Wednesday, December 30, 2009

John Denver Tribute

Have you ever heard that song "Back Home Again"? In it, he talks about returning to the family farm. Oddly enough, it's a song I've always identified strongly with despite the fact that I grew up with a large vegetable garden but nothing that would qualify as a farm. Still, now that we've returned to the family homestead and farm in Osaka, I find that song ringing through my head. I can't express how happy I was to walk in the door last night after nearly 24 hours of car and plane travel. We came to Osaka by way of Albany, NY - Chicago, IL - Tokyo, Japan - Osaka. It was a long day.

But the moment we walked in the door I knew I was home. My bed was waiting. A hot bath was available to us. We had a wonderful, small but delicious dinner with the whole family. All of Gboy's siblings are in town for the New Year's holiday and were at the house to welcome us home last night. Peanut was ecstatic to see everyone again - especially her cousins and playmates.

Yes, we're fighting some jet lag. All 3 of us were awake at 4 am this morning. But I slept warmly and soundly in my bed last night and was grateful for it. Oddly, even my parents' house while it feels comfortable no longer really feels like home. They moved from my childhood home about 4 years ago and I've spent so little time there that it doesn't feel like a familiar space at all.

But after returning to Japan last night, I breathed a sigh of relief to know that home really is where you make it and not just in one single place. As John said, "It's the little things that make a house a home."

Sunday, December 27, 2009

"Stealing" Christmas

I want to start with the wonder of Christmas. It was a beautiful day and I was thankful to celebrate it while surrounded by my family. Hopefully I'll even come back to this. But for now, I want to digress.

I am really struggling with how to make sense of the different parenting styles that my sister and I have. She has a difficult time relaxing when my daughter is around. Peanut at almost 2 years old, is perceived by my sister as a constant threat to her 5 month old son (let's call him Buddy). As soon as Peanut sees a toy that she would like, she wants to grab it away from Buddy. The grabbing is a recent development. With our friends in our parenting support group, the other children are close in age to Peanut and fortunately we all see more or less eye to eye about sharing and how to encourage the kids to share (esp. as they're all at an age where they need to do this).

With my sister, she can't stand to surrender one of Buddy's toys or books for even a moment (something I might do to keep another kid happy). I can respect this, but I'd rather she use a firm, "No" or "It's Buddy's turn, you have to wait for your turn." This is the language we use regularly with Peanut. Instead, I went upstairs for a few moments the other day and heard her yell, quite sharply at Peanut saying, "NO Peanut, that's stealing!!". At first I had to laugh. How many 2 year olds understand the concept of stealing and thievery?? And then I was just frustrated. Because my sister is pretty high-strung. Because she can't seem to accept that Peanut is doing what toddlers do. Because although my sister, BIL and Buddy have only been here in my parents' house since the morning of the 24th and I'm very happy for them to leave today (once upon a time I would have wished that my sister and BIL could stay another week).

Being a parent changes you. I understand that and I'm constantly grateful for the opportunity to be changed by it. I just can't help but wonder if my sister and I will ever see eye to eye again. I confess I'm amazed at how much I see my life through this lens of motherhood in ways that I didn't anticipate. I didn't think it would change my relationship with my sister but it has. Once upon a time I felt that she'd be best guardian for my daughter; now I know that I couldn't live with that decision. I always knew that our outlooks on life are different, but I thought for sure that I could live with that and I could handle knowing that she was parenting Peanut. But there's no way that I could do that now. My sister has her hands full with her own son. And she's a high-strung, anxious person - to a degree that I hadn't really seen until she was also a mom.

Becoming a mom - being a mom can change so much.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

And the fun continues....

Yes, our stay in upstate NY is ongoing. The snow that we had has now mostly melted away. No more building snowmen or sledding outside. Peanut is disappointed. She loved her Frosty the Snowman creation. She would regularly stand on a kitchen chair and look out the window and say, "Look Frosty!" while holding up her latest discovery be it a toy, a cookie, or even a new dance she created. Her best friend has just melted away!

I've been busy doing not much of anything useful. I haven't been studying my Japanese or even practicing my calligraphy, the things that I had planned to brush up on before my return to Japan (which is in less that two weeks). Instead, when Peanut naps, I've been napping. Or else I've been baking Christmas cookies or addressing Christmas cards.

Last year I sent out nengajo (although terribly late - I'm such a procrastinator!). This year, I sent out Christmas cards. I like the idea of alternating Christmas and New Year's card to recognize the traditions of both my culture and Gboy's culture as I think both sentiments are lovely. However, the cost of all those cards, and the postage and the time it takes to hand write a note in each one (yes I do that) makes even 35 cards a significant project. And yet, I feel so very accomplished once I'm done. What are your thoughts/strategies with regard to holiday cards?

Here's the recipe I baked yesterday. I thought I posted it previously on my blog, but I can't find it. It's originally from American Airlines inflight magazine; I'm very happy that my friend read it during her travels a few years ago and shared the recipe with me!

Chocolate Mint Marvels

¾ cup butter

1½ cups brown sugar

2 cups chocolate chips

2 eggs

2½ cups flour

1¼ teaspoon baking soda

3-4 packages of Andes mints

  • Melt butter and brown sugar in saucepan over low heat. Add chocolate chips and stir to melt; put mixture into a bowl and let cool. Add eggs, and then mix in flour and baking soda. Chill dough for 1 hour.

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  • Roll into balls and place on baking sheet. (The dough might be crumbly, just work it with your hands into a ball). Bake for 9 minutes. Remove cookies from oven and place an Andes mint on each one. As the candy melts, spread it across the top of the cookie with a butter knife.

Updated to add: I've closed the comments to avoid more spam. You can always reach me at my email address in the righthand menu.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Perfect Moment Monday

I Capture
Perfect Moments.

I'm a first-time participant in Perfect Moment Monday, but since I had a few this past week, I had to record them. First, my mom got out some gingerbread dough and asked Peanut if she'd like to help make cookies. Cookies?! Of course. Peanut is fascinated by Christmas and winter themed shapes these days. Gingerbread men, snowmen, Santa, sleighs, nutcrackers, Christmas trees, reindeer - there's a world of shapes and objects that she has just learned the words to describe. Additionally, she was tempted by the word cookie.

They rolled up their sleeves and I mostly supervised to make sure that (a) Peanut didn't fall off the extra tall chair that she was standing on (caught her once as she headed towards the floor noggin-first!) (b) Peanut didn't eat all the dough before it was baked! She had the best time dragging the cookie cutters through flour and then pressing the shapes into the dough. She loved that my mom had small, medium and large sized cookie cutters. She even tried rolling the dough with the rolling pin. We had a great time watching her fall in love with making cookies. At the very end there was just enough dough for one last small cookie. My mom handed the ball of dough (the size of a walnut maybe) to Peanut and said, "Go to town". Instead of picking up the rolling pin, she popped the whole thing in her mouth! My mom and I couldn't stop laughing.

Then yesterday was another sweet and perfect little baking moment. I waited until Peanut was down for her nap because I wanted to make some Skor bars and knew that they wouldn't interest her. It had snowed the night before, so I had a lovely view of a dusting of snow outside on the trees in the backyard as I worked in the kitchen. The kitchen was warm and I had the radio on, playing Christmas tunes of course. My mom sat with me and helped out a little, but the recipe is pretty simple and really it was just a way for the two of us to spend some time together, to relax and make some chocolate-toffee confections to satisfy my cravings.* I was perfectly happy and content and fulfilled at that moment.

Oh, and one last perfect moment to share. My mom and I went to Barnes and Noble to do some shopping the other day. Peanut was at home napping (thanks to my husband!) while she and I snuck out. We're both readers, my mom and I. It's no surprise then, that we found ourselves wandering around that store for over an hour. At some point early in our visit, I caved and bought a peppermint mocha. It was heavenly and made for the perfect moment! Books! Coffee!

Hope you're all having some memorable moments lately!

*Speaking of cravings, while some cookies were the order of the day yesterday, I find that I am ravenous a great deal of the time now. The nausea seems to be dissipating just in the last couple of days. Even for the last couple of weeks, I've been feeling good for 75% of the day, and then not so much for the last bit, but that hasn't kept me from having an appetite either. I was nowhere near this hungry for any part of my first pregnancy. I'm starting to think that I may be growing a boy - simply based on how different this feels, but I don't *really* have any sense about the baby's gender.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Baking marathon begins!

Oh dear friends in the internet...I am looking for new (to me) and exciting recipes for Christmas cookies. That's right, at the moment I'm feeling like eating! And baking too. This year, I've got at my disposal not just an oven. But I have my mother's kitchen which looks a lot like Mrs. Claus' house. She has more cookie sheets, decorations, and baking paraphernalia than I've ever had in my own little kitchen. As such, I'm feeling like doing some serious baking. Perhaps not fair to my mother, recently diagnosed as diabetic, but I can't help it! Luckily, her willpower these days is great and she can sample a cookie or two without adversely affecting her blood sugar levels, mostly because she's so good at managing her diet and exercising regularly. Go mom!

