Wednesday, August 17, 2011

"After Care" Summary

Had a visit with my doctor and she's convinced that I'm actually suffering from migraines and not sinus headaches. She asked if there's a family history of migraines and I said no. After talking to my parents later in the day, I now know that I was mistaken. My father's mother apparently suffered from occasional migraines. Well. That was news to me and suddenly cast a very different light on my experience.

As for the impaired hearing, she thinks I may be dealing with a blockage in the inner ear which hopefully my prescription for Flonase will help to resolve. Nevertheless, she is recommending a hearing test in order to get more information.

So. Now we wait. We hope for no further migraines like the one I had in early July. And we hope that the Flonase clears the blockage and restores my hearing.

In the meantime, I'm happy to be feeling well physically otherwise. Did I mention I tried Zumba for the first time last week? And I've been going to yoga classes 2-3 times a week for the last few weeks. I'm determined to focus on myself and my health in an attempt to tamp down a rising anxiety about a life lived in two countries and two houses and packing and travel and making and keeping friends in two places and having no career in either place and feeling generally uncertain about how to make decisions and proceed with life from this place of confusion. But more on that later....

Sunday, August 7, 2011

We Interrupt Regular Programming...

to mention that the transition back to living in the USA has been the hardest this time. Gameboy and I spent several weeks coping with jet lag and then sinus issues. I had a sinus headache that rivaled anything I've ever experienced in terms of pain. I spent several days just before July 4th laying on the couch and vomitting every time I moved in part because the pain was so intense and in part because I was dizzy (that's the great part about sinus issues affecting your inner ear). I finally went to urgent care when I was dry heaving after 36 hours of vomitting etc. They gave me an IV drip for the dehydration and then some anti-nausea meds and some pain killers. It was an incredible relief. They sent me home with some anti-nausea and anti-dizziness meds for which I am grateful as once again I have a sinus headache that is nearly incapacitating.

One day I'll look back on this blog and wonder how I spent my summer and I'll know; that was the summer that it didn't feel like summer (our temperatures have just started to climb into the 70s despite a heat wave throughout the rest of the country) and I was so crippled with pain that I couldn't do a whole heck of lot. Unpacking has taken forever and the girls are left largely to entertain themselves indoors because walking even the 3 blocks to the park seems like a major effort.

I've scheduled an appointment with my physician and hope she has some answers.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Friends and Books

I had coffee with a friend a few days ago. I visited her without the kids. She lives a mere 3 blocks from our house. Being back in the USA I have had a chance to reconnect with some friends and it's been refreshing. It's nice not to have to journey for a minimum of an hour to visit with a friend (something that's pretty much a part of my life in Osaka). It's great to be able to stave off the loneliness that just seems to be a recent, perhaps growing part of my life in Japan despite my best efforts to work against it. I hope to come back and write more about this later, but for now this serves as a start.

Project Progeny recently photographed some of her bookshelves and I thought I'd snap a photo of my current bedside books as well. Clearly (per the photo) I've got friends and friendship on the brain in part because of posts by her and posts by Mel with regard to the topic, but also because I've been giving this a lot of thought in my life in the last year. Trying to figure out how to nurture friendships that only get the benefit of my physical presence 6 months out of the year isn't always easy.

My reading tastes are otherwise eclectic right now. I can't decide what to read; instead I keep sampling and reading bits and pieces of lots of different things. I'm working on Bad Monkeys, Cinderella Ate My Daughter, Blackout, The Friendship Crisis and NurtureShock simultaneously. Each is interesting in its own way. Blackout is a slower read with a lot of historical fiction detail to it, while Bad Monkeys reads quickly and easily and feels like a movie. What are you reading?

Monday, June 20, 2011

High Anxiety!*

Mel had a great idea for a post (for more on this see Prompt-ly!)- consider the thing you are most anxious about and then consider the thing you are most sure of right in this moment. I think this question is especially timely for me as I transition back to the USA from Japan. Not only do I find myself wondering about our decision to travel back and forth witLinkh such frequency, but I find myself wondering about how I could possibly have a career again (something I'd like to try to do) while bouncing back and forth.

