Friday, March 31, 2006

Aah! I see you have the machine that goes 'ping!'

At my midwife appointment on Tuesday, Dan and I were exposed to the machine that goes 'ping!' It was really quite amazing. If you have never heard of the machine that goes 'ping!', the reference is from Monty Python's "The Meaning of Life." There is a woman in labor who is surrounded by doctors, nurses, and Japanese tourists (with cameras). Everyone is ignoring her while they cart in more and more medical equipment including the machine that goes 'ping!' The hospital administrators even stop by and are excited that the doctors are using the machine.

While our Electronic Fetal Monitor didn't actually go 'ping!' it did record the contractions that I was having and the baby's heartbeat in seismographic lines. Dan found the machine irresistible. He pulled up his chair very close to the machine and watched it intently. This, of course, made me laugh, which was recorded on the machine as a slight jump in the lines.

We are very excited that Dan has found a way to use technology to help him share my birthing experiences.

We got to see the machine again today. And, because I am late, we will get to see it tomorrow. And the next day. And on Monday. Then I will give birth and Dan will have the baby to interact with. Maybe he will go 'ping!'

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

A Little Known Fact about our Japanese Apartment

Currently Dan and I are living on the 14th floor of an apartment building in Iwatocho (stone gate town) which is part of Shinjuku-ku. The 14th floor happens to be the top floor of the building. Plus, our apartment is 2 levels, so technically there are about 15 floors.

In any case, the little known fact is this: The stairway up to the 14th floor has 211 stairs. I suppose this would be useful to know should you want to escape from a fire or earthquake. Or perhaps it might be useful if you need to know how many stairs you have climbed to try to convince your stubborn child to drop down into your pelvis so that he can be born. In any case, today I walked the stairs 6 times. Yesterday I did it 1 time after I got back from 1.5 hours of walking in the afternoon and 5 times in the evening after dinner.

That's 2,532 stairs total!

I have determined that if I can make it through an hour of climbing stairs every day, the hour of transition labor is going to be cake.
Angela's 30th Birthday Party!
(only 2 months left)

That's right, I am turning 30 on May 31st. I know that I have mentioned that my birthday party is coming up to some of you. It will be held on Sunday, May 28th. Many of you have Monday, May 29th off for Memorial Day. We scheduled the party so that if you travel, you can take advantage of the Monday travel day.

Featuring: A Known Location
Now we even know where the party will be held. It will happen in the exciting land of Rancho Bernardo, CA. Come join us. We hope to have lots of floor space in our apartment for guests, but we will also post information about local, cheap hotels if you want to avoid the youth hostel atmosphere.

Exciting Destination: Southern California
Did you need an excuse to visit Southern California? This is it! You can join us earlier in the weekend, visiting such exciting places as the San Diego Zoo, the beach, and Temecula (wine area). Plus, since we will have had a month to explore the area already, we will be able to reccomend other exciting activities.

Birthday Party Activities
We will be grilling! Lots of eating and hanging out with friends. Things will get started in the early afternoon and continue to evening. Feel free to join us for lunch and/or dinner. We will have enough food to last all day!

Can you make it?
Let us know if you can make it. We will provide a specific address when you need it. We hope to see you there!

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Ueno Cherryblossoms

The weather here in Tokyo is wonderful. It is spring and cherry blossoms are starting to appear on the trees. For those of you who have never been to a place that has cherry blossoms, you are missing out. But do not fear, I will post pictures here on our blog so that you can enjoy the flowery goodness.

Washington, DC vs Tokyo, Japan?
As you may know, there is also a cherry blossom festival in Washington, DC. The tidal basin has many cherry blossom trees surrounding it. However, in Tokyo, there are far more cherry blossom trees than in Washington, DC. Originally the cherry blossom trees were a gift to the United States from Japan. Back in 1912, Japan gave 3,000 trees to the United States to celebrate their growing friendship. Then they renewed their gift with 3,800 more trees in 1956 ( So, while there are lots of trees in Washington, Tokyo still has many many more. You can see the trees everywhere, not just around one small tidal basin. We went to Ueno Park for our Saturday viewing of the trees. Here is one of the shrine gates in the park with cherry blossoms near it:

Cherry Trees vs Cherry Blossom Trees
Many people believe that cherry blossom trees produce cherries. However, the cherry blossom trees in Tokyo and Washington are a decorative variety of trees. They have had their stamens removed and replaced by petals. So, no cherries, just petals.

