Monday, June 29, 2009

Last Week in Confinement

Well, the title says it all. I am trying to enjoy my last week of confinement here. I am feeling a little lethargic though - like a sloth, who moves slowly and says things like, "Sunlight? What is that?" and "Leg asleep again. Can't get up from couch."

I seriously think I have worn a hole in my favorite couch cushion.

I know what you all are thinking. She should do some yoga or aerobics. (Actually, aerobics is out of style. People now do Core Rhythm and Turbo somethin' or 'nother.)

I asked my husband if I could buy a Wii Fit and start doing their sports and aerobics programs. Of course, he suggested we wait and see - maybe for my birthday. My birthday is next week, and I am trying to decide if I actually do want this Wii Fit thing, or if I would rather have a new camera (one that I have been coveting for 2 years now!), or if I should ask for something we actually need.

What we actually need is a new refrigerator, and we have been saving money for one over the past 2 years. We were planning to purchase it in October, but if we put our birthday money towards it, we can buy it a few months sooner. Yusuke's birthday is at the end of July and he seems to think this would be a great idea.

I'm still not entirely convinced. For my Xmas present last year, I got a Dyson vacuum cleaner. Now, I am not complaining about it, but wouldn't it be nice to get something I actually WANT instead of a household appliance?

As for the Wii Fit, we talked about it last night, and I confessed that there is a possibility that I will quickly lose interest in the Wii Fit. I mean, perhaps I am just feeling down lately (more like hopeless!), but I am afraid that I have absolutely no interest in exercise.

Oh, don't get me wrong, before having the baby (pre-confinement), I had visions of taking Max and Luka out for long walks during the day. I also thought I might join Curves if it is possible to bring a baby and let him sleep in his stroller for that 30-minute session. We have a Curves nearby, and I thought this would make the most sense for me. However, I am not so sure I want to make the effort at this point. The midwife told me she belongs to Curves (I am not sure which location), but she said her place is so tiny that there is only enough room for the exercise equipment, so it would be impossible to park a stroller in there. Oh well.

For now, I have my weight posted on the bathroom mirror and every Monday, I weigh myself and mark it on the list. It is supposed to motivate me to keep trying, but it doesn't help when Yusuke brings home chocolate and snacks along with his daily grocery runs. (Don't blame him totally though because I DO REQUEST the CHOCOLATE.)

Plus, by throwing around words like "confinement", I have managed to stave off most visitors, so I can easily avoid all the cakes, cookies and donuts they would inevitably bring to our house. But, I won't be able to do that much longer. Going outdoors also means meeting friends for coffee or lunch so they can meet Luka and we can catch up with each other. It also means that I have accept visitors to our home, and I may have to come right out and say, "Please do not bring anything with you unless it's healthy or fruity."

Well, wish me luck as I prepare to go out into the world again. Hopefully, I can resist temptations...doubtful, but it could happen.

Oh, on a side note, I am now reading Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. I so wish I could be like that.

Friday, June 19, 2009

This is how communication breaks down

Recently, my husband and I have pinpointed our main problem to be lack of communication or just general issues with how information is communicated between us.

Case in Point #1
I'll share this story first because it is the ultimate example of why we have issues, but I'll warn you that it is an extreme case.

A couple years ago when our marriage was not in a good place, and just after I had given birth to my daughter and was still feeling fat...wondering why the weight wasn't just falling off like it does for every other previously pregnant woman on the planet, it just so happened that the movie Monster (starring Charlize Theron) was repeatedly being shown on our cable TV.

You remember this movie, right? And, if you remember the movie, you will surely remember the way Charlize was made to look for the movie.

During a fight, my husband said that I resembled the character from the Monster movie.

Keep in mind that he, like most humans, has a tendency to say particularly mean things during arguments that he later regrets saying because they are not exactly true.

(Oh god, please tell me I don't look like that. I know I have aged a bit since having kids. And, sometimes my hair gets frizzy especially during rainy season. And, when I don't wear make-up, my dark circles show up. And, maybe when I am really pissed off about something, my emotions show on my face and that might make me appear less attractive, but ...)

So, anyway, this comment has always stuck in the back of my mind, but our marriage is in a much better place now, so I know he would never say something like that ... or would he?

Last night, guess what? That Monster movie was on TV again and we happened to turn it on during a certain lesbian love scene between Charlize and Christina Ricci. My husband was gagging, not because they were lesbians, but because, he said, Charlize looks so ugly and how could Christina stand kissing her?

