Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Things You Should Know about Me--or--Epic Procrastination Attempt #2

1. I don't need much sleep.

2. I met my husband in a hospital in Japan.

3. My worst parenting moment: Flying to Japan when Pink P was 7 weeks old, the flight attendant told me I couldn't put her in the bassinet, so after a week of no sleep (due to packing and moving), I couldn't avoid falling asleep while holding her. Next thing I knew, the guy across the aisle was handing her to me, saying, "I think this is yours," and I was like, "Ur..thanks."

4. I started studying Japanese because it seemed hard and I was bored.

5. I played tennis and basketball in high school. I play tennis right-handed and basketball left-handed, and even though the motion is essentially the same when serving a tennis ball and a volleyball, I do one right-handed (tennis) and the other left-handed (volleyball).

6. I have 37 watches including one from China which has a waving Deng Xiaoping and one from Switzerland that has edleweiss and cows (a true Swiss watch!). My most expensive watch is an antique handed down to me and my newest is a G-shock which is solar and has wave receptor so I never have to wind or change batteries again (which is good since most of my 37 watches have dead batteries).

7. I swore I would never marry a Japanese man.

8. I have had two knee surgeries and two broken ribs. Both injuries happened on the same day (May 26) seven years apart. I still feel a little nervous leaving the house on this day.

9. I am using deoderant that expired two years ago. How bad can it be?

10. I like to hike (except when I have just broken two ribs and somehow have to get back down the mountain).

11. My favorite trail is the East Inlet trail in Rocky Mountain National Park out of Grand Lake, CO. Because, look:

12. I once rode a bike 50 miles through the mountains in the rain for pizza. Fortunately, I was able to hitch a ride home with the Pizza Hut waiter, though his car had a hole in the floor board.

13. I have been to 14 countries and 44 states.

14. When Sky started Catholic preschool in Tokyo, his sign of the cross was left shoulder, right shoulder, left butt cheek, right butt cheek, with a little shake of the hiney. I didn't correct him on this for a long time.

15. I can play the guitar, the clarinet, the piano, the baritone, and the shamisen--none of them well. In fact, some would say I can't really play them at all.

16. I drink way too much diet soda.

17. When I taught in Japan, I had my own TV show. Of course, it was for the local TV station which only reached about 3000 viewers and featured farm reports and festival music.

18.  I once convinced a room full of Japanese people that we celebrate a national fart day in the US. This is probably my worst cross-cultural moment. Luckily, most of them were drunk and didn't remember it later.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Random Reminiscences from Tokyo

Since I can’t get back to Japan this summer, here’s a post of random thoughts from my last trip there. (We can subtitle this post: MOE Procrastinates on Her Dissertation)

There nothing quite like pushing a stroller through a crowded train station with a 2 year-old sitting in it singing at the top of her lungs.

Spicy Korean Beef and Mayo Pizza. It is always a long ride home with a large pizza on the back of the bike!

Japan: The only country where a red-bean-paste bun named Anpanman can be a super hero! My favorite thing about Anpanman is that he tears off part of his head to feed hungry victims in distress.

There is nothing like a book on Japanese mothers and the obento lunches they create for their preschoolers to make me feel astonishingly inadequate as a parent.

I can't decide which will disturb my son's pre-k teacher more, his claims that the holy spirit blows his hair or the picture he drew in class of a train careening off a cliff into shark-infested waters.

Towelkets are an interesting concept. Is it a towel? Is it a blanket? It’s neither, yet it’s both.

Japanese women don't tend to leave graffiti on bathroom stall walls. This makes the "postings" in the library bathroom about the height of the door hooks particularly amusing. Too bad I'm not an anthropologist. Maybe then I could figure out why the women who are too short to reach the hooks don't just go to the main office and file a request.

Furtively drinking my diet Coke in Japanese university libraries always makes me feel like a wino.

A machine that washes & then dries clothes automatically is a great idea; too bad it only holds 5 articles of clothing and takes 6 hours to finish a load.

