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!

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.


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 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!
11 July 2019

Current Obsessions (Toddler Edition)

I once saw posted online the conversation question: "If your child's future career was determined by their current obsession, what would it be?"

This hypothetical amused me greatly, and Cyrus's potential careers popped into mind immediately, as he is certainly a toddler with passions.

Potential Career #1: Janitor/Housecleaner/Sanitation Worker

Cyrus's love for cleaning supplies is still going strong. Brooms, mops, buckets, dustpans, and the vacuum. The one legit temper tantrum he's thrown yet was because Angel took the vacuum away.

The brooms and dustpan we normally let him play with--he'll make a beeline for the kitchen when he wakes up in the morning, grab both brooms and sometimes will rope me into helping him carry two brooms and the dustpan out into the larger area of the apartment. 

He's learned that loose hair tends to collect in one certain corner of my bedroom, and now daily leads me to that corner so that I can assist him with sweeping up the hair. He does try to do it by himself, but he's learned that he's not quite as efficient as actually getting dust into the dustpan as Mommy is, so has very clearly delegated that particular sweeping task to me, and then he carries the dustpan back to the kitchen trashcan and dumps it in (a 'trick' Angel taught him). 

Maybe before too long we'll be appreciating his dedication to cleaning supplies, though in the meantime, every time he smiles at cleaning staff in various public areas we visit, the cleaning staff feel happy and tell me he's so cute...meanwhile, I'm just restraining him, nervous he's going to make a lunge for their broom or mop. So far we've avoided any theft of cleaning supplies or high-speed chases through the mall, but I see the look of sheer joy in his eyes when he sees the staff members cleaning floors and I know he's just longing to get elbow-deep in that bucket of soapy water.

I also wouldn't generally say he's obsessed with neatness...he loves dumping his container of blocks on the floor and happily digs himself into the sand at the beach and loves running through grass and dirt...but sweeping is a passion all of its own, I've learned, as he's begun to lead me through the house more often, pointing at small things on the ground and asking me to sweep them up so that he can dump them into the trash can.

The vacuums we use here are very small and light, nearly the size of what might be sold as a toy vacuum in the USA, so he can handle them easily. If he finds the vacuum at school, he'll push it around the classrooms for an hour before tiring of the game. One day, my sisters hid the vacuum before Cyrus arrived, but without much effect, because he found it after a five minute search. My Dad, on the other hand, came into the classroom later in the day and spent a great deal of time searching for the vacuum before deciding that someone must have taken it away. This is the difference that passion makes.

Potential Career #2: Bird Watcher/Bird Finder/What is the name of a career that has something to do with bird observation?

"Bee" or "Bees" or "Baby" is, we've learned, his term for birds. He often wakes up from nap, immediately points in the direction of the balcony door, and says "Bee! Baby!"...meaning that he wants to go look for birds. He notices bird calls/noises very easily, and even I've begun to notice how often you can hear bird calls from our house, now that I've realized that they are the reason Cyrus will take off running for the balcony door. While riding in his carseat, he will notice and point out birds lounging on electric lines or flying past the road. He's attempted to chase small birds at the beach and the park but they always stay out of his reach. "Bees" are a great love. We still only allow very occasional screen time, but he's even tuned into birds on screen. My family was watching Voyage of the Dawn Treader when suddenly I noticed Cyrus getting very excited, pointing at the screen, saying, "Bee!" There was a bird on the screen.

Potential Career #3: Shoe Salesman

"Shoes" is probably his first, clearest word that is actually used to communicate meaning and sounds like proper English. He loves shoes. He loves them because when he puts his shoes on he gets to go outside, but he also loves the very idea of them. He will put on anyone's shoes, he will watch people put on their shoes, and he will put shoes on other people's feet. He has located all of the shoes in our house, including Angel's prized leather dress shoes that are kept in a wardrobe and not used often.

Some of our neighbors store their shoes in the apartment hallway and it's been quite a lesson in teaching self-control to consistently make sure he knows that he CANNOT try on his neighbors' shoes.

