mama whose curiosity knows no bounds

Archive for August, 2014

I love tailor’s clapper!

Tailor’s clapper is a simple piece of hardwood.

Official one looks like this:

Tailor’s clapper

“Official” Tailor’s clapper


Another "official" tailor's clapper

Another “official” tailor’s clapper

I learned of it from a couple of Craftsy classes (I can write a LOT) about them! This works for jeans.  You first blow a lot of steam from iron and then press with this piece of wood until it cools down.  This will make the crease so stable and crisp.  When I used just steam iron, jean hem couldn’t hold its place.  I either hand basted or used a fusible web before topstitching.

The price varies wildly.  And based on what I saw on craftsy, I understood that any small piece of hardwood will work (soft wood will warp by moisture from steam). So my husband, who likes wood carving, and I went to Woodcraft store and bought an assorted wood piece – like 1.5″ x 1.5″ x 8″ x 4 pieces.  It was about $20.  They were all from different woods and I picked the one that was the heaviest.  And I use it as is.  No grooves, no curves.  just a rectangular solid piece of wood.  This works!!!! I no longer have to baste the jean hem.  It will just stay in place.  It is so cheap, if you choose my route. And it improves sewing so much.  It is definitely worth getting!

Give a lot of steam and press with this “clapper”!


With steam iron. Basting will be needed.


After press with clapper. Crisp fold stay.



Oh so easy! Scrambled eggs with garlic chives.

This is another recipe from Cookpad that I couldn’t find the English translation yet.

This was so quick and easy, and can be made vegetarian, if you choose to substitute chicken soup powder with vegetarian version like “Not Chicken” soup base. This is great for packed lunch, too.  You can obtain garlic chives at Asian grocery store, but in mid-West, it’s so easy to grow, and added benefit is that it is deer and pest resistant.

Ingredients (I made 6 servings):

2 eggs
about 200 g garlic chives, chopped
1 tbsp chicken soup powder (I used this one from Youki)
2 pinches salt
2 tbsp (roasted) sesame seed oil


  1. beat eggs and add chicken soup powder
  2. heat 1/2 (=1 tbsp) of sesame seed oil on high heat and scramble eggs only to half-cooked and set aside
  3. add the rest (=1 tbsp) of sesame seed oil and stir fry garlic chives.  Add salt.
  4. When the chives are wilted, add eggs back and stir briefly
  5. enjoy!
Scrambled egg with garlic chives

Scrambled egg with garlic chives


Journey with K: 18 months to diagnosis #5

On the way to Disneyland, when he drove, I couldn’t cry. He kept an eye on me most of the time. I cried in silence while I took turn for driving. I just let the tears flow without looking right.  In the hotel room, we opened the sparkling wine my mentor gave me. Again, my husband wanted me to be happy. Really happy. For him, My finishing Ph.D. was much a bigger deal than what some SLP told a night ago. So I pretended to be happy.  I pretended to enjoy Disneyland. I let my tears flow down only in the dark or some ride: for example, while waiting for Space Mountain. We couldn’t of course ride together. For some rides, my husband and I took turns for some, nastier rides, only I got on. He knew I loved those thrill rides. But this time, I loved because it gave me some lone time to cry.

K enjoyed it, too. K loved “it’s a small world” so much that we rode five times in a row! He clearly demanded for the ride! Probably we could repeat forever. I wish time were frozen there. I really wanted a music box with the song, but I couldn’t find. We bought “we can fly” music box instead. K loved the parade, too.  He was fascinated with those lights like any of us.

We spent a lot more money than usual. We are usually reasonable about spending but this time, we bought stuff we knew we won’t need. My husband, who hated shopping, bought a lot, too. In hindsight, he was trying to cheer me up or he was also trying to cope with the dire verdict.  At that time I thought he was a bit overzealous about this vacation. I didn’t have any capacity to think in his shoes.

When we came back, a social worker from ALTA regional center visited my apartment. In a sense, this WAS the start of my autism journey and she was the first professional I worked with for K. And this was my first exposure to the United States outside of the lab.  About seven years in the US., the world my husband and I knew was my lab.  And some grocery stores and restaurants and maybe some sightseeing spots.  Of course having Kai expanded a bit, as I was exposed to medical systems and daycare in the US.  But I was merely a recipient of service. In that sense, hospitals and doctors are the same as restaurants.

To be continued.


Great deal from Amazon

Journey with K: 18 months to diagnosis #4

I was relieved and happy when my mentor signed my dissertation and gave me a handshake, “Congratulations”, and a bottle of sparkling wine. I didn’t have much time to be immersed in the relief and joy. I had to submit the copies to the official. She was quick. All she cared was whether the pages were numbered correctly. There were lots of strict rules in formatting. She flipped through the page in one swift motion. It took maybe about three seconds to look through my 250 page dissertation.  She told me that she would detect if something was wrong.  Fortunately, my dissertation passed her test and was accepted.  Next stop was binding shop in the library. I needed to have my copies bound like a book. There I also submit the paperwork and check to copyright my thesis, and ordered several book binding: one for my mentor, one for library, one for myself, and one for my husband. I remember I ordered five binding but I don’t remember whom I gave the fifth bound copy. After all, it was 13 years ago.

