Monday, October 5, 2015

Time for a new chapter...

I've been home for almost 2 months now, it's time to wrap up this expat blog.  I'm stopping with a nice round number, this is my 100th post.  I'm not sure if I'll start another blog to replace this one.  Let's just see what I wind up doing with myself.

I really believe that by doing this blog I get to write my own story.  The adventures that I'll remember are the ones I've written.  The way I'll remember is the way I've chosen to write it.  Because of that, having the proper ending to the story is important to me but also really difficult to do.  Nothing ruins a book or a movie faster than a lame ending.  I feel like this is my version of an indie movie where nothing is really quite resolved since I'm still living the adventure and even though I'm no longer living in Japan, that experience has forever impacted me as a person.

People always ask me if I'm glad I went to Japan.  Yes, yes and YES!  It was an awesome experience.  I learned so much and grew as a person.  I loved living in a foreign culture.  I got to experience so many things that I would not have been able to as a tourist and I feel that I have a much better understanding of Japanese culture because of it. 

With that being said, I'm so glad to be home.  It is a little odd being back.  Everything is the same but I'm quite different, and not just because I lived in Japan for a year but I also came home with a baby.  I have been trying to figure out how to set up my new life here and how I fit into the places and peoples lives that I left.  I think that is something difficult to do when you have a baby, but even more difficult when you have a baby when living abroad for a year.  I'm starting to find a routine and make a nitch for Wren and I.

Trying to explain how I feel is difficult.  The closest I can come to is the feeling after you just finish reading a really good series.  One with a ton of books that takes you long enough to read that you really feel like you know the characters and that they are friends.  The type you stay up until 3 o'clock in the morning to finish because you have to know how it ends.  When you are all done, you are happy that it all worked for them out but not sure what to do next.  That sweet but every so slightly bitter feeling where you miss the characters in you book.  That's kind-of how I feel.  Like Japan was just one crazy dream and I'm now back to my real life.

It's been a little difficult to stay connected to that experience but it is something I would really like to try to do.  Japan was too special and meaningful to let it fade away.  If I could go back in time and talk to myself when Jeff and I were discussing whether we should go or not I would definitely tell my younger self to go.

I hope to go back to Japan some day and show my daughter where she was born and teach her a little about where I lived for a year.  I would like to go back and see some of the people I left behind and dearly miss.  A piece of my heart will always be in Japan.  Sayonara!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

My untold story

Let me start this story by saying that it is very personal to me. It is not the most cheerful story but I feel that is important story to tell and is the real reason that Jeff and I went to Japan.

In September of 2013, Jeff and I decided to start trying to have a baby. By that point Jeff and I had been married for almost 11 years. We spent a long time thinking about our lives together before we made the decision to try to have a child. Because we had been married for so long most people assumed that we were not going to have kids. When I got pregnant the first month that we were trying we  were super excited. We felt like we had a fun secret that we were keeping to ourselves.

Keeping things a secret stopped being fun once I was feeling more of the side effects of pregnancy. Not telling people what was happening started feeling a little isolating.  I was tired and nauseous a lot. One of my employees was worried that I was dying of cancer and made me promise that I was not hiding a terminal illness.  I told very few people what was happening until Thanksgiving. At that point I was 11 weeks pregnant. We told our families over Thanksgiving weekend. They were shocked and happy and surprised.  It was nice to finally tell people.

The next week I had my 12 week check up.  When they did the ultrasound, the baby had no heartbeat. The doctor said that it looked like development stopped around week nine.  They recommended that I have a procedure done called a D &C to remove the dead baby since it did not seem to want to come out on its own.  They said they would call and schedule an appointment for the procedure.

Jeff and I were in such shock that neither of us cried and we both went to work after the doctor appointment.  We really weren't able to process what happened and what it meant.  I was able to get the D&C scheduled for the next day. I told my boss what had happened. He was one of the few people at work who knew I was pregnant. He almost cried when I told him. I just felt numb.

After the procedure and once we told family what had happened Jeff and I both said that we were OK but we really weren't. I can speak for myself and saying that I was really sad once I was able to process what had happened. Even though I did not lose someone that I knew, I felt the loss of a possible future. I took it much harder than I was willing to admit to myself. And I think it took me a long time to actually get sad so it was harder to recognize.  I just kept telling myself that I was fine even though I wasn't.  I didn't give myself permission to grieve and be sad.  That was a mistake.

Shortly after all of this happened my work and get a reorganization.  Part of that reorganization was a change in my role and similar roles in other departments. I know longer had my employees. They took away my work kids. After the loss of my baby it was more than I can handle. I took it very very personally even thought it was not personal.  I was mad and sad all the time.  But mostly, I felt alone and isolated. I didn't know how to answer simple questions like "how are you doing?".  You can just say "I'm feeling really depressed because I lost a pregnancy you didn't even know I had".  No one wants to hear that.  I felt like this huge thing happened to me but I couldn't talk about it.  I didn't know how.  I felt like I was pretending to be someone I was not just to get through the day.  It sucked.

