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

 

The Waiting Game

I’m on day 2 of week 40. Home stretch. At least, hopefully. I really don’t want her to be too late, but if she does not come by her due date, I’m working from home until she does. All my friends’ babies (all five of them) this year came early. Although there are only 5 days until my due date, according to this neato labor probability calculator, the odds of me giving birth by my due date is a mere 20.34 percent. The odds of me giving birth by week 42 is actually not that high either, at 85.03 percent! Ugh! I barely feel capable of making it through this week, much less 3 more.

On the other hand, as impatient as I am getting, I’m also nervous about labor and birth. Maybe this is the mental dissonance that is causing me to lose sleep in the middle of the night.

My parents arrived over the weekend and I was showered with more cute baby clothes, pineapple cakes, organic snacks from my Aunt Sylvia (dried pineapple, dried guava, glutinous rice with dates, almond tea, etc.), and chicken soup from my Aunt Amber and Uncle Alfred. All the way from Taiwan. I’m very excited about these foods, which are supposed to be good for the postpartum period so at this point I’m excited to give birth just so I can start eating these things.

I’ve developed a bad sweet tooth. I was in an irritable mood the other day and self-medicated with a pineapple cake and strangely felt better immediately after eating it. This has never happened to me before with sweets. Maybe with a beer, but never desserts. People give alcohol a lot of shit, but drinking an IPA after a crappy day costs you 140 calories, and you get some antioxidants in the mix. Eating cookies/cakes/creme brulee costs a fuckload more calories, sugar, and fat. I hope this is a phenomenon limited to pregnancy because otherwise, it is extremely dangerous.

I had a relatively smooth third trimester for the most part, but first trimester seems to be repeating itself in these final days. I randomly feel nauseated during the day, and wake up in the middle of the night and can’t fall back asleep for hours. I woke up at 3:00 a.m. on Tuesday and could not sleep so I finished up some laundry.

???

As I near the end of pregnancy, I feel the old doubts of having children surfacing. I’ve spent the last several months treating this entire experience like an important project, with plans, research, classes, books, etc., so I thought I’d resolved such anxieties, but I suppose that is not the case after all. One would think the last 7 months of preparation would have served as a gradual transition, but it seems the impending due date only highlights the severity and certainty of this decision.

I used to be utterly freaked out by the idea of giving birth; that’s still somewhat the case but infinitely overshadowed by the fear that I won’t enjoy being a mother. I’ve had to make many lifestyle changes and compromises since December 23, 2016 but of course none of it can compare to what lies ahead. It seems like having to rebuild an entire life from scratch (mine).

I think my husband and I have built a special life together. I don’t mean “special” in the sense that we’re particularly unique, interesting, or superior compared to others, but 12 years together necessarily results in something irreplaceable and I could easily live another 12 years like this, or the rest of my life.

We met on a rainy night in February painted by the haze of alcohol. The friend who introduced us accidentally set something on fire at a party, after which we quickly made our departure, and I was so drunk I spelled my own name wrong when I entered it into my husband’s cell phone. We didn’t start dating until a year and a half later, because only Fools Rush In.

When I first moved in with him, the living arrangements could best be described as a small fraternity house nestled in the heart of suburbia, inhabited by gamblers and students who drank too much, joined by unruly dogs, and then our equally recalcitrant cat.

During my first year of law school, my husband quit his engineering job and became a professional poker player, so the summer after my first year, we leased our room in the house, and left the country for two and a half months. We rented an apartment in the suburbs of Barcelona, and he funded our trip with poker while I promised to undertake some domestic tasks while he worked. The “tasks” were an adventure in and of themselves, as I enjoyed every moment of Barcelona, including regularly walking 25 minutes to the grocery store (we did not have a car), where I could buy unfamiliar foods and practice Spanish. We fell in love with the city, but moved on to Prague, Milan, Rome, Tuscany, and Yellowstone National Park the rest of the summer.

For the duration of law school, I packed all my classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays so I could have 4-day weekends every weekend, and there were many trips to Vegas with free hotels, compliments of my husband’s card-counting days. When I unexpectedly was notified I was the recipient of a $32,000 merit scholarship I hadn’t applied for, we took tequila shots all night at a bar in Cardiff-by-the-Sea that now longer exists, and I jumped into the ocean with all my clothes on.

Eventually, we moved into a two-bedroom apartment by ourselves, in a neighborhood characterized by beach bums, dirty hippies, quirky stores, and drug use. Our complex was built in the 1970’s, and rumor has it the communal hot tub was built of an epic size because the complex used to be a swinger’s colony. The neighborhood has since gentrified and I miss some of its formerly bummy, disheveled, and unpretentious elements.