The one thing that I am most sure of in the midst of all this, is that returning to Seattle right now is the best, most *right* thing we could possibly do. This is really a personal opinion although I do suspect that it's a very beneficial thing for the girls as well. (In fact my oldest told me that while she's sad to be leaving her friends in Japan, she was really looking forward to seeing her Seattle friends. And since our return she has told us several times that she's happy.) I just can't imagine staying in Japan full-time. I know that my husband would be happy if I'd consider this as a possibility, but he isn't pushing for it by any means. Still, he is pushing for a continuance of the 6 months here and 6 months there lifestyle. As I looked around our house at all the things that need to be moved around to make way for us again (we stored a bunch of things while renters were here), it nearly overwhelmed me yesterday. "I have to move that stuff again?" We've moved some of this stuff around 6 times in the last 3 years (once before going and once upon our return for the last 3 trips). It's starting to feel like we're on a hamster wheel and just can't off. But I know for sure that being here right now will fulfill my soul. It will recharge me in a way that living in Japan just can't. I get to reconnect with friends who speak English. I get to bake in my own kitchen. I get to sleep in my own bed. It's heavenly and we've only been here for a few days.

*I keep hearing the lyrics for this song in my head. Mel Brooks, Cloris Leachman, Madeline Kahn, Harvey Korman - this was good stuff!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

"It's Been....Like Forever!"

She said in a high squealing '80s Valley Girl voice. I really don't have much time for a serious post at the moment. I should be packing or sleeping or both. Wouldn't it be great if we could do both simultaneously?! Because I'm headed back to the U! S! A! tomorrow. Land of cupcakes! And bad reality tv shows aired in the English language! And lots and lots of radio stations also in English!

I just received a notice from my public library today via email. They have removed all the suspensions (per my request) and will activate all my hold requests for books in ENGLISH! I could have them delivered to my local branch in just days. I am so freakin' excited it is ridiculous. I have requested books for me. Books for Peanut (almost 3 1/2 and a full on book devourer). Books for our family. Books *about* books (my husband thinks this is hysterical). I am giddy with anticipation.

I have some thoughts about why updating this blog has been tricky as of late (and in general). I'm hoping that joining Prompt-ly the writing group of sorts will help me sort things out a bit.

In the meantime, know that I am currently thousands of miles overhead winging my way back to the Pacific Northwest with a song in my heart, smile on my face, and the promise of summer in my back pocket!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Hostess with the Most-ess?

A friend came with her husband and son for a visit at the house yesterday. It was nice to have friends of my own here at our home here in Japan, but hard too. It doesn’t feel like “my” space despite my husband's assertions that I should think of it as such. It feels like I have to displace his parents and that feels very uncomfortable. And it was weird when my father-in-law showed up at the house briefly, basically ignored my friends, sort of grunted at my husband (this is typical - he's a man of few words and a grumpy disposition outwardly), then excused himself and my husband, they talked for a couple of minutes and then my father-in-law left the house as quickly as he arrived. My friend wanted to introduce herself and observe the usual niceties (typical in both American and perhaps even more so in Japanese culture), but I had no idea what to say or do given my father-in-law's usual demeanor, and the whole thing felt incredibly awkward to me.

I miss having my own house and space. My mother-in-law had very kindly purchased a few things at the store that we could serve at lunch. I hate feeling conflicted but honestly, on the one hand I was frustrated because I felt as though she was trying to do my job as hostess, but on the other hand, I appreciate that she truly wants to help. I think she understands that my hesitancy to use "her" kitchen makes living here (and hosting friends) a significant challenge for me. And that sense of an obstacle in my way makes me lonely. We host a lot of friends at our house in Seattle and when we're here in Japan, it's generally just family and one close friend of my husband's.