Jeff and I went on a vacation to Chile.  Planning it gave us something positive to focus on and I felt really good while we were out of town.  Shortly after we came back I started struggling again.  I had a really bad day at work and said "F*** it!  Lets just pack up and leave the country.  I need a change.  Jeff, can you get a job in Japan?"  And Jeff started looking for jobs in Japan.

Even after we moved I felt like I couldn't talk about the failed pregnancy.  I was afraid it would jinx things or something.  I don't know.  Its not something people talk about.  I had a huge spike in my anxiety level every time I went to the doctor while I was pregnant until I saw the heartbeat on the ultrasound.  I don't think I really knew how much this affected me until after Wren was born healthy.  I can see it all in hindsite.

I guess i wanted to tell this story just in case someone reads it who had a similar experience and perhaps this will help them grieve or know it's OK to talk about it or maybe some one will read this who knows someone who lost a pregnancy will understand a little better what they are going through and that it is a hard thing to go through.  Way more difficult than I expected.

Anyhow.  My untold story has now been told.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

International travel with a 2 month old

I think I have already covered the importance of making sure you have a passport?  If you somehow missed that, go back two blogs.

You need many diapers.  More than will fit in a diaper bag.  Have a carry on bag with extra diapers, changes of clothes and anything you NEED when you get where you are going for the baby.  Fortunately we had everything we needed and packed a ton of diapers.  Wren hates to be wet.

The first flight was a short one, just a quick hop from Hiroshima to Seoul Korea.  Customs was quick and easy.  I was worried about my small cooler full of milk for Wren but they had no problems with it.  The next minor hurdle was the car seat.  We ordered the car seat from Germany (even though it's sold in the US, the shipping was cheaper).  For some reason, even though it has the certification to make it airline safe, it doesn't have the right sticker on it so everyone gets all weird about it.  The stewardesses took our car seat and insisted on trying to install it themselves and had us board just carrying the baby later.  They said it wouldn't work with their seats be cause they were trying to install it backwards.  Eventually they let Jeff install it and all was good.

Wren was great the whole flight.  She was a little hungry as we were boarding which was perfect.  I kept giving her small sips of milk from the bottle to keep her from totally loosing it as we were taxiing and as soon as we took off I let her drink as much as she wanted.  The swallowing helped her sinuses to equalize from the pressure change and so she had no problems at all.  I did a quick diaper change on the seat between Jeff and I and that worked well.  I woke her up right before landing and she polished off another bottle on the way down.  I don't think she cried at all the whole flight which was a huge success.

We had a long layover in Seoul.  The first order of business was for us to get our tickets fixes.  None of us were seated together which seemed like it would be a bit of a problem.  The only way to get the tickets fixed was to go to the boarding gate.  We went there but the previous flight was a different airline.  They couldn't help us but the 4 Korean ladies who were at the gate decided Wrens big blue eyes were the prettiest they've ever seen.  Jeff and I joke that now that we are home she is just another white baby while she was in Asia she was adored by everyone, lol!  After a long time the right people showed up at the gate and we got our tickets fixed.

Jeff and Wren in the Seoul Airport

Wren bundled up on the plane, it was cold

There was a little less confusion with the car seat but they still frowned at it.  We did the same routine for take off and all was good.  We made it until about half way through the 10-ish hour flight before things took a turn for the worse.  Right when everyone is sleeping, the lights are off and the plane is quiet, Wren woke up and was angry.  She used to get in to a state that we called fuss lock.  She is hungry so she is crying but you can't feed her until she calms down because she wont eat.  But she wont calm down because she is hungry.  You see where this is going?  So, Wren was screaming for all she was worth while the whole plane was trying to sleep.  I couldn't get her to stop.  I was so tired at this point because I hadn't slept more than a couple hours in the last 4 days that I was really having a hard time functioning. I was just about ready to start crying too when Jeff took Wren and got her to calm down.  It seemed like she was crying for ever, but it was only about 20 minutes.  Most people seemed to have headphones or ear plugs but I still felt awful.

The rest of the flight was without incident and the final leg, San Francisco to Boise was uneventful.  The flight was delayed about an hour and a half but that was the only point of interest.  Wren was pretty quiet.  I was a total sleep deprived Zombie at this point.  In Boise we collected our luggage but the box that had the bassinet was missing.  I just wanted to go home so bad and shower and sleep.  Jeff talked to the lost luggage guy and found our bag in San Francisco still.  It would be on the next flight to Boise.  So we took a cab and went home.

Wren is home.

I'm a little fuzzy on the details but I found towels in a box that we had left in the house and so we all managed to get clean.  There was also a quick trip to the grocery store to get something for dinner and some things to survive the next couple of days like plastic cups so we could drink water and things like that.

