Monthly Archives: August 2009

We’re Trying…

Well we are finally at the stage where we can actually start trying to conceive! It’s about a year since I went off the pill, 8 months since I started taking prenatal vitamins, and 3 months since I had my mumps vaccination. The mumps vaccination is what really slowed us down but now that 3 months have passed since I got jabbed there is nothing stopping us. It is exciting but also very scary, and there are all sorts of tricky things to deal with that I hadn’t given much thought to.

The trickiest thing for me so far is not drinking. It’s not that I crave alcohol (I promise!). The problem is that I am known as someone who enjoys a drink and now that I have stopped drinking I am finding it awkward to have to explain why I don’t have a beer or glass of  champagne in my hand on social occasions. Since I am not actually pregnant yet and just in the trying stage I know that I could still drink, but there a few reasons why I have chosen not to. The first and most simChampagne and Cheeseple is that if I am trying to get pregnant I will likely be pregnant for a while before I find out – in which case I may have been drinking while pregnant. I realise that a couple of drinks at such an early stage are not going to hurt my baby but I still find it makes more sense for me to draw the line earlier than that – back before there is a possibility I could be pregnant. The second reason is that if I keep drinking until I know I am pregnant and then suddenly stop drinking everyone will know that I am pregnant straight away. As you can probably gather by the fact that I am writing this blog I am not the secretive type, but even so… I do not want to be in the position where everyone knows I am pregnant straight away. My worst nightmare is then having to tell everyone of the 600 or so people at work that I have miscarried if something goes wrong.

I do not, however,want to give the impression that I am one of those superhuman women who, whether pregnant or not, wears only clothes made from organic bamboo fibres,  does pelvic floor exercises from noon to night, and never eats chocolate (!!) because I most definitely am not one of those women. In fact, I must confess that what was supposed to be my very first alcohol free social occasion turned out to be a disaster as far as abstinence went! After having had a weekend where I said farewell to many of the things pregnancy would not allow me to enjoy: soft cheeses, champagne, and straight perms; I resolved to drink no more and to be careful about what I ate. Monday went well, as did Tuesday, but on Wednesday night all my good intentions went out the window at a work dinner. It was a small work dinner organised to celebrate the end of a particularly tough project at work and the organisers had invited us out to a beautiful little French restaurant in Hiroo. My resolve started to waver as soon as I walked in the door and saw the tables set with champagne glasses and multiple wine glasses at each setting. By the time the waitress had filled my glass with champagne any intention I had of not drinking was long gone. In the end I am glad I drank that night. It turned out to be quite a finale – and I was happy with my decision even before they opened a bottle of exquisite 1978 red wine (seriously though – when am I going to get the chance to drink 1978 wine again?!).

Still, I did worry that my failure to withstand temptation would be repeated at the next event, and fretted that my resolve would fail me again when it mattered, when we had actually started trying and there was a chance I could be pregnant. So, on Friday night I headed out to a summer party at the Australian Embassy with a group of mates, determined to be strong – and it was fine! I had a sprite, and then a coke, and then a bottle of tea, and I was done. It was a very cheap night but apart from that it was much the same as it would have been with alcohol. I still had fun, I still talked too much, I still nearly didn’t make the last train…! Since then I’ve been strong in the face of sushi, soft-boiled egg, and cold meats. I even made a recipe out of my Yummy Mummy cookbook on the weekend – and thoroughly enjoyed it!

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Books for Kids

I realise that I am getting WAY ahead of myself with this post but my niece was born last Sunday (welcome to the world Emma!)  and whenever a baby is born I like to give the parents a great book or two that the baby will hopefully grow up to love.  For Emma I found the greatThe Harry Potter Books boxed set of Harry Potter books in this picture. It got me thinking and I couldn’t resist writing this post about one of my favourite topics: books for kids!

 I have always been an avid reader – in fact my very first memory is of reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar at kindy! I am determined to do everything I can to encourage my children (when I have them!) to grow up to be readers. There is plenty of research out there to tell you why it is advantageous for your children to read – how it will boost their vocabulary, help them in their studies, etc., etc. But the reason I want my kids to be readers is because I want them to know the pure joy of sinking into a great book and disappearing into a different world… again and again and again! Books have come with me around the world – making long flights and train trips something to look forward to, rather than something to be endured. These days I read a crazy number of books during my commute into Tokyo and back everyday. And I have a confession to make:  I still read children’s books. I don’t read them for research or so that I will be familiar with some of what my children read, although that is part of it. The real reason I read them is because children’s books are awesome! It is great to get away from the recurring topics of novels written for adults: sex, coming of age, adultery, romance, war, etc., etc.  and read about, for example, the trials and adventures of the poor Baudelaire children in the wonderful A Series of Unfortunate Events, or to be privy to the private thoughts of a teenager who has recently discovered she is, in fact, a princess, in The Princess Diaries.

I’m sure that it is possible to look deeply into the field of  children’s literature and find out all kinds of wonderful facts about the intricacies of getting children to read. I could look into what level of vocabulary is appropriate for a three year old, read about the pros and cons of different book lengths, genres, and even font sizes! But I know my Mum didn’t do that – and somehow I still grew up to be an avid (and somewhat obsessive!) reader. I have a feeling that a big part of the picture is good books. This post sets out some of the information I have found that can help lead you to good books for kids. 

