After Devastation, Life: Miki Sawada Mothers 2,000.

Women's History Month Series on Multicultural Kid Blogs

Can you imagine life in Post-war Japan? This land my house sits on, the land I daily tread upon was ravaged. Fire bombs through Tokyo. B-25 atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Twice. Sirens and defeat that made the water into poison. Loss of life and catastrophic devastation, with 70,000 instantly dead and then 70,000 more from a radiation-related disease. Just a blitz with nowhere to go and those are just the numbers from Hiroshima.

You could have come out seemingly okay (apart from trauma), perhaps orphaned, but then die from leukemia, Tuberculosis, perhaps multiple forms of cancer, you get the picture. Okay. So Japan, crushed, Japan changed, toppled over and sprawled, surrenders. They begin the process of healing. They begin to rebuild. US troops are part of this rebuilding, repairing, even giving new things like powdered milk and formula to babies and kids. Calcium rebuilds.

Babies are born, babies out of wedlock between Japanese women and American soldiers. Babies due to the rape of women during the Allied Military Occupation. It is believed that perhaps 10,000 Japanese women were raped, especially in Okinawa. What a sad, sad thing.

In the Japanese culture that can tend to respond from a place of shame or embarrassment, pregnant women and mothers were turned out. Babies were left on streets and in trains.

These biracial children and their mothers experienced abandonment and mistreatment. There was one woman, however, who made a stand. This woman would make it her life’s work to take in, accept, and raise up these persecuted children. It all stemmed from her experience in seeing one such infant dead on a train. She decided it would have to be her; she would become responsible for protecting such children.

Miki Sawada was probably an unlikely candidate for such a benevolent, life-saving role. In fact, she was scoffed at. Sawada was the daughter of Baron Hisaya Iwasaki and grad-daughter of the Mitsubishi conglomerate founder, Yataro Iwasaki. Sawada was also the wife of a diplomat, Renzo Sawada, who represented Japan at the United Nations.


Sawada san

Coming from such an illustrious background, surely she did not have to do anything more than host benefits or give financially. However, as one of the rare Christians in Japan, she responded to a very present need and began taking in children. Of course, the Japanese government did not care to support her as her growing orphanage shed light on mixed-race relationships or the rape of Japanese women. The act between Japan women and the nation that utterly defeated them, producing a child would not do, no matter how it happened. No, Ms. Sawada would see little to no support from the Japanese government. No one would discuss prejudice towards these biracial babies. It must have been more tempting to sweep such “problems” under the rug, but Miki Sawada heard and recognized the call on her life to take care of these children.
She sold personal belongings left and right, articles of clothing, anything to feed and clothe her kids. Remember, she was the daughter of a Baron and heiress to the Mitsubishi fortune. She could have fit comfortably inside the cushion of wealth and society. Instead, she invested her whole self into life for others.

Sawada had, for some time, been taking in those abandoned and shunned for being of mixed-race. She utterly ran out of all of her money.  The orphanage was named The Elizabeth Saunders Home, named after the English woman who served as a governess forforty yearss in Japan and who had left a sum of money to the Anglican Church. Thanks to this gift, the home officially opened in 1948, in Kanagawa prefecture.


Sawada is known as the Mother to over 2,000 children. Over two thousand children who grew up in the school, and five hundred were adopted overseas. She later created a school and farm for the children’s success and independence.

Sawada traveled back and forth between the US and Japan, raising support for her orphanage and later, school, also. She also built relationships in Monaco. Within her time abroad, seeking help for the orphanage, she also lived in France, becoming a friend to crooner and beauty, Josephine Baker. Ms. Baker adopted two children from Sawada’s orphanage. Sawada received the Elizabeth Blackwell Award in 1960 for dedicating her life to humanity in 1960.

Miki Sawada moved in such circles, friends with novelist Pearl S. Buck, who parented some of Sawada’s children. Wherever she went, she spoke up for the children, gathering resources and adoptees.

It seems clear that she affected change, that she fought for a loving, just world for these children. Imagine how many families those 2,000 children now represent.

It began at a bleak time, this idea of being a light and an advocate for children.

I am blown away.


On a personal note, I am even more in awe than I have written. I am American, married to my Japanese husband and his Japanese family. I am raising biracial children here. It was not so long ago that they would have been persecuted.

The pilots who dropped both A-bombs actually trained and flew at the tiny private airport just ten minutes from what would later be my South Florida home.

