Friday, December 30, 2011

On love and loss

Today, I lost a friend. 

Precious children lost their mother.

A mourning mother lost her child. 

Old friends lost someone who was like a sister. 

A husband lost his wife.

I have known this friend since we were in elementary school. When we were in the fifth grade a group of us would all wear wind breaker suits to school on Fridays, so we would match. In middle school she would defend me when people would tease me about my mom. In high school we would have sleep overs and stay up, literally, all night talking about the existence of God. I named my first dog that I had on my own Oakley after her family dog. 

After graduation we grew apart, as so often happens. But then came FaceBook.

As cliche as it sounds, we reconnected and became close once again. At this point we were both mothers. We went through pregnancies together. Her youngest two children are the same age as my children. We would lament about parenting over emails. We would joke about the tantrums, the mess, the sleepless nights. She was and IS one of my biggest 'mommy role models'. 

There were times with Noah that I just did not know what to do. I knew that I could email my friend and she would have a suggestion. She was supportive, understanding and encouraging. 

But she was struggling and I didn't see it. 

My heart is broken for her family and her children. Those children... it makes me sick to think of the sadness this will leave in their lives. 

But something amazing has happened, through all this sadness. Friends are rallying around one another, saying prayers and offering genuine support and words of love. I am blown away at the outpour that has taken place for my friend. 

And this makes me want to be certain that all my friends, the old and the new, know that I am here. Did my friend know that all she had to do was ask and I, without hesitation, would have been there? For any of my friends, I would be. 

I love you, friend. You are dearly missed. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

It is the mold that binds us

Living in a foreign country is tough. Even though we have been here for 3+ years it is all still so foreign. 

I see my neighbors, Japanese women with children just a few years older than mine. They are trimming the bushes and thoughtfully sweeping up every leaf and branch off the street, placing them in plastic bags to be disposed of on their designated garbage day.

Do you know how intense trash and recycling is here in Japan? Intense. Burnables, PET bottles, other plastics, tin, other metal, glass... not to mention any household items or yard waste that you might want to dispose of. Plastic labels removed from containers, cereal and milk boxes broken down. And all put neatly into a clear plastic bag and taken to your designated trash area on the designated day.

The realtor gave us a calendar letting us know when to take which items out for the sanitation workers (glass is only collected twice a month?! this makes us look like incredible winos). So once we translated said calendar and made an attempt to remember what days to dispose of which items, off I walk up the hill through our neighborhood to make our deposit. Lugging our huge Hefty size clear bag. I drop it off with our neighbors trash, tiny things the size of grocery bags. I smile at a neighbor who is wearing an apron, thoughtfully nodding as she turns away, shuffling back to her house where she then starts hanging the laundry outside to dry.

We recently had a run in with some mold issues at the house. With the temperature dropping outside we get condensation on the metal window frames. Because of this we get mold. Upon further investigation I found the mold inside the AC wall units as well. After exchanging emails with the realtor, who at first seemed to indicate they would not do anything to help remedy this issue, we had an inspector from on Base come take a look at the problem.

The inspector came with an agent from the realtor company. He spoke (from what I could tell) perfect Japanese and was able to translate for us. They finally agreed to have the AC units professionally cleaned and then offered tips on how to cut down on the humidity in the house.

The whole exchange got me thinking: at what point will living here become easy? Every single day is somewhat of a struggle. Just everyday things. Like the trash. Or the laundry (don't get me started on the damn laundry). How do these Japanese housewives do it?

The realtor explained that when the Japanese clean they open the windows, no matter the season, to let in fresh air. They only heat the rooms that they are currently in, when they are in them. This helps lessen the amount of time there is a temperature difference between inside and out. They also wipe the condensation whenever it is there.

How do these women find the time to do it all? My laundry is always piled, the trash and recycling is always piled up, the condensation is ALWAYS there... I suppose if I had grown up in this Country doing certain things it would be second nature. But being an American living in Japan is just plain hard for me. I try to assimilate as best as possible. And it's not like it is torture. But it is hard.

Did I mention the shower rooms and toilets? Have you ever cleaned a bidet?

That's a whole other post all together.

So I see my efficient neighbors tackling their condensation before it turns to mold, clipping the hedges while using a level to ensure a straight line... meanwhile I am googling natural ways to rid your house of mold and trying to figure out how the hell to turn on the dehumidifier on the Japanese AC wall unit.

Monday, December 19, 2011

One in a MILLION

Noah is three years old! 

We had a day full of Noah`s favorite things. Bacon and blueberries for breakfast, swimming at the indoor pool on Base, ramen for lunch and then running around at the park.

I found the perfect recipe for a perfect chocolate cake with the perfect buttercream frosting. Once we were home from all the above activities Noah zonked out for a nap and I began to prep for the cake. Only to find I was low on sugar. Must have been all the muffins and pies and hot fudge sauce I had made the following week. Best laid plans, right?

So I made Noah an ice cream sundae with the aforementioned hot fudge... complete with sprinkles. I toped it with a candle and we sang. His face lit up. He blew out the candle and was so pleased with himself, he asked for the `hot again?`. So I re-lit the candle. He blew it out again. This repeated until there was no more candle left to burn. 

What kid looks over an ice cream sundae WITH SPRINKLES?! 

We have one unique three year old. 

Every day I am reminded of just how unique and special my Noah is. I know every parent thinks that and it is so cliche to say, but I just adore his little idiosyncrasies. 

He has an attention to detail that could rival some adults. He can memorize lines from a movie after watching it a single time (even though you might not understand it when he recites it). He is sensitive to the emotions of others. He understands and uses pronouns (!) but can not say his own name. He is creative and funny and sweet. He is different from any other three year old boy I know or have known. He is just a perfect version of his three year old self. As frustrating as it can be to have a child with a speech delay, I would not trade him for anything. It has helped him to fine tune so many other gifts and these gifts make for one unique kid. And, really, can you imagine me having a `normal` kid?! 

Happy birthday, sweet little bird! 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Check me out

Aren`t I all pretty? My wonderful sister gave my blog a face lift for me. I know how to write a post, but that is about as far as my techy skills go when it comes to blogger. And my love of chevron knows no end. Thanks, sis!

The test I had to see if  my superior vena cava was closing back up came back negative! Woo hoo! So that means the worse case scenario is not so. Just have to figure out what is going on in there that makes me feel crummy. The next step is to check my pacemaker. More to come on that... 

Pretty blog WITH CHEVRON, wide open veins, no open heart surgery in my near future... life is looking up, folks. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Turtle and a Moo

We have several nicknames for our wee ones. They have evolved as the kids get older, until the next thing you know we are calling Noah Turtle and Amelia Moo. 

The evolution of Noah's nicknames:



Noaster-poster-postumous (there is a song that goes with this one)






Bir Bir


Burschel the Turtle 


We most often call him Bird or Turtle. 

The evolution of Amelia's nicknames:







Her list is shorter because she is younger, obviously. And none of hers have a song to accompany them. Poor second child. I need to get to work on a song, what sort of mother does not have a crazy nickname with accompanying song for their 4 month old?! But you can't force these things, people. Nicknames (and songs with the nicknames) need to happen organically. You just can't start calling someone Moo out of the blue. That's weird. 