I had a babysitter available for the party. My mentor and lab friends knew I could drink a lot and my mentor was somewhat worried 😉 Yet I knew I couldn’t get drunk. Once I finished all the dissertation work, I was swept with fear about K’s speech evaluation in two days. Of course he didn’t know. No one except my husband, who was a post-doc in the same lab. So everyone who passed by the hallway like other professors or janitor congratulated me and had a bottle or two of beer. (believe or not, it was absolutely okay to have a party with alcohol in the hallway of research building. We even brought bottles of beer in the lab…I’m not sure if this practice is still okay or not.)

Anyhow, I came back home with K. I was in no way in a mood to enjoy, but my husband was sort of excited. He was so happy that I finally finished my Ph.D., after lots of struggles. He supported me through my journey to Ph.D, in America!  He wasn’t concerned about the upcoming speech evaluation at all. After all, he hadn’t read all the webpages about autism and intellectual disabilities I read while printing my dissertation in the lab during the night. I didn’t want to ruin his happiness.

Then the day of speech evaluation came.

It was a small room with a huge mirror (I think observation room was attached). The SLP, a nice, middle-aged lady, cheerfully came in and played….no, TRIED to play with K.  I was shocked to see his unresponsiveness.  Was it just me who believed that K and I enjoyed playing each other?  And I was shocked to see the demand of play she introduced. Was he supposed to play THAT? He simply didn’t know how to play.

She interviewed me and my husband. I didn’t know much about child development, as I believed that each child can grow at his or her own pace and I didn’t think that being delayed was wrong…so in hindsight, I revealed my complete lack of awareness on what a 18 months old should be doing.

Then after a long, probably 5 min— my heart was pounding with fear— wait, the SLP came back. Her eyes looked wet to me.  She never made eye contact until she finished her verdict: K was probably autistic.  I was almost sure by that time that was indeed the case, but being told by a professional still had a real blow. She explained that she was not allowed to make an official diagnosis and she told me to contact his primary care pediatrician to make a referral (again!) to UC Davis MIND institute for the definitive diagnostic tests. She also told me to contact ALTA Regional center to start “early intervention”. That time, I even didn’t know the term “early intervention”!

I was crying on the way back, but I needed to get ready for our Disney vacation.

Anyway, we arrived at my apartment. I started to cry. My husband’s response was totally different.

“We probably showed him too much TV. Let’s cut back and he will be fine.”

Lucky him. I was too exhausted with my thesis as well so I didn’t have any mental room to outrage. Besides, in hindsight, part of me really wanted to believe him.

To be continued.





Journey with K: 18 months to diagnosis #3

While waiting for speech evaluation, we changed daycare, and my husband and I took K to a retreat – basically graduate students and faculty members go to mountain cabins with a conference facility and present their work either orally or by poster.  I didn’t have to present, but my husband did.  K and I walked along the lake and played.  He didn’t like to interact with me although he did respond to my call.  He preferred to play alone.  He particularly liked watching leaves waving in a wind.  It was fall, so he also played a lot with fallen leaves.  Just throwing and watching. By that time, I was very seriously worried about him having serious developmental delay.  During the search, sometimes the word “autism” appeared but it wasn’t a perfect match.  Rather, “mental retardation” matched what K did.

We brought a very spicy dish (stir-fried bean thread) with us. K liked VERY spicy food.  He could take spicy food that was too spicy for even me.  He ate some jar food, but definitely prefers curry or chili flavored dish.  In fact, during the meal time, he ate ONLY that spicy bean thread.  There were a lot of food that toddlers could eat and the cook and server were asking if K needs specially processed food, but I knew he wouldn’t eat any of them so I declined, feeling so sorry for them and myself.

In the cabin, I tried to teach him to use a puzzle (a wooden box with various shapes of hole and a matching wooden block).  K didn’t get it.  I was so irritated and scared then yelled at my husband “K may be mentally retarded.”  At this point, my husband had no concern at all.  He was very irritated that I had such a negative attitude.  He scolded me that K was absolutely normal and it was me who were wrong.

(Note: I am fully aware that the use of R-word is totally inappropriate, and I oppose the use.  However, this was the direct translation of the Japanese word I used then (2001).  Please forgive me if you feel upset about my language use.  I was one of those who “didn’t get it”).

The appointment of the speech evaluation was two days after I finish my Ph.D.. My mentor had planned a party for me.  I was doing final printing on cotton paper, taking the copies to professor’s room, getting signatures from committee members.  Two emotions were going on simultaneously – elation that I’m completing my Ph.D., and fear/worry/devastation that K has a developmental delay.

To be continued.


Journey with K: 18 months to diagnosis #2

While K had a referral to hearing and speech evaluation, the relationship with the head teacher at the daycare went sour.  She was very irritated that K didn’t take a nap with everyone else.  Of course for the staff, that’s the only time they could have a break, so irritation was understandable. I thought if the teacher hated K, it wouldn’t do any good to K, although the daycare center was so convenient for me.  It was located in the same student family apartment complex and it was about 30 seconds from my apartment.  Still, I started to get sick with the head teacher’s attitude, although in hindsight, it was probably full of concern.  But at that time, I didn’t understand and thought the teacher and staff were simply lazy.