Also, it is not lost on my that I am a Jew, making my life in a nation that was allied with Nazi Germany. My Japanese father-in-law was born in 1948, the year of Israel’s declaration and establishment as a Jewish state, a haven for Jews everywhere, certainly poignant following the Holocaust.


I love stories of heroism– when people step out of their self to lead others. I love looking to women of courage and showing my children. I don’t want to be a timid woman, afraid of shadows. I want to stand as a lion. May we raise up leaders who will carry these lights and impact history.


A happy and meaningful Women’s History Month to you!

*For more: Helpful site: Japan’s Christian Heritage

* Children from this special home are reconnecting and learning of their time there.


Join us for our annual Women’s History Month series, celebrating the contributions and accomplishments of women around the world. Follow along all month plus link up your own posts below! Don’t miss our series from 2016 and 2015, and find even more posts on our Women’s History board on Pinterest:

Follow Multicultural Kid Blogs’s board Women’s History on Pinterest.

March 1 modernmami on Multicultural Kid Blogs: 3 Reasons Why We Celebrate Women’s History Month March 2 The Jenny Evolution: More Children’s Books About Amazing Women March 3 Colours of Us: 32 Multicultural Picture Books About Strong Female Role Models March 6 modernmami: 103 Children’s Books for Women’s History Month March 7 A Crafty Arab: The Arab Woman Who Carved Exquisite Beauty into Science March 8 Hispanic Mama: 5 Children’s Books About Latina Women March 9 MommyMaestra: Free Download – Women’s History Month Trading Cards March 10 MommyMaestra on MommyMaestra on Multicultural Kid Blogs: Celebrating Women’s History Month March 13 Crafty Moms Share: First Ladies and Eleanor Roosevelt March 14 Mama Smiles: Write Down Your Family’s Women’s History March 15 Bookworms and Owls: Ruth Bader Ginsburg – Associate Justice of the Supreme Court March 16 Creative World of Varya: 6 Quotes About Women from Various Religious Writings March 17 Knocked Up Abroad: 7 Ways Swedish Women Can Revolutionize Your Life Today March 20 La Cité des Vents on Multicultural Kid Blogs: Women in History or Women’s Stories? March 21 Pura Vida Moms March 22 Melibelle in Tokyo March 23 All Done Monkey March 24 playexplorelearn March 27 Family in Finland March 28 the piri-piri lexicon March 30 Let the Journey BeginDon’t miss our Women’s History Month Activity Printables, on sale now! Women's History Month Activity Printables

From Shushan, With Love

What can be said? I’ve pinched trays upon trays of cookies to be those triangular Hamantashen. I’ve filled beans in kid-made maracas. We have dressed as Vashti, Esther, and Mordi. This house takes Purim seriously.

With Purim quickly approaching again on March 8, I’m wondering what we have missed. I guess if Purim came with a checkoff sheet, I’d have a nice group of checks. See this whole piece I wrote on Multicultural Kid Blogs.

In fact, tour this year’s MKB Purim Blog Hop! Only good things!

What about this year, though? What more can be said?

My kids, ages 6, three, and baby, know the deal. They could make clay cookies, design the fiercest dress for Esther and cardboard castle scenes, but what about creating a script? What about letting them act out what they know as opposed to making some cute thing for Pinterest? Do they have what they need to play and piece together the story in their own way? I say, for all of us, YES! (Or if you see gaps, let’s fill them in so they can get back to playing and acting it out). 

There is power and value in a retell or summary. We as people invariably color a story or situation with our own humor or angle, our own compassion, and zeal. We are made to ask insightful questions enjoy interaction. We are made to bring life to a page! Plus, I love any opportunity to authentically assess my children’s understanding and take on all parts of our heritage and faith. The teacher in me knows that my authentic observation will lead me to ask them good questions and facilitate even stronger play. 


I am all over taking out the globe and looking with them at what happened during the reign of 5th-century Persian king Xerxes I  who reigned 486–465 BCE, and I totally only know this from Wikipedia because I have the historical memory of a horse. And that really doesn’t matter with play! Our kids’ dramatic play should not look or sound like Jeopardy!

And that’s what I realize—the story of Esther, the Megillat Ester מגילת אסתר, is to be read yearly for a purpose. Like all of the Jewish festivals and directives in Torah, these things are to be taught to our children, retold throughout all generations, l’dor v’dor.

Like poetry, the Book of Esther is to be read aloud. 

