Out with the Old & Brittle

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I felt so good from my time getting a luxurious haircut with a friend, that I’ve stayed up all night. Just poop.

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Now all the luminosity from a long long scalp massage, divine hair washing, treatment, great cut, and blowout will be lost in the sag of eye bags. Just poop.

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At the Dermatologist

Remember when I said it was awkward to be without your shoes sometimes in Japan? I had lots of responses from people who said, “Listen, it is not just Japan thing. We do it here, too.” (HERE was England, Oz, Botswana, Tennessee). I do not think Aussies take the slipper thing into public places, like schools or doctors’ offices. What can I say–I am highly competitive.

Back to slippers. Most of the time I am down with inside shoes when inside, but look.
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Slippers at the dermatologist. Fine, right? Uh, maybe. Except with the heavenly warm spring weather, I wore cute little flats without socks. Crudddddd. Guess who had to pick slippers, hoping the patient before her did not come in with a raging case of some foot disease. Eeny meeny miney mo… I hope something doesn’t start growing on my little toe.

Now I remember when last summer, when I was treating something on my daughter’s skin, that I kept a pair of socks in my bag for those trips to the Dermo. Slippers. They’re a thing.

Monday Rough Riders & Spring

This morning could have been rough, as Mondays can be. Isaac was already gone, rising super early for work.

I had stayed up waaaaay too late, writing & then awake, nursing at the computer.

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Mr. Textured Hair. Gosh, we love him.

Just me & the kids, so I’d take K to school. And today is the day we put clean sheets on her futon at school. Coffee first, breakfast of walnut bread (kurumi pan), that cloudy, wonderful apple juice, & glistening, juicy Florida oranges. (I swear they are even better here than when I lived in the Sunshine State).

Brushing teeth, changing clothes, gathering up pigtails, piggybacks, diaper changes throughout, Kariin’s potty breaks (convincing her that she is not “merely happy” as she suggests, but doing a pee-pee dance), and so on. Oh, we fed and walked the dogs, too, even watered plants. Kariin held the double lead and said, “I’m directing you here, dogs.” We saw tulip beds and irises.

AND, because I like to aim high, even on the slippery edge of Monday, I told Kariin she could ride her scooter all the way to school, her first time. She could have overestimated her strength, her endurance. It is sort of a long way. Nah, not her. She is a rough, tough rider. A pleasure & a gem. Our Monday morning kicked grass.

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And then, as some spring reward, this is our view from the foyer, or genkan. The Taiwanese sakura is teetering on the precipice of blooming; this is the weather of dreams. Sayonara thick coats, so long you bulky outerwear. Hello to freedom in movement, to skipping a bit lighter than in February or the start of March. The sakura are slated to bloom this week, on the 26th. Hanami, that lovefest of blooms and joy camped out on tarps with lots of drinks, in almost here.

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Almost full “tada!”

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The Japanese school year starts mid-April. We are ready, new backpack & everything.

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That’s my girl, fiddling with the stilts.

xoxo I’m a happy girl in spring.

Baked

I’m baked

I baked

muscles so tired

here’s my “me” time right before dishes.

Life is good.

These guys are my treasure.

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As wholly tired as I am, it tickled me a bit to hear my spritely little pippin of a girl, squeeky-voiced, say, Meri (her beloved doll) said me and you are perfect young ladies for cooking dessert.” The doll was still a bit damp in the hair from our shower.

She is right–it does please me to be able to provide a home made dessert. Better yet is the fact that K & I made it together. Jude-boy should be counted too, since he was strapped to my front in the carrier (all 20 pounds of him) for all of the dolling of flour, to mixing, strawberry squashing, the whole thing. Yay for us. We really earn our sleep around here.

Now I get to decide between my pillow & tending to the dishes. Shall I pretend dishwashing is a nice way to luxuriate?

Hugh Grant, Emerging Language, & Finger Puppets!

If I were doing a product review, or working at a fancy, income producing blog, I would shine the spotlight on this new company I’ve become rather smitten with.

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I found Mudpuppy just now when I flipped over the (bright minimal) packaging which held together my kiddos’ finger puppets. They were a great find at this teeny mom-n-pop bookshop in my mom’s neighborhood of Mt. Airy. I loaded them onto the counter with my other quality splurges and enjoyed unpacking them, back in Tokyo. I used the word, “splurge”, only, these were just over five bucks and are really quite substantial.

Do you know what I mean when I write, “finger puppets”? You slide your index & middle finger in & voila! Legs. Use ’em as puppets to play with your baby or toddler. Sing, speak, read, or tickle, dance, to your baby. They are so visually appealing. Older kids/toddlers will admire the front and backs of the finger puppets and may start telling their own free-thought up stories or re-enact other tales.

