Vale at 6 Months

Vale spent her 6-month birthday in Cabo San Lucas in Mexico. She did not enjoy being dunked in the cold ocean water, but loved meeting friends on the plane and experiencing new sights.

She is increasingly mobile, and loves to scoot, turn, flip over, and put things into her mouth. She is able to sit upright in her booster chair, but gets bored after a while if she does not have a toy to keep her pre-occupied. She likes listening to numbers in mandarin and looking at ABC flashcards. These activities always bring a smile to her face.

She is still stubborn as ever about drinking milk out of a bottle, and her parents question whence this trait came.

She babbles constantly, including at 4:30 a.m. on occasion, which apparently is just a good a time as any for riveting conversation. She still laughs infrequently, and her sense of humor seems unpredictable (it may have been funny to her yesterday, but it won’t necessarily be funny today or tomorrow). When she does laugh, it’s a sort of a “heeeh heh heh” smirk/chuckle reminiscent of George W.

She has started paying more attention to her cat sisters, and occasionally reaches out for a pet (or a fistful of fur!), so they continue to be relatively wary and suspicious of her.

I don’t know why I bother to surf, when all the articles are trash (a combination of poorly articulated, superficially analyzed, self-righteous liberal propaganda, and mothers bitching and moaning about the pettiest of offenses), but occasionally I find myself wandering back in search of mild amusement. Most recently, the greatest offenses to be featured on

Exhibit A

Woman bitches about people asking her if she’s had her baby yet, and how she’s feeling, when she’s past her due date:

If another person asks me if I’ve had my baby yet, I’m going to punch them in the face…

Another question I can’t get enough of is, “How are you feeling?” How the hell do you think I’m feeling?!? I’m huge, uncomfortable, haven’t had a decent night’s sleep in God knows how long, constipated, suffering from a raging case of heartburn, and want this baby out of me already. Shall I go on?

Oh, god forbid people are excited about the birth of your child, and are concerned about your welfare. Having babies is extremely commonplace; in the grand scheme of life, it is a mundane, ordinary, and utterly banal occurrence, so any woman should feel blessed to be surrounded by people who care enough to pester her about the baby’s imminent arrival, and her health status. The rest of her post is a tome of familiar complaints of being 40+ weeks pregnant (with which I completely sympathize – it blows balls), but you know, how dare people give a shit and actually ask me how I’m doing. Seriously, fuck the world and all its caring, kind people, right? Don’t they know what an inconvenience it is for you to be receiving these well-meaning texts and e-mails? Oh, the gall. Simply unconscionable. It would be so much better if you had no friends and no one gave a fuck. I want to tell her to please shut the fuck up but of course, it’s my own stupidity for wandering onto this website to begin with.

Exhibit B

Woman bitches about people’s creative and happy Facebook posts. I shit you not. She spends the entire post whining about how she cannot compete with other mothers who cook Martha Stewart level meals and make Pinterest-worthy crafts, and tearing others down for having the audacity to appear happy in their Facebook pictures.

We are so happy and laughing hysterically at this trendy restaurant where our children are behaving perfectly. Look at us!We are so happy and just in love with life at this park. Look at us!We ski. We vacation. We snuggle. We hike. We smile all f*cking day long.

Stop it now. Because no, no you don’t.

She admits a lot of her feelings are borne out of her own security – yeah, no shit. Maybe you should work on putting a check on taking out your deep insecurities on happy people. Horrifically, the people she’s talking about aren’t even women in ads or the media; they are her friends and acquaintances. I don’t come across people who like to shit all over other people’s happiness that often, but oh, hello there, here you are. I get that social media is often not a reflection of reality and can create feelings of insecurity, but jesus, get a hold of yourself.

If I could describe this website with just one phrase, it would be “White whine.”

Strange Feelings While Checking Out At Wal-Mart

I went to Wal-Mart the other day to buy Valentine’s Day cards for Vale to take to daycare, even though she has no idea what’s going on and no teeth with which to eat candy (haha! all for me, then!) I was standing at the self check-out kiosk, scanning items, and debating between the hologram dinosaur Valentine cards versus Peppa the Pig (I have no idea who the hell Peppa is). As I scanned body wash and York Peppermint Patties I also wondered whether these days it is considered negligent to give candy to classmates on Valentine’s Day, as opposed to organic, non-GMO fruit or some shit. I pushed these concerns aside with some thoughts of back in my day! and Fuck it! Candy is awesome. Be a little festive for Christ’s sake! But my fears would later be confirmed when I saw a friend’s Instagram of the tangerines she had wrapped in cellophane and tied with a bow a-la-Pinterest, for her son’s classmates.

