Vale Turns One

Vale turned one recently. We already celebrated her birthday with family a couple of weeks earlier, so we did not have another party. However, she did have a little celebration at daycare, and exhibited some pretty greedy behavior, reaching for a second donut while the first was still unfinished, in her mouth (let’s be honest – there’s no way she can even finish the first donut, much less the second!)  On the actual day of her birthday, she received a visit and some neat presents from her buddy Luka from San Francisco. They played together a little, though Vale was abnormally shy about it.

Later in the day, we took her to the park (her favorite!), where she enjoyed climbing slides, throwing sand, and other playground gadgets. In the early evening, we gave her presents mailed from Grandma, Grandpa, and Uncle Aaron. She liked chewing on the panda bear’s nose, and was immediately interested in the Chinese version of Hungry Hungry Catepillar. We gave her a percussion instrument set, including a xylophone, maracas, jingle bells, claves, a small drum, and a guiro. She took to it quickly and could be a future bando in the making.

At night, Dad baked her a chocolate chip cookie (from scratch!), and we sang happy birthday to her in Mandarin and English. She refused to try even a bite of the cookie, unfortunately. She appeared confused by this birthday spectacle.

Vale loves animal crackers and bananas and is increasingly developing a personality. Her likes and dislikes are always in flux, and she has even exhibited some rather intense fears. Grandma gave her a pretty cool Curious George-in-the Box for her birthday, but she is not yet a fan. She was initially terrorized by George popping out of the box, and attempted to flee the scene, but also proved curiously drawn to it. Her fears have somewhat diminished after interacting with the toy multiple times, but it seems George still continues to put her somewhat ill-at-ease.

Another toy that has really ruffled her feathers, is a talking teddy bear given by a kind family member. The bear recites a prayer, Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the lord my soul to keep, guide me through the starry night, and wake me with the morning light (or something along those lines). We actually received this item before she was born, and it creeped me the fuck out, so I put it away in a drawer. Recently, I pulled some toys out of the drawer, including this bear, and pressed its belly to make it talk. Vale immediately dropped to the ground on all floors and started bawling. Due to the extremely dramatic display, I questioned whether her reaction was some kind of a coincidence, and related to another external stimulus. However, when I again brought the bear near her a few minutes later, her lips curled downward like she was going to cry.

In contrast, when I cruised her down the aisle of Halloween decorations at the 99 cent store, and waved dead bodies, bloody skeletons, and murderous clowns in her face, while saying, “oOOooOOooO,” she was much less concerned. The combination of these circumstances could be an indication she is a heathen, or worse, some unholy daemon.

She still loves In Hell I’ll Be In Good Company by The Dead South, and likes to bob her head and bounce her butt to the song, while watching the music video.

She continues to enjoy bath time, and even jumped in with all her clothes on before I could stop her on one occasion. She likes riding around in her Cozy Coup, and has another fun car in the works, a present from her uncle, auntie, and cousins.

Happy Father’s Day

To my dearest love,

It’s not easy to write blog posts one-handed, on the phone, in the dark while our hellion has a death grip on my arm but… This is my last chance to write this message in secret.

One unexpected thing about parenthood is how much more sensitive it has made me to the plight of suffering children. The news, always a source of horror and disappointment in humanity, now has an even deeper layer of poignancy for me when I read about the cruelties visited upon children and sometimes their parents. My mind involuntarily places me in their shoes and I’m frightened, but I take comfort in knowing you’ll always be here for me and Vale.

I wish I had another surprise for you to open since you already know about the botanical gardens, but I’m excited to stop and smell the roses together many times in the coming year.

I love you so much!

“Jen N”

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.

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.

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

 

Hello, I’m 2 Months

I turned 2 months a few days ago, and have made some progress. I smile a lot more now, and put on a show for others. I’m always smiling at my cousins, aunt, and uncle at daycare, but I still frown a lot at mom. I coo and say “lai” or “leh” a lot (“lai lai lai leh leh”) and Mom asks me if I’m trying to sing The Boxer by Simon & Garfunkle. No, I’m not, Mom. That song is for old ass people. Much older than you, even. Dad heard Mumford’s version of it on a Pandora station and didn’t even realize it was a cover. Mom went back to work on October 30, and I spend Mondays and Wednesdays at my aunt and uncle’s daycare with other pals, Tuesdays and Thursdays at home with Mom and Dad while they work, and Friday with Grandma and Grandpa, so I have an active social calendar.

Mom and Dad took me to a pumpkin patch over the weekend. Mom said I wouldn’t remember or understand any of it and pumpkin patches are dumb but they took me anyway, because everyone else was taking their babies and Mom didn’t want to feel like a grinch. It was abnormally hot for the end of October and I went without clothes again. I tried to sleep through the experience because the sun was too bright. Those infant sunglasses still don’t fit me.

A couple of days later, they put me in a furry ladybug costume on Halloween. It was too big and made me look like a giant puffy ball. I was not impressed. They walked me around with uncle, aunt, and cousin Sage in a nearby neighborhood, but I slept through the trick-or-treating festivities for the most part. I don’t have teeth and can’t eat candy anyway.