My mother is actually the one who instilled in me the love of baking Christmas cookies until your freezer can't hold anymore. When I was a child, she was the choir director and organist at our church and every year at the holidays she would have the choir members over to our house for a rehearsal and plates full of cookies! She also hosted a holiday open house every year which also prominently featured trays of home-baked cookies. And I think that she's looking forward to doing some

So here's my request:
Do you have any favorite cookie recipes? I'm especially interested in those that are festive and holiday-like but they don't necessarily need to be such.

Even more specific (but certainly not a requirement to a good recipe) do you happen to have any favorite diabetic-friendly holiday treats? Since my mom is new to the diabetic diet, I'd sure like to help her out with a few good recipes.

Please share!!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

East Coast Girls are Hip

My apologies to the Beach Boys, but I can't that song out of my head at the moment. I'm on the East Coast! We officially survived the trip to upstate New York where we'll be spending approximately the next five weeks with my parents. I'm incredibly lucky to have a very good relationship with my parents and I'm especially thrilled that our lives right now make it possible for us to travel for extended periods of time. Peanut adores her Nana and Grampa and has been happy as a pig in mud ever since we got here. In fact, her jet lag was minimal and within 3 days of our arrival she was on a regular schedule of eating and sleeping and that has certainly helped to keep her mood light and bright.

I am feeling better just in the last week which is a blessing after a terrible week that included me hugging the toilet bowl for a few days, serving on jury duty, and trying to pack up some of our personal belongings in our house to make way for our renters (yay!). It is wonderfully relaxing to simply enjoy some quality time with my parents and to watch them with my daughter. My husband, good-natured man that he is, gets along famously with my parents and happily cooks dinner for us all once in a while and even gets time to himself to work on his new business. I am looking forward to next week's turkey-fest with with great anticipation in part because I love celebrating the holidays with my family, and in part because I'm hungry quite a bit lately and am feeling the nausea much less frequently (thank goodness!).

I am looking forward to returning to a more regular schedule now that the end of the 1st trimester is approaching and I'm starting to feel well again. Thank you for all of your wonderful and sweet well wishes. I am truly fortunate to have such kind folks around me!

Sunday, November 8, 2009


Yep. I've tried to dance around it for a while now, but the plain fact is, I'm finding it hard to blog because the morning sickness and food and smell aversions have knocked me off my game. I was stunned to see a positive pregnancy test a few weeks ago, but it was in a "how could we possibly be that lucky?????" kind of way. Here we thought that the second go around could easily take another year or more, but nope. I'm apparently one of those wacky and lucky few who never get a period while breastfeeding and still manage to get pregnant again. I suppose I have some "survivor's guilt" about that. I lamented our previous experience for so long that I really felt those of us waiting for baby #2 were all in the same boat. Only I'm not; and that feels weird to me. I think I'm beginning to adjust to the fact that this is happening. Who knows what time will bring. I'm not due until June and I'm still several weeks away from the end of the 1st trimester, but for right now, this is real and it's an amazing gift.

Amidst all of our celebrating, we're still trying to get our house prepped for a rental. Did I mention we may have found renters? Some friends of friends need a place to stay for a few months during a renovation on their house and the timing coincides quite well with our excursion to the East Coast and then on to Japan. Doing all of the cleaning, prepping, packing, storing, etc. with the occasional bout of nausea has been a challenge. Right now, I'm just trying not to be overly ambitious.

For now, I'm hanging in there and have my eyes on the prize: I'm hoping that the nausea will have seriously subsided by the time Thanksgiving rolls around. This is my year for turkey, gravy and mashed potatoes!!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Halloween 2009

This past weekend was our first celebration of Halloween "American-style." It was perhaps even more exciting for me than it was for my daughter. Where I grew up, in upstate New York, we could pretty much count on freezing cold weather and occasionally snow for Halloween. This made trick-or-treating somewhat less enjoyable because in order to be warm, you often had to sacrifice the cool looking effects of your costume. This year, the temperature was a lovely and mild almost 60 degrees. We dressed up Peanut in her costume and headed off to a local trick-or-treating event. We met up with some friends and their toddler. The kids got a few pieces of hard candy and then wanted to head outside away from the crowds. They sat down (outdoors - with no coats!) and nibbled on their hard candy. Then we walked up and down the street where other local businesses were all handing out goodies. The kids even got to share a free gelato. How cool is that? We were able to enjoy ice cream, outdoors on Halloween!

Afterwards, we headed across the street to a great little izakaya for some korokkes for the kiddos and lots of great tempura, kushikatsu, and yakitori. They also served French fries with wasabi mayonnaise; this is my new favorite dish!

Last year we weren't able to really celebrate Halloween in the same way, since we were in Japan. This year, we had both an American style celebration and great Japanese food too. Who says you can't have it all??

And now, the gratuitous cute kid pic:

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Back in the Saddle

I'm trying to get back into the swing of things here at home (Seattle) after our trip to Raleigh, while simultaneously preparing to go on the road again. In another couple of weeks we're off to the East Coast to visit my parents for the holidays and from there it's on to Japan again. I can't begin to describe how happy I am to be spending Thanksgiving AND Christmas with my folks. I will be very thankful this year!

In the meantime we're in the midst of chaos once again. But I'm sure you can imagine what that's like. Rather than cover all that now, I thought I'd mention how weird and surreal it was to be looking in on the lives of my sister and brother-in-law and their new baby. Baby G was just about 2.5 months old when we visited and your average happy-go-lucky baby. What I had forgotten or blocked out I suppose, was how steep the learning curve can be as a new parent. I can't remember the last time I saw such stressed out parents. And then it occurred to me that maybe I had and just couldn't remember it! I have no idea how we looked to outsiders. Most of our friends have kids close in age to Peanut, so when I saw them with newborns, we were all frazzled and sleep-deprived and learning as fast as we could.

I wished on multiple occasions that I could have taken the baby from my sister and offered to make it better. But new parents have to learn in their own time and their own way.

I wished on multiple occasions that I could make them more comfortable with having us (and our toddler) stay in the house with them. Especially so that they wouldn't have to be so worried about all damage she might do to herself since that is just as much my job as Peanut's parent as it is their job as host/ess. But again, they're not used to being around toddlers and need more time and exposure to be comfortable with the everyday antics of a toddler.

I worried that I wasn't parenting as well as I should or could. Their level of concern about my child's behavior was much more intense than my own level of concern and I don't know if it's because I'm too "hands-off" and therefore negligent in some way (or maybe I'm just a bad guest?). Or maybe it's truly just a difference in parenting styles (or to be fair maybe they were just far too overwhelmed to be hosting us and dealing with a newborn and the whole situation just created more anxiety for them).

All in all, my head was sort of spinning after our trip. I kept trying to look back at my own experience nearly 1 1/2 years ago to see what I would have looked like to an outsider. But of course that's never really possible. I just keep thinking that there's a valuable lesson to be learned from our trip but I'm unable to see it yet.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Cold in NC

That's right- it's cold in North Carolina! We're enjoying some quality time with my sister and her husband and the new baby, but it's hard to find time to post updates since one or the other of our kids always seems to be awake and finding the time to post then feels nearly impossible. I now understand the joys of having one child with set naptimes! The jet lag has been surprisingly difficult to deal with (I figured the 3 hour difference would be negligible compared to the 16 from Japan!) in part because we are currently sharing a room with Peanut which we don't generally do at home and she's very sensitive to hearing us move around - which leads to more night wakings I'm sure.

The trip has been trippy since I feel like perhaps I'm getting a glimpse of what I looked like with a newborn. My sister is definitely frazzled which I find humorous since her son sleeps really well (i.e. 5 hour stretches at night and he's just about 3 months old!) and he's a very good-natured boy. Peanut was always good-natured but not a "good" sleeper per se. For us, 3 hours at a time was generally our standard of good! As a result, I find it hard to believe that my sister is fretting over a 2 hour crying fit when her son wasn't quite ready to go to sleep one night. I don't remember how often, if ever, that happened when Peanut was 3 months old, but I know it took us longer than their usual 5-10 minutes to get our baby to sleep. Wow. How dreamy that sounds.

Ultimately what this trip has done has give me a new perspective about my relationship with my sister. But that's more for another day.

Saturday, October 3, 2009


We're up to our eyeballs in mini home-improvement projects as we try to get our house ready to rent out when we head out "on the road" so to speak in another month and a half. Before that, we're making a quick trip to NC to see my sister and my newest nephew. I'm looking forward to spending some quality sister time together and having a mini vacation which means I don't have to fix anything.

Our home didn't start out as a fixer-upper, but after living here for a number of years, things are naturally starting to break down or wear out and we've put off many of the repairs for a while. Now seems like the perfect time to tackle many of these projects and I'm feeling accomplished because we're getting them done. But I also feel like we're still behind the 8 ball and I'm not sure we'll have it all done by the time we leave. ..

Monday, September 28, 2009

Oceans Apart, (Day after Day)*

Living across the world from where I was just a few months ago I occasionally feel a sense of displacement. On the one hand I feel very grounded and rooted in my life here, but on the other, I can't shake the sense that something is missing. I was recently reminded that it's time for the rice harvest. This means that it's been almost a year since we left for Japan to help my father-in-law with the rice harvest. I can't believe it! We won't be there for the harvest this year, and as a result I have that sense of displacement, "How could I almost forget?!" Likewise, I keep thinking, "Is it almost time for the olives yet?" It's too early but I can't wait until we hear from my mother-in-law that they're ready to be picked.

