Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Scrapbooking Online Class - Part 4

The class was four weeks and we had an assignment each week. I was so busy that last week since classes at work had started and I was also preparing to start maternity leave. I was kind of lucky to have come across this piece that I wrote about a year ago for one of my classes. I was asked to write about the theme "The Road Less Traveled" since my students were studying the poem in their English class. I had always wanted to use the essay again, in some way, and found a perfect excuse to use it on a scrapbooking page. Yes, I did cheat a little because I didn't write it specifically for the on-line class.

Journaling for the "The Road Less Traveled"
When I was a high school student, I suddenly made a decision. I wanted to study abroad for one year. I applied to an exchange program, but my parents thought I would not be accepted. They were very surprised when I got accepted. Then, they had to start worrying about me and my future path.

At that time, I didn’t know that this decision would affect the rest of my life, but it did. While living in Japan, I came to understand the culture and language a little. I also made some great friends. I learned a lot about myself as well. But, most importantly, I fell in love with a Japanese boy in my class.

After I returned to America, I finished high school and then went to university. I tried so hard to live an ordinary life. My parents encouraged me to live a normal life too. But, to be honest, I was not satisfied. I often thought about Japan, the language and culture, my old friends, and of course, the Japanese boy I fell in love with. I sometimes regretted that I had studied abroad in high school at such a young age. I wondered what it would be like to live a normal American life.

When I was 24 years old, I made a big decision. I decided to marry that Japanese boy, move back to Japan and change my life forever. Sometimes, I envy my American friends back home who are living normal lives. What are they doing? They go to graduate school, they have BBQ parties with their friends, they go shopping at their favorite stores, they get married and buy houses, they can communicate easily with their husbands, and so on.

Instead, I am a foreign wife living in Japan. I have to speak Japanese a lot every day. Sometimes, my husband and I don’t understand each other and we become very frustrated. I have to eat Japanese food a lot, and I can’t shop at my favorite stores. We have to live in a small apartment because houses are too expensive. I can’t talk to my mother every day because of the time difference between Tokyo and Wisconsin. If I want to call her on the telephone, I have to wait until the weekend, and it’s expensive.

Sometimes, I do regret that I took the road less traveled. It is hard, frustrating and sad. But, there are good things about it too. I have learned so much about myself, other people and the world. My husband and I have a strong relationship because we have to make so much effort to understand each other. Yes, my life might be easier if I lived in America and married an American guy, but I don’t know if I would be happier. I think I am a stronger person because of my decisions.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Scrapbooking Online Class - Part 3

These are the 2 lay outs I did for Week 3 of the Deep Journaling class I took. I want to do a little more embellishing on the first one, but have not had time to do it yet. I usually save embellishments for very last.
My reason for doing the 2nd lay out about Yusuke and the very first time I saw him is because during the class, the teacher showed an example of a page that highlighted a "pivotal moment" in her life. I thought the idea of scrapbooking about pivotal moments would be a great idea and nice addition to one of my albums. After that, I made a list of "pivotal moments" in my life and looked for photos that would represent them. This is the first one of the series. I plan to do more in the next few months.

Journaling for "Ailin no Mama"
When you put your arms around my legs and say “Ailin no mama!”, what are you feeling?
Everyone knows I am your mama.
When I drop you off at day care, and other kids come to the door to greet us, you sometimes do this. Is it out of pride? Ownership?
When I pick you up at the end of the day and you run towards me smiling and giggling, you sometimes do this. Are you proud to show me off?
But other times, after a long weekend or holiday, when I drop you off, you wrap your arms around me and say, “Ailin no mama!” Are you sad? Do you want to stay home with Mama?
At home, when we are playing happily, you sometimes turn to me and wrap your arms around my neck with a gleeful “Ailin no mama!” Are you joyful?
No matter what you might be feeling, I am proud to be your mama. I am not just someone’s mother, I am Ailin’s Mama, and hearing you shout it out, whether joyfully, possessively, sadly…this gives me a reason to love my life.

