Hiroshima Osorakan Trail: DNF

One of my main goals since moving to Japan is to get back into ultra running. The landscape is beautiful here and I have a lot of time to train. Let me take that back. I have a lot of time to train on the roads while pushing my double stroller. Having two small children makes it difficult to duck off into the woods every morning for a trail run. Nonetheless, I have spent the last six months preparing for my first Japanese trail ultra marathon. I ran a lot of miles to prepare for this day and felt confident I would do well. A DNF (Did Not Finish) was definitely not in my plans. Continue reading

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DIY Derby Hat

Did you just get invited to a Kentucky Derby Party, but have no clue what to wear? A big hat is a must or a bow tie if you are a fella. Don’t have a big hat? No problem! Here is a quick tutorial on how to make a fabulously simple KY derby hat to don at your party.

What’s the big deal with these hats anyways?

Originally women wore big, extravagant hats to declare their social status. Today women (and even men) carry out the tradition of Derby hats by making their own unique hat and adding their own twist. A lot of people view the elaborate hats as good luck charms.

Here is a simple DIY for making a fabulous Derby Hat:

Step 1: find a straw hat

Step 2: find your hot glue gun

Step 3: find a bunch of stuff to glue on hat. (For example: roses, other flowers, plastic horses, tissue paper pom-poms, etc)

Step 4: glue items to hat

Step 5: look fabulous wearing your new hat

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I found this hat and paper flowers at Daiso which is like a dollar store here in Japan.

Straw hat and paper pom-poms from Daiso

I opened the flowers and poked the wires through the straw hat to attach, then reinforced with hot glue.

Check me out! Now I’m ready for Derby!

Follow us on Instagram for more easy and fabulous Derby Party ideas!

Valentine’s Day Crafts

I have kind of ignored that Valentine’s Day is this week. My kids aren’t in school so I don’t have to worry about making Valentines for an entire class or this nonsense of decorating a box for them to receive cards in that I see other parents on Facebook fretting over. What happened to just collecting your cards in a brown paper bag? I feel pretty lucky that my kids don’t really know or understand holidays yet so if I want to pretend like one doesn’t exist they can’t call me out on it.

I’ve never really understood Valentine’s Day and the one time a boy did try to ask me to be his Valentine, I ratted him out to the teacher. Needless to say, no one ever tried to give me chocolates in my desk at school ever again. What can I say, I’m hard to love.

I wasn’t going to do anything to celebrate this year until I stumbled upon some super easy craft ideas that would be fun for my kids and keep them busy for at least a few minutes. So if you are feeling lazy and unmotivated like me, here is a list of ideas to get you and your kids in the Valentine’s Day spirit. Make some crafts and help your kids spread the love!

My little lefty coloring her Valentines

1) Free Geeky, Math-y, Science-y Printable Princess Awesome Valentines!

These Valentines are fun for boys and girls. All you need to do is print the sheet and dump out the box of crayons! #easypeasy

2) Heart Keepsake

We watch a lot of SigningTime videos in our house and practice sign language regularly, so these hand crafts are meaningful and cute! #doublewin

3) DIY Crayon Heart Valentines

These look super fun and a great way to recycle all the crayons my little one has snapped in half! #MilMBlog

Review: Baby University

I am a huge advocate for STEM education in my children’s lives. Research has shown that building a foundation for these skills early helps children to be successful in school and in life. I remember attending my first science camp in middle school and falling madly in love with research. This spurred me on to pursue a degree in chemistry. I naturally want my kids to also find science as interesting and exciting as I do. I try to nurture early STEM concepts and skills through daily routines and play. I leave the music and art nurturing to their father. He is more adept in the fine arts than I am.

“STEM” stands for science, technology, engineering and math. STEM
can refer to the subjects individually or one or more working together,
but can also mean a way of doing things that includes solving problems,
asking questions, and exploring the world around us.

