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Same same but different

August 1, 2013

Since I moved out of my parents house to go to college 14 years ago, I’ve moved between 13 and 18 times (depending on whether you count places I lived for a month or so.) I’ve lived in 11 cities in 4 countries. Needless to say, this doesn’t allow for much rooting. I lived in Morrow and Fairburn for the longest stretches, and neither of those places or where I was in life (college student and flight attendant) were conducive to making a community around you. Vietnam was the first place I actively tried to get to know the people living and doing business in my area. In some ways, it was all I had to do, but besides that, it was much more exotic and interesting. Even then, between traveling and the language barrier, I can’t say I got to know them.

As I wrote about last time, we’ve just recently settled into the suburbs. In many ways, I fought it. It’s not cool. It’s far from everything. Blah blah blah. But I’m realizing that there are some perks to settling down. Perks to accepting and embracing where we are in life right now. It is the first time in my adult life when we can talk about things a few years down the road and (God willing) know where they will take place. We can invest our energy and money into this house and garden and be around to enjoy it. We can get to know our neighbors without feeling like what’s the point, we’ll be leaving anyway. I don’t think I’ve fully realized this yet, but it’s starting to sink in.

Last week, I drove by the local hardware store. I noticed there was a pickup truck parked out front with an umbrella. We all know this means they are selling produce. I didn’t get to stop that day, but stopped the next day and met the man with the truck. His name is Claude and he is 82 years old. He was selling tomatoes, cantaloupe, a few different types of pickles his wife had made, and boiled peanuts. He parks there every Friday and Saturday and has for the last 15 years. He told me how he had worked at a dealership down the street for 40 years, but didn’t get a pension, and mentioned working at the hardware store part time. I didn’t understand half of what he said, but it did sink in that I should pay attention, because hopefully, I’ll be seeing this man on a weekly basis for a long time.

As we left, I realized that though I am living in suburban USA, some things aren’t so different from Vietnam. I can still meet interesting people right around the corner. I should still get to know the people who sell fresh produce. I might be able to recognize what he is selling and there isn’t quite the language barrier, but there will still be cultural differences and crazy accents to be reckoned with.

I’m also pleased to discover that our little ‘burb, and even our neighborhood has a lot more variety than I expected. There doesn’t seem to be a dominant race, which I like. A couple days ago, I met an Indian lady, her twin 7-month-old daughters, and her mother while they were out walking. They live around the corner and she also stays at home.

Today, I met Miss Jean, our one-house-down neighbor who seems to be the eyes and the ears of the neighborhood. By the time our conversation was over, Alida and I had gone into her house and Alida was playing, fully clothed, in her whirlpool bathtub with some rubber ducks. Alida also gave her a kiss! I know that she lives alone and she knows that we are alone a lot. We can look out for each other, and that makes me feel better. I was also pleased to learn that when this house went on the market, the neighbors were saying (or she was telling them) how nice it would be to have a baby around here again. Hope they still think that in a year.

In other news, all the peaches have been either canned or are chopped up in the refrigerator. Since last weekend, I made 6 jars of blackberry-blueberry jam, 10 jars of spiced peach butter, and 6 jars of peach-plum jam with a hint of ginger (I didn’t have enough ginger on hand.) In the next few days, I’m going to attempt peach-jalapeno jelly and peach muffins. I’m very thankful I only bought one case of peaches.




My in-laws were here for the last week and were a great help with the house and Alida. On Wednesday, everyone left me and it was back to the reality of aviation-induced single parenting and a really messy house. As much as I don’t want to be the person that pretends life is all sunshine and roses, I hate when people complain about having children. I need to be honest, though, that some days, I’m impatient and Alida is squealy. She’s learning she has a free will, and I’m struggling to learn how to parent well and manage my own free/ornery/selfish will. I vacillate by the moment between frustration at her refusal to acknowledge to me/obey what I tell her, awe at what a beautiful, innocent creature I’ve been given the privilege of caring for, and guilt for getting frustrated. I believe this is normal. I don’t believe that any one of these feelings on its own is accurate – if that makes sense.

I don’t say this to complain. Parenting is a privilege, and I’m thankful God has given her to me. But I do want to be honest and transparent. We don’t have some idyllic life. It’s not always cute naked babies running around in a gardenia-scented yard. I also have to remind myself that before I had a child, before I was married, before any other people so directly affected my happiness/well being, I had bad days.