Cherry Blossom Coverage at 20%
As you can tell from this picture, there are currently lots of buds, but not too many fully developed cherry blossoms at the park. Hana told us about the Japanese term to describe the percentage of cherry blossoms that are currently showing. For 20%, it is "nibu zaki." And to let you know how difficult it is to learn Japanese phrases, this particular phrase is only used to describe cherry blossoms. Not 20% of anything else. Only cherry blossoms.

Japanese Tourists
There is a stereotype prevalent in the culture of the world about Japanese tourists. Basically that you always see large groups of Japanese touring around, all turning at the same time to take pictures of the particular item that their tour guide is pointing out. Is this stereotype true? Could you even say the same thing about American tourists? Maybe. All we know that is wherever we go, people here seem to be ready to take pictures. Everyone has a camera or a camera phone. And, given that the cherry blossom coverage was only at 20%, the trees with actual flowers were quite the point of interest.

Dan and Angela with Cherry Blossoms
Here we are. Proof that we actually went to see cherry blossoms. Kay took this picture for us near one of the branches that was low enough and blossoming. Notice the cameras and camera phones in the background. This was a very popular spot for photographs.

Other Random Comments

People go to where the cherry blossoms are and sit around on their picnic blankets and eat and drink. If only Washington, DC allowed public drinking at their cherry blossom festival!

I finally bought a cell phone charm. It is blue with a cherry blossom on it. You must all get cell phone charms. We must start a trend in the United States. I mean, what else is the cell phone charm holder on your phone for? Go ahead, look. I'll bet you have a place to attach a cell phone charm. Right now Dan has a kung-fu frog cell phone charm on his phone. If you want some sort of cell phone charm and can't find one in the US, I can try to get you one. Let me know.
Fire or Needles?

We all develop many fears over the course of our lives. For me, I take issue with needles and having other things under my skin. Splinters really irritate me. I hate it when I get a piece of glass in my foot. I can't convince myself to give blood. The fear that I have of needles is related to this hypodermaphobia.

Until recently, I thought that my fear of fire was just as strong as my fear of needles. However, it seems that I was incorrect. One of the things that my midwife suggested to help bring on a healthy labor is moxibustion. What in the world is moxibustion? There are these little incense cylinders in little cardboard tubes. You stick them to your skin on specific pressure points. Then you light them! The incense burns down and heats the space inside the cardboard tube, putting heat on the pressure point. This stimulates blood flow. Here is what it looks like:

Yes, those are my hands with burning incense on them. It turns out that my fear of fire, at least of smoldering fire, is not as strong as my fear of needles.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Rancho Bernardo

I finally decided where to do my last SEA rotation. Angela and I will be returning to Southern California. My work will be at a facility in Rancho Bernardo which is in north San Diego county. No idea where we will be living yet, but it probably is not going to have a massive subway system like Tokyo. I am disappointed about that, but glad to be returning to US soil.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

"Eden Scented Sherberts Hippo Teething Blanket"

Sounds like a story fit for Rocketboom, but no, it was actually a surprise baby gift sent to us by our hippo-loving sister, Robin.

Not only does this hippo based item come in purple, the color of most stuffed hippos, it also features:
  • Soothing for teething Babies
  • Knots for chewing as baby forms first tooth
  • Small enough for little hands to hold
  • Gentle, baby-friendly scent helps calm
  • Unconditionally guaranteed for life

Indeed, it is soft and cuddly. We may let our kid play with it even before he develops his first tooth. It seems like it may be a good receptacle for the dreaded baby drool. (Understand that it is not just baby drool that I dread, but all drool. I dread dog drool, cat drool, toddler drool, dan drool, all drool!)

As our kid has not been born yet and is far from teething, I am not sure the gentle, baby-friendly scent will last long enough to calm him. However, we hope that this will work out as calm babies are better than the opposite of calm. Maybe that is why he is so hyper right now? He does not have a calm hippo scent to keep him calm.

I'm not sure what it means for the towel to be unconditionally guaranteed for life, but the product packaging also suggests that I "read and retain all product information." As if I am going to store the box the hippo came in just in case the dreaded baby drool destroys one of the knots or rubs off the hippo's cute stitched pink nose.

An additional feature for our kid - Satisfying genetic tendencies. Where does this love of hippos come from? Grandma Ev was quite the collector of hippos. That's where Robin gets it. So, hopefully this will help to satisfy the Grandma Ev tendencies that our kid my have. This will save us a lot on Godiva Chocolates and silver.

