Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Art for the People (or just me)

You are all such thoughtful readers! I love to hear what you have to say about books, what scares you, what home means to you...Thank you for the food for my thoughts.

I'm working on a little something at the moment. A "to-do" list to end all to-do lists. And it's really taking all my attention at the moment. Well, that and the fact that Peanut still isn't quite napping with any regularity. At the moment she's been asleep for nearly an hour, (a record of late!) but living in the eternal "what if she wakes up in two minutes?" makes it hard for me to get into any deep thoughts or blog posts.

But now that I think about it, I do have a question: What's art? I've never taken any art classes beyond what was required of me in middle school and one in high school. And none of those addressed fine art and the kind of stuff you see in museums. This weekend we went to the Suntory Museum and saw a variety of modern art "pieces" many of which included or were exclusively comprised of digital videos. I found several of them to be really engrossing.

But then I began to ponder. How is this different from a short film that you might find in a film festival? What's to say this film gets exhibited in a film festival and that film goes to a museum? And I'm not judging here because frankly I like some stuff and don't like other stuff and it doesn't seem to matter where I'm seeing it (cuz that's how I roll). But *someone* has made the determination about what's allowed to be exhibited at the museum. How have they defined art?


Saturday, April 25, 2009

Home is where.....

I'm struggling to function without coffee. It's very early in the morning and Peanut just gave me a wake-up call before deciding she really, truly wanted to go back to sleep instead. Yes the nap transition continues....

Anyway, my fuzzy brain remembers that I wanted to mention "home". A couple of weeks ago, as North Korea was preparing to launch their "test rocket" (coincidentally in the general direction of Japan) I blogged about wanting to go home. At the time I really just meant the U.S. in general - anywhere there would have worked.

But the more I thought about it, the more I wondered when one's idea of "home" changes. In Japan for example, the verb "kaeru" is often used to mean "to return to one's home or country of origin". I've heard people specifically say that while it's accurate and appropriate for me to say that when I go back to the U.S. I "kaerimasu" (returning), it's not as fitting for my husband who is Japanese and that for him the appropriate verb would really be "iku" or to go. Now remember, Gboy has lived in the U.S. since he was 16 years old and more specifically, we've lived in Seattle for 8 years. Needless to say, he would argue that this limitation in word use is ridiculous because he thinks of going to Seattle as a return home.

For me, I definitely see our house in Seattle as a home. I miss so much about it. I miss the amazing libraries nearby. I miss the multiple parks within walking distance. I miss sidewalks where I can take Peanut for walks without having to cling to the edge of a country road without falling into a ditch while a surprising amount of traffic goes by. I miss the coffee shops -- dozens and dozens of amazing espresso machine owning, foam making, coffee loving coffee shops. I miss all of the green trees. And none of this covers my personal treasures - my bed, all of the handy tools that are part of my kitchen equipment, my BOOKS...

But in pondering the idea of home further, I realize that I also miss upstate N.Y. where I was raised. I could list dozens of restaurants, shops, festivals, and various local points of interest that I miss. In part, I do think I miss them because they're worth missing (i.e. they make an amazing pastrami on rye sandwich the likes of which I've never even heard of in Seattle), but the other part of that is pure nostalgia. I miss the old Friendly's restaurant where my girlfriends and I used to hang out after any school function held in the evening. I don't miss the place because the ice cream was especially good, but I miss it because some of my oldest friendships were created and solidified in that restaurant.

Throw all of this in a mixer and what do you get? I'm not sure. Perhaps what I'm thinking is that even though I don't think of Japan as "home" right now, maybe if we had a bit more space of our own I would. Or maybe, it's just a matter of waiting it out. When I first moved to Seattle I know I didn't think of it as home for close to a year and we have only been here in Japan for 7 months. Maybe with time things will change.

And maybe the answer is something as simple as muffin tins. If I could find one good sized muffin tin would my whole life here be complete??

Updated to add: Are there special places that you miss? That restaurant that makes homemade cannoli? (Wait that's me!) Or events that you long for? The firefighter's pancake breakfast in the town where you grew up? The 4th of July parade at your favorite summer vacation spot?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

What are you afraid of?

Today I read this article about depriving our children of scary stories (and potentially the opportunity for their development). A few years ago I went to see a theater production of Struwwelpeter. At thee time, I thought it was pretty disturbing that this was the kind of story that people used to tell to their children. But when I was studying to get my degree in information and library sciences (the new hip version of librarianship) my specialty was children and teen services and I was fortunate to take some wonderful classes about children's literature and my thinking has changed. Once upon a time "children's literature" didn't even exist. I swear to you I did not know this. The books that were intended for children often carried moral messages about how to act or not act and often relied on fear to motivate children to obey their parents, go to bed, eat their supper and the like. It's perhaps not surprising then that scary books for children were once quite common and were endorsed by parents!

