Tuesday, December 30, 2008


it isn't easy for me to sit still, to focus but in 2009, this is my goal. i have to overcome a lot of obstacles that rise from within me. it will probably be the most challenging thing i have ever done.
there are so many roads at my feet, some dirt paths, some six-lane highways. i am standing on one street that in my mind most closely resembles the one in the image above. it is quiet, basic, and curved. i don't know where it ends or if there is an intersection. yet, this is the road i will be taking this next year.
what does this actually mean?
it means that though there may be other ways, i am going to focus on what i am here for. i will finish my master's degree, i will study japanese daily. my job is not the best but i will give it my best. i am designing a program that will make it more manageable and hopefully more effective for the students. i am going to finish my degree by spring of 2010. by that time, hopefully i will have passed some level of the japanese proficiency exam. in what little spare time i have, i am going to learn more about japanese history and society.
sometimes, i lose sight of why i am going through so much trouble. the core reason is simply love. five years ago i fell unexpectedly in love with japan. i am going through lengths that aren't really appealing to my nature but are part of living here.
2009 is going to be like a bootcamp. and after a year of intensity it will be 2010, our projected year to return to nara/kyoto. we'll all possess better language skills and a better understanding of our adopted home and i'll be better equipped as a teacher.
it will be most difficult to sideline those other ambitions that strive for equal attention in our lives but in the end, we will be more capable of fulfilling everything if we give to each aspect completely instead of piecemeal. if we can gain the discipline to accomplish the more pragmatic elements of our lives, then we can apply the same strength to our passions.
so those are our resolutions for the new year. last year we wrote a list of resolutions and planted them at the edge of the marsh on my parents' land. they sprouted though the harvest was different than anticipated. i wanted to either start grad school or move to japan and i ended up doing both. this next year is an odd year and typically they are my waning years. but i also turn 30 this next year so that will probably carry some weight amongst the fates.
anyway, i have to clean something now. the whole neighborhood is in a cleaning fever so i must pitch in and prepare for the new year. so, until next year.
happy new year to all of you.
and though it should wait until the new year officially starts:

Sunday, December 28, 2008

come walk along the docks with us

don't mind our giddy conversations. it has been a while since we've been outside.
oh, and don't pay attention to, um, anything i say. my droll and trite observations are evidence of a lulled vacation mind.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

magical days

hope you are having some too.

Thursday, December 25, 2008


my parents asked how do you say merry christmas in japanese:
merii kurisumasu but it sounds a lot like the english version.
these are the best not-so-blurring pictures of the kids around the "xmas" tree aka a kumquat tree. it is a good thing, the blurs. it is a sign of happy activity, celebration, excitement.
we hope that all of you are enjoying the day. take care.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


i know it is not as cold as it is in other places. other places have things like ice storms and brief periods of daylight.
but here it feels cold. it makes me very aware that i was born and raised in florida. i crave sunlight and warm toes and fingers.
i like to be able to go into my kitchen without shivering and seeing my breath. little things, really.
i'm trying to embrace the winter, to appreciate how prominent colors become under a grey sky, to face that this is part of life instead of trying to avoid it.
it is a process and i probably won't come to terms with it for a few months. you know, when it is warm and, well, spring. then, i will appreciate winter. now though it is just about working through it.

Sunday, December 21, 2008


You are looking at two free people. So now there are four of us in the house. In the house that seems so big and spacious when you are alone but with two under sixes "paling" around, it becomes a little more, um, intimate. Cozy? We are working on that. First though we have to adjust to Nico and Jason's open schedule while working a little of the structure that Sebastian and I are used to into the days.
We were going to go visit Nara this winter vacation but we couldn't manage to pull all the threads together. So we are here. This allows us time to do things we can't in our regular time together. Like sew for purposes other than school goods. Or do a self-directed intensive Japanese study. So it is still good. And we will make it back to Nara eventually, hopefully at least when we move back to the Kansai area in the future. Until then, we will continue to enjoy these images that remind us of the home that we are working towards.
In the meantime, no school, no work, no lesson planning. 21 sunrises and sunsets before us and plenty of hot cocoa in between. I think we can manage.
Hope you are well. Take care.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Vegetarians: Avert Your Eyes

Part of our life on a sea island.
Just a note about the big tuna: we know about the terrible destruction associated with the hunt for this fish. (these fish were tiny compared to the picture in the article). A group of these fish were caught for the visit of Prime Minister Aso and a local grocer was doing a raffle to give away large boxes of it cut into sashimi to get people out to see the unpopular Prime Minister. It was a really cold day though so not many people made it, even with such temptations. We happened to be out and have a raffle ticket and won some. We cooked it up in a soup the next morning, as it wasn't exactly sashimi weather.