Continue reading

REVIEW: 4 Family Friendly Craft Books

As a result of some napping miracle, both of my babies fell asleep at the same time and I was able to look over these 4 amazingly-easy, family friendly craft books. I even made it halfway through a project before I heard that sweet sound of babies stirring in their cribs. I am not a crafty person by any means. I obsess over pins I find on Pinterest and dream about the day I can complete all the cute projects on my boards. I feel like there is a lot of pressure for moms, especially SAHMs to be crafty…as if we don’t have anything else to do. I always give it my best shot, but I’m definitely more of an Amazon Prime Mom than a Pinterest Mom. These books definitely make it easy for me to be sneakily crafty and add a little flare to some everyday things, like water bottles, name tags, training plans, etc. Continue reading

Must-have items for new moms

We have several new and expecting moms following our blog so we want to share with y’all our list of must-have items. These are the kinds of things that you’ll want around as soon as baby gets here. Items 1-8 are Mallory’s must-haves and 9-16 are Claire’s.
1. Baby carrier – I actually have three baby carriers; we like to baby wear in this family! My first child had reflux so it was necessary to wear her constantly to keep her happy and my hands free. The Boba wrap is perfect for keeping baby snug and wrapped tightly to your body. My husband and I prefer to use this carrier if we are wearing the baby around the house. I don’t feel as comfortable going out with this one on because it is not very supportive.

The Boba wrap is perfect for baby wearing around the house.

The Baby Bjorn baby carrier is great for going out. It’s lightweight, easy to put on and supports the baby close to your chest. We recently bought and fell in love with the Ergobaby 3-position carrier for our toddler because you can wear the child on your back like a backpack. If you are only going to get one carrier, I’d highly recommend this one because it will meet all your needs.

Wearing a toddler as a backpack using the Ergobaby carrier makes exploring a new country much easier!

2. Bob jogging stroller – if you like jogging or doing anything outdoorsy, I highly recommend paying the big bucks and investing in a Bob jogging stroller. They are amazing and worth every penny!

3. Oh joy! Diaper bag from Target – this diaper bag is a backpack, has stroller straps, and zips closed. The bag has several pockets and is very deep for lots of storage. I love it and get compliments everywhere I go! Claire’s had 2 diaper bags and doesn’t love either of them. She’s going to go buy one of these bags this week.

4. Love to Dream swaddle UP – this swaddle is fabulous and so easy to use. You just put the baby inside and zip it up. One problem I always had using a blanket to swaddle was that my LO would struggle until her arms were free. With the Love to Dream swaddle the arms are up in a patented wing position. My husband calls it a wingman suit for this reason. The babies look like skydivers. The 50/50 swaddle has zip-off wings to help baby transition out of swaddles. I unzipped one wing at first then after a few nights took off both wings. This made the whole process easy for mom and baby.

Love to Dream swaddle UP a.k.a. Wingman suit

5. Rock n Play Sleeper – these are the best to have in every room (just kidding I just pick mine up and move it into which ever room I am in). Great for bedtime, nap time, daytime and playtime. For me, it comes in handy after nursing. I can lay my LO down without worrying he will spit up because it is the perfect angle.

Big sister coming inside to check on baby brother every 5-minutes

6. Amazon Subscribe and Save – first off, if you don’t already have Amazon Prime membership please crawl out of your cave and get with the program. Amazon saves me so much time and effort. Subscribe and Save is even more amazing because I can create a monthly list of items that will be automatically delivered to me by a certain day. It even works in Japan! This is how I get all our diapers, wipes, diaper trash bags, and most importantly our K-pods.

7. Nose Frida – the grossest, most effective apparatus for extracting snot from a stopped up baby nose. It is somewhat satisfying watching all the baby’s snot fill the tube.

Using the Nose Frida…the patient is not always happy about you sucking snot out of their nose!

8. Tinybeans – best app to keep your family updated with daily photos without sharing your little ones face and life story with the whole World Wide Web. Read Claire’s article to find out why we love Tinybeans so much.

9. Pack n Play w/ Bassinet feature – This is one of the essentials to have ready when baby comes home from the hospital. You’re gonna want your newborn within arm’s reach the first few months, so setting up the pack n play right next to your bed is going to help you catch some z’s. When baby transitions to the crib, you can still keep your pack n play around to contain baby around the house and on trips.

