Sunday, October 30, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Hello everyone!

We have been having a busy month, but we haven't forgotten about the blog!   I have not had many interesting things to post recently, but I will try to update you now...

Jonathan started teaching a new student this month.  For his new job, he has to wear a suit, so we went shopping on the 16th to get him ready for work.  He looks quite sharp, in my opinion. Don't you think so too?

Sorry the photo is a little blurry. He would not hold still to get his picture taken because he did not want to be late for his first day, lol.  Please ignore the pile of dirty laundry behind him.  He interrupted my laundry routine and made me drive him to the station, haha!

The baby is growing well.  As of 10/24 she weighed approximately 1,600 grams which is 3 pounds, 9 ounces.  She has been kicking and punching quite a bit and she has the occasional bout of hiccups.  We are so excited to meet her!  There are less than 10 weeks until our estimated date of delivery, so it feels like it is crunch time.  Here is an illustration of her size and development we saw in a Japanese maternity magazine:


Today we had some friends over for a halloween dinner.  It was a lot of fun.  Last night, Jonathan and I watched a scary movie and made my costume.  I think it turned out quite well.  

I was a skeleton complete with creepy baby skeleton, haha.  We had fun making the stencil and painting the bones onto a cheap dark-colored long-sleeve shirt.  What do you think?

Jonathan was a protester.

Nice sign.

Well that is all I can think of updating for now.  I am down to prenatal appointments every other week so we will be back at the doctor on November 7th.  We'll let you know if anything awesome happens!

Laura, Jonathan, and baby

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


Hello all,

It has been an emotional week for my family, but all I feel like saying about it is that I love you all so much and I feel so lucky to have been born into such a wonderful supportive group of people. I appreciate all of my immediate and extended family for being there for each other during difficult times. When I come back I will do my best to show you in person how much I love and appreciate you!

We have been busy recently and the baby has been growing by leaps and bounds. I uploaded some photos of our weekend in Nagoya to the photobucket account.  If you want to see them, just click on the link that says, "Photobucket" to the right under "Useful Links".  I will post one teaser photo here now.

Laura, Jonathan, and baby

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Baby Kicks, Pear Picking and Dinosaur Hunting!

First, the baby update:
Our little girl (maybe) has been getting bigger and stronger so very quickly.  She kicks me all the time, especially in the evenings when I am relaxing at home.  She is usually pretty quiet at work, but I have a fun thing to share with you all.  On Tuesday, Jonathan brought my lunch to me at school.  He was telling me about his plans for the evening and the baby started kicking like crazy!  I think she recognizes Daddy's voice!  My books say that her hearing is very well developed by now and she is beginning to open her eyes so she is much more sensitive to light and sounds.  She may even be able to recognize mine and Jonathan's voices!  It is so exciting to notice how she grows and changes.  We are now 27 weeks.  I start my third trimester next week.  The pregnancy seems to be going very slowly and very quickly at the same time. We will be a family of three in just three short months!

Now for our adventures and some more pictures:
This past weekend, we had many adventures! On Friday we went pear picking in Wakasa Town.  On Saturday we went to the Dinosaur Museum in Katsuyama, Fukui (about 3 hours northeast of where we live) with two of our friends from Obama.  And on Sunday we went to Kyoto for some tasty falafel and the open air flea market at Kita no Tenmangu Shrine!  Whew!  We forgot to take pictures in Kyoto, but we documented our excursions from Friday and Saturday. Enjoy some photos!

 It sprinkled for a few minutes so we had to take shelter under our umbrella.

 Above is the Fukuisaurus, discovered in our prefecture!  Below is the Fukuiraptor, also discovered here!

Love you all!

Laura, Jonathan, and baby!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Happy Birthday, Daddy!

Today is Jonathan's 25th birthday. Happy quarter of a century, love!

I made him a cake! And homemade icing (Jonathan had to help with the icing, though)!
Photos below:


Laura, Jonathan, and baby!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

September Update & Laura loves Jonathan

Hello friends and family,

Sorry I have been so bad about posting recently.  I have been tired and struggling with morning sickness (again) and did not want to type up all the whiney posts I was composing in my head.  I have thrown up 4 times in the last 7 days (at work all times) and I am just so ready for fall to come.  I hope if I can just power through September, I will be able to make it.  I think my nausea is being aggravated by the heat (temperatures in the 80s and 90s every day) and my seasonal allergies, but I cannot take any medicine because I'm pregnant!  The recent bouts of morning sickness have not been nearly as bad as they were back in the first trimester (I am able to eat a bit more than just toast and crackers, and I have been keeping my prenatal vitamins down), but I am just tired of feeling so crappy.  I really need to start doing those prenatal yoga tapes because I can feel my stamina and muscle tone deteriorating every day.  I won't have the energy to deliver this baby if I do not get my act together and just push through the negativity and self-pity I have been stuck in!

I am truly happy to be pregnant and every single time our baby kicks me I stop and smile.  She is kicking all the time now, usually a couple of times per hour, but sometimes I think she is napping in there so I will go a while without feeling anything.  Or perhaps she is awake but still too small and is kicking me in the back or in my tummy fat, lol.  I love her so much already and I love Jonathan more everyday now that we are becoming parents.  I am so so so very lucky to have Jonathan in my life.  He is the best man I could ever hope for.  I am trying to hard to recognize when I am "pregnancy crazy" so that I don't freak out about little things, but he is just so patient no matter what I say or do.  He takes care of me emotionally, spiritually, physically, and financially (although I try to take care of myself in all those areas too).  He does more than 60% of the housework: cooking, doing dishes, cleaning, and taking care of the garbage. I totally owe him a dishwasher when we get back to America. And a maid. We enjoy cooking so I think we can skip the chef. I am sure that once the baby comes, I will have a new person in this world that I love completely and unconditionally to a degree that I never thought possible, but I already love and appreciate her more than I could ever imagine because she has shown me that I made the right choice when I married Jonathan. If the first 2 years of marriage and 4 years of dating before were this good, then I cannot wait to see how great the rest of our lives will be. 