Monday, December 08, 2008

My work

The end of the semester is winding down with both my graduate classes and my preschool/elementary/adult classes at work. This week I have a few papers which, perhaps luckily, I must complete tonight as this week is parent observation week in my afternoon classes. Observations make me nervous though I learned at my job before this that they have the potential to be really helpful. This week's lesson is pretty simple: do a few workbook pages then make a Christmas card. Not exactly thrilling for tired parents in the late afternoon but at least I am honest. The teacher before believed that actions spoke louder than words (lots of Total Physical Response) and never did any of the things I do with the kids like bingo games or letter puzzles or crafts. I hope the parents see that it isn't just a big pile of messy construction paper that their children achieve but that they completed the lesson by listening to the instructions in English. Also, for the littles, craft is excellent for building their fine motor skills. Since employing craft in my classes, the handwriting of even my three year olds has improved. I spent the morning cleaning the classroom and making slight improvements (covering up some unused but unable-to-86 toys with this cute American Jane fabric in blue) and preparing for the first round of Christmas cards. I wish I had taken before pictures of the classroom but I will try to take some classroom photos later this week, maybe with the kids in action. I realize I must really be becoming a teacher when I want to boast about my classroom but the transformation in my eyes is incredible. When I arrived there were papers from teachers up to five years ago, not important, informative papers but scraps of unnecessary paper that no one had bothered to throw away. This litter was stuffed into every nook and cranny. A cluttered room equals a cluttered mind and in an English class with young learners, any distraction is a deadly for a lesson. There were also lots of unused materials and games that the former teachers for the past few years had deemed over the students' heads and yet I use successfully on a regular basis. I am not trying to suggest I possess a superior ability but rather have to express my bewilderment over how people can so often underestimate the power and potential of the human mind. For children, the language barrier is more of a river that they are learning to swim across and our role is to help their journey.
But speaking of cluttered minds, it is time to get the kids to pick up and lay our futons out. Hope you are well.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Let it hail, let it hail, let it hail

Somehow, not so catchy of a song title. And yet that is our reality right now. Two straight days of blasting winds and hail. I never knew hail could fall for so long, like rain or better yet, snow. I associate hail with tornadoes, something we don't get here. Or at least, I don't think we get here. Oh, and these are old photos, the kids aren't playing around outside in this weather.
Saturday morning and it is full of fighting kids, catching up with family via skype, and cutting the boys' hair. I didn't want to cut Nico's downy hair but it goes straight into his eyes so I trimmed it about one centimeter (for your sake, Auntie L). Right now they are playing in a steamy bathtub, having pulled the protective cover over the top of the tub so that it stays warm and secretive. Lots of laughter and I get to finally drink my cup of coffee after the fourth time of being reheated.
Jason's about to venture out to get a requested lunch and some fabric to make a head scarf and apron for Sebastian as next Wednesday is mochi making day at school.
Well, break time is over. It's time to get them dressed and head back upstairs where it is warm enough that you can't see your breath.
Hope you are all warm and well.

Sunday, November 30, 2008


Yesterday I went to a wedding reception for one of my co-workers. It was a very gala affair with the bride changing dresses not once but four times. I unfortunately didn't capture her in the white traditional Japanese wedding kimono, but as you can image, she was stunning in that as well. The bride is the kindergarten teacher at my school so it was arranged that her students arrive and sing for her. They sang the theme song from Ponyo and another from Greeeeen, a popular j-pop band. After that, they got to partake in the chocolate fountain and pour chocolate over fruit and their school uniforms. Then, when the kiddies left, a group performed the Shishi mai dance to help cleanse the new union. The saddest part was at the end when the bride said good-bye to her parents and took her new place next to her in-laws. There was a lot of good food and drink and people were really enjoying themselves, something I am always happy to witness. Too often the side of Japan that I see is entirely too tense (I work in education after all) so I like to see people with their hair down.
I wish the best to the newlyweds. They definitely had a very proper start to their marriage.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The elements

We have been battling the erratic weather both inside and outside our house this past week. Since our house has no insulation, we have to work hard to keep ourselves warm. We are lucky to have two air conditioning units that covert to heaters but due to the insulation situation that I mentioned, it is wasteful to use them for extended periods. So hot drinks, many layers, and staying together in one part of the house. We have moved our camp upstairs where it is warmer and spend most of our time there now. This week the upstairs was often darkened when we used the storm shutters. For a few days there was tremendous rain, wind, hail, and thunderstorms raging across our island. Lots of fun, especially when you recall that we are pedestrians. But then the sky will clear and the yellow and red trees that are blazing everywhere now will have a perfect blue contrast in the background.

