It’s nice to have some rights

This morning I went to the clinic with my wife for our yearly medical check up. We brought baby Vicky along. 

Over the course of 3 hours, we met with a number of healthcare professionals. All of them cooed over baby Vicky and no one seemed surprised or uncomfortable with the fact that two women had a baby together. 

Among them was a medical assistant, who had administered my allergy tests last week. Previously, she had given me a rather odd look when I mentioned my wife. So I was caught by surprise when she casually talked about her wife during our conversation today.

The other person who came out was our primary care provider. We had picked her because in her bio, she had shown interest in promoting good health for the LGBT community. So we knew she was at least gay friendly. So while it wasn’t a surprise when she mentioned that she has talked about having children with her wife, I felt honoured that she choose to come out to me.

Today’s experience makes me appreciate being here in the US. It feels great to be able to comfortably go into any medical setting together with my wife and not be questioned about our relationship. To have a baby with us and not be asked “Who is the real mother?”. I do not take such encounters for granted because I am always reminded of the struggles we face back in Singapore.

The contrast was especially highlighted when I was getting a copy of Vicky’s birth certificate. The effort it took for us to get Zoey’s birth certificate was pretty monumental, so I am glad we managed it this time with minimal fuss. Initially when I got the first copy of Vicky’s birth certificate, it had Mother and Father stated on it. When I pointed it out, the lady at the counter immediately took it back and amended it to Parent. This is what it feels like to be accepted and have rights. ūüĆą

When will we have this in Singapore?

Bye 2016!

As 2016 comes to a close, I had the opportunity today to reflect on the good and bad of 2016. Here are my thoughts during the final hour of 2016.

On the personal front, it’s been a challenging yet fulfilling year.

I think the worst part of 2016 was the few months I spent as a single parent while Irene was in Seattle because it showed me my inadequacies as a parent. I remember the first couple of weeks were particularly painful for me as I found myself struggling to manage Zoey’s meltdowns due to the void that Irene had left behind. It was compounded by the fact that we had started Zoey at a new school and I was still working full-time. On the bright side, it taught me more patience and helped me forge a stronger bond with Zoey. So for that I am thankful.

The best thing of 2016 was definitely getting pregnant with BB8. Even though it has been a tougher pregnancy than when I was pregnant with Zoey, the fact that we managed to get pregnant on the first try was a blessing. It saved me loads of stress and of course lots of money as well. So that was good.

On the family front, I think we have been fortunate that things have gone well despite the time we had to spend apart from each other. They say distance makes the heart grow fonder and I think in this case, it is true. Zoey missed Irene a lot while they were apart and their bond now is even stronger than before. It puts a smile on my face everyday to see how they interact, play and enjoy with each other. I find my relationship with Irene has also improved over this past year as we navigated new challenges and built a new life in a new place together.

While the world has had a pretty bad year (just the number of talents we lost this year was devastating), I think overall the Chiongs had a good year.

As a reminder for myself and quick reflection, here is a quick run down of the significant events in 2016:

January – Spent my birthday in Bangkok, the first overseas vacation Irene and I went on together without Zoey.

February – Rushed to Jakarta when we thought we were losing my grandma. Fortunate that she pulled through and we still have her with us now. A timely reminder to treasure our loved ones as time marches on while we are distracted in our lives.

March – Met Margaret Cho and caught her show. ¬†Zoey turned 3. Irene left for Seattle and this started our family’s biggest challenge to date.

April – Zoey was the flower girl for the first time at Daryl and Nicole’s wedding. Submitted PR application for Zoey. Launched my second book Baby Zoey – Our Search for Life and Family.

May – Grandma turned 86 and we were able to celebrate it with her. Zoey and I flew to Seattle to spend a month with Irene. Did IUI during this trip and was rewarded with a positive pregnancy test.

June – Left Seattle knowing that we will need to move sooner rather than later as it showed us how much Irene’s move had affected Zoey. Had my secondary school 20th year reunion.

