2-year doctor’s visit

I took Kaia to her 2-year doctor’s visit this afternoon. She always seems to know what’s happening. As soon as we entered the little office, she grew suspicious. As I was filling out some forms on her development and had the stroller facing away from me, she started silently crying. Another mom in the waiting room turned to me and said, “Is this your baby? She’s crying!”

I turned to look at her silently cry and then start moaning. She knew she was here to see the doctor, and she was NOT happy.

When we were cleared for an exam room, she got extremely fussy through the weight, length, and head circumference measurements, and then proceeded to repeat over and over, “wanna go home! Wanna go home!” She told me she wanted to get off the table, so I let her walk around the room barefoot, just in her diaper, as she gathered her clothes and futilely attempted to put them on. Then she said, “Help me! Help me!” I relented and let her put on her socks but nothing else so that the doctor could fully take a look at her. When the doctor finally came in, she tried to hide behind me and a chair so that the doctor couldn’t see her. But surprisingly, she cried the least during this visit in all her appointments in the last year. The only times she really melted down was when the doctor tried to open her mouth to see her teeth and throat, and of course, during the vaccine. And after her routine vaccination, she actually started waving bye to the medical assistants and the doctor. It was actually kind of cute.

The doctor had shared that at this stage, she’d actually be a little worried if Kaia were too welcoming and happy about being at the office. Kids her age are supposed to be suspicious of strangers, especially ones who poke and prod at them. And the fact that she gets the bad vibe as soon as we entered the office shows that she definitely remembers that the doctor’s office does NOT equal a fun place for her.

The good news is that Kaia’s head is still huge: she’s still in the 91st percentile for head circumference for her age; we do love her big head. She’s definitely getting taller, too, and is above average for height. But her weight gain dropped off, though they said it was normal for weight to slow down around 1.5-2 years, and it should pick back up again at her 2.5 year appointment. I should hope so; this child is ALWAYS eating! Where is the food even going…?!

Contemplations on estate planning, wills, and death

I’ve thought a lot about death since I was quite young. For the longest time, I had attended more funerals than I had weddings. In our family, we never had babysitters, so as kids, we had to go literally everywhere with our parents. So when someone died and my parents attended a funeral, Ed and I were taken along, too. I still remember asking my mom when I was young if we were going to die, too. She replied and said that yes, everyone has to die, but hopefully we will all live long lives, and it would not happen for a long, long time.

The thought made me so sad. I remember many nights, when I was around 4 years old, crying myself to sleep, thinking that there could possibly be a world I’d live in where I no longer had my mom, dad, or Ed. It filled me with so much fear and anxiety at such a young age. I thought to myself, how was I supposed to live without you all, my family? I was especially attached to my mother then, and it hurt me to the core to think that she could possibly die one day and leave me behind.

Since then, I still think about death often — when there are plane crashes, school shootings (always in the U.S.), when someone in my life dies. The hardest death was, of course, my brother’s. I remember having to change a lot of my beneficiary information on accounts after he died… you can’t really leave money to someone dead, right? So now when I am forced to think about my own death and planning for it with estate planning and wills, it becomes depressing in a very different way.

You have to ask yourself uncomfortable questions, like if you and your spouse die, who is supposed to become the legal guardian of your child? If that legal guardian is also gone, who is the secondary, backup guardian of your child? If you, your spouse, and your child die, who should receive your assets in the event of that family catastrophe?

So while once upon a time, I didn’t think about my own death much, you’re forced to do this, *just in case*; in the event of the worst thing happening, as in you and your spouse both dying, you know that your minor child will be taken care of and will not be forced into the broken and disgusting system that is the U.S. foster care system.

