13
Mar 14

Marie Helen

I had had a lot of Braxton Hicks contractions and pelvic pain from the pressure of Marie stretching and moving around like crazy for most of my last trimester so when I woke up in discomfort around 7:30 on Saturday morning, March 8th, I assumed it was more of the same discomfort that had plagued my sleeping hours for the past several days. Being 6 days overdue with an ever growing baby who was somehow still managing to turn herself from breech to head down and back again in the past couple of weeks, I was quick to chalk up my discomfort to just being REALLY pregnant. The discomfort and pressure continued throughout the morning and finally around 11:00 after having to stop and breathe through what I thought was a moment of pain from Marie pushing down on my pelvis I decided to take a shower and told Ryan we should probably go in just in case. I spoke not a moment too soon because by 11:30 my water had broken. The good news is I was in the shower! (I’m now 2 for 2 on already being in the bathroom and avoiding a huge mess when my water broke!) At that point Ryan called the hospital to let them know we were coming and canceled the plans we’d made with friends to go to karaoke and celebrate my birthday early before grabbing the rest of the last minute items for our hospital bags while I stayed in the shower as long as possible to allow as much of my water out as I could before trying to put on clothes and get in the car. Unlike with Anya when I felt a pop and then soon after had a gush of all of my water, this time around it was coming bits at time, some more than others, and it seemed every time I thought it was safe to get out of the shower more would come.

I finally managed to get dressed and get into the car with some towels for the remaining water, and we were off to Iwakuni Byouin (Iwakuni Hospital) to have our second baby girl. We were nervous about whether she was still breech as she’d been at our last appointment a few days before but had faith it would all work out whatever happened. I continued to have what I now knew were contractions throughout my shower and in the car that were intense enough to grab a nearby object to brace myself and breathe through them, and they were coming anywhere from 2 to 5 minutes apart. We arrived at the hospital just after noon and were taken straight to the delivery room. My water was still coming and finally reached the point of being too much for the liner and clothes I had on when we reached the delivery room. Thank goodness it didn’t happen in the lobby, but I was still embarrassed because I’m me. They quickly had me get dressed and up onto the table to be checked and hooked to monitors for the baby’s heartbeat and my contractions. When the nurses checked me I was told I was almost fully dilated already and asked if I would like an epidural to which I gave a resounding yes. Contractions were getting more intense though still not at the level I remember with Anya when I was only 4cm dilated and having to try not to vomit with each contraction which is crazy to me seeing as now I was apparently almost ready to push and hadn’t felt anything beyond mild discomfort until maybe an hour beforehand.

I was given an IV, and the doctor came in to place the epidural around 12:30. I concentrated on breathing through my contractions and squeezing Ryan’s hand while the doctor did his work. Apparently the epidural process was a bit much for poor Ryan, though, who at one point had to step out for about a minute to sit down and drink some water so he wouldn’t pass out. The Japanese staff were all chuckling at him as he returned to hold my hand, and they gave him a stool to sit on just in case. I had been told by other Americans that the epidural here wouldn’t be what I remembered from my first birth experience, and while they weren’t wrong it was definitely more effective than anyone had made it sound. Contractions became but a twinge that made me look at the monitor to confirm I was indeed having one, and I was able to relax for the next hour as they washed over me and Ryan and I talked and anticipated Marie’s arrival. I began to feel pressure around 1:30 so Ryan called for the nurses who checked me and confirmed that it was time to start pushing. For the next 40 minutes or so the nurses stood close by and allowed me to simply breathe through the contractions that pushed Marie down into position. It was so much more peaceful than my experience with Anya, and I am so grateful for the patience of the nurses to let me push in my own time as it felt right for me without a word of criticism or pressure to do things in their time. The epidural was enough to take the edge off but allow me to feel what was happening in a positive way.

I could feel when Marie was getting close to crowning, and when the nurse confirmed that she could see the baby’s head of hair Ryan and I were both relieved that she had turned back head down in time for the big day. At this point the pressure was getting painful, and I was grateful for the edge the epidural had taken off. Ryan was standing again and holding my hand through the pushes, but at this point the nurses had me sit up a bit more and hold onto some handles at the base of the delivery table next to my legs so Ryan just put his hand on my back and encouraged me along with the nurses as Marie crowned in the next few contractions of intense pushes. Though it was painful, and I felt more than I had with Anya, it was an empowering feeling to know I was pushing Marie into place and was allowed to do so with as many pushes as I felt comfortable mustering during each contraction with complete encouragement from the nurses. Then it was really go time, and as the nurses and Ryan both repeatedly encouraged me to keep pushing and telling me I was doing great and she was almost here and I was so close, I spent the last ten minutes or so of contractions pushing like my life depended on it. I had been quiet and breathed through the entire labor and delivery up to this point, but being able to feel more this time around I finally got vocal during those last pushes as Marie crowned and was born at 2:25PM, a mere 2 1/2 hours after arriving at the hospital.