It is in the retelling, that our children get a chance to use their language and make the stories and histories relevant today. It is in the retelling, that they get to tap into their knowledge and make connections using language. They get to engage in higher-order thinking (going way beyond mere coloring sheets) to create, synthesize, and build upon their framework with creative application! Bloom’s Taxonomy is for our every day with kids and certainly for this season of Purim.

But first, become familiar!

Immerse or re-immerse yourselves in the characters, plot, and setting. Invariably, new things jump out and news ideas will form. 

Watch an animated video telling, ala Hanna Barbara!


In the past, I have suggested this movie, too, a non-animated One Night With the King

And the text: The Book of Esther to be read on Purim and before, as preparation. This is useful for comparing and contrasting with the movie renditions. What was changed? How do you feel about the way each character was represented?

Now further-engage!

Think of all the growth a child undergoes in a year. What they understand and gleam–this year will be vastly different than past Purim. Now for your family’s acting & retelling:

For the enactments, read aloud portions or paraphrase yourself while children act and interject. 

Invite them to create puppets to act and roleplay the Purim story.

You could use these awesome printable puppets by Moms and Crafters or invite them to make a basic or a more detailed Esther. I am picturing bits of beads and shiny scraps. Maybe two Hadassah/Esthers, or a two-sided puppet, one from before she goes to the palace and one that reflects the dazzling, Jewish queen and royalty of Shushan/Susa.


My daughter sat down with a pencil, copy paper, and her imagination. She chose to write in Japanese as opposed to English, but you will see the characters, what they are wearing, down to what colors each part of their costume will be. This is how she chooses to create her puppets–with an organized shopping list to ensure we find the right colors and details to make her ideas come to life.


Or use what you have! Anyway, see what grabs and entices the kids. This is for them!


(It is easy to be dismayed and feel a righteous anger towards Haman, but how are we to feel about the king? You may engage in some good discussions with your kids about this and every character’s role in the story).

Add music, maps, globes! Enhance your learning and make a show!

One music sample here

a video for more understanding of Sephardic Jews in modern-day Iran

Poetry & music of Modern Mizrahi Jews (those from Arabic countries)

All understanding, comprehension and critical thinking will emerge throughout play. Enjoy! Eat, drink, apply the goodness of Purim as you tell and retell. Give to the poor, share the joy and courage of Esther and her prayer. Drown out the name of Haman.

Play, play, play. Experience the power and fun of retelling. Take a look, also, at the gorgeous linked activities below!

Purim for Kids | Multicultural Kid Blogs

This post is part of our annual Purim for Kids blog hop. Visit the posts below for great ideas about sharing this holiday with the kids in your life! Don’t miss our blog hop from last year, and you can find even more ideas on our Purim board on Pinterest:


Participating Blogs on Multicultural Kid Blogs: Interfaith Purim Plus: A Wide Approach to Spring Holidays
Moms & Crafters: Free Color-in Purim Puppets
Kelly’s Classroom: Better-than-Best Purim
Melibelle in Tokyo
All Done Monkey: Free Purim Printables

A Wealth of Diverse Voices Needed, Especially When it Comes to Money

How did the hashtag “adulting” become so popular? The term “adulting” hit the internet hard this year and it hasn’t slowed. Honestly, it shows me that I need to be teaching and modeling these #adulting things now, even to my six and almost-four-year-old!

Forbes published findings that people in their 20s and 30s are having trouble “adulting,” or achieving financial independence. Conducted by Bank of America and USA Today, the report says less than half of the 22-26-year-olds surveyed pay their own rent (47%), health insurance (41%), or contribute to a retirement account (27%).

I know this is a kids’ post, a review of a diverse book served up for Multicultural Children’s Book Day, but the book I received, Ayo’s Money Jar, specifically deals with money management and helping our children to be wise when it comes to money, even when it starts as a single coin.


If adults in their twenties and thirties need help “adulting”, then certainly they could use more tools to empower their children and the way the family views and handles money. This is a book that can help a family get on track and inspire kids to do big things in every step of the way they experience and handle money. How awesome for kids to have such a character being money-wise with his family.

Ayo’s Money Jar was written by Charlene Fadirepo, a banker, and financial educator. She is also the mother of her own beautiful Ayo. Ms. Fadirepo also created a financial education social enterprise company, SmartChoiceNation, dedicated to empowering America’s youth as a response to financial illiteracy problems indicative of this era in our country.

