Tuesday, March 31, 2009

FRFOJ: Future Rice Farmers of Japan

The future of rice farms in Japan is apparently on rocky ground right now. Almost 70% of rice farmers in Japan are over the age of 60; this includes my father-in-law. While he no longer grows the rice to sell to others, in the days following World War II when my husband's grandfather was still alive, the family did in fact produce rice for the purpose of selling it -not to make a profit per se, but because it enabled the family to make a living and it fed a lot of hungry people back then.

Nowadays, my FIL grows plenty of rice to feed our immediate family as well as numerous extended family members and family friends. I don't think my husband foresees a time when we'd want to make this farm production quality again. However, part of the reason that we're here in Japan and trying to figure out how to keep things running in the future is that sustaining the family farm is important not just for nostalgic reasons, but because there are people that depend on the rice this farm produces each year.

It will take some time before my husband is able to maintain the farm on his own (he's a perfect example of the younger generation that doesn't really know how to farm anymore) and he'd still like to keep it functioning as a more "recreational" farm (as his father does now) than a serious profession. Additionally, we've talked about making changes to what is grown. I've seen some of my FIL's seed catalogs (this is one of my favorite times of year - seed catalogs are here!) and it reminds me of my own household when I was a child; my father was a big gardener himself and was always trying new vegetables. The difference is that with a milder climate here in Japan, we can grow many more varieties of vegetables and fruits and the growing season is basically year-round (as opposed to the climate in the northeast of the US where I grew up and the growing season was really only May-September).

Personally, I'd love to try growing peanuts! And purple potatoes. And more leafy greens. And tons more sweet potatoes. And more herbs... But everything takes time and the transition from our old life to this new one on the farm is still tenuous. However the promise of beautiful fruits and vegetables and the lure of those seed catalogs is hard to resist!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Paying grandma for babysitting?

Lately I've been giving this article about paying grandparents for childcare some thought. When we first came to Japan last fall, I thought we'd be lucky because we'd be living near family members (i.e. with my MIL and FIL and next door to other relatives) and that we'd be getting some childcare. I think I was under the impression that since they basically asked us to come here to help out while my FIL was unable to do his regular farm work and because my MIL was really worried about maintaining the family household here in Japan, that we'd be getting support.

After all, we're the ones who had to uproot our family and move halfway across the world. This move came after they gave us their blessing at our marriage 3+ years ago to live in the US and care for my parents as they age. My husband, being the eldest son in the family was essentially freed by this and we thought it worked out nicely. We figured my brother-in-law (5 years younger than my husband) could care for my parents-in-law especially since BIL lives 15 minutes from here. My sister and her husband will likely have to help out his divorced parents one day, thereby doubling the responsibility they've got. My parents are perfectly able to live on their own right now, but it gave me some peace of mind to know that I could be there for them one day. (And we assumed we'd help out if my in-laws needed anything, we just didn't think we'd live here long-term.) Sounded great. Meanwhile, we were living in Seattle, "halfway" between Gboy's family in Japan and my family on the East Coast of the US. No family had a monopoly on us.

By the time we leave Japan this summer, Peanut will have lived half her life here and just about every day of her time in Japan will have been lived with her Japanese grandparents. My parents, who waited years for their first grandchild (Peanut) are surely disappointed that they don't get to be the grandparents she lives with. The fact that we're thousands of miles away and 17+ hours by plane makes travel quite hard for them. Since they'd be able to see us more if we still lived in Seattle, this has certainly cut into their grandchild time. Taking all of this into consideration, it's occurring to me that maybe I'm somewhat resentful of our time here. On the one hand, I love it, and think it's priceless for Peanut. On the other hand, I feel like my in-laws kind of owe us and should be thankful we've given them so much access to their granddaughter (their 3rd grandchild of 4) especially at my parents' expense (Peanut is their only grandchild thus far).

Yet childcare has been infrequent to say the least. My FIL is useless in that regard and my MIL has been too busy working part-time, visiting with friends, hiking, and otherwise pursuing her own hobbies. When childcare does happen, it's generally for approximately 2 hours and it looks more like something they need to do in addition to the weeding or housework, etc. My parents in the little time they get to spend with Peanut, play with her like crazy. Hug her, love her. It doesn't show up that way with my in-laws and while some of it may be cultural (i.e. aversion to showing too much affection) some of it is likely just this family. I get that. But it makes me sad and a little angry to feel like we've sacrificed so much and getting a couple of hours of baby-sitting is so hard to come by.

