When a Scary Virus Upsets Our Lives/ what we CAN do:

It is unsettling. If children thrive in routine and consistency, what, then, to ripping off the cover and schedule of school? What can we do when our young people must suddenly be home? (And what about us, too??)

Here in Tokyo, I am parenting three kids now at home, all day—kids who up until two weeks ago, joyfully attended their respective schools! We are moving into our third week now of full kid-at-home scheduling and every bit of outside data or headline feels like utter disaster.

And yet, we are at home making it cozy, watching movies, finally working more-with longer focus and time on their languages.

We are here looking up recipes and doing all of the spring breaky things without the parties, without the gatherings. This is almost prime cherry blossom picnic season, but this city of more than 13 million, has been asked not to gather.


With two weeks under our belts of (me) fretting about sold-out toilet paper and then finding some, making sanitizer, and limiting nervous media, I feel settled into this loose routine. I am okay with our new kind of days and weeks, even with the nagging thoughts that it may be some time longer.

Here is what is working:

*Tell your most frightened friends, the ones that make you also feel panicky and short of breath, that you will call them back. Only do so when you feel like you have ample calm and plenty of peace. Pray. Make tea. Stare at a flower or watch ten minutes of prime comedy. You cannot quell any young person’s astute worry if you are really battling your own.


*Load up on veg and fruit. Your bodies need to feel strong and even if much of that is mental, be your best. This includes eating. It also means you can eat cookies or popcorn. Find ways to “eat a rainbow”, too, of yellow peppers, cukes, and whatever, in between the creamiest, most comforting bowls of macaroni.

*Make a running list with your family, asking, “What do we want to do during this time?” It can become meaningful. Maybe there is a guitar or a violin that could be learned or played. Maybe your son wants to learn to shuffle cards or do magic. Go for it. Make that unicorn mural your girls have been asking about and forgetting. Your list can include movies you want to watch, the treats you want to bake. Your list can include pillow fights or living room forts. It can definitely include what you need, not just the kids.

It’ll be good.


*Listen to the sciency-brainstorms your kids have. Group items that they can use for a sink or float project. Listen to the big ideas and questions they wonder about. It could be about germs or bread. They might wonder about the temperature in Hawaii or Guam. They might wonder how many teaspoons is enough to make them hyper and run around. How many more until they run out of giggles and wiggles. Record it and wonder along. Google. Open books. Ask smart people things. Talk about space and read some sci-fi, but (not about pandemics or nightmares including rabies, death or vaccines).

Think snowflakes, Star Trek, or ya know, photosynthesis. Think yeast becoming bread or silly martians with green heads. Make it relaxing and full of wonder.


*Ask your children if they want quiet or if they want music or a podcast. Limiting screens is good, but listening is another story. They make want to build with Legos while listening to a kids’ podcast or a soundtrack.

*Think about limiting how much anxiety-producing soundbites and conversation you want your child to hear. Not only are they without the strengthening, consistent support of their friends, classmates, and teachers, they are wide open to taking on a mountain of worry. Facebook alone is a minefield.

*Think about what is soothing. Your child might have mentioned wanting a pedicure on that master family list. Diffusing lavender may help, douse it—whatever (as you pour a glass of wine, perhaps). Maybe they love back rubs or a goodnight-foot massage and a prayer. Maybe it is a time for more hugs, more tender conversations that start with, “Remember when you were two years-old”, more hot chocolates out of a big yellow mug. Embrace the time to be real and loving.

Now is for things you were always/are generally feeling too busy for.


*Give everyone space and grace. Everyone is off of their game. Everyone is trying to reset and manage emotions, especially if you live in a narrow home like us. We miss our friends and our soccer games, our parties, and life without keeping out worry. Be kind and know your kids want to help. They want to see us without frown lines. Grace.

*Have dance parties. Find the sweet ways to enjoy the time. Limbo. Hold a family-wide, hilarious talent show. Play “Eye of the Tiger” while your husband and son punch a soft ball that is tethered and swinging from their heads. Snort a bit while you laugh.

*Look up at the clock and realize that it is only noon, Day One. You can do this.

Now what is for lunch.


