Also, dressing a boy baby is still fun, even if it doesn't involve dresses and bows.

I'm looking forward to the next year, the one where we can teach him so many more new things. Honestly, I can't wait to hear him talk. I've been looking forward to that from the beginning. Words are awesome, aren't they?
31 January 2019

What Level of Winter are You?

As my beloved Midwest faces some rather frigid weather this week, I've been reminiscing (from the safety of my 85 degree tropical home)  about my former lives as a Michigander. And the distinctly "Winter" experiences I've had there. I'm sure that to the Minnesotans and Alaskans and Canadians out there, along with the polar bears, could say, if they wished: "That ain't nothing. Wait till you hear about..."

But that's exactly the point of this post. What level of winter have you achieved? Have you done all of these and more? Or have you spent most of your life in sunny Texas, weathering only the occasional ice storm?

(My former home, Winter 2014)

During winter I have:

+ Spun my car 180 degrees my very first time driving on my own while it was snowing (I got my license in December). And then calmed myself down and continued on to school.

(view from outside the house, standing in the driveway, looking toward the garage and street, Winter 2014)

+Desperately shoveled as much of the snow out of our long driveway as I could, so that Angel's car wouldn't get stuck out in the road. When the snow was bad, I'd only manage to get about one car length semi-cleared so that he could at least pull in and not have his car in the road. And he'd come home from the hospital after 8 in the dark and finish the driveway.

+ Tried to go into school on a horrible blizzard day because the school would charge me $30 if I didn't show up, but couldn't get my car out of the driveway, so went right back in the house and called my school to say I wasn't coming in. My life wasn't worth $30.

+Slid off the highway while driving alone to visit my grandparents on Christmas Eve.

+Closed my eyes and white knuckled the door handle while Angel drove through a horrible November blizzard from Michigan to Chicago to pick up my parents from the airport.

+ Worried about Angel driving 27 miles each way to the hospital. A couple times I got snow days and school got canceled, but nurses can't have snow days, and he had to leave at 6 a.m. or earlier, before the sun came out to start melting the ice, and he'd be home after 8. Every day he'd call me before he left work so that I'd know around what time I could expect him to arrive home.

+Spray-painted messages into the snowbanks that lined our driveway.

+ Got into an accident with a sign after the car slid on black ice (I was a passenger, not the driver). I hear that the sign is still bent, all these years later.

+ Kept our thermostat at 65 degrees normally, turning it up when we had guests visit. Also, closed off part of the house during the entire winter to save on the gas bill.

+Related: Bought a new pair of slippers each year, after wearing my previous pair to shreds every single year before spring would arrive.

+ Wore wildly weather-inappropriate outfits for photos outside because I wanted pretty pictures on Christmas day!

+ Dressed properly for the weather, which obviously involved a 20-year old jumpsuit layered over winter clothing and my coat and gloves.

+Went sledding. With our cat. Because of Angel, of course.

+ Walked around with a blanket wrapped around me at nearly all times indoors.

+ Had an actual boot collection with a variety of boots: some for wading through deep piles of snow, some that were okay for just a couple inches of snow, and others that I didn't want to be salt or water-stained so I'd only wear them when it wasn't actively snowing or icy.

And here, for good measure, is an ancient home video of me and Angel playing in the snow with our cats:

So, tell me, what are your winter claims to fame?
28 January 2019

How to Be as Normal as Possible

This list is mostly useful if you are a spy and/or an alien trying to blend in with the general population. Also applicable to androids and transmogrified flora and fauna:

1. Drink coffee. 2-3 cups a day.

2. Run slightly late for most appointments. Not egregiously late. 2-4 minutes. Alternately, be on time, but rush like crazy to make it.

3. Monday is your least-preferred day of the week.

4. Believe that small animals are extremely cute and that large animals are also quite adorable.

5. Say "Good morning" or "Hi" or at least nod your head at strangers if you pass by them in close proximity but do not, under any circumstances, greet strangers if you see them but they are not very close to you. That would be precisely the opposite of normal.