Since we didn't have a the bassinett yet, I made up a drawer as a baby bed.  It worked for one night.  I think she's too big for that drawer now.  Makes me realize how behind with this I am, oops!

Well, that gets us back to Boise.  I only have a couple more stories to tell then it's time to retire this blog.  I'm a bit sad it's coming to an end but I am no longer an expat in Japan!

Monday, August 31, 2015

The Hiroshima Airport garden - Sankeien

I'm sure Jeff and I aren't the only people to get stuck at the Hiroshima airport, otherwise why would they have a garden out there?  The airport is pretty isolated but there is a large, beautiful (but not very stroller friendly) garden.  Jeff, Wren and I checked it out on the way to dinner when we were stuck in Japan (see previous post if that statement confuses you).

There are a ton of steps so Jeff and I had to pick up the stroller in places and at other times we would just take turns walking down certain paths while the other person hung out with Wren in the stroller.  It was really lovely.  It was pretty hot and humid which might be why we had the place to ourselves.  No one else was there. 

Here are some of my favorite pictures, they are just from my phone but I think they still look okay.

To anyone with a long layover in Hiroshima or someone who just wants a little time outside before being stuck in a flying metal tube for several hours, I highly recommend taking a couple minutes to check out the garden.  It is about a 4 minute walk from the airport.  You can see the flight control tower from the garden which is an interesting juxtaposition of nature and man.  Unfortunately, with the lighting the picture I took of that did not really turn out. 

This was my last little bit of Japan.

As a side note, there is also a park out there that we walked through in the morning.  It had some tennis courts and fields and a nice walking path.  My favorite part was a little bridge across some water.  Here's the picture of that.

Monday, August 24, 2015

How to get stuck in Japan

Before you think I'm mean for posting this, Jeff agreed that it was too good of a story not to share.

Japanese people love their paperwork.  There was a ton of documents to organized after we had Wren and another huge pile to get a passport for her.  It's not surprising that there was another huge pile to leave the country.  Jeff and I had a deal that I'd organize everything and make sure it was easy to pack and we had the necessary gear for the baby if he took care of the paperwork.

When you travel with an infant, the amount of luggage you find yourself traveling with is HUGE.  We needed to take what ever we would need to get us through about three weeks in Boise before the rest of our stuff in Japan gets delivered.  We of course could buy stuff once we got here but it seemed silly to buy stuff we already had so we had a lot of luggage (A total of 10 bags.  One checked bag for me, one checked bag for Jeff, one checked bag of baby blankets and bedding, one checked box containing a small bassinet, a carry on bag with the laptops, a carry on bag full of Wren's clothes and extra diapers (you need a lot of diapers on a 24 hour travel day), the diaper bag, a small cooler with milk for the baby in it, and Jeff and I each had a small backpack with stuff to survive the flight.)  Oh yeah, and a stroller and a car seat with a baby in it.

So, there we are with our small mountain of luggage trying to check into the flight when Jeff turns to me and looks like he is going to through up.  When I asked what was wrong he explained that he didn't have Wren's passport.  He said he was about 99% sure it was still in the printer that the shippers packed up 2 days earlier, which was in a box on it's way to Boise somewhere...

We stepped out of line (with our heaps of luggage) and Jeff started making calls.  I couldn't help since my phone was deactivated for Japan 2 days earlier.  It was about 6:30 at night so getting a hold of people was difficult.  It became clear really quickly that we were not getting on the flight we had tickets for so we got that canceled. 

The next step was making sure we were not sleeping in the Airport.  This was a reasonable concern.  The next day was the Anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and most of the hotels in the area were booked.  We knew that Micron was having problems finding problems for people who were in town that week and several had to travel long distances to get hotel rooms.  Fortunately my Japanese teacher Ito-san had come to the airport to wish us save travels and say goodbye and she was able to make a couple of calls and get us a hotel right near the airport. 

By about 9:00 we were able to get to the hotel and check in.  Fortunately they still had room service available since all the restaurants had closed.  We had some food as Jeff continued to make calls late in to the night.  Our shipment was in Tokyo and it looked like our most realistic option to get home was to go to Osaka the next day and go to the embassy to get an emergency passport and then fly out of Osaka.  This meant taking a taxi (30 min) to the train station and taking the train to Osaka (2.5 hours with one transfer) and then another taxi to the embassy (30 min) all with a ton of luggage and a baby.  Things were looking pretty bad so we were trying to go through luggage to see what we could ditch at the hotel so we could actually get through the train stations.  Around midnight we gave up and went to bed but I don't think either of us slept much.

First thing in the morning Jeff was back on the phone talking to the embassy.  Things were looking better.  We could get an emergency passport in the same day if we could get to the embassy by 3:00PM.  This was great.  We talked to the hotel and got the room for a second night, then we didn't have to haul all our luggage with us, we could just go there and back again in one long day and fly out of Hiroshima.