She says this of her company, “SmartChoiceNation is a —especially women to make smarter financial and life skills choices. Our goal is to build a nation of students and parents well equipped to make smart money and life choices. We create products to teach critical financial, economic, and business literacy skills with an entrepreneurial foundation to parents and their children”.

Readers will enjoy the vibrant details from the work of illustrator, Aniekan Udofia, a Nigerian a muralist/visual artist and painter. Truly, the color is what readers will latch onto as they stay with Ayo in his day. Illustrator, Udofia, brings the clanging quarters to life as they begin to add up in the glass money jar. Ayo is helpful and responsible in his home and we see a father giving him thumbs up. We see the joyful eyes of the man Ayo shares his wealth with, presumably homeless. It appears that this specific act of giving came from Ayo himself, though giving is modeled in the home. The catchy “Give, Grow, Get” repeats throughout the book.

What a healthy thing to show children, though, that it is not only about amassing. The chart of the three G’s is placed to look like a peace sign and certainly managing resources like Ms.Fadirepo lays-out, creates a healthy flow.

What is interesting to me is that the author created this book out of seeing a lack of books presenting diverse main characters within any financially-minded set of themes. To me that means any children of color or unique culture may not see any characters wisely handling money or even bringing money to the table, so to speak.

Despite census data that shows 37% of the US population consists of people of color, only 10% of children’s books published have diversity content. Using the Multicultural Children’s Book Day holiday, the MCBD Team is on a mission to change all of that.


I wonder how her own Ayo views this book. My children enjoyed it, both with their different set of skills. There seems to be something each age/skill set can grasp onto. I do appreciate the color coding of these three G-words.

For us, a family living and mangaing our yen in Japan, this was a great book for sharing more on the US dollar and coins. It could be a whole lesson on money in various parts of the world. In fact, my husband had some Korean Won from his recent work trip. As we speak they are comparing coins from Singapore, South Africa, and America. These 3-G concepts are universal. It would be neat to have a pen pal and hear how he/she earns, give, and spends his/her money.

More Extension Ideas: 

I suggest using your own glass jar and real quarters for the real clangety-clang and hands-on money and math benefits. Readers could identify and pull-out quarters from a pile of varied coins and plop them in the jar along with Ayo. They could count, putting in and taking out. At the end of the reading, kids could adopt the glass jar for their own growing, as well.

Read or re-read the gorgeous classic, A Chair for My Mother. In it, the main characters, also diverse, save and save in their own glass jar.

Families can up their giving and brainstorm healthy ways for their money to flourish in the hands of people and organizations with real needs. Often times, kids are much more generous that we even realize. (Personally, I want our own kids to see us model each stage of the 3 Gs. I want to show them that we have the faith to know our own needs will be supplied, even and especially when we are generous with others).

In a class or family setting, the teacher or parent could record money earned, for what jobs or activities, and then record everyone’s tales of how they shared, helping others, and how their money was spent. It would be awfully cute and rewarding to see what toys, supplies, or accessories children were choosing. Additionally, it would be neat to record who was choosing to save their money a little longer, holding off on spending in lieu of more growing.


What kind of jar will you and your child start plunking coins into?

Kudos to the author and illustrator for teaming up. Kudos to Ms. Fadirepo for building a legacy that will be marked by wisdom and generosity. May her work on this book and within SmartChoiceNation avail much.

Get your copy of the book here with follow-up activities. connect with the author:

Learn about resources to teach kids about money via Charlene’s blog.

The book’s official website 

Connect with the author on Facebook and Twitter                                                 

Truly, children must see parents work so hard, saving and spending. But sadly, I have to think, many children must also be aware of the poor choices their parents must make in the financial department. How exciting that even at a young age, children from every can be in control of their energy and resources, choosing how they add up, trade, and give away their money. Imagine the #adulting hashtags they will be able to type.


Here is the one we’re using: #ReadYourWorld

Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2017 (1/27/17) is in its fourth year and was founded by Valarie Budayr from Jump Into A Book and Mia Wenjen from PragmaticMom. Our mission is to raise awareness of the ongoing need to include kids’ books that celebrate diversity in home and school bookshelves while also working diligently to get more of these types of books into the hands of young readers, parents, and educators. 

Gifts & Loot Links:

Teachers!  Free Multicultural Books for you found here.

Free Kindness Classroom Kit for Homeschoolers, Organizations, Librarians and Educators! 

