Squad in Sydney

Harbour

From previous posts you may recall the Wan-Yau’s of Burlingame, California and now of Singapore, Singapore. We have gone on six squad holidays together now. The latest one, to Australia to ring in the new year, was the first to include Luna. We would have squeezed in a lot more in 2017 had Sarah Wan not faced unexpected family tragedy. But because of said tragedy we decided it was key to start the new year fresh, in the summertime because warmth > subzero temperatures.

After a freezing and quiet Christmas in Seoul we took the 10-hour flight down under, where the sun was out and everyone was sweaty, which was exactly what I was going for. The only notable stumble during the nine days down there happened at the beginning, when I was confronted with the reality that my family is too large for a standard SUV and I had to drop an additional thousand dollars at Hertz to upgrade to a giant seven-seater. (But before this happened I engaged in an irritated, aggressive-aggressive complaining to Matty about his inability to adequately squeeze all our stuff plus car seats into the regular-sized SUV. This happened out in the parking lot as he wore the baby in the front, sweat soaked through his dark blue polo shirt in the back and he was feeding hash browns to the older girls by stuffing them into their mouths. “YOU’RE WELCOME TO TRY IT IF YOU WANT,” he yell-whispered, of the luggage. How did we wind up with so many children!?!)

The rest of the vaca was a mix of beach time, pool time, green spaces and amusements for the children, afternoon cocktails, book reading, kid feeding and dominated by consumption of Tim Tams (original, dark chocolate and mint are my faves) and Australian avocados, which are a mystifying six dollars each. Joe also grilled out a lot for all of us in our lovely backyard high atop a hill where you could see Balmoral Beach, which is on the harbour. (Please note the harbour with a u — don’t want to make the mistake of leaving it out, y’know). One morning we gave Luna a leftover Australian beef rib and she chomped on it like a CHAMP even though she only has two teeth.

A final note, just because I can’t let this go: Why and how did passengers who used the lavatory on the Airbus 380 we flew home on decide that the toilet seat cover dispenser was the trash can?! When I went to this loo, I stood there staring at all the dirty paper towels stuffed into the cover dispenser for an inordinately long time as Isa giggled at herself in the mirror.

Oh, also, our Airbnb hosts had a bunny, “Hops,” and we got to feed him all week. He was adorable, except when he got out of his hutch and the dads had to set up an elaborate fort/trap to catch him so he could return to his little home.

Jess, Jonah, Eva. Isabel follows the beat of her own drummer so she’s always off doing something different.

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Halloween Sushi

Still not as good as the Silence of the Lambs year.

This year, because I’ve previously dressed up Eva as my favorite food (hot dog), our family theme was my favorite cuisine. The girls were tuna nigiri, a California roll, a smaller soy sauce. Spouse wore a shirt that said, “No sushi, no life” and a headband that says, “Fighting,” because I thought it was funny, okay?

This is my 14th Halloween with Matty. We had just started dating before Halloween 2004 and for a costume party, we did an Ari and Uzi Tenenbaum get up in those classic red Adidas tracksuits. Took second place in the contest, as we were beat out by whoever dressed up as “Swing States” that year. (Back when there actually WERE swing states. THAT’s how long we’ve been together!)

One of the funniest running jokes of those early years was Friend Sudeep always too cheap to get a costume and he’d wrap himself in toilet paper to dress up as a mummy.

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I stepped out of my home office to check on my four-year-old and Stiles playing in the living room. He was playing the role of a stuffed owl, and she was playing the role of Spongebob, I think. I’m not sure what the imaginary situation was but it involved several books displayed on the couch. Maybe some sort of museum? When they were talking in their characters, it sounded like they were in a different realm. I had to ask: “Are y’all in the spirit world?”

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Our 4 year-old brought home a library book called I Love My Dad and, anticipating my reaction, promptly says to me, “I’m sorry, I can only bring home one book a week.”

(Next week if I Love My Mom doesn’t come home on library day I’m just going to play it cool, I tell myself.)