We had a quick breakfast and were literally on our way out the door to head to the train station when Jeff got a call back from the shipping company.  Yes, the located our shipment in Tokyo and looked in the box that Jeff had told them contained the printer and found the passport!!!  We didn't need to go to Osaka, they would overnight us the passport, YAY!!!

Since there was nothing to do at that point but wait, we took a walk.

Obon, which is the biggest holiday of the year in Japan started the following Monday.  This was making it really difficult for us to get rebooked on a flight home.  They were saying they could get us on a flight on Sunday... it was Thursday and I really didn't want to stay that long in the hotel airport with a baby.

While Jeff was looking for other flight options, the shipping people called back and said that there was a problem with overnighting the passport.  They would have to either send it slower or faster.  They said we could get it that night at 8:00PM.  Sweet!  This meant that the morning flight which was the last one with availability was possible!!!  We could get home on Friday!

Everything was looking so much better by the time we went to dinner that night.  There is actually a very nice garden right next to the airport that we checked out on our way to dinner (yes, our last dinner in Japan was at the airport since it was really the only close restaurants besides an Italian place).  I'll post pics of the garden another day.  The passport showed up as expected and we got on our flights and made it home with only one small hitch...  The baby bassinet got misplaced when we transferred in San Francisco and did not make it to Boise.  We got it the following day but Wren spent her first night in her new home sleeping in a drawer.  More on traveling with a two month old later.  This thing has gotten long enough.  Makes me stressed just re-reading what we did, haha!

It's good to be home!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Monday, August 3, 2015

Elevators,where are you?

I have had a vague understanding that there was a limited number of elevators in public areas in Japan. This is become far more clear now that I have a baby and I am taking her in a stroller everywhere. I now know why most women in Japan wear their babies in a pack or a sling. It is ridiculously hard to find an elevator and strollers are a pain to get places with (but really handy when you want to not have a baby attached to you).  

Train stations are no exception. Some smaller train stations do not even have an elevator. I have found out that public buildings less than five stories tall are not required to be wheelchair accessible or to have an elevator.  

I spent a stupidly long amount of time looking for an elevator and the train station today. Because it took so long to find one I was in a hurry. In my haste, I got on the wrong train for the first time since living in Japan. Unfortunately, I was also not paying attention and it took me a long time to realize I was on the wrong train. Whoops!

Friday, July 31, 2015

Saying sayonara

This has been a very difficult week for me.  We are wrapping up our year here in Japan and starting our preparations to move back to Boise.  Many of the preparations are logistical.  I've closed out my Japanese bank account and we are working with the moving company to get things shipped back to the US, on Monday we are closing out our cell phones and changing our residency. 

The part that has really been difficult is saying goodbye to the wonderful people that I have come to know and love while living in Japan this year.  We've went to a dinner and said goodbye to the hiking club and introduced them to Wren.  She was on every hike with the hiking club that we went on, I found out I was pregnant shortly after our first hike.  I said goodbye to the ladies at the tea ceremony class.  I enjoyed learning with them every 2 weeks.  They were super sweet and were also happy to see Wren (I had not been back since I had her).  I said goodbye to my coworkers at the YMCA and they also met Wren for the first time.  I have to laugh at the number of Japanese ladies who worked there who said they had no idea I was pregnant.  I felt HUGE, but I guess it wasn't as obvious to them.  I stopped working there 6 weeks before my due date so I guess I still got a bit bigger but I am still amazed.

The two hardest people to say goodbye to were my Greek friend Despina who I met through the YMCA and Ito-san, my Japanese language teacher.  Despina has an infectious enthusiasm and energy that just makes my heart happy.  Her youthful innocence (shes about 12 years younger than me) was refreshing and wonderful.  I hope that she can stay so sweet!  Ito-san has taught me not only Japanese language and culture (she also took me to the flower arranging class and tea ceremony class but also talked about Japanese culture during our lessons) but she became like family to me.  Today was our last lesson together.  She is the most thoughtful person ever!  She arranged special things for my family when they visited, completely unsolicited based on little details she remembered from me talking about my family.  She took a Japanese children's book and translated it so I can read it to Wren in.  She also asked if she could read books over Skype to her.  Just writing about these goodbyes has me crying again!

I think it is difficult to make friends when living in a foreign country with a language barrier, but I am hoping that the friends that I have made will be friends for life.  Thank goodness for modern technology that makes the world a little smaller.

As much as I will miss pieces of Japan, I am looking forward to going home and enjoying my American friends and my dogs.  I think my dog sitter is ready to be relieved of her burden.  I'm sure I'll have another post or two when I get home.  There are a few things that I meant to write about (or have been trying to bully Jeff in to writing about) but this chapter in my life is winding down and making room for the next one.  I'll be flying back to Boise late on August 5th.  I'm sure I'll have a few tips on flying with a 2 month old by the time the travel is done.  I'm not looking forward to trying to figure out what we need to take with us for 3 weeks to keep Wren happy (what we can't take on the airplane will take about 3 weeks to get to us in Boise, which is about forever if you want it but don't have it and don't want to buy another one). 