Starting The Big Food Thing

Announcing the big project to continue moving forward:

I obsess over food. Are you like this, dreaming up menus, wanting to throw more dinner parties, and exhausting all the total span of food-documentaries found on Netflix and Amazon Prime? It is nonstop foodies podcast over here! For all of my wanting to pursue food writing like never before, I am diving into a focused food project. I call it EAT・EN.


Clear background EATENPicture one place to showcase the hearts and stories in Japanese kitchens, the soul behind a menu, the detail involved in a single skill, and the people, old and young, Japanese, Korean, American, Indonesian, blends of families with traditions all of their own, the desire to conjure new memories here in Japan. Preparing tea and sweets with traditional tools. Making the picnic meals we relish under cherry trees. I want to hear the stories and peek into the places where food happens, the memory of grandparents making omurice, fluffy omelet, not overcooked, nestled over ketchupy-rice with carrots and diced chicken for eight-year-old you.

Japan is more than sushi, but it is also digging into more of the stories of a family who have worked their sushi shop over forty-years. With the help of some translating friends and eager listening, I’ll take us there.


Japan is old; it’s neighborhood udon shops and the ojiichan weighing his flour on the scale, centered in the window like a painting while plum blossoms tap the pane. Japan is new; it is first tea crops and discovering a cocktail of pear with Nihonshu. It is more Michelin stars than anywhere in Europe.


With EAT・EN, I will walk my hungry, curious little self into Tokyo’s kitchens, from the tiny, single-range apartments with barely-a-fridge, to sumptuous café counters, or homes with busy moms bustling and older couples slowly stirring. I am taking down stories, writing-out basic recipes, and capturing some of the steam and laughter on video. I am recording the soul of our kitchens, the heart of who the cooks are in heritage, culture, language, and style. It’s coming!

I call this EAT・EN, as EN means “connection” & “tie” in Japanese. I also am referring to the past tense of EAT, as in “We shared a beautiful meal; all of the yakisoba and pickles were eaten.”


Please be on the lookout for our big website reveal soon!

Finish What You Start: A Primer & Battlecry

“Finish one thing before going on to the next,” we often hear. “Put away the first toy before you take out another activity.” Simple, right? This is how we train children so they do not become the manic, high-wire creatives we are who cannot focus on a shoe long enough to get it tied.

We teach our young ones to manage their brains as they manage a room or a shelf. We were all taught this, mostly. And yet, look at how many tabs or files you have open on this computer or phone. The world has shifted to become the place where you manage pulls and tugs from 6,000 directions, “notifications” if you will.

I have new ideas, new projects, and ventures, (Learn to make pasta! Interview every Michelin chef in Tokyo!) but I cannot seem to clean up the first toys. As a (novice) writer managing children, household, and ideas, I still have loads in Grammarly, loads in Word and now Pages files that I cannot move. They have to sell, but they’ve sat for so long! They are projects with what can feel like inordinate amounts of steps.

If my essays and pitches were muffins, they’d be scientific gateways to finding new drugs and cures. They’d have mold. They’d have died in a dumpster years ago.


So. New move: I make the new dough. I form recipes and pour them into tins. I bake. I use what is available now to me in this season of spring–AND, because I am still the manic, night-owl creative, I will take the seed, the beautiful thing that was my starter and I will move those pitches, the interviews, the book reviews that I did not know how to handle or sell and I will, L-rd willing, see me develop what I need: the perseverance of a three-year-old. I will do it! Maybe we simply need the positive pressure of new things to finish up the good starts from before. Or maybe some things just happen simultaneously.



Welcome to the locker room of a thirty-nine-year-old writer and mama perpetually hungry and currently on crutches, mostly nursing my sprained ankle in bed. I hope it’s been fun. Say, can I get some more coffee?





Two Ridiculous Girls at Thanksgiving and Something Like Soul Food

I’m thinking about the concept of Soul Food and how we nurture our selves and families with whatever our personal concept of soul food is. It is regional, it is at the heart of who we are because for most of us, we cook or prep at least one meal a day, two on weekends, maybe, and the rest of the time, between housework, a job, and a myriad of responsibilities, we are thinking about what we crave and how to get it, foodwise. We run on food and go back for the memory of what satisfies.

