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Kinder Valentine’s Day

Today Uemera passed out Valentine’s Day cards to her classmates.  Her teacher sent an email out to share his expectations for handing out Valentine’s Day cards; participation is optional, write one for everyone if we are participating, and no toys or candy.  That sounded good to me.  This was the first year that Ume wrote in her own cards.  She chose Doc Mcstuffins cards that had a sticker for each friend.

She came home with a handful of cards and was in the best mood.  She also got to choose a special activity to do today, to reward the students for reaching the school’s collective reading goal.  Each student chose a different activity to do with other schoolmates.  Ume chose to play with chalk and bubbles and had a blast meeting new friends.  When I picked her up at the end of the day, one of her classmates asked if Ume could have a heart lollipop and I happily obliged.

Valentine’s Day is celebrated in many countries and the U.S.A. is definitely one of those countries that takes the opportunity to commercialize this holiday.  Normally Brian and I don’t really make a big deal celebrating since it is a “Hallmark” holiday, but I do love giving and receiving cards.  I have always loved cards.  It is an opportunity to hand write a nice message to someone about how you appreciate them and/or love them.  It is a way to spread joy.

Valentine’s Day had a different meaning when it was just Brian and I.  Some years we would have a nice dinner out, but never on February 14th so we would not have to compete for reservations with other couples.  Some years we would celebrate with friends who are in relationships too.  Some years I would receive amazing flowers/balloons and other years just a simple card.  Nothing was a tradition or consistent and that was how we liked it.

Once Uemera was old enough to be aware of the market push of this holiday amongst others, it has become more fun to celebrate it.  It is a nice time to have a specific day to declare our feelings and be caught up in the themes of love.  The whole hearts, chocolate, and flowers.  Kids do that to you.  They get you caught up in the whimsy of things that are magical like Santa, the Easter Bunny, and Cupid.  So from now on we will see this holiday without the distaste of having commercialization shoved down our throats but a time to do themed arts and crafts projects with our children and consume yummy heart shaped treats without guilt. That is a score for us all in my book!





The force is strong

I know we are about seven weeks late to the party but the family and I finally watched Star Wars epidsode VII: The Force Awakens last night.  We were waiting to get good seats at the historic Cinerama theater in Downtown Seattle.  The tickets have been sold out for a while and we were thwarted to get tickets earlier.  By doing so we did not have to wait in long lines and were not elbow to elbow with the diehard fans in their storm trooper costumes.  This was ideal for me but I’m sure Brian, my sister in law Chrisann, and brother in law Jimmy would not have been opposed.  They are pretty fanatical themselves.


Cinerama theater was built in 1963 and definitely has this throwback Americana feel.  In 1999 it was saved from closing down by our local mega philanthropist and co-founder of Microsoft, Mr. Paul Allen.  He is a big deal around here.  In 2014 Paul Allen poured a generous amount of money to renovate the theater which resulted in a cutting edge projection system and movie screen, surround sound and a new speaker system that envelopes you with precision sound quality, and super luxe seating that provides reclining seats with plush cushion for the tush and extra leg room.  They also serve delicious chocolate covered popcorn, other gourmet treats, and craft beer/wine that makes it a fancy experience.

Brian and Chrisann watched the first  Star Wars movie, Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, together in 1977 and Brian was blown away.  They shared stories of Brian trying to have lightsaber fights with Chrisann by using a broom stick and duck tape, since the Star Wars merchandise back then was sparse.  He has watched all of the movies multiple times and has collected many Star Wars memorabilia over the years. Brian is a huge Star Wars enthusiast.  Although Jimmy is twenty years younger than his siblings, this franchise is something they can all geek out about because he is a huge fan as well.  He went on to read and watch the Star Wars canon; to learn about the extended universe and further immerse himself into that fantasy world.


I myself am not that big of a fan, although I have enjoyed all the movies.  This movie was so well made and visually stimulating that I can see how all levels of fandom would be appeased.  JJ Abrams and collaborators did a fantastic job with tying in all of the key points and characters of the previous movies while craftily starting a new trilogy.  I am not going to write an in-depth review of the movie because you can go see for yourself and make your own judgements based on your own experience with the franchise.

What I enjoyed most about my experience was watching my loved ones truly obsess about what they just watched.  I can picture six year old inner Brian doing his happy dance.  Brian is not one that stays awake during movies hence we don’t usually watch them in the theater.  I looked over multiple times at Brian and he was bright eyed in awe; thoroughly entertained.  I would lean over and ask “so who/what is that again?” and comment “you have that toy at home”.  He would lean over and quietly give me the back story of different parts of the storyline.

When the movie ended the audience erupted in applause and my clan was giddy with commentary about what they just experienced.  It was extremely joyful.  It was amazing to have a movie experience together that was appreciated by all of us, which is rare.  No wonder this film has broken many records and continues to be a major hit.  No matter what is going on in our lives, taking a small break from reality to be entertained is what we all need.  Brian is already making plans to watch the movie again.







