Monday, July 27, 2015

Meeting My Niece

Hello everyone! It's been quite some time since I last wrote here! I always kick myself for not jotting down a thought once in a while or a recap of the important moments of my life, so I figure it's better late than never despite the fact that it's been EXACTLY two months since this momentous day. What happened on May 27, 2015? I finally met my niece! She was actually born the day before a little after 5pm, but my parents were the only ones in my family who were at the hospital all day. 

If you've been reading for a while, you know that last August I was completely in love when I met my nephew Toby. Obviously a baby changes the life the parents, but I have to say that becoming an aunt was definitely one of the highlights of 2014. It's incredibly fun to get to experience the joys of having a baby in the family without actually having to deal with waking up in the middle of the night and poop explosions. All of you people out there who aren't parents yet but are aunts or uncles probably understand what I'm talking about because as a relative, you can just pass the baby back to the parents! We also get to go home and sleep well that night!  

Toby was the one who made me an aunt for the first time, and nothing will ever replace that. However, there was something extra special about the birth of my niece. It might be because it was my own brother's baby instead of Howard's sister. Of course, I grew up with my brother and experienced so many of life's adventures with him since he's only two years older than I am. It made me melt to think that he was going to be a father when we first found out that my sister-in-law was pregnant. All the things that he loved as a little boy were sure to come out when he had a kid of his own. I love my in-laws, but I don't have all the memories with them that I have with my own family.

The arrival of the baby might have also been extra special because she was a girl. When I imagine having my own kids, it's so much easier for me to picture having a little girl! Also, I've written about it before, but I am addicted to clearance shopping. I can be completely starved and so desperate for food (as I was during our recent road trip to Lancaster!), but the one thing that can quell the hunger other than actually eating is clearance shopping. The baby girl clothing racks are always rather full compared to the ones for baby boys. Plus, they're completely adorable! I get so excited when I find items that match the new mommy's own style that would be so cute on her new baby daughter!

As an aunt, I definitely get the best of both worlds since now I have a nephew and a niece! Now let's rewind to that wonderful day in May!

When my family arrived at the hospital, I was already jumping up and down with excitement. Literally. I was ecstatic to finally meet her! It did take some time getting used to the idea of her having a name since my brother and sis-in-law didn't reveal it until she was born. All along, we were calling her "Baby L." Even at the baby shower, the banner that my sis-in-law's friends strung up said that! Since my parents were at the hospital the day before when she was in labor, they knew where the room was. We walked down the hallway and used some Purell that the hospital had placed on the hallway wall. Alas, the timing wasn't exactly right as my sister-in-law was feeding, so we went to the waiting room until they were ready.

During that time, one of my sister-in-law's friends and her fiance arrived. My mom and I met her already at the bridal shower and baby shower, so the time passed by somewhat quickly with good conversation and some Cartoon Network playing on the television. After a bit, my brother told us we could go back to the room! Howard had his camera in hand, ready to snap the pictures of this wonderful occasion.

My mom carried her before handing her off to me. I admit I was a bit hesitant because she was unbelievably tiny. I remember being nervous about holding Toby, but my niece was even tinier because she was under 6 pounds. There was no way I was passing up this opportunity though. When we each had our turn, we sat in the chair that was in the room just to be on the safe side.  

I could have stared at her all night. The best part was that we were all discussing whether or not she had a dimple, and then she showed it to me. Even better was Howard capturing it with his camera! I cropped her face from the following picture and made it my lock screen on my phone. Even though she's already two months at this point and adorably round with squishy cheeks, I still have that picture on my phone just because it was such a special memory!

Talking about how my lock screen is a picture of my niece reminds me of this Buzzfeed video though! 

My younger brother also had a chance to carry her, and that was definitely something that had to be recorded since it was the first baby-baby that he ever held. I don't remember the last time my siblings and I took a picture together, but the birth of the next generation is definitely cause for one!

My parents are now grandparents! Even though she is still really young, I know exactly how they're going to be as she gets older. When my brother and I were kids, we knew not to ask my dad for the special treats that other kids got. We didn't ride on the carousel or the train at the mall or get ice cream from the ice cream truck. However, I know that my dad's going to be the kind of grandfather who buys his granddaughter a Mickey bar in Disney World even though he never bought it for us kids! Haha, he says he won't be like that, but we know it'll be true. My mom, on the other hand, will spoil her with activities by playing games with her and taking her to the zoo. 

Unfortunately, we did have to eventually go home. Although the visiting hours were over, we did get to stay a little bit longer than when we should have left. It was time for the little baby to get some rest from all the extra attention and stay with the new mommy and daddy! I personally love this shot that Howard captured of my brother holding her as we left. Hubs did also take a picture of the new family of three, but as I've said to them before, it's more for the sake of documenting it even if it's just for them. I didn't want to post a picture here just because I don't know that I'd necessarily want people posting pictures of me after being in the hospital for almost two days! 

The moment we walked out of the room, I was already missing her. My mom and I say it every time we leave from visiting her even now! I can't wait to see her again and again!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Celebrating Chinese New Year

I think I'm becoming more Chinese. If you didn't already know, I'm an ABC, which stands for American-born Chinese. When Howard and I used to go to church in Chinatown and then pick up lunch from the restaurants, the workers there would know to speak to me in English. I was baffled as to how they knew that, and Howard explained that I even look like an ABC. 

I never quite understood Chinese customs and traditions, and I've definitely had disagreements with my very traditional father when I was growing up because I couldn't grasp why some things had to be the way they were. I mean, having to invite my dad's friends to the wedding when I didn't even have a clue as to who they were? Things like that just didn't make sense to me. Sure, I was all for getting some extra cash in red envelopes during Chinese New Year and respecting elders as they had their big celebration dinners. But there were other customs that seemed pointless to me. Though I may never truly understand why we did things the way we did, I knew I didn't really have much of a choice. Tea ceremony on our wedding day? Um, didn't quite understand why that was important, but I guess I just had to do it. Avoiding black clothing on birthdays? Um, I look thinner in black, but if you say so!

As Howard and I approach our 3-year anniversary in May, I realize that I've actually come to accept more Chinese things without questioning it. I'll be honest and say that when we first got married, I didn't really consider myself part of the "F" family. My parents told me that in the Chinese culture, getting married meant that I was no longer a member of the "L" family. I didn't really take it seriously because as I've mentioned before in previous blog posts, I felt somewhat of a separation due to the language barrier. In my mind I thought that I was marrying Howard regardless of what his last name was. But month after month, I see that I am more and more of an "F" even if I still don't understand all the parts of the conversation during a family gathering!