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I am already plotting a pirate party for my son, or perhaps these puppets would serve well as party props and then gifts following a Peter Pan party! I spot Smee, Hook, and the ticking of the croc.

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I bought a woodland/forest animal theme, but there are terrifically scary monsters, enchanting mermaids, strong hometown heroes, les characters  classique de Babar, prancing pastel ballerinas, these awesome pirates, princesses, and really really cool robots. Robots! Muddpuppy also has shadow puppets…ooooooh, right?

Most homes are not in need of new toys. Usually, parents are hard pressed to find free space, or even a walkway in between scattered Legos or accumulated stuffed animals. Living rooms are no longer places suitable for adults and every home seems to be hurting for a spacious playroom. Just last night, my husband and I conspired on how to get rid of some of Kariin’s larger stuffed animals and we wondered what she would actually miss/notice missing if we do not call attention to the pitching fest/giving away spree.

We clearly don’t have room for space-eating fluff. But quality toys that promote language development? Toys crafted by artists? Toys like these Mudpuppy finger puppets, made of 90% recycled papers, free of phthalates (usually found in plastic/children’s’ toys which may cause hormonal/birth defects), and printed with gorgeous nontoxic inks? This is the kind of company I want to get behind and support. Plus, how room can finger puppets, even the entire collection take up? Small tools, big linguistic and creative benefits.

I know. I always bring up language. I’m a teacher and the mother to two bilingual kids. Promoting language is a big deal, big business, and big fun.

They’re just playing. How does that promote language? Well, we know oral language comes first. Storytelling, role playing emerges well before written language and should be given room and the space to grow. Making your home sing and buzz with sock puppets, finger puppets, stick puppets, shadow puppets is like hiring a petting zoo. It brings in materials for play. It gives kids the props they need to support original thoughts, creative windows of time. You’ll hear rich vocabulary and big ideas. This is different play than when they use characters from a movie to re-enact the same scene they’ve xeroxed into their mind. This isn’t merely Ariel or Elsa mirrored alongside the DVD, nor is it the sorta grunting, minimal verbal interaction of firing lasers and guns. This is when you will her them process all the language of their week, all the language from story time…if you support it. This convo reminds me of this post, here

I tell parents I work with to get back to the verbal language interchange. It never hurts to build up spoken language, especially if you are aware of using & explaining rich language and a wealth of stories. What is put in & planted will again emerge. Record it, celebrate it.

Literacy is supposed to be fun, right? Copy the great sentences and phrases your child cooks up. Read it back to them. Show them the connection between their verbal speak and the written word. Do what we teachers call a “Think Aloud”, as you sort of stumble through your thoughts like in a quirky Hugh Grant flic. Can you picture him bumbling around with you and your kids? You know, like, “Oh, right, right! I need a capital G here and oh, dear, what was the word you said after “and then”?” I hope you said this in your best & most British Mr. Grant impersonation. With all this playing, reading, & dictating, you’ll have a short scrip, what we teachers call “Reader’s Theatre.” And then you’d have to invite Mr. Grant to stay for tea & then a full dinner.

There are so many ways to play with these little puppets. I’m looking forward to seeing what my daughter does with them today. Instead of turning on the TV for that little after school/before dinner window, I’m gonna toss her these.

Boom http://mudpuppy.com

Why aren’t I in advertising?

Love & fun,

M

I Wanna Garden; it’s Getting Warm Out!

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Some writers talk about how soothing washing dishes can be, or how creative ideas emerge when they are ironing a shirt. For me, it’s weeding, or gardening of any sort. The images of tilling soil, preparing a bed, and watering a plant make my inner Thoreau come on out. Perhaps it was inspired first by Teeny, my best friend’s mom. She always clipped her own roses and brought them inside. Gardenias grew wild with a gazillion white blooms. Their waxy leaves never held bug bites; she knew every secret to maintaining a magnificent garden. Aphids didn’t stay long. You could smell those gardenias, windows shut, as you drove up the slender driveway.

I live in the city now. In Japan. I am far from Teeny’s Coral Springs garden with her fledgling pines that have since grown up. She tends a wild South Florida forest, a rose-studded Buddhist garden with earthen statues, tangles of jade, all her secrets and tips climbing high on a trellis.

I move, missing her and that garden. I can not take her birthday or graduation gift to me, a round basket garden. I cannot bring the lucky bamboo we hand out at our wedding–3 ” bamboo tucked in glass vials, basket smocked in green toile. I take whatever will and eye for beauty I have– in invisible seeds. You cannot bring live plants, produce, or meat into Japan.

