Thursday, November 6, 2014

Lesson One

Today marks six weeks since James changed our lives. Dustin and I have always made plans. In the Marine Corps you have to be ready for anything, but that doesn't mean you can't have a Plan H for whatever comes up. (And yes, we have plan trees out to letter M. You never know what might happen and we like to be somewhat prepared or at least have mapped our options. You do this too, no?)

My first lesson as a new mom is one in humility. I thought I had everything mapped out. I had a plan. And if things did not go according to plan. I had a backup plan. James changed that.

My plan was to labor naturally. My birth plan was concise and I was going to approach labor like I do every other problem. With a plan. Labor naturally. Spend some time in the pool. Listen to some soothing piano music. Practice my breathing. Walk around for a bit. And when the time came my baby would be born to the soft melody of "Zanarkand" or "Eyes on Me" by Nobuo Uematsu. Our baby would stay with us. No sugar water or formula. We would do skin to skin and breastfeeding was going to come, as they say, naturally.

Instead I was admitted to the hospital six weeks early and only because Dustin and I decided to swing by my midwife on the way back to Nashville from Chattanooga.

My birth story:

Dustin and I flew to the US at the beginning of September. We immediately traveled to Nashville to meet with our realtor and find a midwife. We spent two weeks bouncing back and forth between Chattanooga and Nashville. We spent our time in Chattanooga taking Zero for walks, shopping for books, and keeping my feet up.

Dustin was scheduled to start work on Wednesday so we made plans to drive up to Nashville and stay in an extended stay for three weeks until we closed on the house. It was during this time I was going to purchase baby items. We also were going to map out the route to the hospital. We had everything planned.

For a few days I had been leaking. Any pregnant woman will tell you that leaking happens. All that relaxing and all of a sudden every laugh or sneeze... leaking. But something felt off. I was leaking a lot. And I would leak fluid all the time not just after a good chuckle.

On Tuesday we packed up the car to the brim and started driving to Nashville for the fourth time in two weeks. On the way I called my midwife and we decided to stop in and see her before checking into the hotel. After a quick examination she advised us to go over to Vanderbilt Hospital immediately. My membranes had ruptured and I had been leaking amniotic fluid for days.

I was admitted and then we waited. Our midwife brought in the on call doctor and they determined that the risk of infection outweighed the risk of delivering a baby at 34 weeks. Dustin and I looked at each other and realized that in 24 hours we were going to have a baby.

Forget my plan. Labor had to be induced so no walking. No movement of any kind. I was required to lay on my left side with constant monitoring. Fifteen hours later I had had enough. My left side was numb. I couldn't utilize any pain management for contractions. I hadn't eaten in a day. I hadn't slept since Sunday night. I was exhausted.

So I received an epidural.

I was able to relax and rest for about an hour. Then came pushing. Forty-five minutes later James was born. He was burrito-wrapped and I was able to hold him for one minute before the NICU team whisked him off to the incubator. No skin to skin. Not even the nursery where I could see him any time. And breastfeeding? He used too much energy sucking so we had to use sugar water and formula for a few days.

A wise woman once told me that having children is the most selfless thing a person can do. While my story did not go as planned it taught me something. Lesson one is humility. A clear perspective.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Sayonara & Hello, James!

Wow, what a difference a couple months makes!

A few updates:

Sadly, we said "sayonara" to our host country, Japan, and moved back to the United States. The last few weeks in Japan were stressful and we tried to not let it dampen three years of exciting adventures and memories. Traveling was another stressor - flying at 32 weeks pregnant with some crazy swollen feet was not fun!

The month of September was a whirlwind of establishing medical care for myself and trying to find a new home in the Nashville area. Luckily we had an awesome realtor. After two days of walkthroughs we found our new home and were able to close within thirty days.

Which was fantastic because September also brought a huge change!

Four days old
James decided to come a bit earlier than planned. Because of our traveling we delayed purchasing any baby gear. My nesting instinct would just have to be put on hold. The one thing I was adamant about was purchasing a car seat as soon as we entered the US. It was the only thing we had purchased when James arrived! After a week in the NICU at Vanderbilt we were able to make our escape.