Believe me, I get that there's a time and place for everything and that developmentally some children aren't ready to hear the gruesome details of the 11:00 news. However, when I look back on some of the books I loved most as a child there was a lot of violence and scary stuff in there. And I'm not just talking about picture books here, (although I too read Babar and In the Night Kitchen - stories referenced in the article). No, I mean that I had a children's Bible that I loved and it was full of some gruesome stories about the beheading of John the Baptist and the slaughter of the innocents and all kinds of stuff that at the time, didn't bother me in the least. Those were some of the most vibrant and interesting stories as far as I was concerned.

Peanut is really too young to be encountering too many books with scary themes these days; she's still reading board books with one word per page. But it could be an issue for us as she gets older and I found the article to be a great reminder to me that editing what she reads isn't really what I'm all about as a parent.

Are you selective about what scary things you read to your kids? Are some topics okay while others are just too intense or off-limits in your household?

Idea File: Neti Pots

I just read a fascinating piece that claims that nasal irrigation with a neti pot may actually reduce the need for steroid nasal sprays. Since I suffer from occasionally debilitating rhinitis (i.e. everything in my sinuses gets so clogged up that I end up with an inner ear imbalance and intense vertigo that keeps me prostrate on the nearest flat surface), this was good news! I had heard of temporary relief from the neti pot, but had no idea that there might be longer term benefits.

Oddly enough, when I started to get a bout of the sinus congestion and accompanying vertigo a couple of months ago, my husband took me to an ear/nose/throat specialist here in Osaka. The doctor sprayed some stuff up my nose and then used a tool similar to the one that the dentist's use for suction while cleaning your teeth and sure enough, she suctioned my nose. I swear I felt better instantly and had zero vertigo after that (it usually takes a couple of days at minimum for the congestion to reduce enough such that I can walk upright again). Was this another version of the neti pot action?

Maybe this will help other allergy sufferers out there. As for me, I'm pretty sure that owning a neti pot should be on my list of things to do, but just in case I forget, I'm tagging it for the idea file!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A long weekend in the sunshine

The upside to having a toddler who can't nap with any regularity or for any great length of time, is that there's really no good reason to state at home for nap time. In the past, because Peanut seemed to operate at her best if she was able to sleep in her crib for her morning and afternoon naps, we'd generally try to have her at home during those time frames (she was never a good car or stroller napper and without those naps - meltdowns were inevitable). Now however, we see now reason not to hit the road with her in tow since the lack of daytime sleep doesn't really seem to predict meltdowns and well, she can *not* sleep at home just as easily as she can *not* sleep at a park.

Over the weekend we went to several nearby parks. First we went to Hamadera Koen. It's a big park with lots and lots of playground equipment. The slides and jungle gyms that I've seen here in Japan are the kinds of things that I remember from my childhood in the U.S. Remember all the cool stuff that was a legal liability and was removed from playgrounds? They've still got a bunch of that stuff here and it's cool! I'm talking about huge slides, monstrous climbing gyms, etc. Peanut is too small for much of it, but the sheer volume of fun stuff to play on drew lots of families to the park on Saturday (combined with temperatures in the mid 70's F) and the people and kids alone are entertainment for Peanut.

On Sunday we ventured out to ExpoLand to see the tulip garden. Japan has a long history of trade with Holland (even during the 200 or so years that Japan was closed to trade with other countries). Hence, the tulip garden is a celebration of that long and prosperous history of trade. The colors were vibrant and we enjoyed eating our lunch near thousands of tulips on a perfectly warm and sunny day.

Monday the weather promised to be warm and sunny once more. We decided to take advantage of it to head up the mountain in search of the last cherry blossoms in this area. In Yoshino, we found dozens of small vendors selling all kinds of foods and other goods but by far my favorite was the sakura (cherry blossom) soft serve ice cream - delicious! We had a short hike up the mountain side, but with vendors all around us, the time passed quickly. If you've never been to Japan, you need to understand that the Japanese have a gift for building temples, shrines, etc. at the top of mountain, paving a bit of road or walkway to get up there, and then populating the road with vendors so that tourists can shop all the way up and down the mountain. I've seen buildings perched on the side of mountain where you couldn't possibly imagine a bar or ice cream shop could exist, yet they do! Anyway, the view from the top of this little mountain was lovely. On the way back down, we stopped in a noodle shop with a view of the mountainside and blossoms. I'm not the biggest fan of udon soup (there are plenty of other things I'd rather eat) but the view alone made it worthwhile to eat in our restaurant of choice.

Peanut was an angel each and every time we got in the car (unusual for a kid who has pretty much screamed her head off in the car since she was born) and every day we went out she far exceeded her usual one hour of stroller time limit. There's really no way around it; the weather was perfect, the company was unsurpassed and we couldn't have had a more lovely, long weekend.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Not So Napping House

I've not abandoned this blog. However, I have finally come to terms with the fact that Peanut is starting the transition from two naps to one. This would explain the incredible shrinking naps (maybe 30 minutes a piece in the morning and afternoon as opposed to the good old days of 1 or 1.5 hours each). Additionally, my Japanese class started up again last week. This leaves me with much less free time on my hands and as a result my blogging has taken a serious hit!

