April 8, 2018

I caught you smiling, half asleep in the dark. I leaned in a little closer to be sure and it turned into a giggle. You rolled into my arms still half asleep, still giggling, breathed lazily into my shirt, and I forgot all about how you kicked me really hard in the face twice while sleeping next to me the night before.

Your twitchy little fingers smell like buttery bread again. I reflect on the day and think about how you’re turning into a little human right before my very eyes.

April 6, 2018

The scariest thing about having a child is that I love her more as time passes. Some women are struck dumb and overwhelmed immediately by a newfound love for their child as soon as they lay eyes on their newborn, but I was not that way. I marveled at our tiny new human and felt an overpowering sense of responsibility, but love came gradually and incrementally; she grew and continues to grow on me like an incipient, spreading fungus, which is a foul trick I played on her father some 13 years ago. I didn’t cry when maternity leave ended and I had to be apart for her for full work days, but 5 months later, I miss her in an unexpectedly sentimental manner in the middle of the work day, from time to time.

And she is like me in this regard. She takes her time to make up her mind. She is amenable and flexible at first, until 3 weeks or 2 months later, she isn’t – whether it’s the bottle, solid foods, or sleeping through the night, and it’s frustrating to others who thought they understood, and indeed, relied upon her fleeting agreeableness. I don’t know how many times I thought I was not mad at my husband, only to decide, after some contemplation, several days or even a week later, that in fact I was very, very angry, just when he had settled back into a comfortable complacency.

Her father thinks she smells weird, but I love the way she smells, milky and soft. Her chubby hands smell like buttery buns from a Taiwanese bakery, and her scalp smells funny yet familiar.

A friend of mine once told me having a child is to experience your own obsolescence with each milestone. I understand this now, and also frequently consider that in almost no time, she may despise me, find me annoying, feel bitter about my failings as a mother, and become frustrated at how out of touch or technologically inept I am. I get lost in these thoughts and sometimes wonder what the point of this all was, but then another part of me doesn’t care.

Vale at 7 Months

At 7 months, Vale is scooting faster and faster, and getting up on her knees. She has the dexterity to be able to pick up small items, such as rice crackers, with her thumb and index finger, but chooses to only put non-food items in her mouth (Post-its – yum!); she picks up rice crackers with her fingers only to deliberately drop them on the ground. She has exhibited an aversion to solid foods, and you’d think we were feeding her poison, instead of avocado or carrots.

She babbles constantly, and still likes her nursery rhyme music book (her crack book), though her obsession with this toy is waning a little bit. She is not much of a cuddler, but she is very social. She loves being held by people (even strangers) at parties, and does not seem to have a sense of “stranger danger.”

She likes numbers and her ABC flash cards. She hates shoes, and will immediately rip them off her feet.

She has taken an interest in the cats. She has tried to pet Fiona on a number of occasions, much to poor Fiona’s annoyance.

She attended her first Yelp event at the Flower Fields (snuck in, even though she’s not 21), but of course, with her refusal to eat solid foods, the fare was not impressive to her.

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.

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.

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.

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.

 

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.

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).