Friday, December 31, 2010

Wrapping Up 2010

I continue to flail about in this space. Hoping to balance my life in two cultures, this space often gets neglected as I bounce from the U.S. to Japan and back again. Wanting to keep a record of my life with now two girls, I find myself mentally composing posts that never see the light of day.

Still, it's almost the start of 2011 and that means the dawn of a new day and new year. I don't resolve to blog more. Not exactly. But I do hope that as things change day by day, I'll find a groove and the desire to capture my thoughts on "paper" so to speak.

For the record, we're back in Japan for the next 5+ months. I'm looking forward to all kinds of new experiences as the littlest girl in our family discovers Japan and all it has to offer.

Highlights so far:
  • Sweet pea loves satsuma imo! (Japanese sweet potatoes)
  • Peanut was overjoyed to see her favorite relatives and to get reacquainted with her toys here in Japan.
  • Fresh mochi!
  • My in-laws got new windows and it seems to have made a little difference in the indoor temperature (it's not frigid in here!)
  • Our trip back to Japan was heavenly. Well, it was as great as could be when you consider we were traveling with a 6 month old and a 3 year old. And it lost some of its luster in the last few moments when Peanut tossed her proverbial cookies all over herself and me, but I was grateful that she waited until the very end of our 11+ hour journey!
  • We head off to an onsen tomorrow for a few days of celebrating with the entire extended family. I'm looking forward to leaving the babes with some other adults and sneaking off for a good long soak on several occasions!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Friday Night Leftovers

  • We've got a "failed" skylight that needs to be repaired. I'm glad we found this leak now. We're expecting a pretty wet, snowy and generally nasty winter here in the Pacific NW.
  • It's Mom's Night Out tonight. I'm heading out with some neighborhood moms for drinks and dessert this evening. It's my one night out/month since the baby was born in June. I love it. I'm happy to have found a group of women, all very different, but all fun and interesting to spend some time with.
  • I can't believe Thanksgiving is in less than one week!
  • I'm trying to find a pair of slippers to buy. I need some support for my feet. I wear supports in my sneakers for pronation. I'm thinking that all the walking around (on hardwood floors, in bare feet) while trying to get the baby to sleep is causing the discomfort. Hopefully some slippers with arch support will help.
  • I cooked up a pie pumpkin this morning. I'm going to puree the pumpkin and hopefully turn it into some pumpkin goodies. This was my first ever pumpkin from scratch attempt. It was surprisingly easy and smelled good while roasting in the oven!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Do You Hear That?

It's the sound of peace and quiet in my home. Peanut is napping (Gboy fell asleep with her while trying to get her to stay in once place long enough to nap - a rarity these days). Sweet Pea is snoozing. I'm alone. For at least a few moments.

I find there are precious few moments to myself these days. Sleep is an ongoing battle (more with Peanut than Sweet Pea, but between the two of them, I'm lucky to get 2 hours of sleep in a row for the last 3+ weeks).

Needless to say, this may be why I find myself incredibly short-tempered lately. Still, we do have good times and laughs. The other day, we went to the store and when I put Peanut in the grocery cart and started pushing it across the pavement in the parking lot, she giggled and said, "That tickles my bum!" Or there was the other night when she started telling jokes and cracked herself up until she couldn't speak because she was laughing so hard - at her own jokes! Sweet Pea laughs at everything, but especially her old sister, which means that the more one laughs, the more the other laughs. They're a comedy team already.

Gboy and I may lose our minds in the next year. We've started thinking about the possibility of buying a new home. We'd like to exchange our current configuration for one more suited to our family's needs. But that's not proving to be easy as we're looking for something fairly specific and of course, it doesn't appear to exist as is. The possibility of a renovation is in our future and while exciting, we need to find the right fixer-upper to start. Yay! And urgh.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

And Now for the "Leftovers"....

And all I've got right now is a series of random thoughts, and it's Friday and suddenly the idea of the Friday Night Leftovers popped into my head. I've seen them before and never participated but today feels like a perfect fit. For more Friday Night Leftovers stop by Sippy Cups Are Not for Starbucks.

Without further ado:
  • Fall is here and I'm excited for all the back to school type fun which doesn't even really affect me since neither of the girls is school-aged and I'm not a teacher. Whatever. I love back to school supplies and the changing colors of the leaves. Can you blame me?
  • Between the two girls I'm getting only a couple of hours of sleep at a time. Peanut is going through....I don't know what for the last few days and is awake at least once a night, usually twice and then is often awake at 5am for good. We're working on trying to convince her that playing in her room quietly until 6am is the best and safest option for everyone. Sweet Pea is still a champ at night sleeping for 5-6 hours in the first part of the night and then waking 3-4 hours later. But between the two of them, it's every couple of hours. Oh boy. I'm starting to feel really fuzzy around the edges and I'm just incredibly grateful that we've gone as long as we have (Sweet Pea just turned 3 months old!) before I started to fray at the edges! And I'm increasingly grateful for daycare 2 days a week. Every little bit of assistance helps right now.
  • I've started watching "Lost". I may be the last person on the planet to see it. I'm still at episode 7 of season 1 but quite enjoying it thus far.
  • I've also been reading a fair amount lately. (At least the girls both nap!) I'm proud of me for finding some "me" time and activity. This means, however, that the house pretty much looks like a disaster most of the time. You can't win 'em all.
  • Today is my 5th wedding anniversary. And that means that Gboy and I have been together for over 10 years now. That feels momentous!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Enter the Daycare

I've never even seen Enter the Dragon, but felt that a martial arts reference was somehow appropriate here.

Yes, Peanut is in daycare now. We started her last week. The plan is to have her in daycare 2 days a week in order for Gboy and I to attend to some work-related issues (his home business needs some help and at the moment the help is me). Also, I'm hoping to get some quality time with Sweet Pea (and I sincerely hope that we get to do some cat napping together on occasion). Furthermore, I think Peanut could really use the outlet. The daycare we've selected is attended by two of her toddler friends (comforting) and several other new playmates (exciting). They've also got tricycles (!) and dollhouses (!) and a chinchilla (!) and a kitten (!). They go on little excursions to the library and local playgrounds. And starting in one more week, she'll be having preschool in the mornings for a few hours. The preschool teacher is a certified 1st grade teacher with two kiddos of her own, both under the age of 5. It's a wonderful play-based environment that I think suits Peanut's personality beautifully.

Having said all of this, the first day went perfectly. By the second there were signs of some separation anxiety. It's increased little by little each day (we're at day 3 today) and although she loves the idea of playing at the daycare, she doesn't want to nap there. She hasn't outright refused to go yet, and willingly got dressed and walked over with me this morning. And all was going along really well until just before I walked out the door. That's when she lost it and the waterworks started. There was crying, howling, and climbing all over me (and little Sweet Pea who was strapped to me in the Bjorn). I know that kids do this. I know that separating takes time. And I also know that she's a pretty independent kid already (we did a play date test run that went without a hitch - she didn't seem to care if I was around at all that day). I suspect this is just something that we have to muddle through as many parents have done before me, but it feels hard. Really hard.

A part of me feels like I should be able to manage both kids and a home business all at the same time without needing outside help. But Peanut isn't that kind of kid. She's a high-energy kid who likes a *lot* of social interaction. I can only read so many books to her, or play ice cream shop with her for so many hours in the day before Sweet Pea just *has* to have her needs met and the business needs my attention. Eventually, my best efforts to multi-task ("Let's read a book while Mama feeds Sweet Pea") cease to be entertaining enough for Peanut - my little dynamo.

For now, we're riding it out to see where this takes us.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Identity and Change

Yesterday Gboy and I had yet another conversation about where and how to live in order to support the girls with becoming bilingual and bicultural. It seems we've discussed this over and over and over again. The sticking points include:

1) How to find a way to make a real home of OUR own while we live in Japan. Staying with my mother-in-law and father-in-law isn't all that bad. The cost of living is much more affordable that way and the girls benefit from having extended family members around (lots of them live very close by). And I'm fortunate to get along pretty well with my MIL and FIL. As much as Gboy and I have worked to carve out some space of our own in the large house, there's still work that needs to be done if I'm ever going to feel like I can call it my own.