6. Be a staunch fan of several famous people that you have never met in real life, but, to balance things out, also be a staunch antagonist of several famous people that you have also never met in real life.

7. Occasionally take social media breaks, and always apologize for your "absence" afterwards.

8. Definitely be wearing your most-comfortable and least-attractive clothing whenever the mailman delivers a package to your front door.

9. Use the snooze feature on your alarm on a regular basis. (This will help with accomplishing #2)

10. If you experience bad traffic or parking situations, be sure to tell others that you encounter.

11. Respond to text messages, but not immediately, even if you saw them immediately. Make sure to close the messaging app and wait anywhere from a few minutes to a few days before actually responding.

12. Periodically resolve to drink more water, cut carbs, and reduce sugar intake.

13. Agree with others around you that studying Shakespeare in high school was really quite pointless, and that you never understood anything he was saying, anyways. (Unless you are in the company of experts in English literature, in which case, pretending to be normal is not going to be helpful to you).

14. Complain about stores setting out holiday merchandise WAY TOO FAR in advance of said holiday.

15. Have seen Star Wars, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and The Office, and do not be surprised by incessant and seemingly random references to the above works of fiction.

Additional advice from readers:

From @verytrulyana : "Talk intermittently about your planner" and "Announce publicly that you are an introvert"


What could you add to this list? If you have a brilliant suggestion, I will add it into the post and credit you. Aliens need all the help they can get, these days, as acting like a normal human is not quite as obvious as it once seemed.
24 January 2019

Stories from Life this Month

+ I did a lot of sewing in early January, during our break. And I didn't even buy any fabric! I went on a stash-busting sewing spree. And if break had been longer...I have even more fabric I need to use up...

I made three shirts using the same pattern. This was the first one I made. It looks cute with a pair of skinny jeans, I wish I had a photo of me wearing it! Aspects of the pattern frustrated me and didn't fit quite right, so I adapted it the second time I made it, and made a shirt for mom. Then I adapted it again, giving it a boatneck instead, and made another shirt for mom. I don't often make the same pattern multiple times, but it's a good practice. The shirt definitely got better each time I made it.

I also made 8 simple chair covers to slide onto the backs of the chairs we have at the learning center. These little metal chairs we have are great for the kids, except that they often get bumped into the wall and leave marks. The chair covers will help protect my walls.

+ I really don't like our grocery store. I just don't. The aisles are inexplicably sticky, they are often completely out of sugar or cinnamon sticks or tortillas or beans or whatever random food item I really need...just happens to be completely out of stock whenever I need it. Unpackaged meat and fish is lying on ice in the open air in the middle of the produce section. The fruits and vegetables are of very dubious quality (usually we buy our fresh produce from the wet market instead). You have to bag your own groceries in your own bags that you bring (Which reminds me of Aldi's, except for the low prices and speedy checkout service). I don't like the grocery store, but it is a necessity, and I'm glad it exists, and I'm glad I can get the food I need to make dinner for my family.

Well, the grocery store just added coin-unlocking mechanisms to their carts, which don't work unless you have the smaller 50 cent coin on you (there are two different 50 cent coins). Odds are, you will probably have to go to a cashier to change out some other coins for that small 50 cent piece before you can get a cart. And now I dislike grocery shopping even more. My feelings about this may be unreasonable. Maybe this was a reasonable thing for them to do, maybe not. An employee told us that they did it to prevent people from stealing the grocery carts, which I don't think could be true, because 50 cents sounds like a good deal for a shopping cart if you really wanted one of your own and had no moral objections to theft.

Maybe my growing dislike of the grocery store is only partially based on reason, but every once in a while I daydream about not-sticky Meijer's aisles with delicious snacks like Skinny Pop White Cheddar Popcorn and kiwis that aren't rotten.

