Monday, November 16, 2009

The Weight

We had originally planned to head back to North Carolina at the end of December to prepare for my procedure in January with Dr. Natale at Texas Cardiac Arrhythmia Institute. While I have had this problem for years and years I was pretty much able to go about my daily life without anyone being the wiser. I might have complained that I was 'having a bad heart day' but did not often find myself benched from most of the things I enjoyed to do. Then I had a baby (who is so sweet, don't you think?!). My threshold for pain/exhaustion that I once maintained has been getting lower and lower. I now find myself pausing before doing the simplest of tasks to make sure I can physically handle it. A few weeks ago I decided that I should stop in to see the Doctor on Base who manages my care while living in Japan; just to let him know how I was feeling. He very strongly advised that we get back to the States as soon as possible. The hospital on Base is not equipped to care for a patient like myself. It is next to impossible for an American to receive care from a Japanese Hospital. There are so many different flus going around and the Doctor said that if I were to get sick, with my already compromised state of health, that I would most likely need to be hospitalized. SO... we decided it would be best to head back home a few months earlier than planned. One of the things that worried the Doctor on Base was the fact that I have been loosing weight. Last month I lost 11 pounds... without trying, without changing my diet, without any real physical activity. My heart just races All. The. Time. I guess it is starting to take its toll on my metabolism. So when the doctor told me to eat as much fattening foods as I could, I was totally on board with that prescription! I love to cook, I cook every day. I do try to cook healthy, and still am, I just have added a few treats to my daily routine!

Finally, this heart condition is starting to look up!

I discovered this recipe today and quickly made these while Noah was napping. He woke up just in time to lick the spoon. I had to have gained at least a pound today! (dinner consisted of homemade bbq bacon cheese burgers. gluttonous.)

No-bake Peanut Butter Chocolate Oatmeal Bars

3/4 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups quick oats
1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup peanut butter

In saucepan melt the butter over medium heat. Once melted, add the brown sugar, vanilla and oats. Stir. Warning: it is a sticky mess.

In a microwave safe bowl add the chocolate chips and the PB. Melt in microwave on medium heat, stirring occasionally so the chocolate does not burn (this would be heartbreaking).

In a greased 8x8 pan, add 1/2 the oat mixture, pressing it down firmly. Pour the chocolate mixture over the oats, reserving some to drizzle on the top. Add the remaining oats, lightly press down. Drizzle remaining chocolate.

Place in fridge for 3 hours before cutting.

For your safety, eat with a glass of milk:-)

*before you go and think I have mad food photography skills, I must admit I stole this picture from another bloggers website.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Back in business... sorta

Let's see... it has been about 7 months since my last post. I started this blog as a way to keep our friends and family back in the States updated on the various adventures we are brave enough to embrace while living in Japan. But let's be honest, I basically talk about NOAH! And who can blame me, he is a pretty charming subject, offering plenty of subject material. But about 7 months ago we had a bit of a scare with the subject of our affection; there was some concern that Noah had a condition called craniosynostosis.

Exactly... what?!

The nutshell explanation of this condition is this: the skull is comprised of several different plates with open sutures between each one that allow the brain and skull to grow. Craniosynostosis is the premature fusion of one or more of the sutures. Depending on what suture is affected determines the type of cranio that you have. This was not something that was new to us; my nephew Jackman was born with sagittal craniosynostosis and underwent major skull reconstructive surgery to correct the problem.

Exactly... what?!

Unfortunately for some cases the only solution is a major surgery. The brain needs room to grow as it is meant to; not forced to grow in the area of least resistance causing an abnormal head shape, not to mention the increased risk of intracranial pressure. Jackman Michael Ellington underwent total cranial vault reconstructive surgery in February of 2008. Now, almost 2 years later, he is doing beyond fabulous! Anyone who knows Jack can attest to the fact that there is no stopping this fireball of energy, excitement and PERSONALITY! The point I am trying to get to is that although it is a scary thing to hear your child might have this condition, I knew first hand that IF Noah did indeed have this that he would be just fine... look at perfect Jack! Knowing that and living that soon became two different realities to me...

