Monday, November 30, 2009

Memory Monday - In A Pinch

Living in Japan I was constantly asked, "What is your hobby?" Every Japanese friend I met had a quick and easy answer... AND a neat and tidy hobby to go with it. My host mother's hobby was cake baking. She told me that when she first became interested in baking cakes, she baked a cake EVERY DAY for a year in order to perfect her skills. She showed me a photo album filled with photos of beautifully decorated cakes and baked a number of delicious cakes during my summer with her family. But one night, a friend stopped by unexpectedly and she invited him to stay for dinner. In the kitchen, as she stirred a pot of eggs and flour over the stove, she taught me her secret for a great last minute dessert -- cream puffs! Elegant, easy and delicious. Although I've only baked a couple of cakes, I've made cream puffs many, many times and thought of her every single time.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Hard to Say -- Even Harder to Do

Twenty-nine days into the challenge, I've finally learned to pronounce NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month.) Even more exciting... I have actually blogged every day so far! Which has NOT been easy. I've been sick. I've been tired. (More than once - including tonight - I've dragged myself out of bed to blog.) I've been distracted. I've been on a long road-trip. The power has gone out. The computer has acted up. But amazingly, even with all of the difficulties and assuming I am able to get a Memory Monday post up tomorrow, I did it! Which makes me think, maybe I can accomplish some other goals I have for myself. Like organize the garage. Or train for a half marathon. Or stick to a budget for once. NaStiTABuMo - National Stick To A Budget Month?!?! Maybe I'll start with the garage instead. :)

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Silly Sis

Recently I shared CeCe's bib adoration, but while visiting my folks, she had another funny fashion passion that my mom captured in this hilarious photo shoot:

 And yes, that is her swim suit! She insisted on wearing it over her clothes, like a bib.  :)

Friday, November 27, 2009

Favorite Photo Friday

Jeep riding a family friend's tractor on Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

I've had the following quote on my facebook page for quite a while... minus the last line. I guess when I first found it, that line didn't resonate with me, but today I am inspired by the whole quote:

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow. ~ Melody Beattie

After a long road trip with my husband and little ones, spending a few days with my parents, celebrating a birthday, and enjoying Thanksgiving with dear family and friends, I feel like spending some time letting my thankfulness create a vision for my near future. I'm excited to see what goals will rise up out of my gratefulness.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Birthday (to Me)

To all my dear friends and family who helped me celebrate my birthday - THANK YOU!!! My life is so much sweeter because I am loved by all of you. I've had a great day and I look forward to enjoying "the best year yet."  :)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Birthday Turkey

People with birthdays around Christmas time get lots of sympathy, but those of us with birthdays on/near other major holidays suffer too! My neighbor's son was born on the 4th of July and while fireworks every year can be fun, it isn't fun when none of your friends can come over to your house on your birthday because they have holiday plans. I can relate. If my birthday wasn't actually ON Thanksgiving (which happens every 5 years or so) then in most cases my friends still couldn't celebrate with me because they were either out of town (often at Grandma's house) or they had company. When I was younger, I really did NOT like it when my birthday feel on Thanksgiving. I wasn't the biggest fan of turkey, stuffing or gravy. And a candle in a piece of pie was not my favorite either! Plus sitting around eating and then sitting around watching football was way too boring. But over the years I've become more fond of Thanksgiving and I am grateful for the chance to be with friends and/or family to celebrate all our blessings. So I don't mind being the birthday turkey... just as long as we can have cake along with the pie!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Memory Monday - Bright Lights, Big City

I enjoyed the movie "Lost in Translation" a few years ago and was impressed with Sofia Coppola's ability to enable the audience to experience jet lag and culture shock along with the main characters, Charlotte and Bob. Watching the movie, I felt like I was seeing the mesmerizing neon lights of Tokyo for the first time. My first night on Japanese soil was at my Youth for Understanding exchange student cultural orientation in Tokyo in 1990. I remember staring at the long, narrow streets with the complex layering of lights, colors, letters and characters and I felt like I could not close my mouth or even blink without great effort. So different from anything I had seen before and yet so facinating and wonderful. I still love the electric feel of Tokyo and I look forward to staring sleepily at those shiny streets many more times in the future.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Raisin Remedies?