2) How do I find a way to pursue a career path or even do some volunteer work that is fulfilling? Two and a half years ago when we found out that I was pregnant with our first child, I was just finishing my degree in library and information science. I was thrilled to have found a career that I expected to enjoy and had made a career change - quitting my job, and going back to school for another advanced degree - in order to do it. I love my children, but I also know that parenting alone isn't enough to fill me up. I may be able to say good-bye to my career as a young adult librarian. I mean, how can one work in a library for 6 months out of the year? How could I work in young adult services in Japan when I don't speak the language that well and I'm not sure the concept of YA librarian even exists in Japan. I'd be sad to give it up before I even got a chance to really be employed as a YA librarian, but if that goes, I really feel as though I'd need something else to take its place. I don't have that much time right now and I don't expect to or necessarily need to be working at the moment. But I'm looking at options for what to do in a couple of years when Peanut is ready for kindergarten and Sweet Pea is ready for preschool.

3) How do we manage to keep our home in the U.S. so that we have a place to return to? The idea of renting it out for 6 months at a time every year, to new renters, starts to feel like a logistical nightmare. Did I mention that the hardwood floors were damaged by our last renters? Their dog who according to them, never does this, urinated on the carpet. The didn't see it until it had soaked into the carpet and damaged both the carpet and floors. The dog also chewed up and destroyed a remote control. In the future, no pets! We'll learn these lessons the hard way I'm sure, but I'm not sure I really want to.

4) How do we educate the girls? Everyone asks us this question. If we're existing in two places (for now let's say 6 months in each location), how can the girls go to school? Do we pull them out of school mid-year? The fact that the school year calendars are different doesn't seem to help. In Japan the school year starts in April and there's no extended summer vacation like we're used to here in the U.S. This makes things tricky.

In the end, we've decide we're going to keep on trying to make our own path and carve out a lifestyle that works for all four of us and for now that means going back and forth between Japan and the U.S. After our long conversation yesterday, I visited a favorite website of mine, Multilingual Living and read this article on Identity and Change, which is really about how multicultural families can work together to make these huge and potentially life altering changes.

For me, it's obvious that there are significant changes to my identity if we continue to pursue this particular bicultural lifestyle. Item numbers one and two on this list deal directly with creating my own, comfortable personal space and my own personal identity with relation to work or other activities that I find fulfilling outside of my identity as a mother. While Gboy and I had some very productive conversation on our own yesterday and came to a conclusion that I think we're both happy with, I'm hoping that this article will give us some guidelines for decision-making that may help us in the future.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Cuteness Keeps Us Going

Here I am in the post-baby bliss phase. Sweet pea continues to sleep for monstrous chunks of time. As much as I adore holding her, she accommodates me by frequently offering to sleep peacefully on her own in a bouncy chair or her co-sleeper. She amazes me. Peanut could rarely be persuaded to be out of arms for more than a few moments. Additionally, Sweet Pea quiets the moment someone picks her up so there is rarely any fussing or crying for very long. It's a wonderful time around here which is good for adjusting to life with a newborn and toddler because the toddler still demands a great deal of time and attention any way you cut it.

In fact we had a day last week that was so rough I nearly ran screaming from the house. I just couldn't seem to communicate with Peanut (she's about to turn 2 1/2) who was fitful about everything. She was throwing things, kicking and hitting me - all very out of character for her - for no reason that I could see. By lunchtime I was exhausted and then she didn't take a very long nap which meant that I didn't get a whole lot of downtime. That night I had plans with some friends to go out and I was immensely grateful that the plans were in motion and Gboy planned to stay at home and put the girls to bed without me. I needed that night out (my first since Sweet Pea was born 5 weeks ago) in a way that was visceral.

Parenting a toddler continues to be a challenge each and every day, particularly as I now try to do it with one hand tied behind my back (so to speak). Having to stop whatever I'm doing with Peanut to nurse Sweet Pea has disrupted the rhythm of things. I'm hopeful that ultimately what will come out of this is more independence for Peanut. She's incredibly verbal and extremely conversational and very much into pretend play right now. As a result, she wants me to constantly be her playmate; I provide the voices for her dolls and stuffed animals and I'm the customer for her store, patient to her as doctor, etc. On top of all this, we're solidifying the potty training and we've moved her to a big girl bed after she figured out how to climb out of her crib just weeks after Sweet Pea's birth. BIG changes all around.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

It Was a Good Underwear Day

Once upon a time, before Gboy and I started thinking seriously about starting a family, our post-dinner conversations went something like this:

"Work was interesting today...."
"That was a really nice bottle of Merlot we had with dinner. I'd drink it again."
"What do you think we should do about the dead grass on our microscopic 'front lawn'? Should we think about landscaping it ourselves? " (Insert laughter here!)

Today, our post-dinner conversation actually began with Gboy saying, "It was a good underwear day." He was referring to the fact that Peanut wore her first pair of Big Sister underpants and kept them dry for the better part of the day (minus the 3 hours that we went out for an excursion and decided that with limited access to toilets a diaper was warranted instead). Life feels different when this is how daily conversation goes. Not bad, and not necessarily "good" (discussing the toilet habits of other people, even my own children, isn't high on my list of exciting things to do) but it feels very real and often very rewarding.

But if, 5 years ago, you'd asked me how to interpret that sentence, I wouldn't have had a clue about the context in which I might use it!!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

I Miss My Mommy....

I dropped my mom and dad off at the airport just an hour ago and I miss them already. I'm wishing for my mom's help already. Gboy and I decided that despite my mom's earlier offer to stay longer if we needed her help, that we wouldn't make a request for her to extend her stay right now. She's been with us for approximately a month and has been helpful in countless ways. She stayed with Peanut while we were in the hospital overnight before we could come home with Sweet Pea. Mom took Peanut to the park and entertained her and baked cupcakes with her and basically ensured that she was having such a good time that she barely noticed Mama and Papa were gone. In fact, when Mom brought Peanut to the hospital to meet the new baby, I was afraid that Peanut would wail and refuse to leave without Mama; but I was wrong. Peanut and her Nana had a great time together.

My dad arrived a few days after the baby was born. His ruptured ear drum prevented him from arriving with my mom the prior week. He and my mom took Peanut to the Pike Place Market - a favorite tourist destination of theirs. She ate cookies! She saw the pig! She rode the bus! And apparently sang a song of her own creation entitled "Eeney Meeney Miney Moe" the entire way home. Mom and Dad played Play-Doh with her, read her books, fed her fruit, took her to the grocery store, and helped with the potty training (she's about 95% dry during the daytime hours these days). These are the things for which I am grateful and reasons why I will miss them.

Still, it feels almost too easy right now to have extra help. Well, the infant is easy. And I do mean super easy. When my mom stayed with us for the 4 weeks after Peanut was born, I distinctly remember one of us adults (Gboy, me or my mom) having to rock her through the dinner hours. She wasn't a colicky baby but she'd fuss for sure *every* night at dinner meaning two of us would eat and one would rock Peanut and then we'd switch. But Sweet Pea is a great sleeper and happy baby. She rarely fusses with the exception of an hour or two in the evening (usually for some stretch between 9 pm and 11pm). And once she's asleep she's asleep. Getting her back to sleep after she's nursed in the middle of the night is easy. Because Sweet Pea is a fast and efficient eater I get lots of nighttime sleep.

I expect everything to change at some point. It always does. But for now, we think we might be able to make it work. Having a husband who works from home also gives me lots of flexibility and support if I need it in a pinch. Needless to say, we're hoping for the best right now. Gambling on the fact that I've assessed the situation accurately and that I truly can spend most of my time entertaining Peanut. She loves, I'd even say needs, to have playmates; for now, I'm it! If things don't work out and we need more help, we'll have to consider preschool options or daycare. But we could also call Nana and have her come back out to lend a hand. I don't think she'd mind!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Just an FYI

My friend Sunny is having a giveaway of some books that are about infertility. If you're interested or know anyone who might be, be sure to check out her blog in the next few days (final drawing is July 6th)!!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Second Time Around

I can't believe how much has changed and how much has *not* changed with a new baby in the house.

