Category Archives: Self

GL HF!

Well, I was going to write a long goodbye post. I did, but I decided against it. I might post it someday. Maybe, maybe not. Here are the highlights:

  • I’m still alive. More importantly, the bebe is alive. Happy, healthy, she’s a good baby.
  • I’m still not playing WoW. My wife plays (and is playing right now). A few hours a week. With videogames, I’m either all in or all out. I can’t do casual. I have nothing against casual players, it’s just not for me.
  • I’m still not interested in MoP.

So why the post if nothing’s changed? I wanted to wish everyone well before MoP dropped. I hope it’s a great expansion and that those who play it have a blast. I also wanted to say that the achievement guide is now obsolete and I will not update it unless I resubscribe. Doubtful that will be any time soon, but who knows.

Don’t expect any updates for a while. Life with babies moves fast. Not much time for anything else.

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!

My thoughts on Super Bowl 46

New York Giants 21, New England Patriots 17

  • What a boring game. For a four-point Super Bowl that began with a safety and ended with a fourth quarter comeback and failed end of game Hail Mary, you’d think it was a great game. You’d be wrong. It was boring for long stretches. No big plays either for the offense or defense, no signature moments until a very surreal play at the end of the game, nothing that enthralled the audience. If this was a regular season game, I’d have watched something else.
  • Part of that was the match up. Pats and Giants in the Super Bowl. We saw this Super Bowl four years ago. We saw them play in week 9. We hear about Brady constantly, we hear about the Mannings constantly. Coughlin, Belichick, Welker, Cruz, Kraft, Mara, we know the actors, we’ve seen the setting, excuse me while I go watch another play.
  • Of course I still watched the SB. I just didn’t care who won. I wanted a good game and good commercials. Got the latter, did not get the former.
  • #Belichickfail 1: Never cut a player the day before the Super Bowl. Karma doesn’t take kindly to dick moves. There’s a difference between being cut the week before the Super Bowl when game plans have not been finalized, and being cut the day before when plans have been finalized. Also, the player added doesn’t have time to prepare mentally for the biggest game of his life.
  • A bit of research shows that Alex Silvestro, the activated player, has appeared in one game in his entire career (a home win against the Dolphins). Tiquan Underwood, on the other hand, is a three-year vet with 14 catches over 18 games. Neither of these guys are important cogs for the Patriots. So why the last-minute change? So Chad Ochocinco could be activated. That makes the move even despicable. This wasn’t strategy, it was marketing. Pats gotta pay bills, too, I get it. But if this was strictly a marketing ploy, it should have been done much earlier in the two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl. Tinny Tim feels for Tiquan Underwood.
  • I applaud the NFL for awarding the NFL’s Man of the Year Award immediately before the Super Bowl. We see the efforts that get MVPs and Players of the Year awarded, so we don’t need a pre-game ceremony for them. We don’t see the hard work players devote to charities, so showing the world that the NFL recognizes and appreciates players’ efforts is a nice gesture. Well done.
  • A safety on the first offensive play for the Patriots? And an ugly one at that. Defenders of Brady will say someone ran the wrong route. Haters of Brady will say he got flustered and made a poor throw. I’d say both happened. Right call by the refs.
  • Someone won $50,000 for that penalty. A person bet $1,000 that the first scoring play of the game would be a safety for the Giants. At 50:1 odds, that’s a $50,000 payout.
  • Why the NFL trots out decrepit has-beens for halftime acts is beyond me. Madonna was the biggest music star in the world 25 years ago, still popular 15 years ago, but irrelevant now. Every star fades. That Madonna lasted as long as she did is amazing. The worst part of the infamous Wardrobe Malfunction is that now the NFL is gun shy when it comes to halftime shows. I’m not saying they should hire Marilyn Manson. Yet these baby boomer acts are tiresome, worn, lame. I was more entertained by the thrice-read book in the bathroom than I was by this year’s halftime show.
  • Please, Madonna, stop trying to be 18. You’re a 53-year old mother of four. You can look great at 53, but in a different way than when you were 18. You can be risqué at 53, but in a different way than when you were 18. And please do not ever try acrobatic dance moves again. You looked as agile as Gronkowski looked yesterday; did you have a high ankle sprain?
  • Tyree or Manningham, who had the better fourth quarter comeback catch? I vote for Tyree. Less time on the clock, third down versus first down, and he caught it on his helmet. Manningham made a fantastic play, I’m not taking anything away from him. Tyree, though, made the iconic play of that Super Bowl and one of the most iconic catches ever. The whole play was amazing: Manning was in the d-lineman’s grasp, managed to wiggle free, slid away from the pressure, threw it before getting clobbered by three Patriots, Tyree caught it with Harrison all over him, and held on as Harrison wrestled with for the ball. The 2012 miracle catch had a perfect pass and catch. Less drama all around.
  • Fact: Tyree’s catch was the last reception of his career.
  • The biggest play of the game, the Reluctant Touchdown, was also one of the most surreal plays I’ve ever seen. The defense stops playing so the runner can score quickly. But then the runner realizes he shouldn’t score, so he tries to stop himself from crossing the goal line. He can’t and thus falls backwards for a touchdown. When was the last time you saw a defense want the offense to score a touchdown AND the offense not wanting to score a touchdown? Wacky.
  • I hated hearing the announcers excoriate Bradshaw for scoring. He tried to fight the instinct to score that he’s developed for his entire life. He’s a running back. He is taught to score touchdowns any way he can. His “mistake” put his team up by four with less than a minute to play. If your defense can’t keep the timeout-less opposition out of the end zone for 55 seconds, you do not deserve to win the game, let alone a Super Bowl. Put the pressure on the other team to win the game, don’t put it on your field goal unit. Even though the attempt would have been extra point-esque, that doesn’t mean it’s automatic. Weird things can and do happen on field goals. If Coughlin wanted to kick the gimme field goal, he would have had Manning kneel three times. He didn’t, ergo he wanted a touchdown. He didn’t want to leave the game to the whims of the field goal unit.
  • #Belichickfail 2: Make the other team beat you. Never give the opposition the upper hand.
  • Speaking of the zebras, they proved themselves worthy of being selected to adjudicate the Super Bowl. They let the players play for the most part, but made correct calls all day. The only call I questioned was the holding call on NYG in the fourth quarter when they converted 3rd-and-1. Looked iffy, could have gone either way.
  • Both offensive lines were outstanding. Sure, they gave up a combined 5 sacks, but that’s 5 sacks on 81 pass attempts, or one every 16 attempts. Most sacks were coverage sacks. The line can’t block forever, eventually the d-line will break through. Brady and Manning looked quite comfortable in the pocket for the majority of the game.
  • Problem for the audience was that the secondaries for both teams played bend-don’t-break defense. The longest offensive play of the game was Manningham’s catch. Otherwise, we saw dinking-and-dunking. Nobody got behind the defenses. Neither Manning nor Brady truly tested the secondaries, which made for a rather bland viewing experience.
  • Also, the defenses didn’t provide much excitement either. The Giants-Niners NFC championship was an exciting defensive struggle as both teams made plays on defense. The Super Bowl lacked any outstanding defensive moments: the safety was a penalty, the interception was a horribly underthrown ball, no strips, no jarring hits, no stops on third-and-1, no goal line stands.
  • It’s not the yards: Green Bay and Pittsburgh combined for 725 yards in a compelling, fun game, whereas New York and New England combined for 745 in a snorefest. It’s how you get them: GB and PIT combined for six plays of 25 yards of more (including an interception returned for a touchdown), whereas NYG and NWE combined for one play of 25 yards of more (Manningham’s catch.)
  • It’s not the points: New York and San Francisco was a thrilling 20-17, whereas NYG and NWE was a monotonous 21-17. Basically the same score, but much different viewing.
  • This year’s Super Bowl lacked pizzazz, style, thrills. Oh well. There’s always next year.
  • Super Bowl 47 prediction: Miami Dolphins 31, Minnesota Vikings 28