A Turtle, a Moo and their Mom. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Drums keep pounding a rhythm to my brain...

I bet you thought I was on another blog hiatus, didn`t you? In typical fashion, once something has happened that upsets me I find it hard to sit down and type. And I`m upset. But in such a cliche manner, writing about it does seem to make me feel better. 

About a week ago I started to have symptoms similar to those before I had my surgery. 

I went from feeling absolutely normal, fine... even great... to feeling pretty darn crummy all the time.

And I am pissed.

The symptoms came, literally, out of no where. I was laying down with Amelia, nursing her, and all the sudden noticed my head was pounding and felt `full`. It struck me as odd since I had not felt that way since my superior vena cava was all blocked up (brush up on my heart history here if you`d like) so I reached up to feel my neck to see if my jugular veins were all hulk like. And they were hulk like. 

Before my surgery, when my superior vena cava was closed to 3mm, I would get pressure headaches and the veins in my neck would bulge out because the blood could not flow through that small opening. I would get a back up of blood in my veins which caused those symptoms. 

And now they are back.

And this is strange. If the area of my superior vena cava was going to scar back over it would have done it sooner rather than later. At least that is the standard school of thought for re-scaring. 

And I am back to having next to no tolerance for physical activity. Just walking around while holding Amelia gives me chest pain and I become weak. Ya`ll, I was just running the other week! 

I went to see a Doctor on Base who decided that I should have a study done to see if the vein is clogged back up again. I am waiting for an appointment to be arranged with a Japanese hospital for a trans esophageal echocardiogram. Basically they put a long probe down my throat to get a good, clear image of my heart. This will tell us if there is anything causing my symptoms, structurally speaking.

I keep hoping that I am just going a little nuts and the symptoms are all in my head. The moment I start feeling more `fine` than `crappy` I get confidence. I say to myself `It is all in your crazy little head, you are fine!` and I hop up to play with Noah, scooping him up and swinging him in the air. Then I get weak, my chest starts to ache and feel tight. 

And, if I am lucky, that is the end of it. But more often than not I spiral into a mini panic attack. My skin gets hot and feels like needles are pricking me all over. I start to panic that I am alone with the kids, or that I am miles away from the hospital, or that I don`t speak a lick of Japanese yet live in Japan... and if I am particularly dramatic I start worrying about what would happen to the kids if I just kicked the bucket. I mean, Amelia Will. Not. Take a bottle. 

But the beat goes on, right? 

But I am having a hard time handling this with grace this time. I am angry and scared. Whatever it is that is causing these symptoms... I just hope it is an easy fix. I don`t know if I can muster up any more courage or grace, ya`ll. 

So on that utterly depressing note, I am done whining. Let`s cheer ourselves up with cute pictures of babies:

Man, do my children look alike as babies or what?

Until next time, folks.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The only thing the gingerbread man and I have in common is molasses

Remember a while back when I said I was going to start training for a marathon? And remember how I said I was going to start a new blog about my training efforts? Well, wouldn't you know, I am bad enough as is with this humble blog, I thought it would be best to just track my training efforts right along with our other adventures. Anyway, moving on...

I have been running now for two weeks. And by running I mean walking and running and then walking some more. I am OK with how slow of a start it seems to be for me. I keep reminding myself of all that my body has been through in the past couple of years to try and not become discouraged. But I gotta tell you folks, sometimes it is darn right pitiful.

I used to be able to pop out of bed, lace up the sneaks and hit the pavement no matter what I had to eat the day before or how little sleep I was allowing myself. I used to be able to head to Lake Johnson, my favorite running path in Raleigh, NC, and run the BIG loop. I would stay there all day long, not paying attention to miles or the time, stoping in the middle of the woods to think, meditate. I used to used to used to be a RUNNER.

Having these 'used to' thoughts running through my head made me feel like I was running through molasses.

The beat goes on, folks.

Here is the ugly, honest truth. It is taking me a long time to feel comfortable in my sneaks again. I feel awkward and uncoordinated. I am having a hard time finding the time to head out the door (those darn children and their 'needs') so going out for a quick jaunt feels more like a chore. And I am sore. My phrenic nerve ( which is the nerve that controls your diaphragm and therefore helps you breath) was damaged during my surgery. This means that my right lung is smaller than my left, with less capacity. It also rubs on my diaphragm, which is painful when I am breathing hard. It also just freaks me out to feel any pain in my chest. Pain is an ugly little mind game, isn't it?

But the beauty of it? I have an amazing support system. A wonderful friend (who is also a wonderful photographer, go look and be in awe) offered to write me a training schedule. She is a runner. A mother. A beautiful soul. And then there is my wonderful sister, Jessica, who just finished her second marathon. She is also a runner. A mother. A beautiful soul. And of course there is Jeff, who ever so cooly will say 'I've got the kids, why don't you head out the door?' when I am about to just sit down at the computer and waste some time on pinterest.

So I may not be run run running as fast as I can, but I will get there. In the mean time, I am just taking it one beat at a time. 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Autumn Pasta, PERFECTED

OK folks. I have done it. I have created the tastiest, semi healthy pasta dish. I did not even have a chance to take a picture, it was THAT GOOD. Plus, my phood photog (see what I did there?) skills are no good, it would not have done the dish justice.

You should make it. Tonight.

Autumn Pasta

What`s in it:

1/2 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1 inch cubes
bunch asparagus, cut into 1 inch spears
2 Tbs olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
2 egg yolks
2 Tbs milk
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 lb pasta

How to make the magic:

Toss the veggies in the olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast in a 400 degree oven for about 45 minutes. 

Cook your pasta, timing it to be done about the same time as the veggies. Meanwhile, whisk together the egg yolks, milk and parm in a bowl large enough to hold the pasta and veggies (your serving bowl). Press the garlic into the egg mixture. Before you drain the pasta, ladle a spoonful of the hot pasta water into the egg mixture. Be sure you whisk as you pour to keep the egg from clumping as it cooks. 

Congratulations! You just made carbonara sauce!

Dump the pasta and the roasted veggies in with the sauce, mix it up. 

Ya`ll, it is some serious good eats. And the squash looses its integrity a little when you mix it all up, but that`s ok, it only adds to the creaminess. And gives the pasta a sweet orange color.

And I`d like to think that I invented this dish. I looked online for similar recipes but could not find one. So just let me live in my own little world where Bobby Flay stumbles upon my humble blog, reads the above and says to himself `Who is this lady and how soon can we start filming?!`

In other news, I also made the best pumpkin muffins I have ever had. However, I did not invent this recipe. I did search high and low for a recipe that used melted butter instead of vegetable oil. I am not a fan of baking with oil, it tends to make things chewy. And I did not add the candied ginger or the nuts to my muffins. I am a purest.

Since I had half a can of pumpkin puree left over from my muffins I made a pumpkin spice latte syrup. While there are Starbucks here in Japan they do not have the beloved PSL. This syrup is fantastic for those addicts out there who want to save a few pennies (or yennies, if you will).

