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

 

Daydreaming In Bed

Mom went back to work last week and we ended Friday on a good note. I gave in to my hunger and drank quite a bit at grandpa and grandma’s house. This put Mom in good spirits.

I still hadn’t eaten as much as I wanted so Mom fed me as soon as we got home. Her new thing is to feed me lying down while reading travel and food magazines and eating Life cereal. She was duped into buying year-long subscriptions to Bon Appetit and Conde Nast Traveler after seeing some $5 deal on Instagram and has been collecting idle magazines for the last 4 months. She finally found some use for them – reading while breastfeeding.

She still dreams of travel but makes fun of Traveler magazine even as she leafs through the publication wistfully. She finds the whole idea of “high-end boho”  – a term used by an author to describe one particular Marrakech establishment – ludicrous. She is also opposed to another writer’s recommendation to stay at the Park Hyatt Bangkok. We live just two miles away from a Park Hyatt, and mom and dad have attended rowdy holiday parties that end in the hotel’s lobby bar the last 2 or 3 years in a row, so she doesn’t see why she would go all the way to Bangkok and camp out somewhere so familiar. To be fair, the last time Mom and Dad were in Bangkok, mom was a recent law school grad with a ton of loans, so it’s not like she could have afforded to stay there anyway. Could it be sour grapes?

 

She sneered at a one-paragraph mention of Taiwan, which rambled on only about tea and featured an elderly Asian woman wearing a rice hat in a tea field. Of all the ways to represent Taiwan! However, she got a little nostalgic at the unexpected mention of one Greenbrier resort in West Virginia on the list of top resorts in the United States. She was suddenly brought back to her childhood, at the age of 7, on family vacation. Her dad (my grandpa) rented bikes and in the front of the Greenbrier lobby is where she first felt the freedom of riding a bike.

 

She considers most of the recipes in Bon Appetit rather unimaginative (read: it’s not Indian, Thai, Korean, Chinese, or insanely spicy) and definitely rolled her eyes at a picture of pasta plated in a bite-size serving on a 4-inch dish. She did dog ear some pictures of the Italian countryside and a hotel in Chile for Dad though.

I eat and eat and meanwhile, she drops Life cereal crumbs on my head and on the sheets. Later at night, while in bed, she will complain that she is being stabbed by crumbled pieces of Life. Dad will ask her if that is meant literally or metaphorically, while I dream noisily in my basinet.

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.

LOL Vegan Gluten Free Ramen

How about NOOOOO?

Sometimes when I’m bored, I actually bother to leaf through the coupons that come in the mail. Today, I encountered the coupon pictured above. This food is so preposterous I don’t even know what to say. Are they aware Japanese people invented udon and also MSG? How can you possibly open a legitimate udon noodle restaurant and simultaneously advertise for NO MSG and NO gluten? Give me a fucking break. I can already imagine how boring, flat, and ridiculous this food tastes. Stewing udon broth in vegetables will never, ever, ever, ever give it the same flavor or depth as broth stewed in meat. Period. Impossible. No.

The whole demonization of MSG is junk science anyway, probably stemming from racism against Asians. Oooh I ate Chinese food and got dizzy! Shut up. The billion Chinese people eating MSG regularly don’t seem to have your imaginary MSG allergy. How do you explain that? Your stupid sensitivities are made-up, just like many gluten and carb allergies. For most people, it’s not a fucking allergy. It’s an aversion. There’s a difference. You aren’t “allergic” just because you refuse to eat something based on your blind adherence to the latest retarded fad diet. Allergic is when you eat something and swell up/stop breathing and possibly die. Did you asphyxiate or die from eating MSG or gluten? No, so you are not allergic.

The coupon advertises it is “Voted the best Vegan BLT in California by PETA” which is completely meaningless. If PETA people don’t eat meat, they cannot possibly know how shitty vegan BLT’s or vegan ramen udon are. These are the same people who compare eating pork to the murder of Jewish people during the Holocaust, so their opinions when it comes to meat are hysterically biased. Also, this is to say nothing of the fact a place that serves both BLT’s and Udon noodles cannot possibly be a good restaurant. This is some seriously infuriating hipster bullshit.

Week 41!

