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“Okay, take care, aloha”

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“Okay, take care, aloha”

So, we went on vacation. I’m going to go ahead and call it our First Family Vacation, despite the fact that we’d gone to New York/New Jersey in June to visit GP’s immediate and extended family– that first trip, while not a business trip, was definitely not as relaxing as, say, a week on the beach. A week on the beach is exactly what we were in for when we headed to Hawaii, arriving on the day that a hurricane was supposed to make landfall on the islands for the first time in twenty-five years.

Likely due to the power of our crossed fingers, United didn’t cancel our flight, which departed from SFO with plenty of empty seats vacated by those apparently willing to compromise their vacation plans. (I basically wanted to crawl into a hole when I began to contemplate this possibility, and refused to consider what we might do if Mother Nature royally effed up our scheduled trip.) The extra plane space was extra awesome, as it meant that we didn’t have to check Claire’s carseat– giving us a convenient nap spot that meant we got to enjoy SkyMall while she rested. (A plane is essentially a huge white noise machine, right? Naps 4 EVAH.)

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We arrived to a bit of wind and more than a bit of humidity, and made our way to our rental house on Oahu’s North Shore. While I don’t think we’d stay in that exact house again (location and view were awesome, as was the AC in our bedroom, but the oversold “gourmet kitchen” and dim bathroom were definite letdowns), we were thrilled to see that this would be our view for the week:

DSC_2452There were active parts of the vacation, like a trip to the peak of Diamond Head (not the most strenuous hike, but such amazing views of Waikiki) and some scuba for GP and his dad, but mostly we took it easy on the beach and around the house.

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DSC_2093Claire did get a few (small!) bites of Dole Whip and some mostly-ice tastes of shave ice, and was a fan of both.

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IMG_20140811_150108_761The upside of traveling with grandparents is that they’re willing to “babysit” (post-bedtime), so we did get to have a grownup dinner out in Haleiwa, complete with mai tais in commemorative cups. (After two, I was drunk. Let’s say my tolerance is a little lower after nine months of abstention.)

Leis. You're doing it right, lady.

Our return flight, shockingly, was just about as empty as our flight out to the island, so we lucked into a bulkhead row of five seats in front of which Claire had quite the play area– that was sanitized within an inch of its life, because I am not even playing around with airplane germs.

The switch back to Pacific time was not as rough as I feared it would be (way easier than the shift to Hawaii time, which resulted in a no-fricking-way 3:00 a.m. baby wakeup on our first day), and I am now fully ready to accept the change of season into my heart. Is it sweater weather yet?

Catch up, catsup

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While I think that “dealing with a brand-new human during her first seven months of living” is a pretty good excuse for dropping off the face of the blog-earth, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss visiting and adding new thoughts to this space. So…I’m back! And here’s what I’ve been up to:

  • The aforementioned brand-new human. She is incomprehensibly enormous to me, even though she’s holding steady in her 50th percentiles for height and weight. She’s never really been interested in practicing sitting, always preferring to stand– even when she was less than four months old. This has meant plenty of arm work for me and GP, and plenty of exersaucer time for the little lady. She’s started eating food, like people! So far I’ve made everything she’s consumed (aside from rice cereal), and she especially loves sweet potatoes, avocados, and apples. The jury is still out on carrots, peas, and broccoli, but she’s willing to take them if they’re mixed with her favorites. We made our first trip out to the in-laws/extended family in NY and NJ in early June, and she was an absolute DREAM on the flight out– it turns out everyone is your friend when you have a happy baby on a plane. She was duly doted upon during our visit, and even has her own Mileage Plus account. (Though United seems to be continually wearing out their welcome with us. Seriously, United, get it together.) There’s more I could share, of course, but I’m trying to make this re-entry post a pretty brief one. Here, be satisfied with a picture of her boldly mixing patterns:

Stripes and polka dots? BOLD.

  • I’ve been back at work for almost three months, though of course it feels like more. At various points during my maternity leave, I was really worried that I would hate returning to work, and that I’d get nothing done, but I have to confess that I feel like a better parent since I’ve been back. We absolutely love our daycare (run by my brother’s girlfriend’s mom, who is the sweetest), and both GP and I each have a “solo day” with her during the week, so I feel like I am able to be more patient and focused during the time I’m with her– without being frantic about the time she’s at daycare.
  • Between maternity leave and that whole restricted screen time for infants, my media consumption has been all over the place. I polished off a couple series while I was on leave, and am now forced into “appointment” television– thank baby Jesus for the DVR. I’ve been reading less fiction recently, but keep renewing my library books in the hopes that proximity will spur me into action.

Happy summer, friends! I’ve missed you.