Everything in my life is changing in a big, irreversible way, but I couldn't be happier.  Heartburn, vomiting, nausea, bladder infections, backaches, homesickness (is there such as thing as "momsickness" where you miss your mom?), fatigue, and a lack of interest in doing anything outside of our apartment aside, I would not have chosen any differently if I could go back in time.

I love you all and thanks for bearing with me.  I am making a 25th week of pregnancy resolution to be more positive in my thoughts and words so that I can have the power and energy to overcome the little bumps in the road. Life is only going to get harder and busier from here on out and I want to enjoy the magic and little miracles around me every day.

Laura, Jonathan, and baby

Here are some recent photos. Link to babymoon photos

Friday, September 9, 2011

Boy or Girl?

So we went to the doctor today for our 24th week check-up and ultrasound.
He takes a screenshot and says,
"Well, here it is."
I said, "What are we looking at?"
"The sex."
"Is it a boy or a girl?"
"Which one do you want?"
"Either one is fine."
"Girl, maybe. We will check again next time to be sure."

Hahahahaha. So we have a "girl, maybe."  I find this hilarious and I hope you do too.

Also, our baby girl is still too shy to let us have a 3D picture of her face, but we got an awesome profile shot of her trying to touch her toes. So cute!

We will post pictures... eventually!

Love you all,
Laura, Jonathan, and Girl Maybe

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

International Visitors

We love and miss you all! I would love to see you and show you around Japan! Unfortunately, your winter breaks line up exactly with the time that I will be 9 months pregnant/taking care of a newborn. Babies come on their own schedule that is outside of my knowledge or control. Aside from the 2 approved visitors during that time, I encourage all international visitors to consider a trip during the fall or spring. Please consider this humble request!
Laura & Jonathan

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Ultrasound photo

Here's a picture of our baby! The head is the prominent feature in this ultrasound printout, with some of the spine visible- oooh creepy! We felt the little dude or dudette's first kick on Saturday in the evening after Laura had eaten a strawberry crepe. Since then, Laura's periodically been stopping mid-sentence to tell me the baby kicked, where I'll rush over to try and feel it, but, of course, s/he won't do it.

Also, we're 20 weeks today!

We have an appointment tomorrow to determine the sex of the little hitchhiker. We'll let you know soon whether you should start conditioning our unborn child to like blue and footballs and trucks or pink and princesses and dolls with an age old display of rampant consumerism. Haha JK LOL. Not really. But seriously though, you are going to buy our baby a ton of stuff, right?

I'm doing well; I have a break from work for a few weeks to relax and enjoy summer. We're going to go on a babymoon soon and enjoy all the foreign food Osaka has to offer and watch movies. We'll post later to let you know which box our baby fits in!

Jonathan (and Laura)

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Two Years in Japan

Hello folks,

Happy Monday! It has been a busy past few weeks here in Fukui. Jonathan, Grainne and I went to visit the lovely Jen in Aichi prefecture last weekend. We had an excellent time shopping, eating delicious food, and enjoying city life. We met up with Mrs. Deguchi and Ashley, some friends from Ohio University for an Italian lunch in Nagoya. After that we went shopping and got some cute clothes, foreign food, and new beauty products. For dinner we had Indian food with Ashley's friends and then we went out for karaoke. Sunday was a lazy day where we did a bit more shopping and we got Starbucks coffee.

Jen came back to Ohi with us on Monday. She stayed until Thursday morning and we got to do a lot of fun local things together. We went to the beach, visited a temple, and also went to a library/art museum/creepy puppet house. Mostly we just hung out and enjoyed each other's company. It was a fabulous start to summer vacation. I took Monday - Wednesday (the 25th-27th) off. I believe this is Jonathan's last week of work for the summer. He gets most of August off. Yay! I am back at work after another busy weekend.

Group A of the new ALTs came to Fukui Wednesday night. Thursday after work I took the train up to Fukui city to meet them at the welcome BBQ. The BBQ was a lot of fun, and it was great to see all the northerners again. Friday was their second day of orientation. I had to be there for the "Settling In Workshop" to introduce them to the South (Reinan area). There were 6 new southern ALTs so Lucia and I had our work cut out for us. I focused on the Obama area people and Lucia focused on the Tsuruga area people but it always feels like we don't have enough time to cover everything. They are very interested in learning about the area and always have a million questions. I remember those days...

So the coolest part of the orientation situation this year was that I got to meet Conor's successor. Her name is Rebecca and I already like her a lot. We have been talking via facebook for over a month so I already knew we would get along well. Our supervisor and another person from the Board of Education came up to Fukui City to pick us up and bring us back to Ohi on Friday around 1PM. We got some paperwork done and she is out right now doing more paperwork and visiting our schools. On Saturday the new Obama area ALTs, Grainne, Jonathan, and I hung out and had okonomiyaki for dinner. On Sunday we all hung out again and were joined by Lauren and Ryan, a pair of veteran ALTs from Obama, for the Obama festival. There were food booths, music, a stage, and a number of dancers and performers. The fireworks festival is tonight (Monday) but Jonathan, Rebecca, and I have a BBQ with our Board of Education so we cannot go. Luckily, Ohi town will be having its fireworks festival this coming weekend so we will not be missing out too much.