Where can I get one of these?
The "Eden Scented Sherberts Hippo Teething Blanket" seems to be available from or from an merchant. Have fun shopping!

Do you need one of these devices but don't like hippos? Don't worry, the "Eden Scented Sherberts Teething Blanket" is also available in Monkey, Frog, and Pig. Hmmm, pig could be useful if you want to instill a strong love of chewing on bacon in your youngster (Rich and Amanda?).

Thank you for the gift!
So, Robin, this is your official thank you for the nifty gift. We hope to use it for the various purposes stated above. It was very thoughtful of you to send the hippo to Japan so we can implement its calming effects immediately. It may be useful on the international flight back to the US. Thanks!

Updates to Prior Posts: Coffee and Chocolate

Dan-the-can monitoring work while we were in Hawaii
You may recall that Dan left a "black boss" can with his picture on it to keep an eye on things at his office while he was on vacation. Well, it kind of worked. The can got some attention. However, it got a make over. Here is the kinder, gentler black boss (now featuring a pink bow and nesting chickens, courtesy of Mayumi):

The world's best drinking chocolate
Kay actually followed the directions and prepared the drinking chocolate for herself and her mom. She said it was very very nice. Here is what it looks like (I'll have to remember to serve drinking chocolate with 'biscuits', it makes it look even tastier.):

Monday, March 13, 2006

White Day

Ah, Japanese holidays. The "Public Holiday Law" (and amendments) of 1948 clarifies which calendar days are holidays. Some holidays gain the greater status of "National Holiday." You might get a chance of having the day off work on one of the "National Holidays."

Back to White Day. Wikipedia defines White Day like this, "On this Japanese twist on Valentine's Day, a man buys his special woman a treat. The national association of candy makers established this event, which formally began in 1980, although its roots date back a few years. It takes its name from the color of sugar. White Day is not a national holiday."

Your first thought might be, "Japanese twist on Valentine's Day? It sounds like normal Valentine's Day." And, indeed it is basically American Valentine's Day. The twist is with Japanese Valentine's Day on February 14th. On that day, Japanese women buy their special man (and their male co-workers) chocolate. I made the mistake of going to 'La Maison du Chocolat' on Valentine's Day. Not to get Dan chocolate (I already covered that earlier in the week), but to get his Dad and Kay some special drinking chocolate.

Side Note: Special Drinking Chocolate...mmmmm...
Kay's mom once gave us various sweets, cookies, and chocolates. Some of them had store names and addresses on them. Most of the stores were located in Ginza. So, my friend Von and I ended up going chocolate shopping in Ginza. One of the places that Von introduced me to was La Maison du Chocolat. It sells, not surprisingly, expensive French chocolates. The one in Ginza also has a small cafe bar area where you can purchase some of the expensive chocolate for consumption while you are there. Von and I ordered the drinking chocolate. IT IS THE BEST DRINKING CHOCOLATE EVER! For 900 yen you get 200 ml of exquisite drinking chocolate. (English conversion: $7.58 for 6.7 fl oz.) I would post a picture here, but when I washed and dried my camera phone, the picture got washed away too. Von and I considered purchasing the drinking chocolate mix at the time. It looks like Sixlets, tiny chocolate beads. However, the lady at the chocolate store explained to us how to prepare it. You have to heat the chocolate beads with milk to a specific temperature, cool the mixture, strain it, and then re-heat it. A little too complicated for us. However, after much discussion with Dan, we decided that this was something his Dad should try because his Dad is a bit of a chocolate connoisseur. Also, we decided that Kay should try it since every time she goes with us to coffee, she orders hot chocolate. Note: If Dad and/or Kay read this post, they should comment on how things turned out.

Your second thought about White Day may be, "The national association of candy makers established this event? Why can't Hallmark be forthright like this and explain how some of our American holidays came about?"

Your third thought about White Day may be, "Color of Sugar? I thought sugar was brown, then later refined to be white?" Let's check the
Virtual Kaua'i Latte
to find out...
Third picture down... Oh! Sugar is green.

And your final thought on White Day, "Not a National Holiday! How in the world does the typical Japanese man make it home from work in time to give his special woman a sugar-based treat?" Dan had this one covered. He got done with work yesterday and brought me flowers ahead of time. I get to enjoy them here at our apartment all day on White Day.