Autumn sure does smell and taste good, don`t you agree? What are your favorite fall treats?

Friday, October 28, 2011

So... how`d you meet?

I live someplace new, so I am meeting new people. Inevitably it is asked... so, how did the two of you meet? More than just a tiny part of me is somewhat hesitant to share our story with strangers. Sad to say, but I fear the judgment. Because ours isn't a classic love tale.

It does not take a math wiz to figure out what the following dates mean; Jeff and I became a permanent party of two in May of 2008 and Noah was born in December of 2008.

Let`s rewind.

I had been living in Maryland where I first worked as a manager for a fantastic little winery and then an event planner for a fantastic little museum. Meanwhile my brother in law was starting a fantastic little business himself and asked if I would be interested in coming back to Raleigh to help him in his efforts.

I had been back in Raleigh for only a few short weeks, living in an apartment right on Glenwood South, within walking distance to wonderful restaurants, night life, shopping... I had started a new chapter in my life and was probably the happiest I could recall being in a very long time.

One night I decided to walk out my front door and down a few blocks to a wine bar to meet up with some girlfriends. I was sipping on a perfectly chilled glass of vigonier when in walks the most handsome man I had ever seen. Those were, literally, the exact words I said to my girlfriends when I first spotted Jeff from across the bar.

I am horribly shy when it comes to talking to guys (you should hear almost every 'first kiss' story I have, they are roll-on-the-floor-with-laughter hilarious) so I sent one of my friends over to see if she could get Jeff and his friend over to our group. Said friend had been drinking all day at the NCSU football game and, while I do not know what was exchanged between the two, my friend came stumbling back saying he was a jerk because he did not like to tailgate.

This was my in, 'I have to apologize for my friend...' I said, trying so hard to seem cool.

And then I was in. I can't even remember what we talked about, but we talked all night long. Jeff offered to drive me the 3 blocks home, and when we were sitting in my driveway he asked me to brunch the next morning.

And so we started dating. It was very casual; not only was he twelve years my senior, but I knew that he was planning on moving to Japan in a couple months. I decided that it would be best if we didn't start a physical relationship because we both knew it would be ending when he moved to Japan.

But then one night I had to go and have a wine party.

Yep, I am that cliche girl who has a little too much to drink and gets pregnant the first time she has sex with her boyfriend.

After I found out I was pregnant it was like the proverbial switch inside of me was turned. Everything I did and all that I was, was for this baby. The change that happened in me was immediate; my life was no longer about me, my cool apartment in the cool part of town, or my social life. I was going to be a mother.

We decided to get married so that I could be on Jeff's medical insurance. I was self employed, working for my brother in law, and could not get private coverage because of my 'pre existing condition' of being pregnant.

Look at me; nervous smile, thinking `what the hell am I doing?!`

I have to pause here and reflect. This is not how I imagined my wedding day. I am, for the most part, more of a realist vs. romantic. But I did (and still DO) have the perfectly planned, just yet to be orchestrated, wedding in my head. There was nothing romantic about that day. My mom brought me the flowers I am holding, tied together with pink and blue ribbons, because she wanted me to have a bouquet. I made it clear that the marriage was just for the baby which is why she chose the pink and blue ribbons. 

Six weeks after we married I was driving Jeff to the airport for Japan. Before he got out of the car he looked at me and told me he loved me. The first time we said those three words to one another.

And we did love one another. We arrived at love in an unconventional way, but there we were, in love.

I decided to come to Japan with Jeff, that we would be a family.

And somewhere along the line, our love has grown. It has changed, it has been tested, it has been strengthened. But it is love. However unconventional. 

I call Noah our little matchmaker. 

Now I have to pause and reflect again. I can not imagine my life without my children. And I can not imagine having any other children than THESE children with THIS man. They are our `meant to be babies`. 

And who knows, maybe one day we will have that perfectly planned wedding. With Noah carrying the rings and Amelia sprinkling flower petals. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Fine, I admit it...

Noah is a picky eater. 

And when the only thing in this whole world that he will eat is oatmeal (which he waits to be room temperature before eating, nasty) our trash can starts to stink pretty bad, pretty fast. 

He poops a ton. In his diaper. Because I have yet to start hard core potty training.

He has been ready to start potty training for about 2 months now. How old is Amelia, you ask? Wonder if that has anything to do with it? I wonder what else I have been slacking off on with Noah because of Amelia?

Both kids are napping. I should be cleaning. But instead I am going to create an even bigger mess in the kitchen and make these bad boys because my love for muffins knows no end. 

Have I mentioned that Noah is a picky eater? And don`t come at me with `hide the veggies in the sauce, he will never know` because Noah discovered a loop-hole; he won`t eat a single thing that I cook from scratch. 

No, really.

OK, I lied, last night he ate some pasta that I made with a creamy tomato sauce. It had bacon in it. I am convinced that is the only reason he ate a few fork fulls.

I never make him sit and eat his veggies. Or make him eat his whole dinner. I let him play in between bites. It`s my fault. But part of me does  not care. Is that bad? I mean, I am sure he isn`t going to start high school having never eaten a veggie. 

Today I told Noah to sit and watch a movie because he was getting on my nerves. Really, I used those words. And all he was trying to do was play with me, he had no interest in watching a movie FOR ONCE. Parent fail. And Amelia was crying because she was overly tired and I almost lost my cool with her. A three month old.

But they are both napping.

And the smell of muffins will be filling the air soon.

And when they wake up, we will all feel better.

And when sleepy Noah was putting his head to his pillow, he told me `loo you`, the first time he has ever said it. 

I love you, too, little buddy.  

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Bunny shaped school busses and growing up

I have been researching possible preschools for my boy child since before we returned to Japan. With his speech delay I was pretty adamant about him attending a school where they speak English. When we were in Misawa, Noah attended a Japanese preschool a few days a week. This was his opinion on the matter:

Looking back, I am sure it was a pretty scary experience. I mean, he has a hard enough time telling me what he wants, and I speak his native language. In any event, I have been looking for international preschools and was pleased to see I had several options. Of course it was not that simple...

Problem #1

They are insanely expensive. I am talking the cost of tuition at your local state college. 

Problem #2

They are all far away. While they may not be far, milage wise, with traffic it takes about 40 minutes to get to the school we were the most fond of. Amelia hates the car. I hate driving in Japanese traffic with Japanese drivers. I get poo pains and sweaty palms, it`s not a pretty sight. 


They have busses that come pick up your toddler.


I know that it is just what they do here. Heck, once the kids are elementary age they walk to and from school all by themselves. But these busses, these cutesy busses shaped like bunnies or trains or pokemon, do not even have seat belts. To say I am uncomfortable with the idea is an understatement.

To top it off, once Noah turns three in December he will be considered `pre-kinder` age and will have to go to school five days a week from 9-2:30. But if we choose to have the bus pick him up he would be out of the house from 7:30 in the morning to 5:30 at night. HE`S THREE. 

