Tuesday, April 30, 2013

To Love and to Leibster

First of all, if you see a lot of random font sizing and styles, it's because Blogger is possessed. I tried to fix it, I really did...

Recently, my fellow special needs mom blogger Joy at icansaymama nominated me for a Liebster Award. Joy writes about the ups and downs of figuring out life with a special needs kiddo. If you haven't checked her out, do! 

As proof of just how out of touch I am, and how maybe I'm not cut out for fame and fortune in an electronic medium, I had no idea what the Liebster Award was. The Great-and-All-Knowing Interwebs tell me that The Liebster Award is given to up and coming bloggers who have less than [   ] (insert number here--some places say 200 some say 3000, either way, I qualify) followers.  Apparently Liebster is German and means sweetest, kindest, nicest, dearest, beloved, lovely, kind, pleasant, valued, cute, endearing, and welcome.  I don't speak German, so that could be a bold-faced lie. The rules vary widely (something I plan to totally take advantage of), but Joy tells me that I should:

1. Answer 11 questions posed by the blogger bestowing the honor
2. Post 11 random facts about yourself
3. Pass the award along to 11 additional fellow bloggers
4. Pose a set of 11 questions to those bloggers

1. Which is the first song on your playlist? It depends on the day. Lately it's "Good Riddance" by Green Day.  Not a bad song for big changes. And, yes, I know I'm old. I teach college kids, so you don't need to remind me.

2. Do you like to shop online or do you prefer to shop "offline"? I like to shop online. Beats shopping with three kids any day. Though, if I am being totally honest, the problem isn't the kids. It's the fact that my spouse looks at every purchase as a potentially life-altering decision that must be approached with the utmost care and consideration. Try dealing with that with three kids in tow. 

3. Are you a talented singer?  Emphatically, no. At least according to my kids who desperately beg politely ask me to stop.

4. Do you like sports? If so, what do you enjoy watching or doing the most? I like playing sports--basketball and tennis are my favorite though I am much older and slower than I used to be, and I'm pretty sure the college kids in the gym expect me to shake my cane at them at any moment.

5. Who is your favourite actor/actress and why? Hmmmm...Proof again that I am lame and not terribly in touch with that new-fangled moving picture thing.

6. Which is your favourite drink? Diet coke. Sorry.

7. Are you superstitious? Nope. Though when I was a high school athlete we all were. 

8. Name something you are really bad at. Anything remotely artistic and balancing the check book (does anyone even do this anymore?).

9. Name something you are really good at.  There must be something, but all I can think of is "writing a dissertation," which, face it, is not a terribly transferrable skill. Besides, I'm not actually good at it. I just don't have to do it anymore, which gives me the same warm and fuzzy feeling I used to have when I was actually good at things.

10. What is your favourite thing about blogging? Being able to write creatively and to tell all the stories that have been rattling around in my head.

11. What is your worst habit? See number 6.

And 11 random facts:

1. People often assume I'm part Japanese due to my hair color and affinity for Japanese culture. I'm not, but I purposely took my husband's name to confuse nosy-bodies.

2. I once rode a bike 50 miles through the mountains for pizza.

3. As a kid, I thought my middle name was Lid instead of Lynn. I argued at length with my mom when she tried to correct me. Lid made perfect sense since I loved jelly and jelly had a lid. Lynn was ridiculous. I mean, come on, that doesn't mean anything.

4. I have no idea what I am doing.

5. I once locked my brother and his unsuspecting college roommate in the storage shed in a totally (I swear) unpremeditated act of revenge for the until-that-very-moment-suppressed memory of him locking me in the bathroom 10 years before while he ate my portion of the pizza just outside the door.

6. I'm the youngest of four, which may explain a lot.

7. My husband and I met at a hospital in rural Japan. We were both patients (so don't get all Grey's Anatomy on me).

8. I swore I'd never marry a Japanese man.

9. The first time I went to Japan as a high school student, I was so homesick, I cried everyday. To help me feel "more at home," my host mom woke me up at the crack of dawn, so I could listen to the English lesson on the radio. This did nothing to help my homesickness, but even today, I can remember the key phrase that was repeated on the show each morning: "It's winter now in New Zealand, you know?"