I miss being closer to friends so that it’s not always such a production to have a visit. I miss having my own kitchen to cook in. I hate that I feel as though I'm whining about this all the time and I just don't have a good solution for any of it.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Split Personality

Sometimes I feel like that's how I have to live - with two different personalities. In order to essentially live in two places at once, I must only be half-involved in each place. The other day was Peanut's nyuenshiki or "entry ceremony" for her preschool here in Japan. I love that she gets to create this memory for herself - something so quintessentially Japanese. But as I sat through the PTA meeting following the ceremony, I became sad. As I watched the other mothers preparing for a new school year filled with playdates, field trips and the like, I was a little relieved that I wouldn't be pressured to be in charge of some distasteful task for the PTA, but I was sad that I won't have the chance to be really involved either. It's not so much that I want to be in charge of all things PTA, it's more that this signifies an opportunity to get to know people in a more lasting and meaningful way. And given our current lifestyle, I have to repeatedly suspend friendships and relationships with people while we travel to the other side of the globe.

Yay for world travel and bringing up our kids multiculturally and bilingually! Don't get me wrong, I'm thrilled to be this fortunate. But I keep wondering, "How do you know when you've sacrificed too much?" I think this is a particularly thorny issue when kids are involved. I want to offer my girls the world (literally) at times, but I don't want to sublimate my own needs to the point that I end up regretting my/our decision years later.

I'm happy to think that we head back to Seattle in just a couple of months where I can renew some friendships, but we're already thinking about preschool for Peanut and that means contemplating how long she could reasonably be enrolled before we leave again. And this raises all these questions again, and again and again. How long can we keep this up? Can we really be this nomadic and still satisfy the needs of the girls? And what about my needs? Gboy is very adaptable and doesn't really mind either way. Having lived half his life in Japan and half his life in the U.S. I think he feels we've pretty much achieved the perfect balance by living in both places half-time. I wish I could feel the same, but it's not that easy for me. I need people. I need friendships. I need community. I need to be involved in my community.

I'm just not sure how to unify the two halves of my personality and existence in two places.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Promise of Spring

We're back in Osaka after an incredibly relaxing and restful vacation in Hawaii. The circumstances under which we left were not ideal, but I'm very glad that we went. Having some physical and psychological distance from all the trauma and disaster here has been beneficial. While Gboy continued to read all the news from Japan religiously while we were on vacation, I read almost no news about Japan's many disasters. It's nice not to feel an almost strangling sense of fear and anxiety. It was truly the break that I needed to gain some perspective. I confess I felt guilty about being there and enjoying life immensely, but it was also one of the best birthdays I can remember celebrating.

Now that we're back, and the cherry blossoms as always, are blossoming at this time of year, it feels like spring is truly on its way. And it's almost harder, in light of the promise of spring and all the rebirth that comes with it, to imagine that part of this country continues to languish without sufficient supplies, housing and even electricity. That feels like such a different experience from what we have here in Osaka. Here there are no shortages. Here the weather is lovely. Here, there is no sign of radiation. It's almost incomprehensible.

And as I watch Sweet Pea starting to really cruise and use a push toy to walk all over the house, I see that life goes on and moments of innocence still abound.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Change of Scenery

I'm not even sure how to describe the last week. First we heard about the earthquake. An 8.9?! Then the tsunami. Then the news about the damaged nuclear reactors began to reach us. Little by little a bad situation became worse and then it got about as bad as it could get. Nuclear meltdown? Here? Really?

Okay -not here. We're down near Osaka which is still very far away from Tokyo and even farther away from the Fukushima power plant. The likelihood of our experiencing any nuclear radiation here is pretty slim. But. It's there and in light of the incredibly vague information provided by the power company and government in the early days of this crisis, combined with the sensationalized media in the U.S., my family and friend and I were worried. Gboy is admitting now that he was worried, but for the past week and half has been "stoically" Japanese reassuring me that nothing bad would happen and that we could safely stay.

Still, by Thursday night I'd had enough of sitting around waiting for Fukushima Dai-ichi to get a handle on the situation with the reactors - no power to them, no way to cool them successfully - after nearly a week it felt ridiculous to sit around and hope that things would suddenly resolve. Furthermore, by that point, the U.S. State Department had officially stated that their position would be to "encourage Americans to consider leaving Japan" - not Tokyo, but JAPAN.

