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.

Enjoying The Arts With Little V

This week, Little V danced to I Love You For Sentimental Reasons by Nat King Cole, a song I’ve loved since I was a child, and once performed at a close friend’s wedding. We breastfed to Snoop’s Drop It Like It’s Hot, and Nothing Better by the Postal Service. Afterwards, I burped her for a little while to the rhythm of a Strfker song on her back. As I am writing this, we are chilling out to Portions for Foxes by Rilo Kiley and Sprawl II by Arcade Fire, followed by Fake Plastic Trees by Radiohead.

I also read Chinese poetry from the Tang Dynasty to her when doing tummy time, and sometimes follow it up by playing Chopin’s Fantasie Impromptu and Etude Opus 10 No. 3, and Beethoven’s Pathetique Sonata. My favorite is Waldstein, but I’ve let that lapse; it required quite a bit more upkeep than Pathetique. I’m just prepping her for her inevitable future in which she will likely play the piano (and/or cello or violin), and definitely memorize Chinese poetry.

At night, when daddy comes home, we’ve been reading Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother together and having a good laugh, though she might not find it as entertaining or funny as we do. I can only hope she will one day love reading as much as I do. Indeed, I’ve taken the hours spent late-night breastfeeding to do some reading. I’ve finished Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl; Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng; Carry On, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse; and am currently reading Dostoevsky’s The Idiot. 

Little V’s Week 2

We’ve gotten into a routine, and the best way to describe it is Little V eats and sleeps non-stop but not at the times and intervals I would prefer. She is conked out during the day, sleeping through vacuums, telly, music, chatter, car rides, etc., but becomes fussy when it’s actually bedtime.

She quickly regained her weight and surpassed her birth weight by the 2-week doctor’s visit. Eager to compensate for the previous B(-) in weight gain, she put in her most extreme efforts and literally gained a pound in a week. She was about 7 pounds when weighed at the first lactation group I attended, and was over 8 pounds when I returned to the group a week later. She literally developed a double chin in a matter of about 2 days, and her limbs quickly grew chunky. While the lactation consultant advised everyone babies should have at least 6 dirty diapers a day, Little V had twenty two on her busiest day this week. We went through multiple packages of diapers and baby wipes, and it’s been a bit baffling.

This week, we made it to the grocery store with her, and also met some friends and their 3-month old at a cafe to listen to some live music. Little V slept through all of it. We also attempted twice to go on a walk with the jogger. The first time, she screamed her head off again, but the second time was a success. Hopefully, it sticks.

She’s smiling more and more, and occasionally even laughs in her sleep. She also frequently has a concerned look on her face, as if she’s not quite sure what to make of this world.

Tiger Mother

I recently read Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, which was both hysterical and inspirational. I didn’t think it was possible, but Amy Chua makes 90% of strict Asian parents seem like lazy bums. I intensely admire her devotion to the betterment and education of her children, but am completely baffled by the discipline and drive required to execute her methods.

I’m really not sure how it’s possible for a full-time attorney or Yale Law Professor to attend music lessons, oversee hours of music practice for two daughters, create measure-by-measure notes and reminders for their pieces, write multiple books, and walk and feed the dogs daily, while still living any sort of humanly existence. Does she ever… eat? Shower? Breathe? It’s mind-boggling.

I used to think my parents were sort of strict. Relatively speaking, they were, as I was surrounded by peers who had what Chua characterizes as “Western parents” in southwest Virginia. I was not allowed to go out to play unless all homework and piano obligations were completed, even if I had just gotten out of Chinese school, music theory class, art class, or some other activity. I was in big fucking trouble if I got any B’s on my report card, while white kids were rewarded for B’s. There was some of, “_____ got a 97 on his Algebra test; you only got a 93” [oh don’t worry, eventually I beat him in Algebra], or “Your cousin is younger than you and is already setting goals to be a doctor, what are your plans?” Summer was not a free-for-all because I still had to take music and music theory class, practice piano, and memorize ancient Chinese poetry. You know, typical Asian parent stuff.

Of course, even in southwest Virginia, there were stricter Asian parents than mine. One time, when I was 10 years old, after a Taiwanese friend who was over to play at our house had gone home, my mother told me, “You know what her mother said? The 4 hours she spent at our house was the longest period of fun time she’s ever had. She’s usually constantly doing something productive.” I was somewhat horrified. While my life seemed more structured and restricted than those of kids with Western parents, clearly, I had it better than I thought. Anyway, in retrospect, I needed this because I was not always very motivated, and was often lazy. I had a tendency to cut corners and daydream, or not take things seriously unless I was doing something I really enjoyed.

In second grade, I was categorized as a gifted student and along with 3 other students, and was given some material to read and write a report as an extra challenge. The material involved some completely boring species of bird, so I procrastinated until the last minute, and then plagiarized some shit when it was due. My parents never found out about this because they were not told about it, and the assignment was not graded.

