Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Waiting Game

Well, I am not exactly waiting anxiously. I still have things to do, but my left hip is in so much pain (that I actually took some advil this morning), and I am now at the point that I can no longer do grocery shopping or any kind of shopping. So, I guess I will be a shut-in until the baby comes. Oh, that's okay because it gives me an excuse to stay home and relax more.

The other day, I did my sewing project which did not take long at all. After consulting with sewing experts (Mom and sister Michele), I decided to use a quilt that my godmother had made for me several years ago. We never really found a use for this quilt until now, so it was always packed away with the winter blankets. It has come out of hiding and will serve a nice purpose from this day forward.

When I showed the finished product to my sister, and told her that I really shouldn't blog about it because it is patented by Humanity Organics. She was like, why would something like this be patented? It's just common sense. Common sense or not...I never would have thought of this on my own. But, to purchase it and have it shipped over would have cost nearly $500.

It's like a pillow case with a long flap on one side. A body pillow is inserted inside and can be removed when the quilt needs washing. I'll sleep in the middle, my daughter will continue to sleep between me and the wall, and the baby (when necessary) will sleep between me and the body pillow.

This is better than using the bed gate because the gate tended to move away from the mattress gradually, and a few times, Ailin slipped between the gate and mattress when she was littler. I think this is much safer.

I hope this is just a temporary solution though. The crib is placed just across from the bed, so I hope the baby can sleep in the crib for the most part. Oh, and someday, when we decide how the heck to fit a bed into Ailin's small bedroom (or buy a larger house), Ailin can actually be convinced to sleep in her own bed. Someday...

Other things in the News
I am now temporarily retired from walking Max. It is just way too hard on my hip...he is a strong, stubborn bulldog-type who pulls me around the neighborhood, despite his small size. He is stronger than a big, floppy golden retriever! My neighbor, Kelly (who owns a petite poodle!) has agreed to take over walking duties earlier than we planned and will be taking Max out until the end of June. By then, I should be healed up and ready to get outside with Max. Yesterday, Kelly took Max out and this was the result after he arrived home with him. Seems the little football player got some much-needed exercise.

Ailin has a new snacking regime, thanks to Dr Sears and the Discipline Book. Yusuke was always admonishing me for giving Ailin her favorite "Koala Cookies" and "Bicycles." (Bicycles are what she calls icicles.) Dr Sears suggested using a daily medicine container that is divided into 7 compartments and putting colorful, healthy snacks in each one. She can graze from this all day long as she feels like it, and then if she doesn't eat much at meal times (which is typical no matter what I give her to eat and no matter what she snacks on), at least I can feel better knowing that she was eating some healthy snacks. This has been working well, and she doesn't seem to miss the Koala cookies and bicycles at all.

Here's what I have put in her snack containers:
Granola cereal
Dried fruit
Fresh fruit (tangerine, banana, apple, etc.)
Quail eggs (small, boiled eggs - perfect size for toddlers and she LOVES them)
Cooked pasta (fun shapes like bow ties, wheels, spirals)
Popcorn (I know you are technically not supposed to give toddlers popcorn...)
Cooked carrots (cut into shapes like flowers, hearts, fish, etc.)
Whole wheat crackers

I'll think of more as time goes on, but so far, she likes most of these things. Some stuff she tends to skip over or save until the very last because she doesn't want it - veggies and pasta being those "unwanted items", but she knows she won't be getting cookies or other crap, so she accepts their existence.

So, what is on the agenda for today and tomorrow? It is raining so I have a good excuse to stay indoors. I am trying really hard not to be too domestic because that is what got me in trouble when Ailin was born. I had read that women who are just about to give birth go into a frenzy of "domesticity" and will do crazy things like make and freeze 4 weeks worth of meals all at one time, or fix the dishwasher all by themselves, or put together complicated dressers from IKEA. So, to avoid that, I am limiting myself to one task a day, I absolutely refuse to make and freeze any meals. (I did however discover that Qtips are a great cleaning aid when you want to scrub nooks and crannies, like window sills, shower doors, the inside of your washing machine....oh, have I said too much?