Fetus is still in there, having a grand old time! She is 4 days past due now, and I’ve been having contractions for 3+ days. They are mild to moderate in nature, and not very painful, but enough to be uncomfortable and tiring. They started out spaced quite a bit apart, and progressed to every 30 minutes, then 20, then 10, and even 5, but varies and returns to a rate of every 30 minutes and/or 20 minutes with complete lack of predictability. I can sleep through most of them, but wake up to it 3-4 times a night.

I’ve been lounging a lot, but also doing some walking and yoga stretching. I did do 35 squats with a 20 pound weight after walking a short hill yesterday, but that turned out to be a big mistake because I felt grouchy and tired the rest of the day. Husband has been very patient and nice with massages when I wake up in the morning with a kinked spine and foot massages when we watch TV.

Also had my fair share of pineapple cakes. Bribing Fetus to come on out and join the human world of delicious treats. In fact, she’s been bribed this whole week, with Chinese home cooking, including tomato beef noodle soup, mapo tofu, zha jiang noodles, etc.

I had a doctor’s appointment today, and I’m currently 2 centimeters dilated and 80 percent thinned out, so I guess the last 3 days have not been in vain. The non-stress test results were fine, and the amniotic fluid still looks good, so my doctor did not think it’d be a problem to wait a little longer, though she wanted to have a game plan for potential induction if I went past 41 weeks. Potential induction would involve use of Cytotec, a synthetic prostaglandin. In the meantime, she offered to strip/sweep the membranes, which basically involves insertion of a finger into the opening of the cervix, and moving it around to separate the amniotic sac membranes from the cervix. This causes release of prostaglandins which may speed up labor. However, I did not recall what any of my classes and/or reading material had to say about this procedure, and I was undecided on it, so we held off.

After Husband went to work, I went home to consult some books along with Google. It seemed to me that membrane stripping was relatively benign, with minimal risks, compared with some of the horror stories one of my books seemed to suggest about Cytotec. I really hope to avoid being induced to begin with, and although I think some of the hippie set tend to overstate the risks of Cytotec, both Google and Expecting Better seemed to indicate there’s evidence membrane stripping is relatively safe and and up to 25 percent effective, so I called the doc’s office back to see when I could come in to get it done.

I went in basically as soon as I hung up the phone, and was seen within 5 minutes. The sweep itself lasted probably less than 20 seconds. She literally just poked her finger up in there and swished it around a little. The internet said it could be crampy and uncomfortable, but it was even less so than I imagined. It sort of felt like my bladder was being poked a little, but otherwise was entirely bearable. I felt like contractions began to speed up within the hour (after a pretty slow morning and early afternoon), but who knows if this is coincidence. Stay tuned.

Week 39

Monday

I met a friend, who is also pregnant for lunch at Panera. She’s in the process of switching over to my OB-GYN because she was somewhat displeased with her (mine has been awesome up to this point!) Work flew by because I charged through a couple of projects I wanted to wrap up before leaving. After work, I did a couple of yoga videos.

Tuesday 

Work went by fairly quickly again, and I met another friend for lunch. I don’t usually eat out for lunch very often, but I figured now is the time to make last-minute time for good friends before Fetus makes her appearance. (Hey, think of all the money I’ve saved by not drinking alcohol these past 9 months!)

I’ve been trying to eat healthier, but I decided YOLO and suggested Persian. It’s not that Persian food is necessarily unhealthy, but I love it a lot and tend to go overboard. We met at this place with a sweet ass lunch special. They give you a small basket of bread and olives as soon as you are seated, and then the salad bar alone is glorious;  I treated myself to cucumber and tomato salad, tabouli, dolma, pickled veggies, and dates. The two of us shared the eggplant stew and a koobideh kabab that came with the usual roasted, juicy tomato and buttery saffron rice. Yeah, you try ordering this stuff and not going overboard.

The lunch was so lavish and abundant I even had leftovers to take home for husband, who enjoyed it as well. To think, there once was a time he hated Persian food! I’m glad I turned him away from a life of sure deprivation.

This put me in a great mood the rest of the day, and I compensated after I got home with some weight exercises (triceps dips, wide squats with a 20 pound weight, wall sits, bridge lifts) and a little bit of yoga.

Wednesday

Very tired. I successfully limited my liquid intake after 8:00 p.m. the night before and did not wake up much to pee… but did wake up for no reason at 3:00 a.m. and could not get back to sleep. We went to a doctor’s appointment, and I’m not dilated, though she said this is not any kind of predictor as to when I would go into labor. I was not particularly motivated to exercise after work, but managed some triceps dips and about an hour of yoga.

