Thursday, October 29


*another doctor's visit. no weight gain for me, a nice look at the baby's face for nico's benefit, and a good twenty minutes laying under a blanket with little devices strapped to that large belly you see so that they could record the baby's heartbeat.

*nico always comes to the doctor with me and is actually really calm for the visit. during the heartbeat monitoring, he just sat on the bed next to me, nodding his head to the rhythm of his sister's heart. sebastian is fiercely jealous that nico always goes to the doctor with me and he doesn't but i like going when he's in school. i worry that if they were both there together, i would be called upon to referee too much.

*as for the issue of the stipend and birth coverage that i spoke of before, we are merely benefiting from the japanese government's push to increase the population. if you could grasp how severe the problem is, then you would understand that it is rather necessary for such steps to be taken. the stipend is for each child. most local governments already give money to children enrolled in school through elementary school but this is increasing the sum greatly and extending the period that they can receive such money. they are also going to eliminate the tuition costs for senior high schools so that all junior high graduates can attend without worries that they won't be able to afford it. the new administration is focused on social welfare and i like how swift they are to uphold their election promises. a bit different from my home country these days.

*we have now added baby soap, a sponge, and that nasal squeezy thing to our basket of supplies.

*i am marking big things off my list. we told our boss last friday that we are leaving in march (this was hanging over our heads for too long). we are preparing for the long hospital stay (six days! so long...). and after all the halloween chaos is over (english teachers are essentially in charge of creating the holiday here) then we will spend our time cleaning the house and stocking the pantry. and doing homework. homework never stops. i did also manage to get our septic tank emptied which was another big thing as it required me calling the service and speaking entirely in japanese. and of course, i got the talkative guy when i called. for jason said, oh just tell them your address and it takes like two minutes. two minutes times seven for me but oh well. it is done. i never thought i would be happy about such matters but i suppose that is why it is wise to keep an open mind at all times.

*that's about it from here. i am weary and have too much homework to do but must try and get the big papers finished soon as we never know when colette will decide to arrive. i am thinking she will be earlier than her brothers. but perhaps i thought the same thing with nico and sebastian too. for some reason i have always thought 38 weeks for colette. so we'll see.

*hope you all are well. take care. xoxo

Friday, October 23

A little too close to home

Okay, so Japan has been very concerned about the swine flu since the beginning. Last spring when it was spreading, schools were closed, foreigners were dissuaded from visiting, entire communities tested for the virus. On our island, the stores posted signs in their windows telling customers that they were sold out of masks. It turns out that people on the island were buying up the masks and sending them to their loved ones living in the dangerous confines of the cities were masks had long been scarce. Recently, as you can see from the video above, there has been a push for more hand washing. Every store in the city when we were there last had dispensers of alcohol solution on tables next to the exits. At school, they go around with a giant spray bottle before lunch and every large gathering, having the kids hold their hands behind them as they spray the same solution on the small palms and fingers.
And yet still it spreads. Right into Sebastian's class. One boy was admitted into the hospital today for flu-like symptoms. This afternoon, the principal was informed that it is indeed the H1N1 influenza. The sweet potato pulling event for tomorrow has been canceled and I expect that they will be considering what else they must cancel. Perhaps regular classes. They close schools in areas where there are no cases so I would be surprised if the school remains open.
As a pregnant woman, I am now forced to wear my mask everywhere. But if his school closes, I might not be able to go anywhere. Today, many concerned older ladies told me that I shouldn't be out. We might all be here, in our home, driving each other batty. You never realize how much being outside of your house matters until you are forced to stay indoors. I know it is for the best but I can't help but resent having to do so.
But it is like I told Sebastian when he was feeling low about the canceled event for tomorrow (they called about an hour ago to tell us): we should consider how his classmate feels, sick and stuck in a hospital bed. The classmate is one that Sebastian always plays with too, and was playing with just two days ago. He's a tough little guy though so I am sure he'll be okay. But we are all worried.
I tend to take these outbreaks a little too lightly but now that I am so vulnerable and Nico with his little self and Sebastian and Jason in constant exposure to such things, I am feeling rather shaken by this news. It is definitely too close to home.

Thursday, October 22

36 weeks and counting

-Another doctor visit today. I was thinking how I will do a post with a belly shot for each doctor's visit. These will obviously be getting more frequent as I am now doing weekly check-ups.