My favorite SB commercials (the best get linked)

  • Bridgestone football = Watching Deion complain while the Playstation ad guy dances in the background is priceless
  • Kia dreams = Before the Super Bowl, I saw a headline that Motley Crue was in a Kia ad. I couldn’t imagine why they would be in a Kia ad. Now I know why. Great ad.
  • Dannon Oikos = I could watch John Stamos get headbutted all day. All. Day. #fuckyouFullHouse
  • Doritos dog = Sometimes it’s what is not said that makes all the difference.
  • Audi vampire party = “Oh look. More exploitation of vampires. Woo. Oh look. Another car commercial. Woo. Oh loo—OMGWTFVAMPIREBBQ!!!!! BRB LOLING 4EVA!!!”

Bad SB commercials (No links for these wastes of time)

  • GoDaddy.com = I can’t stand GoDaddy.com commercials. Never have, likely never will. Please stop.
  • Coke = Why did Coke have to ruin the polar bears?
  • Cars.com = Hey look. Someone ripped off Johnny Knoxville’s character from MiB 2. How gross. Ew.
  • Chevy Sonic stunts = Why did Chevy start the ad with “Don’t try this at home, kids” then proceed to show you all the awesome things you shouldn’t do with this car? Likewise, why do car companies feel the need to advertise their vehicles doing impossible things? “Welcome to our fantasy world, where are vehicles don’t suck and you want to die trying to make our fabulous machines bend the laws of physics!” #fail
  • TaxAct = Okay, the kid needs to pee. What does this have to do with taxes?

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!)
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