Do I think I should pay Peanut's grandparents for childcare? I can't see my parents ever accepting money for the pleasure of spending time with their granddaughter. Maybe it would be different if they had 12 grand kids, but they don't. Anyway, I see the point of offering my in-laws some kind of payment, but frankly feel like I'm owed more than that. I hate to sound spoiled and entitled, but I think the resentment is greater than I had realized and this is how it manifests itself.

I'm so curious to hear the thoughts of others about reimbursing grandparents for childcare (both from those of you with Japanese in-laws and those of you without Japanese in-laws).

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Blogging and happiness

I heard about this study this morning and just had to learn more. Apparently some researchers in Taiwan found that blogging can make you happier. Or as I understand it, by blogging you are more likely to increase your social integration and bonding with others and your overall sense of well-being may increase as a result.

Based on my own experience I'd say that's true. I started blogging when I was looking for others who were also struggling with the frustration of not being able to get pregnant; this is how I first connected with the community of ALI (adoption/loss/infertility) bloggers. Simultaneously friends of ours started going through the process of an open adoption and through a variety of adoption blogs I started to learn some of what the process might involve. I learned a lot from others willing to share their experiences.

And then we moved to Japan and I was disconnected from a community of friends that I could easily relate to (new city, language barrier etc.). Having my own blog, and reading the blogs of others in similar situations, I started to feel like it might just be possible to acclimate. Not just for myself and my own needs, but because I've also found others raising bilingual/bicultural children with all that entails.

I haven't had the opportunity to meet very many of you (dear readers!) in person, but I look forward to doing so in the future - wherever you are. In the meantime, know that you do in fact make me happy!

Monday, March 23, 2009

It's all fun and games until I lose

Can I just mention how annoying the announcer on Wii Sports is? Peanut is obsessed with Wii Sports lately (watching others play it more than playing it herself) and in an effort to pacify her (or perhaps melt her brain cells as I'm sure I'm doing - ack tv for an under 2 year old!) I have been playing 10 minutes of Wii tennis at a time. And that announcer? He sounds gleeful every time he announces the score which is often not in my favor. To be fair, how can I be expected to concentrate and to exert my best athletic effort when I'm always watching Peanut scale some furniture while I'm playing?

Even my Wii bowling is taking a hit. I can't bowl much above a 70 with real pins in a real bowling alley, but give me a Wii-mote and look out! I'm likely to break 150 with multiple strikes. But of late, I find that it is challenging to bowl and baby monitor and as a result, my scores are limp, somewhere down around 130. Again, it might have something to do with the fact that Peanut pauses the game repeatedly in the midst of my game-play and she likes to wiggle round and round my legs while she watches my efforts on the tv. I'm sure it won't be long before she figures out how to reliably use the remote and insists on playing all by herself.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Life in the Gray Zone

Right now, we don't technically call Japan or the U.S. home. Or maybe I should say we still technically call both places home. Either way you choose to look at it, we're living in a gray area - not really committed to one place exclusively. We haven't yet moved on to a monogamous relationship with either country or culture. As a result, things are occasionally complicated.

You see, at the moment we're trying to prepare for our return to the U.S. For now, we anticipate staying in the U.S. for the summer and returning to Japan in the fall to stay here for another 9 months or so (October '09 - June '10). In order to make this work, we need to tend to some practical details like finding someone to rent our place starting this fall. And then there's the whole work situation...But that's all for another post.

Because you see, beyond the practicalities, I'm already preparing for things like all the foods I want to eat upon our return (diner foods, lots of deep dark chocolate, coffee by the gallon, rice that's long grain, beans that aren't red or soy). I'm sure you get the idea. Likewise, I'm already thinking of all the friends I want to see while we're back in the U.S. This led to some discussion between Gboy and I last night. It got fairly heated at some point (for no particularly good reason) but I think what we both realized is that trying to live in two places, while admirable and what we both think we want right now, is a pretty significant undertaking. More importantly, he is concerned that I might have unrealistic expectations about how often I will get to see people I want to visit with (because they just might not commit to visiting with us) or that I will in some way be disappointed or let down when people don't respond as I hope they might.

