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!!