We went through a big box of baby clothes our neighbor kindly gave us, and sorted them by size. Most of them were boy items, but it’s not like babies really care. Girls can dress up as frogs and bears too. Although the onesie that says “Lock up your daughters!” really might be a little odd.

Thursday

Had lunch with boss and clients at Bentley’s. I ordered a Cobb Salad with the Mandarin ginger dressing instead of bleu cheese dressing. It came in epic proportions, but I think with the hard boiled eggs, grilled chicken, and veggies, it was still a healthier choice. On the other hand, the baked Brie appetizer with onion dip and berry jam were not.

After lunch, I stopped by Champagne Bakery, located in the same shopping center. I used to go to the one in Irvine all the time in high school, when a friend of mine worked there. I’d hang around and chill toward the end of his shift and wait for him so we could hang out. He introduced me to French desserts such as Creme Brulee, for which I have developed a lifelong love, meringues, and custard brioche. He eventually was fired for stealing from the cash registers, but my best friend in high school later also worked here, so I continued to be a regular fixture for some time.

On this occasion, I stopped to get desserts for our wedding anniversary. Although I had planned a trip to the Cravory, which has oddly flavored cookies that are amazingly tasty (e.g. balsamic rosemary – who knew this could be so delicious?), I changed my mind and was drawn to Champagne instead. I got husband a slice of Princess cake and a berry tart for myself. It was tough choosing between the berry tart and Creme Brulee. Creme Brulee usually wins over all else, but maybe pregnancy has had an effect on my taste? Also, the berry tart is just aesthetically quite a bit more pleasing. I also bought a raspberry macaron for myself and ate it on the way back to work. Stayed tuned for weight gain.

We walked a nearby hill 3 times for exercise, then rushed to the Bahn Mi place for dinner before closing time. The sandwiches were delicious and we could not believe we’d taken so many years to finally try this place.

Weekend

Friday, I went for a foot/body prenatal massage combo and it was amazing. There’s a place I’ve gone to a couple of times now that is sort of a good mix between discount massages and a spa experience. It’s more money than a cheapo Asian place, but the skill level and atmosphere are also better. The atmosphere is not quite at the level of a more professional spa, as I’ve never been to a luxury spa where the masseuse is wearing shredded denim capris or smells vaguely of cigarettes, but I’ve seriously gotten two of the best massages ever here, irrespective of price, so I’m a fan.

Saturday, I did some stretches and we did the  steep hiking trail hill by our old house once, which was nice. Later in the day, we went to the beach and did some meditation practice and I did some more stretching on the beach. I haven’t gone to Yoga class since I finished up my 10-class package, but a lot of the poses and stretches I learned in class have been immensely helpful, particularly toward the end of the third trimester.

Sunday, I walked the same hill twice and it was a big mistake. It tired me out for the rest of the day and made me grouchy. For the future, I will remember the oft-repeated advice regarding not pushing yourself too much during pregnancy. It is not the time. I think it’s good to push myself to get some type of exercise even when I’m feeling lazy, but maybe not to push it to uncomfortable limits e.g. long hikes, too much cardio, too much heat. Certainly it’s not harmful and it might be helpful for staying in shape, but the toll it takes on the rest of the day and sometimes the day after is not worth it. Sort of like a bad hangover. Except I didn’t have the pleasure of drinking, and instead of dehydration and a headache, I’m grouchy, irritable, and tired.

DON’T DO IT

The taco belongs in a mouth! It won’t always make it into a mouth, but it’s best not to broadcast any evidence of taco waste!

I hereby give permission for anyone to slap me if I share pictures on social media of my child covered in food. Seriously, this is weird and gross. The pasta sauce all over the eyebrows and face is as attractive on your child as it is on you. Please, no. Also, while your kid is rubbing noodles in her hair, smearing chocolate everywhere but in her mouth, and flinging taco bits across your kitchen, there are starving children in third world countries.

Maybe I’ll change my feelings when I become a mother, but irrespective of how I feel, I will NOT ALLOW MYSELF TO DO THIS. I would never post a picture of myself covered from head to toe in chocolate because it is messy and unattractive. Regardless of how cute or “funny” I might think my child is, I’ll try to remember that to others, she likely looks messy and unattractive covered in food. If anyone catches me sharing pictures of my child covered in food, it means my body has been overtaken by the body snatchers and I am signalling for help.