We start packing things up tomorrow and the movers come on Monday.  This has been an amazing year!

Sayonara Japan!  I will miss you!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015


Himeji-Jo is supposedly Japan's most beautiful castle.  It restored recently and is about an hour and a half from Higashihiroshima by train. It is really a same but somehow Jeff and I never made it to see the castle.  When Jeff's mom visited a couple of weeks ago they went to the castle and said it really was quite beautiful.  I decided to stay home with Wren that day since it was supposed to be 88' and 85% humidity.  The "feels like" on my weather app was 99'F, too hot for a 6 week old baby. 

Last Saturday, I got up early and went to the castle while Jeff watched Wren.  It was great!  It was a little strange being away from the baby.  I had only gone out to dinner with out her before and there is a big difference between a meal and a half day trip but I think it was good for Jeff to have some time with his daughter and good for me to have a little break from my mom duties.

It was still extremely hot at the castle when I went.  Jeff and his mom went on a week day and it was much less crowded for them.  It was pretty packed when I was there.  To get to the top of the castle you have to go up 6 flights of very steep stairs (they are almost as steep as a ladder).  There is really only enough room for 2 people to go up or down at any one time so it only takes a couple slow people to really make the trip to the top take forever.  I had to laugh as I was standing in the polite slow moving mass of sweating humanity making my way through the castle and appreciate how patient Japanese people are.

You also have to take your shoes off in the castle.  You are handed a bag to put your shoes in and they collect the bags as you exit.  They don't want people to scuff up the newly refinished floors with their yucky shoes.

Here are some of my favorite pictures.  I grabbed the best ones from both Jeff's visit and mine.

Here is the main entrance to the castle.  There is no direct route to the actual castle, the paths to the castle wind around.  This was done for defense, it made it very difficult for attackers to get to the main keep.
This shows a little bit of how elevated the castle is from the surrounding area.
Making your way to the keep.  You can see the holes in the wall to the left, defenders of the castle can shoot arrows down on the invaders walking where this picture was taken.  This is very typical of the path to the castle. 

I just liked this picture.
You have entered the no-shoe zone!
Behind Eloise, you can see the really steep stairs.
This picture shows the inside of the castle and also one of the bizarre things that you see often in Japan, people wearing towels on their heads when it's hot to soak up their sweat.  It looks really hot to me and an interesting fashion choice.
Looking up at the roofs

There was also a very nice garden on the castle grounds.  Unfortunately, due to the crowds I was unable to check out the garden but Jeff and Eloise did.

It was a great day and a nice last excursion before I leave the country.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Japanese photo shoot

Before we left Japan, I really wanted to get a family photo taken in kimonos.  There are a ton of photo studios in Japan and many of them have formal kimonos that you can rent and they help you get them on correctly and take your photo.  Today was our day!

We walked down to the studio, it was less than a half mile away.  They immediately knew who we were since there aren't that many white people that show up and we had a reservation.  They never even asked who we were, lol.  They gave us a catalog with the different kimonos at different price points in it.  Jeff and I each picked a kimono and then they showed us the options for Wren.  Because she is so tiny the didn't have anything that would fit her but it seem like with the babies they put them in these rather large looking kimonos but they are actually rather small at the waist and don't wrap around that far, they are just long and have enormous sleeves.

Once the outfits were picked out, Jeff watched Wren while they got to work on me ;-).  First they had me put on the equivalent of Japanese underwear, a thin white cotton robe that ties.  Over top of that I put on a pink dressing gown type robe.  Then then started working on my hair and makeup.  One lady did my makeup at the same time another did my hair.  I'm not sure how they didn't get in each others way, it was pretty impressive. 

Once they had me painted and polished they got me dressed.  The first step was to smoosh my chest and then pad out my middle so that I was as cylindrical as possible.  An hourglass figure is not what you want in a kimono.  All my efforts to loose my pregnancy weight were wasted for this outfit, haha!  They literally wrapped two hand towels around my waist to make me more columnar.  Once I was all padded up they put on the under kimono.  This has a fancy collar that is visible.  On top of that went strip of cloth that looks like 3 other under kimonos but is just 2 inches of layered cloth.  The kimono goes on top of that.  The length is one size fits most.  They adjust the kimono so that the bottom is the correct length and put a tie around the waist.  They then arrange everything so that it is smooth, add a few more ties and then the obi (the wide belt).  They used a really fancy tie to that there were 3 parts to it and the whole thing went around me a couple times.  The whole process is really quite impressive.

