Vale at 6 Months

Vale spent her 6-month birthday in Cabo San Lucas in Mexico. She did not enjoy being dunked in the cold ocean water, but loved meeting friends on the plane and experiencing new sights.

She is increasingly mobile, and loves to scoot, turn, flip over, and put things into her mouth. She is able to sit upright in her booster chair, but gets bored after a while if she does not have a toy to keep her pre-occupied. She likes listening to numbers in mandarin and looking at ABC flashcards. These activities always bring a smile to her face.

She is still stubborn as ever about drinking milk out of a bottle, and her parents question whence this trait came.

She babbles constantly, including at 4:30 a.m. on occasion, which apparently is just a good a time as any for riveting conversation. She still laughs infrequently, and her sense of humor seems unpredictable (it may have been funny to her yesterday, but it won’t necessarily be funny today or tomorrow). When she does laugh, it’s a sort of a “heeeh heh heh” smirk/chuckle reminiscent of George W.

She has started paying more attention to her cat sisters, and occasionally reaches out for a pet (or a fistful of fur!), so they continue to be relatively wary and suspicious of her.

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.


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…


Week 35 Workouts

Exercising has become a constantly evolving project. I tried doing my regular hill sprinting (6 times) around 30 weeks or so and wasn’t feeling so hot. I felt stiff, crampy, and achy and laid off sprints altogether for about a month. However, I decided to see if I could work them back in and am currently alternating 3 hill sprints with 3 sets of 12-15 squat jumps and a couple of Yoga stretches for a quick workout.

Hiking has become increasingly challenging. In the first couple of trimesters, the cardio aspect was harder, but in the third trimester, I basically have to pee constantly on hikes and really start to wither in the summer heat. I’m still hiking… it’s just a lot less pleasant. We did a 4-mile hike last weekend during which I had to pee twice, thought I was going to melt, and then needed a nap afterwards.

The hill I used to jog is still in the repertoire, but I started walking it twice instead, except for this past weekend, when it was too hot and I walked it once and did three sets of squat jumps instead of the second round. The squat jumps are my all-purpose filler to replace anything I can’t do  comfortably, but those (and squats in general) are starting to be a bit hard on the knees, so we’ll see how long I can keep those up.

I’m still working in some stairs by the beach every week or so. As with the hill, I can’t jog them any more, but I go up two steps at a time and do 8 sets while enjoying the lovely ocean view. Unfortunately, with the increasingly warmer weather, there is more foot traffic at the beach and on the stairs, but for now, this is a pretty reliable workout.

Up until week 34 I was doing one day of weights a week, including some butt lifts, squats with 20 pound weights, wall sits, triceps dips, biceps curls, and shoulder lifts. Weights didn’t happen week 34 just because I was busy doing other stuff, but hopefully not too much has changed in a week and a half and I can resume it as usual this week.

I am doing prenatal yoga once a week, which is still pretty gentle, but as I am able to do less, I might start going twice a week. I still suspect Yoga is the reason my hips are bothering me less in my sleep and is responsible for at least some degree of overall well-being.

Daydream II

When she is with him there is a wild-eyed vulnerability in his face that makes her fall again and again, something uncertain and anticipatory when he leans in and she had an urge to reach for his hand on the cliff, overlooking rippling forests in relentless existence. She traveled across Mexico with him in her mind, across several instances of levitation with the same sadness in his liquid slate eyes

Then she was in the old cafe again, dreaming she was feathery, ethereal, weightless hope gliding in the ocean night, losing her reality in the mirrors, so she could not belong to herself or anyone else

Moon Shadows

Her shoes were the color of sunshine and she radiated beams from her forehead

After a night of boxed wine and vodka

She lost her fading resolve in the moon shadows and fog while seagulls flaunted their freedom and mocked her

And the waves sighed like tired gods at the resignation of human existence

Taking cold pizza out of the refrigerator at 2:00 a.m. she heard him say

Hey Beautiful and she smiled at what she felt to be a hidden bitterness in the kitchen

She sat on a boy’s lap, twirled a strand of pearls in her palm and her friend said

Remember us, the bunny girls? We are notorious for last weekend 

And another voice told her

I can smell your pride from a mile away



When your sleeping breath heaves out a tropical breeze

Whispering across the steady streams of my back the waves of my spine

The warm rhythm of ripples does not end until I am in a dream of

Hot white sand on my thighs palms rustling behind

And the cerulean crystal expanse before us is urging us to rise with the sun in paradise

So I blink

To find my lonely flesh

Stale without you

Bristling at the rain

Sinking under the weight and ash of the sky

Imagine You’re Standing At the Shore…

I went to yoga again yesterday, even though I needed much more vigorous exercise after eating gummies, chocolates, goldfish, and other unfortunate snacks throughout the day. Toward the end of the session, our instructor had us relax and envision standing at the shoreline of the ocean. She asked us to take in the wide expanse of sea, and to listen to the rhythm of the waves.