I don't want to know what is in that Puccho yogurt candy that makes it so chewy.

"Moo-moo White Fanta" with its low calories, high calcium, and delicious fizz would not sell well in the US. Carbonated milk, anyone?

It will be a long time before the restaurant manager at the Sunshine City McDonalds gets over the guilt of serving my 5 y.o. a bug in his french fries. Upon discovering the bug, he wept (loud enough for everyone in the restaurant to hear), and when the manager came to apologize, he said through his tears, "I don't like bugs. Only stag beetles. Now I can never, ever eat french fries again.”

I hope to never spend another Saturday at Sanrio Puroland. Think Hello Kitty times a million.

With judicious use of tape and staples, my 5 y.o. has been taking origami to a whole new level at his Japanese preschool. Today he made one that sounds just like a beating heart when squeezed.

Dear Korean Tourist Ladies in Tokyo, Though I am flattered you think my kids are cute, please don't descend on them and start rubbing their heads. Frankly, it makes them think you are very, very strange, and I would hate to run over you with the stroller. Also, it is not cool to bridge the communication divide between us by asking via wild hand gestures whether I am pregnant. I'm not.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Waving the White Flag

There's this Japanese word that's been floating around in my head for the past couple of weeks. "Maitta!" It means "I give up" or "I'm defeated" and it pretty much summarizes my experience as a mom of three so far. Don't get me wrong, Stow is great. He sleeps well at night (for 4-5 hour stretches, which, frankly, is about how long I normally sleep anyway), and besides a fussy period in the late afternoon and evening, he is extremely mellow. He does go through an unbelievable amount of diapers--about 70 a week, but I really can't complain.

The thing is, though, introduction of new baby has made Sky and Pink P absolutely insane. Sky's volume button has broken and he seems to only be able to express himself by yelling (always great when you've just finally managed to get the baby to sleep). Pink P has turned into the family hooligan. She attacks Sky without provocation and stealthy makes her way through all of our personal items, which she hides in various places throughout the house. Worse, she cries, loudly, at the drop of a hat and refuses to be pacified. Incidentally, her piercing cry is way too much for Sky's super sensitive sense of hearing and usually sends him straight to meltdown mode. I've been trying to keep them apart while they work through their various issues, but it literally takes only 30 seconds with both of them in the same room for everything to fall apart.

It's unfortunate that Stow's arrival essentially coincided with the beginning of summer vacation. Summer vacation can be rough, especially for Sky who needs structure. And, it's also unfortunate that Stow's arrival was immediately followed by two major illnesses for Pink P--first an asthma hospitalization and then pneumonia, both things she's never had before. Yes, I get that is supposed to be difficult when you have the "perfect storm." But that doesn't make me feel any better, particularly when I am not sure how long this painful period of adjustment will last.

What I really want to do is wave my white flag and yell, "Maitta!" I fantasize about a world in which I wave my white flag and escape to a place where there are no screaming and crying children and where I can go to the bathroom without a major catastrophe occurring in my brief absence. The thing I have learned about myself as a parent, though, is this: I will always live to face another day, and I have just enough fight in me to get through the battle at hand. It may not be pretty, and it certainly won't be quiet, but I'll be there fighting to the end.

I hope you'll humor me, though, when occasionally I yell "Maitta!" here in cyberspace I probably won't really mean it. I think...

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Rise and Fall (and Rise Again) of One Tiger Mom

We were tiger parents once, maybe not to the same degree as Amy Chua, but we always erred on the side of high expectation. I mean Big Sissy not only got into the best high school in the region (= set for life), she also got into the best elementary and junior high schools before that. She could read when she was three and spoke English as a second language fluently by third grade. She was also pretty good at calligraphy and piano. We pushed her hard like many Asian parents do.