Some things are easier the second time around:
  • I don't worry every five minutes about whether or not the baby (i.e. Sweet Pea) is breathing. I just trust that she is!
  • Nursing is easier. Maybe it's due in part to the fact that Sweet Pea is a natural, but maybe it's because after a rough start with Peanut (it took us 5 weeks or so to really get it right without nipple shields or pain medications for the sore nipples etc.) I have a much better idea of what to do.
  • I've already adapted to being a mom. I already know that I may not be able to check my e-mail every day and that finding "free time" of my own isn't always easy. Having made this adjustment to my expectations with Peanut, I don't have to start from square one and the transition to adding a second baby to the family becomes easier in this regard.
  • Sleep deprivation, or at least interrupted sleep is nothing new.

Some things are harder/different the second time around:
  • Should I be holding her more rather than letting her sleep happily in her co-sleeper or bouncy chair? I hold her a lot; we all do. But sometimes it's a necessary evil when her older sister needs me, and Sweet Pea has been such a good and peaceful sleeper!
  • I do have to juggle a toddler with a newborn.
  • People assume we know what we're doing and the level of support is different. On a related note, many of our friends with kids of their own find that their toddlers become jealous if they hold our baby. Needless to say, it seems like fewer adults are making a grab for the baby. This feels different from the first time around.
  • My expectations and memories of the older child child color things with the younger. I find myself wondering, "Why is she sleeping so much? I don't remember Peanut sleeping this much even when she was a newborn! Should Sweet Pea be eating more? Peanut never ate this fast or efficiently!" (Our doctor confirms that Sweet Pea is growing very well and appears to be a very efficient little eater. I probably spend no more than 2-3 hours a day feeding her whereas Peanut was such a leisurely/inefficient eater that I often found myself spending 12 hours a day feeding her when she was little.)
All in all, Peanut has adapted really well to having Sweet Pea in the house. In the first week or so, she had an edge that showed up occasionally. It was the same sort of "edge" that she gets when she hasn't had enough sleep. She'd be more prone to emotional upset over little things, but luckily she's very easy to redirect and none of her tantrums or meltdowns lasted more than a few minutes. I credit my parents with helping out and giving Peanut lots of one-on-one Big Sister time!

Peanut adores her little sister. She rarely calls the baby by her name; mostly she calls Sweet Pea "my baby". I think she's convinced that the new baby is simply one more addition to her menagerie of stuffed animals and dolls!

Basically, things are going well and we're all settling in to our new life!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

It's a Girl!

That's right. SHE arrived 3 days early, much to my surprise. True, I'd had 2 nights of cramping (the menstrual type that doesn't really correspond to contractions). And since the cramping would last all night long, I figured maybe the lead-up to labor had begun. But when I really started having contractions at 10pm on Saturday night, I still couldn't quite believe that this was the main event. Peanut was born 8 days late, so I was certain I'd not see baby #2 until at least our due date (6/16). Boy were we wrong!

After laying in bed for about an hour of infrequent contractions, at 11pm, I gave up on the idea of sleep and Gboy and I headed upstairs to our living room to watch a movie. During the course of the nearly 2 hour film, my contractions got as close together as 6 minutes apart before spreading out again to 10 minutes apart (although more intense). At around 1 am we headed downstairs and I thought I'd go back to bed, but after another 30 minutes or so, with quite intense contractions that were suddenly 5 min. apart, (perhaps as a result of walking down the stairs?) we called the birth center and explained our situation. Our doctor had advised us that since the baby was positioned incredibly low, we shouldn't waste any time once the contractions were about 5 min. apart. The birth center staff told us that we could come in for evaluation.

In triage they hooked me up to some monitors and sure enough we could see my contractions while varying in intensity were about 5 minutes apart, baby's heart rate looked great, and when the nurse checked me, she said I was dilated to 5 cm. already and not going anywhere! I said, "Amen" as the last time I was admitted to the hospital, to have Peanut, the resident assessed me at 8 cm and we were told later that I was probably only 2 cm. dilated and she hadn't measured me correctly. What a blow. This time around, we were right on track at 5 cm. dilated after only about 5 hours of laboring.

I was tired and wanted to sleep (by now it was 3am), but I labored for another couple of hours in our room. At 5am I was seriously considering that epidural which had allowed me to sleep during my first labor. But the staff respected our birth plan and our wishes to try the minimal interventions as we progressed and they advised us that I could try the bath, and IV pain medications all before going to the epidural and that there was still plenty of time to move through those options. I got in the tub and immediately felt better. After about 45 minutes in the tub I opted for some further pain relief. They checked me again and assessed me at 7 cm. dilated assuring me that the likelihood of contractions intensifying wasn't great. I opted for the IV pain medication which enabled me to relax (it really felt like a good buzz - one that I don't remember from Peanut's birth even though I had IV pain medications with her too). After about an hour I suddenly grabbed for the call button and told the nurses I *really* felt like I had to push. My husband woke from his nap, surprised to hear this already. :)

I started to feel that urge to push and after three good pushes, my doctor told me the next push would give me a baby. I almost couldn't believe it, but I trusted her and after two more pushes, (a grand total of 5!) our little girl made her way into the world and my arms. What a different experience from the 3 hours of pushing with my first daughter!

I'm totally in love with little Sweet Pea. A pair of girls. I cannot tell you how happy I am. I am torn between both my girls - in the best possible way. I adore them each for different reasons and I love having them both near me. It's not easy by any stretch of the imagination. But it is absolutely perfect.

Monday, June 7, 2010

What's on YOUR Mind at 2 a.m.?

It's 2 a.m. and I'm officially awake. I've got a stack of books, primarily mysteries, that I'm working my way through in the wee hours when I can't seem to get back to sleep. But I've also been pondering the life altering decision of which actress should get the privilege of portraying me in the sure-to-be-gripping movie about my life one day. This is seriously what my brain is stuck on at 2 a.m. when I could be sleeping (or reading for that matter).

I'm really trying to race through these while I've only got a toddler in the house - one who is sleeping through the nights peacefully. In just another couple of weeks I suspect I won't have the time or energy to do any serious reading for another good long stretch. And yet here I sit, pondering the most ridiculous things and completely unable to settle into a book tonight.

Books currently on my bedside table:
Finger Lickin' Fifteen
The Good Thief's Guide to Paris
The Tourist
The Spellmans Strike Again
Shoot to Thrill

Friday, June 4, 2010

(Not) Loving Your Child

Wow. In light of yesterday's post it was weird to see this blog post on Motherlode. Reading it really choked me up. Have I mentioned that the pregnancy hormones are really, really raging these days? (I can't watch an episode of Glee without keeping the tissues handy.) The post deals with all of the ambivalence that I'd been feeling for the last 9 months or so but couldn't really articulate. "What if I don't love the 2nd baby as much?" "What if I love the 2nd baby too much and exclude or isolate my oldest child in some way?" "How will I juggle two kids in caring for them, nevermind how to dole out the love in the household?"

What I loved about the post is that many of the comments indicated that people have been feeling this in one way or another for years, with multiple kids, and that most of them seem to have found a way to make it all work. It's not always easy, but relationships with our kids can be much like a relationship with a partner/spouse; sometimes it takes work and effort.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Finally - Making Peace with the Change

I can't really say where I've been or what I've been doing, mostly because I don't know. I think I'm just trying to mentally prepare for a major transition in my life. Mel pointed out that perhaps that's part of the source of my frustration/funk and why I feel so out of sorts lately. Our family will be growing and changing in a few short weeks and I feel more unprepared now than I did before Peanut's arrival. I suppose it's partly because I want to protect her from any upset or upheaval that the new baby will bring to our lives and household. I didn't have that kind of motivation before she arrived; Gboy and I were looking forward to upheaval and to the potential chaos that a baby would bring to our family. We had longed for it for close to two years before she arrived. This time around things are different.

I think it's just in the past two weeks that I've given myself permission to be okay with the fact that there may be turmoil and not everything will go smoothly and I don't have to love that fact. Change is hard. But I think that acknowledging those feelings and some of the...I don't know what to call it exactly but it's almost like it was resentment...toward the wee one in the womb actually made it easier for me to look forward to the littlest one's arrival. Finally. I've spent months feeling guilty that I wasn't over the moon ecstatic about the changes we're looking at in our family instead of just admitting that I've been scared and at times overwhelmed. Thinking about how to manage two small children has left me feeling nearly paralyzed with fear at times. Of course this is exactly what I wanted. But I kept hearing that old adage in my mind "be careful what you wish for".