Baby Terror

Violet caught a mild cold and her only symptom is a drippy nose.  Luckily none of us have caught her illness. She still has a lot of energy and doesn’t seem really phased by it…UNTIL…she had a night terror. About an hour into sleep she woke up crying and screaming.  Usually I can find her pacifier and put it in her mouth, then she is able to lull back into sleep state.  Not this time.  She was inconsolable; screaming bloody murder, panting, and violently thrashing her body.  Whoa this was a new experience.

I was frantic.  I was snatched out of my dreams and into the reality that my baby is in distress.  I tried all my consoling techniques; cuddling, patting the back, low tone of comforting words, cradling and rocking to no avail.  I was stressed.  I could not help my baby.  I walked her into the kitchen to try to have her drink some water.  Violet was not having it, her eyes were tightly shut with arms flailing to anything I gave her.  It took over an hour before she finally settled and stopped crying.  She snapped out of it, calmed herself, and grabbed my cell phone to get on YouTube.  I was still scared.

After about 15 minutes of quiet I gently asked her to give me my phone back.  She was not conceding, so I had to be more aggressive.  She gave in, whimpered a bit, but went back to sleep.  WOW, that was the toughest night I have had with her since she was an infant.  I started to research night terrors and found some information here and here.  I learned that it is common for children to experience it when overly tired or ill and it can be hereditary.  I have never experienced night terrors or any sleep disturbance, so I asked Brian if he had any experiences with it.

Apparently Brian used to sleepwalk when he was a child, for 5-6 years.  He peed in closets and trashcans while asleep, which is common in sleepwalking.  He would try to go outside but luckily his parents would awaken and stop him.  His mother would have to keep his bedroom door closed, so he would frequently end up with a bloody nose.  Brian remembers dreaming he was in Austria in open areas when he was sleepwalking.  He ended up sleepwalking even at his bud’s house and soon lost the privilege of sleepovers. Poor guy!  His mother ended up commissioning some Buddhist monks to chant and pray for him while he was asleep and then the sleepwalking miraculously stopped.  AMAZING!

Sleepwalking and sleep terrors are similar sleep disorders.  One difference is that sleep terrors occur in the fourth stage of sleep before REM (rapid eye movement) and sleepwalking occurs in REM when majority of dreams occur.  Although I was surprised to learn this about Brian, I am comforted in knowing that he has experience with sleep disorders and can provide personal insight. Hopefully we won’t have to find Buddhist monks to help Violet, that she outgrows them naturally on her own.  She has only experienced two so far but we will see how tonight goes.




Family Thoughts

75% stay at home mom and 25% working mom

I have seen many articles floating around online about the debate and rivalry between being a “Stay at home mom” vs “Working mom” as written here and here.  It has ignited a lot of self reflection for myself. When I had Ume five years ago I was able to take five months of maternity leave and Brian took about a month. Although I tinkered with the idea of not returning back to work, it was not something I pursued because I knew returning to work full time was the best for our family at that time in our lives. Where I work, full time status consists of three – twelve hour shifts a week.  The shift I work is from 7 pm to 7:30 am. It was a tough adjustment in the beginning but we all adapted to the new routine and made it work with a lot of help from my mother.  Also I had support from my co-workers to cover my patients when I did work, so I could pump and store my breast milk twice a shift.

When I found out I was pregnant with Violet I had already cut my hours and worked per diem due to going back to school.  I stayed per diem knowing I was pregnant and will be on maternity leave soon. Changing my work status to per diem, consists of losing health benefits and cashing in on any vacation hours accrued.  I received a 15% pay increase and I am able to set my own schedule while committing to three shifts in a month, although I can always work more.  We all got on Brian’s health insurance offered by his company.  I went on maternity leave at 8 1/2 months and did not return back to work until Violet was five months old.

I knew this time around with having two kids that it would be best for myself and the family to stay per diem.  I wanted to have more time to stay at home while Ume was still young and starting Kindergarten and also Violet proved to be a more challenging baby.  Plus my mother is getting older and I did not want her to have the increased responsibility of watching another baby three times a week.  For us, daycare or a nanny was not an option we wanted to explore at this time.  I also did not want to quit my career all together because it is something I value and have a passion for.  The best option for us is to remain per diem so I could have the flexibility to work more if able.




Taking Violet to the park before picking up Ume at school in the middle of the week.

The theme of this post is that this is the best option for US and my family.  All these articles that pin “Stay at home moms” against “Working moms” is so ridiculous.  There are pros and cons to both situations but each individual mom will need to make the best decision for themselves.  They should be able to do this without feeling criticism from the other side.  Nobody can discern accurately what is best for someone else’s family. Motherhood and parenting is not just one linear way.  There are so many different cultural, societal, and individual views that are involved.  Believe me as a mom in my situation I have mixed feelings all the time of being a 75% “Stay at home mom” and 25% “Working mom”.  There are days that are really tough and days that are glorious.  I am always finding myself needing to balance being a mom and maintaining self identity.  I can be self deprecating so I don’t need an outside party throwing stones as well.






