Fully Your Heritage/ World Cup for Kids, Intro

My family’s World Cup Experience, scribed for Multicultural Kids’ Blogs


Starting Thursday, thirty-two nations will come together for FIFA World Cup 2014, in hot hot Brazil. 

It is a chance, of course, to see favorite players, the world’s best. Soccer is definitely our family’s cup of mate. My husband is a soccer player, so what if he’s unofficially retired at 35? Soccer love is eternal. He will forever be the handsome soccer player I snagged, the guy with the great quads. (Being that I’m American, I call it soccer, not futball). 

Now that we have little ones, now that we live in Tokyo, now that we all naturally want to root for our countries, for our heritage, the FIFA World Cup holds such meaning and great opportunity for teaching. 


This tee-pee works as our family’s net. Let’s hope Elmo is a solid keeper. 

Just two days ago, our daughter, Kariin, sidled up to her papa, just as he settled into his swiveling office chair. It was the final sendoff match for US against Nigeria. She saw our American flag, saw Nigeria’s waving, and then the songs started. “What are those songs?” 

Aha! What a teaching moment and the games haven’t even started! My guy told her about national anthems and how each country has one. The players and fans all sing it. He promised to teach her ours. “Am I a little bit American?” She sometimes thinks she’s just a bit, or maybe not reeeeally American, since we live here in Tokyo. Since she is also Japanese and speaks the language. 


What an opportunity for her to learn her song, to step into her nationality. She can cheer for each team, each of her countries, can sing each song boldly, with the loud spunk of all her three and a half years. I ran off to fetch her double passports and show her, prove to her that the eagle, stars, and stripes, along with all the writing, validate her Americanism. We look at both passports and within a minute, she is remembering, grinning, “I am both!” 

Now, for the AnthemsThis is a nice little grouping of national anthems, featuring You Tube clips and musical assessments from singers and songwriters in the biz. The writer of this article and compilation assesses that throughout the course of The FIFA World Cup, “Thirty-two national anthems played a total of 128 times over the course of the tournament”…comes out to be roughly three hours and twenty minutes of anthem-singing. Holy Moly Anthemoly. What a chance to teach our kiddos their anthem, or anthems, depending on how many countries and nations they represent! That’s how I felt, anyway, before actually showing my daughter a couple of patriotic songs. She thought it was boring and wondered if we might watch a Frozen song instead.

Back to my enthusiastic, teacher-tirade: A country’s melody and lyrics can say a lot, as well as spur on our players. It is about feeling part of your heritage, feeling the right to hold your head up and sing. Of course, nothing is stopping any of us from learning the other teams’ national anthems. Heck, all those hours of anthems may put dozens of them in our heads, all at once. We’ll be sining “God Save the Queen to the tune of Nigeria’s anthem, whistling Ireland’s tune during the coin toss, and then ending with …”and the hooooome of the brave.”

Let’s not go nuts.

fifa pic

This must be the best workout album, ever, featuring Pitbull, Jennifer Lopez, & Claudia Leitte’s Ole Ola.

If you and your fam are interested in something modern, something with a beat, look no further. Here are some pretty serious videos all vying to be your favorite FIFA World Cup Anthem” for 2014.

There is the Pepsi-made song, something from Samsung, & those yoghurt people at Activia, to name a few.

Coca-Cola did something pretty darn awesome, taking one song, The World is Ours, & bringing it to local artists to contribute their local sound to weave more than thirty versions into the whole.

Presenting, Ole Ola, the “official FIFA party song”! The samba dancers are of course, racy, just a heads-up, parents. I thought my girl would be totally blown away. Nope. “Boring”, she sighed. “When is Frozen coming on?”

I’m looking forward to seeing my daughter step into greater clarity and pride as she cheers on two nations, as she cheers on a world coming together to play a game. I’ll tell her Queen Elsa is due to make an appearance at half-time. 

Peace Out Soccer Fans,


Is a Blog Hop Like a Sock Hop?

What the heck is a blog hop? How did I end up here, in this bloggy stream of verrrry accomplished novelists & bloggers? It could be a bit of an awkward tween dance, save the fact that I am in my own home on a laptop. So…this is a blog hop…

Suzanne Kamata, writer & novelist extraordinaire, passed the mic to me on this, my 1st ever blog hop! Do, please, check out her writing & her blogI am already knee-deep in her new YA novel, Screaming Divas, & it only arrived yesterday. Here are my words. Ehemm.