He has a legitimate concern I think. Since living overseas, and I've talked to a number of people who say this, your friends back home tend to go on with their lives and their other friends and often they may not even think to write you. Then when you get back home for a visit, "Hey how are you?" and one visit and they may be good. They may feel that they've satisfied their quota of time with you (not that they wouldn't necessarily agree to spending more time with you, but they were just happy to see you once). On the other hand, having lived in a "non-English speaking, I've got few friends" kind of environment for the last 9 months, I'm hoping to fill up my tank again with lots of hanging out with my old crowd before I return to Japan. You can see the potential disparity and opportunity for disappointment, no?

At this point, I'm trying to adjust my expectations and just plan to enjoy the time that we do have in Seattle this summer. In fact, one of the things I'm considering is hosting a weekly brunch at our house. We'd provide some fruit and lite munchies, throw the doors open at 11am on a Sunday and let all of our friends know that they're welcome to stop by for a couple of hours and see who comes. We have friends who have successfully hosted some of the most amazing supper clubs using this principle. People quickly started offering to cook, bring drinks, prepare food, do clean-up etc. All they had to do was provide the space and in return, they got to visit with friends from all different parts of their lives in one place at one time. And the bonus is that we got to meet a lot of their really cool friends; everyone enjoyed it. This might be the surest way for us to routinely visit with folks and not even have to put all that much effort into the process (meaning we wouldn't have to drive all over the city to visit with dozens of different people, we wouldn't have to try to schedule individual dinners/lunches with my friends vs. Gboy's friends, we wouldn't have to worry about Peanut's nap schedule...).

Oh, and I just happen to LOVE brunch!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Finding the Perfect Gift

Have I mentioned that my sister (one and only and she's younger) is expecting her first baby in July? And have I mentioned how freaking excited I am?! My sister-in-law is also due this year - in October. Conflicted feelings about that for lots of reasons. But my sister is due this summer and she's the subject of today's post. I'm trying to think of a really great baby shower gift. Something that is really about pampering her and making her feel special. I have plenty of ideas of gifts for the baby. But what about the new mom? Any great ideas for special gifts?

I don't live anywhere near my sister (which makes me sad) and can't shower her with love and food and help around the house when the baby is born. Luckily she'll have help from our mom for a bit after the baby is born, but I likely won't visit until the baby is at least a month old. I'm thinking at that point they'll be out of any frozen foods that friends and other family may have stocked them up with, so I'll start all over again to get them stocked. Seriously, I remember thinking when Peanut was 2 or 3 months old, "Where did everyone go? We still have a newborn around here and wouldn't mind some extra help!"

Along these lines, I'm looking for great recipes that you love - things that freeze really well. Casseroles and soups come to mind and I already have a few ideas, but I thought I'd take my sister and brother-in-law a pretty extensive list for them to choose from so that they could pick a bunch of different things that they think they'd like to have in the freezer. Again, ideas welcome.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

44 Books (The BBC List)

Since Kim specifically asked if I'd seen this, I thought I'd post my results.

Oh, and if you want to find out more about what I'm reading or what I like, be my friend on Goodreads!

1) Look at the list and put an 'x' after those you have read.
2) Tally your total at the bottom.

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen x
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte x
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling x
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte x
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell x
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens x
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott x
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller x
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger x
19 The Time Traveller’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger x
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot x
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell x
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald x
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky x
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck x
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame x
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens x
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis x
34 Emma - Jane Austen x
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen x
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis x
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell x
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown x
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery x
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood x
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding x
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen x
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens x
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley x
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold x
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas x
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding x
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville x
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens x
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett x
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson x
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens x
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker x
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White x
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle x
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute x
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas x
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare x
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl x
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo
Total: 44

Monday, March 16, 2009

Show and Tell: Talking about BOOKS!

I LOVE being a librarian. Okay I'm not technically employed by a library at the moment, but it's sort of hard to stop BEING a librarian when books and the internet are available to me. The switch is always stuck in the "on" position. For those of you who may be unfamiliar with what librarians do these days, I figured I'd share a small part of what we do.

This photo shows me at a convention a few years ago talking to other librarians in children and young adult services (my area of interest) about books I loved reading and would recommend. Remember "Reading Rainbow"? That's basically what a "book talk" is like. You give the person an idea of why they might want to read the book, tell them juuuuust enough to hook them and then leave them hanging so they have to read the book to find out more. In this instance, I was sharing with other librarians so that they could in turn share these books with their patrons. Incidentally, one of my picks Looking for Alaska by John Green had just won the Michael E. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature (2006).

