Category Archives: Memorable

LPFW FTW!

How was my weekend, you ask? Here’s your answer…

FYI: That picture is of KVSC's volunteer phone bank, not our team.

If only we had gotten 20 more points! Also, take a look at Google Your Own Adventure's points and place.

Fifth win for the team, second win for me but my first “real” win. I played remote my first year for a few hours, nothing serious but I helped. This is the first time I walked on the stage as a champion.

Sample questions (with answers in white; highlight the blank spaces). And yes, we got these all correct:

Q: Though he was voted the most ugly in the United Kingdom, this little boy married a diva. According to his website, 15 pounds was spent on his tux and his lovely bride wore a Michelle Ochs that costed over 1,000 pounds. First names of this couple.

A: Lola and Mugly (dogs)

Q: What is the title of the album featuring the Eleros Coffee Shop on the cover?

A: Cigars, Acapella, Candy (by The Belmonts)

Q: George Caldwell is in need of transportation. The car, turns out, to already have a passenger – one Grover T. Maldoon. George is in publishing. According to Grover, what is his profession?

A: Thief (from the movie “Silver Streak”)

Q: The 1973 Chevron Research Company release called Music Makers Guitar contains an insert instruction booklet. In this book, on page 2, are four points for discussion. Please give us the first and last name of the person mentioned in point 4.

A: Kathy Vaughn

Q: Larry Walker, during an April 24, 1994, baseball game, forgot there were only two outs after making a catch and presented the game ball to a fan. Please give us the name of the child who generously returned the ball so that the play could continue.

A: Sebastian Nappier

Q: This fictional big screen character is the seventh son of a seventh son and is preparing for a battle against evil. One of the jackets that he is shown wearing has a city and state on the back. What city and state is shown?

A: Santa Cruz, CA (I think this is from “The Seeker: The Dark is Rising”, but not 100% as I was asleep when this question was asked.)

Q: Will you be prepared when the zombies attack? Shawn and Ed weren’t. While hurling different household items at the zombies, a vinyl album shows promise as a possible weapon. Retrieving a record collection, the pair begin to find suitable projectiles. As discussed between Shawn and Ed, what are the names of the four records thrown at the zombies?

A: Sade, Second Coming, Dire Straits, The Batman soundtrack

Q: When we see characters Holden and Hooper walking among an oasis of music, no doubt you recognize some of the CDs on the wall in the background. What are the two titles of the albums we see between the numbers 12 and 14 in the background as they move through the store?

A: No Doubt, “Tragic Kingdom” and Oasis, “What’s the Story, Morning Glory?”

Q: As you are entering the village of Elba, a quaint little town near Batava, New York, you will read the welcome sign that gives the population. What does the sign say the population is?

A: “Just right”

QVisual Trivia #2: These glamour girls of the 1900 to 1909 decade were known as who? Note: this was one of four 250 point questions. If you can get this one, let’s talk :D

A: Floradora Sextet

If you found these questions fun and exciting and are interested in learning more about KVSC trivia, let me know. You need not be in Minnesota to participate. We have players all over the country.

We tied the all-time record for wins this year. Next year, let’s set the record!

Baby story, part 3: Birth

First scare

October came and Kellwin’s stamina went. She was exhausted after the wedding, but so was I and everyone else in the wedding party; we worked and played hard. But the burgeoning baby became burdensome thereafter. By mid-October, she was really starting to feel the pregnancy. Walking from her car to her work desk required a breather. Raiding was an endurance test that she often did not pass without ample breaks. Can’t blame her for getting fatigued while carrying a third trimester fetus.

After learning we needed to register with a pediatrician before the baby arrived, Kellwin and I arrange for late work arrivals in order to squeeze in an appointment with one. The pediatrician was friendly and matched our personality, no problems there. However, halfway through the meeting, Kellwin suddenly felt faint. The doctor had her lie down on the exam table and Kellwin felt much better. We shrugged, finished the meeting, and headed back to the car. On the way to the car, though, Kellwin had another near-fainting spell. We called her OB/GYN, and they said, “Get thee to the emergency room!” “But, uh—“ “EMERGENCY ROOM!”

Okay, so I added some emphasis. Point is, the nurse wanted Kellwin to go to the emergency room, that the situation was serious enough to warrant a day in the ER. We walk across the street to the ER and Kellwin gets checked in. A battery of tests and questions follow. Result? “Uh, shit happens when you’re pregnant.” The main concerns were high blood pressure, an indicator of preeclampsia, and blood clots. Her blood pressure started high, but lowered to normal after she calmed down. The blood clot test came back negative. Yay for nothing! We eschewed work and relaxed at home for the rest of the day. Twas our first scare of the pregnancy, but not the last.

Pre-e

November 3rd was an anticipated day as it was an ultrasound day. With the baby due in early December, the baby would be very visible. Exciting! Kellwin had her vitals taken, blood drawn, and urine sampled before being gelled up by the sonographer. Soon-to-baby pics! Yay! Baby looked healthy, off to doc consult and then back to work.

The OB/GYN doc came in frowning: the supposedly routine tests returned non-routine results. Elevated blood pressure + higher than normal urine protein levels = Preeclampsia.

What is preeclampsia? Wikipedia and the National Library of Medicine have extended answers. TL;DR version: Preeclampsia is serious medical condition wherein the mother’s body rejects the fetus, preventing full placental adhesion to the uterus. Because the placenta is not properly attached to the uterus, the mother’s body must work harder to get nutrients (i.e. blood) to the fetus. This additional stress (above what a normal pregnancy has) increases as the fetus grows: baby gets bigger, so it needs more nutrients, so the mother’s body works even harder to provide, thus the increased blood pressure. At the same time, the mother’s body fights the fetus as it believes it to be an intruder. The fetus grows, which forces the mother’s body to increase its immune response, which stresses the mother even more, thus the increased urine protein levels. If left untreated, the baby and the mother could die. The only cure is to remove the baby, either through birth or abortion. Preeclampsia, which is bad, is the precursor to eclampsia, which is exceedingly bad.

As much as the diagnosis freaked us out, we knew there was nothing we could do other than having the baby and there was nothing we could have done to prevent this. Preeclampsia is common (though still serious), so the doctor wasn’t panicky, just focused and concerned. She said we would “limp” Kellwin along (her exact phrase) as long as we could, hopefully to 37 weeks. Bedrest was not ordered, but reduced activity and plenty of rest was. We looked at the chart and realized 37 weeks was the 10th, a week away. The doctor wasn’t panicking, but we were: “We’re going to be parents in one week?! /KERMITFLAIL!” Due to the doctor’s schedule, we scheduled the induction for Tuesday, November 8th, with delivery on the 9th; Eleanor would be the latest late-term preemie ever. Then we /kermitflailed some more.

The last weekend of our youth

Luckily, we were nearly prepared stuff-wise for the baby. A few sundries and toiletries picked up on a frantic Target and Babies ‘R’ Us shopping spree, last-minute furniture organization, and we were ready for the baby.

Preparing the baby’s accoutrement was easy, preparing ourselves was not. We thought we had another three weeks before facing the transition from extended child-like adulthood to parenthood. We had planned to use November to make the transition: stop raiding on the 6th, my dad’s arrival on the 10th, mom’s on the 15th, Thanksgiving on the 24th, baby on December 1st or thereabouts. We thought we would enjoy the 5th and 6th, the last weekend of our youth. Go to the movies, have one last epic WoW adventure, goof off as we always had, stay up late, sleep in, a final toast to the many years of fun and frivolity before turning our minds towards the adventures of parenting.

