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.