+ Another grocery shopping story. I was shopping with Cyrus in the carrier, which threw me a little off-balance, and as I put a carton of milk in the cart, I slipped slightly and ended up dropping the milk on my eggs.

And then I had a box of broken eggs.

So I went back to the egg section, got another, unbroken, box of eggs, and proceeded to the checkout, where I bought both boxes. The cashier was very skeptical about my purchase of the box of broken eggs, which was dripping goo by this point, but I tried my best to explain to her that it was my fault, I'd broken the eggs myself, so I wanted to buy them, but I didn't want to actually take them home. I wasn't communicating quite right, but I ended up being allowed to purchase the box, then dumped it in the trash can right outside the grocery store as soon as I got out so that I wouldn't continue to have raw egg dripping on the rest of my purchases.

+ Another grocery shopping story (can you tell what I do with my life): I discovered that rice krispies are called "rice bubbles" in Australia. Who knew? I mean, other than all of Australia.

+ Our educational creative activity of the day earlier this week was to bind a little paper book with yarn and then write and illustrate an original story. We had read a book earlier about L.M. Montgomery, and her desire to be an author, so I wanted to give them their own author experience.

This was so fun. After they finished their stories, each student did a reading or presentation of their story to the rest of the class. The stories ranged from the tale of a cat who went shopping at the mall, to a mermaid who fell in love, to a prehistoric creature who went extinct.

But my favorite story was one about an alien sighting, in which the boy and and alien end up becoming best friends, before the alien had to leave and go back to the star where he lived.

+Sometimes I wonder why I love Angel so much, and then he asks my dad out on a father-son date in the weirdest way possible, and I find myself literally rolling on the floor, crying from laughing too hard, and I remember why. It went something like dad asking the family, "Hey, should I order pizza?"
 and the family saying "Yeah!" and then Angel saying, "Wait, Dad, do you want to go out for dinner with me tonight or tomorrow night?"

Everyone looked at each other  in confusion. Angel said, "Hey, the girls always get to go out with Mom for coffee and stuff, why can't I go out with Dad?"

He had a point, and I think they had a fun time on their burger outing, but it was just so unexpected and random that it was startlingly amusing at the time.

+ Cyus is up to a total of 3 busted lips and a chipped front tooth. And I'm still hoping these are just flukes and that he isn't a rough and tumble little boy who is going to give his mother too many heart-attacks. His most recent, and worst, bloody lip happened while I was literally sitting next to him playing with him. He was standing next to a chair and wanted to pull some loose threads on the cushion (this chair has seen better days). I put my hand on the cushion and said "No," and he turned away really quickly and went down to the floor--I think he was planning to crawl away, but instead hit the tile floor with his face because he was moving too quickly. There was blood on his shirt, my shirt, the floor, and this happened about 5 minutes before Angel walked in the door from work.

So I'm sure that was a peaceful arrival home. Or not. I guess this is the reality of a little boy who loves to move fast and lives in a world where everything is tile instead of carpet. I'm very cautious but he has not yet discovered caution.

What stories has your year begun with?

20 January 2019

Baby Must-Haves that We Haven't Used

My first year with Cyrus is ever too quickly drawing to a close, and I found myself thinking about what baby things have been most useful to us and what baby things, while probably useful, we've done without.

Many of the things we haven't used--I have nothing at all against them. They are useful and even extremely necessary for many babies. It's just that, either because of our climate, the location where we live, or the cost...I haven't had a need for them.

So, here's what we've found we can live without:

Baby Monitor

Is it just me, or do the baby monitors that looked like walkie-talkies that I remember from childhood no longer exist? I looked for a baby monitor, but the selection that I found was limited to extremely expensive video monitors that were fancy-schmancy and connected to smartphones and stuff like that, and I said, no, we can't spend $200 on a baby monitor.

And even though I thought a baby monitor was pretty much a must-have, it's been fine without one. Cyrus slept in our room for the first 8+ months. Our apartment is pretty small, so now even that he's in his own room, we just keep the bedroom doors open and I can hear him any time of night. In a bigger house I think a baby monitor would be needed, but we've gotten along without one.