Journaling for "April 1993, 16 years old"
It was a spring day early in the new school year. I was sitting in my new classroom, 2A-gumi, in the second row from the door, the 3rd seat.
It was English class, and our teacher, Kenzo Matsumoto, was asking students to go up front and write the Japanese translations for the English words on the board. It was for my benefit. I was supposed to be copying them down in my notebook.
He called on someone, but I didn’t catch the name. The boy seemed to be hesitant because Kenzo chided him, “Come on. Get up there and write it on the board, please. Hurry up.”
The boy was sitting in the 1st row, somewhere behind me. He slowly made his way up to the board, and wrote the word out – deliberately, hard – the chalk squeaked.
He turned and faced the class. We didn’t make eye contact, but I watched him as he walked back to his seat. I turned my head to watch him as he sat down and, for the first time, I saw his face.
That moment.
That face.
He seemed cold-shouldered. In Japanese, they say “tsumetai.”
I never liked boys who were cold-shouldered. My type was usually the class clown – out-going, transparent guys.
But, that reluctance. That deliberate, hard writing on the chalkboard. That face.
That was the moment my life changed. I forgot about my current crushes, my past heartbreaks.
I just knew that, if nothing else, I had to get to know him.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Online Scrapbook Class Part 2

Thanks for the feedback. I'll put my 2 layouts from Week #2 up here.

I was a Creative Memories consultant for about 2 years, but I recently let go of my status. I didn't have enough customers and with working full time, had no chance to offer workshops. Plus, I really would like to go a different direction with it. Not sure yet, but foremost in my mind is the idea to write a book.

Okay, so here are my Week 2 lay outs. I had wanted to add more embellishments to the Convention lay out, but couldn't think of anything in time. I might add something later. The next page in my album will feature the printed program.

Journaling for AFWJ Convention 2009:
To tell the truth,
I hate conventions because…
Despite my outgoing personality, large gatherings of people make me feel uncomfortable.
I hate sharing hotel rooms.
I sometimes make social blunders because I forget people’s names, or I blow someone off accidently.

I joined the planning committee for this convention because…
Some of my friends were already on the Committee.
It was to take place in Chiba, so I figured there was no way I could NOT attend.
I thought I would have more fun if I was part of the planning.

My main role on the Committee took place before the Convention. I was in charge of making the printed programs. I like using computers and doing lay outs, but I didn’t realize I would have to pull together all the information about the Convention. I guess I thought it would be handed to me, but I had to pull it out of people. In the end though, I loved the look of the program, and I got enough compliments on it to make me feel it was worth it.

 Our ABBA performance at the Cabaret
 Having my own room
 Hanging out with Kirsten
 Meeting hilarious new members like Erin Nakamura & Nicole Dunbar
 Assisting Kirsten with the Scrapbooking Workshop
 Attending the Dream Workshop with Sheila McNellis Asato
 Sitting with Sheila and learning more about her work and the history of Dream Interpretation
 Listening to the inspiring Panel Discussion
 The food!!

Journaling for Baby #2:
No, it wasn’t planned. And, it is a little sooner than I hoped. Yes, I was quite surprised…maybe even shocked.
Despite that, I was excited to tell Yusuke about it. I knew he would be really ecstatic. I wrapped up the positive test sticks like a present and gave them to him during a special dinner date. He didn’t know what they were at first, but his face quickly changed from confusion to utter excitement when I explained.

I couldn’t help but wonder how I would manage though. The pregnancy while raising a toddler and working full time was proving to be hard enough, but having a baby AND a toddler? I was seriously starting to doubt myself. Not to mention the fact that I would still like to return to work after the maternity leave. What to do?

My dad was most encouraging though. Even though others were saying how hard it would be, he assured me that having two kids close together would be so much fun. It would be easier too. When I asked him about going back to work, he said that the quality of the time was more important than the quantity.

