When I was in my teenage years, I had read the bible literally from cover to cover (Genesis to Revelation) over the course of a couple of years.  Although it was a good exercise and something that I can brag about (like what I'm doing right now 😉), I don't remember too much of it nor do I think I really benefitted that much.  It was probably because I had read it without much guidance nor did I really do much reflection of the text.

More than 10 years ago, I had enrolled in Regis College's (U of T) Master of Theological Studies and had taken a few courses on Scripture.  They were quite eye opening!  Unfortunately, I only finished about half the program and had to quit due to juggling of work and newborns which seemed to come quite regularly 😂.  After that point, I had rarely picked up the bible, which is always something that made me feel quite sad.

Fast forward to last year, the COVID pandemic has had quite a number of silver linings.  One of them was our discovery of Father Mike Schmitz on YouTube.  We alternated between masses said by Father Francis Ching (in Cantonese) and Father Mike when the churches were/are closed.  Both fathers have amazing homilies and I would recommend tuning in every Sunday.

Since the start of the year, Father Mike had started a Bible in a Year Podcast.  It's a daily podcast with Father Mike reading a few chapters from the bible and then reflecting on it.  Each day's show is about 20 minutes long and so it's not much effort at all to follow along.  The podcast is advertised as reading the entire bible but it's not quite that.  I don't think reading Deuteronomy on a podcast would be a great idea, except if the podcast was designed for insomniacs!  It will read through the most common books like Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Samuel, Kings, Isaiah, Psalms, Luke, Acts, and Revelation.  You can take a look at the reading plan.  Father Mike is super charismatic and passionate and he has (re-)lit a fire in my heart!

So, this is my New Year resolution: to complete this Bible in a Year program and bring Scripture back into my life. If you're Catholic, Christian, or just curious, I'd encourage you to do the same.

 

1-day Old at the Hospital

When we found out that our 6th child will be a girl, one thing that we knew was going to be difficult was naming her.  When we named Athan (Athanasius is his actual name, which is that of one of the great Doctors of the Church, and means "eternal life"), we weren't purposely planning on naming all our kids with "A" names.  Once we started the trend, it was difficult to stop and so after Adele, Athan, Audrey, Anne, and Amelia, it was starting to be hard to find a name that suits both our liking.  My rule had always been traditional, Christian but yet not too common.  We had a shortlist of names: Andrea, Alicia, Arya, Agatha, amongst others.  Up till the day of Andrea's birth, we had pretty much settled on Alicia.  As you have guessed, that was not to be!  More on that later...

Ill Prepared
If you've known Renee and I for a while, you'll know that we're pretty chillaxed people.  We tend to go with the flow and are easygoing in general.  Sometimes that's good in keeping harmony but we also tend to underestimate the urgency of things...you know, things like giving birth!

About 2 years ago, we had a flood in our basement (a story worthy of another post on its own) due to a burst water line.  Insurance would cover the damage but I procrastinated and procrastinated until this past summer dealing with it.  It wasn't until the claim deadline of 2 years from the date of the flood was approaching that I finally submitted all required documents and had the claim approved.  Our contractor also did not have any opening until late in the year, and in the end, he could not come to complete the repair/reno until after Andrea would be born.

So, we ended cleaning out 7 years' worth of junk out of the basement a month or so ago, with lots of help from my father.  We must have donated about 20 garbage bags full of stuff to Value Village and threw out another 10 bags. We also moved a bunch of stuff from the basement to the main floor and our hallway on the second floor, and also our bedroom.  In short, our house was a mess and was not in the best shape to receive our newborn baby.

We had a false alarm on November 26, when Renee felt some pain in her tummy, thinking that they were contractions.  It turned out that she was just experiencing some pain after having stood up for a prolonged amount of time that day.  Then, early in the morning of the November 30, Renee's mucus plug came out.  She told the kids that the baby might come that day.  I kind of brushed it off, saying to myself that for one of the pregnancies, she gave birth a full week after the mucus plug had come out.