As for the homesickness and culture shock that I mentioned, they are really just natural parts of living in a new place. So if you consider that we have been gypsies for quite some time now, then you can understand that we have been in some stage of culture shock/homesickness for many years. It can't be solved by returning home, we discovered that when we went back last time. No, it must be faced head on. You must continue to live how you wish regardless of these currents of emotion.

Which brings me to my next topic. I am facing a decision that would seem quite foolhardy to many of you but I persist with it anyway. I am considering withdrawing from graduate school. Or at least taking a leave of absence. It is something I might do simply because I have had problems with registration for the next term and so there might not be any space for me in the classes I need to take. The core reason I want to leave the program is because I want to work on my writing in the evenings. I have been running away from this aspect of myself for all of my adult life. In my youth, my path seemed so clear but then faced with the realities of adulthood, my plan seemed tattered. I didn't consider developing a better understanding of the craft of writing. I had no understanding of how to become the writer I wanted to be. Perhaps I was not meant to start in earnest on that path while I was so immature. My writing would have been (and was) trite and weak.
Something has changed now. I read over some pieces I wrote last year expecting to find utter crap, but saw something else. As a highly discerning reader, I saw potential in my words. They had all been written hastily and received no revising or editing treatment but there was a little spark of possibility there. And that is the distant star I am chasing. I am following the advice of the great Annie Dillard from her article "Write Till You Drop":
"Write as if you were dying. At the same time, assume you write for an audience consisting solely of terminal patients. That is, after all, the case. What would you begin writing if you knew you would die soon? What could you say to a dying person that would not enrage by its triviality?"

I have tried to live a brave and aware life but if I am not writing, I am not meeting that objective completely. I realize that this seems an impractical direction for a working mother of two but history has shown that the best way is not always the most pragmatic. Besides, in many ways, this is for the boys. As I watch Sebastian's talents developing I have to consider how I will support them as both he and Nico grow. Writing might not be a lucrative profession but if by following this innately laid path I can be a model for my children, then that is enough for me.

And before you say it, let me just inform you that I am not quitting my day job. In this position, we make ends meet without having to sacrifice too much. It is not always the best, but it is workable. Being isolated is trying, but in many ways it is good for us. It forces us to sit still and to work on aspects of ourselves that we couldn't focus on with all the movement. So for now, this is what we are doing.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you.
Take care.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


And now he's two. I've been in this space now for two years and I suppose I have somewhat documented the changes that this little family has undergone since Nico's arrival. There are a lot of gaps, mainly due to lack of time but also because there are so many things that don't quite make the blog cut. Like culture shock (that nasty, sneaky state of mind that is so persistent) or homesickness (which I am ashamed to report having since we moaned for two years about Japan and how much we missed it..). I feel like there will be more changes, even drastic ones perhaps, ahead of us and I will do my best to share what I can manage with you. Thank you for reading.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Onigiri Party

This past week the school hosted an onigiri (rice ball) party. All the mothers and Jason were there. Sebastian complained afterwards, "But nobody else's otosans (fathers) were there". Another lesson in how our family is just a little different from other families.

More pictures here.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

My Country Tis of Thee

I am so,so proud of my country. For me, this election was a test to see if the democracy process actually worked. We have been waiting for so long to hear the voice of our nation and now that we hear it, it is startling clear. Thank you so much, my fellow Americans, for standing up and fighting. For choosing to go a different course from the treacherous one we've been following for the past eight years.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Happy Halloween

More images here.
The best costume went to Kaonashi-sama (No Face from Spirited Away) seen here:

After the party, the kids went trick-or-treating in the downtown area where 10 different shop owners were generous enough to wait in the dark and hand out treat bags to the 87 kids who attended. The organizers did a top notch job in creating an authentic Halloween experience for the island's children. Everyone had a good night here and I hope wherever you are, it was equally enjoyable.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Making Plans

Can I show you something?