10. My Brestfriend Pillow – This nursing pillow was recommended by the lactation consultant at our hospital. It buckles around your body for extra support and convenience. My love for it has grown since we’ve moved into a two-story house. I just clip it around my waist which gives me two free hands to carry baby (or extra snacks and water) to wherever I want to nurse him.

11. Keekaroo changer – while I was pregnant, I was learning the parenting ropes from a friend and this is the changer she had. At first I was put off by the price, but because you don’t need changing pad covers, it’s basically a wash. Just wipe down and done. I was satisfied by this purchase in the first week we brought our son home: I put him on the changer, took off his diaper and suddenly the Keekaroo was flooded with meconium! We kept trying to put on new diapers, but it just kept coming!

keekaroochangingpad.jpg

12. Two-in-One Swing – In my experience I’ve found two camps of moms: The Rock n Players or The Swingers. There are so many (what I call) “baby receptacles,” on the market it’s hard to know what to choose. You’ll definitely want something outside of the bedroom for setting down and soothing your babe. What works best for you is largely dependent on your baby’s personality, but for me, the practicality of the Graco 2-in-1 Swing won me over to the Swinger side. I loved that the swing seat is also a bouncer that can be removed and moved around the house. Such a space-saver!

2014-10-11 10.03.49

Probably the only time I strapped him in…

13. Bamboobies – reusable nursing pads! Yes! I will say, in the beginning, I still ended up using disposable nursing pads because I leaked so much that the reusable pads would just stay wet which is not good for your nips, but once my supply regulates, the reusable are all I really need.

14. White Noise machine – this was one of my “live and learn” purchases. As my first-born got older and more sensitive to his environment, sometimes the smallest creak would startle him awake. I finally got a white noise machine to drown out any startling noises. Today I have one in each of my boys’ rooms which has been especially useful for drowning out the incessant barking of the dogs.

15. Madela hand pump – I don’t pump often, but when I do it’s usually in the middle of the night to relieve engorgement. Getting a good double electric pump is great, but if you’re looking to avoid the whole production of getting connected to your electric pump, a hand pump can be used from the quiet comfort of your bed. Also great for throwing in your diaper bag or suitcase if you’re traveling.

16. Vibrating teether – Teething sucks. I have all kinds of teethers, but found that nothing provided sweet relief quite like the vibrating ones. The only problem with them is that little babies have trouble biting down on them to get them to vibrate. The one linked helped me solve that problem. I can let baby chew on one side and I’m still able to hold down the other side to keep it vibrating.

Stranger Things: My Japanese Birth Experience Part 1

Some husbands are very supportive and hands-on during their wife’s delivery. Not mine. Mine sits back in the shadows taking notes so he can remind me later of how much I cried. He is very loving in that way (hopefully you can read the sarcasm). You may recall his “smell log” from our first child’s birth. Well, he did not disappoint with his thorough account of the events leading up to our son’s birth in the local Japanese hospital.

Taking notes while I receive an IV of antibiotics

 6:32PM

We arrive at the hospital several miles out of town in a run down area. It is Saturday night yet there are few signs of the local population, save those hurrying back to their homes. We wander out of the gravel parking lot down the street until we see a dimly lit alleyway, now to select the correct door. Unable to read kanji we continue checking each door until one pulls open. With it comes the yellow glow of old GE light bulbs and the smell of Florida. Not the salt sea air of spring break but the musky oder of a retirement barely keeping the tenant afloat. There are racks of shoes to the left just inside the entryway, someone has been using the facility.