The weather started getting colder as of Halloween, and I have to wear clothes (more frequently) now. Mostly hand-me-down boys clothes, not that I care. I have some cool stuff with robots and animals, but Mom passed on making me wear the onesie that says, “Lock up your daughters.”

I’ve developed a somewhat stubborn personality in one respect; I began refusing almost entirely to drink out of a bottle. I don’t like it, so I’ve resorted to a semi-hunger strike during the day, as much as I love eating. I am still sleeping through the night and wake up pretty hungry. Mom used to say “Good morning, Sunshine,” when greeting me in the morning but the consensus between my parents was that after sleeping 8-9 hours straight and waking up starving, it wasn’t accurate to describe me as a ray of sunshine, so Mom now calls me “Moon.” She admits she’s a moon too, because she loves sleeping and is grouchy in the morning.

My cat sister stepped on me again recently. I have observed she is used to encroaching on human personal space and stepping all over them as she pleases, so it seems she now has come to recognize me as a flesh and blood human. It also seems to me she has been spoiled these past 10+ years, so I gave her swift kick to ensure such behavior does not occur again.

A Snapshot of the Last Days

The last week of my time off was not perfect. The hives continued to be horrible, and also appeared on my arms and hands, though with less ferocity, so I decided I would just stay in bed all day and do nothing for a couple of days. This was the best decision ever, and bed was a magical place where I enjoyed holding Vale in bed while different versions of La Vie En Rose played on my Billie Holiday Pandora station (Louie Armstrong and Edith Piaf), and watching her sleep while I ate breakfast (cooked by Dad) in bed.

 

 

I propped my laptop on my breakfast-in-bed table from Ikea, answered some emails, surfed the web, blogged, cuddled with Vale, and took it easy for two full days. Fiona, my faithful feline friend, joined the party and insisted on crowding up against Vale in my lap, or hovering underneath the table like she did when I was in law school. I was reminded of how she’d accompany me for hours while I read law school assignments and studied for the bar. She (and Ophelia) were our babies first, and turned 10 years old in a flash.

While in bed, I contemplated the importance of family, slow moments, and the little pleasures in life. I texted my mother frequently, and thought of how difficult it must have been for her and my dad to be half a world away from their family for decades.

Puke

In February of 2012, I took a 72 hour trip to Taipei (including the approximately 26 hours of flying) to attend my cousin’s funeral after her unexpected death. Of the dozen or so times I’d been to Taipei, this was the first time I was going in the wintertime. Coincidentally, Little V’s name constitutes the first four letters of my cousin’s name; I did not realize this until she was born and an old friend pointed it out to me. That’s what childhood friends are for; they remember details, facts, and stories about yourself, your family, your friends, and are able to have insights and see connections where others may not.

Surprisingly, EVA tickets were cheaper than China Airlines, and I took a window spot on a forest-green colored seat next to a three-year-old child and her mother. Throughout the flight, the three-year-old girl was quiet, pleasant, and drank from a bottle. About 5 hours into the flight, she projectile vomited all the milk in an impressive spray, all over the seats (fortunately missing me), and her mother literally tried to catch her puke in her cupped hands as she frantically called for assistance from a flight attendant.

Of course, the EVA attendant was gracious and helpful; she brought towels and changed out the puke seats (it had not occurred to me that airlines keep extra seat cushions around for such occasions). My feeling at the time was simultaneously of horror and humor. I horrified because it was gross and I felt terrible for the mother, but part of me also wanted to laugh (a little) at the unfortunate occurrence.

Five and a half years later, now that I am a mother myself, and am pretty much constantly wiping and cleaning spit-up and puke, and frequently getting spit-up all over my body, my clothes, my sheets, and my furniture, the EVA air experience in retrospect seems a little less funny, and also a little less gross.

Little V Is One Month Old

October just arrived and I took some one month photos of Little V. She was a little fussy about it, but complied after a change and two feedings. I had fun with some cat ears a dear friend sent along for Little V, as well as a skull I bought from a bone church in the Czech Republic. Here comes the Halloween season!

As I write this, we are having another typical day. I read poetry from the Tang Dynasty to her, did some tummy time, and we are listening to music again. Dear God…Did you make disease and the diamond blue? Did you make mankind after we made you? And the Devil too! Followed by something a little lighter, Bebel Gilberto’s version of Girl From Ipanema. 

Ah, por que estou tão sózinho?
Ah, por que tudo é tão triste?
Ah, a beleza que existe
A beleza que não é só minha
Que também passa sozinha

This week, Little V’s neck strength improved significantly, and we were able to take her out to exercise on steep hills in the neighborhood in her jogger without her head constantly flopping forward. It feels like this happened overnight; half a week ago, I aborted the workout because I constantly had to adjust her head while walking up the hill.

We took her to a few social outings, including to the park to meet some friends (she slept through the whole thing), and to grandma and grandpa’s house to hang out with her aunt, uncle, and cousins. She has continued to do tummy time at home with grandpa, and was a bit of a showoff with her bottle skills when friends came to visit over the weekend. Apparently, she likes needs an audience to prove her competence.

Little V also went to the beach for the first time on a clear, bright, Monday, with mom, dad, and grandpa. She experienced southern California beach life on a week day morning – not a soul about (not even a surfer) except for us and a couple of dudes who were likely non compos mentis, yelling at seagulls and ranting nonsense to each other.