Tuesday, October 19, 2010

what I said to my daughter today...

..."Friends don't poo on friends."

Well, he may be just a little face cloth, but this is Mr. Towel, we're talking about. Technically, he's the closest thing my daughter has to a best friend right now, so she needs to learn to treat him right.

R has been in a mean mood the past few days. I actually thought Edward the Dog's life was at risk a couple of times yesterday. Trying to evoke empathy does not seem to be working. Yelling definitely isn't having any effect. I think the only thing I can do right now is physical removal of object being abused. I'm also trying to introduce the concept of friends and the proper treatment of them. For example, "Friends don't try to kick each other down the stairs."

The situation with Mr. Towel, though, wasn't really due to malicious intent. R has been getting more and more into imaginary play, these days, and one of the things she is keen to reenact is Edward going to the toilet on his pet sheet. I do use them from time to time, and I worry about how this might affect R's future potty training, since she often squats on top of Mr. Towel and then tells me "pee pee" or "poo poo"--well, at least I can say she's partially house-trained. I worry, though, that one day something a little less imaginary is actually going to come in contact with this towel who R always holds, and rubs against her face, and sleeps with. Ugh.

Friday, October 15, 2010

new words

Moh-tutu = oatmeal (Me: You mean "oatmeal"?; R [with a firm nod]: Moh-tutu)
Bah-tutu = bicycle
Moh-dadadada = motorcycle
Boti = coffee

imaginary love

Tonight, R "plucked" mandarin oranges off the page of her book and fed it to me and her various stuffed companions. But she didn't leave Mr. Towel, her lovey, out--apparently, Mr. Towel makes the same eating noises as everyone else (he also needs his teeth flossed and his hair brushed, from time to time).
Poor R, her hand slipped when she was on the playground swing today, and she went flying through the air. I think she landed on her head, since she almost had an epileptic fit when I tried to wash her hair tonight, and had similar reactions every time I went near her head. Just when I was proudly thinking she had completely mastered the big-girl swings.

I really have to get some shots of Tokyo playgrounds. They are sad: dark-chocolate mud ground, gravely concrete, rusting metal, flaking paint, murky sand pits that according to my husband double as litter boxes for the many roaming cats, swarms of mosquitoes due to the stagnant drains that catch the water-fountain runoff. The motif seems to be Seventies Ghetto, and there are no concessions to the below-three crowd. It's such a funny and extreme contrast from the playgrounds in Northern California, where we moved from: where there were always toddler swings, the sand pits were filled with this white satiny stuff you'd ordinarily find on a beach in Aruba, and everything practically glowed with the sheen of newness.

When we first arrived in Japan, R was around 15 months and her first few rounds with the big-kid swings always ended with her slamming spectacularly into the hard, stony ground. I am not a sadistic mother--R was the one who kept insisting we try the swings yet again. She finally learned to hold on tight to the metal chains and to keep her balance on the wide plank-like seats. And, most importantly, she learned to tell me when she'd had enough--versus just letting go mid-swing.

But today reminded me she's still pretty little. Guess we're going to have to go back to more gentle swing pushes, until she gets stronger.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

japanese babywearing

I was really lucky that I discovered babywearing while pregnant because R turned out to be the kind of baby who always wanted to be held, and at 23 months, this inclination has not changed. I was just wondering this morning as I held her throughout our morning walk whether it's possible for a toddler's muscles to atrophy from lack of use. This girl does not like to walk--or, rather, she likes being held by me more than she does walking.

I was really excited when we first moved back to Japan and I noticed what a big babywearing culture exists in Japan, or at least around where I live. It's very common to see a mom on a bike with a toddler in a child seat and a baby strapped to her front or back. And the dads don't seem shy about using wraps and slings, either.

BUT while babies are worn quite a bit, toddlers are not. In Japan, toddlers either walk or sit quietly in strollers--and, yes, they are *always* quiet. I don't know how Japanese parents achieve this. Whippings? Maybe noisy, squirmy toddlers just don't get taken out? Anyhow, the only toddler carrier I've seen around is the Ergo, which I don't like because the baby is quite low down when worn on one's back. It's also not the best carrier for a smaller person, as it's quite big and bulky.

Right now, I'm using a BabyHawk Oh Snap, which I bought used off the Babywearer.com forum. The best thing about it is the high back carry--compared to, say, the Ergo or Beco (which I had previously been using and loved, but R grew to hate once she was about 15 months old). Compared to my Beco Butterfly, though, the OS feels pretty bulky, with lots of long straps dangling all over the place. Before I had R, I wouldn't have been caught dead wearing something like this (it looks a lot *neater* in the picture to the right). The problem is that to support a bigger, heavier child, you do need something more structured, hence the name Soft Structured Carrier, which refers to carriers with the belts and buckles.

I definitely wouldn't recommend the Oh Snap for a smaller person, even though I've had petite moms tell me that it works for them. I think it's because I can't get everything tightened up as much as I need it that sometimes my shoulders start aching if I wear R for too long. I never had this problem with my Beco.

