SOCIAL MEDIA

21 November 2019

"Sometimes by Step"

Somehow, almost accidentally, Rich Mullins songs have ended up becoming the soundtrack to important milestones in my life together with Angel.

It started in his old Ford in 2009, when we were headed out on a shopping errand together, and he popped in a mix CD that began playing "If I Stand." 

It was instantly one of those "You too? I thought I was the only one." moments that C. S. Lewis talks about. I don't know how a California boy who grew up Catholic a decade ahead of a Michigan girl who grew up in Asia both happened to become fans of the same artist who passed away over a decade before we met and wasn't exactly crazy popular in 2009...but it happened. And "If I Stand" became the song that we consider "ours," one that we played during our wedding.

Years later, when I had a miscarriage, Mullins' "Hold Me Jesus" became the hymn that I clung to on a daily basis.

When Cyrus was born, we dedicated "Let Mercy Lead" to him, as it truly fits what we hope for his future and life.

A month or so before Glenn was born, I was having a physically very tough day. It was getting near the end of the day, which had begun with the usual homeschool routine with the big kids, and now I was finally making dinner, Cyrus was wandering around getting into things he wasn't supposed to be getting into, and I began to get discouraged with how rough I was feeling, I brought to mind the picture of "putting one foot in front of the other." I didn't have to think about how I was going to make it all the way through till the end of pregnancy and recovery again, I just had to think about the very next step.

And as I thought, I realized how very much that theme had been a characteristic of this pregnancy, how ever since early on when we discovered, much to our surprise, that his little heart was still beating, and we were told bluntly, "There's no way to guarantee anything, at this point we'd call it a 'threatened miscarriage.'" 

All I knew at that time was that I was indeed still pregnant, and all I could do was count each day, each little 'step' further along on the journey. The journey never really got easy, but it wasn't cut short and taken away from me, and for that I cannot be thankful enough.

And then the song "Sometimes by Step" came to mind and I knew I'd stumbled upon my song for Glenn.


Here are the lyrics:

Sometimes the night was beautiful
Sometimes the sky was so far away
Sometimes it seemed to stoop so close
You could touch it but your heart would break
Sometimes the morning came too soon
Sometimes the day could be so hot
There was so much work left to do
But so much You'd already done
Oh God, You are my God
And I will ever praise You
Oh God, You are my God
And I will ever praise You
I will seek You in the morning
And I will learn to walk in Your ways
And step by step You'll lead me
And I will follow You all of my days
Sometimes I think of Abraham
How one star he saw had been lit for me
He was a stranger in this land
And I am that, no less than he
And on this road to righteousness
Sometimes the climb can be so steep
I may falter in my steps
But never beyond Your reach
Oh God, You are my God
And I will ever praise You
Oh God, You are my God
And I will ever praise You
I will seek You in the morning
And I will learn to walk in Your ways
And step by step You'll lead me
And I will follow You all of my days
............................

Now, in the wee hours of the morning as I take my steps around the house, holding close a tiny boy who doesn't yet grasp the idea of sleeping without cuddles, I sing this to him, and think about all the days when I wondered if we'd ever make it this far together.

Sometimes this walk comes just one small step at a time, and that's all we can manage...and we can't quite even manage those little steps but for the grace of God. And that's enough.
13 November 2019

Birth Day Story

It started on a Sunday evening. Some friends who we hadn't seen in over a year had just arrived to spend the week at my parents' home, and after they came to my place for a short visit to see how much Cyrus had grown since they last saw him, we all went out to Subway together for a quick dinner.

Towards the end of dinner, around 6:30, I was starting to experience some suspicious pains and when Angel suggested walking around the mall for a while to see what was going on (there was some sort of fair or sale on at the time), I told him no, we ought to head straight home, I wasn't feeling well. I walked out and was headed straight for the car, but Angel lingered in the restaurant with my dad, continuing their dinner time conversation about Christian bands from the 70s and 80s. I remember turning around and glaring at him a bit as I waited, uncomfortably, near the entrance to the parking ramp. A minute or two later, he came with Cyrus and we headed home.

When we arrived home, I gave Cyrus his evening cup of milk and we brushed his teeth and got him to bed around the normal time, 7:30, and then I took a shower--both to help with the pain and to be showered and ready if I decided we ought to go to the hospital. Then I wandered around, finding the final things that needed to be added to the hospital bag and making sure we knew where everything we needed to bring was.

I was quite unsure what was going on, because the contractions didn't start out nearly as strong and predictable as they did with Cyrus. After a couple hours of walking around the house and trying to stretch and try out different comfortable exercises, I decided to call my mom to come stay with Cyrus and that we would head into the hospital to be safe. Cyrus's birth was so fast, and we live a solid half hour from the hospital, that I was nervous about being too far away or having to manage late-labor contractions while in the car.

But...spoiler alert...it turned out that this was very different from my experience with Cyrus and we had a long ways to go. I wonder whether we ought to have stuck it out at home longer...but I was in pain way too often to fall asleep anyways, and I did feel safer closer to doctors and with the ability to check on the baby's heart rate, so in the end, I think it's good we went in when we did.

We arrived at the hospital and, once again, went in through the "No Unauthorized Entry" doors into the ER, where they immediately put me in a wheelchair and brought us to a labor and delivery room. This time, they put me on the monitors for 20 minutes first (they never did that with Cyrus, I guess it was a little too obvious that time that it was very nearly "go time" for baby), and the nurse said sure enough, I was having contractions about every 2 minutes, but they were varying in intensity and not very long. But I had progressed enough and with the history of a quick labor the first time, they called my doctor right away and admitted me.

At that point, Angel got taken away to do the admittance paperwork, at which point he found out that we did need to have my passport (I'd asked in packing if I needed to pack my passport but he'd said no, he didn't remember needing one and I am already registered at the hospital so they have my info. But we were wrong!) He pacified them by saying we could have my family bring the passport in the morning, and then was able to come back to my room.

They left us alone most of the night, only the occasional visit from my doctor once she arrived and from nurses who had me back on the monitors to check on baby's heart after every couple of hours. I alternated between walking around the room for 30-45 minutes at a time and then lying down in the bed to rest for a while, trying to find the balance of giving the baby gravity and movement to help move him along, and also resting to try to stay relaxed and not get too exhausted. Labor is weird. You can read up on everything that is supposed to help but in the end, you just don't know exactly what's the best thing to do at the moment. Angel spent a good chunk of the night sleeping in the bed while I walked the room--which worked out well, because while I was in a good bit of pain, it wasn't unbearable or anything I felt I couldn't manage on my own.

According to the monitors, contractions kept coming on very frequently but weren't lengthening or getting consistently stronger. Around 7 am, 12ish hours after the pains had begun, my doctor suggested starting a pitocin drip to see if that would help with labor progression. In her opinion, I was plenty far enough along that there was no backing out of it at this point--she was definitely open to letting me continue to progress naturally but thought it might be another 12 hours or more at this rate and was letting me make the decision of whether I wanted to tough it out or try some drugs to help move things along.