-Once Sunday arrives, the baby will be considered full-term and thus anytime after that may be her birthday.

-She's about 6 pounds now and really long. Her head is down like it is supposed to be and her feet are at the top of my ribs. So very comfortable. For her, not me.

-I am starting to waddle. Not a lot and not all the time but it is definitely a waddle. It is mainly due to the feeling I have sometimes when walking that my hips are separating from my spine.

-We have newborn diapers and lots of socks.

-Her name is going to be Colette (one 'l' not two) Aki. Colette is actually a female version of Nicolai and they both mean "victorious people" (this is incidental as we just happen to both agree on the name Colette and only linked it to Nico afterwards). Hopefully they will share a birth month (though I am equally hopeful they won't share a birthday) meaning that they will be exactly three years apart.
Aki means autumn and we are going to use these kanji: 安紀. The first one means peaceful or tranquil and the second era. If you remember dear old Ingrid, we chose the same middle name for her as well. The 'ki' kanji uses part of the kanji on my inkan (name stamp) and was chosen because it sounds like my last name, which I didn't change when I married. So to pronounce her middle name, just say: Ah-Key.

-I confirmed with my doctor that we are indeed only paying about 15 bucks out of pocket for this birth. Prior to this new administration, families paid upwards to 5000 bucks for the birth (in cash of course) and then were paid back by local governments afterwards. Luckily, in September a new more socially-orientated government was voted into power and now we are left to pay only 15 dollars. 15. And, as far as I can understand, we still get money from the government afterward. Plus the new monthly child stipend. Colette chose a very good time to be born.

-Most likely it will be quiet around here except for these check-ins. I have a lot of school work (three midterm papers/projects due this week) and am also helping Jason prepare for the preschool's Halloween party. When I am not studying, I am helping Sebastian with his daily homework: English, math, and Japanese. We are getting him ready for first grade. He has recently gotten more into coloring, serious coloring with careful attention to the details. Yesterday he completed a jigsaw puzzle by himself that had almost two-hundred pieces. He's transitioning into this kid who can concentrate and working independently on his own projects. It is amazing to watch. And of course, there is the housework and the naps. You cannot imagine the napping that is going on around here. Growing a new baby is exhausting.

-Hope you are all well. Take care.


Wednesday, October 21

facing it

jason, our trusty family photographer, often complains that the boys and i never can just smile for a picture. i don't know what he means...

but here we are, all smiles. just like any regular family picture.

and here we are a second later, back to our normal selves, sebastian hiding because (i believe) nico just tried to wack him with that bottle.

as for the last picture, there is a rope climbing element at our local park that jason climbed up to take pictures. don't worry, i haven't personally climbed up to the top in the last few months. :)

Monday, October 19

Oni Gokko

bird's eye view of Oni Gokko in action
Yesterday we headed off to the park near our house, where Sebastian was lucky to find two of his classmates ready to play with him. The game of choice: oni gokko, Japanese tag. These days, oni gokko is THE game to play. Everyday. Sebastian is obsessed with it and like regular tag, there are all sorts of variations and ways of avoiding being tagged. I love this aspect, watching them negotiate the rules on the run. There's a little chant to taunt the "oni" (aka "it") into chasing them that Sebastian loves to call out in a sing-song voice with his hips swaying.
The only thing that rivals oni gokko is the hunt for donguri (acorns). We thought perhaps Sebastian was alone in his fevered collecting of donguri, then his friends arrived and the first thing they asked were where the best spot for acorns was. Oh, to be six.

Thursday, October 15

Blog Action Day: Climate Change

In the case of environmental activism, I have long felt that the most effective changes happen on a personal, domestic level. With the issue of climate change, it can be so overwhelming though and often I lose sight of how the small acts help the big picture. You hear the stories of polar bears drowning and how soon skiing in the Alps will be a far-gone memory. You see the evidence around you, insect populations surging out of control, flowers blooming too far ahead of schedule, seasonal foods growing off season. It is a huge issue and hopefully the new American administration will take positive and immediate action, especially considering President Obama's recent Nobel Peace Prize.

