Sunday, December 14, 2008

4th year anniversary!!

Holy moly! How did this happen so quickly??

December 9th was the 4th anniversary of my starting to play the oboe. *applause* Because I ended up taking about a 6 month hiatus after the baby, I technically haven't been playing for 4 years. But 12/9 is an important day for me regardless. It matters less exactly how long I've been playing for and more that I found that enraptured me.

Though I am disappointed in what I have lost over the 6 months that I didn't play, I should still celebrate how far I've come since that rainy December evening when I brought home that old Selmer oboe and attempted to blow into it. I have definitely gotten down all of the basics of the instrument and was starting to make way into more intermediate/advanced territory. I am studying with an AMAZING teacher, made reeds, am exploring the repertoire, and have even managed to play with others, including in an orchestra and now in a woodwind quintet. I can take those off my music bucket list (even though it's only the beginning of my playing experiences).

I like to make my musical resolutions for the new year on my oboe anniversary. So here are some of the things I wish to work on for 2009:

* First and foremost, I have to get back to a regular practicing schedule. I suspect it will probably take another month or two to happen but the sooner the better. I need to not be super ambitious and just aim for 15 minutes a day to start with.
* Revisit scales. My fingers are completely clumsy these days. I want to work on ALL the scales again (not only the easier ones).
* Revisit long tones. For sound. Enough said.
* Work on getting the pieces I was studying back under my belt: the Marcello concerto, the first part of the Mozart, and Schumann Romance No. 1
* Continue playing with the woodwind quintet on a regular basis
* Possibly audition for the wind ensemble my flutist friend plays in. This is a big maybe because it's out in Brooklyn.
* Work on sight reading! If the quintet stays active I will get to do this through them.
* Pray that the quintet stays active. :-)
* Start to think more about phrasing and expression. I thought I was getting good because I could finally play things. But I was only scratching the surface. Once you are technically sound enough to tackle major works, then is when the real work begins. I do still have a lot to work on in terms of dynamic control, but I think do need to start thinking about expression. During the last quintet meeting I was able to read through the Reicha more easily, but after listening to a recording of the piece (Op. 88 No. 4, by the way) I realized that I was way off in terms of feeling. I wasn't even on the bandwagon. I am aware that that is advanced territory but I see no harm in starting to work on it now.

Hmm, ok I guess that's a lot of stuff. But basically I just need to practice again to get myself at least back to how I sounded at my best, so that then I can continue to improve from there.

Go go oboe studies!! May this coming year be better than the last!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Played so much my face hurt

Today I checked something off my musical bucket list. I played in a quintet! Notice I didn't refer to it as a woodwind quintet. We have a cellist playing the bassoon part, but the rest of the instrumentation is winds. I am so psyched and still can't believe it. When I started playing the oboe playing in an orchestra seemed like the holy grail. I got a little taste of it last year and while it was definitely wonderful there were a few things that made it slightly less so than expected. Firstly, when you play at my level it is impossible to get into a balanced group. What I mean is either the other orchestra players are too amazing for you to even breathe their same air, or you end up in a group where the many players (bless them) are not good. In my limited experience this affects the string players the most. But as much as one would like to play symphonies, it becomes a bit difficult to rehearse when the backbone of the orchestra is weak. After my short-lived experience with the woodwind quintet, I realized that such an intimate group would be even more fun to play with in certain ways. It's certainly easier to find a balanced group when you only need 3 or 4 others. You end up playing a lot more often, not counting out 96 bars of rest. And because you play more in general, you also get more solos, which are opportunities to grow (and shine). The downside here is the limited repertoire. That's why a quintet sort of became the new holy grail because there is more music available for it.

I had been contacted about the quintet many months ago, through someone from the ACMP. It took him quite a while to contact different people and get the right instruments together. Perhaps about a month ago he emailed me to say that the 5 had been chosen and that a rehearsal was in the works. I very slowly dragged myself out of my funk and managed to blow into my oboe a few times. After a visit to my teacher and a new reed I blew a few more times. But it wasn't until he emailed me to say the rehearsal was 2 weeks away that the fire really lit my butt. I am not quite practicing daily yet, but over the past couple of weeks I went up to about every other day. Ok, maybe every third day. Still dismal, but a HUGE improvement from what I was feeling even still a month ago. Or more like not feeling. But thank God, at least this aspect of me seems to be returning. Certainly the elation I felt after today's rehearsal is a good sign.

I was super nervous driving over there. I ended up not practicing yesterday nor this morning, opting instead to play with the baby. As I left I realized this was only the second time I would be more than 10 miles away from her for a few hours. No wonder I felt sadness mixed in. I arrived just in time and the others were already there talking happily. It seemed as though they had known each other for years but had in fact just met minutes earlier. They were very welcoming and I was somewhat shy and set up a disclaimer beforehand: "I had a baby 7 months ago and hadn't been practicing until recently, blah blah blah". It was a low pressure setting and they were all understanding. I was just praying the reed would speak at all. I didn't have high expectations for my actual playing because the practice sessions at home were not that great. Also, I was struggling immensely with endurance. Lo and behold though, I ended up playing for 2.5 hours today!! I still don't quite understand how I pulled it off given that I could only practice for about 30 minutes on that reed without feeling like my face would crack. Maybe it's the presence of other people? Maybe it was a muse? Whatever it was, I am amazed I lasted the entire rehearsal. There was one time where my embouchure died (with a funny fart sound too!) and I stopped playing for a few minutes. I also did take a 5 minute break too. But other than that I was all in. As much as I could be.

Amazingly, they were actually impressed. The cellist referred to something I played as "beautiful". And afterwards the clarinetist said he was very impressed and that I played very well. I had been emailing him about my troubles so that he could expect the worst. And that he did. So I guess he (and I especially) were pleasantly surprised when my playing was more or less at the level of the other players.

Things that were better than I expected: sound, intonation, endurance
Things that were as bad as I expected: sight-reading, dynamics, articulation
Things that were worst than expected: NONE!!

So all in all, it went better than I had hoped. We played several pieces that different players brought in. I am assuming that will be the format every time and that we will keep on playing the ones we liked. My favorite was Reicha's Quintet Op. 88. We played stuff slower to help us read through it, though sometimes playing faster actually made it easier because we felt it better.

In terms of my sight-reading, I don't know how else to get better at it other than by doing it more. Are there any techniques though that can help?? My rhythm is what is the worst. I can get through phrases with chromatic notes or big intervals as long as the rhythm is simple. If there is any weird syncopation or unfamiliar rhythmic patterns I tend to mess up the notes. Worse yet, I get flustered and forget to keep counting and then completely lose my place.

My phrasing I am not as concerned about right now because I know that will come with continued studying. It's certainly better than it had been. I never worried about it when I played bass. And as a merengue saxophonist the concept of phrasing is completely different than in classical music. Phrasing back then referred almost exclusively to a composite of tonguing and "swing". In classical music it's a completely different beast. I feel that it is what will take me to the "advanced" level, but with a lot of technical things to still focus on I am not going to drive myself crazy about it. I will do what I can now, but I don't expect to reach wonderful levels of expression just yet.