Somewhere along the way, it became clear, even in Big Sissy's case, that none of our pushing and criticism worked if there wasn't intrinsic motivation. She had to find her own passions. Still, our tiger expectations followed Sissy through high school. She succeeded, but she was bitter, and only now,in her twenties, is she able to feel grateful.

Today, as I waited for Sky and Pink P at their gymnastics lesson, I was talking to a self-proclaimed tiger dad whose three-year old twins are already taking gymnastics, piano, dance, and swim lessons. As I listened to him describe the various harsh parenting measures he uses with his girls, I thought, "We were tiger parents once, too..."

This is not a shift that occurred because we suddenly decided that high expectations and strict rules were not the way to go. In fact, we started out pushing Sky as hard as we'd pushed Big Sissy. (After all, despite the bitterness and the fights of her adolescent years, she's turned out pretty good.) But it became very clear, very quickly that Sky could not be pushed, and he would not respond productively to any form of strict discipline.

My head spins when I think about giving examples of how we failed to "discipline" Sky. Time outs only worked briefly for a few months when he was four. Rewarding him with stickers, removing his privileges, cajoling, pleading, bribing, crying...none of these things works with Sky. He is smart enough and curious enough to learn just about anything. He is physically adept enough to succeed at any sport. But, he isn't interested in impressing people with his vast knowledge nor does he care about being a star athlete.

It's hard to push a kid to perfect his reading, learn his math tables, and practice writing hiragana when you can't get him to ignore the various sensory distractions that demand his focus or to stop obsessing about what his little sister is doing or to abbreviate his detailed explanation of how the various parts of the body work. It's frustrating to know that he would be capable of just about anything if you could just get through the static of information that seems to crowd his brain.

Some days, I think I have just softened up and become one of those indulgent Western parents Chua criticizes in her book, and I feel guilty. But then I remember the seemingly endless stream of meetings with teachers and therapy appointments and the countless days of struggling to get Sky to do things that shouldn't be that hard, and I realize I am still a tiger mom. The tenacity is still there, but my fight is much different with Sky.

I'm still working out my new post-post-tiger-mom parenting paradigm. Maybe one day I will figure it out.


********


For the NY Times book review of Amy Chua's Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, follow this link: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/20/books/20book.html

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Japanese Housewife Handbook: How to Be a Kyoiku Mama

There are two exceedingly important roles in the family that seem to be assigned to every Japanese housewife. The first is manager of family finances and the second is kyoiku mama (or "education mom," which is a totally lame, but linguistically accurate translation of the term). As an independent, working woman, I did not feel any particular need to take on these two vital roles, but they were thrust upon me just the same.

By the end of our honeymoon, I decided that the "holder of the purse string" role was actually pretty vital for the survival of our family. After all, Ren has trouble keeping track of his wallet, literally, not figuratively. The first time he visited me in the US, he dropped his wallet on the airplane. Fortunately, he realized it was missing before we caught our connecting flight, and the wallet which included his passport and various forms of ID was found and returned to us. But there was no cash inside, and there were incriminating traces of barbeque sauce on the outside. On our honeymoon.... Even now, more than ten years later, it's difficult for me to discuss.... Let's just say he fed the fish in Hanauma Bay enough money to sustain them for several generations.

These days, he's only allowed to carry minuscule amounts of cash.

When Ren and I married, Big Sissy was in her second year of junior high school (a.k.a. 8th grade), or just over a year away from her high school entrance exams. Sissy went to an "academic" junior high, so preparations for entrance exams was intense. In fact, the entire school completed the three-year curriculum in two years so the final year could be spent on review and exam prep. The eighth-grade year was spent focusing on studies and preparing for the all-city kendo tournament (for which I was asked to wear an apron, see previous post) held in the early summer of the ninth-grade year. Students participated heavily in the sport of their choice (only one!) for the first two years of junior high school, only to stop completely during the summer vacation of the ninth-grade year to focus on exam prep.