Instead, we finalized our preparations on the 5th and sat around on the 6th. Our last raid was the 6th, the last day we played WoW. Raid was successful—first H-Majordomo kill, woot—but bittersweet. Very sad to say goodbye to everyone, to an activity that had brought me and Kellwin joy and fun for so long.

We knew we would face the transition eventually. We just didn’t expect to face it so soon.

And note the dates of my parents’s arrivals. They had planned to arrive a couple weeks in advance because due dates are best guesses. They did not plan nor could they have planned for Eleanor’s very early arrival. So unfortunately, they missed the birth of their first grandchild. Dad arrived a day late, mom was five days behind. Oh, and before anyone asks, “Why didn’t they change their flights?”: because they live in Australia, and airlines don’t like people changing their itineraries.

Birth

Dogs with in-laws, house prepped, bags packed, family readied, call list in iPhone, paperwork signed, it’s go time, let’s do this.

We arrived at the hospital at about 5pm on the 8th for our scheduled induction. We wanted a natural birth, but were not opposed to a C-section if circumstances warranted it. The induction process takes a while—about 9-12 hours depending on how quickly the cervix responds and dilates—so the nurse crammed the vaginal suppository into Kellwin (which is as pleasant as it sounds), and we settled in to the delivery room and prepare for a long, mostly quiet night.

Funny story: Shift change for the nurses happen at 11pm, 7am, and 3pm. I went to sleep at about 10pm after meeting one nurse. Then I was awoken by two blonde, attractive, twenty-somethings in the middle of the night. They were doing something to my wife. I must have grunted something because they turned and said, “Oh, he’s awake. Hi, we’re the night nurses.” I must have grunted something else because I turned and went back to sleep. I still don’t know if they were actually nurses or figments of my imagination as I didn’t see them again.

Kellwin’s contractions started around midnight and were menstrual cramp-y, slowly increasing in intensity. The final induction dose was administered at 7am. Due to funky drug interactions, my wife could not receive an epidural for four hours after the last dose, so 11am, the anesthesiologist would be in the room. Lesser drugs were available, but we wanted no pain. My mother-in-law arrived just before 8am to help; the rest of Kellwin’s family was working, but on baby alert.

By 9am, though, the contractions were fairly severe, more so than they should have been at this stage. Being first-time parents, we weren’t sure if the severity of the contractions was normal and Kellwin was just being a wuss (she doesn’t have the highest of pain tolerances, and those are her words), or if something was wrong. The nurse came in and attached a heart monitor to the baby directly (one had been on Kell’s belly the whole night; this was more accurate.) While attaching the monitor, she inadvertently broke Kellwin’s bag of waters (aka the nurse broke her water.) A shock to me who had never seen someone’s water break before, but the nurse took it in stride.

What the nurse did not take in stride was the baby’s falling heart rate. Kell’s contractions continued to increase in severity, and the baby’s heart rate dropped with each contraction. Suddenly, one nurse became two, two became four and a doctor, four and a doctor became an operating team. I was handed scrubs, Kellwin was wheeled to the operating room, and I followed. I wasn’t allowed into the operating room as Kellwin was given a general anesthetic; she was knocked out rather than numbed from the waist down.

Watching my wife suffer in agony for two hours then not being at her side as the doctors whisk her and our unborn first child into the operating room was one of the low points of my life, especially the ten minutes of waiting outside the operating room not knowing what happened to my wife and if the baby was okay. The nurses were very experienced in the fine art of handling emotional wrecks of soon-to-be fathers. Without them, I’m not sure if I would have survived that excruciating wait.

A nurse appears from the operating room: mom and baby girl are fine, baby is five pounds, six ounces. Girl will be out in a few minutes, mom needs to be stitched up. Relief, to be sure, but still nervous, anxious.

A short time later came one of the highest points of my life: holding my baby girl for the first time.

In the movie “City Slickers”, Mitch, Ed, and Phil are riding along, shootin’ the breeze. Ed asks, “What was your best day? And the day your kids were born doesn’t count.” While the day as a whole was a roller coaster of emotions, holding one’s first child for the first time is a feeling unlike any other. Indescribable. It may not have been the stereotypical moment—just me, a couple nurses, and Eleanor in a post-op room—but the setting mattered not. A glorious, treasured moment.

In the rush to the operating room, I had forgotten my iPhone, so the nurse grabbed a disposable camera (because I was neither the first nor last to forget a camera in that situation) and snapped me and Eleanor in that wondrous moment. Another nurse found my iPhone, which prompted this pic…

I, too, was pissed at the world five minutes after being removed from my mom

I carried her into the NICU. The nurses cooed as they checked her. She responded by peeing on the warmer. Good girl. Seeing as how she was in good (and wet) hands, I tried to find out how my wife was doing. The nurse who handed Eleanor to me said Kellwin was doing well. But what is “well”? How could she be well when she was just put under and sliced open? Why did she need an emergency c-section in the first place? I had questions, I needed answers. But all I could get from the nurses was that she was still in the operating room being stitched up and from there, she would go down to the PICU. Bah. So I started calling and texting. I figured my mother would want to be woken up at 2am to know that her first grandchild was out of the womb; international mobile calling plan ftw.

One person I didn’t text or call was my mother-in-law, Pam. An unintentional miss. She was in the room as her daughter suffered through the last couple hours of contractions and as she was wheeled into the operating room. However, due to medical information privacy laws and hospital regulations, Pam was prohibited from following her daughter nor was she able to find any information on her daughter’s or grandchild’s status (a nurse cited legal prohibitions on telling family and friends of a patient’s status.) Because she did not have a cell phone capable of multi-person texting, she was not privy to the texting conversation I had with the rest of the family, who were on their way to the hospital (Pam works 10 minutes from the hospital and took a half day to be with her daughter.) And, because the nurses needed to turn the room over, she got booted from the delivery room shortly after Kellwin went to the cutting board. Poor Pam sat alone, uninformed, and scared in the waiting room. Yeah, it was not a good few minutes for my mother-in-law.

At 11:30, I met up with everyone in the waiting room. We still didn’t know Kellwin’s status, only that she was in the PICU. A few minutes later, the doctor came by. She explained what happened.

TL;DR = Partial placental abruption

Full version = In preeclampsia, the placenta does not fully (as in, solidly) attach to the uterus. One complication is the placenta separating from the uterus. This is called a placental abruption, which is a medical emergency. As in, high risk of the baby and/or mother dying. As in, if you’re not at the hospital already, badness. So, ya, good thing we were already at the hospital.

Around noon, I was allowed to see my wife and show her the beautiful little girl for whom she had suffered so much; yay for iPhones. She was still in a great deal of pain, but she was well enough to smile through the hurt the nurse was dosing. I went upstairs, had some lunch, gathered our belongings, and settled into our maternity ward room just as Kellwin and Eleanor were wheeled in.

Afterbirth

Now the hard part.

The next few days all blurred together. I’ve pulled all-nighters before, but I’ve never pulled consecutive all-nighters like I did at the hospital. I’ve also never had a 3-hour, repeating schedule: 1 hour on baby, 2 hours for everything else, repeat.