The nurses delivered Marie, and Ryan was beaming as he watched her take a breath and cry for the first time. I didn’t think he would want to actually watch her be born, but he did so from beside me and was able to tell me how close she was as I pushed and then told me, “She is definitely a she and has all her fingers and toes!” when she was out. After only being able to witness Anya’s birth over Skype, he really embraced getting to have the experience this time around and was so great at encouraging me and giving me just the amount of support I needed. He kept telling me, “You did great, Honey! You were amazing.” The nurses showed Marie to me by holding her right next to me and allowed me to touch her for a moment before taking her off to clean her up. I had expected to get to hold her right away, and though I’m a bit disappointed that didn’t happen I should have been more vocal about it being what I wanted. In the long run, I’m not upset as the rest of the experience was so great, and as soon as they had her cleaned up they handed her off to Ryan who got to be the first one to hold her and reveled in the experience he missed and long regretted missing the first time around. I do not begrudge him that moment one bit.

The doctor returned to stitch me up as I had torn yet again during delivery – though they didn’t tell me to what degree – and during the 2 hours of monitoring afterward in the delivery room we Skyped via phone with Anya, who was with Mom and Shelby at home, allowing her to see that I was alright after rushing out of the house in chaos earlier and to see her baby sister had arrived. Then we were moved to our private room for recovery which was worth every penny as far as I am concerned. They brought Marie to the room right away and only took her a couple times each day for a bath and blood tests, etc. Ryan went with her every time and took pictures and hovered over her. He is super protective of his second baby girl and is always wanting to hold her and care for her. I think he’s making up for lost time the first go around, but he has always been very involved and protective with Anya as well since he came home when she was 6 weeks old so I am not surprised by how caring he is with our newborn daughter. He stayed with me in the hospital and changed way more diapers than I did, a trend he’s kept to since coming home. I am blessed to have such a man to be Daddy to our girls and my partner in parenting them.

I finally held Marie and fed her for the first time once we were in our room and was allowed to stare at her adorable baby face and feel that bonding setting in. For much of my pregnancy I was so concerned about what the changes would mean for Anya, my first baby who I had devoted so much of myself to for the past 4 years, that I sometimes caught myself feeling guilty for not thinking more of Marie the way I had prior to Anya’s birth. All that washed away as Ryan and I spent the 2 days in the hospital snuggling her and feeding her and changing her and just being able to sit and talk as we watched her sleep and had her all to ourselves for the most part. The staff mostly left us to our own devices unless we asked for something and let me recover in peace and allowed us to care for Marie and have that time with her for which I am so grateful.

On our second day in the hospital Ryan brought Anya and my family in to meet Marie. Anya was so excited and all smiles. She put her hand on Marie and said, “Hello, baby Marie. I’m your big sister, and I love you.” It was the sweetest thing ever. She has been phenomenal and wanting to hold Marie and feed her and play with her and “teach her how to do things”. We are very blessed.

I did not find any of the negativity that flies around base about delivering here in Iwakuni to be true for me. Maybe because I really didn’t have a lot of specific requests regarding Marie’s birth and was able to go with the flow of what the staff allowed or encouraged me to do, and it just worked out that they worked with me in a way that’s what I would have wanted had I asked for the most part. I felt so peaceful during the entire process. The staff played soft music on a stereo in the delivery room and were just so encouraging and yet stood back just enough to give the space I needed at the same time. Ryan was able to be there and be involved and was never told no about following them around when they had Marie or being there for me during any step in the process. The room was comfortable enough for me, and the food was actually great. Maybe just because I was starving after delivering a baby! Ha! But it was great either way. We opted to formula feed from the start, and I was given no trouble or resistance to that end. They even offered to sterilize the bottles we’d brought with us for us. They had someone come by who was there to help with breastfeeding had that been my decision, but when I told her we were formula feeding she was very kind and just checked to see how much Marie was eating and left satisfied. I was just glad to see the support there for either decision a new mom might make without judgement or questions.