This is why we send Sebastian to school. I may have some hesitation about his school and schooling in general but I have no doubts about giving him the chance to work with and love other children. And, he's learning a whole heck of a lot of Japanese these days as well which is the primary reason for his regular attendance.
At home though we are building a Montessori environment. It is not easy. I work full-time and Jason has his hands full with the boys and keeping up with the household duties (though lately it has been more about keeping up with the presidential campaign). I want to make most of the materials because I believe in craft over consumerism (also, it is a tad cheaper) and found some really cool sites like:
Homeschool Resources
Montessori Materials
Montessori Mom
Montessori for Everyone
And, the flickr group: Handmade Montessori Materials

All that aside, there are some items at Kid Advance Montessori that I would really prefer to buy since they would be study and durable such as a pink tower, a movable alphabet, dressing boards, and number rods. I know I could make these things but they would be out of cardboard and paper and not as effective for the kids in the long run (ahem, hint hint doting family members thinking of holiday gifts for two particular boys).

But, speaking of cardboard, I came across this over at Uniform Studio. Jason had quite a fixation with cardboard furniture a few years ago but nothing came of it. Now though we have something to do with our upcoming 3 day weekend. And luckily Friday is cardboard recycling day so we can raid other people's discarded stash.
Something else we may be trying this weekend, this chandelier. Isn't it amazing? And Sebastian's origami skills are soaring so it is something we can do together.

I also hope to finally finish some pants for the boys and my dress(es). It is my plan to make quite a few of the dresses from the 'Adult Couture Stylish Dress Book' (ISBN 978-4-579-11185-5) that Melissa mentioned. I really don't have much of a choice since I purposely didn't buy many clothes on my last visit to the city with the intention that I would force myself to sew my clothes. Of course, I also forget to factor time or the lack of it into my schemes. But this weekend we have three days with no school activities or other commitments (besides for visiting the Mister Donut that recently reopened in the now defunct City Mall-which was actually just a supermarket with a few restaurants, an atm machine, and a 100 yen shop on the second floor). 3 days, my friends. Of course that is peanuts compared to what awaits me in December: 22 days off. Paid. Think of all the dresses and origami and cardboard stools we could make then. Oh, the possibilities.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

This one's for you, America

Today we voted for change. We voted against a narrow definition of marriage. We voted for tax exemptions for those who install energy saving devices on their homes as well as giving a break to waterfront property owners who use their property for fishing or boating businesses instead of building condos. We voted against a congressman whom we have voted against before.
These past weeks have been full of conversations regarding our citizenry. What it means to be an expat. How much we hope and pray that our vote will join that of the majority and that this time, the majority will rule. This election means so much to people all over the world but I must think that it means the most to my generation, those of us who entered adulthood with Bush, 9/11, and the war. Those of us who grew up expecting a different America only to be shocked to discover that the principles of freedom and democracy had somehow escaped our grasp. It is up to us to reclaim our country, to revive those sacred principles, with liberty and justice for all.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


So, it is a little strange to go on a weekend hike looking for changing leaves and find cherry blossoms instead. It's been a little warm here lately.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blog Action Day: Poverty

With all the talk around the globe about the crumbling economy and how it affects the hard working middle class, I think it is time to consider how these set-backs are affecting the working poor. So many times, people hold the misconception that poor people are that way due to laziness or lack of motivation. And yet what if you are just in a situation where there are no opportunities, where all the exit doors are boarded up? This year's Blog Action Day is focusing on poverty at such an appropriate time in our history. With oil prices being at record heights, it forces the price of fuel for commuting to work and heating homes beyond the affordability of many who haven't seen their income adjusted to meet the new demands. Food prices are on the rise since transportation and production of food is so reliant on petroleum. Into this mix, add the newest failures of the market economy and it spells disaster for people all over the world. From this, we must consider what direction we will take. Hopefully, this "one" will get elected and take heed of this advice. Regardless of politics, we must do something to create positive change in our world. In light of this, I am inviting anyone who is interested to join me in creating a Kiva lending team. It doesn't take much but it can help tremendously. Please email me or leave a comment if you are interested. Together, we can make a difference. Thank you.