Finally though, I'm starting to have the excitement and anticipation that I've been waiting almost 9 months to experience. I'm starting to really look forward to seeing this baby in the outside world. I'm looking forward to holding a tiny bundle in my arms again. I'm excited about introducing the baby to Peanut who is *so* ready to be a Big Sister. We've been reading all kinds of books about siblings and now as far as she's concerned, every family picture we draw and every family of animals or people that we see must contain a big sister. Good things are coming.


Saturday, May 15, 2010

I Surrender

I've given up on trying to install the child-proof latches on our cupboards here in the house. Since we've moved back in to our house (after being away for nearly 5 months) we've discovered a whole new need to child-proof things now that Peanut can open doors and climb up drawer handles and really nothing seems to be out of reach anymore. I've been relying rubber bands and heavy hand-weights strategically placed in front of cupboard doors, along with the heavy utilization of the one or two really high and out of reach places that we still have in order to keep her from poisoning herself or setting herself on fire. You know. Things like that. Today I was going to tackle a few of the cupboards while she was out of the house with her father. And then after wrestling with the tools needed to do the installation, and trying to work around a very pregnant belly, I finally gave up in a fit of tears. Yes I'm at that point in the pregnancy where I'm very hormonal and the sheer fact I couldn't install a child-proof lock brought me to tears.

One of the reasons that it's so frustrating is that I've always prided myself on being handy enough to manage some basic fixes around the house. I can't fix a leaky toilet, for instance, but I can do some minor repairs and installation of small products that come with instructions and require only the use of a hammer and/or a screwdriver. I'm just that independent! But pregnancy changes things. And one of the things that I'm lamenting is the fact that during my first pregnancy, everyone was all, "Don't climb up on the chair! Don't lift that! Let me help!" And this time around it feels like the Mom-syndrome has set in. "You're a super-mom now, it's your job to do all of these things simultaneously and without any assistance." Ultimately it makes me think that this is really and truly my last pregnancy. Gboy and I may decide at some point that we'd like to add another child to our family, but I don't feel like another pregnancy is the route we'll be taking. I'm done with the nausea, the exhaustion, the hormones, the limitations on my own body. It's a miracle of life and all that, and I'm grateful that we got pregnant not once but twice, and some part of me appreciates the beauty of it all, but pregnancy is not fun or easy as far as I'm concerned.

Anyway, instead of dealing with childproofing, I decided to clean the windows. It's spring cleaning time and I think the urge to get things done before the baby arrives has really motivated me. Enough that I fought off the desire to nap or otherwise rest despite the fact that some R&R sounds really good right about now. But I just don't feel like I have the luxury of sitting around and resting. Too much needs to get done. And Gboy is working his butt off to get a project completed before the new baby arrives; this is the downside of self-employment. He's here but he's not *here* - not available much of the time because he's, you know, trying to make a living.

I'm thinking that as long as I continue to be vigilant, we'll be okay without store-purchased child protection locks. I have learned to be creative with my home grown child proofing solutions! And in just a little more than 3 weeks my parents will be arriving to help out with Peanut before the new baby is due to arrive. I figure my Dad, Mr. Handyman, might actually like a project to work on here around the house. Nothing too onerous. Just a little child-proofing!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Birthing Around the World

Last night I watched "The Business of Being Born" and found it fascinating. Living in Seattle, we have a lot of options for natural childbirth and medication-free, low intervention births. Doulas and midwives seem to be plentiful and home births aren't unheard of here either. Needless to say, much of the information in the movie was familiar to me.

Having said that, it was still an incredibly inspirational movie about the power of women to give birth on their own terms without medical interventions and without the need of specialists or doctors or hospitals. What I find myself pondering is the cultural implications raised in the movie. For example, the movie suggests that something like 80% of all births in Japan have a midwife in attendance. While I think that's admirable (keeping the tradition of midwifery alive and relevant even in hospital or clinic settings as opposed to what we have in the U.S. where midwives are often unwelcome in hospitals) I wonder how accurate or meaningful this fact really is.

I had the sense from a number of women (both Japanese and non-Japanese) that I've heard from who delivered babies in Japan, that labor and delivery generally involves the pregnant mother lying on a bed while a doctor runs the show. Sure a midwife may be in the room, but I've never gotten the sense that comfort measures or encouraging a less "medical" or standard hospital delivery was part of their job responsibilities. If this is the case, and the hospital stay accompanied by doctor delivery of the baby is truly standard in Japan, then I'd argue that the mere presence of a midwife isn't sufficient to make things different in a meaningful way. It may be true that maternal mortality and infant mortality rates in the U.S. are both worse than the rates in Japan, but isn't it possible that this is because epidurals aren't widely available? (And if epidurals aren't used then the labor is less complicated and "risky" for a variety of reasons.)

All of this just makes me wonder about cultural similarities and differences. Does the fact that doctors and hospitals are seen as "the" place to give birth transcend Japanese and American cultures? Are midwives in Japan truly more influential in Japan than they are in the U.S., or are they simply more visible without any real influence on birth outcomes?

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Communing with My Community

I'm excited to report that my neighborhood (and several other adjacent neighborhoods) has formed a new volunteer-run parent resource group. The focus is on both providing community for and with one another so that we know our neighbors and recognize the kids on the playground, and also on supporting parents of families with kids aged 0-5 (although it's not exclusive to those parents). The idea is that by providing a centralized website and resource with information about daycare, preschool, and babysitters parents will be better able to care for themselves and their children. Likewise, the group has organized some Moms' Nights out and Dads' Nights out too, as well as several playgroup opportunities for kids. I'm stoked!

One of the things that I have found the hardest about being a stay-at-home mom for the last 2 years, is that slowly many of my peers who had kids of the same age as my daughter, began to go back to work leaving me literally at home alone with Peanut. When I was growing up, my mom lived right next door to two families with other stay-at-home moms. This meant that there was a constant flock of children around our house and the moms seemed to have "coffee dates" just about all the time (although I suspect the actual *sitting down* with a cup of joe and a coffee cake happened at best once a week!). I suppose a part of me envisioned that this is how my life as a SAHM would be. The best of both worlds - time with my daughter and female companionship. Not as easy as I thought.

I'm not sure that this particular group will hold the answer. But even if it doesn't, I think that the benefits to the community and our neighborhood make participation well worth it regardless. Our neighborhood isn't super family or kid friendly and although we're lucky to have lots of nearby parks (whoo hoo!) that seems to be the extent of our neighborhood's "child-friendliness". Hopefully this will change things.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

7-ish Weeks and Counting

That's right. Just about 7 more weeks until my due date of June 15th. And I'm really not sure how I'll make it that long. It feels like there is NO room left in my belly. I've got a mild grade nausea by the end of the day, surely the result of being pummeled in the stomach by a squirming baby who often lodges itself squarely against said stomach for hours (ouch). I've also got an increasingly clingy toddler who wants to be held and carried by me even if I go no further than across the room. I'm not finding this easy to manage.

Still, I'm grateful that we're getting more sleep at night. Have I mentioned that Peanut is back in her crib here at home and hasn't figured out how to safely scale the sides of the crib to get out? She occasionally climbs in by herself, but she won't climb out so we're all sleeping much better at night. Last night was the first night she had a night waking in 4 or 5 days and it was a brief one after some minor reassurance. It's been lovely!

Everyone's health is quite good. I just wish the next 7 weeks wouldn't be as hard as I think they might be. I've got a stomach ache right now and I have no idea why. Usually I feel good if I'm laying down, but with a toddler - close to impossible. So. For now, we just keep on keepin' on.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Hazy Days

The jet lag seems to have worn off, but there are days when I'm not sure if I'm coming or going. Between moving from Japan to our friends' place, then after 2 weeks with them back to our own home (after our renters left), we've been all over the place. Having entered the 3rd trimester, this all seems much much harder. I feel as though I'm walking through molasses on most days. I spend most of my time trying my hardest to keep up with an incredibly active toddler who has become very clingy (lots of travel + impending new baby arrival makes this not too surprising). This means that we still have boxes that we pulled out of storage that remain unopened. Any preparations for baby are likely not to happen until just a week before the due date. In the meantime we're also fighting the fires that come with home ownership - a pest invasion (cleared up), a leaky fridge (fixed), damaged floors underneath fridge (pending), busted fireplace (pending), windows in dire need of cleaning (mold growing in window tracks), etc.

