Monday, January 30

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domestically

I cannot blog and have a cold, it turns out. I am just not that talented. I can't bear to write about tissues and red eyes yet there was nothing else on my mind for the last week. I'm on the mend now so all is well.

I am also in the homestretch of time until my maternity leave starts (3/6!!). I'm dreadfully excited about it since it means more time with the kids and near constant access to the bathroom (I am pregnant, people). With Colette I had about four months of maternity leave which was great but since we were also in the process of moving cross-country and I was working on my MATESOL, it didn't leave much room for anything else.

So this coming YEAR of maternity seems absolutely rich with opportunities for working on all the things I never have time for as a full-time teacher. January has been my month for paring down the massive to-do list that I compulsively add to even when I say I want to keep it simple. I promised myself at the turn of the new year that I would focus my attention on just two core pursuits. Japanese had/has to be one of them since it goes along nicely with my promise that I would have a decent comprehension of the language by the time we renew our three year visas, which happens to be next year. So that leaves a slot for just one other thing. Writing? Drawing? Sewing? I have been struggling with this. I tried to make room for all three of them, but it made me tired and I ended up with a runny nose and a sore throat. I crossed out sewing, or at least sewing for a new shop. Meaning I crossed out a new shop too. I packed away my fabric and notions with a sad 'see you later'. They'll keep. And in March I will do some sewing for the new baby as well as back-to-school gear and some sundresses for Colette. So it isn't a complete farewell but it does clear my head.

Now to decide between drawing and writing. Writing is the likely winner but drawing for a year is very tempting. Writing is something I can do, given the time and a quiet space. Drawing is something I want to do. I want to write too but drawing is much easier to work on when surrounded by littles (see requirement above for writing). Unfortunately, it turns out that my clock only allows for 24 hours in each day and, like it or not, I need a fair amount of sleep. So I must choose wisely.

Of course, taking care of four kids is included in my calculations but at this point, mothering is like breathing or laughing. Very natural and I don't premeditate it (that much). Actively and consciously being creative is more challenging, so that is why I devote so much time and space here to consider how to do it properly.

So I will continue to consider the best course, doing both until the answer comes to me. Though, not trying to be impatient, I am hoping the answer isn't delayed as I really look forward to getting started on this gift that my little Luca has given me.

d

Friday, January 27

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I've had a cold.
And I came up with the brilliant idea of waking up before 5 to write and study instead of staying up late.
Not in that order.

To make up for my lapse, I offer these blurred pictures of my growing belly. This little guy sits super high, making it impossible to eat things like curry or onions. I don't have many cravings other than a winter-related one for incessant cups of hot tea. Non-caffienated for the most part.
where did they go?
I have an idea about his name but it isn't 100 percent confirmed yet. The middle name will be Japanese and has a bit of Colette's name plus the season in which he is going to be born. The first name is popular in Europe (#1 in Switzerland). In katakana translates as a girl's name but is also a character in an anime that seems very popular here which sports one of my best friend's names in the title. If you are a nerd like me, I expect you to figure the name out and post it in the comments.
i need to clean the kids' mirror.  or better yet, make them clean it.

And whatever you do, do not tell me that I look huge. I am really not that big. For an American. It isn't fair to compare me to my Japanese counterparts who usually don't show until 9 months. Though I have seen some waddling mamas around here so I am not that uncommon.

Hope you are all well and warm. Take care.

Sunday, January 22

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The sun was shining and I had the camera but I never took a picture.
It was a rare pre-Spring day today, making us remember what is in store when winter retreats for another year.

We did some errands downtown and I hung and folded laundry, scrubbed out the bathroom and shower room, and got everything sorted for tomorrow. Jason took Sebastian to see the Jackson Pollack exhibit at the Aichi Arts Center. Jason was impressed but Sebastian was more interested in the Pokemon Center next door. Of course. He is eight, after all.

Okay, I think it is time to snuggle with Colette who looks very snug on her sheepskin. I will have to figure out how to wean her from that so her little brother can sleep on it soon. She will be getting her very own futon in the coming months which is good since her long limbs don't leave much room for my bulging belly.