Yesterday, I replaced my external hard drive which seemed to have crashed, and I had no idea how to fix it. Only one partition had crashed though...I was able to transfer my files and music to my new hard drive. Works swell and has a much bigger memory. Ever heard of a TB? It is apparently the next thing after a GB.

Today, I will attempt to reorganize our 1st Aid Kit and our medicine cabinet. I had originally wanted Yusuke's help on this because many of the creams and lotions are in Japanese and I have no idea what their purposes are. I thought we should label them in English once and for all...don't know if we will get around to that in time. I might have to call in the reinforcements to help with such a job...his sister or his mom.

That's all for today!

Friday, May 22, 2009

To-do List Progress

Every couple of days, I take a look at my 3-columned to-do list and cross stuff off.

I feel like I am making some progress now, especially because my friend Chris and I went and saw a movie yesterday. There is really nothing desirable playing right now, so we settled for Angels and Demons. A silly blockbuster of a movie, but hey, at least I got to see one movie during my leave!

What is left:
Do some more cleaning and organizing of the bedrooms
Hose off the veranda and wash windows
Organize a few more drawers in the kitchen.
Get out the old breast pump and make sure all parts are in working order

Finish June Kanto Newsletter for AFWJ
Prepare and send Newsletter Editor box to the woman who is taking over for me

Finish making the labels for my photo albums
Buy a wallet

(Yusuke has a couple things on his to-do list also.)
Add diaper change table component to the IKEA dresser
Help me organize the medicine cabinet and 1st Aid Kit
Help me put the winter blankets away in those huge vacuum packs
Help me decide the name and kanji for our son

And, finally, I am adding one more big to-do for my list and it is a sewing project. I hope I can finish it in time, and only wish my mom were here to do it for me. I think I will have to hand-sew it but not sure yet. Check out this link and you'll get an idea of what I am planning to make. I need to go out and buy the material today or tomorrow. I think it will temporarily solve my co-sleeping dilemma though.

Go-to Music during Labor

At the lovely clinic where I will give birth, I know there are no birthing balls, bath tubs or suites where you can go through the labor in low-lit silence.

Labor will most likely take place in a shared room with another patient who is also going through labor or has recently. Or, like in my case 2 years ago with Ailin, much of the labor took place in the corridor on a chair with a donut shaped bottom. It was the middle of the night and my "roommate" who I never actually saw or met was trying to sleep. The room was the furthest from the bathroom, and in order for me to make a trip to the bathroom, it took 45 minutes each way due to contractions. After one trip to the bathroom, I refused to go back to my room, so I stayed in the corridor.

My "birthing partner" was the nurse-midwife who became my temporary best friend. They had sent my husband home immediately after arriving at the hospital with all our gear - extra pillows and all. I didn't see him again til the morning when they called him and told him to rush over since I was about ready to push.

This time, I expect the same things, but who knows if I will be lucky enough to go into labor in the middle of the night when the corridor is most quiet and low-lit? Who knows if I will indeed vomit my way through each contraction? Who knows if my husband will even be able to take me to the hospital, much less stay with me during the labor and birth?

What will be different now is that I know what to expect. I know it's not scary. I now own an ipod, so I can program the music and hypno-music I like. I know that I don't actually need the extra pilllows, the birthing ball and the bath tub. I just need a bathroom that is close by and a good nurse-midwife to attend to me. I don't even care if my husband is there or not. I know I can get through it.

So, here I am prepping my ipod for its big job - to entertain and relax me while in labor and during my stay at the hospital. Shannon told me that she listened to Cowboy Junkies over and over on her ipod while in labor with Cooper. I found that to be quite interesting. She liked them for a while in college, but she has not listened to them in years. It was her go-to music. I started to wonder what my go-to music is, and I hope I figure it out and load it into my ipod soon!