Cranio soon overwhelmed my days. When I was not taking care of/playing with Noah, I was worrying about/obsessing over his health.

Every. Little. Thing.

I was obsessed with taking pictures of Noah from different angles to try and capture the shape of his head. I would stay up for hours at night emailing not one, not two, not even three but FOUR specialists in the field with my concerns. Noah has had one xray, 2 CT scans and has had countless office visits with 2 different specialists. I could not bring myself to log onto my blogger account and talk about anything. What was I going to say? We still did not know for sure if Noah was alright. I could not bare to put into writing what we were going through. The emotion of it all was much bigger than any blog could cover. All of my attention and energy had to be put into worrying about Noah. Healthy, right?

And the verdict? To quote one of our favorite specialists, Dr. van Aalst of UNC Children's Hospital (who performed Jack's surgery) 'On a scale from 1 to 100 of severity, Noah is a 3. Do not worry any more, let it go, enjoy your son!' The suture that was fused on Noah was his metopic; the suture that runs up and down in the middle of your forehead. It is the first suture to close, typically in the second year of life. Noah's was closed by the time he was four months old. In children with metopic cranio, the forehead starts to take on a triangular shape, pointing out in the middle where the suture should be. In very severe cases it is quite obvious from birth. Noah still has a nice square brow line, but a slight 'ridge' running down the middle of his forehead. Part of my hesitance to write about this is that I do not want to come across like I think my child looks odd. To me, he is perfect in every way! The concern was the growth of his brain. I was also hesitant because I did not want people to know that he has a mild case and therefore critique every little nook and cranny of his appearance. Now THAT might be vain, but who wants people looking at their child, thinking something is wrong with the way they look?!

After our last visit with Dr. van Aalst in September I let it GO. Just like that! I stopped worrying, I stopped taking pictures of his head, I stopped searching the internet for journals, research, articles, anything that had to do with cranio! It was like the proverbial weight was lifted from my shoulders. I could get back to the business of being a Mom to my perfect, handsome, thriving son!

And back in business we have been, Noah is doing great.

I know what you are thinking... then what is the 'sorta' all about in your title, hummm?

If you know me well, you know I have a heart condition. As this post is long enough I will not go into great detail about what type/symptoms/prognosis etc. There will be plenty of time for those details later. I will be having a procedure (my fourth) in January to try and correct this problem that I have been suffering with since... forever. Instead of taking the unhealthy and obsessive route that I took with cranio I decided I should write about what I am thinking and feeling. While friends and family often ask how I am doing I never open up as much as I could or should. Even after those few paragraphs above concerning Noah I feel so much better; I want that for my heart as well!

So bare with me... there will still be plenty of posts about Noah. After all, he is my heart!

We are BACK says Noah! And I know some of you might be curious, so in the above picture you can see the ridge that I was describing, right above his nose. Isn't it the most perfect and precious face you have ever seen?!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Miss Lorelei is HERE!

We have another cousin in our ranks! My oldest sister (Jessica, Aunt Jess) gave birth to the most beautiful girl, Lorelei, on April 9, 2008. She weighed in at 8 pounds 14 ounces, 21 inches long. I can not wait to see that sweet baby girl Ellington! Matthew and Jack are the proud big brothers and Mike is the very proud papa:-)

Jess and I had very similar pregnancies; we both had morning sickness, we both had horrible heart burn and other lovely things I would rather forget. Apparently we both cooked some similar looking babes.... here are two pictures... can you tell which one is the new, yawning Noah and which one is the new, yawning Lorelei? 

I am so excited that Noah will have a cousin so close in age to play with. Lorelei makes cousin number 5 on my side of the family. One of the best things about having Noah was knowing that my wonderful sisters have their wonderful children for Noah to have in his life. I LOVE my family (and miss them dearly but that's another post all together) and am thrilled that Noah will be surrounded with cousins; young, old and hopefully some more to come (Em, Tim, get busy!). 

