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.

Showers, Dresses, & Bodies


1. Splash

Lots of wonderful, silly things happen in our showers. We are (still) a family-get-naked-shower-group, where, to save time, I shower with my kids. It began when my girl was just a tot–I bathed with her, the special Japanese way, where you support their small neck while gently folding their ears back to not let in any water. She learned deep bathtubs at one-month-old, also learning buoyancy and the weightlessness of trust.

She later graduated to showers–Now, with toddling baby boy joining our shower, the scrubbing and shampooing life gets even funnier. I swear I said, just yesterday, “Do not pee on your brother.” I know.

In spite of sounding as crunchy as crunchy as a handful of sunflower seed trail mix, (but maybe, probably, I really am), heaps of fine and normal body-talk occurs. Some of my best parenting, I swear, happens in that shower. Gloria Steinem, my mom, Raffi, and the cast of Rent would be proud. With the addition of our boy and his circumcised penis, my girl understands girls/boys. It’s not a thing. We may even help save embarrassment later! Let’s keep all this body stuff on the table, really, as it pertains to them now, before the messy onslaught that can be “teens”. This is the way to go for us. In fact, it is quite a normalcy, in Japan, that the whole family bathes together. This is the land of public baths. Even the monkeys hang out in the tub! We know each other’s bodies; I tell you, there are worse things.

And no, we’ll not keep that up longer than appropriate. But for now, anyway, there is a comfort. There is laughter. There are correct names for body parts–no peepee and wee. No ninnies or whatever else people say. There are breasts and nipples and “jajinas”, damnit.

(I did correct my girl when she was just beside herself, kvelling at how cute Jude’s “jagina” was. Also, when she complimented his butt (Nope, honey, his PENIS. Yup, still his penis). Us girls have been in fits of giggles seeing our boy spend the greater part of a shower touching himself. Sometimes all you can do is laugh, use correct words, and wail “Baby Beluga”. At the end of the day, it’s fine. And everybody’s squeaky clean.


2. Powder & a Sheath


I hadn’t worn the dress in years. This is the aquamarine tea-length dress I could wear with back and tea with the queen, without trying too hard. It is v-length; it is flattering; I feel like one of the very gorgeous, vaporous women in The Stepford Wives. I could be an instant-walk-on; such is my love for this dress. It wasn’t even expensive or anything. I think it may have been my single-ever purchase from Dress Barn or another such unfortunately-named shop for women.


Glen Close in Stepford Waves. Gooood stuff~

Anyway, I wore it out to teach in today. My daughter LOVED it, exclaiming that I looked so beautiful that I ought to have stockings with it. She loves fancy and I was it! I clicked my heels all the way to K’s school for drop-off. Midway, I looked down and felt a bit big. Was it that I was wearing a non-nursing bra? Was it surprise that my breasts still inhabit the area above my belt? I had some definite cleavage. Not terrible, but enough that I, modest Mel, noticed.


2. Stick Out Yer Chest

So I noticed. So did Kariin’s preschool friend, Aratakun. No “good morning”, no, “Hey”! Simply, “Opai mieru!” He could see my boobs. Oh, boy. Kariin protested with firerce loyalty: “Mom! He cannot say that to you!” I think it wasn’t simply being possessive over ones’ mom. She didn’t feel right about his comment, or him noticing me there, in that way. Not okay for her.

That walk from my girl’s school to my private, all-girls, Christian private school with conservative traditions was not so easy. I didn’t have enough hands. One for trying to cover my overzealous mommy-cleavage, one for my canned drink, and one (?) for my heavy bag.

Do you know Japan? It is modest-town. There is Washington DC conservative, and there is Tokyo dress. We are so dog-gone modest about tops, so serious about modesty. There are some dichotomies and little issues when daily, I see a woman who can barely cover her vagina with a dress, but who has the most LDS-looking tops, decollate fully under wraps. Everywhere I go, I make immodest moves in the shirt-department. (Nevermind the reality that I am a no-shame in my game breastfeeder).

There n’er was cleavage til I moved here, it seems. Sigh. Such is life and pretty things that you buy in the US but here, feel hussie-like.

Oh, this dress. You’d never know this tea garden dress could make it easy to feel more like a tea garden floozie, letting preschool-aged boys and grown weirdo men get a free eyeful. And yet, in our shower, in our family, everything is pure.




Home is a Weighty Thing


my girl will learn the weight of balance,

that there is tension in springs

as we push in all we’ve enjoyed,

inhale deep the alpaca wool,

shove in with bubble-wrap

the delicate butterfly you painted

and gasp. 


This is what it is like to leave

aunts, uncles, crying grandmas

at the shore. 

Rowing Great Grandpas

it hurts a little more

How Family

can be on two sides of one earth

split soles

favorite sparkly shoes worn down

to the bone. 


We set sail in the morn. 


In two days, or 18 hours of flight,

plus some lines of delay,

she will rush into the hug of her adoring 


and all will be smoothed. 

All will be right


for that little tug,

the breath of ladybugs and stirring of grasshoppers

tuning their legs. 

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


Tomorrow we will relearn your smell,

will take you in 


will let you pick us up

nuzzle in our ear

walk through a porthole

called our other home,

our real bed

our actual table

the way we keep our cereal

and makeup and sock drawer and everyday hugs

and plums and leafy lettuce tight tight leaves touching leaves

all of us together, fitting ;

and we will say, “how lucky we are

  to have wings.”



You get what I’m saying??


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

& do they ever age?