As I internally railed against non-GMO, grass-fed, gluten-free, vegan fruits, I was only vaguely aware of an infant crying in a carrier a few kiosks away. The crying baby briefly triggered my recall of a time I was excited to make it all the way through a shopping trip with a happy Vale when she started fussing right as I pulled up to the check-out line; I sympathized with the poor mother.

Right when I decided on Peppa Pig, the woman in the kiosk next to me angrily muttered, “You know, that baby has been crying for two hours.” My first thought was, as to both the mother with the crying baby and the woman currently addressing me, who spends two hours at Wal-Mart? I responded generically, “Oh, that sucks,” assuming she was complaining about the noise, and also internally questioned, Wal-Mart is pretty damn spacious. Couldn’t you have like, moved three aisles away? Who stalks someone in Wal-Mart for two hours? But then she added, “Seriously, two hours. Screaming. Don’t you think the baby might be hungry or something? Ugh!”

Much to my surprise, the word, “hungry,” evoked in me a sudden, foreign, and involuntary feeling of deep sadness for the baby, and for a few seconds I felt quite horrible. I know of women who can pinpoint the exact moment they truly felt like a mother. I wouldn’t go as far to say this was my moment, because I don’t really ever have defining moments of that sort. Perhaps my emotions are so dulled, or my tendency to ruminate is so acute, that I let such moments pass for months before realizing their significance. In any event, for me, life is a series of small incidents melting together on a spectrum of experience; there are no “aha!” moments I can identify, in which I suddenly realize something profound. But still, I felt unexpectedly unsettled, as if an unfamiliar chamber of my heart had been revealed.

Vale at 5 Months

Vale at 5 months laughs when we sprint in the church parking lot, and sometimes when we do squat jumps. She falls asleep on our way up the steepest hill when we take her out for night jogs. She laughs when Daddy’s beard tickles her face. She likes crunching on her Como Tomo and Sofie the giraffe chew toys (perhaps the fact I cannot stop referring to these things as chew toys reflects just how long we lived a DINK life before deciding to have a baby).

She started rolling over one day, then quickly started scooting across the floor almost overnight. She has started to eat some solid foods, and likes carrots and avocados. She’s had the privilege of eating mom’s bomb-ass butternut squash soup and dad’s spectacular split pea soup, but is somewhat lukewarm about these tasty creations. If she only knew how spoiled she is! Mom remembers her brother eating jars of store-bought Gerber as a baby.

We took her to Costco to get passport photos taken for our upcoming trip to Cabo, and Daddy had to hold her up above his head, while supporting her back with his hand in an awkward manner to carefully avoid being in the photo himself. This occurrence confused her, and she ended up looking like a concerned little old man getting his mugshot taken. She has proved amenable to eating in a cradle position, so we just might be able to venture out into public for extended periods of time soon, and if not – oh well. We’re going to Mexico anyway!

She attended two Superbowl parties, and had a blast at party number 1 playing on her buddy’s play mat, and watching football on the gigantic TV (unclear at this point where the enthusiasm for football comes from) while mommy enjoyed a grapefruit Sculpin. At party number 2, attendees fawned over her, bounced her around, made her laugh, and generally showered her with attention, which rendered her less concerned with the game.


Those four years, I wrote compulsively, afraid I’d one day forget the details of days that were starting to melt and months that were starting to blend. At 18 I started marking time by reference to days out drinking and categorizing eras according to romantic interests of the moment. In between the bleeding, blurry, evenings, I documented the color of the leaves in my morning tea, described the exact shade of gold flecks found in his eyes only in a certain light, and recorded the pattern of sunlight creeping in through the pergola on the cafe patio. I was wearing a plaid skirt and fishnet shirt that day, and carefully noted clouds in my coffee on lunch break. This was the summer I worked in a teeny bopper retail store; on this particular day, my friends had gone skydiving.

I did not know that when I was 33 I’d read the deliberate loops and lines and still could not remember anyway; familiar though the handwriting may be, it was as if it was written by a stranger. This stranger was a bit neurotic and disjointed, vaguely touched by hackneyed angst. The whiskey-laden scrawls on some of the pages were less grand than Jack Daniels would have you believe, but rather, vacillated between nonsense and maudlin nostalgia. The stranger woke up at 9:00 in the morning on a Saturday one weekend (early for her), to a phone call from an old man from the coffee shop who wanted to talk about nothing in particular. She thought he had meant to call her friend, but she ended up talking to him anyway, after taking a seat on the kitchen counter of the sorority house, apple in hand.