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Noah's new toy

We got an exersaucer! We were limited in our saucer-options; actually this was the ONLY one they sold on Base and while the ones in the Japanese baby stores off base are fantastic they are about twice the price. Luckily Noah loves it. Here are a few pictures of him playing with all his new bells and whistles....

He has started making this silly face where he sucks in his lips. He has just started the silly face in this picture....

Silly face, side view....

Thinking so hard about moving his hand where he wants it to go that he clearly has forgotten to swallow his saliva. 

He is just learning and growing so much every day, it's amazing. For example: this morning Noah said 'hi' to me. Jeff said one syllable words do not count, but it was as clear as day and it was an intentional 'hi' as I had just walked into his room:-) Maybe tomorrow morning he will say 'konichiwa' and show his Dad who's boss. This is not the face of someone you want to mess with...

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Way to Gyoza

Another tasty Japanese dish mastered! Most people have had some form of gyoza in their lifetime; they are often called pot-stickers, this is how I knew them before moving to Japan. They are yummy and we love them. Jeff used to joke that he would name his first born child gyoza (lucky for Noah that was a phase) so I decided I would try out a recipe at home. I made the filling with ground pork, cabbage, green onions and mushrooms along with ginger, garlic, sesame oil and of course soy sauce for flavoring. They sell the dough right by the ground pork in the store so lucky me did not have to wonder around holding my English to Japanese dictionary and crossing my fingers that I stumble upon it. I also picked a Japanese lager to accompany our dinner. (Side note: beer in Japan is expensive! I'm talking 1700 yen for a 6 pack! Needless to say I only purchased two cans) 

They turned out great. And the beer was very tasty, well worth the 300 yen! 

Next week, sushi:-)

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

(sorta) Sick Noah and his sleepy Mom

Just some pictures for now, I need to get to bed! Poor Noah has had a low fever since last Thursday... he's just a little grumpy at times and definitely more clingy and needy (which I sorta love) so I am tired! Here he is during a 'happy moment' playing with some stuffed animals. 

 I'll write more later, once we are all rested and well. I am sure this is just a case of the 'First time Mom over reacting virus'... I hear every newborn gets it;-)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Splish Splash

Swim time for Noah! (Of course we forgot the camera, these pics were taken with Jeff's phone so they are a little grainy.) Noah loved it. He was very good at floating on his back which is a good sign that he will be comfortable in the water once he is ready to learn to swim.  Spending time in the pool is something I am really looking forward to doing with Noah. There is also a beach nearby; it's going to be so much fun to spend some time there during the summer. But for now... 10 minutes bobbing around in the pool on base was enough for our little kicker:-)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Napping Noah

Keeping up with that paci can be too much work. Noah has found his thumb! I was a big time thumb sucker when I was little, so was my sister Emily (who would hold her hand just like Noah is, CUTE). Here's The Scamp sucking that thumb... 

Saturday, March 14, 2009

House Guest

His name is Maurice. Noah enjoys his company, he thinks he is a wise old Monkey...

... but he has no concept of personal space. Here he is making himself at home reading 'Hop on Pop' on Jeff's pillow (you can tell by my facial expression it was an awkward moment when Jeff walked in only to find us reading in bed together).

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Our cuisine reigns supreme

Jeff and I decided to attempt making our first Japanese dish at home.... from scratch. We are big fans of the Japanese Curry that you can get from most any restaurant in Misawa for a fair bargain; you can also buy packets of it at the grocery stores and simply heat it in the microwave. After much searching online I found a recipe that seemed like the real deal... I then dared to walk to the store to find all the ingredients. Grocery shopping in a foreign Country where you do not speak the language is easier said than done. I am sure I am a sight, walking around with my dictionary, trying to recognize any kanji I come across on a package that looks like it could be what I am looking for. Luckily for our first culinary-culture-cross the ingredients were fairly simple. With everything 'mise en place' we began... and we are proud to announce it was DELICIOUS. 