Free Diversity Book Lists and Activities for Teachers and Parents

Take advantage! Until next year’s diverse reviews!

We’ll see how much money , giving, and saving we’ve accrued!


Current Sponsors:  MCBD 2017 is honored to have some amazing Sponsors on board. Platinum Sponsors include ScholasticBarefoot Books and Broccoli. Other Medallion Level Sponsors include heavy-hitters like Author Carole P. RomanAudrey Press, Candlewick Press,  Fathers Incorporated, KidLitTVCapstone Young Readers, ChildsPlayUsa, Author Gayle SwiftWisdom Tales PressLee& Low BooksThe Pack-n-Go GirlsLive Oak MediaAuthor Charlotte Riggle, Chronicle Books and Pomelo Books

Author Sponsor include: Karen Leggett AbourayaVeronica AppletonSusan Bernardo, Kathleen BurkinshawDelores Connors, Maria DismondyD.G. DriverGeoff Griffin Savannah HendricksStephen HodgesCarmen Bernier-Grand,Vahid ImaniGwen Jackson,  Hena, Kahn, David Kelly, Mariana LlanosNatasha Moulton-LevyTeddy O’MalleyStacy McAnulty,  Cerece MurphyMiranda PaulAnnette PimentelGreg RansomSandra Richards, Elsa TakaokaGraciela Tiscareño-Sato,  Sarah Stevenson, Monica Mathis-Stowe SmartChoiceNation, Andrea Y. Wang

We’d like to also give a shout-out to MCBD’s impressive CoHost Team who not only hosts the book review link-up on celebration day, but who also works tirelessly to spread the word of this event. View our CoHosts HERE.

Thank you!

The Dang Teeth

I know I keep writing about teeth! How weird, as if I have a thing for teeth, some latent dentistry dream or I don’t know, teeth are weird. I picture those terrifying (sorry, we’re not supposed to say that about someone’s else’s food) guinea pigs on the fire spit, roasting on a rotisserie in Peru and all that is left of their pet-ness is those dang horrible buck teeth!

Well, I love my daughter, and she has lovely lovely teeth, but it’s just strange the way they keep coming up (dental pun). She has lost a total of three teeth and we have no teeth here in a case or bag or whatever to speak of. The first was accidentally eaten. The second was accidentally thrown away. The third got accidentally cleaned up by the cleaning woman who comes every Thursday. I have put more hours and mental energy into finding these teeth than I would a lost puppy. (Okay, obviously not true).


But a few days ago, wrecked from the accidental throwing away from being bandaged up with wads of toilet paper like a tooth mummy, I went a bit nuts. My son had just chucked his sister’s newly lost tooth across the room in a moment of anger. I hunted that dang tooth down, finally spotting it in the fruit bowl next to bananas.

The girl with the gaping hole was still so jarred through the tooth-somewhere-in- bags-of-garbage incident that she wrote ALL OVER a double seal, non-generic fancy plastic bag that it was hers and that she would be so mad if anything happened to it. Well, she showed her grandma here, her Obaachan, and bless that sweet, beautiful woman, Baba held it in her hands, turning it over and marveling at that cute, tiny white thing. She really took her time, over and over, just stupified over the size and perfection of it, maybe. It is a bone. A tooth is the same calcium structure of a bone and we put it under a pillow and request something for it. A bone on the outside, inside of our body.

Well, that wonderful Baba of ours set it back down on the table and then…it was gone. Poof. Back on my hands and knees, mumbling and dismayed, back crawling under the lunch table for a white crumb that is really bone and should be washed and placed under the cool underside of her pillow like yesterday.

I pictured it caught up in Baba’s mustardy cowl-neck. I obsesseved over it. I pictured it stuck at the top of her sock for however long it could hold out on her walk and train ride home from our house. And then we all realized that probably, absolutely our cleaning woman must have swept it off of the dining room table and into a dust bin.

Sigh. It is fine. It is a dumb little bone, but it was my girl’s and I totally know the size and the shape.


The tooth fairy should resist, really, not leave a cent or a yen or any sweet, what with n’ery any teeth for her to see. Not from any of them. That woman (T.T.F.) is either a sucker or very bright; she stocked that underside of the pillow with three kinds of candy and a verbal note (nor written) that these candies were given to quicken the process of losing teeth—by rotting them out. 

The next tooth that comes out I may just lock in my own safe. (After I buy one). It’s easier that way.