I decided to agree to the pitocin--again, I feel like at times like this, you really never quite know what's the best choice--and then because of that now had to stay in the bed on the monitors so that we could keep an eye on baby's heart rate. After about 3ish hours after starting pitocin, they came in and suggested breaking my water, thinking that would help get us all the way to the end zone. Seemingly within seconds after my water was broken, the pain instantly ramped up into "impossible" level and I immediately asked for the gas to breathe...which, again, I'm not sure helps all that much with pain, but gives you something to concentrate on doing, attempting to breathe air coming out of a little tube, and I was sitting up and Angel was right there helping me through it all.

About an hour after my water was broken, baby Glenn was born. Unlike Cyrus, I actually got to hold him and keep him with me for a while because he was breathing fine (Cyrus was first handed to me but then got immediately taken away because he was so purple and not breathing so well). It was a good thing I actually got to hold my baby because things didn't go so well for me in the post-baby birth process and since I wasn't on anything for pain relief, the only thing I had to help me through it was holding my precious baby and Angel right there with me. They let us keep the baby with us for a good while before taking him to the nursery for weighing, etc, and that was really nice. It was so good when it was just the three of us in the room that (when I was brave/foolish enough to actually look around) looked like a scene out of a gory movie that I would never watch. My first impression of Glenn was of how much he didn't look like Cyrus at all (Cyrus was born with a very noticeable v-shaped storkbite on his forehead, so at this point I was kind of expecting all babies to be born with Vs on their foreheads) and that he was very tiny.


Glenn had been measuring a bit behind in his size since around the beginning of the third trimester...just one more little worry in a pregnancy that had been very worrisome, and was born at 38 weeks 5 days weighing just a bit under 6 lbs--much smaller than his 7 lb. 2 oz. brother, but a very respectable size for a baby who was expected to be on the small side. We'd had an ultrasound 2 days before he was born that estimated his size at 2.7 kg, and he was born weighing 2.7 kg....so when people always say, "Oh, those ultrasounds can be really far off!" just know that they can also be pretty correct. Who knew?

We eventually were brought to a recovery room about 2 hours after Glenn was born, and my parents arrived and brought Cyrus and one of my sisters to meet the baby...only we had to wait another couple hours before Glenn actually arrived in the room.







We had opted that we wanted to keep Glenn in the room with us as much as possible and take care of him ourselves rather than having him go to nursery, so once he arrived, he was with us for the evening. I expected that, like Cyrus, he would be very sleepy on his first night, but quite the opposite, he was very alert and wanted to be held most of the night. At one point I think I held him for two hours straight while he just happily looked around the dark room. The next day, we were both discharged by our doctors and were able to head home in late afternoon, which is where we both stay for now, getting rest and building strength before heading out into the big, exciting world that Glenn doesn't even know about yet!

Our miracle boy is here. and I'm so very, very grateful. As we were alone in the room together after he was born, Angel and I talked about those horrible 5 days in April when we thought he was already gone, and about the doctor's appointment at the end of 5 days that utterly shocked us--when we saw a growing baby on a screen where we fully expected to see nothing good at all. How stunned we were as we drove home from that appointment, trying to wrap our minds around getting the best news that we could imagine alongside the words "at this point we would call it a threatened miscarriage." And then at 18 weeks when the doctor told us that the placenta had partially detached and early delivery was a risk...and then at 28 weeks when his growth slowed...all I can say it praise be to God for this indescribable gift. We got to meet our boy!
28 October 2019

Currently in October

Sewing: A surprising amount of projects. This has been probably my oddest nesting instinct...I've felt a very specific urgency to use up as much of my fabric stash of leftover fabric from previous projects as possible, and in the last month or so I've made a variety of items that I can't picture here because they are intended as Christmas presents, among them, the most adorable skater skirt for the littlest sister and a bunch of throw pillows. Also some fabric Christmas ornaments, and most recently, a couple of no-sew fabric garlands for Christmas decor. I've also got an embroidery project that I've been working on consistently after Cyrus's bedtime, but I'm not sure if I'll actually be able to finish that one in time...



Wearing: The latest in modern fashion, superglued glasses.


One of our room doors tends to swing on its hinges into the middle of the doorway, and one day recently I wasn't paying enough attention and walked straight into the edge of the door, cracking the frame of my glasses, popping the lens out...and also ended up with a tender bruise above my eyebrow for a couple days. Oops! These glasses had been bothering me for quite some time, I often found myself pushing them back up on my head at various times throughout the day because they bothered me, but I was really trying to hold off on new glasses till after baby...but a few days after this incident we went to an eye doctor and they said that my prescription hasn't changed, the reason the glasses have been bothering me is because they're just old (about 4 years old) and the UV coating was separating from the lens, causing strain. Who knew that happened?

Well, actually probably everyone knows you ought to get your eyes checked more often than once in 4 years but...life.

So, I'm getting new glasses, soon, and at Angel's persuasion, ended up opting for the more "out there" option of the two pairs I had narrowed the choices down to, so that should be an exciting return to being able to see clearly and a hint of quirky fashion once more.

Preparing: Well, we certainly ought to be preparing for the new arrival due in about 3 weeks...we have made some progress. We haven't given the birth plan to the doctor yet but intend to remember to do that on Saturday. We have washed Cyrus's infant car seat and readjusted the straps down to newborn size but haven't put it in the car yet. I'm kind of envisioning that we won't end up installing it ahead of time but will just throw it in the car on the way to the hospital...when you drive a small five-seater hatchback there is not much motivation to install a second carseat any sooner than necessary.

We don't have the crib set up in our room yet, either, but again, kind of thinking along the lines of space being at a bit of a premium this time around. We definitely started setting things up earlier with Cyrus! I have washed the sheets and all the smallest sizes of baby clothes and have packed a tiny bag for baby for the hospital, but I haven't really packed for myself yet, although I did get out a bag and put two toothbrushes and a sample size tube of toothpaste in it because last time, having to request my parents to bring toothbrushes to the hospital when they came to visit baby (because I forgot to pack them) just seemed a little bit ridiculous. ha!

I feel like a lot of moms worry about going to the hospital too soon or too early...for some reason last time I was not at all worried about that, or about waking Angel up to tell him to get ready within half an hour of my first-ever contraction. Which ended up being a good thing because we didn't have all that much time to spare. I don't know if this time I will end up less or more focused on getting to the hospital ASAP....

Anticipating: November appears to be shaping up to be an extraordinarily momentous month for my family. There's Thanksgiving, of course, and the baby, but then, also, my sister is getting married:

(photo by their photographer)

The wedding is in America, so it doesn't have that much physical impact on those of us who live so far away, but it's definitely an emotionally impactful and momentous event. Being a big sister and watching all of these "littles" grow up has been amazing, and I'm excited for the new life she's about to begin.

Also, my parents are the keynote speakers at a parenting conference in November, and they have long-time family friends coming to stay for a week, and my dad will be traveling out of the country for a different week, oh, and did I mention the baby that's coming due? Which is slightly more complicated this time since now there's a 20 month old who will need to be taken care of while we're in the hospital? 

