Monday, December 17

Mr. Baby

This post is mainly just to show you how cute Luca is. Shameless bragging, I know.
Oh, and to show my mom that Luca fits into the 18 month old outfit she sent.
But mainly just to brag. Because just look how cute this guy is.

Tuesday, December 11

Making a wish

sakura tenjin jinga
Yesterday we went to Sakura Tenjin Jinga, a little shrine in central Nagoya that has a very special feature. Wedged between high rises, this tiny jinga houses not only kamisama but a wishing cow.

Most jingas have some specific purpose like wishing for romance or academic success. This one lets you choose anything you want but you have to pour water over the cow as many times as your age.

We have something to wish for right now so we headed there yesterday in the wet snow. There was something really beautiful about pouring a ladle of water for each of my years. I hope it did the trick.

It was super cold so afterward we headed to a sweet little soba restaurant to warm up.
soba w/ dad

And some of us slept through the entire journey.
snug as a bug in an ergo

Saturday, December 8

Mistakes are really discoveries

mistakes are really discoveries

Nico's really into making things with paper. Origami, paper cuts, boxes, birds, you name it and it will be in paper form in a matter of minutes. (As I type this Jason is trying to convince Nico to delay the tape-box he's making for me until after dinner. It's like water off a stone with our determined boy.)

A few weeks ago, I taught Nico how to make snowflakes. A thousand snowflakes later and I am prepared to declare him an addict. Now and then though, he makes a mistake. I say mistake only because that is how he perceives them. I am not sure if his idea of perfection is rooted in nature or nurture but I do know that I want him to relinquish the negativity he associates with mistakes and see them for what they really are: learning opportunities. Thomas Edison said regarding his failed lightbulbs "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work".

Mistakes can also be a source of discovery, as Nico found out today. 

mistakes are really discoveries
A broken snowflake is really just a pair of wings.
mistakes are really discoveries

And once one person has a pair of wings...

mistakes are really discoveries

Colette was happy to be a choucho (butterfly) and immediately jumped off the couch with great hopes. Landing with a thud, she said あれ (Japanese for 'huh?'). I love that she believed she could fly.
mistakes are really discoveries

I also love that when Sebastian return from playing with friends, Nico asked him if he wanted a pair of wings too. 

 I love that Sebastian said of course.

Friday, December 7

Rock, scissors...

gu choki pa
(Gu Choki Pa candy- ramune flavor)

In the next few weeks, we will be able to announce which direction our little family is headed in the river of life. Until then, I can say that I will be resurrecting the Etsy shop or an Etsy shop soon. It will be a collaboration of Jason's and the kids' designs and my hands. I was going to do it before but got swept (rightfully) into the busyness of the kids' flow and my writing. At one point I was really anxious about it all but now, I think I might have struck a decent balance that takes care of everyone. The trick, it turns out, is setting flexible distant deadlines. And being kind and forgiving to yourself. Realizing there are only 24 hours in a day and working within that framework is a lot easier than trying to push the boundaries of time to suit your needs. It is one of those lessons you must learn for yourself. Staying home with the kids means I have a new rhythm in my day, freedom from set schedules but there are certain points which must be met to make family life smoother. Mealtimes. Clean laundry. Story time. Park time. Turns out kids like consistency and food. Luckily they are not so concerned with the finer details of housework and would rather see me making something than dusting. I haven't quite gotten them to appreciate the time I spend at my desk muttering do myself and hunched over my keyboard but that is what the post-bedtime hours are for.
So be on your guard. Gu Choki Pa is back.

Thursday, December 6

Home Study Days

november so far...

One of the challenges of raising bilingual kids is helping them to learn in both languages. For the most part we are more concerned with their childhood experience, encouraging exploration and acts of empathy/sympathy. We try to let them have as much free time as possible in the afternoons so they can play with friends or each other. For the most part, they determine how their time is spent, an element that is crucial as they step closer day by day toward adulthood.