In that vein of thinking about how we integrate our cross-cultural partners and lives, I've been reading some interesting articles in the paper lately and wonder if you've seen these stories? The first story is about a pair who has been living in the U.S. for several years and would like to stay in New Hampshire operating their authentic French bakery but the U.S. government assessed the bakery and its profits as marginal and therefore made the lady's application for an extension on her work/investor's visa ineligible . The people of the town essentially lobbied the State Department - writing letters etc. saying that this small business was more than "marginal" to their community. I found it touching and think I'd do the same. How wonderful would it be to have an authentic French bakery in your little community and why would you want to chase that away?

The second story is about a newly married couple right here in the Pacific Northwest, he's American and she's Canadian and they're currently unable to live together in one country.

What I find most frustrating about both stories is that there's such a tangle of legal....stuff. The boundaries that exist among nations are often arbitrary, although in some cases there are natural geographic constructs (like rivers, mountains, etc.) that act as dividers. It just seems like all of these problems could be easily avoided or resolved if we didn't have these rules. Naturally it's easy for me to say all this, and I'm clearly biased as all of this legal stuff occasionally makes things challenging for my husband and I and especially my daughter who, as things stand right now, will be forced to choose between her Japanese and American citizenship statuses once she is 22 years old.

Having said all of this, I should also emphasize that I'm in no hurry to give up my American citizenship. While that might simplify things in some ways (if my husband and daughter and I were all Japanese citizens) I just can't wrap my head around revoking a status that really feels like a part of my identity. In other words, it's not just that I'd choose not to be Japanese, I don't think I'd feel able to adopt the citizenship of any other nation either. Maybe there really is something to the notion of national identity and boundaries after all?

If you had to revoke your citizenship in order to become a citizen of another country would you (i.e. no dual citizenship allowed)? What if that was the only way for you to be with your partner/spouse?

*Yes I was a Richard Marx fan once upon a time. Don't mock.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Cry Me a Puddle

Anthropologa has this post about crying and how one survey of women revealed that we cry an average of 2.24 hours per week. Whoa. Sounds like an awful lot to me.

Yet, I'm pretty free with the tears. I just need to see someone else crying and that's enough to set me off. Lately, I'm feeling like I'm on the verge of tears even more often. I'm convinced it has to do with the wacky hormones. I feel this...imbalance. And since I can't write anything else here without feeling like I'm *always* writing about how badly I want Baby #2, etc. I'm going to do some posting at my old blog on occasion. Because clearly, I need the outlet.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Multi-cultural books for toddlers

Before I forget I thought I'd list a few of my favorite multicultural books. In an effort to present Peanut with a variety of books depicting kids of all colors, races and ethnicities, I'm constantly on the lookout for books and stories that are quality materials. Here's a sampling of what we've found recently:

Please, Baby Please by Spike Lee and Tonya Lewis Lee, illustrated by Kadir Nelson
The story is simple and sweet and perfectly geared for a toddler or preschooler. Amazing illustrations. I want to find all the books by this illustrator. The colors are vibrant and the child is adorable.

Everywhere Babies by Susan Meyers, illustrated by Marla Frazee
Beautiful story about all the everyday things that babies do - depicts babies of all colors from all kinds of families. Wonderful illustration of the many shapes and colors of babies as well as they families with which they live.

Where is Baby's Bellybutton? by Karen Katz
I love the simplicity of this book. In the board book format it only has about 6 pages total, but each one has a lift the flap and depicts children of different colors. My daughter has loved this book since she was maybe 6 months old. She's almost too old for it now (at 1 1/2) but many of Katz's works appear to be similarly illustrated and worth checking out.

Baby Faces by DK Publishing
This board book is a simple collection of baby photos paired with a word ("happy") or short phrase ("peek-a-boo"). Adorable. And babies love photos of other babies making this an almost sure-fire hit with little ones. Peanut *loves* this book. The words are too easy for her, but I think she's more interested in studying the photos and expressions on the faces of the babies.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Tuesdays of Grace

There's an old saying that goes something like this:

Monday's child is fair of face,
Tuesday's child is full of grace,
Wednesday's child is full of woe,
Thursday's child has far to go.
Friday's child is loving and giving,
Saturday's child works hard for a living,
But the child born on the Sabbath Day,
Is fair and wise and good and gay.

In the spirit of this saying, I want to encourage more grace - and by this I mean acts of kindness. I heard Dr. Wayne Dyer once saying that acts of kindness actually improve our immune systems and can make us feel good physically as well as emotionally. Additionally those who witness an act of kindness (not just the giver and receiver but the by-standers!) are said to benefit as well. Isn't that just one more amazingly inspirational reason to do something nice?!

There's a lot of space on the web for sharing our emotions and purging our secrets, venting our frustrations, etc. I rely on my blog for that comfortable and non-judgmental space. But I also think that there's a missed opportunity here. Why shouldn't we also use our space for the sharing of good things? What I'm hoping to do is start a series of Tuesday posts wherein we use the comments of the post to share good deeds and random act of kindness. Hopefully, just reading the kind acts performed by others will be enough to lift the spirits of *all* of us.

I encourage everyone to use anonymous commenting since the desire and intent to do something kind shouldn't be judged in any way ("Oh she's always doing things like this. What a goody two-shoes." or conversely, "So and so never comments here. Doesn't she like to do kind things?"). I'm sure all of you who are regulars would never indulge in this kind of petty thinking, but I'm hoping that new readers and commentors will join in and I want to be clear about having some ground rules and expectations.

So tell me, what act of kindness have you performed on this Tuesday?

Note: If you ever need any ideas, you can always check out Help Others.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Aki Matsuri

You are all wonderful and encouraging friends! I don't feel like such a dolt - unable to balance the needs of others in my family and feeling selfish for wanting to cram 36 hours into each single day hoping for more time with all of them!

Things have evened out a bit. Mom and Dad depart tomorrow. We've been all over in the last week or so. We spent several days in Leavenworth, WA enjoying the sunshine, sausages, and goats that live across from the hotel. Peanut *loves* goats and couldn't get enough of them! On our way home, we stopped near Wenatchee at a farm stand where we stocked up on tons of fresh peaches and apples and corn. There were lots of activities for little kids and since Peanut was the only kid around, she had the place to herself. We had an impromptu picnic and have been gobbling up the last days of beautiful summer weather along with her bounty!

Today we're hoping to head over to the local Aki Matsuri - a fall fair or festival celebrating performing arts, crafts and martial arts from Japan. There's even an enka performance at 4pm. Peanut *loves* enka!! She's like a 60 year old man trapped inside the body of a toddler. Additionally, I'd love for my parents to get to experience some of the Japanese cultural activities there as they've only been to Japan once and I don't expect that they'll visit again anytime soon.

As for me...while I've been terrible about practicing any Japanese or calligraphy since we've been back in the U.S., I find myself longing for bits and parts of our life there. Several of you suggested it might happen (the whole "grass is greener on the other side" syndrome that is) but I truly couldn't see it coming. Now I'm looking forward to a bit of Japan again. No sushi please. I like sushi but I had more than enough during our last stay there! But some tempura, a little enka, and a taiyaki would be more than welcome!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Too much of a good thing

Maybe there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Although if you had asked me one week ago if that was possible I would have firmly asserted that this is impossible. But here I am in the late hours listening to Peanut wail as she struggles once again to sleep. It was a long night last night (read: we were awake for 3+ hours straight during the middle of the night) and here we are again. I think the excitement of having her grandparents here is contributing to some weirdness in the sleep department.

As for me personally, I am struggling to meet the needs of all involved. My father has well and truly lost his hearing and although he has finally admitted that he needs hearing aids, he hasn't yet taken steps to get any. This means that everything must be repeated at least twice for him, and there is a great deal of yelling in our house. At times this is comical, for instance when Peanut asks Grampa for juice and looks at him as though he hung the moon while he in return stares at her blankly. At other times, I just find it all to be a bit exhausting and sad. It is difficult to watch one's parents age. Additionally, it is frustrating to me that although he served both in the military police and the local police department for his entire career (and therefore spent ample time on the gun range to possibly have contributed to his hearing loss) neither the Veteran's Administration or police department is apparently willing to contribute a great deal towards the hearing aids. *sigh*

It's also difficult to continue to balance the needs of my husband when weighed against those of my parents. My folks would love to spend time with all of us (me, Peanut and Gboy) but my husband would like time alone with me now and then as well. I'm torn as I would like to spend as much time as possible (of the little time that I get with them) with my parents. It's a pickle.

In the end, we'll all survive it and have fun doing it, I'm sure. But the late nights and low sleep are once again wreaking a bit of havoc on my fuzzy brain and making it hard for me to think clearly.

