I'm a frugal guy.  Kijiji and eBay are my best friends when it come to spending money.  So, when I say I see a good cell phone plan, it's a good cell phone plan!  Let me give you some background.  Since around 2012, I've been with, first, Mobilicity, and then Wind Mobile.  I really couldn't justify spending $60+/month on a cell phone plan x 2.  With both of these carriers, you essentially have unlimited calling and data, but with 2 big caveats: poor signal quality and coverage.

I've lived with them because there really was no alternative when it comes to the Big 3 (Rogers, Bell, and Telus, and their subsidiaries like Fido, Koodo, etc.).  Let me cover the 2 caveats.  First, signal quality was extremely poor with Mobilicity, and pretty poor with Wind.  You will have dropped calls and slow/no data connection fairly frequently.  Outdoors, you'll probably be ok, but once you go into a building, you've got a 50/50 chance of getting little to no signal at all.  Second, coverage sucked big time!  Once you're out of (sub)urban areas, you'll go into roaming.  Side note: Wind has a fairly good local roaming plan and a great US roaming (no sarcasm there).  For the US roaming add-on, you pay $15/month and you'll get 1 GB data and essentially unlimited text/calling.  I digress.  Anyway, if you travel outside of urban areas a lot, Mobilicity and Wind are likely not for you.

Then, one day, I found Public Mobile (PM).  PM is a not a household name by any means, but they provide a pretty competitive service.  They were bought by Telus in 2013 and eventually began operating on the Telus network.  So, the 2 caveats of Mobilicity and Wind are non-issues.  Signal quality and coverage are both up to par with Bell and Rogers.  What's great is their prices.  Currently, I have one of my lines on its 90-day pre-paid plans.  I get unlimited province wide calling/global text, voicemail, and 6GB data to use in this 90-day period (2 GB/month) for $38 a month ($40 - $2 discount for signing up for auto-credit card payment).  They are able to keep their costs low because they don't have a real call centre.  Support is provided by fellow users and a few moderators on their forums.  So, if you participate in the forums and are helpful, you can get up to $6 off per month.  So, the plan is really going to cost me about $35/month.

It's a pretty good plan, but I've been used to using way more than 2 GB/month.  So, I've put off putting myself on the plan, until one day, they started a promotion of doubling the data at no extra cost.  So, I can get essentially 4 GB data/month at $35/month, on the Telus network with no contract (well...90-day contract)!  I don't think that can be beat.  The only minor caveat is if you're out of province, you need to buy a fairly reasonably priced add-on for data and minutes.  I don't travel a lot and when I do, I'm traveling for work, so I would use my work phone...so not a big impact for me.

This promo ends November 20th.  If you don't believe me, at least believe Red Flag Deals.  The thread there has more than 450 likes.  See the details there.

One more thing, if you're signing up and would like to thank me for this information, use me as a referral so I get $1/month discount...muahahahaha!  Ask me for my number (it's not my cell #).

Falling a sleep at the wheel... Both my nightmare and dream come true. In the past 5 years, I had gotten into 2 minor accidents when I dozed off at the wheel. Both accidents happened during rush hour in stop-and-go traffic on my way home from work. So, yeah, stay away from me on the roads!

As some of you know, I have a long commute: 100 km round-trip each day on the best highways (not!) in Canada, the DVP and the 401! I'm on the road at least 2 hours a day. And before my current job, I drove 130 km round-trip to work in Cambridge. I estimate myself to have driven half a million kilometers since 2004 or about 1.3 times the distance from the Earth to the moon!! A bit of bragging, sorry, but this will set the context for the rest of this post.

Don't get me wrong, I love driving. I've driven from Ontario to Victoria on one trip and to New Orleans and back on another, but getting stuck in traffic is really not my idea of fun. To make the time more productive, I started listening to audio books. Between 2014 and now, I've listened to more than 70 audio books while commuting to work. It's not a bad way to spend this time.

Can't Wait
In about 2 years time, that's all about to change.  Ever since Google had started doing R&D in self-driving cars, I've been eagerly looking forward to the day when I can get into my car and be chauffeured to my destination.  Looks like Elon Musk will make that a reality, sooner rather than later!  Last week, he announced that all cars that rolls off a Tesla assembly line will now have the hardware required for Level 5 autonomy (essentially, driver requires zero input).  He then went on to post a demo video on the Tesla website.  I've saved you time and posted it below.  You have to watch it!  It's amazing!  The software won't quite be ready yet, but I don't think it would take very long.

