mama whose curiosity knows no bounds

Archive for September, 2014

Journey with K: pregnancy and birth #1

I cannot forget the excitement when I saw the positive line on the pregnancy test! I think many mamas can relate to that.

I was a graduate student in University of California, Davis back then.  So to confirm and start prenatal care, first I went to the student health center on campus.  My health insurance required that.   After I gave my urine cup in the lab, I was waiting in the exam room when a nurse practitioner entered. Nurse practitioner was somewhat nervous: not surprising, probably she had given many pregnancy diagnosis to many women who did not wish.  She first placed a piece of paper on the desk.  Nothing was written.  Then in a nervous face, she asked, “do you intend to get pregnant?” and I said “YES!!” then she flipped the paper that had a big “+” mark, “Congratulations, you are pregnant!”

This was actually only the second time I went to the student health since I came to the US.  I didn’t see a doctor for five years!  I had no idea about the complication of health insurance system in the US then.  Now that side of journey had started, too.

The referral person asked me where do you want to give birth.  Without much thought, I chose the nearest and only hospital in town.  The she arranged the first prenatal appointment and there my husband and I went.

I saw a nurse midwife.  She explained that in the hospital’s birthing center, they offer water birth with midwife.  That sounded very cool!  Both my hubby and I were very excited of that and I started to imagine.  Then she started physical exam.  Touching my neck, she said, “Hmmm…it’s a bit large.  Do you have thyroid disease?” I said “No”. And she started to tell several symptoms like loose stool, fatigue, etc….I had them.  I blamed my loose bowel to alcohol, and fatigue for lack of exercise.  To overcome, I walked about an hour in the morning and by the time I arrive at the lab, I was exhausted and ended up resting in the backroom of women’s restroom. Only solution I thought was, “I need to do more exercise.”

But suddenly what midwife told fit into pieces.  She ordered thyroid panel blood test and we left making the appointment for the next prenatal visit.  Then the next day, the hospital called me that I have hyperthyroid and they can’t deliver my baby because it was such a high risk, and that another hospital in the same group about 40 minutes drive from where I live, can.  She also said that I need to see an endocrinologist.  The hospital group didn’t have an endocrinologist locally, so they suggested to go see different medical group, run by UC Davis.

Now I came back to the referral room in the student health. This time my heart was heavy.  There was only one endocrinologist in town so they arranged appointment to see her.  At the first appointment, she told me what I already knew: I have hyperthyroidism and my pregnancy is high risk.  She made a referral to a perinatologist, who is very famous for her genetic diagnosis work.  Well, I knew a thing or two about genetics: I was a Ph.D. student in molecular genetics then.  But what happened at the molecular level and what was happening in my body were somehow disconnected.  The endocrinologist immediately started on Propylthiouracil – or PTU for short – second commonly used medication for hyperthyroidism.  Most commonly used one is methimazole, but because it was teratogenic, I couldn’t take it.  Suddenly, I started studying FDA’s pregnancy category – both PTU and methimazole was category C – that is, unless absolutely necessary, the medication shouldn’t be used during pregnancy.  I was devastated.  Did I have to give up this pregnancy?  Will I have miscarriage?  I was overwhelmed with these ideas.  Anyway, she ordered additional blood test and I left.

The next thing was to see a perinatologist.  I had to go back to the student health again to get referral.

To be continued.



Annoying animation of Excel 2013 – how to disable

When I did clean installation of Windows 7, I upgraded my Office to Office 2013.  My husband had Office 365 subscription anyway and I could install at anytime.

First think you’ll notice is it VERY ANNOYING animation. Frame to indicate selected cell(s) moves like an angry bird – pulled in then fly off to the spot.  Since I usually use keyboard for most of Excel operation (well I’m old fashioned anyway) and I type reasonably fast (about 60 words per minute), I ended up ahead of animation.  This drove me mad.

I was not alone. Avid Excel users are all annoyed by this new feature, so when I googled “how to stop animation in Excel 2013”, tons of articled showed up.  However, I realized, most of them don’t work. I think Microsoft really want people become a slave of this feature.