Also, why must drunk people staggering home late at night make so much noise? Each time Peanut seems to quiet, they scream or squeal and set her off again. Argh.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

I should be scrubbing toilets....

but I'm not.* My parents arrive tomorrow night. They'll be staying with us for just over two weeks. I'm thrilled beyond words! I can't wait to see them. Once upon a time, I would have vigorously scrubbed everything in the house from top to bottom. But today, I can't quite muster the interest. Perhaps it's because I don't think they'll notice anything other than Peanut. They're definitely coming to see me (we have a really great relationship) but their first grandchild? The granddaughter they haven't seen in almost 11 months (well with the exception of the amazing powers of video calls and s.kype)?

Yeah, I don't think I need to worry too much about a little dust!

Oh, and I'm having FAR too much fun playing Blogger Bingo!!!

*Although I will be cleaning the toilets later. I'm just procrastinating at the moment. In fact, the toilets aren't the problem. It's those tile showers. How the heck do you clean them (a) without getting soaked in the process (b) with a sponge? I've just never figured it out and it bugs the heck out of me.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

She flips, she flops

Some of you may recall my lamentations that Peanut had started calling me "Okaasan." I made peace with it more quickly than I had anticipated. After all, when your kid needs you and calls for you in the middle of the night, well, that'll get your attention no matter what she calls you.

But interestingly enough, as suddenly as it came on, it went. Just the other day she stopped using Okaasan when calling for me or talking to me and it hasn't returned. I'm back to "Mama". (Okay once or twice in the wee hours when "Mama, Mama" didn't get her the prompt results she was hoping for I heard her toss in a haphazard "Okaasan" for good measure but it sure didn't sound like she meant it. And it's weird. Because now I kind of miss it.

I don't think I miss the actual name as much as I miss that phase of her life. It's just one more reminder that much of a child's life is fleeting. Peanut has a tendency to transition (especially in the area of language) more quickly than I realize. Before I know it, the old ways are gone. In this case, there was no lead-up. It wasn't like rolling leads to crawling leads to walking....It was there (Okaasan) and then it was gone.

Then again, if the past is any indicator, it may not be gone forever.

Friday, August 21, 2009

The end of summer blues

If one more newspaper article or sales advertisement reminds me that summer is almost over I may scream. I love summer. I get excited about spring because it reminds me that the misery of long, dark, wet, cold (pick whichever adjectives apply) days may be over soon. I adore the start of autumn with all of the new school supplies and the start of a clean slate as well as the promise of cool days filled with warm soups and all of the fun of hibernating.

But to me, summer has is about just plain fun. Fun every day. Going to parks, pools, the beach, fairs, festivals and all that wonderful stuff which is so often free (minus the cost of an ice cream cone maybe). This is kind of ironic when I think back to how I spent my middle and high school summer days - lazing around with a book trying desperately to avoid going outside. But things change. With a new city and a new climate and much less humidity, I've discovered the joys of the outdoors in summer!

This is why I am always saddened when the media seems to gleefully herald the end of summer. And then a day like today dawns. It's cool here and the fog has rolled in. We don't expect to see temperatures much about 70F. That's cool for a summer day even by Seattle standards.

Please excuse me while I stick my head in the sand and ignore all the signs of summer's end. My parents will be here in just about one week and I'm hoping that a bit more of the summer weather will linger. Just enough so that we can enjoy a few walks in the park with Peanut. Just enough to take advantage of the fair. Just a little longer please...

Sunday, August 16, 2009

My body image and my daughter

Beautiful Mess had a post about her body image a couple of weeks back. She was contemplating how her own body image issues might affect her daughter. This really got me to thinking. And then I saw this episode of What Not to Wear and the woman on the show was talking about how her body image and how the way she dresses might affect her daughters.

I generally don't feel like I have a negative body image. Sure I had the "freshman 15". But I worked hard after college to transition to a lifestyle filled with moderate exercise and healthy but delicious foods. Prior to that, I never gave my eating habits much thought. Even worse, I *hated* physical exercise. I made some changes and found workouts that I enjoy doing and once I did, I was able to change my mindset. I wouldn't say I love exercise, but there are some kinds of exercise I do enjoy and there are others I still can't stand to do.

Even now, 10+ years after graduating from college, I work hard to maintain a nutritious diet for a couple of reasons. I want to ensure that I have good health for a long time. I want to have the freedom to enjoy cupcakes(!) and other treats when I want them without feeling like I have to deprive myself. Now, I also have the added incentive of wanting to set a good example for my daughter.

Exercise is a harder rule for me to stick to, in fact I haven't done a lot of regular exercise since my daughter was born. As a result, I try to make sure that I walk a lot, often an hour during the day when I put Peanut in her stroller and we go out and tackle the ups and downs of city streets in Seattle. But I'd also like to keep up a routine of some kind (including more aerobics and yoga) because I think it's important for all the above reasons. Likewise, I can't stand being out of breath just going up a flight of stairs!

But the whole thing breaks down for me a bit when it comes to wardrobe. I feel like I've got this healthy shape that I've worked hard to get, and yet I've got a bunch of baggy t-shirts and sweatshirts and "comfy pants." You know the ones I mean. The ones that you wear the day after Thanksgiving because they're elastic or drawstring and are very forgiving. But none of these things are flattering by any stretch of the imagination and in the end I don't want my daughter growing up and thinking I was a frumpy dresser, or more importantly that I didn't think I was valuable enough to spend some time on myself and my image. I don't want to come off as vain, but given my current standards, I think a small bit of improvement would not even come close to putting me at risk of that!

My mom always dressed like a mom once she was a mom. She has all these great pictures of herself when she was young and thin and *hot* and dressed like a cool, hip 1960's gal. Then she got pregnant with me and then two years later my sister was born and it pretty quickly swung the other way. She started wearing "mom jeans" and the like. I love my mom. She's my inspiration and my hero in countless ways. But a fashion idol she isn't. Not anymore. And not for as long as I can remember.

I don't want my daughter to think that about me. I don't want my daughter to be obsessed with appearances. I want her to understand the value of comfy pants and casual dress for sure. But I also want to be sure that she knows I'm not hiding my body all the time. I don't want to have to hide my bathing suit-clad body under a beach cover-up for my whole life (something I got used to seeing my mom do). I want my daughter to see me as confident; because that's one of the traits that I most want my daughter to have. I want her to be self-confident. Once you've got that confidence in yourself, it makes it a lot harder for others to shake you.

The "before" circa 1996 (i.e. my "freshman 15+" is still intact -please note the brownies which were ever present during my college days):

The "after" circa 2005 (i.e. I had walked over 400 miles in preparation for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer 3 Day about to start the very day this picture was taken):

To insure or not to insure - that is the question

Kim had asked me what kind of insurance we have now that we're in the U.S. This was a pickle I must say. Neither of us is currently employed, and until my husband's business has at least one other employee besides himself, we can't claim it as a business expense. Since he just started his business and it's in the very fledgling state, that could be a while.

In the meantime, we're paying for private/individual health insurance. My husband felt that in the past, his health care costs weren't significantly reimbursed (those incurred in the U.S.) by the Japanese health care system and that it would be best for us to just bite the bullet and get some insurance. We want to be sure our daughter is covered and *if* I should end up pregnant one of these days, we want to be sure to have good coverage. I hadn't anticipated the x-ray and MRI for my tailbone (coccyx) pain but I'm even more thankful for the health insurance now as these expensive diagnostics are covered in full (and when you can't sit comfortably that's a major problem not to be ignored if at all possible!).

Since our current plan is to stay in the U.S. until the end of the year, we're expecting to pay for insurance for just about 6 months. After that, we'll be back in Japan and we'll all be covered by Japan's national health care system.

There may be better health insurance options but I'm not even sure what they would be. Anyone else who does or has lived overseas (maybe esp. in Japan but not necessarily) have any suggestions?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Health care can suck everywhere

In the past I've mentioned some less than stellar experiences with doctors and/or the medical system in Japan. But I feel that I've tried to acknowledge how my lack of language skills, as well as my relative newness to living in the country, may well have factored into the less than optimal outcomes of my experiences there. To even things out a bit then, and to show that health care everywhere can be....lacking, I've got a story that I'll share regarding the American health care system.

A few weeks ago I went to see my doctor regarding some pain just below the tailbone. If you've ever had a pilonidal cyst, the discomfort is similar. I had a pilonidal cyst about 15 years ago. I was concerned that although I had surgery to correct the matter, perhaps it had returned (they can do that). I went to see my doctor a couple of weeks ago and while she couldn't see any evidence of a pilonidal cyst, she recommended that I get an x-ray to rule out any fractures etc. that might be causing the discomfort. I went down to radiology as soon as I left her office. Here's where the fun begins.

I didn't have long to wait before the radiologist or technician or whoever (let's call him the radiologist for the sake of conversation) came to get me. He escorted me back to the changing rooms and locker area where he started to show me around and then as we stood in the hallway to the changing room he asked, "Is there any chance you're pregnant?" I laughed and said in an off-hand kind of way, "Oh I suppose." Now some of you may understand that this is an incredibly loaded question for someone who's tried unsuccessfully for 14+ months to get pregnant. Not to mention that we haven't really been trying to prevent a pregnancy for the last few months and despite the fact that my period has not yet returned, we're nowhere near pregnant (several negative pregnancy tests at random intervals have confirmed this). Apparently breast-feeding really *can* be that effective as a measure of birth control. Either that or we're back where we started on the infertility treadmill.