Of course the camera was in the car so I couldn't take a picture of our delicious dish, but here is one that I snagged off the internet. 

Here is the recipe that I used. Try making it some time and enjoy a taste of Japan!

Japanese Curry

2 tbs olive oil
1 lb chicken (or any meat your prefer) 
Salt and pepper to taste
1 medium onion sliced into half moons
2 medium carrots, cubed
2 medium potatoes, cubed
3 cups water
Japanese Curry Roux (recipe to follow)

Salt and pepper chicken, brown on all sides. Add onions, carrots and potatoes. Cook until slightly tender. Add water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and allow to simmer for 45 minutes. Add curry roux. Serve over rice. 

Japanese Curry Roux

3 1/2 cups water
2 bouillon cubes 
2 tbs butter
1 medium onion sliced into half moons
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, pressed
2 tbs flour
1 tbs curry powder
1/2 tsp garam masala**
Salt to taste

Heat water to dissolve the bouillon cubes. Meanwhile melt butter, cook onions until translucent. Add garlic and ginger, cook a few minutes. Add flour and curry powder, stir until onions are coated. Slowly add the soup mixture, stirring constantly to avoid clumps. Mixture will thicken but it takes time. When it reaches your desired thickness add the garam masala and salt.

**Garam masala is a blend of various fragrant spices like cinnamon and cloves commonly used in Indian dishes. You can find a recipe to make it at home with a coffee grinder but most grocery stores sell it pre made which saves significant time and energy!

Next... sushi rolls!!! ;-)

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Noah, sitting king

More advanced behavior from our Noaster.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Fatty Pants

No, that's not a rubber band around his wrist.... that's just one of the many fat rolls that Noah has been sporting these days. Our child is chunky, there is no way around it. He is 15 lbs, which at around 11 weeks is pretty respectable. During the day he has started eating every hour for at least 30 minutes at a sitting. After discussing this with my sister Jessica (Matt, Jack and the soon to arrive Lorelei's Mama, Aunt Jess... which ever you prefer) we decided to introduce rice cereal into his diet in hopes that he will stay fuller for longer. So.... Noah enjoyed a warm bowl or cereal this morning in his swing. He loved it. Of course I thinned it out considerably but I still fed it to him with a spoon. He would gum it around his mouth until he swallowed it, then would kick his legs and wave his arms until I gave him another spoonful. Such a chunk, I can't believe he is eating solids at just over 2 months old!

You can some what grasp the girth of the belly in this picture. He is wearing a onsie that was a gift from Jean, a friend of Jeff's. What you can't see because of the belly lapping over his pants is the phrase 'Peas on Earth'. His belly is compromising his fashion. Something must be done;-)

Friday, February 27, 2009

Bad, bad blogger

OK OK, I know I have been a bad blogger. My intentions are true; often while Jeff and I are doing something I will comment on how it would make a great blog. I just never seem to find the time! 

Noah and I have been back in Japan for about a month now. Our trip over was about as uneventful as one could ask for. Noah is a pro World Traveler! Shirley (Jeff's Mom, Noah's Grandma... which ever you prefer) came with us and stayed for 2 weeks. When we arrived at Narita Airport in Tokyo Jeff was waiting outside of customs with his camera ready to capture Noah's arrival. 
We spent the night in Tokyo to break up the travel; Misawa is another 400 miles north of Tokyo. Being a Civilian Contractor on a Military Base offers us many perks, one being the use of the New Sanno Hotel in Tokyo. It is exclusively for Military and their Families, it is extremely nice and extremely well priced. You could spend a fortune on lodging in this HUGE and EXPENSIVE city, so it's nice to have the opportunity to stay somewhere for less than 1,000 yen (about $100).

