It's already Spring, which means Ostara/Spring Equinox for us Pagan leaning people, Passover for the Jewish, and Easter for Christians. In March, my husband acknowledged that he has officially been an executive chef for two years. We solemnly noted that it had been six years since that tragedy on 3/11. We joyfully celebrated our son's first birthday on 3/16 with a small BBQ attended by beloved friends and family. 3/21 was officially the first day of Spring, and not too much later, cherry blossoms began to bloom in Japan.

Time is flying by so fast....I can't believe it's already been a whole year since I gave birth to "Kyle" in our home, with my husband, daughter, best friend and fairy god-midwife-mother by my side. I feel so happy and blessed to be able to give him a stable home, a loving family, and a good healthy start in life. He is a sweet, funny, active boy who already walks, dances, gives kisses, and responds to his name with an "ah". He also, just like his sister, spoke his first word just a few short weeks after his first birthday...except while hers was "Thank you" his is "Douzo" (Here you are in Japanese). These two continue to surprise and amaze me with how well they mesh together.

Coincidentally, on my son's birthday, I also recieved an acceptance letter for Chinami to a local charter school. Chinami starts Kindergarten in the fall, and since we don't live in the best school district and don't have the finances for private school, I have been applying for charter schools and geographic exemptions on her behalf. The school she was accepted to goes up to 8th grade, so barring any unforseen circumstances, I won't have to worry about more applications until then. It's also walking distance from home, which makes things a lot easier for all of us. And lucky for her brother as he will get priority in the lottery when he's old enough to enter.

The past year being a mostly stay at home mom has been kind of lonely at times and every day is a challenge to myself to stay active and stay positive. I have consistently been keeping my resume current and staying in the job market, and I have had to turn down a few attractive offers due to the circumstances of having to raise 2 children. However,with Kairu turning 1, it's time for him to prepare to enter daycare as his sister prepares to leave. I've already been putting myself back out there, making more and more connections in the community, and starting some interesting things, one of them strangely enough involving a renovation of an enormous mansion in Hawaii Kai. It will be a relief when I start getting more income, and I love challenging myself and furthering my abilities in Japanese and other fields. And one more thing I'm looking forward to with Kairu becoming more independent is being able to zip around on my bicycle more and more!! Well, at least I can do it all year round! Happy Spring to everyone not living in the tropics!



This hashtag has been going around on Twitter for the last few weeks, and I feel that a picture, or 140 characters would not be nearly enough to sum up what #2006vs2016 means to me.

When 2006 started, I was living in Japan, doing the third year of what would be 4 1/2 short years culminating in a B.A. in Japanese from University of Hawaii. Soon into the year, I got engaged to my long time, long distance boyfriend. I also lost my future father-in-law in a tragic accident, and the resulting stress made my already overworked system break down, and the anxiety and depression I had been wrestling with since my early teens went into over-drive, and I started having regular panic attacks. I made a trip back to the US to reset my visa before staying in Japan for the summer. Over the summer I found Youtube and began what would come to be known as "vlogging". After summer, I went back to start my 4th year and started living off-campus with a few roommates.
 I was 19 turning 20, engaged to a man living in another country across the ocean, a full time student with 2 jobs or more, dealing with what I thought was just a bad reaction to stress and grief.

In 2016, I am in Hawaii after a few amazing years living in Japan. My husband and I have been married for almost 9 years now and we welcomed our second child in March. I work part-time for one of the biggest Japanese tourism companies in the world, at an easy low-paying job with benefits. The hours work well with being a full-time stay at home mom, and when the kids get older I will work at another place or two again. I also live in a condo we own, and we rent out our bedroom........to one of my roommates from 2006, who sadly never took the advice and opportunities given to him way back then and is still paying for bad decisions he made and continues to make regarding his finances and his own physical health.
I have been working on my anxiety and depression as much as I can with the help of therapy, supplements, and living a healthy lifestyle in general. Getting diagnosed with C-PTSD and really finding a root cause has helped a lot.

