Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Feeling the burn

Kiki Kimono-san
Originally uploaded by kuckibaboo.
Keenan has been a workout this week. We finally managed to break the getting up at 4 am habit. Halleluiah and thank you all denominations of the Lord. We suspected he might be getting up with the sun rising and in a stroke of genius Sean found yet another use for our thick, cushy and indispensable Patagonia Synchilla blanket. He hung it over Keenan’s window and it plunges the room into near darkness. So now he’s only getting up at 5:15 am which is still a little on the painful side especially for Sean the night owl who comes to bed at 3 am on the weekends. Apart from waking Sean up too early and making me grumpy, these early mornings make Keenan a wholly terror requiring FULL and COMPLETE engagement, 3 naps and too much scolding because when he’s tired and cranky he gets into things he’s not supposed to. And it makes him bite me. We definitely gotta get this biting thing sorted out but we’re gonna tackle the sleep issues first. So Sean spent a lot of time researching the "issue" on the net yesterday and we’re gonna try pushing back Keenan's breakfast, lunch and dinner times followed by his nap times by 1 hour. The ideal result being that after about 2 weeks he’ll start waking up later in the morning. Wish us luck.

In kimono news…I did indeed go back to the kimono shop and I inspected the "deal of the century kimono" mentioned in a previous post. Viewed in the daylight the sun and soiling appeared to be much more extensive than I thought so I didn’t get it. But I did get a few other things including a kimono overcoat, some more fabric, a casual obi, kimono shipping envelopes and a monkey made out of kimono fabric for Keenan’s first birthday. Come on, how many other kids can say they’ve got a monkey made of kimono fabric?!!!!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Gosh, are you sure 4 loud speakers are enough?

It’s election time here in Obihiro. Not sure what the election is for. All I know is there is 38 or so candidates and they each have their own van which sports no less than 4 loud speakers affixed to the roof. A loud speaker attached to each corner of the exterior roof surface of a van would be pretty harmless if a man or woman shouting keigo (honorrific Japanese) at you as it slowly creeps through your neighborhood didn’t back it. There’s been at least one of those per candidate spreading noise pollution thru our fair city all week and it’s getting downright tiring. The thing that really rots my socks is that all they have time to say is their name, good morning, afternoon or evening, thank you very much and what roughly translates into please treat me kindly. Maybe if you haven’t woken my son up from his much needed naps on no less than 5 occasions this week I’d have some kind thoughts for you but right now I’m thinking about what objects in my fridge compliment your campaign colors.

So to make matters worse. As of right now there’s one such aforedescribed van parked outside of our building as crankypants is sleeping. So I go outside with the video camera with hopes that a foreigner video taping them will weird them out enough to drive them away. It works on one silver haired, older guy but then the candidate herself runs right up to the building with two of her neon green clothed designated wavers and starts talking to me. In English. While I'm getting the whole thing on video. My only opportunity to tell them to keep it down and I giggle girlishly and wish her luck. Yet another Aw Fer Fuck Sakes moment. So I come back in, sit down at this very seat and the doorbell rings. It’s some guy, trying to sell me something I don’t need and now Keenan is crying in the background. Keenan slept through multiple loudspeaker-encrusted vans blaring right outside his window only to be woken up by the doorbell. Classic. Now I’m gonna go figure out how to upload the video to this blog. After of course I go to the kimono shop.

Snow, kimono? What’s it gonna be this weekend?

It’s 7:30 am on Saturday and I’ve been up for 3.5 hours, nursed Keenan, made Keenan breakfast, fed Keenan breakfast, nursed Keenan again and then suffered through 10 minutes of Keenan crying because he was simply too tired to fall asleep. Sean and I sat in the living room quiet as two house mice while Keenan wailed in his crib. Usually when we do this he gives in before 5 minutes and falls asleep or kicks up the intensity and rips my heart out with “wuh uh uh waaaaaaaaaaaAAAAAA” punctuated with “mum mum mum”. So I went in picked him up, snuggled him against me and then I deployed my secret weapon…the whispering of French lullabies. I don’t know very many and I'm more than pretty sure I get some of the words wrong but they sure as hell work wonders on our child when he gets himself worked into a “screw you mom and dad I'm not falling asleep” mood.