Ok I am starting to ramble. Let me ramble some more. One interesting thing we talked about yesterday was whether it is good for colleges to have "core" curriculums that include the study of great classics and Western art and music, etc. Having gone through Columbia's core curriculum I am certainly on the "pro" side of this. Though I wish I had taken it more seriously back then I do believe some of it stuck. Certainly it did in the area of music. How else could a Dominican oboist have been created in the first place? I had very little exposure to this music growing up but that mandatory course pierced my heart and changed my life forever. Amateur or not, I am a musician today because of that course.

Lastly, on the topic of wind quintets there is a great article on Imani Winds in the New York Times.

YAY! Can't wait for my next lesson. :-D

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Back to life, back to reality

Now that the clouds are clearing, I was excited to find that my desire to practice is slowly returning. I have actually practiced twice this week!!!!

The first session was bad, as expected. It wasn't so much because of the intonation, sound, or agility, which I expected to be less than stellar. What really killed me was endurance. I could barely keep my embouchure in place and after just a few notes I felt like my face was cracking. For my second session I went back to an older, softer reed and that helped with endurance. I was able to actually play some scales and even ventured through several passages from the Schumann (Romance No. 1).

I guess I should admit that my desire to practice didn't come entirely from within. I got an email about a quintet rehearsal in about two weeks. *gulp* I am really, really excited about it and hope we can really keep it together. Too bad I am not in great shape though. But let's see how far I can get between now and then.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Kindermusik & Wind Ensemble

Several weeks ago, I had a fortuitous encounter with someone I went to grammar school with. Actually, this tends to happen a lot whenever I am back in the 'hood. I'm sure people would be surprised by how much NYC neighborhoods can actually feel like small towns in that way. You tend to function within a 1 mile (or smaller) radius and you become familiar with the same people and establishments. Because you tend to walk everywhere the chances of you bumping into someone you know on any given errand run are actually quite high . . . especially if you went to the same school of about 700 students for 8 years.

So anyway, this girl is younger than me (her brother and I are the same age and went both to junior high and college together). Turns out she has a 15 month old and is now a Kindermusik teacher. I had been toying with the idea of putting the baby in some kind of class. Gymboree was up in the running, but was a bit pricey and out of the way. I felt like it was more for me than for her at this point, so I was very happy that this Kindermusik stuff kind of found me. So far, I've been quite happy about it, especially the CD that was included in the learning materials packet. I was very glad to hear REAL instruments in the soundtrack, not MIDI. In fact, wind instruments are very well represented, including *gasp* bassons, oboes, and even an English horn cameo! Sign me up!! In addition, there is a decent rhythmic variety to the music too. One of the tracks is a polka, while another has a jazzy sway. The songs are fun to sing, though a bit high.

Oh yes, the baby does have fun too. It's so cute to watch her interact with the other babies. I thought she'd ignore them, but they fascinate her and she tries to touch them when they're close. The instruments inevitably end up in their mouths. But every once in a while she gives them a good shake or tap:

Speaking of wind instruments, I got another email from the person who is trying to organize a local wind ensemble. Apparently we've reached quorum and the first rehearsal will be sometime in November. *gulp*

I have an oboe anniversary coming up and I was going to say that my goal was to get back into shape by then, but then I realized that I was only leaving myself a little over a month. So my new goal will be to be practicing every day again by 12/9. Not quite up to an hour plus, but at least 15 minutes. If this wind ensemble does really take off, I think that would really help me overcome inertia.

Sunday, October 12, 2008


I'll skip my usual excuses and promises to update more frequently and go right into updates.

First let's start with the elephant in the room - school. As of last Monday I am no longer a student. *gasp* Actually, it's not quite that drastic. Though I did technically withdraw it's more of a delayed deferral. They are holding a spot for me to restart first year with next year's class. I should have seen this one coming. Back in August, I knew deep down inside that I wasn't ready. I kept waiting for the idea of leaving my baby to feel ok, but that never happened. As the weeks wore on it didn't get any easier and I was slipping into very dark territory. And then there was the commute. I commuted 45 miles each way for over 5 years and my husband has been doing the current commute (22 miles each way) for 6. So we had both been road warriors before; I didn't expect this to be a source of stress. Poor, naive, still childless little me. When you add an infant into that mix (or any mix for that matter) things tend towards chaos. All of a sudden the commute became one of the circles of hell. It started out ok. She tended to sleep at first. Then she began to get cranky every once in a while. Then it started happening every single time and I resorted to giving her bottles to calm her down. This complicated our nusing relationship, which lead to even worse feelings. I was losing control. I felt like a horrible mother to put my baby through that, especially to expose her to the dangers of the roads for 2 hours a day. Then there was the dealing with my parents day in and day out again. Some things have changed for the better, but in many ways I am still a parentified child. Then there were the classes themselves. Because I missed my baby so much I would either spend lecture time pining for her or I would cut class to try to catch it online. The latter could have worked. But for many reasons it didn't. It took so much energy (mental, physical, emotional) to just get through each day, that I don't think I saw the clouds gathering or felt the rain falling. It wasn't until the weekend after our first set of exams, where there was a lull in activity, that it finally dawned on me that I couldn't continue doing this, at least not in this way. I didn't study at all that weekend and went right to the dean on Monday and by the end of the day I was no longer a member of the class of 2012. They were very very supportive, for which I was thankful. In fact, one of the deans guessed why I was there before I even got a word in and she said that I was making the right decision. I do feel very strongly that I did. When I walked out of that office I felt 1000 pounds lighter and suddenly there was lightness and gaeity in my heart. All of a sudden, the sun was out again. The next day I stayed home with her all day and it was as though those 8 weeks had never occured. I guess we were both yearning for that time together again and easily fell back into our daily routine. Only this time it was actually easier. She's feeding well, sleeping better, and more active and fun. Since school jump started me, I now have the energy I wanted to have while I was on maternity leave. I don't just sloth around the house unbathed and hungry. I was able to take care of myself and still get things done around the house all while taking care of her.

So will I reclaim my spot come next summer? Honestly, it's too soon to tell. Before I took leave I was changing my mind about my career choice a few times a minute. It was so exhausting. I am aware that all I have done is simply bought myself some time and that I do have a very difficult decision to make. Some days it seems like it is clearly what I want to do and that I simply have to make accommodations (e.g. moving on campus). Other days I wonder why I am so bent on pushing myself to do something that gives me such a visceral reaction? I have a wonderful, rich life. Why should I give any part of it up for some other shiny thing?

I think that it was simply to soon for me to go back to school. Some women may be ready to reclaim their lives in a matter of weeks after becoming mothers. But for me, it wasn't that simple. It is only now that I am beginning to feel any kind of desire to be the old me. And I suspect some pieces of the old me may be gone forever. Every part of my being has been preoccupied only with my baby ever since she was born. I honestly didn't care about absolutely anything else. Imagine trying to go through med school while feeling that way? I'm surprised I lasted as long as I did! Now that I am back home and more energized than back when I was at home previously, I am slowly getting back into things. I'm better able to juggle household management tasks with the baby now. I managed to cook twice last week. Now I want to move back into my music. Other things I would like to do too are working out (modestly) and spending time with friends. I even played a little bit of my favorite video game today. I feel that had I gotten back into any or some or all of those things BEFORE school started, that the transition would have gone smoother. Instead I went from all day baby to a tremendously stressful schedule of waking up super early, feeding her, commuting, walking to school, classes, walk back to nurse, more classes, walk back to eat and nurse, commute, put her to bed, stay up late to study, and sleep a few hours. Rinse and repeat. It was a complete shock. I need to be the whole me again. Whatever that means nowadays. Because only the whole me could possibly stand a chance to survive school. So hopefully in the next few months my baby and I can find me. And then I will be ready to make my decision. Ahh, I feel so much better now that I wrote all this. If only we could figure out how to bring in another $1000 a month in order to finance this lovely period of self-exploration. Not worrying about this just yet either, but I do need to figure it out by the end of the month.

