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!"

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Two-faced living

Living in two places poses interesting challenges.

Thanks to many wonderful suggestions and thought-provoking comments from all of you, I've had some further insights.
  • It's okay to hoard chocolate. Sometimes, daily survival in another culture requires that we make sacrifices. In this case, I may be sacrificing some rules of etiquette but I won't be sacrificing my sanity. Yay!
  • Giving indoor shoes for a toddler who doesn't understand the difference between "indoor" and "outdoor" shoes while seemingly ridiculous to me (why bother?) feels like a step in the right direction toward engendering tolerance from my in-laws. Not one person here has pointed the finger at me and called me a bad mom, but honor and reputation are very, very prized here and I really want to keep mine untarnished for as long as possible.
  • No matter how many times I think I'm starting to get the hang of things and fit in, something new will come up. Yesterday I unthinkingly used my chopsticks to take a piece of food from my husband's chopsticks in order to give it to my daughter. He gave me a "look" and sternly warned me about how inappropriate that is in Japanese culture. Thankfully, his mother, the only witness, played ignorant. (She is a wonderful woman!) In my defense, my husband was reaching across me at the table to give food to my daughter and frankly, I get tired of having his arm in my face at mealtimes (for some reason he refuses to sit on the other side of my daughter so this happens all the time). Furthermore, I was raised to believe that reaching across the dinner table, in front of others, is rude. Can you say "culture clash"??
  • It's sometimes hard to know what I can or should chalk up to differences in parenting style or personality versus larger cultural issues. Living with your in-laws, even within the same country and culture, is bound to result in some discomfort and the revelation that we don't always do things the same way. However, when you add in the "gaijin" (foreigner) factor, things get trickier for me. There are times I don't want people here to think that I'm representative of my culture and that "all Americans do x". On the one hand, I'd like to show that there are different ways of doing things since a lot of Japanese culture seems to be really homogeneous - "there's the Japanese way and it's the only way". But trying to show the "American" perspective is challenging since one of the things I most love about the U.S.A. is the diversity of people and ideas. The last thing I want to convey is that my way is THE American way. Needless to say, I think about this a lot and I find that it's complicated. Perhaps after living here for a while longer, I'll find a way to let it all go and In the meantime, I struggle to figure out how to choose my battles when I'm not even sure where the lines are being drawn.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Crazy 8's

The rules of the "game":

1. Mention the person who tagged me.
2. Complete the lists of 8.
3. Tag 8 more bloggers and tell them they've been tagged.

Sunny tagged me for this and I'm thinking in list-form lately so this is perfect.

Eight things I am looking forward to:
1. Returning to the U.S. – less than 3 weeks from now, but who’s counting?
2. My sister having her 1st baby in July
3. Spending Thanksgiving with my parents this year
4. Having access to bookstores and libraries with LOTS of books in English (see #1)
5. Harry Potter movie this summer
6. Eating donuts, Ethiopian food, real bacon, good coffee (see #1)
7. Baby #2 - somehow, some way, someday
8. Seeing friends again (see #1)

Eight things I did yesterday:
1. Made Thai green curry
2. Pet some bunnies
3. Stayed up late
4. Enjoyed lunch out with a toddler (no yelling or whining, fed herself - wow!)
5. Made some digital photo albums
6. Started reading "Revenge of the Spellmans" by Lisa Lutz
7. Talked to my sister via Skype
8. Celebrated my repaired internet connection

Eight things I wish I could do:
1. Speak Japanese fluently
2. See my family more often
3. Play golf
4. Calligraphy (well enough to get a certificate)
5. Make money by reading or blogging
6. See my Grampa again
7. Write a book
8. Cook on the fly (no recipe needed)

Eight shows I watch:
1. How I Met Your Mother
2. 30 Rock
3. The Office
4. Burn Notice
5. Psych
6. Monk
7. Top Chef (not since I left the U.S.)
8. American Idol (not since I left the U.S.)

Eight favorite fruits:
1. Strawberries
2. Apple
3. Bing cherries
4. Peaches
5. Pears
6. Blackberries
7. Pineapple
8. Watermelon

Eight places I'd like to travel:
1. Italy - esp. Florence
2. Egypt
3. Prague
4. Munich (Oktoberfest!)
5. Miami (I've been watching a LOT of Burn Notice)
6. New Orleans (jazz and cajun food!)
7. Hawaii
8. Somewhere in Africa where I can go on safari

Eight places I've lived:
1. Schenectady, NY
2. Niskayuna, NY
3. Menands, NY
4. Geneva, NY
5. Melbourne, Australia
6. Osaka, Japan
7. Seattle, WA
8. I suppose we could count my other apt. in Schenectady....

This may not be 8 but I'll tag:

Monday, June 1, 2009

What's sexy about that?

Mrs. Lemon Cake (one hot mama!), gave me the Sexy Blogger award.

I'm going to take a stab at 5 reasons why I'm a sexy blogger:

1. I shower, do my hair and apply a touch of make-up every day (okay the make-up may only happen every other day). This may not seem like a big deal, but for the first several weeks after I had Peanut, this was a major accomplishment.
2. I once owned a pair of thigh highs and I'm thinking about getting another.
3. I've been known to go all night long (reading or caring for my daughter that is).
4. I've read enough romance novels that I know quite a few fun words for the male and female sexual reproductive organs. Some of these words make me giggle. I find it humorous that we try to give these names to bodily functions and parts.
5. I'm a mom, but I'm more than that. I think it's sexy to be "all that and more"!