So, in conclusion, we were very busy! I am feeling a lot better now that the worst of the morning sickness is over. I only threw up once last week. I suppose I am not quite ready for medium salsa and guacamole chips. Especially since I took my prenatal vitamin with them instead of taking it with something mild right before bed. So as long as I limit my spicy food intake I have been eating almost full portions at my meals. Yay! The baby is getting bigger. I know this because my belly is getting bigger, haha. Apparently my uterus is the size of a cantaloupe now that I am 5 months pregnant. Pre-pregnancy it was about the size of a pear or an avocado. Ha!

I cannot wait to feel the baby moving around in there. Sometime over the next month I should be able to feel him/her. Also we may know if the baby is a boy or a girl in less than 2 weeks. Yay! I am still worried and nervous about the pregnancy, but I am starting to feel like the baby will be coming into our lives soon. The pregnancy is almost halfway done! I had a dream the other night that we had just gotten back from the hospital and Jonathan was feeding the baby. He asked me to take over and I realized we only had the one spit-up cloth. I panicked because I felt like we were so unprepared for the baby to actually be here. When we were planning for the pregnancy, we spent a year researching about the physical, emotional, and financial realities of pregnancy in Japan. I bought books, read blogs, and spoke with foreign mothers and fathers living here before making the decision. I spent so much time and energy planning for the pregnancy but not as much time planing for the baby! I know that it makes sense to wait until the 3rd trimester to buy baby stuff and all that, but I am feeling a little restless having to wait to make the proper preparations.

Well that is all for now. I will try to post again this week. It seems like I have a lot to say if I wait over a week to post, lol. Also, pictures! Sorry about the delay I will put them up soon.

Laura (and Jonathan!)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Feeling Better

Hello folks,

We had a great doctor's visit last week. Jonathan and I heard the baby's heartbeat for the first time, which was pretty cool. It was so cool to look at the ultrasound together. Apparently, our baby has 2 arms and 2 legs, a spinal cord, and 2 hemispheres of his or her brain! The doctor was speeding through everything and I could tell that Jonathan was not paying attention to a word he was saying, so I translated for him. Jonathan was just enraptured staring intently at the screen ignoring everything so he could see our baby moving around.

The little one was turned away from us so we could not get a good view of the face on the 4D ultrasound. Also he was not able to determine the sex this visit so maybe next time we will know. Our next appointment is August 12th. Wow, that is in 3 weeks! Time is flying by so fast.

I am 17 weeks now and just starting to feel better. The doctor told me that my body is almost done building the placenta and that once it is developed the nausea and vomiting will subside. Sure enough, I have not had any vomiting episodes since Friday! Yay! A week of keeping all my food down. Jonathan is still cooking for me because the heat in the kitchen effectively kills any appetite I may have. I have been doing laundry but not much else around the house yet. Hopefully I will have more energy in the coming weeks.

We ordered more maternity clothes this week and we got our first baby presents from a friend who is leaving Japan this weekend. Thank you again, Melissa! It was great to get some baby stuff because so far I have been so wrapped up in this pregnancy that I have not really thought about the baby in a concrete way. Jonathan has been dreaming it will be a girl and several of our friends also think it will be a baby girl, but I guess we will just have to wait and see. If it is a boy, I have some Japanese friends who have sons and have a lot of baby clothes and stuff they are willing to part with :)

Most of the female teachers I work with are moms and they have told me they are so excited about me having a baby because we will have even more to talk about. My coworkers have always been awesome and inclusive, but it is cool that we will now also be working moms. I feel so lucky that we are taking this step when we are in such a family-friendly environment. Not many of my friends have kids yet so it is good to have some support from my peers and co-workers.

It is summer vacation now. I have been going to work, but I will probably take some long weekends in the middle of August. Jonathan will probably take time off at the end of August as well. We are excited to meet the new ALTs and go to the summer festivals!

For those of you stalking the blog but not posting, send me an email with an update about your life! We miss you and hope you are well.

Laura (and Jonathan!)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

July 15th. Am I the only one not posting about Harry Potter?

Hello friends and family,

Not too much to update here. Things have been pretty much the same this week. Jonathan and I have been going to work and I have been getting sick pretty much daily. I go to the doctor today so I am going to talk to him about it and see if there is anything (else) I can do about the morning sickness. I have tried practically everything that does not involve prescription medication. Here is a summary of what I have been trying and my feelings about morning sickness:

I have tried everything - ginger, lemons, peppermint, popsicles, bland foods, sea bands, eating many small meals throughout the day, not drinking water during meals, keeping crackers by my bedside... Unfortunately I think I am just one of those women whose morning sickness sucks so bad nothing short of medication will work on it. But women with horrible morning sickness have fewer miscarriages and fewer birth defects so at least I know my body is just trying to protect the baby and not torturing me for no reason, lol.

I am going to ask my doctor what he thinks I should do about this. I have lost more than 5% of my body weight and the severity of the symptoms have been inhibiting me from doing my job. I either need to get some help of the prescription medication variety or get a note from my doctor that lets me use sick leave instead of my vacation time when I am extremely nauseated or vomiting uncontrollably and have to leave work. Luckily the schools have started using the air conditioners earlier and more readily so I am not spending so much time vomiting. I definitely think that working with 25-40 noisy, sweaty kids in 85-95 degree heat and unforgiving humidity is exacerbating the nausea. Maybe my schools saw this report coming and decided that using the air conditioner is worth avoiding unnecessary hospitalization for the pregnant ALT and any other students and staff with a weakened constitution.