The past 10 years have been amazing, and I am excited for the next 50, or 60, or however many more I have left.


Work, work, and medical appointments.

I returned to my part-time job in Waikiki from June 1st. And just like that, now it's July and I'm not really sure how that happened.

My work routine isn't that hard. I wake up at 2:30AM or so, come out of the bedroom once to get ready for work, change clothes, have a little something to eat/drink if I need to, sometimes I pump an extra couple ounces of milk to leave, then I pack a bottle and a little extra in the mini cooler that came with our bottle warmer and put the ice pack in, and go back into the bedroom to change and feed Kairu again before I go down and get my bicycle. I ride my bike to work, and am back home by 9AM so Yasushi can take a nap before he has to leave for his long day starting at 10AM.

I take care of the kids and clean the house and cook and our day ends around 8PM, hopefully. It's harder on my husband than it is on me to deal with the 5AM feeding, especially when Kairu doesn't want to drink from a bottle. But I'm thankful that I have his support, so I can go out and at least contribute a little bit to our household by making sure we have health insurance, and earn a little towards the mortgage and my 401K.

The past month we have been in and out of various doctors. The family had our routine teeth cleaning and dentist check-ups, Kairu had his 2 month check up, heel prick, and newborn hearing screening done, and the 3 month check up too. Chinami had some shots, her yearly blood screening, and ear and eye tests.

We needed to have her vision and hearing tested because they had general screenings at her preschool and I got a call that there were some concerns about her vision and her right ear. They wouldn't tell me anything specific, just to bring the results paper to her doctor. I called our pediatrician and explained, and made an appointment for her and for Kairu's 2 month checkup. The pediatrician didn't see any problems externally when he looked in her ears, and he gave me the name and number of the audiologist at Kapiolani Hospital. I made an appointment for the second week of June, which was pushed back until the last week of June, for Chinami and Kairu to get a screening. Kairu was awake but quiet, and his results were fine. Chinami did a few types of tests and confirmed that she is pretty much deaf in her right ear.

At this point, I wasn't shocked. Yasushi, Chinami and I had all had enough time to get through our shock and figure things out by this point. At home, I used earbuds to test her hearing the day after I got the call from her school. I played music she liked and put the earbud in one ear, asking her what song it was. When I put it in her left ear, she would name it and sing along, but when I put it in her right, she would not sing or react. I asked her if she could hear, and she told me she couldn't.

Until I did this simple thing, I never noticed she had any problems. She doesn't speak as much as her peers, that is true, however she is bilingual and was meeting minimum milestones for both languages at every stage of her development...and plus she is more of a visual, creative and kinetic type rather than talkative. She never made any actions that would lead me to believe she was having trouble hearing, so my guess is that she wasn't. She hears just fine in her left ear, and so it never slowed her down. In fact, until Yasushi and I found out and made a fuss about it, she probably didn't notice anything was different herself, and felt that her hearing was normal.

Now that we brought it to her attention, she acknowledges it herself from time to time as well. Like now when she thinks something is too loud, she will put a hand over her left ear. When I whisper something in her left ear, she giggles and points to her right ear, and I whisper in that one and she giggles again and says "nope, can't hear" When she ignores me I go "I know you heard that, I said it to your left ear" and she laughs. And when we watched America's Got Talent and the hearing-impaired comedian had his audition, and they showed his backstory and his hearing aids, Chinami got a concerned look on her face. When I asked her what was wrong, she pointed and said "He can't hear..." and then she pointed to her right ear. I was stunned by the connection she had just made, and reassured her that she still has another ear that hears just fine and she smiled again.