And there was so much else: helping mom recover, handling paperwork, managing relatives, coordinating with the nurses and doctors, maintaining our own hygiene, and, of course, trying to sleep enough to be lucid and coherent to handle the insanity. Ugh. I’m sure we did more, but lack of sleep ruins memories.

An aside: Aside from my own birth, I had never been admitted to a hospital (and technically, I still haven’t: my wife and child were the patients), so I was unaccustomed to how a hospital operates. Between the constant in-and-out of family, friends, nurses, doctors, aids, consultants, vampires, food deliverers, cleaning ladies, and more, our lives were not our own. We had a general schedule that nobody but us cared about. We wrote it down on the whiteboard—next feeding at x, next drugs at y—but oh aren’t the new parents so cute and naïve to think that they might control their lives? Ha ha. At least friends and family listened to our requests. Hospital staff did things on their clock even if that meant Kellwin didn’t get her pain meds on time. Nice. I bitch, but the hospital staff was very good to us. The constant intrusions that ruined any semblance of a schedule were another layer of stress on top of an already stressful situation.

TIP! If your hospital offers post-birth mom and dad massages, buy them. Money well spent. Thank you, Curt and Pam!

Our biggest hurdle was feeding. Being a late-term preemie, Eleanor was more tired than and not as strong as a full-term baby. She still had baking to do, but the oven couldn’t handle the stress. She wasn’t capable of breastfeeding right away: she latched, but her little jaw muscles couldn’t suckle. When she wasn’t getting the food she needed, we used other methods. We wanted her to get breast milk, so Kellwin pumped whether Eleanor suckled or not. First was eyedropper: when your stomach can hold less than 10 milliliters, a few drops are a meal. As she grew and started latching more, we used a flexible pipette inside a nipple shield to help her practice suckling while delivering the milk she needed. Even if it wasn’t coming directly from the breast, piping in milk while she tried to suckle helped to get her to realize that “breast = food”. When that wasn’t as successful as we hoped, I taped the pipette to my finger and let her nosh on it until she downed the bottle. Sure, formula from a bottle would have been easier—and we did supplement with formula when Eleanor’s hunger outstripped Kellwin’s production—but we wanted her to breastfeed, or, if that didn’t work, eat pumped breast milk.

Regardless of the method, feedings took about an hour. Being a tired little girl meant that Kellwin and I had to wake her up to feed. I know, I know: let sleeping babies lie. But when sleeping babies lose too much weight because they’re not eating enough, doctors order us to wake them. Babies can lose up to 10% of their birth weight before doctors intervene. After three days, Eleanor had lost 9.5%, which led to the worst night of the stay…

SETTING: Kellwin and Lyraat’s hospital room, 12:30AM
MOOD: Sleepy, anticipatory.

Nurse: Knock, knock.
Kellwin: (tucked into bed) Come in.
Nurse: Well, I have some bad news. (Kell and Lyr bolt upright) She lost another 4.5%. You need to feed her every two hours.
Kellwin: Every two hours?
Nurse: Yes.
Lyraat: So we have to feed her every two hours. It takes an hour to wake her up and feed her, which means we have one hour to sleep.
Nurse: Yes.
(Kellwin and Lyraat die a little inside)
Lyraat: She ate at 11pm, so…
Kellwin: Next feeding is in half an hour.
Nurse: I’ll be back in a bit. Good night!

By the way, for non-parents, the feeding clock begins when you start feeding. So if Eleanor eats at noon and is on a 3-hour cycle, her next feeding is at 3pm regardless of how long her meal lasted.

It really was as bad as it sounds. We’re already stressed, fatigued, and anxious, particularly about the feeding. To be told we needed to up our feeding game when we’re constantly fretting about feeding was bad enough. Telling this to us at half past midnight made it even worse. Ugh. We did as instructed and we got her weight up. She left a couple ounces below her birth weight, and she reached her birth weight on the 14th (the following Monday.) The nurse could have had much worse news for us. So for this to be our low point, I guess we came out just fine.

Funny story: Friday the 11th was particularly interesting. The nurses and staff were quite hurried all day. I asked if they were busier given the cool date (11-11-2011 or 11-11-11 for those who skipped that day). “Uh, ya.” Apparently, they ran out of rooms on the maternity ward floor, so they had to send families back up to the birthing floor. And most of the deliveries were planned c-sections. One family even requested the baby be delivered at 11:11am (11:11, 11-11-11). When we first found out we would be induced, I thought that we might want to try for an 11-11-11 baby. Seeing as how so many other people thought that, too, I’m glad Eleanor was not born on the 11th. My mother-in-law also was pleased she wasn’t born on the 11th as her birthday is the 11th and “Eleanor wouldn’t want to have the same birthday as her grandma!”

Our checkout day, Sunday, was exciting. After Eleanor’s pediatrician and Kellwin’s ob/gyn gave their respective approvals, the nurses filed the appropriate paperwork, and we packed our stuff, Eleanor breathed fresh air for the first time. Twas so invigorating she slept right through it. Same with her first car ride and walking into her home for the first time. Fine by us as we needed the quiet. After five days of hospital life, we were happy to be alone in our house, able to fully enjoy our gift to ourselves.

Funny story: Kellwin’s ob/gyn frowned as she inspected Kellwin’s stitches.

Doctor: I’m sorry.
Kellwin: …For?
Dr: Your stitches.
Kell: What’s wrong? I thought they were healing.
Dr: Oh, they are. Your incision is healing quite nicely.
Kell: So what’s the problem?
Dr: Well, in my rush, I didn’t center the incision, so the scar is going to be off center. I’m sorry.
Kell: …
Dr: A little plastic surgery can correct that if it’s upsetting.
Kell: …
Dr: I just—
Kell: Is the baby okay? Is it healing? Yes and yes? Ya, I don’t care about the scar. Primary mission objectives completed. Don’t worry about it. I won’t.

I appreciate the doctor’s perfectionist streak, and I know there are people who would be furious to have an off center scar. But baby and mom came out of the operating room healthy, that’s all we care about.

Speaking of car seats, the hospital will not release a newborn without inspecting the car seat first. We brought our car seat in and the nurses tightened the straps to ensure a safe and snug ride for Eleanor. And by “snug”, I mean, “suffocating”. The nurses seemed to be of the opinion that the slight chance of injury due to a car accident outweighed the certainty of death by oxygen deprivation. And thank goodness Eleanor’s arm bones have not calcified as otherwise we would have had to break her little arms to get her in. At least we knew she was safe.

When I reflect upon our time at the hospital, I felt like so much happened, but I can’t remember much of it. Maybe that’s because not much happened, but what did happen happened a lot. Lots of feeding, pumping, wishing for more sleep, doctors, nurses, family, hospital food, expenses, tests, check ups, medications…Lots of those things, almost nothing of anything else. Felt like boot camp for new parents. That’s a good thing: a safe yet tough environment that allowed us to transition into our new life. Just what we needed.

Review: Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Review

[Note: I'll try to avoid plot spoilers, but don't hate me if there are some.]

First, let me say that Skyrim is not WoW. In fact, the Elder Scrolls series is about as far as one could get from WoW while still being a RPG videogame. Single player v. MMO. Exploration-based v. gameplay/mechanics-based. Generalist characters v. specialist characters. I might refer to WoW, but only so WoW peeps have a frame of reference. These are different games, both legendary and funtastic in their own right. Liking one does not mean you cannot like the other, but don’t feel like you must like one if you like the other.