10. I feel very ambivalent about blogging. I mean, I really want you to read my stories, but I'm mortified to think people might actually try to glean practical advice from my posts.

11.  I miss bread and ice cream, but since the kids are GFCF, I don't have the heart to eat that stuff (at least not at home).

11 7 Bloggers (that's more than half of 11 and two more than five, which is what the other rules I read said)

1. What's your favorite TV show?

2. Which app do you wish existed but doesn't?
3. If you could travel anywhere, where would you go?
4. With which cartoon character do you most identify?
5. Which is worse, cooking or cleaning?
6.  What's your favorite book?
7. What's your earliest memory?
8. Do you like roller coasters (literally, not figuratively)?
9. Are you good in math?
10. What is your pet peeve?
11. Why do you blog?

Please put a link to your response in the comments! Thanks.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

My So-called Existential Crisis

Over the past 10 days since my last post, I've started and stopped six different entries. Each time, I get about two paragraphs in and then begin to wonder if anyone really cares about the story I'm trying to tell. Part of my blogging existential crisis comes from the fact that I've been sick while also buying a house, trying to get stuff in place for our move, and wrapping up my final semester here. There was also the full moon which turned Sky into a blurting, jumping, emotional mess. That and the fact that I have three super energetic kids who force me to remember my priorities. Always.

But my failure to finish any of my posts is also due to the fact I'm constantly finding blogs of stories more compelling, prose more moving, or readership more enthusiastic than mine. I guess it doesn't really matter. I mean, I didn't start blogging because I wanted to become a famous blogger, but sometimes I wonder what in the world I'm doing. I don't know how else to explain it but to say that sometimes blogging makes me feel like I'm in junior high all over again and that I don't quite know my way.

So, there you have it. Two paragraphs again. Semester ends soon, so after a little bit of sleep, I should be back to form and maybe even able to write more than two paragraphs. In the meantime, if you have any blog post requests, I'm all ears!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

In The End, It Was No Big Deal

On top of wrapping up my last semester at the college where I've been teaching for the past four years, looking for a new house, and trying to establish services and doctors for everyone once we move, we've also been trying to get to the bottom of Stow's ongoing gut issues. Besides recurring bouts of C-diff, he's also experienced "sluggish" growth. You wouldn't really know it by looking at him, but he goes through long stretches of halted or delayed physical and developmental growth. Those usually coincide with back-to-back minor illness that can last for months. We've begun to suspect malabsorption given the on-again-off-again diarrhea and the constantly-bloated tummy.

So, the gastroenterologist and the urologist scheduled a combined colonoscopy, endoscopy, and cystocopy. In other words, the doctors wanted to look at his colon, his stomach, his urethra, and his bladder, and they accessed these points from the nearest available points of entry. Poor Stow.

Fortunately, he had no idea what was coming.

I'd been worried about subjecting Stow to general anesthetic ever since we learned about his possible folate issues, so I consulted with the anesthesiologist several times before having the procedures done.  He assured me that research has consistently showed that besides nitrous oxide (a.k.a. laughing gas), limited use of anesthetics has been shown to be safe for children. But, even though I knew everything would probably be fine, it was hard not to worry that somehow Stow would go to sleep for this set of procedures and wake up a different kid. I tried to think about other more cheerful (and admittedly more realistic) scenarios, but I kept coming back to that one.

Our arrival time on the day of the procedure was scheduled for 6:30 a.m., so Ren, Stow and I spent the night in a hotel next to the hospital. That happened to be our anniversary, so we tried to celebrate wth a romantic lunch-with-toddler. If anyone has ever managed a romantic lunch-with-toddler, I'd like to meet them and possibly loan them a kid for a day or two. Then again, who am I kidding? Even without the toddler, lunch would have lacked romance--though it might also have lacked climbing on chairs and scattering crackers on the floor.  Of course, Ren would argue that any lunch that includes a waitress, breakable dishes, and a tip is romantic enough for him.

On the way back to our hotel, we stopped at Whole Foods, so I could stock up on gluten-free cereal and Target, so I could buy Stow some shoes that actually fit his feet.