Today was better than yesterday, and I trust that tomorrow will be better than today. Hopefully, I’ll get to see Claude, and maybe I’ll try his wife’s pickles this time (in addition to a quart of boiled peanuts, of course.)

How far we’ve come

July 26, 2013

Some days, I couldn’t string words together if you paid me. Other days, the ideas come, but they need more work than I have energy for. Today, I decided to just jot some things down.


These are not necessarily in order of significance. They just need to be noted since it’s been so long since I’ve written.


I’m 25 weeks pregnant with our second baby girl. She’ll arrive sometime in November (due 11/9.) I always thought being pregnant and having a little child would be really hard, but in many ways, this pregnancy has been much easier than my first. I don’t have time to obsess about pregnancy and child birth. I don’t have energy to worry about the future (having gone through it once before helps that too, of course.) I can’t leave the house most evenings so if I crave junk, that’s where it stops. I spend way more time bending, squatting, crawling, and lifting than I ever have in the past. Because of all this, I’ve gained significantly less weight, am much more mobile, and am also less achy.


Next, we just bought and moved into a house. We moved OTP (outside the perimeter) to the ‘burbs. I had a small cry about it, but I know that the Lord helped me set my mind on what was best for our family and I’ve been able to focus on the benefits of living out here. Some of my favorites right off are having a yard, a garage (no more carrying Alida, groceries and pregnant belly up two flights of stairs in the rain) and having a separate baby room and guest room. It’s quiet, we have a nice yard with blooming gardenias, and I have a garden space complete with three raised beds and a little fence to keep the bunnies out (we have those too.) Also, I can no longer stand in one place in my kitchen and reach every cabinet. We are still living in relative chaos, but it’s getting better by the day.




Alida is now 15 months old. For those of you who don’t read life in months, she’s one. She’s amazing and beautiful and very often makes me have that feeling where you don’t know if you should laugh or cry from happiness. She walks and climbs on everything. She is very independent, though the last few months have brought a surprising bout of clingyness and separation anxiety. She eats nearly anything and prefers feeding herself. I don’t mind this now that she isn’t eating over carpet. She doesn’t talk yet, but she started signing somewhat out of the blue a few months ago. I had started teaching her around 9 months, but she didn’t seem to get it. About 4 months later, she pulled a sign out to tell my mom she wanted more. She still doesn’t use the basic ones in a practical way (eat, more, milk), but she can tell you if there is a dog a mile away, if she sees or hears a bird, when she wants a bath, and sometimes when she’s all done. I know that she has learned so much and love when it comes out. I’ve been talking to her her whole life, but lately she will actually respond – especially if it involves getting her back scratched 🙂 (Can’t blame the little lady.) Her cousin, Joaquin will be a year in September, and they are finally getting to the ages where they take note of each other and sometimes play together. He is one of the few people she has voluntarily kissed and the only person she has ever hugged. It makes me happy.




In other news, I bought 25 pounds of peaches today. I also have a bunch of blackberries and blueberries in the refrigerator. (My friend has a guy who sells produce outside of her office building. Yesterday, I bought 4 pounds of blueberries, maybe 3 of blackberries, a huge bag of green beans, and a bunch of cherry tomatoes for $9.50! I think he gave me a great deal because the berries were on their last leg, but still! I’m a fan.) This weekend, I plan to ignore the mess, and make a bigger mess – I mean, some berry jam, peach butter and several other peachy things. I made my first jam in June (blueberry) and some peach butter a few weeks ago. My sister Christine gave me a canning set, so it’d really be wrong for me not to use it. I spend a lot of time reading recipes. If that makes me a nerd, so be it. I also spend a lot of time reading about planting things, redoing ugly pieces of furniture, and making houses look pretty and interesting without spending a ton of money.


This is my life these days. It’s taking baths with Alida because for some reason she is scared of the new bathtub (Jonathan will say it’s the turquoise walls.) It’s having pregnancy-induced insomnia some days and pregnancy-induced passing out in bed some days. It’s lots and lots of rain and humidity. It’s amazement that 2 years ago today, I didn’t even know I was pregnant the first time. It’s love for a man who is so right for me I could never doubt that God chose him for me. It’s jam and sore feet and thankfulness for family and friends.


Thanks be to God.

On the road again

February 22, 2013

Well, consistency is obviously not my forte. Five posts in less than three weeks, and then nothing…

But here I am. Alida turned 9 and now 10 months old. I turned 32. We traveled to Florida and California and for a while we were just surviving. Now we are better than just surviving and that much happier for having gone through the valley.

