My Birthday, Her Birthday and All That Collective Age

My daughter knows I’m in my thirties and now says she’s in her “fivees”. We’ve been celebrating our birthdays for a month strong now, both of us wanting to keep celebrating and acknowledging and revving up for the next big part of being older (Okay, maybe just her).


I’m an end of August birthday; hers is mid-September. We’ve been going on, colliding like this for a while, both of us clamoring for a piece of the proverbial cake. She says, August 23, day before my birthday, that she ought to get the bigger slice of pizza, or taller glass of water, or first pick at a candy, to honor her approaching birthday. Even though mine was the very next day. That little shmoo even beat me to blowing out my own candle.


Looking a bit haggard at Disney

We’re a little bit competitive.

I never just let it go, but point out these things and say, “And by the way, where is my card?” and “Sing me my birthday song!” We chase each and I am realizing that I’m a bit of a child! (Snort, ya think?) Maybe my inner child is six.

Now that my birthday is sadly, officially over, I’m fashioning giant cardboard FIVES  into piñatas. I’ve got the whole couch littered with great big piles of birthday. There are pink and purple polka dot napkins, cups, tablecloths, mini canvases for her friends to squash their chubby little hands down in a FIVE with paint. It is a house of loot.


Turns out our Sunday party in the park will most likely be rained-out which bring us to our Plan B: the house. Hello, cleaning. Hello, 24 hours of Kon Mari and stashing every odd thing in the dog’s room. (Maybe not Kon Mari at all. Nope). It will be a house crawling with five year olds and soon to be five year olds, plus baby and big kid siblings, and parents, too. If it’s really raining hard, we will bust open that FIVE piñata in our living room. Because we love birthdays and hitting stuff. And stuff flying out.

It will be a house ringing with the sounds and squeals of Japanese, the parents from our children’s hoikuen, or preschool, asking me to answer questions I still cannot articulate, all to celebrate our girl. I am bracing myself, trying to clear shelves and feign organization. I’m bracing myself for upper thirties and a five year old girl, all of the changes that come and make me want to just sing over her in the night, make me want to take out all those baby pictures and pregnant belly photos and even her dried-up umbilical cord they preserve here as a gift when a family goes home with their newborn infant.

My International Birth in Japan Post on Best of Baby

Here we go. I’m already seeing her taller, leaner from riding her new training-wheeled bike. She is already parting her own hair, making her own pigtails and braids. Her new thing is voluntarily bringing us glasses of ice water with each together meal. She already launched into a talk about how she should be able to marry her preschool friend, because “It is my life, why should you care or get to decide”, she has already said, at still four years of age. She is a sweetie and a pistol. A Pippi Longstocking, Punky Brewster, me, and my husband, all braided up in one strong, hilarious, sometimes, mouthy thing.



Here we are, at what already feels like a precipice. She is almost 5 years old, going on twelve or fifteen.

Does that make me 30-something going on fifty? I don’t know, but it’s not a bad thing to like birthdays. Not in this house, anyway. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Dogs Get Their Fortunes Read

Yesterday was our dogs’ birthdays. They are brothers from the same litter of their young doxie mother’s only litter. My husband bought the pups by trading Hebrew lessons, preparing our friend’s kids for their bar mitzvahs. A grand mitzvah, all around.

Now years past those landmarks, our dogs sit with us not in Pompano Beach, where they squirmed and wriggled as mini hot dogs, but here, in Japan. They are family when I like them or not (so many posts I could address their peeing, abhorrent habits of getting into dirty diapers, or their incessant barking). As a nice reprieve, yesterday was their shared birthday. It is interesting/strange/sad to note that I haven’t payed any homage to my husband on his birthday. January is cute in our home, as the dogs’ day is just two days after my dear hub’s. (More on human bdays later).


“What should we do?”, my kids and I last-minute brainstormed. “Party hats! Oh, we’ll want to snuggle so dear, G-d, they need a bath! Okay, we’ll scrub”, we said, growing louder! And then squeals—“We can dress them up”, my daughter shouted. “Yes, and we should give them something tasty!” Here’s where she got culinary like some sensational vet at Le Cordon Bleu. She dreamed of how we might construct a real cake, but for doggies, round and chock full of carrots, veggies, dripping with a kind of succulent beef glaze. I reined her in a bit. This was, afterall, last minute, the night before their big 10 year party.




There would be party hats, the cute stored supplies I hide in cubes in the dining room, from J’s 1st party. Paper festive napkins, my favorite from Oh Joy’s first Target line.

The dogs got special treatment following their de-stinkathon and deep conditioning. By special treatment, and mean crackers and me not wanting to kill them when they peed in my floor buckets as if they had never ever been outside. As if I’d let them drink a keg of shower water. They really are getting older. Less control & poor Sammy is dealing with a bout of kidney stones. Whooooosh and peeeeeee.

I didn’t even yell. A birthday is a birthday.