Once I was all dressed, it was Jeff's turn and I watched Wren.  They gave him a special t-shirt to wear and then some padding over his chest and stomach.  On top of that went an under kimono, a kimono-like robe with an obi and a skirt-like thing that went over the kimono.  A second robe went on top (that reminded me of a graduation gown) and it had a fancy chain that went across and connected the two sides.  We both had tabi socks and sandals to wear.

Once he was dressed we got Wren dressed up and they started taking pictures.  They did a really good job of trying to get her to look at the camera.  It's so hard with such a young baby, she isn't even 7 weeks yet.  They took a couple pictures of us outside, and then inside with two backgrounds.  The strange one was they had me sit on a stool, they clothes pinned the kimono so that it looked perfect and then they put this big cushion on my lap and tied it behind me.  They then put a little chair on the cushion and put Wren in the chair and had me hold her head up.  They took the kimono that she was wearing earlier and then tied the whole thing around me and her so that it was up under her chin.  I couldn't move at all.  It was a strange way to do things but it didn't look bad when we saw the pictures.  Still not my favorite.

Once we were done with all the pictures we expected to take, they asked if they could take some of just Wren.  We couldn't really argue with that.  They put her in two different outfits.  One was a little fairy dress with wings and the other was a little dinosaur type outfit which was a hood and diaper cover that were green with colored spines.  It was adorable. 

After all the photos were done we got back in our regular clothes.  I counted 27 pieces of clothing as they were helping me undress but it's possible there was more since they took it all apart so quickly.  It was a rather impressive pile when they were done.

We then got to look at all of the photos.  Our original plan of just getting one was quickly tossed as they really turned out cute and the ones of just Wren were fantastic.  The photo studio asked if they could use the photos of Wren in the studio (they had pictures of other kids hanging up, too) Jeff and I said that was fine.  I don't think they get that many blue eyed cuties so I think for them it was a bonus to get to use the photos.

All in all, it was a fun time and the pictures turned out great.  Wren was a really good sport about the whole thing.  She has been super tolerant of the goofy things we have asked her to put up with.  We pick up the professional photos in 2 weeks and we also get a digital copy so I will post them once I get them.  In the mean time, I hope you enjoy these lesser quality photos that Jeff and I took.

Jeff and Wren, so Cute!!!

Me and my little girl

I was talking to Wren in this one and Jeff caught me

Wren in the little monster costume

Almost a smile...

She kept getting lost in her hood and like checking out the inside of it, it was really cute

The ladies taking photos of Wren, it took a lot of people to keep her happy and looking the right direction.  They had far better luck than I did when taking passport photos, haha!

Hmmm...  This one is out of order but too sleepy to fix it.  This is the full view of Jeff's outfit.  It was pretty classy.
They had a little mini-crib on wheels that was super handy for having a place for Wren to hang out and for getting her clothes and diaper changed.  They also had a ton of fluffy little girl dresses.  You can see some of them behind Jeff.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

July 7th - Tanabata

Tanabata is a Japanese festival on July 7th.  It has origins in China.  It celebrates the meeting of the deities Orihime and Hikoboshi (represented by the start Vega and Altair).  According to legend the Milky Way separates these lovers, and they are allowed to meet only once a year on the 7th day of the 7th month. 

In Japan people celebrate by writing wishes on small pieces of paper and hanging them from bamboo, sometimes with other decorations.  I saw these at the grocery store and also at the hospital when I took Wren for her 1 month check up.  (She is very strong and healthy but a little bit small.  No surprise there given how short Jeff and I are.)  My Japanese language teacher brought me bamboo and some decorations and some wishes that she had written and some blank pieces of paper for Jeff and I to write our own wishes on.  It was super sweet.  It also reminded me a little of decorating a Christmas tree, hahaha!

Here is the bamboo with all it's decorations, isn't it cute!

This is a wish that Ito-san wrote for Wren.  It is my understanding that is says that she hopes Wren will grow up and be healthy.

This is a wish that Ito-san wrote for me.  I think it says that she hopes we will meet again (after I move back to Boise).
Jeff and I wrote a wish for Wren.  I wrote one for Jeff and he wrote one to me.  I also wrote one for Ito-san.  I am really going to miss her!

I thought this was a really cute tradition and I enjoyed it.  Since Ito-san was nice enough to share it with me, I thought I'd share it with you!  ;-)

Tuesday, July 7, 2015


So, in order to get Wren back to the Unites States with us, we need to get her a passport.  In order to get a passport we need to "present her at a US Embassy" with the necessary paperwork.  The nearest Embassy for us is in Osaka, which is about 2.5 hours by Shinkansen (fast train) and 3.5 hours by car. 

The paperwork was non-trivial.  I pawned this off on Jeff.  I figured if I could go through pregnancy and birth in a foreign country, he could deal with the paperwork.  Fortunately, his office helped him get the paperwork started.  First, the birth had to be reported at the city office in Higashihiroshima.  This took Jeff 2 days, 4 trips back home for more paperwork and about 5 hours.  From this we got a birth certificate and Wren's residence card.  Once he had these pieces, he contacted the Embassy and set up an appointment.