So if you haven't chatted with your local librarian (or any librarian for that matter!) about what to read next - just ask. We love to talk to people about books and what to read! And be sure to see what the rest of the class is sharing for show-and-tell!

Show and Tell

Sunday, March 15, 2009

When in Rome, Bake Bread

Have I mentioned my culinary feats lately?

Being in Japan means learning to live without certain staples from home. Back in Seattle we bought several loaves of "artisan" bread each week. When I couldn't reliably find good, crusty bread here in Japan, I knew I had to find a solution to the problem; living without good bread is just too much to bear! Since the ingredients are easy enough to find, I decided to make some. I heard about the 5 minute artisan bread and had to try it. The dough requires NO kneading. Kneading is just beyond me at this point in my life. I may learn how to do it and love it someday, but right now, leaving out the step that requires kneading is key.

Trust me, making bread this way is as easy as it sounds, and the crust is unbelievable. Did I mention that you can store the dough in your refrigerator for up to TWO weeks and it's only supposed to improve with age?! I haven't left it for quite that long, but after a few days in the refrigerator I can attest that it's still delicious.

I also made some orange marmalade recently. I used this very simple recipe which doesn't require any pectin or special directions for making homemade pectin before making the marmalade. I can't believe I haven't tried any on my homemade bread yet! Perhaps because Gboy loves the bread so much he eats an entire loaf (I make them fairly small) all in one sitting. He also insists that I use some of the dough to make calzones and suddenly, our dough is gone!

The marmalade was made from a mixture of the oranges that my FIL grows. We've got so many oranges that they can't make juice fast enough. I used less sugar than the recipe called for because we're not really going to "preserve" it or save it for long and I was concerned that too much sweetness would make it inedible for my in-laws. It turned out perfectly, sweet yet quite tart and it's disappearing fast.

Finally, I attempted a second banana cake the other day. The first banana cake was for Peanut's birthday. It was a little wetter and more dense than I would have liked and Peanut was too tired at the time to really enjoy her cake. Additionally, we had some very, very ripe bananas here at the house the other day and my MIL was going to toss them into the compost pile. Luckily Gboy rescued them and explained to her than when the bananas get spotty I bake with them. She was incredulous and surely thinks I'll give them all salmonella or botulism or whatever it is that might come from spoiled foods. However, I forged on. I found a yellow cake recipe that I tinkered with and after adding the bananas the consistency was sort of like wallpaper paste; I was concerned. After baking and taste testing though, I realized my fears were misplaced! It was not only lighter and more cake-like to my way of thinking (rather than banana bread-like) , it was delicious. Peanut ate some, my Japanese class students with whom I shared it also enjoyed it, and my MIL said it was delicious.

Next up: cannoli

Thursday, March 12, 2009

"Time Changes"

Kym has a thoughtful post about adopting a motto and symbol to reflect who she is and wants to be. I'd never heard of the Adinkra symbols, but I love the look of them. The stark contrast of the black and white reminds me of the Kanji that I create with ink and brush each week. The depiction relies on careful use of white space and creating balance and contrast with the ink on paper. This seems to be a theme in my life lately and I was immediately drawn to the Adinkra symbols.

I had to think about what symbol seems most fitting. At first, I thought it might be Akoko Nan for mercy and nurturing. Right now I'm at a place in my life where I'm fortunate enough to be a mother and I'd like to continue mothering. As I look down the road at our journey into parenthood, I hope that Gboy and I will be able to add one more little one to our family, but I'm unclear how that might happen. This has been the source of some angst (have you noticed?!) as I compare myself to others who are making the journey faster and with more ease that I am. As a result I'm not sure I'm being very merciful to myself. And occasionally I'm not sure my thoughts are merciful to others (specifically I think of my poor SIL who through no fault of her own is the subject of my frustration at times).

So I carefully considered the list again. I think the symbol and motto that most appeals to me currently is Mmere Dane - "time changes" (change, life dynamics). This may not be the best description of my current state of mind, but I hope this is the direction in which I'm headed. You see, I had a sudden flash of insight the other day.

One of the things that has most frustrated me about my SIL's situation is that she makes no secret of the fact that she wants a bunch of kids. It seems that she will have no trouble conceiving/having them (update: she is in fact pregnant again and all is well with the pregnancy) and while I'm happy for her, I'm conflicted. A part of me is jealous of the way in which her life is unfolding according to her plan. At one time I had flirted with the idea of 3 kids (Gboy used to say he might like 3 or even 4!), but these days, I'm trying to be realistic. Not only about our likelihood of conception, but also of living a comfortable life with the kid(s) we have.