Skepticism vs. Optimisim
Many people are skeptical of the technology and I do share their concerns.  However, it's all about how the AI is trained.  There's certainly some computer programmers write code for the system, but the self-driving software uses neural networks to learn how to interpret the incoming data and make decisions.  I can say I'm probably in the top 10 percentile in terms of drivers with the most mileage, but I only really have about 500,000 km of experience, most of which is in Toronto traffic.  However, what Tesla plans to do is collect data from its entire fleet and use it to train its AI.  Assuming Tesla sells half a million cars between now and the end of 2018, it would have that many cars on the road providing it data.  If each car is driven 10000 km in a year, Tesla would have 5 billion km of data after just one year!  That would include data from all parts of the world in all kinds of climate.  Even if 1% of that data is in snowy weather, it would have 50 million km worth of data with which to train its AI.  I think that would trump my 500,000 km experience any day.

Will there be fatalities and accidents with Autopilot?  Sure.  Will there be a lot less?  Absolutely!  How can I be so sure?  I recently read (listened to, actually, during my commute) the book The Rational Optimist by Matt Ridley...a great book by the way.  He talks about how throughout the ages, humans have had many challenges and we have learned to overcome these challenges through ingenuity and creativity.  I have no doubt that the problem of self-driving will be solved within the next 10 years.

I recall about 15-20 years ago, when the Internet was still a new thing, many warnings came with the technology: don't give your email address to somebody you don't know, don't give your credit card number to anyone online, don't post pictures of yourself online and God forbid, especially not your children's...well, the rest is history...It is understandable to be cautious of the unknown, but I'd like to be more optimistic and look forward to the day when I can sleep soundly in the comfort of the driver's seat of my car, while cruising (or crawling) down the 401!

God's Greatest Blessing to Me

Lately, I've been listening to Laura Story's song Blessings like crazy...you know how when you loop one song over and over again?  It's such a great song!  Why is it great?  Keeping reading!

Laura Story has a very good voice, and the song just has a great melody.  Just listen to it!  More importantly, it's the message of the song that really makes it so great.  It tries to answer the age old question of why bad things happen to good people.  "If God loved us, why does he allow sickness, evil, and death to be part of our lives?"

I think what this song is saying is that when we ask this question, we've missed the point.  It is precisely because God loves us that he allows sickness, evil, and death to be part of our lives!  The song asks, "What if Your blessings come through raindrops?  What if Your healing comes through tears?  What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You're near?"  The best line in the song, however, is the following, "What if my greatest disappointments or the aching of this life is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can't satisfy?"

And of course, isn't that what we Christians are taught, that we would not go through life without pain, tribulations, and even persecution?  And perhaps the next time we're in great suffering, instead of questioning God why, why not give thanks to Him for letting us suffer, just like how our Lord suffered for us on the cross?  Because humanity's greatest blessing also came from His suffering and death!


We pray for blessings, we pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering
And all the while, You hear each spoken need
Yet love is way too much to give us lesser things

'Cause what if your blessings come through rain drops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You're near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

We pray for wisdom, Your voice to hear
We cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt your goodness, we doubt your love
As if every promise from Your word is not enough
And all the while, You hear each desperate plea
And long that we'd have faith to believe

'Cause what if your blessings come through rain drops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You're near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

When friends betray us
When darkness seems to win
We know that pain reminds this heart
That this is not,
This is not our home
It's not our home

'Cause what if your blessings come through rain drops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You're near

What if my greatest disappointments or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can't satisfy
What if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are your mercies in disguise

Recently, I've stumbled onto 2 websites that publish really cheap flights and wanted to share: Secret Flying and YYZ Deals.  I think anyone thinking of traveling should bookmark these sites, especially if you're not sure where you want to go, but just want to go somewhere.  There are some great deals to be had.

I was just showing my parents that they could fly to Hong Kong, with a stop in Beijing for $591 (CAD all-in)!  Although the flight has a layover in Chicago, I certainly wouldn't mind.

How about flying one-way to New York for $37?  You can't even buy one tank of gas for that money?  Well, actually I can on my prius and probably be able to get there as well in that tank, but that's another story.

Anyway, have fun with these 2 sites!

Edit: Thanks to Agnes, try Next Departure too!

Interview of Elon Musk at Code Conference 2016

When I wrote my post about my New Year Resolution, I mentioned that I had just listened to the audiobook of Elon Musk's biography.  Before reading the biography, I was vaguely familiar with this CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, but didn't really know very much outside of that.  But having read the book, Musk has become my inspiration.  What he's doing for humanity is certainly no footnote...in fact, I would argue he has made a bigger impact in transitioning humanity from burning fossil fuels to using sustainable energy than any other one person.  However, that is not really why he inspires me so much.

How he truly inspires me is how he approaches life.  In the interview above (if you have the time, watch the whole thing!), about 13 minutes into it, he says, "Life can't be just about solving problems; there have to be things that are inspiring and exciting that make you glad to be alive."  I believe I'm the first person on the web to point out this quote specifically and hopefully, it'll be more widely circulated, because I think it's great.  Although I would have to say life is actually even more than just having inspiring and exciting things, I don't think it's too shabby from a secular perspective.  It's really about finding passion in the things that you do.