I came to the realization this week as we went over to my in-laws' house to celebrate Chinese New Year. We already had dinner with Howard's family three times since 2015 began because of my sister-in-law's birthday, Howard's birthday, and my mother-in-law's birthday. But there was something different about Chinese New Year. Maybe it was because it wasn't at a restaurant and was instead at the house where we all sat around the family table. I've sat at that table a few times before when we were dating and then when we were engaged, but something changed that night. Maybe it's because my nephew Toby is in the picture now, and it just made it feel like we were a family of 7 joining together to eat dinner that night. Maybe it was because of the time we were playing with Toby and trying to entertain him while Howard's parents did food preparation and cooked the meal. I can't put my finger on it; it just felt like what a family does. 

I know it doesn't seem like such a huge change, but in my mind, I really do see it as becoming "more Chinese"! 

Here's an overhead shot of the food that my father-in-law and mother-in-law prepared. I remember my grandma and my own mom making the "fat choy" (the black stuff that looks like hair) around CNY, so despite being an ABC, there are some things that I "know" even if I don't remember why it's so important to eat it during that holiday. My favorite dish was probably the "dow mew," which is like, pea shoots or snow pea leaves or something like that (the big plate-o-green). I haven't had it in so long, and Howard and I commented that we haven't had oyster sauce in ages too! I also enjoyed the shrimp, of course, and the mix of veggies with the cloud ear mushroom (bottom left). I even had a few pieces of the tongue (bottom right)! It was a ton of food for the 6 of us since Toby is still too young and was gnawing on a banana.

After dinner, Howard took some pictures. His parents wanted him to take pictures of an orchid plant they're growing, and then my sis-in-law plopped Toby on the table for some pictures too! He's not entirely steady when he sits, so I was behind the table with my hand there just in case! I thought I was hidden, but my hand was in the shots, but hubs was able to edit it and crop it out! 

Later on, Sharon put Toby in some CNY gear, and we gave him some red envelopes. He proceeded to pop them in his mouth and gnaw on them!

We left a little after 10pm. Before we did, we got some homemade turnip cake to bring home! My in-laws make it the best in my opinion. That's probably one of the BEST parts of CNY! 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

False Alarm

It was just one day. I didn't really think much of it. However, when it got to the third, fourth, and fifth day, I couldn't help but wonder, "Am I pregnant?" It ended up being 8 whole days of wondering if Howard and I were about to be parents, but clearly by the title of this post, that didn't happen. 

The fact that my body is fairly scheduled really made me think after just two days that I might be pregnant. Howard and I kind of just joked about it at the beginning because we hadn't planned on having a kid in the near future, so it was kind of something that seemed impossible. But as each day passed by, there was a mix of excitement and fear. I didn't tell anyone about it other than my colleague at work who was my mentor teacher and is now the director of the school because I didn't know if any of these things would interfere with a school trip we had coming up.

Howard and I decided that if I was still late when the weekend rolled around that he would go buy a pregnancy test. I was actually anticipating having to find out for sure that way. Though we're not exactly where we should be to have a kid yet (I know there are so many out there who have told us there's never going to be a "right" time where everything is settled), there was a part of me that was honestly hoping that I would be mainly because if I were pregnant, it was clearly all God. If we were going to be parents, we trusted that God wanted us to be parents. If we tried planning all of this by ourselves, I knew it wasn't going to happen for possibly a few more years. 

As we approached that Saturday, I couldn't shake the thoughts from my mind. Each day as I got up for work, I was a little giddy about the possibility and nervous at the same time. I knew there would be a great deal of change if I were. What would I do about work next year? How and when would we move? Would we be able to afford all of it? But then when Thursday rolled around, all the hopes I had were suddenly dashed. I wasn't pregnant. The logical part of me breathed a big sigh of relief. Phew, no need to stress about money and whether or not we were ready to give up our selfish "it's-just-the-two-of-us" ways. 

But as the reality of it settled in, I was deeply saddened. That night when Howard and I went to bed, I moved in close to him unable to truly explain what I was feeling. It seemed silly to be sad. There was never a baby, so how could I be sad that suddenly there wasn't? There was no real loss. The only way that I could express what I was feeling was through tears. Lots and lots of tears. 

It's only been 3 months since that week, and I don't know that I'm completely recovered. Sometimes the sappiest of commercials on Hulu will set me off again. I think November must have turned on a valve of some sort that makes my tear ducts leak a lot more often than it used to! Howard and I will be watching something completely non-baby related, and I'll have tears in my eyes! 

Just a few months earlier, I knew in my heart that years from now, we'd look back on this false alarm and think about how God's timing was perfect. The amazing thing is that I feel that God has been teaching us so much in these past two months. We didn't have to wait to look back on this with hindsight. I know there's more to this story than what I can see right now, but I'm reassured in knowing that God is so great that He can work in people who are experiencing true pain and even those who are dealing with minor "silly" sadness. 

Monday, February 2, 2015

It's Time to Move

The other day, I posted the following status on Facebook:

Ice: 2, Rae: 0.
Howard, let's move to Florida.

In the past, I used to look forward to some snow with hopes of getting a snow day from work. Working at a private school means that we don't follow the same schedule as the public school system, so we will close even if they don't. Our school is kind of located in a remote area, and the staff and students live all over the island so some of us have to drive greater distances. For example, our school closed today because of the potential icy conditions outside. I don't work on Mondays since I'm part-time this year, so it didn't affect me, but I still breathed a sigh of relief knowing that my mom didn't have to drive and neither did my colleagues. Even so, it doesn't mean we close at all times.

Howard's photo that he took on his phone after work today.
A little less than a month ago on January 9th, I had one of the worst driving experiences of my life. The snow was falling so fast during my morning drive that everyone around me was taking it slow too. I believe I'm a very cautious driver, so when I see everyone else taking their time too, I know that it's really dangerous out. I took my normal route so that I could focus more on taking my time and not having to think about anything new that might occur. Well, something new occurred anyway!