6:37PM

We step hesitantly, quietly, inching down the hall, the only sounds our own footsteps. The exit signs tell us we’ve gone the wrong way as we explore the first floor. A set of stairs eventually appears, but was it there the first time we passed down the corridor? As we climb up the stairwell there is a faint unidentifiable sound ahead. Cresting the top we look left, then right. The second floor much like the first appeared vacant of any life, only the old cream tile floors, walls of peeling paper and medical equipment long abandoned. We continued our search past the check-in hub, which was devoid of life. Then the noise again, this time closer. As I turned to confront it I only catch a glimpse of a white spectre scurry, or did it float? across the hall from one doorway to another. It was too quick to make out its true form. I rushed to follow, hoping for answers to this mysterious haven. But as I made the turn into the room with the strange bed, giant clock with its gliding hands, and foreign machines I am confronted head on with the creature, “Morris!” it exclaimed bursting from the shadows. Her…Her! accent, was thick…

6:45PM

She was no ghoul, but the on call nurse. Her actions were quick and severe. I was quickly backed into a corner, isolated, as she dashed off, quickly returning with a larger male. Still in disbelief at our discovery I am unable to protest as they tear away my wife to strap her to that strange bed. It is obvious the medical equipment still functions, though archaic it may be. While they focus on her I am able to visually investigate my surroundings. Every item in the room unmistakably has a place, though there are so many instruments in such a small space, that the look is very chaotic. The most disturbing, however, are the three metal pots, each about the size of a human head, with lids that have been locked shut.

7:25PM

After strapping my wife to the bed they leave and shut the door. It is very hot in here and we brought no water and there does not appear to be a tap in our confines. I don’t understand why one of us should be restrained, yet I am free to move about. How would they react if they found I had loosed her bonds? I don’t know how many others are here with us, either as “guests” or those who are holding us here. All I can hear now is the female milling about outside of our room, there has been no indication of the male for sometime. What do they want from us? And why are they heating our room? It is so hot!

8:05PM

They must have gotten what they wanted, they are moving us to another space. The first room must have been some sort of processing facility. This place looks more permanent, there is a bed, and an unusual looking stool. Neither are comfortable, however, when I lie on the bed exhaustion takes hold.

I labored in a Tatami room until I was in active labor

9:00PM

My wife wakes me frantically, they will begin the extraction on her now. We groggily move back to the original room, they’ve brought more of their people. All of them wearing pink smocks circa 1960s America, and masks to hide their identities, though I wonder how many have made it out the exit and back to safety. They are frantically chittering away like a swarm of insects working on a hive, strapping my wife back down to the table.

9:30PM

After half an hour of prodding and examining my wife their elder appeared before us. At this point, through tears and gasps for breath she begs him to end her pain no matter the cost. With a grin he speaks in his guttural language, in what I can only assume was a pleasant surprise that his subject broke so quickly. The chittering from the elder’s subordinates picks up in a deafening crescendo as three of the pink clad females grab my wife by the arms and legs. They contorted her until her spine was exposed and vulnerable. The elder then brought out an immense needle, plunging menacingly as her pain intensifies. I don’t know if that’s when they planted the darkness in her, but it certainly was the beginning of our hell to come.

We had quite the experience. It would be generous to call the place I delivered at a hospital. It was as empty and sweltering hot as my husband described. The OB has been in practice there for nearly 50 years and it definitely showed. Their methods were effective, but they were also very crude.

One of the main reasons I chose this particular place was that they offered an epidural, which is not common in Japan. I am not ashamed to admit that I do not handle pain well. Once I was taken to the delivery room the 200-year old doctor arrived to administer the epidural. He had lots of trouble placing the line, which resulted in several painful punctures along my spine and tenderness around the site for several weeks. It was all for nothing because the dosage was so low it had zero effect on me.

That birth was the most painful experience of my entire life. I wouldn’t wish that kind of pain on my worst enemy. I was crying, kicking, and begging for it to be over. I thought at one point that I might actually die, especially when the attendant had clearly also had enough and gave me a quick episiotomy, then went elbow-deep inside of me to pull the baby out. There was one nurse beside me the whole time whose only job was to shush me when I got too loud. And not in a kind or nurturing way either. I couldn’t believe it. We were absolutely the only people in this “hospital,” why did I have to be quiet? First, they botch giving me an epidural and then they tell me I’m being too loud as I writhe in pain. WTF?