There is actually a Japanese preschool right around the corner from our house. Literally, up a flight of stairs and one block over... I`m starting to reevaluate it all. 

Of course I do not need Noah to go to preschool for any reason other than for him to grow and have the opportunity to be amongst peers. He is going to start speech therapy this week (yay!) which will be in our home. But this program is only for infants and toddlers up to the age of three, at which point he will be reassessed to see if he qualifies for a preschool on Base where he will receive therapy (like the one we attended in Raleigh). They have a different set of qualifying factors than the early intervention folks, so we`ll just have to wait and see what happens. I can`t imagine him not qualifying... so this may be an option.

Anyway, I know my little boy is growing up. But I just can not bare to put him on a bus just yet. Even if it is shaped like a bunny. 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

If I put it out there on the internet, maybe I`ll actually do it

I am hereby making it publicly known...

I am going to start training for the Tokyo Marathon in 2013!

I am going to be keeping a journal of my training and progress on a different blog site, but I am so excited and just had to share with the 4 people who read this blog.

What better way to show how far I have come physically? I am very ready to put the wimpy, sick and bad-heart B to bed; I have changed so much and feel that this is going to be a great way to celebrate good health and good attitudes towards life. 

I will share the aforementioned link once I get good and started. But for now, I am going to finish this cookie and go watch something on Hulu while the kids are sleeping;-)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

How becoming a mother has changed me

As I was organizing my closet the other day it dawned on me; I am not who I once was. I was packing away a stack of adorable designer dresses that I used to sport on a regular basis during the warmer months. I had not had the heart to put them in storage previously, thinking that an occasion to wear them might still come up. But as I sized up the closet space in the house, then looked at the stack of Amelia`s clothes that have yet to find a home, then looked at the real estate my `maybe some day` dresses were taking up...

I folded up my precious Marc Jacobs dress and Ella Moss top to make way for rompers and onesies.

I am a MOM. 

There are the obvious ways I have been changed; wardrobe, for example. But then there are the not so obvious. I have never known love for another like the kind I have for my children. It is consuming. And being witness to the love THEY have for US... is humbling. It has changed me. 

As I type this Noah is climbing on my back, begging for the last sip of my coffee (a habit he has started). The old me would have seen a  mother with this scenario unfolding and thought that she should put a rein on her child. But I never knew how much mothers really love their children, and from this love comes the patience to deal with a toddler who insists he is old enough for a cup of joe (it`s decaf, in your FACE, Noah!). 

And this patience is not only for the kids, it is for life. Today we went grocery shopping. It took a solid hour and a half because Noah wanted to walk and help put our goodies in the cart. When we finally made our way back to the car, I loaded all the bags and took Noah`s hand to walk across the parking lot to return the cart. I thought to myself how I used to rush this stroll. I thought how I would rush through the isles at the store and hunt down the shortest check out line so I could just get it over with and get home. How every task seemed like it had a time limit. But now I do not feel the same sense of urgency for getting certain things done. I can let my son explore and help and learn. I can take the time to hold my sons hand and walk at his pace through the parking lot while he looks at the sky and exclaims `BIRDS!!`.

I have never done anything as important as being a mother to my children. And I am a Mom. Every day. Recently when I am saying goodnight to Noah I am completely overwhelmed with my reality. And in the mornings when Amelia first wakes and is so happy (she is starting to smile and coo and melt my heart in the process) I become overwhelmed. An overwhelming sense that I have been forever changed by these little souls because, by some inexplicable reason, I have been chosen to be their mother. 

And I am so thankful to be a mother. And so thankful to give up my closet space for this little round mound of love. And even the slightest bit thankful for the wardrobe change. Who needs Marc Jacobs and Ella Moss when you have Noah Chapman and Amelia Anne?

Disclaimer: I am not completely without style. Because of this blog these jeans are going to be arriving soon. What, I am a mom, but I am still human. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

True love

When Noah does something, he does it with all the intensity his little body can muster. And he loves his cousins. In a very real way. 

We were so spoiled and lucky to have the opportunity to spend so much time with my sisters kids. In fact, Emily and her crew lived in the same building as us for the first half of our stay! We could literally take about 20 steps and be at each others front door. Noah would ask to go see Emma, who he calls 'cuz', at least a thousand times a day. 

Noah will get this look in his eye, and you can tell... home boy wants to snuggle. And he means it. He snuggles hard. So sweet.

My oldest sister, Jess, and her three kids were only about 10 miles down the road. When we got hit with the tornado shortly after arriving from Japan we stayed with the Ellington clan. Let me tell you, her kids have energy. And Noah loved it. He loved running and chasing and wrestling and laughing with his three Ellington cousins.

My Noah holding Ameila, Emily's Emma holding Molly, and Jessica's Lorelei, Jack and Matthew. 

What a bunch.

I am so thrilled to have such amazing sisters with such awesome, sweet and adorable children. True love. 

Friday, September 23, 2011

Confessions from a breast feeding mother

This week there simply have been no adventures. We are still trying to get used to the time change; Noah is awake at 4:30am and I am insanely tired by 7. And Amelia? All boob, all the time. She is only interested in nursing. So I have had a lot of time to think about boobs and nursing. Because it is all I do, all day, keep our girl child alive WITH MY BODY. 

When I was pregnant with Noah people started asking the question, 'Do you plan on breast feeding?'. To me this seemed odd. It was like asking someone, 'Hey, I see you have perfectly good legs, but do you want to use these crutches instead?'. I had no opinion on breast feeding before I was pregnant, either, because it did not apply to me. So I was not aware that people had opinions. Big ones. 

Then Noah was born. And I remember feeling this immediate overwhelming helplessness and worry that I was not going to be able to feed him. The nurses had barely cleaned him up and I was trying to get him to latch on, and he wouldn't. I felt like a failure and started asking people for advice. And man alive, do people have advice. I remember the well meaning lactation consultant that came to watch me nurse the morning after Noah was born. She fiddled with my hold, where my hands were on his tiny body, how I cupped my breast to get him to latch on. I was so shaken after that and felt like even more of a failure.

Why hadn't I researched this before?! I thought I looked like an idiot, not knowing what a football hold was, or that you could nurse a baby laying down.

Enter Dr. Google!

Did you know there are opinions on Google as well? Lots of them.

To make a long story short, I did indeed breast feed Noah. It was not easy, and it only lasted about 6 months. And I don't think we had even left the hospital before he had his first taste of formula to supplement. I was discouraged from the beginning by the initial feeling that I was not doing it right, that it was complicated and I was under prepared. And then there was all the advice and opinions. So many peoples advice and opinions rattling through my brain in the middle of the night when I just want my child to be comforted and satisfied, and instead I am trying this hold or that hold and fumbling and fussing.

Don't get me wrong, Noah and I had our times here and there where nursing was a complete joy; where it would just flow (pun somewhat intended). But for the most part our time as a nursing mom and babe was clouded by the white noise of advice/opinions/feelings of inadequacy.

And now, here I am, nursing my second child. Literally, right now... I am typing this with one hand.