Most kids were already going to cram school by this time. In fact, most had been going to cram school for a long, long time by the time they got to the summer of their ninth-grade year. Not Big Sissy, though. We knew that unless she showed initiative regarding preparation for exams, no amount of money paid to a cram school would do any good. So we waited (and waited) for her to make the first move.

Some parents would view this as extremely risky behavior. After all, how could she possibly know what was best for her? Weren't we sabotaging her chances at getting into the best school by not forcing her to go to cram school? Of course, we knew a few things about our kid that others didn't. First, she was smart enough to get into just about any school she wanted (whether her class performance indicated as much or not). Second, money spent on things she didn't want to do was always wasted money. And third, she'd eventually come around. As far as I can tell, our waiting paid off. She finally decided she wanted to go to cram school the August before her exams the following January and March. This meant we only had to pay for less than 8 months of cram school. It also meant that she was just panicked enough to study hard, putting our money to good use.

Once summer came, however, life became no fun for anyone. For Sissy, regular school was followed by cram school three days a week, and her life began to be filled with one diagnostic practice test after another. It seems like we were going in for student-parent-teacher or parent-teacher conferences once every couple of weeks. Every practice test result came home with a class ranking. Since she went to the best school in our area, we knew that approximately half of the kids in her class would get into the best high school.

Sissy didn't really seem to care too strongly which high school she got into, but since her friends were vying for the best high school, she decided she might as well do the same. And since her "motivation" was external, and not especially strong at that, for the first few months of "serious" study, she was not so serious, and her practice test results reflected this. Just about every test she brought home showed her ranked in the very middle of her class, one or two spots above or below the magic cut-off line. And every meeting with her homeroom teacher went about the same way--"Well, she might get in, but then again, she might not..." You can see why this was a particularly frustrating process for us.

Eventually, Ren and I decided to level with Sissy. "Look," we told her, "Maybe you're not cut out for the best high school. To get in, you have to work a lot harder than you are now. Maybe you should shoot for number two." And like just about every adolescent on the face of the earth, that was all it took for her to defy us and work hard enough to get into the best school. I kid you not, from that day on, every practice test score came back with her ranked in the top five. Top five!

What no one tells you is that when your kid is preparing for high school entrance exams, the whole family is preparing for them. You can hardly tell your test taker to study hard while you run off to the movie or the mall. So, for the entire eight months that Big Sissy got serious about studying, we went nowhere and did nothing. We all watched from a distance as she doodled and fell asleep over her textbooks and fought to get through the material before her. And suddenly, the whole family became acutely aware of Sissy's sleeping and eating habits. After all, if she didn't eat and sleep well, she might get sick, and if she got sick, she would not be able to study. It was no fun for anyone.

The morning of the first exam for her back-up choice, a local private school, arrived, and Sissy woke up sick. She'd fallen asleep under the kotatsu (a small heated table with a blanket over it--everyone knows sleeping under them makes you sick!). The morning would've been comic if it wasn't so tragic. "How could you fall asleep under the kotatsu after all those months of studying?!?" we implored half-angry, half-panicked before sending her off to take the test anyway. She passed.

Then six weeks later, it was time for the real deal, the entrance exam for local public schools. All kids take the same public school test, but they can only choose one school to receive their scores (hence the endless discussions with her teacher about which public school she would shoot for). As planned, Sissy tested for the best school in the region (and fortunately, she wasn't sick the day of the exam).

Two days later, the results were posted on huge pieces of paper taped to the side of the high school's gym. Sissy went alone (though Ba-chan sneaked out and spied on her) to see if her exam number made the list. Number 583. It was there! She'd done it.

That night, we invited her aunts, uncles and cousins to dinner and celebrated her accomplishment. The next morning, she dressed in her junior high school uniform and we proudly accompanied her to her new school. Where we sat in a gym full of new students and their parents and listened for two hours as each teacher stood up, congratulated them on their achievement, and then proceeded to tell them that life was about to get much more hellish than any entrance-exam hell they could imagine. After that, each and every teacher gave them a homework assignment to do over the summer--homework assignments that generally covered the first third of each of the newly received textbooks they held on their laps, homework assignments that were ludicrously long and insanely detailed in terms of how they were to be executed.