I look to America to do something because of the inequity of balance in terms of those who create the destruction compared to those who must suffer the consequences. The culture of America does not currently seem to lend itself to the changes that must be made. There is a stubbornness that is particularly unbecoming. People don't want to make sacrifices for the global good. They hardly want to make sacrifices for their own good (consider the high rate of obesity-related diseases). This sort of thinking must be overcome in order to make the necessary lifestyle amendments that will make a dent in the climate change problem. Or else we will have to wait until some radical climate related change is happening in American backyards. Because sympathy for the island nations that are already in danger is very slow in coming.

We need to remember that we are all connected. That the slightest shift in attitude and action on a micro level can lead to giant shifts on a macro level.

How my family works for climate change is very simple. We walk.

We are committed pedestrians. It is not always easy. We are exposed to the elements, to our neighbors, to time constraints. Everything must be thought of beforehand. It shapes us. Soon to be five of us. Sebastian often wonders why we can't zip around in a sporty little car like his school pals. And there are times that we envy those who have cars, who are not restricted to bus schedules and the regular confines of our small town.

Yet, I believe that for pedestrians, we manage to go far.

Walking makes us more conscious of where we are. It makes us more present and connected. We can't zone out to NPR when we are constantly called on to greet the people who we pass. We wouldn't notice the changing flowers or the insects living on roadside bushes. In a car, everything blurs past. You can go farther in one sense but in another you limited. Cars are bulky things, always in need of attention. Walking is light. It requires no oil or parking lots or toll booths. In many ways, pedestrians are freer than drivers.

It helps that we live in Japan. Part of being here is based on our desire to live without a car. It wasn't possible in Florida where car culture has dominated city planning. My generous parents gave us a little compact car and we used it everyday. But it turned out there was something missing in our lives. Walking had become part of our identity, part of how we experienced the world.

I know that when I say that how we do our part is to live car-free, many of you will not find that to be your solution. Some of you live in places where it is impossible to do this. The point of sharing our way is to encourage you to find your own way.
I believe the crucial element is that whatever you incorporate into your life has to be meaningful and give more to your existence. It shouldn't feel like a sacrifice. We don't typically feel sorry for ourselves for not being able to experience the speed and convenience of a car because we have found that the benefits are so great we can hardly see the disadvantages.

In combating negative climate change, our personal actions should be positive and not just for the sake of the planet, but for our own precious lives. Switching to a locally-based diet, or creating your own household products, or buying sustainable goods instead of the common disposable goods, these are among many of the small but vital steps that work for the good of the planet and your own life.

I think that the most radical change we can make is to switch from a mentality that devalues human life. When we care deeply for ourselves, the choices we make from that state of mind will reflect positivity. I hope to see waves of radical positivity surging through the world, taking the destructive habits by storm. The unhealthy state of our planet reflects the status of our collective health and right now we are not doing so well. We must fight for our planet by first fighting for ourselves.

Thursday, October 8


Can you believe I am already 35 weeks along?

So in about 5 weeks, Colette Aki should be ready to enter our world. And, as all children do, I imagine she'll manage to turn our world absolutely on its head.
There is a possibility she might not wait the five weeks. She is already measuring 3.3. kilos (just over 7 pounds).

The boys were both over 8 pounds at birth. With Nico, he measured over 10 pounds on the ultrasound, prompting doctors to take action quick before he could become even more massive. Fortunately, he waited until he was outside of the womb before he gained his pounds. Now when we go walking, people tease that Nico and I have matching bellies. He towers over other 2 and 3 year olds, making him seem a bit like an ogre because he is still clumsy.

I don't think we have completely gotten used to the idea of another baby. Is it possible to truly prepare for another human in our lives? I've been doing my best with a bit of shopping (sheepskin rug, wool sleeping pad, Montessori toys, sweet handmade soft toys, knit slippers) plus some crafting of my own (a quilt, some felt toys, a mobile, a hat). I have actually been trying to get stuff for the boys made (pajama pants, aprons, laundry bags, lunch kits) because I worry a lot about how I will take care of them with a new baby.

We have tried to discuss what will happen with Sebastian, in terms of school. I am giving him the option of continuing to go to school or staying home for the birth period. Most Japanese kids stay home as the mother usually travels to her parents' house for the birth and postpartum care. With his language development and approaching entry into elementary school though, I don't really want to remove him for a month. After that month, then it is winter holidays and so it would be a big break for him. But the only other option is for him to stay as part of the afterschool program, which really consists of him just watching TV for a few hours until Jason could return home. So, we have to make a decision on this. And soon.