For more ideas on how to help:
Stand Up Against Poverty
Global Call to Action Against Poverty
Heifer International

Friday, October 10, 2008

Fukue Minato Matsuri

A smaller version of the famous festival in Aomori, Fukue began the nebuta (lantern float) parade in 1977. The floats here have local themes besides for the traditional themes seen in Aomori including a Japanese pirate boat. Every float has some element of the Camilla flower here, the blossom Fukue is famous for.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

From the Kindergarten Parade

As part of the festival, all the kindys on the island were in the parade honoring the island's Chinese heritage. I posted photos from the parade on flickr. I sent Jason and Sebastian out to the festival tonight as Nico's asleep on my lap as I type this. More photos coming soon.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Sports Day

I posted the photos from Sports Day over on the good ol' flickr account. It was a full and fun day. Events like these are really important in the whole scheme of schooling so this was a good introduction for our family. I'm sure the memory of forcing the white beret onto Sebastian's crying head will fade by next year when I have to do it again. After that, I promise you, he had a ball.

Saturday, September 27, 2008


For my 29th birthday, I took 29 photos. It was a work day and nobody knew that I had just stepped further into maturity. My last year of the twenties. So, like others, I have made a list of the 29 things I will do in my 29th year:

1. Go to Kyoto
2. Sew 5 dresses for myself
3. Become pera-pera in Japanese
4. Read one book entirely in Japanese
5. Get perfect scores in all my classes
6. Go to the dentist
7. Vote for Obama
8. Knit a scarf to completion by winter
9. Make a print block postcard once a month
10. Teach Sebastian how to write
11. Toilet train Nico
12. Do yoga at least twice a week
13. Join the Japan Association of Language Teachers and attend Nagasaki chapter meetings
14. Publish at least two pieces of writing
15. Draw more
16. Go camping at least once
17. Swim at Takahama Beach
18. Donate money to Karma Kagyu
19. Do a litter pick up every other month
20. Donate to NPR
21. Up my intake of locally produced food to 75 percent
22. Keep daily journal of bilingual progress and post online
23. Buy a new Montessori material every month
24. Grow plants indoors and out
25. Get some furniture
26. Save 20 percent of income
27. Go to Fukuoka
28. Meditate daily
29. Remember to take pictures every day

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Something I came across

Two homemade Montessori-at-home video which are very sweet.

Sunday, September 14, 2008


Here is Nico making a postcard. We are trying to get better about communicating. We are so busy now that when we come up for air, we just breathe. It is necessary to let a lot of projects be shelved for a while. A stack of linens waits by my little sewing machine for a quiet night to make pants for the boys, a dress for myself. The looming tower of Japanese study books is left alone so I can learn about assessment techniques and language acquisition theories. The weekends are family orientated with exploring and creating taking up most of the agenda. Taking classes online puts me in front of the computer too much, causing me to shy away from it in my spare time. So until I can give what I want to here, I am starting a new flickr account where you can see what we are up to. The link will remain in the sidebar for easy access (ahem, hi mom(s)!).
Hope you are well. Take care.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Shifting Seasons

Though it is still horribly hot here, there are signs of change. Chestnuts abound, and persimmons are ripening on the branches. Here are a few images from my walk around the rice fields during my weekly visit to the second preschool. I hope to be back with my words and photographs later this week but I am already quite swamped with reading and assignments for my two classes so I can't promise that postings here will be as regular as I would like.
I hope you are all well. Take care.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Another step

I am officially a student again. This week I begin work on my graduate degree in teaching English language to speakers of other languages (TESOL). So, yes, that means I am teaching, parenting, studying Japanese, exploring, sewing (I got a sewing machine, did I mention that? more on that later.), and formally developing myself as a language teacher. Busy, busy but good busy. (also, I just caught onto NPR podcasts. very addictive.)
Hope you are well. Take care.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Exploring the Cove

Last week's hike gave us a better idea of our neighborhood so yesterday we went to find the pretty harbor we saw from the observatory tower. It is close to our house with a concrete dock where junior high school boys were jumping into the blue waters. We walked along the rocky beach, investigating tidal pools and finding beautiful shells and dried sea urchins. I really enjoy these weekend explorations since my week is full of work and parenting demands. These good moments remind me during the week that another weekend is always approaching, ripe for wandering and reflection.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Sunday Hike

On Sunday, we climbed up the mountain behind our neighborhood to see what we could see...

and were rather pleased with what we saw. The sea, the sea, the beautiful sea. And our little town, of course. The path was easy and lined with little shrines, both Buddhist and Shinto. The forest is different here, more tropical and lush. But above all, the sea.