I started looking for a different daycare.  It was a sort of first experience for me.  I first went to City office to obtain a directory and started calling.  I made appointment after appointment to visit the daycare, mostly home-based.  They are pretty good.  But when I told them that K didn’t take a nap, I could see everyone’s face stiffened.  Then I realized that not taking a nap was THAT bad. I kept calling. One time, I called the daycare that refused K again!  I was losing track!  I had to extend the search to larger area.

Then I found it. This preschool/daycare (14 kid capacity) was run by a very sophisticated and educated lady from India.  Her husband was from Nepal and taught agronomy at UC Davis.  I knew a few professor at agronomy department though I didn’t know him in particular.  But this made me relax a bit.  When I told her about K’s napping problem, her response was that everyone was different and we as a society were pushing children too hard to perform.  And that performance included a nap at the same time!  Since this daycare has zero-to-five, there were kids who didn’t have a nap anyway, and she assured me that it was absolutely fine if K didn’t take a nap.

Although it wasn’t close (about 10-15 minute drive from my apartment), I really wanted him to be there, being cared by this caring lady.  So we signed up.  I wasn’t exactly nice when I left the previous daycare center for the last day.

Both my husband and I took turn to drop him off and pick up.  K (and my husband and I) was much happier, but he didn’t talk and he didn’t play, either.

And the deadline for my dissertation was quickly approaching.  I had shown the draft to all the thesis committee members and had a good feedback. But printing 250 page thesis for many copies and revise it and printing again occupies the lab printer.  So to print freely, I started working at night.  It also helped me focus.

While I wait for printing, I surfed the web and made reservation for Disneyland trip (and staying in Disney resort hotel) as a reward for finishing my Ph.D..  At the same time, I searched for speech delay and K’s symptom.  “Mental retardation” and “Autism” were the things that was frequently found.  And by this time, K’s behavior changed a lot.

To be continued.


Journey with K: 18 months to diagnosis #1

Well, I should start from birth, I guess, but I’m a haphazard woman so I will hop around. One of the most often asked question when I present to a student groups or others is “how was your son diagnosed?” Let’s start from there.

K didn’t speak at 18 months but I hadn’t worry about that.  After all, my parents-in-law kept telling me that my husband was a real late talker and didn’t speak until he was 3 years old. But something weird happened around this time.

He stopped waving.  At the daycare center, K was moved to an infant room to toddler room.  While he was in infant room, he always waved “bye-bye” to staff.  Soon after he moved to the toddler room, he stopped.  I simply thought he wasn’t getting used to the staff yet.  Obviously, the head teacher didn’t like him.  Because he didn’t take a nap.  In hindsight, I now think that the head teacher knew that something was going on (or even K had autism), but she didn’t tell me anything.  Just kept complaining about his lack of nap.

Meanwhile, his pediatrician referred him for hearing test at 18 months check up, because K was not talking.  Even at this point, I didn’t worry.  There was a three month wait to have the hearing test.  Otherwise, K was a really healthy, friendly toddler.

By the way, K was supposed to get MMR vaccine at 15 months check-up.  But since I raised the possibility that K might be allergic to eggs, the pediatrician postponed and instead ordered a blood test for allergy.  And indeed K was allergic to eggs.  So K was supposed to get MMR at 18 months visit.  But K happened to have fever on that very date.  Again the pediatrician postponed and instructed me to make a separate appointment for the shot because K needed to be monitored at least for 30 minutes after the shot.  I made an appointment about a month later.  This means, K had his MMR shot at 19 months. And stopping waving/referral to hearing occurred BEFORE K HAD MMR SHOT.  Therefore, MMR did not cause autism. Period.  I just needed to emphasize this because still, after numerous legitimate studies confirmed that there is no connection between vaccination (in particular MMR) and autism, there are plenty of parents who believe this crap and refuse vaccination, exposing everybody else in community at risk.

It was a very hot day in summer.  My husband and I took K to a hearing test.  He was 21 months old.  There, at first, a student volunteer (maybe clinician) did a play test.  K responded so well to everything.  Then we were moved to another testing room.  It was a dark, very quiet room and a bit scary to me.  I had K on my lap, and when the audiologist turns on a sound, K was supposed to look to that direction.  When he successfully responded, a bear with a drum in front appeared and it beat a few drum beats.  So that bear was the reward.  At first, K had difficulty understanding the rule.  After 10 or 15 attempts or so, K finally got it and started to respond.  He did pretty well, actually.

Then the audiologist came out.  She had a very serious face.  I thought she was a serious person.  She explained that K had no hearing problem, so his lack of speech was due to other reasons.  She suggested to have K have speech evaluation.  Thanks to HMO, I had to go back to see K’s pediatrician to have the referral to the speech clinic.  Appointment was again three months away.

This time, I started to think something was wrong.

To be continued.


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