Regardless, when I heard the question, it literally caught me off guard for a moment because as far as I can tell, there's pretty much ZERO chance that I could actually be pregnant, although in theory I suppose it's possible. But I think the radiologist heard my laugh and misconstrued my absolute disbelief as flippancy. He then proceeded to sternly warn me that, "This isn't a joke. This is a very serious matter. We can't take the risk that you might be pregnant." He went on trying to convince me of the gravity of the matter, but as it dawned on me that the hospital needs to limit its liability and sure there is the remotest chance I might be pregnant (ha ha) it also occurred to me that there were other people in the hallway who could likely overhear the whole conversation. I really had no desire to explain my entire reproductive history to the radiologist, never mind the crowd in the hallway, and I basically shutdown. He suggested that I go back to the lab, get a pregnancy test and then return if I had confirmation that I wasn't pregnant.

I headed back to my doctor to get the pregnancy test ordered, but only got as far as the main entrance of the hospital before I finally came unhinged. Not only was the radiologist out of line in as much as it's really not his business to give me a stern lecture about my apparent flippancy, but he then conducted the scolding in public. I was appalled that anyone might even suggest that I could be irresponsible with a pregnancy. He had *no* idea how hard we worked the first time to get pregnant. He had *no* idea how upsetting it was to test and re-test for months on end with no hope in sight. He had *no* idea what was actually going through my mind when I laughed at his question. And he didn't really stop to give me a compassionate moment to gather my thoughts before he launched into his speech.

Once I collected myself, I went to my doctor who agreed to order the pregnancy test. She gently explained that frankly, the dose of radiation and location in which I'd be getting it wouldn't really affect the outcome of a pregnancy. A viable pregnancy would still be viable and honestly, and unviable pregnancy would terminate regardless of the radiation. I went for the test.

It was negative. By then, I was too numb to even cry.

I returned to radiology and was greeted by a new radiologist who was escorted by my previous radiologist (presumably this was the hand-off to my new staff person). I cheerfully assured them that I was "cleared for x-rays" and the old radiologist, the jerk as I like to think of him, then had the nerve to say, "It's probably all for the best" just before he walked away. I almost hurled. "All for the best"? When was the bedside manner class and how did this guy miss it?

Needless to say, while I had previously been handling the whole, "still not getting pregnant" thing the second time around essentially by convincing myself that when the time is right it will happen, my interaction with this guy did set me back some. It's been really hard to forget the whole experience and yet I haven't been able to talk about it much. And perhaps what makes it all worse is that he was only trying to limit his liability. On the one hand, I get that's how things work in the USA. On the other.... how crap-tastic that I get to deal with emotional trauma so that he doesn't have to go to court.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Mt. St. Helens Trip

Since a few people have asked about pictures from our trip last week, I dug through to see what we actually managed to photograph. Here's the best of the bunch:

This first picture is from the Hoffstadt Bluffs Visitor Center. We stopped to have lunch there and opted not to take a helicopter tour (although it sounded cool!). But if you look, you can see where the vegetation still isn't - down there in the valley - the lava cut a mighty swath through there 28 years ago and the devastation was still clearly visible.

We then went up to the Johnston Ridge Observatory and got far closer than I ever thought possible. I think of the title of this photo as "Are you taking the picture yet? It's 90+ degrees out here and we may pass out from heat exhaustion if you don't hurry up!" I love my husband and all of his quirks - one of which is the apparent inability to give me any warning about when he's going to take a picture. The result is that I often look confused about where I am.

Finally, a shot of the volcano (we call it Mt. St. Helens and I think of it as a mountain but it is a very active volcano after all!). The last few years have been quite active. In late 2004 an earthquake(s) triggered some lava flow and it was only in early 2008 that the new lava dome stopped growing. Get this: "From October 2004 to late January 2008, about 125 million cubic yards of lava had erupted onto the crater floor to form a new dome—enough to pave seven highway lanes three feet thick from New York City to Portland, Oregon." Can you even believe that? For more details, read here.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Bridges from one heart to another

The other day, my sister J who had her baby just over one week ago, told me that she was feeling really sad. My sister's friend S was due to have her baby just a few days after J had her baby. Unfortunately, S developed cramps the day before her scheduled C-section (baby was transverse and there were some other minor concerns that the doctors had) and when the doctor couldn't find a heartbeat and performed an emergency C-section, their little boy was stillborn. A mutual friend had contacted my sister to give her this update and J was still feeling very emotional. She was uncertain about how to proceed - worried that contacting S directly might make her feel worse given the reminder of J's new baby.

I encouraged her to think about making a call and offering some support, thereby allowing S to make the choice for herself. I also suggested that my sister check out Share for more information. Additionally I contacted Cara at Building Heavenly Bridges (I'd visited her blog a number of times and I really admire the work that she does) and gave her some of this background and she sent me a sweet email encouraging both J and S to feel free to contact her.

While I think it IS sad that we connect with others in these circumstances - there are so many wonderful people out there to meet and get to know better - I wish it didn't have to happen this way. But I confess I'm incredibly grateful for the opportunity to make a wonderful connection like this and to know that we can began to make these heart connections. I hope that each of these connections brings a little bit of healing to all of us.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

While you were out....

Okay *we* were out. It has been, as I'm sure many of you have heard, unbelievably hot here in Seattle. It reached 100F (I've even heard 103F) the other day. Our main living area is on the 3rd floor and we have no air conditioning of any kind. Needless to say, we decided it was worth it to get out of town for a night. We headed down to Long Beach, WA to enjoy some cool, fresh ocean air and a decent night's sleep!

On the way back we stopped at Mt. St. Helen's. I was astonished by how close we were able to get to the mountain (volcano!!) itself. It's no longer spewing lava - apparently that stopped in early 2008 after it was triggered by an earthquake in the fall of 2004. Still, there was plenty of amazing natural beauty and the effects of Mother Nature to stare at in awe.

This weekend we're looking forward to watching the Blue Angels (the navy flight demo squad) perform as part of Seafair. Every year part of the flight path for their airshow goes right over our house. We're able to sit on our tiny deck and watch them pull off some incredible stunts. It's loud but never dull and it's one of the reasons I love Seattle in the summer.

We now return to our regularly scheduled program.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Meltdowns of all kinds

It's a blazing 89F right now and only projected to get hotter over the next few days. The sun is shining and even at night our usual Seattle cool isn't returning. This combo is proving to be a deadly mix when combined with a toddler who is touch-and-go on the early morning sleep. Peanut was awake at 5am this morning after a short-ish night. We had a pretty good morning tho she didn't eat all that much for breakfast, but that's par for the course these days.

By 8:30 am I had packed her up in the car and off we went to participate in a research study at the local children's hospital. Peanut is part of the control group which means that we go in for 3 different visits during the course of the first several years of her life and they have her play games (like peek-a-boo, doing puzzles, naming objects, stacking blocks, etc.), and do various tasks in order to get an assessment of how she's developing (can she figure out how to get the duck out from under a piece of clear plastic with one side open?). Then, similar aged children with plagiocephaly are given the same assessment and the two groups of kids are compared in order to learn more about the causes of plagiocephaly as well as the development of kids with plagiocephaly. Peanut seemed to really enjoy her "assessment" last summer and we were looking forward to more games today. She did really well for almost 2 hours and we were close to wrapping up when the meltdown occurred.

I should have been prepared for it - less sleep than ideal, hungry baby (despite the snacking she'd done all morning), heat, and then just the exhaustion from "playing" and "working" so hard with the doctor. But when the doctor kindly took away the piggy bank and coins that Peanut had been playing with (not before allowing her several chances to play with it and not before offering her a fun alternative) my daughter snapped. She pitched a full-on temper tantrum the likes of which I have never seen. She cried, she crawled on the floor, flailed on the ground, whined and refused any solution I might offer "Do you want me to hold you? Do you want to nurse? Water? Toy?" Everything was no- no- NO! The poor thing was in total meltdown mode and was sweating despite the A/C because she was so worked up. Needless to say we stopped for the day, I finally got her calmed down and we came home ASAP. Our participation was really conditional on her enjoyment of it and clearly the fun was over!

I would say that she is finally, *really* starting to assert her independence and wanted to be very clear that we understood how angry she was that she couldn't play with the piggy bank anymore. I brought her home, fed her a big lunch and put her down for her nap. Would you be surprised if I told you she passed right out?

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Over-stimulated much?

I've been wondering if Peanut is over-stimulated. We're having a devil of a time getting her to sleep these days - bedtime and naptime - oy. But that got me thinking about how under-stimulated I was when we were living in Japan. In part it was because we were living in someone else's space with minimal stuff. With everyone pitching in to do all the cleaning, the house work was minimal. Another possible culprit, lack of comprehension in the Japanese language area. Since I couldn't understand much beyond the basics, it made stimulating conversation really, really hard to find. Thank goodness, once again, for the AFWJ ladies. I don't know what I would have done without them. Being able to gab and catch up on pop culture, world politics, books, even national politics (Japanese or American) was a blast. The major problem with not being able to understand all that much is that I couldn't read for pleasure - my number one hobby. But beyond that, I couldn't even read the newspaper or bulletin boards for local events. Well I could sometimes read a sign on a community newsboard, but it might take me 5-10 minutes to decode the thing. It's not the same when we're here in the U.S. I've got dozens of local newspapers, magazines, and websites to check out for upcoming events and community activities. Needless to say, we're not lacking for things to do over here. But all of this activity highlights for me the *inactivity* of living in Japan.