And another sister is in the midst of busy preparations for her 4th-ever booth at an arts and crafts sale happening the first week of December. Over the past month, we've been working together on applying to colleges and scholarships and trying to figure out what her future might look like. Angel and I pretended to be responsible parents and took her to a college recruiting night being held at the school where he teaches. Again, with the big sister stuff--what an experience it is to sit there and watch one of my baby sisters asking questions of a college recruiter about financial aid options, dorm life, opportunities within the art department, etc.

They all grow up!



Playing: With Cyrus and the other kids. Angel's school had fall break recently and during his week off, we really tried to make the most of balancing adult responsibilities (doctor's appointments and getting our air-cons cleaned) with playtime at local playgrounds and at the beach, and with his new Mr. Potato Head toy that Grandma got him. To me, all of the faces he will put together on Mr. Potato Head look crazy, but what's funny is that he'll find some specific face combinations ridiculously hilarious and start cracking up at his own Picasso-esque face creations.

Planning: Future travels. Having been on the island for a solid 12 months at this point has left me with a certain amount of cabin fever. Yes, being home-bound has been well worth it and I'm so excited for the little guy we'll be meeting soon...and I'm also excited about the prospect of taking two little boys on adventures elsewhere. 

I think when Angel and I were more new to our relationship, my casual planning of adventures in the uncertain future unnerved him, but at this point, he thinks it's totally normal when I randomly bring up the topic of potential destinations for a 10th anniversary trip or things I want to make sure we do when we visit the USA. 

Writing: I'm trying to get a little bit ahead on my articles for the Sonlight blog, in anticipation of being a little extra distracted in the near future, but haven't yet managed to get as ahead as I'd like to be. In the meantime, my most recent article published on their site is about Keys to Foreign Language Proficiency for Homeschoolers!
07 October 2019

18 Months with "Baby"

It occurred to me...just a couple weeks late...that I ought to write an 18 month update on Cyrus.





(This was the photo I took on for the day he officially turned 18 months, a year and a half, old. Only half of his body is in motion, so hey, not too bad...)

How big? 26 lbs and 32 in. Which, from the online calculator, appears to be something like 70th percentile for weight and 25th percentile for height. He's been wearing mostly 18 month size clothes for about half a year. We often get told how "tall" he is but I don't think he's actually tall, I think it's because we don't often run into Caucasian kids, who would probably average taller.

Words? In the last month he's started saying a few more words. I love it! Being from a girl-heavy family, I was a lot more used to toddlers who were big talkers and his silent observation worried me a little. This morning, as we were sitting in the dark waking up, he turned to me and said "Ball!" and pointed to the room where his ball is...then he said "Keys!" (this kid loves to use keys to try and unlock things...all the time)...and then he said "Papa!" and went to climb on top of Angel. He is definitely understanding a lot more of what we say, to the point where we've realized that we can't casually mention going outside or going swimming or milk unless we are prepared to follow through on our statements. His understanding of English is a little wider, I can tell, but he is following more of Angel's commands in Spanish (and I'm gradually getting more comfortable with the command form and attached pronouns...the bane of my existence in college Spanish classes).

Schedule?
A normal day looks like:
6-7 Wake up, and Cyrus immediately eats breakfast and takes a shower
7-9 Storytime, sometimes going on a walk or a swim with Angel while I get morning housework done, sometimes just playing at home.
9 Angel leaves for work, and Cyrus and I head over to join the homeschool crew.
9-12 Morning homeschool hours, so I'm mostly focused on the big kids,. My sister takes care of a little boy who is Cyrus's age during the day, so he has a buddy he can play with in the morning. Cyrus usually tries to interrupt and steal pencils and erasers. He loves to sit at the table with the kids doing schoolwork and scribble in an old school book, but usually gets kicked out after a while due to stealing too many writing utensils and calculators. He'll have a morning snack, play with blocks, usually do an art activity with gluesticks (his FAVE) or watercolor, and usually goes outside to play with my teenage sister or hangs out on the balcony with her and colors with chalk.
12-2 Cyrus and I head home for naptime (for him), and I eat lunch, write, hang up laundry, work on various sewing projects, or whatever is on the agenda for my quiet time of the day. Sometimes, I nap too, because pregnancy. His naps are actually really varied these days, sometimes 1 hour, sometimes 3 hours, but usually closer to 2.
2-2:30 If Cyrus is awake, I'll give him a cup of milk and we'll read stories.
2:30-4:30 I guide Mandarin lessons followed up by English lessons, and Cyrus usually gets passed around between whichever sister isn't in class. 
4:30-6 is the time that's really just for Cyrus and me, and has become "baby school" time at home. I sing the songs I'm teaching him with him, we read a couple stories, and then do some sort of activity, like playing with stickers or play-doh. Still working on NOT eating play-doh. Then I make dinner.
6 Angel's home! We eat dinner, and then I clean up while many evenings, Angel heads out with Cyrus and sometimes my littlest sister--to swim, to the playground, to the beach, for a quick little adventure before bedtime.
7:30 Shower, milk, brush teeth, bed!

Loves?
-Still loves birds. He has a fondness for books with birds in them. The books don't have to be about birds, there just has to be a random bird somewhere in the illustration on the page, and he will find it, and he will say, "Bee!" "Bee!" very distinctly means "Bird!" There was one evening Angel was making all sorts of crazy sounds for him to imitate, and he was mimicking everything perfectly, including random words like "Hola" and "Door" and "knock-knock". Angel said, "Bird!" and Cyrus said right back, "Bee!" We need to be careful or we'll find ourselves talking about Bees in public and everyone will be confused because they're actually birds.

- Kitchen utensils. One day a few weeks ago, he took the whole can of kitchen utensils while I was cooking, said "Bye!" to me, and simply left the room. He often asks for some spoon or ladle or pair of tongs to play with. 

- Grandpa. My dad is probably the person in my close-by family that he sees least often, due to work and traveling, but he is always amazed when he does see him, and instantly runs for the bookshelf, because he thinks Grandpa equals automatic storytime.

- Helping. (The activity that all moms hopes will last forever...but probably won't). He'll go grocery shopping with Angel and help carry the groceries all the way back to the apartment, and then he'll unload the bags from the kitchen floor and hand everything to me (which, at this point, is a legitimate help, because I don't want to bend my very pregnant self down to the floor a million times to grab all the groceries). He'll carry the trash down the hallway to the room with the dumpster. He'll throw trash away in the kitchen trash can and he'll take clean, folded laundry off of the ironing board and throw it into the washing machine (yeah...we're still working on that one...and I've learned to get laundry put away real fast!)

- Keys. In order to avoid him playing with our real sets of house keys, we've given him the little keys that go to the drawers in our built-in cupboards (because when have those ever needed to be locked). He will try them on every door in the house...dragging a chair up to the bedroom door and working really hard to try to get the key in the lock. He shut my bedroom door while I was doing makeup the other day, and he ran to me excitedly. "Keys?" he asked. He thinks if a door is shut, you'll likely need keys to open it. I've taken him down the hallway in our apartment complex and he's tried his keys in every utility door and roof access door. I gave him my old purse when I switched purses lately, and the first thing he did was run and get all of his keys and put them in the purse. It's so funny how much they are watching you!

