Friday, December 25, 2009

A letter of complaint to FedEx (I actually emailed this)

To whom it may concern:

I placed an order to FedEx office services on Sunday (12/20) for three photo calendars as gifts (there was a free rush 3-day delivery promo to receive them in time for Christmas). In doing so, I accidentally left off my apartment number from my address.

I called the proper Customer Service office on Monday to make the correction, and after two separate phone calls, the operator I spoke to the second time assured me that the change had been made.

On Tuesday, I received a phone call from FedEx delivery saying that they did NOT have my apartment number, even though the day before, I had just been informed that the correction had been made. Once again, I had to speak to another operator, who this time assured me the change had been made.

Wednesday - I received nothing.

Today (Thursday, Christmas Eve), I called in to track my package, and was informed that there was an error with my address, and was ONCE AGAIN directed to an operator, who THIS TIME told me that my address was in fact complete, despite what the automated phone tracking service told me, and that I would DEFINITELY receive my shipment today.

Well, it's nearly midnight Christmas Eve, and according to your online tracking service, my package is still sitting in the San Jose facility as of 10pm tonight.

While I admit that the initial error was mine, I did whatever I could to fix it, and was told multiple times that it was fixed, and that I would receive my package on time. Instead, it's been sitting in a warehouse in San Jose for the past three days. Why did you tell me I would receive my package, when clearly it's been sitting around in a warehouse for three days? And why was I not given the option to go pick it up at said warehouse? This is completely and utterly ridiculous. I'm not even sure what to ask for from you at this point, other than a profuse apology, since I didn't have to pay shipping anyway, and no amount of my anger and resentment towards you is going to get those gifts here on time for my family Christmas party anyway, since your facilities are closed Christmas Day. And it's too late to cancel my order and ask for a complete refund because it's already been processed and completed and, again, IT'S BEEN SITTING IN A WAREHOUSE IN SAN JOSE FOR THREE DAYS.

I just want you to know that because of your lack of communication and your empty promises, my daughter has no presents to give her grandparents for Christmas. This would have meant the world to them.

Monday, December 7, 2009

December 7th

And thus concludes a rather unremarkable day. See you next year.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Sometimes I miss being the student.

I'm not talking about the daily drudge of bell schedules and the busywork, but those special moments where your teacher says something that totally clicks in your brain and the lightbulb goes off, and your whole world CHANGES because you JUST learned something awesome. As an adult, even one who teaches, I don't get a lot of those moments anymore. Well, I just had one today... :)

I just bought A Truth Universally Acknowledged: 33 Great Writers on Why We Read Jane Austen, and while I'm only through a couple of the essays, it's really awakening the academic in me. I haven't been a student since 2005, when I got my MA in English, and I've long since buried that part of me in favor being the teacher. All of my "high-falutin' mumbo jumbo" had to be put on the backburner because my kids can't do that stuff; I'm going to be honest and say that I do have to dumb myself down a little bit in order to be able to explain the things that I know in a language that they understand. In a way, I feel like I've lost touch with that intellectual academic part of myself; in some ways, I feel like I'm actually less intelligent than I used to be. Please understand: I'm not saying that my kids are dumb and I'm becoming dumb because I teach them; I'm saying that high school kids are not at the same level as grad students, and to be able to teach high school students, I kind of have to put myself in their shoes to help them learn, and by spending more and more time in their shoes, I'm not spending nearly enough time in MY shoes.

Sometimes I re-read my Master's thesis to remind myself. I kind of feel like if I had to write another one right now, it wouldn't be nearly as good. When you don't use certain muscles for a long time, they atrophy; I feel like that's what's happened to my mental muscles. I tell people I don't really read because I don't have time to; the truth is, I don't really read because I'm afraid to. I'm deathly afraid that my brain isn't strong enough to handle anything smarter than Twilight anymore. (And Twilight isn't remotely smart.) Okay, well, I can make it through all the articles in Bust and Bitch magazines, so that's not bad.

Anyway... so, I've started reading this book about why Jane Austen is awesome, and it's making me want to go back and read/re-read all her books. (Full disclosure: I have not read all her books. And I call myself an Austenite. I really need to go hang my head in shame.) I'm reading Susanna Clarke's essay, and in it, she talks about how any visual/physical description we get (of people, of landscapes, etc) are not for the purpose of painting a visual for the reader, but to establish character, and she gives some examples, and all of a sudden, I can feel those mental muscles in my brain flexing again, because I'm running through all of the visual descriptions I can remember (which aren't much, because it's been a while, and again, I haven't even read all her books to begin with), and I realize that it IS true! When Austen describes Pemberley, it's not so we can see what Pemberley looks like in our heads! It's so we can see how responsible and tasteful Mr. Darcy is, and therefore, we see why he should be evaluated as trustworthy and credible!

And all of a sudden, I want to go through all the books and write down everything on this issue. In short, I bet it would BE a thesis' worth of work.

So now, I am wanting to write a thesis.

And then, I am wanting to go to grad school and be a student again.

But of course, I won't. (AND I'M DIRECTING THAT AT THOSE OF YOU GOSSIP MONGERS ON STAFF AT MHS WHO CAN'T MIND YOUR OWN BEESWAX.) I'm not in a position to go income-less, and besides, I do really enjoy teaching at the high school level. And I'm tenured. And I wouldn't leave my junior officers for anything.

So what's an academic wannabe to do? I could make the push and write it anyway, and no matter how bad it might end up being (due to my lack of sources and resources, time, writing skills, etc), at least I will have done it.

So.........................

...

... Okay, right now, at least, I'm going to go right over yonder and sit back down on the couch and continue reading my book, as I was so gladly interrupted by my epiphany. And maybe when I'm done, I will pick up another book... and then another... and then maybe eventually I'll pick up a pen and a notebook, and I'll begin to find myself again...

Saturday, November 21, 2009

New Moon... kind of a review, but more like a list of whatever I could remember.

This is a list, sort of, of my thoughts on New Moon. I'm mostly trying to remember what I thought about the movie as I was watching it, as opposed to what I think after reflecting a bit.

Also, I'm sharing my thoughts with you as if you know everything already. I'm not doing courtesy summaries, because you can Wikipedia that easily. Okay?

So... my thoughts on New Moon the movie (NMTM), in random, semi-coherent rambling in which I'm lazy about italicizing titles:

Let me preface this by saying that New Moon the book (NMTB) has always been my least favorite - not because I don't like it, but because it was the most painful for me to read. I remember it was a cold November when I finally picked up the Twilight series, and was going through some depression of my own at the time, so when I finally got to those famous blank "month" pages in NMTB, I seriously felt like maybe the only person more desperately sad than I was at that moment was probably Bella herself. I guess you can say that when it comes to what I'm reading, I can really get swept into the feelings of the characters, and such as it was, I was totally consumed with sadness and loneliness for DAYS (well, until Edward showed up again), that's how deeply affected I was by this book, and in all honesty, I haven't re-read it in full until this past week, and I only made myself do it because I wanted to refresh my memory for the movie.

That said... having re-read the book recently, I was very happy about how well adapted it was, compared to the first book. (Warning #2: I am going to be comparing NMTM to Twilight the movie quite a bit.)

TTM, I thought, JUMPED into their relationship. One minute it's, "DID YOU GET CONTACTS?" and the next, it's, "YOU ARE MY LIFE NOW." In the book, there's much more development of their attraction to each other, and there are those few precious moments where Bella actually calls out Edward on his douchebaggery before she finally decides that she loves him and he is perfect in every way. Granted, people will say, "Well, that book is a million pages, and movies have to be much shorter!", but I feel like Melissa Rosenberg (the scriptwriter) spent her "time" unwisely. (Why do we get multiple montages of them having conversations that we can't hear? Why not exchange those for some actual audible conversations? WHY DIDN'T WE GET THE BLOOD TYPING SCENE???... ahem...)

That said, New Moon didn't feel quite so jumpy. While we moved into the Edwardless part of the story rather quickly, I didn't feel as if I missed anything. I loved the opening epigraph (even though R&J is never mentioned again throughout the rest of the movie) and the grandma scene. And Billy Burke as Charlie was (as he was throughout the WHOLE movie) pretty priceless with his gray hair comment. (Dude, have you SEEN Billy Burke without the Charlie stache? I'm starting Team Charlie!)

By the way, I don't have a lot of SQUEE moments over Edward (or Jacob, either), but I just have to say that scene with him reciting the lines from Romeo's death monologue was totally sigh-worthy (and I did almost sigh aloud in the movie theatre). This is where my English lit nerdiness comes in. There's something about cute guys and iambic pentameter that just melts my cold heart. The only thing would've made it better is if Robert Sparkleson could've recited it in his British accent. ("Robert Sparkleson" is a Cleolinda-ism, by the way. I love her.)

Ahem, /end squee. So the opening was great, although I could've done without the Volterra preview. And again, I'm complaining a little bit that they decided to include the "these violent delights" lines and they image-dropped the R&J book cover without later on including the whole "What if Juliet chose Paris?" discussion later.

Alice: I love Alice, and I love how Ashley Greene plays Alice, but could someone please FIRE the costume designer/stylist? What is up with Alice's clothes? If I didn't already know she was fashion-obsessed, I never would have figured it out from her clothes in the movie. I really don't think Alice would've worn a flannel plaid scarf tied all the way up her neck like that. That said, I love that Alice had more to say and more interaction with Bella. I was worried about how that would play out. In TTB, there's that part where Bella, Alice, and Jasper spend a LOT of time together in Phoenix in the hotel room that TTM barely even mentions. (I'm still pissed we didn't get to see Jasper awkwardly accompany Bella to the airport ladies' room.) Anyway, that part of the book is very important for establishing Alice and Bella, and I wondered if it would be weird if they were all of a sudden totallybestfriendswhoarethisclose in New Moon. But it wasn't bad, actually.