Ask yourself this, "In my work, am I just solving problems?  Or does my job inspire and excite me, and makes me glad to be alive?"  If the answer is "just solving problems", then maybe it's time to re-evaluate your career choices.  Throughout my not so long/short life, I've flip-flopped between the two ends of the spectrum.  On one end, work and career is really just a means to making a living; life is much more than that.  On the other end, work and career is a big part of my life and I should be doing what I'm passionate about.  I think I'm closer to the latter right now in my life.  It is true that without my faith, family, friends, etc., it wouldn't matter much what I'm doing, but at the same time, if I were stuck in a job I hated, that would be a fairly bad way to spend a quarter of my life.

Perhaps as I age and as my kids are starting to understand things of the world, I want them to be able to learn from me the value of hard work, to not be satisfied with status quo, and to know that they can do great things.  I'm still finding my way there and I pray that God grants me this wish.  I end with a quote from Pope Benedict XVI, "The world offers you comfort. But you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness."
Since the 1960s and arguably earlier, there has been a slow, but relentless deconstruction of traditional marriage in the West.  First, divorce went from a topic to be shunned to common place in our society.  Then, premarital sex became not only accepted, but pretty much encouraged, especially in pop culture.  Now, we're seeing the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex unions across the board amongst developed nations.  As most of you know, I am what you can call a traditional Catholic.  I agree with pretty much all Catholic doctrine/teachings.  However, I do not blindly subscribe to them.  Today, I will try to explain in layman's terms why the Church teaches what it teaches on the topic of sex and marriage (note that these are tightly linked together, as opposed to the contemporary understanding).  I understand this can be a touchy topic, but I feel that the media paints the Church as an archaic institution, which is set in its conservative views and is unyielding.  Yes, it is unyielding, but it is unyielding because of what it believes in.  And I will attempt to explain that here.

The Model of Catholic Marriage

Before we delve into the marriage itself, we have to see how the Church understands God and our relationship with Him.  First and foremost, Catholics believe that God is Love (1 John 4:8).  This is an abstract yet important concept. If there is any human concept that comes most closely to the concept of God, this is it.

To begin, let's talk about the Holy Trinity.  For those of you who don't know what the Trinity really means, it's essentially saying that there's only one God, but three different persons in that one God (yes, very trippy).  We know that the Christian God is a Trinity, but how many of us know why?  At least I didn't until well into my late 20s.  God is a Trinity precisely because He is love.  Without going too philosophical, I'll try to explain this.  Our understanding of God is that He is all-loving, omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent, has no beginning or end, and also that he is not "contingent" (or put simply, not dependent) on anything else.

If He is not contingent on humans or any creature, then how can He be love?  There is no one else to love and loving oneself can't really be love, right?  That is why God revealed to us that He is a Trinity.  God can only truly be love if He can love someone.  That someone is God the Son.  In fact, out of love between God the Father and God the Son proceeds God the Holy Spirit, such that the Holy Trinity is a family of love.  Further to that, God's love is so overflowing that He created the universe and intelligent beings (us) to be loved by Him.  We were created to be loved...Wow!

Now, back to marriage.  By now, I think you might be anticipating the next point, that the Church believes that marriage is modeled on God's love, or maybe more precisely, on God Himself, the Holy Trinity (CCC 2331 - http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p3s2c2a6.htm) By understanding this simple belief, we can answer all questions sex and marriage related.

Marriage as an Indissoluble Institution

Catholicism is one of the few Christian denominations that do not allow divorce.  It is not so much that the Church does not "allow" divorce as much as that it claims to have no authority to dissolve a marriage.  Looking at God as our model for marriage, this is a simple one to explain.  God's love is everlasting (Jeremiah 3:13). In fact, His nature IS love.  If human marriage is to be modeled on God, how can it not be indissoluble?  Moreover, it boggles my mind when I think about marriage vows.  Isn't a vow supposed to be a promise that is not to be broken?  I don't quite get a "vow" that only applies as long as both parties feel like it.  It'd be kind of funny (and sad) to say "till death or whenever we feel appropriate do us part".  The Sacrament of Holy Matrimony creates an indissoluble bond between the man and the woman that only ends at death.  Therefore, the Church has remained humble not to claim a power which it does not have.

Why Not Condoms?

The Catholic Church teaches against the use of artificial contraception.  The only forms of contraception that are acceptable are abstinence based methods, the most popular of which is Natural Family Planning.  In short, if you don't want to get pregnant, don't do it (at least not at the right/wrong time)!

This has been a difficult one for Catholics.  Depending on what sources you use, it is safe to say that a majority or large minority of Catholics use some form of artificial contraception.  I believe Catholics generally don't know of this teaching or believe it's generally a small enough sin that they can overlook it.