So I won't be writing much again about my medical pursuits. They are on hold for now. And if I do decide to go back next year, I do not want to talk about school on this blog anyway. If I learned anything during those weeks it was about privacy. So if I did want to chronicle my student doctor journey I would likely start up a separate, anonymous blog somewhere.

I would like for this blog to be mostly about music again so I reverted it to its previous look. Well, without the catchy little intro since I can't find where I saved it. Nor the matching oboe picture.

My baby turns 6 months old tomorrow!! Wow!! I can't believe it, my little precious. She is the new sun in my life and I feel so blessed to be her Mommy.

This also means that I have been pretty inactive oboe-wise for at least half a year. *gulp* At this point I am literally afraid to play for what it may sound like. I did visit my teacher last week (or was it the week before last?) and I do have a new reed. So I have no excuse. I don't do well with deadlines these days so I won't tell myself that I must start practicing regularly by x day. But I do hope it happens sometime this month.

The blog may begin to sound a lot like the beginning where I was figuring things out from scratch. Well, it shouldn't be quite so bad because I do know that I can still make it sound haha. But I hope to recapture my rebirth here. It should prove both frustrating and fun!!

I'll leave you with the beautiful half-birthday girl (this was last month):

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Musical commercials

Something about this Subway commercial bothers me. I think I just hate the harmony or something. It's almost painful to listen to.

On the other hand, I think this JG Wentworth commercial is a riot. You true opera fans are probably like "get a life" but this one sure beats that stupid Optimum triple play commercial that is overplayed. I may have mentioned this before, but in case I didn't, I HATE REGGAETON! The only part I look forward to is when it almost turns into a merengue for 5 seconds when that red hydra guy comes out of the water.

Another one I like is the 50 cent Vitamin Water commercial. Every time they cut to the timpani player it makes me crack up. He looks all into it. I wonder if at least one person got intrigued by orchestral music from this?

And here's Alanis's favorite: K-9 Advantix.

One of my goals for the future is to finally get into opera. I guess for now I'll just sing the JG Wentworth song hahahaha.

Monday, August 04, 2008

2 more weeks . . .

until I become a medical student. I am still in denial. The last few weeks have been so terrible that I've often wondered if I have some PPD. I've been having a terrible time imagining anything but doom with regards to medical school. Everything felt so dark but I think that the clouds are finally lifting away. I am sure that I will have a very difficult time leaving my daughter but now that I've spend two days back at my parents' apartment I am feeling a bit better. The first full day that I spend (last Friday) was AWFUL! I never thought I'd say this, but I am no longer used to being in the City. We didn't even go outside or anything (cause it was hellish hot) but even still I felt that the apartment was just too busy. Relatives and neighbors came in and out, my mom whined about her trip to DR for hours, my Dad went up and down 20x . . . at one point bringing home a stereo system that he bought from some shady folks on the street. It was just too much. I was so used to the quiet (but boring) days that Alanis and I spend by ourselves at home. It was a very harsh contrast and knowing that this will be my reality from now on was heartbraking. I worked so hard to get away from some of that stuff. Anyway, thankfully yesterday went much better. Maybe it was because it was the weather. We still had a lot of guests at Mom's but it was fun instead of draining. In the end I know it's the best thing for the baby to have these social interactions rather than being home alone with me all day. I know that I am the one with the problem. While she's having fun with my parents I will be the one crying in class because I miss her. Thankfully all our lectures are webcast, so I am planning to only attend the required small group sessions and any labs. Everything else I will watch online from my Mom's while nursing my precious baby.

Oh,it's World Breastfeeding Week, by the way. I am officially a lactivist and am becoming crunchier by the minute.

Yesterday I passed by my old church to see what was going on. I had been hearing all kinds of rumors regarding the state of the "choir" after we left. I know that for a while the sole remaining singer tried to keep it up and then gave up. Some ladies then tried to take over with mixed reviews. Then the singer went back supposedly. and that's what I wanted to confirm. Indeed when I got there he was singing a song that actually went with the readings and our long lost chameleon drummer was now back as the pianist. I got to see quite a few of the regular parishioners, which was very nice. Ironically they thought I was back when in reality it was my farewell. Now that I saw that singer is rebuilding the group, I can be at peace. It hurt so bad to let go of that group after 15 years but it seems to be in good hands. Now all we have to do is find ourselves a new church to call home. It would be really amazing to find a place where I could play my oboe at, but I am just not sure where such churches exist. It seems that the Catholic churches I've been to are either playing only organ music OR charismatic stuff with popular instruments. It would be cool to find one that played, say, the Mass of Creation, with full instrumentation. There are oboe parts in that score!!

Oboe is still not quite going, but the gears are slowly in motion. I might even have a lesson this month!!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Holy moly!

I just saw this.

I really need to get my butt back in gear, pronto!!!

The end of my life as I know it . . . almost

As the days tick on by and the beginning of medical school draws ever closer, I can't shake feelings of impending doom. To be honest, I was very close to giving up my seat a few weeks ago, but I managed to calm myself down a bit. I'm not sure if it was a mild case of PPD, but I realized that I couldn't think of the medical school experience in a positive light at all. Every time I thought of it I thought purely negative things. No wonder I didn't want to go anymore. So I decided to suspend my disbelief and try to be optimistic. Sure there will be bad days, but hopefully I won't regret it every single day. In fact, I am hoping that at the end of it all I will be happy I did it. I better damn be since I am partly giving up the most precious thing on earth - time with my daughter. The only thing that keeps me sane is knowing that I will be a 10 minute walk away and also knowing that my school's curriculum lends itself easily to truancy. All lectures are webcast which will likely mean that I will see them at my mom's while nursing my baby, rather than live. As long as I can keep nursing here with few hitches, I think I will be ok. If I were back to working full-time I'd be with her even less. I think I need to start playing the lottery right about now.

Deep down, I actually am a little excited about the medical school thing. After playing wannabe doctor for most of my life I will finally start training to be one. It's just that everything has become a lower priority to my new role of Mommy.

Even my dear oboe, I must now admit. The other day a friend of mine made a snarky comment along the lines of "Oh, I thought you said you'd never give up the oboe for anything, no matter what." It wasn't the words that bothered me so much, but her tone. I didn't realize that finding a passion would rub a friend the wrong way. Though I have yet to get back to regular practicing, I know that I have not given up on it. I never will. It remains a passion for me. It's just that I need to get used to my new life before I can find its rightful place for it again. It will happen. Sooner rather than later, I hope. A couple of weeks ago I received an email about someone who is interested in forming a wind ensemble. So I really need to get myself back into shape so that I can participate. I'll definitely keep you posted.

The bad news is that when I did try playing the other day, the baby cried :( Guess she didn't like out of tune playing either.

