Friday, June 24, 2011

Welcome to Babyland

Last year, as Erin and I were talking with our friends and family about moving to Taiwan, many of them were talking about having kids for the first time.  We noted that the life change they were expecting (like most major life changes) was similar to moving to a new country.  The language they would use would change to incorporate child-related terms, they may find themselves eating different foods, and they would be spending more time with other parents in a similar situation.  We called this new place, "Babyland".

Fast-forward to this summer and now all of those expectant parents are actual parents.  Erin and I planned our summer vacation to visit each of the new baby families over the month of June.  After leaving California our first stop on the Babyland tour was Georgia to see some of my friends from the Army, Brian and Steve.  Both of them had their first kid about six months ago so we were going to meet them and their families at Steve's house in Savannah.

We spent Thursday just getting out to Atlanta.  It was not a good day.  A bad omen was when we showed up at the airport and our shuttle got scraped by another shuttle backing up.  LAX was packed as usual, but the next irritation came when Erin was patted down twice (including once in a little frost-glassed room) even after going through the new x-ray machine.  It didn't help later when I accidentally spilled my frappucino on her.  We then sat on our plane at the gate for an hour because they had to fix a door before we could leave.  When we finally got to our hotel our room wasn't made up.  We got through the day with a great deal of patience, but it was very taxing.

Friday morning we were reminded why we endure the travel as we got to do some sight-seeing in Atlanta.  We started with a tour of the CNN headquarters which was very enlightening to how the shows are produced.  We then had lunch at the Sun Dial restaurant at the top of the Hampden hotel.  The great part about that was that the whole restaurant slowly rotates so that we got a wonderful view of the entire city while we ate.  We finished our tour at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park.  It was interesting to see where he grew up and lived, but it seemed like it could use some better care.  We finally left the city, got a rental car, and made it out to Steve's and Adriennes's place that night.  Brian and Cassie got there later that night.

On Saturday we were all pretty tired (either from travelling, tending to babies, or both).  Fortunately Steve and Adrienne have access to a pool, so we spent much of our day there.  

It was great to just relax and not have to worry about being anywhere.  We really enjoyed catching up and reminiscing with everyone.  The babies of course took center stage with lots of adoring to be done.  There was often something that needed to be done to take care of them as well.  Erin and I were thoroughly impressed at the amount of work that went in to taking care of the babies and the apparent ease with which the parents completed that work.  Since both babies were almost six months old I imagine they all had a fair amount of practice.

After spending time at the pool we went with Brian, Cassie, and their daughter to downtown Savannah for dinner.  While we didn't see much of the city, the part we saw looked very nice.  We ended up having dinner on the rooftop of a pub while we discussed life and having kids.  Our discussions continued late into the night back at Steve's and Adrienne's place as we watched a lightning storm roll through.

After breakfast on Sunday it was time for us to pack up and head back to Atlanta.  It was unfortunate that we couldn't spend more time, but I know we'll meet up again in the future.  Even though our friends are at a different place in their lives (full of feedings, diaper changes, car seats, and strollers), it doesn't mean that they're any less our friends.  Erin and I haven't made a final decision on whether to have kids sometime in the future, but whatever we decide, it's good to know that our friends in Babyland will continue to be our friends - just as we'll continue to be their's.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

California Dreamin'

The first leg of our summer back in the US started in California.  With the trip East across the International Date Line we had left around 9 AM on Sunday in Taiwan and arrived around 10 AM on Sunday in California.  Everything went smoothly as our flight from Kaohsiung to Los Angeles was on time, we were able to get our bags, and found my parents outside the terminal as they drove in to pick us up.  That afternoon we were able to have lunch with my uncle and cousin as we drove back to Tulare.

On Monday we were able to relax as we got re-acquainted with America.  This included a trip to Target and the joys of consumerism, washing and drying clothes in a washer and dryer we could understand, and understanding what people were saying.  Later that week we enjoyed eating some of the most delicious Mexican food we've had in a very long time.  There's a lot we've been missing.

Tuesday found my parents, Erin and I driving up to the mountains where my family has always spent summers.  Cedar Grove in Kings Canyon National Park is like a narrow version of Yosemite, but with a fraction of the visitors.  It has always been a place of beauty and peace for me and I was glad to share it with Erin.