We plan meals out, make those early Sunday bagels runs, or call in for takeout. Soul food is found on the rhythm of our days and in the beat of our nights.
I am reading A Common Table by Cynthia Chen McTernan after flinging it in my Amazon Japan cart and clicking checkout with excited hands; I nearly bought two.
The author, Cynthia, talks about that insatiable need to make and eat the food of her mother when suddenly in college on a Boston campus. How many of us go off, newly married or with roommates. It is a very cold kitchen without the scent of what drives us and the simmering sauces and baked meals that indelibly make us up.
Decades later, with a hungry family, this is a shot of the blondies my two daughters, ages 8 and 2, made with me. 
Sometimes soul food is an experiment, a shot and a stab in the dark with only a shopping list and a vague idea of what we can do with it.
The first time I made any semblance of Thanksgiving was in my Boynton Beach apartment. My adorable Roomie was gone, leaving her tower of micro-Martha Stewart cookbooks and somehow, my younger sister was home from college and willing to try to cobble out a meal out from nothing with me.
We had mainly grown up vegetarian and always subsisted on the trust that there would be enough mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, and other things like pie. Never turkey.
The above shot is from two days ago, modern-day, when I made a kind of potato/daikon, shallot dish of buttery, somewhere between chips and scalloped potatoes. This early Thanksgiving story was without smartphones. They were not invented yet, or at least not for the mere man or woman. We would have had to bring film into a CVS or Wallmart and so forth. Who knows if it happened, but our two-person feast was memorable. 
Certainly, I never made a turkey or bought a turkey or any of those turkey things like identify a neck or shove a lemon up there with garlic.
But here we were in sunny Boynton Beach, my roomie gone, no mom, only Katie Couric and Bryant Gumbel narrating the Macy’s Day Parade. As is customary for the women on my mom’s side, I turned to Ina. Ina Gartner, Barefoot Contessa. She would be the one to supervise our antics. (Sorry, Martha). I made what any fledgling Thanksgiving cook, rather what a first anytime home cook makes, and that was the smallest bird I could find without scavenging for blue jays or actually looking for young pigeons/squab to throw in my oven.
I bought two petite Cornish game hens that despite Ina, I overcooked. In the end, we probably stuck to our sides of whipped, buttery potatoes and whatnot, but we tried. My sister and I ate like grownups, filling the sunny, seashell-laden apartment with the scent of thyme and white wine reducing in a pan.
Boy, I wish we had some sort of photo or memorabilia from that Thanksgiving. We were probably adorably cute, insanely young, and maybe a little bit drunk. Proud, too, as the giant Snoopy balloon bumped its way down Central Park West. Our first Thanksgiving without any parents or takeout was a success.
That day we made our own kind of giddy, makeshift soul food and came close to becoming adults–little game hens ourselves, maybe, but well-fed, wined-up adults. We pressed in and ate to fill our kitchen and ourselves. A big sister cannot simply let a little sister call in for pizza, though that may have been one of our last-resorts had dinner not really panned out.

Hanukkah and a Case for Light

Without light, who are we? Without light, what can we grow? Hanukkah celebrates Light and where there is Light, darkness cannot be.

Go into your darkest, blackest room. Flip the switch and watch light flood the darkness. It fills space. Awaken from a bad dream and speak love and truth. Light is the thing.


Hannukah comes in winter, sometimes in the dead of cold, in frosty wind, and in down jackets hung by the door. It is a hot mug of cider or a sweet glass of wine. It is for many people, the Jewish version of Christmas, but really, it is not so much about the presents. It’s all about the light and that glimmering, glistening oil. You’ll find me making donuts, too!

This is my post for a Hanukkah roundup (or Hannukah, Chanukah, you get the gist. It can be spelled differently since it is really just transcribed from the Hebrew language). Most years now I share something with Multicultural Kid Blogs. This year’s Festival of Lights post just happens to fall on Kristallnacht, Night of Broken Glass, when, for Jews in Nazi Germany, it was the night of their broken world which led to increased persecution, broken homes, businesses, synagogues, and to 30,000 men arrested and sent to concentration camps. You can see that this is not a post on merely gluing together blue and white popsicle sticks. It follows the attack on good, elderly people in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, simply worshipping in community on the Shabbat. Simply put, we need light. Hanukkah is right on time.