We might possibly be the most romantic couple ever.

This is what happens when I leave Stow in the car with a sleepy, post-romantic-lunch Ren. Self -tattooing = hotel bath. Sigh.

After a fitful night of sleep for all of us, we decided to go to the hospital early. It's a certain kind of guilt you feel when walking your 22-month old into the hospital for some invasive procedures. As far as Stow knew, we were going to the playground, the zoo, the circus.  Fortunately, the hospital didn't give us a lot of time to be anxious. Stow was called back right away, and once we changed him into his sweet toddler scrubs, they brought a toy car for him to sit in. While he watched cartoons, the nurse took his vitals and prepped him for his trip to the OR. When it was time to take him back, a nurse came and blew bubbles at him as I pushed him down the hall. I wish I could've gotten a video of Stow rolling down the hall in his cool car, honking at all the doctors and nurses as he drove through a shower of bubbles, but I was too intent on being totally present in those final moments before we reached the double doors that said RESTRICTED ACCESS.

When we did, Ren and I kissed Stow on each cheek and then watched him roll away. With the bubble  container in his hands,  he happily drove off without even looking back. We got to see him make the turn into the operating room before the automatic doors closed in our faces.

It sucks to worry about your kids' health and to send them off to be poked and prodded beyond your view. But, we know we are so very lucky.  We have a lot to deal with, but it's nothing like what Gavin's mom, and Kaishi's mom, and Noah's mom have had to face. When I think about what those moms have had to endure and when I see how bravely they have faced the unendurable,  I start to worry that this blog is just an exercise in self-absorption. I hope it's not. I hope people learn from us that we can all muddle through somehow. But more than that, I hope our story teaches people to feel just a little more grateful, to laugh just a little bit more, and to offer those around them just a little more grace.

Monday, April 15, 2013

I'm Pretty Sure That's Not What They Meant

Sky loves the kids' bulletins from church. They keep him busy and help him process the sermon. But this past Sunday, I think maybe he missed the point.

I could be wrong, though. You be the judge:

Kind of makes you want to be Presbyterian, doesn't it? I mean, look at all the fun we have at church.

I double-checked with Sky about the name of Mrs. Mryc. She is a Mrs. and it is spelled Myrc. I was sure she was a he, what with the cowlick (Sky usually reserves the cowlick for self portraits), the pants and her lack of cleavage--not at all like her BFF (her cousin? her lover?) Ms. Jorji, who has very accurately-depicted breasts. Have any of you ever seen such attention to detail? Not many 8 year-olds remember to properly accentuate the cleavage. I don't know whether to be proud or disturbed. And, really, it's a wonder the kids and I don't get in trouble for talking during church. Sometimes these things take a lot of explanation.


There's a lot more to say about this picture, but I think I will stop and just let Jack, asome kid, cool dude, and flying baby speak for themselves. Oh, and I know I should quit letting my kids write my blog for me. I keep resolving to do that, and then they come up with gems like this one. Can you blame me?

If you'd like to enjoy more of Sky's often inappropriate artwork, follow the label "Illustration by Sky."

Friday, April 12, 2013

The Three Cows

Well, somehow Sky (age, 8) has convinced his speech therapist to become his creative collaborator. They threw this story together one 45-minute session. I'm not sure there's any great therapeutic benefit to this (you tell me--maybe there is). It DID totally reignited Sky's enthusiasm for speech, so there's that. Hope you enjoy it!

(click on pictures to enlarge_

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

And Then We Tried on the Pants

We took the kids on a short "vacation" this weekend. It included a 6-hour drive and several house viewings as well as carry-out sushi (three times), an hour in the hotel pool, and an hour at the park. Come to think of it, our "vacation" kind of stunk, but the kids were good sports about it. They played hard at the park and laughed hard at all the DVDs we brought along for the ride.