Sitting in that gym, thinking about three more years of exam-like hell literally made me cry. It wasn't over, it was just beginning.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Japanese Housewife Handbook: The Gender Divide

My first encounter with gender stereotypes in Japan came during my first month there, when I was forced to sit at my desk at the BOE for 8 hours a day every day (see my Learning to Drive entries for more on this). Since the highlight of my endless days at the BOE was trying to figure out what to order from the local restaurant for lunch, I was desperate for anything to keep me busy. After all, there was only so much journal writing and Japanese studying a person could do in any given 8-hour period. In a last ditch effort to keep myself from going crazy, I asked Sawako (the OL who spoke English and whose desk was next to mine) if there was anything I could do to help her.

"Yes," she told me and led me to the small kitchen area. Then she proceeded to introduce me to the various tea cups that were in the drying rack there. "This one is for Nishmura-kacho. And this one is for Ono-kakaricho..." she told me, working her way through the office in order of rank. Only then did it dawn on me that we were going to be serving tea. With no way out, I politely listened as she explained first the cups and then the proper method to making tea. I quietly followed her as she passed out the freshly-prepared cups to each of our colleagues. And when everything was done and we were back at our desks, I leaned over and said, "Thank you for showing me that. I will never do it again, though, since I am pretty sure those men can get tea for themselves."

The longer I lived in Japan, the less sensitive I was to these gendered expectations. Perhaps the biggest reason for the change was the fact that most of the women I knew, women who worked full-time and took care of families on top of that, seemed to carry out these menial tasks with a hearty dose of cynicism. Many of them voiced, in one way or another, the idea that even though the men around them tended to hold positions of power, most of those men were hopelessly incapable of taking care of themselves. In other words, these women saw themselves as ruling from behind the scenes and believed they were giving up positions of power for the sake of the greater good. This type of thinking was just subversive enough for me to accept.

Ren conforms to gender stereotypes about as much as I do. When his younger sister got married, he acted as the family head in place of his deceased father. Ren is one of the many Asian people who lack the enzyme necessary for his liver to process alcohol. Ever notice an Asian friend turn bright red after a couple of sips of beer? This is because they lack the same enzyme, so any alcohol that they consume essentially poisons them. (Amazing what one can learn by teaching English to doctors who specialize in diseases of the liver...) Anyway, one of the things a family head at a wedding has to do is go to each and every table and offer drinks to the guests. Since drinking in Japan is reciprocal--you serve him a glass, and then he serves you a glass and everyone drinks up to indicate camaraderie--not drinking a glass that has been served to you is essentially not an option, and sharing drinks with the more than 100 guests while lacking the enzyme to process alcohol, is also not really an option. So, Ren's solution was to have me tag along. Dressed in a fancy kimono, I stood behind him and drank two out of every three glasses offered to him. After all, I not only have the needed enzyme, but I'm also of German descent.

Another time, Big Sissy's junior high was hosting the city-wide kendo tournament. All the moms were called into action and had to serve not only as score keepers and snack/tea providers, but also as parking lot attendants, telling people where and how to park their cars. I was relieved to be assigned a position in the parking lot--after all, it would save me from tea pouring. One of the requirements for all of the moms, even the ones working the parking lot? We had to wear aprons. Aprons! What makes you think I own an apron? And, I'll be damned if I am going to go out and buy one just so I can direct traffic in a junior high school parking lot! When the day in question arrived, I showed up in my track suit and a baseball cap. Take that you apron-wearing moms!