I had this vague sense of ennui while we were living there, but I realize now that I was totally bored out of my noggin most of the time that we were in Japan and I couldn't find a way to put an end to it. Local parks were few and far between. Here I walk 5-20 minutes and I can be at one of easily a dozen parks and 2 different library branches. English-speaking friends were remote (at least an hour by train & bus and that was hard if it was my turn to watch Peanut which generally it is since I'm a SAHM). Japanese friends were hard for me to find. Most people wanted to talk to me about my Japanese language skills and why I was living in Japan. This tends to get boring for me quickly since I've had the same conversation countless times. But to be fair to the questioners and potential friends, it was also some of the safest area of conversation I could have. My Japanese as I've said seems pretty limited. In spite of the exhortations of nearly every Japanese person I've met who says, "Your Japanese is great!" I've also lived there long enough to know that it's a pretty standard response to foreigners speaking Japanese and doesn't really mean anything. It's the polite thing to say.

Needless to say, I realize that things could be better the next time around. I'm not sure what kinds of things I'll do differently upon our return to Japan in the end of December - I'm open to suggestions. But in the meantime, I realize that keeping up with my Japanese studies would be really useful in order to further my goal of making more Japanese friends over there. Now if only I could find the time!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Summer projects

Every time I get a few moments in front of the computer, I can't remember a darn thing I was going to tell you all. For instance, right now all I can think about is why my Yahoo homepage was showing me that the current temperature is 93F. It's not anywhere near that warm here right now (sorry to all my friends in Japan but it's a lovely and cool 66F right now). And why is that I can't think uniformly in metric or non-metric systems? In the U.S. I can only think of the temperature as Fahrenheit and when in Japan I can only assess in Celsius. It's maddening to me! I simply can't do the conversion easily so I don't bother. Anyone have a shortcut for approximating the conversion? When I lived in Australia I used to do something like "double the Celsius temp and add 32" - could that be close?

What else? We've been doing our best to catch up with old friends but it's not always that easy. It's especially hard if you have to account for travelling on a ferry with a small child. We tried to go visit a friend over on the other peninsula on Saturday and we went by ferry. But we were late for the ferry we had intended to catch meaning we had to wait in the parking lot for nearly 45 minutes. Luckily, Peanut is getting really good at entertaining herself in the car (esp. if she doesn't need to be in her car seat) so even though we could get out and walk around she was actually just as happy to sit in the car and play peek-a-boo with us. But all told, we spent over 2 hours getting from our place to our friend's house and by the time we got there, we had about 2 hours to visit and grab some dinner before we needed to return.

Recently, Peanut and I also had a chance to meet up with Sunny and her adorable son Bean. She has my eternal gratitude for introducing me to a new and delicious cupcake joint. I am still luxuriating in the ability to have cupcakes and American style sweets whenever I want them!

I've also got about 30 books checked out from the library. I went crazy when I kept finding books (in English!) that I want to read. I'll let you know if I find anything good. Lately nothing terribly interesting. I also decided to get a few books about baking. I'm determined to learn more about baking this summer. When we're back in Japan this winter/spring, I want to know how to work with what I've got. Not sure how well this project will pan out (I'm a great one for starting and not completing projects), but it's produced one tasty yellow cake already. I should have taken a picture! Next time.

As for unfinished projects, I started a counted cross-stitch project for Peanut before her arrival. I couldn't finish it before she was born (1) because I ran out of time (2) we didn't know if we had a he or a she and therefore didn't have the name to stitch onto the wall-hanging. I'm hoping to maybe get it finished this summer! Wish me luck....

Monday, July 13, 2009

Hormones'll make you crazy

Thanks for all the kind words. Naturally, things are getting better. Well, Peanut is still sleeping like crap. She's teething, snotting etc. and then there were the fireworks that some twit set off two nights ago at like 11:30 pm when she had just finally settled down for what seemed like some decent sleep. But hey - that's what makes life fun right? Living on the edge with less sleep than I'd like - it's a reminder that I'm lucky to have a wonderful daughter.

But Gboy has been really helpful the past couple of days AND I'm starting to suspect that my short temper and overall intolerance and crankiness is fueled by PMS. I've nearly forgotten what it feels like (it's been over two years since I had it). I'm normally an incredibly patient person and not likely to yell or get angry at all, but for the last few days....look out! At this very moment, Gboy is downstairs trying to convince Peanut that she really *does* want to nap today and that 20 minutes in the car isn't sufficient and he's been at it for the last 30 minutes or so. I gave up after 20 minutes myself so he's already outdone me and I'm incredibly grateful both for the reprieve in the moment and if he gets her to sleep I'll be even more grateful!

The other thing I gained was some perspective. It looks like the library I'd been hoping to work for won't have the money to hire me back as a substitute in the near future. That's the cost of a recession I suppose. This just means that I'll be doing full-time childcare for Peanut for a while as Gboy works on his business idea. If we can get that afloat, then we'd be happy campers. What this also means is lots of computer time for him. The fact that I found him playing computer games a few times doesn't mean that he's not working, it just means that I happened to see him playing some games some of the time. And haven't we all chatted it up with a co-worker or blogged from work or browsed the internet from work? Okay - I have! I'm not an irresponsible employee, but I have certainly had personal conversations at work and browsed the internet when there was nothing else to do.

Plus I have to admit that adjusting to full time childcare with no Japanese classes or calligraphy classes or "me" time right now has been bumpy. We'll work it out. In fact, Gboy has suggested that I might take some time for myself to work on a few other ideas for R&R (and maybe even income) if I were to say, write a book. I adore him because of his confidence in me. He thinks I can totally write a kick-ass book despite the fact that I've never taken a writing class, don't write except to blog, and really don't even have an idea for a book. Still, the "me" time would be nice.

Oh, and I'll add that the hormones made me crazy upset last night when I got an email from a friend, I'll call her A.Z., who said she wouldn't be seeing me this morning despite our plans to meet up with a 3rd mutual friend. A.Z. had forgotten what day our brunch was scheduled for and made plans for this morning. This is the same friend who spaced on our going-away party last October. I'm starting to think that maybe we were good friends when we worked together a few years ago but that she's moved on and I'm the only one sticking with this friendship (these aren't the only 2 examples of situations like this from the last year or two). Seems like I make all the effort to invite and coordinate and she finally agrees on a date to join us and then forgets/doesn't show/comes really late/leaves really early etc. Last night this hit my last nerve and was making me feel really bad for myself. I'm trying to be a grown-up about the whole thing and just move on. If she wants to spend time with me, she'll contact me and if not, it's just time to accept it and move on. Theoretically I'm okay with that, but last night, the hormones were really strong and it really upset me. But you know what? Knowing it's the hormones makes me feel a whole lot better. I'm not crazy, just hormonal.

Saturday, July 11, 2009


I'm fried. My brain is fried. My body is tired. My toddler is kicking my ass. Lately, she's been existing on MAYbe 9 hours of sleep at night (occasionally 8 or 8 1/2 like last night) followed up with a 1 1/2 hour nap if I'm lucky - today it was all of 45 minutes. I generally operate best with about 8 hours of sleep at night myself and since I need an hour or two after she goes to bed to get the laundry done, dishes washed, etc. I'm not getting anywhere near enough for myself. And then she has the energy of the Energizer bunny all day long. And Gboy must be celebrating his return to the U.S. or something because he's spending many hours on the computer playing games (I suspect some work is happening but not much right now). Needless to say, I'm feeling tired and cranky and out sorts. As I've mentioned before, our return to our house has been bumpy and I'm still trying to get things sorted and organized and rearranged and I'd love the help but honestly I'm tired of asking and while I haven't asked many times, I don't want to start telling/ordering him to do things because then I'm the mom of TWO people and that's freaking exhausting. And I get that the whole return to normalcy may be bumpy for him and that this is how he's working his way back into life here. The fact that this is so out of the ordinary for him tells me that something has changed but only temporarily. So for now, I'm trying to enjoy the 60 minutes of freedom that I have while Gboy kindly offered to take Peanut to the park to give me a break (at least he realizes I'm pulling a LOT of weight these days and it's wearing me down!).

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Playing with (in) Japanese

In an ongoing effort to maintain Peanut's access to all things bilingual (or as many things as possible) I'm searching for (1) a babysitter who sits Japanese for those rare occasions when Gboy and I can get away for a "date" (2) bilingual or at least Japanese play dates & partners. When we were living in Japan, Peanut heard English from me and also whenever Gboy and I speak to each other we use English. Thus, while we didn't have English play dates per se (although there were one or two AFWJ outings with some older bilingual kids) she had a fair amount of exposure to English despite the fact that we lived in Japanese household (with my in-laws) and community. I realized upon our return that the amount of exposure she'd have to Japanese wouldn't be equivalent here in the U.S. And now the shoe's on the other foot, so to speak, I can appreciate how truly valuable it is to have friends, resources and opportunities to learn a parent's language. Naturally it would be easy for me to just sit back and let her learn English here, but if I don't do something to ensure that she gets some Japanese playtime and friends here, Gboy (like most men I suppose) probably won't take the initiative and that would make me sad.