I do want them to be scholastically well-equipped to support their journey through this world. So this year while I have been on maternity leave, we have started doing home study days. We sit down twice a week and do some formalized lessons, either with paper worksheets or more tactile materials. As you may remember, I try to incorporate Montessori methods in our home whenever possible. Colette is using the sandpaper letters and metal insets in preparation for writing. She is super alert to finding her "w's" as she refers to the alphabet whenever we are out and about. During the day I do more practical Montessori activities with her like pouring rice and dressing frames to learn how to use buttons and laces.


Nicolai is into Bob books, the movable alphabet, and math. Yep, math. He walks around counting by threes and fours and loves the hundreds board app on the iPad. The boy sits down and writes out addition problems, filling out the entire page with sums.

For Sebastian, I just try to supplement his school work to help him in what his teacher considers to be his weaker areas. I personally abide by the theories of multiple intelligences and various learning styles. I do not think Sebastian's weaker areas are truly weak but since the school wants well-rounded students, I try to help him to feel more confident in areas that he is not so interested in. I also work with him on his English reading which was really slow going until recently when we switched from phonics to sight words. And he is such a rabid reader in Japanese that I do not worry about his abilities.

We are still smoothing out some of the kinks of home study time (and by kinks I mean resolving disputes sparked by having three very determined and different learners at one table) but that is all part of the journey.

Monday, December 3

A Little Snippet

Here's us unfiltered. Full on us. For seven minutes. Enjoy! (The sound comes back around minute four.)

Saturday, December 1

Saturday Lunch Special

Saturday Lunch Special

Saturdays are a work day for Jason so it is just me and the four kids. Saturday is also a big chore day around here so there is not a lot of time for a proper lunch. I have come to rely on Sebastian to run down to the neighborhood shop with a list in hand. It builds his knowledge of shopping and related math while giving him a special responsibility that he can be proud of. Then we get to gather around the table, all five of us, and have a simple lunch.

Saturday Lunch Special
Saturday Lunch Special
Saturday Lunch Special

And this guy is a happy participant in these meals. After all you don't get to be 24 pounds at 7 months just by smiling.

Saturday Lunch Special

Friday, November 23

A different thanksgiving of sorts

On November 22nd, 2006, Nicolai Augustus came into our world to fill it with joy and sunshine...

Three years and one day later, we were lucky enough to welcome the ever lovely (and silly) Colette Aki into our lives...

Happy birthday, my darling autumn ones. Here's to another year of knowing such amazing people. I am always grateful for you both.

Tuesday, November 20

Disappearing Act

meijo koen

I find I have neglected this corner for too long. Sorry about that. Right now life offline is just so incredibly full and demanding that it is hard to find pockets of time that allow for the reflections that I share here. I thought that maternity leave would be full of such pockets but I was mistaken. Maternity leave is full of lots of things but time is not one of them. So I have to make the most of my minutes and this blog has taken a hit as a result. This week we have a school art festival, a school bazaar, two birthdays, Thanksgiving, and some Christmas tree decorating. Plus I have a giant six month old who is, no joke, trying to figure out how to walk. He keeps us on our toes.

luca haru

Hope you are enjoying your autumn or spring online and off. Take care.

Monday, September 17

My Lovely Nippon

So, I realize my last post was a little bleak and despairing. That nuclear contamination sign is not exactly eye candy. The truth is that the facts are bleak and despairing. There is rampant corruption, media censorship, and terrible consequences of Fukushima Daichi's meltdown arising daily. (And yes, it was a meltdown and terribly enough it will be worse before it gets better.) at Nico's preschool
I have a hard time living in negativity. I have been naive in my assessment of how the government and TEPCO would handle their responsibilities. This doesn't mean I am in any way forsaking Japan. No, not my lovely Japan. IMG_0539
There are a lot of terrible truths that the country must deal with but one truth that will pull us through is the Japan of Japan. The soul of the country will survive this awful catastrophe. Of that I am certain. kindergarten tanabata matsuri
It may be that we have to leave Honshu or return to the States for a bit. This bothers me but I want to respond to my fears with something more positive. Something that showcases my unwavering affection for these islands. So I started a new photography blog on Tumblr called My Lovely Nippon. It is an ever-increasing collection of images old and new that I believe capture a bit of that je ne sais quoi that keeps Japan in my heart. As the new reality unfolds, Japan will seem tainted but the true beauty cannot be contaminated.
運動会:Sports Day