The next exciting thing was to find out we are expecting a boy. Truth be told, I was hoping for a girl only for practical purposes. Wouldn’t have to buy new clothes or new toys, they could share a room easily, etc. But, so many people were truly happy for us when I revealed the sex.

“Boys are so much fun!” “You will fall in love with him and vice versa.”
“Having a boy is different. They’re easier, somehow.”
“He’ll be gentle because he’ll have a big sister as a role model.”

The 2nd pregnancy has been a different kind of experience for me. I am not at all worried about the labor and delivery this time. Aside from being able to feel Baby #2 kick a lot sooner than I did with Ailin, I sometimes forgot I was pregnant. There was no morning sickness in the 1st trimester, and the 2nd trimester was smooth sailing. The only issue I had during the 1st trimester was needing extra sleep at night and not being able to finish my daily chores. Now, in the 3rd trimester, I have had 3 colds in the past 3 weeks. Not easy to deal with, and I feel stressed about cleaning and preparing for the new baby. My body was not in great condition before getting pregnant, so physically, I feel more worn out and weaker as the baby gets heavier inside my stomach.

This too shall pass though. Soon, we will have a cute little baby boy to hold and cuddle. Ailin will have a little brother to entertain. Max will get a little lower on the totem pole, but at the same time, he will gain a new playmate. And, we will have the seemingly perfect family – Mama, Papa, daughter, son & dog.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Online Scrapbook Class

I just finished an online class through Big Picture Scrapbooking. It was a four-week class about journaling more deeply on your pages. I just wanted to try it out, but wasn't expecting to get much out of it. Turns out that it was really good and the teacher did a great job explaining the basics of storytelling. Each week, we had an assignment and were supposed to post our lay outs on the class's gallery. I thought I would also put some of my lay outs here as well. For each week, I did 2 lay outs, except for the last week as I was too busy at work. (Actually, there is another reason why I neglected to do it. I was planning to do a lay out regarding being a working mom and my dilemma about continuing to work or not....I am simply not ready yet. I need more time to mull it over.)

Here are my 2 lay outs from the first week:

Journaling for "Birthday Girl"
February 13th – Nagisa presented you with a wax cake and a crown. They sang Happy Birthday to you, and you seemed to enjoy showing off your skill of holding two fingers out and saying “2-sai!” or “2!”

February 14th – Baba and Jiji came over for dinner. Papa and Baba were in charge of making the food. You helped Mama put up the decorations. Mama had ordered an Elmo cake from Pont Neuf bakery. You were so pleased to see Elmo! Baba gave you a hand-made doll named Mary. You were afraid of her at first because you thought she was a witch, but then we told you she is a nice witch who protects you from other witches. After that, you allowed Mary to sleep with you and your other dolls.

February 15th – Your BKC friends and moms came over for your big party! Everyone brought food for lunch. We had cupcakes for dessert. You, Erina, Emma & Yoko scribbled on the paper taped to the coffee table, played “Ailin’s Favorite Character Toss” and “Pin the Nose on Elmo.” You seemed to enjoy the party very much!

Journaling for "Family Tradition"
After the Okinawa trip and being so impressed by the dolphin show, I wanted to start a new tradition for Ailin. I suggested to Yusuke, “Let’s go to Kamogawa SeaWorld for Ailin’s birthday.”

So, instead of buying her endless birthday presents, we reserved a room at the Kamogawa SeaWorld hotel for March 7th. Everyone was excited to make this little road trip.

A couple days before going, Ailin seemed to be getting sick. We had to send her to day care anyway because she had no fever, and I was kind of busy at work that week. She was throwing up sometimes though!

On Saturday morning, I got up early with her as usual, and she did puke at one point. I called out for Yusuke to get up and help since she had puked all over herself and me. We considered cancelling our plans, but she had a very low-grade fever, and she was taking meds for her symptoms. The doctor had OK’d the trip. She actually seemed fine, and was playing and talking as usual. After a few hours, I decided we should just go and have a relaxing time.