In happier news I got a package from my family this week! I got more deodorant, Tums (for the calcium and to help with the heartburn), vegan prenatal vitamins, and maternity clothes! Yay! Mom and Julia went shopping at Target and got me a nice camisole and 2 adorable dresses. I am wearing one of the dresses at work right now. I love maternity clothes, they are so comfortable. I was really excited that my very first maternity clothes were picked out by Mom and Jules. I don't know why but that really makes them feel closer to me and the baby and I need that closeness since I cant see them and share this pregnancy with them as well as I would like to. I will have to post a picture of my outfit today so you can see the dress and the baby bump. Even though I have lost over 15 pounds, my tummy is definitely showing the pregnancy early on. All the teachers keep telling me they are worried about me because my face looks so thin, (Which it does. Can you lose 15 pounds just in the face?) but I definitely feel like my body is changing in a way that points to "baby on board."

So our doctor's appointment is today. This will be the first time Jonathan sees the little guy/girl in real time so we are pretty excited. I am 16 weeks along so it is probably too soon to tell if it is a boy or girl, but this should be a fun visit nonetheless. My doctor mentioned doing the 3D ultrasound this time which could be cool. I hope he does a regular one too because I want to post the pictures of the normal ultrasound. I think the 3D ultrasounds do look a little creepy from what I have seen on the internet and I don't want you thinking we are having some kind of alien baby over here. I get enough "radioactive spiderman / mutant ninja turtle" jokes as it is. If you are very brave, just google "3D ultrasound" images, and you will see what I mean. They kind of look like badly formed clay babies that melted a little. The major positive thing about the 3D/4D ultrasounds is that you can determine the sex of the baby very soon (at 16 weeks, the 3D ultrasound is 99% accurate in determining the sex of the baby). Most hospitals will not check the gender until 20 weeks. So maybe we will find out today and maybe not. Boys are usually easier to determine than girls for obvious reasons.

Well I will end the post here. If I get good (read:non-creepy) pictures, I will post them this weekend. Monday is a national holiday so we are looking forward to a little downtime. Enjoy your Harry Potter 7.5 midnight showings! We will probably see it in late August when we go to Osaka, so try to keep from gushing about the movie to us too much.

Laura (and Jonathan!)

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Feeling Hot, Hot, Hot!

Hey folks,

Blast from the past for you. Do you remember this song? Released July 7, 1987 Buster Poindexter's Hot Hot Hot makes you feel good about the hot muggy summer days. I will just put this on repeat during those afternoons when the schools decide not to turn the A/C on.

How you feeling?
Hot Hot Hot!

I am still feeling pretty sick but I am sure you are as bored of reading the vomiting posts as I am of doing the vomiting! So today's topic is ways to stay cool in 90+ degree weather with 60% or higher humidity. First, keep yourself hydrated! Drinking water throughout the day and especially during the hottest time (11AM to 3PM for me at school) will keep you feeling fresh and help your body regulate its own temperature through the power of perspiration. I also recommend nice breathing techniques. Deep, calm, even breaths work great for cooling yourself down. If you exhale with your mouth open, you can further regulate your temperature by evaporating the water from your mouth. You can also try aroma-therapeutic techniques. For Christmas, my family sent me this great stress-relieving lotion from the body store Origins. It is called Peace of Mind and it works wonders to just dab a bit of the stuff on your temples, earlobes, and the back of your neck. The peppermint scent smells great and it has some kind of cooling properties that feel great and give you a little burst of energy. If you have access to a cool, wet washcloth, wipe it on your face and especially the back of your neck. If you can smuggle Popsicles into work, more power to you.

If none of these techniques work, you can always take a sick day claiming heat exhaustion!

Good luck and stay cool!

Laura (and Jonathan!)

*Update: I forgot to mention Buster Poindexter's version is a cover. For the 7 minute original by Arrow, click here.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Summer Days

Hey folks!

Happy (belated) Fourth of July! I hope you all had fun celebrating with family and friends over the weekend. We planned on doing a 4th of July/ Thank You for Volunteering at the Car Rally dinner with friends, but I was unable to go due to an excess of vomiting and a crying-induced headache. According to Jonathan, much fun was had by all and they had a great weeknight get-together. Jonathan did not get home until 11, so I am glad they all got to hang out. I will be seeing everyone I missed at the Southern Sayonara (Goodbye) Party this Friday, so I think I made the right choice staying home after the terrible day I had.

On Sunday we went to a big event put on by our Japanese teachers. After the event I got very sick from the heat, noise, and number of people I had to interact with, so I went to bed early (5PM) in order to be well rested for Monday. My good intentions were for naught because Monday did not go well at all. I was definitely emotional after getting sick twice during first period. Also, it was my first time puking up stomach bile which became my new least favorite way to be sick during this pregnancy. It was so bitter and acidic that I just crouched on the floor in the bathroom and cried for 20 minutes afterwards. One teacher walked in while I was crying and I utilized the handy Sound Princess to keep her in the dark about my breakdown.

Once I pulled myself together enough to go back to the staff room, I took one look at the English teacher's face and started crying again in front of the whole staff! If it had not been so horrible I would have laughed at the awkward situation. All the female teachers started cooing and soothing me, asking me if I wanted to go home or at least lay down in the tatami room, and I was just crying and babbling in English (only 2 out of the 15 teachers present understood any English) about how tired I was and how much I wanted to just not be sick anymore. The 8 or so male teachers in the room did their best not to look in my direction and pretend to be working! I felt so bad for them, but at the same time could not stop crying.

After I convinced everyone that I would be fine if I could just be alone for a minute and calm down, I went into the bathroom and proceeded to cry for another 20 minutes. After that, I put on make-up (I almost never wear make-up to school, but this was an emergency!) and went back to my desk. Apparently I was convincing enough about my emotional stability because the teachers asked me to teach 3 more classes that day.

