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!)