Wednesday, August 26, 2009

I should be scrubbing toilets....

but I'm not.* My parents arrive tomorrow night. They'll be staying with us for just over two weeks. I'm thrilled beyond words! I can't wait to see them. Once upon a time, I would have vigorously scrubbed everything in the house from top to bottom. But today, I can't quite muster the interest. Perhaps it's because I don't think they'll notice anything other than Peanut. They're definitely coming to see me (we have a really great relationship) but their first grandchild? The granddaughter they haven't seen in almost 11 months (well with the exception of the amazing powers of video calls and s.kype)?

Yeah, I don't think I need to worry too much about a little dust!

Oh, and I'm having FAR too much fun playing Blogger Bingo!!!

*Although I will be cleaning the toilets later. I'm just procrastinating at the moment. In fact, the toilets aren't the problem. It's those tile showers. How the heck do you clean them (a) without getting soaked in the process (b) with a sponge? I've just never figured it out and it bugs the heck out of me.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

She flips, she flops

Some of you may recall my lamentations that Peanut had started calling me "Okaasan." I made peace with it more quickly than I had anticipated. After all, when your kid needs you and calls for you in the middle of the night, well, that'll get your attention no matter what she calls you.

But interestingly enough, as suddenly as it came on, it went. Just the other day she stopped using Okaasan when calling for me or talking to me and it hasn't returned. I'm back to "Mama". (Okay once or twice in the wee hours when "Mama, Mama" didn't get her the prompt results she was hoping for I heard her toss in a haphazard "Okaasan" for good measure but it sure didn't sound like she meant it. And it's weird. Because now I kind of miss it.

I don't think I miss the actual name as much as I miss that phase of her life. It's just one more reminder that much of a child's life is fleeting. Peanut has a tendency to transition (especially in the area of language) more quickly than I realize. Before I know it, the old ways are gone. In this case, there was no lead-up. It wasn't like rolling leads to crawling leads to walking....It was there (Okaasan) and then it was gone.

Then again, if the past is any indicator, it may not be gone forever.

Friday, August 21, 2009

The end of summer blues

If one more newspaper article or sales advertisement reminds me that summer is almost over I may scream. I love summer. I get excited about spring because it reminds me that the misery of long, dark, wet, cold (pick whichever adjectives apply) days may be over soon. I adore the start of autumn with all of the new school supplies and the start of a clean slate as well as the promise of cool days filled with warm soups and all of the fun of hibernating.

But to me, summer has is about just plain fun. Fun every day. Going to parks, pools, the beach, fairs, festivals and all that wonderful stuff which is so often free (minus the cost of an ice cream cone maybe). This is kind of ironic when I think back to how I spent my middle and high school summer days - lazing around with a book trying desperately to avoid going outside. But things change. With a new city and a new climate and much less humidity, I've discovered the joys of the outdoors in summer!

This is why I am always saddened when the media seems to gleefully herald the end of summer. And then a day like today dawns. It's cool here and the fog has rolled in. We don't expect to see temperatures much about 70F. That's cool for a summer day even by Seattle standards.

Please excuse me while I stick my head in the sand and ignore all the signs of summer's end. My parents will be here in just about one week and I'm hoping that a bit more of the summer weather will linger. Just enough so that we can enjoy a few walks in the park with Peanut. Just enough to take advantage of the fair. Just a little longer please...

Sunday, August 16, 2009

My body image and my daughter

Beautiful Mess had a post about her body image a couple of weeks back. She was contemplating how her own body image issues might affect her daughter. This really got me to thinking. And then I saw this episode of What Not to Wear and the woman on the show was talking about how her body image and how the way she dresses might affect her daughters.

I generally don't feel like I have a negative body image. Sure I had the "freshman 15". But I worked hard after college to transition to a lifestyle filled with moderate exercise and healthy but delicious foods. Prior to that, I never gave my eating habits much thought. Even worse, I *hated* physical exercise. I made some changes and found workouts that I enjoy doing and once I did, I was able to change my mindset. I wouldn't say I love exercise, but there are some kinds of exercise I do enjoy and there are others I still can't stand to do.