Escape Day!
After our week in the hospital we bounced between hotels and visiting family before closing on the house. Now we are living in an empty house waiting for our furniture to arrive from Japan.

Zero snuggling in the camp chair.
The last month has been a blur of feeding and trying to catch a few hours of sleep at a time. We've only gotten out and explored our local neighborhood. (Side note: Grocery stores have so many options! I had forgotten what having more than one type of yogurt to choose from looked like.)

One month old
We look forward to exploring Nashville and continuing our adventures!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

A Change of Pace

I've been a rubbish blogger as of late. We have been out and about enjoying our last few weeks in Japan together. Many of our adventures were repeat spots of places that we just had to visit/eat/enjoy one more time. I tend to get very sad and mopey when I think of leaving this wonderful, exciting country.

But it is time for a change of pace.

And a super big change of pace it will be. For the first time in eight years we will not live on/near a Marine Corps military installation. I know, gasp. It's terrifying and exciting all in the same breath. I'm glad to be away from the constant influx of 18-22 year olds, but I'm sad to be away from the military network and shared community.

Dustin was selected for recruiting duty and left today for two months (only 59 more days to go!) of training in San Diego. From the information we've gathered from former, current, and career recruiters it is the hardest job in the Marine Corps. I'm confident that Dustin will succeed in it.. he's got a knack for reading and understanding people. Again, a huge change of pace from working in the fleet.

So where will we live? Not sure on that one yet. Where will our baby be born? Not sure on that yet either. Lots of unknowns at this point.

We just know it will be completely different. And we're ready for this next adventure!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Week 19 - The gender of our mango is....

I swear I went from a little bloat to full on baby bump in two weeks. I moved from "I think she must have had Mexican last night" to "Whoa! You're having a baby!" overnight. My coworkers that did not know came out with congratulations. One Japanese woman stopped me in the hallway and quietly asked if I was pregnant before covering her mouth and saying she thought I'd just gotten chubby.

Last week we went to the doctor for an updated ultrasound. It is the time where we may find out the gender. I'm doing peachy and our Japanese doctor says baby looks healthy. So on to the gender reveal!

But first... Old Wives' Tales.

1. Ring Test - I don't understand any of the "science" behind this superstition, but that didn't stop us from trying it. Take your wedding ring and tie a string to it about a foot long. Dangle the string over your pregnant belly. Movement in little circles indicates a boy and side to side indicates a girl.
Our result: GIRL

2. Body Clues - The phrase "A girl will steal your beauty" is the real kicker. Superstition states that if you are looking better than normal (i.e. getting that pregnancy glow, enjoying clear skin, healthy nails, and voluminous, shiny hair) than you are having a boy. My skin looks like I'm back in high school and my hair is weirdly greasy so...
Our result: GIRL

3. Way I'm Carrying - Having a baby bump high, closer to your naval, indicates you are carrying a boy. Another way I've heard this is: basketball = boy; watermelon = girl. I'm a pear-shape naturally so this one is a bit harder.
Our result: GIRL

4. Heartbeat - This one is pretty simple. If your baby's heartbeat is less than 140 bpm than you are having a boy. Higher is a girl.
Our result: GIRL

5. Cravings - This seems to be the number one question recently. "What are your cravings?" I have a hard time answering this because my eating patterns haven't changed a whole lot since before pregnancy. I enjoy sweets, but I've not had any of those "ice cream, pickles, and mayonnaise" moments. I have been consuming more olives than normal so maybe that's a salty factor. This superstition states that if you're craving salty foods you are having a boy and sugar sweets than you are growing a girl.
Our result: BOY

6. Chinese Birth Chart - Found online, this chart uses the mother's age and month of conception.
Our result: GIRL

7. Morning Sickness - I've written about this before so this one was quite easy. I had no morning sickness, evening sickness, or middle-of-the-night sickness. I count myself lucky in that regard after talking to friends and hearing the horror stories. An upset tummy indicates a girl.
Our result: BOY