1) What am I writing or working on?
Blogging/journaling— In between teaching, nursing, & shuttling my kids through Tokyo’s narrow side-streets on errands, I am working on daily/weekly writing that is fairly memoir-like in spirit. I recount moments of the day and let them ping around in my mind as they bang into and touch upon former experiences and memories. This is a fun part of writing–nothing is off-limits, or has to be! (Of course, I try to practice wisdom on what I publish and what is, at this stage, just for me).
Interviewing–I’m just starting to interview authors! What rewards in hearing more about a favorite author, their thoughts and personal writing life! I’m eager to take part in more! Stay tuned for my interview with Suzanne Kamata, appearing in an upcoming Literary Mama. “Whooo-ah.” (spoken in your best Al Pacino voice).
Food writing/editing–
One dream is to be like Ruth Reichl & write spectacular food reviews for The Times or for the late, great Gourmet. But then, I realize nobody would really hire me to do such grand work when for starters, there is the whole litany of what I don’t eat. You can’t be a food reviewer who has to quiz the kitchen about whether it is 100% beef or if some pork may have gotten in. You can’t cover summer at the Cod when clams are a no-no. I could, however, cover most Happy Hours or All Nippon Airways’ kosher meal. (Hint: you get your meal before ANYONE, but then they won’t give you Haagen Dazs).
I’ve been fortunate to write & edit food & travel reviews to the extent I do!! Plus, I work at passing on this love to my students. The young people I teach are fairly incredible. I’m currently teaching lots of sensory detail. My students are incorporating sounds, memory, and every kind of lingering, gooey detail you could possibly think of.
2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I guess I come at it like many teachers who fell in love with poetry at a young age. Other than that, I am a Jewish American expat married into a fabulous Japanese, faith-filled family, raising our supremely awesome kids in Tokyo. I teach. I mom. I miss my family in the US. I write. I love my husband. I garden. I snap pics of my kiddo with spaghetti on his head. I eat cases of ice cream. I write a little more. I pray with my kids. We have dance parties. I often over-think, but I’m always honest. Dunno how it differs, but it’s me.
3) Why do I write what I do?
I write to record life–all the growth and stretching and letting go. I write because I have to, like many say. I am happier if I get some of the gravely thoughts out of the way & make sense of sadness, or communicate a specific joy. It is all like a prayer & an unravelling & a weaving together. It happens & you are stronger.
I tend to forget details, to forget my kids’ first words, just how small their heads looked when they first were born. I write because one day I might not remember much at all! I write because I want records, I desire that my great-grandchildren know their inheritance, the value of memoir and faith. I wish I had records of who my great-grandparents were/are! I am creating what I don’t have, in a way. I remember feeling such strength when laboring at my husband’s reminder that every woman in my family, every woman leading up to me, had done this (no meds, too). They had the strength and it turns out, so did I.
Writing, is for me, a chance to record LIFE, in the nitty-gritty, sometimes frustrating, often dazzling moments that otherwise, might slip by.
4) How does my writing process work?
If I can grab time–even & especially night-time, when all is quiet & I am the last one standing, that works. Sometimes it’s standing elbows squashed on the train. I scrawl in my journal, think on funny moments while walking the kids to school, whatever. I scrawl then type later.
Sometimes I write & post directly from my phone. It’s one-stop blogging.
If I am fortunate to have some real carved-out time, I’ll edit & think on particular words. Usually, I am hasty and some weeks later, I’ll notice major goofs or my husband will say, “Um, you may want to edit this”.
Look next week for these three writers:
Wendy Flemons–sincere essays and honest, funny moments on her blog, Momfullness. Follow this wife, mother, & storyteller. I’m so glad I met her through an online writing course, Motherhood & Words. She draws extensively from her experience as a mother and pours this into her preferred forms, essay and memoir. She has traveled expansively, most recently spending time with her family doing humanitarian work and visiting, in Ethiopia, where two of her five children were born. Wendy has published essays locally with the Alexandra Writers Centre, as well as in the anthology, “Freshwater Pearls”, and globally in “Adoptive Families” magazine. Currently she is working on expanding her essays into a manuscript. Very exciting, you’ll see!
Miwa from Cranes and Clovers–She is a very talented 1/3 of the sister trio, Cranes and Clovers, 
bilingual writing from Japan and New York. How awesome is that?
Miwa was born in Japan and raised in Connecticut by dedicated parents who managed to raise their four kids to be bilingual and bicultural. (Something Miwa and her C & C sisters are trying to do with as they, themselves are now mothers). Miwa is a freelance translator who loves to travel and take pictures. I think this blog is effortlessly chic and extraordinary in their ability to inspire bilingualism. You’ll see. They rock it in NY & Tokyo.
Yes, I am supposed to have one more.
I think I don’t have enough writing friends, or perhaps I don’t reach out enough.
Come back to see if I am able to pull some bloggers out of the air & onto my blog. Then we’ll have a real hopping hop.
Until then,

“Tossing Around Words Like Honor…& Panties”


“Are you a good mom because you spoke in a mean voice & took away my panties?” –Ahem. Let me clarify. Please–or why don’t I let you in on the whole conversation?