- Visitors. He LOVES it when people come over and is very disappointed when they inevitably leave. He does love to say "Bye!" and wave, but he much prefers to be the person leaving, not the person left behind. My sisters stayed with us for a few nights while my parents were away and he was thrilled with the idea, other than the fact that it necessitated going to bed while his buddies were over. 

- Having ideas. This kid is full of ideas. He's recently been putting on two different shoes when we leave the house. When he hears the real phone ring, he'll have an imaginary phone in his hand and he'll answer it. He'll suddenly get an evil gleam in his eye and turn the balcony hose on one of my sisters, soaking them (it's true, I saw the evil gleam and everything). I've taught him different motions for some of our books. I.e., the picture shows a sun, we point to the sky outside. The picture shows a watermelon, we pretend to eat it. Mostly, he loves doing the motions do go with the words, but sometimes he'll purposely do the wrong motion, and then laugh. He occasionally tried to trick me by saying "cicak" and pointing somewhere where there is clearly no cicak (gecko), and then laughing hysterically when he "made me look." I had no idea that toddlers had this much innate concept of mischief, that pranks could begin at 18 months old. He is a constant adventure!

04 October 2019

Belligerent Peace

Sometimes I think we cling so tightly to our problems that even God, if He were so inclined, couldn't pry them out from between our fingers. We look at what we're going through and spin identities defined by such experiences. Lost someone we loved. Work too hard and too long for too little reward. Not able to get along with the boss. Facing serious health issues. Constantly under financial stress and barely making ends meet. Dreams have not and will never come true. Traumatized by past experiences. Facing anxiety and depression and fear. We've been offended. Hurt by people who should have done better. Ostracized. Unloved when we ought to have been loved.

We experience hard things in life and these hard things shape us. But sometimes we continue to allow them to mold us and bend us more than they truly have a right to, and end up bent into a bitter mockery of what we could have been. Instead of seeing ourselves as persons separate from the crises we handle, we look at ourselves through a lens of trauma, a lens which gradually shrinks and distorts our very selves.

I suspect that when we cling so tightly to the experiences that we have decided to form into identities, God isn't actually inclined to attempt to pry them out of our fingers. Perhaps that's a better description of the situation. It's not that he couldn't force us to let go, it's that He made us free. Free to embrace the thing that wounds us, if we so desire.


But what if we chose not to? What if, instead of holding onto my hurt, I loosened my grip enough to start clinging on to the possibility of peace that isn't dependent on my circumstances? What if we realized that even if nothing about our pasts or our presents changes...even if nothing changes in the relationships that bring the most pain...we have not lost the freedom to see our own selves through lenses that are not warped by hurt and disappointed expectations. What if that was one of the keys to growing up and growing old without growing bitter?

We make the choice to cling desperately to our deepest hurts, like a toddler who is determined to keep hold of the scissors or pencil or whatever random and dangerous object is currently within his clutches. We scream and flail and demand that those around us see us through the lens of pain that we use when we look at ourselves. But what if we didn't? What if we let go, ran to the Father and confessed that we don't want to see ourselves this way anymore. That we don't want to live forever under the shadow of broken relationships, disappointed dreams, and frustrated lives. That we want to be able to walk into each day with the peace that surpasses all understanding. The peace that defies comprehension...that makes no sense given the reality of the situation...the peace that looks evil and brokenness in the face, puts up its fists, and says, "Try me."

We know this belligerent peace exists. But do we trust that it does enough to loosen our hold on a sharp object?
23 September 2019

Haze Season 2019

Current wind patterns are carrying a great deal of smoky air directly over the city where we live, meaning that last week, we were waking up to skies that looked like this:


(Note the vague shadow of a mountain behind the haze...usually it appears just as green as the nearby trees!)

There are often some hazy days around this time of year, but this is an especially bad year for the haze. Our first "fall season" here was in 2015, and we had just moved out of China. I remember wondering if we had merely moved from one location plagued by air pollution to another when the air quality was so bad at that time, but most of the time our skies are much clearer and bluer.

How does the haze affect daily life?

- Schools were mandated to close for three school days last week. This is particularly crucial for the many schools that have classrooms open to the air and no air-conditioning or filtration systems. Those of us from the USA liken the weather cancellations to "snow days," only it's been joked that kids in the USA might be encouraged to go outside and play on a snow day, if the conditions aren't blizzard-like. For a haze day...kids need to stay inside and try not to breathe too much! Angel had two half-days of meetings or office work and one day completely off of work due to the three days when the school was closed. Experiencing weather cancellations from the perspective of a teacher is different...tests have to be rescheduled, homework still has to be assigned, the class must not come to a screeching halt!

- Angel and I bought high-quality masks when we were moving to China and have dug those out of storage for use when we need to leave the apartment. Cyrus doesn't have a mask that fits him and I imagine getting him to actually wear one would be...interesting...but our main strategy is staying in the apartment as much as possible, keeping the doors and windows closed and turning on the air-con units to get some filtration. This is possible for us in the bedrooms and main living area of our house, but not in the kitchen and laundry area or in the bathrooms, those are more open to the air and smell of smoke. But many, many homes in our area are not at all designed to be "airtight" or even have any rooms where you can really block out the outside air, so for many families, even staying home is not providing much safer air quality than the outdoors.

- Cyrus started coughing on day 3 of the haze and continues to cough. It affects him most when he's trying to sleep, which means we've all had some rough nights recently. Angel and I have had some eye discomfort, headache and scratchy throats but remain mostly unaffected--younger children or those with respiratory allergies or those prone to respiratory problems for various reasons are most at risk when air conditions are bad like this. Thankfully we've not had to be outdoors! I'm glad that the baby isn't expected to be born for nearly two more months so that hopefully the haze season will be over before he arrives. We haven't taken Cyrus out to play and are learning the added challenge of keeping a toddler occupied when going outdoors or even going out to visit a new location is no longer a very good option.

When the weather takes a turn for the worse we learn very quickly how much we don't get to control the details of daily life...
11 September 2019

How Parenting Has Changed Us

Three years ago, I woke Angel up at 5 a.m. to tell him I was pregnant. Because I couldn't possibly wait five minutes, or until a reasonable hour, like 6 a.m. It was too exciting, I'd been waiting so long. He didn't believe me. Now, is it at all conceivable that your wife would wake you up at 5 a.m. to lie about being pregnant with the baby you've been hoping for? I don't think so. I still don't know why he didn't believe me.

Something about our lives changed then, even though that first baby was one who didn't get to stay. Even though that baby didn't quite make it to 8 weeks, in some sense, when I think about the different eras of my life, it feels like a new era began in September 2016. That first pregnancy changed some parts of who we are. More changed 18 months ago when we brought our Cyrus home and we got to actually begin experiencing life with a baby...who quickly grew into a toddler.