Jasper: always has rat's nest hair (that got worse by the voting scene at the end... seriously, Jasper? Can't you get J. Jenks to hook you up with a good stylist?), and the same "I am so constipated" expression.

The Cullens in general: need to ease off the foundation. I didn't know Bare Minerals made a shade called Cream of Mushroom.

The birthday party scene, which I've seen quite a few times in trailers and previews and sneak peeks, didn't lose any of its magic after so many viewings. I thought the slooooow moooooo was a bit overdone, but Edward pushing Bella into the table/wall was actually quite a shock to me, because they actually showed him doing it, and, I don't know, seeing a guy do that to a girl - even if it's to save her life - is still squicky to me.

Once that part was over... I am SO sorry to admit this... I knew what was coming, and I actually started to cry. I started to cry IN ADVANCE of Edward leaving Bella in the woods, and actually, if I'm remembering correctly, this scene in the movie felt a lot harsher than the conversation they actually have in the book. Like, it HURT. And I was totally hating Edward even though I KNEW he didn't mean it. Man, it was just mean. And I totally cried. I didn't sob, but the tears were rolling down and my nose was starting to get runny, and the waterworks did not stop for a while.

I was happy to see that they kept the "months" sequence in the movie, because that might've been the most powerful part of the book, for me. (Bella, as the narrator, has to say something about everything, or else we wouldn't have a story, so when she says absolutely NOTHING and the pages are empty, we really feel her mental absence.)

So, I have to comment on the Alice emails/voiceovers... I thought the emails were unnecessary. I liked the voiceovers and thought they would've been sufficient as interior monologue, considering how, again, there wasn't much to establish Alice and Bella as BFFFs. I even might've been satisfied if it were Bella talking to Alice in her head (especially since she says she has no one to talk to). But the emails? Kind of awkward and unnecessary.

Kristen Stewart really made me cry. The empty staring off, the screaming into her pillow... it hurt me to watch her. I really have to give kudos to how Stewart plays Bella in general, because it's not easy to make a character like Bella exist as something more substantial than an Everyperson. (There are a lot of us who feel like Meyer wrote Bella as BLAND and GENERIC and LACKING IN PERSONALITY as possible so that the reader can insert herself into the story so it's like YOU CAN BE WITH EDWARD, YAY!)

Okay... I've lost where I was...

Okay, I also have to give kudos to Anna Kendrick as Jessica, who is a b**** in the book, but in the movie is quite likeable and charming. (Ever since TTM, I can't stop saying, "I KNOW, RIGHT???" and it's because of her.)

I was VERY surprised that Bella got on that motorcycle. And was also surprised that having a visual Edward-Alarm-Bell was not as cheesy as I thought. (They had to get more Edward eye candy in there SOMEHOW, right?) And they effectively created another way to introduce the motorcycle element of the story quickly and easily.

So... now, Jacob. I know he shows up in the beginning, but this is where he REALLY starts to show up, and this is where I'll start talking about him now. I have to say, I had lots of doubts about Taylor Lautner's acting ability (he's kind of an awkward ham, if you've ever seen his interviews) and his baby face (as in, am I REALLY supposed to believe that Bella would find herself attracted to Sharkboy?). But I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised. He played Jacob very well, and this wasn't a simple part to play like in the first movie. And, um... I have to admit, he's a lot more attractive than I thought he would be (which REALLY grosses me out to say so, because he's the same age as my students). But it's not how he looks, so much as he does the whole "I'll take care of you" thing very well, and I like that. Lautner made Jacob and Bella's relationship much more believable to me than it was when I read the book, because despite what the pages said, I still thought of Jacob as this young BOY.

And in this case, I thought the montages were effective. We definitely got the development of their relationship in a much more believable fashion than we did with Edward and Bella in TTM.

So, one of my favorite moments in the book is when Bella, Mike, and Jacob go to the movies, and I was NOT disappointed. First of all, the fake movie names: "Love Is Love Spelled Backwards"? "Face Punch"? You could hear the mocking in Stewart's and Guy-Who-Plays-Mike's voices. BRILLIANT. And then the actual snippet of Face Punch dialogue (paraphrased):

"PUT YOUR GUN DOWN OR I'M GOING TO BLOW YOUR HEAD OFF!"
"NO, YOU PUT YOUR GUN DOWN OR I'M GOING TO BLOW YOUR HEAD OFF!"
"BOTH OF YOU PUT BOTH YOUR GUNS DOWN OR I'M GOING TO BLOW BOTH YOUR HEADS OFF!!!!"

Sorry, I just thought that was awesome :) I'm actually surprised how funny the movie was, considering how depressing the book was.

Okay... what's next... everything was just awesome as is. The scene with Laurent, the scene with the cliff divers... everything was just really well done.

The scene between Jacob and Bella in the rain was wrenching. I actually have a MUCH easier time buying into their "tortured love" situation than Edward and Bella's. I don't know why. I was really, really rooting for Jacob in this movie. (Eclipse, however, is a different story... manipulative bastard.)

The wolf CGI - I was worried they wouldn't make the wolves big enough, but they didn't disappoint, and I'm happy with how it looks. I also like how they were mindful about how, when any of the guys phases, the clothes just TEAR into shreds, like they're supposed to. It was a small detail that they could've overlooked, but didn't. So I'm glad.

Emily was so pretty! And the scar was not as bad as I'd imagined it. Also... is this not where we get the imprinting explanation? Or is that Eclipse? I'm getting old, I can't remember.

Paul: [sheepishly] "Sorry!" = awesome.

Jumping to "The Big Day Where All the Crap Happens":
- I LOVED LOVED LOVED how Rosenberg tied in Harry Clearwater's heart attack to Victoria. REALLY nice touch!
- I also really LOVED LOVED LOVED Victoria's hair color. (Sorry, just had to say it.)
- The glimpse of Victoria in the water swimming toward Bella was as creepy a moment as I've ever seen. I kind of have a fear of the ocean (and all the possible things you might see down there in the dark water).

The return of Alice - You know, I would've really loved to have seen the conversation between Alice and Charlie about Bella. That part of the book always made me cry too. If they had included that in the movie, I MIGHT'VE forgiven them for putting Alice in yet another GOD AWFUL outfit.

Volterra - You know, I really had a hard time keeping everyone straight, but then again, it's not like I paid much attention. I know Aro, and I know Jane, and I know there IS a Marcus, but I wasn't quite sure which one he was - the other dark-haired one? So who was the blond guy? And who was the guy played by the mutant kid from X-Men? Also, I was kind of hoping that Aro would be a little bit more crazy. But that's just me. Like a silly, CRAZY old man.

Tangent 1: Edward without his shirt on actually looks like a heroin addict. Put that thing back on, sweetheart. Jacob clearly wins in this contest.

Tangent 2: That yellow Porsche did NOT disappoint. It totally out-sexied every person in the movie.

The fight scene wasn't actually in the book, but I understand their need for some sort of climactic action, so there it is. It wasn't corny.

Well, it wasn't corny until Alice shows us her vision of Edward and Bella frolicking in the grass. EDWARD - a vest? Really? Oh well, I'm guessing whoever dressed Alice gets to dress the people in her visions too. (Tangent 3: ALICE - that ugly headscarf? really?)

Okay, I really need to wrap this up because my dogs need to go out for their walk:

I have to say, I stand corrected about the end of the movie (the proposal). I thought that Edward doesn't bring up marriage until Eclipse, but apparently I was wrong. So, I'm sorry. Also, I have to thank Rosenberg for cutting it off RIGHT at "Marry me," instead of letting us hear Bella complain about getting old before ending the movie.

Overall, I thought the movie was really good, and effectively portrayed the key moments from the book. I plan on seeing this again, to see what I missed or forgot the first time around. For once, I actually liked the movie better than the book.

PS - I really liked the music better in this movie, especially since we DIDN'T have to hear the Death Cab song.
PPS - Sorry that this blog is so random and incoherent. When I'm trying to write from memory, I end up writing in list form, instead of actually putting together paragraphs. In other words, kids, don't take this as an example of good writing.

Good night.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Happy

I'm feeling good lately. I've been working out a lot, and I just started my half-marathon training this week, and I realized that despite not having run in over a year, I'm running better and stronger than I ever have, because I'm in much better shape than I've ever been upon starting a training program. (A big ups to my trainer Raymond!)

And I'm SO excited about derby. Granted, I've been having a hard time finding time or energy to skate (I've just gotten over a bad cold/sore throat), but now that I'm all better, I am ALL over this. I helped out at the double-header bout last weekend, and I'm SO excited to be a part of this. I just hope I can get my act together and pass the WFTDA minimum skills test.

So things are going well. I'm finding myself, figuring out who I want to be (because it's so easy to lose yourself when you have to dedicate so much of yourself to raising a child), and I feel like my sense of self, much like my body, is stronger than ever.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

I have no will to live.

I'm sick as a dog right now. (Which doesn't actually make sense, because out of the five living things in my house, my dogs are the least likely to be sick right now.) I HATE being sick. I'm not one of those troopers who can soldier on cheerfully through illness. Being sick doesn't just affect my body; it depresses the hell out of me as well. Being sick makes me cry. Every throat-scorching sneeze, every wave of exhaustion, every breath through my mouth (because my nose is plugged up) - it makes me lose my will to live.

