Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Do I want this phase to end? 

Isabella has gotten to be quite a handful the last week, and it is driving me nuts. I don't know if it is separation anxiety which is supposed to peak around this age (she's almost 8 months), or her personality beginning to shine through. Everything is such a battle. Let's take naps. She takes two naps - in the morning and early afternoon - and sometimes a third one in the late afternoon. She just protests and cries unless she is nursed to sleep, we are sleeping together in my bed, or if we're in the car. She seems tired - rubbing her eyes, cranky, etc. but she just wants to keep playing and can't wind herself down. If I hold her to calm her down, she just arches her back and tries to roll away out of my arms! These days I am determined not to always nurse her to sleep - if she falls asleep nursing - great; if not, then she still goes into her crib. I have had mixed results. Often, she cries in her crib until I go in and hold her or put my hand on her. Sometimes I can't take the crying any more and pull her out to spare us both. But then she doesn't get her nap, there is no consistency, and she doesn't learn how to fall asleep without Mommy as a prop. So I am currently trying to be stronger about this and do a full on Extinction and minimize the Check & Console, and many days she cries before falling asleep. The duration of those cries are getting shorter, but I still totally hate it when she cries. It's mind-boggling to me how Rich can sleep so soundly when Isabella is screaming in her crib; as a Mommy it drives me up the wall. I guess it's DNA because seems lots of Moms I've talked to experienced this. I dread naptime at home; I look forward to the day when she can fall asleep with ease. I wish we didn't have to resort to this, but the whole routine thing just didn't seem to work. And with Check & Console, it is too easy to cave in and "destroy all for which she has fought and suffered." (yes, couldn't resist an "Empire Strikes Back" quote) The good thing is that when she does sleep, she sleeps so soundly that almost nothing can wake her up - not even the loud construction outside our building.

Isabella's night sleep used to be so great, but has gotten all screwed up since she turned about 6 1/2 months. She then started practicing crawling in the middle of the night, and subsequently would cry when she'd leap forward and hurt herself. Since her crib is in the same room as us, I'd get up groggily and nurse her back to sleep. Now I think she's developed that habit of waking up for an extra nursing session, so often she is waking up twice a night at 1 and 5. Arg! We were doing so well for a while where she would only wake up after 7-10 hours. These days she does it about 4 or 5 nights out of 7; every night is different.

Whenever I try to feed Isabella solid food, she always grabs the spoon and tries to put it in her mouth. Most of the food flicks off onto the walls, floor, etc. when she waves the spoon around so only about 1/4 goes into her mouth. Then after a few teaspoons like this, she suddenly decides that "she's done" by arching her back with her face turning red and never seeming to want to eat. But the odd thing is that she puts everything in her mouth – just not any of the solid food! Sometimes I wonder if she is getting enough to eat because when she nurses, she speed nurses for 3 - 5 minutes, or keeps getting distracted by things around her, and finally arches her back to indicate that she's ready to play again!

She can play on her own for a little while, but after a little bit, she looks for me. If I sitting near her, she crawls back and climbs on top of me – I am not sure if it is to practice standing or if she just wants to be held. If I am not there, she either cries or crawls to look for where I am. Many times when we try something new, at Gymboree or the playground, she immediately makes that “mmmm!” fussing sound and raises her arms telling me she wants out. People want to help me, but whenever anyone she is not familiar with holds her, she screams! And then everyone gets scared and gives her back to me, especially if we’re in a public place. The other day, she was just in her stroller and my friends leaned over to just say hi, and she started crying! ARG!!!

If this is separation anxiety, this phase better resolve itself quick because I am quickly running out of patience for this!

That said, Isabella has become quite an amazing little person too. The last month she flew through so many major milestones which meant major changes in her world. First she started rolling around back and forth, sitting up, crawling, then pulling herself up - all within about a month or two! She is growing up so fast! The entire world is opening up to her, and she is so curious about everything. Every new thing she wants to grab, look at and put in her mouth. Today I gave her an old laptop to play with, and after banging on the keyboard for a while, she leaned over onto the keyboard and started licking the keys! She is quite adorably funny and predictable that way. I think she's advanced for her age - and pretty smart too - Mommy's bias! I am quite proud and in awe of my little baby!