What else are we doing for White Day? Well, this morning we went to a midwife appointment. Our baby is currently about 3.9 kilograms. I still weigh under 100 kilograms (barely). My midwife still wants me to give birth before my due date. We are now implementing measures such as sage oil and raspberry leaf tea.

After the appointment, Dan and I went to lunch at Wendy's.

Tonight we are meeting up at Dan's work, then going to Shinjuku for crepes, shopping/walking, and dinner. To continue our efforts at pleasing the midwife, and delivering early, we will be eating spicy Indian curry.

An fun time will be had by all.

Will Riker be born on a holiday like both of his parents?
We shall see. Although it seems it will not be White Day. Ah well, there is always Spring Equinox next week, "The vernal equinox is a national holiday for the admiration of nature and the love of living things. Around this time, various Buddhist sects celebrate the spring higan. Many people visit the graves of their ancestors, washing the tombstone, tidying up the site, and offering flowers. The first celebration in Japan took place in 806."

Spring Equinox Day is a National Holiday.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Scary Food

While we avoided a recurrence of the Live-Minnow-Incident of 2000, Dan and I have been exposed to quite the variety of food while living here in Japan. Here are a few examples:

Is it looking at me?
The excitement of an early morning fish market. Where the fish are so fresh, they are whole and still have eyes.

Will it swim away?
Ah, the beauty of tiny octopi that have been made into sushi. Although I must say, if you can discern the head and arms of your food, it still needs some processing. This picture was taken at the conveyer sushi place near our apartment.

Will it crawl away?
I think the octopus arms shown here may succeed with their escape plans to slide over the side of the pan.

Is it still breathing?
Kay's mom gave us these long shell fish one night. As she handed us the non-descript, brown bag, she mentioned, "they are still alive, you should put them in water when you get home." This was a bit creepy, even for Dan. We dutifully submerged the shell fish then shut the door to the kitchen so they couldn't escape and find us.

Is it fresh?
Obviously all burgers served at this establishment meet the "freshness burger" standard.

Did a man with a large knife ensure that it is dead?
Ah, the reassurance that comes with large knives slicing through huge chunks of unrecognizable meat. Well, actually we recognized the meat as tuna, but it didn't look at us or have a tail attached, so it was ok by me. This picture was taken at the fish market at Tsujiki early one morning.

Has it been freeze-dried to ensure future freshness?
I believe that these are packaged, freeze-dried squid. Convenient for people on the go who crave a squid-snack.

Do you have to sit on the floor to eat it?
This is a sushi restaurant near Dan's work. He goes there a lot. I have only been twice. As it is a sushi restaurant, I sit on the floor and enjoy the green tea as my legs fall asleep.

Does it contain excessively long noodles?
This is Angela2 experiencing soba noodles for the first time. Oddly, I actually like this dish. The excessively long noodles are cold. You get seaweed strips on top of them and a soy sauce on the side for dipping. The noodles are made from buckwheat and are very healthy for you.

Do you know what it is?
Ok, here we have noodles again. Angela2 figured that after the cold noodles, she really wanted some warm ones. So, the day after the cold soba dinner, we went to a Chinese restaurant for a warm noodle lunch. They cook a killer chicken noodle soup that I enjoy eating. However, the dish shown here was option "C" on the menu. It involves some sort of hot noodle dish. On the bottom left are some pickled radishes. On the top left is a sweet, slimy, gel desert item.

Is it a science experiment?
I'll bet you were wondering what wasabi root looked like before it becomes that tiny bit of paste next to your sushi.

Was it cooked over hot steam vents on a mountain?
Daniel tried the black eggs that were cooked over a steam vent near Hakone. Unfortunately he thinks they gave him food poisoning. Sure, the 3 times he has conveyer sushi, he is fine, but eat one black egg...

Is it food, or an electronic device?
Yes, you can buy USB drives that look like sushi. This is, perhaps, one of the unique things that you should seek out in Akihabara as most other electronics are comparable in price to items sold in the United States.

It looks like a turnip...
... on top of a building?

It looks like water...
...served in a glass and a square box cup. This is sake, or Japanese rice wine. It is very clear and very smooth. Like the noodles, you can get it hot or cold. This is a cold version. They pour the sake until the cup runneth over into the box. They keep pouring until the edge of the box demonstrates the super-cohesion properties of the sake. The eminent risk of spilling over the sides of the box never seems to manifest.