Gboy finally agreed that perhaps a vacation somewhere else might not be a bad idea at least for a couple of weeks. It's spring break for Peanut now. "Why not go to Hawaii?" he said. We've talked about it for years. Even came close to going once upon a time almost 5 years ago (ahem - that would have been our honeymoon). But for a variety of reasons we never made it there. I'm trying to envision this as the honeymoon we never had, albeit with a preschooler and infant in tow this time. And naturally the price isn't what we would have liked. Going last minute is never ideal. But I figure you can't put a price on your health - not really. We'll be free from the threat of radiation from Dai-ichi for a couple of weeks and already my family is breathing easier.

In an interesting contrast, my mother-in-law is embarrassed to tell anyone that we're leaving. It's bad form to flee this crisis apparently. Also, the American government (and me by extension I suppose) is over-reacting by Japanese standards.

But I can't stay here right now. *I* need some room to breathe. All of this "suck it up" and "gaman" (perseverance basically) is wonderful on the one hand. On the other, it's downright silly if you ask me. Why more people aren't asking questions "Why did it take so long for the nuclear plant to hook up the electricity to the cooling pumps last week?" "Why is the government unable to provide food, blankets and aid to survivors of the quake/tsunami?" These kinds of questions seem like no-brainers to me. But I know that questioning authority is not how the Japanese do things. My husband describes his experience of school here and how frustrated he was when he didn't understand a concept. He'd ask the teacher the questions that would gain him understanding while every other student in the class sat there mutely; many of them would thank him after the fact because his questioning had enabled them to learn as well. *sigh* I'm not saying that the American way of schooling and questioning authority is better. It's just different and in these kinds of situations it seems that some questions need to be asked.

Anyway, I'm hoping that getting a little distance while give us the fresh start that we need. Right now our plan is to return here in early April, in time for Peanut to start yochien again. I'm really looking forward to a fresh start.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Between a Rock and a Hard Place? Or the Best of Both Worlds?

Living in two places offers the best of both worlds, but I've said it before - it also makes me wish to be in exactly the place that I am NOT. As news broke yesterday about the huge earthquake and tsunamis in Japan, I kept wishing that we weren't here right now. I was wishing that we were in Seattle. Of course Seattle has had it's own share of quakes. But the grass is always greener elsewhere.

Lately this has been the metaphor for my life. I love my kids. I do. But I can't stop thinking about the time before they were in my life. The time before we spent 14 months trying to get pregnant. The time when I could go out and do errands without having to take a diaper bag along. The time when I could have a glass of wine and watch a movie before falling asleep at night rather than passing out each evening as soon as both kids are finally asleep (at least for the 1st time of the night - nevermind the multiple wake-ups all night long).

And yet. I don't want to trade any of my experiences. I don't truly want to go back to a time before the girls. How sad that would be. As the littlest one peeks out at me and plays peek-a-boo right this moment I can't imagine a sweeter smile.

Not living in Japan for at least some of the time, would mean a totally different lifestyle for us as well. I am amazed at how quickly Peanut has fallen into using Japanese again - with flair. Just a few weeks in preschool here and she has gained a confidence and fluency both with the language and socially as well. Feeling more comfortable with the language and her new friends at the school, she is starting to shine.

Do I hope and pray that we won't have more earthquakes here right now? Of course. But I can't really imagine not being here either.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Sleeping? Eating? Does it Matter?

I'm just saying...if you need a word - make it up!

My children have both been nurpers. I've spent 3+ years using a lengthy paragraph to describe the process and trying to define whether or not the baby was sleeping and/or eating. Here's the perfect word to fit the bill.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Friends of Gold

A very dear friend of mine was just here for a 10 day visit. I am incredibly lucky. I am fortunate to have a friend whom I have known since childhood (any by childhood I mean birth since our parents lived on the same block). 36 years is a long friendship - more than many people ever have the pleasure of experiencing.