She is quite attached to me, which people (usually my Mom or people without kids) tell me is wrong. (BTW, I get so annoyed when people give me unsolicited advice.) Well, what is wrong with a baby wanting to be with her Mommy anyway? Especially when she is going through so many huge changes in her life? I can only imagine how freaky it must be to realize you can do all these things. It's like if one day you wake up and you're Spiderman! Yes, it is tiring for me and I really do wish she would go to other people easier, but I have come to realize that she has a sensitive baby temperament, and is slow to warm up to people. She will come to her own at her own pace. So I feel that I should cherish this stage. I mean, do you ever hear of teenagers who cling to and cry for their Mommies? I mean everything in the world to her, and it is so important to her to know that I will always be there for her.

These days are just so precious to see the little things that she does. Being there to help her discover the simplest pleasures in the world is so neat that my aching arms and back from carrying her, the high pitch screams & cries, the long hours and lack of sleep seem so trivial. I reflect on just what a miraculous transformation she is going through. And then I can't believe that I created, carried and gave birth to such a wonderful little piece of perfection, who is a little bit like me, and a little bit like Rich. And then you know that it is all worth it and you want these days to last forever.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Recycle absolutely anything 

I'm all about a green planet. Here is where you can recycle more stuff:

Wardrobe for Opportunity - up to date professional clothing and accessories for men and women, including suits, shoes, scarves, coats, umbrellas, jewelry, unused makeup, hosiery and hand bags, unopened hotel toiletry samples or athletic club handouts.

Crayons - crazycrayons.com

Staples - recycle more items than most office supply businesses, such as used cell phones, PDAs, pagers and ink/toner cartridges

Local Libraries including some universities - CDs, DVDs, recorded books, paperbacks, hardbacks, except textbooks, computer manuals or encyclopedias

Mailing Companies - UPS stores, Pack N Mailing Center or Postal Annex takes bubbles and peanuts

Lions Club - Used eyeglasses (reading and prescription), hearing aids and medical appliances for the physically impaired, such as crutches, walkers, wheelchairs and shower and potty chairs

Computer Renaissance - pays or gives store credit on newer models of computers

Alameda County Computer Resource Center
- all electronics

Berkeley Transfer Station - motor oil, oil filters, tires, mattresses, computer monitors, computer recycling, electronics, televisions

Community Conservation Center

Safe Kleen - batteries, fluorescent light bulbs etc.

East Bay Recycling Inc. - 2430 Willow Street, Oakland 510-419-0294 - accepts computers and computer peripherals

Back Thru the Future - send old CDs and DVDs to this electronics recycling and data destruction company

Hazardous Waste & Waste Management
- household hazardous waste and electronic waste, but this location doesn't accept computer monitors, TVs and electronic equipment

Central Contra Costa County Household Hazardous Waste Collection Facility - no charge for central county residents to dispose of paint, pesticides, batteries, small propane cylinders, motor oil, antifreeze, household cleaners and fluorescent tubes. 4797 Imhoff Place, Martinez

Animal Shelters - clean blankets, towels, toilet seat covers, small bath rugs, shoe boxes and toys that can be easily cleaned and reused

Contra Costa Transfer and Recovery Station - big stuff, i.e. mattresses, carpet padding, tires, computer monitors, television sets, electronic equipment, construction and demolition debris, drywall, furniture, wallboard, empty paint cans and appliances. Located at 951 Waterbird Way in Martinez (925) 313-8900 but there is a charge per item

Salvation Army - have them come and pick up everything that you want to donate

Monday, August 16, 2004

Donate your used cell phones 

Here are places in the Bay Area where you can drop off your used cell phone.

Oakland Zoo, 9777 Golf Link Drive, Oakland, CA 94605-4925; Collection bins for cell phones located at zoo entrances. For more information please contact Anne Warner at 510.632.9525, # 124

Take I-580 EAST towards HAYWARD/STOCKTON - go 7.0 mi
Take the 98TH AVENUE/GOLF LINKS RD exit - go 0.1 mi
Turn on GOLF LINKS RD - go 0.1 mi

Green Festival/Global Exchange, 2017 Mission St. No. 303, San Francisco CA 94110
Contact: Karri Winn, Phone: 415 - 255 - 9319

Good Shepherd Gracenter in San Francisco (use the 250 Amherst Street entrance)

St. Thomas More Church in San Francisco, 1300 Junipero Serra Blvd. at Brotherhood Way (church open all day)