Bonus Job: Luchador?

Cyrus likes storytime in general, but he LOVES this book, "NiƱo Wrestles the World." Angel even put an audio track of the story being read aloud in our "Cyrus Soundtrack" for our car.


I've always said I want him to grow up to be an accountant. For the sheer practical reason that there's no accountants in my immediate family and I feel like that would be a convenient set of skills to have in the family. But thus far I'm not seeing a whole lot of excitement for numbers. What might your child's future career be if it were determined by their current passions?
28 June 2019

A Day in the Life (Summer Break)

I most recently did a "day in the life" post when Cyrus was 6 months old. Previously, I did one back in 2016.

6:30 a.m. I wake up--Cyrus and Angel remain sleeping. A bit unusual, as Cyrus tends to wake up right around 6:30 every day, but I pour myself some cornflakes with chia seeds and milk and have my breakfast and my medicine (first rule of nausea prevention: eat as soon as I wake up!)

After I eat, the boys are still sleeping, so I hop in the shower, get dressed, and then take time to read for a bit until I first hear Cyrus.

7:15 a.m. Cyrus is awake and Angel gets him out of bed, and I get his breakfast plate ready. Boy is usually very ready to eat by the time he wakes up, and as soon as he sees his plate, he climbs into his high chair.

Breakfast this morning was peanut butter and jam mixed on toast, with some kiwi and a cut-up grape tomato. He liked the tomato better than the kiwi. I found a jam with no added sugar or sweeteners, just the fruit, so score!! Pomegranate is probably his favorite fruit but we're all out--it's the end of the week and the fridge is rather bare.

While the guys eat, I get a couple morning chores done, though I'm moving pretty slowly and sucking ice cubes because nausea is not leaving me alone this morning. The gummy vitamins I have now taste much better than the last bottle I had, so, that's nice! I get the laundry taken down from the drying rack, folded, and put away (we only really have enough space for one load of laundry to hang dry at a time, and it takes about a day for thicker items to dry, so I have a pretty solid routine of alternating days for doing laundry one day and taking it down to fold it and put it away the next day). I pack the diaper bag with snacks that Cyrus and I will need for the morning: 2 green apples for me and a cup of milk for Cyrus.

7:45 a.m. Angel gives Cyrus a shower. We don't have a bathtub, so while we did have a little plastic tub that we gave Cyrus baths in when he was an infant, he's been getting showers since he was around 8-9 months old. And we tend to shower him frequently...that's probably a cultural/climate influence, kids tend to shower about twice a day here. A lot of times it's just a quick rinse to cool down and freshen up, and the more thorough scrubbing happens every other shower or so.

Angel dresses Cyrus and then I sit down to read a few books while Angel gets ready.

8:30 a.m. Cyrus and Angel head out to the parking lot to get the car while I walk the other way, to the front of the apartment building. I'm trying to take it a little easier, per doctor's orders, and walking to the front of the building saves me walking down a long flight of steps and going over six speedbumps in the car.

Plus, the guys are taking out the trash, and I wouldn't want to walk with the smelly trash anyway. Angel has Cyrus bring the bag of trash down the hallway. He usually makes Cyrus do his share of the carrying when leaving or going home. 

I always make it to the front of the building before they make it there in the car, and wait for them. I've probably been wearing my flip-flops a little too often lately...somehow the idea of bending down to actually put on real sandals hasn't been appealing.

8:40 a.m. We make it to class! Angel and I are helping out/volunteering at a small class weekday mornings during his summer break, and we officially start at 9. It's technically within walking distance of where we live, but I'm not walking that far currently, and not with carrying Cyrus and bags.

The stairway is not all that inviting...but I make my way slowly upstairs and we get ready to start.

Look who's already here! Sarah can tell you that a little-known advantage of being homeschooled is working hard, being constantly ahead in your school schedule...and STILL getting to do schoolwork all year round. Who needs breaks?

Hardworking kid had already finished Algebra and was working on History when we arrived.