Even now, 10+ years after graduating from college, I work hard to maintain a nutritious diet for a couple of reasons. I want to ensure that I have good health for a long time. I want to have the freedom to enjoy cupcakes(!) and other treats when I want them without feeling like I have to deprive myself. Now, I also have the added incentive of wanting to set a good example for my daughter.

Exercise is a harder rule for me to stick to, in fact I haven't done a lot of regular exercise since my daughter was born. As a result, I try to make sure that I walk a lot, often an hour during the day when I put Peanut in her stroller and we go out and tackle the ups and downs of city streets in Seattle. But I'd also like to keep up a routine of some kind (including more aerobics and yoga) because I think it's important for all the above reasons. Likewise, I can't stand being out of breath just going up a flight of stairs!

But the whole thing breaks down for me a bit when it comes to wardrobe. I feel like I've got this healthy shape that I've worked hard to get, and yet I've got a bunch of baggy t-shirts and sweatshirts and "comfy pants." You know the ones I mean. The ones that you wear the day after Thanksgiving because they're elastic or drawstring and are very forgiving. But none of these things are flattering by any stretch of the imagination and in the end I don't want my daughter growing up and thinking I was a frumpy dresser, or more importantly that I didn't think I was valuable enough to spend some time on myself and my image. I don't want to come off as vain, but given my current standards, I think a small bit of improvement would not even come close to putting me at risk of that!

My mom always dressed like a mom once she was a mom. She has all these great pictures of herself when she was young and thin and *hot* and dressed like a cool, hip 1960's gal. Then she got pregnant with me and then two years later my sister was born and it pretty quickly swung the other way. She started wearing "mom jeans" and the like. I love my mom. She's my inspiration and my hero in countless ways. But a fashion idol she isn't. Not anymore. And not for as long as I can remember.

I don't want my daughter to think that about me. I don't want my daughter to be obsessed with appearances. I want her to understand the value of comfy pants and casual dress for sure. But I also want to be sure that she knows I'm not hiding my body all the time. I don't want to have to hide my bathing suit-clad body under a beach cover-up for my whole life (something I got used to seeing my mom do). I want my daughter to see me as confident; because that's one of the traits that I most want my daughter to have. I want her to be self-confident. Once you've got that confidence in yourself, it makes it a lot harder for others to shake you.

The "before" circa 1996 (i.e. my "freshman 15+" is still intact -please note the brownies which were ever present during my college days):

The "after" circa 2005 (i.e. I had walked over 400 miles in preparation for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer 3 Day about to start the very day this picture was taken):

To insure or not to insure - that is the question

Kim had asked me what kind of insurance we have now that we're in the U.S. This was a pickle I must say. Neither of us is currently employed, and until my husband's business has at least one other employee besides himself, we can't claim it as a business expense. Since he just started his business and it's in the very fledgling state, that could be a while.

In the meantime, we're paying for private/individual health insurance. My husband felt that in the past, his health care costs weren't significantly reimbursed (those incurred in the U.S.) by the Japanese health care system and that it would be best for us to just bite the bullet and get some insurance. We want to be sure our daughter is covered and *if* I should end up pregnant one of these days, we want to be sure to have good coverage. I hadn't anticipated the x-ray and MRI for my tailbone (coccyx) pain but I'm even more thankful for the health insurance now as these expensive diagnostics are covered in full (and when you can't sit comfortably that's a major problem not to be ignored if at all possible!).

Since our current plan is to stay in the U.S. until the end of the year, we're expecting to pay for insurance for just about 6 months. After that, we'll be back in Japan and we'll all be covered by Japan's national health care system.