Something shifted in me with my pregnancy. Maybe it was being three years older, or maybe it was from having been there and done that, but I had a much greater sense of calm about me from the beginning. And somewhere along the line I decided that my natural instincts could tell me more than Dr. Google if I just shut off the white noise and listened.

So she was born... I listened.

I am an exclusively breast feeding mother. I do it because it is indisputably the best thing for your child. Don't get me wrong, some of the greatest mommy role models in my life made the choice to formula feed their babes. At the end of the day I think we all are doing the best we can as mothers.

But as I sit here, infinitely more successful at breast feeding my girl child than I was my boy child, I have to wonder all these whys. Why does our society make breast feeding seem like this impossible task that only the best Whole Foods shopping, vagan, ultra cool hippie moms can perform? Why are we made to either feel inadequate or ridiculous? Do we do it to ourselves? Should I nurse in public? Do I need to cover up? Who am I offending if I say I breast feed and don't formula feed?

So much white noise.

My wish for mothers and mothers-to-be everywhere is to just shut it out. Don't listen. Just do what is natural. What feels natural.

Don't get me wrong, again. There are times when I am so annoyed with it. When I look down and see these huge feed bags that are the cause of these last ten pounds that are holding on. I know those ten pounds would be gone in a week if I was not breast feeding. So annoyed with leaking milk. Often (but not always) annoyed with the more frequent feedings. But notice those are all selfish reasons. Then I look at me sweet, chunky little two month old and I am renewed.

Renewed that I am doing what is best for my child, and it came naturally. Without the advice/assistance /white noise of anyone else. Just me and her.

And of course a boob. 

Sunday, September 18, 2011


We're back. 

The kids were amazing on the flight. Noah was a champ, exceeding my expectations for his behavior by far. We basically walked right through customs (in Japan they really treat people with children like they should, take note, America) and before I could say Konichiwa! we were greeted by Jeff.

Noah's expression was priceless; a little half grin with a tilted head, almost like he was shy or meeting a celebrity. After a couple minutes of saying nothing, he looked at me and said 'Mama, I got DADDY!' He said it over and over. 

We walked outside to the dripping hot and humid weather. Have I mentioned how much I loath hot weather? And when I say humid, I mean start-sweating-just-by-looking-outside humid. Unlike anything I have experienced in the States. And then there was the familiar smell of Japan. Does anyone else notice how all of Japan has a certain smell? Not necessarily bad, but I am sure it has something to do with said humidity. 

Before we travel I always try to find the most perfect travel outfit that is the perfect combo of comfort and style, so I will step off the plane looking effortlessly beautiful when we meet Jeff. I managed to make the ENTIRE flight without leaking breast milk all over my shirt or without Amelia spitting up on me. And I was sorta OK with my choice of attire. And then the moment I stepped outside the airport the humidity had me sweating like a pig. Hair a frizzy mess. Unstoppable bags under my eyes from not having slept the whole flight. And then the milk came and went... all down the front of my shirt. (any breast feeding mother can attest to how annoying this is. And just imagine it happening when you feel filthy from a long flight to start.)

And now we are in our new house, day two in Japan. I am covered in breast milk and spit up and GRUMP.

Dripping in all the above.

The house is full of boxes of familiar items and unfamiliar spaces. I need to sort our things, to sort our life here, but I just don't know where to start. I am dripping in all the above things. Maybe I should start with a shower to take care of the physical drips. But then I have to find clothes to put on my clean body; a body that seems as unfamiliar to me as this house does.

I always want things to be effortless; effortlessly chic and beautiful while stepping off the plane and effortlessly acclimated back into our life in Japan. But this is going to take a lot of effort, yall.

It's going to take effort for this to feel like home. As hard as it was being on my own in NC we were in a routine. And I am going to miss so much about it. But I have to start the effort. Somehow.

Maybe after a nap. 

(and for the record, just writing this down helped the grumpy drips.)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

No, seriously, I may not drink water the entire time.

After 6 months away we will be returning to our home away from home.

But the question still remains...

How the hell am I going to go pee during a 13 hour plane ride with two little ones in tow?

Any tips/suggestions on traveling alone with an infant and a toddler?  

A couple airplane adventures and a stroll through customs and my little family will be back together!

Monday, September 5, 2011

The 'ugly' truth

I'm pretty sure that women who say they feel beautiful just weeks after giving birth are lying. There seems to be this new standard where you are expected to bounce right back, be back in your pre-pregnancy clothes, and back out at Target and the grocery store running your usual errands (only this time with a new tiny person in tow) days after giving birth. 

And I'll be honest; a week after giving birth to Amelia when my shipment of newly purchased clothes (what, the only clothing I brought with me from Japan was maternity wear) did not fit me, I felt defeated. 

One week had passed... and I felt like I SHOULD be able to fit into my size 6 jeans and I SHOULD be able to wear my usual tops without belly blubber hanging out for the world to point at and laugh. 

And I'll be honest again; I love reading mommy blogs. It is a self deprecating and masochistic pass time. Women, who I do not even know in the real world, have this way of making me feel like I am not a good enough mother/wife/cook/looser of baby weight. When did blogging become the tool in which we measure our worth as women? And when did it become the 'norm' to be super-mom/super-wife/super-looser of baby weight? Do these women EVER have an off day? 

I'll be honest again; I have SEVERAL! I think I have washed my hair twice in the past week. I do manage to get in the shower to wash the 'important' parts, but if it takes longer than three minutes it is inevitable that one of my two children will be crying/needing me for something. Being the only adult in the house, it is my job to tend to that something. Luxuries such as hair washing and shaving take a second seat.  And as I type this, my kitchen is a mess. I have no idea what I am going to feed my oldest child for dinner. And my baby weight? Still holding on to a good 10-15 pounds. 

And I'll be honest yet again; I just spent the better part of an hour filling up an online basket with about $200 worth of makeup, then debating with myself on weather or not to click on the 'complete order' button. Pros and cons of vanity. Not to say that wearing makeup is vain, it certainly is not. But my reasons for buying said makeup were to SEEM like the super-mom/super-wife/super-looser of baby weight... with that dewy glow and perfectly defined cheek bones.

Because who wants to see the 'ugly' truth when they look in the mirror? The bags under the eyes from the late night feedings. The hair, a tangled mess clipped this way and that, just to keep it out of your eyes and under control. And is that a blonde highlight I see? No, no it isn't. That's a grey hair. 

So here it is, internet, my 'ugly' truth. 

I have to squeeze into my pre-pregnancy sized clothing. Nothing I wear makes me feel pretty, so I go for comfort. I would rather sit in my house all day in jogging shorts and a nursing tank with my kids than attempt to get dolled up to go out in public to prove to the world how 'with it' I am, a mer 6 weeks after having my baby girl. 

But you know what DOES make me feel beautiful? The way Noah grabs my face and kisses me so hard, with complete and total abandon. The way Amelia has started to wrap her arms around me as much as possible while nursing and grasps on with all her tiny might. The way they both look at ME, not my hair, not my clothes or my waist line, but ME... unconditionally, loving, looking at ME. That makes me feel better than wearing any designer jeans could. 