November 30 was a Monday and I recall that I was in the middle of a team meeting at around 11 am when I was rudely interrupted.  Renee came barging into the bedroom and pushed me aside.  I gave her a look and she just said, "I'm going to take a shower."  Usually, when I'm in the middle of a meeting, she would not tell me such inconsequential things and so I paused and said, "Ok.......", waiting for her to give me a reason.  She then said, "I'm having contractions."

"What?" I thought to myself, suddenly snapping out of it.  I soon ended my team meeting and realized the gravity of situation.  Given that Renee was tested GBS positive, she needed to be administered antibiotics 4 hours before giving birth.  For Amelia's birth, we took our sweet time and Renee ended up having to slow down her labour to keep Amelia in for the required 4 hours.  I began sweating because I was 100% not prepared.  I immediately began packing up stuff for the hospital stay including my personal stuff since we were going to be there at least for a couple of days, and also everything that we would need including the car seat, stroller, etc.  By 1:45 pm, we were heading out the door even though Renee's contractions weren't that strong yet nor were they 5 minutes apart, which was the typical frequency at which one would leave for the hospital.

Wide Awake!


Feast of St. Andrew
A few days prior to that day, Adele was protesting that she didn't like the name Alicia.  She just didn't like the sound of the name, but both Renee and I liked the name.  Interestingly enough, Alicia came from the German name, Adelaide, which is related to Adele.  Lol!  Maybe Adele wanted to be the only Adele in the family!

Adele liked the name Andrea, but pronounced on-DREY-a, instead of the more commonly pronounced AN-dree-a.  I preferred the latter because it would be such an annoying thing when people would read your name and be constantly pronouncing it wrong.  Renee told Adele that if the baby was born on November 30, the feast day of St. Andrew, we would name her Andrea instead of Alicia.  I laughed, because this was the exact thing that I was hoping to happen with Adele before she was born.  Adele was born on May 10, but if she had been born on May 13, which was the feast day of Our Lady of Fatima, she would have been called Fatima.  Since this didn't happen to Adele, I didn't think it would happen with this birth....I guess I was wrong!

So, Andrea was named Andrea because she was born on November 30, the feast day of St. Andrew.  It is pronounced AN-dree-a as well! 😁 

Her birthday is also quite easy to remember.  It's exactly 2 weeks after Renee's and 1 month before mine!


At the Hospital
We arrived at Trillium Health Centre (Mississauga Hospital) at around 2:15 pm. With the current COVID situation, I would only be allowed into the hospital after Renee was admitted to the birthing suite.  So, I dropped her off at the hospital and she proceeded to the birthing unit to be assessed.  Luckily, Renee's OB, Dr. Kim Rogers was also on duty that day and she would be the one to deliver the baby.  Upon assessment, Renee was about 2 to 3 cm dilated (out of 10 cm), which would normally have been early, but since she needed to be on antibiotics for 4 hours, Dr. Rogers commented that it was a good time to be arrive.

I drove to the nearby McDonald's to grab a coffee as I waited.  Meanwhile, back at the hospital, Renee was getting admitted. She first got tested for COVID, followed by some bloodwork. There was a young nurse in training at that time and that nurse attempted to take some blood samples.  Also at the same time were two student doctors who were asking Renee questions about her pregnancy.  As the nurse stabbed Renee in the arm with a needle, she burst Renee's vein and blood quickly splattered down her arm.  As this was happening, the student doctors continued to ask Renee questions as if nothing out of the ordinary was happening.  The young nurse froze and her accompanying nurse quickly covered Renee's vein with a piece of gauge and stopped the bleeding.  Sadly, I wasn't there to witness this hilarious moment, but Renee said she had a drop of sweat run down her face. LOL!

After some time, Renee messaged me and asked me to come to the birthing unit.  I got to the hospital at around 4 pm and was promptly screened at the entrance.  The hospital staff informed me that my cloth mask was not acceptable inside the hospital and handed me a surgical mask.  They also phoned the birthing unit and asked if I was permitted to go in.  I'm glad they're doing this level of screening to prevent any outbreaks at the hospital.