We had about a dozen pages of paperwork that needed photocopied in triplicate.  Jeff filled them all out so I know very little about what it asked other than every place I had ever lived and what dates.  This he asked me.  The part that I had to do was get a passport photo for Wren.  I downloaded an App to get the sizing correct and her head and eyes where they needed to be in the photo.  It took 3 tires to get an App that would work.  One wanted to send me a photo to a US address.  The second kept having "under construction errors" and the third finally would work.  She had to have a white background so I put her on a white blanket.  There couldn't be shadows on her face, her eyes had to be open and she had to be facing straight ahead directly in to the camera that was directly in front of her face.  This was not an easy thing to do with a baby less than a month old.  Her head always wants to roll to the side and if her eyes are open, she's wiggling.  After many many attempts I got a photo that I thought would work. 

The photos we used for Wren's passport.  The App puts them in this format so they can be printed in 4x6 size and have  2" photos

We decided to drive even though it would take longer because all appointments were in the morning.  This meant that we would do an over night trip.  That long with a tiny baby means gear.  The additionaly baby stuff made driving the easier option.

The drive went ok with only one stop for a changing and feeding.  Japanese rest stops are amazing.  they are every 20k, most have food (all have vending machines) and the bathrooms are spotlessly clean.  They even have fresh flowers in them.  We got to the hotel really late and Jeff went on a quest for food.  He found a "Happy Australian" restaurant which was actually an Outback Steakhouse and we had bacon cheese burgers with fries.  They were AMAZING!  I miss western style hamburgers and this was the first chain restaurant we have been to in Japan (with the exception of getting a couple of milk shakes and fires at McDonalds). 

Jeff and Wren in our hotel with Osaka out the window

We got up the next morning and headed off to the Embassy.  There was a line out front and security guards.  We left our cell phones at the hotel since the website said we could not take them in.  It didn't say that the stroller had to stay outside but apparently it did.  There were two other strollers out there with ours.  We got through security and then went up to the correct floor of the building.  There were three windows that reminded me of movie theater windows.  We gave them our documents and waited around.  They checked our information and made a couple minor corrections.  At one point I had to hold Wren up so the guy on the other side of the window could see her and we had to raise our right hands and swear that everything was correct to the best of our knowledge and Wren was the baby we claimed she was.  That was it.  Very anti-climatic.  Presenting your baby at the Embassy sounds much more interesting than it was.  The whole thing took an hour.  Wren was great the whole time and only started loosing it on the way out in the elevator.  We rolled the stroller back to the hotel (she is happy when we are moving) and made it back to the hotel where we changed and fed her.  We had late checkout so we took a quick nap before leaving the hotel.

We hopped over to a subway station and headed over to Osaka-Jo or Osaka Castle.  It is huge.  The moat and surrounding grounds are very impressive.  We decided not to go inside because it would be difficult with the stroller and we were short on time.  We wandered around for a bit, ate a couple of pork filled buns (which are delicious!) and then Wren decided it was time for another feeding/change.  We took care of her and by then it was time to head back to the car and back towards home.  The drive back was rather uneventful and the leftover spagetti I had waiting in the fridge when we got home was great since it was pretty late. 

Jeff with Wren on her first subway ride

This is a building on the castle grounds with the city in the background.  I love this photo of old and new.

Jeff and Wren in front of the castle

The castle where you can see it a little better

Me being silly

The castle from the far side of the moat

It was a really good first trip with a baby and has given us more confidence to go other places and do things.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Staying in the Hospital in Japan

Wow, finding the time to write this is a little more difficult than I thought it would be.  I think I can get better at making time now that I have a better idea of Wren's schedule but I think my pace is going to slow a little.  Let's see if I can finish up the story of the hospital stay quickly.

Going back to where the last blog left off.  I had just given birth and the hospital let Jeff and I stay in the labor room so that Jeff could have some time with Wren before they kicked him out of the hospital.

Jeff and I were able to hang out in the labor room until 4:00 PM the following day when I was moved to a group room.  All of the private rooms were occupied.  The group room consisted of 4 women with beds and newborns, a bathroom.  The shower was down the hall and you had to sign up for it and reserve a time.  They also took Wren that night, from around midnight until 6 AM so that I could get some sleep but since I was sharing a room with 3 other people that had babies crying at all hours of the night and lights going on and off all the time, I really didn't sleep much.  The biggest bummer with the group room was the visiting policy.  No visitors were allowed in the group room.  Jeff was only allowed in the lobby but Wren wasn't allowed in the lobby.  This meant that Jeff couldn't even hold his daughter until I was moved in to a private room.