In fifth grade, I was assigned to perform a duet called The Dolls Have a Party with one of my close friends, Michael. He played the bass part while I played the treble, and he was even less keen on the piano lessons than I was. We performed to perfection at the music school recital out of fear of our teacher’s wrath (she was a Tiger Mom before she even had kids). We were subsequently also volunteered to perform the piece at a nursing home. By the time of the nursing home performance, we had fallen out of practice, completely fucked it up, and played probably a third of the song being a complete measure off from each other. Fortunately, the old people did not notice it and loved us regardless. We could hardly contain our laughter when taking our bows, but I could see our teacher glaring daggers at us from the front row.

So I was the sort of kid who needed a serious dose of discipline every once in a while.

By the time I got to high school, my parents loosened up, either because they trusted me or because they were too old to bring down the hammer constantly. My freshman year, history was optional, and 3 out of my 7 classes were fine arts classes. After freshman year, I didn’t really have a curfew. I got occasional B’s because my parents accepted that I despised math. I signed up for computer science at the community college over the summer and flunked because I got bored and stopped going. I also signed up for Spanish one year, but skipped two weeks of class because I had a friend visiting from Virginia, and also went to New Orleans for a school activity, so the teacher flunked me.

I suffered no repercussions for these devious acts, and never had to practice piano for more than an hour a day, so compared to Amy Chua, my parents probably seemed like they were running some sort of laid-back amusement park.

And I did not completely fall apart. Being surrounded by my beloved friends who were also products of Tiger parents, I succumbed to peer pressure and took every honors/AP class available and felt guilty for my 4.3 GPA (4.5 was the max, and I never got a 4.5). Yes, it is actually very possible for peer pressure to work in a positive direction.

I appreciate the way I was raised and will strive to impose equal structure and discipline for my own kids, but Amy Chua takes it to an unfathomable level to which I dare not even aspire. The only way I could come close to her level of dedication would be if I was not working, and even then, I think it would be an incredible task. Employing her tactics necessarily leaves almost no time for the self, but indeed, as Chua points out in her book, the things she did for her daughters were not at all for herself – for who enjoys being a constant disciplinarian, the bad guy, a target of your children’s frustration and ire?

Cafe Conversation

She invented the cloudy dreaminess in boys eyes and their obvious intentions,

While drinking a golden tea rendered from a sunburst of alien tentacles with a red heart.

He explains he is a budding musician and believes in god so she asks why and says

You can find god in pews, or resounding from the throat of a holy man or

You can find god in the five-lined staff

Where your wings force their way through the skin of your shoulder blades

To glitter or reflect the steely pall of your confessions –

But then sacrilege appears on the patio casting his poison on every frame of her daylight

A blank ghost, with colorless, translucent skin composed of love molecules from her youth.

She suddenly feels she might be compressed to a vanishing dust to be dissipated with the breeze

Becoming only a glint in the saga of conquests

A dead, buried, short story with no premise.

She has forgotten about the young musician and his guitar

And her tea has turned to mud.

Daydream

i daydream about waking up in his apartment between cocoon sheets and quietly folded dreams of the faded night before

and padding down the hallway on his pine wood floors in the morning as a crisp reminder of reality

but he never calls me so

let us stare mindlessly at the yellow roses by the mailbox together until this song runs out

we’ll pick up guitars and play until i am ready for coffee highs and long days

we’ll make our own viscous, blurring nights with liquid destruction in our hands

you can have all my secret fascinations and my immutable kingdom

as long as we can spend all summer on the cafe patio

with old men

cigarettes

and iced tea

Booze Brothers Beer

I’ve been to Booze Brothers a few times now, but haven’t written anything about it until now. At the risk of sounding all, “I was here before it was cool…” The last couple times I came was probably almost a year ago, and there was hardly a person in sight when I came in on a weekend. The beers were decent then too, but when I showed up here recently, this shit was bumping! There was loud music, a huge crowd, two long lines at both bars (I don’t even remember there being two bars before).

Good Guy Session IPA: 5.2% ABV. Fresh, hoppy, well-balanced, and a fairly typical tasting session IPA. I hate to say it this way, but it tastes good in sort of a generic way, as nothing about it stands out particularly. I am starting to like these session IPA’s to start off though. It’s kind of like a warm-up before you get serious.

Crow Jane IPA: 6.2% ABV. Maltier than Good Guy. Yeasty. A warm and nutty flavor, which isn’t particularly characteristic of IPA’s.

Black Hills Black IPA: 7.2% ABV. Coffee (and a little coffee-like tartness along with it). Smoky and reminiscent of campfire, but bordering on cigarettes. Not sure I got a whole lot of IPA in there.