So, in the spirit of misery, here another thing I hate:
when people assume that I have it easy because I'm a teacher.
We get summers, weekends, and holidays off, we get off work at 3pm, and it's not like it's hard to get into an education program. Easy, right? WRONG. Try this:

- We work 9 months out of the year (and that's all we get paid for), but during the summer, most teachers are doing professional development (often because they HAVE to), paid for out of their own pocket. Or we're really just trying to RECOVER. Or salvage our family lives.

- We're TEACHING from 8am-3pm, but lots of us get to school at 7am, and lots MORE of us stay after school as late as 5 or 6pm, and then we go home and work another 2 or 3 (or more) hours, and then lots of times, we spend most of the day on weekends grading the BIG assignments because we can work for a longer chunk of time.

- Being a teacher doesn't just mean that we teach; we also have to do extra duties. Most supervise two events throughout the year (3, 4 hours each? - sporting events, school play, etc); I, however, am a class advisor, which means 30 minutes EVERY week for meetings. Then add on supervising after school meetings/practices (1-2 hours), supervising ticket sales or attending fundraisers (30mins to an hour or so)... Trojan Olympics practice for us is another 3 hours a week for four weeks, and then the event itself is 3 hours... every grade level has an evening event they're responsible for (talent show or a dance... juniors have winter ball AND junior prom), so that's another few hours for set up and the event itself, which doesn't take into consideration other things that lead up to it (like talent show auditions, meeting with event coordinators for prom)... anyway, get the gist?

- And the above is in addition to the staff meetings, department meetings, parent meetings, team meetings... lots of meetings, all the time.

- We all teach 5 periods a day, at least two different preps, with only 1 period to prepare during the day. So, it's no wonder we do a lot of work after hours.

- Um, by the way, all teachers have to have a college degree (in an actual academic field, usually - not JUST education), and LOTS of teachers have graduate degrees.

- Oh hi, NCLB, anyone? Test scores and all that ridiculous crap that takes up our time.

- I teach high school, so I have about 140 teenagers (with their own minds, their own lives, their own sets of issues and problems and backstories) blinking at me every day, waiting for me to entertain them (yes, ENTERTAIN). Elementary school teachers have a lot fewer, but those kids are a lot younger and come with their own issues as well.

Do I hate my job? No. If I hated it, I wouldn't be doing it. But it's a hard job, a hard job that is made harder by the fact that there are so many people who still don't respect it, thinking that it's "easy" and that they could do a better job than we (who are trained) can. It's a hard job that I don't get paid very much for (because teaching is traditionally "women's work"), which means that "normal" adult accomplishments like owning a home or having children are rendered nearly impossible if you want to remain single or want to be a single-income household (at least, in the Bay Area). And it's a hard job that affects MANY lives, because I'm not just standing on an assembly line messing with a piece of machinery, but I'm tinkering with minds and hearts and souls who will eventually be adults working in the world. It's a fragile thing, and it's no wonder you have to be trained to teach.

So just because you sat in a classroom once, it doesn't mean that you know how to be a teacher. So take your snobbishness and shove it.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

I love it when you talk derby to me...

So, if you've been able to follow my Facebook updates, you probably know that 1) I got a new phone, and 2) I'm joining roller derby again.

Re: the phone
I hate myself for having spent as much time talking and thinking about getting a new phone as I did. It makes me feel shallow and materialistic. I have no problem admitting that I would love to have an iPhone, but I do have a problem with becoming one of those people who does nothing but talk about iPhones (or any phones) ALL THE TIME, like it's the most important thing in the world, because they're totally addicted to their phones. It's cool and all, but really? It's a piece of machinery. It's a better piece of machinery than many others, but still, it's a piece of machinery that will one day break or become obsolete, so it's best not to get too attached. (That's what I have my laptop for anyway.) I had issues choosing a phone because I did want something that could do more than just be a phone; on the other hand, I don't need it to be MUCH more than a phone. Call me ornery, but I don't need a phone that can play music, shop at the Gap, and order me takeout. I want it to be a vehicle for communication, and nothing more. So, anyway... see? I'm talking about it again. Anyway, I didn't get too fancy a phone.

Re: derby
I am SO EXCITED. I will be honest and say that the very first time I heard that there was a derby league in the area (about a year ago), I was like, "That would be an awesome thing to tell people that I do!" But uh... yeah. I got my ass handed to me after a couple of practices. After I learned more about the league, the sport, and the work involved, I fell in love with it. I recommitted myself, but then found out I was pregnant. Yeah, maybe a better skater than me could've gotten away with a few more weeks of skating with the team with an embryo on board, but I definitely was not good enough to keep my baby safe if I wanted to skate. So, derby dreams were put on hold.

Fast forward to now... I've been loosely following the league throughout my pregnancy, and my interest just never went away. I found out at the beginning of October that SVRG would be having their last recruitment meeting of the season very soon. Without even really thinking, I decided that IT HAS TO BE NOW I HAVE TO JOIN DERBY NOW NOW NOW. But what did I do differently this time? For starters, I called my gym (that I never go to, yet am paying $40 a month for) to find out how many training sessions I have left - you see, a couple of years ago when I was far more financially irresponsible and desperate to lose weight, I shelled out hundreds of dollars for personal training sessions (in addition to all the fees for the gym membership). I did use up some of the sessions, but stopped when my trainer quit because she hated the manager. (Which made ME hate her too.)

So, it's years later, and I still have, like, 20 sessions, so I decided to make an appointment to come in, and they put me with Raymond. I didn't know who he was or anything ahead of time. But, actually, he turned out to be awesome. Our first appointment was just a 30-minute evaluation, but he made me work hard, and even though I was limping out the door after 30-minutes, I knew I'd met my match. See, my old trainer (though she was very nice and we became friends, sort of) never really worked me hard enough - we always just ended up talking about whatever (she'd complain about her manager) and I just never felt like I worked anywhere near my full potential. But Raymond definitely pushes me to the limit every time, and I have him to thank for the fact that, while my first derby practice was hard, I was in the best shape I'd been in for a long time, in infinitely better shape than when I'd tried last year. (In fact, because of Raymond, I'm seriously considering trying to find a way to buy more training sessions after I run out.)

So... derby. Probably thanks to Whip It, there were almost as many newbies as there are league members! And we're of all different ages, backgrounds, and abilities, and I think I'm firmly in the middle. It's all coming back to me, but I definitely have to get serious and practice, and now that I've FINALLY dragged my ass up to San Francisco to get outdoor wheels, I'm good to go, anytime, anywhere. I'm determined to pass bootcamp and the skills test the first time.

The thing is, I'm scared. I've NEVER had to deal with physical tests (not since those presidential fitness tests in elementary school. Which I never passed). In matters of reasoning and intellect (and sometimes even memorization), no sweat. Essay? No problem. Multiple choice? Bring it.

LAPS? Um...

But I'm strong. I know I am. I can be fast (on wheels, anyway). And I'm determined.

So now when I talk about derby, it's not because I want people to think I'm cool - it's because I think IT'S cool. And the only way I can show the derby gods (er, goddesses) proper respect is to bust my ass and skate, skate, skate. (And learn the rules.)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Watching my Weight

I joined Weight Watchers yesterday.

This will be my last paid-diet attempt. I've done Nutrisystem; I've done Jenny Craig (for like, two weeks). I've even tried Slim Fast and diet pills (which also didn't last long because I hate taking pills), and I swear I've at LEAST flipped through every diet book known to man (or at least, our local Borders), and I think I've bought and donated more of them than most people own in a lifetime. I am a woman obsessed.

The odd thing is, the only diet "plan" I could ever stick to was when I had gestational diabetes. Granted, I HAD to stick to it. But I like to tell myself that I COULD have phoned it in (like the lady in our GD seminar who INSISTED that there was no possible way she and her family could switch to skim milk or even 2%), but instead, I stuck to it. And I think I really have that to thank for the fact that as soon as my uterus was done deflating, I was back to my pre-pregnancy size and weight almost right away.

The problem, of course, is that my pre-pregnancy size and weight were quite large to begin with. But I don't want to just phone it in anymore. Now, I don't want to EVER go back to a diabetic diet (and, actually, if I lose weight now, I will lessen my chances of that), but I found a way to make it work for me so I didn't feel too miserable all the time, and I think Weight Watchers will allow me to do that - find a way that works for me. I used to think that the only way I'd be successful is if someone else told me exactly what I needed to do and eat (hence, food delivery programs like Nutrisystem or Jenny Craig, or even meal replacements like Slim Fast), but I'm realizing that this is NOT the way. OBVIOUSLY. I mean, beneath my mild exterior lurks the heart of a rebel, and it is no wonder that those diets eventually got boring/restrictive/ridiculous, because there was no room for flexibility. Also, I hated having to turn down invites from friends (I have so few of them in the first place!)

So today is day 1 of WW. So far I've just had breakfast. So far, so good. I've been doing the Shred since Friday - today is day 5, but I took a rest day on day 3 (which I regretted, but I did wake up with horrible headache that day. But it gave my muscles a chance to heal and stop being so sore, which I definitely don't regret.) I noticed yesterday that some of the moves felt easier (read: I wasn't dying quite nearly so much). So, I guess this really works :)

And the most important part is that I'm feeling pretty good - not stressed out, not worried (except for all the money I'm spending on getting fit), and I'm looking forward to carrying this out long term. I'm not feeling like, "I can't WAIT for this to be over." And I really feel like it's within my ability to lose weight - next week when I go back to the meeting, I fully expect to see at least one pound down. (Note to self - always wear flip flops to meetings!)

So all in all, things are looking good, and so am I.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

30 Day Shred



So, one of the greatest things about pregnancy was that I could give my body a pass - it didn't matter how big I was getting or what I looked like, because my body was doing a beautiful thing (growing a baby), and therefore, it was beautiful.

