My First Mother’s Day

On my first Mother’s Day crept up on me; indeed it still feels like motherhood has not quite sunk in entirely. Kyle greeted me in the morning with caramel flavored egg coffee in my Doraemon mug, and a delicious breakfast feast fit for a king: crispy bacon; poached eggs over a bed of black beans sauteed with garlic and spinach, topped with habanero salsa; and banana coconut oatmeal with berries mixed in.  

After breakfast, we video-called my mom on Line, went for a quick jog, then made our way to celebrate the rest of Mother’s Day with the family. Vale made me a colorful mosaic tile with her handprint (with just a little assistance from grandma!) We enjoyed a good IPA and imperial stout in the warm May sun, and had a lovely time relaxing with family.

I’ve always loved and appreciated my mother, and in the last 13 years have been keenly aware of how lucky I am to have such a wonderful mother-in-law, whom I love and appreciate as well. Still, it’s only upon becoming a mother myself that I fully understand what it’s all about and just how hard it can be.

Journal

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.

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.

The Week

Monday she woke up still drunk at 11:30 and called people to confirm her friend’s brother had indeed showed up at her ex-boyfriend’s door and together they finished the Johnny Walker Red, spiked a carafe of orange juice at Denny’s with cheap vodka, the color of light sunshine for a heavy heart, bottled oblivion. They stumbled around the lake until the sun came up and she would not see the brother until her friend’s wedding over a decade later, when she was slower and less angry. She was not old enough to have hangovers but the day was restless and heavy and she let it slip by at Vincent’s house in the form of a horror movie; 10 years later the plot would suddenly surface in her mind, while the name of the film remained elusive.

Tuesday she complained of transience, and dreaded Los Angeles’s siren song of hazy nights and rushed minutes. She declared selfishness a virtue some 12 years before she read Ayn Rand’s so-titled essay. Ex-boyfriends fed her conceit and let her talk up storms of emptiness as cigarette smoke floated by on the cafe patio. The day was gray, and the skinny blond on telly condemned the rest of the week to rain. Her friend came by wearing an expensive pea coat and she vaguely felt she would like a boyfriend who favored pea coats.

Inner Senses.

Wednesday, she wore angora and hoped it had not necessitated the killing of rabbits. She misplaced her journal and thought she might die without it. She was frantic and tried to steal books at the bar, but Chad stopped her. A Georgian told her Southern Californians were cold, suspicious, and self-involved. She laughed and told him to get used to it. She left the bar with Tuesday, put her hands around his neck, and afterwards her hands smelled like boy.

Thursday, she skipped Astronomy class because whether the white-haired, bearded man’s description of burning blue stars and fiery planets was fascinating or painfully dull was always a gamble. She watched Tuesday sleeping next to her and imagined swift irrationality stirring and boiling over like coffee. She slipped out of his bed. Her temporary preoccupation paired well with the pulsing in her head and she walked slowly to work.

Friday, her ex-boyfriend lectured her about being devious and self-centered but she only cared for her coffee and bagel. He left her on the patio in the rain and her prideful, clear nights opened the skies and gave way to the heaviest deluge, despondent clouds, and wet wretchedness. A stranger, a Geology major, shared his umbrella with her and she was grateful as she watched the sloppy crystals fall out of the sky, blurring her vision. When the kind Geologist and his umbrella left, she considered her numbness and her alcohol-based romance: 3 parts booze, 1 part unspecified attraction, drowned in slate.

Saturday, she ran in the rain while thin shadows of trees chased her. The city was drowned in the angry tears of some heartbroken god and it came down so violently she could barely see. At night, after the torrents receded, she sat on a large rock, hiding under a tree, and waited for him, her toes grazing a pool of ivy. He came stumbling around the corner shortly, and she remembered that when she thought she’d lost her journal she felt she would die, her trite thoughts floating among the unknown, abandoned in the corner of a bar, pages disintegrating and burning in golden whiskey, but her friend had sneered.

She blinked, she melted, she slept soundly in his bed, and it was Sunday again.

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.

 

Rural Town

She’s at the cafe again, sipping coffee, watching her friend sweep the floor while the sun streams through the windows but when she is not looking the trees whisper ill-fated tales of childhood to each other and the familiar wind and snow rage on an empty field steeped in her blood. Every corner of this place is loneliness and desertion, the scent of which clings like a hungry leech waiting patiently for the spirit to suffocate. You can flee to California but this town crawls in your veins, bursts in your bones.