The hospital loaded us down with free gifts for our stay and departure. I was given toiletries and diapers and a quilted baby bag with the hospital’s name embroidered on it with a blanket inside. They gave us a card with Marie’s tiny footprints on it before we were discharged, and we were able to take home her little pink hat and the white kimono like garment they dressed the babies in. I was discharged much more quickly than anything I’d been told by others, and was gone by 48 hours post delivery. The hospital sent over a Japanese baby book already filled out with Marie’s information and signed by Dr. Shoji – though he was not the doctor who was there to do my epidural or stitches, he had done all of my prenatal care – as well as a beautiful photo they had taken of her and postcards they’d made with the photo on them with the Kintai bridge in the corner and Japanese text announcing her birth. Having delivered in an American hospital, one that was actually quite nice and very similarly clinic-like to the one here, I was very impressed by just the little details like that that were given such great attention by the Japanese staff and am glad for all of the mementos Marie and I both will be able to have to look back on regarding her unique birth in Japan.

More photos over on Flickr.


10
Jan 14

Anya’s Big Girl Room

As the baby’s due date nears, we have been getting Anya transitioned to her big girl room. We’ve been waiting for the base furniture store to get a full size mattress in stock for months and meant to have this done before Christmas so she’d have a little more adjustment time, but she thankfully seems not to care how close in proximity these changes are to the impending arrival of Baby #2. The reason we needed a full mattress was to be able to attach the part of her convertible crib/toddler bed that functions as a headboard to her new bed. Wouldn’t you know that when we put the frame (which we’ve had on in the closet on standby for weeks waiting for the mattress) together a few days ago…the screws don’t line up for the headboard. Figures, right? So no headboard for now. When the furniture store finally delivered our full sized mattress a few days ago, they also delivered a twin sized box springs to go with it. Apparently the cashier at the furniture store had rung us up for the wrong one which is just as much on us for not noticing it on the receipt before we left the store or in all the time since. She called us to apologize and spent the whole time I was in the store paying the difference for the new box springs and scheduling a pick up of the old one during delivery of the new one apologizing profusely. So very Japanese of her to take the initiative and call us as soon as she heard about the mix-up from the delivery people before we’d even had a chance to go in. I assured her that it was all fine; stuff happens.

We spent the last couple of days while waiting for the new box springs putting the frame together, rearranging furniture to fit the new set up necessary with the switch from the toddler bed to a full bed, and hanging art that I’ve been putting off hanging since we moved in waiting for this change up of furniture. Anya’s bedding, which she picked out herself when I showed her some options online, arrived earlier than anticipated so we’ve been getting it and the set of Hello Kitty sheets she picked out at the base store ready. She was so beside herself when I told her the bedding was in as we picked up the box at the post office that she literally jumped up and down and squealed about it. She picked out the most girly, pink, frilly think in existence, and it is so her. She is such a girl. I love it. And now at long last the bed is completed with the box springs, and the room is coming together. I had been itching to hang the Cinderella quote decal I’ve had since before her birthday above her new bed and am so glad I could accomplish it all before the baby arrives so that Anya can be nice and settled in her room’s new look. The bright colors and pink and Hello Kitty and princess all the things that she has always loved are still there, just aged up a notch and shifted around as new ones were received for Christmas such as the rug for her to play with her cars and trains on which replaced the colorful one bedecked with flowers and butterflies that is now residing in the nursery. I was very proud of how willing she was to give up her old rug to her baby sister – she even eagerly helped me move it over to the other room and straighten it out.

Anya is thrilled with her new big, comfy bed and finally having all of her pictures hanging on the wall. Being the little mini-me that she is, she even takes joy in the reorganization of her toys and shelves to accommodate the new arrangement and figuring out where everything’s home is now. She told me, “The baby will be jealous of my big girl room!” We have heard a steady stream of, “My room is so pretty! This is such a nice room! It’s big! It looks good!” through the week of it all coming together. I can’t believe my tiny little firstborn is big enough to be transitioning to such a big girl room and take the change in stride, in excitement even. It’s a bittersweet Mommy moment. We still have a few things to tweak – like the reading nook I’m trying to make in the second closet, but for now her room is looking good. Eventually we’ll probably replace some of the furniture now that the dresser makes less sense with the missing matching headboard, but those are items to be tackled once we move back to the States, I think. Anya and I are both eager to get into the nursery and finish putting it together in time for Baby’s arrival; if only the crib we ordered through the base store would actually arrive. Heh.


09
Jan 14

I’m Alive!