It was a nice, relaxing weekend! The hotel was connected to SeaWorld, so we could come and go as we liked. SeaWorld is not that big, so we didn’t feel pressured to run around and see everything. Plus, it is fairly close, so we knew it wouldn’t be the last time. The hotel room was a big tatami room with a beautiful view of the ocean, and you could hear the waves all night long. The hotel’s restaurant boasted a buffet of foods to please anyone, and a large play area manned by caregivers, so one could actually leave their child in the play area while they ate in peace. (Actually, Yusuke was not so impressed by the food, and Ailin is a bit too young to leave in the play area on her own, but for future reference, it is a great place for families.) And, speaking of families, since everyone’s kids are noisy and messy, it makes mealtime that much more relaxing.

The BEST PART was the Killer Whale Show. Wow!!!! I can’t sing enough praises about it. One of the Killer Whales had a baby last November, and her baby was swimming around the pool all the while his mama was working. I happened to catch a few photos of his tail or of him bopping his head above water. Yusuke never even noticed him! Ailin was mesmerized by the performance, and we all clapped when they did their jumps and tricks. The funniest thing was when a certain lady from the audience kept getting splashed. She was definitely sitting in the wrong spot, and by the end of the show, she was soaking wet! Yusuke laughed so hard at that, but I felt kind of sorry for her. The entire stadium was watching her and laughing each time. I would have died from embarrassment.

Other highlights include the noisy walruses with the big whiskers, the dolphin show & the hotel’s playroom on the 1st floor. Ailin liked playing inside Thomas the Train and riding on the little Merry-go-round.

This should definitely become a family tradition!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Inspiration Board Completed

As part of the redesign of my scrapbooking space, I finally finished the inspiration board.

The board is supposed to be hung in my scrapbooking area and serve the purpose of inspiring me with ideas or colors that I can use in my lay outs.

From top left:
Green & Blue - the ocean, coastline. I picked up this postcard when I was 16 at an art museum down in Kyushu. I kept it all these years because I had written on the back "I will go here someday." I have no idea where this coastline is, but I imagine it's somewhere like Ireland, or even the east coast of Canada. For years, this postcards has been up on my fridge protected in a plastic frame. When I took it out to use it for the Inspiration Board, I noticed that on the backside, my husband had written, "You will someday!" I don't know when he wrote it, but it's fun to daydream about a time in the future when we actually can travel to Europe and see Ireland for ourselves. (or the East Coast of Canada, ode to Kirsten.)

People who inspire me - My mom for her quilting prowess, but also for her strength at being a working mom who went to college AFTER I started kindergarten and then quickly worked her way to the top in her career. She is just that impressive to everyone she meets, but she is also strong at home - understands her limitations, shows emotion when necessary, teaches others to develop their own strengths.
Cathy Zielske is the author of the first Scrapbooking book I read that really got my attention. My whole style changed because of her books. When I noticed her connection with Simple Scrapbooks magazine, I began subscribing to it immediately, and it opened up a whole new world for me. I love that magazine and am a big fan of all of the editors and contributors now.
Kirsten Woest, a woman I met through AFWJ, who is a fellow scrapbooker, but she is much more than that - an artist, a mother, a businesswoman, a friend. In the center is one of her displays at her home store, and I put it there to remind me to use stuff like this in my lay outs! I usually neglect to embellish my pages.

A Quote - "Creativity is love moving forward." This is a quote from Sheila McNellis Asato, the woman I met at the 2009 AFWJ Convention who specializes in Dreamwork. She used this quote for her Masters Thesis and was explaining it to me in terms of using art to express love for others. The question I have always asked myself - "Why do I scrapbook?" Well, here is the answer. Thanks, Sheila. I finally found the quote I was looking for.

The Four Seasons - Japanese often brag that they have the four seasons here. In Chiba, we don't have snow in the winter, but we do have 1 rainy season and one typhoon season. Spring and fall are gorgeous though and well worth the wait every year. And, even summer brings its share of flowers that you would never see blooming in Wisconsin. Anyway, the seasons do have a way of inspiring me with their rich colors, and since I do a chronological album for each year, seasons and seasonal activities do play a big part. I just have to find different ways of expressing them.