Having said all this, I'm ecstatic to have my own gloriously comfortable bed to sleep in at night. I'm over the moon(!) to be making homemade macaroni and cheese for dinner tonight (and to have access to the ingredients to do so)! I've fallen in love with my local library all over again. Well, I never fell out of love with them, I just happy to be reunited! Our cat has returned home after an extended stay with friends while we were out of the country and we're all thrilled to be together again.

All in all, life is good right now.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Moving Around

I know, I know! You’ve been wondering – where *will* she be living?! How did the whole renter thing turn out? We decided that we’d just go ahead and let our renters stay since I was comfortable with being displaced for a week and in the end they were only asking for another 5 days beyond that. Seattle here we come!

We're now frantically packing and trying to get ready to go. This has been complicated by Peanut's never-ending illness. Things started to get dicey the other night when she spiked a fever. Then on Friday she first complained of pain in her ear. Things seemed to improve a little, although she was clearly not sleeping well at night and was then sleeping a lot and at strange hours during the day. Then the ear pain complaints started again late on Friday and by Saturday morning we had our diagnosis of an ear infection along with a prescription for some antibiotics. Thank goodness this all manifested before our flight on Monday; traveling with a toddler with an ear infection on an international flight doesn't sound like my idea of a good time.

I'm looking forward to heading "home" to Seattle in less than 48 hours. Even if we won't be in our own space right away, it's time to move on.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

I've migrated...

but have no idea how successful the migration is yet. The comment counts are all wrong and often I get an error message when trying to access a post. Apparently I'm one of a "small number of users" who now get this message after migration. We'll see what happens next. Stay tuned.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Transitioning Back Home

As we were making our preparations to return to Japan last fall, we found renters for our house at the last minute. Truly, 2 weeks before our departure a friend put two and two together and matched us and our vacant house from December - March with some friends who were about to undergo a remodel on their house and needed a place to stay for that same time frame. Even better, their home was only a couple of miles from our place so they could periodically check on the progress of their remodel and since our place would be rented as a furnished space, they could leave most of their stuff in their home and not have to worry about where to sleep or what pots and pans they'd be using for cooking. And basically I want to starting nesting as I've mentioned before.

And of course, given the short notice and the fact that they were referred by friends, we didn't get a rental agreement in writing - something that worried me from the start. I'm a bit compulsive about these kinds of things. I just want everyone to have the same clear expectations. Not having the rental agreement in writing was probably our first mistake.

At some point, a few weeks into their stay, one of the renters emailed us to ask if we'd reduce the rent because they really would have liked to use the extra bedroom that we had closed up with our personal belongings inside. At the time that we explained our circumstances (in 2 weeks' time we couldn't move out all the furniture and stored items from our daughter's room), the renters assured us that they didn't need to use that 2nd bedroom and were more than happy with our proposed one-bedroom furnished rental. Upon further consideration, they decided that they would have liked to use that room for hosting guests and could we consider reducing the rent accordingly? To be fair, our estimated rental price may have been a little on the higher side because when we drew it up in our minds, we were anticipating renting out the entire house including both bedrooms. We conceded their point and reduced the rent slightly.

As we prepared to return, we asked how the remodel was progressing and were assured it was on schedule. We still planned to return as late as possible in March so that our renters would have lots of time to make the necessary arrangements to move out. Now they're asking us for another week "or so" in April. They feel bad about asking us not to return to our house, but don't want to move their belongings twice.

Here's the sticking point. When we initially talked to them about our return plans, we acknowledged that we had no set return date but given the pregnancy, I didn't want to be traveling after the end of March so we'd be back by then at the latest but were thinking of mid-March. As I recall it, we had told them we had friends we might be able to stay with until the end of March to give them the remodel duration time. But we never talked about April. And now that they're asking us to stay away until almost mid-April, I'm not thrilled. I've been looking forward to returning to my own home and space. I've been thinking about my own bed and settling back into my own kitchen. I've been dreaming about eating all the foods that make me healthy and happy instead of having to eat whatever my mother-in-law cooks because we only have one kitchen and in-laws that don't generally care to eat the kind of food I'd cook up.

So. What to do. We'd like to have a positive recommendation from these renters for future purposes in the event that we rent out our place again as we hope to do the next time we return to Japan for an extended trip. And of course, since they are friends of friends, I don't want to screw this up too badly. But is it all worth it? I'm just not sure. I feel like we've already made concessions of all kinds regarding the rental amount and even which things we'd move around in order to better accommodate them before we left.

And I really had never anticipated being displaced from my home well into April. I'm sure our renters did. Realistically, a remodel never goes according to plan and I get that. But I thought it was pretty clear that we'd give them until the end of March (we'd make it work one way or another) but that was pretty much our best offer. Now I am able to envision that there may have been some room for misinterpretation as I'm sure they interpreted our suggestion that we might be able to stay with friends for a week or two as an open-ended kind of thing that would start whenever they needed they extra time (or call it their wishful thinking - whatever).

They've said that they can stay with friends but don't want to have to move twice. I don't blame them. We're thinking of offering them our garage as storage space until an April 15th drop dead date. They'd need to be out by March 28th since we'll be back on the 29th, but they could leave the bulk of their stuff behind (and it sounds like they brought a lot with them and that's part of the reason they wanted more space at our place) and not have to drag it all with them twice.

We're going to check with one set of friends who would normally do just about anything for us and thus might be able to put us up. But I'm concerned that their child, who is close in age to our daughter, might not handle it well. He's a very intense, spirited-child and he doesn't like to be around other children or even other adults all that much. I'd hate to come back into his life after being going for more than 4 months and to invade his space creating a real threat for him. Needless to say, staying with them for a week would normally be fun for us adults, but I'm not sure the toddlers will have a great time which ultimately means we adults may struggle. And have I mentioned that I'm pregnant and the hormones are raging????? I'm definitely coming around to the idea of staying with our friends for a week and just seriously hanging out and having some fun. We used to be roommates and it could be nice to have some together time again. Also, two of the four of us adults will celebrate our birthdays that week, so we'll surely be spending some quality time with them anyway...

If there's another option, I'd love to hear it. I'm trying to make everyone as happy and comfortable as possible, but I always do that and then I feel like miserable martyr and that doesn't seem useful. *sigh*

Friday, March 5, 2010

Riding the Hormone Roller Coaster

I woke the other morning from a dream in which I was crying and I found myself actually, physically crying. And then I was sobbing. Suddenly I felt overwhelmed by a number of questions and doubts about our life here in Japan, about our attempt to live a bicoastal/bicultural life, about our second baby - you know the "little" things!

I was amazed at how powerful the emotions were and at the same time I realized that the extent to which I was crying sort of outweighed the feelings I was having. Good old pregnancy hormone roller coaster strikes again!

I confess I'm really, really looking forward to our return to the U.S. as I'm feeling a strong desire to be in my own home and comfort space as I finish this pregnancy. I'm tired of living in someone else's space and eating someone else's food and feeling like it's just too hard to carve out space (literal and figurative) of my own. And I'm feeling a very strong desire to nest, in a way that I truly didn't feel during my first pregnancy.

So in case you were wondering, that's where I'm at emotionally these days. On the edge...but holding on. Just 24 more days.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Too Much Togetherness?

Is it possible? I think most of us would say, "Yes, at some point there IS such a thing as too much togetherness." Today we spent all day honoring and remembering Gboy's grandmother who passed away two years ago. There's a Buddhist tradition of doing a kind of memorial service and this was her 2nd annual. Last year it felt very fitting and appropriate. This year is mostly felt exhausting and like a chore that had to be done. Fewer of the extended relatives showed up. And the whole thing seemed sort of... obligatory.

Despite the fact that this day was about his own mother, my father-in-law spent the day (even while his whole family and guests were here) in his bedroom with the door shut watching horse racing. I know this because periodically he would emerge, betting sheet in hand, to use the computer to place another online bet. Meanwhile, my sister-in-law and her husband have been walking around like zombies because they arrived here very late last night and while they would have liked to nap, they couldn't because my father-in-law was in the room they'll be sleeping in for the next couple of days. My mother-in-law spent the day running around like a chicken with her head cut off, refusing all offers of help and trying to do everything herself.

