Vale at 11 Months

At this stage in life, it is apparent Vale has opinions about things. She does not like putting on clothes (let’s see how this plays out when the weather gets cooler, kiddo!). She does not appreciate being dragged away from things and “goals” she intends to pursue, e.g. breakable dishes, electrical sockets, bottles of wine, picture frames, etc.

She remains quite social, but tends to be much more charmed and interested by older kids, as opposed to babies closer to her own age. She had a grand time playing with a 3 or 4 year old boy and a couple of 12 year old girls at Crack Shack. They played with giant Legos and made fast friends.

She made her second trip to Mexico (TJ), and accompanied the adults on various taco and beer adventures, where she enjoyed a few bites of taco meat, washed down with yummy Horchata.

She loves toddling around, exploring her environment, and being outdoors. She’s starting to get quite a tan, and mom has restricted direct sun exposure to after 3:00 p.m., especially since she refuses to keep a hat on her head. Her favorite toys are constantly changing, and recently, she enjoys taking things in and out of a small makeup pouch.

She’s eating more and more solid foods, though unfortunately, this includes some junk food, such as cheese balls. Dad got her a gigantic tub of these at WinCo. One questions why these cheese balls only come in a 3 gallon tub, but then you eat one and remember  they are about as addicting as crack. After a stint without cheesy poofs, she will walk over to the container and pound on the lid to demand more.

 

Vale at 10 months

We went to Maui this month, and Vale proved again to be a relatively compliant little traveler on the plane. However, due to the slight time change and new environment, she woke up twice a night to eat for almost the whole trip. On the positive side – she pooped three times on the toilet, and took one step on our vacation. She loved playing in the pool water, splashing in the ocean waves, and visiting with the staff at Java Jazz cafe/bar.

Over the next couple of weeks after we returned from Maui, she added more and more steps, and we think she’ll be fully walking any day now. She has finally started to be amenable to solid foods once again, and is back to eating avocado. She also likes string cheese, Pirate’s Booty cheese puffs, celery, and unfortunately, cat food.

Her new favorite activities include tearing into the spice drawer and playing with her new alphabet flashcards. She also enjoys playing in the sand pit and turf at Crack Shack while her parents enjoy beers.

We attended a beer and cheese tasting at Alesmith brewing, hosted by our real estate agent, and decided to bring Vale along. She enjoyed a fancy, dry, gouda with excellent flavor crystals. She also tried and liked the triple cream brie, goat, and bleu. Unfortunately, she was not of legal age to pair these cheeses with the recommended Alesmith Nut Brown, .394 Pale, Horny Devil (Belgian), or Speedway Stout, respectively.

 

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.

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.

 

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).

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