After I took the bar exam, we celebrated with an Asia trip to Taiwan and Thailand. We scootered through the canyons of Taroko Gorge and indulged in decadence on Thai beaches. In the first couple of years after I started working, we traveled to Kauai and hiked Mt. Whitney with his family, and I started paying down substantial amounts of law school debt.

We got married in 2013, 2 weeks after our 8-year anniversary in a ceremony officiated by a dear friend. We wrote our own vows and exchanged them in the glow of the southern Californian sun, and at the reception, through a series of small mishaps, many guests got unbelievably drunk. Two weeks later, we honeymooned in Bali, Macau, and Taiwan.

In 2014, we went to Colombia, where we ate ceviche on Cartagena beaches, hiked a beautiful national park, and walked the romantic alleys of Santa Marta at dusk. I took a picture outside the former residence of Gabriel Garcia Marquez and constantly had a Colombian beer in hand to counter the Caribbean heat. We spent one night in some of the worst accommodations I have ever experienced, and when I was awoken at 4 a.m. to roosters, cats, and dogs brawling in the streets amid human yells, 90 degree heat/90 percent humidity with a broken fan, and a broken bed, there was nothing to do but laugh at the outrageousness of the situation.

In 2016, we picked Vietnam over Greece and had a dream vacation at beach side resorts, daily all-you-can-eat buffets of Vietnamese breakfasts, luxurious city hotels, lush jungle retreats, and scooter rides in Saigon, Hue, Hanoi, and the Vietnamese countrysides. We took the longest cable car ride to the highest peak in Indochina and enjoyed the view as lone passengers in a car designed for 30 people with a 360-degree view of the valleys, rice terraces, and mountains of Sapa.

We drink, cook, hike, exercise, and laugh together. We’ve taken painting classes, dance classes, and played on a soccer team. We own a house and a condo together, refurbish old furniture sometimes, save for early retirement, and spoil our cats. We are very different in some ways and have been at each other’s throats yet are fundamentally so well-suited for each other that if I weren’t an atheist I’d chalk this up to fate.

Our years together have not been extraordinary in and of themselves (plenty of people hike, drink, and travel), but for me, the last 12 years has been characterized by little pieces of magic here and there, and everywhere.

When I was little, I was prone to impractical daydreaming. I would daydream of being a rock star or sprouting wings and flying, for instance. On the other hand I rarely contemplated much in detail about the specifics of my future life. My eleven-year-old self didn’t care to think about what kind of career, husband, house, kids she’d have, or vacations she’d take, beyond assuming that there would eventually be a job, a dude, and an abode in the mix on an abstract level, because that’s what adults do.

So what I mean by “special” is, it’s special to me, and if my eleven-year-old self was given a glimpse into this future, she’d be pretty damn smug and content, implausible fantasies of growing wings and flying across oceans aside.

Having a kid is supposed to be the “next” step, a higher level or deeper stage, but sometimes it feels more like we’re tearing parts of a great creation down and rebuilding it to be something completely different and unfamiliar.

So, what will the next 12 years be like? Stay tuned…

 

WTF I Ate Moldy Tortillas

Father, I have sinned, for I ate medium rare steak twice in the last two months, had sushi (salmon, not tuna, to avoid mercury), and also drank more than 12 ounces of coffee on one occasion, perhaps two. I also had a taster of beer recently and a bite of shrimp ceviche.

They tell pregnant women not to eat sushi, uncooked seafoods (ceviche! smoked salmon! sob!), medium rare steak, hummus, deli meats, among others, but no one said a damn thing about moldy tortillas, did they? I had a couple of tortillas that tasted fine, only to check the package later and realize some of them were growing mold. I then proceeded to have stomach problems for the next 24 hours.

Of course the culprit would not be anything listed in the first paragraph, but something like flour tortillas. Irony.

 

A Beer Haiku

I entered an Instagram contest for a beer haiku:

I may be pregnant
But will dream of local brews
Until I give birth

Imagine You’re Standing At the Shore…

I went to yoga again yesterday, even though I needed much more vigorous exercise after eating gummies, chocolates, goldfish, and other unfortunate snacks throughout the day. Toward the end of the session, our instructor had us relax and envision standing at the shoreline of the ocean. She asked us to take in the wide expanse of sea, and to listen to the rhythm of the waves.

