A Little Child Shall Lead Them

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:

The soul that rises with us, our life’s star,

Hath had elsewhere its setting,

And cometh from afar;

Not in entire forgetfulness,

And not in utter nakedness,

But trailing clouds of glory

Do we come from God

Who is our home.

JRC's arrival heralds a new era for Alex and me. After probably the most turbulent year of my life (miscarriage, deaths of my father and sister, hyperemesis gravidarum, DVT complications and time consuming service commitments and work projects) I feel like my soul has finally found some peace in the little guy I hold and care for every day for hours. Although many moments are far from "peaceful" with all the crying, diaper blowouts and sleep deprivation, I feel an overall calmness. I get to hold a small piece of heaven in my arms and he's teaching me more and more about myself each day.

Like most first time parents, I feel the weight and gravitas that is the responsibility of bringing up a little human being, teaching him right from wrong and how to be a good, kind person. What I didn't expect was how much I have to learn from him and how he has led me to the sense of peace I've been longing to have for some time now. He truly is heaven sent after all we've been through; here to heal our souls and bring peace to an otherwise chaotic existence. 

"...Becometh as a childsubmissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father."

Mosiah 3:19

Father & Son

Mother & Son

"Next time you cradle a newborn child in your arms, you can have an inner vision of the mysteries and purposes of life. You will better understand why the family is the basic organization in time and in eternity."

Boyd K. Packer

 

Coming Soon August 2014...

...Baby BOY Cheung! Yep, he's made it loud and clear, make no mistake about that. This guy is not very shy. He revealed all this last week at our 18 week ultrasound appointment and let us know that he's healthy and strong (insert sigh of relief here). Momma Cheung (that would be me) is still experiencing nausea and other fun things, but is now pleasantly distracted by baby boy names and thrilled that she doesn't have to deal with people buying Baby Cheung a bunch of pink stuff. Phew! Maybe next time, folks. Bring on the grays, blues and greens!

Enjoy the pics and videos below! (Password for Vimeo: nicolio)

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What keeps my heart beating these days

Well, I fell off the face of the social media planet a few months ago and am just now slowly emerging back into what I guess people call "normal everyday life", and I'm having a rough time. I have zero desire to check Facebook, scrolling through my Instagram feed just makes me nauseous (literally) and my email inbox is so incredibly overflowing with junk, I can't stand the sight of it. It just doesn't have any charm to it these days. I've made some big changes this week in terms of setting priorities for myself and none of it involves social media. Maybe that says something. It probably has to do with the fact that I'm very limited in what I'm actually capable of doing right now, thus life has turned suddenly simple and pleasant. 

NEWS FLASH: Did I mention I'm pregnant? That's supposed to be the main point of this post, so I should probably just come right out and say it before I get off tangent again. I'm pregnant! Wahoo! Yippee! Hooray! To be completely honest, I am excited. But it's been an excitement that has come on gradually, in small doses of sweet moments of triumph and relief. I haven't exactly found it easy or natural to feel that thrilling and overwhelming happiness usually found in most mothers-to-be out there. Those who struggle with infertility or long for a child may think I'm a horrible person, but it isn't that simple. This pregnancy has been far from a walk in the park and came with it's own set of fears and struggles.   

This week marks 15 weeks of conquered pregnancy, and yes, I mean it when I say conquered. Every day has been a hard-fought battle. When I was finally diagnosed with Hyperemesis Gravidarum (aka severe morning sickness that only 1-2% of pregnant women experience) it was a huge relief for me. For weeks, I had unknowingly been battling dehydration, experimenting with half a dozen different nausea meds and still trying to carry on like a normal person. I even forced myself to fly to Denver for my younger brother's wedding after Christmas (which I don't regret), but I threw up all along the way and came home with a cough on top of the morning sickness, which only made me throw up more and lose more weight. I look back at that and laugh. What was I thinking? In the end, I lost 15 pounds I didn't have to lose and ended up checking into the hospital for hydration therapy off and on for several weeks.

My little brother Mitchell and me at his wedding in Denver. I don't regret dragging myself there. Crazy? Yes. But totally worth it.