Shortly thereafter, I got up and went to the toilet. Baby Luka was sleeping in his Moses basket on the kitchen table. I was gone for, perhaps, one minute or less. When I came back into the room, my husband looked at me and said in Japanese:

"Looks just like you."

My reaction:
"What?! Shut up. Fuck you."

What was I supposed to think? He is completely engrossed in the Monster movie, making comments about how ugly Charlize Theron looks, and one minute later, he says, "Looks like you."

Let's back up for a minute. In Japanese, it is very common to leave off the subject of your sentences because this is a very intuitive culture where all Japanese people can read each other's minds. So, often the subject is not mentioned throughout a conversation and for foreigners like me, it leaves a lot of room for misunderstanding.

If he had included his subject, the sentence would have been:
"Luka looks just like you."

And, I would have said, "Really? You think so? Wow!"

He claims that while I was in the bathroom, he got up to check on Luka in his Moses basket and noticed (not for the first time) that Luka resembles his mother.

He also claims to have no memory of making that nasty comment to me during an argument which occurred 2 years ago. Men - they forget so easily!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Burning through the books

Under Japanese tradition, I am still in confinement. Isn't that funny? Your due date is directly translated into "date of confinement" here. Confined with your baby inside the house for varies depending on your family's opinion, I guess. I think (but I am not exactly sure) that my confinement will end this weekend, and I will be expected to start picking Ailin up from daycare every afternoon, with Luka in tow. That means, I can also start doing other errands.

Well, in defense of confinement everywhere, I will admit that when Ailin was born, I wanted to show her off to the world, and I couldn't wait to get out of the house after she was born. In fact, I felt like a prisoner. My husband would accuse me of going outside if he noticed that the newspaper had been brought up. I would put her in a sling and take a short walk to the neighborhood dvd rental store, then I would pick up a dvd or two. I, of course, hid the rented dvds from my husband so he wouldn't accuse me of going outside.

This time, I actually looked forward to my period of confinement. (Oh, it sounds like something only princesses get to do.) Last year, going back to work and then getting pregnant and having to work plus take care of a toddler left me so exhausted. I looked forward to confinement only because it would give me a chance to rest. For the first time in two years, I have actually been able to read a steady stream of books. All those purchases from Amazon that have been gathering on my bookshelf over the past 2 years, they are finally getting read.

I used to have this personal policy that I would read one non-fiction and then one fiction and so forth. I've been enjoying the non-fiction lately though.

The Discipline Book by Dr & Martha Sears
I am now a big fan of Sears, as I have alluded to before. They are great people who write great books, and I quite enjoyed this one because Ailin is going through her Terrible Twos stage. I probably should have read the book BEFORE this phase started, but indeed, it did give me some ideas for dealing with her picky eating and her temper tantrums.

Letters to my Daughter by Maya Angelou
This was a gift from my mom. Very very fast read. It took me one day to read it. Basically, it is short stories about turning points in her life with a few poems thrown in. It reminded me of my idea to scrapbook some pages about pivotal moments in my life, and I did manage to do one page, but I forgot to do the others. I need to get on that soon.

How to Teach Your Baby to Read by Glenn Doman
Yeah, right is probably what you are thinking. It sounds crazy. Especially since the cover shows a mom with an 18 month old on her lap and she is showing her a huge flashcard with the word "Mommy" on it. The book was recommended by some other AFWJ moms who wanted to teach their young children to read English before they would begin elementary school and be inundated by kanji. This reading program is geared towards kids under 5 and involves mainly flashcards eventually moving on to books.
This book was published in the 60's and it has not changed much since. I guess the methods work, but I would have liked to see his methods updated with how-to instructions for making flashcards on your computer. Isn't that what most people would do nowadays? Anyway, he warns people not to waste time making flashcards using stencils, and I was like, "stencils? What?" In any case, I am trying to order the deluxe kit which supposedly includes a whole slew of already-made flashcards.
By the way, I did make some cards on my computer and started this reading program with Ailin (and with Luka, but for babies, it is like one word per day). She seems to enjoy it so far.

Outliers by Malcolm Galdwell
My dad recommended the book and then sent it to me. It's great. It's all about how some people end up being successful and others don't. It then goes into cultural differences and why some culture's people are successful at certain things while other cultures fail. I am halfway through and really fascinated by it.