So…I’ve been failing miserably at blogging. And now I regret it because there are days and trips and moments I would have loved to have written more of the details about to reflect on later that are already gone in the blur of day to day life. I cannot even begin to recap everything here, and if you’re friends with me on Facebook I at least hit the highlights and upload pictures there on a daily basis so it’s not a total loss. I often just am too lazy to repost identical information here from there. But I miss blogging and the way writing soothes my soul so I’m attempting to start up yet again. Some highlights since my last post:

* Anya participated in a preschool aged soccer program. She had fun, but we definitely didn’t see the joy she takes in ballet.

* Anya had her 4th birthday party, Cinderella theme and all, and it was absolutely perfect. Cinderella herself even stopped by, and there is no describing the joy on Anya’s face when she had time all to herself with Cinderella to talk and twirl and give her hugs.

* Anya saw her first professional ballet performance at a recital where a company from Hiroshima preformed scenes from Cinderella. Sheer awe on her face. Pretty much sealed the deal that ballet will be part of our lives for the foreseeable future.

* We had our anatomy scan for Baby #2 at which Baby did not cooperate and we got a, “Looks like girl maybe but not sure,” from the doctor.

* I found out I am missing a bunch of electives and therefor cannot possibly graduate anytime soon. I have since decided to just take a break from school entirely for the next few semesters to focus on the Mommy part of my life as Baby #2 comes into the picture and Anya’s homeschooling becomes more crucial for her educational foundation.

* We went apple picking and visited a nearby farm with some friends and had a wonderful time. Anya could not believe her good fortune to get to pick apples straight from the trees. It was a day full of awesome memories.

* Anya had her first dental appointment where she let them do x-rays even though I couldn’t be in the room, cooperated for an exam after an initial panic when the chair reclined, and then went back for a second appointment for her cleaning where she thought the suction was fun. This kid, you guys. You just never know.

* We had family photos taken by a friend’s husband who did a phenomenal job.

* Carved our first jack-o-lanterns as a family.

* Anya dressed as Kiki for Halloween and made it through even the scariest parts of trick-or-treating with a brave face and the mantra, “It’s JUST pretend.” We were so proud.

* We had to say, “See you later,” to Daddy again as he left for another training mission at the beginning of November.

* We went to Harmonyland (a Sanrio theme park) with friends and got to meet Hello Kitty and see a parade full of the Sanrio characters. We definitely want to go back with Daddy sometime! We stayed overnight in an old Japanese house that looked like it was straight out of Totoro, and the next day we stopped by a train museum on our way back home.

* Had a spotting and cramping scare that ended with me at the hospital just in case. Everything was fine! Silver lining: got a, “Probably girl,” from the doctor. We decided to just roll with that for now until they tell us otherwise because the not knowing was driving us insane.

* Anya and I participated in Operation Christmas Child with the local MOPS group that I volunteer as a steering team member of. Anya eagerly hand selected each pencil, toothbrush, stuffed animal, and so on when we went shopping and was very excited to wrap it all up to send to another little girl in the Philippines. She prayed over her own box, and her empathy and tender heartedness made me cry again this year when her prayer was, “Dear God, thank you for the little girl who will get my box. Amen.”

* I decided not to go to the other base near Tokyo to deliver Baby #2 and will instead be staying here and delivering at the local Japanese clinic. Should be a very interesting experience!

* We attended a Holiday lighting ceremony with friends in Shunan.

* Anya and I were invited last minute to a friend’s house for Thanksgiving dinner and then went to a belated feast the next day to celebrate Thanksgiving with other friends complete with Christmas carols around the piano after. We are truly blessed.

* Anya and I attended the base tree lighting ceremony where by some miracle I won one of the raffle prizes, and Anya got to go on stage with me to get the prize from Santa and Mrs Claus. Her face was priceless. We waited in line to get a picture with them after the ceremony because I had to get a picture of her face after not getting one on stage. Sheer awe. Wish Daddy could have been here to see it! While we were on stage they tried to give Anya the microphone to say, “Thank you,” into and she said it super quietly because she was so surprised and didn’t have time to register that’s what they were doing. Then the confusion and overwhelming joy of having just received a prize from Santa lifted a bit and she realized she was on a STAGE. She was trying to wave to the crowd as I walked her off, and when we got to the bottom of the stairs she said confidently, “Next time, I will SING on it.” And at the end of the ceremony when everyone had left and we were still lingering munching on the free cookies, Santa came right over to the cookie table and talked with Anya for a good 5 to 10 minutes about how he likes cookies and chocolate and let her ask him a bunch of questions about which kinds and when he’d bring presents for the tree. She told him she would make cookies for him. It was just the sweetest thing and made her life.

