This is Not A Birth Story

I’ve sat down to write the story of Ondine’s birth several times. And nothing comes out. So many words and feelings fill my head but I seem to lack the ability to actually let them filter through my fingers onto the keyboard.

Since having my own kids, I have always enjoyed reading the birth stories of other women. They can be joyous or sorrowful or frightening or hilarious. Some are detailed and some are vague. The women who write these stories can edit them however they choose because the story is theirs. They are stories told by women about an experience only women can have and no matter how the story is told or who does the telling it’s a powerful narrative indeed.

It took me almost 6 months wot write down the experience of V’s birth (and O is only almost 4 months) but once I did I felt very liberated. Liberated by letting out my frustration at the way some things had gone, by expressing my acceptance of my own fear, and sharing the joy of daughter’s arrival. It wasn’t the ‘perfect’ birth story because there isn’t one because it is what it is and it happened how it did and I was so happy to share.

This time I can’t quite release the way I did before. I want to share. To add to the narrative that I enjoy being a part of. But…I’m not sure what’s stopping me. Maybe I just need more time.

The logical side of me finds this annoying. Nothing went wrong, everything went well. No complications, in a safe place, the best situation I could hope for. I delivered little O in a women’s clinic instead of a hospital. I had lovely midwives and a nurse with me when I needed them, I had Dave with me the entire time, and my doctor popped in to say hello for a few minutes. This is the exact balance of medical safety and natural non-intervention that I wanted the first time and sought out this time. Continue reading

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What Drives You

I’m probably the last person in the world to talk about this Cadillac commercial. I saw it while we were watching some of the Oscars. So obviously it was aimed at fancy people. Or people who like to think they are fancy?

I honestly had to ask myself for a moment…is this for real? So I looked it up in my spare time ie: a month later.

It’s for real. If you live sheltered from commercials like I do and haven’t seen it, it’s here:

Or if you’d rather not let this beautiful man ruin himself for you with this script, the transcript:

Why do we work so hard? For what? For this? For stuff? Other countries they work, they stroll home, they stop by the cafe, they take August off. Off. Why aren’t you like that? Why aren’t we like that?

Because we’re crazy driven, hard working believers, that’s why. Those other countries think we’re nuts. Whatever! Were the Wright brothers insane? Bill Gates? Les Paul? Ali?

Were we nuts when we pointed to the moon? That’s right, we went up there, and you know what we got? Bored. So we left. Got a car up there, left the keys in it. Do you know why? Because we’re the only ones going back up there. That’s why.

But I digress… It’s pretty simple. You work hard, you create your own luck, and you gotta believe anything’s possible. As for all the stuff, that’s the up-side of only taking two weeks off in August. N’est-ce pas?

The first ever ELR.
Cadillac

So once you’ve soaked that up, I’ll just let fly with my personal analysis of this. Heavy on the sarcasm.

Unfortunately, they lost me in the first lines. Implying that strolling home by a cafe is…undesirable somehow? Perhaps driving home in the dark in the stop and go traffic of many suburban commuters is better? Ok sure. Let’s say that. Cafes are awful and strolling is the worst.

And taking August off? How horrible that must be for those socialists with their healthcare! I’m actually surprised we didn’t get a healthcare jab in this commercial somehow. They are probably going to the cafe during that month! THE CAFE!

But to answer the question posed to me by Cadillac: why aren’t we like that? Is it, as they posit, because we are “crazy driven, hard working believers”? The short answer is no. But let me explain. Continue reading

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On A Walk: Utsunomiya

The weather here has turned decidedly towards spring, while back in Michigan winter is still hanging on tight. So on our last weekend in Japan we soaked up the sun and soaked in the sight of ume blossoms as they start to fill the brown branches with pink puffs.IMG_1697

Nikko isn’t a cold climate by any Michigander/Manitoban standards, but it’s always almost 10 degrees warmer in Utsunomiya, a 45 minute drive away. Also, they have Starbucks. Which sounds so boring to people who can buy coffee at any coffee shop in a mug larger than a shot glass. But we are not those people. And so we went.IMG_1698

We found a park in the city that, after 3 years of day trips, we had never noticed before. The flowers were everywhere and we weren’t cleaning or packing or saying goodbye-see-you-maybe-nevers so we were happy. Happy and warm.IMG_1700 IMG_1703 IMG_1706 IMG_1711 IMG_1714 IMG_1715 IMG_1717 IMG_1718

Perhaps one of my favorite things about our girl is how much she loves being outside. Just out. In the air and the dirt on the run. She doesn’t need a plan or a game or a bunch of toys, just someone to play along with her imaginary scenarios. I was happy to oblige.IMG_1720 IMG_1721 IMG_1722 IMG_1724 IMG_1725 IMG_1728 IMG_1730 IMG_1733