As I noted in my last post, Peanut is referring to me as "Okaasan" and it seems to be one of the few new Japanese words that she's started using reliably and frequently now that we're back in the U.S. She's getting really good at repeating my husband and she has also mastered her pronunciation of "ichigo" (strawberry) rather than referring to it as "akuchi" (we have no idea how that got so garbled in her mind). Clearly it's not as though her entire use of Japanese has fallen by the wayside, but I really want to be able to support her access to both languages.

I always envisioned that I'd help to enroll her in Japanese language preschool, summer camps, etc., but that was back when I envisioned that our/her entire life would be lived out here in the U.S. This is one of the reasons for which I'm so grateful that we had the chance to live in Japan; I think I have an entirely new appreciation of how difficult it is to balance out the exposure to two languages. It wasn't easy for me to accept that she was hearing and learning more Japanese than English when we lived in Japan. That may sound awful but it's the reality of my experience and although I'm ashamed to admit it, I think I learned something truly valuable from the experience. Children are malleable and flexible and can learn at an astonishing rate meaning Peanut is already learning tons of English now that we're in the U.S. but that doesn't mean that I can sit back and relax and just hope that her Japanese language exposure from her father is sufficient. I wouldn't do the same if the situation was reversed - I'd be looking for English story hours, play dates, etc. And that's exactly what I intend to do here, only now it will be Japanese language opportunities that I am seeking.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Okaasan, okaasan, wherefore art thou?

At about the same time we returned to our house in Seattle, I noticed Peanut referring to me as (and occasionally addressing me as) "Okaasan." I find this interesting because I've never referred to myself as anything other than "Mama" and most of Gboy's relatives in Japan did the same. Gboy was probably the only person that she heard refer to me as Okaasan and that was maybe 50% of the time, the other 50% of the time he uses Mama when talking about me. And yet here we are with Peanut using Okaasan quite often when talking about me to Gboy or when she's by herself in her crib for example.

What I find most conflicting about this is that it was hard enough for me to adjust to being "Mama" in the first place. The whole idea of being someone's mother, especially since we had to wait for a while to have her in our lives making it almost unreal when she finally was, seemed foreign to me. Add to that the idea that I think of "Okaasan" as Gboy's mother since that's what the whole family calls her, and we have a strange mix. I don't think of myself as Okaasan at all. Peanut may as well be calling me Fred. I tried to explain this to my husband and he was really surprised to hear this. I reminded him that while the name "Okaasan" means something quite familiar and perhaps comfortable to him (having grown up with it all his life) it's unfamiliar to me. Furthermore, there's something frustrating about having someone else (or some other culture) dictate the terms of part of my relationship with my daughter which is sort of how this whole thing feels.

I'm able to see that there's something sweet about the fact that she's attached to me such that she'll call me both Mama and Okaasan to see which will get her the results she wants - i.e. me. I'm also able to see that this is just one of many of the interesting situations we're bound to run into in a bilingual/bicultural family. And for that I'm grateful; I'm grateful that Peanut has been exposed to both languages so much that she has a broad vocabulary of both English and Japanese already.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Coming out of the fog....

I'll be back with a more thoughtful post in the next few days. For now, I'm wondering, should I tell you about:
  • The fat lip Peanut got when she was running around the airport in Itami and fell down
  • Our fleeting but lovely meeting with Kim and her daughter in the Narita airport (Why oh why did we have to have such a short layover this time around when we usually get stuck there for 8 hours!)
  • "New in Town" - the movie I watched on the plane and loved if for no reason other than that it was in English and joked about cold winters and lots of snow - struck me as incredibly funny
  • Salami, lamb, feta cheese and the lovely foods I've been rediscovering here in the U.S.
  • Connecting with old friends in Seattle
  • Missing new Osaka friends
  • Visits to half a dozen parks to see which might be Peanut's favorites
  • Recovering from jet lag in what feels like record time
  • Having to clean the house much more than I anticipated (wishful thinking had me convinced our bachelor friend would have hired a housekeeper before he left)
  • Talking to my family on the telephone and reveling in our proximity
  • Today's visit to the zoo - who knew goats would inspire my daughter to cry when separated from them?
  • How much I hate packing and unpacking and moving in general (okay we didn't exactly move but it sort of feels like it)
  • American television - I don't even care what I watch - I'm loving it!!
  • My library is amazing and I have about 25 books checked out that I'm trying to read as fast as I can - just finished this escapist bit
  • My cake baking project for the summer - I've got The Cake Bible and plan to use it!
  • Amazing blue skies and perfect temperatures with no humidity

The view and weather two days after our return.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Muffins are a wonderful thing

That's right. Honest to goodness blueberry muffins were awaiting me in our friend's car when he came to pick us up at the airport at 11am on Monday morning. I was stunned by the generosity that he and his wife showed us. Not only did he pick us up at the airport (with all of our international baggage in tow) but he brought us muffins and juice (kindly provided by his wife) and when we got back to our house we found that they'd even stocked our fridge with a few basics. We were blown away by how much these little things all added up to make our re-entry that much smoother.

Our return flight was amazing. Peanut did great. Lots of sleeping. Very little complaining or crying (maybe the last 15 minutes of our domestic flight). It was pretty heavenly actually.

We've been buried under stacks of mail, layers of dust (our friend/renter wasn't as thorough about cleaning as one might hope) and bags still to be unpacked for a couple of days now. But we seem to be winning the war on dust bunnies and junk mail and I hope to be back to posting soon.

For now let me say, cupcakes have been eaten, late night junk tv has been watched (what else to do during jet lag?) and my own bed has been slept in. Life is good!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Pack up your hot dogs

The post is from a song off one of my daughter's CDs. The song is about packing up your hot dogs in a backpack and going for a hike. I find the idea of packing hot dogs to be pretty funny. Maybe it's just late and I'm tired, or maybe it's completely nonsensical after all. Anyway, a few last things to go in the bags and hopefully we'll be done. We leave tomorrow but with the long flight(s) etc. and time difference, (technically we leave on Monday afternoon but we get home on Monday morning!) I have no idea when I'll be posting again.

So until then - catch you on the flip side!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

What's in a name? Father? Mother?

We're getting ready to leave in a couple of days and I'm up to my eyeballs in o-miyage (souvenirs).

But I wrote this the other day and didn't get a chance to post it so please read and discuss while I'm away from my computer indefinitely. Did anyone see this article about fatherhood? My husband is currently a stay-at-home dad (or “work at home dad) whichever term you prefer or perhaps depending on the day. Some days he’s actively working on starting his own business, other days, he really just concentrates at parenting responsibilities. Either way, since we’ve been in Japan, he’s done a lot more childcare than ever before and far more than many dads.

I recognize that financial limitations make it more practical in many instances for the guy to work and earn an income, esp. in cultures where women still don’t make as much as men even for the same work (are there cultures where that isn’t the case?!). Anyway, the problem as I see it, is that even if a family is lucky enough to have a situation where the father can occasionally be an involved parent on a weekday, the expectation is that he won’t be around and mom will. This would certainly explain all the "mommy and me" classes and so few "kid and parent" experiences.

There’s a nice little daycare/preschool here in Japan that we might ultimately send Peanut to, but the mothers are expected to pitch in once a month or thereabouts. I’m all about helping out and being a homeroom parent – but I’d like the same opportunity and expectation for fathers. We were informed by my sister-in-law that this would likely make the other mothers very uncomfortable so despite the fact that my Japanese isn’t all that great, I’d be the designated hitter in this situation. Huh. Wouldn’t it be just as nice for my daughter to have her father helping out in her school? And I recognize that while there may be far more stay at home mothers in Japan than there are in the U.S. this isn’t an unheard of situation in the U.S. either. Sad but true.

Frankly, I love that my husband wants to be so involved and it frees up some of my time to do other things. Like go back to work part-time as I’ve mentioned before. It’s an arrangement that in some ways may be unique to us. But I’m sure there are families out there with two dads, or single dads, or divorced dads – families for which the mom can’t be the designated hitter all the time. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate "girls' night out" and some "no men allowed" experiences every now and then. But honestly, the more open-ended arrangement for more parent + child experiences sounds kind of nice if you ask me.

Update: I've finally closed the comments for this post. The spammers were hitting this post hard. If you've come here purposefully - welcome! Please feel free to email me with any thoughts or comments you might have; I'd love to hear from you!

Monday, June 15, 2009

The countdown begins...

One more week until we're back in the U.S.A. As in, 7 days from now we'll be boarding a plane at this very minute. Wow. I've learned a lot while living here. I had hoped that I'd get a better feel for the culture and my husband's history and upbringing here. I had hoped that I'd be able to better understand why he couldn't just say to his family, "My family and my life is in the U.S. now and I'm not coming back to live in Japan," (especially since that was really our original plan - barring any serious illness of his parents of course in which case we'd help out and stay for a while). Having lived here now for 8 1/2 months, I think I can safely say that I have in fact gained those perspectives. I'm not saying that makes all of life easier, but I think I have a better sense of the issues and factors that my husband has tried in the past to describe to me - to no avail.