As I was approaching a light, I saw that it turned red, so I stepped on my brake. The brake, however, was just not enough to stop the car. I pushed my foot down as hard as I could, but the car kept moving. It was slow-moving, so I actually had time to panic and think, "What am I supposed to do?!" There was the slightest decline, which probably made the whole situation worse. I knew I was going to keep going into the intersection.

For some reason, I have thought about what I would do if my brakes stopped working. Because it was something that has always been on my mind, I immediately thought to honk my horn to alert others around me of my situation. There was one car that could have started moving but didn't, so I just kept honking my horn until I turned left. I couldn't believe I had made it through without any issues. I breathed a sigh of relief and was so grateful that God was right by my side and that because of the timing, the amount of cars at that intersection was nothing like the regular traffic when I drive in the morning!

Those feelings of relief were soon forgotten because suddenly my eyes started filling with tears and I was sobbing. I drove for a few seconds more just so that I could stop my car at the side of the road safely out of the way. I called my mom right away, and when she picked up, I couldn't even speak. I knew I had to say something because my mom would panic considering I text her right before I start driving to her house. There would be no reason for me to call her thereafter unless something was wrong, so I forced myself to say, "I'm okay, but ..." and then proceeded to tell her what happened.

I was never a fan of driving in the first place. This definitely doesn't make it any easier for me! When I finally arrived at my parents' house, I was emotional again. Then when I arrived at school and one of my colleagues mentioned that I was late, I cried again as I tried to tell her what had happened. Then I went into the director's office because I had texted her to tell her briefly that I'd be late, I cried once more! When I got home that day and Howard came home, I cried again. I don't think I actually cried all of it out because I stopped myself each time, so it was just built up inside me because once I arrived at school, I immediately had to get to teaching.

Clearly, ice was the winner in this situation. It definitely got me. But as you saw in the status, the ice won not once but twice!

This past Thursday, there were no easy spots available by my parents' house. Since it was right after the latest snow storm (Staten Island got about 6 inches in some areas, I think, but it was nothing like the blizzard that was forecast), there was snow everywhere. The people shoveled the snow just so that they could pull their cars out. I already don't like parallel parking to begin with and have to do it very slowly, so when there's snow in the way, it's nearly impossible! I also have a very low car, so the snow kept scraping the bottom as I tried to back into a spot. Eventually I gave up and my mom was pulling out of the driveway so I parked there. That meant I had to leave my key in the house in case my dad needed to use my car or his own car in the garage. Since the door was locked, I had to walk to my mom to get the house key. In the process of doing that, I slipped.

Now I've slipped on ice many times before as I'm sure we all have. But this is one of the few times that the slipping actually caused me to fall. My left knee absorbed most of the fall, so my upper thigh was in pain for the next few days to the point where taking the stairs would take my breath away (haha, and not in a good way!). The worst part of the tumble was that I had my tote bag on my right shoulder. Thankfully, it wasn't as full as it normally is, but it was still heavy enough to make me twist as it fell behind me from my right side to my left side. It hurt so badly that I couldn't even stand up right away. My mom said that when she got out of the car, she didn't know where I was. It was because I was on the ground unfortunately!

I was sore for the rest of the day and the next few days. Even today, I'm still not completely better. I have this spot on my back that is rather painful. I'm not one to take Tylenol unless I really have to even though there are times my mom or Howard suggest I take it for pain. Today was a day I took the full dosage because the back spasms were unbearable. Afterwards I went to lie in bed and read my nook until the Tylenol made me drowsy (yes, all forms of medicine make me drowsy!) and I konked out.

I give up. I surrender. The ice has won, but I am afraid that it's still going to come after me anyway. Tonight the temperatures are dropping into the teens, so the icy mess that was out there and all the slush that was making it difficult for commuters is going to be frozen tomorrow. I still have my fingers crossed for a delay just so that there's no stress in getting up super early and dealing with so many other cars on the road because the ice doesn't seem to want to give up on this battle with me even though my white flag was up right after round one! I think the only way I can escape is if Howard and I move. If it gets me again, it might be a clear sign it's just time to say goodbye to NYC!

Friday, January 30, 2015

Tree Card

The last set of cards that I made for my grandfather (here are the links for the first and second) was using another SVG from Miss Kate Cuttables. The original image actually had one more pink layer. You can see that when I made the card, there are some spots that should have had a heart, but I figured it wasn't necessary. 

Though the image is fairly simplistic in that it's just adding one layer on top of the other, it required a lot of work in terms of gluing it together because the branches get rather thin. If I didn't have Zig glue and Tweezerbees, I don't know how I would have handled it!

I kept the rest of the design very simple by just using a piece of green patterned paper to be the grass. The sentiment is from Pink by Design's "Faith" set, which is one of my all-time favorites. 

I love how all the layers give the card dimension without my having to pop anything off the card. It's a simple card yet really pretty, in my opinion!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Me in a Bag: Mini Cooper

Last week, I posted something that I wrote as an example to read to my kids for the "Me in a Bag" assignment. You can find that first post here. This is the second one that I wrote and read to them.


The screeching of those tires is one of the sounds I will never forget for the rest of my life. It not only caused a physical impact on my life but a mental and spiritual one as well. I never would have thought that a car accident could have that much of an effect years later. 

On one mundane Sunday morning, my family and I were on our way to church waiting at the traffic light right after the Manhattan bridge. When the squealing sound first began, I immediately turned around to find the source of the noise. Once I realized that the work van behind us was not going to be able to stop itself from crashing into our minivan, I quickly faced forward and braced myself for the inevitable collision. We were hit so hard that we also rear-ended the car in front of us, which unfortunately meant that my back hit the seat twice. Because I was sitting in the third row, I was the only one who sustained injuries. 

The police officers and EMTs who arrived on the scene told me that the pain would get worse before it got better. I didn't fully grasp that concept until hours later when the adrenaline that was in my system protecting me from fully feeling the pain wore out. My parents took me to the hospital to confirm that it was "only" whiplash and nothing more life threatening.

For months after the accident, I was required to go to physical therapy. Lifting heavy objects was out of the question, but that was difficult to avoid considering I was a college student at the time. There were nights when falling asleep seemed almost impossible because I couldn't find a comfortable position that wouldn't put stress on my back. When I stood in front of a mirror, I could actually see that one shoulder was raised much higher than the other, and it was constantly sore. The only thing that entertained me throughout this whole ordeal was that for years after the accident, I was able to tell with 99% accuracy whether or not there would be any precipitation in the forecast. I was actually more precise than the weather reports because one particular spot near my spine would throb before it was set to rain or snow the next day.