They wagged with our leftovers, new slices of vivid orange pepper, and even… their own tangerine-flavored fortune cookies. Sammy, the black one, got a particularly fitting fortune. Something about fun and weekends which prompted us to plan a trip to the park. (Maybe I should plant a fortune about jewels sparkling).




It was a good time and a nice push to be more loving, more forgiving, and take a break from screaming.

A dog is a dog and they, the birthday boys, are sure family.

A Real Sweet Tooth

You know how in the moment, in some magic epiphany, you say, “Yes. I shall remember this; I shall remember this moment”, the distinct words coming right towards your soul? Those are the very words I’ve forgotten these past weeks, this past month, or four. I’ve been slow to post from my girl’s birthday party and some wonderful insights surrounding the event seem to have floated away.


In forgetting, I was reminded that it is the writer who knows, absolutely KNOWS that magic is performed rollerball pen in hand, cap unsheathed, paper spread out and ready for black marks. If I had stopped what I was doing mid-oatmeal spoon to my gap-toothed, three-bowl-a-meal son,…if I had roused myself after dreams. If I had stopped everything for a few small lines, I’d see from where I came. Because in the life of a family, no, in the life of people, we change. Or maybe change wraps around us, one or two hair strands at a time until we are changed and in the subtle or catastrophic fight, we become different. I want to record all this static, chemical, physical change. I want to always remember where we were, where we went, and how we became. Fitting that all this surrounds FROZEN, or what happens when you compress molecules, when you change the most basic of elements.

These are glimmers of my girl’s party. She rocked the house down. All the way to the ground. Singing, dancing, hugging, tearing it up, basically. She turned four and sent three out the door, didn’t even let three pack up. K became a big, gorgeous, hilarious, sassy girl.


imageHer brother was there, on hand, to help with entertainment. He also hammed it up and has been singing, I kid you not, FROZEN. He has been singing every syllable, recognizable even by his daycare. He could be on the Late Late Show doing his thing.


See? Proof of not much sleeping. I crafted Olaf from lanterns and made enough snowflakes to deck Antarctica.

No joke. An event comes around and suddenly I’m having to pull crazy late-nighters like I’m cramming for a final exam. I really am laid-back and have no need to try and be perfect or create “the MOST amazing party”. All those little details like pinata making and goody bag filling and princess dress ordering from goofy Japanese translated sites takes time!

And as far as any need to keep up with the Jones’/er Yamaguchis’, that point is fairly moot. Okay, I’d like these same hoikuen/preschool moms who see me flailing about managing kids, shoes, my bike, sheets, school/parent communication logs/general life skills, to see me doing pretty okay in my “home environment”. I would like them to say, “Oh, even though she is a nerd in our culture, she can sing the Frozen song in English pretty okay. She sure loves her kids and look, she even wore stockings.”

So maybe that was part of my motivation. But just for five minutes.

I was mostly just in awe of my girl and our family.



Sister & partner-in-crime, Kenzerina. She is the one who makes Pinterest boards & ices the cake.

K with her first ever friend, Miss Miya. Miya’s mum, Anna, took this and many of the best shots in this post. Thank you, lady!!

Below, my gift of a Mom-in-law, Fumie, is helping Jude & his sweet bud, Sara. What lovies, right?!


It is easy to enjoy such a sweet party, even as the hostess. We also happen to have some wonderful family friends, much to do with K’s down-to-earth neighborhood hoikuen, or preschool.

It is not so “pressurey” throwing a kid’s birthday party in Japan because…Japanese people don’t. Turns out, making a big hullabaloo with kids’ friends and their parents and big sheet cakes and/or cupcakes, games, ponies, bounce houses, Pinterest-planned and obsessed theme parties are American. And European or whatever else. The point is they are not Japanese. Every year, I am the only one doing this. You can surmise that we don’t get a lot of birthday invitations. Try none. They aren’t clogging up the bulletin board at the door or anything. The good news is that it’s not personal (gosh I sure hope not); the kids are just partying it up with the grandparents at home or in a restaurant, just the family.

Wait til they get our Bar and Bat Mitzvah invitations! Ha.

Incidentally, I learned (or remembered that) my husband and I are mic hogs. What are they gonna do? Throw us out? It’s our party! Who’s the keeper of goodie bags, huh? You’ll wait, thank you very much! 😉




There will be one more picture. My girl received a bouquet of flowers from her friend who wore a BOW TIE. Isaac made them re-enact it for the shot.

It’s coming, along with more words. More looks back to how one simple party seems like a line in the sand for our jazzy songbird daughter.

K back to back


xoxo, Me

and that Open Dooooooooor, yeah love is an open doooooooor.

Can’t Believe the Candles

Now that I’m thirty-five, I can’t believe my parents were ever this young, rather, this young and parenting. Cuz I remember when my mom was thirty-five, (and what I remember as perfect) but i feel so young and not quite there yet.

I have the stroller and bike in drive, heels and my work. I’ve got my stellar storytimes, my teaching tricks, tuck-ins that leave them wanting more, but I am so still hunting for every lost thing. I’m up for all-nighters like I’m twenty, but now see dappled sunspots and use creaky knees.