From what the audiologist said, the next step is to have her checked at an ENT to rule out anything structural, and there is the option of a special hearing aid and surgery when she gets older to basically put a microphone by her left year and connect it to the right side, so when someone talks to her left side it will be like she is hearing it with her right. The doctor showed us the pre-surgery hearing aid and Chinami made the most epic not impressed face, so we might pass on that. There are lots of people that live long and full lives with the sound turned off in one ear. Plus, at the eye doctor her right eye tested at 0.5 so she will need glasses eventually....and glasses can be a much cooler fashion accessory.

Plus as I said before, she is a visual learner anyway. She knew her ABCs and hiragana before she was 2, and now she is learning to sight read words in English. I point to words on signs and labels and books and she knows words for fruits, colors, etc. I am trying to get her into phonics but I have heard that some kids just learn words by sight and learn how to read that way as well, so whatever works for her.

Kairu, as always, is a fat and happy little ball of marshmallow fluff. Amazing how from that, Chinami has grown into a crazy, wild, left-handed, deaf in one side princess. I love watching them grow and am always looking forward to the future.


Cloth Diapers, Mother's Day

Time has been flying by, I now have less than 2 weeks before I have to go back to work. It's going to be hard to leave Kairu, especially because I know it's going to be even harder for Yasushi to try and kept him fed and happy. I have a small cheap bottle warmer/cooler for breastmilk to keep by the bedside and a swing I bought used. Just like before Kairu was born and I was worried about how Chinami would take to having a baby brother, I'm hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst.

Since I took over all the house cleaning and laundry at around a month, I made the switch to cloth diapers. I had bought a pack of prefolds and some good quality covers, a wet/dry bag and reusable wipes with a bag from my favorite local store, and I got a bunch of prefolds from my dear grandmother back on the mainland, but it wasn't quite enough to really be able to go a few days in between laundry loads, and get a proper large load (which is important because we have community laundry and I want to get my money's worth when I use a machine) I had a few of Chinami's old diapers but they were shot and leaked. So I started to keep my eye out for some sales, do work on Amazon mTURK to save up for some more diaper covers, and I got lucky enough to catch someone living by UH moving out at the end of the semester, selling a box full of pocket diapers and covers, and the inserts for the pocket diapers, for $50. All of the diapers were in new or like new condition. It was an incredible deal, considering that even though most of them were cheap brands, there were a few diapers from GroVia and BestBottom which would have cost $50 just to buy them new. 
So now I can comfortably go at least 5 days between laundry if I want to, and I'm thrilled because of all the money I will save. 
The cheapest disposable diapers and wipes would set us back about $80/month, which multiplied by the minimum 2 years is $1920, almost $2000 dollars. Chinami was in diapers until about age 3, so $2800??
My cloth diaper and reusable wipes stash cost about $200 altogether. I spend about $4/week on the extra loads of laundry for a total of $12/month. For two years, this comes out to $288, or almost $300...for three years, $360 or so? Either way, looks like I can put a good amount of money in Kairu's bank account for him. 

On Mother's Day, Yasushi had to work. He got me flowers, and I tried to make the best of the day by taking a walk with Chinami and Kairu, going to a park, eating lunch together at Subway using a BOGO coupon, and then going shopping at Goodwill and eating at Aloha Crepes using a groupon, We watched Wolf Children and ate finger foods for dinner. 

But I really got my treats and started to feel happy a few days later, when I went to Foodland and they were having a sale on Ben and Jerry's for 1.99/pint. Even on a usual sale, they are 3.50 each at the lowest, so I grabbed 5, the limit. I also had a rewards coupon for a free pint of Haagen Daz, which I picked up as well. I stopped at the day old baked goods rack and got a few things that were marked down to $1.00 like a dozen mini red velvet muffins, a loaf of cinnamon pull-apart bread, a package of whole wheat pitas, and I also picked up a bottle of wine that was on special. I also got some vegetables that were on sale that week. My whole order came out to less than $30 dollars, I was so happy as I walked back home with my full shopping bags. 