It is my hope that I will outlive my parents, that Chris and I won’t die until we’re far past 80 years old, that Kaia will outlive both Chris and me. I hope no one ever has to make use of all the estate planning and wills until we’re nearly 100. But we live in an uncertain world. And as the Terrible, Thanks for Asking podcast recently noted, in life, there are very few fair deaths. “You are lucky if you can say, “someone I love died at the exact right time in the exact right way and everyone involved was ready for it.” This might apply to people like Chris’s two grandmas, both of whom had lived long, relatively happy lives. They got to see all their children get married, have their kids, and even see their own great grandchildren. But in cases like Ed or our friend Raj, death was not fair at all, and it was untimely in the most painful way. We can only hope that we will live lives that will end with fair deaths that are a long way away from today.

38th year

So, I turn 38 today at 7:24pm. Thirty-eight years ago, on Friday, the 17th of January, 1986, my mother’s bulging abdomen was cut open, and a little baby was cut out. Well, I actually wasn’t *that* little of a baby. I was told that even though I was three weeks premature, I was actually six pounds, six ounces in weight, so fairly average. Thirty-eight years later, here I am, living in New York City with an Australian / naturalized American husband, a 2-year old daughter, in a white ivory tower.

Although I’ve never mapped out my life the way some ambitious individuals do, there are some things that I always thought I wanted for myself: an exciting, career-ladder climbing career, a bi-coastal lifestyle where I had a home both in SF or LA and in New York City, world travel, a family to call my own (in the form of an egalitarian husband and a son and daughter). My career, to be frank, has not been terribly exciting, nor have I ever reached the level of climbing the corporate ladder as I once naively thought I would. I think I genuinely threw in the towel on that while at my last company, though subconsciously, it could have been a little earlier than that. While I’ve certainly had a lot of privileges and fun travel during my career, I don’t think I ever really “made it” in the sense I would have defined it back in my college years. I do not own any home. I have no home on the West Coast, and the place I live in here in New York City is rented. But I do have world travel and a family to call my own, just with one less child than I’d ideally like. And things are, overall, pretty good. I have somewhat of a bi-coastal + bi-hemisphere lifestyle with about a month of the year in Australia, and I never really thought I’d have that, ever. It’s been fun.

So, while I don’t have the life that I semi-envisioned for myself, I’m actually okay with it. And in some ways, life is better for it. That ambitious career I envisioned for myself? It likely would have been at the expense of my relationships, time to myself, and sleep. It likely would have meant less travel, less time with people I love. I’ve made peace with the fact that I don’t always get exactly what I want, when I want it, how I’d want it. Part of getting older is supposed to be about getting wiser, about being more comfortable in one’s skin and more confident to be who one really is. I don’t need to offer an explanation about my life or any of my life choices to anyone. While many in my generation are chasing impossible ideals and some elusive definition of “happiness,” I think I’m just content to live in the life I have and try to make the most of what I already have.

This week, we had a meeting with an attorney to help with our estate planning and wills. There’s really nothing more sobering about getting older and having more responsibility than planning for the day when you will be dead, or worse, if you and/or your spouse die prematurely and leave your minor child behind, orphaned. So many questions arise, and some of them are just not fun to think about, even borderline painful. But that’s also part of getting older: thinking about all the hard questions and decisions that need to be made to take care of your remaining loved ones… and your assets.

In two more years, I’ll be at age 40. And in this country, age 40 is considered “mid-life,” which means I will be at the halfway point between being born and eventually dying, assuming I stay in decent health. And that is another sobering though: the fact that in 40-plus years, I may no longer be here, and I hope I will leave some legacy behind at least with my child, who I also hope will far, far outlive me.

Postponed birthday plans

Tomorrow is my 38th birthday. For a few years, I would organize birthday dinners for myself with local friends and have casual drinks out afterwards. It was always really informal, with small groups of people that I love and enjoy spending time with. I’ve never had a ton of friends, so when I do have people I actually call friends, each of them really needs to count.

But then COVID happened. People stopped congregating. And even before that, a lot of our friends moved away. So there was less reason to have group outings. Pookster was born, and so then it became harder to organize group dinners. But after having friends over for a (takeout) dinner in early December, I remembered how much I love cooking for my people, so I decided I’d start doing more of that this year, just at lunch time so it’s easier on Pookster’s sleep schedule.