* We found out Anya’s ballet teacher she’s had since starting will not be returning from a recent trip home to deal with a family emergency. Because she left in a hurry Anya did not get to say goodbye, and we’d been telling her she was coming back because that was the truth at the time. Now her little heart is broken, and I just hope that ballet can still be what it was with a different instructor for Anya.

* We went mikan (Mandarin oranges) picking with the homeschool group on base as a field trip. Anya had a lot of fun, and we had a ridiculous amount of mikans to eat.

* Anya had her second ballet recital in The Nutcracker. She was a little less animated during the recital than at rehearsal because she was distracted by the fact that one of her hairbows fell off. She’s so my kid. She tried several times mid-dance to get the older girl dancing on stage with them to put the hairbow back on. Hahaha. Apparently next time I need to lecture her on not playing with the other girls’ hair backstage while they’re waiting or letting them mess with hers because that’s how her hair was loose enough for the bow to come out in the first place. Apparently she also stole some other kid’s crackers while she was back there and looked like a gerbil from sticking them all in her mouth. When the teacher asked her if she stole them, she shook her head no with her mouth and cheeks still full of crackers. I don’t even know. The things you never think you’ll have to worry about until you become a parent, man. Anya’s waiting around backstage without me privileges are revoked for the next recital. I feel bad for her because, funny though it was to watch her dance with the hairbow, she takes so much joy in dancing on stage and was so distracted by that that she didn’t have the same energy and enjoyment as at rehearsal. I’m just glad she still danced most of the moves with the bow in her hand because when she picked it up I just knew she was probably going to stand there the whole time trying to get the older girl to put it back on. Thank goodness it wasn’t like that!

* We attended Anya’s friend’s Japanese gym class program and a candle lighting ceremony in Shunan afterward. We exchanged gifts with them that evening. So blessed to have such good friends.

* Anya sang with the kids at church for Christmas service and Christmas Eve. They sang Silent Night in English and Japanese, and it was adorable.

* Ryan came home from his second training deployment a few days before Christmas! I wish I had gotten my camera out fast enough to get a photo of her arms outstretched as she ran for him. Sweetest memory I think I have to date.

* Anya saw Santa at the PX. She never ceases to be in awe of him.

* We went to see lights in Hiroshima where Anya loved posing for all of the photo ops, and she got her own hot chocolate. She’s a recent convert to the love of hot chocolate.

* Christmas, of course! Our last as a family of three. It was perfect.

* Attended Ryan’s unit Christmas party which was a few days after Christmas.

* Celebrated New Year’s Eve as a family with pizza, s’mores, a movie at home, and an impromptu photo booth with props and party hats to ring in the New Year. Anya got to stay up for the first time and really had a blast with it. She even got in on the toast with sparkling grape juice.


06
Oct 13

Happy 4th Birthday, Anya!

Today was my first baby’s 4th birthday. We decided to have her party next weekend in case Ryan hadn’t returned home in time for the actual day, and although he did fortunately arrive home yesterday making a father attend his kid’s birthday party while jet lagged from a flight across the world is just cruel. So we made today all about Anya and whatever she wanted to do. She watched ‘Tangled’ in her pajamas this morning before we took her to Fuji Grand downtown to eat McDonald’s for lunch and play some of the arcade games including her usual favorite of the Pikachu ride. There was a Minion toy and later also a lollipop involved. Much fun was had by all.

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We bought the ingredients for ramen on our way out through the grocery store on the ground floor as Anya surprisingly requested, “Japanese noodles,” for her birthday dinner. I guess the couple of times I made it while Ryan was gone made an impression. When we returned to base we took her to the playground for a little while before coming back home to just let her play with her toys and enjoy Daddy being home to play with her.

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This afternoon we busted out some chocolate frosted cupcakes Anya and I had made when making the Reese’s ones we made for Ryan’s belated birthday celebration we had yesterday and let Anya blow out the candle (which she did all by herself for the first time) after we sang “Happy Birthday” to her.

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We had a card and one present set aside to let her have today in order to celebrate the actual day of her birth despite her party being later on. I think the Hello Kitty guitar went over well.

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And, of course, we had homemade ramen for dinner per her request.

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She assures us it was a great birthday, and she is very excited to be 4 years old. She is definitely excited about the upcoming Cinderella party that all her friends will come to to celebrate her birthday next weekend. Lucky kid gets to stretch her birthday out over two weekends. I call that winning.