8. Husband's Weight - This one is a bit difficult for us. The tale states that if a husband gains weight during the pregnancy then you are carrying a girl. If he doesn't gain a pound you are having a boy. Dustin runs for fun. Like thirteen miles on a Wednesday morning because he "felt like it". Ain't nothing packing onto those abs. Seriously though, can I get a little bit of sympathy weight over here?!
Our result: BOY

9. Baking Soda Test - The first time I read about the baking soda tests I laughed. I remember hearing of a similar Draino test a few years ago. (Find pre-1989 Draino and pee into it.) But we're all for funny science and chemical reactions right? Take a few tablespoons of baking soda and then add urine. A fizzy result like soda means you are having a boy. No result indicates a girl.
Our result: BOY

So when it came time for the ultrasound our ninja-baby was all over the place. Hands and feet everywhere! So we were unable to tell the gender. After some discussion we've decided that we aren't going to find out. We're just super-excited for this baby - boy or girl!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014


Recently I had a coworker lose a laptop in Japan. She scoured her traveling path and finally it was found by the taxi company a couple days later. Untouched. It made me think of some of the securities I have taken for granted while living here.

Let me tell you a story of a bus stop. Public transportation is very popular in Japan as the routes are extensive and the buses, surprisingly, prompt. Bus signs are provided by the city, but often, especially outside the major cities, they will not provide seats or an overhang. On my morning walk I pass such a bus stop where someone has put two little stools. For three years these stools have stood their guard over the bus stop. They are not chained down, dirty, broken, or vandalized. They just sit there.

I dare you to put two stools next to a bus stop in the U.S. and see if they are still there in excellent condition in two weeks.

Japan is unusual like that. No one really disturbs things that don't belong to them. There's not a lot of randomized anger incorrectly directed. For example, people leave their flowerpots out next to busy streets and no one messes with their flowers, picks them, or kicks the pot over. Can the same be said for our neighborhoods in the U.S.? It seems like everyone can tell a story of someone who had their Christmas decorations stolen.

The children walk unaccompanied to school. Some, as young as five, get on trains and buses by themselves for the daily trek. Very different from the daily routine of most American students.

Living in Japan has been an astonishingly safe experience and I am really going to miss that.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Hiroshima Flower Festival

When I messaged some friends about joining us for the annual Hiroshima Flower Festival I was clear and vague. I was clear on how the festival wasn't really about flowers and was just a reason to have hundreds of food vendors, children games, musical performances, and a parade. I was vague on the size of the crowd. Spanning multiple city blocks, the Hiroshima Flower Festival boasts having more than 1.6 million visitors during the three day event. It should be noted that I only saw a few flowers.

But we go for the food.

I found it very interesting that the city had not closed the parade route entirely. Instead the cross roads were still open with operating lights. This slowed the parade and allowed a longer time to view each section, but the poor dancers end up doing their routing (a traveling routine at that) in one spot over and over. We watched one performance two times from start to finish and the light still had not turned. So the girls backed up and did it again...all in the space of one city block. Hearing the song a third time... and fourth time...

The side streets were closed and filled with thousands of people and hundreds of food vendors. So many amazing smells!


After the parade the main road became additional walking space. So many people!

So I talk about all these amazing smells and the food but then I only have one picture. Someone (ahem, Dustin) is playing with the operating system on our computer and I'm unable to pull the rest of our tasty finds. So here, have some dumplings a friend got.

We had a yummy vegetable and chicken filled falafel, fresh seltzer lemonade, potato croquettes, chocolate covered bananas, a whole roasted prawn, panko-fried chicken nuggets, and dry ice soda. I highly recommend festivals in Japan - even if you just go for the food.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Rush Teppanyaki

I'm a horrible blogger. For two+ years I've been pretty regular with my posts. We tend to go through travel phases, but I usually always have something I need to write about. This month I'm struggling. It's not that I haven't had great experiences or crazy stresses that I wanted to share; I just haven't had the drive to write. So, horrible-inconsistent blogger. I'll be better. Maybe.

Dustin turned the big 3-0 this year. I know, time flies. To celebrate we tried a new restaurant in Iwakuni.