However, the physical struggles after the accident were nothing compared to the mental struggles. While all of my friends in high school were eager to begin driver's ed, I never had the same burning desire to drive. I had actually waited until that year of college to take private lessons. In fact, I had recently completed a number of lessons with my instructor and had my road test scheduled a few short weeks after the incident by the bridge! Though the pain in my body was problematic, the anxiety about getting behind the wheel again was devastating. Though I was not the driver on that unforgettable Sunday morning, I was terrified that if I did drive, I might one day be in a car accident again or even worse, be the reason why someone else had to suffer through the pain and anguish I had experienced.

Thankfully, I was able to take my road test despite the difficulty I had in turning my neck when checking my surroundings. I passed with a perfect score and became a fully licensed driver. Once I got that paper indicating that I could legally operate a vehicle without another supervising licensed driver, I refused to sit behind the steering wheel again. The fear was crippling. 

No one in my life seemed to truly understand my predicament. It was exhausting hearing people tell me that the only thing I could do to overcome my fear was to get behind the wheel and deal with it. Unfortunately, each time I would try doing that, the panic that coursed through my veins was insufferable, and I was never able to turn on the ignition. Some people seemed to minimize my feelings, which made the issue even more challenging to face because half of me was convinced that I was overreacting while the other half of me was insistent that I was the only one who was being logical in this situation! The apprehension I had lasted years so even though I was a 22-year old adult when I got the job teaching here at Gateway Academy, I was still a kid in that I needed my mom to drive me to and from work.

One might think that the only option that I had that would help me conquer my trepidation was through God's help, and in reality, that's exactly what it took for me to get to where I am today! Among the discouragers who thought they were being encouraging, there were a few who let me be and didn't push me one way or the other. Instead, they quietly prayed that one day I would be able to shove the fear aside and get behind the wheel again, and that's exactly what happened. I can't pinpoint the exact day, but I woke up in the morning thinking, "I can drive now." If that's not divine intervention, I don't know what is!

There's no reasonable, worldly explanation as to why that occurred. When fellow Christians talk about how the Lord lifted burdens off their shoulders when they fully submitted to Him, I couldn't quite comprehend that notion myself, that is, until it happened to me. That screeching sound may always be a part of my memory and something I had wanted to desperately to forget, but now when I think about that ordinary church morning, I am reminded of God's awesome power and how He used it to provide a moving testimony for me.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Addiction of Clearance Hunting

While tidying up the apartment yesterday, I decided that I would put all the clearance baby and kid clothes inside one of our suitcases because the bags of merchandise were starting to pile up. I don't need any of it until months from now for a baby shower and first birthday, so there's no need to keep it out. I have definitely accumulated a bunch of adorable clothing from the Disney Store, Old Navy, and Target!

I've talked to a few moms or soon-to-be moms who said that stocking up on other items like diapers is more worthwhile because everyone gets clothing. I completely understand that, but some things are necessary, I think. I purchased some onesies, sleep 'n plays, burp cloths, and really nice bibs because the babies DO need those things, and I don't feel bad buying them because I got them 50%-70% off. I've found fleece tops for $0.97 and Disney items for $1.99. Other gift givers may still buy clothing items, but as an aunt, I find that it is my duty to bring any of my nieces and nephews into the Disney sphere, haha. That's why you can see some adorably cute Disney gear!

It seems weird spending the money on things now even when items might be too big in size, but I will continue doing it this way so that when the occasions come up, I don't have to go out to shop. I can just "shop" from this suitcase. I have about 4 toys too put away for the proper time. You know how difficult it can be to search for a gift when it's needed. It's the same as having to find a dress before a party or wedding; it's just so difficult and can get expensive! But because of my feelings of buying things on clearance, I haven't had to do any last minute shopping for either of those things, and in the long run, it saves me money.

Of course, there are some things that are just too cute and so incredibly inexpensive that it's worth saving for little Luke or Leia. I bought two of those Pixar shirts and gifted one of them already, but that other one you see is for me! I will save it for as long as I have to! 

Monday, January 26, 2015

Calm Before the Storm

It's so strange looking outside right now and seeing the snow that's on the ground. It's not much really at this point although it is sticking. It seems kind of peaceful as there aren't many cars on the road, but if we really do get as much as the weather people say, it's going to be a totally different view tomorrow!

Just earlier I got an email from CVS that mentioned getting items from the storm in preparation for the storm. I'm guessing that at the point of the email, the CVS by me would have been sold out of essentials already because it's right by a lot of apartments and houses! I said that I should go to the store and get upset with them if they didn't actually have bread and water and say, "You sent this email directly to me!" Then we started joking about how we would recreate a "Jen from Bath & Body Works Appleton" scene. There's a parody of it on YouTube that I won't post here because there's a little bit of foul language in it, but it is something that has made us crack up time and time again. Howard was like, "I went to Stapleton, Westerleigh, Todt Hill, up Grymes Hill and down Grymes Hill ..." Man, we are easily entertained!

Here are some pictures that Howard took on his way home from work today. I'm super glad he got home safely. Public transportation was crowded because a lot of people left earlier than normal. 

This bus one is probably my favorite from all of the pictures. It looks so much like it's a character that needs to wake up and wipe his eyes!

Sometimes we can't tell whether or not it's snowing, and we rely on the parking lot lights to help us figure it out.

It'll be extra quiet tonight what with the travel ban and the fact that all 4 bridges are closed starting at 11pm! I wonder what we'll hear outside since we're right off the highway and normally hear the cars, trucks, and sirens! For most of you NYCers who have a day off tomorrow (or are working from home), have a great snow day tomorrow!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

"Historic" Blizzard?

The news that keeps circulating today is the amount of snow the Northeast is going to get on Tuesday. The mayor already mentioned possible school closing for Tuesday, which rarely happens for public school. That means my school would definitely be closed because we have snow days a lot more often due to the fact that some of our teachers and students drive from the other side of the island. Some of them even drive in from NJ!