I have since learned that the Japanese do not believe in pain-relieving drugs during childbirth, or after for that matter. This explains the doctor’s inexperience administering epidurals. It is believed that a mother’s ability to endure the pain demonstrates her strength and responsibility and not experiencing pain hinders the bond between mother and child. Japanese women are also expected to experience labor and birth quietly, explaining why the nurse kept trying to silence me. I have a whole new respect for these women, but I absolutely do not believe that my inability to suffer silently has any bearing on my capabilities as a mother.

 

Preventing and dealing with common heat conditions that occur with children

I was giving my daughter a bath last night and noticed the farmer’s tan developing on her arms and immediately felt bad for not being more careful with her in the sun. Luckily she has olive skin like her father instead of my pale, ginger skin that burns on rainy days. Either way, I don’t want to keep her indoors while the weather is heating up so next time I will just have to be more prepared.

Here are some tips from Babytime! for preventing and coping with common heat conditions your child could suffer from:

The weather is warming up and it is only going to get hotter as spring turns into summer. Taking children, especially babies, outside to enjoy the sunshine and beautiful weather can be an enriching experience, but can have painful and itchy consequences if the proper steps are not taken to prevent heat rash, sun burn and other heat related conditions. Below are some simple tips to enjoy the sun without putting your child, and even yourself, at risk.

Continue reading

Keep Kids Busy Learning Lifesaving Skills

Once upon a time, before I had children I was really into martial arts. My husband and I were members of a Burmese kickboxing gym in Maryland for a while and we both even fought in a few amateur fights. Trust me, it was nothing impressive, but it definitely gave me more confidence in myself and my ability to defend myself if I ever needed to. When we moved to Virginia, I decided to try out Krav Maga with a friend. It was probably the most physical martial arts I have ever done. When they say “fitness with fight” they really mean it. I was in such great shape because of it.

krav maga

This was my Facebook post after one of the Krav Maga workouts Ashley and I did!

Continue reading

Toddler Meal Prep: Ain’t nobody got time for that!

When we first started introducing solid foods to my daughter she was such a great eater. We basically could feed her anything and she’d gobble it down. Nowadays she goes through stages: one week she only eats the veggies on her plate, the next week she only eats the meat, and at no point will she ever eat a potato in any of its delicious forms. (This is how I know she is not my child and was probably switched at birth. I’ve never met a potato I didn’t like.)

In Claire’s last blog, You’re gonna jinx it…, she mentions the likely scenario of what happens the second you start to brag about how your child is such a good eater; they turn the tables on you and refuse to eat anything except Cheerios found in their car seat and string cheese.  This is slowly happening more and more everyday so I went to Pinterest for some “toddler meal” inspiration. What I found was horrifying. 

Take a look at this BS:

Who in their right mind has time to do all of this? And my real question is, does it actually work? Do kids see food shaped like an animal and magically decide to eat it instead of throwing it on the floor?

In our house, everyone is awake no later than 6AM and we usually eat breakfast right away. Breakfast is never an issue, it is my husband’s and daughter’s favorite meal of the day. If I were to try to get more creative with toddler meals for the rest of the day I’d have to start preparing lunch as soon as breakfast were over and I’m sorry to say, I do not have time for that. I barely find time to shower and brush my own teeth between breakfast clean up, reading 1,000 stories to my daughter, and playing outside. By the time 11AM roles around I’m scrambling to put together something semi-healthy for us both for lunch.

One day I tried making Onigiri (rice balls) because she loves them and eats them every day at daycare, but I was taking too long and my daughter had a meltdown so I just ended up handing her a plate of clumpy rice. She thought it was just as good as the rice balls so I’m now convinced that fancy schmancy food preparation is completely unnecessary when it comes to toddlers. They will eat what they want and throw the rest on the floor. 

My attempt at toddler meals. At least I have cute plates!

Come on Pinterest! Give us real Moms a break! http://lmld.org/2016/02/20/food-art-ideas/

 

I mean seriously, I’m impressed with your mom skills, but this is just over the top! 

What does your toddler like to eat? It’s ok if you are the type of mom that makes animals out of the food! Tell me it really works and I’ll give it a try!