Regardless, let's see why the use of artificial contraception is incompatible with the model of love that God sets for us.  As we see in the Trinity and also in the very existence of ourselves, God's love is life-giving and overflowing.  It is so overflowing that God created us.  God has no need for creating the universe, much less for our existence. So why did He create us?  Let's look at it in another way.  Why does an artist paint? Why does a singer sing? Why does a writer write?  It is because there's something inside of each of them that wants to share their gift with others, to make the lives of others a little better.  That is the same reason for God's creative love.  He wants us to be loved!  The love for the Trinity is not enough for Him; He wants to share it with other beings as well.

And so, that is the same understanding of marital love.  A man and woman loves each other so much that this love is boundless.  They want this love to be extended beyond themselves to others.  The love is meant to be overflowing; it's meant to be life giving.  For us parents, that is easy to understand.  We look at our kids each day and know that there is a greater good that offsets the sleepless nights, the pee, the poop, the vomit, the heartaches, and not forgetting to mention, the money that goes into parenting.  Why on earth would we sign ourselves up to such lopsided relationships?  It is because we love and our love overflows to the point that we're willing to sacrifice our comfort and freedom, just so someone other than ourselves can experience our love for each other.  If we can understand marriage and parenthood, we can catch a glimpse of God's love for us.

So there, if you ever wonder why there are so many crazy Catholics (like us) who have such large families, this is the reason.  It is not because we need to multiply to rule the earth, though that would certainly be good ;) , it is because we try to love like God does.

Same Sex Marriage

Often times, the Church is seen as an archaic institution not willing to adapt to the times.  Why does the Catholic Church not embrace homosexuality?  Why can't 2 women or 2 men love each other just like a man and a woman do?  Why is it considered sinful to love?  They are not hurting anyone; so why is it bad?

Here, I will try to explain the Catholic view of hetero and homosexuality.  I understand this can be a deeply personal and touchy subject, but my goal is to show that the Church's view is not based on stubborn arrogance, but rather, is a logical conclusion that are drawn from basic assumptions of the Catholic faith.

Here again, we look to that God's love for an explanation.  The Catholic Church sees itself as the bride of Christ (CCC 789 - http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p123a9p2.htm).  It's never described as the groom even though half of the Church consists of men, and way more than half were the ones who developed Catholic doctrine over the centuries.  Why is that?

In the bible, Jesus is described as the bridegroom in several places (John 3:29, Mark 2:19, etc.).  Meanwhile, the Church is the bride.  What does that really mean?  Let's go back to the basics.  What role does the male play in a relationship?  For the most part, the man is the one who takes the initiative.  Although I would like to describe myself as a charming individual, it would be a huge stretch of the truth if I were to tell you that before I got married, Renee and my ex-girlfriends were the ones who threw themselves at me...I was primarily the one doing the courting.  Certainly, you don't need to be an anthropologist to know that in most cultures, men are the ones who have to pursue women and not vice versa.

God's love, also, takes on a male role.  He is the one who takes the initiative.  Out of nothing, he created the universe and us in it; He is the one who pursues us with His love.  He is the one who gives of Himself.  Humanity, on the other hand, is the receiver of this love.  Even in the very sexual act itself, the male is the one who gives (sorry for the graphic description).

Therefore, as the Church understands marriage as the reflection of God's love for us, it is then impossible for it to see homosexuality as compatible with this vision of marriage.  There is one person  in the relationship (the man) who, from his role right down to his very physical nature, reflects God's role.  Then, there is the woman, whose role and also right down to her very physical nature, reflects the role of the Church or humanity.  Due to this unifying understanding of God, His love for His people and its relationship with marital love, it is not difficult to see why the Catholic Church has not embraced homosexuality.  (And by the way, this is also partly why the Catholic Church only allows men to be ordained as priests).


Part of the reason I wanted to write this post was because of the numerous conversations I've had with my secular friends on love and marriage.  In most instances, I either don't fully remember all of the points I'd to make or I just don't have the time to make them.   Perhaps I can just forward this link to my friends in the future.

I'd like to think that post has helped some of you in understanding the Church, or at least how its doctrines on marriage were developed, a bit better.  The Church is really not that archaic in its thinking; it's just unwavering in its doctrine that is drawn logically from the basic assumptions of our faith (that God is love). It's been a long post and I congratulate and thank you for reading this far!  I will end with something Bishop Fulton Sheen once said, "There are not one hundred people in the United States who hate the Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they wrongly perceive the Catholic Church to be."

As promised, here is the video of the kids shaving my head!  It was fun, except for the moments when I see myself in the mirror!  Thank you all for getting us to our goal of raising $2000 for the school!

As promised, for reaching our fundraising goal of $1500, I have gladly shaved my legs!!  Enjoy!  Thanks once again for all of your donations.  It means the world to us!