Whereas Oblivion was Morrowind part 2, Skyrim is a completely new game. Skyrim retains the same focus on exploration, even more so than the condensed, generic map that was Oblivion, and far more gorgeous than the expansive yet bleak and dirty Vvardenfell. However, each Elder Scrolls game can be played and fully enjoyed without having played the previous games in the series. You might miss small bits of lore, but not having scaled Red Mountain or closed shut the doors of Oblivion will not impact your Dovahkiin experience.

Like previous Elder Scrolls incarnations, you begin life imprisoned for never-revealed crimes. The intro sequence thrusts you into the main plot while simultaneously acquainting you with the basics of the game. Once completed, Skyrim is your oyster.

Plot summary in one word: Dragons.

Plot summary in two words: Dragon killer.

Plot summary in enough words to be coherent: Dragons have returned to Skyrim, gone since ancient times. You are Dovahkiin, the Dragonborn, a fabled person capable of stealing the souls of dragons, which prevents them from being resurrected. You also have the ability to learn shouts, which have various effects including knocking opponents down and fire breathing. You can complete the main plot, some of it, or none.

But that’s just the tip of the main plot, which is one of many plots within Skyrim. There are guilds and factions to join, each with their own involved and intriguing stories. You can join them all, some, or none. And there are hundreds of side quests, some must be found, some are thrust upon you. You can do them…oh nevermind. You get the idea.

Like all RPGs, there’s a leveling system, which has been overhauled. The philosophy remains the same: you level what you do. However, the execution is much better in Skryim than in Oblivion or Morrowind. No more gaming the leveling system. There are 18 skills, each of which can be leveled to 100. To level a skill, you can train (book, trainer, or quest) or, the usual way, using that skill. Each time you level a skill, you get a notch towards your overall level. Once you have met the required number of notches, you ding, which grants you a boost to either magicka, health, or stamina, and awards a perk point.

Perks are Skyrim’s version of talent trees. Previously, leveling a skill made you more successful when using those skills: attacks became more powerful, crit more often, and missed less often. But that was it. No other rewards for leveling a skill. The perk system allows you to improve skills. Unlike WoW talent trees, you can improve any skill whether you use it or not (with some restrictions, namely “must be of skill level X to access this perk”.) This flexibility encourages players to try new skills. For example, I leveled Pickpocketing because of the Deep Pockets perk. I never leveled Pickpocketing in Oblivion and Morrowind because patience was not a virtual virtue of mine. Here, though, I had a reason to try it, and I found I really liked stripping people of their items while they wore them. That, and I never had an item that gave me +25% Pickpocketing success before. Like WoW talent trees, some perks are awesome (“Stagger when dual casting Fire spells? Done!”) and some are fail (“Prices are 10% better with the opposite sex? Who cares?”) Overall, the perk system greatly improves the game.

Gameplay is improved via the favorites system. On the 360, hit the d-pad and up pops a menu with your favorite spells and items for quick equipping. No more opening the full menu to find the sword with Soul Trap on it. Up, select sword (left- or right-hand equip), back to the action.

Combat mechanics remain much the same. Swordplay is a bit more user-involved than in Oblivion, but hacking and slashing like a spirit-stacking warrior will get the job done. Spells function like before though they seem slower. Might just be my memory. Sneaking is much improved: no more instant and permanent discovery unless you’re at or above lvl 75 Sneak. There’s more of a continuum, a scale of hiddenness. When you’re discovered, you’re discovered, but you actually have a chance at not being discovered instantly upon entering an area unless you’re a master of Sneak.

The addition of shouts is a positive change as it gives players fun, unique cooldowns. We have powers, but they’re on a 24-hour cooldown; waiting a day (game time) after every fight is annoying. Shouts also reinforce that we’re special. Oh sure, everyone calls us Dragonborn or Dovahkiin and we vacuum dragon souls, but shouts make us awesome. Morrowind and Oblivion didn’t have any mechanics that made us feel like the unique butterflies we are; Patrick Stewart tried, but for all we knew, he was thinking of Marina Sirtis when he told us we were the one from his dreams.

Another improvement is the killing blow animations. I was surprised the first time my character—a sneaky mage who uses one-handed weapons as back ups—struck a killing blow. In Oblivion and Morrowind, the only time the camera switched to third-person was to show the opponent’s killing blow on you. In Skyrim, you get to see your death as well as your enemy’s. My favorite was when I hopped on a dragon’s neck and bashed his face in with my Molag Bol. Awesome.

The character information screens could use some help. Equipping weapons and spells is faster, but the inventory system is painful, a major downgrade from Oblivion. As bad as it is for my character, the inventory system is particularly terrible when I store stuff in cupboards and chests in my house. Whereas other inventories have categories (weapons, armor, potions, books, etc), my home storage containers do not. Tis a pain in the ass finding the one item I need among the 100+ items in my cupboard. Almost feels like Bethesda either didn’t care about character storage or couldn’t code it in time for release.

Not being able to make arrows is annoying, but there are ways around that

I play on the 360. I played Morrowind on the XBOX. I bought my 360 so I could play Oblivion as the computer I had back then could not handle Oblivion. Although I miss the additional functionality that the PC version offers, playing on the 360 means I get to play it on my high-def TV. Boo ya. Being in the living room means I can help with the baby instead of being sequestered in the computer room; marital harmony ftw. Also, controller trumps mouse.

And yes, there are bugs. Some are minor annoyances that require reloading the previous save, some are funny (I’ve seen mammoths fly), some prevent you from completing quests. They’re an unfortunate “feature” of all video games, open-world games in particular. If you cannot handle bugs, if you can’t stand such breaking of the fourth wall, then stop playing video games perhaps Skyrim isn’t for you. If you still want to play it, get the PC version as the PC’s console function will allow you to fix or bypass many problems and updates from Bethesda are more easily downloaded. If it’s any consolation (no pun intended), Skyrim has a fraction of the bugs that Oblivion had, which had a fraction of the bugs Morrowind have (God bless that gloriously buggy game.)

My character is a sneaky Dark Elf destruction mage who loves blacksmithing so much, he married a blacksmith. My playstyle is basic: sneak attack openers, fireballs for closers, make weapons and steal all the things when not tromping through dungeons. I haven’t made any alts yet as I’ve been working on achievements, namely the lvl 50 achievement. I’ve completed the main quest, am grand master of the Thieves Guild and arch-mage of the College of Winterhold. I helped the Stormcloaks conquer Skyrim (because fuck Altmeri.) I started the Companions quest chain, but stopped. I haven’t started the Dark Brotherhood quest chain. I’m saving both the Companions and Dark Brotherhood stories for my next character. I have bought houses in Whiterun, Riften, Markath, and Solitude. The house in Windhelm would be mine, but I can’t ever seem to find the guards required to start the chain. I’ve got some Draedric items, but I’m saving most of those stories for my alt; achievements ftw.