The problem is that the toddler carriers out there that I've been told work for smaller women are STUPIDLY expensive. I'm talking US$180 for a used carrier. So then I started looking at Japanese-made carriers. And found some great-looking stuff. Unfortunately, I don't know where or how to begin researching how good these carriers really are, and, more importantly, most of these carriers seem to have a maximum weight limit (for the child) of 10kg. R is just a little over that. But I'm so tempted to get the sling-type carrier pictured at the top of this post. It's just a small X-shaped cloth, and like a baby pouch, it folds up nice and small; many times, I've been caught without a carrier--but needed one desperately--and wished I had something like this, something portable enough to always have on hand. But, unlike a sling or pouch, it has two-shouldered support, so I would assume it's more comfortable.

The other carrier I would have loved is this Japanese SSC called Sun & Beach. It's made for a smaller body frame and is wonderfully compact and light (my friend has one and I've tried it on). It also comes in really cute colors and patterns. But although the kid in the picture to the left looks about the same size as R--maybe even bigger--the website says the carrier is meant for babies up to 10kg. Darn!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

menstrual cups

I think the title is warning enough. There will be references to blood and vaginas. Read or don't read.

I recently started using a menstrual cup and while my experiences haven't been magical or anything, I'm going to keep using mine until...I stop having periods, I guess. And despite the various cons of menstrual cups, I don't understand why they aren't as easily available and well-known as pads or tampons. Well, I guess any time you have the combined topic of menstrual blood and foreign objects being inserted up a vagina, some idiot is going to go "ew." So it's hard to appeal to the masses or introduce something new. But how can you be a woman, have periods, and be squicked out by the idea of blood? And if you feel okay about inserting a tampon, why not a little silicone cup that leaves no lint behind in your vagina?

To be honest, the primary reason I decided to try out a cup is because I have heavy periods and loathe the feeling of pads. I'm the last person to preach about doing one's part to protect the Earth and reducing material waste: I gave up on cloth diapers after about one day of trying it out and was asked by the diaper service lady, "Aren't you ashamed?" I was. But I still returned everything.

I think I remember hearing somewhere that the total amount of blood actually lost during the duration of your period is like three tablespoons. I obviously am nowhere near average, and since using the cup, I FINALLY can sleep through the night without jerking awake to that horrible feeling of blood trickling up, up, up my back. Hopefully, I'm done with blood-stained sheets and panties. Because when I used pads, I *always* leaked, no matter what.

Okay, so that's the boring back story. Now, all about M cups:

  • Depending on how heavy your flow is, you may not need to empty your cup more than every 12 hours.
  • If it's in there correctly, you really can't feel it. I could always feel when I had a tampon inserted.
  • No hot, itchy, soggy pads against your skin. Thank god!
  • You're saving quite a bit of money, since if you take care of your cup, it can last for years.
  • Tiny voice: It's better for the environment.
  • If you have a heavy flow, like me, things can get a bit messy, which can be problematic especially in a public toilet. And on heavy days, I am emptying out the cup more like every four hours (rather than twelve). But I read that once you get the hang of it, there really should be very little mess. I don't know about that, but....
  • Although I haven't had this problem, supposedly some people have trouble with insertion and removal. But heck, I just read this news story (which actually made me, as a mother, break into a cold, sickened sweat) about a five-year-old Peruvian girl who gave birth to a baby. And if that is physiologically possible, then I think most women should be able to handle a tiny cup that could fit in the palm of your hand.
  • If you don't insert the cup correctly, it could leak.
  • You *will* have to face the sight of a cup of (your own) blood, when it comes time to empty the cup. But just like pooping, nobody's asking you to study it in close-up detail. Just do it, you big sissy.

For anyone thinking of trying out a cup, I think the best advice I can give is: choose one based on the size that best fits your inner girl (it's important to estimate how far back your cervix is during your period). There is a huge selection out there, and each cup has its own unique dimensions, capacity, softness, etc. This is a great resource of info.

I don't know about "Happy Periods" (who the HELL came up with that one, and god help her if it was a woman), but mine just got a lot more comfortable. Yay.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Here's a photo randomly added, mostly for color. It's the view from my kitchen and it's my favorite time of day, twilight.

So I took R to a Montessori-based mom+toddler class today called Sesame Club. But this is Japan, so there was a Doraemon figurine in the midst of the natural toy selections, and during drawing time, the teacher was determined to teach poor, neglected R who An Pan Man was (a superhero whose head is a round bread bun, for all you losers who didn't know). "Hora, An Pan Man da yo!" Was there a desperate tinge to sensei's tone, when her doodles of the doughy red guy failed to evoke any reaction in my daughter? Even one of my British friends seems compelled to automatically draw AP Man in the sand for her daughter at the park. And during one of the summer festivals we attended, we witnessed a circle of old ladies in yukata dancing to the An Pan Man song (with taiko accompaniment) over and over. Seriously, it was that and the Sakana Sakana Sakana song on replay the entire night.