At the end of January, Jonathan’s aunt, his father’s only living sibling, turned 95. We couldn’t make it for the exact date, but we were able to visit her a few days before. It was the first time I’d met a lot of that side of the family, and we had a really good time. It was fun to have extended family all sleeping under one roof, drinking coffee in our pajamas in the morning, and chatting late into the night. Those are the things you miss out on when you stay in hotels.

Alida also got to play at the beach for the first time. She’s put her toes in the sand before, but it was in San Diego in October and even the sand was too cold to enjoy. We went with her second cousins, a bunch of big girls (12, 10 and 8) and a tiny one, and tried to imagine what was going through her head as she watched the waves come and go. She didn’t like the water and started to cry when we put her in it, but it might have been a little cold. Once she got up on the sand, she started “helping” with a sandcastle and chasing seagulls. This seemed to be much more her style. Other than a slight disaster when she got tired and started rubbing her sand-covered hands in her eyes, it was a very good day.








A few days later, we flew out to California to visit some of Jonathan’s family and friends. Most of them hadn’t seen Alida since she was a couple of months old, so we decided to take advantage of a lull in the schedule and go. Plus, we thought it would be fun to watch the 49ers play in the Super Bowl in 49ers’ country.

On the way to California, Jonathan was unable to make the same flight as us. Alida has gotten to the age where she never wants to hold still. These two factors combined to make that flight one of the most difficult and tiring things I’ve done since giving birth. I’ve told several people that since then, and like I would have pre-child, they ask why it’s so hard.

I could explain to you what it feels like physically to restrain a child who never wants to stay in the same position for more than 5 seconds (literally), who finds every light, window, button, ding, person, magazine, and announcement attention-worthy and sometimes edible, who believes you are a ladder to provide access to the people behind us, and who thinks the in-seat screen is a drum set that she should beat on constantly. I could explain that even if she is hours past nap time and hasn’t eaten all day, neither are as important as exploring everything and everyone. And that if I even dare think about *gasp* making her sit down and hold still (like any well-behaved child should, right?), she’ll start screaming and thrashing around. (Why don’t I train that child better??)

And, of course, to a parent, none of the shoulder, back, hip and arm aches of holding a spinning monkey for 5 hours (oh, and don’t forget when she accidentally bonks you in the nose with her head) are as important as not being the person on the plane with the screaming child.

I’ve heard these stories before and nodded my head in sympathy. “Yes, it must be so hard when all they want to do is move.” I’ve even been the flight attendant that is doing her best to keep the child from screaming “Here, have a biscoff/ empty water bottle/ plastic cup/ ID badge/ my soul.” But, I never really got it until I did it. That’s one more thing I can add to the oh-so-delightful “I know how you feel because unfortunately I’ve been there” list.

It was a great trip though. Alida got to hang out with some more “big” cousins, and I got to enjoy wine country. The 49ers didn’t win, but the Super Bowl party was still fun. Traveling pains aside, I’m glad we went. I want to make sure Jonathan’s friends and family are always a part of Alida’s memories. Plus, I was due for some In-N-Out 🙂

Contrast in Dubai

January 17, 2013

January 17, 2009

Jonathan and I traveled to Dubai to visit friends of his. The city doesn’t seem to have a middle ground; it’s opulent wealth and migrant workers, sunbathers on the beach and shadows in burqas, water and desert, fast food chains and open-air souqs. In places like this, it’s hard for me not to stare at everything.

This afternoon, we visited one of many Dubai’s mall with its luxury shopping and wondered who was keeping all of these stores in business (in case you can’t tell, this is a Manolo Blahnik shoe store.) Later in the day, we took a boat across the river to visit the older section of the city and some of its shoe stores.

As they say in Asia, same same, but different.


Jan 09 375

The one that wasn’t

January 11, 2013

Before you read this, I’ll warn you that it is the story of our recent miscarriage. It’s long and some might find it depressing. I wrote it for anyone who needs to know someone else has been there and because I don’t think this sort of thing needs to be a secret. I’ll be writing more about it, but for now, this is just the story.


In early November, we found out that I was pregnant. We were hoping to have children fairly close together, but didn’t expect it to be so soon. It would probably be due in July when Alida would be 15 months old. When we told people, most said “you’re crazy” and we kind of agreed with them.