If not totally obvious, I think this growing up and out is just making an impression.

Here was another piece in Brain, Child–and o course, it’s about teeth. (It’s getting creepy, I know).

Doesn’t help that we are in love with Junie B. Jones’ voice and we are SAVORING this one book in the series where Junie loses her top tooth & is afraid she’ll look like toothless Uncle Lou.

Anyway, all of this is just preparing me for the day I need to take my girl out for a bra and face toner. No tooth fairy for the preteen negotiations, though there should be. High five.


Getting Back to Getting Back

I have not posted on this thing for months. Not in a journal or on scraps of paper much, either. There have been a few essays, but little else besides what I scrawl in my head.

I’ve become shy and prude, at least on paper, not talking, never divulging thoughts on the election, not my new baby nephew, not our community, not weather, nail polish, or what is going on in Israel. Not really anything. And time has passed. See? There are no longer even leaves. We are at the edge of a new year, even.


How does one get back to it, to writing or anything they did? They do it, the thing they were without. They go back to the meetings they missed, back to raising a hand and being noticed, to tying up shoes for a run though it’s been forever and they will limp along like road more Hunchback than Jackie Joyner-Kersee.

I will start although I’ve missed decades of dates, forgotten milestones that number the hundreds, more than the crumbs in my box of panko. y youngest child is now half a year old, a day or two from crawling, and the middle one is a boy who only jumps from the fourth steps, never walks down. We have been down to one fish. Our house is stocked with two boxes of mikan, and everyone but me is asleep. I’ll start with this:


Things I Missed But Am Writing Now 1):

*My daughter lost that first ever front tooth, finally lost that cute, stubborn snaggletooth, right before leaving for the Hanukkah party. It’s been her parallel universe with the character Junie B. Jones who also loses that first top tooth. I disciplined her brother who actually hit her tooth with a ROCK while on our dog walk/ride around the neighborhood. This tooth has been through the ringer. The rock is still in my coat pocket because I told J I would be showing his father. I have a rock in my herringbone pocket, guys–(same coat that is crying for dry cleaning with its tooth-sized grape juice spill on the back). It’s all evidence, isn’t it. Sigh, smile, oi vey, and that other beautiful yiddish phrase, ver veyst.

(Oh the highs and oh, the lows. Growing can be summed up by the losing and getting of teeth, plus also, sibling assault and making up).


It was the BEST DAY for her—total rock star mode that dissolved with a sad fizzle when she discovered it was lost and thrown out. She will never ever let a fallen-out tooth stay in a wadded tissue because that looks like trash and this was a number one kind of treasure. It was so sad and unfair that I scolded her with such passion and verve, I held myself back from actually diving into the bag of Hanukkah party trash to find the tooth because one cannot actually think to look inside tissues for a white six-year-old-tooth when they may have to go through snot. Why, O why did she not just ask me to hold onto the tooth for her? It would have stayed in my pocket. It would be under her pillow now.


And we are not doing so hot over here, from the ratio of kept tooth to total abysmal losses—one tooth she kept/or maybe it is lost by now. The second lost tooth she accidentally ate with her cracker/Japanese osembei. This momentous third, as you know, is in a pile of snotty trash. At least lost things make decent stories. She will always know that Hanukkah parties and wadded tissue balls of teeth do not mix well.


So, you see, I am starting with that. I don’t know what this blog will be or what I will really continue to craft with my time. I do know that I still want to catalog moments of our family’s highs and lows, track what it is to grow. I’ll start again if even other with lost things. A kind of retracing of steps and finding if I can stand up straight and make strides again.

If she relied on us, the tooth fairy would be out of work. She would be sleeping on a friend’s couch, for sure, and not eating anything as fancy as latkes or roast beef. She would nibble on foraged, mushy mushrooms and frozen carrots. And she’d find rocks in our pockets.

Okay. Starting with that.

Why is “Knocked Up” So Much Fun to Say?



Before I was Melissa with three big, wacky kids, I was Melissa with two big kids and one in the oven, working through my life here in Japan. I was pedaling my bike until I couldn’t anymore and getting the strangest looks. I was a mom of three, but first two, and one, and before my eldest was born, I was just me, me trying to figure things out in my new home of Tokyo. Me, daily reconciling the differences between my two homes, Florida, America, the family, friends, and sunsets I left behind, and the home I was just getting to know, alongside my husband.