From the top right:
Xmas. Who doesn't feel inspired by Xmas? This was a card my husband gave me for Xmas last year. Inserted was a little white note card that read "You're a strong wife and a good mama." Xmas season is filled with inspiration for me, and I purposely go window shopping at stores where I know will have Xmas or light displays, esp home interior stores. I often find, upon closer evaluation, that the items are not well-made, but from afar, they do look spectacular, and they do bring back memories from my own childhood when Mom went all out decorating the house for her favorite holiday.

Color Combos - Some of these are recommended by Cathy Zielske in her books. The stained glass is a common theme in my house. I love stained glass.

Orange & Beige - This is a photo of the sunset from our veranda. Winters give us gorgeous sunsets and that is always something to look forward to. On clear days, we can see Mt Fuji. I love the combo of orange and beige, so I decorated our living room to reflect this.

Blue (and yellow) - the sky and the sea. I still need to add the yellow, but am leaving it blank because I may be adding something totally different to it instead.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

No Words

Due to my husband's and my horrible planning/cooperation skills, we had a weird Sunday last weekend. Somehow, Ailin ended up at her grandma's house from about 6pm to 10pm so we could get our grocery shopping done. It turned out that Yusuke also needed (more) clothes and a new pair of shoes. And, in between that, we needed to eat, so we did stop for a bite. By the time, we picked up Ailin, it was late and she was already sleeping. We all felt so bad...even her grandma was like "if I had the day off tomorrow, I would just let her sleep here."

So, OF COURSE, the next morning, she woke up with a cough and a slight fever. I am sure part of the reason is that she finally caught the colds Yusuke and I were both suffering from for the past couple weeks, but we should have been more careful.

Since her fever hadn't hit the limit (37.5 degrees C or above means that one cannot attend daycare!), I took her in anyway. But, about an hour after I arrived at work, I got the dreaded phone call to come and pick her up since her temperature had spiked. I did go and get her, but I had some things to finish up at work, and couldn't be there for another hour or so. (Mama's Bad #1)

At home, she seemed rather genki and her temperature seemed to be normal. I even took her and Max outside for a walk to see the cherry blossoms. (Mama's Bad #2)

The next morning, she had a slight fever again, but since neither of us were able to stay home that day, we took her in anyway. Ailin was not in the greatest mood, but trust me, I have seen worse. I didn't hear from the daycare all day long and went to pick her up at the usual time. (My usual time is supposed to be 4:30pm, but I always end up staying later at work and don't pick her up til 5 or 5:30. (Mama's Bad #3)

Her teacher explained that Ailin's temperature had gone up and down all day long. They kept her inside and took her temperature frequently. She ate normally and for the most part, was in a good mood. They didn't bother to call me because her temp kept going up and down, but that might be a sign of influenza. She explained that a few other kids had come down with influenza, so perhaps I should get her checked out by a doctor.

Okay, I hate taking Ailin to the dr. We always get the exact same medication, which she refuses to take. The dr never spends more than 3 minutes with us, and basically diagnoses her with the same thing each time no matter what the symptoms are. I have thought about switching doctors, but there are not that many choices around here. My other choices (slim) are so crowded with patients that you are bound to catch something in the waiting room. And, they make you wait FOREVER. Plus, this dr seems close to never know, the old bat might hang on until she is 90! But, she seems to be priming her son to take over the practice. He works there on Fridays, and he is definitely easier to deal with (and nice to look at.)

So, needless to say, I didn't take her to the dr. Instead, I double checked the 2008/09 symptoms for influenza and convinced myself that she does NOT have it. Aside from that, she was vaccinated against it in December. She doesn't seem fatigued and usually plays happily. She is talking as usual. And, her cough is not a dry's like mine - phlegmy. This morning, I decided to take it easy and not rush her. I wanted to make sure her temperature didn't spike at some point.