Here is a question for those of you who live in humid parts of the world -- When you visit drier parts of the world do you suffer? I do! My eyes feel parched and itchy, my cuticles seem to immediately shrink and curl off, my fingertips feel like sandpaper, and worst of all, my lips chap and burn. Ouch! What are your favorite prevention/solution tips? My go-to plan is to ramp up my intake of essential fatty acids such as fish oil and/or flax oil, drink LOTS of water, and keep a good emoillient moisurizer on hand at all times. Tonight, I ate a whole avacado hoping the "good fats" will help me fight the fight from the inside out.  Please leave your advice - I would really appreciate it!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Road Trip Thanks

The first day of our road trip went amazing well! I am so grateful:

~ that the kids did SO-O well. Sure, Jeep logged a couple of hours of watching videos on the iPod, but he was content and cooperative the whole time and CeCe cried maybe five minutes total during the whole 8+ hour drive.

~ for clear roads. We saw lots of snow on the ground on all the mountain passes and drove through some snow flurries, but the roads were smooth and clear the whole way.

~ to find a bright, clean, HUGE hotel room at our overnight stop. I knew this hotel was newly built, but I'm delighted with the space, amenities and bargain price.

~ for my darling hubby who worked hard to help get us out the door (even with both of us packing, we left 3 and a half hours later than we thought we would -- which was fine) and then he drove the whole way!

Here is hoping and praying tomorrow goes just as smoothly. :-)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Favorite Photo Friday

Billy Elliot and friends!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Toy Pixie

How is it that adding a second child means that suddenly we can't keep track of the toys in our house? We have a small place and compared to most preschoolers I know, my kids have less than the average number of toys. Before CeCe, we knew that all our puzzles had all the pieces, every car had four wheels, games were complete in their boxes, that legos were in the legos box and blocks in the block basket. NO LONGER! In the last few days, somehow we have lost a whole puzzle... except for one piece! Two other puzzles are missing pieces -- one of them is a floor puzzle and the pieces are about 8 inches square. How can we lose something that big?! The other one has large wooden pieces and at least HALF of them have disappeared in the last week. I am completely confused as to where they could be. Seriously, it is strange how we have so many incomplete and lost toys now. It isn't all her fault, but I do think this cutie is the major culprit!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Blog Slog

Don't feel like blogging.
Dumb ole' NaBloPoMo!
Darn Gratitude Challenge.
Ain't doin' it tonight.
So there.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

I Think I Can, I Think I Can...

Gratitude Challenge Day 15: Take the time to focus on yourself. Appreciate & give thanks for your unique personality, skills & talents.

My first thought after reading the assignment was "I can't do this today." It wasn't a Terrible Tuesday like I've had before, but it was a blah day and I've been in a blah mood all day. Can't I be grateful for myself another day?! Well, yes. But I think I'll be stronger if I can push aside the blahs and try, try, try to be a little grateful.

So here goes... here are a few things I appreciate about myself:

I think I'm often funny and I'm grateful for my sense of humor.

My writing skills aren't too bad and I've been especially proud of my Memory Monday posts the last two weeks because I sat down and wrote, edited, and published them both in about 40 minutes each.

I grew (with help from my handsome husband) two babies who have turned out to be adorable kids!

Public speaking is something I enjoy and I think I do it well most of the time.

Friends and family are important to me and I work hard to stay in touch, although I'm less consistent now I am a mom.

When I worked (for money) I was an above-average manager. I certainly made mistakes, but I did a good job of communicating with my team and made affirmation and celebration a priority.

Since I've been at home, I've done a lot more baking and I've had mostly positive results.

And a few more things. That I would certainly cover if I were in a job interview. But I'm not.

I'm grateful for me. And I'm grateful for you. And that is enough.  :)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Memory Monday - Nor Any Drop to Drink

The first time I saw the ocean I was seventeen years old and in Yokohama, Japan. Even though my flight to Japan flew out of San Francisco, there was cloud cover the whole trip and I didn't catch even one glimpse of blue water. My host family could barely comprehend a land-locked life so once they learned of my ocean ignorance, they immediately made plans to take me to the beach.