Last night in his twenties!

Let me preface this restaurant story with an explanation of hibachi. I had to ask an older Japanese man to define hibachi because all my younger coworkers laughed and said I was making up Japanese words. The term loosely defines an old style of heater that people would warm their hands or heat up water. When I asked about cooking food, the general response was "old-timed" or something you might see in a specialty restaurant. So all those "Japanese hibachi" restaurants in the States are an American creation. The closest thing we have found in our host country is teppanyaki.

Steak under the cover, grilled edamame

Using an assortment of copper covers, grates, and bricks, our food was prepared in front of us. The portions are very small so the general process is to order a lot of dishes and share.

First on the menu was a tasty salad with a light sesame vinaigrette topped with a soft agar. Agar is a gelatinous substance from algae used in Japan to make popular dishes like red-bean jelly. (More information). Then it became a feast!

Amazing grilled garlic edamame
Tasty cheese omelet with truffles
Oooey-gooey cheesy potatoes
Salty, warm mayonnaise chicken - my favorite!
Juicy, tender steak in a pepper sauce
After cleaning our plates (I'll admit a little licking was involved!) we were served two desserts.

Grilled shortcake with vanilla ice cream
Blueberry shortcake ice cream

I definitely recommend Rush as a date-night/nice-night-out restaurant. The food servings are small by American standards, but the quality is fantastic. Every dish was delicious. After our meal we walked around downtown laughing about ten years of history and birthday memories.

Happy Birthday, Dustin!

Friday, May 2, 2014

Week 14 - When life hands you lemons...

I'm officially in the second trimester. Woohoo! Bring on all those fun benefits like shiny, thicker hair and glowing skin. I'm ready.

Otherwise, time just keeps ticking and our lemon keeps growing. This week I had two nosebleeds, something I haven't had since picking boogers was cool. No major changes in cravings, nutrition, and general feelings. Next week we go in for the multiple marker screening. I know getting these tests is very controversial, but Dustin and I have decided we are going to do it with this pregnancy.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

King Steakhouse

Word has gotten around that Dustin and I like to travel and explore new things. So I'm always excited when someone approaches me, thanks me for writing about our adventures, and then requests I go somewhere new. This time the recommendation was for a steakhouse we have never gotten around to trying. (Although it was mentioned in the indoctrination tour on our very first time off base.)

The recommendation went a little something like this,
There's a chocolate fountain. And a salad and fruit buffet. Corn Soup. And the steaks are American-sized portions. Not too expensive either.
You had me at chocolate fountain.

So Friday evening I messaged some friends and we went exploring this new restaurant. Surprisingly, only one out of eight had tried it.

A friend's HUGE steak!
The serving sizes were quite large compared to what we have had at other places in Japan.

Clockwise TL: garlic, lotus, tri-tips, and sirloin.
The steak, vegetables, salad and fruit buffet, and dessert fountain came to about $13 per person. Not bad for King-sized (pun!) portions of good food.

Also, we got to try fresh lychee. Animal Crossing fans will be happy to know this soapberry is quite delicious.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Week 11 - Put the lime in the.... tummy.

This week I have noticed a gradual uptick in my energy. I can make it to 8:30pm without having to prop an eyelid open. I'm all for a small return of my normal energy level.

This week was also difficult on the sleep front, but not due to baby woes. Dustin got called in three nights out of four with Thursday night meaning five different trips from bed to work between 10pm and 5am. I shall channel all extra energy to him today. But just today, love, I'm a baby-makin' factory over here.

Nutrition: Pretty good. No obscure cravings and no major changes from my pre-pregnancy diet. Veggies, fruits, lean proteins. And hardly any Goldfish.

Cherry blossoms season is ending. We got out a few days to enjoy their quick splendor.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Week 10 - Heartbeat from the Shrimp

This week we had our first ultrasound. What an experience.

Everything looks peachy. No changes to the due date (Oct 31). Heartbeat was 160bpm (a girl?) and our little shrimp (or prune) was wriggling around a bit.