You may ask, "Why didn't you just go home? Why not take a sick day since you were clearly not feeling well?" I had 2 reasons for not going home. My first reason was that I have been sick at school before (many times) and I would probably be sick again before the baby comes. I made sure to teach the rest of the classes sitting down, drink a lot of fluids, and eat crackers when I could stomach them, but I would probably feel more miserable if I went home and knew they had expected me to be there but I had gone home. As it turns out, one teacher did need me for the 9th grade recitation tests. She would not have been able to grade all of them by herself and it would have taken 2 days to finish grading them if I had gone home, but since I was there we finished all of them yesterday. My second reason was that my car was in the shop and I would have had to walk 7 minutes down the road to my house in the direct sun or get a ride home from one of the teachers. I just did not feel like asking for a ride home or passing out in the sun.

In other news, Jonathan is happy and healthy. He still loves both of his jobs and he is excited about becoming a dad. He has been doing a lot of cleaning. Did I mention he fixed our washing machine? Did I mention our washing machine was broken for 6 months? Jonathan took the top apart and found the problem with the sensor - it was rusty! He cleaned it up, put it back together, and now the washing machine works again. I have been trying to keep up with laundry since it is the one chore I can do that does not make me queasy.

Well that is all for today. Sorry about all the graphic posts, but this is my life right now. I have now lost 7kg since March. Lovely. On the plus side, I can feel the growing pains from my uterus growing and stretching out the ligaments in my lower abdomen. Also, the baby is the size of a lemon. Cute!

Laura (and Jonathan!)

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Happiness and Personal Growth

Hello folks,

Here is a sappy and idealistic post, as indicated by the title, so prepare yourself for cheesy "believe in yourself" rhetoric if you choose to read on! If you are not interested in my excessively introspective navel gazing, please just skip to the bottom and click on the link for several good laughs and a little bit of perspective!

I was writing a message to a friend from Ohio U a few days ago and I realized how happy I am and how lucky I feel about our lives. I feel like I am exactly where I want to be and where I should be both literally and figuratively in my life. Sometimes life is hard and it is never perfect, but I am content with my attitude and the decisions I have made. No life is without setbacks and obstacles, but I think that the circumstances of your life are not as important as how you view the world and the way you choose to cope with difficulties. I think the challenges we face make us better people and teach us important lessons about ourselves, life, and love.

I truly do believe that you shape your own reality and that true happiness comes from inside you, not from any outside stimulus whether that be a place, a person, or a job. Your experience of the sunset or a joke is where the happiness actually comes from. Your ideas about the world around you influence your perception. Think about the sunset for a minute. To a pair of people sitting outside watching it, one may experience happiness because of the beautiful colors and shared experience of viewing it. The other person may be very sad to view the same sunset because it signifies the end of a wonderful weekend and they have a lot of unfinished business piled up waiting for them at work the next day. The two people are looking at the same sunset, but they are experiencing it differently because of the way they process information in their heads.

For a personal example, it is difficult being so far away from my family (both nuclear and extended) since we have been so close my entire life, especially since I will be going through this pregnancy on the other side of the world from my best support system. The thing is, I would make the same decisions again because I think this is the best thing for us to do. The positive outcome of the 3 year separation from my loved ones is a respect and appreciation for how special, wonderful, and unique my family is, and the knowledge that I will never take them for granted and will cherish them for the rest of my life. When I think of all the wonderful opportunities we have been offered here in Japan, the friends we have made, the way our relationship has grown and matured, and the adventures we have had, I would not have changed a single thing. I am not merely passing time until the baby comes or we get back to the US to start school or careers, I am living my life to the fullest every day and loving the person I am becoming.

Jonathan and I were talking about our ideas about this pregnancy and the things we hoped/hope to do during the 9 months I am with child, and I confessed some interesting things. I have been reading mommy blogs and watching pregnancy shows on the internet, and it is very validating to see that I am not alone in feeling some of the things I feel and worrying about others. For example, I read a blog by a woman 9 months pregnant who runs a vegetarian restaurant in the UK. She had all these ideas about the superfoods she would eat and the way she would exercise and stay active (the previous year she had run a half marathon and planned to continue running), but none of it worked out. She was too sick to eat 99 percent of the food she ate previously, and just the thought of going outside in the heat to run made her nauseous. I totally identified with that! I feel like we try to put healthy, delicious food into our bodies and I had my mom mail me yoga tapes that I could do in all 3 trimesters, but I feel so terrible I cannot eat anything and the thought of doing anything more strenuous than walking to the car to drive to work makes me queasy.

I told Jonathan, (paraphrased) "I am glad that I don't have enough energy (from lack of food and normal pregnancy-related fatigue) to worry about being a bad mom. I just feel like I am doing what I have to in order to survive and that is it." He told me that was ridiculous, I am not a bad mom and it is not my fault that I cannot do some things for the baby that I wanted to. The truth is, I don't feel like a bad mom not because I don't have energy to feel like one, but because I don't waste my energy on negative emotions. I am doing the best that I can and even though it is not ideal, I am proud of myself for being happy and excited about the changes happening in our life. I know I complain about the morning sickness on this blog a lot, but this first hurdle is the hardest thing I have gone through in my life (and it is only the beginning of the journey!). I no longer enjoy something that I always have (food), and I am experiencing a lot of hormonal and physical changes right now that I know will culminate in an epic and probably very painful and exhausting birthing experience. Despite the hardship, Jonathan and I are ecstatic about this child and the amazing new paths our life will take us down in the coming decades.

All that said, the reason I got on to post today is this video. You absolutely have to watch it. It is from the Bloomington Ted Talks, and this guy (Shawn Achor) is funny, engaging, and very interesting. He is a Harvard professor who talks about happiness, human potential, and positive psychology. If you don't have 15 minutes to spare, just watch the first 2 minutes and you will have something to smile about the rest of the day.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A Night at Eiheiji

Hello all!