There were a couple of times when I just couldn't quite buck the system. The one I remember most vividly was at the wake of one of Ren's distant relatives, held in an old farmhouse up in the mountains. It's morbid to say that I looked forward to the wake, but I did. It was something I hadn't seen before, and I imagined it would be a good learning experience. Unfortunately, as soon as we walked into the house, Ren was ushered into the front room where the wake was being held--a room full of mostly men drinking tea and eating snacks, and I was taken into a small room off the kitchen where I was forced to prepare tea continuously for about two hours, which is about how long it took Ren to figure out I had been kidnapped. Ironically, I couldn't and still can't make a good cup of green tea (most likely an overreaction to the first time I was asked to make it back at the BOE), so I was relegated to pouring it. Apparently, I didn't even do that well. About 15 minutes into my two-hour tea pouring hell, a relative I had never met chastised me four pouring. the. tea. with. my. left. hand! What can I say, I'm ambidextrous, but given there were about 10 of us in a space no larger than a pantry, left-handed serving was easier. Nothing annoys me quite like being forced to serve tea and then being told exactly how I have to do it, but after incurring the wrath of a bunch of old women I hardly knew, I had no choice but to serve the tea right handed.

I'd like to say these gender issues only happen in Japan. We all know that's not true, though. I'm married to a stay-at-home Japanese dad. I hold a full-time job while raising children and breastfeeding. People are shocked to learn that Ren gets up at night to change the baby's diaper before handing him off to me (and not just on the weekends). At parent-teacher conferences, it's assumed I will be the parent who attends, but if I don't have my husband with me, sometimes I'm not heard. As far as I can see, things haven't improved all that much since third grade Y basketball when none of the boys would pass the ball to me. The only way I could score a point was to steal it from someone on the other team and drive, drive, drive to the basket. Japan or the US, it seems like I've been driving ever since.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

My Secret Life as a Japanese Housewife

I was the only girl on my 3rd grade Y-basketball team. Throughout my elementary school years, I spent hours at the Y practicing my shot and could beat just about any boy who challenged me to a game of one-on-one, no matter how old he was. I've lost more than a few boyfriends and potential boyfriends by beating them in a number of different sports.

Before I moved to Japan to teach English, friends and family members joked about my finding a Japanese husband. I couldn't think of a more absurd scenario. Super-independent, tomboy me, falling for an old-fashioned, chauvinistic Japanese man? Never! Well, we all know how that turned out. It's also probably obvious by now that Ren is no more a "typical" Japanese man than I am a "typical" American woman. Stereotypes are never useful. Still, my fierce competitiveness (along with a number of other "un-ladylike traits") made me a less-than-ideal candidate for becoming a Japanese housewife.

Despite my best intentions, however, I spent more than two years of my life in that role. Like many Japanese housewives, I had a Japanese husband, a kid, and a part-time job. Unlike them, I'm not Japanese, my kid was a step-kid and my job was teaching at a national university, but I suppose I fit the role just the same. Before I married Ren, several of my Japanese friends warned me against becoming the wife of the oldest son. The role of daughter-in-law is never an easy one, made much worse when living with one's in-laws. And as the wife to the oldest son in a family from somewhat rural Japan, I had the distinct pleasure of living with my mother-in-law after Ren and I married.

When we dated and talked about getting married, Ren was anything but the typical Japanese man. He cooked, he cleaned, he shopped. He expected me to be and do who and what I wanted. Unfortunately, one man's expectations can't hold up to an entire culture's. First of all, Ren's mother did not want Ren in the kitchen. That was my job. The hardest part of married life for me was cooking. As a single person, I "cooked" but this usually entailed boiling pasta, melting cheese on tortilla chips, or making berry smoothies--hardly food I could serve to my new Japanese insta-family. After all, I went from being single to living with not only Ren but also Ren's daughter Big Sissy and Ren's mom, Ba-chan.

Worse. Breakfast in Japan cannot merely be cereal, a banana and some yogurt. No, there is usually miso soup, rice, and some kind of fish involved. "Western" breakfast invariably include fried eggs, toast and a salad. For someone who could barely manage pouring cereal in a bowl that early in the morning, the breakfast expectations seemed unbelievably high. While making breakfast, I was also expected to make boxed lunches (bento) for Ren, Big Sissy and I as well as dinner for Ren who usually worked well past dinner time. Given that I was the kid who never ate breakfast because I couldn't stand the sight of food before say, 9 a.m., this was not easy.