The type of beach that came to mind immediately was in southeast Asia. I started in Phu Quoc, Vietnam, but a little jellyfish swam by my feet, so I migrated to Phuket, Thailand, but the water was a bit darker than I preferred. I settled on the shore of White Sand Beach in Candidasa, Bali, where I sipped on a large bottle of cold lager and ate an entire grilled fish, with a side of a local sweet and sour fish sauce-based dip while lounging in the sand. It suddenly occurred to me I will not likely be carefree and alone with my husband on a remote beach in southeast Asia, drinking and eating with reckless abandon any time soon, or indeed, for many years to come, and I sort of wanted to cry.

Of course, that was not the point of the exercise, and our “birth wisdom” tip sheets at the end of class fittingly reminded me to check negative thoughts at the door.

Announcing Pregnancy

Everyone knows the 3-month rule. Due to the higher chance of miscarriage in early pregnancy, many, if not most, like to keep things under wraps until the second trimester. I did not follow this approach for a few reasons, however.

While the risk of miscarriage in known pregnancies is, according to Dr. Google, 10-20 percent in the first 20 weeks, the odds still appeared to be largely in my favor. I also considered the fact there are no known miscarriages in my family and I’m pretty healthy. Whether these are scientifically sound reasons for being optimistic, I can’t say, but that was my thought process.

I balanced these odds with the absolute certainty that within a week or two, I’d find myself at a party, uncharacteristically without an alcoholic drink, and would face questions about being pregnant and have to lie. I knew this with absolute certainty, because there was one occasion on which I attended a baby shower after a night of brewery hopping. As I had indulged sufficiently the night prior, I decided to take it easy on the alcohol at the baby shower. I was one of the earlier guests, and actually did help myself to a mimosa, but after that, I refrained with the exception of a virgin Bloody Mary, which is nice the day after drinking. Also, I hate vodka and love tomato juice, so I always drink Bloody Marys virgin, but I do not do this frequently, so not many people know this.

Subsequently, my husband received several text messages from his friends insisting they “knew” I must be pregnant, because none of the girlfriends or wives saw me imbibe alcohol at the shower, and in fact, saw me order a virgin drink. The texts were so adamant my husband actually called me on the way home from work to ask tentatively, “You’re not pregnant… are you?”

So I had a pretty good idea that any time I’m caught without alcohol, there would be questions. I am not a good liar and I could see myself being really awkward with this. Further, I’d have to make up a lot of lies if I was seeing people or being invited places over the course of 3 months.

Additionally, while you never know until it happens to you, I did not think I’d be the type to be completely devastated if I miscarried. Surely, it would be frustrating, but I suspected I would tell myself it was my body’s way of rejecting an organism not meant to be born, and doubted I would become a total emotional wreck. I balanced the relatively unlikely possibility of having to tell multiple people I miscarried with the absolute certainty of telling many awkward lies, and decided the awkward lies would be worse for me.

We told parents and family almost immediately, followed by close friends. Everyone else, we told if they asked or if it somehow came up. We did not go out of our way to share on social media or make any type of formal announcement. To be honest, for me, the beginning was characterized by a certain level of anxiety, and I didn’t want to feel like I had to put on an act for everyone about how exciting and joyous this all is. Maybe that makes me weird, but it’s the truth, and I was not inclined to put on a fake show. You can fool the world, but you cannot fool yourself, nor should you try to.

[Note: pictured above indeed is our little fetus, not a cat sitting on a plank, however appropriate that might be.]

Holiday Drinks 2016

My birthday is around Christmas, so it can be hard to get friends together during this time, but I was lucky enough to round up some of my favorite people this year and hit up some beer adventures.

Having lived in San Diego for almost a decade, I wanted to make the rounds in a neighborhood that was not one of the usual party spots (e.g. Downtown, PB, etc.) I also wanted to drink somewhere walking distance from a Coaster station, so I decided we would take the Coaster and get off at Old Town Transit Center. It’s really unfortunate San Diego increasingly has a stick up its ass, and banned alcohol on the Coaster, but I guess it’s not like we needed any extra alcohol, considering how the night progressed. We took a short stroll from Old Town to Modern Times Brewing, which was on a nondescript street corner that appeared relatively uneventful and dead until we got inside.

Modern Times was full of the holiday spirit, complete with Christmas tree and arts and craft supplies for those who like to play with glue, glitter, and pipe cleaners while drinking craft brews.

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Modern Times beers are fantastic, with my favorite probably being the Blazing World. While I rarely favor ambers, this one definitely is more related to an IPA in flavor profile. They served their tasters in cigar boxes.