Good night, again.

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It has been rainy and cold.
More like February than January.
Maybe that is because it is almost February.

Why is the year speeding along so swiftly?

I won't even cheat with a photo from the archives today. Instead, I will hope that tomorrow brings sunshine so we can take our poor housebound kids outdoors so I can take some new photographs.

Right now, it is bed time. Good night.

Friday, January 20

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I issued myself an ultimatum today.

Thursday, January 19

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Thinking, thinking, and thinking some more.
Trying to stay on top of everything.
Trying to learn how to cut myself some slack.

Working on some new projects...
Learning from mistakes, and learning to value those lessons instead of discarding them in frustration...

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Wednesday, January 18

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Oh, beginning of work week, how you always ruin my good habits. I lost all of my energy outside of the classroom this week. Perhaps it is connected to the giant baby growing in my midsection. Must go find some tea now before the evening is a complete wash. Oh, great, that reminds me I need to take care of the laundry....

Monday, January 16

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Today I ended up with 1, 2, 3 kids at home. Ha ha ha ha! (I hope there are some Sesame Street fans in the audience tonight.)
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We have had a mild stomach virus circulating amongst us. Colette was the lucky first (and Jason was the unlucky parent to be wearing her in the ergo baby when... well you have imaginations.) It hit me at the end of last week (though after months of 'morning' sickness, it is hard to distinguish the difference). The boys had their turn over the weekend. To be on the safe side, I called their schools this morning to announce (in broken Japanese) that they would be home for the day. This breaks Sebastian's perfect attendance record for the year but shoganai, ne.

Of course, there was no food in the house for an extra day of all-togetherness so I had to make a quick run for food, snacks, and coloring books. And since they missed their healthy school lunches, I had to provide the equivalent. Brown rice onigiri, braised hijiki, karaage chicken, and miso soup. They had a bowl of strawberry kanten as dessert and are now happily coloring and reading comic books in the next room.
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It isn't the quiet Monday morning I had envisioned but it is always nice to have more time with the kids. I actually enjoy the chance to take care of them, all together. I know it may sound corny but it is a true honor to be a parent, even if it borders on servanthood sometimes. My payment is meager but seeing them chow down happily on their lunch after a night of vomit, vomit everywhere, is really quite enough for me.

Now, back to the laundry, the lingering souvenir of our pukey weekend. Hope you are all genki!
xo

Sunday, January 15

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Orange Elephants

I reopened my fabric shop today. I am currently debating closing it again in a few months since I am not sure I can manage it with a newborn. I do enjoy the excuse to go to the fabric shop and I love connecting with fabric loving folks around the world. So I will give it careful thought.

I am planning to launch another Etsy shop in March, when my maternity leave begins. I am working on my inventory right now, cutting out linen and listening to Living on Earth. This new shop will be focused on family and small people's goods. I'll have more details later, closer to the opening day, March 7th.

Alrighty, I just noticed the time and now I feel very sleepy. (1.30 AM) I better put all the sharp needles and scissors away and hit the hay. Good night everyone.

xo

Friday, January 13

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You might have noticed that Colette appears here more than her elders. That has to do with the fact that Colette is the only weekday child for the time being. Most of our time outside the house with Colette is spent encouraging her to move faster or trying to keep up with her. Ever since I realized there would be a new occupant in the backpack/stroller, I knew it was necessary to wean her from such modes of transport. It is not a convenient option for us sometimes but she has taught us to slow (or quicken) our pace, making us more aware of the wonders to be found in a simple walk around the block. And at the same time she has reformed her own pace to keep mostly in stride with us and no longer jumps around in front of oncoming traffic. (Before you have a heart attack, let me clarify that when I say oncoming, it really means blocks away.) Now instead of feeling like a shepherdess when we go outside, I can enjoy the insights of our little pedestrians better.

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sleepy girl

This is what happens to me too when I have to take the train to work. Except I am not as cute.

Thursday, January 12

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Here are some prototypes I am working on for my next big project:
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The doll is actually a rattle and the design is based on the Japanese wooden kokeshi. I re-used a little plastic gumball case and put a few azuki beans in it for the rattle effect.