Here she is working on sitting up:

Monday, June 16, 2008


Last night was a bit rough because for some reason she didn't want to fall asleep at her usual 10ish bedtime. We took her to bed and fed her early enough and she acted like she was going along with it. Just as I started to settle in she starts stretching. Now, I've learned that once she stretches she rarely goes back to sleep (somehow she can sleep through grunting, chuckling, and even crying though). Up she went and within 30 minutes she was asking for more food. Ok, so she didn't get full at her previous feed (this is starting to happen with her bedtime feed for some reason) and we decided to supplement. She proceeds to down the 4 ounces and again acts like she's going to sleep. Instead she decides to stay up . . . for another 2-3 hours. We're not sure how long because I think we both fell asleep. I know I did because I assumed my husband was staying up with her. But at some point he decided she was safe and not upset and he went to sleep too. So I when I woke up at 3am the baby was still up and eating her hands. I fed her and turned off all the lights (we usually leave one on dimly) and she finally slept. For 4 hours. So my total sleep last night was 2.5 + 4.

We could have slept another round after that but I decided to get her up early rather than continuing to sleep in, in hopes that this would reset her bedtime. She ate again and was acting very drowsy so I decided to try to put her down on her crib that way. Most likely she'd wake up (the effect I wanted) but if by chance she fell asleep without help that would have actually been a nice lesson. She stayed drowsy on the crib for 5-10 minutes then did her stretching routine. After that she was wide awake and played for about 30 minutes, rolling to her sides. When she started getting antsy I picked her up and that's when I noticed it. The back of her neck felt oddly warm. I touched her forehead and couldn't deny the eerie warmth. I tried not to panic and took her temperature. She registered a 99.2, her first official low-grade fever. I wanted to cry but instead I fed her and let her sleep on me while I willed her fever to go down. I figured she was mostly fine since she wasn't acting any differently. Three hours later I retook the temp and it was 98.6. Perfect!

Now I can go on with the rest of my day . . .

Maybe I'll play a little oboe for her :-)

From now on

Ok. I feel soooooooooooo much better now that I am nice and updated. I really do want to keep this up to date in terms of my big three (baby, music, school). It will be interesting to have this journey chronicled.

As Alanis enters her third month of life I will update with stories and pictures.

In terms of school, orientation starts on August 18th. I will be attending my alma mater since it is walking distance to my parent's apartment. Both Mom and Dad have agreed to babysit for me while I'm at school. Dad is still the more enthusiastic one, but Mom is finally on board as well. Though it is the best possible care situation, I can't even think about leaving my baby at this point without wanting to wail. It's gotten better I suppose since during those first two weeks I was contemplating selling everything, not going to school, and being a SAHM. A part of me is still intrigued by that but I know it's not realistic for many reasons. Since I have to work at some point and have pretty much ruled out everything else the only thing that makes sense is for me to go through with this whole medicine thing. It's crazy how it's no longer priority number one in my life. And I admit that I worry about how well I will do given that fact. But I keep telling myself that other parents do it and that somehow I will figure out how to make it work. It's going to be difficult but in a way I will actually be able to be with the baby more so than if I were working full-time. Classes start at 9 but end at 3 or noon twice a week (and closer to 5 the other two days). They are taped and posted online so after a while I will probably skip them and study on my own. It's definitely easier to be truant at school than at work, so hopefully I won't die from missing my daughter.

On the music front things are honestly not going right now. But the desire for it is slowly coming back. I did play once since the baby was born and it was bad, but not as bad as I feared. I am hoping that in the next month I can start practicing again. I am aiming for just 15 minutes a day to start. Maybe Toyin can bring me a new reed when she comes to meet the baby *sends wishful thoughts across the internet void*.

Second Month


Ahh, month number two. We were now quite a bit wiser and a lot more at ease. Alanis started smiling at the beginning of the month and does it more and more now. It is such a wonderful feeling to see that cute, gumless, tongue-y smile directed at you. It really does bring light to my life.
Early smile:

More recent smile:

She is definitely way more alert now and stays awake for longer periods of time. Whereas before she wasn't really focusing her vision anywhere now she definitely looks and follows people and objects. She even tracks her daddy as he moves around. We no longer have to be right in her face to get her attention. She even likes to look at books. Here she is gaining a deeper perspective on life from her Blues Clues book:

Feedings are going much smother now albeit more often. She's eating every two hours now throughout the day. If she kept gaining an ounce a day she should be exactly 10lbs at her appointment on Wednesday. However I predict that she will be more than 10 since we've been estimating her weight periodically by weighing ourselves with her on our digital scale. The question is whether she will be over or under 10.5. She also seems to have gotten a lot longer. She outgrew newborn clothes and even some 0-3 month stuff due to length. She's also no longer wearing newborn diapers and is on size 1's.

She finally started cooing near the end of the month. She started doing it with Daddy first (of course!) but now she and I will have nice conversations too. It was funny at first when she still didn't have her voice. She would watch my lips intently and try to move hers but no sound would come out or only grunting. Then one day with her Dad she finally found her vowels and it was so cute that it made me tear up.

Her limbs are a lot stronger now. She loves to move her kick her legs and move them around slowly when she's in a good mood. If she's about to get fussy she will do a quick march in place instead. She also discovered that her hands are yummy and they are frequently in her mouth now.

Much to my chagrin, she likes watching TV!! I don't know when it started exactly but if she's downstairs in the living room on her exercise mat she will sometimes ignore her toys and instead stare at the boob tube. Oh no!!

She also *loves* her mobile. I swear she can stare at that thing all day. Sometimes she smiles at it and tries to reach out to it. We call this picture "Supergirl":

The one thing we need to work on is more tummy time so she can develop better head control. I neglected to put her on her stomach that first month and by the time I realized I should have been doing it she didn't care for the position. The first several attempts had to be aborted pretty quickly but recently she's been making nice progress. Apparently it's quite a workout because she grunts more than guys lifting weights at the gym:

The other thing that is a work-in-progress is sleeping. I am happy to report that maybe 3 weeks ago she started taking longer stretches of sleep at nighttime. These vary from 3.5 to 5.5 hours. We can now count on at least one 4 hour stretch a night. Woohoo!!

By the way, I'd like to take this time to whine about just how many books/theories there are about child sleep. Holy moly! And of course me being the anal person that I am, I bought and have read quite a few books and my mind is now swimming with all the information. I've read from Ferber ("cry it out") to Sears ("co-sleep") to several in between. My mind gravitates towards one method but my heart goes for another. When did sleeping become so complicated?? In my day we were put in bed and that was the end of it. Or maybe it just seemed easier from that vantage point. Some days it's as if all I do is worry about her naps and sleep in general. But then I figure that years down the road it really won't matter what the hell we do now as she will have moved on to bigger and better milestones and challenges. So the lazy part of me is tempted to not to much and just go with the flow. Well, I think I will do that anyway for at least another month to see where she "settles" at. The anal side of me is intrigued by the sleep trainers, though I think it's all a little too much honestly. One of the things that is difficult about being a parent is being sure whether you are doing the right thing. I am still feeling incompetent I guess or at the very least I tend to second guess myself a lot. If anyone is still reading this blog and has ideas, opinions, advice about the whole sleeping thing, please comment. I'd like to know what others out there did.

Finally, personality traits I am starting to notice:
* Feisty/Perseverance: The nurses noticed this at the hospital as we were working on BFing. Even when things weren't going well from my standpoint she continued giving it her all at almost every feeding. She also tries very hard with her tummy time even though she doesn't like it very much. You go girl!
* Jolly: When something amuses her she doesn't hold back and lets you know that she's pleased. I do hope she keeps that as she grows up. Sometimes life can take that away from you and you don't enjoy things to the fullest. It's nice to find happiness even in small things.
* Love of food. :-D I guess this one too can count for all babies but I swear this girl really must have her food now. Just like Mommy.