Hanukkah for Kids | Multicultural Kid Blogs

Welcome to our fourth annual Hanukkah for Kids blog hop! Be sure to visit all the participating blogs for creative ways to share this special time of year with kids. Plus you can find all these and more on our Hanukkah Pinterest board! (And don’t miss last year’s blog hop, 2016, and 2015!)

Chanukkah is about restoration and rededication. It is about cleansing what was destroyed out of fear and hate. Today, the eight-celebration cannot come soon enough. I crave light. I crave family time, good news on the TV, restored families, no more unstable people brandishing hate and guns.

Ready for the craft? I tried a little exercise. It only required some fruit and flowers. I found a black piece of felt, then made a design, closing the curtains and letting in only a little bit of natural light. What did I make? A menorah, basically the ancient emoji/logo, for our holiday.


Using flowers and vegetables and everything good that grows.

See, the conditions do not have to be “right” to celebrate Hanukkah. The cocoa does not have to be in the cup, the potato pancake sizzling on brand new gorgeous, unchipped plates. A mom can be in need of gifts for her children.

The reality is that this holiday originated in extreme conditions– the deepest anti-semitism and all of the components to destroy our ethnic, cultural, and spiritual faith.

The ruler who came into power in 200 BC, in Judea/present-day Israel, was not interested in respecting differences or co-existing. King Antiochus, Seleucid King of Syria, outlawed Jewish religion and ordered all Jews to worship his Greek gods. He murdered thousands, then went on to utterly desecrate the holy Second Temple (THE temple). No one said this Jewish holiday stuff is only bagels and lox!

And yet, like many celebrations from the Bible/Torah, God moved and saved His people (“They tried to kill us, we survived, let’s eat!”). The strong stepped up, led by Judah (son of the Priest, Mattathias) and his family and band of Jewish rebel warriors, the Maccabees. They acted with conviction, being a sure light in the darkness. Judah, the Macabbee, or Hammer in Hebrew, rose up to be a light in the darkness and restore what could be restored, starting with the Temple.


During this Hanukkah season, when the Anti-defamation League has reported a massive spike in anti-semitic threats and incidents, I want change. I want flowers and happy families in synagogues, children not worried. I want restoration.

In one NPR article, George Selim, senior vice-president for the Anti-Defamation League, sites that 2017 carries a 60% increase in antisemitic hate crimes over the previous year. Students in k-12 classrooms nearly experienced a 90% increase of antisemitic incidents.

How do we, Jews, gentiles, families from all over the earth “be the light”? How do we drive out hate? What does it look like? Tell me what you do in the comments, please!

I am teaching my children that kindness is powerful, that Torah/every Word from God is powerful, that great Love knows no bounds, and that Righteousness, is better than things. I teach history and I expect change. I pray for it. I buy and grow flowers and try to smile more.

I thought of these artful takes on a menorah. Go to the local market with your kids and find the produce that most looks like candles, wicks, and flame. Use flowers, leaves, whatever natural, God-made things feel most beautiful. Fall leaves in their reds, oranges, and yellow splendor will work well!


For me, Hanukkah is a return to goodness, to the simplicity of a steaming latke, to a dreidel game that reminds us, through all of the chocolate coins and laughter, that really, “A great miracle happened there.”

That Goodness trampled despair and malintent.

While we mourn tragedy, sickness, violence, guns, or votes that didn’t add up the way we hoped, a lasting peace can burn in us. We can build one another up in community. We can be the flickering, undying flame the world so needs.

For those who know the Hanukkah story, Judah, his family and community cut back the darkness to get back into their temple. There they found utter destruction. Garbage. A slaughtered pig in the Holiest place. Desecrated scrolls. Filth. They cleaned. They used their elbow grease, but Hashem/G-d, made it shine. The oil that was required to rekindle the Menorah lit and burning for the eight days of Sukkah was no longer there; the Roman soldiers had destroyed that, too. The blessing and joy (mitzvot, in Hebrew) of Sukkoth could not be fulfilled.

This is where the Miracle came in. That oil, that piddly amount of oil, squandered at the hands of those wanting to destroy us, was stretched! The oil lasted the full eight days, enough to finally celebrate the days of Sukkot they had been unable to observe. That scant oil must have seemed barely enough to last a single day. Maybe it looked barely enough to fill a thimble or go more than one hour.


