Post #23: A Chamonix Babymoon

Although all of the drama of this past season was consuming, we didn’t forget to appreciate the fact that we were in Europe. In a season we’d made it to Barcelona, Asti, and more. And, when a break in the schedule came up in mid-January, we jumped at the chance to have a new traveling experience. It would be our last together before my departure, and possibly the last before the arrival of Baby R. This time, we ventured over the border via the Monte Bianco tunnel and into the French ski town of Chamonix. And this time, Dylan came with us.

We stayed in a beautiful hotel in Les Houches, just 10 minutes from the main Chamonix resort and tucked into the mountains overlooking Mount Blanc. Being midseason for Kev and midpregnancy for me, skiing was not an option. But that wasn’t going to keep us from playing in the snow that we have been deprived of all winter. Our weekend agenda revolved around walking along cross country ski trails and sipping hot wine/hot chocolate by the fireplace in the cozy hotel lounge. We also enjoyed apperitivi amongst tourists closing out their day on the slopes and dined on traditional meals from the region in adorable alpine restaurants. It was the ultimate destination for two days of relaxation. And though we enjoyed sharing one evening with some of our friends from the team, the trip primarily consisted of just the two (well technically three plus dog) of us. And it was the perfect capstone to my Italy adventures. In less than a week, my sister would arrive, and, five days after that, she would escort me home. 

View from the hotel

A bridge in Chamonix

This is Happiness...

Winter Wonderland

An upstairs lounge

View from the upstairs lounge

Warming up by the fire in the hotel lobby/bar

My massive and delicious gourmet hot chocolate

Dylan wasn't about to let us hold hands unless he could share the love.


Post #22.5: It's a....

It’s a boy! I should have known coming from a family of girls that I was destined to hear those words from my very own ultrasound tech one day. I never would have guessed that they would be delivered in a foreign language, but the significance of the news is all the same. We’re having a little bambino.


Post #22: Maschio o Femmina?

In late December, my midsection transformed from a “hmmm… is she pregnant?” to a “she is definitely pregnant” belly, or pancha. The undeniability that my newly protruding stomach was in fact a baby bump rendered it safe for friends and strangers alike to inquire about my pregnancy. Judging from the attention I’ve received, it seems that screenwriters for the movie Knocked Up were right, “people like pregnant”. In caffes, clothing boutiques, and grocery stores, I’ve had some great conversations with people that were initiated because of Baby R.

While it was expected that people would notice my baby belly, it is apparently also common for Italians to comment on the region above a woman’s “pancha” that is also growing. The first time it happened, I was delivering Christmas cookies to one of our Italian friends, the owner of a market we frequented last year. She was in the company of another of our acquaintances and, together, the two complimented me on my belly before also complimenting me on my “grandi tette”.  It inevitably averted the attention of all the store customers from their baskets of food products to my reportedly large chest.  This probably could have made for an uncomfortable situation. Fortunately, I was raised in an extended family of jokesters who occasionally enjoy making their loved ones squirm with an embarrassing joke. I’ve therefore acquired the ability to laugh off potentially awkward moments, and quickly deliver a diffusing remark or playful retaliation if necessary. In this case, I laughed and celebrated before replying that I’ve waited over 26 years to hear those words. And so my standard response to every reference about my blossoming bosom was born. But, recently, at a lunch with Kevin, his teammate, and a group of our Italian friends, the topic arose again. And this time it was brought to a whole new level…

First came a comment about my purportedly impressive new curves and then the deliverance of my tried-and-true diffuser. But the topic didn’t die there. The co-ed group of diners proceeded on with a conversation about a mother-to-be’s expanding bra line. A few of my favorite quotes (in order from least to most effective at making Kevin visibly embarrassed):

“E buona per il latte”  (It’s good for the milk)

“E bene anche per il papa” (It’s also good for the father)

“ ?” (something about how we’ll have to keep having children so that they remain at the same size)
For me, the conversation was too entertaining to be embarrassing. This is really happening, I thought as I ate my sausage and mushroom risotto and listened to the men and women contributing their thoughts about pregnancy boobs. It was such casual jabber that my Italian friends may as well have been talking about the weather.