So now Keenan’s sleeping and after Sean paid his respects to my baby whispering by deeply bowing before me several times he headed back to bed as well. I’m not feeling much like going back to bed though and sadly I think it’s because I’m getting used to Keenan’s new starting hour of 4 am. So perhaps I’ll blather on here for a while.

I must say that I while I lay in bed at 4 am in a haze of procrastination and prayers for Keenan to magically talk himself to sleep I found myself wondering what the weather was up to on the other side of our bedroom curtain. You see during the months of April and May winter mysteriously only works on the weekends. I’m not kidding. We’ve woken up to snow on either Saturday or Sunday morning nearly every weekend save for one this month. Same thing happened last year. I won’t go so far as to say it never snows during the week. It might snow a bit but we get seriously dumped on over the weekend. I think we got almost 25 cm last Saturday during the daylight hours alone but come Monday you could barely tell. I opened the curtains to rain this morning but there’s enough chill in the air to coax flakes from the skies if the temp drops a few degrees.

In other news, yesterday we got a flyer in the mail from a local kimono shop advertising a huge sale. I love everything about kimono shops. The colorful, patterned and beautifully textured fabrics, the accessories, the purses, hair ornaments, the impeccable customer service and the long list of traditional must have accoutrements whose purpose I can’t even fathom. These shops are packed with “stuff”. Stuff you could blissfully spend hours sifting through only to find many other layers of more stuff beneath begging for your attention. So it’s never a “quick” visit to a kimono shop especially not one packed to the rafters with sale goods. And it's typically not a place you go to with a baby that’s a bit whingy because he blew off his afternoon nap but we went anyways. We ended up spending 5500 yen total for a very pretty, formal obi thanks to Sean’s keen eye, some great kimono fabric scraps, 2 small wall hangings and 2 noren. A good haul by my standards. But and this is a big BUT, the best deal I have ever laid my hands on in all my life was at that shop and I didn’t buy it. I had to curb my desire and exercise the “24 hour + sleep on it rule” as I wasn't sure if I wanted to buy it because it was such a freakin’ good deal or because I actually liked and wanted it. Need doesn’t factor into this equation and I know you know exactly what I’m talking about. So what was this fabled deal of the century? A 580000 yen (approx $5800 and yes that is the correct number of zeros) silk kimono for 3900 yen (approx $39). I walked away from it for 4 reasons…it was only basted and not yet sewn, a bit dirty, a bit faded from the sun and it was unlined. The fading was minor and the liner doesn’t matter to me as I’d never wear it and would only hang it on a wall or stash it away in a box as my most prized, most deeply discounted find. The dry cleaning would be costly and it would take me a while to hand-stitch it back together. But geez, the whole process and the thing itself sure makes for such a great story doesn’t it? Not to mention that the kimono itself is quite lovely. It’s not something I would have been attracted to at first glance as it is very light in color but the pattern and embroidery are very traditional and quite beautiful. Naturally I’ll be going back today for a reassessment come snow, rain or screaming baby!

Friday, April 13, 2007

11 months

DJ Keen
Originally uploaded by kuckibaboo.
One month away from celebrating your first birthday. Wow! I’m sure this next month is going to fly by as quickly as the last 11. I wonder, what it is about having babies that accelerates the passing of time? This past month has been another action packed, baby chasing, house-baby proofing adventure, as you love to explore places that are deemed unsafe by your parents. You charge every door that has been left open especially if it spends the day cutting you off from some magical mystery that is being unfairly kept from you. You have graduated into the 4 x 4 category of crawling. Simply put, not much other than doors can stand in your way. Even the bodies of your pooped parents splayed across the hardwood are mere molehills to you. Despite your crawling conquests you are very reluctant to try walking. For the time being you are quite happy to stand and cling to chairs and tables but as soon as moving your feet is required you’d much rather get back down on your knees to get from A to B. And yes, we’re fine with that for now! Take you’re time sweet boy, you’ve got a lifetime to run us off our feet!

