Thursday, February 26, 2009

Intellectuality / This Week

Thank you to those who commented both on my last entry and privately. I hope people who don't know me will not assume that I am a bad person who always gossips about others. It is not really like that. There are just certain friends who bring that side of my personality to the surface. With other friends, we tend to chat about normal things.

On the bright side, at work, I told my co-workers about this issue and they all suggested we try harder to have intellectual conversations while at work. This may be challenging, but we are making an effort. The other day, Jeff and James said they actually had a conversation about books and the economy. Wow. Adie & I have been talking about cinnamon rolls and how to get them in Japan without actually having to make them. I think we can do it...have more intellectual conversations, I mean. This morning, I awoke from a dream about James. He and I were at a university where I was living. He was helping me rearrange the furniture in my room. I had way too much furniture and he was advising me on how to sort it out. I think it had something to do with this issue.

Since Convention, I have not really been able to give a sigh of relief. Too much to do that I was putting off until after convention.

1. Making DVD of Soap Opera dramas for our graduating students. (I used my iMovie software on my Mac for only the 2nd time, and it didn't take too long, but burning 45 DVD copies is what takes a while. I hope I can finish in time for graduation. Each DVD takes about 20 minutes or more.)

2. Finishing up my 2008 Chronological album. I did the Journaling part this week, so the last step is making the titles on my Cricut machine. I was thinking to do that tonight while I wait for the DVDs to burn tonight. (That is, if I don't fall asleep with Ailin.)

3. Finishing up the lesson plans, handouts & activity cards for our 3rd year English class. Last year, I had designed an entire syllabus focusing on drama techniques and improvisation to develop their skills for the final project - the Soap Opera! The year went well, but my memory card got damaged last summer and I had to re-type all of the information. Actually, each native teacher helped by typing up one unit's lesson plans and handouts. Now, I am just putting it all together, formatting it and improving it based on the student feedback. I will be finished today!

4. Touching up an article for my Surviving Japan column in the AFWJ Journal. I wrote the article some time last year, but now just need to update it a bit. Deadline is on Sunday.

I hope next week will be easier because I have several more things I need to be dealing with. I can't wait til maternity leave kicks in. I have decided not to make any plans in that first week of leave. I just want to stay home and hang out with Max and do ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. Maybe read some books and watch DVDs until it's time to go and pick Ailin up from daycare. I remember how busy I was just before Ailin was born. I was constantly shopping and visiting people, running around all over the place. I don't want to do that again.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

omg...I'm a B-i-t-c-h

I just had to get this story out.

This past weekend, I attended the annual convention for AFWJ. Actually, I didn't just attend, I was on the planning committee and have been helping to plan for the past year. I want to write more about the convention itself later, but for now, I just need to get this out.

One of my closest friends in AFWJ told me that another person mentioned to her the following observation. From afar, she and I look very sweet and nice, but when someone listens in on our conversations, it is obvious how bitchy we are. If we are not razzing each other about something or other, we are speaking (in a negative way) about others.

Now, this is not ALWAYS the case, but to be honest, it is OFTEN the case. Up until this weekend, I would always say, "Well, isn't that what women do? Talk shit about others constantly?", not really...that is what I realized this past weekend.

What I do is not normal, it is just pure bitchy. And, I need to work on this.

I realized this in part because on Saturday, I attended a workshop about dreams. It was amazing, and I want to write more about that later too. The workshop presenter is an AFWJ member named Sheila, who now lives in her hometown in Minnesota, so I felt a sort of kinship with her to begin with. But, her story of how she got to this point in her life is really amazing and inspiring. Her workshop woke something up inside myself, which is yet another topic I will tackle in a later post. Anyway, she offered to show people her Masters thesis presentation on powerpoint later that night, and I showed up to view this because I was interested in learning more about her and her work.

While we were watching her presentation, my 2 closest AFWJ buddies (both members of the planning committee as well!) came and sat beside me. They were chatting away, not necessarily interested in the powerpoint presentation because they had not attended the same workshop. I think they were waiting for me to finish. Anyway, Sheila (the workshop presenter) finished showing her Masters thesis presentation and then showed a presentation she often uses in her classes, which is about the history of dream interpretation and dreamwork. I found that interesting as well and then we were discussing had happened during the workshop that afternoon.

Like I said, her workshop and the particular dream that was discussed during the workshop awoke something inside me and forced me to remember what type of person I had been striving to become BEFORE I got caught up in marriage and daily life.