On the other hand, one of the worst things about pregnancy was that I was very limited in what I could do physically. It was while I was pregnant that I really missed running and lifting weights. And I was literally about to re-join roller derby when I found out I was pregnant, so... yeah, that was over before it started.

So it's October now. Jolie is 2 months old. I no longer have a pass... but then again, I no longer have anything holding me back. There is one recruitment meeting left for this season for SVRG, and I'm going to do it, and I'm going to do it the right way. I'm not taking it for granted this time - I'm going to learn how to skate, I'm going to learn the sport, and I'm going to whomp ass. Seeing as how the last recruitment meeting was during the summer, this is literally my first opportunity to rejoin SVRG, and I'm going to take it.

But... like I said, I'm going to do it the right way. And I skated enough last time to know that skating is HARD. It's a hard workout, and I was nowhere near remotely in good shape when I joined last time, so I was sore constantly (and not even from falling). So in the month that I have left, I'm going to get into shape as best I can - maybe I'll lose weight, maybe not, but I need to strengthen these muscles and be aerobically fit so I can stay on my feet and keep up with the others.

Which brings me to... Jillian Michaels' 30 Day Shred. Three levels of workouts, every day, 30 days to do it. I don't want to kid myself, so I started at level 1 yesterday, and it was really hard. I thought I was going to die after about 5 minutes, and this morning, I woke up with all sorts of sore muscles that I thought had gone into hiding since I was pregnant. (But on the bright side, I can FEEL my abs again!) I did it again this morning, and it felt even harder, probably because of all my soreness. But it felt good to finish, and I'm going to try to keep this up, because I know I have much more difficult challenges ahead when I finally get back to skating. But hopefully I will be in better shape than ever.

As for the dvd itself, I like it a lot (and I've seen a lot of exercise dvds in my day!) This might be the least hokey exercise dvd I've ever seen - most of the time, the women in the videos are totally peppy and smiley like ex-cheerleaders, and this really makes me want to punch them. There is some motivational talk in 30 Day Shred, but it's not annoying, and Jillian Michaels is not a bouncy aerobics instructor. So, I really appreciate that. Also, I noticed that one of her helper models was actually SWEATING. Again, I've seen a lot of exercise dvds, and it never seems like the models are actually working very hard, and again, this makes me want to punch them. So I appreciate that this dvd is not condescending and doesn't treat me like I'm stupid.

So, 2 days down... 28 to go...

Friday, September 11, 2009

Getting back to me


(This could be me. Why not?)

I'm coming up on the six-week mark for post-partum recovery, and I'm realizing that I need to get my act together. These past couple of months (starting when Jimmy and I moved into our own place, about a month before I delivered), all I've been doing is lounging around the house and being lazy and not even getting dressed properly. Which is well within my rights, as a heavily pregnant woman and as a new mother.

But the babymoon is over - I need to be a functional, presentable member of society again. And now that I (mostly) have my body back, it's time for me to put myself back together - open the trunk and find those parts of me that I used to be before I was pregnant, that I can still be again.

I was never glamorous, but I was way into makeup (well, that didn't change with pregnancy), and was constantly trying to find a signature look. I fancied myself a low-key pinup girl, and had the pencil skirt to prove it (which has long since been donated due to my watermelon-sized tummy). I loved this about myself - I had found an aesthetic that I felt comfortable with, and I felt good about myself when I dressed that way, and now that I'm more or less back to my pre-pregnancy weight and size, I need to get back to that. I miss it. I miss feeling great and looking great.


(See? Pencil skirt! Me as a pinup, pre-pregnancy. Well, I might've been pregnant in this picture actually - like, a week or so. I definitely had no idea here.)

I've started buying makeup again, and I'm going to get back into wearing it more often, even if I don't go anywhere, because it's just nice to look into a mirror and love what you see. Is it vanity? Perhaps. Sure, there are more important things I could be worrying about. But it makes me feel good about myself, and you can't discount that.

While I was pregnant, I realized more than ever that I really missed RUNNING. I've been itching to run, and now, I finally can. (Well, I can start taking steps toward TRYING to run.) I'm missing the Nike Women's Marathon this year, and it kills me. I miss feeling strong and athletic. The physical part of pregnancy and birth has been the hardest for me to deal with - not even being able to lift boxes has made me feel so helpless and anti-feminist, even. I've always been a strong, able-bodied person, and having to "sit out" everything for the last nine months has been torture.

So, I need to get back into shape. Or rather, I'm back into the shape I was before; I'd like to get into better shape. I want to be strong and able to run around with Jolie when she's old enough. I want to have energy and confidence - Jolie does NOT need a mother with self-esteem issues.

No more sitting around wishing anymore. There's no reason why Jolie's mom can't be a glamorous badass.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Jolie is one month old today!

One month and going strong. And getting better every day. And to think, we STILL haven't reached my due date yet! And look at my wonderful baby!







Here's to the next month!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

37 weeks.

This is how far along I would have been today, had Jolie not come early. So I guess that makes her full-term today, kind of.

Jolie will be ONE MONTH OLD next Wednesday, and I can't believe it. The hours have gone by slowly, but the weeks have flown by, if that makes any sense. I can't believe how much she's changed in such a short period of time.

Jolie at 9 days, two days before we left the hospital:


Jolie yesterday, at 3 weeks, 3 days, SIX POUNDS!:


In Asian culture, the first month birthday is a big deal - instead of having a baby shower before the baby is born, Asians (traditionally) have a huge one-month birthday party. I guess if the baby survives the first month, then it means she'll make it for sure, and it's cause for a huge celebration.

That first week and a half in the hospital was just hell for me, with some rude nurses (there were some nice ones too, though) stressing me out about every little thing and making me feel incompetent just because Jolie would conk out when I would feed her, and it made her lose a little weight. I still maintain that they bullied me into rooming with her not to help me "feel more comfortable" being alone with my baby, but so they could test me and evaluate me and judge me about whether or not I was a fit enough mother to take my baby home. Yes, Jolie's a preemie, but still, I doubt the labor and delivery staff are so judgmental of mothers of full-term newborns. They really put me through the wringer those first 10 days, and I would leave the hospital crying and angry and sad because all I wanted was to have my baby at home with me.

And then we finally took her home, and it was an adjustment, introducing her to the rups (who are okay with her, but still keep their distance because they're not entirely sure what she is yet) and getting her feeding schedule established, and then I was stressing out a lot about breastfeeding. See, I really want to breastfeed my baby, but at the moment, the disparity in our sizes makes us slightly incompatible, anatomically. And the way it works is that I can't just wait until she's big enough - believe it or not, breastfeeding is a skill that both baby and mother need to practice to get it right. So I've been trying to BF her a little bit, in between all the pumping I've had to do, and I would cry because I was angry and sad that there was something wrong with me that I couldn't BF my own child, and I HATED pumping because it was painful and uncomfortable, and then I hated myself for even considering switching completely to formula, knowing all of the benefits of breastmilk, especially since she's a preemie. (At this point, you should be feeling sorry for Jimmy, because I have NOT been pleasant to be around.)

But my mantra of "one more day!" has gotten me through it - I've been BFing Jolie here and there, and she's successful some of the time, and pumping hasn't been as painful anymore because I think my body is adjusting, and while I still despise the tedium of the schedule and sitting at my desk hooked up to a machine, I now feel like it's manageable. I still hate it, but I no longer feel like I can't do it.

And Jolie herself is changing too. She was so incredibly tiny when we brought her home, and she still is, but she's grown two inches since birth, and she's now 6 pounds. Her double chin is adorably chubby, and she's been staying awake longer after feedings. I just KNOW we're going to hit that "crying constantly" stage soon, because she's becoming more fussy lately and she needs to be held more. We love playing with her, giving her baths, and basically looking at her all the time. Between Jolie and our X-Files binge, we're definitely not bored.


Bath time!

Her grandparents (on both sides) are over all the time, or asking us to bring her over, because they adore her, and I don't blame them. She is pretty damn adorable.

So there are three weeks left until my due date, and considering how much has happened in the last three weeks, I can't even imagine what leaps and bounds she will achieve by the time she reaches September 17th. And then we can start looking for all the regular milestones, like turning over, sitting up, and recognizing faces. Jimmy and I are both excited for the day she can laugh and play with us, but we're also not in THAT much of a hurry to see her grow up, because we want to cherish this time with her while it's still going on. She won't be a baby forever, and I don't want to take this for granted.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Jolie is one week old today.


These last seven days have been both the most wonderful and the most painful seven days of my life.

Life is wonderful because, obviously, my daughter has entered the world and everything in my life has shifted. The love I feel for her just cannot be described. She makes me happy in a way that nothing else in my life can. (And that's not to say that nothing else in my life makes me happy; what I mean is that it's a specific kind of happy that only she makes me feel.) I could watch her sleep for hours. Even seeing her sneeze or make a funny face is the most amazing thing in the world. As she is discovering life for the first time, I am rediscovering life in new ways.

Life is painful because it's been hard having to visit her in the hospital. This is the happiest I've ever been, but it's also the saddest I've ever been, and I think I've cried more this week than I have in a long time. I just miss her so much. I know she's doing well and she'll be coming home soon, but it's just really hard to come home and everything is "business as usual," but it's not, because I'm no longer pregnant, but there's no baby here either. If you think about it, I haven't been apart from her EVER, until I gave birth to her and had to leave her in the hospital. She was a part of my body, you know? And now when I look at my belly, she's no longer in there, kicking me or nudging me. But at the same time, she's not HERE, at home, in her crib either. It's a desperately sad and empty feeling. And it's been equally hard on Jimmy as well. He misses her just as much, and it's just as hard for him to say goodbye to her at the hospital as well.