We settled into a spot on Yokohama bay and as soon as we changed into our swimsuits my host sister and I ran giggling into the waves. The water didn't even come up to my waist before ocean spray hit my face and I remember the shocking taste. Without thinking I shouted, "It's SALTY!" which sent my host family into fits of laughter. I can still see and feel the whole scene in my mind: the crowded beach; my host sister's long, dark hair swinging across the back of her black one piece suit; the dirty, grey, gritty feel of sand; the hazy sky; the urban presence of the city pressing in on the beach. But the strongest memory of that day is the surprising, salty, bright taste of the seawater on my lips.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Don't You Mean Nightmare?

I'm guessing blogging angry isn't recommended. Right now I should go run a mile, take a hot bath, drink a glass of wine or even better, do all three. But instead, I think I'll exercise poor judgment and write some public hate mail to my enemy of the moment: fantasy football.

Dear "Fantasy" Football:

I'm not a fan. Actually I don't like you one bit. Here are the top three reasons I think you stink:

1.) You waste SO-O much time. Now not only does my husband want to check in on the Seahawks score, he wants to watch EVERY single NFL match possible so he can track the performance of his fantasy team. As the hours tick away every Sunday, I loathe you even more.

2.) You impair my husband's ability to communicate/engage with his family and friends. Not only does he not have much time for us because he is focused on the TV, if he is forced to talk to me, play with the kids, or go anywhere with friends, he will frequently check in with the fantasy football app on his phone. Nothing says "quality time" like sideways phone glances and endless rolling of the Blackberry trackball.

3.) What makes me hate you the MOST is the way you turn my funny, kind, smart, loving husband into a total Grump-a-saurus Rex! This is a game right?! I thought this was supposed to be something that is fun. You are not fun. For any of us.

So, F. Football, long-story-short, you certainly aren't MY kind of fantasy! If I could figure out how to kick you to the curb, I would do it in a heartbeat.

Resentfully yours,
Seattle Sun

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Dress Up

Tonight CeCe figured out how to get one of her dresser drawers open and she discovered that it was full of bibs. She brought me one, big grin on her face, and held it out and nodded and grunted until I put it on her. She toddled around so proud of herself! Not too long after she brought me another one and insisted I put that one on too. Then it became a game -- she would waddle from the kitchen, down the hallway and into her room where she would dig out another bib and bring it back to me (with a proud smile) and I would put it on top of the bib(s) she was already wearing. Repeat. Final count? NINE BIBS! She wore all of them around for quite awhile. What a funny, funny girl. :)

Friday, November 13, 2009

Favorite Photo Friday

CeCe enjoying a PBnJ.
Love everything about this girl !

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Slower Than Molasses in the Winter

Gratitude Challenge Day 14: It's been two weeks since you started The Gratitude Challenge. Write about how The Challenge has changed your perspective thus far.

I was laughing about how LONG it has taken me to complete 14 days of the The Gratitude Challenge. I was thinking I've been at it almost double the time. Then I went back and determined that I started the challenge on SEPTEMBER 24TH... FIFTY DAYS AGO. Over six weeks ago. Oh dear. That's worse than I thought. Oh well, carry on. I don't think stretching out the gratitude will hurt -- might help even!

Looking back on the last month and a half I can see a shift in perspective. Not wholly grateful (grin), but certainly more grateful and grateful more often.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Grateful for Girlfriends

The Gratitude Challenge Day Thirteen: Pick three friends or family members you see (or talk to - creative license on my part) regularly. View their actions and gestures through a positive lens, assuming their goodness and witnessing their best intentions.

FAIRY*:  You are so dear to me. Thank you for teaching me so much about being a good mom and great friend. Your joy for life is inspirational and hanging out with you always brightens my day. CeCe is so lucky to have you as one of her fabulous "fairy" godmothers!

LAUREN*: Thank you for being a neighbor and friend. I am grateful for the way you help every new family feel welcome. Thanks for hosting a mom's lunch this week! The food was great and it was so lovely to meet and get to know our newest neighbor. Can't believe our nearly twin baby boys are already so big.