Obgyn, heck, dentist appointments can be uncomfortable enough in the culture you know, but here, with a different language and forms to fill-out, and a variety of cultural differences and norms? When you’re becoming a mother, you want to feel somewhat capable, like a real adult who can communicate and later advocate for your child and family. You don’t want to feel childish, unable to convey your needs or clearly word your questions. I left some of those appointments in tears. (Picture break-downs and here-and-there success at bookstores, public offices, shops, and train stations).

Writing, through all of these times, has been empowering, and therefore, healing.

So, too, has mothering.


I’ve come out of all of these experiences a stronger and more confident me. Motherhood is challenging in any scenario, wherever you live, with a great number of supports or especially solo. With writing, I’m finding my voice and connecting with others. As women, as mamas, it’s powerful to know we’re seen, we’re heard, and we’re supported. It’s important to read of bravery in its many forms, of pioneering and making it work.

I can now say that I’m part of a great and splendid project with the expression, “Knocked Up” in the title! Hooray! The book showcases 26 women in 25 countries, all navigating the unique experiences of giving birth abroad and really, daring to make a life with kids.

I’m grateful for having an avenue, a gorgeous book in which my essay, my little baby, found a home. I can’t wait to read the other stories! From my essay and used by the wonderful editor, Lisa Ferland, in our Kickstarter site:


I ask you to spread the word and share this project. Support, tweet, give, do anything you feel led to do.

Join in, please. I know if I would have had a book like this going into it, I’d have been greatly encouraged. We are never alone, but it can feel that way sometimes. Books, words, stories that connect, all have power.

Come on, don’t you want to say/share/tweet you’ve been, “Knocked Up Again?”

To GIVE click here!

To SHARE click here!



**Gorgeous black and white photos above by the amazing Mel Willms.

Merci, thanks, and arigato!


How to Make Sukkot Your Own

Are you familiar with Sukkot, the Jewish festival also known as the Feast of Tabernacles or The Feast of Booths? Booths, you ask? Not telephone booths, not dunking or kissing booths, but temporary shelters the Israelites lived in during the forty years of wandering in the wilderness.

(This post is part of something larger, hosted by Multicultural Kid Blogs!)
Jewish High Holidays for Kids | Multicultural Kid Blogs

So the Israelites left 430 years of slavery in Egypt in what was the largest exodus, or migration of any people–2.5 million people!

They didn’t stop to make condominiums or apartments. No need for realtors or neighborhoods with cul-de-sacs but rather, be unencumbered to keep trusting and moving as G-d led them using a cloud by day and a fire by night. Exodus 13:21

So they dwelt in these booths and this was one of the ways the Lord provided. This was tough terrain! No misting sprays or air-conditioned cars, no camel packs, or sports drinks. They trusted and went, each week shaking off some of their old securities and insecurities as slaves.

Sukkoth always begins on the 15th day of Tishri, the Hebrew month which uses a lunar calendar. It’s always a fall festival. In Japanese, as is relevant for my family and the place in which we live, it is called Kari o no Matsuri.


(This is the lovely Hakone, Japan, not the infinite buildings of my Tokyo).

In the book of Leviticus,  23:42 on, we are called to dwell in these booths for seven days. There is much to say about it, but if you were to construct a sukkah, you’d need very basic walls. They can even be frames alone. The roof should allow the light of the moon and stars to be seen. Again, it’s temporary. No one will win any contest for building a mini model home. Its very purpose is temporary.

In fact, one thing I love about Sukkoth is the parallel between our life on earth and the building. Our lives are sadly, quite temporary. But even so, we see the beauty of God’s creation. We fix our eyes on that which will remain.

The light streams in, even in the night. Life on earth can be fraught with difficulty, but Sukkoth is a festival accompanied by singing and dancing, a celebration of water, blessings over wine. Taking place at harvest time, kids often string fruit and vegetables indicative of the harvest.

Jewish people have been spread out over the earth in the term “diaspora”. Heck, I’m in Japan, right? Everywhere Jews are building and seeking to dwell in their own temporary booth to celebrate God’s faithfulness and the harvest they have been able to reap. So the branches that cover a family’s sukkah in Israel will be different branches than a family in Buenos Aires or in Washington DC. The fruit that hangs, maybe mangos and avocados in Miami will not be the same fruit a child ties to strings in his family’s sukkah in Lisbon.