Considering our international lifestyle, we haven't really gone anywhere lately. Someone's always getting sick or having back surgery, so this was actually the first longish trip we'd taken since Stow joined our ranks. All things considered, it went pretty well. There was the hour we sat in traffic and the two missed highway tolls (relax, I paid them later, sheesh). There was the time Pink P picked up Stow's pacifier from the restroom floor and plunked it back into his mouth without washing it--ewwwwwwwww--which reminded me of the time I caught her licking the window on the Yamanote-sen train (in Tokyo) and the picnic table in Ueno Park and the handrail at Ikebukuro Station. And, somehow, that made me feel a lot better.  And then there was Ren's back going out at just about the same time that Stow figured out he could climb over the side of the pack-n-play.

After that, it went something like this:

put Stow in pack n play
turn around to do something
find Stow in the bathroom trying to turn on the shower
put Stow in pack n play
turn around to do something
find Stow on the bed punching the wrong access code into my iPad disabling it
put Stow in pack n play
turn around to do something
find Stow with the door open and headed for the elevator

You get the idea.

Five people, one room, one incapacitated adult, and one extremely curious one-year old = one very long first day.

The next morning, as we prepared to go on a marathon house hunting tour, I discovered something awesome. Stow's new pants are magical. Okay, maybe not magical, but definitely totally wondrous. See, even though they are plenty big for him, they allow for zero lateral movement.  I put Stow in the pack n play, turned around to do something, and turned back around to discover he was still in the pack n play. He stood in the corner desperately trying to lift his leg up and over the top as he'd done the day before. No dice. Every time he lifted his leg, it only made it about halfway before being mysteriously restrained. It. Was. Awesome. I admit it, I had a good laugh as I watched him try to figure out what was going so wrong. He never did. Instead, of crying or getting angry, though, he stoically accepted his plight.  And, in that moment,  I felt inordinately grateful for two unexpected but very welcome treasures: new toddler pants and zen-like children.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Help This Kid!

Big Sissy still can't think of a name for her Etsy shop. Can you help? Here are the ones she's considering:

Eat, Sleep, Paint
Daughter in Two Cultures
Different Like You
Kokoro Illustration
Kokoro Watercolor

(Kokoro is a Japanese word that's often translated as "heart" but it also incorporates the idea of one's spirit or soul--in other words, it's not entirely translatable)

She's been thinking about this for days now, and nothing really seems right. I suggested a couple that are in the running, but Ren has been wholly unhelpful. His only contribution has been to tell us that most of the ideas don't "sound right" (hibiki ga yokunai). Do you like one or more of these? Do you have some other ideas? Please leave your suggestions in the comments.

Oh, and she says she likes this picture better than the one I posted yesterday:

Which one do you like better? We may or may not have a friendly wager on this, and you may or may not be able to help us settle it. I like the one without the outlines, but, then again, she and I have never shared the same aesthetic.  You should see us trying to shop for clothes together!

And here are a couple of new ones (I'll encourage her to work on her photography skills so she doesn't keep getting the shadow of her camera into the shots).

You can see some of her other stuff in my post "Into the Light." 

So, in summary, please help Big Sissy come up with a name for her Etsy shop. Maybe if you're lucky, she'll listen to you. Goodness knows she hardly ever listens to me! :) Oh, and if you like one of those "Different Like You" pictures better than the other, tell us so we can settle our bet!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Different Like You

Okay, one more Big Sissy creation (actually, there are a lot more, but she's working on an Etsy shop, so I'll let you check those out there). This one is her contribution to Autism Advocacy month. She wanted to use the puzzle design since it's so closely linked to autism in people's consciousness. The motto "Different Like You" came from the many conversations we've had at our house about how all of us are made differently. Some of us need glasses. Some of us have bad backs. Some of us have asthma. Some of us can't eat peanuts. Some of us have brains that see the world in unique ways. We're all different, and we're all different in different ways. If nothing else, I hope our experiences with autism teach all of my kids to show compassion and/or understanding for people who don't quite fit in. And, that they learn to advocate not only for themselves but for those around them in need of a voice.

The fine print: please feel free to share the image and the motto. but also offer credit where credit is due.  And, while you're at it, direct people to this blog and/or Big Sissy's Etsy (once we figure out what to call it).

Also, you can see more work by Big Sissy in my blog post "Into the Light."