Everyone has been offering their congratulations and good wishes, and we're both really grateful, but honestly, the celebratory mood is in such contrast to what we've been feeling all week. Everyone is like, "Yay! Baby!" and we're like, "No... no baby here. Just an empty house."

And it's been REALLY hard for me to hear people say things like, "WE WANT TO SEE THE BABY!" or "WE WANT TO HOLD THE BABY!" because even _I_ can't SEE my baby or HOLD my baby as much as I want to. I feel like this baby doesn't even belong to me yet, and everyone else is already making demands on her time and trying to take her away from me. So I've been feeling really agitated and angry and frustrated. I just feel like... How can you expect me to share my child with you when I haven't even taken her home yet? How can you demand my child when I can't even demand my child? All of my time with her, right now, is extremely limited, and it's VERY hard for me to keep my cool when it comes to other people wanting to take up that time right now. I mean, I'm not trying to single anyone out here, but please stop saying this to me at least until I've brought her home and gotten things settled down. Please. For the sake of my own sanity and well-being.

In addition, please stop telling me to SLEEP NOW, BECAUSE YOU WON'T GET ANY REST WHEN SHE COMES HOME, because the way I feel right now, I would rather have her home with me and never sleep again, than have to deal with being apart from her. I would make that trade IN A HEARTBEAT if it meant stopping the aching pain in my chest.

I've just been experiencing such a whirlwind of emotion this week. In between being extremely happy and extremely sad, I've had to find some sort of balance just to get business taken care of (maternity leave, gathering last minute baby things, etc.) It's hard to be business-like and efficient when my entire world has changed.

I'm sorry this is such a downer post, but I just needed to get out everything I've been feeling, because what pregnant woman ever expects to be leaving the hospital WITHOUT her child? Really, only Jimmy has known exactly how I feel this week because I haven't really been telling anyone about it. It hasn't been all storm clouds and darkness; the time I spend with Jolie makes everything better. As you can see by all the photos (and videos, if you're my Facebook friend), she's quite an amazing little girl, and she really is my sunshine. And since the doctors have said she'll be ready to come home in the next couple of days, I've been feeling less sad because now I have an actual day to look forward to (because it's absolute agony not having any solid answers). They've already started discharge procedures. So since I've heard that news, I've been feeling so much better, and am SO excited, and the things that were bothering me have been bothering me less.

So Jolie is one week old today. It's about 8:30 in the morning as I type this, and I know that at this time last Sunday, I was awake, probably sitting here at my computer, and experiencing what I know now were contractions. We were getting ready to go to my baby shower and I was frightened and in pain and totally not expecting that, less than twelve hours later, I would no longer be pregnant.

If anything, this past week has proven to me that with life, you really have to expect the unexpected. Period.

Monday, August 3, 2009

The weather was nice, the Giants beat the Phillies, and I gave birth.

Dear Powers That Be,

When I said I was sick of being pregnant and I was SO READY to have this baby and get it out of me, I really didn't think you'd take me seriously. This really wasn't what I had in mind.

Sincerely,
Thu

PS - But since you did decide to listen to me this time, I have to thank you profusely for making this as easy and fast as it was.


To say it was a weird day for me yesterday doesn't even BEGIN to cover it.

It really started early in the morning. I woke up as early as 2am feeling some pain in my hips. This didn't alarm me, because ever since growing really huge, I get hip pain when I sleep (especially if I don't have a support pillow between my knees, which I didn't that night), and so I tried to reposition myself and then went back to sleep. I woke up feeling the same (but slightly worse) around 4am, and by 5:30am, it was no longer just hip pain but really intense downward pressure, and so I gave up on trying to sleep and just woke up.

By 8 or 9am, the pressure was getting worse, and coming sporadically. I was worried, but was trying to stay calm, because believe it or not, I was having a baby shower that morning - Jimmy's sister Laura was throwing me a baby shower in Willow Glen, and what kind of person calls in sick to their own baby shower? In addition to the pressure and pain, I noticed some mucous, but it wasn't bloody, so I wasn't really sure what to think. I vowed to call the hospital after I got home from the shower if things got worse. (The shower, by the way, was awesome and lovely, and I only wish I wasn't feeling so much physical discomfort throughout the whole thing.)

Things didn't get worse, but they definitely didn't get better, so when I got home, I called Labor and Delivery, and they said it didn't sound like I was in labor, so maybe I should just rest and hydrate, and if anything got worse, then I should come in. After a very short, rather painful and uncomfortable nap, I noticed that things DID get worse - I was bleeding now. The pain and pressure were stronger as well. I grabbed my purse and ID and whatever paperwork I had that my doctor's office had given me, and Jimmy and I headed to the hospital so they could examine me and see if what was wrong.

In the car, the pain was... manageable. By the time we walked all the way up to L&D, it was getting really bad, and I was bracing myself against the wall to manage it. At this point, I was starting to believe that I was having contractions, but I still wasn't thinking that I would be having the baby - I read that at this point (33 weeks), the doctors will give women fluids and monitor them and basically try to hold off labor. I pretty much thought that was what was going to happen.

So, we arrive sometime between 4:15 and 4:30pm... we had to sit in the frickin' waiting room until WELL after 6 o'clock! And every few minutes or so, I would have a really strong contraction. They were getting more and more painful, and closer together, but since all the rooms were full (SUPPOSEDLY!), there was nothing they could do for me, and so I had to suffer the indignity of going through all of this in front of about five other families, screaming kids, and people eating French fries. I was on the verge of tears, whimpering into Jimmy's shoulder, and gripping his hand until it turned white. I was begging him to go harass the receptionist, tell them that THIS WAS NO JOKE and that I needed help desperately. And every time he went, they would just tell him, "10 more minutes, okay?" Well, if you did the math, that "10 more minutes" turned into over an hour and a half. I was ALREADY in bad pain when I got there, and by the end of it, my body was literally trying to push. I was fighting it as much as I could, but I was in so much pain and scared to death.

They FINALLY took me in to an observation room, and I finally felt free to yell and moan and be as loud as I wanted to because I was experiencing so much pain and SO much pressure, and without forty people looking at me, I could finally deal with it. You have to understand, I'm not scheduled to take the "Preparing for Childbirth" class for two more weeks, so I had no idea how to manage all this pain other than to try to breathe, but it's really hard to remember things like that when you're scared to death. And I still wasn't even thinking that I was going to deliver a baby - I was scared to death that it was something ELSE, a complication, something that would endanger Jolie's life or mine. So I was panicking.

So how surprised was I when the doctor came in to examine me and said, "You're fully dilated and the baby is RIGHT THERE, so we're going to wheel you to the delivery room, and there's going to be a birthday today!"

And how surprised was I when I asked the nurse, "Is there going to be time for pain medication?" And she said, "NOPE! But she's small enough that she should just come right out!" And then I was scared.

No time for an epidural, no time for an IV. They wheeled me to a new room, moved me onto a delivery bed, propped me up, and finally let me push. And less than 20 minutes from the time I was brought in and the doctor examined me, out came a Jolie:


Jolie Estelle
4lbs, 13oz
Sunday, August 2, 2009
6:24pm

When I first heard her cry, I started to cry too (this is where I give props to Urban Decay Primer Potion), and it all happened so fast that it felt surreal. I'm STILL not sure that what happened really happened. I was afraid I'd wake up this morning and it would all just be a dream.

Other than the nightmare of the waiting room, it was the easiest possible delivery anyone could have possibly asked for. And what's more, Jolie is HEALTHY. Other than being early (and therefore small), she's absolutely fine - she was breathing fine on her own (no machinery), her muscle tone was great, she was regulating her body temperature fine... no complications. And as I found out this morning when I visited her, she was feeding fine as well. She still has to stay in the NICU for a couple weeks so they can monitor her functions and make sure she can do everything she needs to do, but she's just perfect.





So how often does it happen that someone goes into labor at 33 1/2 weeks totally spontaneously (they have NO idea how or why...), pops out a perfectly healthy baby, and then is perfectly mobile a couple hours later? I have no idea, but it happened to me.

They allowed me to go home a day early, and I chose to because I was going stir crazy at the hospital, and I need to sleep in my own bed anyway, and take care of getting things ready for Jolie. Today I woke up really early, had breakfast, and then waited for Jimmy so we could both go see Jolie together. She looked good last night, and she looked even better this morning. Our little Jolie is such a rock star!

So, I was sad today when I went home, because I never thought I would be leaving the hospital without my baby, and I cried on the way home, but I know it won't be long before we can take her home. In the meantime, I plan to see her every day and hopefully soon, you all will get to see her too.

So, please extend my daughter a warm welcome to the world. Jolie Estelle Fuqua has arrived.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

I've watched the ripples change their size but never leave the stream of warm impermanence

I'm moving in two days. Jimmy and I are moving in together to a condo that my parents own, so we're renting it. It's a really gorgeous place, very private, and perfect to set up house and wait for Jolie to arrive. I'm very excited.

So I'm a bit overwhelmed about having to pack up my entire life. Well, not my ENTIRE life - let it be known that I'm a bit of a pack rat. Well, pack rats keep stuff because they think they'll need it later, right? I keep stuff because I'm really too lazy to deal with it, and all of a sudden, the boxes pile up. So, I'm a lazy ass, is the real story. Out of everything I own, I really only want to keep, like, HALF of it - I've already donated over half my wardrobe (which made a sizeable dent, but I still have about 10 garbage bags' worth of clothing that I'm keeping - and yes, that's how I "pack" my closet). I'm donating over half of my bookshelf, and believe me, that breaks my heart more than anything. I've always wanted to be one of those literary academic types with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, but I have to sacrifice for the greater good. I've also - gasp! - gotten rid of ALMOST half of my yarn stash, although it's mostly the acrylic stuff that I bought early on that I haven't used at all since I started learning how to shop for the good stuff, so I'm not going to miss that.