My little brother Mitchell and me at his wedding in Denver. I don't regret dragging myself there. Crazy? Yes. But totally worth it.

Thankfully, our precious Kate Middleton has brought this rare condition into more of a spotlight in recent years and let's just say, there is nothing royal about it. On many occasions, I remember telling Alex I just wanted to die. I was probably drugged and in a half-zombie state, but oh did I mean it. Every smell, every movement, every light and every particle of food was repulsive. I had every possible symptom of pregnancy X 10, including Pytalism (excessive salivation that forces me to spit every minute or so). Anything and everything was a trigger to something unpleasant - even Alex. I couldn't stand the smell of him (yes, my heightened senses made it so I could smell the very oil on his skin) and yet I needed him to take care of me. Poor guy...:(

I spent a few weeks at my parents home, lying down on the couch next to my dear Dadio (who is starting his 3rd year battling liver cancer). We'd each take turns throwing up and when we were done, we'd look at the other person and say, "Your turn." It was actually pretty funny and sweet most days. I told him I just wanted to keep him company. He made me realize that my condition, though it appeared equally grueling, was, unlike his, temporary and that he was my hero in more ways than I had already thought him to be. I'll never forget one Sunday while everyone was gone to church. I started vomiting uncontrollably and nobody was home to help. My feeble Dad raised his frail body from the couch, shuffled to my chair, helped me empty my bowl and got me a nice, cool rag for my head. The sick taking care of the sick. Priceless.

Trying not to die while waiting to take photographs during my brother's wedding. Luckily, my mom was watching out for me and I made it through the whole day without throwing up. Looks like God was watching out for me, too..:)

Trying not to die while waiting to take photographs during my brother's wedding. Luckily, my mom was watching out for me and I made it through the whole day without throwing up. Looks like God was watching out for me, too..:)

All that being said, it's easy to see why my excitement at being pregnant has been more of a process than a natural response that I share with glee and giddiness. There simply wasn't time or space in my sickly body to feel that excitement most days. Small moments provided relief, an ultrasound of a healthy little fetus made me cry, gifts and visits from friends were a godsend and prayers and blessings kept me afloat. To the point that I can now say I am truly excited to be a mother-to-be.

So back to life now being simple and pleasant. It's simple because I'm still pretty much confined to my apartment and pleasant because I am no longer throwing up everything I put in my stomach. That's right, baby! I am eating REAL FOOD again! I practically cried when I bit into an egg salad sandwich---it just tasted soooo good! (Only those who have eaten small bites of toast and yogurt for months on end know what I'm talking about, but whatever.) After being bedridden for several months, I have learned to celebrate the small things in life -- like not throwing up anymore. I'm still taking meds and still battling all sorts of unpleasant symptoms, but how grateful I am that I didn't give in and die like I wanted to while in the thick of it all. 

So, my priorities now consist of the following:

  1. Enduring incredibly cheesy prenatal yoga tutorials each morning (Do they have to use that ridiculously soothing voice and phrases like, "connect with your little bundle" ???).
  2. Going for a walk outside for as long as my weak and atrophied body can handle.
  3. Reading lots of books.
  4. Accomplishing one work project that hopefully doesn't require too much time on my laptop (screens and scrolling make me nauseous).
  5. Eating approximately 8 times a day, which btw, is really hard work!
  6. Sleeping 12 hours a day, which when you count the fact that my medication makes me half-sleepy and I wake up at least 6 times during the night, it's more like 6 hours a day.
  7. Writing in my journal about everyday small accomplishments like, "Today I reconciled our bank accounts for the business. Go me! I am actually useful as a human being!"
  8. Studying the scriptures (specifically The Book of Mormon) so I can at least pretend to keep up with the seminary class that I am no longer teaching...yes, Alex is doing it all now.
  9. Praying for a speedy and complete recovery from morning sickness (I know there are saintly women out there who battle this for all 9 months, and I don't want to be one of them).

