Op Shops, Passports, Helmets and Art…

Last Monday I made a much-overdue foray to the local charity shops.  In New Zealand, we call these Op Shops (‘op’ being short for opportunity… not sure why) and they have been a favourite haunt since my teens – at the age when having a whole new wardrobe every week just meant going to the nearby Sally Army with a shopping bag and coming home with Op Shop gold.  Well, St Louis is a veritable mine of charity shopping.  And the local Goodwill is like a superstore.  When we moved in May, I began the repainting (still a work in progress) of our little eat-in-kitchen table and have been on a hunt for black chairs to match.  I found these beautiful numbers just hanging out at the Goodwill:

Kitchen Chairs

They have such a sturdy feel to them, and the covers are in wonderful condition.  Our dining room chairs are much less robust, they don’t make things like they used to – I was enjoying the musings of  No Impact Man on this very issue the other day.  Obviously we would do so much better in environmental terms if only things had a more permanent feeling…  I do hate acquiring things I don’t think I will use for a long time, or that have a feeling of flimsy impermanence about them – children’s toys are a dreadful example of this.  And computers… well, don’t get me started on built-in-obsolesence!

Another recent acquisition in our house is Kazuo’s US passport.  At least one of us can move in and out of this country with relative ease!  Our re-entry visas expired in March, so on our trip home to London this Christmas, we will have to go stand in line at the US Embassy again and apply for new visas to return to our home and work… such a strange system, it seemed odd to us that we were not given paper work for the entire time of our proposed stay, but when our immigration papers were updated in March, we realised that we would have to return to the UK for new Visas in case Akira wanted to travel to conferences abroad during the rest of our time here (which of course he does.) Our little guy will have about six different nationalities to choose from when it comes time for him to decide the country of his first allegiance… for now we chose his birthplace to make travel more expedient.  The passport arrived a few days ago and Kazuo immediately started devouring it when I gave it to him to hold:     Passport

Last week we finally made a visit to the Plastic Surgery Dept at St Louis Children’s Hospital.  Kazuo has Congenital Muscular Torticollis, a condition that was most likely caused by his cramped breech conditions prior to his birth.  He has been having regular physical therapy and home stretching since he was three months old and should make reasonable, if not full recovery from this condition.  However, it has also caused Positional Plagiocephaly, or a flat spot on the right side of his head that has also pushed his face forward on the right and his little ears are unaligned.  It is a reasonably common condition, and often self-corrects within the first year.  But lately it has seemed that maybe Kazuo’s flat spot is making slow progress, and that a better outcome for the Torticollis might be achieved if we remedied the Plagiocephaly.  This is what the medical professionals were  implying, and the Nurse we saw last week wrote a prescription for Kazuo to be fitted for a Plagiocephaly Helmet . He will wear it for 23 hours a day for about 3 – 6 months, depending on how fast his head grows. A timely parcel arrived from my aunt and uncle in New Zealand on the day of the appointment – including an All Blacks Jersey and Hirini Helmet (as we have christened him) – an All Black bear, complete with protective helmet. We hope Kazuo will feel a special bond with Hirini as the helmet days are played out…


It appears that our marvellous Healthcare Company, unlike all others, has become obscure and evasive about their criteria for these helmets – on the phone, before the appointment, they assured us it would be covered.  Since then it has transpired that they only cover a random handful of cases, and mange to sidestep the others by claiming that they are not ‘medically necessary’. We have found this totally infuriating as we would not be going down this route if it had not been demonstrated to us to be medically necessary in the first place… it is a hard place to be in when faced with a treatment that seems invasive and unpleasant (although we have been assured that the babies make a much quicker adjustment to wearing the helments than the parents) and then realise that you are forced to endure financial hardship in order to pursue the treatment.  We have railed against the negative impact of private healthcare since coming here… this is just one more bad example.  Both of us have delayed pursuing medical treatment for ourselves for more minor complaints that we would still rather have cleared up, due to the added expense we would incur.  However, we reasoned that this is a treatment Kazuo would have had in England, and we would hate for him to encounter difficulties later in life because we did not treat these problems now, when he is growing and most likely to recover well.  But I can really see how many people would be deterred from having certain procedures because of the cost involved.  It just doesn’t seem right… we miss the NHS!