Do

  • Explore. Wander off the path. Pick a direction and start walking.
  • Stop and smell the roses…er, red mountain flowers.
  • Enjoy the beautiful vistas.
  • Save early, save often.
  • Play the main quest line through on your first character. It will take you to the far corners of the map, and is a lot of fun.
  • Turn on subtitles and read the quest texts.
  • Read the in-game books.
  • Empty bags regularly.
  • Pick up items that have high value/weight ratios.
  • Do the Whiterun quests and buy a house. It’s the cheapest house in the game (5000 gold) and it’s good to have a place to dump all your stuff.
  • Get married. Some spouses are better than others, but marry who you want.
  • Use a perk calculator.
  • Take Smithing and Pickpocketing for quick levels
  • Join the giants’ space program
  • Level a combat skill to 100. Fire Storm ftw.
  • Level a profession skill to 100. Dragonscale armor ftw.
  • Join a faction and become its leader.
  • Find a powerful item and modify your playstyle around it.
  • Pick every lock.
  • Go on a murderous rampage then reload from your last, pre-rampage save.
  • Kite a dragon to a town and let the guards kill it.
  • Or better yet, kite a dragon to a giant encampment for some giant+mammoth v. dragon action.
  • Practice Archery on the birds flying above Solitude.
  • Find all the Stones of Barenziah (I’m up to 8/24)
  • Become a werewolf.
  • Become a vampire.
  • Shout someone to death.
  • Conquer Skyrim for the Empire.
  • Reclaim Skyrim for all true Nords.
  • Activate a useful Guardian Stone, such as the Steed Stone. (Thanks, Jay!)

Don’t

  • Try to game the leveling system because you can’t. This isn’t Morrowind or Oblivion.
  • Fast travel everywhere. At least not at the beginning. Skyrim begs to be explored. Fast travel is the antithesis of exploration.
  • Fret over crashes and bugs. Accept them and move on with life.
  • Min/max. This isn’t a gameplay-driven game. Find an enjoyable playstyle and go with it.
  • Do everything on one character. Save quests for alts.
  • Kill everyone. Murder leads to the Dark Brotherhood, sure, but wanton slaughter leads to quests that cannot be completed.
  • Buy a horse. Save your money.
  • Use the Elder Scrolls wiki as a crutch. Try to complete as much as possible on your own.
  • Feel bad using the Elder Scrolls wiki when you come across a bug or tedious quest. Search underwater for a small treasure chest with only vague clues to guide me? Yeah, I’ll let someone else with more free time than me find that.
  • Avoid Skyrim because you haven’t played Morrowind or Oblivion. The series is connected, but not nearly as much as other RPG series. They are more stand alone games that share common themes, but missing a game does not put you out of the loop. So you may miss out on some of the depth of the Dwemer storyline. No big loss. Read the Elder Scrolls wiki to get up to speed.

Handy perks

These are utility perks that most characters can use. Some have prerequisite perks, but none require leveling the skill past 50.

  • Unhindered (Light Armor) = Lighten your load means you can carry more and you don’t get fatigued as quickly.
  • Extra Pockets (Pickpocketing) = Increase carrying capacity by 100? Yes please.
  • Haggling, Merchant, Bribery, and Persuasion (Speech) = Haggling and Merchant equal more money, Bribery and Persuasion allow you to keep that money or at least your freedom.
  • Cushioned (Heavy Armor) = Great for the occasional misstep.
  • Quick Reflexes (Block) = I haven’t tested this myself, but a slow-time effect while blocking would be handy even if you’re a caster.
  • Magic Resistance (Alteration) = Takes the edge off those nasty fireballs.
  • Recovery, Regeneration, and Respite (Restoration) = Heal stamina and health simultaneously? Faster magicka regen? More healing? Yes, yes, and more yes.
  • Impact, Intense Flames (Destruction) = Impact, which staggers enemies when you hit them with a dual-cast Destruction spell, is the sweeter of the two. Intense Flames only works with fire spells.
  • Stealth (Sneak) = 20% harder to detect while sneaking is quite nice especially on Thieves Guild quests (Thanks, Jay!)
  • Eagle Eye (Archery) = Also good for scouting, surveilliance, and spying (Thanks, Jay!)

Baby story, part 2: Pregnancy

Our background

Kellwin and I married in March 2001. She had just graduated college, I had half a semester left. We wanted children, but not immediately. So we practiced safely. After a few years, we were in a better position to start a family, so we changed from practicing to trying. After a couple years of trying unsuccessfully and not caring, we started trying with a purpose. More trying, medical consultations, and diligence resulted in a 10-year anniversary present to ourselves.

Eleanor is a lucky girl. She’s the first grandchild for both sets of grandparents; yay for doting. I am an only child, so my parents dote on her with full intensity. They also bore down on me to provide grandchildren, but that’s beside the point. Now that I think of it, she’s the first born of the first born of the first born of the first born: my dad’s mom is the first and only, my dad is the first of three, I’m a first and only, and she’s my first. Oh, and my mom is a first born, too. Kellwin is the youngest of two; her older brother does not have kids yet, but he and his wife are working on them.

How we found out

My wife bought a GroupOn for a therapuetic massage in March. However, she decided to pass on it and gave it to me. The Thursday prior, Kellwin texts me that this round of trying was unsuccessful; “Negative. It didn’t go in. Just impacted on the surface.”

So on the Tuesday in question, I arrive at the therapeutic massage spa place thingy about 15 minutes early. I wait in the car, listening to music, when my phone rings. It’s my wife.

Kellwin: (Panicked) Oh my God, Lyr!
Lyraat: (Thinking to himself) Fuck. What’s wrong? Car accident? Dog died? Family member in the hospital? Time to nut up. (To wife) What’s wrong?
Kell: Sowe’regoingtotriviatonightandbeforeIstarteddrinkingIjustwantedtomakesurethatthismonthwasanogosoItookatestanditcameoutblue!!!
Lyr: Err…
Kell: We’re pregnant!
Lyr: (Dumbfounded)
Kell: Say something!
Lyr: (Dumbfounded)
Kell: (Excited, starting to get annoyed with husband)
Lyr: …Wait, um.
Kell: We’re going to have a baby!
Lyr: But…I thought…
Kell: Oopsie!
Lyr: Good thing you checked before our bi-weekly boozefest with a side of trivia.

We decided to beg out of trivia (“Bro-in-law, we’re skipping trivia tonight.” “Aww. Something wrong?” “Er, everything’s fine, situation normal!”), but, because the GroupOn massage was prepaid and the spa would not reschedule a GroupOn, I would get my rub down. Still in shock and attempting to process this life-changing info, I walked into the spa and tried to enjoy the massage. The very attractive masseuse was very skilled, yet although the massage was excellent, I could not relax. “I’m going to be a dad…I’m going to be a dad?…I’m going to be a dad!…Dad, daddy, father, which one suits me best?…” Such questions preoccupied my mind, preventing me from fully succumbing to the gloriousness that is a great massage.

At the end of the massage, I’m physically a giant blob of freshly-rubbed jelly, but mentally I’m still trying to adjust to the life-altering news I received an hour ago. Happy, confused, relaxed, tense, restful, restless, I felt myself contradicting myself. I rarely feel vulnerable; this was one of those times. The very attractive masseuse picked this exact moment to lean over my limp body and whisper, “Do you know what the secret of this place is…?”