Other than my books, I'm not going to be brokenhearted about anything I'm getting rid of. To be honest, I need to slough off all this extra baggage and minimalize for this "new life" we're starting - leave it all behind, you know? This is a new stage in my life, starting with finally having my own home with Jimmy, the way it's supposed to be, and then in not too long, the arrival of Jolie.

I'm so excited, to be moving and to be having a baby. I was packing up Jolie's clothes today as well, which I haven't looked through in a while, and I just couldn't wait - looking at each little adorable item, I just couldn't wait to see her in them. I've got another 3-D ultrasound in a couple of weeks, and I'm so excited to see my baby's face again - hopefully it will be a clearer shot, and Jolie won't keep trying to hide her face :)

I don't know if Jolie is either really shy, or she's really stubborn, but she's also been avoiding letting Jimmy feel her kick, until yesterday. She would kick me several times in succession, Jimmy would come over and try to feel her kick, and she would just be absolutely still, until he finally gave up and left - and THEN she would kick. And it wasn't a matter of timing, because Jimmy would wait for varying amounts of time every time. It's kind of funny :) But he finally felt her kick three times yesterday, pretty strongly, and he was very excited.

Well, off for more packing and cleaning...

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Pow!

Jolie kicked me so hard earlier that my stomach jumped. As did my heart in my chest.

Friday, June 19, 2009

It's the little things

I'm getting ready to move soon, but like, I can't move soon enough. I was happy about my living situation until I was offered the opportunity to move into my own place, and ever since then, I haven't been able to stomach ANYTHING about my previous living arrangement - every little thing annoys me that didn't used to annoy me before; people who I could tolerate previously are getting punched in the face (in my head, anyway); and I just am ITCHING to get the hell out of here. Like I said, things just can't happen fast enough.

Jolie is kicking, usually at inopportune times (like when I need to sleep, or after I've had a big meal), and therefore, making me VERY uncomfortable, as happy as I am to hear from her. ("Hi Mom! Check this out!" *WHAP!!!!*) Jimmy just felt her kick for the first time yesterday, and I'm happy for that - it's a chance for him to really feel her presence.

I'm glad summer has started. This year has been terrible, personally and professionally. I haven't been teaching very long, but I don't think I've ever been THIS bad of a teacher, as I was this year. I was a train wreck. I didn't even have a difficult pregnancy, but it was enough to make me miserable, and I really could not keep my personal life out of the classroom in terms of not letting it affect my job. In all honesty, I should've gone on leave, like, in February, and saved everyone a whole lot of grief.

But it's over, and I'm eager for a chance to make things better next year. (After I come back from leave, that is.) This September marks a fresh start in many different ways.

But for now, I need to get the hell out of here because either I will go crazy, or someone will end up maimed with a cheese grater.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Sometimes...

... I just get tired of being asked "How are you?" all the time. Especially because I know it's only being asked because of my pregnancy (at least, by people who've never bothered to ask me that before I was pregnant).

I feel like I should wear a sign (or, get tattooed) that says:
- I'm fine.
- The baby's fine.
- It's a girl.
- Her name is Jolie.
- She's due in September.
- Yes, I'm aware it's going to be difficult and I'm not going to sleep much.
- If I want your stories or your advice, I'll ask. Thanks.

And that should cut out all unnecessary small talk, and then the other person can either go along on their merry way, or talk to me about something else.

I'm not just a pregnant person. I'm a person, PERIOD, first and foremost. Believe it or not, the pregnancy isn't the only thing on my mind. It's the most important thing, yes, but I existed before I was pregnant too. Ask me about my worries for my job; ask me about how I think Conan is doing taking over for Leno; ask me about baseball or knitting or anything else that I'm interested in. Given the fact that I'm getting very little good sleep thanks to my enormous uterus (and the feet that keep kicking it) and my constant need to urinate, sometimes the last thing I want to discuss is just how excited I am oh-golly-gee. Sometimes I need the people around me to make me feel as normal as possible, to make me feel like I'm still me under all this extra uterus and amniotic fluid.

I AM still me, okay? I haven't gone anywhere. (I wouldn't get very far anyway.) I'm still the same Thu, and I'd like to be treated that way. Lots of things about me and my life are changing, but the essence of who I am is still here, and I wish people would still recognize that.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Jolie's 24-week 3D ultrasound

Thu received a dvd of her ultrasound. It's 15 minutes long and set to Enya-type music. Thu refuses to let the world experience her daughter through Enya. So she edits it down to 8 minutes and sets it to Sigur Ros instead.


video

It turns out that Jolie has chubby cheeks like her mother, is extremely camera shy, and might possibly have been trying to open an eye at the end there.

I can't wait until I get to see my baby for real :)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

BLAH.

Anyone who says that pregnancy is wonderful and lovely and beautiful either has never been pregnant, or has a fuzzy memory. In theory it's beautiful, because it's the creation of another soul and another life, and if you're a closet science nerd like I am, you're in uber-awe of how the simple division of cells eventually becomes a complex organism without any prompting from you whatsoever. (That's super cool.)

In reality? It's a pain in the ass. Literally (depending on how your baby is sitting or where she decides to kick at that moment). It's difficult and draining and even disgusting. You know, when I was younger, even though I've always adamantly been pro-choice, I've always secretly told myself that rather than have an abortion, I would carry the baby to term and give it up for adoption. Now that I actually am pregnant, I have to say that there is no freakin' way that I would ever put myself through this only to not have a baby at the end of it to call my own. It's just too much.

And I'm not even having a difficult pregnancy. My mom told me she threw up every single day she was pregnant with me, including the day I was finally born. Adrienne (who I went to high school with) said she started getting incredibly sick from 10 weeks on. I haven't thrown up once, although I came pretty close a couple times. (I gritted my teeth and used whatever mystical powers of meditation I possessed to keep everything from coming back up.)

But everything else SUCKS. I'm tired ALL THE TIME. That burst of energy that was supposed to come back for second trimester? Never happened. I'm more tired than ever, and I wonder partly if it has to do with the fact that my job is just very exhausting. Before I was pregnant, I got tension headaches a LOT, and I still get them now, and they take a bigger toll than before. I get sick to my stomach easily (that's my delicate way of phrasing it) after eating things that never used to make me sick before. (That's the worst.) I have to pee all the time, I have hip pain when I sleep, I can't sleep on my back or my stomach, I'm sensitive to smells and noises and bright lights, I'M A HUGE ELEPHANT and I can't tie my own shoes.

Don't get me wrong, I don't regret getting pregnant. I'm SO excited for Jolie. I've got a crib and baby clothes waiting. I dreamed about holding her last night, and woke up bitterly disappointed that I did not in fact have a baby to hold yet. I love my soon-to-be-daughter SO MUCH.

But let's cut the crap about what a wonderful time this is, okay? Because pregnancy is IN FACT pretty damn miserable. Let's call it what it is. I'm not a glowing mom-to-be here. My uterus is expanding above my belly button and I'm carrying a zillion times more blood, water, and weight than a normal human body does. It's affecting my job and my relationships because I have no energy for anyone. So don't get all giggly and squeal around me, okay? I'm toughing out the physically-hardest nine months of my life.

That said, I will also add that if you even TRY to touch my stomach without my permission, you WILL get b****slapped.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

FO: Cropped Cardigan

Finished!



Okay, I cheated a leetle bit. It's a lot shorter, and the sleeves are shorter, and I did a garter stitch hem instead of a turned-up hem. But it's fine, because you know what? It's summer, I'm pregnant, and it was 94 degrees today. I was going to do it much longer, but... it's hot, and I got lazy. This was a quick knit though, all things considered.

This sweater was my first time doing an applied i-cord, and it was a LOT easier than I thought it would be. I think I was a little sloppy, but it wasn't bad for my first time.

For the record, Malabrigo Worsted is the most heavenly yarn ever - in skein form, and in knitted form. I'm glad I didn't use all of it for this sweater, because that means I get to use it for a different sweater (probably another mini-sweater) later on. It's gorgeously soft - I can't wait until I can get more of it.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

FO: Liesl by Ysolda Teague

I started this one in early March, and even though I didn't finish it until today, this is actually a REALLY quick knit. (It's just that, as usual, I took big breaks in between to finish/start other things.)

It's double-stranded Malabrigo Silky Merino in Bobby Blue. Can I just say that Malabrigo might be my favorite yarn ever????? It's lovely to knit with and lovely to wear. I almost feel bad using it on a spring sweater because (obviously) you don't want a lot of material on your skin in hot weather, and Malabrigo is the sort of yarn you want on your skin as much as possible!

I decided to do cap sleeves with a picot bind-off. I had originally intended to make this a full-length sweater (like, down to my hips), but I thought about the above fact that I would be wearing this in warm weather, and also, it might look funny with my huge belly sticking out between the fabric. So I made it short. I used almost exactly 4 skeins. I had intended to do a picot bind-off on the bottom edge as well, but it wasn't long before I saw that I would not have enough yarn to make it all the way to the end of the sweater (and who wants to start a new skein of yarn just for the bind-off?), so I just did a regular knit bind-off, as loosely as I could to keep the wavy drape of the stitch pattern.

Overall, I'm REALLY pleased with this sweater and pattern, and will definitely make this again at some point. It's really pretty and really easy. Next time I might try a different version (long sleeves or something).