Some things I discovered while she was here:
  • We truly do have the kind of friendship that allows us to pick up as though no time has passed despite the fact that in the past 18 years we have rarely spent more than 2 hours together at any one time and often we were only able to manage that every couple of years.
  • She and I have very similar values despite the fact that our lifestyles are vastly different.
  • I learned about how to make maple syrup. (She helps tap trees for the sap and has actually boiled it all down into the tasty syrup final product. How cool is that?)
  • Having a friend who isn't a mom is incredibly refreshing. I love having mom friends. I *need* to have mom friends with whom I can share a lot of the challenges and joys of parenting, but I also need someone outside of all that. I need someone else in my life who has the free time to pursue other interests. Someone who can tell me all about the intricacies of jump roping as a sport for example!
  • It was fascinating to do some reminiscing . It's pretty amazing how much of what I remember doesn't entirely correspond to what she remembers about our time in high school. It's also a little scary when I think of all the things that I've already forgotten. She remembers her project for our government class. I remember a few projects from that class but haven't the slightest idea what it is that I worked on; I have the sense that it was incredibly boring. How sad!
  • I loved reconnecting with her on a totally new level and in a different context too. We both love to read and while we have some different interests, we do have overlapping interests as well. But our reading tastes vary enough that we find we can recommend interesting and new books to one another. Awesome! Also, she spent some time in Central America a few years ago. She primarily lived in Costa Rica but she traveled quite a bit to neighboring countries while she was trying to learn Spanish. It was fascinating to finally have the time to talk to her about her experience there. Especially in light of my time living in Japan now. Of all my friends from high school, she is the one best able to understand what it's like for me to live overseas and in another culture.
I truly loved having her visit and was unbelievably sad when she left. She had made it very clear that she was here to reconnect with me and to spend time with my family, not because she had any particular desire to visit Japan. I'm very lucky that she went out of her way to visit me. And I'm trying to appreciate her visit for the uniqueness of having her here, but I can't separate the fact that I'm generally lonely too. Her stay here just reinforced for me how important it is that I find more ways to connect with other women here - whether they are yochien moms or expatriate friends of mine.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Oh Peko-chan!

How happy you have made me little Peko-chan! I'd never had these tasty cakes before. I was reminded of Twinkies. The cake is soft like a twinkie, but the custard is way tastier in my opinion. Think vanilla cream or pudding. I was in heaven. *sigh*

I love to make discoveries that make me feel as though living in Japan isn't always about giving things up. Yes, there are trade-offs. I can't find a cupcake here to save my life. But now I know that there is Peko-chan! Maybe that's not such a bad trade.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Out of Sight...

Lone-ly: unhappy as a result of being without the companionship of others.

I woke up two nights ago and had what I can only describe as a mild panic attack as I thought about all the preparations for Peanut's yochien (preschool). Her school has a uniform, multiple bags and sacks and packages for everything from crayons to tissues to notes from the teacher. I did my best to look through the guide from the school, but reading Japanese is still incredibly difficult for me and it could take me hours to translate the whole thing. As a result, I felt about 1/4 prepared for all the things we'd need to know and do. (Check for lice every morning and make a note for the teacher, fill up her water bottle, ensure that tissues are in the skirt pocket, etc.) The more I thought about all of this, the more overwhelmed I became.

Initially this preschool/yochien idea sounded ideal! She'd go off to school from 9:00 until 2:30 every day. Perfect! For a child who loves activities and needs a great deal of stimulation and interaction from other adults and kids, this seemed like a great solution. I didn't understand at the time we were first considering it, that this is more like a co-op preschool which relies heavily on the work and participation of the stay-at-home mothers who take their kids to this school (Japan is lagging behind in the women's liberation front and the glass ceiling sounds more like steel to me - the end result being a LOT of college educated women staying at home with the kids rather than working because there's nowhere for them TO work).

Anyway the more I lay there in the dark thinking about how much time and work would go into this effort the more frustrated I became. How would I ever get to see my friends in Japan? And if I don't get to see them more than once every couple of weeks, how will we build on our friendships. And this is important because once I'm out of sight, I'm out of mind.