In general, I am not too worried. Problems have a way of ironing themselves out, I have found. The best thing to do is to sit through it and do our part. And right now, my part is to eat some hijiki, kabocha salad, and, in tribute to my pregnant friend, chicken nanban.

Hope you are all well. Take care.

Wednesday, October 7

The House Began to Pitch...

Jason: "So did you know that there is a big typhoon headed towards Japan right now?"
Tiffany: "Oh, really? That's pretty close. I wonder if it will come near Gotou."

We have been here so long that our attitude now reflects that of the locals. There is Japan and there is Gotou.

It is getting really windy though. As in, hey, if there weren't so many spiders living behind those shutters, I would probably pull them tight. Yet, there are spiders thus making it a job for Jason-sensei. The local schools were sent home early but it was about time for them to go home anyway so it wasn't exactly a triumph. Too bad the kindergarten doesn't play by those rules or Jason could be home now, sipping some nice hot tea. Nothing is nicer than riding out a storm with some milky tea.
Now, let's hope the house doesn't blow away...

Monday, October 5

Days of Grey

This weekend was the Minato Matsuri, a festival featuring Nebuta, the giant lantern floats pushed and pulled along the streets of Fukue. Last night, we stayed out late to watch the fireworks, the display symbolizing the end of summer. The end of yukatas and kakigori, of kabuto mushi and balloon yo-yos. Today Sebastian dressed in his cold weather uniform, the one with the suspenders and the jaunty hat with the tassel. The days of grey have officially begun.

Besides for the festivities, I spent the weekend struggling with my homework. Not because it is so difficult but because each time I would open my textbooks, I would fall asleep. Seriously. They aren't really that boring but the pregnancy and my own mixed feelings about studying to be a language teacher combine to make me completely exhausted whenever I try to be a diligent student. Today I am feeling better. It is easier to focus whenever I am not distracted by fireworks and two extra people in the house. I have found that taking a break to create something, be it banana bread (baked in the rice cooker) or Colette's quilt, or to do something with my hands like household chores clears my head and jittery anxiety. I am able to return to my homework on vowel articulation and complete it without yawning once. This idea of working with my hands equals a happy Tiffany was strengthened when I listened to this To the Best of Our Knowledge on craft. Please go listen, it is fascinating.

I hope you are all reading this under blue skies. Take care.

Saturday, October 3

And Along Comes Eva

I always tell people that my grandmothers passed each other in the hospital: one carrying my father out and the other coming in to deliver my mother. I am pretty sure this isn't true but I like the idea of it anyway.

My mother can sew satin prom dresses and make stained glass art. She can also burn cheese toast better than anyone I have ever known.

My mom has a phone voice. It is a voice that gets even sweeter whenever she answers the voice in the middle of yelling at one of her kids (namely me). She could be raging mad then the phone would ring and it would be the most honeyed "hello?" you ever heard.

In high school, my mother wore gloves and puffy skirts to dances. Her hair towered high above her head.

When I see red lipstick, I think of my mother.

She takes her coffee with milk and sugar.

She had wanted to become a teacher and with four children of her own, I think she was a very good one.

And, sixty-six years ago and seven days after my dad, my mom also graced us with her presence.

Happy Birthday, Mom.

Friday, October 2

Girl's Fashionable Clothes

(女の子のおしゃれ服=onnanoko no oshare fuku ISBN978-4-529-04526-1)

This was my birthday present from Jason. I found it in our local bookshop at the "mall" (read: grocery store with a few shops above it) and immediately both of us got to dreaming about our daughter wearing these clothes. Easy enough because we are (mistakenly, we know) also dreaming of our daughter looking just like this girl. It could happen, right? She does sorta look like our kids. Of course, the hair would have to be a genetic fluke because we both come from straight-hair people. But until we actually meet our bound to be lovely-in-her-own-right daughter, this one is serving quite well as inspiration. I mean, check out these beautiful clothes: (please excuse the poor quality of the pictures. I have concluded that it will never stop raining. ever.)

And the good thing is that these patterns are for girls that are just out of their babyhood. So it gives me enough time to get started right? Because if you know me, I am tardy on every level these days.

I think Colette Aki will look very smart indeed, curls or no curls.