The type of beach that came to mind immediately was in southeast Asia. I started in Phu Quoc, Vietnam, but a little jellyfish swam by my feet, so I migrated to Phuket, Thailand, but the water was a bit darker than I preferred. I settled on the shore of White Sand Beach in Candidasa, Bali, where I sipped on a large bottle of cold lager and ate an entire grilled fish, with a side of a local sweet and sour fish sauce-based dip while lounging in the sand. It suddenly occurred to me I will not likely be carefree and alone with my husband on a remote beach in southeast Asia, drinking and eating with reckless abandon any time soon, or indeed, for many years to come, and I sort of wanted to cry.

Of course, that was not the point of the exercise, and our “birth wisdom” tip sheets at the end of class fittingly reminded me to check negative thoughts at the door.

Preggo Book Review

Expecting Better by Emily  Oster

This was the first pregnancy-related book I read. My husband picked it, and I loved it (not pictured above because he bought it for us in Kindle form). Emily Oster, an economics professor at the University of Chicago, describes her motivation in writing this book:

“When I got pregnant, I pretty quickly learned that there is a lot of information out there about pregnancy, and a lot of recommendations. But neither the information nor the recommendations were all good. The information was of varying quality, and the recommendations were often contradictory and occasionally infuriating. In the end, in an effort to get to the good information… I tackled the problem as I would any other, with economics…”

Faced with numerous studies on what to/not to do, drink, and eat during pregnancy, some of which seemed questionable or unduly restrictive, she decided to pore through the medical literature herself and undertake statistical analyses on a variety of studies. Her analyses included reviewing study reliability, sample size of subjects, and actual risks pertaining to everything from gardening, litter box cleaning, eating sushi, eating deli meats, drinking alcohol, sleeping positions, and weight gain, to c-sections, epidurals, continuous fetal monitoring, and beyond. Her goal was to paint a better picture of actual risks, advantages, and disadvantages, so women can make informed decisions, rather than subject themselves to discomfort and displeasure for 9 months based on faulty science and/or over-restrictive recommendations based on fear-mongering.

She wrote the book to provide women a better source of information to be able to reach informed decisions as an individual, and likened this approach to her teaching philosophy:

“…making good decisions – in business, and in life – requires two things. First, they need all the information about the decision – they need the right data. Second they need to think about the right way to weigh the pluses and minuses of the decision… The key is that even with the same data, this second part – this weighing of the pluses and minuses – may result in different decisions for different people.”

Oster’s book was immensely helpful to me, as I loathe the idea that a woman is a vessel for reproduction whose duty is to abandon her personal preferences and joys for over nine months with unquestioning obedience. If you are one of those so inclined to lecture others, as an example, in the following styles,

  • “It’s only 9 months of your life.”
  • “The health of a human being is at stake; don’t be so selfish.”
  • “It’s better safe than sorry.”
  • “Is it so much to ask?”

This book is not for you. Enjoy your 9 months of misery devoid of the smallest pleasures of life, in blind adherence to every single one of the absurd rules that blatantly treat pregnant women like children, idiots, or worse, objects. If you truly want to be safe rather than sorry, you are free to lock yourself in your house for 9 months, and become a prisoner in your own home and body. The rest of us would like to live in a more reasonable manner.

I read this book and decided I was fine with eating sushi occasionally (excepting fish prone to higher mercury concentrations), along with other foods associated with potential, but unlikely, food poisoning issues. On the other hand, I decided to forgo deli meats (I did slip up once at a party), hummus, and other foods linked to listeriosis, a much more serious condition. Oster’s work has generated some pretty severe criticism in the medical community, as she is not a medical doctor, much less an obstetrician (nor does she claim to be). However, it is also worth noting that most physicians, while experienced and knowledgeable in their field, are not statisticians. The beauty of this book is that it largely avoids telling you what you should or should not do, but provides the information so you can make an informed decision suited to your lifestyle and needs.

From the Hips by Rebecca Odes and Ceridwen Morris

My husband bought this for me. It is a self-described “Comprehensive, Open-Minded, Uncensored, Totally Honest Guide to Pregnancy, birth, and Becoming a Parent,” which is fairly accurate. It was indeed a good overview to the entire parenting process, and I read the bulk of the book while 3 months pregnant, then stopped when it came to issues of selecting an appropriate daycare, as I felt these issues were becoming too remote at my particular point in pregnancy.

This book covers everything from body changes to doctor’s visits, birth and delivery, etc. It is rife with personal anecdotes from numerous women, along with the practical pointers, such as what to pack for the hospital. This book was obviously less scientific and data-driven than Oster’s book, but it was a nice follow-up to my first read.