Mornings were made more challenging by the fact that Ba-chan threw down the gauntlet regarding wake up time. If I got up at 7, she got up at 6:30. If I got up at 6:30, she got up at 6. If I got up at 6, well..., you can figure it out. Not one to back down from a challenge, I would peel myself out of the futon at 5:30 and before even opening my eyes, I could get the rice washed and cooked, start a pot of soup, and finish making half of the bentos. By the time everyone was up at 7, I had everything cooked and on the table, the laundry in the washing machine and the futons shaken and stored in the closet.

I wish I could say that I learned something enlightening from being a Japanese housewife for two+ years, but mainly I just got very, very annoyed. I decided that women in Japan have to work a lot harder than women in the US. Not just with cooking, but with shopping--since refrigerators are smaller and food fresher, most women shop every day or at least several times a week. Since Japanese houses are more permeable to the outside, most women dust and vacuum daily. Since washing machines are smaller and fill up sooner, daily loads of laundry have to be hung out in the sun (most families do not have dryers). Sleeping on futons means that bedding has to be shaken out and folded up every morning and aired out at least once a week. When I was a Japanese housewife, there was an insane amount of work each and every day. It helped to have a husband who vacuumed, a job I could go to, and a sense of humor, and most of all, it helped that we finally left Japan for the US.

My time as a Japanese housewife mostly taught me about the sacrifices we make for each other when we get married, sacrifices that seem more extreme when the marriage is an international one. Ren has sacrificed as much or more since we came to the US. Knowing how hard it was for me in Japan, my sense of gratitude for his sacrifices is tempered by a sense of guilt since I have a good idea of what he is going through.

*****


NOTE: I should probably note that these stereotypes regarding the roles of men and women are much more entrenched in rural Japan than they are, say, in Tokyo, and of course, there are exceptions to these stereotypes just about anywhere. Sometimes sweeping generalizations make for more interesting blog posts, though...

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Working Our Way Through the Letter A

Allergies, Autism, and... ASTHMA!?!

This has been one of those weeks that proves I really don't need to make things up because life as I know it is unbelievable enough.

After less than a week home from the hospital with the baby, I was sent to the ER for abdominal issues. Then two days later, Pink P went and stayed. So, out of the last 14 days, at least one person from our family was at the hospital 10 of those days.

Now, on top of the fact that we have to watch Pink P's various food allergies, she is also asthmatic. This was actually not surprising to doctors, but it was to us. In fact, we had no idea, which may explain why I made her go through an entire night during which she essentially couldn't breathe. She'd had shortness of breath and heavy coughing before, and her usual cough medicine in the nebulizer always seemed to work. So, I just assumed the severe shortness of breath and the fact she was not acting like herself would resolve once she had a good night's sleep. Oops. Bad mom!

By the time Ren took her to the ER the next morning (since nothing, and I mean nothing, is open on a Saturday morning in this small town), they determined she was in respiratory distress. Great. I mean, how much worse of a mom can I be? It took three days on oxygen and three nights in the hospital for her lungs to get back to normal. They tell me this isn't unusual (though that doesn't make me feel much better).

Everyone is home now, and our list of things to stay on top of keeps getting longer. Besides needing to know the triggers for Sky's meltdowns, which we are slowly figuring out, we now have to figure out what situations can trigger Pink P's breathing issues. Fortunately, Stow just eats, sleeps, and poops, so not much to figure out there--though I would like to work out just how many newborn diapers we will need until he grows into size one. The kid was huge when he was born, so common sense would dictate there is little need for tiny diapers. Not true. So far, we are blowing through 10-15 diapers a day, which means we've already made several diaper runs to buy more newborn diapers.