While my breast size is apparently indicative of the fact that I am having a baby, we still don't know whether that baby is a boy or a girl. Everyone who has anything to say about my belly has an opinion about the gender. Problem is... I keep getting mixed results.  “It’s a girl”, one will say because her daughter looked like me when she was carrying her baby girl. “You are carrying all in front”, says another “so it’s definitely a boy”. The Chinese calendar in one baby book says girl, but the Chinese calendar online says boy. My cravings for salty foods are consistent with women pregnant with boys, but my morning sickness in the first trimester matches with those carrying girls…

When I ask Kevin whether he thinks we are having a daughter or a son, he looks at me as though he is taking the question into deep consideration. “I’ll tell you something about our baby” he finally says. And I look to him expectantly hoping he will shine some light on the mystery “I bet you there is a 50% chance that it’s a boy”.  Really, Kev? You’ve got nothing? I wish he would just humor me with a guess, however unsubstantiated it may be, because the truth is… I’ve got nothing either. Everyone else has strong opinions one way or another, but the mommy- and daddy-to-be have no inclination whatsoever. Are we already falling short on our maternal and paternal instincts?!

Though playing the game of Guess Who? Womb Edition has been a fun way to pass the time, we are both ready to learn the truth. The question of the year is: Maschio o femmina? Luckily for us, the wait is almost over. In 10 hours and 26 minutes (but who’s counting?), I have my second trimester ultrasound. This is the ultrasound where the doctor will try and find out the secret the little baby has been hiding. So here’s to hoping that Baby R isn’t feeling shy tomorrow morning. The anticipation is more than I can bear. 


Post #21: An "Agrodolce" Ending

Up until now, I’ve withheld from writing about how this season, from a hockey perspective, has spiraled out of control. I suppose I didn’t want to dilute the facts with personal biases nor did I want this blog to become a venue for my emotional rants. I was also clinging onto the hope that everything would just work itself out, thus excusing the need to write about it at all. But it’s January, and I’m less than three weeks away from heading home early.  It was the decision we arrived at after considering the well-being of our family and how the events of the last few months have unfolded.

It really started in October when Kevin was injured. A strained adductor muscle was the diagnosis and in 10 days, a doctor’s note put him back in net. In the third period of his first game back with a 1-0 lead on the boards, it became clear that, though he was playing well, he had come back prematurely. A save on a seemingly harmless shot from the point left Kevin unable to stand back up. He received the same diagnosis, but was told he would need two weeks to recover this time. Two weeks turned into four which became six. All the while, he had been rehabbing as instructed with compression, ice, massage, and stretching. With little improvement, he pushed for a second opinion. The doctor resisted, clinging arrogantly to his original diagnosis, but Kevin was finally able to secure an appointment with a specialist in groin injuries for athletes. A short visit confirmed three things. First, his original injury had warranted a month of recovery time for a goalie as opposed to ten days. Second, the injury that resulted from his returning too soon was not a strained muscle, but a torn tendon. And thirdly, none of the treatment for a strained muscle is conducive to healing a torn tendon. All of this put him back another sixty days.

Already December in a regular season that goes through mid-February, the news was tough to bear. But, the loss of their goalie wasn’t the only problem plaguing the team. Their losing record caused sponsors and management to panic. Rather than focusing on any real problems affecting their on-ice success rate, attention was awarded to the wrong details. As often happens in any pressing situation, fingers were pointed and usually not at the right people. Management told players what they thought they wanted to hear when all that players wanted to hear was the truth. And the truth became increasingly harder to come by. Rumors spread that the imports had bad attitudes, and once loyal fans turned into hecklers. The team doctor quit after Kevin sought a second opinion without his approval and left his position clinging to the notion that the sports-specialist was wrong. Other members of the board also resigned. The League complained that Valpe was playing with too many import players. Paychecks came late, and players started to worry about the financial stability of the team. To top it all off, a new batch of players were hurt. The team was in a perpetual state of disarray and their record continued to reflect that.