Here are a few of the changes, big and small, lighthearted and less-so, inside and outside, that I've noticed:




-  Our leisure activities have changed. Sitting in one spot, watching TV together, is no longer much of a thing, at least not between the hours of 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. Before, the end of the work day was the end of the day, for the most part. We'd eat dinner, watch a show, catch up on individual hobbies or work projects, and go to bed. Now? Angel thinks of what outings can happen between when he gets home from school at 6 p.m. and bedtime. We eat our dinners and then it's adventure time. On Monday, we went to the beach after school. On Tuesday, Angel and Cyrus went swimming in the pool. Other days they'll head out for a walk in the neighborhood or visit the park. We get out more, because we're more motivated to get out and do things now that we have a little guy to do them with. Sure, Angel and I went to the beach once in a while when it was just the two of us. We'd walk and chat...beach trips look much different with a one year old, but they occur much more frequently because something about this little boy's energy level boosts our own levels of energy for getting out and about.

- We eat more variety. Everyone has favorite fruits and veggies, right? And I can definitely get into the rut of cooking the same handful of meals over and over. But now we have another little body to think about. Angel has started to pick up random vegetables or fruits that we didn't eat often on a more regular basis, because he'll think, "Oh, Cyrus should try this!" I also share my food better than ever before. I still wouldn't call myself good at sharing food, but if you knew what I was like before when it came to my favorite foods, you would know that motherhood has changed me. ha!

- We save 'trash' a lot more often. We both skew minimalist, and don't like to have clutter in our home. Neat, clean, and somewhat empty is my happy place. But now, when I finish a plastic jar of chia seeds, my first thought is, "A new toy for Cyrus!" Many bottles and boxes hang out in our home for a few days or weeks beyond when they ought to have gone into the garbage or recycling, simply because we've found that Cyrus appreciates and plays with them so much that they are better off spending some time with him before moving on to their next life. The "beach toys" we brought with us on Monday consisted of a milk powder scoop (those are some of his favorites!) with a chia seed jar, and he spent a lot of our beach time dutifully filling up that jar, one scoop of sand at a time.

- On a related note, we aren't nearly so bothered by mess as we used to be. We're still neat by nature, and it's probably no coincidence that "dirty" is one of Cyrus's few words, and sweeping the floor remains a favorite hobby, but...I typically won't bother picking up all of his toys in the living room before Angel gets home from work. We are working to teach Cyrus to pick up his toys and to keep sets of toys together, so if he wants to get out something new, we try to pick up the toys that are out first...but it doesn't bother either one of us if megablocks are still scattered on the living room rug when we go to bed.

- We notice 'small things' so much more. I never remember hearing the calls of birds from my apartment until Cyrus started hearing them and getting excited to react to every bird call. I now notice the background music when we're in stores because Cyrus starts dancing to it. I actively look for cicaks (house geckos) to point out to him because he loves finding them--where previously I generally ignored their regular presence. I notice stray hairs on the floor that need to be swept up because he pays so much attention to the state of my floors. haha! I see the birds resting on powerlines now, even when I'm not with Cyrus, just because I'm so accustomed to him pointing them out while riding in the car.

- Time is more valuable. Few things can teach you the importance of not wasting the time you're given like watching a child change in the first 18 months after he's born. Wow. I definitely waste less time than I used to--both in the practical sense, as in, I've learned that I can accomplish a LOT of housework during a naptime, and in the emotional sense--spending time as a family all together has become so precious, and opportunities to do so are not ones we want to waste! Also, time for just Angel and I comes in occasionally, and we are certainly more intentional than we were when such time was much more easily come by.

- Decisions about going out to eat are very different than they used to be. We now consider what Cyrus can eat and the experience of being with a toddler at a restaurant. A favorite local restaurant of ours is a Chinese noodle soup shop. That restaurant is now reserved solely for the occasional date night as there aren't any high chairs and the only thing served in the restaurant is scalding hot stoneware bowls of noodle soup, to be eaten with chopsticks. Nothing about being in that restaurant with Cyrus sounds appealing, so we'll go to the local Indian breakfast shop where he can sit in his highchair and eat roti dipped in curry instead. The guys there love him, anyways. The cashier always insists that Cyrus "pay for the meal"--handing him the money and receiving the change.

- Watching a show takes way longer. I recently saw some joke about parenting being where watching a movie now takes place over the course of three evenings. I think that's pretty accurate. A lot of times, it might be two evenings for one 40 minute TV show. Both Angel and I are early birds, and that hasn't changed, so we are typically falling asleep not too long after 9 no matter what...but add in early mornings, occasional midnight wake ups, and the general child-induced tiredness, and there's plenty of nights that we both fall asleep as soon as he's in bed.

- I'm both braver and more terrified than I ever was before. I remember a time when I thought if I ever had a miscarriage, that I would never be brave enough to try again. Little did I know what lay ahead of me, and how that short, short time of loving a baby would strangely hearten me for the journey that lay ahead. I've done braver things and more physically challenging things than I thought I could do on the journey into parenting thus far, but I've also been almost overwhelmed at times with the realization of how very much we don't get to control the fates of our own children and how very much trust and reliance on God it takes when 'your heart is walking around outside your body.' Suddenly, the world seems so much more terrifying. The bookshelf could fall over, the kitchen scissors that have been in the drawer for years are dangerous, the glass door could slam and sever a finger. Endless decisions and bits of information lie before you, safe and unsafe sleeping habits, what should be done about a fever, take him in to the doctor or ride it out at home? Spoon-feed the baby or let him feed himself and make a mess? I can't count the times I've woken up to check on him in the middle of the night, for no reason other than to make sure he's okay. Angel has done the same. I feel braver than I imagined myself to be in my pre-parent days...and have also had more moments of fear in the past three years than I have ever had in life before these past three years. "To love at all is to be vulnerable," C.S. Lewis said, and I think he's right, it applies to all sorts of love, but I think it applies especially to a parent's love for their child. This love makes us vulnerable--it has made me vulnerable, ever since September 2016, and I'm so glad for the chance.
06 September 2019

The Great Rat Invasion of 2019

Cyrus and I were hanging out at my parents' home, waiting for Angel to get out of work and come pick everyone up to go out to dinner. I was helping my mom edit a document for work when we were interrupted by the sound of a screaming 12 year old.

Sarah ran into the living room and announced, "There was a rat in the bathroom! It was on the counter, but when I walked in, it ran away and ran into the drain."

Mom went to investigate the bathroom situation and closed the open drain cover, but we all took the news rather calmly and somewhat skeptically. Part of this is because unusual animal encounters of a close kind are hardly rare where we live (in fact, this is a major theme of my book, The Cactus Who Craved a Hamburger, in which insects and various tropical creatures happily share a home with the human residents. Based on a true story.) In addition, for some reason, probably entirely unjustified, my family tends to treat Sarah's reports of animal encounters rather lightly. Everyone in the family scoffed when she reported seeing a monkey on the balcony outside the apartment a year ago. "Monkeys have never actually climbed onto our balcony!" we said confidently. Not long afterwards, my parents' home was ransacked by a wayward monkey who came in through the balcony doors, knocked over a computer monitor, destroyed a jewelry box, and committed a few other unmentionable desecrations. My dad went out and put up chicken wire as a monkey-deterrent measure later that day.

Maybe after this we'll start listening to Sarah.