Just wanted to put some 'ugly' truth in the mommy blogging world. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Don't tell Mount Fuji that I am coming...

While I am stuck here in the US on kid duty, Jeff is off having whirlwind adventures back in Japan. Jerk.

OK, so he isn't a jerk, and he really has mainly been working 12 hour days to bank vacation time for when we get there and packing/moving our stuff from Misawa to Yokosuka. The packing part was a tremendous undertaking. Not to mention driving a big old moving truck 10+ hours through the night. 

So what does Jeff do to unwind? He climbs Mount Fuji, of course. 

Look at him. So glad my kids have half his genes. 

Of course it's no secret that Mount Fuji is an active volcano, classified with a low risk of eruption. But guess what? We just had an earthquake. Here in Raleigh, NC. Which came just a few months after a tornado and a week before a hurricane. I think it is safe to say that natural disasters are drawn to me. 

So, live it up on that mountain while you can, Jeff. We'll be home soon. Something cataclysmic is bound to happen. 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

What's the standard gift for your first anniversary from open heart surgery? I'm going with new clothes from j.crew....

I can not believe it has been a year. And what a year! We found out we were expecting, survived an earthquake (or 200), survived a tornado, welcomed a new life into ours... and I could not have done it without my health (or the support of my friends and family, especially Jeff). 

I can not say enough about the Doctors and staff who took care of me at the Cleveland Clinic. Brilliant minds with caring hearts. And my Aunt and Uncle who so graciously opened up their home while I was recovering. There are some great people up in Ohio, incase you were wondering. I am lucky enough to call several of them family. 

Having gone through such a BIG surgery, I now reflect on who I was and what I was thinking at the time. And like the name of this blog implies, life just goes on. Often people comment on how brave or strong I am, but it is all relative. Everyone has their own battle or their own 'open heart surgery' to be brave for. You either choose bravery or you choose fear. Being a parent, you do not have the luxury of choosing fear. Of course I was scared, but chose not to marinate in it.

And the next thing you know, it's a whole year later. And I am healed. I have scars that I see every day as a reminder, but other than that it is in the past. I am healthy. 

Today I am celebrating my health and my life. I have two wonderful children and countless wonderful friends and a family who I adore. I am celebrating the fact that once I am completely healed from my c-section that I will be DONE with healing from surgeries. I am celebrating the fact that Jeff and I can look forward to a life without surgeries (aside from pacemaker maintenance) or traveling to and from the US for medical reasons. I am celebrating the coming year of complete and utter normalcy and the seemingly boring day to day life that is one of a family of four; a family that lives together. In the same COUNTRY!

So a year ago today marked the first day on my path to 'normal'. 

And I know what you are thinking... I will never really be normal;-) 

Happy hearts to all!  

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The story of my heart

With a BIG anniversary approaching this Wednesday, I thought it would be fitting to tell the tale that is my cardiac history. So sit back, relax, and try to remember your middle school anatomy class (and kudos to those who make it to the end of this post). 

Ever since I was in elementary school I had episodes where my heart would start racing. I have vivid memories of playing with my friends and saying 'Hold on, my heart is doing that 'thing' again' then taking a break until it stopped doing that 'thing'. Knowing what I know now, it is very hard for a child to explain what it is they are feeling. How is an 8 or 9 year old supposed to know what is normal and what is not when it comes to their health? 

These episodes would only happen every once in a while and I never thought they were something scary. In fact, over the years I had learned ways to make the episodes stop. Like holding my breath or bearing down like I was going to take a poo. Both of which, I would find out when I was older, were legitimate techniques for slowing a rapid heart rate. Isn't it crazy how your instincts can just take over?

So years and years go by, fast forward to my freshman year at ECU. I was in my first class of the day, drawing (Oh yes, I was an art major. Go ahead and laugh). My heart started to do it's 'thing' so I started to hold my breath and bear down like I usually did to stop it. Only this time it would not stop. About 5 minutes had passed and I finally said something to the teacher. He was one of many who thought I was full of shit when it came to my heart thing, but agreed to allow me to walk to the campus health clinic. 

Once I was there the nurse tried to take my heart rate with a blood pressure cuff. It was going so fast it would not register. She then tried to do it manually... she lost count around 200. Over 200 beats per minute. This was the first time I had ever even had my pulse taken and I was not aware that this was considered fast. During these episodes I am still able to talk to you and somewhat function; I just get dizzy and my vision starts to get fuzzy, like I might pass out at any moment. The campus Doc decided to send me to a local cardiologist, more specifically an electrophysiologist who deals mainly with the 'wiring' of the heart.

Doctor #1 had me wear an event monitor for 30 days. Basically it is a tiny EKG machine that looks like an old school pager with two wires coming off of it. Those wires are attached to electrodes that stick to your skin. Whenever my heart felt funny I pushed a record button and it would take a reading of the electrical activity that was going on at that time. I wore, I recorded, Doctor #1 diagnosed me with super ventricular tachycardia, or SVT. He recommended a procedure to permanently cure the problem rather than be on drugs for the rest of my life. 

The heart beats thanks to electrical impulses generated from your natural pacemaker, the SA node. These impulses travel to other nodes in the heart to make your heart contract. Here is a quick video from you tube that explains the whole process:

So what was going on in my heart? I had 'accessory pathways' or extra nodes that would, on occasion, pick up the impulse from the SA node, which would result in my super sonic heart rate. During an ablation procedure an electrophysiologist finds these accessory pathways (which are just nerve cells) and burns them using radio frequency. The nerve cells are dead = they can no longer pick up an impulse from the SA node. 

Doctor #1 does ablation #1, which was a success. Or so we thought.

In rare cases when you ablate an accessory pathway it uncovers yet another condition. I was one amongst the small percentages of folks who then developed inappropriate sinus tachycardia, or IST, after my ablation. It is worth noting that this was back in 2001 when very little was known about IST or any other electrical miss-wiring in the heart. Doctor #1 was in way over his head and he knew it. In fact, once I started feeling new symptoms and called his office for an appointment, they claimed that he had never treated me before. I was scared and felt like no one would listen to these new symptoms I was having, which now included chest pain. I returned home for the summer and started to look for a new cardiologist that would listen to what I was saying and take my symptoms seriously. I wish I could remember exactly how many I saw, but let's just say it was more than a couple. As many docs as I saw I wore twice as many event monitors. It sucked. I finally found Doctor #2 who seemed to know what he was talking about and seemed to know what to do to fix it.

Enter ablation procedure #2.

When you have IST, it means that your SA node (that natural pacemaker) fires inappropriately. Usually it responds to your other systems in the body and makes your heart rate rise and fall with activity, endorphins, stuff like that. Mine would just fire all willy nilly, beating faster than it should at rest. Aren't there medications you can take to make it behave, you ask? Why yes, there are, and they usually work great with folks who have IST. However I also have very low blood pressure. And all the meds (and yes, I tried them all) would make my already low BP drop to the danger zone where I would black out. So Doc #2 decided to try and alter my SA node enough to where it would slow my resting heart rate down. Remember how I said they use radio frequency to burn the nerve cells? During my first ablation he only had to make one burn. During this second ablation he had to do 40-something burns until he had to call it quits because I went into a 'shockable rhythm' (you know... when they yell CLEAR!). Doc #2 said it was not a success, that the equipment he had did not allow him to go to the part of my heart that he needed to. He referred me to Doc #3 who works for Duke who has the fancy equipment.