The next time I saw the old man, he told me the tragic tale of his wife inexplicably leaving him, fleeing to Japan, and absconding with their child, when in reality he had been convicted of possession of child porn.

I eventually went skydiving, and it felt like flying, but I didn’t write about it.


January 20, 2018

Dear Vale,

Today, we spent all day together. You fell asleep after eating at 6:30 pm the night before, and slept longer than usual. You slept until it was almost your bed time. I was concerned your chubby little ass would be hungry, so I woke you up at 9:45 p.m. to eat again before sleeping for the night. You ate vigorously, fell promptly asleep, and slept until 8:45 a.m. today. Again, I questioned how your usual gluttonous self could possibly still be going without food, and woke you up, all smiles, for breakfast, but you wouldn’t drink breast milk, after many heroic attempts.

I eventually gave up, and went downstairs to feed myself, but did not get past the coffee. You were a bit fussy, even though I gave you your doll and como tomo, so I got distracted from my own food and decided to try my luck with your new sippy cup (failure), and then with your Dr. Brown bottle (expected failure), and then I decided I might as well make a breast milk avocado puree with the 3 ounces I pumped at 11:15 a.m. during my mediation the day before. You made a mediocre attempt at the avocado puree, though I suppose I should consider it fortunate that at least half probably made it into your mouth.

Eventually, you were convinced into breastfeeding at approximately 10:45 a.m., two hours after you woke up. The moment you were finished, I whisked you off to run errands before hunger struck again. You enjoyed browsing the aisles at Target, where we used my gift card from work to buy face powder, shampoo, baby sunscreen, and a sleep sack (pink fleece, with owls, 50% off, only $5). We went to Ross next, because I was hoping to buy a professional-looking name brand purse large enough to occasionally hold pump supplies, but I didn’t find anything that wasn’t completely boring.

I tested the limits of your patience, and took you to Barnes & Noble, where I spent many days of my youth, so you could be exposed to books. We then cruised into Starbucks, where I craved sweets, since I still hadn’t had breakfast, but I resisted.

We went home and you weren’t hungry for a while, so I took you on a walk. I called Ana while we walked to catch up, and see how things are going with your buddy Luka. The goal was to walk 4 times up the steep hill by our house, but you got bored on round 3, so we went home and I did a few half-assed squats instead. After your next feeding, you seemed to have fallen asleep, so I left you to rest, and practiced a Chopin Etude. I started on the Fantasie Impromptu, when I saw you squirm and flail on your baby monitor – quite a short nap – not even 30 minutes.

The balance of the day was spent pleasantly. I strapped you to my chest and folded and put away laundry. You watched me eat pasta and salad for dinner with great interest (you should be jealous – it was damn good!) I read from your Tang dynasty poetry book, and started reading Madeline and the Gypsies, but you started to get bored. I put you in your jumper while I did some ab exercises.

Your daddy called from New York and I realized the whole day had slipped by and you had barely napped, so I put you in your sleep sack, placed you in your bassinet hoping you would go to sleep at 9:00 p.m., and turned on your mobile You are my sunshine, my only sunshine, you make me happy, when skies are gray… I went downstairs to chat with your dad on the phone and make some tea. I heard you yell and scream bloody murder, and let you have at it for a few minutes, but then you began to cry, and I felt bad, so I came back upstairs to check on you. I cocked my head to one side and examined your behavior for myself. I asked you what could possibly be so tragic and smiled at you. At this point, you couldn’t help but start to smile back, yet you also clearly wanted to continue your act, so for the next 15 seconds you involuntarily vacillated between smiling and wailing while I laughed at you.

I picked you up and we sat next to the heater for a few minutes to warm up, and I put you in bed. (Daddy spoils you this way sometimes, so I can too!) I sang two songs in Chinese for you, but you were still wide awake, so I started singing Hallelujah. I had not gotten past the first verse when you decided you were just a little hungry. You had a night cap, fell asleep, and that was the end of our lovely day.

Your daddy misses you tons and will be back tomorrow.

Bubonic Plague?

My friend of almost 20 years told me recently she had fallen ill. There’s a particularly virulent and severe strain of flu going on this year, and she came down with fever, chills, and a horrible headache. A doctor apparently thought it was not the flu, but rather a common cold, and two days later she told me she also had diarrhea and vomiting, followed by pus oozing out of her eyes, which would make it pretty much the worst fucking cold in the history of existence. And then, shortly thereafter:

I asked her if she had come down with the bubonic plague. I was half kidding, though there was definitely a case of it in Yosemite just a week after we left, a couple of years back. Despite the diarrhea, vomiting, oozing pus, and minor loss of bowel control, she insisted she was feeling “really good” compared to earlier.