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Into the Light

When I first entered Big Sissy's life, she was in the fifth grade. People can say all they want about junior high school and the pains of adolescence, but I'm pretty sure fifth and sixth grade are the worst! By the time Big Sissy was in 8th and 9th grade, she almost seemed human again. Of course, it probably didn't help her pre-teen rebelliousness to suddenly have a foreigner tagging around acting the part of her mom, but that's how it went.

By the time I showed up, Big Sissy was 11 and had been covertly drawing manga for years. I suppose she took to hiding her pictures because she got into trouble for drawing them. And, she got into trouble for drawing them because she drew them everywhere all the time. Each and every page of her school textbooks was covered with her illustrations.*** She also doodled on the backs and even the fronts of her homework and in-class assignments (as well as on tests and quizzes). It was as if each and every blank spot of paper was meant to be illustrated. Big Sissy was also famous for spending hours in her room redrawing different scenes from comics she'd read instead of doing her homework. And, of course, she'd quickly shove them into her desk drawer when one of us came near her room. Sometimes the drawer would be so full of "secret" manga that it couldn't be opened.

Those early years of our relationship seemed to be one continuous conversation (debate? argument?) about the proper place and time for art and about the need to bring her talent into the light so she could draw in the pursuit of a greater good. It took years for me to convince Big Sissy that we supported her talent, just not her semi-delinquent approach to it. Later, as she thought about her future and started to plan for college, we talked about the importance of balancing her passion for drawing with being able to support herself.

Recently, Big Sissy started drawing and painting in earnest again. No more textbook doodles or papers crammed into desk drawers! Finally, she's bringing her talent to the light.

So, what do you think?

***Before you judge her too harshly, I should tell you that textbooks in Japan are much different than in the US. They are thin paperback books that you purchase and keep, so Big Sissy wasn't defacing school property, just her own.

Oh, just in case you're thinking about it, don't be a jerk and steal her artwork.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Happy Easter!

Yes, I know I'm a day late, but yesterday was Easter, and I know at least some of you would have given me a hard time for taking time away from my family to post.

I'll deal with the most pressing question first. Pink P wore the shiny pink dress. Did you think she'd choose the flower one? Really? You should all know by now that Pink P will always and forever do the opposite of what I want her to do, at least when it comes to fashion.

The next pressing question, I know, is whether we had any Easter basket-related meltdowns to rival the Valentine's day meltdown.  We did not. Of course, this time I managed to get each kid exactly what I knew he or she would like, so there's that. I also put no candy in their baskets, so double score for me!

Operation Easter Bunny: Sky wrote two notes and Pink make the puzzle and drew a picture of the puzzle

Sky was amazed that the Easter Bunny answered his question but more importantly that EB carried his own pencil
What I'm telling you, basically, is that Easter seemed to go off without a hitch.

I managed to remember to make something gluten and dairy free for the kids while also remembering to go grocery shopping for all the ingredients for the egg casserole I planned to make for the adults. This might not sound like much, but I am not known for my homemaking skills, so I'm gonna pat myself on the back just the same.

The kids managed to be pretty well-behaved at church, though I will never understand why they have them all come to the front and face the congregation for the children's sermon. Nor will I comprehend why they also have the nursery attendants bring in all the tiny ones to listen. To my kids' credit, despite the larger than usual crowd, they managed to keep their mouths shut this Sunday (unlike some Sundays when Sky says outlandish things which then reverberate through the sanctuary after he yells them into the microphone). Granted, Pink P started choking on a mint and had to be taken out for water, Stow kept trying to dip his hand into the baptismal (if he grows a couple of more inches, we're in trouble), and Sky kept standing up and swaying as he stared at the lighted candles. So, they weren't inconspicuous but they were quiet, so let me just pretend it went awesome, okay?

The best thing about Easter this year? After we had Easter lunch with my parents, they took Pink and Sky with them to their house for a couple of days. Score! Of course, we still have Stow, so there will be no candlelit dinners for us (Who am I kidding? We all know Ren is about as romantic as a rock and that his idea of an expensive meal is take-out sushi), but I did get to watch some basketball while Stow played contently with his new train and ducks.  AND NO ONE SCREAMED OR HIT ANYONE.

Happy Easter, indeed! (Thanks Mom and Dad!!)