The first week of our arrival Jeff went back to work and Shirley, Noah and I spent our time at home trying to get adjusted to the time change and trying to get organized. Noah handled all the upheaval like a champ; it took a few days to get his tummy used to the feeding changes and he had a bad bought of fussy gassiness but he is back to his happy self. He was at the perfect age to subject him to the time change since he sleeps all the time anyway.
During the second week of Shirley's visit, Monday was a Holiday (President's Day) and Jeff was off of work. He took the next three days off so we could travel back to Tokyo before Grandma's departure. The Shinkansen (bullet train) is the best means of traveling to Tokyo; we are able to arrive at Tokyo Station in about 3 hours! Again, Noah was a great World Traveler. He fussed maybe a time or two but for the most part was content to just sit, babble, sleep or eat for the whole train ride.
We were able to stay at the New Sanno again and arrived Tuesday evening. The concierge suggested some places to eat and we had a wonderful meal in Tokyo that was very decently priced (again... expensive city! Finding good food for a good price is rare!). We turned in early that evening knowing that Wednesday we would be out and about in Tokyo. Wednesday morning we went to this wonderful bakery down the street from the Hotel and purchased several different tasty pastries for breakfast. We took them down the block to... you guessed it... Starbucks. After breakfast we headed to the subway station to make our way to the Mori Art Museum. The MAM is in a 54 story, very modern building in a very trendy neighborhood called Ropongi Hills. We saw 2 exhibits and also went on the roof for a great sky view of the City. We spent the whole day at the Museum.

Shirley flew back home on Thursday while Noah, Jeff and I boarded the Shinikansen to head back to Misawa! It was a great trip to Tokyo, Jeff planned it out perfectly which I have found is the key to a successful trip to Tokyo. In such a large city with so much to do it's best to just pick one thing and do it up right!

Our third week back home was pretty uneventful. Jeff was back to work and Noah and I just spent our days trying to get adjusted to being here and trying to get organized (notice a common theme? It's hard unpacking when you have a baby to take care of!)

SO... I think that pretty much wraps up our first weeks back here in Japan. Now that I am caught up I promise I will be a better blogger! I strive to be as good as my Sister (Emma's Mom, Emily, Aunt Em... which ever you prefer!) some day:-)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Snugle Bear

Our good friends Anne and Chris sent us a baby carrier called a 'Snugli' today. What a thoughtful gift! It will make maneuvering around Japan that much easier. I decided to try it out on a walk around the neighborhood to see what snow was left from the snow storm we had the day before. Noah LOVED his new carrier! He was awake for the first couple of minutes and then slept the whole time. He loved being all snugly and cuddly in his warm bear suit. (and he is awfuly cute, if I do say so myself)

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Noah's one month old!!

It's hard to believe that our little man is one month old. He is such a good boy, we really got lucky! A day in the life of Noah at one month looks a little something like this:

We wake up around 7 or 8 AM. Noah is NOT a morning person, it takes him about an hour to open his eyes. During that hour he just grunts and kicks around trying to fight waking up. He does not really start crying until he finally opens his eyes and realizes that he is hungry. He eats, which is very funny to hear. This child grunts and gulps and bangs his head around for the first couple of minutes. He really shows his temper, it's funny when I have had enough rest and aggravating if I am sleepy. After he has eaten and changed into a daytime outfit he usually stays awake for a couple hours. If he is not having a gas attack he is content to hang around either in his bouncy chair while I shower or to lay on his play mat and look at the black and white puppy that is on it. He swings his little arm toward the puppy, he just loves it! If he is having a gas attack he likes to be held and bounced around in my arms. Speaking of gas... does Noah ever suffer horribly from gas! His stomach is sensitive to almost everything I eat. Now that he is a big one month old we're getting the hang of getting rid of it, but boy oh boy does he wail when the gas attacks start. And when my child poos it sounds like the end of the shampoo bottle. You can hear it from across the room. He poos so so much. His nickname is Dr. Poopsie;-) His afternoons pretty much go in that same pattern; eat, stay awake for about an hour, then sleep for 2 maybe 3 hours. At about 8:00 he gets very sleepy and takes a good long nap. This is when I can get some laundry done, or try to clean up the house. When he wakes up he gets a bath. He LOVES his bath. He forgets all about being hungry and sits so contently while the water calms him down. After his bath he gets all cuddly in his PJ's. We then go upstairs, he eats and falls fast asleep. He sleeps right next to me in my bed. He wakes up about 2 times during the night to eat, each time (if I am lucky) he falls right back asleep. Such a sweet, peaceful baby.

