Monday, May 25, 2009

What's a Mom to do?

I'm at something of a loss. I hear plenty about disciplining other people's children (i.e. when/if and how to do it) but not very much about the subject I have in mind. You see, I'm starting to worry that our more "lax" style of parenting (lax by certain Japanese standards) may be doing my reputation harm.

For instance, here in Japan, not wearing one's shoes inside the house is a very strict rule. Big no-no. The problem is that Peanut loves her shoes. I mean she *luuuuurrrvvves* her shoes. Once we're indoors, she would happily play with her shoes, taking them off and putting them on again for 30 minutes at a time. Occasionally that spills over into her wanting to then run around the house wearing them - in part to inspire a game of tag since she knows someone will likely chase her down in order to pry the shoes off her feet. Gboy and I have largely adopted a kind of hands-off approach here. She's not hurting herself or anyone else and as long as the shoes aren't wet or muddy, I don't worry too much about it. For the record, I would be fine with holding fast on this rule of no shoes, if for no other reason than to ensure peace and harmony in his parents' house, but Gboy is the oldest son and this will be his house one day and since he's said it's okay- he's pretty much laid down the law for everyone.

The problem is that when she sits in the entryway, playing with her shoes, other children often mimic her. This means that her cousins who have mostly learned that this a very unacceptable behavior, often join in and then get in trouble with their parents. My concern is that this isn't winning me any brownie points with the other family members (MIL & FIL and then of course the parents - specifically my two SILs).

I'm just not sure how to handle this. I'm sure as Peanut gets older we'll run into other similar problems. I'm not going to discipline her the way that they discipline their kids just because they think I should or "that's how parenting is done".

Ultimately the dilemma as I see it is what if my choice about how I parent conflicts with the parenting choices of other families around us? Am I obligated in some way to tell my child, "That's not okay to do here" in order to protect other kids from getting in trouble? And at what age do I start making those distinctions? With a 16 month old, I'm guessing there's not much reasoning going on - not enough for her to understand "here it's okay, there it's not" and to really comprehend that. At least not for a while longer, although with enough practice and repetition starting now, this might work. I just really want to be sure that I'm not damaging any relationships with family members here (I doubt it), or tarring my reputation (more likely I suppose).

Friday, May 22, 2009


Chocolate. I'm thinking about chocolate a lot these days. I want to understand why chocolate tastes so entirely different here in Japan. I get that the "choco- flavored" things may not even be directly related to chocolate as I know it. I suspect the sort of chocolate used to make those "choco-flavored" cookies is the same stuff they use for those M&M shaped chocolates that they sell in plastic shaped candy canes around Christmas in the U.S. It looks like chocolate but tastes....not very chocolatey at all.

According to this there's a whole scale of different varieties of chocolate in Japan based on what's in it.

But so far, I've had a hard time finding anything tasty. A few really nice pastry shops have had some good dark chocolate in their cakes or pastries, but that has been a rare experience for me.

And I'm sad because the luscious American brownies that I baked yesterday (thanks to my sister who mailed me the box mix!) are nearly gone (there's one left) and I only got to eat two of them. After I finished baking them my husband kindly thought of taking some to our neighbors. He did ask if it would be all right and I thought that since these neighbors happen to be relatives and they spend some time each week playing with my daughter and helping us out in that regard, I couldn't begrudge them some brownies. For those of you unfamiliar with life in Japan, it seems to involve a lot of sharing of food (I make too much of something and give half away to my neighbor who in turn does the same when she has too much of something....). When I say "a lot" I mean food goes in and out our door easily 3 or 4 times a week, maybe more.

"Okay, but what about the rest of the brownies?" you might ask. My MIL gave them away to my English conversation student today. She's a sweet woman and again, I wouldn't begrudge her one, but at least half of what was left? *sigh*

The really frustrating part in all of this is that it's not even food that anyone here (besides me) really enjoys. It seems to me that most people here prefer the choco-flavored stuff. That's fine with me. That's why I baked my own special brownies. I had contemplated freezing a bunch after baking them yesterday, but before I ever got around to it they were walking out the door - repeatedly.

Here's the etiquette question then: If you've got roommates do you hide any of your food from them? I suppose I could have hidden the brownies away (or in this case frozen them) for my own consumption at a later date since I know the audience here well enough to know that no one will appreciate them as much as I will. Considering that these brownies were especially hard to come by (i.e. overseas mail) would that make a difference in your answer? I don't want to be all sneaky hiding my food from people when the polite thing to do is to share, but if everyone else is going to give away my food (in some instances without even asking), what do I do?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Where was I going?

Updated to add:
Welcome if you're here from the round-up! There's a brief mention of children in this post....

Truly? How boring is my life that I can't even think of what to blog about?

I think I'm just feeling a little like I'm in a rut. Here's life in a nutshell at the moment:

Peanut is doing well. Sleep seems to be improving (i.e. moving closer and closer to just one nap!).

Internet has been sporadic for the last few days and every time I think of posting - it's down. Argh.