Of course, being with Kairu always makes me happy. He has been smiling since about 6 weeks and is such a calm and happy baby, much like Chinami was. (Yasushi says he is even calmer than she was...he remembers how she cried in the early months)

There are still lots of days I struggle, but I looks forward to good times like these. 


"Kyle" - one month!

One month has gone by so fast. I have pretty much recovered from birthing a 9lb baby and resumed most activities except for heavy lifting.

However, said baby is a very hungry one and I still have muscle pain, headaches, and dizzy spells, probably partly from all the milk I have to make... I eat 3-4 meals per day and snacks (and I can have caffeine again too so homemade latte drinks) and still steadily dropping weight. 

I weighed 170+ pounds at the end of this pregnancy, a number I have never seen on the scale before in my life, and can't imagine being that heavy without being pregnant, just unthinkable. Now I am down to the weight I was when I graduated high school. I was eating pop-tarts, cheese sandwiches, fries, ramen, etc. on a daily basis and drinking 2 sodas or more a day. My family thought I was "healthy" when in reality my BMI was on the border of overweight (and no, it wasn't muscle weight because I did not work out or play sports.) 
However, things are different now and while I enjoy many different foods, my cart at Costco or Sam's Club is usually filled with fruits and vegetables fresh, frozen or canned (no salt or sugar), milk, eggs, plain Greek yogurt, and things like cheese, meat, pasta, bread, are in there sometimes, and snack foods, processed instant/frozen meals, sweets, etc. are almost never in my cart. Chinami loves to go in the vegetable drawer and fill a little baggie with baby carrots, raw broccoli, mini peppers, etc for lunch or a snack on the go, and if we get tomatoes or any type of berry they are gone within a few days. When Kairu is ready, I will start solids the same way I did with Chinami--Baby Led Weaning, or no purees, just finger foods from the start. I hope he has the same love for food, especially fresh fruits and vegetables, as his big sister. 
The other day, we finally went to the Dept of Health to file Kairu's birth certificate. For homebirths, we have to go in person and file it by ourselves. So we went to the same back office as we did with Chinami, filled out some forms, showed some paperwork our midwife did with my prenatal checks/birth/newborn exam stats (Apgar 9, 10 if anyone's curious) and everything was in order, except the actual paper certificate would be ordered online later because we didn't want to go to the vital records desk and wait in line for hours. 
And so finally, Kairu has his official legal name. Yasushi decided how it would be done. His US birth certificate will read "Kyle", which is his legal American name. When we go to the Japanese embassy to register him on Yasushi's family register, his name will be registered in Japanese as Kairu, or 海琉.  It's a little bit more simple, or more complicated, depending on how you look at it, than Chinami's name, and we all call him Kairu, but officially he is Kyle now.
One month has passed and his features are starting to settle in. He looks a lot like Chinami did as a baby, except (I didn't think it was possible, but) more Japanese. His eyelids are single-folded like Yasushi's as opposed to Chinami, who has a crease in her eyelids. He also has the mongolian bruise on his butt which Chinami didn't have. His hair and skin tone are both slightly darker. I didn't think it was possible, but I birthed an even more Japanese baby. 
Kairu is a healthy baby, and I'm trying my best to be healthy too, but unfortunately the past week or so has been rough for the rest of the house. Yasushi caught a cold, which was probably the flu, which became pneumonia. Chinami got a high fever Sunday night after he got the pneumonia, and then seemed fine on Monday. I kept her home from preschool on Tuesday even though it was a challenge keeping her inside because she seemed 100% fine, no fever or anything, and on Wednesday she did her sports at UH, went to bed early, went to preschool on Thursday with no incident, ate breakfast, lunch, and we made pizza for dinner and she ate a couple little slices and a salad. Then that night she spiked a high fever again, and was coughing and sneezing. Friday we spent the day resting, she slept a good part of the day, and today we took a walk out around the neighborhood for a fun fair and a musical, then she told me she wanted to go to sleep after we had our bath. However, she doesn't have a fever and I haven't heard her cough or sneeze all day, so she is probably fine. Kairu and I luckily have been safe from whatever this is. I have been loading up on green tea, echinacea, Emergen-C, Airborne, etc. and it seems to have worked. Of course, that could also be another thing to thank breastmilk for. 
Either way, I'm grateful for my sick yet energetic 3 year old and my healthy, chubby 1 month old. And for my hard working husband. I love my family!!