First Month


Looking back now those first four weeks were a blur. Here is what I remember:

* Feeling emotionally overwhelmed. Normally when you fall in love with someone it's something gradual. You meet them and there is probably an initial attraction. You then become friends and you start to notice qualities you like about the person. With a new baby you go from 0 to 1000 in .0005 seconds. Woah!!
* Once I got used to having a new love in my life I then became very anxious for about 7-10 days. It was probably the normal baby blues that one gets. But I just remember being consumed with fear for her life those first few days to the point where I didn't sleep at all for like 3 days just watching her nonstop. The other feeling that was present was utter incompetence. I felt really stupid a lot of the time!
* Breastfeeding does NOT just happen easily and naturally. Just like I didn't bother with birthing classes I also didn't understand why people needed breastfeeding instruction. Boy was I in for a shocker. I ended up needing several sessions with more than one lactation consultant and even then it took quite a while for things to fall into place. Even now I still worry about whether she's getting enough, whether I'm making enough, can't we make her latch better, etc.
* Going into the pregnancy I had low expectations for breastfeeding for a variety of reasons. But once she was here I became obsessed with getting it to work. Unfortunately my family was surprisingly NOT supportive. It seems that my breastfeeding was not in vogue for my Mom's generation. Three days after Alanis was born my parent came up to the house and the baby was crying because she was hungry. We were having trouble with the feeding still at that point and my parents started freaking out that she was hungry and I wasn't feeing her appropriately. So I gave in to them and gave her a bottle two feedings in a row. After they left when we tried to get her to latch on for the next feeding, she refused. I thought it was all over. We tried for 1.5 hours while both she and I cried. Eventually we got things to work, sort of and thankfully my milk finally came in the next evening and the baby was much happier. And my parents stopped harassing me about bottles!
* Growth. This one goes in conjunction with breastfeeding. Since I was set on BFing exclusively they had to monitor her weight closely those first few days. When we went in that Thursday after she was born (4/17) she was down to 5lbs 10oz since they lose some the first few days. At 8 days (4/21) she was back up to 6lbs. This was a nice gain of over an ounce a day. She continued that trend weighing 6lbs 9.5ounces at her 2 week check up on 4/28 and 7lbs 11ounces at her 1 month check up on 5/12. Wh
* Sleep. Oh wonderful uninterrupted sleep, how I miss you. I guess I didn't really think this one out through before I had the baby. This is probably a good thing because if I had known just how bad it is I may have waited some more. I guess I figured you'd have some bad nights but also some good nights. I didn't realize you would never sleep a full night again for a while!! Naive little me. I thought I'd have stretches of time where I'd be sleeping. Oh no no no. The baby needs to eat every 3 hours and since I was BFing that meant I had to be the one doing this. And at that point it took an hour a feeding so even if I did manage to sleep afterwards it was only for 2 hours at a time.
* Day/night confusion. Eventually she started having slightly longer awake periods. Unfortunately, these were in the dead of night at first. "Look Mommy and Daddy! I want to interact with you now!" Yeah, but it's 3am!! We were torn because we were happy that she was finally recognizing our presence but we really had no energy for her at that time.
* Within a few days we were doing decently well getting the baby's needs met. But we realized we were ignoring our own! Some days it would be mid-afternoon and we hadn't eaten anything. That's when I called Mom and begged her to come over and stay with us so she could feed us and clean the house.

Damn, this sounds like negative stuff but it really wasn't. It's just that that is what stands out the most in my mind at this point. The baby was still pretty "fetal" that first month, especially since she was born quite skinny. She didn't do much yet but she did smile as she drifted off to sleep. And all her bodily functions were in place and provided entertainment for us. We were still just in awe of having made a little person and were content to just stare at her for hours on end.

4 weeks old:

Oh the irony of it (birth story)

So as soon as I made that "motivation" post I looked at my previous post. I happened to be on 4/12 at around 10 in the morning. I hadn't gotten very many "cramps" yet by that point, just a few overnight that were so mild I ignored them. That post went on about our last weekend as a couple and stuff. Funny thing is that I started getting mild contractions that very day!!

Well, I don't know when/where you draw the line between cramps and contractions. I guess they were technically contractions since in the end their purpose was to get me ready and dilated. Anyway, that Saturday I started feeling what felt like period cramps sporadically. They were very mild and irregular. I recall that we went to the Indian restaurant we like for their lunch buffet. We got there maybe at around 2PM. By then the cramps were definitely happening. I was in denial at first hahaha. I had read in some books that you can get mild cramps for days or even weeks before labor so I didn't think too much of them at first, especially since I was scheduled to be induced on Wednesday anyway. But I do remember that in the restaurant I got a few of the cramps and they getting stronger because I remember wanting to make sure I didn't get one as I stood up to get food because I was afraid I'd wince and drop the plate. We made it through lunch fine and were going to go to the park for a walk but I asked JC to take us home to play video games instead.

The cramps continued throughout the day but I was having too much fun playing my game. Come evening JC asked if I was hungry but I had had so much food at the buffet that I didn't really feel like eating at that point. At about 9 or 10PM he got hungry and I grilled him some hot dogs but didn't eat anything myself. Normally, I would have been hungry again by that time, but the cramps were really becoming uncomfortable and were wearing me out a bit. I didn't want to alarm him since I figured they were just a false alarm. That was the same reason I didn't call my Mom either. Though I was having fun with the game at 11PM I was uncomfortable enough to not want to be sitting in that position and went to bed. At this point I am still thinking they're just cramps, though they had progressed to at least as painful as menstrual cramps by that point.

At exactly 2AM I woke up with a start. OUCH!! My cramps were now painful enough to wake me up and definitely MORE painful than any menstrual cramp I had ever had. I still could not imagine that I was going into labor and tried to go back asleep. The pain woke me again at 2:12 and again I went back to sleep. 2:24, 2:30 something . . . I soon realized they were coming regularly at about 10-12 minute intervals and that's when I started to panic just a little bit. I also decided to take some Tylenol at this time to try to get some sleep. I had that appointment with my doctor at 9AM anyway so I figured I'd know soon enough what was going on. I took a couple of Tylenol and slept about 2 hours but then woke up 4ish and was too uncomfortable to go back asleep. I figured I'd stay in bed until it was time to get ready for the appointment but by 6AM I couldn't stand it anymore and decided to get up and shower. OUCH!!! Somehow the water made things feel worse and though I originally intended on staying home until 8 I woke my husband up and told him to take me to the hospital now. We got there shortly before 7 while the nurses were changing shifts. The night nurse was mad that we didn't call the doctor first. I told her that I knew he was on his way eventually since I had a 9AM appt with him and I figured I could just wait for him since I was too uncomfortable at home. Thankfully, the new nurse who came in with the new shift was a Godsend. She was super sweet and hooked me up to the monitor while we waited for the doctor who had gotten paged by then. My pressure was reading somewhere near 150/95, but thankfully my pulse was not racing and the baby seemed ok. They kept drawing blood to make sure that my liver and kidney functions were ok, which they were. When the doctor finally came in at 9 and checked me he confirmed that I had indeed gone into labor on my own and was now about 1cm dilated. "Looks like we're going to have a baby today" he said and JC and I just looked at each other wide-eyed. The staff started the process of admitting me and that’s when it finally hit us!! That's also when I realized that I knew NOTHING about what I was about to go through and how to best deal with things. I had not had ANY training in terms of preparing for labor as I had spent my entire pregnancy assuming I’d be c-sectioned due to my heart condition. Thankfully the nice nurse calmly explained what to expect and helped me with breathing throughout. I have to admit that I seriously had a deathly fear of labor. For years I couldn’t imagine myself going through it and I think this was part of why I waited so long to have a baby in the first place.