As soon as we finished our discussion though, my two friends and I started complaining about various things that had happened that day, mostly things related to the planning committee and their members. Sheila immediately tried to steer us in a more positive direction by saying "You never know what is going on what that person right now." and "She could be just reacting to other problems in her life." In other words, it doesn't help to sit around and complain about this person, and it certainly doesn't make for a postive, sisterly atmosphere.

Sheila, obviously, has been through a lot in her life and has grown so much because of it. Through her creative work and her intellectual work, she has managed to carve out a very positive space for herself. This must be hard to maintain with so many negative people like us around.

I felt I was trying to have a conversation with a person who is 100 times more intelligent, mature and educated than me, and I'm pulled back into bitchiness with my close friends (whom I love dearly), but it is like a bad habit. Bitchiness is my cigarette.

However, this whole situation made me realize something about myself. That thing called spirituality that awoke inside of me is something I want to pursue further, and I am going to work on myself to become a more positive and sincere person.

Oh, by the way, I blame Catholic school for my bitchiness. I mean, I don't blame Catholics, but the way it worked in elementary school was that if you saw someone wear some hideous outfit or hairstyle, you would go up to them and say in your most enthusiastic tone, "Wow! What a great outfit. You look so wonderful! Where did you get it?" Then, turn around and snicker with your friends. Considering that I usually wore handmedowns, this was said to me quite often and I learned to do it in return...finding every opportunity I could to "compliment" people.

I DO NOT DO THIS AS AN ADULT. When I compliment people on their clothing or hair or whatever, I truly mean it, but still, when others compliment me, I can't help but think, "Really? You're kidding, right?" But, I do other things, like complain about things that people do or say. I shouldn't let it bother me, and if it does, I should follow my dad's advice - something he ALWAYS said to me whenever I complained about anyone, "Have you ever just gone up and talked to that person? Maybe they have a reason for acting that way. Or, maybe they are going through a hard time and need someone to talk to." He was right, and so is Sheila. I need to keep that in mind.

You can click on my link Monkey Bridge Arts to see Sheila's web site

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Birthday Cake Contest & 2nd Birthday Parties

This past weekend was Ailin's 2nd birthday (yesterday, the 15th, to be exact). She was fully aware that it was her special day and was super excited about all the decorations, sweets and presents. What excited her most was singing Happy Birthday countless times and holding up her two fingers, saying either "Two!" or "2-sai!" This is a far cry from her first birthday when she didn't really have a clue.

This year's theme was Elmo, one of her favorite characters. I had bought the party supplies last August in the USA along with the canned Betty Crocker frosting and boxed cake mix. Hey, I am not above using instant...I am a working mom, after all.

So, what I did was continue my tradition that I started last year. I ordered a custom cake from the Pont Neuf bakery in Inage. Using a photo, they made an exact replica of Elmo's face - marzipan icing, inside was 3 layers of white cake with whip cream and nuts in between. Then, I make an Elmo cake (from "scratch") and compare the results. Which tastes better? Which looks better?

This year, Pont Neuf won hands down. They did an excellent job, but I must say that the price was way more than I expected. I was quoted the price of 4500 yen (about $45), but when I picked up the cake, they charged me 6600 yen (about $66). I swallowed my pride and sheepishly paid this outrageous price because for one thing, Ailin was turning red and screaming in her stroller because she wanted to get out and walk. And, for another thing, I sometimes find myself so shocked at things that people say or do that I can't even react, and this was one of those situations. When I told my MIL and Yusuke about it, they said, "Oh, you have definitely been had. You looked like someone who was willing to pay any price for that cake." Honestly though, despite this being Japan where bargaining is rare, I look back and think that I could have easily argued the price down. I mean, it was 6:00 in the evening, so who else would they be able to sell that cake to? Whose gonna throw such a cake in the trash just because a customer refuses to pay that price? Of course, they would have agreed to bring it down closer to their original quote.

This brings me to explain why the quote was different from the final price. According to the bakery workers, my only choice was to have strawberries and whip cream in between each layer. I told them that my family hates strawberries in cake, so please use nuts instead. (We have this same conversation every time I order from this bakery, actually!) We went back and forth about that - them telling me strawberries are my only choice, me telling them not to put anything in then, them saying "how about another fruit?", me saying "how about nuts?", them saying, well it depends on the baker who is working on that day and what he wants to do, me saying okay, whatever, and them saying, "the price might be higher than our quote", and me saying "great." Perhaps I did seem like the type of person who "will pay any price." So, I am going to be more careful from now on when it comes to ordering from that bakery...perhaps we will all make do with strawberries.