Many tests and many event monitors later Doc #3 decides to try yet another ablation. 

Enter ablation procedure #3, this time with 30-something burns.

Still unsuccessful at slowing my heart rate.

At this point it is 2006 and I decide to just try and live with it. I found that if I exercised and brought my heart rate up naturally it would help my resting heart rate to be lower. I had good days and bad days, but was (for the most part) 'fine'. And the only other option I had, since I had so many ablation procedures at this point, was a pacemaker. No one wanted that, especially since I was so darn young.

So I have a year or two feeling 'fine'. And then I had to go and get pregnant. 

Pregnancy is pretty darn hard on the heart, even in the healthiest of mamas. After having Noah I saw a steady decline in my ability to manage my fast resting heart rate. I would wake from a dead sleep and my HR would be around 120. I was no longer able to work out. Heck, I could not climb the stairs without feeling like I had just climbed a mountain. I would not accept this as my quality of life. I had a kid to take care of and keep up with and just KNEW that there was something else that could be done. 

I researched, researched and researched and found the authority of heart rhythm disorders, Doc #4. He is the big-wig. One of his bio's I found online said that he likes to find patients with medical conditions that seem to be walled in and thoughtfully plowing through those walls. This was my guy.

I left Japan, left my son and had ablation #4. Again, many burns were made. And again, the procedure was not a success. He was able to slow it SOME, but not as much as he or I would have liked to see. But he was scared that just one more burn would mean I would need a pacemaker. And again, no one wanted that. He also said that there was a lot of scar tissue from where the other docs had goofed around. He jokingly (but not-so-jokingly) said that I should have come to him straight away and could have avoided all those 'unnecessary' ablations procedures. 

I go back to Japan feeling somewhat better. But then a few months later it gets worse. And worse. And then more worse. I can no longer use a manual can opener without becoming short of breath. My resting heart rate is sky high. I am loosing weight because of it. Quality of life in the toilet. I call Doc #4 and he decides to do yet another ablation, this time being more aggressive and knowing that it might result in a pacemaker.

Enter ablation #5. He is aggressive, but to our surprise is able to slow my rate to the 80's without needing a pacemaker. High fives all around!

The thing with ablations is that it takes a few weeks for the scar tissue to fully form. It keeps growing as the burns heal. So I was not going to feel the full effect of this last ablation procedure for a few weeks. But in the mean time I started noticing other symptoms that were new and unusual. 

My head felt full, like I was hanging upside down. And any time I bent slightly forward or back the pressure in my head was unbearable. Then I noticed that the veins in my neck were bulging out, hulk style. I had to sleep sitting up. I decided to say something to Doc #3 (who was local, Doc #4 was in TX). Doc #3 examined and agreed that there was something going on. I have a CT scan to see what exactly it is causing these symptoms. CT scan showed that my superior vena cava was blocked by what they assume is scar tissue. Scar tissue that was there thanks to all of the ablations I have had. 

Remember, all but one of my ablations (read: FOUR) were focused on my SA node, the natural pace maker. The SA node is located in your right atrium, right where the superior vena cava joins the heart. The superior vena cava is the largest vein in the body and delivers the blood from the upper part of your body back to your heart. Since my SVC was somewhat blocked I had a back-up of blood in my veins, which is what was causing all these new and unusual symptoms. 

Doc #3 had no idea what to do. He talked to other docs in the area. None knew what to do. While I waited for them all to talk and figure it out yet ANOTHER symptom appeared; my heart would flat out stop at times. 

Remember how I said that scar tissue keeps growing after the ablation procedure? Well my scar tissue grew to the point where my SA node would decide to just stop sending out a signal for my heart to beat at times. The heart is wired with 'back ups' incase this happens, so it was not a 'lethal' problem, but did mean that I would indeed need a pacemaker after all. My heart was stopping for a few seconds a day. And I could feel it. It was beyond freaky. 

I decided to stop messing around with the local NC docs who had no clue what to do with me. I headed to the Cleveland Clinic, the best heart institute in the US. 

Tests were done. It was found that my SVC was occluded (fancy word for blocked) to about 3mm. That is really freaking small. Because of this the pressure in my SVC was dangerously high. I had to have open heart surgery to reconstruct my SVC. 

And that, my friends, is what lead me to the surgery I will be celebrating the anniversary of in a few days. Details will follow in the second installment, but for now I have a crying Amelia to attend to:-)

Monday, August 22, 2011

Whittling down the To-Do list

I have everything I need to get Amelia's passport (except her picture, which should be easy enough).

Now all we have to do is wait for the DoN to arrange movers and travel plans!

I am not sure my excitement can be conveyed through the computer screen. I simply can not wait for all four of us to be together. I can't wait to see Jeff's face when he holds Amelia for the first time. And I can not wait to see how Noah reacts to being reunited with he FAVORITE person! And, let's be honest, I am looking forward to not being the only adult in the house. 

I have never anticipated a return to Japan THIS MUCH. 

Friday, August 19, 2011

If my pasta is green, maybe my baby's poo won't be

When I think 'dairy free' my brain automatically goes to Italian dishes. But when I think of Italian dishes they almost always include tomatoes and garlic, both of which my little gal pal's tummy does not approve of at this stage in the game. This weeks meal planning has been... alright. Nothing too exciting; I am still getting my feet wet and sticking to obvious dairy free options. (How many nights in a row is it acceptable to eat a bowl of granola with freeze dried berries and almond milk for dinner?)

Monday night was easy: Roasted chicken with mashed potatoes and corn. I used this instead of butter and soy creamer instead of milk for the mashed potatoes (which were fingerling... purple potatoes, gotta love em!). And anyone can roast a chicken. But I have to say, if you are doing it any other way than Thomas Keller instructs then you are doing it wrong (and wasting time). A 4lbs bird meant leftovers to be used in other meals. 

Tuesday night was the aforementioned granola. Snooze. 

Last night I attempted a bland-ish dairy free Italian dish. Because in my head any dish that involves a noodle is apparently Italian. I used Trader Joe's spinach and chive linguine pasta, thinking it would add some flavor. And the noodles are green, which is fun and tricks your brain into thinking you are eating healthier than you are. I have discovered that trying to make a meal with two children in the house is (shock!) a challenge. I am all about convenience. Trader Joe's to the rescue! In the produce section you can buy a blend of onion, garlic and shallots already perfectly chopped for you. Not only a time saver, but this way I can use just a tablespoon or so to add flavor while avoiding a gas attack from my gal. 

