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.

Tijuana

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.

Not Again…

On Christmas day of all days, I started to feel another bout of mastitis coming on (#4!) I was so unbelievably fucking fed up by this time, and did not need to think twice about immediately instituting the preventative measures. As I watched my temperature climb on the thermometer, I took ibuprofen then got super aggressive with hot baths two-three times a day, I doubled my lecithin dose, doubled my probiotic dose, pumped twice a night, iced after feedings, used cabbage leaves, etc. I called my doctor’s office, and they prescribed antibiotics for me to pick up just in case things worsened and I needed the meds after business hours.

Despite my initial doubts, I also boiled and drank the Chinese herbs my mother mailed me (desperate times call for desperate measures). The herb concoction is a combination of peach pit, dandelion leaves, peony leaves, red jujubes (Chinese red dates) and some other plants, the names of which I do not know in English. I Googled these things, and was faced with a slew of non-information and/or warnings indicating these plants had not been proven safe for breastfeeding. Oh yeah? We’ll I’m pretty sure oregano, dill, and cayenne pepper probably also haven’t undergone vigorous FDA testing for breastfeeding safety, but no one’s worrying about random spices, so I’m not going to worry about random plants. Plus, I’m pretty sure the three courses of antibiotics I’ve required thus far aren’t exactly the best for breastfeeding either, so I’ll take my chances with the dandelion, peony, and unidentified roots.

The herbal “tea” tastes awful. Husband doesn’t think it so bad, but I imagine it tastes similar to flavors you’d find from a muddy puddle of stagnant water in the forest. Very appetizing.

After 3 days of this time-consuming and maddening routine, I declared victory, having avoided full-blown mastitis for the fourth time.

Christmas

As usual, this month has been filled with delightful gatherings, dinners, and parties. I have loved this time of year since I was a child, whether in the form of wintry, white Christmases in rural Virginia, or sunny holidays in southern California, set to Christmas music by Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, and David Brubeck. Christmas with a baby brings a new twist, because she is seeing everything for the first time, including Christmas lights, sparkly ornaments, candles, glowing decorations, etc. After having celebrated Christmas annually for over 3 decades, it’s fun to see how see a little person experiences the festive details as a newcomer to this planet.

This year has been no less busy than before, and we even had a wedding to attend in Los Angeles, among the other usual festivities. My boss was excited I can drink again, and we took a shot together at the company party (tequila for me, Fireball for him). I was offered the Fireball, but had to refuse. Fireball spells downfall for me; the sugar in that “whiskey” is death in liquid form. I don’t think I’ve ever had a shot of Fireball and not had severe regrets. On the other hand, bottom shelf house tequila never tasted so sweet, after an extended absence.

This is indeed the time of year to enjoy a nice glass of Cabernet, along with a winter-flavored Belgian, and new IPA’s. Still, I’m careful not to get too drunk because taking care of a baby while hungover sounds like total hell. Speaking of hell, Vale will go to church for the first time on Christmas Eve, and we hope she does not catch fire at the threshold.

This is not to say this holiday season has been without its bumps in the road. I was graced with mastitis round 3, more antibiotics, and all the accompanying frustrations. While Vale has slightly backed down from her insistence on eating only while lying down, the combination of this predilection, along with a distaste for the bottle, and dislike of eating with a cover draped over her face, makes feeding her in public or at social functions somewhat of a nightmare. For this reason, I’m sadly inclined to pass on a visit to Irvine, and a night out at Korean BBQ, and instead will opt to indulge at home, where wine is plentiful, and breastfeeding is easy.

Another first for this holiday season: This is the first time in 11 years we have not gone to get a tree together (Vale was a milk monster and we were running out of time, so Kyle had to go get it himself).

Three Months and Some

Vale is 3 and a half months. She enjoys looking at fire, her own reflection in the mirror, and the Audrey Hepburn poster on our bedroom wall. She still looks pretty serious most of the time, but started laughing on occasion recently. The first time she did it took me by surprise; I laughed at her while we were laying in bed, and she laughed back at me.

We put on the Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer claymation (a holiday favorite of ours), but she seemed more engaged watching Bruce Campbell’s antics on Evil Dead (the show). She has progressed quickly from carefully inspecting her hands and realizing they belong to her, to using them to grab things, and unfortunately, sometimes pinch and twist. I was working from home one day with her in my lap, when Fiona decided there was just enough space remaining in my lap for her to squeeze her butt in and join the party. She came upon my lap with her flank facing Vale, who proceeded to grab a handful of fur and twist. Fiona didn’t seem to mind, but I admonished Vale to be gentle.

She is becoming a bit drooly, and likes to bite on her hands (among other objects). The lactation consultant thinks she will have teeth soon. She also seemingly grows out of her clothes overnight. All the cute onesies and outfits we’ve received from friends and family seemingly get less than a handful of uses before they become a bit tight.