Alpha Betta

Ume has been asking for a new pet for the last year.  It has changed from a dog, to a bird, and more recently a bunny.  We were grocery shopping one day and chatted with a guy carrying a pet bunny inside the store.  Ume was enamored with the bunny and has been continuously asking for one.  There have been many discussions at home about how to take care of different types of pets and the responsibility that came along with it.  We have a Siamese cat at home named Juno.  He has been with us for twelve years.  Ume helps by feeding him, but there is a lot more work involved in caring for him that she is not able to do yet.

Brian and I think Ume is ready to take care of a low maintenance pet.  We went to the pet store yesterday and looked at the guinea pigs, mice, and parakeets.  Then we visited the freshwater fish tanks.  BINGO, we found our pet!  I am excited to announce the homecoming of our new family member.  Drum roll please…let’s all welcome our new fish Snowflake.  He belongs to Ume but we are all enjoying him.  He is classified as a Delta Tail, which means when his tail is straight it does not reach 180 degrees like a Halfmoon.  Apparently there are several different variations of Betta fish; depending on breed, color, and tail shape.  He is a brilliant red color and has a feisty personality.


Ume loves Snowflake already.  She carries him around everywhere and is very gentle not to slosh him around. If she could pet him, she would.  We were getting his new tank ready with water purification, so he had to stay in his little bowl for 24hrs. He slept in Ume’s room over night.  She enjoys feeding him dried blood worms and is a great caregiver already.  He tolerated the transfer into his new tank and was curious about his new home, swimming every square inch.






I think he is pretty cool and of course we had to get him gravel that is hot pink, white, and black for his tank.  That choice was a no brainer.  When Ume earns more money from completing tasks on her responsibility chart we will buy more accessories for the tank.  Betta fish can live between 3 to 5 years. Hopefully Ume will continue to love him and provide him with the best care.




Tiny dancer

My five year old daughter Uemera (Ume) finally found an enrichment class that she enjoys.  We have tried music, art, and tumbling.  Although she appeared to enjoy parts of these classes, she never really displayed an interest in attending them and always needed me to be in the class with her.  She would be extremely anxious and have a difficult time participating.  We would give it a good effort, try to go once a week for at least a month to see if she would change her mind, and get more involved in the activity. She never did until now.  She found love in ballet!

I found her a local ballet class at the Dance! West Seattle and Seattle Civic Dance Theatre.  After researching what they had to offer and the philosophy of the program, I decided to have Ume try a class. They are committed in teaching the professional practice of classical ballet and other dance forms. The instructors all have very impressive dance experience and are passionate about sharing their expertise to dancers of all ages and skills.  I figured if Ume didn’t enjoy herself then on to the next activity.  I was determined to find her an activity that she would like to do every week!

I took Ume to a free introductory pre ballet class in the Summer for kids ages 3-6 years old.  She borrowed a white leotard and pink tights from the office and was very excited to look at herself in the mirror.  She twirled around and exclaimed “Look mommy, I am a ballet girl”!  I told her if she needed me I will be outside of the classroom and will wave and give her thumbs up.  The instructor Kim lined the little girls up, Ume waved at me and went right in.  No looking back.  Brave girl!


Ume waving at mommy and demonstrating her amazing splits.

Kim played classical music and lead the girls in a stretching series.  She referenced mimicking different animals and imaginary games such as being mermaids and splashing into the water to get into the ballet poses.  The students contorted their bodies in frog poses and made butterfly wings with their arms.  They learned the basic positions of ballet and practiced leaps and twirls.  Ume loved it!  She was grinning ear to ear and when she needed to she would wave and give me thumbs up.  The class is only 30 minutes long; the perfect amount of time to hold the attention of squirmy 3-6 year olds.  It is a very controlled environment with the attention focused on learning to dance, although the students do have plenty of time for giggles. They tiny dancers all seem to love watching themselves in the gigantic mirror.  This was a perfect class for Ume because she does not enjoy chaos and loud noises.  She thrives on structure, order, but also fun.


Brian and I are so excited that she found an activity that she enjoys.  I continue to take her once a week and she is blooming with increased confidence.  She is learning great mind-body connection and finding appreciation in the art of dance.  We are not interested in pushing her to become a prima ballerina but know she is gaining a lot by attending classes.  Plus it is a nice time for Ume and I to spend one day a week together without the baby.  She knows it is our thing.  Our routine after dance class is to have a treat at Starbucks.  Ume usually picks a cake pop or something equally sweet.


It is so fun to have this quality time with her.  As long as she enjoys it I will continue to take her.  The program holds two performances in the year.  Ume decided to not participate in the Winter show, but I am hopeful that she will gain that extra inch of confidence and dance in the Spring show.  I will keep you posted.