Happy Birthday, Anya! We love you and could never imagine life without you in it to brighten the everyday moments and fulfill our lives with the greatest purpose we’ve ever had. You are the best part of us. I hope all your birthdays are great and that you stay so sweet and good-hearted because there is no greater joy than watching you grow and discover and be so happy about the little things and see the best in everyone. I want nothing more out of life than to be your mother and continue to watch your life unfold, and you are going to be the best big sister because you are so kind and nurturing. Stay awesome, kid. You’re the best, on your birthday and every day.


26
Sep 13

The Beginning of Our Homeschool Journey

Okay, so technically we did some homeschooling for Preschool last year, but it was very simple stuff that a lot of parents work on with their kids regardless of what kind of school they’ll attend later on. This is the first year I’m using curriculum and lesson plans and all of that fun stuff. I intended to start back in August, but we found out about the pregnancy and soon after the tired that is the first trimester hit me coupled with a move into a larger home and the beginning of a training deployment for Ryan. Not to mention I started the semester for my own schooling. So I needed the extra month to adjust and figure out exactly how we were going to tackle this thing. Finally, last week Anya began PreK.

First day of homeschool PreK!

I decided to start off slowly for the first few weeks and just concentrate on the 3 R’s and Bible. I would like to add in some really simple Science, Social Studies, Art, and maybe Japanese language and cultural lessons in the coming months, but I’m still working that all out as the only one there’s really a curriculum for that I’m satisfied with is Art. The rest are all up to me to put together on my own. I know that as long as Anya is introduced to the concepts of the 3 R’s that she will be just fine to start Kindergarten next year even if I never get around to doing very much of all the extras this year.

At a little over 2 weeks in, here are a few glimpses of our homeschool lessons today.

Working on her Math: matching colors in an order.

A Day in the Life of Honeschooling

A Day in the Life of Honeschooling

A Day in the Life of Honeschooling

Building a boat out of blocks and then saying a prayer prior to reading our Noah’s ark story for Bible.

A Day in the Life of Honeschooling

A Day in the Life of Honeschooling

A Day in the Life of Honeschooling

I didn’t take any photos during our Handwriting curriculum because right now it is mostly sing alongs so I was busy dancing around with my kid. ; ) Here are my mad drawing skills put to work as we started our Phonics lesson and Anya working on her workbook assignments for today.

A Day in the Life of Honeschooling

A Day in the Life of Honeschooling

A Day in the Life of Honeschooling

And finally, my lesson planning materials as I go ahead and prepare everything for the next day so it’s all ready for us. I have sticky tabs placed on the pages we need in the curriculum books and a notebook with sections all organized that I won’t go into right now because no one needs to see that far into my neat freak brain, and then I just pull everything out of the hall closet we’ll need for that day’s lessons and put it into the basket so I only have to grab the one thing when we start school. Loving this system so far.

A Day in the Life of Honeschooling

A Day in the Life of Honeschooling

I know we’re only two weeks in, but Anya and I are both really enjoying ourselves so far. So excited to be starting this journey.

For anyone curious here is our curriculum for this year and my take on it so far:

Math: Saxon Math K. This is technically a Kindergarten book, but the concepts are super simple. Most homeschoolers recommend using it with a 4 year-old and going to Saxon Math 1 for Kindergarten. I figured we would start and worst case scenario hold off until next year to do it if it was too much. So far it is really, really simple, and Anya is loving it. She is a very creative child and usually into music and art, but she surprised me with how much she is really enjoying our Math lessons every day so far. I absolutely love the manipulatives that she gets to use for Preschool through 3rd grade, and it makes it so much fun for her.

Handwriting: Handwriting Without Tears: Get Set for School. This curriculum is so much more than handwriting when it comes to the Preschool book. We have sing along CD’s, wooden shapes to build letters with, a small chalkboard for Anya, etc. Many of the lessons incorporate how to shake hands, counting, tracing paths, colors, and so on. Of course, letter writing is started, too, but this book is just an introduction to the true handwriting curriculum that begins with their Kindergarten book when things get down to handwriting business. Anya loves doing the sing alongs and playing with the wood pieces. I am missing a couple of items that I didn’t get in the bundle I ordered. I think it is because I ordered the bundle that included items we would be using for Preschool through 3rd grade, and so we are missing a few things to be used in the Preschool year only. Some of them are pretty pricey so I’m opting to change those lessons or come up with an alternative solution to get the same effect unless I come up on something that I find absolutely necessary to order as we go through this year.