Is this thirty-five?


Seems like thirty-five is cement. Whatever you put it gets stuck, nailed in habit. For a wicked long time. For forever as long as there is street. My scary habits are hardening as we speak, as if my birthday cake accompanied a cement mixer and the need for rich clay face masks every night following dinner.


Who I am, my daily love speak, my political discussions that become sarcasm, my nicknames and loud, no-way-that’s-indoor-voice banter. It’s all there on the hard drive, and barely seems pliable enough to tweak. Thirty-five is a year that gets good, but is sheer reflection of momentum and habit, it seems.


Thirty-five is “Oh, snap”, my toned, perpetually ready for a bikini body won’t form itself. It is “Will I ever choose to play the violin again”? It is what will I show for today and this week, everything I pour in and drink up. A squashing of grapes, cup raised.

It is the season of examining the habits and what I think of before bed. Who do I want to be at thirty-six or do I dare say, forty?

My marriage, the habits of thought. My taste in clothing and perfume and color, remembering which scent sticks to me and lingers, remembering which bottle makes my husband sneeze. Where I once learned which style of eggs I preferred, now I have the quick tricks to use with kids and guests. It has all been formed and now I practice expression, how each feeling is executed, the smile as I blow out the candle.


Thirty-five may be the best year yet. That doesn’t mean it isn’t a little bit terrifying, or at least, exhilarating.

Preserving Flowers

I’d like to preserve this day, when we took Kariin’s Baba (Obaachan) to make a little dried flower wreath for her 71st birthday. It all rolled out, just like planned, but better.

For starters, we all showed up, relatively on time– the men in what KT directed them to wear: a necktie, shirt, pants, and yes, underwear. “Men will look handsome, and ladies will wear a pretty dress,” she firmly stated. Rules are rules when a three year old purposes something including any mention of underwear.

Actually, the day started with Le Bistrot de Marc, where we toasted my Mother-in-Law with cabernet sauvignon and a lovely meal from the French countryside. Our table overlooked the old, wooden bridge of Oji and an herb garden. You could squint and swear you were in Provence, especially a Provence packed with Asian tourists. It was all terrific. Kariin ate every spoonful of her potato soup, her delicate white fish laid over grilled sweet potatoes in a mikan and beurre blanc sauce. She didn’t dribble or anything. A real sophisticated big girl, using the adult silverware until halfway, when she switched to silver that was more petite.

We rolled into a cab (still hungry from our French food), Jude, Kariin, Baba, & I, leaving the others to their train ride to our home.

“To the flower shop, mate! And step on it! Go!”

Actually, it would have been someone else explaining in Japanese where exactly we were going, with a good sprinkling of “sumimasen/excuseme/thankyousir“.

You know, Japanese cabs can feel more like a luxe limo service than a smelly jungle of NYC sweat; there are no piles of trash, no cursing, no loud sports radio. Many drivers wear white gloves, have white seats, and doors automatically open and shut. All of this lent to our carefree, pretty feeling as we piled in and out in our lacy, beaded, crinoline, velvet fall-in-the-city finery. (Plus Jude in his cotton onesie).

It is such a lovely shop, bursting and brimming with life and chlorophyll! I could just LIVE there, or take baths.


Very Anthropologie, non?

Their materials were all laid out: fragrant star anise, dried in its super star pods, stellar pokey stars housing other seeds, preserved creamy white roses, pine cones, mini rose pine cones, all that sorta dried stuff. All texture and design.  They poked and placed and finally glued with an oozing hot glue gun and the flower woman’s help.


Baba really got into it and Kariin only left the table a couple of times: to play with her brother and to see if the shop dog, Radish, a downy Airedale, was finally awake and out of hiding. (He never emerged).


Mover over, Radish dog. There’s a new Alpha in town.

We left with a confident flower-artist, Baba, their jointly-made wreath, and a sleeping brother. Up the hill we walked for our fancy cake and blowing out candles time.


I know every birthday is special. I’m alllll for celebrating those we love, and it seems all the more important that we let our grandparents know how cherished they are. I know–I’m always thinking about our disturbingly, haltingly, fleeting time on this Earth. I want everyone to live like Methuselah and be sharp and keen, doing Sodoku. I really love this woman, in particular.

It just felt so good to have helped plan a whole day full of activities I knew my M-in-L would love. Can you imagine if I put that thought into everyone’s birthday? I always feel like I lack in the celebration department. Things fall apart and I don’t get that card in the mail in time for its round-the-world commute. I obsess over the right gift, scouring websites and pinning stuff, overthinking but then letting some big ball drop. I was so happy with these results.

Long live French food, flowers, and gorgeous, overpriced dessert! Muah! And long live our Baba!!! I’m going to send her an “I Love You“, tout de suite!!

Any celebrations you’ve planned for those you love that you are especially pleased with? Grandpa, Mom, friend, sis, son? Or maybe you PLANNED something rad, but it all fell apart like stale pound cake?! What’d you do? How’d it go down?