After church today, Howard and I made a stop at Home Depot to buy a shovel since we don't have one. The benefit to living in an apartment is that we don't have property to shovel, but considering the amount of snow that is supposedly on its way, we will have to dig the car out! I don't know if the parking lot will be cleaned very well either, which is a scary though to me considering the crazy experience I had in the car fairly recently on an icy morning. So purchasing a shovel was just one way to ease my mind. Since we have absolutely no room to store an actual full-sized shovel, we purchased the car shovel that can be folded in half to fit in the trunk. I'm sure it will come in handy in less than 72 hours.

Here's hoping to safety during this blizzard! I have my fingers crossed that we don't get a blackout. It's more than just a minor inconvenience for us because no electricity means we lose water too! Being on the 9th floor means we really need the pumps for the water pressure. Last Saturday when we had a blackout, we lost our water. Once that happens, I feel as if everything I want to do requires water, haha. 

Now it's time to prepare ourselves for everyone's snow pictures on Instagram!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Me in a Bag: Engagement Ring

The latest writing project that I am having my 6th graders and my 8th graders (I didn't have this current 8th grade class when they were in 6th grade, so that's why they're working on the same assignment) is called "Me in a Bag." This is the prompt that I gave them:

Choose 5 items that are meaningful to you that will fit in a brown paper bag. You will then write about 5 separate life experiences or moments in your life that helped you grow as a person or that explains how and why you see the world the way you do. A photograph can be used as only 1 of the 5 items.

When possible, I try to write a sample for the kids because I think giving them a model of what I expect of them, so this is the first example I wrote and read to them about my engagement ring. I figured I could post it here because I spent a good amount of time writing it!


"Oh, it's so ... small!" Initially, I thought that when my student asked to see my engagement ring at September orientation just two short months after I got engaged in the summer, she would comment that it was "pretty," or "sparkly," or even "cute." However, her sudden outburst about its size was clearly more indicative of how she truly felt regarding the size of the diamond on my left hand. For the majority of girls, a remark like that might be embarrassing, but I didn't find the need to defend my half carat diamond ring. It fit me and my personality perfectly, and no amount of outside pressure about what was considered an acceptable size for an engagement ring would alter that.

Anyone who has spent more than a few days with me can probably attest to the fact that I'm a rather simple girl. While my peers value jewelry and accessorizing their outfits, I instead value the $40 watch I purchased during my first year of teaching to stay on schedule since the classroom clocks were always too fast or too slow. While I see girls post "selfies" on Facebook of new hairstyles or hair colors, I personally feel that it's more important that I grow my hair to donate every two years. Instead of using too much heat or any styling product, I pull my one-length hair back into the same hairstyle almost every day in an attempt to keep it healthy. Plus, when it comes to the actual color of my hair, I always explain, "It's what the Lord gave me!" While others think it's a badge of honor to have clothing or a purse that touts the name of some fancy designer, my eyes widen when I find something sensible, comfortable, and modest at a great sale price. In fact, I'm the kind of person who owns the same item of clothing in a variety of colors!

Considering the differences in how I see things versus how the majority of other females see things, it only makes sense that a half carat engagement ring was and is more than enough for a girl like me. While some of my friends have proclaimed, "If he doesn't propose with at least a one-carat ring, I'm not saying yes," I, on the other hand, was the one who actually went back to the jewelry store with my guy to exchange the three-quarter carat ring for a diamond of a smaller size. 

I don't know when I began feeling this way about things like jewelry. It might have been how I was raised because my mother was never into all things sparkly either because she and my dad were robbed twice when they lived in an apartment in Queens soon after getting married. She lost most of her jewelry and felt that it didn't make sense to keep earthly treasures considering they could be destroyed by moths and rust and where thieves break in and steal (Matthew 6:19). Over the years, what she taught me through her words and through her lifestyle instilled in me a desire to store up treasures in heaven instead even if that means I'm not part of the fashionable, well-dressed population of this world. It's okay by me because I'm content with what the Lord has given me. In the meantime, I'll go about my days in my Disney t-shirts with my hair clipped back in the same barrette hoping that what I do here on earth might earn me a crown in heaven because I know that that will far exceed our knowledge of what we consider beautiful in the here and now.

Monday, January 12, 2015

2015 Goals

As I tidy the apartment today, I'm wearing my new bluetooth headphones that Howard got me as part of my Christmas gift! Because the walls in our apartment are really thin, I don't want to bother our neighbors by having YouTube videos or Netflix shows on really loud since I have to turn the volume up if I'm doing something like washing the dishes. I always used Howard's headphones, but they're rather heavy, so hubs bought a lighter pair for me. It means I can actually get more done each day without my head throbbing, haha. 

The videos I've been listening to lately have been about 2015 resolutions. Depending on who it is, I can actually get motivated by the person speaking to get our place clean! I've been mentally compiling a list of things I would like to accomplish this year and didn't intend on writing it down, but I think it'll keep me a bit more accountable to myself if I just jot them down instead of just leaving them float around in my mind.

Goal #1: Do personal devotions on a daily basis, and if a day is missed, go back and catch up.

As a Christian, this is kind of the goal I mentally make for myself every year, but a few months into the year, I always miss a day and kick myself for being a "failure." I think that because I missed a day, God is disappointed in me for not having the dedication to get through an entire year and then I kind of lose hope for being diligent for the remainder of the year. Of course, that's a completely silly thought because I think I am more upset with it than God is. If anything, God's like, "Aww, I missed spending time with you today! Hope I see you tomorrow!" as opposed to the "Pshhh, you skipped our daily meet? Forget you! I don't want to bother with you any longer because you're so flaky!"

Instead of setting a resolution to do my daily personal devotions, my goal will be to do it every day. However, if I miss a day (something that usually happens on the weekend because I don't follow my regular schedule), I will go back and catch up even if it's a day or two later. I know that it would never hurt me to do twice the amount of quiet time in one day or even three times the amount as I had to do at the beginning of last week!

Goal #2: Read 1 book each month.

I'm actually kind of a hypocrite telling my students that they should be reading books instead of spending all their time online or on their phones! I am on my computer more than I need to be because I procrastinate while I'm doing my lesson plans. I tend to work better when I have a TV show on that I know well, which means I don't have to listen to everything or even watch my monitor. But there are still other times when I could be reading instead! I finally went to the library with intentions to renew my library card, but it was so old that I actually had to get a new one!