It didn't, so I took her in about 45 min later than usual. I did not receive any phone calls from the day care today, so I figured all was well. I was planning to pick her up earlier than usual so that her dinnertime/bedtime routine would start earlier and then I could put her to bed early. As usual though, I did get caught up with something at work and couldn't leave quite as early as I wanted to. I also needed to stop at the store and get the groceries for the rest of the week.

Just when I got to the store, I received a call from her teacher. It was 4pm. She explained that Ailin's temperature had been up and down all day and could I come and pick her up ASAP. I told her I would finish the shopping and go pick her up. (Mama's Bad #4)

When I walked in the entrance of the daycare, an office worker came out to say that the PRINCIPAL of the daycare wanted to have a word with me and she ushered me into the office. This old woman (who needs a cane or assistance to walk around) stood up at her desk and reamed me out for bringing Ailin to daycare despite her condition and spiking temperature. She went on and on about how these are indications that something is wrong with her so I should at least have her examined by a doctor. Also, she said that if Ailin is contagious, other mothers will complain about it and that causes a lot of problems for her. She yelled at me for a good five minutes, in front of her office staff.

Well, part of me (the American part of me) thought, "How dare you speak to me like that!" To be fair, for the past 2 days, they had not called me to tell me about the spiking temperatures during the day. I only found out at the end of both days. And, I guess the Flu vaccine doesn't count for much.

The other part of me (The Mother part) was just embarrassed. I don't want to show my face there tomorrow.

I did attempt to take her to the doctor right after that, but it was closed.

Saturday, April 4, 2009


The first 2 trimesters of pregnancy this time did not lead to aversions to any kind of foods, unfortunately. Well, no, that's a good thing. It meant that I could cook dinner without making myself sick, and I could even open the fridge or walk through a grocery store without getting nauseous.

On the other hand, though, I craved things like gooey cinnamon rolls, coca cola, chocolate...the only thing I tried to avoid this time around was sembei (Japanese rice crackers).

This time, once the 3rd trimester hit, I started getting sick a lot. First a sore throat and cold. Then, some kind of 24-hour flu that landed me in the hospital on an IV drip for an afternoon. The following week, a regular cold which culminated in the loss of my voice.

Well, after that 2nd one with the IV drip, I was thinking, "Man, I have got to change something!" Meanwhile, I kept forgetting to weigh myself and write it down in my boshi techo (a record-keeping book that we use from 10 weeks after conception through out childhood).

The results are in. After 3 weeks of making these "subtle" dietary changes, I have not gained any weight, and I am feeling much better (aside from the John Mellencamp-esque gravely voice).

Here is what I changed in my diet:
Reduction of British-style tea consumption (that means that I am down to one cup of Brit tea a day, so sugar has also been reduced.) No coffee at work - I had stopped drinking coffee at work months ago though.

Consumption of more water. I am drinking at least 3 tall glasses of ice water per evening from between 6pm and 10pm.

After 10pm, I switch to a more relaxing herbal tea.

Breakfast includes a healthy dose of a yogurt concoction. (Includes 2 cups of plain yogurt, almonds, dried fruit, frozen fruit, real fruit I have any, granola, and a few chocolate chips.)

Snacks are limited to things like popcorn, almonds & cheese.

"Saving Dinner" is back. I had been winging the dinners recently, but since 3 weeks ago, I got out my Saving Dinner cookbook and have been following their menu plans. Dinners are always healthy, tasty & include veggies, plus they are very family-friendly, so Ailin can eat almost anything from this book.

Because I am cooking enough food for dinners, I am able to bring the healthy leftovers for lunch the next day.

So, things are going much better on that front, and Ailin is following suit. She actually drinks water now because she sees her Mama drinking it. She also wants some of my yogurt in the mornings, but I realized that she is just fishing out the chocolate chips and leaving the rest. That little stinker.