We were moved to the L&D suite and I was started on a Pitocin drip at 9:30AM. As the contractions got worse and worse, I started panicking somewhat. I found it increasingly more difficult to cope with each contraction. They were suddenly coming every two minutes and I just felt like I had no time to recover from each one. JC and DL (the nice nurse) kept helping me breathe and were talking me through it.

At 11AM the doctor came in to check me and I was about 2cm dilated. At that point he decided to break my water to help the labor progress. The nurse explained to me to get ready for the intensity of the cramps to rise as now I wouldn’t have a cushion in between my baby’s head and the cervix. Boy oh boy am I glad for that warning because otherwise my first contraction after the bag breakage may have sent me off the deep end! The pain increased by several orders of magnitude. If I was having trouble coping before I couldn’t imagine how I was going to handle it now. Things went from being hammered from the inside out to having an entire demolition crew in there working with high powered explosives. I started to hyperventilate and ended up getting oxygen. The other thing that happened was that there was some meconium in the water too. Not a lot, but some. So my baby was definitely stressing out. I told the doctor that I wanted the epidural ASAP because I was afraid I’d get tachycardic. The anesthesiologist was supposed to arrive in about 30 minutes they said. My husband was a wonderful coach and kept supporting me and telling me it wouldn’t be much longer now. I couldn't imagine how I'd live another 30 minutes with that pain and started calling out to God. I think this frighteneed my husband but he tried not to show it and just kept talking to try to keep me distracted. He tried to hold my hand and massage me but when the pain came I didn't want to be touched. I closed my eyes to avoid looking at the clock or the monitor. My contractions were coming up but not as strongly as I expected and that was dismaying because I couldn't imagine them getting worse. In the end I ended up waiting an hour for the anesthesiologist and honestly I don’t know how I made it through. By the time she got there my whole body was shaking. It must have been because I was pleading to God to help me and give me strength. They had me get into the epi position and I remembered all the things I had heard about epi’s gone wrong. But at that point I remember thinking that I didn’t care if I was maimed for life as long as they could make that pain go away. Amazingly, as soon as she injected me, it was over. I didn’t feel a single ounce of pain again, only dull pressure. For me, the epidural is the best invention EVER!!

Once it was in the doctor came back in to see where I was at. “This is interesting” he says, which made me worry. Well, it turned out I was at 5cm. We were all surprised that I had gone that far in such a quick amount of time. They raised my pitocin level and he said he’d come back in two hours to check on me. By then I was feeling like I was in Club Med from the epidural so I started texting my friends. My family had been contacted back when I was 2cm and they were slowly getting ready to come up on the train. We figured she wouldn’t be born until the evening at the earliest.

Shortly before 2PM I told my husband that I felt “roundness” and wasn’t sure what it was. So it wasn’t entirely shocking when the doctor came in a few minutes later and said “You’re fully dilated. Time to push this baby out.”

I was told that each round of pushing would include 3 big 10 second pushes. I went through two rounds but then the baby’s heart rate dropped dangerously low so I was given a 15 minute break until she restabilized. The doctor then told me I’d get one more round of pushing to try before he’d break out the vacuum. I knew I didn’t want any more interventions, especially a vacuum extraction, so I prayed again and gave it my absolute all. On the third push I heard someone say “the head is out” and then I looked down and saw my little girl’s little bottom. She was born at 2:40 PM.

She weighed 5lbs 14 ounces, which was her estimated weight 2.5 weeks earlier. It seems that she hadn’t been thriving those last 2 weeks between my high blood pressure, the low amniotic fluid, and the chest cold that almost turned into pneumonia. That was probably why she decided she wanted to get out of there!

She is absolutely perfect and beautiful and we couldn’t stop staring at her. We are absolutely in love and so thankful that she is well and in our lives. Here is our blessed Alanis Soleil:


I've been wanting to update this blog for oh, two months now at least, but have been mostly unmotivated to do anything other than take care of my baby. But yesterday as we celebrated Father's Day I realized that I really do want to be updating things as they happen. So I will now try to backtrack in an effort to catch up to current events.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

The final countdown

There is a possibility that I will be getting induced this coming Wednesday, April 16th. This will be one week ahead of my due date. Basically the doctor no longer feels comfortable with my borderline high blood pressures and feels this might be best for both of us. I was initially sad about the thought of "forcing" the baby out, but I do agree that it's the safest thing at this point. I'm just happy we made it this far.

So this is potentially our last weekend together as a couple. As of next weekend we'll be parents! Though we're excited as can be about the baby I have to admit I feel a little anxious about the upcoming change. We've been a couple for nearly 12 years and now the dynamics are going to change for ever. I am sure it will be for the best but I know that it will take some time to get used to it. My husband is not worried at all at this point, which makes me think he's in for a rude awakening haha!!

I forgot to put up a link to my shower pics. Here they are: shower pics.

My shower was on Sunday, March 9th at a restaurant in my old neighborhood in Manhattan. It turned out very well, thank God. I had been stressing out about it since I ended up having to pay and plan for everything myself. Friends of mine from all my social circles were there: my close friends growing up, girls I went to grammar school with, high school friends, college friends, friends from my old corporate job, musician friends, church friends, my current work friends, and of course, relatives. It was great to see their enthusiasm for my baby. I guess it helped that we waited over 6 years after getting married to finally go for it.

I will know for sure tomorrow whether or not I am getting induced on Wednesday. I have to go to the hospital tomorrow morning for another NST (non stress test) and a cervix check-up. I've been getting occasional mild cramps so I hope that at least something is going on so that the induction has a better chance of actually working.

At first I felt like I wanted only my husband there but now I do want my Mom there too, though I will prohibit both of them from standing anywhere but at my head. It's not that Mom and I are not close, it's more that we have a sort of reverse relationship where I was a parentified child who always had to be strong for her. I wanted to have the freedom to be weak if the pain got to me and I am unable to do that with her around. But now I realize that I don't want to be weak and that I actually need/want her there. We're trying to figure out the logistics because my parents don't have a car and I will be deliving in Connecticut and now my Dad is having 6 dental implants placed on Tuesday. Oh well, we'll figure something out.

Thursday and yesterday were revisit weekend at Columbia's medical school. Revisit weekends are an opportunity for accepted students to meet their potential classmates and to get a feel for the school. The schools try really hard to sell themselves. I had a great time (though I was exhausted by the end of it) and feel much better about the school now. Though it's the school that makes logistic sense for me because it's walking distance to Mom, I had concerns about it in the beginning. The bureaucracy there is still a pain, but most of my other worries have dissipated. They showed me an initial financial aid package which is decent enough that it would be possible for me to attend, but I will still wait on the other two schools to see if there is some bargaining I can do. Also, I do want to attend Cornell's revisit in May to make a final decision about where I really want to be.