For example, this site and many others explain how to change a registry value to disable animations. Basically, you open “regedit” and find a key for this feature (“HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\15.0\Common\Graphics”) My regedit showed that that Graphics key didn’t even exist.  The writer knew that, so he/she suggested to CREATE that Graphics key, and creat a new DWORD “DisableAnimations” and set the value to 1. Restart.

This DIDN’T work.  Another suggestion from another website was to go to Excel’s Options->Advanced->Display->uncheck “disable hardware animation accelaration”.  This didn’t work, either.

The only thing that work from the same website.  Go to “Ease of Access Center” (Win+U). Under Explore all settings, click “User the computer without a display” (so this is accessible feature for the visually impared). Under Adjust time limits and flashing visuals, click Turn off all unnecessary animations (when possible).  Then click OK.

Phew! it WORKED. Of course using Ease of Access Center means this change is across the board – whenever possible, all animation for all softwares will be stopped (this doesn’t mean we can’t see movie or animate powerpoint.)

Now I can use Excel at normal speed without having tantrum.  Thank goodness.


About Japanese patriarch system

I mentioned that my husband and I were not married. The reason was a Japanese law that required a married couple to take the same last name. More than 95% of the time! that is husband’s name.  Couples choose the wife’s last name only if the wife is the oldest of all female siblings or the only daughter and the husband is not the oldest son.  Why? Because in Japan, the family tree and continuation of paternal line was very valued. If a family doesn’t have a son, but only daughter, they have to let the daughter’s husband to take their last name to keep the lineage. Yes, that is an old, outdated system. Yet even in modern Japan, there is a real consequence.

That is grave. In Japan, one family owns one grave and the deceased were buried under the same headstone. Cremation custom makes it easy.  A family purchases the grave space and headstone from cemetery. Because this belongs to family, only the last name is etched big on the headstone. And behind it, the detail of each deceased person is described. For this reason, many cemeteries don’t allow someone with a different last name to inherit the grave.  If no one inherits, their ashes will be dug out and combined as “nameless/family less” grave. Because the Japanese reveres their ancestors, this is considered unforgivable sin.

Also implied in the patriarch system is that the oldest son inherit the family lineage and his wife will be the caretaker of his parents and presumably live with them. My mother was married to the only son in the family and her (step) mother-in-law treated her rather badly (more like a family slave), although in-law problems is universal.

Then us. My husband is the only son with two sisters. I was the youngest of four children, two of my siblings are male. So, almost everyone expects me to change the last name. I know many women find happiness in changing the last name.

But I wasn’t one of them. I was rebellious. Probably that’s it. But if I can add more excuses, my last name is rare and almost everyone fails to read the kanji at first. Then my name is common. My husband’s last name is not the most common, but pretty common. I felt sick by just imagining how many women have the same name “(my husband’s last name)+(my first name)”. Besides, I didn’t want to be a family slave like my mother once was. My husband’s parents are indeed nice people and I like them. But still the product of tradition.

So I made a radical choice. I once married to him so that we can withdraw our names from the respective father’s family registration, and divorced. Then each of us has own family registration and own head of the family. I felt much better.

Of course, my family treated like I committed a murder. But they eventually understood. Most important was that my husband and I love each other and get along each other. He was fully supportive of my choice, simply because he didn’t want to change his name, either, therefore he felt he shouldn’t force me to change. I strongly felt that our relationship was stronger than a piece of paper. Although I now admit, I was fixated on that piece of paper, in a different way. Yet, I still think name is just not paper. It is part of myself. That’s why I couldn’t give up.


Journey with K: To ABA or not to ABA – my mistake #2

Though I call him “my husband”, we were not legally married.  I was very much opposed to a Japanese law that required a married couple to take the same family name.  I didn’t want to change it.  I really didn’t.  I didn’t like (or hate) the Japanese traditional patriarch system. I will write about it in a separate occasion about that.

What was important was that we were not legally married. My husband was on J-1 visa and I was on F-1 (student) visa. I finished my schooling so I was on “practical training” status. If I quit the job, I would have to leave the US.  Marrying him to keep the visa even didn’t come to my mind. I just finished my Ph.D. and was pretty much hopeful about my future as a scientist. So this was a practical side of the problem. My mentor was very understanding so even if I chose to have ABA for K, I could take turn and work at night, which I did a lot during when K was a little baby.