What I thought: Holy shit woman! First, I’m married, very happily so. If I was single, this conversation would be different. But I distinctly remember saying “my wife” multiple times, and “my wife bought this massage for me” at least once. Oh, and the ring on my finger is not just for looks. I’m a good husband. Second, I just—JUST—found out that I am going to be a father. I’m still processing that not insubstantial bit of LIFE-CHANGING info. Screwing with my mind is not wanted right now. Maybe at another massage session I will be more open to mind games, but not right now. Third, I thought this was a therapeutic massage spa, not a sleazy “therapeutic” massage parlor. Fourth, could you move away from my midsection? Hovering over the one clothed area of my body after asking that question makes me nervous. Fifth…Tempt me not, skilled and attractive masseuse. I LOVE MY WIFE!

What I said: “Uh…”

What she said: “The doorknobs. They don’t work. You just push the doors open. Go ahead and get dressed. I’ll wait outside.”

The pregnancy

Physically, the pregnancy was uneventful. Kellwin did not have morning sickness at all. A little queasiness every so often and heartburn in the third trimester (“Hmm. Heartburn again. Best cure for such a burn? Ice cream!”), but no oral donations to the porcelain goddess. She was healthy until the end (see next post.) The most frustrating problem for Kellwin was how little she showed. Even in her eighth month, people said she did not look pregnant. She looked pregnant to friends and family, who knew what she looked like prior. Strangers didn’t see the baby bump, I guess.

We did not tell anyone for six weeks, and then we only told our parents and bro- and (not yet) sis-in-law. My parents kind of guessed after I requested a Skype session with them. We talk about once a week on the phone, but we hadn’t Skyped in over 18 months. For me to request a Skype session was more than a little foreshadowing. Still, they were overjoyed to hear the news. We took our in-laws to dinner to tell them. My mother-in-law squeed and my father-in-law would periodically stop and chuckle to himself.

Funny story: The most difficult instance of keeping our most glorious secret ever was a couple weeks after we found out. We met Kellwin’s family for lunch at a local Mexican restaurant. Before the pregnancy, Kellwin would indulge in a drink or two when we went out with friends; social drinking ftw. My sis- and mother-in-law had margaritas, but Kellwin abstained. “I’m not feeling up for alcohol today.” She got some curious looks, but no one suspected anything.

I missed the first ultrasound (work sucks), but saw plenty of pictures and movies (yay technology.) While the procedure is rather boring as far as medical procedures go, the results are the most exciting and anticipated of all procedures. Six weeks’ bake time and the bun is barely starting to form. Even at max magnification, she was little more than a tiny white blob. Yet she had a heartbeat and was visible on the screen. That was enough to stop our hearts.

Funny story: In early March, Kellwin signed up for a zumba class at our gym. Her trainer was also the class instructor. She attended a couple classes before conception and one more afterwards. As zumba is a very vigorous activity, doctors suggest that pregnant women avoid it. Kellwin was a bit unhappy as she enjoyed the classes, and she had paid for a full 10-week session but would only get three classes out of it. So she went to her trainer…

Kellwin: Hey, Shelly. I have some bad news: I have to drop out of the zumba classes.
Shelly: (thinking then light bulb) Oh my God! You’re pregnant! Congratulations!
Kellwin and Lyraat: (dumbfounded)
Kellwin: How…?
Lyraat: Are you psychic?

Shelly found out before any one else that we were having a baby, but she deduced it. How? Kellwin had told her that we were working on kids and that she was excited about the zumba class. So what would make Kellwin drop out of the class? Only something that would prevent her from taking the class, such as a baby. We were amazed.

Restrictions

I was surprised by all the restrictions imposed on my wife during the pregnancy. Oh sure, no alcohol and heavy lifting, but there are a lot more than that. Below is a non-comprehensive list of restricted items. There are so many, I’m sure I’m missing some. And because I don’t like being sued, these are recommendations given to us by my wife’s doctor. Consult your doctor when making medical decisions.

Food

  • Alcohol: I was the Alcohol Nazi. No booze for you! This only became frustrating when Kellwin went to her sister-in-law’s bachelorette party. She planned, funded, and organized the extravaganza, but could not partake in all the frivolities. She had fun, but would have liked to have had a drink or three with her friends.
  • Raw and undercooked food: Kellwin loves her sushi. But raw food, especially raw meat, is verboten. If the food is contaminated (listeria being the major bad bug), the mother may experience mild intestinal discomfort. The fetus, however, may die. So Kellwin abstained from sushi for nine months. She even avoided it when we went to this great Asian buffet by her parents house. Undercooked food, such as medium rare steaks, are also verboten. Well done steaks make Kellwin sad, so no steaks for preggers Kellwin.
  • Fish: Due to mercury, some types of fish are off the pregnancy menu. Shark, marlin, and, most notably for Americans, tuna are all way too high in mercury for expectant mothers or hardcore sushi-loving actors. Can’t even eat tuna, the only food better canned than fresh.
  • Processed, preserved meats: Two issues here. First, listeria. If improperly handled, processed meat may become contaminated. Any food can become contaminated, yes, but bacteria love meat. Second, nitrates. Most cured meat products contain nitrates, a preservative which kills botulism. For the fetus and newborn, however, nitrates can cause developmental problems and “blue baby syndrome”. So off the pregnancy menu came bacon, lunch meat, sausage, ham, hot dogs, prosciutto, smoked turkey legs, lox. Kellwin craves Von Hanson’s old fashioned, skin-on hot dogs during the summer. Her doctor said she could have her hot dogs provided that she eat them with an acidic beverage (orange juice, e.g.) because the acid in the beverage counteracts the nitrates. Can’t have it everyday, but once in while isn’t terrible. Still, this was the most troublesome restriction. She ordered salads that had bacon bits on them, sandwiches were out, the state fair foods almost made her cry (thankfully cheese curds were not restricted.) Not fun. We did find nitrate-free bacon, which was surprisingly tasty and only a couple bucks more than the cheap stuff.
  • Caffeine: Some studies say caffeine is okay, others say it’s not; we erred on the side of caution. Since Kellwin doesn’t drink coffee or soda, and only rarely has tea, we avoided the issue and caffeine.
  • Artificial sweeteners: Again, the medical literature is conflicting, and again we sided with caution. However, unlike caffeine, Kellwin ingests a decent amount of artificial sweeteners: we like diet drinks. Luckily, there are alternatives, namely real sugar. Shocking that the natural stuff is better for soon-to-be-mom than the unnatural stuff.
  • Unpasteurized milk and cheese: Listeria again. Not a huge deal as we don’t unpasteurized milk or cheese made from unpasteurized milk. It came up once, we dealt with it and moved on with life.

Non-food restrictions

  • Baths: Bathing in water above body temperature is bad. Hot baths may relax the mom, but the reduction in blood flow to the fetus means the baby gets stressed. Another tough renunciation for Kellwin, who lists “reading in the tub” as one of her favorite activities. She took a couple tepid baths, but tepid baths are not as much fun as hot baths.
  • Exercise: Heavy lifting is fairly obvious, but any vigorous activity is discouraged. Expectant mothers can and should exercise, they have to do so without racing the heart. Walking, good; running marathons, not so much. This became frustrating later in the pregnancy as Kellwin wanted to exercise, but her expanding abdomen reminded her she shouldn’t.
  • Smoking: Not an issue for us as no one in the family smokes.
  • Cats: There’s a nasty bug that cats can carry if they eat feces and dirt. Contact with kitty litter is strictly forbidden. We have dogs, but Kellwin’s brother has 1, 2, 3 cats (he and his wife had one cat at the start of the pregnancy, and added two more before the end.) Contact with their cats was unavoidable. We shrugged and avoided the litter boxes.
  • Bike riding: Casual, relaxed bike riding is fine…except when you tell your husband that you had a couple accidents last summer. Yeah, no more biking for you, soon-to-be-mom.
  • Travel: Specifically travel in the third trimester. Just not a good idea. Annalla and Kailee were kind enough to suffer our three dogs so Kellwin did not have to board a plane.