Changing Table

Again, I think this would be nice to have, but space is at a premium and furniture that looks nice is expensive. And I don't want to buy something cheap and then have to look at an ugly thing...I'd just rather have nothing at all. Does anyone else feel like that? I bought a travel changing mat and just use that wherever I want to change him. I guess that's why having kids in your 20s is great, you can get up and down off the floor after changing him.

Sleep Sack/Sleepers

I'm putting these together because these are climate related. These are sold here, and I see babies out wearing sleepers all the time...but this boy has never worn one. It is not chilly at night in the slightest and and he doesn't like anything touching his arms or legs while he sleeps.


Again, this is largely because of our climate and the fact that being barefoot indoors is pretty normal here. Even at some shops you have to take off your shoes before you go inside, so nobody blinks twice at a barefoot baby. He has been given a couple pairs of shoes, but he hasn't grown into them yet. Once they fit, he'll wear shoes more often. For now, when he is going to walk on grass or somewhere that's not very clean, I just put socks on him.

Wrap Carrier

I wanted a carrier that could be used by people who weren't me and could be used at many different ages of the baby, so I opted for an Ergo. The wrap carriers looked like they'd be ridiculously hot to wear in a house with no air-con in the tropics. Cyrus is not very snuggly, even since he was a newborn, so I think it worked out well for both of us that we didn't do a wrap carrier, although the Ergo is a lifesaver for shopping trips and traveling.

Diaper Pail

We just have a small kitchen trash can the size of a dinky little wastepaper basket, and we take out the trash every day, sometimes more than once. Because of rodent and insect problems near the can't keep any sort of garbage in your house anyways, no point in buying another trash can, fancy or not.

Nursing Cover

Again, climate. Once in a while I was out in public and had to use a light cotton blanket (his baby blankets were all very thin, light cotton, and I loved them!) as a cover and it was so hot and so not fun, and even while nursing him under a blanket, people wouldn't leave me alone, kids would ask to see the baby and he'd hear my voice or other voices and get distracted and it was all around stressful. So mostly I just opted to nurse him in the car or standing up in a public bathroom stall or in a room shut off somewhere. I discovered which shopping malls had nursing mother rooms, so that was handy. Anyways, I'm glad I didn't bother buying a nursing cover since as much as I could avoid it I just nursed him alone.

Books about How to Care for Babies

I worried a great deal about Cyrus before and after he was born, and specifically chose not to buy or read any books about birth or taking care of babies because I knew that in the state of mind I was in, I would just start worrying unnecessarily about him. With the internet and knowledgeable humans there if I had any specific questions, I decided that was a better choice than trying to over-indulge on all the info there is.


So, I think my take-away is really, for new moms, don't just look at other people's lists of what you need to have when you're preparing for a baby. I totally had in mind that Cyrus needed sleepers--don't babies automatically need sleepers? He had three...and yeah, never wore them. I forgot that I live in the tropics, apparently. Look at the lists, but then think about your own living situation, your own personality, and what's going to be a priority for you (i.e. I knew it would take me a really long time to let Cyrus sleep in his own room, so yeah, I knew that a baby monitor probably wasn't going to be needed right away). Some things that I am really, really glad we have, like a baby swimsuit diaper, a high chair, and a mix CD of old Spanish songs that Cyrus loves...might not fit your lifestyle.

What are your favorite baby products?
16 January 2019


When I contemplate what it feels like to be a parent to a small person named Cyrus, bewildered is the word that usually comes to mind.

I'm in that phase of parenting where every day of added experience with a baby primarily teaches me that I don't understand much at all about babies.

It's a mystifying experience, raising a human. They are not robots to be engineered nor standardized tests to study for.

Is this normal, the "the more I do it, the less I'm sure I know anything at all" experience?