The following day I was moved to a private room.  This was much better.  It was quiet and I had my own bathroom and shower.  Jeff could come and visit me in the private room from 1 PM to 8 PM.  This worked some days but not all of them since they scheduled things in the afternoon.  Every day there were a couple of scheduled activities from a tutorial on how to bathe the baby, care of the baby after leaving the hospital and things like that.

Here are some of the things that struck me as really odd about the Japanese hospital that go 180' against what they tell you to do in the US. 

The baby bedding was big fluffy quilts.  In the US this is considered to be a smothering hazard and they say never use quilts or have anything fluffy in the crib.

They keep the babies really warm.  The hospital was extremely hot and then the bundled up the poor kids so much.  With reading about SIDS they say not to have the babies overly hot when they sleep.  Apparently they have different ideas in Japan.  Also, in the US you usually cover a babies head to keep them warm.  The little heads were the only part of the babies that were not covered in Japan.

In the US you are not supposed to submerge the baby in water until the umbilical stump falls off.  They submerged Wren in water every day for a bath starting on the morning after she was born.  This was actually a little strange. You were supposed to drop your baby off for bath time every morning at 8:45 and they would check out the baby, weigh it and then return it to you about an hour later.  No one explained this to me so of course I didn't do it.  They got really annoyed when I didn't drop her off.  Not sure how I was supposed to have known.  Oh well!  I got it figured out after they got mad at me.

The clothing for the babies was HUGE.  The poor little things were just swimming in their little kimonos.

For comparison, here she is the same day as we were leaving the hospital in a western style outfit.

Another thing that was strange was the insistence of feeding the baby a bottle the first couple days.  The thought in the US seems to be that you just nurse the baby if you are planning on breastfeeding and your milk will come in.  The baby will loose some weight but that's ok.  Once you get the hang of feeding, the weight will be re-gained.  If you bottle feed at an early age it could make it harder for the baby to learn to nurse well.  This was not the way it is looked at in Japan.  They were very insistent that Wren was bottle fed in addition to nursing.  Even once my milk came in, it took a lot of convincing to let me nurse her without supplementing with a bottle.  It was very frustrating.

The other thing they did that was very frustrating was insisting that the baby be fed at least every 3 hours.  It didn't matter if it was the middle of the night and she was happily sleeping.  I had to wake her up and feed her.  Wren is a fairly sound sleeper so to get her to wake up and eat was very difficult and took a long time.  The nurses would wait around to make sure I woke her up.  It meant that both Wren and I did not get enough sleep.  Babies need a lot of sleep, I think not letting them keep to their own schedule is a mistake.

In keeping with the all natural theme, I was given very little pain medicine after the birth.  With each meal I was given a pill to help stop contractions and an antibiotic for the first 3 days.  I was given a pain pill only if I complained a bunch for the first 2 days and that was it, despite the long line of stitches in a sensitive location.  It just seemed like they made things more uncomfortable than necessary for no reason.

Speaking of uncomfortable...

That tiny square is about 2 inches thick and that is the pillow you get at the hospital.  It is filled with little round beads of some sort and crinkles when you move.  I had Jeff bring me a pillow from home.  What they did have was an awesome pillow for propping up the baby for nursing.  I have not been able to find anything like it which is super frustrating.  I even contacted the hospital to see if they could tell me where to find one or what brand it was but they just said it was from a medical supplier and that I could not get one.  I ordered a pillow on Amazon cause I don't like the one I got here, hopefully it will be better.

The food at the hospital was actually really good.  It was Japanese style meals which meant breakfast was miso soup, rice, a small salad and protein (usually fish).  Here are some pics of meals.

Breakfast, fish and snow peas with soup, rice, green tea and milk.

Lunch:  Tofu, fruit, rice, salad, yogurt, green tea.

They also did one "special" meal to celebrate for new mothers.  I thought this was a really cute idea.  Here are some pics of it.  It was huge!

Here is a picture of our interpreter Ume Abe-san.  She was hugely helpful and a lovely person.  I really enjoyed her and think she did a wonderful job being in a very personal and emotionally charged situation without feeling intrusive while doing a great job at interpreting.

Cultural differences and language barriers aside, I feel like Wren and I got good care in the hospital.  The care wasn't always what I felt like I wanted but I do think they had our best interests in mind.  The language barrier made things tough since only one of the nurses spoke a little English.  I think if they could have explained things to me or answered my questions the hospital stay would have been more pleasant and less frustrating.  I'm sure I was frustrating to them as well for my lack of understanding.

Five days at the hospital (any hospital) is too long.  I still felt really beat up when I got home but it was so nice to be in my own bed and keep my own schedule.  No one was waking me up to take my temperature or blood pressure and I could just feed Wren when she was hungry.  Jeff took a week off of work and was a huge help.  My mom came out for two weeks to help out after Jeff went back to work.  I just had my first day on my own yesterday which was Wren's one month birthday (which makes me realize how dreadful Ive been about blogging, oops!)  I think I can get better :-)

That's all for now.