I can't believe that as of late Summer my life is going to be so different as I will be a Mom and a medical student. *gulp* Oh yes, and hopefully I will be an oboe student again at that point. Yay!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

The end of an era

I'm supposed to be at Mass right now, but I decided not to go. Well, it wasn't that I didn't go at all, I actually did go. I attended Mass at the local church here because I elected not to drive into the City today to go to our regular church. First off because I've been super sick all week. This is the absolute worst I've felt all pregnancy. It started Monday afternoon with general malaise, sort of like when you're coming down with the flu. Instead I got a very nasty upper respiratory tract infection. At one point I could barely breathe and had no energy to do anything but lie down (which made breathing even harder). I ended up going back for monitoring on Thursday and me and the baby were both tachycardic due to my fever. I'm doing better now, thank God. At least coughing no longer feels like I'm spewing parts of my lung out.

But the real reason I decided not to go to Mass today was because it was supposed to be our "last" Mass. Let me go back a little bit to put things in perspective.

I was baptized at this church in 1975 (age 1) and it has been my parish ever since. I attended grammar/junior high school there and completed ALL of my sacraments there. Up until college I attended the English masses as these were similar to the ones we would attend as part of school. Then in 1991 or so I started attending the "charismatic" mass in the downstairs chapel. All the parts of the Mass are essentially the same. The only difference is that everything that can be sung is sung, and that the style of the music itself is not hymns accompanied by an organ, rather it's more of a folk/popular music style. At first there was only a guitarist there but eventually they added electric bass and drums. Also, the singers used microphones. In the Fall of 1992 I was invited into this choir (as a singer) by the then director. When I became a music major in 1994 and started learning music theory I became more involved in the actual music itself. When the bass player left in 1995, I looked to the new guitarist (my now husband) to help me figure out how to play. By the beginning of 1996 I became the group's bassist. When the director left around 1997 or so, he named my boyfriend (now husband) and I the new directors, a post we've held ever since. Aside from the selection and playing of the music, we also have had to deal with a slew of "people management" issues throughout the years. At one point all the original members were replaced by young people and there were many diva/divo problems for years. Eventually people matured but hard feelings remained. Then there were personal problems that some members had and insisted involving everyone in. Then there were issues with the other groups of the church. Though we stayed amongst ourselves, there was also some degree of rivalry between all the groups. Because we were the only group with "professional" musicians (by then both my husband and I were gigging around town) the other groups I think felt threatened by this. Oh, then there was also the issue of some priests not really liking to serve our mass because they weren't into the whole folk music thing. Anyway, in spite of all this drama we stayed true to the group, even though we never received a single cent or even a "thank you" from the parish. We loved the community and the music so much that it didn't matter. We felt that we were both growing as people and serving God at the same time, so what could be better. As the years passed, this feeling diminished somewhat. Maybe it was due to members slowly but surely departing. Regardless when we moved out of the City in 2004, we kept serving the Mass. Even though other members had moved right around the block and used that as an excuse to stop going. Our mass may be "fun" to participate in, but it is a HUGE commitment. It comes smack in the middle of your Sunday (1:00 - 2:30) and when you count set up and take down time you are there from noon to 3. This kind of kills your day (especially for us commuters) since you couldn't do anything before or after. Anyway, we kept going. By this time my husband was no longer as keen on it as I was, but I really needed a connection back to my hometown now that I was living in the "burbs". And so things have remained the past 3-4 years, but slowly even I have started feeling like our time there was up, that we had overstayed our welcome and that the group was ready for another rebirth.

I may have never had the courage to even *think* of leaving were it not for the two big things happening this year: med school and the baby. And actually it's more the school thing that was the beginning of the end. I knew I wanted to go to school in the City because I still miss it and that's where I wish I was. I though of having to commute in every weekday for classes and realized that commuting a 6th day would be ludicrous. One, gas prices are so high these days and two (most importantly) I am going to need a break from the commuting so that I can spend some quality time at home studying or with my husband/child. As the reality of med school drew closer, I realized there was no way I could easily fit my church activity into the mix any longer. Besides, there are a slew of churches here in Westchester, some of which may be a better fit for who I am today (as oppposed to who I growing up). So we told the group that since I'd have to go "on leave" anyway due to the baby, that we would simply not come back. By the time we'd be ready to return it would almost be time for school to start anyway. So the group has known for a while that March 30th would be our "last Mass".

Little did I expect the torrent of emotion I am feeling right now. I never expected it to hurt quite this much. I don't know if it's because it's been my church all my life or if it's that I became too attached to the music. All I know is that when I attended that other Mass today I spent the whole mass tearing up thinking of my Mass. The building, the people, our little corner where we sit at with the instruments. I saw so many years flash by me. Different people who've come and gone. Different priests. The seat where my Mom usually sits at and how much she's changed since 1992. We were unable to find replacements for ourselves because none of the musicians we know are willing to take on the responsibility for no reimbursement. So supposedly the one singer we had left is staying with this semi-responsible younger musician. Who knows how long it will last? I keep thinking of how disappointed the nearly 1000 people who go there will be when they realize we are not coming back. Will they resent my baby thinking it was her "fault"? No one really knows that I am going back to school or what it will entail and that THAT is the real reason I am not going back. That, and a tiny bit of resentment about how we've not been appreciated ever. I realize now that we provided the very best of ourselves that we could and that the result was aesthetic pleasing and professional. It always stings a little to go other places, hear a cacophany, yet see the appreciation of the priests.

Anyway, I just couldn't bear to go today. Because as much as I begged the others not to tell anyone that it was our last mass I have a feeling they were planning some kind of announcement and I would have been mortified because I hate when people use announcements for personal news. I am glad I didn't go because if I cried at this other church I would have surely bawled at ours, knowing it may be the last time (at least officially). If they manage to keep the group going and we have an off week here or there, we would be open to going in to help. That's part of why I didn't want any announcements because then it would be awkward to go back.

How am I supposed to go on without something that's been such a huge part of my life for over 15 years?? I thought it would be easy to find a church here and set up a contract and start getting paid for our services. But now I realize it may not really feel right. There are a lot of other feelings/issues going on that I think I've been covering up with the music all these years.

Regardless, today is the official end of an era. What once was, will no longer be. Ever again. And for now all I can think of doing is mourn for it.

Goodbye, my lifelong friend. I hope I've done the right thing.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

POM update

Wow, I can't believe this much time has passed since my last update. Oh dear. I'm not even going to bother making excuses at this point. But I did want to share what I am up to.

I have wonderful news on this front. I have been accepted at my top three choices!! Now it's a matter of how the financial aid pans out. God willing I will be a first year at either Cornell, Columbia, or Albert Einstein this August. This is exciting and scary at the same time. Medical school has been in the background since my high school days and suddenly it will become a major aspect in my life, in an almost violent way. With a baby on board also, it can all feel overwhelming. But I am trying to remain positive and focusing on the fact that I am realizing a life-long dream.

I am now 33 weeks. I can't believe this either. It still feels surreal but the realization that another person is coming into our lives is slowly sinking in. That, and her head looked mighty large on that ultrasound yesterday. *gulp* She's weighing in at just under 4 pounds and is head down, so all looks good. I haven't put up many belly shots because they've been mostly anti-climatic. I've looked the same for a while and only recently have people started noticing that I am actually pregnant. I waited all my life to NOT have to hide my belly and of course mine decided to be pretty small. I guess I shouldn't complain and it still may pop yet, but I have to admit that it's been a bit of a let down, especially when all the other pregnant ladies I see have big, cute, round bellies. Well the important thing is that my baby is doing just fine inside her oblong home. The funny thing is that when I went shopping for what to wear for my shower I made sure the blouse made me look bigger than I am hahaha.