I posted the picture above on Instagram already. I got that library card when I was 3-years old, and my mom was so wonderful in taking me to the library so often so that I could borrow books and read read read! Even when I was older, I'd borrow Robin Cook books because I liked medical thrillers and then include a bunch of Babysitter's Club Super Series books in my stack. I tell my students and their parents that I think the kids should just read at home whatever they are in the mood to read even if it isn't necessarily on their "grade level/reading level." I mean, I still love BSC, and I'm 30! When I started teaching, I stopped reading a ton. Even when I was in college, I think I read more despite being an English major and having to read a million things for school! So I saw that a lot of people do the book-a-month thing as a resolution, which I think is entirely doable especially now that I have a new library card. I can borrow ebooks again from NYPL to put on my nook. I don't need to buy anything or make trips to the library and borrow germy books, haha. 

Right now I'm in the midst of reading Divergent by Veronica Roth. Howard and I watched the movie recently on HBO Go, so I wanted to read the book. Years ago when I first started getting into Harry Potter, my cousin told me to actually watch the movies first before reading the books because otherwise I'd be disappointed in the movies for leaving out so much of the book! I followed her suggestion and really thought that it was a useful tip. I decided to do the same here and was okay watching the movie first, but since I'm in the middle of the book, I'm kind of thinking I should've read it first because it's not as exciting as I'd like it to be. I guess I'll have to see when I continue reading the series and start Insurgent before I watch the movie. I know I'm not reading it as quickly as I read The Hunger Games or the entire Harry Potter series. 

Goal #3: Drink 2 tumblers worth of water each day after work.

It is bad, but I know I am probably horribly dehydrated. At the beginning of this school year, I kept getting cramps in my toes in the middle of the night and at school! I wasn't drinking enough water for suddenly being on my feet all day long. Being a teacher doesn't really help in staying hydrated because I just don't want to have to leave in the middle of class to go to the bathroom! I go in the morning before the kids arrive then again at lunch. That's it. So that means I can't keep downing water. I don't know how my fellow teachers who drink coffee do it! I don't start drinking water until lunch time, and even then, I don't finish my entire Camelbak water bottle. That is not healthy at all!

When I get home, I know I should be making up for the lack of water during the day, but sometimes water makes me nauseous. Since I started using tumblers at home, I do drink more because I can keep water next to me at all times and never worry about dust falling in or spilling it. Plus, I like drinking through a straw even though people say that it causes wrinkles. Personally, I think staying hydrated is more important in the long run than getting wrinkles! 

I usually have a cup of decaf tea right away if I'm super cold or I'll have one at night after dinner, and even though that's liquid, I still need to up my water intake. So I will try try try to drink 2 tumblers of water after work, so that doesn't include anything I had in the morning with my pill, anything I had during the school day, or any cups of tea.

Goal #4: Write 2 cards per month.

You'd think that with my love for making cards, I'd write them more often for others. The most I do is write thank you notes to my kids and their parents any time they think of me with a gift or when a family treats us to a catered lunch. I always say that I will write more just for the fun of it because it makes me excited to get something special as snail mail!

I actually purchased a Thirty-One Timeless Beauty Bag from the recent flash sale in December. It's regularly priced at $25, but I got one for $6.99. The grand idea I have for it is to put cards, envelopes, addresses, stamps, pens, and all the items I'd need to write cards. I did keep a few cards in a bigger Thirty-One Zipper Pouch during the Christmas season, but I couldn't really trust that they'd stay nice and neat in there. I actually had to keep it in a plastic box too. I think if I keep all the items together, I'll be more inclined to write because I have a tendency to want to write when I'm out and about. I sometimes get the urge to write a quick note when I have a moment of down time at school! I think this'll be a great way to do that.

If anything, I'll use the bag to hold chargers on vacation and a fifty million other ideas I saw when I looked online, but the more important thing is that regardless of how I store cards that are ready to go, I need to WRITE them! And to SEND them! I think keeping people's addresses together and the stamps in one place will make it much easier for me.

Goal #5: Blog at least 3 times a week.

Last year I attempted to blog every day of the year, but that didn't last. Near the end of the year, I gave up with even thinking about it because I was so busy with work and just so tired. I know I don't need that added pressure, but on the other hand, I'm kind of sad I don't have a written record of a lot of what happened! I will probably still go back and recap some of those things, but there's something about getting the memories down in a more timely fashion so as not to forget things worth remembering for years to come (haha, at least things that I may want to remember). Setting a goal of blogging at least 3 times a week seems extremely doable for me! I know the 4 of you or so who read along will be pleased that I do have plans to write, and I didn't just let it die out!

Goal #6: Eat healthier, exercise, and lose weight.

I have never officially had "lose weight" as part of my resolutions or goals. It's not really something that's related to the beginning of the year but something I need to do in general. Since getting married, I have definitely gained some weight. I don't feel that I have to be a certain weight for society's benefit, but some of my clothes are getting tight, haha. Then when the warmer weather comes around, it will be difficult for me to wear my tank tops since I can't suck in my stomach to be flat any longer! As specific as my other goals are, I won't specify a certain number of pounds I'd like to  lose. The goal is to be able to comfortably fit my regular summer clothes without any issues! Of course, it'll be better for me in the long run if I am healthier, but my short term goal is my Old Navy tank tops because I can't go to Disney World without them! And here's hoping that we'll be able to get there for a trip this year!

That's about it that I have on my mind right now. I could have a goal for finishing at least the following Tuesday's lesson plans on the previous Friday night, but I often fall asleep really early and then end up sleeping until Saturday morning. I could also make a goal of making sure dishes are done each night instead of letting them pile up, but sometimes I shower earlier and don't like dealing with dirty dishes when I'm already clean. There's the goal of taking my vitamins daily instead of waiting for Howard to ask me if I've taken them yet as well as getting the laundry done on a more consistent basis, but doing things by hand requires a rather huge surge of energy that I don't always have after work. I could have a goal that we recycle all junk mail right away instead of just putting the stack of mail next to our printer, and I could say something about grading HW assignments and tests faster than I am right now. However, if I take the time to write all of that, I think it would get overwhelming because my list would get rather lengthy! But those items will still be on the back of my mind even though I think the ones I chose above are more doable. Here's to a hopefully wonderful 2015!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Clearance Hunting!