December Baby

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In hindsight,  it’s a good thing I didn’t go to my 39-week OB appointment alone; I don’t think GP would have believed me when I returned home and told him we were going to have a baby in the next 36 hours or so. As it happened,  he was there,  sitting next to me as my doctor told me that,  because my blood pressure had been consistently high for much of my pregnancy and because I was full-term,  she wanted to go ahead and induce.  At first, I thought she’d set us up to go to the hospital the following week (this conversation happened Friday afternoon),  but nope,  we’d head over that night. So, we heard home to panic a little,  finish packing our bags, and take one last shower before approaching the desk in L&D and telling them we were there to have a baby.  (Yes,  totally nonchalant, not at all the way I expected.)

My doctor had been able to get me admitted because of pre-eclampsia (though I never had any proteinuria…you’re welcome for that detail), which meant that a cavalcade of drugs was in my near future. First came a beta blocker, then the magnesium sulfate, and then the Cervidil to soften my cervix (the insertion of which was…not a treat). Aside from 20-30 minutes during which I felt like hot garbage because of the magnesium, these weren’t so bad. The Cervidil needed 12 hours to work,  so they told us to get some sleep. GP and I stretched out on our respective beds (both uncomfortable,  but it was easier said than done, for sure.

The next morning,  the Cervidil had done its work and it was time for Pitocin. I’d heard alarming things about Pitocin contractions (intense, and with small breaks in between), but I had no frame of reference for contractions, so I was ready to roll without an epidural for as long as I could stand it. As it turned out, I was able to go about 4 hours before I accepted the fentanyl that was offered as a temporary relief, then finally had the epidural put in not long after (maybe 2 hours or so). With the epidural in, I was still aware of contractions but wasn’t crippled by them; the nurses advised us to get some sleep– the big show wasn’t too far off now.

After a nap (oh, I was so grateful for that nap!), I woke up and was told I was complete,  so I could start pushing anytime I was ready. My doctor had arrived, and she, a nurse,  and GP would coach me through the delivery of our daughter. Aside from a few weird interruptions in the epidural line– during which I was so distracted by pain that I count focus on pushing– I would say that this was the most… satisfying (?) part. They wheeled in a mirror so I could see what was going on (an idea which had previously seemed sort of gross to me), and that was a huge motivator. At one point, when we could first see her head (and all that hair!), my doctor told me to reach down and feel my baby’s head. I did, and it was still entirely surreal that any of this was happening.

We had a good laugh when my doctor suggested she might be a redhead, like me. (“Oh, that’s not your natural color?”) And, eventually, we’d done the old three-big-pushes-per-contraction routine enough to deliver the head, and her body tumbled out immediately after. I was vaguely aware of them suctioning out her nose and mouth, and I remember hearing her cry for the first time. (GP confessed to some worry because she was a little blue at first, but she pinked right up and had 9/9 Apgars.) I lost a fair (but not concerning) amount of blood, but was fine after chewing some Cytotec (more drugs, please), and got to “enjoy” the “vigorous massage” administered to help my uterus contract.

I had expected that I would be completely overcome with emotion and absolutely sobbing by the time they placed her on my chest; instead, we just looked at each other. It seemed (and still sort of seems) impossible that she was finally here, this person that I already knew so well,  but was only meeting for the first time.

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Now that she’s been here for over two weeks,  it’s already impossible to remember what life was like before her. Sure,  my life at the moment is loved in roughly three-hour increments, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

This is 30

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I think that, if I weren’t staring down the barrel of a Major Life Change, I might be able to muster more feelings about turning 30. As it stands, it actually seems like a lower-key birthday than I’ve had in awhile– yes, there have been multiple dinners/going-out occasions with family and friends to celebrate, but I don’t feel like I’m whirling around in some insane birthday frenzy. I’ve taken my birthday off of Facebook, so I’m not being deluged with birthday wishes from people that are basically strangers (ask me about my Facebook angst!). Still, 30 is a milestone, right?

I have to confess that I haven’t even accomplished half of the items on my 30 Before 30 list…but I’m actually more than ok with that. Creating that list was more of a “what if…” exercise than a “must-do” one, and I’m so pleased with the things I’ve done. Here’s the rundown of the things I’ve managed to check off:

  • Eat at a Michelin-starred restaurant (The Plumed Horse)

  • Take three weekend-trips to destinations I haven’t visited before (Guerneville, Cambria/San Simeon, Portland)

  • Host a ladies brunch (complete with pajamas and White Christmas viewing)

  • Have a live Christmas tree in my house (it was teeny, but it counts!)

  • Wear skirts/dresses every day for a week (easy to accomplish when you’re traveling, if it’s all you pack!)