Phonics: Explode the Code: Get Ready for the Code. Doing this together with Handwriting Without Tears is going to get a little repetitive this first year when it is just covering the basics of the alphabet and the sounds each letter makes on its own, but I figure the extra practice could not hurt. I am missing some cards that I am supposed to put up with a picture to correspond with each letter, but for now I am being super cheap and just drawing on the board each week. Anya is highly entertained by watching me attempt to draw these items quickly but not horribly so I don’t mind doing it this way for now. The majority of the learning comes from doing the workbook and suggested reinforcement activities so whether Anya sees that ‘f’ is for ‘fish’ drawn on a board or on a printed card isn’t going to make a significant difference in the effectiveness of the curriculum. I’m also glad I did some basic alphabet work – recognizing upper and lower case and the sounds the letters make – last year because we are able to move through this curriculum at a smoother pace than if she were just seeing it for the first time. This way we are just building on that foundation.

Bible: Beginning with God. Anya loves this part of the day because we snuggle on the couch together under a blanket to read our Bible story for the day. There are accompanying questions to ask her to reinforce the concepts in each story and suggested activities to do before or after. I usually do the suggested before activities such as today’s building a boat from blocks before we read about Noah’s ark. She often talks about what she learned throughout the day and beyond and brings up the concepts as we go through our daily lives so I find this curriculum well worth it and good Mommy and daughter time to sit down and read something together.

Art: ARTistic Pursuits: The Way They SEE It. We haven’t started this yet, but I’m excited to because it teaches art with a bit of art history, different mediums, and the elements and such that I learned as an art student in high school and college. It will allow Anya to see art as something that is her interpretation of the world around her and her emotions rather than just shapes to copy or colors to fill in. While those latter skills are important she gets a lot of work on them done in her other subjects at this age. Because she is such a creative kid, I’m looking forward to seeing what comes of teaching her art from this fine art perspective early on.


05
Aug 13

Introducing Baby #2

Baby #2 at 10 weeks 1 day. Measuring a couple days ahead and strong heartbeat.  Everything looks good. : )

We had an appointment for our first ultrasound today, and it turned out to be a roller coaster ride with a scare that had us both freaking out for about half an hour. Want to hear the story? Here goes. When the doctor at the clinic on base busted out the ultrasound machine, she spent at least 10 minutes moving it around and searching with a puzzled, concerned look on her face. Not what you want to experience at your first ultrasound. I expected to see the baby right away and hear her explaining where it was and how big it was, etc. By the end of the longest 10 minutes ever she decided to use the internal ultrasound. Several minutes of that gave the same results. At this point Ryan and I were both glancing at each other nervously, and Anya was getting fidgety waiting for the pictures of the baby to show up already.

Finally the doctor says that she can’t find the baby and that she thinks it might be on the outside of the uterus. Freak out time. We remained pretty stoic as she had the nurse call the OB/GYN off base for an urgent second ultrasound with their better machine. We had some friends swing by to pick up Anya because at this point all of my hope was fading fast and if this thing got bad, really bad, I did not want Anya caught up in the chaos of all of that. A driver from the clinic took us over to the small hospital out in town and got us in to see Dr. Shoji, the one doctor off base who sees pregnant Americans. The whole drive over I was imagining worst case scenarios of surgery to clean out whatever was wrong and having to try again in a few months. Ryan was imagining way worse worst case scenarios of me bleeding out and dying or something crazy after he heard the clinic doctor say the baby might be outside the uterus. He cracked me up later when he said, “I don’t know a lot about pregnancy, but I knew that was BAD.”

Once we were at Dr. Shoji’s, we were seen right away. Miracle of miracles he found the baby immediately upon placing the ultrasound attachment on my abdomen. I could see the shape of the baby, and my hope skyrocketed. And then…he turned on the sound of the glorious heartbeat at which point I looked over at Ryan and saw him crying which I’m sure quite surprised the Japanese nurse. I could see my relief mirrored in his face. Dr. Shoji printed out a few pictures (see above) and sent us on our way with assurance that everything was measuring right along schedule for 10 weeks and perfectly healthy with a due date of March 2nd. We were soaring by the time we left. Our half hour appointment turned 2 hour nightmare was finally over, and everything was totally fine. Turns out we just had an inept doctor at the clinic who was looking too low with the ultrasound to find anything. (This is actually not the first time I’ve heard of this particular doctor making a similar mistake with first ultrasounds so yikes. Somebody needs to find a different career path, me thinks.) So, yeah, we are now thrilled to know everything is fine, and that we can expect our second bundle of joy in March. We are truly blessed.