I wonder what they sell at titty&Co.? Actually I am fully aware that they sell clothes but like…has no one mentioned to anyone that this name is a little…off? I mean if they sold bras maybe it could work? Sign spotting is absolutely without question my favorite pasttime in Japan. I should get out more?IMG_1737

We went for Thai food for lunch, because nothing says farewell to Japan like Thai. IMG_1738

It’s funny how spring makes you forget how awful winter was. And how being a few days from going home makes the struggles of the season seem so mild. Two months ago I had it up to here with Japan. I was sick of taking off my shoes and bowing 40 times never knowing when I was supposed to walk away and eating things out of fishy broth the consistency of jello and feeling a breeze through my single paned windows. But with the sun shining on my back and the plane waiting to take me home in two days I will miss the friendly smiles and the special slippers and sliding doors and the chopsticks. You know I’m getting slaphappy because even the men’s haircuts are starting to make sense. IMG_1740

We sipped cold drinks at Starbucks and chatted up the Australian man next to us. We are so starved for conversation with new people we would talk to anyone at this point, but soon we will be able to communicate with everyone and won’t feel the need to exchange names with every person we sit next to in Starbucks. But maybe we will. Just out of habit.IMG_1741

My girls and I soaking up the mean streets and the friendly graffiti. As one adventure ends and we point our ship homewards I already find myself asking…where to next?IMG_1743

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City Break in Tokyo: The Same But So Different

Before I had kids, and since, considerable time has been devoted to worrying about who I am in relation to who they are and what it all means and it was very liberating when I finally realized I am them and I am and we are us and all of it. So it’s fine.

Dave and I still have a lot of the same interests personally that we had before we had children. He golfs. I run. We make jokes and make lasagne and have long talks about the nature of the universe. We visit with our friends and watch crime dramas or silly sitcoms.

But one thing we do a lot less of is travel. It’s not a conscious choice, really. And it’s not that we don’t travel at all. But we don’t just drive cross country anymore with an atlas and some good tunes and wing it. Instead we have a cooler full of snacks, a map of all rest areas, and hotels with pools pre-booked.

We don’t settle in for long haul flights with an Ambien and some wine. It’s a carefully orchestrated dance of bed times and potty breaks and window clings and snack foods.

Every trip we take takes a little more planning, every destination we choose has the desires of a three year old in mind.

Every trip has so much more sweat. So sweaty. Sweat is everywhere.

We don’t just jaunt off for a city break with a purse and and a camera and hope for the best. We pack a backpack strategically analyze train schedules to choose the route with the least changes. And so we did when we headed to Tokyo this week.

Every single stage is an adventure. Waiting for our train Ves spins the stroller endlessly. Business travelers are not amused.
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When you are in the right mood, with the proper shoes, even a massive sweat fest like this can be so very fun. We were so cozy on the train while the rain came down outside. V entertained us with her songs and her never ending questions, O entertained us with her grin and scratchy giggle.IMG_1528

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As She Sees It

Little V has a growing love of taking pictures. She used to just click at random, but now she points and shoots. She takes pictures of things she loves. And while on one hand it is just a child with a gadget clicking away, on the other hand it is a girl learning about her own perspective. Showing us the way she sees her world. The subjects are of her choosing and in her comfort zone and she seems so happy to collect them. And show us. And look at them over and over. I love her so.

She wants everyone to say cheese. She wants every picture to be very close up. She doesn’t think the act is complete unless the flash has gone off.

Yesterday she did a little shoot around the apartment, and finished it off by requesting a family selfie. So she is a child of the 10′s obviously.

Enjoy her work, unaltered and in it’s entirety.

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Just In Case

The thing about the career of a minor professional hockey player is that in most cases you never really know for sure when it is over. Most of the time you just end one season with a vaguely unsatisfying feeling of ‘We’ll maybe possibly could be doing this again next year? Or never again? See ya later!’ And as time goes on and Dave gets older and our family gets bigger (and therefore less desirable to teams) and our feet get less itchy and his shoulder gets more achy and Ves starts asking more ‘when are we going HOME?’…the end is in sight. I don’t know if it’s here. I don’t know when it’s coming. And once it has arrived I’m sure we’ll feel surprised to see it here so soon. And while this career always had an expiration date, we c an definitely feel that we are closer to it than ever.DSC_0533

So just in case I’ve been trying to take it all in. To watch and enjoy. And by watch I mean actually look at the ice while the game is on. To contain (some of) my complaints and enjoy the games despite cold toes and support Dave’s love of hockey despite my general ambivalence for sport-watching. In the past I’ve been known to forgo one of Dave’s games for yoga class. To read a book at the games I do attend. To pretend to have seen him score a goal even though I was staring off into space thinking about what size my feet would be if I didn’t have my big toe. In case you want to know, I estimate a size 4.