  • Save $10,000 (and then some, thanks to monthly contributions to our high-yield savings account)

  • Learn to apply liquid eyeliner well (Eyeko liner, so magical)

  • Watch 12 live performances (Santaland Diaries, Cirque du Soleil “Totem,” Cirque du Soleil “Ovo,” Spamalot, Matt Nathanson, Silicon Valley Symphony Summer Pops (twice!), Christmas Shorts, Persuasion, Avenue Q, Lion King, An Evening with David Sedaris, God of Carnage)

  • Adopt and train a dog (I’m counting this, even though he doesn’t live with us anymore– have I ever told the story of TragiPup? It is…a trying one.)

  • Reread six books that I loved as a kid (The Westing Game, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, The Giver, Anne of Green Gables, The Witches, Homer Price)

  • Create and send out photo holiday cards

  • Weed my book collection

As for the remaining 18 items on the original list of 30, I’ll be mostly rolling them over into a general “list of things I want to do.” At present, however, my list is a little shorter: casual dinner out with GP tonight, survive my last week of work before maternity leave, somehow birth this baby (it’s not that I’m scared, exactly; it just seems sort of impossible).

“Relaxation”

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I am laying on a yoga mat in the front of the auditorium, in the midst of about eight other similarly-sized and -shaped women and their partners. Last week, when the lights were turned down and the music started, we were encouraged to close our eyes and just breathe as our partners used various massage techniques over our burdened bodies. Given that I hadn’t slept through the night in months and that it was just about bedtime, I nearly drifted off, and only just barely was able to peel myself off the mat and drive home.

This week, however, is apparently Discomfort Week. After two and a half hours of listening to and watching stories of interventions ranging from narcotic injections (mildly scary) to episiotomies (pretty frightening) and monitors that are screwed into the top of a baby’s skull (actually pretty terrifying), we again recline on the floor for “relaxation.” Except this time, it’s not just about massage and breathing; oh no, they’re handing out clothespins. These clothespins, we learn, are to simulate contractions.

“Partners,” says the RN/doula who leads the class, “find a place that will cause some pain but not leave a mark.” Great, I think, she’s setting us up for a little light domestic abuse. We agree that I won’t be able to feel much in the way of discomfort on my hands, fingers, or earlobes, and decide that the tip of my nose is a prime candidate for clothespinning.

As the “contractions” build, peak, and dissipate, my nose is pinched and my eyes involuntarily water, regardless of the presence or absence of music, touch, and soothing encouragement. “You’re enjoying this, aren’t you?” I accuse. He assures me that he isn’t, and clips the clothespin to his own nose in solidarity. Finally, after about five of these simulated labor pains, we’re allowed to collect ourselves and belongings and head home.

We’re almost done with our childbirth prep class, within five weeks or so of my due date, and nearly prepared, equipment-wise, to welcome a baby into our house. I’m willing to bet that contractions are going to be a little different from the old nose-in-a-clothespin trick, but hey, at least they tried to prepare us, right?

Friday Five

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Get ready! It’s a parenthetical sort of day.

1. My sleep over the last couple months has been pretty meager, to say the least. I’m not exactly falling asleep at my desk, but I have been tucking myself into bed around 8:00 or so (yup, I am a party animal). This early bedtime has been pretty great, with a couple exceptions: we started our childbirth prep classes on Monday, and they run until 9:30 (and one of the “supplies” for the class is a pillow! So cruel); a couple Saturdays ago, my middle-of-the-night wakeup was around 2:00 (a little earlier than usual), so I got to peruse all the pictures on Facebook and Instagram of my friends’ Halloween festivities (again, party animal). I suppose this is my body’s way of preparing me to become No Sleep Jones come December, but damn…it’s also making me feel pretty uncool. (Is step one of parenthood admitting that I probably wasn’t very cool in the first place?)

2. This weekend will consist of our usual College Football Saturday (in which we DVR every single game and fast-forward through/watch the interesting bits of whatever we please), interrupted briefly by a breastfeeding class. This contrast strikes me as sort of hilarious, but that’s what you get with a baby that’s going to be born on the cusp of bowl season. (Hopefully we’ve conditioned her in utero not to be alarmed when we start shouting at the television. If not, well…sorry, baby.)

3. I’ve been reviewing my 30 Before 30 list – with about a month to go, there are some pretty clear “not gonna happen” items…and I’m ok with that. Some of the items will be easily rolled over into whatever Adult To-Do List comes after turning 30– horseback riding, summiting Mt. Tallac, taking a photo a day for a year– and some I’m willing to just let go. This is probably a post unto itself, but let me say for now that I originally intended for my 30 Before 30 to be more aspirational than a straight “must-do” list.