Is it made out of flower petals?
We awarded this dish a 10 out of 10 for presentation. You have to admit that the pink and yellow crysthanthemum petals add something to the otherwise squishy soft tofu that they adorn. Check out the background food here. Deep fried cheese potato balls with marinara sauce...mmmm...

Is it endorsed by a guy in funny glasses?

Does the packaging say it is good for you?

My kind of food...
Yes, I admit, we go to TGI Friday's for dinner when we crave an American burger, or the wings and Caesar salad shown here.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Angela's Pregnancy FAQ #2

It has been a while since I posted an update on the whole pregnancy thing. So, I have prepared yet another list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ). If you have no interest in pregnancy, feel free to skip this blog post. :)

What are Japanese hospitals like?
Japanese hospitals are much like American hospitals. Back when we were in Virginia in September, we went on a tour of the hospital where Dan was born back in 1978. They offered such features as 80% episiotomy rate and a 25% c-section rate. It was scary to look around the tour and realize that 4-5 of the women on the tour were going to have c-sections and most of them would have episiotomies. Here in Japan, the rates are about the same. Also the same are the exciting features of required IVs and no eating during labor. While many women accept these things as "necessary" for giving birth, I think they are absolutely crazy.

So, where will you give birth, if not at a hospital?
Ah, the saga of actually finding a place to give birth... When we first arrived in Tokyo, I had already contacted the 2 groups of pregnant foreign women who had email lists and web sites with lots of information. I used this information to figure out where to give birth.

There was a small clinic with some doctors and midwives that also offered water birth. Dan and I visited this clinic. It had a very nice atmosphere and a female doctor who spoke English. However, they nicely told us that we should look elsewhere unless we could find a translator to come to every appointment and the labor and delivery. Dan explained to me that this was their way of saying, no, we don't want to deal with you.

So, the next step was to visit the hospital located a few blocks from Dan's work. They offer epidurals (during business hours on weekdays if the anesthesiologist is available, yea!), or "pain-free-birth." When the person who was helping me find a hospital asked me, "Do you want pain-free-birth?" I had to say, yes, that sounds like a good idea. Only a crazy person wants a pain-full-birth. So, I tried this hospital. My doctor was very nice. However, when I asked about c-sections and epidurals, her answers were distressing to me. On top of that, my needle-phobia was not calmed as they require an IV when you check in. Dan was very reassuring and told me that I didn't have to give birth there, that I could find another place.

I tried another hospital. This time I called ahead and asked about their policy on IVs at check-in before I made an appointment. This Catholic hospital didn't require an IV. So, I signed up to see their English-speaking female doctor. I went to quite a few appointments. I was distressed by their episiotomy and c-section statistics yet again, but this hospital had a friendly American nun named Sister Barbara who was very reassuring. They would let Dan attend the birth, of course, for an extra $100. But most of the nurses and doctors only spoke Japanese. This would have been ok with me, except for the fact that I wouldn't know what was going on or what types of procedures they were planning on doing while I was in labor. So I asked if the hospital would let me have a Japanese translator/doula with me. They said, "no." The planned labor experience that this place made me envision still distressed me.

During the time when I was going to the Catholic hospital, Dan and I took a birthing class. The instructor emphasized that you should give birth in a place where you feel comfortable. Being stressed out about your surroundings inhibits the process of labor and delivery. So, I asked our instructor if she could recommend any midwife clinics. She gave me a list.

I located all of the clinics on a map. One of them was located very close to our apartment. I figured that would be a good place to start. So I called the woman who helped me before with the hospital near Dan's work. (She works for the company that helps Dan's company and the Japanese company work together. She was also the person who helped me go apartment shopping.) I asked her to contact the nearby midwife clinic. My initial questions were basic, asking about the philosophy of the clinic and their willingness to accept a foreign woman as a patient. They support natural birth. They had a back-up doctor on-call and emergency access to a nearby hospital if anything goes wrong. My detailed list of follow-up questions addressed other concerns that I had. We met to discuss the details.