It's pretty common for ex-patriates to experience this phenomenon I gather. Once you leave a place, the friends that you leave behind get on with their lives (and their other friendships) and don't remember to e-mail you or write you regularly. This leaves you out of the loop. For me, since I'm in Japan for part of the year, and the U.S. for part of the year, I'm always out of the loop somewhere. I think it's starting to get to me. I was suddenly not just overwhelmed by the thought of my child starting preschool, but with the thought that I don't have any friends to commiserate with and those that I do have seem to be out of touch. Most of my U.S. friends have been out of touch since we left over a month ago. True, I'll be back in just 4 1/2 more months, and maybe that's what they're waiting for - my return. But in the meantime, it can be incredibly lonely.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

On Again, Off Again

One of the challenges of living in two places and two cultures is that just when I think I've got a handle on things, I realize that I don't.

For Peanut's birthday this year, (her 3rd!) I was determined to bake a birthday cake. This is fairly uncommon in Japan from what I see, and I felt strongly that since this is the 3rd time we've celebrated her birthday here, she deserved better than a store or bakery cake. Not that there's anything inherently wrong with that, but she won't get a party with all her friends, birthday crowns, etc. like many of her American friends are used to getting. Birthdays here in Japan seem to be pretty low-key (at least in my husband's family) and that's not what I want for Peanut. When I was a child, my parents didn't do anything extravagant for my birthday, but I was the special one on my birthday. My mom baked me a cake, and I'd often get to choose what we ate for dinner. It was little things, but things that let me know I was super important that day.

Anyway, I set out to find all the right ingredients and baking supplies including cake pans, sprinkles for decorating and even a "3" candle. I was surprised to find everything I needed, thanks to a friend who pointed me in the driection of a fabulous baking supply store. I came home and started to bake the cake. Not only did it look weird and puffy while baking, but when I tasted a sample, it just Metallic or bitter might be the words to describe the aftertaste. I had carefully measured and calculated everything because I've made mistakes before when converting measurements from English to metric units.

And yet.

When I asked Gboy to taste the cake he said he could taste a hint of something but didn't know that he'd complain about it. Still. I was hesitant about whether or not to serve this to his family. We went to the kitchen and double checked thee ingredients. Yup. I had used baking soda instead of baking powder. After all this time, I still couldn't remember that "tansan" is baking soda - NOT powder.

I was incredibly disappointed. I wanted it to work out for a change. I wanted to be successful at this. In the end, the cake was frosted and sprinkled and Peanut licked the frosting and sprinkles off not giving one whit about the cake anyway. And we did buy a back-up cake just before others arrived. Everyone was happy!

And lest this be a total downer of a story, I should mention that the piñata we set out to make was a huge success with Peanut and her cousins and the adults got a real kick out of watching the kids try to smash it. All's well that end's well!

Monday, January 17, 2011

There's Bento in Our Future!

One of the things that Peanut will need to take with her to yochien/preschool starting in March, is a lunch - specifically a bento. I know what bento is in theory. And I've even seen a lot of neat ideas for multicultural and fusion style bentos, but I'm certainly no expert on strictly Japanese bento making. But this seems to be pretty important to people (i.e. the school director, and our sister-in-law who sends her children to the school and in her opinion the other children at the school). Now I'm not sure how to address this.

I'm all for learning how to make Japanese style foods and making a bento for Peanut each day, particularly since I know that my husband, an excellent cook, will help me. But I'm concerned about how that will happen since my mother-in-law is in the kitchen all morning (most mornings) making a big farm-style Japanese breakfast with miso soup, broiled fish, assorted vegetables, tsukemono, and the like and if she's done with cooking breakfast she's often starting on lunch or dinner preparations. With only one modest kitchen, I don't foresee an easy way for me to get into the kitchen as I often have to dance around her just to make myself a cup of coffee in the morning. However, I don't want her to feel that she should (because she's most experienced) or must (because I'm unwilling) make Peanut's lunch every day. And yet, I suspect it may go that way if we don't figure something out in the next month or so.