4. The number of televisions in our house is (finally?) equal to the number of adults. No tv in the nursery means I’ll have to have something to keep me entertained during what I understand will likely be months of erratic sleep, so we’re in the market for a tablet. Any suggestions? We’re not an Apple family, and spending the amount of money an iPad would require seems fairly ridiculous, so tell me what you know about the Samsung Galaxy, the Kindle Fire, and their ilk.

5. Being in “countdown” mode isn’t exactly a new thing to me (I like to have a finish line in sight, whether it’s a vacation or other event), but it seems pretty momentous to have only four weeks left before I go on maternity leave, and only six weeks (SIX WEEKS WHAT) before my due date. I still can’t really wrap my head around the fact that they’re just going to LET us leave the hospital with a baby that we CREATED (magic, got it)…but I guess that’s what happens, isn’t it?

What are you up to this weekend?

Gearing up

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Thank you for all your kind words after my big “reveal”– I am not often thrilled by others’ ultrasound images, so thanks for humoring me. 🙂 The nice part of waiting until nearly halftime to share pregnancy news is carrying around this little secret for so long, but now that we’re officially “out” (and how!), I’m beginning to see just how long the list of Important Plans to Be Made is. Of course, I’ve been surreptitiously adding my preliminary favorites to a hidden Amazon shopping list, which helped prepare us slightly for the gauntlet of Buy Buy Baby (whose name I find unbearably crass)– but only slightly. The danger of an enormous store filled to the brim with every conceivable piece of baby equipment is that you will inevitably walk out somewhat cross-eyed. We were able to leave having been able to lay eyes and hands on the stroller/carseat combo that I thought we’d like, and with a fuller understanding of just how widely tastes in furnishings can vary (surely someone is buying that cow-print carseat, but it certainly won’t be me).

I’m sure we’ll be back in another such store soon, but for now I’m cowering near the computer, which contains plenty of helpful information and reviews, plus an occasional gem such as this one (click to embiggen; I promise it’s worth it):

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Christmas in July

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There comes a point every single summer at which I just cannot bear anymore, well…summer. Even as a kid and as a student, I was able to get all my “Woo! Summer! FREEDOM!” wiggles out within June and early July; when the second half of the season is in full swing, I’m thinking only of school supplies and crisp evenings. Am I a total weirdo for not loving summer? I like popsicles and swimming pools as much as the next lady, but enough already.

Our summer began with a few long weekends we’d planned immediately after returning from HK and Thailand, knowing we’d need something to look forward to after the end of a pretty fantastic break from regular life: a “camping cabin” in Lassen, a weekend in a rented lake house with friends, a pre-July/mid-heatwave visit to Yosemite (where there was no AC, so cold showers were among the top five highlights). Though we’ve recently found our weekends a little less booked– we’ve managed to plow through both House of Cards and Orange is the New Black– there are plenty of in-town activities with friends occupying our Saturday nights. As these activities tend more and more toward sedate evenings in, rather than packed cars and multi-hour drives, I’m getting more and more ready to be in the midst of college football season, sweater weather, and sub-80-degree temperatures.

Oh, and another reason to look forward to the final months of this year? We get to meet her in December.

(Yes, I’m showing. Yes, sometimes she sort of looks like Skeletor. Adventures!)

Try

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WARNING: Uterus talk ahead. Also, feelings.

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So. We’re “trying” again. After having been told by the doctor who did the D&E that we’d have to wait six months, which was confirmed by my regular lady doc (as I called her from the gate of our departing flight to Hong Kong, desperate to hear her say, “Go for it! Procreate!”), the six months are nearly up. In these six months, I’ve felt, well…all the feelings. But, finally, we’re ready to carry on. So we are, in much the same way we approached attempts to parenthood in the past: with a plan, a thermometer, and a metric ton of ovulation and pregnancy tests. I’ve read the books, listened to the podcasts, and lurk constantly on discussion boards that sometimes look more like MySpace than medicine. For someone who rarely studied in an intense way (English majors don’t really do that, see), I have been examining all the materials available for way longer than necessary. And yet! There is a time in each month of trying in which all you can do is wait. Sit there and wait, with pregnancy tests in one hand and tampons in the other, waiting to see if anything has happened. (While seething over discussion board posts that read, “well we decided like last minute that we were trying to get pregnant lol.” WHAT EVEN.)

I promise it isn’t going to be all ladyparts talk, all the time around here until…what, until a person comes out of me? No, I’m still also a reasonably normal person. Just…one who adds maternity jeans to her online orders before she’s knocked up. That kind of reasonably normal person.