Thursday, April 9, 2009

I have no more will to live!!!!!

I’m 16 weeks and I don’t want to leave my house anymore. Except to eat. I just want to lie down on the couch all day and nap and knit. My students make me crazy and give me headaches. I have no energy to stand up there and lecture anymore. I don’t want to do my laundry. I just want to watch baseball and knit things and wait for my 18-week ultrasound.

Why doesn’t the law give pregnant women an entire year off (paid would be nice)? I could really use that. Starting right now.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

FO: Forest & Frill

Took me long enough - Here is Tiny Owl Knits' Forest & Frill cardigan!

I used Knit Picks Decadence (now discontinued), which is alpaca, my favorite. Double-stranded for the "body," single-stranded for the crochet trim. Made some mods: CO 114 sts for the longer sleeves, knitted about 13 inches of the rectangle before I wanted to rip my eyes out with my cable needle, and then seamed along the sleeves rather the body - so really, it's more like a shrug than a cardigan. I did five rounds of the crochet lace trim around the body (and none for the sleeves), leaving it more open because I'm 15 weeks pregnant right now, and all parts of me will be getting bigger.

The yarn is VERY cozy and warm, perfect for a chilly spring or fall. And obviously very soft - I totally love this.

It shouldn't have taken me so long, considering how it took me about two weeks to get the first 10 inches done. Then it sat around for ages before I finally got to 13, and then it sat around for ages longer until I finally finished the crochet this morning. (This is like, a pattern with me lately. Everything sits around for about 3 times as long as it takes everyone else on Ravelry to finish it.) This was supposed to be a quick project, except that I forgot how cables make everything about 5x slower (for me, at least), and I was also kicking myself for casting on for such a wide rectangle. (But then that came in handy because it gave me an alternate way to seam it together, so, not bad.)

I'm fairly pleased! I still have over 3 skeins of this yarn left, so I need to find something else cozy to make with it.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Makeup goddess? Then the gods must be crazy...



I don't consider myself a high-maintenance sort of person. The most I ever do with my hair is to straight-iron it, but most of the time, I comb it and pull it back - I don't even blowdry. My feet and hands are sorely neglected. I own lots of lotion, but it sits in my medicine cabinet, and sometimes I sniff them because they smell nice.

BUT... I do love makeup. I'm a makeup junkie. But not in a priss-and-primp sort of way - while I own concealer and foundation, I rarely touch them. I'm not interested in minimizing my pores. No, I love COLOR. Color, shimmer, glitter... I love it all. Maybe it's my one artistic outlet - I can't draw, paint, or sculpt, but I can work my eyeshadow brushes like nobody's business. (On myself, at least. I used to do other people's makeup for fun, but now, not so much.) Liquid liner? Check. Smoky eyes? Check. Tube of glitter? Check, check, double check.

I have major brand loyalty towards Urban Decay - they're the only brand that has ever really "spoken" to me. For one thing, their packaging is all purple, black, metallic... very little pink. (Too Faced has similar products, but everything is PINK!! Seriously!!) There are swirly designs, skulls, even a gun... they're never girly. They're all about beauty plus attitude. And I like to think that I am too. So I own mostly their stuff, a lot of it. I have a few things here and there from other brands (such as a Kat Von D palette... really, that shouldn't surprise you. I have SEVEN tattoos and counting), but mainly I stick to one, and it's because I know everything is quality.

So, after throwing everything in a drawer for the past however many months/years/etc., I finally had to get my stash organized because, well, it was driving me crazy. But I now have WAY more than my trusty old plastic Caboodles case could hold (it was purple and glittery!), and plus, I'm not sixteen anymore. (Though, really, I had UD when I was sixteen too - Radium liquid eyeliner and two face cases!) I finally decided to clean out my makeup drawer, getting rid of everything I have and never touch (to be given away... any takers? Let me know!), and to get one of those awesome TRAIN CASES I've been drooling over. Thus... I bought myself a Caboodles GODDESS case, and was able to organize my stash:


Yeah, the damn thing is so huge, I had to stand on a chair to be able to get the whole thing in frame. The top splits open, and three tacklebox-like trays extend from each side. The trays are pretty deep, as is the main box compartment, and the two sides of the top have loops to hold brushes. Goddess, indeed!



Here's the "wing" on the left. It's my eye tray. Starting from the left side, you have almost all the colors of Urban Decay's 24/7 eyeliner except for a small handful, and their Grindhouse sharpener. I love these and use them pretty much every day. You can tell which ones I like best by how short they are. There's also a Cat Eye eyeliner from Pop Beauty - the slanted crayon makes it super easy to FLICK! the line at the corner of your eye. GENIUS! Tray 2 has liquid liners - I don't use these as often, but they are handy for dramatic effect. Tray 3 has the new UD cream shadows (I have Rehab, Mushroom, Asphalt, and Delinquent), some glitter eyeliner (the gold one is UD and the blue and green ones are Too Faced), some mascaras (including UD's electric blue mascara and a purple mini Bourjois one I got as a free sample), and a travel-sized UD Primer Potion that I got with my Book of Shadows (more on that later).



Here's the right "wing" of the train case. The topmost tray (on the right) has my glosses, of all different brands. The newest one in there is Nars Orgasm/Hustler duo. The middle tray has a couple more glosses (the one is wrapped up because it kind of leaks), two 24/7 lipliners (that I don't use, but keep in case I need them) and four UD lipsticks (Gash, Requiem, Wicked, and Wanted). I don't usually wear lip stuff because it comes right off when I'm eating (which is all the time), but I do really love the way it looks. Tray 3 has some of my smaller "face" items - three UD blushes (including Score, which is a dead ringer for Nars Orgasm), a couple highlighters from Benefit, and some concealer for underneath my eyes.



The center/main compartment, for my bigger items: palettes (Kat Von D in Beethoven, UD Deluxe Eyeshadow, and two super-old Hard Candy quads that I can't bear to get rid of); foundations/powder, UD Primer Potion in both regular and Sin, GOsmile lip balm, and some Visine, which is AWESOME for making eyeshadows into liquid liner (better staying power than when you use water).



Brushes... I have more than this, but these are the most often used.

That is what's in my train case, but these two items had to go in my drawer:



UD Book of Shadows - 8 bestseller colors, and 8 brand new ones that are not out yet. Plus two brushes and a mini Primer Potion. Glorious. The top flips open to reveal a mirror and some pretty pop-up decor. (Pretty, but COOL.)



Last but not least... dare I say it?... my pride and joy, my Urban Decay VAULT. No longer available, the vault is a box (the cover/top is the first picture in the post, with the swirly design I would love to have tattooed someday) made to hold sixteen UD shadows (not the deluxe ones), and yes, mine is full. I can't even name them all, but I've used every single one, some more than others. I had to be really choosey about which shadows to buy, and other than the Book and the cream shadows, I haven't purchased any since. And none of the colors in my vault are the same as the ones in the Book. So essentially, I have 32 eyeshadow colors in my drawer alone (not including the palettes in my train case).

So yes, I am a makeup junkie. I'm an Urban Decay junkie, to be more to the point. You're probably wondering how I could afford all this stuff? Well, number one, it's an addiction, and number two, I had lots of disposable income. That is no longer to be, since I'm now having a baby. BUT, unlike clothes, this makeup will last me through this baby and probably many other babies, should I choose to have them. Hey, at least I'm not buying cars or boats or musical instruments.

Is makeup superficial and frivolous? Maybe. Am I extremely materialistic? Very likely. But is makeup a great outlet for expressing yourself if you make it about expressing yourself, and not just about covering or correcting your flaws? YES! Like I said, this is my art medium. Makeup for me is not about self-esteem or attracting other people... it's about being who I am and having FUN with it. And at the end of the day, you can wash it all off and start over again tomorrow.

(Because sometimes, nothing feels better than a totally clean face.)

So, anyway... I'm all organized now. I just have to stay that way :)

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Wish list!

Started a baby wish list. It is also permanently listed under "Places and Things" on the left side of the blog, right yonder underneath my picture.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

whoo! whoo! whoo!

That's the sound of my baby's heartbeat on the Doppler machine. It was going "whoo! whoo! whoo!" and then there was some other different noise and then it went back to going "whoo! whoo! whoo!" and my doctor said, "Oh, it sounds like your baby's on the move!!!" and it made me smile. I wondered what my baby was doing - covering its chest to protect its modest? Rolling over? Kicking? Punching?

I'm entering the second trimester, and I'm not any less tired that I was before, really. I also still gag a lot (though I don't throw up) and get lots of heartburn. Also, I think I'm a couple inches bigger. I finally gave in a couple weeks ago and bought one pair of maternity pants because my normal jeans, even worn low, were starting to get snug. (My Bella band has been my savior!)

I have an ultrasound tomorrow to screen for Down's Syndrome. I have no reason to think that my baby would be affected, so I'm really just looking forward to seeing my baby again :)

Monday, March 9, 2009

FINALLY! Clapotis!

It's been over a year in the making! Done in Patons SWS in Natural Pink - not the wisest choice since it's overly fuzzy and took me ages to unravel the stitch ladders, but the colors and striping are really beautiful.