There may be better health insurance options but I'm not even sure what they would be. Anyone else who does or has lived overseas (maybe esp. in Japan but not necessarily) have any suggestions?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Health care can suck everywhere

In the past I've mentioned some less than stellar experiences with doctors and/or the medical system in Japan. But I feel that I've tried to acknowledge how my lack of language skills, as well as my relative newness to living in the country, may well have factored into the less than optimal outcomes of my experiences there. To even things out a bit then, and to show that health care everywhere can be....lacking, I've got a story that I'll share regarding the American health care system.

A few weeks ago I went to see my doctor regarding some pain just below the tailbone. If you've ever had a pilonidal cyst, the discomfort is similar. I had a pilonidal cyst about 15 years ago. I was concerned that although I had surgery to correct the matter, perhaps it had returned (they can do that). I went to see my doctor a couple of weeks ago and while she couldn't see any evidence of a pilonidal cyst, she recommended that I get an x-ray to rule out any fractures etc. that might be causing the discomfort. I went down to radiology as soon as I left her office. Here's where the fun begins.

I didn't have long to wait before the radiologist or technician or whoever (let's call him the radiologist for the sake of conversation) came to get me. He escorted me back to the changing rooms and locker area where he started to show me around and then as we stood in the hallway to the changing room he asked, "Is there any chance you're pregnant?" I laughed and said in an off-hand kind of way, "Oh I suppose." Now some of you may understand that this is an incredibly loaded question for someone who's tried unsuccessfully for 14+ months to get pregnant. Not to mention that we haven't really been trying to prevent a pregnancy for the last few months and despite the fact that my period has not yet returned, we're nowhere near pregnant (several negative pregnancy tests at random intervals have confirmed this). Apparently breast-feeding really *can* be that effective as a measure of birth control. Either that or we're back where we started on the infertility treadmill.

Regardless, when I heard the question, it literally caught me off guard for a moment because as far as I can tell, there's pretty much ZERO chance that I could actually be pregnant, although in theory I suppose it's possible. But I think the radiologist heard my laugh and misconstrued my absolute disbelief as flippancy. He then proceeded to sternly warn me that, "This isn't a joke. This is a very serious matter. We can't take the risk that you might be pregnant." He went on trying to convince me of the gravity of the matter, but as it dawned on me that the hospital needs to limit its liability and sure there is the remotest chance I might be pregnant (ha ha) it also occurred to me that there were other people in the hallway who could likely overhear the whole conversation. I really had no desire to explain my entire reproductive history to the radiologist, never mind the crowd in the hallway, and I basically shutdown. He suggested that I go back to the lab, get a pregnancy test and then return if I had confirmation that I wasn't pregnant.

I headed back to my doctor to get the pregnancy test ordered, but only got as far as the main entrance of the hospital before I finally came unhinged. Not only was the radiologist out of line in as much as it's really not his business to give me a stern lecture about my apparent flippancy, but he then conducted the scolding in public. I was appalled that anyone might even suggest that I could be irresponsible with a pregnancy. He had *no* idea how hard we worked the first time to get pregnant. He had *no* idea how upsetting it was to test and re-test for months on end with no hope in sight. He had *no* idea what was actually going through my mind when I laughed at his question. And he didn't really stop to give me a compassionate moment to gather my thoughts before he launched into his speech.

Once I collected myself, I went to my doctor who agreed to order the pregnancy test. She gently explained that frankly, the dose of radiation and location in which I'd be getting it wouldn't really affect the outcome of a pregnancy. A viable pregnancy would still be viable and honestly, and unviable pregnancy would terminate regardless of the radiation. I went for the test.

It was negative. By then, I was too numb to even cry.

I returned to radiology and was greeted by a new radiologist who was escorted by my previous radiologist (presumably this was the hand-off to my new staff person). I cheerfully assured them that I was "cleared for x-rays" and the old radiologist, the jerk as I like to think of him, then had the nerve to say, "It's probably all for the best" just before he walked away. I almost hurled. "All for the best"? When was the bedside manner class and how did this guy miss it?