My Big Fat Asia Trip, Part 4: Phuket

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Ahh, Phuket. It was the last stop on our almost-as-long-as-our-honeymoon trip to Hong Kong and Thailand, and possibly the only place I wish we could have at just one more day. Whether this was because it was the last stop (and, hello, it is sad to say goodbye to a long vacation) or because of just how blissfully calm our few days there were, I’m sure I can’t say. But, regardless, it’s probably redundant at this point to say we had an awesome time there. We arrived at our hotel (in Kamala, not Phuket town, so it was slightly quieter in general) a little late for a solid day of beach-lolling, but did manage to head down to the water to say hello before we grabbed dinner at one of the many restaurants along the beach, careful this time to remember to apply our Thai 7-11-purchased insect repellent before dining.

Our first morning/early afternoon was occupied with a snorkel (for me) and scuba (for GP) outing with a company recommended by a friend who’d been there recently. Unlike the Great Barrier Reef exploration we did while in Cairns on our honeymoon, this dive was on a smallish boat where the majority of other people were either certified instructors or in the process of certification, which meant that each of us got a lot of individual attention. It was interesting, too, to talk to everyone and hear stories from the former au pair from Texas who had been living in Phuket for about four months, the Malaysian guy who shuddered when told the temperature of our beaches here in Santa Cruz and Monterey (he found the water temperatures that day in Phuket to be too cold!), and the Alaska native who was completing an internship at the dive shop (clearly, I’ve gone into the wrong line of work). When we got to our destination– a small rock island– the divers took off in small groups (GP had two guides!) and I had my very own personal snorkel guide (because I get something akin to reverse claustrophobia in open water, scuba scares the bejesus out of me).  The entire trip only took about half the day (plenty of time to cower in umbrella shade on the beach later!), but we saw some pretty amazing marine life, from small barracuda, clownfish, and angelfish to an huge group of small yellow fish that swirled and schooled around GP on his second dive.

Man overboard

Our dive/snorkel destination

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Very similar to a honeymoon picture taken three and a half years ago

For the rest of that day and the entirety of our second day, we alternated between chairs on the beach (150 baht for both of us for all-day privileges, complete with a guy to adjust the umbrella under which we hid from the sun) and chairs on the pool deck at our hotel. Not a bad gig, if you can get it.

Our beach view for a day and a half

Pool and view

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Pool and bar

Our hotel was the family-friendly (and probably cheaper, but that’s just a guess) side of a dual-hotel resort that was run and largely occupied by Scandinavian families. It makes sense, I suppose: February in Norway is probably a little harsher, climate-wise, than in Thailand, so why not spend a couple weeks in the sun? (Oh, and they spent it in the sun. I saw plenty of people that had roasted themselves until they began to resemble fine Corinthian leather.) It was situated along the beach in the midst of plenty of other hotels, along the back of which ran the main drag through Kamala, with the beach to the front.

On our last night, we made sure to do two things that I had begun to consider must-do’s for our trip: (one more) stop at  a roti stand for some banana-Nutella awesomeness (think crepes, but not a batter-based pancake) and releasing a lantern on the beach. We had had our first taste of roti at the night market in Chiang Mai, and I am fairly devastated not to have found a suitable analogue here at home (yes, crepes are similar, but the roti wrapping has a crispness that is somehow even better). It was easy to find a stand along the beach with a woman that was all too happy to oblige, so we took our treat and enjoyed it on a couple vacant lounge chairs (I mean, it was in the evening, so they were all vacant) with some wine coolers we’d bought at a nearby convenience story (because we are classy, duh). The lantern-releasing was something that I had read about before we took our trip, and we had seen lanterns rising from various locations in Chiang Mai, but hadn’t seen any place to participate until we made it to Kamala. Along the beach, not so far from the roti stands and the Bob Marley-themed bar, was a man advertising “magic wish balloons.” These were the lanterns we were looking for, the ones that (as our Chiang Mai guide had explained) people released when they wanted to symbolically let go of something and make a wish for the future. Well. Given that we were even able to take this trip because of a certain lacking, I’d say we had some letting go and wishing to do. It might have been a total tourist trap, or a completely inappropriate use of an actual cultural tradition, but we did it, and I went ahead felt feelings about it.

Very happy roti-maker

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Lighting the lantern

Lantern rising

The next morning, we packed up all we had carried an accumulated over nearly two weeks, and made our way first to the Phuket airport, then on to Hong Kong, and finally home.

The rest of our Phuket pictures are here.
If you’re planning a trip to Phuket and haven’t seen The Impossible…go ahead and wait until after your trip to do so. Trust me on this.