Whew it is pretty darn hot over here. The temperature in the staff room at my JHS is 90 (32C) and the humidity is high. Apparently we will not be turning on the A/C until someone passes out. I hope that someone is not the pregnant ALT sweltering at her desk. On the plus side, it is exam week, so the students are busy studying quietly for their big tests Thursday and Friday so I do not have to go to class and be the one to pass out.

Now it is time for that promised post about my overnight at Eiheiji Temple in northern Fukui. Yay! I have had a very busy month with trips all over the prefecture and the Car Rally which I co-planned with the amazing Grainne this past weekend (25th and 26th). On the 10th I went up to the Tojimbo area (3 hrs northeast of Ohi) for a fabulous birthday party where I got to hang out with Grainne, Hillary, Madeline (it was her birthday), and many other awesome people for a good portion of the evening. On the 18th I went to Eiheiji Temple to do an overnight stay at one of the largest and most famous zen temples in Japan. Eihieji is about 10km east of Fukui city, so it took us about 2.5 hours to get there.

Eiheiji temple is also a monastery which hosts over 200 monks. Jonathan and I visited Eiheiji and got an English tour of the buildings and grounds our first fall in Japan (2009). The founder of Soto Zen Buddhism, Dogen, founded Eiheiji in the 1200s, but due to multiple fires, the oldest building in the complex was built in the 1700s. There are rows of 600 year old trees planted by the 5th head monk (abbot). The place is just breathtakingly serene and beautiful. The grounds and buildings inspire quiet contemplation and seem to ooze patience and a great sense of calm.

We (over 20 foreign English teachers) arrived at the front gates around 1:15 and the overnight stay officially began at 2:00. We got little ribbons that notified the monks that we are overnight guests and allowed to wander around the meditation halls and sleeping areas that normal guests of the temple are not allowed to enter. We watched an informative movie, were able to wander the grounds on our own, were given the opportunity to take a bath, and then had dinner.

Dinner was very fancy, not the traditional monk fare. We received several courses of vegan food (zen monks do not eat meat or any animal products) that looked quite good, but my stomach was not happy with them. There were a lot of pickled foods and very pungent flavors like mushroom and miso. I struggled to eat as much as I could, but had quite a bit left over. After dinner, I told the head monk that I am pregnant and my nausea prevents me from being able to eat as much as I normally would. He seemed genuinely happy to hear that I was pregnant and apologized about the portion size. It is so Japanese to apologize for something that a) he did not know about and b) is in no way his fault! I apologized for not telling him beforehand and asked for a half portion at breakfast. I did not tell the temple I was pregnant before coming because I did not know if they would forbid me from staying overnight because of my 'condition.' You know, the whole 'It is easier to ask forgiveness than permission' thing. I figured if I waited until I had been there until 7 they would not make me leave. It turned out to not be a problem at all.

After dinner we had a bit of free time and then and hour to ask questions about anything. We asked about meditation (zazen), the history of the temple, what the monks lives are like, how Japanese Buddhism is different from other types of Buddhism, and what the point of meditation really is (according to our guide there is no goal at all!) I learned a lot about the temple and got to see how Japanese culture influences Zen Buddhism, and how Zen Buddhism influences Japanese culture.

After the Q&A period, we did 15 minutes of meditation. I was shocked that it was so short. I guess in the past the foreigners had difficulty sitting for very long so they decided to make it a short session. Lights out were at 9pm, but some girls in our room stayed up until 10:30 or so. We were woken up by a bell at 3:40am. Our first meditation session of the day was at 4:20, and this one was about 20 minutes. To give you some perspective on how much easier it was for us than it is for the monks, they meditate for 1 hour in the morning and 2 hours at night! We did 35 minuted total. I enjoyed the evening session, but I thought I was gonna puke during the morning session (dang morning sickness!). I got through it without having to walk out, but only just barely.

After the morning meditation, we went to the morning service. We offered some incense up to a painting of Dogen (the founder), and then listened to the monks chant for 15 minutes or so. Then we left for the tour. The tour was pretty cool, we got access to some restricted areas and saw some really cool things. I did not bring my camera so I don't have photos of the special back rooms, but they looked a bit like the normal rooms that are open to the public. One funny thing happened on the tour, though. When we were walking down some treacherous stairs, the head monk calls up, 'Laura-san, please hold on to the rail!' He wanted to make sure the pregnant lady did not tumble down the stairs, so he asked someone at the front of the group what my name was so I knew that he wanted me specifically to be extra careful. Isn't that sweet?

After the tour was breakfast. Breakfast was the last thing on our schedule before we were allowed to go. I was not feeling so well at breakfast time was approaching. I had eaten some crackers and cheerios earlier in the monrning in an attempt to settle my stomach, but to no avail. So I spent some quality time in the bathroom as everyone walked down to breakfast. When I exited the bathroom I saw that there were 2 monks waiting for me to escort me to the dining room. I was pleased to see that we got to take the elevator instead of having to go down 3 flights of stairs to meet up with everyone. Breakfast has lots of boiled vegetables, soup, and pickled things again. Even though I got a half portion I did not finish everything (again), but there was only a little left over.

After breakfast we left Eiheiji, got Starbucks, and Grainne and I did a bunch of work for the Car Rally. Everyone was exhausted from the long drive and getting up so early on Sunday morning, but it was an amazing once-in-a-lifetime experience that I am so happy to have participated in!

Here are some photos. They are small because I got them off my phone. We have better pictures of Eiheiji around here somewhere...

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Milk Was a Bad Choice

It is so hot here now! It is supposed to be in the 30s all week (Celsius, people! That means 85-95 degrees Fahrenheit). On Friday, Jonathan packed me a milk box for lunch, but it got warm sitting in my desk all day despite the ice pack he put in with it. The results were not pretty. Now I really know how Ron Burgundy felt on that fateful day.