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We stayed at Modern Times for a few rounds of beers, and made our exit when we had our fix of making Christmas trees, wands, and headbands out of popsicle sticks and pipe cleaners. We took an Uber to Old Town Public House. It’s a pretty small bar, but even so, it was surprising that at 9:00 p.m. on a Saturday, there was literally only one other person in the bar. They had a fantastic selection of Belgian beers, which is unusual. Bars in San Diego tend to emphasize a vast collection of IPA’s, and rarely feature any significant selection of Belgians (dude, Stella does not count).

We had just one pint each here, and walked over to Home & Away, another neat bar in the area. Again, this was another joint that had a decent selection of beers on tap, and also had games a plenty, including ping pong on the patio. We really liked this bar, but again, it was surprisingly empty for a Saturday night. We did make friends with a regular who lived walking distance away. He treated us to a round of Fireball shots, which was wonderful of him, but regrettable when the morning rolled around.

When the bar closed, we Ubered back to our place to hang out and play Catchphrase until almost 4:00 a.m. It was a perfect end to a birthday celebration.

A Few Breweries Downtown

We decided to walk around to some breweries downtown a little while back, and started out at Monkey Paw Brewing,where we did several tasting flights.

Dr. Bill’s ESB was malty and a little sweet. The I-5 Coconut Black IPA was more coconut and less IPA than I would prefer. The Gibbon Back IIPA was lemony and floral. The Low and Slow Smoked Lager was interesting. I’m not usually one for lagers, but decided to give this one a go. It smelled sort of like smoked salmon, and had savory notes with a hint of smoked plum.

For our second flight, we had the Rhubarb Saison, which was fruity, slightly tart, with grapefruit tones. The Dark Side of Paradise, a macadamia nut milk stout, was a big hit with us. It was smooth, velvety, and practically a dessert. The Might Joe Young Stout was another good stout, with an obvious coffee flavor, more of a bite, but still smooth.

Our friends ordered some food while we were here, and decided it was the best Philly Cheesesteak they’d ever had.

Next, we made our way to Mission Brewery. Mission Brewery operates out of a building that used to be the Wonder Bread factory, which gives it a unique atmosphere and a certain charm that sets it apart from other breweries located inside industrial parks. We hadn’t been here in about 5 years, and were surprised to find some major changes to this place. You still have to walk through some pretty sketchy areas of downtown to get here (at one point, our friend saw an entire block of trash, tents, and shopping carts and questioned whether there was an alternative route to get to this place) but once you get in, it’s a whole different world.

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When we came 5 years prior, it was relatively empty and quiet. This time, it was busy as hell, and they’d added more tables, a small store, and opened up an additional area in the back.

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Mission has a great selection of IPA’s, so this was sort of a heaven for me, but if you’re not into IPA’s it might be a bit less exciting. After Mission, we walked to Half Door Brewing, which is located in a converted house. It is adorable, and I’d passed it with curiosity on several occasions in the last year. This was another IPA heaven, and I enjoyed most of the beers I tasted, including House of Hops, the Pale Ale, the Buzz, the Northeast IPA, and the Hoban. My only complaint about this place is that the tasters are a bit pricey for what they are.

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Drinking Adventures in Denver

We were in Colorado for a family reunion last month, and flew in and out of Denver to get to Glenwood Springs. On our way back, we took the opportunity to enjoy some drinks in Denver. Denver is known for great beers, and I was excited to go to Great Divide. I’ve had the “I Believe” yeti sticker on our beer fridge for years now. We took an Uber from our hotel, which was obviously less memorable than the beer, since I can’t even give you the name of it at this point. (Hyatt? Hilton?)

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We had two rounds of tasters, including the Yeti Imperial Stout, of course!

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I hit up Yelp and based on a combination of proximity and good reviews, we walked to Jagged Mountain Brewing next.

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The beers here were also excellent, most notably a Belgian/IPA mix that was well-suited for both lovers of Belgians and IPA’s. Thereafter, we decided to try something a little different. We walked into Mile High Spirits, a distillery that specializes in flavored hard liquor. I was planning on consuming lots of Denver beers, but this ended up being a pretty fun experience. They had about 20 different flavors of liquors, with fairly normal ones like pineapple vodka and honey bourbon, and then some really weird ones like pickle, garlic, pepperoncini, and black pepper.

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Strangely, it was the weird ones that we enjoyed most. I particularly enjoyed the garlic and pepperoncini vodkas. The venue was also really cool because there was a large patio area with cornhole and other fun lawn games.