31
Jul 13

Ariel’s Voice

I attempted to catch Anya mimicking Ariel’s singing, and at first all I got was weird screeching and humming with a booty shake that had me stifling hysterical laughter behind the camera. She finally does the Ariel singing toward the end, though. : )


22
Jul 13

Hula Hoop

I forgot to upload this the day it happened. Anya decided her swim ring made a great hula hoop and then demonstrated it for us. The joys of living with Anya. : )


01
Jul 13

So…

Anya has an announcement to make. : )

Anya has an announcement to make. : )

Yep. I woke up on Saturday morning and this happened:

Baby #2

That’s right. Baby #2 is in the works. Had it confirmed at the clinic this afternoon. Blood work and all that fun stuff. As of right now they are estimating that I am 5 weeks along with a due date of March 2nd. My first ultrasound will be sometime in August at which point we’ll get a better idea of how accurate that is. Ryan and I have a prenatal class to attend next Wednesday as the options for delivering here have to be explored. The clinic on base doesn’t deliver babies so I either have to go to a Japanese office out in town or go to appointments here until time to deliver and head to another base near Tokyo to their hospital. This is going to be an adventure in so many ways.

We are so very excited. We have been wanting this for about a year now, but we were not really stressing about it. Whenever it happened we were ready for it to happen. I was very zen about knowing that the baby that is meant to be here just hadn’t been meant to be yet. And now here it is. My patience paid off. Ryan was getting a little impatient, but I think his baby fever was worse than mine these last few months. Haha. I cannot wait until our gender ultrasound so we can really start making plans. In the meantime, I’m praying for a happy and healthy 9 months and enjoying the knowledge that our family is soon to grow by one.


01
Jul 13

Swim Lessons

Anya began her first swim lessons two weeks ago. She’d been asking for months to learn how to swim and would take off at the beach like she was heading straight into the waves fearlessly so I had great hopes for her lessons when we headed into class that first day. Thankfully I’ve become adept at adjusting my expectations quickly when it comes to Anya because she spent the entire first class practically on my face like a scared cat. On day two we had progressed to her clinging to my shoulders as I tried to hold her out, and by day three we had moved on to having her hold my arms. By day four we had at long last progressed to a point where I could actually hold her out under her underarms with her face away from me, and she would kick and swim like a normal person.

For the first few days she would begin saying, “Swimming is over,” or, “Time to go,” or, “Time to get out,” from the moment we arrived and got into the pool. By this fourth day, however, I saw her smiling and giggling and actually attempting to splash the instructors with her kicks.

Anxiously awaiting the start of swim lessons this morning. Glad she is finally enjoying them.

I have to give the college girls that were interning as our swim teachers for the summer major props. They were so good with her despite her reservations and gave her time to get comfortable. They’d ask her to do stuff but never tried to force it if she was scared. We were in the Parent & Child class, which honestly was probably a bit beneath Anya’s age ability, but I’m glad I did it and went in the pool with her because I was able to be there and show her that the water was safe to be in if she learned to swim and that she could be comfortable there. They sang cute little songs with the kids some of which Anya quickly memorized and would request by name; she also sings them in the bathtub now. They let the kids collect rubber ducks strewn around the pool which made Anya’s life complete pretty much, and, Anya’s all time favorite, played London Bridge with a pool noodle. It’s almost eerie how well Anya can sing two verses of London Bridge now.

For the second week we simply tried to work on getting her to put her face in the water. We managed to get so far as getting her chin wet one day, ears the next by tossing her head to each side, and by the third day of really working on it sometimes she’d put her mouth in the water to attempt to blow bubbles, but she still needs work on that front. I’m definitely proud of how far she’s come, though. On the final day of class the instructors allowed her to be with the Preschool Level 1 class, and so as far as she was concerned she had graduated and moved on to “the big kid class”. She was so very proud of herself.

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Here she is trying to grab some objects from the bottom of the pool. She tries so hard to NOT put her face in the water. Haha.

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She is signed up to be in the Level 1 class for 2 more weeks beginning the week after Independence Day, and I plan to keep putting her in all summer long. She’s really enjoying it now that she’s over the initial fear, and I won’t worry about her now that I had the time to work with her myself and be there to assure her the pool was fun. AND she gets to be in the same class as one of her friends who we signed up to go with that she loves to do everything with. So she’ll be glad to actually get to be in his class instead of watching him learn to swim from across the pool while she sings songs and clings to my face.

All graduated from the Parent & Child class and will be moving on to Preschool Level 1 next session. She's so proud of herself. : )

For more pictures from Anya’s last day of swim class, check out my June 2013 Flickr set.