The block is part of my effort to use all the fabrics I have before buying new materials. I cut up enough squares for about five sets of three blocks. Fun and easy to make. Perfect thing to make if your hands need to make something but the clock says there isn't much time for creating.

Okay, that cute little one is now vocalizing her need for a nap. Take care.

Wednesday, January 11

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aki-chan

Cheating, I know, but I believe it should be forgiven. Tuesday morning was a hectic one, what with Nico and Sebastian headed back to school and myself headed back to a regular work schedule. It was a long work day for me and I came home exhausted, craving feta cheese and sleep. My new mantra; only two more months, only two more months. I think it will be a bit of a challenge though as this week I am sliding into the third trimester. It is possible I might have to give up bike commuting for a bit, just to save some energy. There is a lot to be done before April and I mean to do it. Except I am so sleepy all the time.

Monday, January 9

Saturday, January 7

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yukidaruma

It is winter. All day long at work, or later grocery shopping, all I heard people talking about was how incredibly cold it was. We shouldn't be surprised, as it is January. Yet the two extreme seasons do have a knack of sneaking up on you. The mild beginnings make you drop your guard. You begin to look forward to the coming chill or heat, wondering why you complained so much about it last year. Then you remember, just as a strong gust of frozen air tries to knock you off your bike. This is what winter is.

Yet, I haven't complained so much about it this year. Not yet at least. You see, we have an apartment that is essentially snug and warm in the winter. If you know anything about Japanese apartments (or if you visit my old haunts for a reference), you know that typically it is colder inside that out in the winter. But not in this apartment. This most likely explains why I avoid ever leaving my house and moan fiercely if I have to go buy rice or go all the way to work. I am perfectly content to stay indoors, sipping on some rooibos tea with my feet secure in their leg warmer-slippers.

And staying indoors is good for our artistic pursuits as well. Sebastian and Nico have been churning out some amazing drawings lately featuring Nico the Superhero among a collection of Mario Brothers and pals. Jason's been back to work on his figures and I have had the sewing machine plugged all week. I will try and capture some of our creative output on film tomorrow. But for now, I think I will have another cup of tea.

I hope you are warm and well wherever you may be. Take care.
xoxo

Friday, January 6

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twilight walk home

When I came home from my first day back, the littlest one was cranky and so I laid down with her. Before I knew it, I was surrounded by the whole gang.

Thursday, January 5

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It was a good holiday. Not much was accomplished but we didn't have high hopes for vacation productivity at the start of it anyway. We did clean the house and ate good food and threw snowballs and read some books and played Mario Cart and stayed warm inside our little apartment. We had invitations to go visiting friends but issued rain checks for the sake of having some good, unhurried down time. We didn't bicker much, only at the beginning when we were getting used to being around each other so much again. Now we are all chums. The kids are such pals that whenever one is given a treat they go run to find the other to give it to. A big difference from the first few days when selfish tendencies were the norm, each child competing for my attention, the oft absent one. Now they feel secure again, the two weeks having replenished all that is stripped away during the rush of the work-school week.

Tomorrow I return to work. I will be busy teaching and preparing materials for the new teachers. Come March 6th, I will be on leave for over a year. I know that the year will be hectic and full of frowns and temper tantrums. These two weeks have given me a glimpse of the sweetness that is also in store for me during my time off. Knowing that I will have such a wonderful gift makes it a little easier to leave my warm nest tomorrow morning.

Wednesday, January 4

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DAY 3

Yesterday we went to our local Shinto shrine to exchange our hamaya and do a mellow version of hatsumode. Now we have our new dragon arrow hanging inside the door, warding off the demons but encouraging the good fortune to enter our little abode. We also picked up a little ceramic dragon bell to add to our collection. We are quite the menagerie come April: a snake, two goats, a dog, a cow, and a dragon.