Sometime soon I hope to provide updates about all the wonderful parks and tourist sites we saw over the weekend (as we took advantage of 75 F weather), but in the meantime, may I suggest a book?

The Napping House by Audrey Wood, illustrated by Don Wood, is a very cute, sweet story that has been coming to mind of late!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Sock it to me!

Before we get to the warm and fuzzies, I have to give you a little background. I was totally interesting in participating in the sock exchange started by Kym, but I told her, "I really don't think it's fair to ask someone to spend a jillion dollars to ship some socks to Japan where I happen to be at the moment". She wrote back to me a few days later and said "You won't believe it! Someone else is Japan wants to play along - you two can be buddies and not spend a jillion dollars on shipping!" And that is what we did. But here's where we pause to say "Isn't that AMAZING? That people who are part of the adoption/loss/infertility community can support one another across the globe????!!"

Wendy doesn't have a blog about infertility, but she's a reader and a super sock-it-to me kinda gal! Also, if you want to know more about her I know you can find her here. Wendy was sweet enough to send me not one, not two, but 6 pairs of socks! Along with a hand-written card! Can you feel the love?!! I sure can. Not only are the socks in an array of colors and materials, but the designs are adorable. The first pair I'm highlighting here is a pair that has "sweets" across the toes. For someone who confesses to being a comfort eater, this is exactly the pair of socks I need! Now when I feel the urge to devour five donuts because things aren't going my way and IF sucks, I can just wear my donut socks!

This next pair is warm and comfy made from silk. Perfect for the cool spring days. The socks all have individual little toes. If you're unfamiliar with life in Japan, you should know that those individual toe socks are a big thing here. To me, these socks represent the fact that Wendy from all the way across the globe is there to support me and cheer for me and basically keep spreading the warm fuzzies all over the land.

This last pair just cheers me up by the sheer fact that they're so colorful! I love the cheery colors which seem especially appropriate for this spring season when everything here in Osaka seems to be in bloom. But I know that on some dark and cloudy rainy day these socks will be the perfect spot of sunshine that I need. Thanks Wendy!

Sleep well at night?

I'm finding it a bit harder with this in the news....Makes me really, really want to go back home.

I'm back and better (or maybe just faster) than ever!

Thank you wonderful, kind, generous blog friends! Thank you for cheering me up and making me so very happy! My birthday exceeded all expectations and you are largely to thank!

Gboy too came through in the end. He cooked me an amazing dinner of spicy food (great when you're congested and can't taste much of anything milder!) and then followed it up with a special cocktail he invented just for me (including a slice of lemon, a strawberry, Zima and some kind of sparkling wine- sounds a little weird but actually tasted really nice).

Additionally, he has spent the last couple of days tinkering with my laptop to get it working properly. You see he gave me some upgrades and as is often the case with these things, making a change caused everything to stop running properly (or to run more slowly) - you know the old" one step forward two steps back". But it's all working as it's supposed to now. Theoretically I should be moving online at speeds faster than ever before! But now that I'm back online I first need to do some catching up from the last couple of days. Bear with me as I make the rounds :-)

Thursday, April 2, 2009

They say it's my birthday

Tomorrow is my birthday. Rather than dwelling on the crossing of the invisible line demarking "advanced maternal age" (that's right I turn 35 this year), I thought I'd focus on baking. I'm trying to do a lot more baking this year. In fact, I've sort of made it a pet project. I think the challenges presented by baking in Japan spurred me even further than I thought possible. Needless to say, I decided it was time to tackle one of my all-time favorites - a sweet treat I've never seen in Japan - the cannoli.

But that was before I finally succumbed to the germs or allergens. Peanut got sick last week, followed promptly by Gboy which put me back on full-time duty 24 hours a day for several days (Gboy wasn't just sick, he coughed the wrong way and seriously wrenched his back and was out of commission for several days). It's no surprise that I'm under the weather I suppose. But it sucks. I'm just too tired to do anything; and I couldn't taste the cannoli anyway.

And I'm a wee bit sad because no matter how many times I've told Gboy that he doesn't need to celebrate Valentine's Day or Mother's Day or Christmas (he's not a celebrater by nature and his family history either reinforces this or created it - not sure which) I've also told him that birthdays are a "my feelings will be hurt if you don't at least TRY to do something nice" kind of day. In the first few years we were together he really made an effort. Now, I might get dinner. *sigh* It just makes me a little sad.

So I know I need to make it special for myself if it's going to happen at all. Can you tell I've decided that this year's party theme is PITY?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Don't forget! Sock it to me week is next week! Each of the participants will be posting pictures and stories about the socks they received and you'll get to hear about how the adoption/loss/infertility community provides warmth, comfort, and support to one another...just like a pair of cozy socks. So stop by to see the awesome socks I received! And learn why socks can make us all warm and fuzzy!