I promise not all my blogs will be this long and boring, I just want to be able to look back and remember how my baby was when he was one month old.

Noah giving a sweet, one month old smile.

Friday, January 9, 2009

The arival of The Scamp

My long awaited return to the world of blogging... what better way to get back into the habit than to tell Noah's birth story!

I was induced on December 18th, one week past my due date. I won't go into details about the days leading up to the 18th.... let's just consider this my mass apology to the folks who had to endure the over-due part of my life with me, I was not pleasant to be around;-)

The morning of the 18th we were told to wait for a call from Labor and Delivery to tell us when to come in. They have to wait for an open bed, the women who come arrive in active labor have first priority. Of course I was up at 5am waiting for the phone to ring.... ring it did not until 9:14! Torture! We checked in at 9:45, I was in my gown at 10:00 and by 11:00 they started the Pitocin, a drug they administer through an IV that starts contractions. I met with the Doctor who said their plan to manage my heart condition was to be preemptive with my pain, in other words get the epidural going good and strong before the contractions were good and strong. The nurse came to check on me every 30 minutes and would up the dose of pitocin. I was having contractions but nothing that was taking my breath away and nothing that was consistent. Around 3:00 the nurse and Doctor came back in, they went ahead and ordered the epidural for 4:00 and then they checked to see what my progress was... no change at all, I was still 3cm dilated! The Doc then decided to break my water to get things going....

That did the trick, things picked up in a big way! I immediately went into active labor. Then I knew what real contractions felt like, I don't know what I was thinking with every false alarm before that! They say that with pitocin it seems like nothing happens for a long time and then BAM labor kicks in and when it does the contractions are more intense. Yeah... intense... that's not how I would describe it. I like to think I have a high tolerance for pain and this was just horrible! The contractions were right on top of each other and I had to wait an hour before the anesthesiologist came in to give me the epidural. Jeff was so great the whole time. I never once had to tell him what to do, he just kept doing all the right things! I didn't want anyone to talk to me... he just sat silently with me holding my hand... he was wonderful:-)

When the anesthesiologist came in he explained that because of my heart condition they could not give me the same type of epidural that they would administer to another mama. In a normal epi there are two medications, one that dilates your blood vessels causing the second medication that numbs you to be absorbed quickly. I was unable to have the first medication so he said it would take about 15 minutes for me to start feeling some relief. After about 10 minutes I noticed that I was feeling a bit better on the right side but the left was still horribly painful. They ended up having to give me a second epidural since the first did not take on the left side. Around 6:30 I finally started feeling some relief from the pain. The doctor came in to check me and I was
7cm dilated, so at least the pain was doing something!

After the epi started doing it's job I was a much happier patient. We just tried to relax and rest, we even watched a movie. My Doctor came in around 8:15 to check me, and I was FINALLY 10 cm and ready to push! Before we got to the hospital my Mom had suggested making a mix CD of songs to have playing in the background. At the time I thought I would want it quiet, but after the first couple pushes I changed my mind and quickly asked if someone could do something to make some background noise. My wonderful Doc offered his iphone for the job... now that's a full-service doctor. We joked that whatever song was playing when he was born would be his theme song. The song playing right before he came out was Eric Clapton's Cocaine. I don't know what the next song on the album is (and I was a little preoccupied at the time to notice) we're just grateful his theme song isn't cocaine:-) I pushed for 1 hour 45 minutes... at 9:46 Noah joined this world!

I can replay the moment the Doctor placed him on my chest a million times a day and every time it brings a tear to my eye. His little face looking up at me and Jeff... the little sounds he was making... it was the most amazing moment, the best moment.