Having had such a positive experience last year, it was sad to see everything falling apart. Hockey is a big part of the community and as an import couple in such a small town, it’s difficult to lose the support of those around us. Beyond the other players, the management and fans constitute our overseas families. When passing through town yields frustrated remarks about the team from random passersby, it makes for an unpleasant experience.

Despite all the drama surrounding the team, Kevin and I continued to make the most of our time in Italy. We are fortunate to have found many friends in the other players and their wives. Additionally, my tutoring has introduced us to some wonderful new Italian families who are incredibly welcoming and supportive. Counting these blessings in addition to that of Baby R, it’s certainly easier to enjoy the year. I am also incredibly grateful that I have a husband who doesn’t dwell on what could have been. “Hindsight is 20-20” he always says. The case could be made that he was wronged this season. But instead of adopting this mentality, he’s consistently focused on finding new solutions.

We always knew that hockey wouldn’t last forever.  That is why Kevin finished college as opposed to signing early and why we’ve taken full advantage of the opportunities his temporary career have presented to us. I guess I just always hoped that it wouldn’t end like this… with him spending his final year bouncing around to physical therapy appointments. I wanted him to go into his season finale with the expectation that it would be just that, and enjoy playing without any pressure. I didn’t want an injury to make the decision for him. He reassured me that, even if this is it, he will be perfectly happy with where we’ve been and where we’re headed. But, we wanted to make our decisions about what to do next to open up opportunities in hockey for next season. And we needed to make those decisions with Baby R in mind.

Considering the timeline of his recovery, it was questionable already whether Kevin would be playing another game in Valpe jersey. The team clearly needed to bring in another goalie. And when they did, the likelihood of Kevin’s return became even more questionable. To earn a spot on a team for next year, he needs to show that he can play and prove that he is healthy before the end of the season. But where can he do that? The season is too short in Italy for him to battle back for his spot, especially since he’ll be returning during the relegation round that will determine which teams make playoffs. But deadlines for playing back in the States are fast approaching. And, realistically, how marketable is a goalie that hasn’t played a game since October? Not to mention the fact that his salary here is paid over seven installments, only three of which have been received. If he leaves, how much of a pay cut would he have to take? How much can we afford? And what if the management decides they want him to leave to open up another work permit?

Given the uncertainties surrounding the rest of this hockey season, we decided that it’s best for me to go home a month earlier than is mandated by the pregnancy. Prepping the dog to fly and getting a doctor’s note for myself will all take time. And the stress of waiting for a phone call that dictates where we have to be and when is too overwhelming. Though I hate to leave Kevin alone to ride out the storm, my early departure enables me to find a doctor, and better prepare for Baby R’s arrival. And, an extra month at home will allow me to substitute teach for longer than we’d previously planned. 

All in all, this about summarizes the circumstances of my bittersweet return home. It also demonstrates that, as novel as a career in hockey may be, it’s as stressful a profession as any other. Job security is virtually nonexistent and an injury can be career-threatening. It’s also similar to any other job in that, at the end of the day, it is just a job. And I’m lucky that we haven’t lost sight of that. I would have thought that being pregnant would make our situation all the more stressful since we’d be worried about bringing a baby into a world of unknowns. On the contrary, the baby reminds us every day about what’s really important. And I know that those unknowns will work themselves out because we already have the things that really matter. 


Post #20: Buon Anno Nuovo

There's more to come this week, but, before I forget... Happy New Year!

To kick off the start of the anno nuovo, I want to share a photo that was drawn for me by one of the students I tutor for. Hopefully his depiction of me gives you a good laugh, since laughter is a great way to start out the new year! Best wishes to all for a happy 2012!