That about sums up a day in the life of pregnant Nicole. Oh yea, except the most important part. The part that keeps my heart beating. Ok, well, food and sleep kind of do that too, but I guess I'm referring to what motivated me to endure the last three months and what continues to motivate me for the next six - Baby Cheung. That's right, although I haven't exactly enjoyed my pregnancy experience thus far, the fact that the little thing the size of a large navel orange growing in my belly is still alive and kicking is a beautiful blessing to me. My secret nickname for it is actually "Killer Bunny," because it likes to suck the life out of me while at the same time being incredibly endearing. How do babies do that? You know those small moments I was talking about that keep me going? Well, last week we heard Killer Bunny's heartbeat for the first time and let's just say, it definitely sounds like there's a warrior in there. What's it doing, running a marathon? I like this baby already! Supposedly 100-160 bpm is a normal fetal heart rate, but it still sounds crazy fast to me. Listen for yourself below! (Yes, Alex recorded it and I listen to it daily as motivation. I am that crazy pregnant lady.) Every time I hear it, I can't help but feel grateful.

The reason Killer Bunny's heartbeat keeps my own going these days is because this is something I never got to hear the last time I was pregnant. Yep, you read correctly, I wrote "the last time I was pregnant." Turns out this is actually Baby Cheung #2 in my book. Last summer, a few months before moving to Seattle, Alex and I found out we were pregnant with Baby Cheung #1, who only survived for about 8 weeks. The miscarriage and all that is a blog post for another day, but the loss of Baby Cheung #1 made the pregnancy of Baby Cheung #2 not only riddled with the fear of enduring the pain and sickness all over again for nothing, but the horror of yet another loss. Now that I'm safely into my 2nd trimester, the risk of miscarriage is dramatically decreased at this point, and I'm breathing a little easier.

That is why Killer's Bunny's heartbeat is music to my ears. It means there's still hope and a reason to keep on keepin' on. Yes, I would even endure the sickness all over again, if it meant that the baby would just make it through to the end. And yes, even if it means enduring overdramatic phrases from prenatal videos like, "Draw strength from the universal and historical power of birth." I have a startup business idea already; I call it, "Prenatal Yoga for Normal People." In the meantime, I didn't die, my heart is still beating, and so is Killer Bunny's. And that is reason enough to be excited!

Vietnamese Spring Rolls

These spring rolls were made a while ago, but I just can't help but post this because they were the best spring rolls I have ever had in my entire life. That's right. MY ENTIRE LIFE. They were made by hand and in the company of some of my favorite people, which makes a difference in how good the food tastes, I think..:) Enjoy the intense process below (yes, it was tedious) but it's a great date night or group activity where everyone can chip in and contribute. Ingredients are flexible, so experiment and have fun trying new flavors! Here is a list of everything we used:

  1. Egg roll wrappers (cut in half)
  2. Shrimp (w/ shells)
  3. Green onions (cut into 3-inch slices)
  4. Egg whites (for sealing egg roll wraps)
  5. Oil (for deep frying)
  6. Round rice paper (for wrapping)
  7. Ground pork (patties cut into slices)
  8. Cucumbers (slices)
  9. Granny Smith apple slices (slices)
  10. Romain lettuce
  11. Vermicelli rice noodles
  12. Cilantro
  13. Mint
  14. Basil
  15. Shrimp sauce
  16. Peanut sauce (from Out the Door)
  17. Vegetarian sauce (from Out the Door)
  18. Sriracha chili garlic sauce

How to Make Amazing Vietnamese Spring Rolls

We started by making yummy egg rolls to go inside the actual spring roll. (Yes, these are doubled up with deliciousness. The crunchy egg roll inside the fresh spring roll is an amazing combination.)

Cut the egg roll wrappers in half into triangles

Cut the egg roll wrappers in half into triangles

You need 1 shrimp for each egg roll (unless you're going vegetarian)

You need 1 shrimp for each egg roll (unless you're going vegetarian)

You'll need 2-3 green onion slices for each egg roll

You'll need 2-3 green onion slices for each egg roll

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After rolling about 100 of these egg rolls, we deep fried them in oil. Remember, you can leave the shrimp out and just do green onions to stay vegetarian if you need to. We had a few people allergic to seafood, so we did about 30 or so without shrimp. When I do these again, I will probably add carrot to the vegetarian egg rolls.