“Honey”, I said, lovestruck, gazing down at my gutsy, spunky daughter. She was now, for the fifth time, back under her sheet and cover, snug as a bug in a rug (“No, a kitty”, she corrected. “I’m as snug as a kitty under my “blanklelet”‘).

I smooth her soft, just conditioned hair. “I love being your mother.” How can I not smile smile smile in the company of this girl? Her eyes light up, shining, “WHY?” She leans forward ready to lap up my free-flowing compliments.

I tell her of the hugging, the kissing, the snuggling, reading, dancing, laughing, playing, all of it. How she is the best daughter, better than I could have dreamed of.

Then she asks her funny above question involving my mean voice & panty-taking.

Okay, continue. We’re now caught-up.

“Do you think I’m a good mother because I spoke in a mean voice & took away your panties?” Nod.
Can’t let it stop there.

“And why did I take your panties away??”

Aha. “Because I was mad and threw them at you.”


You were a good mommy to do that so I could learn.”

“And did you?”

Okay, then. We’re all on the same panty page.

The girl’s got grit. She’s increasingly independent & she’s realising, with increasing vehemence, that she wants the space. She’s learning how to state her needs, how to politely use her strength instead of literally pushing me away…or chucking Princess Belle panties at me.

I will always adore the firecracker kids–the ones who light up with stuff to say. Always big things, messing things. Intelligent choices & some big errors, too.

One of my favorite students to teach ever was Emanuel, first grade. His low point, behaviorallly? Urinating on the cafeteria floor from his lunch seat.

Sweet points? They abound. How bout any first grader who turns to me & says, “Mrs. Rifkin (maiden), he really let himself go.” Ha.

Like I was saying, I love the punky spunky, muy inteligente kids. I’ll take them any day over quiet kiddos who don’t have the same kind of big ideas rattling around in their brains.

I choose my girl & her sometimes rough, always fabulously tender, “I won’t let you go” sweetness. You can let ’em fly (the panties that is). This love is hard to shake.

image tent

k tent

Caterpillar Schmaterpillar

In this post, I explore the sanctity of garden-life vs. the Melissa who doesn’t seem to give a rip. Who is this terrible woman with spray bottle and gloves I’m becoming??

Will I find a better, more caring approach to keeping plants intact, or is this the way it’s gonna have to be? Read-on, young grasshoppers.

Read on. 


Am I a bad person if I pluck caterpillars from my garden and drown them? Am I horrible for not keeping them around long enough to wreck every plant and then change into moths? Does the mother and teacher in me have to nurture them, too?

I do feel a bit guilty and squeamish and terrible. Thing is, I’ve put money and time and energy in the sun towards growing myself a little patch of green. I quite like it and the last time I had some caterpillar infestation, I let them run amuck; some plants never came back, but died off, never to bloom again. The gardenia is just being discharged from PT. Who knows if she’ll bloom again, though. It’s a long, hard road.

So, you see, I can’t let them win! Since discovering the cause of recent leaf damage and dying plants, I’ve launched an all-out assault.

It’s me, some dishwashing gloves, now with a hole through the index finger, and an Ikea mixing bowl filed to the brim with warm, sudsy water. I pull them off, yelp with how nasty their poor little (and sometimes massive) bodies are, and throw them in. Today, I pulled off some brown creature so big, it could belong in the turkey hawk family…of caterpillars. Ugh. Plop. 


I know my kids won’t be able to see them spin their miraculous cacoon, or crysalis, depending on what kind of caterpillars these are. I know that I want our family to always celebrate life. The fact that they undergo (or would under better circumstances) the most miraculous change makes it way worse.

Are they hurting me? No. Do they bite? No, again. How do you protect the garden you are trying to grow? How do you exemplify kindness in doing so? Well, I could move these suckers, but they inevitably find their way back. It just happens.

I could try my very hardest to figure out how to order praying mantis eggs or the eggs or larva of certain creatures that would…well, eat the caterpillars for breakfast. Maybe not so kind, either, but I’d be feeding someone.


I could spray them with poison. See?! Isn’t this terrible? All this talk of death when I just want pretty flowers and tomatoes! I never knew gardening was such squeamish and tough work–honestly! I thought you merely grow stuff and cut it and shove your winnings in a vase. Nope—it’s turkey hawk-sized grubs and creeping, crawling-on-their-belly-worms and everyday, twelve new pests knocking on my garden door and me, changing into some Ghostface Killah of the backyard. I can’t even tell you how many of them I’ve drowned.

I don’t know me anymore.

So, you who think you can just multiply and feed off my Tuileries? Well, little men. This gate is closed.