Everything worked out well. I actually didn't need help with translation. My midwife speaks better English than my doctor at the Catholic hospital (The doctor's favorite English phrase was, "Watch your weight"). My midwife's name is Sachiko. She is one of the most upbeat and pleasant people that I have met in Japan. While Dan is number one on my list of people to have with me at our kid's birth, Sachiko is now definitely number two. Everything that I realized is important for me to be comfortable works with giving birth at the midwife clinic:

Highest Priorities:

1) Husband Attends Labor & Delivery

2) Avoid Episiotomy

3) IV not required

4) Birth Position Flexible

5) No Procedures/Tests without the doctor informing and asking permission first

6) Breast Milk only for baby (no sugar water or bottles in nursery)

You may notice that having an attendant that can speak English is not actually on my list. After multiple occurrences of waking up in the middle of the night panicked about giving birth at a hospital, I realized that it was more important to me to have an attendant who would take all necessary actions to help me avoid an episiotomy than it was to have an attendant who speaks English. However, I ended up with an English speaking midwife anyway.

Now, instead of panic when I think about labor and delivery, I am actually kind of excited about the process. I don't have to worry about unnecessary medical intervention from an OB (OBs are surgeons who tend to be a little knife-happy). I can relax knowing that my body was built to give birth and that my midwife is there to support me in any way she can during the natural process.

What is Dan's role in all of this?
One of the questions that I had for the midwife clinic was, "Can the husband cut the umbilical cord?" The answer: "It's his job." :) I found the answer funny, my first indication about Sachiko's good humor. Dan also has the job of lower back massage during labor and bringing me food during my stay at the clinic (4-6 days).

Why so long of a post-natal stay at the clinic?
That's just how it is done here in Japan. Japan has the lowest infant mortality rate in the world (the United States is number 30 on the list). So, they must be doing something right. Fortunately the post-natal stay will give me time to adjust to having the baby, taking care of him, changing diapers, etc. I will be surrounded by supportive midwives to take care of me and the baby. This sounds a lot better to me than hanging out by myself at our apartment with Dan at work and a new baby at home. Unlike the United States, Japan does not have the 24-48 hour turn around hospital release time as mandated by the health insurance companies.

Who will attend the birth?
Besides Dan, Sachiko will be with me for the entire labor and delivery experience. She has been directly involved in over 550 deliveries. Also attending will be the head midwife of the clinic who has over 40 years of experience. We met her yesterday. Dan says that she looks like and sounds like Yoda. She only speaks Japanese, so I imagine Dan sitting there listening to her and interpreting her saying, "Large baby you will have... yes."

Is your baby large?
It is the only thing that the doctors and midwives talk about. In the world of 5'10" tall American women giving birth, I have gained an appropriate amount of weight. My baby is larger than 3 kilograms already. I weighed 9 lbs when I was born which is 4.1 kilograms. My own weight started at 192 lbs pre-pregnancy and is now at 218 lbs. That's slightly high at 26 lbs gained, I would have preferred to gain less than 25 lbs, but it has been tough with the lack of an exercise routine and my boredom with walking. Also, our kid has a long femur. So hopefully that means while he will be tall/long, his head won't be super huge.

Are you large?
I think I am reaching the limit on my maternity pants. Plus, this past week the baby moved downward (not quite "dropped" yet, but definitely lower).

How is your name selection going?
Unlike most parents who support the baby-name-book-industry, we managed to select a name without spending the $14.95. Actually, we are not exactly sure how we settled on the first name, but we both like it. Of course, then we had to choose a middle name. Being the creative geniuses that we are, we took the meaning of our chosen first name and asked some of our Japanese friends what the equivalent might be in Japanese. Then out of the three provided options, we selected the name that was the easiest to pronounce and spell in both languages. So basically we are planning on naming our son the same thing twice. Quite redundant, actually.

How is your belly button doing?
It is very shallow. I think that it might have disappeared, but Dan assures me that it is still there. However, I still have a few weeks of pregnancy left, so we shall see if it inverts.

When will you give birth?

The official estimated due date is March 24th. The estimated due date from my calculations is March 20th. Daniel says we cannot give birth on his birthday, March 17th. Since Dan and I were both born on holidays, we figure the kid will be born on March 14th, White Day (a day like Valentine's day where men give women gifts) or March 21st, Spring Equinox Day (a national holiday here where people visit graves, much like my birthday on Memorial Day).

Are you ready to be parents?
No. Dan and I have way too much fun, just the two of us. We really have no idea how to integrate a kid into our lives. I mean, can any of you actually see us as parents?

Are you planning on having more than this one kid?
Are you kidding? You should never ask a 9 month pregnant woman this question! Do you know how long pregnancy lasts? Do you know how boring it is to wait around for 9 months while something grows inside you? I don't even know how frustrating labor and delivery will be!

But, yes, we don't want to raise an only child. We want there to be a built-in playmate for our kid. We may have to do this again. I'll let you know after we give birth.