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We have a male cat named Cheese, one of two remaining cats in the family. Typically at the vet you register your pets with their given names and their humans’ last names. For example, our beagle was Saidee Hu. But instead of registering Cheese as “Cheese Hu-Stiles,” my husband Matty insisted registering him as “The Cheese.” This resulted in Cheese’s official file listing the cat as “CHEESE, THE.” That’s the only way you’ll find his records folder.

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Coming Fall 2012: Baby Hu-Stiles, A Wasian

The saying is "bun in the oven," but SkyMall offers this great hot dog bun TOASTER!

Yep. I’m slowly wrapping my brain around this situation.

The Chinese think it is highly auspicious to have a “dragon baby” — a child born in the Year of the Dragon. (Women in China are rushing to get fertility treatments because a dragon baby is apparently too lucky to be left to chance. Crazy, right?) The Wall Street Journal reports:

Being aligned with cosmic forces is important in Chinese culture. The year of the dragon is supposed to be particularly fortunate for babies, marriages and businesses. Those born as dragons are “the strongest, smartest and the luckiest—supposedly,” says Yibing Huang, a professor of Chinese literature and culture at Connecticut College.

[…]

Chinese often schedule important life events to take advantage of the luckiest times. A recent lunar year that spanned two springs spurred a spike in weddings. And even though births are trickier to plan, in 2000, the most recent year of the dragon, 202,000 more babies were born in Taiwan than a year earlier, according to the Taipei Times citing government statistics.

I was personally way less interested in a dragon baby due to my own zodiac sign: the dog. It is the sign that’s least compatible with the dragon, and I already have one dragon to contend with — my husband. Now, barring unforeseen events, I’ll have two dragons to go up against. Grrrrreat.

Observation: My going vodka-free has created cascading problems. But the fetus has been awesome to me. Wouldn’t have been able to enjoy Costa Rica, assorted work travel and/or all the SXSW magic — Jay Z, Radiohead, etc — while sick. Fetus is always game to party. “Of course it is,” Fiscus said. “It is YOUR baby. Even if it looks like Matty.”

Fave Reactions:

ME: My eggo is preggo.
REEVE: Holy shit.

ME: I’m pregnant.
JAVAUN: [Incredulous] HOW DID THAT HAPPEN!?!?

ME: I’m knocked up dude.
JAY: Dude, you are going to be so huge.

ME: Yeah, so I’m pregnant.
MCKENNEY: That baby is going to come out with a vodka tonic in one hand and a hot dog in the other.

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Is There an ER for Mango Trees?

Healthy mango tree, circa summer 2010.

Three years ago, when my parents were still living in St. Louis and not The Hague, my dad ate a grocery store mango and planted the seed in the ground to see what would happen. Being the excellent stewards of life he is, of course my Dad’s seed sprouted a tiny tree.

In 2009, after my dad retired and moved across the Atlantic with Mom, he forced this tree upon Matty and me. We drove it in the backseat of Matty’s car, from St. Louis to Austin. Dad kept telling us to plant it in the backyard, but I’d grown so attached to Mango Tree and his story that I didn’t want to plant him for fear we’d have to leave Austin someday.

Matty has cared for and talked to Mango Tree nearly every day for the past two years, as it’s sprouted more branches and inched taller and taller. If the temperature ever dropped below unbearably hot, Matty brought him inside. Then, when we made the difficult decision to move to Washington, Mango Tree rode in a backseat again, all the way from the 512 to the 202.

Dad came to visit last month. He was stunned and amused to see mango tree had grown to be a good three feet tall, especially since he actually remembers it as a seed.

Sick mango tree, tonight.

The mango tree that could — a sapling that came to symbolize a fruitful life for Matty and me and whose health gave us some confidence that we could successfully care for a living thing — is now quite ill.

His leaves have turned yellow and spotty, his branches are turning a powdery white. We think it’s a fungal disease. Dad said we needed to get him to a nursery to diagnose the issue. Matty, who’s out of town tonight, wants me to find some sort of spray to fight the illness yesterday. If you have suggestions for what else we oughta do, let me know.

I know it’s sort of ridiculous to feel so frantic about a plant. But as it is with pets, Mango Tree’s part of our family now. If there were an overpriced emergency nursery as there are emergency animal clinics, I’d be rushing the little guy there right now.

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