Almost immediately my milk supply dropped and I reached out to the ladies at our church. I was heartbroken at the thought of robbing Alida of my milk. She was only 7 months old. But, as I heard from the ladies, I was encouraged. I heard how close in age their children were, how they were best friends, how the oldest was too young to know jealousy when the second one was born. They reminded me that a sibling would be more of a blessing to Alida than a few more months of milk (if indeed those were our choices.)

I still felt like we were crazy, but became even more joyful at the thought of this little one that would join our family. I had very similar symptoms to my pregnancy with Alida – one day of nausea, serious smell aversion (rosemary this time), and extreme breast pain (now when breastfeeding.) I didn’t feel nauseated, but that didn’t come until later with Alida.

My first appointment was schedule for December 6. At this point I should have been almost 9 weeks. The midwife said my uterus felt about 8 weeks along, but since they only have a Doppler at their office, she was unable to find a heartbeat. She offered the option to go for a dating ultrasound, or I could just wait until my next appointment in January. In spite of the fact that there is no history of miscarriage in my family, I felt an urgency to know that there was something in there, so we scheduled an ultrasound.

The next day, as I lay on the ultrasound bed, we saw the gestational sac, but there wasn’t anything inside. The technician tried every angle and even did an internal ultrasound, but there still wasn’t anything. We met with Dr. Bootstaylor who told us, with hands pacing gently with his words, that only time would really tell us what was going on. Maybe my dates were wrong. If I was only five weeks pregnant than there wouldn’t be anything but a sac.

I felt that this couldn’t be. My symptoms lined up with the timing. But, I’m no doctor, and I don’t know my body perfectly. Maybe I was wrong. They sent me upstairs for bloodwork. If the hormones in my body indicated that I was eight weeks pregnant, then we would have a problem.  He said we were looking for results much less than 10,000.

The wait in the doctor’s office and the lab was long. I cried in fear and disappointment. I couldn’t keep it together.  I knew that whatever the outcome was, God was still in control, but I had grown attached to the dream of this little one. It was supposed to be the size of a grape by now.

That afternoon, I got the 24-hour stomach bug that was going around. It made me miserable in a different way and was a good distraction. As the weekend went on, Jonathan and I talked and agreed that neither of us were hopeful. I knew that there were times that nothing showed up on the ultrasound and then the next week there was a baby, but I also knew that many, many pregnancies end practically before they’ve even begun. As I nursed Alida on Sunday night, I realized that it no longer hurt, and the suspicion became stronger.

Monday morning, Dr. Bootstaylor called to tell me that my hormone levels were 38,000. It was a blighted ovum, which is an egg that never grows in spite of the fact that your body still thinks you’re pregnant. I was not surprised. After spending the weekend in a state of limbo, it was good to have confirmation. I asked him what happens next. I’d had no cramping or spotting. The only change was that my symptoms had disappeared. He told me I could take medicine to make it pass, or I could let it happen naturally. I believe in the body’s ability to do what it needs to do, and hoped that I could let it happen.

But, less than twenty-four hours later, I called the doctor to get the name of the medicine. I still wanted to wait. I knew that if my body did it, there wouldn’t be a mistake.  I didn’t want to wonder if I had waited, would something have shown up. But, I’m also not a very patient person. It was on my mind all day, every day. Every time I went to the bathroom, I looked for blood. When was it going to start?

Dr. Bootstaylor had also suggested I call the midwives to get their opinions. One thing I love about Intown Midwifery is that they are less concerned about the decisions that you make and more concerned that you make informed decisions. He wanted me to know all my options. So, on Thursday I called and talked to Anjli. She suggested that I come in to have my hormone levels tested to see if they were declining, as they should in a miscarriage. Or I could go to the ultrasound that I still had scheduled for the next day. That would provide me with more immediate answers.

The next day I went, and saw the same thing I’d seen the week before. The only difference was that the sac was smaller (around 6wks when I should’ve been almost 10wks) and they said it looked like there was blood in it. This, along with my lack of symptoms, gave me peace.

I spoke to the P.A. there who told me she had also had a blighted ovum. She had worked for an OBGYN before her current job and told me that she had seen people spot for up to two months. The patients would call every week waiting and wondering when it was going to happen. I knew how I was already feeling after a week, and could understand the feeling. I decided that if it hadn’t happened naturally by the following Thursday (Jonathan’s last off day before Christmas) I would take the medicine. It was bad enough not being pregnant anymore without having to remember this Christmas as the one where I spent the day miscarrying.