Almost as good as the time she threatened to kill me, in writing, in the Spring of 1998 when we first met. Almost.

Vale at 4 Months

Vale at 4 months is all smiles, and no longer is as serious as she used to be. She drools a lot and enjoys being with her friends at daycare. She still does not have much hair; though she has some serious eyebrows. She smiles at everyone and is not afraid of strangers. She likes to chew on things, suck her thumb, and do sit-ups. She can sit and stand assisted, and recently started rolling over. Her thumping kicks at night are harder and louder than ever and she is quickly outgrowing her bassinet.

We read her stories from her Madeline treasury, and I recite Tang dynasty poems to her. We also watch Youtube food travel shows with her. She seems to enjoy them. Incidentally, she is becoming curious about solid foods and took a keen interest in our homemade Saag recently. She excitedly reached for the bowl, and cried bitterly when we wouldn’t give her any. It was all eaten anyway, but I don’t blame you, kid. Saag is good stuff.

She is also becoming curious about beer (that’s a modern times tropical IPA pictured below, by the way. Delicious stuff). In a similar fashion as with the Saag, she fussed when we tried to take the pint glass away. Indian food and beer. In case there was any doubt that she is indeed our offspring.


Vietnamese Coffee

Even as the more vivid details of our Vietnam vacation recede into the ever more distant past, something as simple as Vietnamese coffee with condensed milk can bring it all back on occasion. This past weekend, I took just a sip and was reminded of the days at our resort in Phu Quoc, when we developed a brief ritual of taking a seat by the window in the restaurant level of our resort, and starting the day with a small cup and saucer of Vietnamese coffee.

We followed our coffee with a combination of breakfast treats, including a pho bar and bahn mi. Aside from the smorgasboard of Vietnamese delights, there was a large selection of western morning foods as well, though we avoided the boring fare, like cereal. We concluded the daily decadence with an assortment of tropical fruits, my favorite being passion fruit, though the juicy dragon fruit and mango were equally memorable. The juices from these fruits trickled down the back of my hands, dried there, and interacted with the island sun, causing a strange dark patch to appear. I discovered that what I initially thought was a sunspot (expanding at a freakish rate) was actually a temporary tropical fruit scar when I casually consulted with a physician friend via Gmail.

While on the island of Phu Quoc, every morning, we ate and drank slowly in this way, enjoying the contrast between the smoky, dark coffee, and the pellucid, bright island atmosphere, treating ourselves to the ocean view and sea breeze floating in through the gigantic windows like a quiet new dream.


So if it hadn’t been for a friend’s baby shower and a close call with mastitis #4, we were seriously considering going to Tijuana for new years with Vale. Add on top the fact she has been eating every hour and a half, and we decided against it, because I didn’t know what kind of TJ activities we could even do with her incessant need to feed.

However, I haven’t given up completely on a TJ trip in the near future, so I Googled “Tijuana with a baby” and was met with the following encouraging headlines:

  • Baby Found Dead in Tijuana, Left By Mom and Boyfriend
  • Mexico’s Bargain Babies
  • US-born Baby Found Dead at Empty Lot in Tijuana

You get the point. These aren’t the most encouraging links when planning a short trip down to TJ. I get it. TJ probably has a sketchy reputation for a good reason, but I still feel there’s a significant element of paranoia when it comes to Mexico. The odds of something terrible happening on a weekend in TJ is probably extremely low. There are plenty of crime-ridden cities in the United States, but fewer people seem to bring up murder as the first point of discussion when mentioning Chicago or Detroit.

As for us, our primary concern with traveling to TJ with a baby is a matter of logistics. Driving back on the way home is always hellish at the border crossing, which turns a 1 hour drive into a 5 hour nightmare. This is because the War on Drugs keeps border patrol employed and well-paid, cracking down on non-violent violations of the law, and because American immigration policy is full of shit. The border crossing located right on the edge of Mexico is the worst, but let’s not forget that there are border checkpoints all over southern California, as far as one hundred fucking miles north of the border.

Anyway, the government’s barbaric insistence on violating human rights is such that walking, rather than driving, across the border is the transportation method of choice. However, we have yet to figure out what baby items are absolutely necessary over the course of a weekend, and whether it’s possible to minimize our stuff to the point where we can carry these things and walk across the border.