Needless to say, while I had previously been handling the whole, "still not getting pregnant" thing the second time around essentially by convincing myself that when the time is right it will happen, my interaction with this guy did set me back some. It's been really hard to forget the whole experience and yet I haven't been able to talk about it much. And perhaps what makes it all worse is that he was only trying to limit his liability. On the one hand, I get that's how things work in the USA. On the other.... how crap-tastic that I get to deal with emotional trauma so that he doesn't have to go to court.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Mt. St. Helens Trip

Since a few people have asked about pictures from our trip last week, I dug through to see what we actually managed to photograph. Here's the best of the bunch:

This first picture is from the Hoffstadt Bluffs Visitor Center. We stopped to have lunch there and opted not to take a helicopter tour (although it sounded cool!). But if you look, you can see where the vegetation still isn't - down there in the valley - the lava cut a mighty swath through there 28 years ago and the devastation was still clearly visible.

We then went up to the Johnston Ridge Observatory and got far closer than I ever thought possible. I think of the title of this photo as "Are you taking the picture yet? It's 90+ degrees out here and we may pass out from heat exhaustion if you don't hurry up!" I love my husband and all of his quirks - one of which is the apparent inability to give me any warning about when he's going to take a picture. The result is that I often look confused about where I am.

Finally, a shot of the volcano (we call it Mt. St. Helens and I think of it as a mountain but it is a very active volcano after all!). The last few years have been quite active. In late 2004 an earthquake(s) triggered some lava flow and it was only in early 2008 that the new lava dome stopped growing. Get this: "From October 2004 to late January 2008, about 125 million cubic yards of lava had erupted onto the crater floor to form a new dome—enough to pave seven highway lanes three feet thick from New York City to Portland, Oregon." Can you even believe that? For more details, read here.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Bridges from one heart to another

The other day, my sister J who had her baby just over one week ago, told me that she was feeling really sad. My sister's friend S was due to have her baby just a few days after J had her baby. Unfortunately, S developed cramps the day before her scheduled C-section (baby was transverse and there were some other minor concerns that the doctors had) and when the doctor couldn't find a heartbeat and performed an emergency C-section, their little boy was stillborn. A mutual friend had contacted my sister to give her this update and J was still feeling very emotional. She was uncertain about how to proceed - worried that contacting S directly might make her feel worse given the reminder of J's new baby.

I encouraged her to think about making a call and offering some support, thereby allowing S to make the choice for herself. I also suggested that my sister check out Share for more information. Additionally I contacted Cara at Building Heavenly Bridges (I'd visited her blog a number of times and I really admire the work that she does) and gave her some of this background and she sent me a sweet email encouraging both J and S to feel free to contact her.

While I think it IS sad that we connect with others in these circumstances - there are so many wonderful people out there to meet and get to know better - I wish it didn't have to happen this way. But I confess I'm incredibly grateful for the opportunity to make a wonderful connection like this and to know that we can began to make these heart connections. I hope that each of these connections brings a little bit of healing to all of us.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

While you were out....

Okay *we* were out. It has been, as I'm sure many of you have heard, unbelievably hot here in Seattle. It reached 100F (I've even heard 103F) the other day. Our main living area is on the 3rd floor and we have no air conditioning of any kind. Needless to say, we decided it was worth it to get out of town for a night. We headed down to Long Beach, WA to enjoy some cool, fresh ocean air and a decent night's sleep!

On the way back we stopped at Mt. St. Helen's. I was astonished by how close we were able to get to the mountain (volcano!!) itself. It's no longer spewing lava - apparently that stopped in early 2008 after it was triggered by an earthquake in the fall of 2004. Still, there was plenty of amazing natural beauty and the effects of Mother Nature to stare at in awe.

This weekend we're looking forward to watching the Blue Angels (the navy flight demo squad) perform as part of Seafair. Every year part of the flight path for their airshow goes right over our house. We're able to sit on our tiny deck and watch them pull off some incredible stunts. It's loud but never dull and it's one of the reasons I love Seattle in the summer.

We now return to our regularly scheduled program.