Remembering all these restrictions was perhaps the most difficult aspect of them. Many a tasty-sounding recipe was nixed because it required a forbidden ingredient. We understand that the risk to the baby are extremely low in most cases, but the problem with risk is that there’s always a chance: one in a thousand means one person in a thousand gets (un)lucky. We did not want to be that one.

Many of these restrictions are new (at least were implemented years after our parents had us), and the effects of the restricted items are not readily apparent. My wife and I, being inexperienced in these matters, accepted them. They seemed logical and many we could easily excise from our lives for a few months. Our parents, being experienced, did not fully accept them. The nitrate issue, in particular, was difficult for our parents to accept: “We ate lunch meat and bacon while carrying you, and you turned out just fine!” These restrictions seemed reasonable to us, and what we gave up temporarily was worth an increased chance of a healthy child. Not to say we’re risk averse (“Pogo licked the pacifier.” “Don’t care. She’s screaming. Give it to her.”), we take risks in which the benefit outweighs the risk. No alcohol or sushi for nine months to improve our child’s chances in life? Done.

Home Birth

Kellwin had heard about The Business of Being Born, a documentary on natural birth at home (produced by Ricki Lake.) We were curious, so we hit up Netflix and watched it. It was a documentary in the style of Michael Moore; that is, it was propaganda in the guise of a documentary. But whereas Moore uses facts and hard evidence (albeit skewed in his favor), this “documentary” eschewed such trivialities and went with scare tactics and personal stories. The basic thrust of the show is that the medical profession treats child birth as something to be controlled, managed, and exploited. For thousands of years, the mother had control over the process. But in modern times, women cede control of the birth process to doctors, who want to manage the process to their benefit. Not the mother’s or the baby’s benefit, but the doctor’s. The show offered alternatives to today’s standard procedure, namely natural childbirth aided by a midwife and/or doula. We watched a woman deliver a baby at home with the assistance of a midwife. We also saw Ricki Lake give birth to a child at home in a bathtub. The director interviewed various home birth advocates, and showed the differences between a home birth and hospital birth.

I’m not a fan of home births. Several years ago, a friend of mine had his first kid in a kiddie pool in his living room. The idea of a pool of bodily fluids diluted in 50 gallons of water spilling in my house…Or running a hose to the curb and draining said pool…Yeah, I’ll pass, thanks. The other portion of the program—“Yay for midwives!”: I think midwives are great, but, like any tool or resource, they need to be used properly. In low-risk childbirths, like the births we saw in the video, midwives and home births are an excellent, low-cost alternative to hospitals. But they cannot handle every situation. Like my wife’s ob/gyn’s boss said to us in the hospital, “When things go wrong, midwives turn to us [doctors].” Midwives know when problems go beyond their pay grade, yet traveling between home and hospital in the middle of a medical emergency can have devastating consequences. As my wife and I found out, seconds count. Home births work for some, but not for us.

I tried to keep an open mind during the film, but the filmmakers tried to slant the facts too far in their direction. Of course, I’ve never seen a documentary or propaganda piece so completely negate its own message as this one did. The director becomes pregnant a couple months into the project. She happily signs on with the midwife she’s been following, plans out her home birth, squees with Ricki Lake over the home birth process. Then, at 28 weeks, something happens. We’re never told what went wrong, only that the midwife rushed to the hospital for an emergency C-section. “Every mother should have a home birth with a midwife at her side…except when she can’t.”

The movie’s postscript reminded me why philosophical stances can be ruinous. The director was interviewed at her house several months later, her happy, healthy baby boy merrily playing with his toys. She seemed depressed that her birth wasn’t how she had dreamed it would be. Fair enough. But she was so distraught over her non-ideal birth that seemed to not love her child. You don’t love your child just because your birth was what you hoped for? Do you realize that your child would be dead had you not gone to the hospital when you did? Do you realize that you might be dead had you not gone to the hospital when you did? My child’s birth was decidedly non-ideal, but we still love her with all our hearts. Stop being a short-sighted idealist and start being a loving mother.

Preparations

With my bro-in-law’s wedding on October 1st, my wife and I went proactive and got our major baby preparations done early. We bought the baby furniture, had several family work days, and dealt with as many baby-related issues as we could over the summer. Stressful, to be sure (“I am NOT painting the room again! Twice is enough!”), but our preparations paid dividends later. Still, we felt a little odd shopping for baby stuff when Kellwin was barely showing. We got some great deals and quizzically suspicious looks. By mid-August, Eleanor’s room was 90% complete; all that remained were small things that would have to wait until the baby shower in October.

We’re very proud of Eleanor’s room. We think it’s very fun and age-appropriate. And it gives us a reason to showcase all our stuffed animals (other than the obvious “because we can!”). Adults can have stuffies. I’m no less of a man because I curl up in bed with Patwrick the Pup every night. I like cute things, I’m not ashamed. We were surprised at the wall decals’ ease of installation. Peel and stick. The hardest part was not tearing them when peeling them from the paper.

September

Insanity.

Our friends Annalla and Kailee arrived for our second annual get-together over Labor Day weekend. Friday the 2nd, Kellwin’s aunt Jeanne was rushed to the hospital. She had been ill since May 2010, but had been improving for a few months. Hearing that she was in intensive care was kind of a mood killer for our get-together, but she was alert and doing okay. The family told us to enjoy our friends, Jeanne would pull through. So we did. We had our fun (State Fair virgins, woo!), making the most of what Kellwin and I considered our last vacation as kids/non-parents. Labor Day brought us back to reality when the family said Jeanne would not pull through. We saw Kailee to the airport then rushed back to the hospital (Annalla graciously babysat the dogs.) That was not a fun day. The following days were spent with family as we began the grieving process. She passed away on the 8th. That weekend, we spent sorting her affairs and estate: bills, bank accounts, credit cards, medical records, taxes, life insurance, retirement accounts. Ugh. Making matters worse was that my bro-in-law was named the executor of the estate. His wedding was on October 1st, so the many last-minute arrangements that needed to be finalized (such as hiring an officiant, making reception table centerpieces, finalizing headcounts, ordering the cake…did I mention my Damon and Kelly procrastinated?) were delayed in order to handle Jeanne’s affairs. Instead of weekend wedding work days, we had weekend and weekday wedding work days and evenings. More than a few times, I called Kellwin asking to which location I should drive from work, Jeanne’s, Damon’s, or our house. And did I mention that Kellwin was seven months pregnant and she was the maid of honor and we were still raiding two nights a week and working and [I know I’m missing something else here, oh well]? Can’t forget all that. The 17th was Kelly’s wedding shower, and the 24th was the bachelorette party. Translation: the 17th was the stuffy, tea-and-crumpets family affair; the 24th was the drinking-and-dancing free-for-all for the ladies. Guess which one my very-pregnant wife organized? Yup, the boozefest. Kelly did promise a boozefest in the spring for my wife. The week preceding the wedding was all wedding, all the time. Kellwin took Thursday afternoon and all of Friday off to prepare for the matrimonial onslaught. I wanted to help more, but time with first born baby trumped wedding prep time. Our hard work paid off as the wedding was an awesome, fantastic blast, exhaustion and horrible rental tux shoes be damned.