After work, my mom and I stopped by Target to do a little bit of clearance hunting. I love checking out what people are finding when I browse Instagram. Since my mom had to make a quick stop at Pathmark, I took my time in the Dollar Spot checking out the fun things I would totally buy for a niece or nephew. I would even buy some of these things for my own kids, but I'd save them for road trips to Disney World or their Christmas stockings!

I still get a kick out of seeing My Little Pony stuff. These were totally not the ponies from my childhood! This would be cute even for me if I knew who they were, haha. I only know Rainbow Dash. I also have no purpose for it!

I also love dry erase items. If Toby were older, I would've picked this up. I think these little dry erase activity books or boards are cute to bring along to entertain the kiddos at restaurants. I hope that it never gets to the point that we use our phones to keep the kids quiet.

Since it's January, there are a bunch of calendar options as well as notepad things. I'm actually contemplating picking up a 2015 calendar so that I have it when the next school year begins.

Lastly, I was immediately drawn to these blank books! The possibilities are endless, and I'd like to think that my future kiddos would see the potential and the fun in getting something like this. When I was really young, my family went on vacation to California an stayed with my dad's friend's family. The mom put together these journal-type booklets with paper that had lines at the bottom and a huge space for an illustration. It was stapled between construction paper. She had us write down the fun things we were doing like visiting Circus, Circus. I kept that for the longest time, and I knew even then that I'd want to provide the materials for such a simple activity for my own children.

My main reason for going to Target was to search for clearance in the baby section. The last time Howard and I stopped by was to grab a bunch of baby things on clearance for 50% off. Howard chuckled at me when we were there because he would look around and then turn to find me with stacks of onesies and sleep n plays in my arms! I couldn't help it! As I've said before, I'm all for buying things on sale or on clearance and using coupons if possible so that we have gifts to give when we need it. It's even harder to resist when there are little ones in families! I am definitely having a blast looking for items to be the aunt who spoils the kiddies.

This time, however, the whole section was cleared of the clearance and was replaced with new spring-themed items. I only found one clothing item amid all of it that my mom purchased. I checked the aisles for the other baby items and found a much higher priced item for just half off, so I snagged it! I'm thrilled about that purchase and am pleased that I can give it as a gift!

There was a rack of random cute items nearby though, and this was one of the things that always catches my eye. I love these things with detachable capes!

Part of me wanted to buy these sweatpants just because they were hanging there like that, haha. They're so tiny!

And of course, Disney socks are better than regular socks.

I then moved on to the toy section to check out the Little People Nativity set. It's still $14.98, and they do have a bunch of them so my mom and I are hoping it'll reduce to more than just 50% off. I checked the two aisles filled with clearance toys and scanned a bunch of things with hopes that it was less than what they said, but this Target is pretty good about keeping the prices correct.

Our friend's son likes Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, and this was a bargain for 70% off, but I don't know if he will still like it for his next birthday. Plus, we have no room to store something so big. They had a few of them, so I would totally buy one for Toby too, but he's much too young and we'd have to keep this for maybe two years or so before giving it.

I was immediately drawn to the "Let's Play" items! How adorable that they create these sets for children to have realistic items! I loved the Fisher Price doctor kit my older brother and I had. I played with it all the time.

The words on the box are great: "Everything You Need to be a Real Stylist!" Because we all know it wouldn't be fun to be a fake stylist!

I laughed at this one though. A dish-washing play set? Haha, it's not advertised as dishes that come with a drying rack, but it's a dish-washing play set. Hey kid, practice washing these fake dishes. You'll have to get used to it because once you can reach the sink, it's your job.

This wasn't something that intrigued me though. In fact, it kind of creeped me out that there were two  multi-colored unicorn heads just hanging in front of me.

Behind a bunch of boxes hidden away in the back, I found this Star Wars set for 50% off! Of course, Lego sets are expensive and Star Wars ones are even more expensive so half off still means it's $72 or so. I took this quick picture and sent it to Howard to see. I know that if it were a more important set, it would've been worth purchasing at 50% off like if it were the Death Star or the X-Wing! I think I got those names right ...

Other than that one baby gift item, I bought Sabra hummus with a coupon, haha. I definitely had fun searching for clearance though! I know there's retail therapy, but just browsing through clearance can be pretty rewarding too when you hit the gold mine!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Penguin Thank You Cards

At the end of the year, I know I'm always going to have a large custom order to make ... for myself! My students and their families are generous during Christmas so I get a handful of gift cards and presents. To thank them, I like to make thank you cards especially since I'm off for the break. I'm pretty sure I did it every year since I got my Cricut. This was the first year that I made them using my Silhouette.

Initially I was going to use a penguin from an online coloring sheet that had a winter hat and scarf on, but then I figured I'd use a non-Christmas and non-winter penguin just in case I made extra. That way I could keep it for future needs. The penguin was from Krafty Nook, which was a group on Facebook that unfortunately has shut down at this point. I liked how it was simple with only 4 colors.

I downloaded a font from called "Une Grenouille Le Soir." I had my Cameo cut out the white layer and the word "thanks." I layered a piece of patterned paper behind it to make it pop. I had to look through a lot of paper pads because it had to be the right pattern that would make it easy to see the word. This is the first card that I've made where I actually layered the white mat on a white base, and I actually really like how it looks. I think I'll do it again on a future card!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Teaching with a Blanket

Today was my first day back at work after the Christmas break. Although I was dreading it because I didn't get as much done as I would have liked, I actually had a decent day. Of course, I was feeling tired this morning, but I wasn't as exhausted as I thought I would be. When I did my devotions in the morning, I was uplifted and also kept repeating Psalm 118:17 in my my mind over and over again. I knew that I just wanted to view the day with a better attitude, and it really did help. I know God gives me each day for a purpose even when it's a bitterly cold day too! I was so arrive at my mom's house to hop in her car because she has the heated seats. My mom cranks that up for me before I even get in because she knows I need it!

I have to say that even though I can start the day off on the right foot, I do get really upset when all my posters have fallen down, haha. I do like my walls not to be busy because I know that if I were a kid, I wouldn't be able to pay attention to the teacher if there were a thousand colors on the wall. I used to sit there and memorize things on the posters when I was bored in class. The fact that everything falls down is the other reason why I don't put too much up either. But I guess I can't complain because the reason for it is the change in temperature in the room, and my room was WARM today. 

I put painter's tape on the wall and then affixed the posters using regular table since other things would pull the paint off the wall.