The Anchorman on milk

In other news, the 2011 Car Rally was this weekend. Grainne, Jonathan, and I have been working hard planning this thing for a long time and we are glad to be done with it. Everyone had a great time and nobody got arrested or died, so I count this year as highly successful! We are exhausted from all the work we put in, and I don't plan on traveling any further than Obama this weekend.

Tomorrow will be the start of my 14th week (by the American method of counting) and I am noticing a definite baby bump. I can feel my uterus now. The baby is the size of a peach, and we can't wait to see it on the ultrasound next month. My next visit is on the 15th, and this time Jonathan will be able to come in and see the fetus in realtime on the ultrasound.

Well that is all for now. Take care and stay cool!

Laura (and Jonathan!)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


Hello all!

*Some pictures are uploaded to a photobucket account! There is a link to the right -->*

This past week was full of celebrations! First off, my wonderful cousin Amanda got engaged to her childhood sweetheart Josh. Next was Father's Day on Sunday, so Jonathan and I both skype called our spectacular dads. Monday was our 2 year anniversary, which will be properly celebrated at a later date when we have a bit more free time. Tuesday marked the beginning of summer and the end of my 3rd month of pregnancy by Japanese calculations (one more week to go in the US). There were/are lots of birthdays around this time of year as well.

So! Congratulations! Happy Birthday! Happy Father's Day! Happy Beginning of Summer! Woo hoo this morning sickness stuff is almost over (I hope)!

We told some of the JHS students that I am pregnant on Monday. They were studying the grammar "I'm happy/sad to hear that." So one of the teachers told me I could let them know about the baby and see if they used the correct grammar. It was pretty funny because the girls all freaked out when I told them I went to the doctor and saw a picture of my baby and pointed to my stomach. The boys acted confused and surprised. Then when the JTE asked them to respond properly a couple of wise guys said "I'm sad to hear that." This particular JTE is always thinking on her feet, and when the boys said that, she came back with, "Oh, I see. Your dream for the future was to marry Laura-sensei. So you are sad to hear she is married and having a baby." For the most part, the boys looked embarrassed and said "Oh, I made a mistake! I'm happy to hear that." But one guy said, "Yeah that's right. I am sad to hear that." Everyone cracked up.

Tuesday was a truly horrible day for morning sickness. I had to leave 2 classes to rush to the restroom. The female teachers were asking me all day if I was ok, and I just smiled. Although I have been miserable, I can feel that my womb has grown. It feels bigger (my books say it is the size of a large grapefruit), but it is too early to feel the baby moving around yet. I should not be able to feel the little guy/girl moving around for at least another month, and we won't know if it is a boy or girl until week 20 (2 months from now). Sorry everyone, I am not capable of giving you that information until the doctor gives it to me! The baby is the size of a "ripe plum" according to my books. That means it is 2.5 inches from head to tail (there is no tail that is just an expression).

I have a new ultrasound pic I will load soon. Also, I want to tell you all about the overnight stay I did on Saturday at Eiheiji, a zen temple/monastery. But I will leave that for a later post since this one is getting long. We are organizing the 2011 Car Rally, which is like a scavenger hunt in automobiles. 12 teams will come down south on Saturday morning (6/25) and complete tasks at 4 checkpoints, answer silly questions, and take ridiculous photos all day long. We will be having a huge after-party and giving out prizes in the evening at a cabin in the woods where most people will be staying overnight. So I have been a bit busy doing preparation for this event with Jonathan and Grainne.

Love you all!
Laura (and Jonathan!)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Morning Sickness

Morning sickness is inappropriately named. It should be called "All day and night long sickness where you feel nauseaous or are puking all the time." I guess that name is a little awkward, but at least the meaning is clear. In Japanese morning sickness is called 悪阻(つわり) "tsuwari." The first character means 'bad' or 'evil.' The second character means 'obstruct,' 'prevent,' 'thwart,' or 'impede.' I think it means that my unborn child is nefariously preventing me from enjoying food. Feel free to post your literal English translation for "tsuwari" in the comments section.

The topic of this post is the misery I am experiencing right now. Stupid hormones! The baby is not big enough for me to feel him/her moving around and being awesome, so the only physical evidence that I am pregnant is the "sick-to-my-stomach" feeling I have and my complete lack of desire for sustenance. Plus the whole no period thing. Also the fact that although I have lost 10 pounds since becoming pregnant (the whole not being able to eat thing), my stomach and chest are definitely getting bigger. Apparently this is good for my baby because if I lose weight all the toxins stored in the fat in my body are cleansed from my system when my body is forced to use that fat for energy. There are other theories for why women have morning sickness, but you can just google "morning sickness" or better yet type it into wikipedia to find out more.

Japanese people just tell me that morning sickness is a sign that my baby is healthy and that I should do my best to endure the next few weeks. I am willing to endure anything if it means that our child will be healthy, but I don't have to be happy about it. I have been pretty whiny recently since the puking is getting worse than it has been, but Jonathan is being a real champ about it and he is willing to buy anything I want in the hopes that I will be able to eat it (recently we have found success with hard boiled eggs, cashews, and orange juice).

Warning : I will talk about vomiting in the following paragraph so skip it if you have a delicate constitution!

I have found that any food I have puked up I have been unable to eat again. Notable examples include peanut butter sandwiches (peanut butter sticks to your throat coming back up as much as going down), bitter orange-like fruit and by extension all relatives of the orange, oatmeal, and a tiny cup of artificially flavored (coffee flavor) shaved ice with some ice cream in it. Here's a tip: don't eat anything that is largely comprised of artificial coloring if you may be feeling nauseous because it is really gross coming back up and is probably not supposed to be eaten anyway judging by how gross it looks in the toilet. Whew! Puking rant over!