Whew.

We don’t speak about September. I don’t think either of us ever experienced as stressful a month. School had its moments, work is cyclical, but the personal nature of these stressors kept them in our minds the whole month. Felt unrelenting, draining.

After the wedding comes the baby. With the wedding in our rearview, Kellwin and I went into full baby mode.

Registration

Because people like celebrating births with gifts, we headed to Babies ‘R’ Us to register. As mentioned above, we had already bought the big furniture items, but we still had a lot to buy. We are cautious buyers. We research our purchases and mull our decisions. The larger the investment, the more weighty the decision, the longer the mulling. We came prepared: we knew what we needed, brought a couple “what to buy for baby” books, and had even done a reconnaissance trip in early July. Babies ‘R’ Us even gave us a list and 10-minute registration consultation.

But still [Insert audio clip of Illidan’s famous saying here.]

With scanner in hand, we headed towards the shelves. First stop: car seats. And then the panic set in. We expected a few options. We got dozens. What features are useful? Extraneous? Will this fit into both cars (one of which we had, the other we had yet to buy; see below)? How easy is it to install? Remove? What’s the safety rating? Durability rating? How adjustable is it; that is, will it fit both a small baby and a big child? Does it feel sturdy? Are the fabrics soft and comforting? Is the design attractive? Will the pattern hide the inevitable stains? Just a sample of the questions we asked on car seats, which was the first item on our list of several dozen.

To be honest, we had no idea what we wanted/needed. We never used these products before. We had no basis for our preferences other than what we think we would like, what we reasoned would be best. Having no experience with babies meant having nothing on which to base our decisions. We didn’t know what we would need. All the baby gear lists were recommendations: we might use the stuff regularly, occasionally, once, or not at all, we had no idea. But we’re not the kind of people to give up and decide on products at random. We have a process and we’re going to stick to it, damnit! We’ve got nothing better to do today, this needs to be done, let’s do this!

Five hours later…

And we’re spent. So much baby stuff, my eyes bled pastel for a week. We thought registration would be fun—“We get to pick out cute baby stuff for people to buy for us! Yay!”—but instead it was an ordeal. Overwhelming and exhausting.

We learned that there are five types of shoppers at Babies ‘R’ Us:

  • Expectant browsers: Expectant parents (usually late first/early second trimester) who wander the store and squeeing at all the cute baby stuff. Time in store: 30 minutes to an hour.
  • Registrants: Weary soon-to-be parents (late second/early third trimester) burning a weekend afternoon scanning stuff. Time in store: 3-6 hours.
  • Experienced parents: Focused parents, with or without kids dangling off them, zipping in, buying the one thing they need, and zipping out. Time in store: under five minutes.
  • Gift-givers: Friends of expectant parents who plod through the store, gift registry in hand, trying to find the one, perfect gift. Time in store: 10-30 minutes depending on how patient they are.
  • Grandparents: Two classes of grandparents. One class strolls the aisles, grabbing all the cute clothes. The other harries their children, chiding them for failing at raising their grandchildren while practicing poor child-rearing skills themselves. Time in store: all day for the first, until the new parent(s) collapse for the second.

Epilogue: What percentage of the stuff we registered for and received or bought have we used? 75-80%. On a regular basis? 33-40%. Some items were scanned with the understanding we wouldn’t use them until spring or summer. Many items got a few uses then put away. Only a few items were once-and-done or even none-and-done, so we feel good about having registered effectively.

Baby class

As our combined baby-raising experience totaled zero, we enrolled in a “how to birth and raise a human” class. We had read several books on the subject, but there’s a difference between reading and practicing. Also, we can’t ask a book to clarify or explain further, and there are lots of details in the process. We opted for the two-day class instead of the seven weekday evenings. The class was at our hospital and had about 12 couples. Well, 11 couples and one single mother.

(We felt bad for her as all 11 couples were married. No engagements, boy/girlfriend, or any other situation that might have made her feel more comfortable, given her someone to talk to. My wife and I don’t care what type of relationship the parents have so long as both are caring and devoted parents. Single parents have it rough already. Watching a bunch of married couples learn to become parents while you learn with your older, married friend? Yeah, not the most pleasant of experiences for her.)

We were on the later side of the due dates. The class was in mid-October and most couples were due in 3-6 weeks; the range was 10 weeks out to one week past the due date. We were about 6 weeks before B-Day.

The class was quite informative. Part Lamaze, part anatomy and physiology, part developmental psychology, all very interesting. The instructor did an excellent job keeping us entertained while teaching us what we needed to know, a good mix of facts and anecdotes. We learned what the hospital experience would be like, what the birth process entailed, we watched a couple birthing videos (36 hours of labor and then a C-section? Poor woman), toured the hospital’s birthing and recovery floors, practiced some birthing positions and breathing techniques, discussed C-sections and possible birthing problems, spoke with a pediatrician about common baby issues (Who knew pediatricians were present at the birth? Makes sense, just something not mentioned in any of the books we read), and had a quick overview of how to care for our newborn. A little overwhelming—Kellwin gets mad props for forcing the baby books on me otherwise I’d have drowned in the class—but we felt so much more prepared after having taking the class.

What surprised me the most was how little people knew of the birthing process. The instructor asked questions and no one answered. She showed pictures and diagrams and the class stared blankly or, in the case of the birth video, stared with saucer eyes and horrified looks. I don’t know whether this is an indictment of public schools’ sex education, people being unfamiliar with childbearing, people not studying for the event of their lives, students afraid of answering incorrectly, or adults grasping the reality of their soon-to-be situation.

Funny story: We were late on Sunday and we noticed there were two fewer chairs than the previous day. The instructor explained that a mom went into labor that night, three weeks earlier than expected. We did the math: they were six weeks ahead of us, three weeks earlier than expected, which would be like us having our baby in three weeks. [Insert audio clip of Illidan’s famous saying here.]

This brings us to the end of October, due date about one month away. There’s a couple things yet to come before the birth, but since they are more birth-related, they’ll be in the next post.

And that’s a wrap

I finally went and did it…

 

 

 

 

We got new credit cards last week and had been procrastinating/avoiding/stalling/whatever on this. It was bound to happen sooner or later. Kellwin cancelled her subscription a couple days ago. I had some free time tonight, so I logged on, parked my characters in the most appropriate inn, and sealed my account’s fate.

Lyraat got a little more love than my other alts. I transmogged my shoulders and ranged weapon (Gronnstalker’s and Golden Bow of Quel’Thalas, respectively), few to the Exodar on my Purple Netherdrake, rode up the ramp on my Purple Elekk, hugged Snarley one last time, and logged off.

Will I return? Possible. Maybe. Highly unlikely that I’ll return to my previous level of activity. Who knows what the future holds.

Because I was curious…

  • Lyraat = 239 days, 2 hours
  • Lirrat = 19 days, 2 hours
  • Ninek = 3 days, 21 hours
  • Thorler (my bank alt) = 1 day, 15 hours
  • Other alts (yes, I have other alts) = 2 days, 1 hour

Total /played = 265 days, 17 hours

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