You LOVE books. They are the first thing you want to play with after you wake up and the last thing you want to play with before you go to bed. You have two categories of books and they are located in two areas of the apartment. Your bedroom books are those with paper pages and are mostly gifts from friends and family and you require supervision while looking at them or you’ll tear the pages. Then there are your living room books, which are board books or soft plastic and fairly indestructible. You easily spend an hour a day looking at your books, flipping the pages, pointing at things and of course toting them around in your mouth as you travel our apartment. You have no problem sitting still for stories and you carefully turn each page in the proper direction. You don’t watch TV but you do get to see a few video pod casts. Your favorite pod cast is National Geographic video shorts and you get to watch a couple on the computer after dinner.

We weighed you yesterday and you are now 9 kilos (19.8 lbs)! Yippee! Dad gets to turn your car seat to face forward! And you’ve grown 4 cm in length in the last month so you are now 74 cm tall. We haven’t really had a solid word out of you yet but I think you’re starting to direct mumumum and dadada at us. Hopefully your first word won’t be fart (at least I’m hoping that anyways, your dad of course would be thrilled!). You eat a lot and love green peas pretty much more than anything. We have to give them to you at the end of your meal otherwise that’s all you’ll want to eat. Peas are good for you and all but they make for downright epic diaper changes! You also really love noodles, which is a blessing for those rare occasions when we go out for dinner. Two full-length udon noodles can keep you occupied for quite some time. You love to share your food and are always wanting to feed your mom and dad bits of your crackers or fruit. I’ve started teaching you what to do with a fork and you’ve got the basic concept down. In recent days you seem to have developed a sense of humor! You will outright laugh or giggle at all kinds of things like your father sitting on the toilet! You got your first hair cut last weekend and it makes you look so much older! Your dad held (wrangled) you while I managed the clippers. We did a pretty good job and only missed one spot. You didn’t seem to mind the process too much although you seemed to dislike the vibrating action of the clippers against your head. Drooling is back on your list of full time activities. We don’t see any new teeth yet but the ones you have now are defiantly moving closer together so there something going on in those gums of yours. You’ve established a solid sleep schedule of in bed between 7 and 8 pm up between 5 and 6 am, morning nap at 9am for 2-3 hours and then a little afternoon nap around 2 or 3pm for usually less than an hour. Missing the afternoon nap is not a big deal but missing the morning nap is parentcide and we avoid this AT ALL COSTS. It’s one thing to have grumpy parents but a grumpy baby takes days to recover from. You had your first quasi illness a couple of weeks ago. Some sort of minor sinus infection we figure. It was a week of hell for you and I won’t get into the details of what it did to us!

Eiko, your dad and I have been busy shopping for a koi no buri set for you. We’re really looking forward to celebrating kodomo no hi with you and can’t wait to watch your beautiful flags spinning in the spring wind from our balcony.

This next month we will take you on your first camping/road trip. It will be our last big adventure on Hokkaido until we bring you back when you are old enough to remember and appreciate seeing your birthplace. We’re both excited and nervous about this trip as we’ll be more than a days drive from home, which makes pulling the plug a little difficult so please be a good boy!

Happy 11 months birthday my boy. You never cease to amaze us with your how fast you learn new things and adapt to different and new situations. We love you squishy!

Monday, April 09, 2007

The blossoms are coming!

I never cease to be amazed by the contrast in technological advances and lack there of in this country. We had to pay to have a separate gas hot water heater installed in our kitchen as only dish soap gelling, frigid water comes forth from the taps. On the other hand there is an entire division at the Japan Meteorological Agency that tracks the “sakura front” (桜前線, sakurazensen) as it makes its way north to the very tip of this cherry blossom crazed country! They even publish and regularly update a webpage that plots the progress of the advancing pinky goodness!