We're only $240 from our goal of $1500!  We're truly humbled by your kindness!  Your generosity is proof of many things: i) how fortunate we are to have friends and family who time and time again have lent a helping hand, ii) the world is not such a bad place after all when there are so many great people like yourselves!  Please accept our sincere thanks!

For those of you who don't know what this is all about, we're raising funds for Adele and Athan's school.  Read more here.  If we raise $1500, I will be shaving my legs, and $2000, my head!  If you're able, even a dollar would help!  Any donation $20 or above will get you a tax receipt.  Donate here: https://www.canadahelps.org/en/charities/lumen-veritatis-academy/Help-me-to-raise-money-for-Lumen-Veritatis-Walkathon-2016-Wong/

Thank you once again!  We love you!

Wow!  Thanks to all those who have contributed!  It's not even a week and we're at more than 40% of our goal.  My leg hair is trembling now!!  We are so grateful for all of your generosity!  Truly, "it is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35).  May God bless you and your family!

For those of you who missed my previous post, we're raising funds for Adele and Athan's school, and if we reach $1500, I'm shaving my legs!  Help make that happen!!

Donate here: https://www.canadahelps.org/en/charities/lumen-veritatis-academy/Help-me-to-raise-money-for-Lumen-Veritatis-Walkathon-2016-Wong/
The Best Friend of a Parent with Toddlers!

For those of who had toddlers, you likely know what the above contraption is.  If you are not a parent, then you can move on and skip this post (unless you really like learn about pee and poop).

What's That Smell?
As I walked into my bathroom this afternoon, I caught a whiff of very concentrated pee.  What the?!?  I swear I was aiming this morning!  Not to my surprise, I found 2 used diapers in our waste basket.  (How many times do I have to tell Renee to put used diapers in the Diaper Genie?!  Apparently, not enough...but this post isn't about her, it's about money.  And I guess I can thank her for attempting to save me money by using the waste basket instead of the precious plastic in the Diaper Genie refill, at the expense of making our bathroom smell like a McDonald's bathroom.  I digress.).

So, after transferring those 2 diapers into the Diaper Genie, I realized that we were on our last refill at the moment and I was thinking of picking some up soon.  Checking the Walmart website, I found that a pack of 3 refills was $22.93 + tax.  We use maybe one a month.  So, that translates to $103.64/year.  Then, I wondered why I hadn't already tried finding a cheaper solution.  We're on our 4th kid, but it's never too late!  So, I googled and within minutes, I was on my way to saving about $100/year, thanks to this website.

Essentially, you can replace the refill with and elastic band and some off-the-shelf recycling bags that can be bought for $5.  A box of 40 bags would last you for the most part of the year.  Without further ado, check out the video below.  Now, if you're thinking of how to thank me, I'd like to point you to my previous post, where you can get a tax receipt and a chance to see me shave my legs/head!  Wow, sounds like an awesome deal!

(Bad Photoshop Job...but at least my face looks OK on Brad Pitt's Head!)

All Joy and No Fun
Many people ask me, "Is it hard to take care of four kids?" I usually half jokingly answer them, saying, "it gets easier once you realize you no longer have your own life."  For those of you considering parenthood, I'm sorry... What they say is true...sleepless nights, dirty diapers, dinnertime nightmares, etc. Renee and I average about once every quarter when it comes to going on dates, most of which is to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries.  There's very little spontaneity as we need to plan ahead of time for most outings.  Luckily, my mom stays over on weeknights.  So, after the kids go to bed, we may sneak out to see a movie or grab a drink, but that only happens if neither of us have already collapsed into a coma after dinner.

But then again, for those considering parenthood, I'm also glad to tell you that yes, it's true too that having kids is perhaps the most meaningful and important thing you can do in your life.  A couple of years ago, I read a book by Jennifer Senior, called All Fun and No Joy (I recommend that all parents and parents-to-be pick up a copy).  Senior tells us that we can be pretty sure we're going to lose much happiness in our lives after we've had kids, but along with it also comes joy and a sense of meaning in life.  I think that's not a bad tradeoff.  One can really only enjoy so much fine dining, traveling, and other niceties that come with a childfree life.  Of course, this is coming from a guy who's got 4 kids... Maybe it's a bit of self consolation! ;)

Guiding Light Academy
As some of you know, we're sending Adele and Athan (and probably Audrey and Anne in the future) to Guiding Light Academy, a Catholic private school in Mississauga.  The name of the school was formerly Lumen Veritatis Academy.  It's somewhat a long story, but in short, the school was originally run by the Heralds of the Gospel (brothers in that religious order), but they are now partnering with Guiding Light Academy for a number of good reasons.  Lumen Veritatis is still very much alive, where the brothers are teaching religion and also helping establish a deeply Catholic culture at the school.