As many of you know, we announced our pregnancy online the day I went to the midwife. We had already told our family and many close friends because my theory is that if something were to go wrong, I would tell them anyway. I did not anticipate having to tell so many well-wishers that something had gone wrong. I struggled with feeling bad for making others feel bad. Then I realized that in this situation, the feelings of others are the last thing I should be worried about.

The up side of it being broadcast so widely was that we had many people reach out to us who have gone through this same type of miscarriage as well as other miscarriages. After the initial disappointment of not seeing an embryo, there were very few tears. We didn’t feel like we had experienced a death. The life had never begun. That’s better, right? We had never seen the little heart beating. Nothing had died. It had just never been.  What about those who lost a fully formed little person? How can we be heartbroken when we have such an amazing child already?

Maybe this was a second chance for Alida and me. My milk supply was almost back to normal. No more worries about where I was going to get enough breast milk to feed her or if I would have to use formula. She could get all of our attention for a while longer.

On Thursday, December 20, I took the medicine. I made sure Jonathan was home to take care of Alida in case I had to take the pain medicine and in case it was difficult emotionally. I had read about a few experiences and knew it might be very painful. It ended up being fairly uneventful. I felt like I was having a bad period, and was able to see when the sac passed. Yes, it is a little gross, but it’s life. Evidently it happens to millions of women every year.

When it passed, I didn’t feel sad or cry. I actually felt relief. I knew that my womb was now empty and ready for the next little one.

The Chronicles of Narnia

January 8, 2013

Last year, I realized (to my great shame) that other than The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, I had never read The Chronicles of Narnia. Since December, I’ve been making my way through them. The main problem I’m having is that once I start one, not much else gets done (and I don’t sleep) until I’ve finished it. Because of this, I have to ration them out.

I know classics are classics for a reason, but the more I read, the more I’m amazed at C. S. Lewis’ writing abilities. The books were intended for children so the language is simple. Yet, the stories have charm that appeals to everyone. He uses phrases and situations that any child can understand. I also love reading about Aslan and the different characters’ reactions to him.

When I first started The Magician’s Nephew, I began writing down the phrases that appealed to me until I realized I would never get through the story that way. He is so unpretentious and honest in his writing. Who doesn’t know what he means when he says that “his face went the wrong sort of shape as it does if you’re trying to keep back your tears”? Any child can immediately imagine what Digory’s face looked like.

In The Horse and His Boy, Shasta doesn’t know how to use the horse’s reins because he was taught to ride by a talking horse. So, the first time he had to ride a regular horse “he looked very carefully out of the corners of his eyes to see what the others were doing (as some of us have done at parties when we weren’t quite sure which knife or fork we were meant to use) and tried to get his fingers right.” I think a person would be lying if they said they’d never done this – or something similar.




My favorite quote so far is at the end of The Horse and His Boy when he is summing up what happened to everyone:

“Avaris also had many quarrels (and, I’m afraid, even fights) with Cor, but they always made it up again: so that years later, when they were grown up, they were so used to quarreling and making up again that they got married so as to go on doing it more conveniently.”

Do you have a favorite children’s book that you still enjoy reading as an adult?


Cambodian adventures

January 4, 2013

One of my goals for 2013 is to organize all my photos. I’m hoping to combine that project with my love of remembering “On This Day in History” and post a photo (or photos) of what was going on that day. I’m also hoping this will help me tell some of the stories that I never got around to telling when they were actually happening. I haven’t figured out how often I will post. I want to make it doable, but also want it to be a challenge. I hope you enjoy it.

January 4, 2011 was the last day of our trip to Siem Reap, Cambodia. We had spent the last three days hiking up and down ancient temples with four of our friends. We also suffered through a fish foot massage, and enjoyed seeing US dollars come out of the ATMs. (Everyone uses USD, but they will refuse your money if it isn’t in perfect condition – or they reserve the right to take 90% of the face value. True story.)

Before we headed back to the airport, we spent the morning touring one last temple and the afternoon taking a cooking class. The food had the freshness of Vietnamese food and the warmth of Thai curries, which is the perfect balance for me. One of my favorite things about Cambodia was the people. They had an openness that we had missed while being in Vietnam. They also weren’t afraid of the sun, which was a refreshing change.




The beautiful, brown children were always smiling and waving at us. Each of these girls had a Disney princess backpack on.


I can’t believe they serve beer to people wielding large knives.


I remember seeing tourist carrying babies as they went up and down the temples. It was nice to see that once children come, the traveling doesn’t have to stop. Hopefully that’ll be us with our little ones some day.

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