Life as a family of 4, one week in

After Kairu was born, we all slipped into our family bed, a queen mattress and a twin placed on the floor, and for the first week each day Chinami has woken up with a smile and immediately started to kiss and talk to her little brother. Co-sleeping means I have gotten plenty of sleep at night as well, despite always waking up once at 3AM out of habit due to my work hours.
My milk came in like clockwork again on the third day, except this time I didn't get engorged. Maybe because Kairu drinks so much or maybe it's because my body remembers what it was doing up until last year. It remembers more than Chinami, because she did ask to nurse once, and found out she had forgotten how to latch. Poor girl. Maybe when I start pumping I will give her some.
I have been given strict orders to relax and move as little as possible this time around by my doula, and also by my midwife because in her words 'you just birthed a 9lb baby!!'. Luckily, this time around, Yasushi and I are in a much better place, literally and figuratively.
When Chinami was born, we were in a ground level shoebox studio apartment with no wind circulation in the middle of summer, we were in-between insurances, and Yasushi was working at a place at which him working for 16+ hours a day with little to no extra compensation on top of his normal salary was considered perfectly okay, and they were so generous to give him 3 days off, because one of the days was his regular day off. On top of that, I had my mentally unstable mother threatening to sue us and deliberately putting us in danger by posting our address on a public Twitter account.
Now, we own our home, a modest 2 bedroom condo on the 8th floor with plenty of breeze in a secured building, we both have stable jobs, insurance, and support systems, plus a roommate. My parents have not contacted me in 3 years, and have expressed no desire to make amends or meet their only grandchildren....their loss. Yasushi got a full week off work, no begging required. Yasushi had his own health problems during the week off but I was still blessed to have him here helping with Chinami and cooking us meals. Chinami also went to her auntie's a couple times, and to preschool as well during this week so she was still able to get outside and socialize.
However, for me, rest means not going outside. Only yesterday, one week after giving birth, I finally went outside, first downstairs to the pool to sit on the deck while Chinami swam around, and then we went to dinner at Yasushi's restaurant later in the day. Since I am usually out of the house at least once a day, every day, either working 1 job, 2 jobs, or taking Chinami to various events, playgroups, etc. it was a bit of a shock to have to spend a whole week inside the house, and not even able to vacuum, do laundry, or any of the other things I usually do when I am 'in' for a day.
So today I did listen to orders and rest most of the day, except when I walked to Chinami's preschool to pick her up. Kairu was with me of course, in his favorite place, my Baby K'tan.
My postpartum tummy is still pretty big and soft, just like last time, but even though I gained 50+ lbs this pregnancy, I am already down 25. They say it takes 9 months to grow and 9 months to shrink, but at the rate Kairu is nursing, it looks like it will be around 4 months....again.


Kairu's birth story

The story starts around midnight on March 16...I woke up as usual and went to the bathroom, and went back to bed. I was having some sporadic contractions but thought maybe they were just more Braxton-Hicks. Over the next 2 hours or so, they came in 20 minutes, 10, 15, and finally started coming around 5-7 minutes apart. But they were not so strong, so I just gave my midwife and doula a heads up that things may be starting, and I tried to eat, drink, and sleep between the contractions until the sun came up. Chinami woke up and we watched Big Hero 6 together and even made a little cake from pancake mix+bananas, etc. in case she wanted to sing Happy Birthday to Kairu when he was born. The contractions tapered off slightly while we did this and I kept my midwife and doula updated, and my midwife said she would stop by after she taught her Wednesday classes close by, around noon or so. I still tried to relax, and keep drinking and eating small things here and there. I noticed when I did get up and move around, things got a little more intense and I would cramp in between contractions, but still nothing I couldn't get through with a little breathing and my hot water bottle. When Chinami was born, my water broke well before my labor actually started so we were on a time crunch and going hiking, walking, bouncing on birth balls, etc. to get the contractions going. So this time I was definitely grateful to be able to have the gradual buildup to get myself and my birth team prepared and rested as much as possible.