The other day I was practicing my calligraphy and my FIL came in the house and nearly tore the kitchen apart looking for some piece of paper. He is about as subtle as a tornado when he does this (with some regularity as he's super impatient). There I sat at the kitchen table in quiet contemplation trying to focus on the paper, ink and the lines I was drawing. And yet, he continued to bluster and tear and slam things around. I wanted to just give up and walk away, but figured he'd tell me to stay. "Um, why?" So I waited him out and thought about how nice it will be this summer to have my own house for a bit.

And therein lies something of a problem...Part of me is packed and checked out already. It's dawning on my just now- the weather is much warmer and reminds me of June days when I was in high school.... Senioritis! I've got senioritis! I'm too busy thinking about all the places I'll go when I get back to Seattle, all the things I'll eat - to really enjoy anything here at the moment. And lots of little things (like my FIL's recent performance) are getting under my skin and making me think, "See this is why I'm happy to be going home."

I'm not sure that living in two places will ever be viable if I'm always wanting to be in the other place. I felt pretty good about being here in January and February, but now I can't wait to go home. Then again, I've always been big on anticipating a trip. I usually start making to-do lists weeks before we go anywhere. Things to remember to pack, places to go when we get to our destination, those kinds of things.

Finally, in terms of reading, I finished The Northern Clemency a while ago. Wouldn't necessarily recommend it - but I slogged through it. Then I finished An Abundance of Katherines. I was disappointed because I *loved* Looking for Alaska but felt that this author's work wasn't nearly as good as his first novel. Next I decided to reward myself with something light and funny. Hence I read Curse of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz. She makes me chuckle and occasionally laugh out loud. I tore through it in no time and maybe that's helped improve my mood?

I mentioned I'm on Goodreads right?

By the way, we're staying away from pigs and large crowds of people and as of right now everyone is healthy as can be!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

More on the flu

For the last couple of weeks, every time I have mentioned that we're going back to the U.S. at the end of June, people here in Japan have expressed concern for our health. "But the swine flu!" "Are you sure you should go back to the U.S.?" "Maybe you should just stay here in Japan." No matter how many times I said to people, "There aren't even that many cases in all of Washington State and it's a big, big place" they were unconvinced.

And now it seems that there's an outbreak here in Osaka. Not just Japan, mind you, but in the Kansai area where we live. Schools are closed. Stores are sold out of face masks. An hour of news last night was dominated almost exclusively by stories about the flu. Truly I'm not sure where the line between caution and hysteria lies, but I'm pretty sure things here are tipping toward hysteria and quickly. Now I won't say there aren't good reasons for that. When you take thousands and thousands of people all crammed into one relatively compact urban area and jam them together on trains and subways and in schools and apartments and offices - well, that's what viruses thrive on.

Still, I confess I'm feeling a little vindicated upon seeing everyone around me suddenly dealing with the reality that it can happen here too. The swine flu isn't just for Mexicans and Americans (which always seemed to me to be the undertone of previous conversations no matter how often I reminded people that SARS happened in Asia). I read an article about the island mentality here in Japan and how it may have caused Japan to be slow to come to the realization that they're not immune and simply looking at foreigners as potential carriers may have been part of the problem.

Looks like we're all in this together.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Healthy as a horse

That's right. I'm healthy as a horse. Not a pig. Certainly no swine flu here. But truly, last Thursday that's all I could think about. Maybe not the swine flu, but any flu. As my class ended at noon, I left feeling grateful that it was over. I had been feeling a tad bit off all morning, and my upset stomach seemed to be worsening. Could it be morning sickness?* As the afternoon progressed, and I got colder and colder (on a day when temperatures neared the low 70s) I started to suspect something was wrong. And then the aching started - everything hurt. And by late afternoon my husband was convinced we should hurry to the nearest clinic so that if I did in fact have a flu strain, I could get a shot of Tami.flu since we'd be traveling to Kyushu on Monday (a five hour drive at minimum (and we'd be staying with a bunch of family for several days) and thus minimizing the duration of suspected flu would be beneficial to all.

After 2 hours in the clinic, we had a diagnosis of sorts. Probably not the flu (no sore throat or inflammation in the throat or lymph nodes), so I probably just had a cold. This was easily the most uncomfortable cold I've had in 15 years. As I said, everything ached and I shivered with a fever for two days. But the medicine at least helped me sleep and by Monday I was well enough to endure a lengthy car ride to Kyushu for the one-year anniversary memorial of my husband's maternal grandmother (you may recall we just did this in March for my husband's paternal grandmother). We arrived mid-afternoon on Monday and had to leave at 4:30 am on Wednesday to try to beat the traffic and avoid sitting on the highway for hours. I kid you not, a gas station turned us away because we had enough to travel another 100 kilos and they were running out of gas. And if you can believe this vending machines were completely sold out - dozens of them at a roadside service area - empty. This gives new meaning to the dreaded term "holiday travel".

I am SO glad to be home and healthy!

*Turns out I'm not. They had to give me the test before giving me any medicine at the clinic and presumably, they would have told us if our assumption that we're NOT pregnant was incorrect.