Most Holy Redeemer Church in San Francisco, 100 Diamond Street

White Rose Boutique, 242 West Portal Avenue, San Francisco

J&C Supermarket, 820 Cortland Avenue, San Francisco

San Francisco State University Career Center

Realty Executive Vision, 1115 California Drive (off Broadway), Burlingame

Wildlife Rescue Inc., 4000 Middlefield Rd, Bldg V, Palo Alto, CA 94303; ph: 650-494-7926; contact Pat Adams; Lobby hours: 9:00-5:00, 7 days a week; Tax ID 510187649

Happy Hollow Park and Zoo in San Jose - cell phones and pagers

This Charitable Recycling site has more information.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

What do I call you? 

Chinese is complicated with all of the names you give relatives depending on your relationship with them. And the way you would say hello is to call them by their names so it is important to get this right. Here is how Isabella would call her relatives in Cantonese:

- father: a-yeh
- mother: a-ngan or a-ma
- older sister: goo-ma
- younger sister: goo-dzeh
- either sister's husband: goo-dzeng
- older brother: a-bac
- older brother's wife: a-moo
- younger brother: a-suk
- younger brother's wife: a-sum

- father: a-gung
- mother: a-paw
- older sister: yee-ma
- younger sister: yee-ma
- sister's husband: yee-jerng
- older brother: cow-foo
- younger brother: cow-foo
- brother's wife: cow-mo

but if there are multiples in your family, you would put their birth order in front of what you'd call them, i.e. William who is the 4th kid (note that it is not the #2 son) in my family would be "say cow-foo" or "say cow"

Mother's sibling's kids
- Older male cousin - biu gaw
- Younger male cousin - biu dai
- Older female cousin - biu dzeh
- Younger female cousin - biu mui

Father's sibling's kids
- Older male cousin - hong gaw
- Younger male cousin - hong dai
- Older female cousin - hong dzeh
- Younger female cousin - hong mui

If you want to greet someone not related to you, you would call them:
- Male: a-bac (bac-foo) but some people don't like this because they feel too old, so you can call them a-suk; but in Chinese, calling someone an older name is more honorable
- Female: older - Bac-mo; younger - biu dzeh

Thursday, August 05, 2004

We bought a new home! 

We bought a new home! Yay!! Our SIXTH offer is our winning one. It's an older house that's been updated with a loft-like feel - open, bright and airy. Escrow closes at the beginning of September, and the sellers are renting back for one month afterwards so we'll move in mid-October. I went picture crazy if you want to see more!

Sunday, August 01, 2004


You want to set up a 529 savings plans for your kid's college because they don't incur federal or state taxes on their earnings if used for educational purposes. Coverdells are similar, but you can only contribute $2,000/year, and 18 x $2K = $36K - what college will you be able to go to with that in 2022?

One of the financial advisors a colleague saw recommended investing in Utah's 529 program, not California's Scholarshare program. He said the management fees are lower and the returns are higher. The Scholarshare options are fairly limited at TIAA-CREF, whereas the Utah plan uses Vanguard index funds as its investment vehicle. The Utah plan links to a USA Today / Morningstar article that supports the argument.

The advisor further said that the law today allows educational withdrawals free of CA state tax, even from the Utah plan; alternatively, even if that law were to be changed, you can transfer money from one 529 plan to another without any hassles (e.g., right before the child goes to college). So there's no downside.

In addition, you can front-load the plans by contributing up to $110K per child in a single year without triggering gift tax (just need to file a form along with your tax return).

In terms of the $110K per child, you should probably write one check from you, one check from your husband just to keep it kosher. Also, if you do this, remember you and your husband should not to contribute until 5 years later. However, others who want to, such as grandparents, may.

If you end up with too much money in the account at college time, you can use the funds for your child's sibling, cousin, etc. If there are no siblings or cousins, do not overfund it.

Here are some sites I found useful:

Honor Roll of best 529 programs
Tips on 529s
Utah's Educational Savings Plan - Only charges .25% annually and supposedly the cheapest and best plan out there; uses Vanguard to manage trust
California Golden State CollegeShare - California only charges 0.80% management fee and you get tax advantages as a resident so seems like the way to go; TIAA-CREF manages the trust
CNN has this article that has confused me because it says that I don't get any tax deductions for living in California so does that mean Utah is better?