What would Yusuke listen to repeatedly if he was in labor?
Probably Natalie Merchant & Sarah McLachlan.

What would I listen to?
This is tough for me to answer.

John Mellencamp?

Peter Gabriel?
Maybe...he got me through some tough times in the past, and his music is quite soothing and hypnotic, esp since you have NO CLUE what he is going on about.

Rascal Flatts?
Okay, I love them, but his voice can grate on you after a while. It might be too obvious. Needs to be soothing.

George Winston?
I love his piano music, but I will never forget the time I saw him in concert and had to listen to his explanations between songs. He is the most boring, monotone guy ever. I haven't listened to him since.

Uh, no.

So, there you have it. It looks like I should load some Peter Gabriel into the old ipod, just in case I get in inkling for him.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Disciplining Other People's Kids

I did a bad thing today.

Well, I'll probably never know how bad though...until I tell my husband the whole story this weekend.

After I was assaulted by a 3 year old and his mother yesterday, which makes me think twice about going back to the Qiball, I was feeling bolder than usual.

Today, at 4:30pm, I was preparing to leave our apartment building to go and pick up Ailin from day care, and I was taking out some trash. When I exited the building to go the the Garbage Room, I noticed two boys were playing by the door. They looked to be about 8 or 9 years old. One, with a stupid Bozu hair cut (like a Japanese-style crew cut) was using a jump rope to sling over the door of the garden and as he flung it back, it very nearly hit it me in the leg. He turned to me and said "sorry", and then turned back to his playing. I gave him a dirty look.

Normally, there are other kids, much smaller kids, around playing in the garden and lobby at that time of day, but today, these 2 boys happened to be the only ones. I went back to the lobby to check our mail box.

Now, the two boys were playing by the opposite door of the garden, where I would have to exit to go to the parking lot. This time, the Bozu boy was slinging the jump rope over the door to the parking lot.

I marched right up to him and yelled at him in Japanese.

"What are you doing? What kind of game is this? Don't you know how dangerous it is?"

He apologized, but I noticed he was making eye contact with his friend and smiling, as if the situation was funny. Perhaps, as a Japanese person, he was smiling more out of embarrassment, but I am not that sensitive of a person.

"Don't laugh!" and I slapped him across his Bozu hair-cut head. "Stupid!" and I stalked off.

Am I not the meanest adult ever? But, I do think 8-year boys should know better than to fling jump ropes around like whips. I also think that this boy doesn't live in my building because I've never seen him before (thank god.)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Disciplining - when other people harrass you

Yesterday, I had Ailin take the day off from daycare so we could have a Mama/daughter day together.

First, we stopped by my workplace, so I could show her off - she hadn't made an appearance there for a while and some of the teachers wanted to see her. I also had to drop off some stuff for Jeff. She thoroughly enjoyed herself and totally fell in love with Jeff, who is a father of three himself so he is great with kids. She was giving him kisses on the cheek. So funny how quickly she warmed up to him even though she is quite shy with many other people.

Then, we met some Bilingual Kids Club friends at the Qiball in downtown Chiba to play for a few hours and have lunch. Here is where I got harrassed by the mother of a 3 year old boy who (apparently) maliciously threw a ball at me.

First of all, yes, he did direct his aim at my head, but I deflected the ball just in time. It was a very soft ball though so even if it had hit me, it would not have hurt. It did surprise me though, and of course his mom made a big deal out of it. Ailin was playing in the ball pit, completely oblivious, but I wanted to remove ourselves from the area, so I started talking to her about going to the craft area to play with the playdough. She was into that, and just as we were about to leave, the woman dragged her son over by us and tried forcing him to apologize. At the same time, my friend, who had witnessed the whole thing, rushed over to see if I was okay.

Of course, the kid was having a tantrum by now and refused to apologize. Now, who knows what was going through his mind? Why he threw the ball at me? I had not seen him or noticed him previous to that, so we had had no interaction with each other as far as I remember. The point is that a simple apology from his mom would have sufficed! But, no, she had to make a "lesson" out of the whole thing.