I am America by Stephen Colbert
I listened to this 4 times while in the hospital, and it was so funny. He is just hilarious, isn't he?

When you are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris
I've read 2 or 3 of his other books, and I am also a fan of his sister (actress), Amy Sedaris. I really get a kick out of his stories especially about his family. In this book, he talks more about his life with partner Hugh in France and a little bit about his siblings. It's more of a smattering of events and no real theme threaded through out the book.

Next up:
I downloaded My Life by Bill Clinton.

I discovered a blog called Write.Click.Scrapbook. which is a collective blog maintained by many of the women who previously worked for Simple Scrapbooks magazine. They invite readers to post lay outs on their gallery at Flickr. I am such a geek, but this is really exciting to me.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Birth Story...I just had to write about it.

Well, first of all, we did finally decide the name to be Luka. We had this name in mind for quite a while and it was one of our top 3 choices, but with so many kanji issues, we nearly gave up on it. Thanks to the encouragement of friends (who said we could not go wrong!) and web sites that showed proof of baby boys in Japan being named Luka, we finally agreed to go with it. His middle name is Matthew.

I'll give you the short version of the birth story. I noticed I was having contractions around 3pm on June 2nd and they were 4 min apart. I called my husband at work and told him I was having contractions. He said, "What's a contraction?" Oh, never mind! Anyway, he offered to call Ailin's daycare, his mom, the pet hotel that would take Max in for the week, and a taxi to come and pick me up. Meanwhile, I called the hospital and they told me to come in right away.

I finished packing my bag along with Ailin's bags. She would be staying at her grandma's house for a next week. It becomes important later, but I remembered to put the charger for my cell phone in my bag at the last minute. I left for the hospital about 30 minutes later.

At the hospital, they checked me and said I was only 3 cm dilated. (I was 2 the day before at my dr appt.) My husband arrived about 2 hours later, which was slightly unexpected. I seriously did not imagine that he would be with me during the labor and had not really bothered to talk to him about what happens during labor. (Note that he was sent home when I was in labor with Ailin and nearly missed the whole thing.)

As a side note, I was doing the "hypnobirthing" method this time, which means I was trying to stay as relaxed as possible. Having my ipod helped me to stay relaxed. Of course, my husband had no clue what I was doing and kept trying to talk to me during contractions. This account of the birth will make it seem like I am obsessed with dilation and time, but according to the hypnobirthing method, one should not care about that stuff at all. No matter how much you try not to care though...the nurses are obsessed with it, thus making it hard to tell the story without including that information.

So, between 6pm (when my husband got there) and 9pm, nothing was really progressing. My contractions were still about 4 minutes apart, according to my husband. According to the stupid fetal monitor, they were 7 minutes apart, so of course, the nurses believed the monitor. Then, my husband was getting bored and restless. He wanted to go outside to make some work-related phone calls and to buy some cold drinks (that's code for go outside and smoke). I warned him that visiting hours were already over and the nurses probably would not let him out and then back in later. He gave it a try anyway.

One of the older nurses (not my midwife) saw him in the hallway and stopped him. She wanted to know what he was doing there after hours and accused him of not having permission to be there. Then, she told him they don't have time to be unlocking the clinic doors for him. After that, she came to our room several times under the guise of checking my fetal monitor, but actually to ask him how long he planned to stay there. My husband, ever the great advocate, had nothing to say. Finally, I spoke up between contractions. "He's here to do tachiai-bunben (husband-assisted labor), and ... he's staying until the end ... Last time, you guys sent him home as soon as we got here ... and he nearly missed the whole thing ... what is tachiai-bunben anyway?... if you can just send the husbands home whenever ... you feel like it?

To be honest, I had not even planned to do tachiai-bunben with my husband. But, as long as he had been willing to end his work day at 4pm and rush home to Chiba, I wasn't going to let him get off easy and just go home to get a good night's sleep! He was going to see this thing through whether he liked it or not!

So, the old nurse excused herself to go have a word with our midwife and came back to say they would check my dilation again at 11pm and then if I had progressed, he would be advised to stick around. If not, then he should just go home. I am still not sure why this issue was so important to her.

At 11pm, the midwife finally appeared again. Not sure where she had been when the old nurse was harassing us before. She checked me and I had dilated to 4cm. Yeah...progress, and that meant Yusuke had to stay. They moved me to the delivery room then. 4cm seems awfully early to go to the delivery room, doesn't it?