My midwife came and assessed that I was still in a place where it could pick up or slow down and he might not be born until after sunset, at least. So I told her to go home as we would all need our rest. My doula called a little later and the contractions were starting to get a little more intense, but I was still able to handle them although I was starting to stop and vocalize through them. Not an hour after I got off the phone they started to pick up even more, and when I couldn't speak through a long one, Yasushi called my doula back (she speaks Japanese) and asked her to come. I went back to the bed to labor, and after 30 more minutes or so, my water broke and we called the midwife. 
My doula arrived first and the midwife about 30 minutes or so later. The contractions were getting more and more intense so I labored in the shower for a little while, then back to the bed for a while. My vocalizing got longer and louder as the contractions got more intense. The midwife examined me and said I was about an 8 or so. Eventually my doula suggested I go to the toilet as I hadn't been in a while, and I had a few good contractions while there as well. 

So back to the bed, my doula made some support structures from the pillows. It was getting so intense and I was worried about being stuck in pushing mode for 5 hours again. As the contractions got more intense I found that pushing a little bit helped and I started to feel more and more pressure as Kairu came down. I got into my comfortable yet not ideal position again, on my back propped up by pillows and my doula, and started to push as I was ready. My midwife and  doula observed how my stomach was moving, and I told them I was feeling pain/pressure right in the area where my pubic bone was. I soon found out I was having the same issue I had when giving birth to Chinami. My cervix was not quite letting the baby through, and because of how I carry my babies, right out in front, my body was having a hard time getting him over the pubic bone. So this meant I had to use all my strength again, and push him and help my body get him over that bone and through the cervix. My midwife helped the cervix "pop" back, so then it was just getting him over the bone. If I could just do this, he would likely come right out. So Yasushi set up the camera, and he came in with Chinami. Chinami had been spending the whole day doing whatever she wanted, but when she came into the room she was a focused little member of my birth team, I'm so proud of her. She rubbed my tummy, told me to do my best, gave me kisses on the cheek (oxytocin boosts!) and as my doula pulled me up into the final squat on the floor Chinami watched intently as I pushed and actually screamed in pain several times as Kairu finally slipped out into Yasushi's hands. He cried a strong cry immediately after coming out and pinked up pretty fast as we waited for him to get all of his blood from the placenta. Chinami commented that Kairu came out and he is so cute, and also commented that "everything is red", nonchalantly looking at all the blood. The placenta came out in another 15--20 minutes or so, and my midwife gave a chunk to Yasushi so he could make me a smoothie. Chinami helped as well, getting towels for us, taking picture/video with my camera, and holding the ziplock bag open while my midwife got the rest of the placenta in it. We finally cut the cord, and Kairu was already nursing like a pro.  I took some Tylenol and AfterEase (an herbal tincture for the after birth pains), had some chicken soup, and iced up my tender area as Kairu and I settled into bed for some much needed rest. Eventually Chinami and Yasushi joined us, reading a story before they drifted off. 

Kairu was born at our home at 6:50 pm on March 16th. He weighed 9lbs and measured 21 inches. We are all in love with him, and I am grateful for my amazing family and birth team. 

He is now still not even 2 days old, and I am still dealing with lots of aches and pains, but recovery is going well. I can't wait to put him in my k'tan and take little walks with him and Chinami. And by the way he nurses now, I feel like the 50+lbs I put on this pregnancy won't be there for too much longer!