When Adele was three years old, we were deciding where to send her for daycare purposes.  We could have chosen a daycare centre, a Montessori, or even a home daycare, but it made the most sense for us to send her to Lumen Veritatis.  The tuition was very affordable and it was the environment we wanted her to be in.  I recall the first time we visited the school, Brother Gustavo, the principal at the time, brought us to the various classrooms.  When we went in, the class would stop whatever we were doing, turned to us, and said, "Salve Maria!" (literally "Hail Mary", but used as a form of greeting).  The students were so respectful and well behaved.  It brought back my childhood memories of schooling in Hong Kong, where respect was demonstrated by all at the school.  Renee and I were sold right there and then.

Picture of Guiding Light Academy students at Saviour of the World Church After Their Christmas A Performance

On the first day of school for Adele, she cried her head off (and did so for the rest of the week).  It sounded like she was pretty freaked out that day, but from what we learned that evening, many of the older students were trying to make her feel at home.  We received a few pictures and the one below was one of them.  I don't remember who the student was, but her act was the embodiment of the culture at the school, that of love for your neighbor, regardless of who they may be.  We knew we made the right decision putting her at the school and have never looked back.

Adele's First Day of School

Deep Roots
Putting Adele and Athan in a private school is one of the "No Fun" parts of "All Joy and No Fun".  I could quickly come up with many ways of spending the equivalent of the cost a compact car every year in tuition.  That compact car will grow into a midsize car pretty quickly when Audrey and eventually Anne enter school age.  However, this is one of the sacrifices that we've decided to make for the kids.  Some might think we've put them in the school for better academics, and sure, it is making a visible difference on many fronts (Adele just finished Little House on the Prairie in one sitting last weekend - I don't think I can even read that fast), but our main reason is that we want them to have a solid foundation in our faith.  In today's world, where the government is passing legislation that undermines traditional values every year, we believe that it is of utmost importance that they start developing deep roots from the beginning.

Help!  I Need a Reason to Shave My Legs!
Lumen Veritatis is helping out families by fundraising through various events.  On May 14, we'll be participating in a walk-a-thon along the Oakville lakeshore.  Our whole family will be participating in this 5 km walk.  We'll only bring 1 stroller, so there will be a lot of walking for the kids!  They're very psyched about this, because it's their first walk-a-thon.  This is where Renee and I humbly ask for your help.  Please help us reach our goal of $1500 by making whatever contribution you are able to make.  You will receive a tax receipt for any donation $20 or more, and you can be assured that all of the proceeds will go to helping us directly.

Donate here: https://www.canadahelps.org/en/charities/lumen-veritatis-academy/Help-me-to-raise-money-for-Lumen-Veritatis-Walkathon-2016-Wong/

To raise the stakes, here's what we're going to do.  If we reach the goals below, we, as a family, will:
$1500 - Felix will shave his legs and post a video on Youtube
$2000 - Felix will shave his head and look something like the picture at the top.  He will also make a video of it and post it on Youtube.  Renee did ask that I do it after her sister Rachel's wedding? (Why?  I think I'd look pretty good with no hair in a suit, don't know?)
$2500 - Athan has agreed to shave his head
$3000 - Adele has agreed to cut off at least 8" of her hair and donate it to the Cancer Society
$4000 - Renee has agreed to cut off at least 8" of her hair and donate it to the Cancer Society

If you're not able to contribute, we understand!  Do consider "liking" my post on Facebook so more of our friends see this post on their activity feed!

We gratefully thank you in advance for your generosity!  God bless!

It's January 9, 7:10 pm and all is quiet in Room 370 at Trillium Health Centre, with the exception of the clacking of keys as I type this post.  Thinking back six and a half years ago, I was doing precisely the same thing, writing the chronicle of Adele's birth.  When Athan and Audrey are old enough to read and understand, they will be wondering why their father didn't write one about their birth.  Athan and Audrey, I apologize...I have no excuse!  But this doesn't give me a reason not to write one about Anne's birth.

Do You See It?
If you've had a child, you would know that you typically get 2 chances to see your little one before his/her birth.  The first ultrasound session occurs at around week 9 and the second at week 19.  The week 19 session is typically the one where the ultrasound technician would be able to tell if the baby is male or female.  Unfortunately for us, Anne was being shy that day and hid her important parts from view.  So, we didn't end up finding out what gender she was.

Then, a few weeks ago, when Renee went in for her weekly checkup, the doctor thought her tummy was on the small side.  It could have meant either of two things: the baby's head is down in the pelvis and hence, causes a the tummy to be smaller, or, there is some complication with the placenta that the baby is not getting enough nutrition, which could mean that Renee would need to be induced for an early birth.  So, the doctor referred us to a 3rd ultrasound.