JOY*:  We've been friends for a long time and I'm more grateful for you than ever! I know I can call you no matter what I need -- to laugh, cry, or vent. You are always there for me. Thanks for being such an important part of my life. I miss you!

*I didn't use anyone's actual name. 'Cause blog code names are just more fun!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

From the Mouth of Bubs

Here are some of my favorite recent Jeeper-isms:

"Mama, do you know my favorite color? Rainbow. I like all of the colors, that is why I said rainbow."

"Do you know what kind of water is in Hawaii? Salt water."

"Mama, do you know that I love to sing to you?" 

And now, for the 4-year old quote finale...

Jeep: "How does a baby grow in a mama's belly?" Me: "Umm... babies grow from very special seeds." Jeep with a very surprised look on his face: "Even babies grow from seeds?!" Me: "Uh yes, that's right." Jeep: "What does the seed look like?" Me: "Oh, it is very tiny, you can't even see it." Jeeper: "Tinier than my fingernail?!" Me: "Even smaller than that." Jeep shaking his head in disbelief: "How can a baby grow from a tiny seed?!"

Monday, November 09, 2009

Memory Monday - Something is Fishy Around Here

My first visit to Japan was the summer between my junior and senior year of high school. My travel experience up to that point consisted of a few family road trips to Texas and New Mexico and I was unprepared for the cultural differences between rural USA and a Tokyo suburb. My exchange program started with a week long orientation in Washington, DC which was then followed with a few days of culture training in Tokyo, so I was completely discombobulated by the time I arrived at my host family's home. They greeted me with warm smiles, frequent bows, impressive English skills and a box of Kellog's Corn Flakes.

Between cold cereal in the mornings, crunchy green salads, reliable rice, the bounty of the department store fruit section and my host mother's cake baking hobby, my gastronomical transition was almost manageable. Even with all that was easily palatable, after nearly 17 years of a mid-western American diet, I was overwhelmed by all the new tastes I encountered. The gritty, sour, warm taste of miso. The salty, crunchy, bitter taste of dried seaweed/nori. The explosive, bright, biting taste of ginger. The mind-blowing fire and tang of wasabi. The curious varieties of pickles/tsukemono. And fish EVERYWHERE. Grilled fish fillets for breakfast. Slices of pressed fish/kamaboko floating in the lunchroom ramen. Tiny dried whole fish in snack cracker packets at the baseball game. Rolls and rolls of raw fish sushi at a beautiful dinner reception. I LONGED for a fish-free day or at least a fish-free meal.

One night as my host mother set dinner on the table, I perked up when I saw the dish of cooked carrots. I couldn't wait for the sweet carrot-y taste to overcome the long-lasting taste of fish in my mouth. I distinctly remember my disappointment when even the carrots tasted like fish. I gave up and decided that somehow I would just have to learn to love fish. After we finished dinner, I helped my host mom clean up. While clearing kitchen dishes she took a moment to teach me a little about Japanese cooking. She proudly showed me how she made her own FISH STOCK and used it for cooking vegetables... like that night's carrots!

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Flit, Flap, Flutter, Fly

I'm going to let you in on a dirty little secret. I do not keep a perfect house. My closest friends are nodding in agreement. And being at home with two little kids has not improved my random and chaotic housecleaning methods. So recently I've had to break out a tool that I've used before... a funny tool... a tool that has WAY too much purple (my least favorite color)... a tool that over-merchandises itself with cheesy stuff (but also sells effective tools)... a tool that despite the drawbacks, truly helps me. That tool is FlyLady. The FlyLady philosophy is basically about developing simple, but regular routines. It emphasizes getting rid of clutter and staying positive. I've been reading the emails again for about two weeks and have made some good progress around my home, without feeling like I'm working harder. Anyway, it isn't the system for everyone, but I'm grateful for the guidance and encouragement.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Crazy Mama

Jeeper got ahold of my camera and took a bunch of photos. This one pretty accurately reflects how I feel as an at-home parent with young children.  Wild and a little fuzzy. :)

Friday, November 06, 2009

Thursday, November 05, 2009

A Life's Work

Gratitude Challenge Day Twelve: Today, make the effort to live life with a positive outlook. Restrain from criticizing the people around you. Dare to see the glass half full. Listen more than you speak. Give freely of yourself. Practice kindness at every opportunity.