This year, Jewish families all over the world will light their menorahs, sing about the Miracle that happened, and light up the darkness with a light that grows ever stronger, adding a candle every night until the joy is complete at eight nights.

(May I add that the best photo, the one above, was created by my daughter). ❤

May every family on the earth experience more peace. May the figures of recorded hate diminish. And even if they don’t, may we know deep in our hearts that the Darkness will not always win. The Light will one day ever shine. Tears will be wiped away for good. I believe in the restoration of Hanukkah, the greatest Tikkun Olam, the Jewish phrase referring to the restoration of the entire world.

It is in the “until then”, that we must beat back the darkness.

Light the candles, invite new friends to share in your meal and feel the truth of a great miracle there and here. Maybe you’ll want to try this, too. All you need is some light, some bits of fruit or flowers, and a bit of black paper. Make a collaborative menorah or keep it solo! Use your light to illuminate the darkest corners.

Participating Blogs

All Done Monkey on Multicultural Kid Blogs: The Ultimate List of Hanukkah Crafts for Kids
Moms & Crafters
Kori at Home
Melibelle in Tokyo
Coffee and Carpool: 8 Days of Hanukkah Kindness Activities
Mommy Evolution
Juggling with Kids: Personalized Dreidel Gifts

list of tips for those living abroad or anyone needing to feel grounded:


Get your self some sturdy boots for exploring city streets and jumping over new plants and splashing in puddles–or around them, if they are not rain boots.

Do not let your ankles turn in; it’s easy to fall at night and when tired and dealing with homesickness and miscalculations of how you would maybe feel on a blustery day. It is easy to feel you’ve failed.

Your shoes are not for running away. They are to help you feel held-up and wanted here, supported, my dear.

Practice standing on trains and buses without using a handle. Develop urban calves and even do calf raises. You may not get a spot on the train or bus unless you go during off hours or if you develop a loud voice prob in a diff language. Practice hearing yourself.

If pregnant, don’t let the people sleeping or not caring deprive you of a seat.

It is yours for the taking.

Bike and figure out how to go more places. Learn your city or tiny town inside out so that you could write about or watercolor your favorite spots–the trenches of quiet, robust beauty most others do not know about. Let it be yours. Name your spots.

Eat well. Find the farmers and their markets. Find the new kinds of veggies, the mini watermelon squash, the pineapple-mint. Get your behind in the hidden bar with the tattooed gent who shakes your gimlet 89 times. Find the most velvetty cuts of meat and those preserved lemons. Seek out the tallest cupcakes. Razzle dazzle with all you find. At home, give taste tests and ask, “What does it need?” Hand-out egg beaters full of frosting.

Drink up. Invite others. You do not need to feel alone. You do not need to entertain that when you can have a full house and the walls of your heart bursting. Invite the new people to ordinary events like the bookshop, like window shopping, like fishing, like whatever, eat cake. Carve out new ways.

Ask them to your kids’ birthday parties and keep doing this forever or as long as you want even without their reciprocation. Be the warm smile upon opening the door. Write thank you notes or send little messages with the most adorable emoji. Be ready to celebrate their joys, too. Learn birthdays. Anticipate births and make deep dishes of thoughtfulness. Bake lasagna.

Don’t judge through your disappointment, either, okay? Cultures are different and certainly so are the people. Societies are not built in a day or month, but over and over like a wheel tilling the earth with its repeat rotations. You can be persistent. You can be president of whatever community you envision, or at least keeper of the keys, star photographer, and team builder. More than you know. Don’t give up on people.

You can till dirt and come up with treasure.

You can leave your child’s first-grade event with only two moms having looked at you. You can walk out of the grade-wide parent meeting because you do not know one word they say and they haven’t even gotten to introductions. There will not be a translation. No one may realize just how little you know. They may or may not even think of you in their heart to even glance your way or compliment your scarf or today’s spectacular or crappy weather. You may be the only one they ever met.

In fact, you can say “Jewish” to eyes that only blink, but have little to no recollection or comprehension. You may be the only one they have ever met. Substitute Bavarian, Chilean, Trinidadian. They may have only heard of “you” on the news.