I made this resolution to enjoy it and watch it despite the fact that I have two young children with me at the game. One who goes between watching the game and screaming ‘slow down you guys!’ (safety first, most important rule of hockey) and then running wildly along the concourse pushing strangers of her way (safety is no longer an issue) while I shuffle behind apologetically saying ‘Sumimasen! Gomenesai!’ on a loop. The other sleeps soundly until, quite out of nowhere, she starts screaming like a banshee. A banshee who can only be quieted by sweet sweet milky. So it’s a challenge. But I’ve been trying. Just in case.

I’ve been trying so hard that agreed to go to Dave’s last game of the season in Tokyo. On the train. With two kids. And I had to pay for the ticket to the game you guys. The indignity of it all. But I did it anyway. I walked to the train station in the sleet with a toddler stopping to analyze every puddle and a newborn squirming in protest of the carrier. I rode to the next biggest city, rushed through the crowd to make our connecting train with only 4 minutes between arrival and departure, sweated profusely every step of the way. Things went smoothly all morning, relatively speaking, and we arrived in Shinjuku. We went to a coffee shop and ate pain au chocolat for lunch. I ate two, because you know, chocolate. And then there was the incident in the public restroom at the subway station where V started screaming bloody murder about needing privacy and O started screaming about baby things and they were both making sounds you only usually hear from animals being tortured and everyone in the bathroom stared unabashedly. That was the peak of the sweating. And I kept asking myself…why am I doing this? But I knew the answer. Just in case. IMG_1458 IMG_1459

But we made it to the game. And watched Dave play the game he loves so much. Ves reveled in the glory of her father tossing her a puck during warm-up. She ran madly around the rink with another miniature Canadian child of the hockey life. We ate french fries and chanted I-ee-su-buck-u! I watched Dave joke with his teammates between whistles. Saw the way he inspects the tape on his stick like it contains the answer to the mysteries of the universe. I took a mental picture of the way he pounds his stick on the ice to call for a pass.  The way he chews his mouth guard in that way so that it is certainly not doing it’s job. The way he looks as he skates. We cheered extra loudly when he scored. I looked at V’s face as she screamed ‘Go Daddy Go!’ I took it in. Took it all in. Just in case.

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In Captivity

You guys. After that post about a snow day, Dave went on the road to Shanghai. And the day he left he called to tell me had the stomach flu. Oh and remember how we shared a dish at the restaurant last night? In other words, your flu is in the mail. And remember how the restaurant is Indian food? Not the best meal to eat right before your body starts violently ejecting everything.

Dave got struck by the flu while traveling. Via bus then plane he had to use public and airplane restrooms and suffer through the indecency of flu symptoms in those environs. Then he had to have the stomach flu and recover from it in China, not the best place to start out with intestinal problems. In any normal scenario, I would have felt SO bad for him. And really, I did feel bad. For about 10 minutes before my own flu began. Do you know who has no time for sympathy? A woman with stomach flu in a foreign country caring for an infant and a toddler. AIN’T GOT NO TIME FOR THAT. In fact I started having thoughts like ‘having the stomach flu isn’t even HARD for him, he’s in a HOTEL! with HBO! and silence! and sleeping pills! and zero children!’ Meanwhile I was vomiting in the kitchen sink while V stood behind me saying things like ‘that sounds like a waterfall!’ Yes, he had it easy. Rat bastard with his luxurious stomach flu.

The merciful part about this flu was that the violent parts didn’t last long. Within 12 hours of it beginning I was able to, with the aid of inadvisable amounts of ibuprofen, take over raising my kids where the TV and my breast had left off. Within 24 hours I was feeling almost normal, only slightly more tired than the normal amount of tired. To say I was grateful for this is a gross understatement.

The thing is, during my flu a record setting snowstorm had settled in over all of Honshu. It started on Friday and didn’t stop until late Sunday. It was snow. And snow and snow. It made that last snowstorm look like a handful of flurries. Then, just in case we weren’t sure about Mother Nature being in complete and total control of us, it sort of sleeted on top of all that snow and then froze in to a charming ice layer.

Finally, finally, finally, it stopped. And we bundled up and marched around for a while and breathed outside air. And I started an hourly countdown until Dave’s return. Because 6 days with two kids is one thing. Not the easiest, but doable. Six days with 2 kids plus a stomach flu plus being shut in by a storm is almost too much. Almost. Too much.

We survived though. The following is a pictorial of our days in captivity. DSC_0593

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