I tend to be a 'by the book' person in many areas of life, so because there is no "Book of Cyrus" I sometimes feel a bit at a loss.

There is only your baby, and figuring out what to do about him. It probably doesn't help that much of the time he hardly seems as if he is a baby. When my 8 month old tips the scale at 20 pounds and takes his first independent steps without holding onto furniture at 9 months old and smiles at every stranger he's ever met...I sometimes even wonder if I actually have a baby.

And it's no help at all to realize that even I were to figure out Cyrus completely, the next baby would be nothing like him and have an entirely new set of personality traits and needs. I think if I've learned anything in the first almost-year of parenting, it's that. That there is no such thing as "babies are like this" and "babies do this" and "babies want this" and "babies need this."

I'd heard that it can be pretty hard to wean a baby off of bottles and pacifiers. I don't doubt that at all, but Cyrus chose to give up bottles at 4 months and the pacifier at 5 months, and that was somewhat startling.

I'd heard about "separation anxiety" and when he started crying when I left the house, I thought, oh, how cute, what a normal baby thing for him to do! But then I quickly realized that he cried whenever anyone, including delivery men and random visitors, left, but if he was the one leaving, and I, or anyone else was staying home, Cyrus didn't cry at all. So it's not so much that he missed me, it was that he wants to go on all adventures.

He eats so much food. I did not expect a baby to eat so much. I think he eats more than I do. This morning, he woke up, had milk, followed by zucchini, a handful of shredded pork, half a jar of pureed veggies from the night before, two handfuls of baby puffs, and entire piece of french toast, a jar of pureed fruit, more milk...all before his 10 a.m. nap. I kept thinking "surely he's not hungry anymore!" whenever he finished the food I'd given him, but in five minutes he'd be in the kitchen, crying in front of the food cupboard (he's figured out where we keep food), and so I'd think "maybe he just needs a little bit more food." So that explains the rather random collection of foods. Tomorrow I ought to just scramble up a half-dozen eggs for his breakfast and call it good. Except he doesn't like eggs. That's the one thing. He'll eat sushi, and anything the grown ups are eating, but not if it's scrambled eggs. He hates them.

Bewildering. That's what I'd call it.
13 January 2019

Heresy, Maybe

Like many families nowadays, mine has a group chat.

It's used for sharing important info from one side of the globe to the other, asking questions for updates on family situations, and occasionally devolves into an endless slew of random stickers. At that point I ignore the chat for a few days until sanity has reigned once more. I'm not millennial enough to understand the texting of stickers and emoticons.

I'm here to share with you a shortened version of a recent chat, which all started because my parents asked to see a photo of the new Bible my brother was given as a graduation gift. Many of us in the chat have been given nicknames. I'm Kid 1, my brother is "Holy One" as a reference to the leg injury he sustained during a car crash in the fall. He had a giant hole in his leg, hence, Holy One. I have a variety of sisters, but the only one who shows up in this chat is nicknamed "Sleepy."

Okay, now that we have some context, let's begin:

Holy One:

Kid 1: I like big Bibles and I cannot lie!

Mom/Dad: WhiteBoy DJ? Bibles on CD??

Holy One:


Mom/Dad: My Bible is bigger!

Kid 1: Is this a Bible competition?

Mom/Dad: Yes

And I have more.

Kid 1: 

(Blurry, but hand is for size reference)

Mom/Dad: Well, Mom had her Dake's since before you all were born!

Kid 1: I'm reading a book on spiritual disciplines right now, and sending photos of your really big Bibles to your family is definitely a spiritual discipline.

Mom/Dad: What??? You're kidding me.

Kid 1: 

Kid 1: The more Bibles, the closer to heaven, because you can stand on top of the stack.

Mom/Dad: That's what I believe.

Sleepy: I love my family so much!!!


Disclaimer: The Random Writings blog, website, and the author thereof do not endorse in any way the questionable theology contained in this chat. It is shared only for the purposes of shared laughter.