The more critical was the emotional side. I gave a lot of thoughts then concluded that I can’t tolerate someone else in my apartment for 25 hours a week. Two hours a week of ST was hard enough. I came back home an hour before the visit and vacuumed the apartment. I wasn’t good at all for keeping house clean, and I was too wimp to show my messy apartment. The SLP is a wonderful person and I still feel a lot of pressure and stress to have her twice a week. I was terrified of the idea to have 5-8 students taking turn to visit my apartment and provide ABA to K.

Then I met the opposition from the caseworker and SLP. At that time, I was totally ignorant about the philosophical battle between pro-ABA and anti-ABA. Nor about the funding source of that therapy.  All I thought was who cared most about K and my family. The answer was obvious to me. The developmental pediatrician appeared very cold and even happy that K was autistic. The caseworker and SLP were sorry, told me to love K as is.

So I (my husband didn’t care about having anyone at home and indifferent about this issue) decided that ABA was not for K. 

I wouldn’t learn that that was a mistake I couldn’t recover for the next 5 years or so.


Journey with K: To ABA or not to ABA – my mistake #1

When K was diagnosed, I called the social worker at ALTA regional center.  She was on vacation, but I left a message.  On our way to get-away trip, she called me.  Apparently, whoever took the phone contacted the social worker on vacation and she immediately called me.  At that time, I was driving on highway so I pulled off to speak.

I think that was a sort of pre-formatted consolation: I’m sorry for the diagnosis; regardless of the diagnosis, K is K, etc.  Still, it was soothing.  She said in a truly compassionate manner and I felt that she was saddened by the diagnosis.

After we were back from the runaway trip, she visited my apartment.  She repeated the condolences and added that she was a bit surprised for the diagnosis.  That gave me some hope.  Even if K was autistic, it might be mild enough to trick the social worker!

When I told her about the recommendation by the developmental pediatrician, she appeared unhappy.  She told me that she had arranged ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) therapy for some of her clients, but K didn’t seem fit for that therapy.  According to her, ABA was for the most severely affected children and K was not.  She was much happier with Floortime (a.k.a., Greenspan, after the founder of this program) approach, which we had already started to some degree after the speech evaluation six months ago.  The caseworker thought Floortime and regular ST, OT and PT will be good enough.

I had other thoughts, too.  What the doctor recommended was in-home ABA.  In-home ABA team usually consists of a psychologist (now mostly replaced by BCBA – Board Certified Behavior Analyst) or counselor and a few graduate students taking the leadership roles, plus several undergraduate students who receive training by the professional and graduate students.  What was recommended to K was Discrete Trial Training (DTT).

DTT goes like this: a trainer says, “touch your nose”, and someone or the trainer let K touch his nose (called physical prompt). “Good job”, then immediately gives a tangible reward – most often a snack food.  Record how he did. This constitutes one “trial”. Repeat until K can do just be being told to touch his nose and without a tangible reward.  Once he masters to touch his nose, teach him to touch his mouth, eyes, head, etc….until K learns to behave “normal”.

And do it at least 25 hours, preferably 40 hours/week.  What this meant was either my husband and I may have to quit the job to stay with K – leaving house to someone else was completely unthinkable.  And this posed a serious problem.

To be continued.


Windows Clean install – iTunes disaster

My PC has been behaving badly for the last six months or so.  Everything indicates it is caused by malwares.  Every three times or so I clicked something on a browser, a new window pop-up, “Your Chrome is outdated” “Your PC is damaged! Do this scan (how much damage would clicking this do???)” and so on.  Besides, it’s been really slow.  Really.

So I made a decision.  Bring back to factory setting and install all over again.  The data has been backed up kind of haphazardly, but in duplicates or triplicates or quadruplicates.  At least I won’t lose any data.  I have all software discs or at least know where to download.