The morning flies by. For penmanship, one student is prompted to write about a Valentine's Day party, but hasn't ever been to one and isn't too sure exactly what Valentine's Day is, anyways. So, I told her about one of my fondest Valentine's Day memories, of a V-Day party I went to in college, and she decided to write about my party in her own words, mentioning the aspects that amused her the most.

Angel called me out of class at one point because he had to show me something.

I'm not at all sure this is the sort of thing he ought to have shown me. Perhaps we need to schedule a reading of "Humpty Dumpty" into our next class. No more sitting on walls!

The morning passes in a flurry of math worksheets, spelling tests, games, and explaining that you need to write "In October" rather than "At October" or "On October" when referring to the entire month. I read "I Can Read with My Eyes Shut" aloud to the younger students. Cyrus tried to eat Play-doh. If he learns by the end of summer that he can play with Play-doh but not eat it, that will be some solid progress. 

12 noon. Angel heads down to the little food shop to grab chicken rice for lunch for my family. Not for me, as I've had a lifelong aversion to chicken rice. Not very convenient, as it's a rather ever-present food combo in these parts. At 5 RM a box, $1.25 US, it's one of the most affordable local fast-food options. Normally, my sister MaryGrace brings a homemade meal along for everyone to eat for lunch, but didn't have time today. 

Angel and Cyrus split a chicken rice meal, and then everyone pitches in to do a little bit end of the week clean-up around the classrooms before we head home. We're out by 12:30.

1 p.m. We're home, and Cyrus is down for his afternoon nap. I make myself some mac'n'cheese and iced tea for lunch and sit down to read a book. 

This book arrived in the mail yesterday, a gift from one of my sisters in America, a sequel to a book we both loved and I'm excited to read it. After I eat, I lay down for a little while to rest (because you're supposed to sleep when the baby sleeps, right?), and then wake up to update some accounts (I'm the keeper of the budget in this family).  I forgot to take my mid-day medicine, so I take that.

2:30 p.m. Cyrus wakes up, and Angel takes him out to visit his coworker's house. Angel is supposed to take care of her cats for the next few weeks while she's traveling and needs to get the house keys. I sit down to write this blog and work a bit on some homeschooling articles that are due to be turned in in a few days.

The next few hours fly by as I catch up on a few chores around the house, and feed Cyrus a snack.

5 p.m. We head over to my parents' apartment. No parents are actually home, but my sister has made way too much spinach sauce with pasta for the amount of people around to eat dinner (old habits die hard when most of your siblings have moved out of the home).

She invites us to stay for dinner, which is a good plan, because I had yet to come up with a serviceable dinner plan (end of the week, mostly empty fridge). We still only manage to make a small dent in the spinach sauce, though, because Angel opts to eat leftovers instead, and Cyrus only eats a few bites. He's not a big fan of anything spicy (Angel has attempted feeding him kimchi and wasabi, with less-than-stellar results), and the spinach sauce is pretty spicy. 

5:30 p.m. Angel and Cyrus head out to the pool for a swim

Pools are pretty common in apartment complexes, here, which makes sense with the climate. Angel's working on building pre-swimming skills for Cyrus, I'm hoping that he will be able to learn to swim early...with living so close to a pool I'd rather him develop the skills sooner rather than later.

6:15 p.m. The guys come home and shower, and Cyrus plays with his megablocks while Angel and I try to squeeze in a quick few rounds of Quiddler and Boggle.

This is more like next-level word game playing, though, as Cyrus is a little bit too interested in Mom and Dad's thrilling activities (way more exciting than megablocks!) and tries to climb up to join us at the table. I won Quiddler, but Angel actually tied with me in one round of Boggle, a feat I attribute to the fact that Cyrus was trying to sit on my lap while I was scribbling words down at a slower-than-usual pace.