My baby shower is this coming Sunday. My husband and I ended up planning it ourselves (long story). It will be a "traditional" girls-only (except for JC) shower, which is causing some headaches because that's not the way people run these things back home. Normally our showers are more like regular, co-ed parties. But I have always really hated the idea of people drinking and dancing as a way of "celebrating" a birth. So from the get go I knew I wanted something more elegant and appropriate, i.e. a nice lunch with my girlfriends, allowing us a chance to catch up. Since no one in my family knew what to make of this we had to just do it ourselves. Everyone is excited about it except, of course, distant relatives who want to bring significant others, friends, and kids along even though we explained that we are running out of room and are paying per head. *sigh*

Last but certainly not least. My playing is going almost as slowly as the blogging, unfortunately. With continued drowsiness it has been impossible to continue with my daily practice routine. And you all know that once you fall out of it, you basically have to start over again, little by little. At this point I have finally realized that now is not the time to restart my routine as it will surely be interrupted in about 7 weeks. So I think I need to stop feeling guilty and stop beating myself up and just relaxing and realizing that my oboe won't go anywhere. It's going to be a pain but hopefully by the summertime I can resume more regular practicing. I doubt it will be 1-2 hours anymore, but I will be happy if I can get in a good 30 minutes a day again at some point. I will try to meet one more time with my teacher this month so that she can give me some stuff to do at home for the next few months. I need to take this break from lessons because it just doesn't make sense for me to pay for lessons I can't prepare for. It's a waste of both our times and it gives me a lot of negative feelings because I want to be giving it my all.

That all being said, it's not that I am not playing at all. I do play a few times a week just to make sure I don't completely lose it. In fact, I am going to participate in one more concert with the Downtown Symphony. The concert is next Wednesday and I will be playing second oboe in Bizet's Symphony in C. I even have a little solo in the slow movement. That whole movement is absolutely beautiful! But I can't believe how LONG the phrases are at the end. I heard a recording of it and I can't tell where the person is breathing. It's amazing!

Ugh just thinking about taking a break from lessons is making me sad. *sniff* But I feel that if I keep being hard on myself it will make things worse and demotivate me even more. As school gets closer I will be more inclined to practice again (1) because I have to have a pattern in place so that it's easy to keep following and (2) because I might have the opportunity to find others to play with so I will have to get back into shape.

But for now I think I need to take it a bit easier. I have 4 weeks of work left and then after that I have some major organizing to do at home. Hopefully I'll find some time in there to play a few notes at least :-)

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Nemo boobs!!

Ok so this is the show I vow to never take my kid to:

Did they really not realize that the eyes are in an awkward position?? Actually maybe that's part of the plan. I think that if I went to it I'd be laughing like a 12 year old boy the entire time. It just seems wrong on so many levels!!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Things I've wanted to post about but have been too lazy to

It's not that I don't want to write, it's just that I never get around to it. I will make some comments about posts I recently wanted to make. What's funny is that while I am walking around at work I will compose nice posts in my mind, but by the time I get home the inspiration is gone. Well, here goes nothing . . .

(1) Working out to music
There was a recent NY Times article about working out to music. Apparently someone figured out that there is a correlation between tempo and workout performance. You know, I (and probably a lot of other people) had already figured that out on my own. In fact, I have been known to turn back from the gym if my mp3 player dies out on me. I can't work out at all without my music these days. Typically I would do cardio first and then some weight training. The type of music is not as important for my weight training. If I was very tired, I'd listen to something mellow. If I was still pumped from the cardio I'd keep it at a high energy level. However, my cardio performance was definitely dependent on the music. Luckily I grew up listening to merengue. While my music is frequently criticized for being monotonous this works very well for working out. The article mentioned that jazz (which tends to be idolized, but that's a whole other post) is actually quite bad for working out because of all the tempo changes. While the article failed to mention merengue or other world music as good choices, it did sort of allude to it. My favorite type of merengue to listen to for aesthetic purposes is that from the 80's. That's when the music was at its height. For example, my favorite artist is Ramon Orlando who is a Classically trained pianist and arranger/composer. His merengues are simply beautiful. He writes classical lines with harmonies that work well with the feeling of the song. His sense of orchestration is wonderful due to his Classical roots. He's sometimes been criticized for not being jazzy enough, like Juan Luis Guerra, but frankly I don't think that jazzy always works in merengue. It has to be subtle (NOT like JLG's very first production). While I love to listen to Ramon Orlando's stuff it's not what I typically work out to. In recent years a new type of merengue emerged that some folks refer to as "calle" merengue or "street". I may have written about it in the past and referred to it as a "minimalist" type of merengue because everything is pared down: the harmonies are super simple (in fact, some songs stay on the same chord), the wind mambos are also simplified (or sometimes played by synthesizers - oh the horror!), the lyrics are not inspiring, and the tempi are VERY fast. Many of these songs are almost too painful to listen to, but a few artists are not so bad. These decent artists are actually GREAT to work out to. Other merengue substyles that work really well are tipico (perico ripiao) or palo. While the article listed a tempo of about 130 as ideal here are some of the tunes I was working out to. Tempi are approximate cause my digital metronome needs a new battery.

Julian Oro Duro - "Pasa y sientate" Tempo 162 after a slow intro. This was my favorite for getting started on the jog.
Julian Oro Duro - "Cuando baje la marea" Tempo 172
Julian Oro Duro - "Chinito" (quite politically incorrect) Tempo 192!!
Kinito Mendez - "A palo limpio" This one would inspire me to break out into a full out run even if my heart was beating out of my chest! Tempo 170
Toño Rosario - "Kulikitakati" (the original one - ummm, I don't think it means anything really) Tempo 164
Amarfis - "La Tuerka" (this one is really interesting hahaha! They are playing in D minor and the guy comes in singing a melody in F major. Who knew there was bitonality in merengue music? So what if it was unintentional) Tempo 168
Banda Gorda - "La Cura" Tempo 164
Banda Gorda - "Dejalo Ahi" Tempo 168
El Prodigio - "Baila Mujer" Tempo 160
Jovanny Polanco - "Dile que vuelva" Tempo 170

130? Those guys have to be kidding me. That's hardly a warm-up song! My average is hovering around 170. Hmm, it would be interesting to try to figure out why I need my music to be 30% faster than the general population's. Am I that much more unmotivated? Or is it because I grew up listening to pop music that's generally fast so in order to really work out I need something SUPER fast? That sounds more likely.

Over the past year, thanks to this crazy music, I accomplished something I could never do before: jog for 1 mile w/o stopping. It would take something like 13 minutes but I was so proud of myself for doing it (I think I had the machine at 5.5). Yet I owe it all to a few crazy, fast tunes. Yay, my music is good for something!! Darn, I wish there were an easy way to share these.

I really wanted to make a nice, well-researched, thought out post and possibly even send a response to NY Times. But oh well, this is the best my pregnant scattered brain could muster up.

Oh and I know have lost my oomph to write about my recent medical issues, my latest lesson, and a show I would NEVER take my kid to. Maybe later this week.