At least I've got some lead time to start practicing making these fabulous and elaborate lunches! Honestly I'm sort of excited about the possibilities, especially if I get to mix it up and toss in some Western style (or at least non-Japanese) foods now and then. One of the things that I don't want to force on Peanut is a mostly Japanese diet. I know that's something that a lot of people around us feel comfortable with, but it's not something that I'm comfortable with doing. We don't expect her to eat a mostly American or Western diet when we're in the U.S. - she's used to eating foods from all over (Indian, Greek, Mexican, Italian, Thai, Japanese, and on and on). If I can sneak in the occasional samosa or couscous or macaroni and cheese I'll be happy!

Sunday, January 16, 2011


I had a near meltdown the other day. I thought I'd lost my wedding ring and then I couldn't find a gift for Peanut's birthday. Neither instance in and of itself would normally cause me to lose it so easily. But mash it together with re-entry culture shock? Yup.

Just that morning I'd gone to look for my ring and couldn't find it where I would "usually" keep it here in the bedroom we stay in at my in-law's place. But I couldn't find it. Which would not surprise you if you could have seen the stuff all over the place. Piles of my stuff -the girls' stuff - my MIL's stuff - my SIL's stuff. Because all of us have to use this space throughout the year and it collects everybody's stuff until there's no clear space for my stuff or the girls' and I just end up snagging a spot on a shelf if I can. Until 2 days ago, most of our stuff was all over the floor or on tabletops in the room where I could at least see it and knew where it was even if it wasn't what anyone would reasonably call "organized". (We have since then seriously reorganized and cleaned up and started to box up really old stuff from grandma and great-grandma to make some space.)

Anyway, on this day last week, we left for the store in search of a birthday present for Peanut and I was struggling to cope with the possibility that I'd lost the ring for good. We got to the store and headed for the toy department. And found nothing. Oh there were aisles and aisles of branded, flashy stuff for older kids especially. But I was hoping for something that didn't have Disney or Hello Kitty or other countless Japanese brands/characters all over it. I was hoping for something age appropriate for a 3 year old. There may have been a few items in the store that met this criteria, but as my Japanese is fairly limited (particularly when reading it) I was totally unsure. I became more and more discouraged about finding anything I wanted and finally gave up.

At this point, the re-entry crash and burn occurred. I'd reached that seemingly inevitable moment when my frustration with my own limited language abilities collided with the limitations of the living situation in which we reside etc. and suddenly I was nearly weeping in the middle of a large train station as the culture shock rocked me. I always know it's coming at some point, but never know exactly when or how it will manifest.

Ugh. In the end I came home and dug around under piles of stuff and finally found the ring. What a relief. And the gift itself isn't that important. Peanut will survive without. It's the process and the accompanying frustration ("Why can't they just describe everything in English?! Ohhhhhh. Because we're in Japan. Duh.") that really messes with my head.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

BlogHer 2011?

Wow would I like to go. So many fascinating people to meet. A chance to have a mini-getaway which I haven't had since the girls were born. And the location is on the West Coast meaning it wouldn't even be that far for me to travel. And Sweet Pea will be over a year old by that time. What to do? Certainly the cost is something that we could just barely manage making it a definite luxury. And it's not as though I'm the most prolific blogger these days. But maybe that's why I need to go? Am I rationalizing? I think I could actually benefit from the inspiration of others attending.

What to do oh wise internets??

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Urban vs. Rural Living

Watching Peanut play in the dirt at the farm today, I was reminded of how much she enjoys playing in sandboxes, dirt piles and the like. The main difference is that here on the farm, she's able to use real potatoes when she plays at gardening. We don't really have a lot of space, or the time frankly, to garden at our home in Seattle. This makes being here in Osaka and extra special treat. The girls get exposed to an entirely different way of life.

I confess, when I'm here, I miss the easy access to coffee shops and parks and playgroups that we enjoy at our home in Seattle. But we absolutely have the advantage of being closer to some aspects of "nature". The ironic part is that where we're located here in Osaka used to be truly rural, but at this time, development continues to encroach more and more as industrial businesses move into the neighborhood without, as far as I can tell, any real "urban planning" or design. As a result, the kids in the neighborhood now play in empty parking lots where fields used to be. I think it's a sad thing.