{Clearly not a rat, but I have no pictures of the actual adventure, so I thought I'd include one of another critter spotted at the park just outside our apartment complex.}

Mom decided to boil a kettle of water to dump down the drain to make it seem like an unappealing habitat for any potential rats. I questioned Sarah as to whether it was a rat or merely a mouse. MaryGrace threw some drain-cleaning tablets down the drain when she saw Mom dumping the first kettle of boiling water down it--somehow she'd missed the ruckus entirely and thought the drain needed to be unclogged. We figured some toxic drain-cleaning chemicals probably wouldn't hurt the cause of discouraging rats from living in the drain, and hey, now it would be extra cleared-out. Cyrus watched the goings-on with great interest. 

Mom and I finished up our editing project and Angel arrived, ready to head out. We joked that he'd missed all the excitement with the possible rat sighting in the bathroom, and Mom remembered that she'd boiled a second kettle of water to dump down the drain, just to be a little extra on the safe side.

She brought the kettle to the bathroom while all of us waited, ready to go, in the living room. As soon as she began pouring the water into the drain, a rat jumped out of the drain, ran out of the bathroom and into Mom's bedroom. Mom screamed, ran, and jumped onto the bed. All of the little girls screamed and ran to the opposite side of the apartment. Pregnant me does not move very quickly and opted to stay on the couch, but I overhead the 8-year-old asking the 12-year-old as they ran away, "Are rats dangerous?"

The answer came, "Not exactly dangerous, but they're dirty, and you can catch diseases if they bite you."

Angel had acted quickly, slamming the door of the bedroom, trapping Mom and the rat in the room together, but making sure that the rat couldn't get into any other part of the house. He yelled to mom that he'd find something to use to help catch or kill the rat, and returned with a broom, a dustpan, and a bag. He'd looked for a box (Angel has a great record of being able to trap bats in boxes) but there wasn't one handy, and so he quickly slipped into the room with the tools to figure out what to do about the rat.

I was still on the couch, and my sisters and Cyrus were still as far from the rat as it was possible to get while remaining in the house.

Once Angel arrived in the bedroom to assist with rat capture, Mom was able to more thoroughly investigate the under-the-bed region that the rat had escaped to. To their great relief (and, somewhat, to their confusion), the rat had keeled over and was lying still. They weren't sure if it was dead, in shock, or temporarily unconscious...but they weren't taking any chances. Angel quickly swept it up and came out to the living room, planning to dispose of it by dumping it into the field outside the balcony. 

But the balcony door was locked! Immediately, panicked shouting for the keys began as everyone stared at the rat in the dustpan, waiting to see if it might show signs of life at any moment. It seemed an eternity before the keys were found, the balcony door unlocked, and Angel ran out to dump the rat off the balcony into the long grass where it'll never shock anyone again.

And then we re-locked the balcony, placed a rock over the drain cover to discourage any other enterprising rats from breaking in, and headed out to dinner.

As we walked to the car, I head the 8-year-old saying, "I think you can get diabetes from a rat bite."
 
And Angel laughing, "No, that's not how diabetes works at all."

........................................................................

May your weekends be rat-free and may you have productive discussions on the types of diseases that can be acquired from animal bites!

P.S. No, we are not at all sure how a rat can rocket himself out of a drain and end up on the other side of the adjoining room either dead or unconscious. Potential theory is that he may have been scalded to death by the precise timing at which Mom had suddenly remembered to use the second pot of water she'd boiled, and the rat just happened to be venturing his way back in again at that moment. Maybe? Who knows. We're not expert rat-catchers, just accidental rat-killers. Maybe. We're not even sure if it was dead. 

P.P.S. If you've read The Cactus Who Craves a Hamburger, do you remember what the rat's name was? If you don't, go back and have a peek at the story. Clearly, I tend to use my favorite names again and again. ;)
04 September 2019

Homeschool Recommendations and Advice

Homeschool has always been a part of my life, ever since I was a wee preschooler in the 90s reciting the Declaration of Independence in front of my parents' gigantic box of a VHS video recorder.


In adult life, my involvement with homeschooling has been assisting with the teaching of my youngest sisters ever since moving back to live near my parents four years ago, along with looking forward to the more-structured school days to come with my Cyrus (and geeking out over our daily storytimes and sticker/paste/playdoh/coloring activities).

(The sum total of Cyrus's 'school' collection thus far [plus two shelves of storybooks below these--about half of which are in Spanish]--some of the books and games won't be used till some future date when he's old enough. The one shelf on the left is the Sonlight Preschool curriculum, which I received in exchange for contributing articles to their blog.)

We're a funny fit as a family into the "homeschool" world. I and my family have a lot of appreciation for all modes of education--Angel and I taught in a public high school in China, he currently teaches at a large private school, and I have three younger sisters either teaching or en route to getting their degrees in education and teaching licenses. But we also see a great deal of value in the homeschool lifestyle, in siblings and parents spending their days together, and in one-on-one parent-to-child education for kids who struggle to learn in a classroom setting. Most of our homeschool experience has been abroad, which has certainly colored our view as we've primarily known homeschool only outside of the American 'bubble' where it is more widespread. The homeschool system I grew up in focused strongly on academic challenge and mathematics and science, and college-preparatory programs. We used a variety of curricula for various subjects over the years, but Sonlight curriculum remained a constant throughout my own education--I appreciated the attention paid to the history of the wider world rather than that of the West alone, and the inclusion of books with non-Christian worldviews and the encouragement to think critically about how to respond to and engage with the material we learned. I know my homeschool education set me up well to thrive at the college I attended, and it's been a joy to return 'home' and help with educating my youngest sisters.

This year, I was granted the opportunity to begin writing articles for the Sonlight blog, certainly a dream come true for this girl! I wanted to collect the links to my articles thus far in one spot on my blog, and will continue to add to this list as more articles are released on their website.

Articles on the Sonlight blog:

When You Are Disappointed By Homeschool - Let's just begin with the dark side of homeschooling, shall we? It's been my life for 20+ years, and I've seen plenty of days that look nothing like instagram homeschool accounts. The best part of this article, in my opinion, is that every example I included of the homeschool day going wrong is nothing more nor less than a precise retelling of true events from my homeschool career. Either I or one of my siblings were the culprit in each case. They shall remain nameless, but you already know me, so it's too late for me.

5 Ways to Make Your Family Vacation More Educational - It may be an old cliche, but it's true, homeschool families are always looking for ways to make non-school days educational (you should have seen the kinds of presents we used to get for Christmas or our birthdays!). The habit is so ingrained I've even implemented educational strategies into a few of mine and Angel's getaways...because you're never too much on your honeymoon to learn, am I right?

4 Ways to get Dad Involved in the Homeschool Day - My own dad wasn't much able to be involved in my homeschooling career, due to his work and his education, but has had a little more flexibility to get involved with his youngest daughters' education and has learned to love reading with them. I've already figured out exactly what subject Angel will be in charge of: Spanish.

The Quandary of Second Generation Homeschoolers - We experimental children of the 80s and 90s who grew up homeschooled are now beginning to make educational decisions for our own children. This article talks about challenges specific to 2nd gen homeschoolers--torn between loyalty to our own upbringing and wanting to turn homeschooling upside down and backwards.