When Renee went in, she told the technician that she didn't want to find out the gender but that I did.  So, when I was called in, the technician said she would show me.  I told Renee that she should find out at the same time, but the technician insisted that Renee didn't change her mind because of me.  So, she turned the screen towards me and asked, "Do you see it?"  Yes, I can see a screen with black and white patterns, but not much beyond that.  I did see 2 round shapes that looked like what I thought were testicles with a longish thing close to it (sorry for being graphic here).  So, I concluded that it could be a boy and I said to the technician, "Yes, I see a shape," hoping that she would confirm whether it was a boy or a girl.  However, all she said in reply was, "Ok, that's good."  So, we were about 70% leaning towards a boy.  And now, as we all know, I wasn't made to be an ultrasound technician...

Waiting and More Waiting...
Renee's due date was January 3.  All three of our kids were either on time or early.  So, I thought this time would be no different.  As the days approached, I started shifting more office hours to be at home in anticipation of Renee going into labour at any time.  As the due date came and gone, there was still nothing.  In fact, during the visit last Monday to the OB's office, Dr. Rogers said that there was still a bit of room between the cervix and the baby's head.  Renee was then scheduled for induction the following Monday, January 11.

Finally, on the morning of January 8, when I woke up at around 6, Renee told me that she had had contractions since 3 am that morning. This sounded pretty much like the previous births and I figured that this was the day.  Already at 6:00, the contractions were coming every 5 minutes and lasted for just less than a minute.  As every father knows, that's the signal to start heading to the hospital.  So, we both took a quick shower and got ready to leave.

That same morning, Adele woke up with a 39.5 deg C fever.  So, we didn't end up leaving until after 8:30 am.  Seeing that the contractions had not progressed, I figured it wasn't going to be a fast and furious delivery after all.  With Audrey's delivery, it took about 6 hours to get from 2 cm dilation to 6 cm dilation, and then maybe 2 minutes from 6 cm dilation to birth, after the water was broken.  So, we knew that the key to birth was breaking of the water.

We got to the hospital at around 9:15 am and Renee didn't get assessed until around 10:00 am.  The nurse, Natalie, found that Renee was 2 cm dilated, which was the same dilation that Dr. Rogers found four days ago!  We were told to get something to eat, walk around and would get checked in another 2 hours.  After much walking around, Renee got reassessed at noon and the result was the same.  The nurse spoke with Dr. Schuefler, the OB on call, and the doctor told us to go home due to the lack of progress.  It was kind of ironic, because for the first three kids, we were never asked to go home.  We knew that getting to a greater dilation would take long, but the actual birth would be really quick once the water was broken.  Renee asked if we could stay and since it wasn't a busy day, we were allowed to retain the room we were assigned.

Surprises All the Way
We did so much walking that day that we reached our goal on our Nike Fuelband activity tracker pretty quickly.  The contractions got closer together and also stronger.  Renee started sweating from the pain and from experience, when Renee started sweating, it meant it was getting close.  Finally, at 4:10 pm, Dr. Schuefler assessed Renee and she was 5 cm dilated, with a "+2", which I guessed meant baby's head was 2 cm pass the cervix (?).  Dr. Schuefler broke the water and I was asked to go to the desk to sign the paperwork to have Renee formally admitted to the hospital.

This was when I got a little bit nervous, because the last time Renee's water broke, Audrey was born after 1 contraction!  Luckily, Renee waited for me to get back to the delivery room.  We had a few nurses and a 3rd year medical student, Susan, help in the delivery.  Susan did a lot of the hard work, grabbing onto Anne's head and catching her as she was coming out.  At 4:28 pm, Anne was born!

I then took a quick look and saw that the baby was a girl.  I said to Renee in a rather excited voice, "It's a girl!"  We both laughed, probably because we just packed blue clothes to the hospital!  Anne, you're just full of surprises, right from the beginning.  You keep Mom and Dad guessing at every turn!

Running Out of "A" Names
We had settled on a name for a boy and a name for a girl.  If the baby were a boy, he would be named Atticus.  We toyed around with names like Augustine (a favourite saint of mine), Abraham, Aubrey (this was merely a joke), but we liked Atticus the most.  For Renee, she liked the sound of the name, but for me, I recalled the character Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird.  I don't recall many characters from fiction books (Holden Caufield from Catcher in the Rye being the other), but Atticus Finch was one of them, because he was such a great protagonist.  We also found out yesterday that January 8 was the feast day of St. Atticus (yeah, a little freaky!).