V

Shares the beginning letter with

victory vanquish valiant virtuous vice vim veritable voracious (eater) vie vine

rhymes with ale

my verdant valley

my Vale of the fairies

 

 

Thanksgiving 2017

On Vale’s first Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for the usual (though no less significant) –

Good health

Good weather

Good food

Good beer

Faithful feline furbabies who tolerate my child

My wonderful husband who always has my back

My forever friends who are constant and steadfast

But this year, most of all, I am thankful for the new little family we’ve created

 

Daydreaming In Bed

Mom went back to work last week and we ended Friday on a good note. I gave in to my hunger and drank quite a bit at grandpa and grandma’s house. This put Mom in good spirits.

I still hadn’t eaten as much as I wanted so Mom fed me as soon as we got home. Her new thing is to feed me lying down while reading travel and food magazines and eating Life cereal. She was duped into buying year-long subscriptions to Bon Appetit and Conde Nast Traveler after seeing some $5 deal on Instagram and has been collecting idle magazines for the last 4 months. She finally found some use for them – reading while breastfeeding.

She still dreams of travel but makes fun of Traveler magazine even as she leafs through the publication wistfully. She finds the whole idea of “high-end boho”  – a term used by an author to describe one particular Marrakech establishment – ludicrous. She is also opposed to another writer’s recommendation to stay at the Park Hyatt Bangkok. We live just two miles away from a Park Hyatt, and mom and dad have attended rowdy holiday parties that end in the hotel’s lobby bar the last 2 or 3 years in a row, so she doesn’t see why she would go all the way to Bangkok and camp out somewhere so familiar. To be fair, the last time Mom and Dad were in Bangkok, mom was a recent law school grad with a ton of loans, so it’s not like she could have afforded to stay there anyway. Could it be sour grapes?

 

She sneered at a one-paragraph mention of Taiwan, which rambled on only about tea and featured an elderly Asian woman wearing a rice hat in a tea field. Of all the ways to represent Taiwan! However, she got a little nostalgic at the unexpected mention of one Greenbrier resort in West Virginia on the list of top resorts in the United States. She was suddenly brought back to her childhood, at the age of 7, on family vacation. Her dad (my grandpa) rented bikes and in the front of the Greenbrier lobby is where she first felt the freedom of riding a bike.

 

She considers most of the recipes in Bon Appetit rather unimaginative (read: it’s not Indian, Thai, Korean, Chinese, or insanely spicy) and definitely rolled her eyes at a picture of pasta plated in a bite-size serving on a 4-inch dish. She did dog ear some pictures of the Italian countryside and a hotel in Chile for Dad though.

I eat and eat and meanwhile, she drops Life cereal crumbs on my head and on the sheets. Later at night, while in bed, she will complain that she is being stabbed by crumbled pieces of Life. Dad will ask her if that is meant literally or metaphorically, while I dream noisily in my basinet.

Survived The First Week Back At Work

I made it through the first week of work with no disasters. I didn’t forget any necessary supplies, even though remembering stuff is my number one weakness, and I didn’t spill milk anywhere. I picked Vale up from daycare on time both days, and billed over 8 hours during my work-from-home day.

I attended a deposition that started and ended at an awkward time for my pumping schedule; it was too early to pump before the deposition started, it ended before lunch break, but lasted long enough that 5 hours had passed before the last feeding. I didn’t want to pump in a bathroom, so I thought it’d be genius for me to pump while driving. It worked out OK, but taking into consideration the extra time involved in setting up in the car, and pulling over to put my milk in bags, it didn’t save very much time, and wasn’t worth the hassle. Hey, learning experience for the future.

I thought the lack of sleep would be the worst part of new motherhood. I was wrong. It’s definitely breastfeeding and all that it entails. To clarify, breastfeeding per se is not the issue. However, having to constantly think about feeding and pumping schedules, where I’ll be, whether I’ll be able to feed and/or pump, and how long (i.e. how much freedom I have) until the next pumping session or until my boobs feel like they are going to explode, and crafting my wardrobe, sleep, social calendar, and work obligations around pumping/feeding considerations makes me feel a bit enslaved by my body.

People asked me if I cried, and I have not, but Vale has been increasingly resistant to drinking from a bottle, such that she goes many more hours than usual without eating during the day. She starts getting irritable as soon as she so much as sees a bottle, and has been eating far less than she otherwise would. She doesn’t cry much or fuss, but seems to have resorted to napping and eating her hand in place of drinking milk, which is depressing and hearts my heart a little. I want to enjoy her presence when I pick her up at the end of the day, but all I can think about is feeding her as soon as possible.

Vale continues to be a mellow baby otherwise, and has been adaptable to our schedule. She sleeps around 10:30-11:00 p.m., so we have plenty of time to play with her when we get home (although, when she insists on cramming all her feedings in at night, there really is not much playing going on), and wakes up to eat when we need to get up for work. She’s a grouchy little moon at 6:30 a.m., which I can relate to, and we can be grouchy in bed together while she eats her first meal of the day.