4 Ways to Coax Your Reluctant Writer out of Blank Page Paralysis - This may come as a shock to you, but I was never a reluctant writer. In fact, my first "book" was written around the age of 6 or 7 and was entitled "Cowboy" and was dedicated to my cowboy-obsessed little brother. For better or worse, I haven't stopped. I have discovered, though, as I homeschool others, that not all kids desire to write all the time. Who knew? These are some of the strategies I've been using to encourage writing over the past few years.

Bible Time: The Most Important Part of the Homeschool Day - Where I confess that as an arrogant teenager, I once thought that my own impressive list of schoolwork responsibilities (calculus, AP Physics, and the like) ought to take precedent over Mom's lengthy Bible class. I have since learned that I didn't know as much as I thought I once did...

3 Reasons Homeschool Works for Families Living Overseas - Most of my own family's homeschool experience has been overseas, here are a few of the motivating factors behind our lifestyle choice.

5 Tips for Homeschool Organization in Small Spaces - Ideas for how to make homeschool work when you're living in an urban apartment and don't have a whole lot of square footage to make use of!

Keys to Foreign Language Proficiency for the Homeschool Family - How can you ensure that the foreign language you are teaching in your homeschool is really going to "stick" in years to come?


And one article featured on Life of a Homeschool Mom:

Is Lapbooking Right for Your Homeschool? - Lapbooking is a new addition to our homeschool in the past year, this is a look at some of the pros and cons and who this activity might suit the best.

This article is found on Homeschool Giveaways:

When Your Child Refuses to Learn - Discussing the options and tools we have at our disposal when a child is fiercely resisting learning a specific skill.

..................................................................

Let me know if you have any questions about our homeschool methods or any topics you'd suggest that I write about. Such ideas are most heartily welcomed!
19 August 2019

Current Adventures

In reality, life hasn't been particularly "adventurous" of late, out of necessity, but we had a busy and joyful summer and a great start to the beginning of the new school year.


Playing: On the new playground at Angel's school. His school built two new playgrounds over the summer break, which are now probably about the coolest playgrounds on our island, so Angel has been picking up Cyrus and my sisters after work a couple days a week and turning right back around to go back to campus and play.


Wearing: Well, getting Cyrus dressed up fancy for church on Sunday is still my favorite thing. It's still just about the only time he wears pants and long-sleeved shirts because most of the time he's not in air-conditioning and it's just way too hot to be dressed like that anywhere else (except the hospital, which is really chilly). As for me, my wardrobe is gradually shrinking and every day is a science experiment in "Can I still wear this?"


Planning: Fun stuff for the new school year. Angel's testing out different ideas as far as building the Spanish program--hopefully we'll be doing a Spanish movie night with homecooked Mexican food in a couple weeks, and possibly starting a Spanish Club after-school for more chances to converse and do the fun stuff that there's not always time for in class. We'll see! New years always bring new possibilities.


Wondering: At how quickly Cyrus has realized that Mom and Dad play VERY differently. With Angel, he's all about wrestling, playing "Kick the Duck" (a game invented by Cyrus, and we're pretty sure we don't totally understand all the rules, but generally involves Angel kicking a rubber duck around the house while Cyrus chases him and tries to get it. Once he gets the duck, he places it under a stool in the corner of the room and expects Angel to kick it out from under the stool and repeat the process. Times infinity), and doing all kinds of 'tricks' in the swimming pool. With me, he reads stories, plays with his puzzles, helps me clean and put away laundry, plays with play-doh in his high chair, coloring, stickers, etc. He'll ask Angel to carry him while walking but he doesn't ask me anymore because he knows I don't carry him (and this breaks my heart a little that he realizes this--someday, baby! Someday I will be able to pick you up again!)


Cheering for: My little sister, who just had her own booth at her 3rd arts + crafts show, selling original watercolor painted cards, notebooks, bookmarks, etc. My only contribution to the process was laminating and cutting out bookmarks and repeatedly saying "But it's not perfectly centered/horizontal!" whenever she would show me her penciled designs. But I'm so terribly proud of her as she continues to practice and grow in her skills and is now beginning the process of applying to colleges--she'll be moving away for school next year, with plans to study a major within the realm of art, hoping for a career centering around illustration or a related field. She's on instagram @mgsillustrates if you'd like to follow her art journey!



Running: Well, I'm not running anywhere. I am walking slowly and carefully and avoiding slippery surfaces and too much bumping (I very nearly took a bad spill on a tile staircase last week due to missing a step--that was a scare!). Angel has run two races in August and placed 5th in his 10k and 4th in a 7k, adding to the trophy and medal collection. He has now moved all of his trophies to his desk at work, which is a win-win situation, as it clears off my bookshelf and also helps give him a little more street cred as the track coach. I mean, you'll be more likely to listen to your coach if they have a dozen running trophies, right? I don't know what to do about the medal situation, though. Any runners have cool ideas? Currently, they are all collected in a ziploc bag. That's all.

What adventures have you had, lately?
18 August 2019

Baby Update: 27 Weeks



Weight Gain: +12 pounds

Symptoms: Still generally feel like this pregnancy has hit me harder--could be a combination of the fact that this time I'm doing pregnancy with a very small boy to take care of, but also I think the greater physical restrictions have taken their toll over time, and I'm just generally feeling not as great. Haven't been vomiting since about 18-19 weeks, but still having some nausea in the mornings and if I get too hot.

I've never yet had anything like heartburn or swelling in pregnancy--hopefully I make it to the end of this pregnancy without experiencing either, as well!

I did have middle-of-the-night charlie horses a couple times when I was pregnant with Cyrus and one night recently I woke up with what felt like it was about to turn into a charlie horse and immediately (in a very panicked fashion) began stretching and massaging my leg, and it didn't turn into a full-blown charlie horse. Man, I remember waking up to those--that was so crazy.

I've also never had a glucose test yet. Interesting what tests you can 'escape' from depending on where you live...

Eating: Green apples are life, still. Cyrus has also discovered a love for green apples and now I have to get them out two at a time or else risk sharing my whole apple with him (and I don't like to share my apples). Watermelon is also good, anything cold and fresh. I don't have much appetite for meat but have been occasionally craving random and highly inconvenient things to crave, such as potato casserole. Just about any variety of potato casserole. Eggs + potatoes, cheesy potatoes, etc. But I don't have an oven, and I haven't yet gotten desperate enough to buy a giant bag of potatoes and spend forever peeling and dicing them and taking them to my mom's house to be baked in her oven.

I did, however, make shredded hashbrowns from scratch and they turned out delicious and wonderful and helped a bit with the potato desire. I also think about Subway-style sandwiches a lot. I love a cold roast beef sandwich or turkey sandwich but I'm determined to avoid lunchmeat so it will have to wait.

I suck on ice cubes throughout the day, still the best nausea-reducer and general "make me feel better" magic solution that I've found.

Gender: Baby is a boy, and we announced his name to our family once we found out (after confirming/deciding finally on the way home from the ultrasound at 21+ weeks)

Emotions: This boy does not move a whole lot...at least by comparison to what I remember of Cyrus. Granted, I probably only really remember the end of pregnancy sorts of movements, but this time it feels like hours and hours will pass without feeling any movements and I keep telling him to move--with the slight separation of the placenta, I just like having those movements regularly to let me know he's fine in there. I've asked the doctor and she just says that it's still early, he's still not that big, and the placenta's in front so that cushions the movements. He's also still head-up, so maybe the different position affects how much movement I feel. So, also hoping he decides to start hanging out upside-down in the not-to-distant future.