I made a go.  Well.  It didn’t. Why?  It seems like the partition that stores factory setting (and bloatwares) has been corrupted.  Well, I’ve made a system image.  Again, the image DVD wasn’t recognized, though I can see via command prompt that the recovery image IS there.  Grrrrrr.

I called Lenovo tech support.  They’ve been kind, but with factory disc corrupt, they can’t do the support other than selling the recovery disk.  The tech support forwarded my call and the lady started a sales pitch.  “If you subscribe this at $19.99 A MONTH, it will be restored by a technician and anytime a problem arises, it will be fine.  If that’s too expensive, at $129.99, you can have a technician to reinstall and bring back to factory setting.  If you only buy a recovery disc, it will be $69.”

I expected that some sale pitch for long-term service contract.  But I didn’t think that recovery disc (of a computer I own) would cost $69!  It is supposed to come with my computer, isn’t it? That sounded outrageous. I bought the computer around $700 three years ago.  I declined the offer.

Now I’m on a real classic route.  First I did CHKDSK – if my system hard drive is corrupt, any installation won’t make much sense.  Passed.  Then I formatted the C: drive.  It was sort of funny that command prompt of Windows I booted up from DVD disc recognized it as E: drive.  I just wondered why.  Anyway, I spent hours and hours on formatting.  Separately, I prepared the Windows 7 image disc for clean install. Compared to CHKDSK and formatting, installing Windows, Windows update, Avast free were a breeze.

This time I did another leap of faith. I switched to Office 2013.  My husband bought Office 365 subscription and he added me as an authorized user.  I’ve used them on iPad. Well, iPad Excel is very crappy, but at least it does it’s job.  Excel is not suitable for tablet without keyboard and mouse.  Just that. But Office 2013 shouldn’t be so different from Office 2010.  So far, so good.  I’m pretty comfortable using it.

Then I installed my usual set of software – printer driver and utilities, CCleaner, Syncback, chrome, firefox and iTunes.  I was a fool.

Don’t let iTunes scan the music!  It detected my restored file, my backup file, another backup file, etc. AND it also moves files without telling me where.  So I thought I restored the file in iTunes/iTunes Media/Music, they disappeared and moved to iTunes/Music.  It took a while to figure out that iTunes would do that no matter how.  I gave in to Tim Cook’s order. I removed all music in the new iTunes library, moved all my music to where Tim Cook want me to save, and then added each folder manually.  During the process, somehow iTunes MERGED my backup and restored files so each album folder contained three or sometimes 5 copies of the same song! Again, I deleted manually.

I’m sure there must be a better way to live with iTunes (e.g., buy all music via iTunes and not rip CD at all).  But they don’t sell Japanese children’s and other songs.  I seriously thought that this might be a make or break moment with my iPhone/iPad controlled life.  Apple should thank that my contract with Verizon won’t be up until November 2015.

And next time, I will have iTunes backup in a physically separate drive and when I do clean install, I will separate it from the computer!


Big fall sale on Craftsy!

I’ve been waiting for this. I already bought 4 classes today.

Decadent Chocolate Cakes 

Marcy and Katherine Tilton – The Ultimate T-Shirt: Fitting & Construction Craftsy 

Creative Serging: Beyond the Basics Class 

Online Beginner Serging Class

I also highly recommend these classes as well.

Bag-Making Basics: Drawstring Bag & Bucket Bag

Underneath It All with Linda Lee

Sewing Designer Jeans, Angela Wolf

Tailoring Ready-to-Wear

Craftsy Mastering Zipper Techniques Class

Pant Fitting Techniques

Free Sewing Pattern at Craftsy

Perfect Pizza at Home

French Pastry Shop Classics, by Colette Christian

These are classes I have taken (I’ve taken more, but some boring class I omitted from this list)

For more, like knitting and crocheting, see below. It really is a huge sale (that’s why I usually wait)



(sponsored post)

Have you heard Craftsy’s BIG Fall Course Sale is happening now? Learn from the world’s best instructors in the comfort of your home, when you shop up to 50% off ALL online classes! Once you enroll you can watch your classes anytime, anywhere, forever. Hurry, offer expires September 22, 2014 at 11:59 PM MT. Shop Craftsy‘s BIG Fall Course Sale and save.


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