By late this afternoon, Peanut, wound-up from all the excitement of having 7 or 8 of her cousins here to play with her all day, finally melted down from lack of food (too busy to be convinced to eat) and sheer exhaustion. As my husband took her out to the car in an attempt to drive her around in the quiet and comfort of a moving vehicle (a nice safe bet for lulling her to sleep) my father-in-law kept barking, "Why are you crying?! Why are you crying?!" as they walked by. I'm not sure what on earth his purpose was. He doesn't play with or really interact much with my daughter in general. So these barking interrogations tend only to scare her and generally she tells him to "go away" if he talks to her. He certainly didn't plan to offer any assistance or help in calming her down, and in all likelihood he just escalated her anxiety.

*sigh* I'm sure I'm sensitive about all of this because I too am tired (my mother and father-in-law were up for hours last night walking around the house repeatedly slamming doors in anticipation of their daughter's arrival). As a result, Gboy and I didn't manage to get any decent sleep until well after 1am and we're tired too.

It's like so many holidays in the U.S. I guess. Everyone is so excited to get together but it takes so much work and then once you're all crammed together in one small space, suddenly things aren't as ideal as you dreamed they'd be!!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

In Which I Pick Your Collective Brains....

Have I mentioned that we have a return date set? March 29th we're headed back to Seattle! I'm already working up my list of books to request from the library and what I'm currently interested in are books about parenting and/or children that address the way in which kids learn and grow from say, ages 3 and up.

You see, Peanut is currently attending a 2 year-old class at a nearby preschool and she is loving it. As in, she walks in the door, doesn't look back or wave good-bye unless prompted by the teacher, and excitedly chatters on and on about school all week long until that once a week 1 1/2 hour session rolls around again. She sings the songs she learned there, she shows us how she's learning to use scissors, she tells me about the stories they read, shows me her dance skills, etc.

Up until now, Gboy and I had been taking a wait and see approach. Rather than make any decisions about how or where to enroll or educate Peanut (from preschool through high school) we figured we'd take it one step at a time. We wanted to see how her personality developed and try to find a way to give her the social and intellectual stimulation that suited her. Needless to say, her love of preschool has really forced the issue of education and socialization to the forefront of our minds.

At this point, I'm open to all kinds of possibilities. We aren't sure where we'll be living at any particular point in the future and this makes the decision of a Japanese vs. American or private vs. public school challenging. Thus, it's not so much the specifics that I'm interested in learning about; rather, I'd like to explore all kinds of ways of teaching and raising our kids.

One way of looking at this is to learn more about home schooling, something I'd never given much thought, but seems like an interesting possibility. But I'd also love to hear any and all ideas that you might have regarding books or materials or philosophies that you've read about or used for parenting that have helped to guide your family's mission and have helped you to think about how your children are growing and developing into unique individuals.


Sunday, February 21, 2010

Stitching for Fun AND Literacy

I'm an occasional cross-stitch-er. When I saw this, I thought it was such a great idea. If you know anyone who is a stitcher looking for a project, this sounds like a fantastic way to demonstrate some flair and to support a great cause.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

You Say Potato, I Say Tomato

I love watching the bilingual learning process unfold. Peanut has this adorable habit lately of calling tomatoes, potatoes. Her pronunciation is perfectly Japanese "poh-tah-to" and it cracks me up every time. If we practice with her "TOmato" in small syllables she says it correctly (in fact until a few weeks ago she correctly said tomato) but as soon as she tries to say the whole word, it now comes out as potato. Fascinating!

And that's her other new word. She looks at the ceiling and says, "fascinating". We have no idea what she's looking at (the air vent?) but she smiles and giggles and says it's fascinating.

Additionally, she's has started to mix, in grammatically correct ways, both English and Japanese. We get identical requests like "apple kudasai" one minute followed by "ringo please" the next. She has also taken to saying things like "Mama is going benkyoh suru-ing" (her "Japanish" word for studying). It's unbelievable to see what she comes up with.

I love that she understands and speaks both languages without hesitation now. When we first arrived here in Japan at the end of December, she seemed hesitant to speak any Japanese to anyone other than her father. I attributed this in part to her shyness and also the fact that many people here were attempting to speak English to her (despite their own English skills limitations). I thought this might have created some confusion for Peanut. After all, she tends to catch on quickly that if she's asked a question in English she can answer it in English and vice versa.

Needless to say, not hearing the question in Japanese, why should Peanut answer it in Japanese? But this seemed to fluster my in-laws who couldn't understand why she wouldn't speak to them in Japanese. Gboy and I kept telling the in-laws that they could use Japanese as Peanut is perfectly able to comprehend them, but it took a good month or so before the adults finally started to speak to Peanut in regular Japanese - just like they would when speaking to their other grandchildren. I'm awfully glad that they did because her Japanese vocabulary is now growing exponentially and everyone here is so excited to see it and they reinforce her learning because they want to see more. It's amazing how the adults are often the slowest learners!!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

And Now for Something...Meatier

I've spent the last 24+ hours trying to put a less than stellar (one might say "traumatizing") OB appointment behind me. I mentally drafted and re-drafted the post that would describe how unpleasant it was and the more I thought about it, the more it frustrated me. I don't want to come off as melodramatic or anti-Japan. And so, I've chalked up most of my frustration with the appointment to cultural differences.

When I was in graduate school (the first time when I was studying public affairs and policy as opposed to the second time when I was studying library and information science - I know. Two degrees?? What was I thinking. But whatever..) I took a few public health classes that I really enjoyed. In one of the classes we spent some time talking about successful public health campaigns and especially, how to reach "under-served" populations. From the perspective of the USA, one under-served population as you might imagine, is those people who are non-English speakers. Having been on the other side of the Dr.'s desk, so to speak, I now understand why. I mean, I got it conceptually, while I was in school. And I thought that improving the "cultural competence" of medical staff sounded logical.

But now I see how vital cultural competence truly is; it's not just a buzzword or politically correct token effort. Because if I didn't have a husband willing to go with me to these appointments, I would just stop going to see the doctor here in Japan. The frustration I experience, the embarrassment, the confusion - none of it feels worth it during a pregnancy that I feel is routine. Naturally, I'm no doctor and could be wrong about my own condition or that of the baby, but I'm telling you, even with husband to take me, I don't want to go back. I don't feel any sense of understanding or compassion or accommodation from the staff of a fairly large and modern hospital system. Instead, I get what I can only assume is the routine treatment and I'm just supposed to go with it. Accept that this is "how things are done here" and that's it. I understand that the situation might be a little different if we'd chosen a hospital or clinic in a more urban area, but as I said, this one is pretty modern and I figured it wouldn't really matter since in the 2nd trimester you mostly get weighed, have an ultrasound and call it good. I didn't expect that they'd want to see me every 3 weeks, nor did I expect things to get as "invasive" as they've gotten.

But I've decided it's just not worth it to dwell on it. Instead, I'll take from this experience only the parts I want to remember and I'll just do my best to block out the rest. So..... Turns out they think I'm a little iron-deficient (just barely below the cut-off for "regular" standards here) and I'm taking this as a sign. A sign I tell you. I am MEANT to have the Big America "New York" burger at McDonald's. I missed the Texas burger, but I won't be missing the beef in the New York burger you can bet on that! And that California burger looks yummy too. This might also explain why I was overjoyed to sample the Sasebo burger the other day. You can't imagine anything like this if you think of American fast food joints. The bun was perfectly toasted, the lettuce was crispy, the sauce wasn't too skimpy or overly sloppy, the egg was fabulous...I could go on, but instead, I'm going to call it another day and get some rest. Yesterday was draining and the baby and I surely need some more rest.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Book Club Origins

I've offered to host a single event for a meetup group that is generally about socializing and meeting new women in the Kansai area and I've agreed to do a book club style meeting. Essentially, we're doing a one-time book group meeting. If things go well, I'd like to try to do it again in the future, but given my travel schedule I'm not entirely possible when or how that would work. Still, I'm having so much fun planning for this one, that I'm seriously thinking it might be time to start my own group in Seattle as well.

In that vein, I'm really looking for suggestions about how to run a successful group. I've seen some tips from "professionals" but what I'm more interested in is how a particular group works and if the members are generally happy with the dynamic? For example, do your book group members all get to vote on a title that they'd like to read? Is that democratic approach working for your group or does it stymie things? Also, are there differing expectations about how much time the group will spend on socializing and chit chat vs. book discussion? I suppose you could try to make that clear with your group during the initial meeting, but is there an ebb and flow to membership that is to be expected during the first few months as people work out whether or not the group is a good fit for them?