For the rest of the week we enjoyed the relaxing nature of the park and it's breath-taking views.  After collecting plenty of firewood we had fires each morning and evening since it was colder than usual.  It was nice to relax in camp, eat some snacks, and read a book during the day.  When we got energetic, Erin and I would hike through the canyon and take in the sights.  On our last day my Dad and I went out fishing, though we didn't catch anything.  It was a very nice trip.

For the following weekend we took a trip out to the coast to see my friends who live in Pismo Beach.  We arrived somewhat late on Saturday night and ended up having some amazing BBQ before ironically sitting around a campfire roasting marshmallows (like Erin and I had done all week in the mountains).

On Sunday we went out for some wine tasting.  I had never known there were so many wineries near Pismo Beach.  Though my recent flare up made me cautious about drinking too much wine it was great to have some small samples.  It was also a lot of fun just hanging out with my friends too who I haven't gotten to see much since moving away from Tulare. While we're older now and have wives (and kids) we can still enjoy some really good times and share a lot of laughs.  The wine wasn't half bad either!

Erin and I stayed at the coast on Monday enjoying the delicious seafood and some beautiful trails along the cliffs above the beaches.  However, by Tuesday we had to say goodbye and head on back to Tulare.  We were able to get one last hike in and enjoy a picnic lunch in Paso Robles on our way back though.  It may not have been Colorado, but by the end of our trip I think Erin was starting consider what it would be like to live in California.

By Wednesday it was time to pack up, finish some last minute details, and head back to LA for our flight the next morning.  My parents were kind enough to treat us to one of their favorite restaurants, Lowry's, for a wonderful prime rib dinner.  Even the vegetarian plate that Erin was delicious.  Early next morning Erin and I caught a shuttle over to the airport and we were off to our next destination: Georgia.  After such a wonderful trip we're looking forward to the next time we're able to visit California.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

School's Out For Summer

So this post is rather late, but after the hospital stay it has been hard getting back in the rhythm of writing.  It has also been very busy.

By the first week of May the Humira appeared to be working and I started to get better.  I was soon eating more solid food from the hospital kitchen which made me eager to get out.  I was released from the hospital on May 7th which coincided with a visit from Michele, Erin's former drama teacher.  Over that first weekend in May I returned to the comfort of our home while Michele shared her many stories with us.

The next week I mostly stayed home from work as I tried to eat more and get my strength back.  I was feeling well enough by Friday to go in to the school for a few hours and give the staff an introduction to the new student information system that the school would be using next year.

Over the weekend though my condition seemed to get worse.  I was getting the Humira once a week on Friday, but because of that (and a case of thrush I had developed) my doctors had decided that I should quickly taper off the steroids.  In the past it had usually taken several weeks to go off steroids, but the doctors had told me to go from 40mg to none in just one week.  After researching online Erin and I felt that might be too quick so on Monday I was able to get on the phone with my GI doctor and made the suggestion that I go back on the steroids and taper them more slowly.  He agreed and since I still had some steroids left said I could take those.  As I went back on the steroids my condition once again improved.

With this, and our experiences in the hospital, it became clear to me and Erin that we had more ability and necessity to be my own doctor than we had in the US.  We were doing research online of what had worked for other people, determining the drugs and the dosage that we found worked best for others, and indicating to my doctors what we thought we should do.  The relationship felt more liberating than what we're used to in the US, but also requiring more responsibility.

For the third and fourth weeks of May I was going to school for more and more of the day.  Before long I even had enough strength to teach my classes (or at least be there as the students worked on assignments from other classes).  As I felt better I began eating more food and incorporating more types of food into my diet.  I tried not to push myself too hard, but it was difficult as there was so much to get done before school ended.  My improving condition gave Erin and I hope that we would be able to have the summer vacation we had planned.

The last days of May and first days of June were a rush of things to do before we could leave.  I was able to get enough medication for the summer (including the Humira) so that was a relief.  Over the weekend Erin was able to finish up all of her grading and I was able to get the IT systems to a point where I could leave them for the summer (or manage them remotely).  Finally on the night before we left we packed our bags and tidied up our place.  It was such a relief on Sunday to finally get on a plane and head back to the US.  We're very much looking forward to enjoying our summer with friends and family before going back to Taiwan in August.