By this time, the contractions were coming faster and harder, but my water had not broken yet. At 12:20, my water broke and I yelled out to let everyone know this fact. The midwife came in and checked me. She said, "You're now 6cm. You're going to have this baby within 30 minutes." About a minute later, she began instructing me to bear down whenever I felt the sensation to poop.

I was very confused about this because I thought you weren't supposed to push until you were 10 cm, but before I could ask about this, I was yelling out things like "I can't do this! I can't! Dou shiou! I don't know what to do!" I did manage to bear down about 3 times, and I was just about to start insisting on a C-section when the nurses and midwife told me to stop pushing and just breathe. Now, that really confused me! I got worried, so I was asking, "Where's the baby? What's happening? What's wrong?" They said the midwife was working on getting the shoulders out. Shoulders? So, that must mean the head is already out. Looking back, I realize that I must have gone from 6 to 10 in just a few minutes.

So, at 12:42, the baby was born and that was that. So much for hypnobirthing and envisioning a flower opening as the baby "slowly makes his way down the birth canal and out into the world." Ha! It all happened so fast once my water broke.

My hospital stay was nice. Unfortunately, when I put my cell phone charger into my bag at the last minute, it promptly fell out onto the floor. So, once my battery died, I had no cell phone for most of my stay. My husband couldn't come back and visit again until the day before I left, so he couldn't bring it to me. Ah well, it was nice to have that 5-day vacation - no cooking, cleaning, taking care of a toddler, no human contact except for the nurses and the baby. I quite enjoyed myself. On the other hand, I would have really appreciated it if someone had brought me chocolate.

On the last morning of my stay at Hotel La Birth, the dr came in and asked me to do a quick translation of a letter he needed to write to someone in the USA. I was only too happy to do this for him, and I wasn't expecting any thing from it. It turns out he knocked about $200 off our final bill, so that was a nice a surprise!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Choosing Names...Still?

Yes, we are still working on choosing a name for this baby who is nearly 2 weeks old now. I am getting so tired of this topic of conversation which never seems to be moving in any specific direction. So, why is it so hard for an international couple to choose a name?

My theory is that it is more difficult to choose a boy's name because he will have to live with it for the rest of his life, so you want something that has a strong meaning. For girls, they will likely get married and take on their husband's name, and besides, you can get away with naming them something that means cute or beautiful, kind or loving...and you have a few more choices then.

When dealing with two different cultures and languages (and writing systems), you area also dealing with 2 different sets of connotations associated with each form of the name. Then, the pronunciation (or chance of mispronunciation) in each culture. As for connotations, the spoken form of the name might sound fine in Japanese, but then you have to choose some kanji to go along with it. The kanji really tells people what you hope for your child. For example, if you choose kanji that means "strong" and "kind", you are hoping that your son will become some kind of stoic and gentle man. If you choose kanji that means "beautiful" and "small", might seem to others that you were hoping for a smaller than average man who might turn into a metro-sexual.

Then, needless to say, there will be certain connotations in English. For example, the name Leon, which is very easy to use across both languages, says to me "old guy", "lives in a maximum security prison." The name Liam makes me picture Liam Neeson, who has the persona of being a very strong and stoic guy.

After arriving at a standstill and not being able to agree on any one name, we decided to consult the elders (both sets of parents) along with a few close friends. We got their votes, and we also admitted each of our top 3's in order. Of course, we still couldn't agree, and Yusuke's mom sent him on a mission to find more suitable kanji for our top 3 names. Now, he is more frustrated than ever, and has even suggested that we start all over...which means we should give up every name on our list and find completely new ones.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Last Project - Finished just in time

Before I officially announce the birth of my son, I just want to show my last scrapbooking-related project. I was, in fact, just finishing this up when I went into labor on June 2nd. (I will give more details about the latter once we have decided his name...can you believe he still is nameless?)

While watching "Veronica Mars" on TV, I was sitting at my desk working on this project. I had started it months ago, but never quite got around to finishing it. On June 2nd, I thought, "it's now or never. I better just sit my butt down and do it."

Each label was printed on vellum, laid over a square of colored or patterned paper and then placed in the metal tag. I used a crop-a-dile to put the eyelets in both the top and bottom of the diamond shape. Then, I strung the ribbon through the eyelets and tied the it on the inside of the album binding. Some ribbons were too thick to thread through the eyelets, so I punched another eyelet through the actual binding, and then just tied a bow. I think the albums look really nice and it's so easy to know the contents without taking them out.