When they're all wrapped, deep fry all the rolls for a few minutes until golden and crispy. Don't forget to keep the vegetarian ones separated from the others!

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Meanwhile, the master chef (Sybil) was preparing everything else. She made an amazing shrimp sauce, cooked rice noodles, prepared loads of fresh vegetable ingredients and cooked the meat patties that were later cut into slices (see below).

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Don't forget to add a delicious drink to your meal!

Don't forget to add a delicious drink to your meal!

Add your favorite sauces for dipping!

Add your favorite sauces for dipping!

The green plastic trays above are great for separating the rice paper rounds and can be found at a local Asian grocery store. When everything is prepared, dip your rice paper in water until flexible, pile on the ingredients, wrap it all together, dip into your favorite sauce and experience true happiness. Ok, maybe not true happiness, but pretty darn close..:) Enjoy!

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All About Airbnb

It's a well known fact that I LOVE Airbnb. I can't stop telling people about it because it's pretty much the best idea since sliced cheese. If you haven't checked it out yet, go here and browse for just 10 minutes. You will find yourself creating a travel wish list that consists of staying in a tree house in Italy, a seashell in Mexico and maybe even a gypsy car in France. The possibilities seem endless and are all very affordable when you consider what you're getting in return. (Ok, maybe not the castles.)

I think it's safe to say I will never stay at a hotel ever again. Why would I do that when I can get a unique, local experience and an entire home to myself for cheaper?!  Also, if you need to make some extra cash, just take some pictures, list your place and you're on your way to making money when you leave out of town. It doesn't get any better than leaving on vacation knowing that you will come home cash positive.

Alex and I recently stayed in this architect cabin in Cazadero, CA for our anniversary. It was the PERFECT getaway from the city. The hospitality was fabulous, our host had everything immaculately prepared for us and we were free to help ourselves to the fridge and pantry full of all sorts of goodies and snacks. It was probably the best getaway we've had all year. We were thrilled to have no cell phone service and completely disconnect. Twenty-four hours was all we could spare from work, but we had the best 24 hours anyone has ever had! We cooked, ate, watercolored, read and explored. It was lovely. I even got to build a fire in the stove! (I promise I'm not a pyro, but this just made me so happy..:)  

The next time you are booking a hotel for your trip, save yourself a boring experience and take a peek at Airbnb. You won't regret it!

*Note: I was not paid to write this blog post. I wish!..:)

More Photos

Chinese Parties & Traditions

Chinese New Year Party

The Hancocks always hold a festive Chinese New Year dinner party at their home and I look forward to it every year. Everyone brings a tasty dish and the feast is superb. Afterwards, we play games and participate in Chinese traditions and activities. My favorite is the white elephant gift exchange, which is not really Chinese, but so much fun! This year we dabbled in Chinese calligraphy while learning to write Chinese new year greetings. As always, good times with good company.

Alex and I contributed Bear's Paw Tofu to the meal: Tofu, Chinese baby leeks, Shanghainese chili bean paste, canola oil, light soy sauce, garlic, and ginger

2013 is the year of the snake (baby dragon...:)

Grandma Gong - always smiling and always festively dressed.

Waiting in anticipation during our traditional white elephant gift exchange. Not necessarily Chinese, but so much fun!

Our delightful host, Marguerite.

My former roommate, Kelly.

The prized painting/stereo speaker that you couldn't turn off.

The mango coconut jelly got stolen several times in the course of the evening. 


All of us with our gifts. Quite the range if I do say so myself.

Red Egg & Ginger Party

When a new child is born into a Chinese family, they usually hold a party for them about 100 days after they're born. This comes from a tradition that goes way back. Basically, many children in China died before they reached 100 days old, so it wasn't until then that they named the baby and welcomed it to the family. By that time they knew the baby had a good chance of living. The ginger is for the mother, as it serves for healing and energy after giving birth.