I'm dying to get back to some book chat with real people and the local public libraries in Seattle have monthly book groups, but I wonder if that approach, or even advertising through say, leads to a really transient group of readers. And maybe that's not a bad thing (I'm making an assumption here that a more regular group of readers makes people more comfortable with engaging in dialogue with one another).

Please feel free to share your experiences! I'd love to hear if you were part of a terrible book group and what made it terrible. Likewise, I'd love to hear about successful groups! Any thoughts are appreciated!

Cross-posted on: Everything's Better With Books

Saturday, January 23, 2010

A Few Bumps in the Road

This past week has been bumpy. Peanut has discovered that she can climb out of her crib and come get us whenever she likes. This means that although she had been sleeping from 8:30pm - almost 6:30 am without waking, she's now awake several times during the night, coming to get one of us, esp. Mama and asking for company. She then has a habit of staying awake for a minimum of 30 minutes, often more like 1 hour to 1.5 hours. And if she happens to wake at 5:30 am, we're out of luck - no more sleep. Additionally, this new found climbing skill has affected her napping routine. We're lucky if she naps for an hour, and we're really lucky if it takes less than an hour for her to fall asleep. She's a mess.

Then a couple of days ago she got a running nose and low grade fever. After almost a week of minimal sleep, perhaps that was to be expected? Anyway, last night she was awake several times, despite the fact that she took the doctor prescribed, "it could make her sleepy" medicine. Not likely. I'd say the runny nose has improved a little today, but her sleeping hasn't. I'm hopeful that this time around the changes will resolve in just a couple of weeks and we'll be back, more or less, to the usual.

In the meantime, we've started to see more evidence of the "terrible two's" emerging from Peanut's personality, just days before her 2nd birthday. Poor thing. I'd be cranky too if I wasn't sleeping well. Who am I kidding? I'm not sleeping well (all this up-and-down in the middle of the night isn't fun when you're pregnant, although it wasn't fun when I was post-pregnancy either).

All in all, this is my greatest fear about parenting child #2. I really, really struggled with the sleep loss and sleep disruption issues when Peanut was firstborn. Well, it wasn't so much when she was a newborn, it was really rough for me at about 4 months. Then eventually things improved somewhat, but we've been through all kinds of setbacks when it comes to sleep. And I'm afraid. I'm very afraid that come June, I won't manage it all well with a newborn and a 2 1/2 year old who theoretically may yet be wandering around at night. How do people survive more than one child? Perhaps I just need to up my intake of Starbucks and other local cafes (easy to do in Seattle - nearly impossible where we are in Japan).

I should add that the miracle in all of this, is that somehow our daughter is essentially training herself to use the potty. We've gotten several requests from her - to use the potty. And given the opportunity, she willingly uses the potty at the peak times of day. This doesn't cease to amaze me. Also, she was angelic during the 2, almost 3 hours, that we spent in the car coming home from the amazing Green Hotel in Mie yesterday. We had spent the night there taking advantage of their onsen and although Peanut hadn't slept well during the night, she was, as I said, almost angelic and completely self-sufficient for the car ride home. These are the little things that keep us going!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Big Ones are Good for the Soul

I've added a new button on my sidebar. I want to be sure that everyone knows where and how to get some of their very own delicious and truly HUGE Big Ones. We're talking cookies that are as big as a toddler's head. In flavors like you wouldn't believe. Trust me, you won't regret ordering them.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Could a BLT Contain the Secret to Happiness?

After my Japanese class today, I met a friend for lunch. We dined in a lovely little cafe with delicious sandwiches and pastries (sort of Japanese meets French) and had wonderful conversation. After a couple of hours, I headed back to the train station to start the trek home. It generally takes nearly an hour and a half to make it from downtown Osaka to our house out here in the "country" (and frankly it's not all THAT rural here). Still, on the trip home I had lots of time to think about how long I'd been away from the house and my family.

I left the house at 8:30 this morning and didn't make it back until just before 4pm. It was a beautiful warm and sunny day with temperatures approaching 60F! It was the kind of day perfect for some farming and I know my husband had hoped to get some work done on the farm, but while I was gone, he was on baby-duty. I've mentioned before that finding childcare here is incredibly difficult despite the fact that we leave with my in-laws and near family. It's just not how things work here. As a result, I was feeling very guilty for being away for so long today. It's worth noting that my husband doesn't resent this at all and he encourages me to go out with friends, particularly while we're here in Japan. He wants me to feel "at-home" and fulfilled rather than isolated.

And was soul-satisfying to have adult conversation with an educated and worldly and funny friend. It reminded me of who I am, separate from being a mother, something that I have really struggled with in the last two years. I adore my daughter and feel very guilty every time I even THINK about how mind-numbing I sometimes find day-to-day childcare. I'm sure I feel even more guilty because it took us over a year just to conceive her. Many days I hoped and prayed for a positive pregnancy test and kept telling myself that I'd appreciate every moment of parenting if only I could get pregnant. But then I finally got pregnant and we had our beautiful daughter. Since then, I've spent the last two years trying to reassert myself as I sometimes feel myself slipping away. To where? I don't know. It's almost hard to explain. But after a day like today, one in which I get to learn and meet up with old friends in my Japanese school, and lunch with newer friends in downtown, I feel selfish in the best possible way. I feel renewed and I constantly try to tell myself that it's all worthwhile in the end as it makes me a better - ME.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Reading Through the New Year

It's the start of 2010 and I recently reviewed my list of books read in 2009 and the number was pitifully small by my own standards. As a result, I've decided that rather than sign up for a bunch of reading challenges (which feels like more commitment and smacks of *resolution* in a way that I'm not comfortable with at the moment), I'd just peruse some of the existing lists and make up my own list of books that I want to read this year. I'm hoping that with a real focus on which titles I want to scratch off the list, I might make more progress.

Pulitzer Prize Winners/Honorees
Empire Falls – Richard Russo (2002)
Amazing Adventures of Cavalier and Clay – Michael Chabon (2001)
American Pastoral – Philip Roth (1998)
Breathing Lessons – Anne Tyler (1989)
Foreign Affairs – Allison Lurie (1985)

Orange Prize Winners/Shortlist
Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers (2007 shortlist)
Liars and Saints – Maile Meloy (2005 shortlist)
Small Island – Andrea Levy (2004)
Magician’s Assistant – Ann Patchett (1998 shortlist)

Armchair Travel
French Milk – Lucy Knisley
Immovable Feast: A Paris Christmas – John Baxter
Best American Travel Writing 2006 – Timothy Cahill
The Reluctant Tuscan: How I Discovered My Inner Italian – Phil Doran
On Rue Tatin: Living and Cooking in a French Town – Susan Hermann Loomis
Japanland: A Year in Search of WA – Karin Muller

Back to School
To Kill a Mockingbird -Harper Lee
Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
The Scarlet Pimpernel - Baroness Emmuska Orczy
Their Eyes Were Watching God - Zora Neale Hurston

Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder - Richard Louv
Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds - David Pollock
In Defense of Food - Michael Pollan
Bookwomen: Creating an Empire in Children's Publishing 1919-1939 - Jacalyn Eddy

There will surely be others that I read and add to the list. I thought about making a list of all the cookbooks and food books that I'd like to plan to read, but that seemed sort of silly since I'm bound to read many of them regardless.

The trick is that I own several of these but they're at home in Seattle and my access to books here in Japan is somewhat limited. I love my Kindle, but I'm trying to be reasonable about how many books I buy while I'm overseas (you can imagine the expenses could skyrocket quickly). Thus, the start of all this reading may not truly begin until March when I return to Seattle, but for now, the list is out there and I've stated my intentions in good faith!

And if I'm looking for anything to read in the meantime, there's always my "to-read" list on!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Maternity Care in a Foreign Land

My Japanese isn't especially good. I've made no secret of that. Despite my attempts to go to Japanese language classes while living here in Japan, my Japanese is just barely functional in say, a convenience store. "Could I please have one newspaper?" might be manageable.