Tuesday, January 3

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DAY 3

Today Sebastian and I made a run to the 100 yen shop for some supplies to make his winter holiday homework craft (a creature made of paper cups and rubber bands that jumps). Since I rarely get that much solo time with my oldest, I asked him the usual checking questions about his friends and studies, about his life in general. He told me that his favorite part of the school day was arts and crafts (second was P.E.). Later on the train, I gave him my notebook so he could occupy himself. He drew a very intricate preying mantis, the final result was something he was proud enough to show his dad when we returned. Then he drew a race car and was not satisfied with his efforts. I said something about not judging his work, about how enjoying the process is what really matters. He nodded and said, "Yes, I understand that. When I am drawing I am not thinking about anything else. I am just drawing and happy. So you know, I want to work on my drawing every day so I can get better and better. I want to be able to draw everything."

The funny thing is that besides for the joyful flutterings of my heart at his words, I also felt a shadow of concern darken my mind. Was he developing a love for drawing trying to please me, as when I am home and not doing chores I am most likely drawing? I want his passions and pursuits to be his own, uninfluenced by me. Of course, I must wonder if this is even possible or even necessary. Maybe it is just part of Sebastian's fate, good or bad, to be born into a family where there are always plenty of drawing pads and charcoal around so that he can develop into who he is meant to be.

Looking at my budding artist as he copied the dragon poster hanging from the train car's ceiling, I immediately put to bed those worries. He was utterly absorbed in his work and had no concern for me, even when I told him it was our station. It is his joy, his passion even if he was introduced to it by someone else. I am glad that I can give him what he needs, including the patience to wait for him on the cold sidewalk as he broke in his new drawing pad with a picture of a neighbor's sports car. Looking up from the page, he said 'I'm going come out here again tomorrow and see what it looks like in the daytime.'. That is all Sebastian right there.

DAY 3

Monday, January 2

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Today was rather mellow compared with yesterday. Now that it is bedtime and we have finished another day, I do mourn its passage and make my daily vow to be more productive tomorrow. We did manage to fit in a donut run and the boys smashed many turtles into oblivion. I designed a new doll pattern and cut out the material so I have that to look forward to putting together after the boys are snug in their slumber.

gamers

As Jason and I were refereeing the troops while they ate their sugary treats, we were reflecting on our short trip to the southern Alps yesterday. Since we are nomads, any new place gets to be scrutinized as a potential home and is compared to past homes. Since Nagiso was decidedly inaka, we naturally compared it to another inaka place near to our hearts. The island came out ahead, having the ideal combination of sea and mountain. Our rose-tinted rearview mirror is quite compelling.

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I only have three more days of holiday after today. Usually at the end of a long holiday I get antsy and irritated but not this time. I only have two more months of work before my maternity leave starts. These next two months will be spent getting everything in order so that I can spend my year(!) off effectively. It is definitely going to be a change for us but I think it will be a good one.

what happens when i ask her to roll her eyes for the camera

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明けましておめでとう!Happy New Year!
We got our year started with steaming bowls of ozoni, served in special Oshogatsu Pokemon bowls, of course.
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Then we were off on a Mama-venture, code for trips that involve lots of travel and little planning. Sebastian said he wanted to see mountains and Nico said he wanted to see snow so without further ado, we were off to Nagano.

We lighted in Nagiso, a small town known for lovely onsens and their tradition of wood turning (i.e., making beautiful bowls and trays from the local forest). There is also a trailhead for the Nakasendo, an old post road that connected Tokyo to Kyoto. I thought that is where we could get our bit of mountain-intake but Nico's wish for snow came true and we were not wearing snowshoes (or boots for that matter) so we had to content ourselves with walking around the small town.

Nagiso looks like it would be very nice to visit, you know, on a non-major holiday when everything was shuttered. They had a pedestrian suspension footbridge that crossed the town's namesake river, the Kiso. The kids played for a bit in a park where they were obviously preparing (though there was no one there) for a bonfire with a daruma perched on top of a tall stalk of bamboo.
The kids had at least fifteen snowball fights while we were in Nagiso, which was really exciting for them.
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In the end, we took an express train home as the sun was setting and ended up eating fast food for dinner. This was another highlight of the day for the kids since fast food has been somewhat banned from our diets.

All in all, a good start to the year. Here's to 2012! (she says, raising her glass of water) The best to you and yours in this new year!

xo