Well, I thought about doing this about a week ago for my birthday, perhaps the last week of January, but my impromptu thought was a little too impromptu. Not everyone was available who I’d like to invite. So then I settled on a belated birthday/Lunar New Year celebration in mid-February. Lunar New Year falls on February 10th this year, so we’ll have our meal on February 17. And this will also give me more runway to decide what to make.

The older I get, the less I really want “things” or anything big. I just want more time, togetherness, love, and well, time with the people I care about.

Teeth grinding, tooth sensitivity, and dental hell

I went to the dentist’s office this morning because I’ve been having extreme cold sensitivity on three of my top teeth. This all started in September, but gradually got worse and worse as we headed into December. During our cold early morning photo shoot on Brighton Beach our first week in Melbourne, it hurt me every single time I smiled with my teeth exposed with the cold wind hitting my teeth. In many outdoor photos, especially while in Japan, I just smiled without my teeth because I wanted to avoid any unnecessary tooth pain. That’s how desperate I was getting with the cold sensitivity. This past week, I couldn’t even eat room temperature fruit (grapes were not fun; apples were horrendous biting into) without wincing. So I ended up eating far less fruit than I’d normally eat.

The dentist asked me about my symptoms, tested a couple teeth by blowing cold air onto them and asking for my (not so pleasant) reaction. Then, he took x-rays of the teeth to see how bad the enamel had worn away due to my grinding. The good news, he said, is that the enamel had not worn away to the point of exposing the pulp; that would require a root canal and a crown. In my case, he said he was confident that I could simply have one to two treatments of a desensitizer (like a medication) on top of my teeth, and I’d be fine in the end. I might still have some sensitivity, but it wouldn’t be anywhere as bad as it had been in the last week.

So we took the conservative treatment. I had the desensitizer applied with two coats, and when I went home, I did notice that eating fruit wasn’t as scary of an action. But it only made me hope and hope that my wine cork strategy for stopping my grinding would be fruitful. And in between, the new mouth guard I’d get would help more.

Settling in and thinking about 2024

We’ve been back for about a week from our four-plus weeks of travel. As always, it’s a bit of a whirlwind from the beginning to the end. The end is always sad, not just because our travels are over, but also because we are returning to a Northern Hemisphere winter. And while that winter may have been relatively mild over the last few years, it’s still what it is, which is… WINTER. That means it’s cold, the heater will need to be on, the apartment will be dry, and we will have seasonal sadness at the short days, long nights, and cold temperatures. The reality is that January in the Northern Hemisphere is always bleak. The festivities and excitement around Christmas and New Year’s have ended. And everyone is getting back into their usual routine for the new year.

I hate to be trite about it, but one goal that has been a goal since September is trying to lose the excess weight I gained as a result of weaning off breastfeeding/pumping. I’m about five pounds off of where I want to be to get back to pre-pregnancy weight. So while I’ve never had a new year’s goal to lose weight, this time around, I actually do… it’s just that it happens to coincide with a new year.

I’m also trying to stop grinding my teeth at night… which is a hard goal, but one I’m attempting with “natural” methods. I’d been wearing a mouth guard for years, but I recently realized that it was digging in my gums and possibly making defects in my gums and teeth. I had a new mouth guard made and am having it adjusted so that it’s comfortable. But a mouth guard doesn’t prevent you from grinding; it simply protects against tooth damage from grinding. And the grinding has been having negative effects on me this last year: I have extreme cold sensitivity in three of my top teeth to the point where I can barely talk outside in this cold weather and not have my teeth hurt. The dentists are planning to apply a desensitizing treatment to those teeth tomorrow.