They will not know how to bless you when you sneeze. You have to let that go. You are your best friend right now and best friends help each other breathe.

Look in mirrors, do the shoulder back thing, remembering it is more about the heart and a chest lifted then it is about the back.

Love your child and appreciate the work they do, especially as you don’t know what the heck their papers say and you can barely speak with the teacher. Your child is the life here, the soil prepared and seeds and trees resulting in a picnic of fruit. Invite them to that picnic, all of the spontaneous ones and the picnics planned. They will surprise you, those moms. They will ride with you, impressed you know the way, and they will share their juice and tea. They will accept your kindness, your cold rice balls wrapped in nori.

You will understand why the children laugh. You will understand their songs. You will feel more comfort than loss, at least on most days.

You wear those sturdy shoes and recognize the artist on the cover of your kid’s textbook. You learn stuff. You make yourself seen. You sing loudly. Keep doing that. Keep singing. Keep going. Don’t walk out. Don’t skip out on any good verse. Don’t skimp. Dance to the chorus. It may be the only time they hear the words. Sing words that are good reminders to yourself.

Get up, order the lattes and think of your shoes, your new season and how to carry yourself into then.

Inspiration and Changes

Fall is about change. The whole world of seasons is exuberant, seeds and sprouts unearthed. While we drift out of October and gaze into November, my heartstrings are being pulled, yanked, and snipped. There is change. Let’s be more dramatic and call it upheaval.


Bottom line: my son will no longer go to school. Not just any school (is there such a thing, anyway, as a school being some nondescript place, perhaps only to an out-of-touch, insensitive parent?). This is the school our seven-year-old daughter practically founded. (Okay, too dramatic). Well, she started there as a baby. I placed her with kind teachers who calmed my mother nerves and still-nursing skin. She began just before crawling. We have history.

This is the community who folded me in with them and my children, helping me to see that I could make a life, that I could make being a mom in such a foreign place work. I grew there alongside my babies.

It is at this school, our boy, now age 4.5, he began taking in a broader world and social life. He was a chubby darling, about one-year-old, and I penned his name in Japanese across the bum of every diaper. (daughter, too). I learned to write out the basics of what he ate, when he filled a diaper, how long he slept, etc.

This place which he can no longer attend is the place his big sister graduated from before she began first-grade.  I dressed in kimono and brought each fancy white-toed foot to the entrance where we took pictures as a family. I cried of course and stashed tissues in my wide, droopy kimono sleeves. I partied with mothers there, ached with them as our babies left on the colossal charter bus to pick sweet potatoes.

See how I am aching my own sweet aches? As a mother, it is the layered totality of experience, of ours, of our babies, of all of the ways our tips touch and make new colors. I grieve this now.

This is the boy who names festival goldfish for the best friends in his class and knows the fish apart. He talks about his teachers at length, in tones that honor. This baby is big, cheeks less fleshy, and his legs sure are speedy. He cannot go to school with his friends and I need to be okay with that–for a little while, perhaps. Or a great long while. I don’t know.


November is mean. It’s cold to me. It’s “enjoy this now because your warmth is fleeting.” We have but two days at his school this week–Monday, Tuesday, then “so long, Charlie”. Even to my sweet Jude.

I must be positive. I will need to make us warm and bake cookies with broad chocolate chunks and remember to buy bread. He will no longer eat that delicious pre-school lunch (the aroma from the kitchen when I drop him off in the morning!!). Not that wonderful balance of flavor and health from Japanese school lunch and snacks, but just me! Just me for breakfast, lunch, snacks, and dinner. Just me in every prominent role until Dad gets home.


And I will have to make some marvellous changes. I shall have to go from brown, mottled pidgeon to beguiling, inspiring peacock. Or pink flamingo or fierce, fast hawk. I shall have to plan every lesson, scramble and scrape for friends of his weekday. I shall have to be my best parenting and best teacher self in one, every day. I am suddenly a homeschool mom. His success and languishing between languages will squarely come down to me.

I want the flutter of inspiration and promise of making headway.

Most of all, more than my grief, much more than anxiety or hope, I want for us, resilience and the joy of something gorgeous and doable around the corner. I want us to feel warm. I’d also love to teach the boy to read, count, and love science and poetry.

It seems his education is now, more than ever, a matter of heart.