So I guess things are going well for us now. I have a doctor's appointment after work today, and we might get a video with sound of the little dude's heartbeat, which would be awesome. I am surviving work, although it is awkward when you are puking at a squatter (Japanese style toilet that is like a urinal on the ground instead of on the wall) when a co-worker comes in. Then all the ladies in the office give you pitying looks all day and whisper "Are you ok?" Then they tell you about someone else they know who is pregnant now and say, "頑張ってローラさん!" Which roughly translates to "You can do it, Laura!" or "Hang in there, Laura!"

Well, that is all for today, folks! Love you and miss you all!
Laura (and Jonathan!)

Sunday, June 12, 2011

On Welfare in Japan

Hey folks,

So I have an interesting week 10 baby update for you. We're now on welfare! Yay! In Japan when a lady becomes knocked-up, her doctor gives her a form to take to the social welfare office. On Monday, 6/6, Jonathan and I went to the social welfare office to register our pregnancy. At the welfare office, the lady turns in the form and gets a book called the 母子手帳 (boshi techo) which means mother-and-child handbook. The mother and her doctor fill out this book with info about the pregnancy, subsequent delivery, and the child's health and immunizations until he or she turns 6 (years old, not months).

In the back of the book are coupons for free doctor's visits. Pregnant women have to go to the doctor a lot! I will be making at least 14 doctor's visits over the next 7 months, and I have 14 coupons in my book. Score! I have to go to the doctor once every 4 weeks during the first 23 weeks of pregnancy, then once every 2 weeks from weeks 24-35, then every week from 36 on. This is pretty standard in America as well, I believe. But it seems like a lot of doctor's visits to me.

Anywho, I am pretty happy about not having to pay for all of these doctor's visits. We had to pay for the first 2 visits before we got the book, but the total of both visits was under $100, and I got ultrasounds both times. BTW, we went to the doctor on Friday 6/3 and I have one baby growing in the incubator. Also, I got to see the little dude's heartbeat which was pretty awesome.

One last thing about the boshi techo. They could not find a bilingual one for me, so they gave me the Japanese language one and then an English translation of an old version from 2003. I was a little disappointed about this, but I don't think my town has ever had an English speaking mother. I know that none of the past 15 ALTs have had babies before, and I assumed that things would be a little more difficult for me, but I was hoping to get a bilingual book.

The lovely welfare office workers ordered a recent bilingual boshi techo for me and sent it in the mail. I believe we got it on Thursday, 6/9. I was pretty pleased about this. Also, they hand-wrote a nice note congratulating me on my pregnancy and thanking me for my patience as they obtained a new version of the handbook for me. Isn't that sweet?!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Ultrasound Pics

Week 6 (top)
Week 9 (bottom)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

June Update!

Hello folks, it has been a while since we last posted.

We have made some lifestyle changes that will result in exciting new blogging topics, so our June resolution is to update this blog more. And also post pictures. Also the content will be more personal and private than before, so prepare yourselves for the inner workings of our lives!

So our big news is... We are having a baby! Yay! We are only 10 weeks along now (11 weeks on the American scale) so we are still worried and nervous about the pregnancy. I prefer not to stress about things that are out of my control, but that also means that my brain is not really recognizing that we are pregnant yet in case we were to lose the baby. I have had no real motivation to read my pregnancy book or make any baby plans in case something terrible were to happen. Luckily I have Jonathan to read his daddy book and make me eat fruit and take my vitamins. He is the best pregnancy partner ever, and I am so lucky that he is not losing his mind like I am. I hope that I can relax and enjoy the baby once my first trimester is over. Here we have a little problem...

In the US, the first trimester is weeks 1 through 12 or 13. In Japan, the first trimester is weeks 0 through 15! It is an extra 3 or 4 weeks. That gives me 3 or 4 more weeks to worry! Also a Japanese pregnancy is 10 months not 9 months. lol How is this possible? Are Japanese women pregnant longer than American women? No. In both countries a pregnancy lasts about 40 weeks. In the US, we use 9 calendar months to mark the passage of time. In Japan, they measure pregnancy in lunar months. That means that each "month" is exactly 4 weeks or 28 days. So if you divide 40 by 4 you get 10 "months". Since I live in Japan, I will be having the baby in Japan, and I will be going to the doctor here 14 times over the next 7 months, I am going to use the Japanese scale to measure my pregnancy. If you get confused, just post a comment and ask me to clarify.

I will post ultrasound pics and some info about Japanese social welfare (all of my doctor's visits are free!) next time so stay tuned!

Laura (and Jonathan!)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Laura at School

Hello Family and Friends!

Happy New Year!

I hope you had a great fall and beginning of winter!

Sorry it has been so long since we last posted, but we have been extremely busy and extremely lazy in turns. I am back at elementary schools, junior high schools, and the kindergarten this semester, and I missed these kids so much!

Jonathan is loving his 2 jobs, and will be continuing them for at least a few more months, probably through June.

I wanted to post this cute link to the website for my Monday school, Natasho Junior High School. There is a picture of me taken today teaching the 8th graders a lesson about a blind boy names Aragaki Tsutomu.

Also, below the picture of me teaching you can see my students doing fun stuff and the giant pile of snow in front of the school! We had between 1 and 2 feet of snow over the weekend, and Japan looks like a winter wonderland. On the down side, Jonathan has to walk to the train station since riding his bike would be too dangerous on the ice.

We think we will be staying in Japan for another year! So our plans are to be here through July of 2012. We love and miss you all, but we are enjoying our life here at this point in time. Who knows what the future can hold?

Laura (and Jonathan!)

Well, we love you and miss you all!