Alex's birth father's family in Sacramento invited us to come to his cousin's red egg party, so we decided to make a weekend out of it. We had a fabulous time going to Tahoe, staying with Uncle Mel and Aunt Florence and visiting with family at the party. Alex and his siblings moved away from Sacramento when they were very young, so it was great to reconnect and learn more about their first dad, Allan. He died of cancer when Alex was only one year old, so this side of the family has always been sort of a mystery. There's nothing like a good party to bring people together and we really appreciated the hospitality and love we felt from the Nunn family during our visit.

Each guest can take home a red egg, which symbolizes a life change, as well as happiness and harmony.

Ginger

Jeremiah loved getting to play with family members his age. He was in heaven.

Mango pudding in the shape of a fish. Yum!

Uncle Melvin and Auntie Florence were our hosts in Sacramento and took such good care of us!

Escape to Tahoe

Alex's extended family invited us to Sacramento for a Red Egg party, so we decided to make a weekend out of it and take a little detour to Tahoe for some snowboarding. That's right, NOT skiing, snowboarding...:) Although I do have to say I'm more open minded about learning to ski these days, haha. Needless to say, it was a much needed retreat into the mountains. It was a beautifully sunny day with good snow and good company. All I can say is I sure hope there's snow in heaven!

My Design Resource List

Several people have been asking me about resources I've used to teach myself design and front-end web development. I have most of these resources listed in my Index under Design, but thought I'd do a post about it as well.

Below is a list of resources I recommend or have heard great things about. I've also included lists of fabulously helpful websites that I wish I had known about from the start. My husband, Alex, also wrote a post on this topic with a list of resources more programming centered that you can find here.

I love collaborating with aspiring entrepreneurs/designers, so let me know if you have any questions or resources to add to this list. Enjoy!

For Learning:

Inspiredology

1. www.codeacademy.com: Free! I used this when I first started learning HTML and CSS. Free and fabulous. Very user friendly and a good place to start, but once you've got the hang of it, move on and make something of your own! That's the best way to learn.

2. www.teamtreehouse.com: This costs money, but it's great as a step-by-step help. Very thorough and great if you're looking for a more course-like approach to learning over time. Not so great if you need to learn something specific very quickly.

3. www.udemy.com: This costs money, but delves into topics more in depth like an actual course. 

4. www.udacity.com: Free interactive college classes. I haven't personally used this, but I've heard great things!

For Getting Inspired:

Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh

1. www.startupsthisishowdesignworks.com: Great introduction to startups making design a priority.

2. www.dribbble.com: A place to browse and get ideas. It's invite only, but a fabulous community of designers if you can get one of the precious spots.

3. www.behance.net: Another place to browse that's open to anyone.

4. www.theheadsofstate.com: I just really love these guys! Their designs make me think differently.

5. www.jessicahische.is/awesome: Can't say much more, she's awesome.

6. www.imjustcreative.com: Another inspiration of mine. Best logos ever!

7. www.yaronschoen.com: So simple and yet so amazing. Helps me keep things clean.

For Help:

Stack Overflow

1. www.stackoverflow.com: This place is the bomb. It has the answers to all of your questions.

2. www.w3schools.com: I use this as a CSS reference a lot.

3. www.colorschemedesigner.com: Fabulous for when you're stuck and need some good color combos.

4. www.css-tricks.com: This is a button maker, but lots of other good tricks too!

For Following:

Code Academy

I Love Typography

1. www.fontsinuse.com: A site showing fonts being used on the web and other places. Great for context and ideas.

2. www.ilovetypography.com: FOLLOW THIS TOO!

3. www.dailydropcap.com: A letter project. So creative and good for ideas outside the box.

4. www.fontshop.com: Great fonts, but you have to pay for them.

For Downloading:

The Noun Project

1. www.subtlepatterns.com: Great backgrounds for blogs or websites. 

2. www.thenounproject.com: Fabulous icons and more.

3. www.creativemarket.com: If you want to be unique and pay for it, this is a great place to browse.