Anyhow, all that aside, I'm really glad my MIL found this class for us. This is Tokyo: the baby swimming class we attempted and failed to participate in had 30 moms and babies. Can you imagine the amount of noise and splashing--not to mention peeing--going on? But Sesame Club has the rare rule of keeping class size to a maximum of five kids, and in fact, there's only R and one other little boy in ours. Thank god. So although there was a bit of clinging at first, R actually managed to relax and participate in the class. Total miracle.

I think it will also be good preparation for kindergarten--both in terms of socializing and being exposed to Japanese. I just worry though that R might be confused because she is being taught new ways of saying words she's only recently learned: dog, train, etc.

Which brings us to a concern for many foreign families living overseas: your first language being the minority language. Growing up in Canada, I knew a lot of kids whose parents spoke a different language to them, but who always answered back in English. I worry that this will happen with R. I respect that she's going to grow up and most likely live in Japan forever, but I still want her to keep her options open, and be able to communicate with people on my side of the family: her grandparents, cousins, uncles, etc.

A and I have decided to practice what is known as Minority Language at Home (although we didn't know it even had a name at the time we agreed on it). This means we'll always speak English at home, unless we have Japanese visitors over, of course. The problem is that as she grows older, the percentage of time she spends at home and hears English will get less and less. Also, since A isn't around that much, there aren't many opportunities for R to hear English being spoken interactively. But this is what we'll stick with.

Much harder is for me to speak English to R outside of the house, which is what I've decided to try to do as well. If we're in the company of people who only speak Japanese, of course we won't. But even when it's just R and I, it's so hard not to feel self-conscious. Speaking English in public in Japan will get you a reaction every time. Being a person who HATES HATES HATES being stared at, it's so tempting to switch to Japanese and just melt into the crowd. Before R came along, I even spoke to Edward the dog in Japanese, when we were out on walks. I've had people in front of me on escalators whip their whole bodies around to gape at me, when they overheard me speaking English. I almost caused an accident for a person on a bicycle once.

But one point about encouraging bilingualism in your children, I think, is to never make them feel that one language is better than the other. And never act embarrassed to speak a different language from everyone else, which is a challenge in Japan, where being different--and, worse, being blatant about it--is a bad, bad thing. So although I haven't done a good job until this point, from now onward, I am going to casually and happily speak English to R, no matter the audience or reaction, and we are going to get used to it, gosh darn it.

Sorry, this post was all over the place.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

I just read the following on Parents.com:
A recent study in Child Development showed that 2- and 3-year-olds argue with their parents 20 to 25 times an hour.... "Kids this age are realizing that they can assert themselves, and arguing with you is one way they gain confidence," says John Sargent, MD, a child psychiatrist and professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Baylor College of Medicine, in Houston. Remember: The world is still a big, mysterious place to your toddler, and he feels pretty powerless in it. Saying no is a normal, healthy way for him to feel as if he has some control.
To be honest, while she is exhausting at times (especially when I'm trying to get the two of us out of the house), R hasn't worked herself up to her full arguing potential yet. I think right now we argue about 10, 15 times an hour. As the Japanese say: Lucky!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Dear R,

Although I wrote previously that I've never been big on using baby-talk with you, I do say a word twice when I want to emphasize the importance of something--e.g., "Don't touch poo. It's dirty-dirty." I think this is because I remember someone telling me once that babies find it easier to learn repetitive sounds. And it seems to work with you. Right now, I'm getting a kick out of you saying "budgie budgie" (spicy), with a rather long pause between the budgies for some reason. I guess this is one of those fun-for-only-me things but it just sounds so cute. Also, I realized recently that your pronunciation and the stress you put on incorrect syllables reminds me of Balki on Perfect Strangers. The other day, you touched Edward, who was lying in the sun, and said, "Uhh-t" (hot).

Today, we were out taking a "walk," and we came across a huge collection of kids in the park practicing for Sports Day, which apparently is a big deal in Japanese schools. You were captivated by all the rustling pompoms. I was bemused at how much buzzing activity and effort (by the aproned teachers) was going into the choreography of it all. According to a mom on one Yahoo Group I am a member of, the teachers work really hard on this event and her daughter's teacher burst into tears when he discovered that his students didn't really want to have anything to do with it. A bit pitiful. But also weird.

Uh oh, you're up. Gotta go.

windy day

Ta-da, Shuffled Pink's inaugural pic. I've been aware for a while that my blog, without photos, looks rather bare and lonely, but A has always been rather against publicizing pictures of R and I rarely carry a camera with me when I go out, so I miss taking so many things that catch my eye. Plus, R usually starts screaming to hold the camera, and then I have to go through long negotiations to calm her down and get her focused on something else. I need to get a cell phone with a better camera.