Thus, when it was time for my OB appointment here in Japan (because of our travels I haven't been able to see a doctor for maternity care for just over 2 months) I took my husband with me knowing full well that I couldn't possibly follow a medical conversation with a doctor. I'm glad I took him. First off, it was nice to have some company while I spent over 2 hours in the hospital being shuttled up and down, back and forth to the lab for urine samples, blood work, what I'm told was an EKG (never had one so I couldn't say for sure), a brief meeting with the doctor who whipped out the Doppler (Yes! a heartbeat!) and finally the doula. We don't need a doula for birthing services as we will be back in the U.S. for labor and delivery. But apparently this doula's responsibilities also include maternity services much like a nurse in the U.S. might provide, such as nutritional counseling, information about weight control, etc.

This conversation with the doula was not my favorite part of the visit. She was shocked when I told her that my pre-baby weight was probably around 54 kg. and I'm now up to just over 60 kg. "54?!!" she yelled. I was so startled and confused by her yelling, that I thought maybe I was wrong. I refigured in my head and said, yes, 54. If you're not accustomed to metric terms, (and I'm not really) this means that I've gained about 12 pounds in my first 18 weeks. Not ideal by American standards but even more out of line by Japanese standards. As a result, I was given a chart with a request to weigh myself at home once a week and record it for future review by the doctor. They would like to see me every few weeks while I'm here. I don't know if that's standard, but I appreciate their thoroughness.

The doula went on to say that she isn't too worried since I'm not Japanese (I'm nearly 5'8" tall for heavens sake and as a result, bigger and heavier than most Japanese women). Still, by most American standards on was on the very low end of the weight chart for a woman my height before pregnancy, and while I gained quickly in the 1st trimester that's to be expected as I was eating as a self-defense to minimize the nausea and because at the end of the 1st trimester I was sometimes ravenous. This has all changed in the last several weeks and the weight gain has slowed, but now I'm more than a little paranoid.

The shock this woman expressed has been engraved on my brain. I'm sure my own doctor would have talked to me about weight gain and target weights, but I'm sure that she would have been far more sensitive about the whole thing. Not only does my own doctor know that I only gained about 25 pounds during my 1st pregnancy, but she also knows that was not overweight prior to pregnancy. I was stunned and hurt by the doula's reaction. It felt as though she was suggesting that I'm an overweight and out of control crazy American (not an unusual experience for a foreigner here in Japan). I'm sure many of my readers are familiar with this situation, and I actually expected it, but it was startling all the same.

The good news is that I've been able to explain to my husband how much this concerned me and we've made time in our family schedule for me to get back to my maternity exercise routine -something that had fallen by the wayside what with jet lag and settling back in here. Also, Gboy was able to explain what happened to his mother and I'm hoping that now when I say, "No thank you I'm done" when she offers me more food at dinner, she'll believe me. I appreciate her attempts to feed me, but portion control is out of the question when she just keeps dishing up equal portions to everyone at the table regardless of their hunger level.

By the way, does anyone have any speculation about why the hospital would want an EKG? I don't have any history of heart problems or anything else that I can think of which would even make that test relevant for maternity services.

Also, anything else I should be prepared for in my coming visits with the doctor? I've got an ultrasound scheduled for about 3 weeks from now.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Movement on the Homefront

Things with my sister seem to be slowly improving - thank you all who commented on the situation. Apparently discord between siblings is not uncommon! Big surprise? I guess not, but it helped me immensely to hear your thoughts and experiences. It gave me some additional perspective and even validation. I love that the Internets can validate my being!

In other news, I hit the 18 week mark in my pregnancy on Wednesday. I can't quite believe the number is that high already. Anyway, earlier this week (somewhere around week 17 1/2) I started to feel real movement from the baby. It amazed me to feel it even though this feels kind of early in the pregnancy. But even more amazing was how vigorously I was feeling it. This kid may give Peanut a run for her money! When Peanut was in the womb, she was a thrasher. All night long she'd twist and turn and roll and hiccup....I never once did movement counts or whatever they called them because I would have met all my counts in about 3 minutes and the game would be over. No point. Since her birth Peanut has maintained this high level of activity and is a very "genki" child as they say in Japanese. I mean she is GENKI - ALL the time.

Needless to say, I'm starting to worry that I'll really have my hands full in another year or so once they're both on the move. Oh my word. If this movement in the womb is a reliable indicator I'm in deep trouble. I'm gonna need more running shoes!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Mistakes were made...

I was asked by my sister who I love dearly to address the distance that she feels is between us - ever since I visited her this fall. I tried to be truthful with myself and with her and I tried to be sure to use lots of "I" messages to convey MY side of things. I recognize that a lot of what I'm feeling may just be in my head. But I don't think she took it very well. And I'm sad that no matter how thoughtful I tried to be, it seems not to have worked.

I'm also sad because I feel like although she asked me what was going on, maybe she really didn't want to hear the truth and I should have known that. Isn't that sort of like the "Does this make me look fat?" question? The truth isn't always what is actually what we want to hear. Sometimes we just want and need to hear that everything is okay and I think I could have done that and addressed the issues at a later date when she is feeling more together. I suspect she's still really got her hands full with an almost 6 month old and adjusting to new parenthood etc.

But I just didn't think I was being hurtful. I thought I was trying to clear the air and help show my side of things and why our relationship might feel different to her and my behavior might seem different. *sigh* I'm not sure how I could have handled things differently but I do feel bad that she's so hurt. Naturally I didn't mean to hurt her. I just figured since she was asking for honesty that some thoughtful, carefully worded "it's me and not you" honesty might be helpful in clarifying the situation. But I was wrong again. This is not new for me or for us. You'd think after 33 years as sisters I would have figured this out.

How's your relationship with your sibling(s)? Am I the only one in this boat? Any suggestions on how to back things up and start over? Right now she's hurt and unable to address this conversation further, but before we ever talk about it again, I'd love to know what I should do to grovel some more and fix things, while still maintaining the right to express myself and my feelings (they're not totally invalid right?).

Vignettes from Osaka

This is more random snapshots from my life this week. The jet lag seems to have finally worn off but that means that up until now, things have been viewed through a somewhat choppy lens! And in answer to Furrow's question, I'll be here in Japan until sometime in March. My husband is working on getting his own business off the ground with the intention and hope that maybe we can become a bicoastal/bicultural family someday living in Osaka for more extended periods of time (instead of just one week at a time). If his business does in fact become viable, it would be something he could do from the U.S. or from Japan which would be great. In the meantime, I'm still doing some soul-searching about my own (self)employment (?) options and what it might look like for me. In the meantime I'm a free-range, nomadic librarian without an employer. Career and employment suggestions are welcome!!

  • I've eaten an amazing vegetable curry and ramen noodle soup at two of my favorite Osaka restaurants this week.
  • I saw a grandmother hunched over with osteoporosis walking around in (p)leather pants! She could have been someone's great-grandmother she was that old!
  • I still remember how to take the trains to get to the city!
  • I started calligraphy again yesterday. It's not as easy to sit in the little folding chair and focus on proper form now that I'm pregnant. I'm not that far along, but it's work on those stomach muscles to sit up properly and after 2 hours I was exhausted! Future lessons should be shorter!
  • My daughter has taken to the potty with a sudden vigor. Three days in a row now she has brought us her baby potty insert, said "Poppy on the potty!" and once set up on the adult potty she did her business. We are stunned. And excited. We're not expectant that this will mean that she's fully trained anytime soon, but we're grateful that she's so interested in self-starting!!
  • The farm is producing lots of cabbage these days. This weekend we're hoping to have corned beef (with cabbages, potatoes and carrots - lots of those from the farm too!). I'm also hoping to make Indian food one night. I've got a great recipe for Indian cabbage and I've got a craving for some Indian food!
  • My daughter is picking up lots of Japanese vocabulary again. It's hysterical to hear her mimic people she hears. After hearing the waitress say it once or twice, my daughter started copying her with, "Irasshiamase!" (a greeting or welcome). She yelled it to every new customer who walked into the curry restaurant the other day.
That's all I've got for now. Be back soon!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Technical Difficulties

Holy cow! There are still people here! I love you! Apparently my Yahoo! email account starting sending all my comment notifications and various emails as well- directly to my spam email box somewhere around mid December. I never even thought to actually look at my blog to see if anyone was still here commenting. Needless to say, I thought you'd all left me!

I'm so happy to find you all here but now I've got to figure out what on earth is going on with my blogger account and Yahoo! email. Any ideas or suggestions about how to fix this would certainly be appreciated.

I'll be back!!