The Girlfriend’s Guide to Pregnancy by Vickie Iovine

This book honestly did not provide a wealth of memorable practical advice in terms of how to go about your decision-making in terms of pregnancy, labor, delivery, and parenting, but it was nevertheless useful in that it was hilarious and fun to read. The title says it all: this is a book that provides the gross, gory, and awkward details of pregnancy that only your friends would be willing to discuss in detail with you, including hemorrhoids and what Iovine describes as “pregnancy insanity:”

Keep this Girlfriend rule of thumb in mind as you read this chapter: CRAZY PEOPLE ARE OFTEN THE LAST TO KNOW THEY ARE CRAZY. Therefore, if you are tempted to skip to the next chapter because you don’t see how this one applies to you, think again; you may be crazier than you look… In fact, ask around, because you may be surprised to learn that you, too, are a victim of the Body Snatchers.

To illustrate,

You may spend the entire day fantasizing about wild animal sex with your husband…Then when he finally gets home, and he starts to go through the mail instead of studying the ultrasound Polaroids of the baby that you have taped to the refrigerator door, and you start screaming about how this is just one more sign that he is indifferent to you and your baby. By the time you have calmed down and might be able to think about sex again, you have fallen asleep in the bathtub.

It’s genuinely funny and entertaining and brings a much-needed levity to the whole pregnancy business. Yes, she emphasizes her love for pain killers and medical intervention a little too much, and I entirely disagree with her recommendations on exercise, but she is neither a doctor nor a statistician, and the point of the book is not to help you make medical decisions, but to emotionally cope with pregnancy and the accompanying changes in your body and life.

Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin

Gaskin has serious qualifications and experience as a midwife, and her book focuses on presenting the labor and birthing process in a positive, comforting light. She emphasizes birth as a natural process that should occur without fear. Unfortunately, the first 80 pages of the book did not appeal to me at all and after reading the first 20, I skimmed the next 60 before I got to what I considered the more useful information. The first portion of the book is composed entirely of personal birth stories and anecdotes told in exaggerated, one-with-nature, tree-hugging, pseudo-psychedelic terms. For instance, one woman shared her experience thus:

I wanted to connect deeply with her and share my recent experience to help her relax and open. Pamela was naked, propped up on pillows on the bed, holding on to her knees. I took my clothes off… and crawled up on the bed with her. I laid next to her—head to head, breast to breast, womb to womb. I told her about my cave and ocean and the great rushing, swelling, and opening. I told her about surrendering over and over and letting go. We began experiencing her contractions together. We held each other and rushed and soared together. My womb, though empty, was swelling and contracting too. I could feel blood rushing out with the contractions, but not too much—I knew it was okay.

In retrospect, I wish I had seen this Amazon review, which was right on point: “To each her own, I suppose . . . but this is a little much for me. The thought of one of my BFFs coming to be with me during labor, stripping down, and telling me about her oceanic ‘yoni’ while I’m having contractions is, frankly, laughable. Call me unenlightened if you must.” I felt the exact same way while flying through the first 80 pages and wondered if I would gain any value at all from this book. “We held each other and rushed and soared together”? What in the actual fuck? Could I help myself to some of those mushrooms as well?

That being said, the rest of the book was quite informative in terms of anatomy, biological functions during labor and birth, and contained excellent advice for keeping focus, maintaining calm, and getting through the birthing process with minimal medical intervention. She provides a lot of detailed examples and explanations regarding the importance of the mind-body connection during the labor and delivery process that are unrecognized or ignored by the mainstream medical community (e.g. The chapter on “Sphincter Law” – it is as interesting as it sounds. Read the book!)

While the focus of this book is on home-birth and midwife-operated birthing situations, this is an excellent read for women seeking to give birth without medical interventions such as epidurals and c-sections, even if they choose to do so in a hospital. Gaskin has some harsh criticisms of the medical establishment, many of which are valid, but some of which may be a bit over-the-top and warrant further investigation. I also wholly disagree with her support for various state-sponsored interventions as it pertains to medical care and healthcare policy-making. That being said, overall, this book is a good complement to the information you will receive from doctors and nurses if you are hoping to avoid an epidural and c-section.

I am currently reading Mindful Birthing by Nancy Bardacke, based on a friend’s recommendation. I am not too far in, but it contains useful meditation exercises and tools for relaxation and mental regulation during the birth process. This is particularly good for me, as my thoughts can be fast and erratic, and my tendency to play out worst-case-scenarios could use some regulation. So far, so good. More on this one later.

The Beach

June 27, 2004 sober for 7 days I was lucid and smug

The sand told tales of tan lines, gold and shade taking turns on bodies resting on graininess

In the city with the highest concentration of fake beautiful people second only to Hollywood

Smooth young skins vie for afternoon bronze with books in hand, then dance in the garrulous waves

This is the glory and the glow

Their mothers, ghostly creators, are broken with leather and haunted by crows, purposeless, but

Can find solace in plastic salvation on every corner in this neighborhood

She tells me we are more than halfway dead and I believe her

I cannot help but think our friend who will be a man and a doctor, has more time

A lifeguard angrily shouts to us that no dogs are allowed