Preparations: My aunts sent a few new outfits for baby boy, and this past week Angel picked up a hand-me-down crib from a coworker which we'll be setting up in our room for the new baby...after deciding that I'm not at all eager to rush Cyrus out of his crib and into a real bed before baby gets here. This crib is smaller, more like an in-between size between bassinet and full-sized crib, so I'm imagining keeping baby brother in our room for about six months or so in that crib until switching him to Cyrus's bigger crib and Cyrus to a bed. Cyrus was in our room for about 8 months, we'll just have to wait and see how sleeping routines go this time around. My general idea is in October to pick a "baby prep day" to get Cyrus's baby clothes out and sort them and wash them and figure out what we have and what I'll still need to get (i.e. new paci, bottle...). I don't want to start getting ready too early because in this climate if you wash clothes too early you'll just have to wash them again.

Almost to the third trimester!
26 July 2019

Birthday Getaway + G Hotel Kelawai Experience

Both of our birthdays are in July, and coming up on the end of a summer break that, while very fun, didn't allow for much actual "vacation," we'd decided we wanted to take a mini-vacation and get away for a night.

This meant me being away from Cyrus for a full 24 hours for the first time ever. Dun dun dun!

(Spoiler alert: Apparently, Cyrus was extremely happy the whole time we were gone, spending time going out with his grandparents and aunts, and even slept in until 6:30. We also survived the separation, although Cyrus came up in many conversations and we talked about how much he would have loved exploring the hotel room and climbing around on the big bed.)


We got "dressed up" (I wore a necklace--something I never do when I'm with the baby!) and headed out. And I took a photo of us in the parking ramp, haha! The first item on our agenda was an 11:00 showing of the "Spiderman" movie. I never actually saw the first Spiderman movie with this new kid because I was newly pregnant with Cyrus when it came out and was stubbornly not going anywhere unnecessary because the nausea was so intense. haha! So I didn't know who some of the characters were, but it's pretty easy to catch up on a Marvel movie. We had free movie ticket vouchers because of the movie theater's birthday program, so that made it extra fun--a movie for free!

Then it was time that we could check into our hotel! We had booked the "sister" hotel to the hotel we'd stayed at for our 7th anniversary (Our last night away together--I was about 26ish weeks pregnant then!) We learned some things last time and had remembered to bring along the credit card that we'd used to pay for the hotel booking, and at check out, we were very surprised when a manager came out and notified us that we'd been chosen as "Guest of the Day" and had been upgraded to an "Executive" level room with access to the "Executive Lounge" which served refreshments at certain times of day.

That was an extra-special surprise that made our day a little more exciting!


Even though this hotel is only about a 3 minute walk from where we stayed for our anniversary a year and a half ago, the view was very different, because this hotel faces inland.

We had fun checking out our upgraded room.






We headed out again to grab a late lunch, and decided to try a Japanese restaurant we hadn't been to before because Angel was in the mood for noodle soup, and I wasn't feeling up to walking all the way to our usual favorite noodle restaurant.


Verdict on the new place: Not too expensive, the both of us had our soup and tea for a total of about $11 US. But not the best ramen option around. Still, enjoyable and filling. We stopped for some ice cream and headed back to relax in our room.


(And took 23-week photo using the great natural light in the hotel bathroom, haha!)

Angel always gets excited to watch TV when we're in a hotel (maybe because we don't have it at home), so he was flipping through channels while I got out my embroidery and we stopped to watch a tourism commercial that was promoting tourism for our island. We were just watching, identifying all the places: "We've been there...and there!" "Hey, that's the same spot we took our family photos last year!" "I know where that's at!" (all easy to do when you've lived on a small island for years). The commercial showed a guy in the black swimsuit fly off of a waterslide that Angel had gone on back in January, and he joked, "Hey, that could have been me!" and I commented back, "That was definitely not you..." and a second later...ANGEL himself is on the TV, at the front of the bunch of racers in this year's St. Patrick's Day race. We just looked at each other and burst out laughing--it was too funny to suddenly see him there on the big screen...and because he's wearing a black tank instead of the green race shirt like everyone else in the shot, he's really easy to see!

Once we got over that, we noticed that The Blindside was playing on a different channel and watched that until the end. It was now 6 p.m. and we headed up to the Executive Lounge to see what this "cocktail hour" was all about.


It was fancy! Something you may not know about us is that we tend to feel a little bit ridiculous and out-of-place in fancy situations. As the service staff called Angel "Sir" and asked what drinks he'd like to order and nicely explained all everything available what was going through my mind was, "Why are they talking to us like we're real grown-ups? We're practically still children. Don't they know we didn't actually pay for this? We just got upgraded and don't belong here!!"

And later Angel whispered the same thing to me...that he felt like we were imposters or something. They had fresh fruit juices and quite a nice little spread of snacks.


I liked the crackers with guacamole the best. They had quite a bit along the lines of food I don't really eat anyways and am especially not supposed to eat right now--shrimp, deli meats, fancy cheeses, sliced salmon...

But they also had fruit and peanuts and plenty that I could snack on!


We really enjoyed the peaceful atmosphere of the outside deck and the view from the 24th floor, and ended up spending about two hours up there, chatting and taking in the sights, and trying to identify all of the places that are very familiar to us from ground level but we've never seen from this angle before. We stayed till the sun set and then headed back to the room.


Shortly after we got back to our room, there was a knock on the door and the staff delivered a birthday cake to us! We had made a note when making our reservations that our stay was to celebrate birthdays, but this was a fun surprise. Of course, by this time it was nearly 9 p.m. and after all the snacks in the lounge we weren't very hungry...we ended up taking the cake home the next day and the kids at my house polished it off as a lunchtime dessert. :)

We fell asleep fairly early--that cozy bed and the fluffy comforter were pretty much perfection. In technological terms, according to Angel's smartwatch, he got 3 hours and 30 minutes of "deep sleep" during the night, in comparison to the roughly 1.5 hours his watch normally records. I don't know if I even believe that it's possible for a watch to tell you how well you slept...but I know I slept really good!

We were awake and at the breakfast buffet by 7 a.m. (parents of toddler problems..."sleeping in" is anything past 6:30). They didn't have the most variety in their spread, but they did offer made-to-order omelets, which I really like. After breakfast and getting ready for the day, we played an uninterrupted game of Quiddler and then headed up to the Executive Lounge to spend a little more time there, where Angel got a second breakfast from the spread they had!

The morning passed quickly and then it was time for our mini-vacation to end. It was a great way to celebrate our birthdays and a fun way to close out summer break as Angel heads back to work after the weekend. I said to Angel as we were packing up to leave, "I would be sad that vacation is over so soon...except that we're going home to Cyrus!" When we arrived home he had just finished his lunch of curry and rice and was ready for a nap!

Happy birthday to us!