General Feelings: Doctor gave me the go-ahead to start my running back up. Yay! I'm still in my pre-pregnancy work clothes, although my pants are getting a bit snug. I blame not running and Goldfish.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Week 9 - The (stuffed?) Green Olive

It seems on every baby-centric website pregnancy and baby-growth are displayed as fruits and vegetables. Edible objects? Is that wise? This week we have a green olive.

Nutrition: Baby likes Peanut Butter Crunch, right?

Emotions: AH! YAY! AH! WHOA! Repeat.

General Feeling: Not bad. Very tired. I tend to fall asleep on the couch around 730-8pm. Dustin will find me and make sure I get tucked in with Zero. Still no morning sickness, although I feel queasy often. Peppermints help. I've moved to a few small meals throughout the day. I haven't told most of my office. There have been a few comments on how my usually healthy snacks have been replaced with Goldfish.

No major changes in me this week. And still no pictures. Nothing to show but bloaty-bloat-bloat.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Go to Coco Ichibanya

While in Sapporo we tried the local specialty - curry soup. It was a fantastic turn on one of our favorite Japanese dishes. On a recent outing to Coco's we discovered they are running a limited-time version of soup curry filled with fresh eggplant, okra, carrots, potatoes, and lotus roots. YUM! It's like finding biscuits and gravy above the Mason-Dixon line. Go to Coco Ichibanya before this special leaves!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Grand Chief Burgers

On the way home from Hiroshima a few weeks ago I saw this huge tepee lit up on the side of the road. What is that? It hadn't been there before on any of our journeys north, at least I hope my powers of observation have not been lacking. Yes, a tepee. And next to it was an Airstream with deck. Oh yum, this is going to be good.

We've had hamburgers in Japan a few times. Like McDonald's or MosBurger, but most of time "hamburger" means a ground beef steak similar to what we tried at Joyfull. I'm not very picky when it comes to food and this tepee/Airstream intrigued me. So I pulled Dustin away from school and we grabbed lunch one afternoon. The pictures were quite a fluke because this place was BUSY! They do to-go orders, another rarity in Japan, so many were choosing that route. I wanted to explore the tepee so we ate on site.

Inside the surprisingly spacious tepee, we snagged a small table. After a few minutes we grabbed our food and began noshing on the best Japanese-American burger I have had to date. Yum! I love Japanese food, but every now and then I just want a plain cheeseburger with onions and ketchup. No popular Japanese additions: no ginger, no egg, no bacon, no horseradish, no no no. Just a plain ol' hamburger. Ahem, cheeseburger.

And this is what I got. Highly, highly recommend this little place if you're looking for a delicious, American-style hamburger. And if you still want some of those Japanese additions, they have that as well. Dustin got the ginger burger that had a subtle hint of ginger couple with a fried egg and spicy mayonnaise. Grand Chief Burger = Yum!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Week 8 - Walking, No Hugs, and a Raspberry

I promise this blog will not turn into a "Mommy blog". Not that there is anything wrong with them (trust me, I've been scouring them like crazy these last few weeks), but it's just not me. I like writing about adventures and while this is definitely a new (and probably the biggest) experience, I know this welcome addition to our family will not stop our other adventures. There just may be a bit of a delay as I work through super-exhaustion and the ever present feeling that shouting groceries is in my future.

I have stopped running. Okay, not completely stopped, but a major milage change has occured. I think of all the crazy changes going on with me that has had the biggest impact on my day-to-day. I miss that time, but also cannot fathom adding training to this rollercoaster. So walking is now my daily activity. Recently I started following one of my favorite running routes that takes me through the lotus fields and along the seawall. This is a bad idea as it is planting season. Planting = miles of manure. Blech.

Dustin and I revealed our little raspberry this week to family, friends, and Facebook. To answer the number one question that all have asked: I feel fine. Okay, that's a total lie. But telling you about weird poop and swollen boobs isn't generally acceptable. So yes, I'm peachy. All normal pains and gains. My only loud complaint is the metallic taste in my mouth. I feel like I'm sucking on pennies. Again, blech.

Yes, we are super excited, but please don't hug me. It hurts (see above). I'm totally down with fist bumps (with explosions, of course).