When Your Cat Seems To Be Training You For Children

Our cat Fiona has always taken it upon herself to train Kyle for having babies by waking him up at odd hours, making strange noises, and demanding food at ungodly times. Recently, she has really upped her game. Today, Kyle was gone for work but she must have pestered me for food five times after I returned home from work.

I wrapped a present for a baby shower for the next day, set it aside, only to return several minutes later to find Fiona had made a small tear in the pretty wrapping paper, and was sitting her ass on the present. That was not enough mischief for the night, though.

I turned on the hand steamer, set it down on the kitchen counter to heat up, and turned my back for not 30 seconds to grab a snack. When I glanced back to check on the hand steamer, I practically had a heart attack when I saw Fiona had her whole face pressed into the holes where the steam is supposed to come out. I yelled at her and she quickly retreated, exactly 3 seconds before hot steam came streaming out. I thought she was going to burn her eyeballs off! I think this is the first time I encountered a cat safety hazard while engaging in domesticity. I thought she needed to blow off some energy, so I played with her, but when it came time to use my computer, this was happening:

When I finally got to use my computer, she crawled into my lap like the spoiled thing she is and pretended she was totally innocent.

ADDENDUM: The next morning, she attempted to drag me out of bed at 6:50 am and pestered me to no end. She even bit my face at one point. I am a firm believer in not giving in to such antics, but although I ignored her bad behavior, I was not able to go back to sleep. I still refused to get out of bed until 8:00 and then went downstairs to have coffee before yoga class. To top it off, as I was headed out the door, Ophelia circled my legs, blocked me on the stairs, and clung to my leggings as I was trying to leave. I texted Kyle and let him know the cats are extra neurotic when he’s gone.

A Reminder to Myself to be Grateful

I’ve read in multiple sources that gratitude is a significant contributing factor, if not the key, to happiness. In a study by two psychologists from UC Davis and the University of Miami, researchers found that writing about things for which people were grateful led to more optimism and positive feelings about the subject’s lives (here and here).

Even in the absence of scientific evidence, this theory seems to make intuitive sense, and at the least is worth a try, because it can’t hurt. I am fairly happy in general regardless, but pregnancy is not always my cup of tea, so I thought this would be the perfect time to make a list of things for which I am grateful:

  • My husband, for being supportive and kind.
  • My family, immediate, extended, and in-law, for being wonderful people who will be positive influences and role models for my little fetus.
  • My body, for doing what seems to be a decent job so far – no vomiting, no complications, no abnormal lab results, no debilitating symptoms. Even my blood pressure, which normally runs a tad high, has normalized.
  • Financial stability, which makes this process far less stressful.
  • Google and the internets. Sometimes Googling medical conditions can lead you to believe you have cancer or a brain tumor, but sometimes it does the opposite. Sometimes you Google some symptom and find out it’s totally normal during pregnancy and that you are not, in fact dying. What a relief! Not only for myself, but for my doctor’s office as well because otherwise I’d be calling non-stop.
  • Yelp, so I can read reviews on doctors and classes and make informed decisions.
  • Living in a metropolitan area where the quality and standard of healthcare is high, and I am able to easily find providers, facilities, classes, and options suited to my needs, preferences, and philosophies.
  • Living in a time after the invention of ultrasounds, genetic/other types of testing/screening, breast pumps, pregnancy pillows, and life-saving medical interventions and procedures.
  • Wal-Mart, for all kinds of cheap shit, from baby gear to maternity clothes and more.
  • P.G. Wodehouse, for making me laugh when I was very tired in early pregnancy and did not have energy to do anything except sit on the couch and read.
  • All the little pleasures in life: roses, coffee, the beach nearby, Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald on Saturday mornings, gummy bears (or maybe NOT, since I can’t stop eating them and they are not nutritious at all!)

Morning Coffee

They held daffodils between their teeth as they wove flower crowns and years later

Flipping through old books she found four-leaf clovers pressed between pages

Crushed flat and still, preserved for no one

She felt the heat and shine of the rising sun and saw her friend in his car, preparing to leave the summer behind

She called out to him from the patio and said I love you

He turned to her and responded Ugh stop drinking

The child molester sitting a table away asks her about a boy as the morning coffee begins to waft

She says Give me a cigarette and I’ll tell you

She takes a drag and weaves a tale of indifference

As he lectures her about fickleness