Thank the Lord for the warmth or the day would've gone by so slowly! I was wearing a tank top, a 3/4 sleeve sweater on top of that, and one of my favorite purchases of 2014. About two months ago, I bought 3 open-front cardigan type sweaters from Old Navy of varying thicknesses because I have turned into an old lady who needs to have an extra layer for school. I used to wear hoodies or fleece zip-ups, but they were definitely a bit messier than the rest of my work clothes, so I needed something a little bit more appropriate. This particular one that I was wearing today made me feel as if I were being wrapped in a blanket, and considering how much I wanted to be under my blanket at home, this was definitely comforting.

Well worth even the full price (even though I got mine on sale with a coupon code too, haha).

Hmm, part of me is even thinking about purchasing the black one in a large since they no longer have medium. I do, however, have a similar top in sweater material so maybe it's not necessary. There's just that part of me that's like ... NON-SNUGGIE WEARABLE BLANKET! I WANTS IT! MY PRECIOUS!

Throughout the day, my students were watching the snow fall down and getting excited probably because they were thinking about snow days. I had a few of them ask if school would close early because it has happened maybe on two occasions in the past when a storm hit harder than expected. I disappointed them in saying that it wouldn't happen because it wasn't even that much snow! The little courtyard can be seen from my classroom window, so as the bell rang for the kids to change classes, the kids would scoot over to the window to check to see if it was sticking. Oh kids, I'd like a snow day too! Just don't get your hopes up just yet!

The snow was light and powdery, so that meant it didn't require a lot of energy to clean off. I had actually parked up the block from my parents' house this morning, so my mom dropped me off so I didn't have to walk up with all my stuff. I had gotten the snow off the driver's side of the car before I stopped to take this picture. Suddenly, a man was standing next to me with a weapon! 

If we aren't getting a snow day, I don't know that I want to see you at all, snow!

I'm kidding. It was my dad with another brush to help me finish getting the snow off my car! What a sweet popsicles to walk up the block to give me a hand! On the way home, I kept thinking that it's so funny that my dad shows his love in his actions and will always continue to take care of me (especially because I'm his only daughter ... although now he also has a daughter-in-law and my parents take care of "in-laws" as if they were their own biological children), but he's a typical Chinese man in that he doesn't say, "I love you." But I've gotten used to it at this point even though it took me years and years to accept that that's the way it is in many Asian families.

Well, I guess I can say there were three things today that warmed me up then!
  • the seat warmers in my mom's car
  • my blanket-like cocoon top
  • my daddy's loving gesture of helping me clean my car

Hope you were able to stay warm today too!

Monday, January 5, 2015

And So It Begins ... Again

It's that time again. It's the night before the return to school after Christmas break. I'm aware that I definitely got a great deal this year considering my vacation was actually over 2 weeks since I don't work Mondays due to being part-time (although from a financial standpoint, it wasn't the greatest since I don't get paid unless I'm at work!). My colleagues had to go back today, and I'm relieved that I had another day to myself especially since I only did work on the last Friday I was at school. Yeah, all my plans to be productive for school purposes during this vacation flew out the window.

It seems to always happen on Christmas break. The first week is filled with activities and plans as we get together with family to celebrate Christmas, so by the time there's a little bit of a break, I need some relaxation days! Going out and about is rather tiring for me especially when my regular schedule is disrupted. My body is so used to my daily ritual that I start to feel sick when it's altered. Of course, I ended up spending a good portion of this vacation feeling under the weather with regard to my stomach. I wouldn't be surprised if it was the different foods that I was eating that wasn't the typical somewhat bland food we eat at home. Suddenly I was eating richer foods or greasier foods, and it took practically a week before I started feeling normal again and getting my appetite back. I'm sure it didn't help that I wasn't waking up at 6 in the morning to take my medicine and eating breakfast at 6:45 every day!

I guess the one good thing about returning to work is that it means being back on schedule, which my body will definitely appreciate. I'm sure part of my body will be very upset when I drag it out of bed when all it will want to do is stay in bed, but I will hopefully make it through.

No, wait. Hold on a second. This past Sunday, the focus of the message was on Psalm 118:17, which says, "I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the Lord." The main point that really stuck with me was the fact that often times we aren't really living so much as surviving. Tonight before dinner, Howard and I prayed that we would face this year with an attitude that we would LIVE through the year instead of just do things that will help us get by to survive. Each day I know I just want to make it through so I can get home and then finally reach the weekend. Then each week, I want to get it over with so I can get to our next day off or week vacation. In reality, that means I'm wasting each day when I could have a much better attitude as I face each minute that God lets me breathe each breath. 

I hope it wasn't just a before dinner prayer but one that will resonate for 2015. Oh, and speaking of dinner, we had pizza. Haha, I know that's a rather strange transition, but I personally enjoy blogs that include pictures so I figured that was a way to fit something in! Dunkin' Donuts has that free iced coffee promotion on Mondays thing again, and my parents were able to get an extra card for me to use since we don't get them in our mail where we are. Hubs went to get it for me when he got back from work and picked up pizza from a local place that I used to frequent during my high school days called Village Maria II. My friends and I would walk there when we were hanging out at one of their houses and then have a slice and then hop over to Carvel if it was a Wednesday to get buy one get one free sundaes! Just recently, I thought that maybe it would be nice to try it again as I wondered whether I just liked it in high school since it was fairly inexpensive. 

These pictures aren't from tonight. They're actually from December 14th, which was the night we went to the live nativity at church, which I'll hopefully write about in another update. I had Howard take a picture of me while sitting in the booth because it brought back memories!

That night we chose 5 slices to split even though we obviously didn't finish them all in one day! The spinach and mushroom one was really good although a little greasy. The eggplant one reminded me of my teenager days. The buffalo chicken slice had quite a kick to it, but I enjoyed it because of the blue cheese (hubs wasn't too big of a fan of that!). Our favorite was definitely the bruschetta square though. Although it's definitely really onion-y, it just seemed tasty because of the crunchiness and freshness. It's not the kind of thing you eat if you don't want bad breath because boy, that onion lasts!

Tonight I decided to go with the spinach slice and the bruschetta one again. Here's hoping that after brushing my teeth tonight and tomorrow morning and eating breakfast, I don't still breathe onion as I go back to teaching during those 7 periods! I'm sure my kids would also wish that I were still on vacation!