Today has been a great day. Really, truly. You can't hear my tone of voice, but I am relaxed, happy and grateful. Most of my day was spent doing housework and mediating sibling rivalry between my two young ones. The weather was cold, grey and rainy. I didn't get out of the house except to run Jeep to preschool and back. CeCe spilled juice all over the table -- and she has a diaper rash. My husband called me at the last minute to tell me he had an after work meeting that he had forgotten to mention. In the middle of my dinner prep I realized I didn't have three of the key ingredients and I had to switch my whole dinner plan. But somehow, miraculously, despite so many little challenges that could have turned my mood sour, I was able to live out today's challenge. Push aside the frustration, impatience or judgment and choose to be grateful.

I think today's challenge is truly a whole life's work. But I plan to move forward pursuing a positive outlook more often.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

On a Mission

Yesterday I ran across Operation Beautiful and it inspired me so much that I actually participated that same day! Check it out and then jump right in and spread a little love in your part of the world.

PS - YOU are beautiful. Right now. Seriously.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

In Your Eyes

Day Eleven of the Gratitude Challenge: Try to see the world through the eyes of a child. Think about the things you take for granted on a daily basis, and then express gratitude for everything down to the basic necessities that sustain your current life.

For the second year in a row, we were invited to attend a Halloween garden party hosted by the parents of one of Jeep's former classmates. The family has an amazing lakefront property with a truly wonderful garden and they do a spectacular job of transforming it into a Halloween wonderland! Thanks in large part to the Gratitude Challenge, I was able to focus on the joy in the eyes of my children, rather than comparing their lot in life to mine. I don't have a home on the lake or a boat or a nanny or a gardener, but even so I am abundantly blessed. My bountiful basics include:

*Healthy, beautiful, smart, delightful children
*A loving, talented, funny, handsome husband
*A warm home - we even have a garage (so grateful on cold days)
*Two cars that carry us where we need and want to go
*Amazing friends and family members that always support me
*Plenty to eat (maybe even a little too much)
*A faith community that accepts and inspires me
*Natural beauty all around me

At the party on Saturday I especially loved Jeeper's ease as he ran through all the various parts of the Spooky Garden (he assured me it wasn't really spooky at all) and CeCe's absolute delight at the fun food (she thought cheese puffs were divine.) I watched my kids getting great joy out of the simple little things and realized that I can too! Jeep enjoyed every party game and CeCe loved the pretty decorations everywhere. I admired the bountiful vegetable garden (still producing!) and the creative touches, especially the fun wine labels (Ghoul's Blood was delicious.) It was a GREAT afternoon and I can't wait to go back again next year.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Introducing Memory Monday

I am still participating in the Gratitude Challenge, and I WILL finish it (eventually), I promise. On Saturday I completed the activity for Day Eleven and I'll write about it tomorrow. In the meantime...

I have been itching to start a new blog tradition and write about one of my memories each week.  So I am pleased to introduce "Memory Monday!" To make things even more interesting, I'm choosing a theme for my memory musings. Just to keep (all three of) my readers guessing, I'll write on the theme for an undetermined period of time before, WHAM!, randomly changing it. Yippee, I'm having fun already.

Recently I took Jeep to see the animated movie Ponyo (we LOVED it) and then I read Motherlogue's interview with Sara Backer about her novel American Fuji. As a result, I have had Nihon on the brain and so (drumroll, please) I have selected Japan as my first Memory Monday theme. Stay tuned for exciting stories of karaoke, snow, curry, toilets, salt water, disco, cream puffs and more. But for now, it is time to say oyasumi nasai.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Me too! Me too! Me too!

Okay, since all the cool kids are doing it, I am going to attempt NaBloPoMo. Try saying that three times fast. Actually, just try and say it. I still can't. Anyway, I'm hoping it helps me lose two dress sizes, make $5000 per week working at home, and finally finish the damn laundry once and for all. Or at least keep me on track to finish the Tiny Prints Gratitude Challenge by Thanksgiving. Three cheers for NaBloPoMo. Fingers crossed, here I go!