Wednesday, September 5

Considering Contamination

For a year and a half, we have had unreal threats intruding upon our reality. Unreal in how they feel, how they currently affect our daily lives. It is hard to feel threatened by something you cannot see or feel. Yet I would say that we are in crisis mode here. We never stopped having a nuclear disaster, the media just stopped talking about it.
There are some really scary things going on here. Mutated butterflies, thyroid abnormalities in children, trace amounts of contamination showing up in our food supply. If you read this blog, you might lose more sleep at night. You should see the dark circles under my eyes.


I have been particularly frustrated by the idiotic way the government and TEPCO have handled this mess, trying to clean it up with filthy hands. The people have finally begun to vent their anger with dedicated weekly protests in every major city and town (six o'clock on Friday evenings, like clockwork-this is Japan after all). They work under the banner called the Ajisai Revolution which is just so telling of what is going on here. The ajisai (hydrangea) is supposed to bring hope during the rainy season and this movement is emulating the flower in its duration and subtly.

As proud as I am of the people and as much as I love ajisai, I think we need a more radical bloom. Or maybe just leave out blossoms all together and have a radical revolution. The government is not looking out for the people. They are protecting profits, a popular political motive found around the globe. Money equals speech, corporations are people and all that bullshit. Where is the free market here in Japan?
People don't want to eat contaminated food and avoid it but then get either bullied into it or blinded to its existence. In a land where the government infamously over-subsidizes farmers, why could we not just pay the farmers to destroy their crops until the land is usable again? Why are school districts on the other side of the nation finding cesium in their vegetables? Just because something is under the limit does not make it safe.

fresh market outside of osu cannon

I worry that more is going on than they are telling us. I worry they are taking the typical shoganai approach to handling this while also dealing with corrupt people to sweep this under the rug.

Everywhere on the planet there are threats to our food supply from corn syrup to GMO foods but I think cesium and cobalt have greater immediate consequences. I support farmers in general but I think this is getting out of hand. We are dealing with substances we have no business dealing with. The government is gambling with our lives, our future in a game that has no winners. 

This goes beyond businesses and borders.
This is not something to be brushed off with the standard "It's not the Japanese way".
This is beyond cultural. It is far beyond criminal.

oasis farmers' market nagoya

We have taken steps to avoid contaminated food. All of our food is now obtained from the local organic farmers' market except for certain things that we make sure come from Kyushu or are imported. We are strict vegans at home now though the kids are still eating school lunches. We are keeping our eyes open and trying to stay objective. It is easy to become paranoid when the stakes are so high.

We live here by choice. We chose Japan because we believe it offers our children a great deal of benefits such as a bilingual and bicultural upbringing and living in a society that revolves around family. Though we are always going to be foreigners, we have been readily accepted into every community we have live in and have always been astounded by how kind neighbors, friends, and strangers are to us.
We would like to stay here for a long time. We want Luca to experience undoukai (Sports' Day); Colette to have her own doll collection for Hina Matsuri (Doll's Festival); Nico to graduate elementary school; Sebastian to master kanji and sansu (Chinese characters and math). I want to write stories based here, Jason wants to make a video of Gion Matsuri and be part of the sofubi scene. We have plans.
We have a full and happy life here.

We don't want to go.
But we will if we must.

I am grateful we have options. Most people here don't.

In the end, I know we will do what is best for these guys but I just wish I never had such decisions to make.

summer photo shoot- out takes

Saturday, September 1

Hello September.

4 months!

Well, we are four months into this whole six person family deal and let me tell you, it is something else.

This guy is a gentle giant weighing in this month at 17.6 pounds and 27 inches long. And he's got three bottom teeth rising out of his gooey gums like pearls.