Anne was the girl name we had settled on.  I have a few constraints that we had to work within.  Firstly, the name must be traditional or have some history to them; invented names like "Brayden" don't work for me.  Secondly, it must be a biblical or a saint's name.  Thirdly, the name can't be too common, at least at the present; "Aiden" or variant would be ruled out.  Fourthly, and most obviously, it has to start with an "A" (we hadn't planned on this, but when we named Athan, we kind of started a trend).  So, we didn't have a long list to pick from.  As time passed, the name "Anne" really grew on us.  In Hebrew, the name means "grace".  We thought it fit very well with the names Adele and Audrey, and it gives a nice, elegant feeling.  Elizabeth, Anne's middle name, was also a name we liked. It's very traditional and sounded elegant as well (if a queen's name doesn't sound elegant, I don't know what would!).  Lastly, Anne now has the names of the mother and cousin of our Lady, which is an added bonus!

The Lord is Wonderful
When we first found out that we were going to have a fourth child, things seemed a bit daunting and scary.  It's still scary now, but we've come to place our trust in the Lord, and would really not want it to be any other way.  Just today, Renee said, having just three never really felt complete (referencing how the Chinese preferred even numbers), but if I may, I'd like to kindly remind her that she was pretty happy with three before Anne was conceived. :)  I think this just goes to show that the Lord sometimes have greater plans for us, and when we do choose to accept His plan, He will help us not only get through the difficulties, but also learn to see the beauty in His plan...and we've only seen 2 days of that wonderful beauty that He had just sent us!

Happy New Year!  Another year has flown by (sorry, a little cliche...)!  We are still expecting our little one to come, any minute now!

New Year Resolution
Last night, as we unceremoniously celebrated the new year, Renee asked me what my new year resolution was.  I gave it maybe five seconds of thought and then answered, "To exercise more...to go to bed earlier..."  But I didn't really feel good about that answer, but I wasn't in much of a contemplation mood; so, I decided not to think about it too much.

Then, today, when I was at mass for the feast of Mary, Mother of God, as the father was saying his homily, my mind drifted (it never happens, I swear!).  I was thinking back to last night and then the answer came to me (it must have been the Holy Spirit).  As you have guessed, my resolution for this year, and probably for the rest of my life is the title of this post: "Live each day as if I had five years left to live."

It's really a spin on the almost cliche "live each day as if it were your last" motto.  I never really liked this motto, not because I didn't agree with it, but as a practical guy, it just didn't resonate with me.  I get it that the intent of this motto is for us to filter out the noise and live life to the fullest, but if one were to live this motto out literally, it would be quite disastrous.  First, if I knew I only had 24 hours to live, I'd probably call in sick, tell Renee to call in sick, take my kids out of school for the day, and just go have a good ol' time, before my time is cut short on this earth.  It wouldn't really work out if I did live out each day like that!

So, my version on this motto is really just to satisfy my desire to have more precision in the semantics.  And I do admit, it doesn't roll off the tongue quite as easily...

Why Five Years?
So, why five years, instead of two or ten or twenty?  Well, I didn't end up with five years due to any mathematical proof, but rather, I thought five years was a long enough time that I would have to continue with my day-to-day life, but yet, know that my days on this earth are limited, which is the more interesting part.  

This would change my behaviour drastically, because I know that in five years, my family would lose their primary provider.  Yes, Renee would be able to pay off the mortgage with the insurance pay out, but I would want them to be financially secure, even after that.  Five years is not a long time, but it's not a short time either.  I would work extra hard and in new ways to secure their future, in whatever form that may be.  Perhaps it's starting a business that can be continued even after I'm gone.  Or maybe it's taking some risks that I might not have taken were I to live to 85.

I recently listened to the audio book version of the biography of Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance.  It was an inspiring read...I've been telling a lot of people about it.  The one thing that I love about Musk was that after starting and selling 2 companies, with more than $100 million in the bank, what did he decide to do?  Start another 2 companies at the same time (SpaceX and Tesla), because he didn't want to just take it easy in life.  He wanted to do something great for humanity.  Perhaps I would aim to do something great for humanity as well.

What Else?
Of course, I would also love more fully.  Knowing I have only 5 short years to create lasting memories of their father for my kids, perhaps I would take my eyes off my phone when I'm with them. Maybe I would spend more time with them.  Or perhaps I wouldn't lose my temper so easily when they act like they're...kids.  Perhaps I would teach them more about God and about how one should live one's life.

Perhaps I would even tell my parents that I thank them and I love them more often (媽,爸, love you!).  Or visit my brother and his family more often.  Or take my in laws to dim sum more.  Perhaps, I would reconnect with some old friends and stay in touch with newer ones.

Lastly, perhaps I would love Renee more.  Instead of taking her for granted like I do all the time, I would appreciate all the little and big things she does for me and the family.  Perhaps I would take her out for sushi or go to see a romantic comedy at the theatres a little more often.  Perhaps I would love myself a little less and her a lot more.  Perhaps, I would start writing her love letters again.

And so, this is my new year resolution and maybe also my life motto...cutting out the noise and focusing on the essential.  It's really what is meant when people say, live life to its fullest.  Forget the useless office politics, toxic gossip, keeping up with the Jones's...and just live!
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