No pictures this week because all I've got to show is bloat. I started this journey curvy (although a healthy, normal weight) so I doubt there will be much to see for a bit. I'll never been one of those ladies that "are all bump". That's okay though.

Baby Tice is due October 2014.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Miyajima Oyster Festival

I am a horrible blogger. I am three weeks late on writing about a tasty festival we attended with friends. I know I know, I'm sorry. It's just been so (insert believable excuse here). But here we go. The Miyajima Oyster Festival.

Dustin and I have traveled to Miyajima many times. The island is great for hiking, visiting the famous "floating" (ahem) torii gate, walking through Itsukuhima Shrine, eating momiji manju, making rice scoops, or watching Seto Inland Sea-life at the aquarium. Whew, this island has a lot to do. It is also home of the annual Miyajima Oyster Festival, a two-day extravaganza on all things oyster. After reciting all the things you can do with oysters (a la Bubba-style from Forrest Gump) we decided to make the journey to this famous island and taste the named shellfish.

How nerds travel in Japan.

After a short train ride and a quick ferry ride we arrived on Miyajima. The island was packed! I've visited on busy days but this was crazy! The lines to try various foods were lengthy. Before getting in our first line we watched a koga dance performance.

Showing where the end of the line started...

But enough cool performances and people watching. I'm here to EAT. Although the lines were long, they moved quickly. First think we tried was an oyster soup. I was a little apprehensive about this type. The soup was a warm chicken broth with mushrooms, green onion, and big oysters. I'm glad they gave us little forks, because slurping down the big oysters would have been a bit difficult. We also received a substantial bag of oyster sauce that we did not use. I really liked the soup, and would have gone back for more if there were not other options to try.

Next up was my favorite style - a oyster and mushroom croquette. Absolutely delicious and made me not want to share any with Dustin. Imagine taking an oyster, covering in condensed cream of mushroom soup and then frying it in panko. Exactly. Omnomnom.

Along with oysters there were many other foods worth trying. We had some tako (octopus) balls will mayonnaise, ika (squid) on sticks wrapped in asparagus and bacon, and some spicy yakitori (chicken on a stick).

It's not a trip to Miyajima without momiji. So we sampled some cream, cheese, and chocolate treats while walking through the main shopping street. After all that tasty food we decided to walk around the island a bit. Some friends accompanying us had never been so we visited many of the popular sites and walked off some of the tasty oyster goodness.

Lastly, I can't visit Miyajima without posting about the wild deer. Deer, huge crowds, and a food festival? Sounds like an excellent combination to me!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Sapporo Miscellany

To close out our Sapporo adventure, some miscellaneous sights along the way.

Because pandas can ice skate.

Escalators do not just turn into stairs.

On the ninth floor of a shopping complex - indoor sandbox!

ew. And just weird.

Mt Moiwa

On our last day in Sapporo we bundled up and headed to hike and explore nearby mountain. The weather was very overcast with expected snow so we weren't sure how much we would be able to see and do. After a short streetcar ride, we arrived at the base of Mt. Moiwa. Most of the hiking trails are closed for the season so we took a rail car up to the summit.

Snow coming in...

There is a large observation deck at the summit. An area marked as "Lover's Sanctuary" had hundred of locks. (Interesting that some of the locks still had the keys attached. What symbolism were they expressing?).

Walk right over the guard rail....

Standing on ~ 12 feet of snow.

We walked around the summit for a bit but soon the clouds rolled in and we couldn't see more than a few feet in front of our feet. So we decided to visit the restaurant inside and try the last Hokkaido specialty on our list: curry soup. I love Japanese curry. It is phenomenal. So when I read that Sapporo makes a special spicy curry soup, I added it to the must-list for our short trip. It did not disappoint. The soup had that excellent curry flavor with a spicy punch. It was served with spicy Hokkaido rice.

With chicken

With prawn and shrimp

We spent a while enjoying the warmth and watching the storm take over more and more of our view. Finally, we made the return journey back to our hotel.

Definitely a chilly day, but being in the middle of a windy snowstorm was a new experience!