Ana, of I Made It So, according to Random.org. (Check out her latest blog post, which includes a free PDF of her own craft supply labels). Congratulations! And thanks everyone for the comments – it was really interesting for me to see what kinds of crafts you'd like to learn. I'd like to get better at sewing, perhaps pick up quilting, and do more papercutting. Glass etching and woodcarving would be pretty interesting, too!
On the weekends here in Tokyo, we often have trouble thinking of something to do as a family that will appeal to all and still be doable in this urban environment. Popular activities and locales can get incredibly crowded so we mostly stay near home. But we were lucky on Saturday – we went to a park in west Tokyo called Koganei park, and by leaving late in the day, we managed to arrive just when most people were leaving. (That was by accident; traffic and such meant that our spontaneous little drive took 2 hours!). So we got the best of the late afternoon sun, a relatively uncrowded park, and then attended a moon-viewing festival just near the Edo-Tokyo Open-Air Architectural Museum located in the park.
We wandered around the old houses and explored an old streetcar, wandered into wonderfully preserved stores from over a hundred years ago, looked at fabric, and played (or watched) plenty of ball and frisbee. Then we ate and ate at the festival – Japanese festival food is such a treat. Noodles, dumplings, bean jam cakes, cotton candy.
It was a great day. But it really can be so hard to find family activities everyone can do together, especially when all the kids are spread out this far in age AND we live in a big, crowded city. Do you have any suggestions for us? What do you like to do on the weekends?
Come visit my guest blog post at Words to Eat By, the blog of my friend Debbie Koenig, a fabulous and funny writer who is publishing her own cookbook, Parents Need to Eat Too, next year. (Her chocolate chip cookie recipe is on my list of must-tries). For this post, I wrote about Asian Noodle Salad, which is one of our go-to light meals in the summertime.
I like it because it's light and simple and enormously flexible – you use whatever vegetables you have on hand. And it's full of family memories – it's a recipe I learned from my mother and then adapted as I was inspired by our various travels throughout Asia.
What is your favorite light meal when it's hot out?
And then we all got on a plane and left. We're back in Japan now, for the summer and perhaps a bit longer. We are home….it feels like, and yet home is all the way on the other side of the world, as well. This is the first time that I am starting to feel that the wandering life is wearing on me. To put down small roots in a new home, a new place; to meet with old friends from the past and to cultivate a sense of belonging (or re-belonging); to get a glimpse of what life might have been like had we never ever left…..and then to leave again; it's all very dislocating in a Rip Van Winkle kind of way. I find myself yearning for simple things that I can't have until we are in one place year-round: a garden, a pet to care for, all my books in one place, meeting with old friends and beloved family members without the knowledge that we'll be departing again all too soon.
Jet lag, of course, doesn't help much with my sense of dislocation and of not belonging in either world while longing for both. The older children, unlike me, don't seem to experience jet lag much despite the 13-14 hour time difference, and I think that all the back-and-forth has helped us to hone some strategies which work for them. Things like:
-Making sure to take a plane which arrives late in the afternoon. The kids then take a brief nap on the way into Tokyo from the airport, and then are awake until nearly midnight so that they sleep throughout the early hours of the morning. I think jet lag is hardest to overcome when you fall asleep too early in the evening (or even late afternoon) and then wake up at 1 AM!
-Getting plenty of sunlight during the day – it seems to help reset their circadian rhythms too; jet lag always feels worse if we arrive on a cloudy day.
-Getting lots of physical exercise – especially important.
-Scheduling something pretty engaging for the first day back – a playdate, fun outing, even school – so they stay energized. Having it be close by is helpful, though, so we can avoid long stretches in the car (which lead to sleep!).
Anyway, if they manage to get through the first day, then they get on a good pattern and their nighttime sleep gets longer and longer with each passing day.
It's easiest for the older ones, who have more energy and can stay awake during the daytime. The little ones find themselves totally overcome by sleep at odd moments for the first day or so, like M below the day the last time we flew to the US who was, I think, just about to take her outdoor shoes off and put slippers on when she collapsed.