Since, he was still having a tantrum and refusing to apologize, I got up and walked away with my friend and Ailin. We settled ourselves down to some nice play-doughing way on the other side of the room. I was secretly hoping to never have to see that mom and her son again, and when I look around, it seemed they were gone.

Now, remember, all of this is taking place in Japanese, in the Japanese culture, in a situation that is kind of unfamiliar to me. I normally have no need to take my child to a public place to play where other children are present. That's what she does in daycare all day, so her teachers are helping them negotiate the social situations. In any case, this particular situation did not involve my daughter...thank god.

Suddenly, this mother and her son appeared at my side. His tantrum seemingly over, she was going to make him apologize to me in a loud, clear voice come hell or high water. I wasn't quite sure how to react, and to be honest, just wanted to enjoy the time with Ailin. (She was waiting for me to make a playdough dog for her.) My mom friend had brought her daughter over as well, so she was listening to the kid's feeble attempts at apology. Feeble or not...once was enough for me. But, this mom kept forcing him to repeat "Gomen nasai" over and over again until he got it "right." He never did get it right, according to her, and finally, I said to my mom friend "Look, I don't know what to say to them. I just want them to go away. How am I supposed to react so they will leave me alone?"

Mom friend turned to the boy and in her very "teacherly" voice said, "If you don't want to apologize, it's okay. But, I am sure you now understand that it's wrong to throw things at people. As long as you understand that, it's good. Now, we just want to enjoy playing with our kids here, so please go off and play somewhere." Then, she turned to the mother and said, "Your son is 5 years old, right? He seems too big to be playing in here." Well, the mother insisted that her son was only three (a big three.)

Even after that exchange, the apologies continued, until I finally turned to her and said, "Okay, please go and play. It's okay." It was one of those weird situations where I didn't know what to say...kind of shocked into silence. She apologized to me once again and then went away.

(Okay, why involve me in such a lesson for her son? In my opinion, she should have just come over to me and apologized. Then, taken her son off somewhere and told him off. Why did she have to harrass me like that and for so long?)

After that, I realized that I know nothing about negotiating social situations with Japanese people, especially involving my kids. A little later that day, Ailin wanted to play with a stroller. It was not being used at the moment, so she put a doll in it and started to wheel it around. Just then, a bigger boy rushed over, threw the doll out of the stroller and placed a bowl of fake food on the seat of the stroller. He grabbed the stroller away from Ailin, which of course lead to some protesting on her part. Of course, his mom rushes over and starts talking about "Junban" or taking turns and yada yada yada. I subtly unwrapped Ailin's hands from the stroller and walked away with her talking about finding more dolls to play with.

A similar thing happened two more times with the stroller, and I was just not up to dealing with these kids and their moms. I needed to leave.

So, a bit later, we left and went to Grandma Yuki's house for a short visit. We still hadn't given her a Mother's Day gift, so we presented that to her, and then asked her to babysit (again!) this weekend. Now that I can only do half the things a non-pregnant woman could achieve, I have a to-do list for him to help me out with this weekend. Also, we have some things to discuss about what's going to happen while I am in the hospital. Should Max go to the pet hotel? Should Ailin go and stay at Grandma's? Hopefully, we can get that stuff done (and talked about) this weekend.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Maternity Leave

I feel lucky to live in Japan because I can start maternity leave 6 weeks before the due date, but I find that my energy has depleted quite a bit and now that I am on leave, I can't really do as much as I would have liked. I even dread going shopping or traveling further than 20 minutes away to visit with friends.

Right now, I am turning down most invitations to lunch or coffee simply because I'd like to achieve a few things on my to-do list every day. Last friday, by 3pm, I finally summoned up the energy to clean and re-organize the dog's room - something that hadn't been done in quite a long time. I have 3 to-do lists going - "Things I MUST do", "Things I NEED to do" and "Things I WOULD LIKE to do" all before the due date. I have a supplemental cleaning task list for each room of the house, but I haven't looked at that one in a quite a while. It's a bit overwhelming at this point, and I wish I had someone here to help me with some of the tasks.