The custom Elmo cake was meant for the family birthday party on Saturday evening. Ailin fully enjoyed the dinner made by MIL, loved the Elmo cake, and then got some presents from Baba and Jiji. (Yusuke and I had not yet bought her anything...shame, shame.) Baba had made a doll for Ailin which she arbitrarily called Mary. Ailin thinks that Mary is a witch and refuses to play with her though. Actually, Mary is kind of homely (even MIL admits to this), and her hair and clothes to sort of resemble that of a witch. We told Ailin that Mary is a witch but her job is to protect Ailin from other witches, so in that case, Ailin allows Mary to sleep with her and her other babies, but she doesn't want to touch or play with her.

After that, I started to frost the cupcakes for Ailin's birthday party, which would take place the next morning. My original plan was to put the cupcakes in a circular shape and frost them to look like Elmo's face. After placing the cupcakes on the circular tray, I realized that geometrically, this would not work out. My alternative plan was to frost each cupcake to look like Elmo's face. Sounds easy enough, right?

When I was making the red frosting, however, I ended up with pink, only getting pinker. So, I added a little blue which turned it kind of pinkish-purple, and then when I tried to fix it with more red, it became this horrible purple.I only had black tube frosting (meant for Elmo's eyes and nose), so I decided to just write "Happy Birthday Ailin" on the cupcakes and be done with it. I am totally aware of the fact that it looks like something you would see on an episode of The Addams Family. Luckily, Ailin is too young to care about the color of her cupcakes.

I just thought of this now, but since Ailin likes monsters so much, I could have just made a purple monster face out of the cupcakes. Too bad I was not in a more creative mood on Saturday night.

Anyway, the birthday party on Sunday was great. Her 3 Bilingual Kids Club friends and their moms came. Each mom brought a dish or two to share. (I asked that in lieu of gifts, they help out by bringing food for the party. I didn't want the stress of having to make the whole menu!) Ailin had lots of fun and everyone seemed to enjoy the party.

We played "Ailin's Favorite Character Toss" and "Pin the Nose on Elmo". We also put out art supplies and let them make a collage on the coffee table. That was about it. Much simpler than last year and less hassle with a small amount of guests. Yusuke stayed to help out until about an hour before the party ended, and then he went off to a movie.

At the end of the party, we were saying good bye to the guests at the door when Ailin snuck off and attacked the leftover cupcakes. She managed to climb up on the bench and grab one and eat it before I realized. She got the purple frosting all over her clothes and arms, so I gave her a bath before putting her down for a nap.

Max had a great weekend too. The weather was great, and I took him for a nice long walk in the sea-side park. On Sunday night, he got a much-needed bath. He looks and smells nice now.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Cravings & Shopping Lists

In some ways, this pregnancy has been easier - in other ways harder.

1. I didn't really feel morning sickness.
2. I didn't feel grossed out by any particular foods.
3. I could feel the kicking much much earlier than last time.
4. I am not completely obsessed about buying all sorts of baby gear and clothes.

1. I felt/feel extremely tired.
2. Things take their toll much sooner than before.
3. I don't have time to take a rest and just enjoy the pregnancy.
4. I can't find the time to look through the baby gear and clothes I MIGHT already have.
5. I feel scared, not about the childbirth like I was last time, but about how life will be with 2 kids and a dog.
6. Ailin still wants me to pick her up a lot...she wants skinship with her Mama. I am afraid I will injure my back though.

My big cravings this time have been donuts (and any other sweet breads) and potato chips. Why can't I crave things like broccoli and carrots? What is wrong with me? Anyway, I think I got rid of the donut craving last weekend by over-indulging on some Krisy Kreme donuts we bought at Lalaport. I may be able to say no to them. As for the potato chips, it's not as bad as it was during the 1st trimester. Remember my obsession with cherry coke when I was pregnant with Ailin? My new obsession is herbal tea and tea with milk. Lupicia is a great chain store which offers so many different flavors of tea, plus I work with a Brit who turned us on to British-style tea.

Shopping Lists
I finally got around to checking Baby for their list of suggested baby gear and clothes. I'll need to go through old boxes of the things I saved from Ailin's first months, but off hand, I know I will need the following:

1. A nursing pillow (threw it away)
2. Nipple cream (lost it very recently)
3. Diapers (back to that newborn and 0-3 size)
4. Plastic bathtub - what did I do with that bulky thing?
5. Car seat (this time for Ailin who will get a toddler seat and Baby#2 will get hers.)
6. Moses basket (sold it to the recycle shop)

Wow! I can't believe how short this list is. We will find out the sex this weekend, and after that I will start looking for clothes, if necessary. A friend, who just had a baby 3 months ago, is getting ready to send me some clothes anyway. I might not need anything. June July and August are quite warm so no need to bundle up as much.