SO, this project took me FOREVER because this pattern is just so tedious. Don't get me wrong, it's a well-written pattern, and the finished product is beyond gorgeous, but the actual knitting of it felt so long and boring. I didn't even get through 13 repeats of the straight section - I might've done only 8 or 9. (Not even double digits!) It took me ages to do about 2/3 of it, and then I left it alone for a few months, and finally, it took a few more months just to finish it. I would've frogged it if the yarn wasn't so fuzzy and snaggy, but since it obviously would've taken more effort to frog it than to finish, I just pushed through, and I'm glad I did. I don't know where or when I'll wear this thing, but it's one of the better-looking things I've ever made. I'm almost even contemplating a second one. You know, AFTER the other 50 things on my queue.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

A moment to pause

We're heading into one of my least favorite stretches of the year - 7 or 8 weeks without a break. I am taking a few days off to attend Link Crew training, but I'm sure they won't really be "days off" - just days where I'm working hard somewhere other than at school. Add to that, supervising Trojan Olympics, finishing up KCI requirements, WASC coming to visit, starting two new books in my classes, and generally just BEING PREGNANT... it's all kind of overwhelming. I'm tired all the time, I don't really have energy, and I am lacking in motivation. Sometimes all I want to do is sit and stare at the wall. Like, I don't even have the energy to follow along with tv shows or movies anymore.

So despite being at my lowest in emotional resources at the moment, I've got more responsibility to handle than EVER, and I'm dreading it. I could do any of these one, even two, at a time, but all at once? It kind of strikes fear in my heart.

Friday, February 20, 2009

FO: Seamless baby sweater


I finished my first FO for my baby!

This is a seamless, top-down raglan cardigan. It's not unlike the sweater I made for Dakota - in fact, the basic sweater is EXACTLY the same; the only difference is in the construction. "Baby's First Tattoo" was knit in pieces and then seamed together (my first seaming job, which was incredibly difficult for me to get right), but this one was knit all in once piece, with only minor underarm seams to be sewn (and I was very happy about how that turned out).

The yarn is Dream in Color Classy (worsted weight). I had a TON of this left over from another thing I'd made last year, so why let it go to waste? It's beautiful (especially in seed stitch), and it's also machine washable (definitely a plus for baby items). I knit the body of the sweater on circs and after trying to Magic Loop the sleeves and getting really frustrated with the screwy cord of my circs popping in my face all the time, I decided just to switch to DPNs and those went much better. I don't care what that one guy from Green Planet Yarn says - Magic Loop isn't always better for everyone. (I was teaching my friend Kaila to make a hat on DPNs and this guy just would NOT SHUT UP about Magic Loop and I felt he was being very holier-than-thou and insinuating that DPNS were inferior, and it was just really annoying because I never asked for his opinion. Sorry, digression. I hate when people don't mind their own business.)

Anyway, the pattern was good - there were some errors, but nothing I couldn't figure out myself. (You'd think by now I've done enough top-down raglans to just design my own!) I decided not to do any closures for the time being, but if I'm so inclined, I may later on add a clasp or a zipper.

I don't plan to make too many sweaters, especially early on, because babies grow out of clothes quickly. Right now, I'm doing the pinwheel baby blanket and have a couple of my own WIPs that I should probably finish before I get too big to fit in them.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Ugh, morning sickness

I was feeling icky yesterday, but I woke up this morning with a raging headache (so I was already very queasy and sick), and then had to get up and go to the Kaiser lab for a glucose test, so they gave me this bottle of citrus-flavored something that I had to drink right away, so that made me REALLY sick. And then I had to sit around their office for an hour before they could take my blood. Ugh. I thought I was going to lose it right there. The tv was loud and obnoxious, and it was really crowded, so there were people just everywhere and some of them smelled (not bad, but you know how some people just have a scent? And right now I'm very sensitive to people's scents). And there was beeping and a loud printer whirring and seriously... I thought I was going to hurl. And then they drew my blood and I felt even worse, and when I finally came home, I sneezed a huge sneeze and THAT made me feel like I was going to throw up.

But now that I've had something to eat and drink (finally!) I think I'm a little better... I still feel icky, but my head doesn't hurt so much anymore, and I can hold my head up without feeling like my jamba is going to come straight back up. Thank god for apple cinnamon oatmeal.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Is this really happening?

Sometimes I ask myself that question. Actually, I've been asking myself that a LOT lately - is this really happening? Is this baby really happening? It seems like one minute I was feeling slightly ill and tired all the time, and now I've got stacks of pregnancy books and pamphlets from the doctor's office and my big 18 week ultrasound has been scheduled. It's a whirlwind, isn't it? It's surreal that I'm supposed to be carrying on normally at work every day, while seeing pictures of this little kidney bean growing inside me and reading that my uterus is the size of a grapefruit now. I've seriously only seen my baby on the screen once. I have slightly irrational moments when I think I've imagined the whole thing, or I worry that the baby has just disappeared, to trick me. I'm reading all these books and looking at illustrations of fetal development, and I'm experiencing the same thing that I would imagine people would experience the first time they learn things are made of atoms which are broken down into nuclei and electron clouds - how do I know something is really there? I just have to accept it on faith.

The flickering on the screen was real (and I also was not the only person to witness it), and considering how I feel fine, I'm sure the baby hasn't gone anywhere. No one ever talks about how much of pregnancy is such a waiting game - waiting for my next appointment, waiting for the baby to develop, waiting for my tummy to show... Seriously, there's nothing I can do right now (other than the usual "eat right, stay healthy" sort of actions) to make this experience more certain, more confident, other than to wait. Waiting drives me crazy.

I know by the time I get to the end of it, these nine months will be a blip in the timeline and I have much more long-term things to deal with ahead of me, but for now, it's driving me crazy to wait for the days to pass, to wait to have answers. For now, my only solace is to look forward to every doctor's appointment because those are the only times I can know for sure that everything is okay and that everything IS REALLY HAPPENING.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

My little nudger.

I went to the doctor's today, and we found a heartbeat. I've never been so happy to see a tiny flickering in my life.

My bean baby. Everything is really okay!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Notes for my baby, part 5

In which Thu describes the magic of a holiday that is special to her.

In many ways, I'm extremely American - I was born here, I speak Vietnamese with an American accent (rather than speaking English with a Vietnamese accent), etc. But in one respect (well, this is ONE of the many respects) I'll happily celebrate my Asian heritage - this weekend marks the beginning of the new year, the Lunar New Year (also known as Chinese New Year or the Tet Festival), and it's a time for well-wishing, well-being, and time spent with family.

I'll be honest with you - when you're young, and you ALREADY spend every weekend with your family, the only thing that makes Tet different from any other weekend is that all the grownups in your family all of a sudden give you little red envelopes full of money. When you're REALLY young, it's just a dollar here and there, maybe five dollars, and it all went straight to your parents for safekeeping. When you get older (say, teenaged) and you have some sort of concept of what money is for and what you can do with it, you REALLY love this holiday because all of a sudden, it's more pocket money for the mall, and sometimes your relatives start giving you tens and twenties. It's pretty sweet.

I kept receiving money up until last year, because I'm unmarried and in Asian culture you're still considered a child until you're married. I'm not sure what my status is this year since, rather than being a child, I am WITH child. But by now, the money is no longer the important thing. (My family stops giving you Christmas presents when you turn 18, so 8 years later, I've stopped coming to the holidays with expectations of receiving anything, and anything I HAVE received has been a pleasant bonus.) What I love are the traditions - there are certain dishes that are made, including banh chung, which is basically a savory dish? I can't even describe it. It's a long strip of pork meat and a long tube of bean paste rolled into the center of a huge lump of sticky rice and steam-cooked. You slice it and serve it with tiny pieces of pickled vegetables. I can't even do it justice describing it here - suffice it to say that it's one of my favorite parts of celebrating the New Year.

There are also games. The adults play poker, but as a child, I would often play blackjack with my cousins using dimes and nickels, and there is a traditional game (that I don't know the name of in English, and I would suck at translating it anyway) that is kind of like roulette, but much more intuitive, where there is a large paper mat with pictures of six different things - usually a crab, a rooster, a vegetable, etc. There are also two dice with these same pictures on each side. To play, you place your "bet" (we always played with pennies) on two pictures, and someone would roll the dice, and if one or both of your pictures came up, you would get paid the amount you put down. We haven't played this game in a long time, but you can imagine, with lots of people crowded around a paper mat on the floor, it gets pretty rowdy, and it's a lot of fun. And obviously, it's not about winning money, but about having good time.

And of course, there's family. Sure we are all together for Christmas and Thanksgiving, but Tet has always been the holiday where you don't travel and you don't make plans to meet up with people you rarely see, but instead you spend it with the people who know you and love you best. You want to start out the new year, the Lunar New Year, on the best foot possible, so it's good to be healthy, happy, and surrounded by the people you love. This is something I love and embrace about my cultural heritage, however "American" I choose to be for the other 364 days of the year.

This year that is beginning now is the Year of the Ox. There is an interesting list of celebrities born in the various years of the ox, from Adolf Hitler to Nomar Garciaparra (baseball player). Mostly what I should expect from my baby is that he or she will be a great leader and an eloquent speaker, which I think are both great things.

One thing I've been thinking about a lot is the passing of my culture from me to my baby. I'm so scared that my culture will die with me. I don't speak the language very well, and I don't know much of the history of my culture, and I can't even cook the traditional dishes. My relatives are getting older now, and eventually my generation will be the keepers of this knowledge, and I'm worried that I won't really have very much knowledge to pass on. I'm the daughter, niece, granddaughter, etc, of immigrants, and everyone I know is the same, also the first generation born here. So everyone I know is in the same position I am - how do we pass on knowledge that we're not so sure we have? How can I capture this moment in time and show it to my children so that they will know exactly how it was supposed to go? Or do I create something new, a hybrid of my cultural traditions, banh chung and pasta served side by side?

I guess one thing that is great about me having a baby so young is that my family is also still young enough to help pass on our culture. I don't have to do it all by myself just yet. My grandparents are still alive, my parents are still young and healthy, and everyone lives in the same area, and we will continue to get together like this every year for many years after this baby is born.