I'm not sure that Japan and I will ever be best friends. But I do feel that I have a new appreciation for life and the culture here. I've enjoyed getting to know my husband's family better. I've met some wonderful people here through AFWJ and my Japanese class. As my Japanese language skills have improved, I've even found it easier to communicate with people in the village here and that in turn has helped me to feel more at home. And I'm *really* sad that my daughter will have to say good-bye to her grandparents and all of her extended family here. It makes me get all teary-eyed just thinking about it. Gboy's family is, by and large, an amazingly wonderful group of sweet, sweet people and I will miss them. I know for sure that Peanut will miss them. My whole extended family had moved away from my hometown by the time I was about 8 years old. No grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins - it was just my parents, my sister, and me. Whenever I got the chance to visit our extended family I was thrilled. I grew up watching "Eight is Enough" and "The Brady Bunch" and I knew that some chaos was inevitable in a family that big, but darn it! They looked like they were having an awful lot of fun too and now that I've witnessed Peanut with her cousins and family, I know they don't always agree, but they DO have a lot of fun. I hate to take that away from her even for a little while.

Our plan right now is to return to Japan in time to celebrate the 2010 New Year; this helps make the parting more bearable. And of course, there's the promise of real pizza, Vietnamese food, Mexican food, Ethiopian food, beans and grains of wide varieties, and baked goods made with butter, salt and vanilla (all ingredients that seem to be lacking in many baked goods here) and of course - coffee. I can't forget to mention the amazing Seattle weather coupled with lots of great parks within walking distance. And while Peanut may not have time with her Japanese family while we're back in the U.S., we've already got plans to ensure that she gets to spend lots of time with her American family and they're so excited to see her! These are all strong incentives for making the return home!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Love and marriage and a baby

There are days when parenting is hard. There are days when working on a relationship and marriage can be hard. Mix the two together and occasionally it's a recipe for disaster. I love my husband and cannot begin to express how grateful I am for his commitment to be a truly active and involved father for our daughter. For instance, he loves to cook for her. If it were up to me, the poor child would probably exist on crackers and fruit (I am not the most inspired cook). But from the moment we introduced Peanut to solid foods, Gboy wanted to be in charge of her eating. Since she was exclusively breastfed until 6 months of age and refused the bottle after just a few weeks of trying it out, he never really got a chance to feed her until she was 6 months old. From that point on he's been making her a steady (and healthy!) diet of homemade soup, skillet dishes, gourmet hamburgers and the like. This is just one example of his amazing parenting skills.

And is often the case with two unique individuals, we have different priorities, interests and strengths as parents. As a result, we have been known to disagree and argue about how to parent. Today was a perfect example. On our short ride to town, Peanut started to fall asleep. Gboy began his usual routine of entertaining her in an effort to try to keep her awake. Since switching to one nap per day (usually going down at about 12:30) Gboy has been paranoid about letting Peanut fall asleep in the car for a catnap in the morning. Once upon a time, namely during the transition from 1 to 2 naps, if she fell asleep in the morning for say 20-30 minutes in the car, she would often struggle to nap later in the day. This was difficult for us since she wasn't napping much at all on a good day at that time. I'm not sure I think that a 15 minute car nap this morning would have prevented her from napping later in the day, but he was adamant that she be kept awake. I argued that perhaps we should let her sleep (she'd been awake since 4:45 this morning!) and just see what happened. More disagreement and discussion ensued.

What frustrated me most about the whole thing is that I'm not even sure what upset me or bothered me most. Was it that I felt he was criticizing my admittedly lame attempts to help keep her awake while he tried to drive? Was it that I felt my strategy was better? Was it that this is one battle I'm just not interested in fighting? Was it that the act of keeping her awake *every* time we get in the car (since it seems this happens all the time) is just so monotonous to me that it's become one of those parenting jobs which is inevitable and monotonous and I'm feeling selfish because I don't like that there are things about parenting which aren't all fun and games?

I just don't know. All I know for sure is that this was a juggling act that involved two people I love and it's a challenge to make all the players happy all of the time.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Sleepless in Osaka

Thanks to everyone who commented on my last post. I know that the dilemma of the "working mother" is common these days. These days, with so many moms working - be it from home, or part-time, full time, (you name it) I realize I'm not alone. That doesn't make the change I may be making soon, with regards to work, any easier to accept. There will likely be bumps in the road. But that's life and it's nothing I can't handle.

I think the more telling thing about my last post is that I suddenly find myself unable to get to sleep at night. I say "suddenly" but it seems that for the last couple of weeks, even though I do eventually fall asleep, it's often hours later than I would normally fall asleep. And since Peanut is up with the sun these days, it means not many hours of sleep for this mama! I suspect that my subconscious is either incredibly excited about the return to Seattle, OR anxious about the ever growing to-do list that faces us upon our return (is it possible I'm both?!!). Yep, I think the sleeplessness may be cured by a long flight across the Pacific Ocean.

In the meantime, I may need to schedule a haircut. My salon here is very affordable and part of the package is a kind of head and neck massage that would *surely* help me relax.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Between a rock and a hard place

That's sort of how I feel. It's not the most apt description as it connotes all bad choices, but I'm facing the prospect of going back to work in a part-time capacity and I definitely have mixed emotions about the whole thing.

On the one hand, I'm super excited about the possibility of working again for a library system I really enjoyed working for just prior to my daughter's birth. Between 2005 and 2007 I worked on obtaining my master's of library and information science. I loved the program. I loved the material we studied, the people I met in my program, the fact that I could do something I loved and get paid for it. And after I graduated from my full-time master's program I found a part-time, temporary work situation that I stayed at until just prior to Peanut's birth. Shortly after she was born, we started mentally preparing to come to Japan and it didn't make much sense at the time for me to go back to work, try to put her in daycare while my husband and I were working, only to take her right back out of daycare when we moved to Japan. Perhaps understandably then, there have been many days since Peanut's birth that I have missed working in this profession I love.

On the other hand, however, I dread the idea of leaving her behind while I go to work. We've been together for so much of the last 16 months that I can't quite envision *not* being with her all the time. And while I love my profession, I'm considering a return to a temporary work situation in the event that we do in fact return to Japan in the near future and I'm unable to commit myself to something more permanent. But, frankly the temporary work isn't quite as interesting or fulfilling as the full-time work would be.

On the one hand, we could really, really use the money while Gboy is working from home on his own business idea which hasn't taken off yet. On the other hand, it may be hard because he'll be the care provider when I'm at work and we'll have to swap when he needs to work from home. Our schedules will need some tweaking and it sounds a bit daunting.

And if I'm honest, I had started to dream of our return to the U.S. as a time of all fun and summer games/activities, catching up with old friends, and basically a return to "life as normal." But if I get real with myself, which I probably should, having a child means your life is never "all fun and games" or "normal". Everything is different. The differences may be huge or they may be subtle, but there will be differences since a little person is depending on us to care for her on a day-to-day basis and to provide an income for our family in order to support her.

All of this means that I'm excited to be thinking about going back to apply for a job with my previous employer (and of course there's no guarantee they'll hire me back), but I'm incredibly nervous too. I've always suspected that I'd want to be a mom who works away from home, just because I think that the energy I'd get from doing a job I love and feels rewarding to me would invigorate me and make me a happier person and thereby a better mom. But now that the moment is upon me, (or it will be in two weeks when we're back in the U.S.) I'm experiencing a lot of anxiety about the whole thing.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

A star is born?

Last night, Peanut put on her "inside shoes" and ran back and forth in the hallway, tapping her feet on the hardwood floor all the way. Then she grabbed her "brushy" (toothbrush) and ran to look at herself in the mirror. Who doesn't look stunning in the equivalent of tap shoes while waving a toothbrush in the air? And then she began to sing a little tune I like to call the "Don Don Anpan Song" since the words basically consist of "don don don don, Shokupanman, don don don don, Karepanman," etc etc. with various Anpanman characters. I nearly fell out of my chair laughing when she tapped her way through the doorway, waving her brush and singing her song. She looked like such a showgirl!

While there are moments when I find parenting challenging and when Peanut shows that she's heading in the direction of difficult behaviors or tantrums, I mostly find her comical and delightful (even when she's pressing my buttons by testing her boundaries). Her easy smile and frequent giggles, along with the desire to constantly be entertaining us, makes things awfully fun. I'm not sure how I survived the first 4 months or so of her life when she was frankly, quite boring. Adorable and cuddly, but boring. After that, things picked up and I've enjoyed her much more. I still find the day to day parenting to be monotonous at times. Many times in fact. But that doesn't change the fact that I lover her and I love parenting and when she pulls out the stops and puts on a show like that? What can I do? I laugh and melt and want to eat her up.

Without further ado, one gratuitous cute kid picture and a video. In the video she is watching the ducks at the duck pond, saying "patta patta" (the sound of beating wings in Japanese) and "duck ota!" which I think roughly means "there's a duck!"