Thirty-two things that change when you have a baby

by Rebecca Woolf
Last updated: October 2008
What changes when you have a baby? A better question may be: What doesn't change? Here, writer and mom Rebecca Woolf lists her most notable post-baby observations. Then scroll down to read our favorite comments from readers about how their babies changed their lives.

1. You finally stop to smell the roses, because your baby is in your arms.

2. Where you once believed you were fearless, you now find yourself afraid.

3. The sacrifices you thought you made to have a child no longer seem like sacrifices.

4. You respect your body ... finally.

5. You respect your parents and love them in a new way.

6. You find that your baby's pain feels much worse than your own.

7. You believe once again in the things you believed in as a child.

8. You lose touch with the people in your life whom you should have banished years ago.

9. Your heart breaks much more easily.

10. You think of someone else 234,836,178,976 times a day.

11. Every day is a surprise.

12. Bodily functions are no longer repulsive. In fact, they please you. (Hooray for poop!)

13. You look at your baby in the mirror instead of yourself.

14. You become a morning person.

15. Your love becomes limitless, a superhuman power.

And from our readers...

1. "You discover how much there is to say about one tooth." — Ashley's mom

2. "You finally realize that true joy doesn't come from material wealth." — Anonymous

3. "You now know where the sun comes from." — Charlotte

4. "You'd rather buy a plastic tricycle than those shoes that you've been dying to have." — Sophie's mom

5. "You realize that although sticky, lollipops have magical powers." — Roxanne

6. "You don't mind going to bed at 9 p.m. on Friday night." — Kellye

7. "Silence? What's that?" — Anonymous

8. "You realize that the 15 pounds you can't seem to get rid of are totally worth having." — Brenda

9. "You discover an inner strength you never thought you had." — Ronin and Brookie's mom

10. "You no longer rely on a clock — your baby now sets your schedule." — Thomas' mom

11. "You give parents with a screaming child an 'I-know-the-feeling' look instead of a 'Can't-they-shut-him-up?' one." — Jaidyn's mom

12. "Your dog — who used to be your 'baby' — becomes just a dog." — Kara

13. "You take the time for one more hug and kiss even if it means you'll be late." — Tracey

14. "You learn that taking a shower is a luxury." — Jayden's mom

15. "You realize that you can love a complete stranger." — Dezarae's mom

16. You find yourself wanting to make this world a better place. — Arizona

17. If you didn’t believe in love at first sight before, now you do! — Ciara

(An article from

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

New and Improved

I just wanted to post the before and after photos of my scrapbook space, which I am very proud of. I have actually been able to sit at my new desk and work on albums. Everything is within arm's reach, and it is all very easy to tidy up when I am finished. My computer desk still needs a little work, so I didn't include it in the photos.

Major Flaws: Cluttered, no room to actually work, very hard to dust, organized chaos

Good Points: Simple, sparse, most things are put away, space to work, easy to keep clean, nothing under the desk

Major flaws: Again, a clutter-magnet, always looks like I am in the middle of something and had to leave it suddenly.

Good Points: Memorabilia is out on display, eye-catching, easy to use reference materials (my magazines, books and binders) are right there, current projects are on the right side.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Mornings Like this

It is on mornings like this when I really start to second-guess my choice to continue working rather than stay home with my child(ren).

I caught a bad cold over the weekend so every bad thing that happens gets magnified in my mind. Fortunately, my daughter seems okay with just a fever that keeps going up and down (according to her day care teacher.) Yusuke, on the other hand, complains that his "stomach" hurts, but really he is pointing to either his liver or his large intestine, and of course, when I explain that to him, his response is "Oh, when someone has a problem with their liver, then their life is over. Really over."

So, after waking up very late as usual, he goes into the bathroom and stays there for over 30 minutes dealing with his ... um ... liver problem. I was rushing around trying to finish dressing Ailin, cleaning up after Max, sweeping up the veranda (crows attacked our garbage the day before) and trying get out the door so I wouldn't be more than the usual 15 minutes late for work.

(I was about 1/2 hour late this morning.)

Meanwhile, Yusuke is calling out from the bathroom, "If you'll just wait 3 more minutes..."

Ailin is throwing books at me.

Max is barking in the background.

And, I am about to lose my mind. Either that, or kick something.

Like I said, wouldn't life be easier if I could have a leisurely morning...resting on the couch while Ailin plays on the floor, or slowly cleaning up breakfast dishes while Ailin plays?

Anything would be better than rushing out the door, hair uncombed, no make-up, annoyed because no one helps out...also, annoyed with myself for not waking up at 5:30 like I had originally planned.