And then there’s the meal! In our sukkah in Tokyo, Japan, we may bridge Japanese foods with Ashkenazi Jewish foods and include some American touches, too. But the greenery, the plants? All of that reflects where we are now, where the same Mighty God is leading us. Last year, we made our seven-day beauty of a booth on the roof of our building and looked out at trains on a monorail. Our children strung Japanese veggies like renkon (lotus root), kabocha, and spiny cords of rosemary stretched overhead filled the space with fragrance.


There is “Feast of Booths” written in Japanese, Kari o No Matsuri.

We feasted at night and slept under the sukkah, under moon and stars. It’s like combining Thanksgiving and camping! With food! And wine! And glad hearts. You may have game night inside, singing and guitar playing. Every bit of your sukkah and dwelling inside will reflect who you are as a family or person right now in this season. 

So my point is, don’t merely go the Pinterest route, thinking it has to be one way. Use what you have and build it with love, whether on a roof, on the sand, near a clump of trees, or using a wall of your garage. It sure was easy to get plenty of palm fronds for our sukkah when we lived near the beach in south Florida. You could ask anyone for snippings from their yard and get loads of banana leaves, too. Here, in Tokyo, a mega-city? Not so much.


So we use what we can get. This is city life, right? One friend even drives down from her parents’ home almost two hours north. You threaten to go to public parks and cut down their trees, or help yourself to our rose garden’s gorgeous ginkgo branches. In the end, though, God always provides.


Draw inspiration from your heritage as Jews and as people sojourning on this earth, speaking dialects and enjoying the fruit of whatever land you’re in. Make it your own. 

One wonderful friend makes her sukkah in Phoenix, Arizona, where her family resides. Last year they used brilliant bougainvillea to cover the roof. Gorgeous, but she says they won’t do that again. Too spiky, she said.


This is the same sukkah at night. (Don’t worry if yours is more cardboard and newsprint than such luxury! Just be inspired). It’s amazing what a little swatch of cloth and some stringy lights can do! Talk about inviting!


I know, isn’t it grand? You should here about their menus–a rich mix of Sephardic recipes and produce that reflects the southwest and Mexican flair of the region. I joked that they could just sling a saguaro cactus up on top to really reflect the desert. Follow @blooming_the_negev on Instagram for more from my friend!

Another friend says she and her children keep the decorations year to year. I think this is great and wonderful and I’d probably do it if the paper chains we make didn’t get so smooshed or tired-looking holding up to the wind or passing showers. Thing is, there weren’t any huge Tupperware bins from Target or Walgreens for the Israelites to store their craft stuff in and drag it round and round. They built as they went and we can trust, too, that we’ll have just what we need year by year to celebrate all God supplies.

For more specific guidelines on building your sukkah, click here

This year, on the roof of our building at some very tiny location that Google Maps can pinpoint, we will be there, feasting and laughing, under the booth. Under the same moon and gleaming stars as all of you, the same celestial body that our ancestors marveled at. We’ll wave the same lulav and etrog, whispering and declaring the same prayers.




It’s the scent, though, the spice in our meals, the flowers that we weave under the canopy of stars that tells of our migration and Exodus, everything leading us to this point. It is the continuation of a festival, every year a bit different, that tells our story.

It doesn’t have to be the hottest thing on the internet, pinned by a thousand women on Pinterest. Enjoy! Have fun in the building and then dwelling inside, unfettered by all of the distractions that take place inside our regular homes. Get ready to marvel at such simplicity of design and all the ways you’ve made Sukkoth and this booth your own.

Jewish High Holidays for Kids | Multicultural Kid Blogs

The High Holidays are a very special time for families, and we’ve got great ideas for how you can celebrate with the children in your life! Visit the blogs below, plus see our blog hop from last year, and be sure to visit our Jewish High Holidays board on Pinterest:


All Done Monkey on Multicultural Kid Blogs: Gluten Free Rosh Hashanah Recipes
Melibelle in Tokyo: How to Make Sukkot Your Own
Kelly’s Classroom: Kids’ Writing about Rosh Hashanah
Moms & Crafters: Apple in Honey DIY Felt Rosh Hashanah Toy


More interesting takes on the sukkah:

On wheels, Pedi-Sukkahs in NY city and four other global location

A sukkah with living, green walls in Park Slope–inspiring innovation many of us would want to spend inside

An LA man hunts for the perfect canopy, or schach–corn stalks, dried flowers, and bamboo mats are mentioned

What kind of sukkah will you make this year?