I must admit we’ve really come to look forward to the arrival of the cherry blossoms. They are the true sign that spring is here to stay. We’ve even planned 2 days and nights of our spring road trip to coincide with the blooming of 1600 sakura trees in Goryoukaku Park in Hakodate. We’ve never been there before and we’re really looking forward to exploring this beautiful city as the warm spring breeze swirls the delicate petal around us. We plan to partake in some “flower viewing” (花見, hanami) which is taken very seriously amongst avid cherry blossom fans. Apart from going for a nice steamy onsen, hanami is one of the most relaxing activities I’ve encountered in this country. You pack yourself a picnic or pick up your favorite bento, some beverages, a blanket and of course the one accessory that shows you really know what your doing…a blue tarp! Then you head out to your favorite cluster of flowering trees, set up underneath them, sit back, enjoy the flowers, the food and the company of other hanami enthusiasts. It’s really amazing to see all the stuff folks will tote along to their chosen site. You’ll see carts that are loaded up with BBQ’s, tripods, spotting scopes, folding chairs, obscene amounts of skewered meats for the grill, blankets, liters of bottle tea, mochi, video cameras, kids toys you name it. If it will prolong the hanami experience it goes along!

This time of year will always be very special to me. When I went in to labor for Keenan almost a year ago the blossoms had yet to open in Obihiro. Keenan was born at 12:14 in the afternoon on a Thursday and that Saturday I noticed the first blossoms opening from a window in the hospital down the hall from our room. There is also a sakura tree just outside the window of the maternity floor lounge and it burst into bloom that same day. On Sunday (my first Mother’s Day as a mother) I awoke to the unforgettably striking sight of snow falling on the blossoms. It was truly breathtaking. The whole 7 days we were in the hospital trees all along the building were in various stages of bloom. It felt wonderful to me as we had planned to name our baby Hanako(“hana” means flowers and “ko” means child) if she was a girl. Instead we had a beautiful baby boy in the middle of a city in full bloom. Looking at the blossoms thru the hospital windows was one of the first things Keenan and I did together apart from the routine hospital stuff and I will always hold that memory close to my heart.

Eiko, if I have made any kanji mistakes please let me know! Yoroshiku!

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Monkey express

Monkey express
Originally uploaded by kuckibaboo.
Now that Keenan is fully mobile in the crawling department he's decided he'd like to be able to take things along on his exploits. The problem with crawling is that it employs both of his hands. So last week he started to put things in his mouth to get them from point A to point B. The results as you can see are often quite hilarious!

Monday, April 02, 2007

I survived last week…

"a ha" moment
Originally uploaded by kuckibaboo.
…but the day after the previous post was even worse. Keenan developed a bit of a runny nose, cried nearly all day and wouldn’t sleep. Sean came home that night and brought along Eiko, Bret and Sara. Keenan and I both had such a shitty day and company was just the thing we needed to get us out of our funk. Dinner, cake and a bit of fun made us both feel better but the next morning it was clear that Keenan had come down with something. There was nothing we could do to make our wee boy happy or ease his discomfort and yet he didn’t seem sick enough to take him to the doctor. So we decided we’d tough it out and if he wasn’t better by the end of the day we’d take him to the hospital. Then we had an “a ha” moment. We discovered that he would sleep if he lay against our chest when we were reclined at about a 45-degree angle. And he would sleep that way for hours. Clearly he was tired and needed the rest so we traded Keenan back and forth and let him sleep on us. He would scream if we tried to put him down. I was starting to wonder if perhaps he inherited my tendency for head colds accompanied by painful sinus congestion. Until very recently I never used to get chest colds if I got sick at all. I was always the stuffed up nose kid that emanated Vicks Vaporub. I’m sure that, my chocolate sandwiches and tendency to kick my teachers added greatly to my popularity! Maybe our little guy was really stuffed up and every time we tried to lay him down he got stuffier? I filled the essential oil burner with a good dose of camphor, mint, rosemary and eucalyptus and put it next to the tub, ran a bath, closed the door and let it get all steamy in there. Then I gave him a long hot bath, breastfed him and he fell asleep in his crib for about 90 minutes. A pretty short nap by Keenan standards and even shorter for a sick boy but he was way more genki when he woke up. By Saturday afternoon he was pretty much back to himself again. Phew!!!!! We’re so lucky he’s made it this far and that’s the most sick he’s ever been. Knock on wood, fingers crossed.