So a little olive oil in the pan, a glob of Earth Balance buttery spread, spoonful of easy onions, mushrooms (pre sliced!), squash and zucchini (the only thing I had to cut myself) and some pre cooked chicken from Monday night's meal. Cook it up. Again, not rocket science. Served over green linguine and call it a meal. 

My plate was BEGGING for parmesan cheese. 

It filled me up, and the gal did not seem to be upset by my culinary endeavor. But I can do better! I have the other half of both my yellow squash and zucchini as well as a half a pint of mushrooms. Not to mention my easy onion mix. What should I make? It seems to lend itself to more of the same... only this time I will serve it over quinoa instead of linguine and leave out the chicken. 

With all of that (mindless dribble) said... Amelia is content with a happy tummy. And that is all that matters! 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

I'm an addict

On days that I take Noah to preschool my little gal pal and I head to one of my favorite coffee shops for a morning treat. What, doing it 3 days makes it a tradition, right? I sip my soy latte while Amelia shares her thoughts on the current debt ceiling crisis. Or maybe she sleeps in her car seat. Either way it is riveting.

Today I stood in line and had an inner struggle on weather or not to indulge in a piece of blueberry poundcake. You should have heard the conversation going on in my head. It was like an angel who was carrying a carton of almond milk and a devil who was basting a hunk of cheese in clarified butter were having an epic battle. 

I bought a slice. But the day old one that was like half off. Because when it sits for over 24 hours the milk proteins magically float away.

I got back in my car with my buttery treat still wrapped. I did not end up eating it; I threw it away when I went to clean my car later that morning (so I am glad I bought the day old, half of slice of milky goodness). And that is when I realized...

I have an unhealthy addiction to buttery, milky treats. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Amelia vs. Icecream

I had a feeling it was coming. I went through it with Noah and therefore knew the signs.

She has a milk protein allergy. 

Her first week of life I just avoided any large doses of dairy, like a glass of milk (we drink almond milk anyway) or cheese. I was still using cream in my coffee and was not reading labels to see if any dairy or dairy bi-product was listed. She seemed fine. Bullet dodged. 

Then last week I took Noah to Chick-fil-a to celebrate his first day of preschool. They were handing out free samples of their new peach milkshake. Ya'll, I am only human. 

Then one day I was running late for Noah's drop off and did not have time to make coffee at home. I got a latte. 

And by the end of last week it was clear; full blown milk protein allergy in effect, as evidenced by the content of her diaper. If you have ever dealt with an infant who is in gassy pain, you understand. When in the thralls you will do anything to make your child comfortable (read: stop screaming). I should say that Amelia rarely ever cries to the point where she can not be settled with a snuggle. She really is a very easy baby. And even when I was poisoning her with milk, she was a happy girl. But when her tummy started rumbling, man... she pouted that bottom lip out and told me what for. Heart breaking.

So I am off the dairy. 

Have you ever tried to plan a weeks worth of meals that are dairy free and bland? Oh, I forgot to mention she has an aversion to anything spicy or garlicky, really anything with flavor. And dairy is in stinking everything. Go look at a label. Even if you think there shouldn't be dairy, there will be. It may try to sneak by with a code name like 'whey', but I am on to you (jerk whey, in stinking everything). 

This week I am going to try and cook at home as much as possible with the goodies I got from Trader Joe's (which, by the way, is AWESOME for those with dietary restrictions but who don't want to spend your kids college savings and the OTHER organic grocer). We'll see how this goes. I have not been able to find the time to shower (or pee more than 3 times a day) much less cook. Stay tuned for some fun, bland, dairy free, breastfeeding friendly recipes:-) 

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Noah's first week at preschool

On Friday the Director (who is also the speech therapist) shared her initial thoughts in regards to Noah's evaluation. She DOES NOT feel that he is showing signs of autism, but rather a motor speech delay, specifically apraxia. You can read about apraxia here. 

Again, it felt so good to hear a professional's opinion who had spent more than 2 hours with him. And she did say she would have no problem saying she felt like the diagnosis of autism was right if that was the case. Really I don't care about what the label is, I just want him to receive the appropriate care. 

Anyway, I feel like the 'evaluation' process is finally OVER and we can move on to the next step in the process. Progress! 

I am nothing but confident that with a little speech therapy Noah is going to be talking circles around all of us. In fact, just the other day he came up to me with one of his flash cards and said 'purple plum'. Who the heck taught him the word plum?! 

(for the record, I think plums are gross and I don't think we have had a plum in the house in his two and a half years of life)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Evidently Amelia can read. And Noah loves fake bacon.

Amelia is really good at being a baby. It's like she has a magical connection with Dr. Sears and all the other baby genius Doctors. I have not had time to worry about her 'schedule' or if every stinking thing she does is normal or not. And guess what? She just does it all on her own, perfect. She has been breast feeding on demand, with a relatively dependable schedule. She will sleep for 3-4 hour stretches at night, waking to eat and then drifting off to sleep without a fuss. I have been hesitant to put all this in writing and jinx myself, but seriously... she is the easiest baby. And so happy. And pretty. 

As I mentioned before, Noah had his first day at his new preschool on Monday. I thought it was going to take an act of god to get us three out the door without tears being involved. But my children surpassed my expectations, yet again. Of course I explained to Noah ad nauseum what we were doing that day. He was excited. He mainly thought it was cool to take his breakfast in the car. Have I mentioned that he is a picky eater? The one thing that this child can live off of are any of the Morning Star Farms products. It is the only way he will eat a veggie. On this particular morning he was allowed to indulge in the fake bacon, which actually does not have a veggie exchange. 

Yumm, fake bacon and a bagel. Who wouldn't be ready to conquer the day?

Drop off was pretty tearful. I cried. He cried. I called an hour later and the Director assured me that he calmed right down and even went over to another little boy that was upset and told him 'It's OK'. 

Then Amelia and I went to Trader Joe's (to stock up on fake breakfast meats). She slept the entire time. She must have read that in her baby manual. 

When I went to pick up Noah it was reported that he had a fantastic day, participating in all the activities. And apparently told the teacher when he had to go to the potty. I have so been slacking on the potty training. He has been ready for a while, but I just do not think I have it in me yet. 

After pick up we had to go to the pediatrician to check Amelia's weight gain. She had lost a little by the time we left the hospital, so just to be safe they have you come in and make sure everything is working right. And of course, she has gained a steady ounce per day. Exactly what they recommend. She read that somewhere. 

We were lucky enough to see the Doc that USUALLY sees Noah, but who we have not seen since being back in the States. This guy is awesome, and Noah loves him. After confirming that Amelia is, indeed, perfect, he says 'Now let's talk about Noah.'

He said he read the State's evaluation and thought they were talking about a different kid. I won't go into the details, but he said that if a kid is having an 'off' day or does not fit inside a little box that the State will label them as Autistic. He feels that Noah could benefit from some speech therapy, but as far as this 'diagnosis' is concerned, that we are wise to be weary of it. 

It was so good to have a Doc who KNOWS my Noah agree with what Jeff and I have been saying all along. 

So yesterday, my kids knocked my expectations for them out of the ballpark. 

I think all thanks go to the fake bacon.