Despite all the hardships, I like the fact that as a family it feels like our ties are strengthened by our being each other's familiar ground, wherever we go, and that the kids are developing a deeper connection based on their unique, shared experience that no one else can really understand. Even their language – a mix of Japanese and English, scattered with references to their schools and friends and lives in both countries – is uniquely their own when they are together.
Being back in Japan always fills me with inspiration. There is so much that is familiar yet fresh, and living life here throws me off-center just enough to keep me aware of these things. The first thing I did was go to the grocery store and get ingredients for a few of our favorite Japanese meals! Next week I'll be hitting up some local craft stores.
Have you moved much, as an adult or as a child? If so, what was the experience like for you, or for your children? I'd love to hear!
Six months have passed since I gave birth for the fourth – and last – time. It feels like she's always been here, a part of our family. Life is no different with her here, just richer, and sweeter.
A lot of my life has come to a standstill, with a baby around. But it feels different this time, somehow. Before, I was so eager to see what would happen in the next stage, to get on with things, and to have more of my own life back. Now, I just want time to stand still. This is my life.
Sometimes I chafe at the restrictions that a baby puts on you – on my writing and crafting especially. And oh, the things I want to bake, but can't! No time. And all the care I want to give to others around me, to friends and extended family and community, and to myself too as I age (it's interesting having a baby when you are also entering your forties.). So much has to be put on the back burner.
But mostly, I just know, from hard-won experience, that time will pass, and she will grow. In a year my life will feel so very different, and there will be no more babies of my own, ever again. I can surrender, for now, or at least try to, to the sheer pleasure of holding a small, soft, pliable baby all the time, of having her gaze at me in delight like I am the sun and moon, of watching brothers and sister have fun experiencing a baby in the house, getting excited about all her small accomplishments, making her giggle, caring for her. From the very moment of her birth I've tried to surrender to this and savor even the tiniest things when I can.
It's an effort to remain mindful and present, but a baby's constant needs guide us in that practice every day, and hopefully what I learn can transfer over to parenting my older ones too. Having a baby around reminds me of what they were like, too, as babies. I am reminded every day that they were once this small (and perhaps her presence helps them, too, remember deep down that they were once this small, and just as cherished from the start).
Whether you have one child, or several, how did you feel when you had your last baby? How did it feel to watch him or her growing up?
I'm participating in a meme I saw at SheWrites. The topic was near and dear to my heart. It simply asked, "Who are the women who inspire you?" It's something I've been thinking a lot about lately so this was very timely.
I already posted about my grandmother, who raised five daughters and one son with remarkable poise. One of the daughters she raised, my mother, was very similar to her and was the inspiration behind my starting this blog – I wanted to remember and to transmit the kind of simple, joyful childhood she helped create.
I also have a friend, Marie, who is battling illness with amazing serenity and joy. Whenever I spend time with her I come away feeling a renewed determination to live life with gratitude and with generosity. I fall short of that ideal too much of the time but love having a friend nearby who embodies it. She's wonderful.
My friend Laura has been my friend and champion for well over twenty years now. From the moment we first met in a history class in college, I knew her to be a kindred spirit. She's a devoted mother, an amazing crafter who knitted for me until I finally learned how to knit, and she's also a great children's librarian.
Jennifer Margulis is a really inspiring writer and one of the most generous people I know. I love talking with her and reading about her take on life, writing, and all else – I relate to her a lot and only wish we had more time for good conversations! (We both have four children – and our babies are the same age. Life is hectic; good conversations will have to wait).
My friends Melinda Rothstein and Rachel Milgroom founded what I think is one of the most awesome nonprofits out there – DiaperFreeBaby 🙂 Thanks to their efforts, the idea of elimination communication (gentle infant pottying) has come such a long way – from being a fringe idea to becoming a simple option to full-time diapering. It's so neat to see what two mothers can accomplish when they want to.
And Alexandra Grabbe is a grandmother and activist and fellow blogger – her writing is always a good reminder to me that we all care for the earth, together. Read her sweet post on growing older, too.
My heroines are women who have a desire and drive to make the world a better place in some way and touch the people around them. There are so, so many other inspiring women around me too – I feel grateful for their presence, always!
Who are the women who have had a positive impact on your own life?