#ThrowbackThursday October 2007

This month 10 years ago, I was in a very different living situation.

I was a senior at University of Hawaii, living in one bedroom of a 4 bedroom unit in a complex in a very sketchy neighborhood for $500/month.

I worked at least 3 jobs on top of a full time senior course load. I was looking forward to graduating with a BA just two months later, and getting married and moving to Japan within six months.

Every day I woke up early, took the bus into town, went to class, went to work, ate my homemade wheat/veggie/egg sandwiches, drank my v8, and after going home I usually fell asleep on top of my computer or school work before being woken up by long distance calls from my fiance in Japan.

One morning, I woke up with a sharp pain in my lower left abdomen. I couldn't walk it off, sleep it off, I could barely stand up straight. I called my boss to let her know I wouldn't be able to come in, and she recommended I go straight to the hospital. I took a taxi to the closest ER where they found an 11cm cyst on my left ovary. I was immediately ordered to not exert myself physically until they could remove it surgically.

In October 2007, I had the surgery. It was a same-day laproscopic surgery, they kept me overnight because of my low blood pressure. I went back to my room, ate frozen TV dinners I had bought myself in preparation, and since I had the surgery on a Friday, I went back to class and work on Monday.

I was on fire. Nothing could keep me down, not even a medical condition and surgery. I had my goals right in front of me so close--graduation, marriage, and life in Japan with the most important person to me.

10 years later. 2017.

I graduated, I got married, I lived in Japan and worked 3 jobs there teaching English in preschools, cafes, homes, by telephone, and I got to do some other stuff too. We saved up and in just 4 years we were able to move back to Hawaii and buy a condo. I have two amazing children. I currently work one part-time job early in the morning to accommodate the hours I have to put in as a mother and housewife, and freelance as a translator/interpreter.

My growing issues with depression and anxiety were finally starting to slow me down. I was becoming unable to hide it or hide from it anymore. My children need me, so I became more proactive in seeking the help I needed. I cut toxic people from my life and kept moving forward. I don't need people around me who don't respect me or my family. I also don't need people around me who don't respect themselves and make excuses as to why they can't reach their goals.

My sense of self and identity changed as I became a mother and in my 30s. I felt myself stagnate as I gave myself to my children as they needed me.
But I think I'm ready to take myself back. At least for now. I'm ready to light the fire again. I need to show my kids who their mom really is, and pass on that fire to them.

More weights are being tossed away, and more good things are coming.


Various musings - Home ownership and Health

May- Mother's Day....bittersweet since I have to see/hear about how great other people's moms are, but on the other hand I got to spend a day with my kids eating pizza and walking around a botanical garden. 

June- Chinami's Preschool Graduation - an important milestone! We had a small ceremony and party at the school, and even though her favorite Aunty got her flowers and  a lei, I made sure she had a couple leis from us because local tradition is to just drape em all on until the grad can't see anymore. I never got any leis at my UH graduation so I'm going to make up for it with them! 

July- Chinami's 5th Birthday and Kairu's preschool debut. We had our traditional BBQ in the courtyard with Yasushi's fresh sashimi boat, and I did a Moana themed cake, swimsuit for Chinami, favors, etc. Kairu is a lot more shy and withdrawn than Chinami was at his age but he tries super hard not to cry when I drop him off. Tries is the key word. After the initial shock he does enjoy all the toys and songs, I'm told. 

August- the 3rd anniversary of purchasing our home. For me, 3 years is kind of a long time to stay in one place. I've been moving from place to place ever since I was a small child. The longest stay I had in white picket fence bumfuck PA wasn't exactly the most amazing time of my life, and the years after that I was moving in and out of places as much as 3x/year. So recently I've become aware of the fact that if I don't clean things, they may never get cleaned. There is no cleaning service, no move in, move out, nothing like that anymore. So it's my responsibility to periodically deep clean random things I've never cleaned before. Behind the stove, the door jamb leading out to the balcony, taking off the toilet seat and reattaching, many places I've never cleaned in my life are getting looked at. And while I was raised in a household where I was violently beaten for not tidying my shoes properly, surprisingly enough I was never really taught practical, useful information about cleaning, laundry, etc. so recently I have been learning a lot of new things at home. 

September- my 31st birthday. We went to a tattoo shop to get a consult for my long-awaited second tattoo! My first tattoo(s) were done at age 18 and 21, 3 flowers on my left pelvis, and they are all stretched out and spread out so time for some new and exciting ink to celebrate....well, to celebrate me being myself finally! I had a few designs I was thinking of but the one I felt closest to at this stage in my life was a pinwheel. 5 sides/colors to represent the 5 elements, a common theme in nature based religions and some pop culture as well. The pinwheel itself is derived from the pinwheels used to promote awareness against child abuse. Altogether it's a symbol of my true spirituality and love towards my children. A tiny little detail is a semicolon on the stick holding the pinwheel up, representing my struggle with mental illness and my past suicide attempts. The sentence is definitely not over yet! 
On that note, Yasushi took the initiative to get the whole family life insurance policies. It was a race to get all the paperwork done before my birthday to lock in 30 year old rates. And as I did the physical exams I was so proud and grateful that we are both in great health, very likely because we eat a variety of whole foods and stay active. Especially now that we have kids, it's so important for us to live out our full potential and be there for them as long as we possibly can, and also to set them up with good diet and exercise habits. 

The past few months have been good, and for some reason I feel like October, November are going to be even better. We are getting rid of more toxins and pollution from our home and hopefully welcoming more health, positivity, and motivation to be our best selves. 



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!!