On my very first day of maternity leave, 2 weeks ago, a dresser from Ikea was delivered to our house. I could have waited for my husband to put it together, but seeing that he didn't even know about the purchase, I just thought it would be easier to do it myself than to wait around for him to do it. Actually, "him" doing it would have involved his mom, and I just couldn't be bothered to wait for the both of them to decide a time when they could put the dresser together as a team. So, I did it myself! It took about 4 hours.

The next day, I drove all around town doing errands (mostly involving governmental paperwork and bill paying) and I was proud to be able to cross several items of my to-do list.

Well, I had completely worn myself out over these 2 days, and to be honest, could not achieve anything more for the rest of the week. I regretted that I had overdone it. On the other hand, it's better now than later in the pregnancy. My goal is to not go into labor early...I want to milk the maternity leave for all it's worth...I want the rest time. So, I am trying to not be too active in this pregnancy. For those who know me well, you'll realize that "not being active" is a real challenge for me.

Golden Week was not too eventful for us. I took Ailin on an adventure to downtown Chiba (by train!) and we hung out at the Qiball facility for the day. This is a large and free playroom just for toddlers. My husband made no plans, of course. We did a few things with his family, of course. We went out and bought a new car seat for Ailin so that the baby can use her old one. Ailin had Bilingual Kids Club on Sunday. Lately, we have been doing our activities in the park, so the kids can play and learn outside. Yusuke's mom offered to take Ailin for one night so we could have some time to ourselves. We went shopping at Lalaport - no, I went shopping at Lalaport and Yusuke dutifully carried all my bags without complaining. We saw a great movie - Gran Torino - and then had dinner at our former favorite Chinese restaurant. We think the management has changed since we last ate there because this time it wasn't good at all. That is about it. I was glad when Golden Week was over so I could have the house to myself again.

Adventures at Qiball

BKC in the park - I am the very pregnant one.

Going to a sleepover at Baba Yuki's house

I was studying about Hypnobirthing and am supposed to be using the CDs to practice the self-hypnosis. I have now finished reading the book, and am looking forward to having an easier, more relaxing birth this time. With Ailin, it wasn't so bad, and now I know what to expect, but I just hope for something a little easier. I am assuming I will be alone or with just a nurse-midwife.

Now, I am reading the Dr Sears book called "The Discipline Book." You can imagine why. Ailin is in her terrible-twos stage, and I needed some more knowledge about how to deal with that. I think Yusuke's style is much different from mine, but he doesn't bother to read up on it.

I think we finally have our boy names narrowed down. There are 1 or 2 that we both agree on, at least. Not revealing them though because I hate hearing or seeing people's reactions. Almost always negative and then they go ahead and suggest names they themselves like.

Oh, and this last weekend was Mother's Day, so I made plans to spend Saturday in Tokyo. It would be my last time to go to Tokyo before the due date. Anyway, I attended an Afternoon Tea event with my friend Louise at a big fancy hotel. Over 90 tea-connoisseurs were there. After that, I attended the wedding reception of a colleague whom I was instrumental in introducing to his future wife. It was about 3 years ago that they met at a party. Anyway, it was fun to see them so happy and to attend a reception with many of my colleagues whom I no longer get to see every day! On Sunday, I had Craft 'n' Chat, but had nothing to do, so I just chatted and read my Discipline book.

Afternoon Tea Event at the Shangri La Hotel in Tokyo

Dai & Yukiko's Wedding - Me with the MCs - one current and one former teacher from my high school - Mike & James

Well, sorry for the boring update on the last 2 weeks of my life. I would have liked to write a much more exciting entry about my opinions regarding Ascot ties, American Idol, or Rascal Flatts new album. Maybe at a later date. I'll add some photos to this one just to liven it up a bit.