I'm not sure there's any way that we could ever realistically have 3 (or more!) kids and still be able to travel back and forth to see our respective families in Japan and the U.S. Airfare has to be a consideration along with daily expenses and college savings, etc. As a result, I hear my SIL saying she wants 4 kids but when I try to envision how on earth they'll afford that on her husband's salary, I can't see it. Then again, if they never travel to the U.S. or outside of Japan, living on a shoe-string budget may be perfectly acceptable for them. To me, that would be a huge loss that I couldn't envision for my family. And so, I may have to accept that 1 or 2 kids is the most we ever have (and frankly while I think I'd like a 2nd, after actually having 2 kids I might decide that was MORE than enough!) and that the trade-off is worth it.

This means accepting that I might be disappointed on some level each and every time my SIL gets pregnant. But if I know what the end goal and values of MY family is - then it shouldn't really matter what she does or how often the size of her family changes. This may be easier said than done, but I think it's possible to re-frame how I look at pregnancy and specifically SIL's pregnancies. Changes will happen in life, and not all of them will be changes that are comfortable to me, but that doesn't mean I won't get through them.

As I was laying in bed late the other night thinking about this, another thought popped into my head. I had this image of an older child - a child in foster care maybe, or maybe just another teen I mentor (something I loved doing). I was reminded of all the other ways I can care for children who might need some love and attention - things that I'm very much interested in doing and have been interested in for a long time. Things that I think Gboy might be interested in doing someday too. I guess I was just thinking that I don't yet know what life has in store for me, or for us, and that there may still be great things to come, even without a bunch of pregnancies.

I don't know what it all means or if this even makes sense. In the end, I think it all comes back to change and life dynamics and allowing things to unfold in ways that may not be clear to me now, but could be some of the most fulfilling parts of my life.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Sumo locker room....

Or is it? Okay, it's not the sumo wrestlers' locker room. In fact, 3/4 of the room was the dohyo (or practice ring) and the spectator area and the other 1/4 of the room was the kitchen. I kid you not, the only thing separating the two for a while was a flimsy curtain.

How did I end up there? Good question! Some friends of my husband's family own a sushi restaurant and they're big sumo fans and some of the sumo guys are regular customers when they're here in Osaka. The Osaka tournament will start soon meaning the guys are here already practicing. Our friends managed to get us into a semi-private practice session; there were maybe 75 spectators there including a few members of the press, friends/family etc. After the practice, we got to sit down and enjoy a little chanko-nabe in the same place the sumo wrestlers would be eating (after actually hitting the "locker room"). I saw some of the food they'd be eating and it was impressive. I've never seen that much kimchee all in one place, never mind all the other katsu, rice, noodles, and donuts too (by the dozen!).

Over the last several months I've become something of a sumo fan. When the tournaments are on tv, I love to watch and I'm sad if I miss a day. I confess I still don't know all that much about it, but the basic rules are fairly straightforward making it easy to watch and enjoy.

Oh and to give you some idea of how big this guy is, I'm about 5' 8" tall and weigh about 120 pounds - this guy weighs nearly 3 times as much!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

My life in list-form

I can't even think to make a coherent post right now. Instead, I'm going with a list instead:
  • Saturday one of my sisters-in-law here in Japan made a trip to the hospital to get confirmation of her pregnancy after a positive EPT. I've talked about this before and on the one hand was a tad frustrated by the whole thing(with the mixed emotions that many folks who've struggled to get pregnant can surely understand) . Then they told her that the pregnancy might not be viable but it's too early to tell. The hospital also told my sister-in-law that she couldn't deliver at their hospital even if it IS viable. She came home upset by some/all of the news. The family spent all weekend agonizing over this - trying to get her a slot at the hospital of choice. FIL finally pulled some strings and got her in. We're waiting on a second ultrasound this weekend to find out how things are looking (as far as my SIL can tell things are going just fine). What a tangle.
  • Saturday we also got word that a friend of the family was in a car accident. Or rather a car hit her while she was on her motorbike/scooter. She was knocked to the ground and sustained injuries including a broken collarbone and shoulder. The hospital she was taken to doesn't have a great reputation but she stayed and had the surgery there. She regained consciousness as they were finishing the surgery and although the local anesthesia was still working so she felt no pain, she had some sensation of what the doctors were doing and found it both unpleasant and scary. We've been making visits to check on her and make sure she's doing well until she can leave what looks like one of those hospital from horror flicks (old, rundown, creepy). ugh.
  • Sunday was the memorial for Gboy's paternal grandmother. Lots of family, food, enjoyment of fine weather.
  • Peanut has an 8th tooth coming in. This could explain some of the sudden uptick in wanting to be on or with Mama. I confess I love it. She smiles, runs to me, clings to my legs, generally wants to be with me. Doesn't really seem to be serious separation anxiety. Instead, she's really getting into hugs and snuggles and I had started to think I might not get many since she's always on the move and didn't seem to have the attention span for any of that.
  • Peanut is starting to know her own name and is working on pronouncing it. SOOO cute.