September means that summer is on its way out and school is back in session (thank goodness). It also means that a certain person around here will celebrate her matching digits birthday by taking a trip to Nara and Kyoto with the whole gang in tow.

I love the mild seasons and look forward to cruising around town on our bikes under the golden ginkgo trees.

Hope all is well with you and yours.

4 months!

Tuesday, August 14

Friday, August 10

Summer Lovin'

utsumi aichi: we went to the fricking beach, ya'll

We have been having a blast this summer. Now that everyone is healthy we are making the most of getting outdoors. We only do excursions twice a week since Jason and I are both working on projects that require us to be home. Also, these excursions are a little exhausting and require a bit of recovery time. Like yesterday's trip to the beach. Without a car, getting four littles and their reluctant father to the beach was not an easy feat. We left early and came home late with countless station transfers in between. The sunburnt shoulders are proof that we not only made it to Utsumi Beach, but that we played in the Pacific Ocean for as long as possible.
utsumi aichi: we went to the fricking beach, ya'll

One of the reasons we are enjoying summer more this year is due to the recent acquisition of the long sought after Family Bicycle. It makes getting around so much easier that for a few days it was hard to keep us indoors (and working on those projects I mentioned earlier).
at shonai koen

We have a few more excursions before Nico has to return to kindergarten (for marching band practice of all things). Science museum, zoo, Pokemon movie, and the city fruit park. Sebastian is really excited about the last two things. The lull between the excursions are deemed boring but I think he also likes the lazy days too of reading comic books and building monsters in clay.

Summer is now ranking as the number one season on our charts. How's it going on yours?

Saturday, July 21

Hello Summer?

Today is the coolest July 21st I have ever known. Right now it is about 68 degrees and drizzly. I am extremely grateful for such an odd day in the middle of summer but it is a little strange.

Jason had today off, another odd thing since Saturdays are his busiest teaching days. So we headed down to Sakae for the weekly farmer's market. (We were a little late since we had to drop Nico off at school for his overnight camping trip with his classmates. His first overnight away since moving to Japan.)
 Even though the cool and damp morning made me think of October, the tables at the market were covered with the bounty of summer. Tomatoes, garlic, herbs, peppers, bitter melon, eggplant, and squash. The rainbow colors were vibrant against the grey day but I had a hard time thinking of summertime recipes to use them in. (My rule is I cannot buy vegetables unless I know exactly what I will make with them. This avoids the tragedy of wilted/rotten organic veggies.) I meant to buy more but ended up with just a dinner's worth.
july 21st: farmer's market bounty

The real prize were these guys and gals. Two pairs of kabuto mushi for only 200 yen (2 bucks). We felt like thieves but gladly accepted the chance to buy some really nice beetles, raised by elementary school kids in the mountains. Made me miss country living, like I always do on market day.
july 21st: farmer's market bounty
july 21st: farmer's market bounty
When we returned home, Sebastian's pal Hikari-chan was waiting for us. They spent the rest of the dreary day playing with the beetles and hamster (notice the non-plural) on the porch, letting the guy beetles fight on the goya (bitter melon) vine.
july 21st: farmer's market bounty
july 21st: farmer's market bounty

Tonight we were going to go to the giant festival out at the port (3 kids instead of 4 makes such feats seem feasible) but the drizzle continues, making home the better choice. The main attraction of the festival is the fireworks. I am betting they will be a tad dull this year.
Besides, next weekend is the matsuri (festival) at Sebastian's school so we can get our festivaling in then. And we have our own (family-sized) sack of fireworks, just waiting for the best night.
Tonight though I think we'll enjoy a little less fighting (brother v. brother), a glass of beer, and the cool breeze flowing through the open windows. So cool in fact, I think I need my light sweater.  Is it really summer vacation already?

Wednesday, July 18

In the tiny pockets of time

I am working on a short story and following the advice of Anne Lamont, I am sharing it with my friends and family for feedback. It will be available here  until Saturday. You can leave a comment on the site or email me. Thanks.