July – Indulged in some me time as I watched a couple of local productions including Boo Jun Feng’s Apprentice and Wild Rice’s Hotel, both of which are excellent.

August – Lots of quality time with Zoey as I wind down at work and start preparing for the big move. Managed to get a US visa for our helper Siti.

September – Mega change as I pack up my home for the past 18 years into a 20 ft container and move to Seattle. Saying goodbye is hard, but I know it is worth it.

October – Battled jetlag, a car accident, doctor challenges, credit card fraud, house hunting, tenant replacement and head lice, all within the first month of arrival.

November – Moved and settled into our new home. Hosted our first Thanksgiving dinner with our friends who came to be with us. Discover I have gestational diabetes, but manage to keep it under control with proper diet.

December – We enrol Zoey into a bilingual preschool. We get snow in Seattle and Zoey gets to build her first snowman.

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Overall it’s been a good year and I’m looking forward to what 2017 will bring.

It’s our 2nd wedding anniversary

So as cliche as this may sound, I woke up this morning thinking – WOW! I cannot believe we’ve been married for 2 years. How time flies and how things have changed.

2 years ago, on this day, I woke up at 7 am to get ready for our wedding at San Francisco City Hall. I remember letting Irene and Zoey sleep in while I got ready. It was a simple ceremony filled with some raw emotions, a little bit of tears and a lot of love. I’m ever grateful to my family of friends for being there.

Now 2 years later, I wake up living in Seattle, a full time stay home mom, working part time on my various projects and with another baby on the way. Somehow it feels as if so much has happened in the past 2 years that its almost like 5 years instead of 2.

Life is unpredictable and if you told me on our wedding day that we would be living in Seattle 2 years later and I would be pregnant with our second child, I would have laughed. Back then, it seemed impossible. Life was so different and I was pretty sure our future was in Singapore for at least another 3 to 5 years. While we had discussed the possibilities of moving overseas, the reality was it did not seem achievable at the time.

What I did not count on was the determination of my wife to make a better life for us. She worked hard over the past 2 years to get where she is now. Knowing that software engineers are better valued overseas, she researched how to ace interviews with the top tech companies. Not content with that, she started taking various online courses to upgrade her technical skills. She applied for positions at different companies and went for a number of interviews just to gain experience on how to handle coding interviews. She eventually starting receiving job offers, but she patiently waited until the right one came along.

Amidst all this, she still found time to take care of Zoey during the numerous nights when I worked late. She was supportive of the path I was carving for myself, even though it meant me having to attend multiple networking events every week. She understood when I took time to write 2 books and often gave me her thoughts on my blog posts before I posted them. She supported me through it all knowing that we both had goals to achieve and being together sometimes means sacrifices on both our parts.

And I think this is what marriage is about. Two people, working together, to build a life that is worth living. Sometimes you need to make hard choices. We had to separate the family for 6 months. Irene decided to focus on her career instead of carrying our second baby because it makes better financial sense for us. While she admits she wasn’t keen on being pregnant anyway, I’m also grateful that she is willing to take on the burden of being the breadwinner for a couple of years while I focus on the family. I’m appreciative that she recognises being a mother is also a job. Zoey is definitely a happier child since we have moved to Seattle and the family is back together. She gets more time with both parents and has grown a lot in the past couple of months. Fully potty trained, able to articulate her feelings and blossoming into a happy, healthy, creative and confident child.

So having a balcony is quite cool #toddlerfun #toddlerweekends #SeattleAdventures

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People get married for a variety of reasons. When we first got the piece of paper, it didn’t mean very much as it was a technicality that issn’t even recognised in many parts of the world. Yet this piece of paper has changed our lives in a number of ways. While I do not think it deepened the connection between us, it did¬†enable us to explore the possibilities with the doors it opened. It is the key that allows our family to be together in the US. It will be the key for Irene to have equal rights over our second child. So while our relationship anniversary is generally a bigger deal than our wedding anniversary, we did go out and celebrate our wedding anniversary tonight.