A tip that my childhood dentist gave me years ago to prevent the problem of grinding was to put a wine cork in between my front teeth and hold it there for 10-20 minutes before bedtime. I’d follow it with a jaw joint massage for a minute or so. This would supposedly relieve any jaw tension (we all have jaw tension) and prevent my jaws from wanting to clamp down while I’m sleeping and thus subconscious. I’ve been trying that since we came back from our trip, and I do notice that my jaw seems less tense when I wake up.

Other little goals I have this year: I want to make more soup, which also means making a lot of the traditional soups I grew up with, that I took for granted, that my grandma used to make. I’m sourcing places to find pork and beef bones to help out with this goal. Soup is nourishing for the soul, and especially during a cold winter, but I also want Kaia to be able to appreciate traditional Chinese and Vietnamese flavors in the form of this nourishing liquid. I also want to explore more Taiwanese cooking, regional Chinese cooking, and Vietnamese cooking. I’d like to start cooking for friends more the way I used to before the pandemic and before Pookster was born. We’ll likely just need to shift to lunch time parties rather than dinner parties given Pookster’s sleeping schedule, but we shall see how it goes.

I also want to start doing more activities with Kaia now that she’s getting older, more nimble, and has increasing awareness of her surroundings. I’d like to take her to the zoo, the aquarium, and do more arts and crafts and cooking. I’m looking forward to the day when she can help meal prep with me and have already bookmarked some toddler-safe practice knives on our Amazon list.

I still have my usual goal of reading about one book a month. January is a cold, hibernating month, so I tend to read the most books this month most years. I’ve already finished one book this month — a mystery/thriller novel called A Quiet Place by Seicho Matsumoto. I decided on a Japanese author so that I could relive the sounds and sights of Japan.

More goals and things to do will follow, but these have been what’s on my mind for now.

Tweaked my back while picking up my toddler = PAINFUL

Somehow, I’ve managed to last almost two years of having a child in my house, constantly picking her up and putting her down, twirling her around and around, without ever tweaking my back or pinching any nerves… until today. Yep, today was the fateful day when I finally picked her up to change her diaper, and I immediately felt a tweak in the lower middle part of my back. At first, I thought, aw, that’s okay. It’s just a little nothing. And then, as I started moving and walking around, I realized…. nope. It’s not nothing. It IS something. Every time I sat down and got up from the sitting position, my lower back would twinge, and it was like a nerve was being pinched sharply. We went out to the Columbus Circle holiday market and when I attempted to lift the stroller, that was when I knew: there was absolutely NO way I was going to be able to help carry this stroller up and down the subway with Chris’s help. It was not happening today. So while we had plans to have dinner in Alphabet City with our friends, we asked them to improvise. Instead, we got takeout from a local spot and had them over at our apartment. It also made it easier with things like letting Pookster roam around after she finished eating, getting her to bed, and not rushing our catch-up with them.

Chris helped me with some stretches to work out the kinks in my back and applied and rubbed in some tiger balm. Our friends were gracious and went with the flow (and insisted I take a strong pain killer, which I happily did after we finished eating!). In the end, I felt better than I did earlier in the day. But this made me realize a few things: one, I’d really like to get back into the groove of hosting friends over for meals once again. I miss having big meals to prepare and cook for and more mouths to feed and experiment on. I also love the idea of having people over for dinner on a Saturday because we have no pressure to leave at a certain time to get Pookster to bed. We’re in the comfort of our own home, so we don’t have to think about transport back home. Two, I am thankful for a life partner who helps me with my stretches and tweaked back (and unfortunately, intimately knows what it feels like). Three, I’m also thankful for friends who can change plans with little notice and be sympathetic to ridiculous, unforeseen situations like this. Life is pretty good, even with a tweaked back.

Exercise programs and how they don’t always fit

For several years, I was an avid subscriber to Aaptiv, which is marketed as fitness with a “trainer in your ear.” It had programs like running, walking, elliptical, yoga, pilates, core, strength training, etc., in pretty much every length of time desired, as well as different instructors and music types. I stopped my subscription early last year after Kaia was born, as I was on an annual subscription and just decided I could work out on my own during my postpartum/breastfeeding year. I wasn’t really trying to lose weight or anything similar last year; I just wanted to stay active.