Let me start with the wonderful Paul Jennings.  As a child I loved every single one of Paul Jennings’ books (still do!) – they are funny, they are quirky and they get stuck in your head. So when I saw his book on getting kids to love reading on a recent trip back to Australia I had to pick it up . I knew that Paul Jennings knew what he was talking about because he writes books that kids love. The Reading Bug… and how to help your child catch it was even better than I expected.  It turns out that Paul Jennings is not only a writer of brilliant and funny children’s books – he also used to be a special-education teacher and knows a lot about helping children learn to read. There are a lot of great tips throughout the book, but the thing I reThe Reading Bugally took away from it is that if your child is reading something they want to read it won’t be a chore. This brings us back to the importance of finding great books for kids! The book contains a twenty-nine-page list of “brilliant books,” including many old favourites, but also introduces plenty of more modern titles. Some of my favourite books recommended in The Reading Bug are: John Brown, Rose and the Midnight Cat, the Hairy Maclary books, and (for older readers) Goodnight Mister Tom. The other great thing about this book are the very clever cartoons throughout – I embarrassed myself time and time again by bursting out laughing in public places because of these!

Getting recommendations from people you know and trust is a great place to start when looking for good books for kids. Friends, family and colleagues are great sources of information. Recently, one of the lawyers at work posted a list of his favourite picture books on our in-house website, which was great because I needed an introduction into the world of Japanese children’s books.  I haven’t tested them out yet but some of the books he recommended that intrigued me were おしり (oshiri), which features the bottoms of various different animals, and いないないばあ (Inainaiba), apparently the top-selling picture book in Japan and meaning something similar to “peek-a-boo” in English. I am excited about discovering all the awesome Japanese children’s books out there – but I think my husband will have to do the reading aloud part unless we want our kids to grow up with dodgy gaijin accents!

Another slant on the idea of getting recommendations from people you know and trust is my favourite way to look for good children’s books at the moment. I like to see what books my favourite bloggers recommend. My favourite blogs at the moment are  blogs on getting to where you want to be in your life  and at first glance they don’t seem to be good places to go looking for children’s book recommendations… but at least two of my favourite bloggers have written great posts on this topic. There are a couple of  really brilliant things about finding out about books for kids this way. Firstly, you can usually just click through to more information about the book, or even just go straight to Amazon and grab a copy. Even better, the comments section following the blog post usually offers even more suggestions. Leo at Zen Habits wrote a post on this topic titled Best All-Time Children’s Books a while ago and with six kids I assume he knows what he’s talking about! If you don’t find anything you like among his recommendations you’re sure to find something good among the 138 comments the post attracted! Another blogger I’ve recently discovered also did a great post on books: Annabel Candy at Get in the Hot Spot.  Her post was a bit broader, as it was a reading list for writers, travelers and parents but it included a great selection of books for kids and apparently it is a work in progress so it can be expected to grow in the future.

I hope these suggestions lead you to some brilliant books for kids – enjoy!

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Pregnancy Books – What to Expect When You’re Expecting

As I have said before I have been doing a lot of reading up pregnancy and babies, so I thought I would discuss some of the books I have been reading. I am not going to give a comprehensive review of these books but I plan to briefly introduce some of them in a series of short posts. First in line is the first pregnancy book I ever looked at and the mother of all pregnancy books:

What to Expect When You’re Expecting

This is massive book that covers just about everything you could possibly want or need to know about pregnancy plus a lot of stuff you do not want or need to know! It is not the kind of book you read from cover to cover but is basically set out by month of pregnancy so I have started at the beginning and have been working slowly through the whole thing, skipping the parts that don’t apply to me, such as information on vegetarianism and pregnancy, eating disorders, etc.

It is worth noting that I have found some gems in this book that I had not seen elsewhere. For example, it was in this book that I read that drinking large amounts of green tea can affect your body’s ability to absorb folate! As a result I have dramatically cut down on my daily green tea consumption. After all, what’s the point of spending all that money on pregnancy supplements if the folate in them is not being absorbed?

Should you read it?

If I want to find something out, like when the first trimester ends and the second trimester begins, I look here first and in that sense it is inavaluable. But it is not something I read for entertainment – it is very dry and my eyes often start to droop after 15 minutes or so! In that sense I would say it is good for dipping into in short bursts.

Where can you get it?

This book is so well known that it won’t be hard to track down a copy. I got mine at Maruzen but Amazon would definitely have been a better deal. Also, the edition available here is the U.S. edition so if you’re looking for a less American perspective I would suggest looking online or picking up a copy in your home country. If, however, reading the U.S. edition is not a problem you may be lucky enough to track down a second-hand copy at Good Day Books, Book Off, or the Blue Parrot. I even found a copy at my local library, the Saitama Central Library in Urawa!

Unfortunately I was not able to download an image for this book but the What to Expect When You’re Expecting website is well worth looking at!

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