Finally, with Kazuo taking lovely long naps in the daytime, and starting to sleep through the night, I have more time to be a little organised about my days.  This also has lead to thoughts of creativity.  Last year I spent most Sunday evenings with friends at a ‘Stitch n Bitch’ craft group.  We produced a great variety of lovely things and it was wonderful to be among others who were thinking creatively.  There is a move afoot now to resurrect the craft group into ‘Crafternoons’ – kindly, so that it fits in around my need to be at home with Kazuo in the evenings.  I am really excited.  To celebrate, this last weekend I finally created the mixed-media painting for our living room that I have been carrying around in my head since we stayed in Hanmer Springs in New Zealand on our post-wedding-holiday in 2006.  There was a similar work on the wall in one of the houses we rented.  However, I was also keen, since I was using Paua Shell as the main colour inspiriation, to make a representation of the myth of Rangi-nui-te-po and Papatuanuku.  Since it was a good 20 years since high school art classes, I was really hoping that it would come out a little bit like the image in my mind… usually creating art is a matter of post-hoc rationalisation for me.  Thankfully it was pretty much as I had intended, and I feel inspired to move on and try out some more ideas I have brewing, so yayyy for Crafternoons!! One of my resolutions for this year was to see if I could come up with an idea for stay-at-home-mum income generation… watch this space.

Rangi and Papa

Rangi and Papa in the living room with Kazuo and me.

Of Water, the Web and Wimbledon…

This has been a week of wonderful outings and much much cooler weather, so better for all of us to bear.  Having had a very harrassed afternoon at the university pool last Friday, where Kazuo did manage to have his first swim, but also seemed ready to expire from the heat… I was keen to try him out in the water in more reasonable temperatures, and in a slightly more conducive environment.  The chance came last Sunday, a mild but sunny day.  Akira and I packed up all the pool paraphenalia, and drove to the local community pool.  I was pleased to have acquired a crab pool float for Kazuo that had a canopy to keep him shaded from the dreaded sun.  There are not too many things that really get me concerned with Kazuo, he is happy and healthy and there is not much to be wary of right now, but coming from a country under an enormous hole in the ozone layer, the sun really gets me going… and with him still being a little young for sunblock… well, I covered him up as much as was reasonable, but was extra glad for Crabby’s cover.  Here is our serious little guy in Crabby, just checking out the water and all the kids playing around him:Swimming in Crabby

A wonderful successful swimming trip… seems like the water is a hit with Kaz, so you can imagine my consternation when I received a recall email yesterday for the pool float.  Sigh… what to do?  It seems that some of these toys rip at the leghole and babies can fall into the water.  Apparently there have been 31 instances of this across the board of all their pool float toys, no incidents that were injurious or caused a drowning, but  they are still recalling all 40 million toys sold between 2002-2009!!  In my mind this seems excessive… and I am in love with Crabby, he solves my sun neuroses… so I don’t want to part with him, esp since there are no alternatives on the market, this company has it cornered… and I am never going to leave Kaz swimming alone in Crabby, so could catch him should a tear occur… so silly, so extreme, I am assuming that they would not replace him with a better model, this smacks of a going out of business kinda operation.  I guess if I do hold onto him, I am just forfeiting my right to sue if something does happen… weird.

This last week we also had our lovely friend Caroline, from Leeds, come stay.  She bonded with Kazuo over his bottles and was very kind and chatty with him.  We have had a few visitors since Kaz arrived and it is nice to share our slower pace of life with our very understanding guests.  Caroline managed to arrive in time for the opening of the marvellous new City Garden in the downtown area.  St Louis is odd in that the CBD was abandoned in favour of the Clayton area in the 70s and it seems that regeneration of what was once a vibrant city (the 1904 Olympics and 1905 World’s Fair were here!) is a slow-going dream.  But this marvellous space may just help that effort along… a wonderful couple of blocks with art, gardens and fantastic interactive water features that are a hit with the children in a hot summer.  It particularly liked this sculpture by Mimmo Paladino on a little rise at the entrance to the garden:

Art at City Garden

More water was in store for Kazuo.  We explored the water jets in the water play area, and Kazuo was rather bemused.  I take his placid and serious approach to new experiences to be at least approval, since I am sure he would cry if he disliked/was frightened by whatever we were exposing him to.  But cheerful smiles and chuckles of delight are still a way off I guess. Here he is stripped off to his nappy and checking out a middle-sized spray of water… well, I thought it was fun, he will get there I suppose:

City Garden

Having disposed of the cable box, and hopefully this week, the television, we acquired a PC to watch sports on and to speed up life online, since we had been relying on my ancient and slow laptop.  We managed to watch the Federer/Roddick final this morning (a very boring morning for Kazuo as his parents obsessed over every stroke…) and were both on the edge of our seats as the match went into 30 games in the fifth set… as wonderful as it would have been to see underdog Roddick win his first title (we have a preference for the underdog in this house), it was an amazing relief to see Federer make tennis history with his 15th Grand Slam… and with such graceful, elegant tennis.  A great morning.  The computer has also provided an opportunity for Kazuo to have a little foray into cyberspace… I know it won’t happen too often, and is not really the kind of thing we will be encouraging, but Akira has found a cheerful little program called Baby Smash that converts the keyboard into a random letters/geometric pattern generator, and it is really Kaz friendly.  Here he is with Dada, getting ready for some Baby Smash action:

Baby Smash