Big(ger) Baby
When I got into the birthing room, I found Renee with two nurses: Jas and Mei Ling.  She was fairly comfortable and was having a nice chat with the two of them.  The contractions were still not quite 5 minutes apart and not very strong either.  We would normally have been still at home at this stage, but we didn't want to have the same experience as with Amelia's birth where Renee had to really slow herself down to keep Amelia in!  Renee was administered the anti-biotics at 3:15 pm and so, we would want to wait until at least 7:15 pm to give birth.

From, 3:15 pm until around 6:45 pm, the progress was slow and we were ok with it.  At 6:55 pm, Renee was still only about 3 cm dilated.  Dr. Rogers decided to break Renee's water to speed things up.  With our past experience, breaking the water definitely increased the pace of things.  By 8:00 pm, Renee's contractions started to become more painful.  By 8:45 pm, Dr. Rogers was in the room getting ready to deliver the baby.

At one point, the contractions were so painful that Renee squirmed around and almost kicked our nurse!  Bless Dr. Rogers, she calmed Renee down with a pep talk and from that point on, we made really good progress.  With Amelia, Renee pushed a couple of times and Amelia was born, but with Andrea, she was determined to stay inside mommy's warm tummy!  I think it took about 6 or 7 contractions and lots of hard pushing until Andrea was born at 9:10 pm.

When Andrea came out, she looked almost exactly the same as Anne when she was born!  She was 50 cm long, with a head circumference of 33 cm, and weighed in at 6 lb and 11 oz.  She was the heaviest of all of our kids, which probably explained why it took quite a bit of effort to get her out!  Andrea was also the only one who was born within the band of birth weight where we did not have to stay for 36 hours to have bloodwork done.

Almost a Vacation
We had a fairly good first night at the hospital.  Since bloodwork was not required, the nurses came by much less frequently than for our other babies.  We did get some rest at night, although there were a couple of hours where Andrea needed to be held.  So, I held her and walked around the room until she eventually fell asleep in my arms.  Since she wouldn't stay asleep when I put her down, I had to hold her while I sat (and fell asleep) in a chair.

We slept quite a bit the next day as well and only really woke up to feed Andrea or ourselves.  When the lunch delivery lady came by to collect Renee's finished lunch, Renee told her that it was delicious.  Her eyes widened and she was speechless for about a few seconds.  Then, she said to us, "Nobody likes the food here!"  We laughed, but to be honest, the food was very comforting (yes, I had some too LOL)!

We even bought a dessert crepe at the crepe place downstairs in the hospital.  It actually did feel like a vacation.  Since no visitors were allowed, we were there by ourselves with 1 child, as opposed to the normal 5 kids!  Meanwhile, my parents were the ones slaving away at home, keeping the kids focused on online learning and bathing and feeding them!  Thanks to Susanna and Hilton for their constant help!

Clearly Strong!
Andrea's full name is Andrea Claire Hiu Ying Wong 黃曉瀅. Andrea (or Andrew) means "manly" LOL...but also means strong.  Both the names Claire and 瀅 mean "clear", with 瀅 specifically describing the clarity of water.  I'm somehow drawn to French names if you haven't noticed (Renee, Adele, Audrey, Anne) and have always liked the name Claire.  瀅 was Renee's idea but I did secretly like that name as well (at least the sound of the character), but never really suggested it as Chinese is not my strong suit.  On the day Andrea was born, it was raining quite a bit, and it seemed like God gives us his blessing on the name we've chosen, like He had done with Adele and Amelia.

And so, I ask the Lord to bless Andrea with strength and clarity in her days ahead!
When I was between 10 and 14 years old, newspaper/flyer delivery was a major source of income for me.  First, I had a flyer route that paid $20/month for delivering 70 sets of flyers each week to my neighbors.  The job included assembling flyers from multiple stores into one package and then delivering them throughout my neighborhood.  Not every house got a set of flyers; those who subscribed to the Toronto Star would not be on my route, because they would get the flyers included in the newspaper.  So, I would bring a list of addresses with me during the delivery, making sure the right houses got the flyers.  Sounds pretty easy, but imagine doing this in -15°C weather in the middle of a blizzard.  Eventually, I memorized my entire route and could do this without looking at the list (I got to know the houses, instead of memorizing the addresses).  Then, when my best friend Michael moved to Pickering, I inherited his prized evening Toronto Star paper route.  The money was way better from a revenue to work ratio.  I only had about 10 houses to deliver to but the money was similar.