 

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Our 2nd wedding anniversary dinner tonight – awesome Japanese dinner at Sushi Kashiba

Before the day ends, I want to give a shout out to my amazing, loving, determined and hardworking wife. Thank you for everything that you do for me and our family. It’s been a fantastic 2 years of marriage and I look forward to the many more years to come. <3

5 Things I Realised After 5 Days in Hong Kong

I just got home from a truly awesome 5 day trip in Hong Kong with my bestest girl pals. This trip was also the longest time I have been away from Zoey since she was born. While there was some anxiety on my part about leaving Zoey behind, I needed a good break, given the amount of work I have been doing this year.

This trip was a different experience because it’s the first time since Irene and I started dating that I have gone on a leisure trip without her. Yes, I know it seems terrible because I make it sound like we are joined at the hip, but its not that. When you don’t have a big budget and take only 1 or 2 vacations a year, you tend to want to do it with your partner.¬†Add a baby in the mix and you almost never travel without the family.

However, I had agreed to do this trip even before Zoey was born. My girl pals wanted to do this trip 6 months after Zoey was born, as a kind of “post maternity” reward, but it had to be delayed as I was still breastfeeding Zoey. It was in February this year when Irene K (yes, I happen to have a number of Irenes who are important in my life) chanced upon tickets to Hong Kong on Singapore Airlines at only $272 all-in return. The¬†offer was too good to refuse, so we bought tickets immediately. This became what I was looking forward to for the whole year as I worked on my various projects.

Thankfully, the trip was fantastic and in the 5 days I was away, this is what I realised.

It is possible to travel light

Ever since we had Zoey, every time I need to travel, I find myself dragging so much stuff along. We need to pack multiple sets of clothes, diapers, toiletries etc. For this trip, I packed the smallest suitcase we had and it was only half full. In fact, I checked it in and it was barely 10 kgs. The most important difference was I got on the plane carrying ONLY my handbag! That has not happened to me in a long time. For the past few years, I have always either had a laptop bag or a diaper bag. So it was really a relief to be travelling so light.

 

Hong Kong is so expensive now

My memories of Hong Kong have always been that it’s a great place to go eat and shop because its really budget friendly. However, a combination of the poor exchange rate and apparent inflation in Hong Kong made this trip more expensive than I expected. Even taking the MTR seemed more expensive than usual, our HKD$100 Octopus cards only JUST lasted us 5 days.

I missed Zoey more than she missed me

I had worried before the trip that Zoey would have meltdowns from not seeing me while I was on the trip. She was really not that affected. In fact, when I tried to Skype her on one night, she got bored and ran away. I think we sometimes forget how adaptable children can be and I’m glad that she was happy to stay home with her mommy. Although she’s been extra sticky since I got home.

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Girly trips can be fun

I’ve been friends with Emily and Irene for over 20 years, Liz for just over 10 years. In this time, we’ve all taken trips with each other, but this is the first time we’ve done it just us 4. It was a really great way for us to bond and create great memories together. Looking back at our friendship, I think we’ve never really had a chance to really focus on each other. So even though I spent 3 hours in Chanel, the love and laughter that came out of this trip was awesome.

Farewells don’t have to be¬†all sadness

This trip was a little bitter sweet for me as Irene K will be moving with her son, Isaac, to New York next week. They will be joining her husband who has been in USA since last year. She is someone who has featured prominently in my life for the past 10 years. Our families are so close that I consider her mother my Godma. I am the proxy parent to her son when both she and her husband are away. We have walked with each other through thick and thin, tears and laughter, our weddings and the birth of our children.¬†Her son is Zoey’s favourite “kor kor”. This trip was a great reminder of our friendship and the need to take time out to be with my friends.

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I look forward to making this trip a yearly occurrence and we are already talking about Japan for 2016!