Sundown Stout: 7.5% ABV. Stouty. Coffee. Deep.

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Stone Farms

I drink Stone beers all the time, and have been to Stone’s restaurant/breweries in Point Loma (Liberty Station) and Escondido, but they’ve come up with something new recently. Stone Farms is a 19-acre farm where they purportedly grow some of the food for their restaurant (I think I read that somewhere). On Wednesday and Friday evenings, they have live music until 7:30. They have a small bar there, though beers aren’t cheap ($7). You can bring your own picnic, or they have pizza.

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I’d been wanting to come here for a while, because I saw a random post on Facebook, it sounded neat, and I wanted to come here before it became cool. The grounds featured various types of flowers, cacti, and vegetables. There were several rows of squash vines, though I have far from a green thumb, so don’t quote me on that. There were a few picnic tables placed in dark recesses under the vines, which could potentially be quite romantic if you had a picnic basket and some wine. There was a chicken coop, complete with chickens (duh), roosters, and a token peacock. There was also a pigeon coop. I don’t know if they serve pigeons at their restaurant; I’m not quite sure of the purpose of pigeons. Maybe the pigeons serve as messengers and deliver messages to the brewery/restaurants as to what will be the special du jour.

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They were all out of Cali-Belgique when I tried to order it, but it was for the better since I drink that frequently enough. I had a “Delicious” IPA or some shit like that. They said it was not their normal IPA, which I also drink too often. You can’t really go wrong with any Stone IPA in any event, and this one was no exception (yum).

There was a an area with a small stage for the music. The stage is framed by a bunch of bales of hay (seating), and an enormous oak tree that provides a great deal of shade for the multiple picnic tables underneath. The music wasn’t bad. The performer looked like a total hipster. Hipster hair and beard. Tight-fitting flannel shirt and skinny jeans. His music was unexpectedly hippie as opposed to hipster though (not that I would have minded either way). He played some old-timey country, folk songs, and even threw in Friend of the Devil by Grateful Dead; I was super stoked about that.

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The hot sauce has nothing to do with the farm, but while we’re on the topic of Stone, I thought I’d mention it. I got it at the grocery store the other day because it was on sale. I love spicy foods and was looking forward to it. It’s not bad, and is excellent on some scrambled eggs. However, as a person who enjoys spicy foods that make me cry, this sauce oversells itself a bit. It’s not terribly bastardy and it doesn’t really “double burn.” You can do a lot of burn with habanero, but this was on the sweet and mild side.

Mother Earth, Julian Casablancas

I have always liked The Strokes. But Julian Casablanca’s solo album, Phrazes for the Young changed the experience of listening to The Strokes a bit for me. Casablancas is versatile, and his style seems to vary wildly, from folksy to poppy to electronic, but underlying all of his songs is a very distinct nostalgia. After Phrazes for the Young, Casablanca’s innate nostalgia seems to be constantly trying to claw itself out through some of those Strokes songs, barely able to make it to the surface for air every now and then. Like unfinished business.

This is relevant to beer, I promise. I was at Mother Earth last night for a networking thing, and couldn’t make up my mind about what I wanted to drink, because this –

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They have a pretty good selection of solid beers, so I got a flight. Their flights are no joke, by the way – six 6-ounce tasters.

And now, I’m going to attempt to pair beers with music.

When at Mother Earth, I always like to start with the Cali Creamin’, a vanilla cream ale that sounds boring, but has surprising strength and taste at 5.2%. Its smooth, nutty, richness pairs well with Old Hollywood, glamorous, black and white, zoning out most of the night, where we end up imitating all the ones that we once were hating, men as clumsy violent fools, women a delicate pool of flowers and cobras.

Once you’ve warmed up, you can try a little Kismet IPA. It’s got the expected hoppiness of an IPA, which is a must. It has an abv of 7.2%, and is not quite as a deep and thick as some really stellar IPAs like West Coast or Sculpin, but has a sadder, darker edge compared to Mother Earth’s Boo Koo Mosaic IPA. This goes nicely with Tourist:

Feel like a tourist out in the country
Once this whole world was all countryside
Feel like a tourist in the big city
Soon I will simply evaporate

And when you’re done being a little edgy, it’s time to head over to Ludlow Street:

Everything seems to go wrong when I start drinking,
Everything seemed to go my way last night.
Everything seems so wrong to me this morning,
I know things’ll be brighter later tonight.

Have that one with Mother Earth’s Sin Tax imperial peanut butter stout. For a stout, it’s surprisingly light. You might love that, or you might resent it, but either way, it’s smooth, light, yet no joke with an abv of 8.1%. It has a generous spirit, and you can contemplate a raging night life, fading history, and the invasion of yuppies while you drink it.

I don’t have a Mother Earth beer to pair with the 4 Chords of the Apocalypse, but I love it; it’s beautiful.