How does your new anti-stuff, minimalist perspective apply to your baby?
We are trying to stop the accumulation of stuff before it happens. We plan on not purchasing things such as a changing table, a baby monitor, or other "unnecessary stuff." We figure that when the baby gets old enough to play with toys, we will provide him with a box and a stick. This will provide hours of endless entertainment. We may also get him some blocks to build stuff out of. We don't need any stuffed animals! Dan and I have accumulated some over the course of our lives and will pass them along.

Our diaper bag is reasonably sized and should provide us with an ever ready way to leave the house without extra time required for preparation.

Confession: We got sucked in by the cute baby clothes market. In Hawaii, on Kaua'i, they have red dirt. They take a bucket of it and use it to dye t-shirts or "red dirt shirts." I couldn't pass up the opportunity to purchase a tiny, cute, red-dirt shirt for our kid. Hehe, now he has something to wear when he is playing in the dirt. :) It cost $15, quite excessive for a tiny t-shirt. Also, when shopping with Angela2, here in Japan, I finally bought a tiny baby kimono. It was $16, quite excessive for a tiny outfit. BUT THAT IS ALL! No more purchasing of unnecessary stuff!

When will you return to the US?
Ah, yes, our return to the US. Once our baby is born, Dan will go to our local city hall with the birth certificate issued by the midwife clinic to obtain a birth certificate from the city hall. Then, after I leave the clinic (4-6 days after giving birth), the three of us will go to the Embassy to apply for a passport for our kid. Then, 3-4 weeks later, we will receive the passport. Hopefully all of this will happen by our return to the US date of April 15.

What if you don't have a passport by April 15th?
Hmmm... Good question. That is the date our lease currently ends. That is the date of our plane tickets. Dan's project is done April 14th and he needs to get back for the SEA Program Forum the next week. Right now, the plan is for us to ship all of our stuff back except for some of my clothes and baby stuff. Then we would move to a hotel. Dan would go home on the 15th and I would wait for the passport. So, if anyone is interested in coming to hang out with me and fly back with a tiny baby (flying back would be business class), please let me know if the timing works for you. We could even show you around Tokyo while we are waiting. :) So, if Riker isn't born within the next 10 days, we may have an issue.

What are you doing to try to hasten the birthing process?
I really believe that our kid will be born when he is ready. However, I am trying to take my midwife's advice about walking for 1-2 hours or more every day. Walking is so boring though!

When you return to the US, can we send you a gift?
We are still working out the details of Dan's final assignment in his SEA work program. We are not sure where we will be living. However, we will be moving into another furnished apartment which will include a crib. As I mentioned before, if you really, really want to get us something, the best thing would be a gift card to Target or Babies R Us. We are really unsure as to what we will need when we get back and if we will even need stuff until October. The one thing that we do need to buy is a car seat or travel system. All gift cards would be put towards that initially. And diapers.

Update to Travel List
Remember the travel list that we posted before that listed all of the places where Riker visited while inside me? With our most recent trip, we have now added Hawaii to the list of US States. This brings the grand total up to 15 states and 6 countries. Quite the well-traveled baby. :) Hopefully he will get to visit as many places when he can actually experience them.

How will your work go after you give birth?
My plan is to continue to work from home. Of course, this isn't the most practical unless I have additional help. I am hoping that there are agencies who hire out nannies. I will be looking for one of these agencies in Washington, DC as well as our final destination for the April to October timeframe. That way, I will have undistracted time while at home, plus, when I travel to DC to network or work on-site with people, I will have the flexibility to leave the baby at home with the nanny while going out for a few hours.

How will you announce the birth of your baby?
We are planning on posting it on our blog, of course. We will try to send out an email to everyone to let them know to look at the blog. However, we can't promise anything. If we forget to send the email in all of the excitement, we ask for your forgiveness in advance.

I blame the pregnancy!
On a light note... they say that when you are pregnant, you have a tendency to lose your mind a bit. And that's what I am chalking my most recent "accident" up to. Dan and I both have very nice Japanese cell phones. Important for coordinating plans. Important if I should go into labor. Last week I left my phone in the pocket of my jeans. Then I proceeded to wash and dry the jeans. Amazingly enough the phone still booted up after the experience. However, it never got a signal again. I think I fried the antenna. :) Fortunately I was able to acquire a new, less expensive model, Japanese cell phone. All is well.