When we were here last spring, some of Gboy's friends' kids came over one afternoon to pick some carrots and daikon. They were incredibly excited to see where the vegetables came from and to actively participate in gathering their own food for dinner. This is just one more reason why I hate to say, "Let's just sell off the land and the farm and live in the U.S. 100% if the time as we had planned once upon a time." It seems more and more vital to keep this slice of life intact, not just for our family, but for the community at large. I'm not sure what the future will bring or if I'll ever really be able to adapt to living this more rural lifestyle even part-time, but for now I keep wishing that we'll be able to find a way to make it work.

Friday, January 7, 2011

They Paved The Cherry Blossoms

While you can't really see it in this photo, after you cross the street at the end of this path, there used to be a section of the road straight ahead lined with cherry blossoms on either side. They're in full bloom in this photo and mostly a blur of pink in the distance. I walked home this way today and was amazed yet again at how barren the area looks now that all those trees have been removed to make way for some sidewalks. Because I'm a pedestrian and public transportation rider, this works in my favor. But the cherry blossoms sure were prettier.

Even worse, the field that used to take up half the block on one side has now been turned into an industrial building (very common in this neighborhood) and a big parking lot adjoining the building. I'm not even sure what or who the parking lot is intended for since it was empty today - the first time I've seen it.

*sigh* Change can be hard to witness.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Language in a Transition

The transition from living in the U.S. to living in Japan (and vice versa) never ceases to amaze me. Once again we're back in Japan and things are different once again. I think living with a toddler (okay Peanut is really a preschooler now!) only highlights differences that I wouldn't otherwise see. Because she is constantly evolving and growing as a person, each transition thus far has been a unique one. Upon arriving here in Japan just last week, we once again reminded my in-laws that they could speak Japanese and Peanut would have no trouble understanding them. It may take a little while for her to feel comfortable enough to reply to them in Japanese as English is currently her dominant language (no surprise since we've spent the last 9 months living in the U.S.). But Gboy has continued to speak to her in Japanese and comprehension isn't an issue for her. Still, my MIL and FIL attempt to address her in English (neither of them is particularly comfortable with English) and to admonish her to speak in Japanese. Luckily this isn't an issue with either of my sisters-in-law or brothers-in-law; they simply address her in Japanese.

One of the frustrations I have is that my FIL in particular can't seem to understand that Peanut understands Japanese. He had friends over yesterday and when they asked if Peanut understands Japanese he said, "a little". "No. Not just a little," I wanted to say. She understands as much Japanese as she understands English. But he seems to think that since she speaks mostly English that's all she can understand. I sort of see why he would think this, but we do live with her every day and have a pretty good sense of her abilities. If we say she understands Japanese, then she does!!

But ultimately what this post is about is how difficult it is to be a parent and to stand by and watch your child struggle to master something. Peanut is learning to master two languages and in a sense, two cultures. Each community and culture has a set of social protocols that she has to adapt to in addition to becoming proficient in each language. On the first day we were back, a friend of Gboy's came over to the house with his daughter who is just a year or two older than Peanut. They've played together in the past, and Gboy seemed to think they'd fall immediately back into a rhythm. But the older girl now has a 1 year old sister to tote around and play with and the language barrier was clearly an issue. Peanut stood to one side and looked on with some trepidation and I could tell that she was frustrated because the girls couldn't understand her non-stop English dialogue. Also, while playing with her cousins, she gets frustrated when she asks them to share with her or explains to them that she'd like for them to wait for their turn rather than take her toys from her, but since she's speaking in English they don't understand. And I know that allowing Peanut to be frustrated, to a point, can be a good learning opportunity particularly when we explained the situation to her (i.e. "your friends don't understand English"). In time, it will come. Peanut will figure out how to use her Japanese with more folks here. In fact, just a few days after this incident she was playing with a group of girls of a similar age and language didn't really seem to be an issue at all.

However, in the meantime, watching Peanut struggle to communicate with my MIL and FIL and to communicate with her friends is a new parental milestone for me. I didn't grow up as a multilingual speaker and don't really have first-hand experience with what this all feels like from a child's perspective. I just have to trust that it all makes sense to her (or will in time) and that the benefits far outweigh the costs.