7:00 p.m. Angel takes Cyrus out for a walk to the front of the apartment building to hang out on the balcony and see the view as the sun starts to go down. Cyrus loves to be on that balcony and simply stare at the world below him, and this has become a bit of an evening tradition. When he comes home, I have his cup of milk ready, and we sit on the couch and he drinks his milk while I read a storybook: "Dios te Bendiga y Buenas Noches."

7:30 p.m. Cyrus in bed. He's come a long way with bedtimes. At the beginning of the year, he was still nursing to sleep, and that changed to being rocked to sleep, and then, once I was no longer allowed to carry him, he's gone to sleep lying in his crib, but for a while I or Angel would always lay down on the twin bed in his room while he was falling asleep. Now, more often than not, he goes to sleep alone in his room, but this night, he's a little extra fussy and cries when left alone. So I go in and lie down and instantly he's quiet and ready to fall asleep. I stay about 10 minutes and then leave to get myself ready for bed.

8:00 p.m. Angel has prepared himself a goodnight snack of mango topped with lemon juice and salt, and peanut butter with toast. We watch an episode of Shark Tank and The Crown  together before lights out and falling asleep. At the last minute I remember to take my evening medicine and get a cup of water--pregnancy makes me ridiculously thirsty in the night. 


So there's one normal day right now--taking life at an extra-slow pace given this pregnancy, and enjoying having Angel around all day for summer break!
21 June 2019

Baby Update: 18 Weeks

Apparently I still haven't really figured out how to stand for such photos without looking awkward

Weight: +5 lbs.

Symptoms: I feel like this pregnancy has been overall a bit rougher as far as symptoms....nausea is still sticking around, though frequency of vomiting has lessened immensely. I'm not a headache person but have been having headaches pretty frequently. 

Eating: My old favorites from last time: green apples, grapefruit, cucumbers, cornflakes. Rice + meat + veggies is about my most abhorred meal at this time (super convenient when you live in Southeast Asia and that is a pretty solid default meal). Sucking (not chewing!) on ice cubes helps a lot with nausea. 

Gender: We don't know. We found out at 17+ weeks with Cyrus, but this time, Angel kinda thought one way, the doctor kinda thought another, but basically she said the baby wasn't gonna let us find out this time around. Maybe next time, maybe not. Now I'm wondering if we'll be surprised on the day baby is born! And now we do have to seriously start thinking about names. So far most name conversations have just devolved into giggles as we start attaching our last name to the names of various favorite characters from movies or television. 

Preparations: Perks of already having a one year old? You already have all the baby stuff. Boom.

Emotions: Some news that we got at the doctor's this week has me concerned. We were told that a small part of the placenta has detached, which makes the need for an early delivery a possibility if the condition worsens and starts causing the baby's or mom's life to be at risk--not something you want to hear at only 18 weeks along. Of course...we come home and google it to find out more and I don't exactly recommend googling placental abruption while pregnant if you don't want to be worried.

It also leaves me feeling confused--this is supposedly a relatively rare phenomenon, and risk factors include drug use, alcohol, and being an older mom. So there's a certain level of frustration that wants to point at the article and say, "See, this couldn't possibly be a problem because I don't fit this profile at all! And besides, this condition only occurs in 1% of pregnancies, so it's not something to worry about at all!" And yet logic tells me that's not how risk factors and statistics work.

So the doctor's advice for now is to not lift anything heavy (including Cyrus--no lifting him at all), and take it easy, don't do anything with risks of being bumped around. So, to live in this modern world where everyone swears up and down "Oh yeah, you should definitely exercise while pregnant, it's so healthy for you and baby, and makes recovery so much easier!" and people safely run and bike and lift weights while pregnant...and you're told that picking up your one year old to put him in his crib can put your own life and the life of your other baby at frustrating.

Yesterday I was reading a Bible story to the kids...about David and the Psalms and it quoted Psalm 23. And that line comes to me "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me."

That's what I'm holding to right now. I feel like lately I have seen many people I care about walking through some sort of valley of the shadow of death...and my prayer is consistently that they will not feel abandoned and alone as they face the toughest parts of living in this world.