Beef Noodle Soup for the Soul

I was driving back from a deposition in Newport Beach yesterday, and once I was on the 405, realized it was only the briefest of detours to go to a Taiwanese restaurant off of Jeffrey in Irvine. Beef noodle soup sang out to my soul (or was it Fetus craving something?) and I exited Jeffrey to stop for lunch at A&J Restaurant (半畝園).

I don’t bullshit myself; A&J does not have amazing beef noodle soup and cannot compare to Taiwan, but it absolutely satisfies the craving and it is not possible to eat here and leave unhappy. I have consistently ordered beef noodle soup with the wide noodles, half tendon, half meat every time I come here for the last 19 years, but there are other great things on the menu as well including the green onion pancakes (蔥油餅) and some other carb-loaded fried dough, the name of which I do not know in English (抓餅). One of these days I want to bring husband here for a traditional Taiwanese breakfast/brunch for soy milk soup accompanied with some other fried dough dish (油條). Noodles, fried dough, more fried dough… this is how Asians get the diabeetus.

This place has been around for a long time; it’s been there since probably well before my family moved to Irvine in 1998, and as far as I can tell has employed the exact same personnel since at least then. We used to come here all the time when I was in high school, and it appears that almost 20 years later, with the exception of maybe one extra person, it’s the exact same ladies who seat you and serve you. I don’t know their names, but I know them by face, and I suspect the one random Hispanic lady who’s still there has a decent command of Mandarin by now. I was last here just about a year ago, and one of the waitresses recognized me, commenting that I used to go there all the time with my family. She asked, “Didn’t you used to have a little brother? Where’s he?” I responded that my “little” brother is now 26 and living in New York City, and we laughed about how much time had passed.

After lunch, I spoiled myself some more by walking into Sunmerry bakery for unearned treats (unjust desserts?). Had a pineapple bun and bought two Portuguese style egg tarts for dessert after dinner. I ate the pineapple bun while sitting in traffic on the way back to San Diego and saved the egg tarts for after our carne asado burrito dinner. It was a decadent day, as far as food goes.

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.

 

Preggo Shopping

Over the weekend, I drove down to Pacific Beach to my husband’s cousin Amy’s pad, where she had laid out a beautiful spread of snacks and drinks on her dinner table for a ladies’ day. Her smorgasboard included sweet peppers, a whipped garlic spread, brie, homemade fig jam, plum preserves, baguette slices, tapenade, among other treasures that sang to me. These were paired with champagne and beers for others (so jealous), but Amy was incredibly thoughtful and had a couple of fancy non-alcoholic options for me. After gorging on the snacks, paired with a coconut (mango?) oolong tea, and an elderflower and rose lemonade, we went shopping with a crew of ladies.

The first stop was a store I’ve been to on a couple of prior occasions. Half of it contains normal clothing. The other half is most accurately described as an awesome costume/stripper store, featuring wigs in all colors of the rainbow, garter belts, masks, S&M collars, corsets, animal ears, steampunk goggles, and things normal people do not wear out in public. Every time I am here, I Snapchat a glimpse of this wonderland to my stripper friend. If I lived closer, I’d be here all the time. Being about 5 months pregnant, I briefly felt reminiscent browsing through slinky dresses I could have previously worn. Amy assured me I could buy them anyway because I would eventually fit into them again, but I am vehemently against buying ill-fitting clothes many months in advance (especially considering how fickle I am in my style). However, she did plant a seed in my head, and without much further deliberation promptly decided I could still wear these things if I bought items made of stretchy material, and in the largest size available.

So I left the store with a form-fitting black spandex dress (size L) that was not made for pregnant people and a gray, over-sized, shirt featuring the classy slogan, “ALCOHOL YOU LATER.” Although this may not have been the shirt’s intent, I figured this was entirely appropriate for me, since indeed, I cannot alcohol until many months from now. Additionally, I picked up a black, lacy, billowy dress with spaghetti straps for $5 that seemed perfect for preggos, which is also probably why it was on the sale rack for $5 in a stripper store. I wore the black spandex to the bowling alley with 5-inch wedges the next day, because fuck it. YOLO.

On a side note, in our shopping adventures, I noticed an abundance of choker necklaces, ribbed shirts and dresses, and floral prints. Holy shit, are the 90’s back in? Goddamn I am getting old.