    Gratuitous cute kid picture (enjoying aforementioned sunshine and good weather this weekend).

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Breakin' it Down - Podcast Style

I recently mentioned that I've been listening to the Splendid Table's podcasts and one of my commentors (thefukases) suggested that I post about other podcasts I like. This is a tough one. I don't have an iPod, so I generally rely on the Zune Marketplace and online service to point me in the direction of available podcasts for what happens to be my portable listening device. This might be somewhat limiting, but it's easy and that's been the key thus far.

Bearing in mind that this might be limiting, I'm happy to share what I've discovered.

I adore National Public Radio and listen to whatever I can find. Specifically, I'm listening to things like "Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me!" Tavis Smiley, Fresh Air and Marketplace. But I also like to connect with my local news and events so I listen to "Weekday" from KUOW in Seattle. I am subscribed to the News from Lake Wobegone, but rarely listen to it since I'd rather hear the show in its entirety and therefore just listen to Prairie Home Companion on my laptop (drat no podcast!!).

Being a lover of food I also catch the Epicurious (video!!) and Cooks Illustrated podcasts on my Zune. Watching someone demonstrate how to fill a cannoli really helped me to believe that I can tackle the cannoli making on my own. I have the cannoli tubes and know how to make my own ricotta so I'm thinking I'll even be able to attempt these while here in Japan! I haven't figured out how to get the Bon Appetit podcasts on to my Zune, but I can listen to them on my laptop. Yum.

Parent Magazine has some interesting podcasts and Comedy Central Stand-Up.

In return for sharing this, I'd love to hear what podcasts you all may be listening to on your computer or portable listening device. There's a lot out there I know, but sometimes finding good material is tricky...

Sunday, March 1, 2009

More than halfway there...

We've been here in Osaka for almost 5 months now. That means we're more than halfway done with our stay here. Nevermind that we're not entirely sure what happens after this summer. What we DO know is that we're returning to the U.S. in June so that we don't have to endure the hottest part of the year or as my husband likes to describe it "living in He$$ only with more humidity" - it's just that hot. Or at least it FEELS that hot to a couple of wimps who have been living in temperate Seattle for the last 8+ years.

Anyhoo....I started thinking about our time here and what I've learned and all that and came up with a few telling moments:

1) The other day Peanut grabbed at something and tried to cram it into the large family water bottle. All I could think of to say as I yelled to get the attention of my husband was, "The MIZU bottle! Something in Mizu bottle!" If you don't speak Japanese you may not know that mizu is the word for water. I nearly fell over when I realized that the Japanese word came more naturally to me in that moment.

2) My Japanese class, while sometimes challenging, feels really good right now. I feel as though I've moved past some mental block or plateau and suddenly the language is coming more easily. The conversational part of it I mean. I always did well with the written and listening components, but just couldn't get into the swing of the conversation and speaking until quite recently. It feels good. I'm not saying I'm doing it really well, but I'm doing it with much more ease and confidence and it's making group events fun!

3) Following on #2, yesterday was the one-year anniversary/memorial for my husband's paternal grandmother. It was her passing that prompted our move here. Today was a great opportunity for us to remember her and to honor her and for the whole family (her 4 children and spouses, 8 grandchildren and spouses, and 8 great-grandchildren) to come together and celebrate life. I was exhausted at the end of a long day, but I felt quite comfortable and was able to converse with several people (in a small talk kind of way). And it wasn't just that I was able to talk with people, but the knowledge that comes with being in a place for a while. When you know where the spoons and creamer are and can make yourself a cup of coffee - that kind of thing. Add to all this the fact that it was sunny and somewhere in the 60's (F) and we had the perfect day.

It certainly hasn't been easy during the last 5 months, but I'm pleased to say that things feel quite comfortable at the moment.