Now that I’m actually trying to get into better shape and lose some weight, I’ve been looking at a number of different workout programs. Some have been on YouTube. I temporarily have a three-month free trial subscription with Apple Fitness (it’s fine. I like the kickboxing, running, and yoga programs. But their strength training programs are so cliche and too focused on weights). Others have just been videos I’ve found on Instagram that I’ve bookmarked. And of course with all this activity, I’m constantly getting targeted for new workout apps. Most of them echo what I’ve been watching, following, and doing: low impact strength training, low impact cardio, little to no weights. Since my knee and hip have been feeling funny after strenuous runs, I’m toning down the amount of running I’m doing and focusing on pre-conditioning before any run. But what I’ve realized I’ve always hated about a lot of strength training videos is that they focus on weights, weights, and weights. The heavier the weights, the better! And the trainers are always so bulky. But I don’t want to look like those trainers. And the truth is that I don’t even like using weights. The most weight I carry now is 2.5 pounds, and I really don’t want to do heavier weights because I just do not find it enjoyable. Not to mention that I don’t want to bulk up. And I hate it when trainers insist that I won’t bulk up. We all know our own body types; I have a body type that can bulk up very easily, especially in my arms. I just want to rely on my own body weight and tone from there. And now, it seems like more workout apps are doing this, which is great to see. There are ones that are pilates focused, others that are dance focused. One interesting one I found (but am definitely not doing) is a combination of ballet and dance fitness. But now that I have all these interesting choices to trial, the next question is: which one am I going to choose?

Post weaning weight loss journey update after 4 weeks

Four weeks ago, when I finally decided to hop on a scale to see how much I weighed and found out (annoyingly) that I was 12 pounds over pre-pregnancy weight, I started weighing myself once a week to check on my weight loss progress. I reduced how much I ate at breakfast and lunch on the weekdays. I pretty much stopped drinking any alcohol (much to Chris’s annoyance). I also increased the rigor of my weekday morning exercise and always ensured that I exercised for at minimum 60 minutes (excluding stretching and warmup). I carved out time intentionally during the day for walking breaks. A few of the people I’ve shared this with have laughed, saying they think I’m being ridiculous for wanting to lose weight, but at the end of the day, I’m comparing myself to myself, not to others.

I was pleased to see that in the last four weeks, I’ve been able to lose six pounds already with my conscious changes in behavior. Before I even hopped on the scale this week, I already noticed that the pants I had bought back in the beginning of summer felt less tight, which was reassuring. I’m about half way to my goal at this point, which is quicker than what I had anticipated, so while I am happy about my progress, I know I still have work to do.

Day 2 of waking up at 6am to ensure 1 full hour of exercise

I had another 9am meeting this morning, so for the second day in a row, I woke up at 6am to get down to the gym by 6:20 for another intense workout. Right now, my gauge for whether my workout was good is if my heart rate is in the “heart rate calorie burn zone” (I measured it the first few days this week, but now I have a good way of gauging based on how I feel), and if throughout and at the end, if I still have sweat coming down my eyes (a really annoying feeling, but one that is strangely gratifying because I know I’m pushing myself).

Was it hard to wake up an hour early? Yes. But I know I can keep doing if if I keep my mind at it. I was able to do it over ten years ago, so I know I can do it now. While waking up early is not a fun or painless thing for me to do, what I’ve felt the last two days is far less rushed than I normally feel. I actually feel like I have more time to shower, get ready, and go through emails. I have more time to prepare tea when I want to do a double boil of chai. I don’t feel anywhere as time pressed. It’s nice to get on with my morning in a more leisurely manner rather than bulldozing through actions.

We’ll see how I can keep this up.