My brother, Eric, also had a paper route.  He delivered the Sunday Toronto Sun. He had around 60 houses on his route.  He was (and is) really smart; he somehow tricked me into thinking that it was a great idea for me to help him with collecting money from the subscribers.  Yes, this was a thing.  In addition to delivering the newspapers, we were also responsible for knocking on the doors of our customers and collecting the money that they owed the Star/Sun.  Every month, we would remit the majority of that money to our managers and retain our earnings.  If we didn't collect all the money, tough luck, we still needed to remit the money.  So, it was in our best interest to collect.

Back to the story, I had forgotten what Eric had paid me, but it was a small portion of his income, while the work was arguably harder.  If it wasn't harder, it was definitely more time consuming.  Folks weren't home all the time and so you might need to go back to the same house twice, thrice, five, eight times to collect the $5 that they owed.  In addition to that, I actually had to interact with people, some of whom were nice and always tipped, but others were miserable and was not afraid to let you know that it was not welcome to knock on their door during dinner time.  Who ate at 5:00 pm anyway?!?

There was one family on Hood Crescent in Scarborough that I would dread going to.  It was the house of a white family with 2 kids, a girl and a boy around my age.  The father would sometimes answer the door and was polite, if not pleasant, but the mother was always upset about something.  If she wasn't complaining about me coming at dinner time, it was something else.  It was always unpleasant with her.  One day when I was 12 years old, I rang their doorbell as usual and she opened the door.  Immediately, a frown appeared on her face.  As you know, I almost always carry a smile on my face and so, I told her, with a smile, that I was collecting paper money and she owed $5.  She mumbled something about dinner time and went back inside to get the money.  When she came back with the money, she said, and I will never forget, "I would rather give this money to a nice white boy."

I was shocked.  I didn't know what to say.  I just took the money and walked back to my bike.  I didn't know what to feel, except anger.  It upset me tremendously.  I rode my bike home, to be met by Eric and my mom.  I was shaking as I told them what the white lady had said.  Then, uncontrollably, I broke down in tears.

After that, I don't quite remember what happened.  My mom probably consoled me and life went on.  But to this day, I still remember that woman's face and more vividly, her words.  It definitely wasn't the first time I was a victim to racism; some stupid kids at school would call me a chink or would tell me to go back to Hong Kong.  This time was different; it came to me, a 12-year-old boy, from a grown up.  I had a very hard time reconciling that in my head. We were taught racism was wrong and not acceptable, especially in Canada, where people of various backgrounds live harmoniously.  Yet, this lady, who had kids herself, would inflict such pain on a 12-year-old boy.  How deep her hatred for people of colour must have run!

Almost 30 years later, as I reflect on this, I am saddened that racism is still such a real thing in the world.  All I ask is that we continue to pray for those who still bear hatred towards those of another race, and to continue to make decisions in our lives, from voting to educating our kids, that denounce racism.  Just like slavery, it will become a thing of the past only to be learned through history books.  I wish to see the day when 12-year-old newspaper boys only need to worry about whether it was dinnertime when knocking on their customer's door.

...wait, are newspapers still a thing? 😅

Yes, we have anecdotal evidence that the COVID-19 lockdown has started a baby boom!  Renee and I are pleased to introduce Baby No. 6!  Amelia is now two and a half years old so we're definitely overdue! LOL! This time, we're really going to fill the Odyssey and there will not be any spots for the grandparents! 😭 

The kids are very thrilled with the news and couldn't wait to tell their friends.  The oldest two are praying for a little brother and the younger three are hoping for a baby girl.  We do think it'd be nice for Athan to finally have a brother, and we are running out of "A" girl names as well! 😜

Baby's due date will be early December and I'm really hoping the pandemic will be over by then.  I really wish I will be allowed to accompany Renee during and after the delivery in the hospital.  All of our kids were on the light side and had to stay in the hospital for a couple of nights.  So, it'd be good to be able to be there with Renee and baby.  Please keep us in your prayers!
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