Here we urban people practice potted gardening. I’d love to make a forever garden, just tending the little things I’ve somehow got growing is enough. Just hearing my three year old say, “succulents” will do. For now. Someday, I will grown gleaming Meyer lemons and will be a bulb-expert.

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My mom is the real gardener. Maybe it chose her when on a kibbutz in Israel, picking almonds, handkerchief tied over her long light brown hair. She has planted and gleamed apricots, eaten pounds of gourmet salad from her own plots, shovelled ox manure and has raised giant beets. Even now, she is making ready her gigantic plastic worm condo for many a-guest. They will tend and eat and poop out nutrients to feed her neighborhood garden plot. She will bring in, hoist up great feasts of cabbage, heirloom tomatoes, sweet honeysuckle, arugula, and beans. And I will tease her mercilessly about those wriggling, hermaphrodite worms. They make more and more babies because they always are and have the right partner. They are the bees’ knees and she is a fearless farmer and squishy worm keeper. It’s all quite gross and quite charming (from a squeamish distance).

I won’t be shovelling cow poop or dangling too many worms in the near future, but I sure do admire all her high-yielding garden produces. At my ranch/narrow 3-story in Tokyo, we’re working on unearthing the surface soil, clearing out packed-in, crumpled leaves that have stood their ground since fall, since it was too cold for me to cup my hands to the earth and dig or weed. Actually, I did plant flowers and the quintessential Japanese plants for the new year, little ornamental cabbages that resemble white, green, and purple roses. But that’s it. The space is shabby, worn by winter and thirsty for sun.

Today, though, it is different. It is sixty degrees. We smile. My nursing boy is barefoot and the coats hang on their hooks. Today I venture outside, barely off our front stoop, baby boy on hip, watering can held by both our hands. We feel dirt, smell sunlight perch on trees. I am not able to get all the grit from my nails. I’ll have to scrub and scrub again and then spread on salve. I don’t have much of a garden, but man, I sure do have gardeners’ hands.

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Today Jude picks up pebbles, places them on his lip, daring them to fit inside his little mouth. (I sweep my finger through his mouth, afraid. I hang him upside down by his feet). He earns the short-lived taste of dried cherry leaves. My eleven month old scuffs his brown moccasins as I scold myself–they should be sneakers. But anyway, he feels breeze; he watches me fill a bag with sediment, sees me clear what has been sitting too long. It is happy nesting. We await a new season. A season not stifled, cakes of dirt no longer cracked. We breathe through open windows and charts of peak cherry blossoms. We breathe in faith coming a l i v e. Today I plan a garden.

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We will learn to garden and pluck weeds, flinging the old over our shoulders, away. We will thank winter for all the nasty cold, for showing us change, for showing us G-d. We will plant broccoli, radishes, maybe kale. In my head, ladybugs will all plot how to best get to us. Butterflies will twirl and skip right over. Our garden will boast the fruit and seeds of change that is love. And if my grandiose Little House thoughts are too big, at least we can keep up with the pulling of weeds. But o, to make my unfortunate gardenia bush bud. O, to harvest our own cucumber! We shall see what lives.

Home is a Weighty Thing

Tomorrow,

my girl will learn the weight of balance,

that there is tension in springs

as we push in all we’ve enjoyed,

inhale deep the alpaca wool,

shove in with bubble-wrap

the delicate butterfly you painted

and gasp. 

 

This is what it is like to leave

aunts, uncles, crying grandmas

at the shore. 

Rowing Great Grandpas

it hurts a little more

How Family

can be on two sides of one earth

split soles

favorite sparkly shoes worn down

to the bone. 

 

We set sail in the morn. 

 

In two days, or 18 hours of flight,

plus some lines of delay,

she will rush into the hug of her adoring 

papa

and all will be smoothed. 

All will be right

but

for that little tug,

the breath of ladybugs and stirring of grasshoppers

tuning their legs. 

The missing of all we tried to keep in the bottle. 

 

Tomorrow we will relearn your smell,

will take you in 

honey

will let you pick us up

nuzzle in our ear

walk through a porthole

called our other home,

our real bed

our actual table

the way we keep our cereal

and makeup and sock drawer and everyday hugs

and plums and leafy lettuce tight tight leaves touching leaves

all of us together, fitting ;

and we will say, “how lucky we are

  to have wings.”

 

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You get what I’m saying??

 

As an aside, I just can’t get enough of Ordinary Love. Oh, you wonderful wonderful U2, you.

& do they ever age?