Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Working Mom Wednesday: Change in Routine

Recently because of the heat and humidity, we have been taking a bath soon after arriving home. I found that everyone feels more relaxed and I am less rushed to get dinner on the table. For some miraculous reason, there seems to be more time at night to do everything, and I have been able to get the kids to bed on time (9pm). For the last month or so, I was lucky if I got them in bed reading stories by 9:45 pm. Anyway, I'm not sure why this change has made such a difference, but I am happy about it.

Today, Luka developed a fever overnight, but I managed to get him into daycare anyway, by sort of fudging the numbers. They called an hour later and said he had a fever and would be putting him down for a nap but would keep me updated. Luckily, it's an exam day, but I wanted to stay at work until my Current English class exam was finished at noon. They called at 12:30 to say Luka's fever had not gone down and would I come and pick him up.

When I arrived, Ailin just happened to be out the hallway and she saw me. She got totally excited thinking she would get to home with me too and she was crying and carrying on about it while the teacher was getting everyone to prepare for naptime. I knew she would never settle down for the daily nap, so I offered to take her home as well. She is as happy as a clam now.

Meanwhile, Luka's teacher thinks he might have contracted Hand Foot Mouth Disease, which is going around the daycare at the moment. She showed me some tiny blisters starting on his feet and hands, but wouldn't you know it? His pediatrician is closed today! I am not sure if I should just take him elsewhere or not. I read on the internet that there is no treatment available for it anyway, but I wonder how long he would have to stay home for this.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Scrapbooking Sunday: Crafticism

I made up that word "crafticism" today because certain people were criticizing my hobby, and the actual page I was working on today at my monthly Craft 'n' Chat event. Are they against scrapbooking in general? Are they annoyed because they themselves have done nothing with their photos and then it bothers them to see scrapbookers at work? Do they really think that making "off-handed" remarks about someone else's craft is okay?

Let me just begin by saying that I created this event as a way for women to get out of the house once a month and work on their crafts (whatever they may be) together with other women while chatting about our everyday lives. I suppose it might be necessary to explain that a person's choice in craft should never be criticized during these events. Just because one does not choose to do (fill in the blank here), does not mean that she has the right to criticize it. One would think this would not be necessary to explain to people, but I find that scrapbooking has become a "love it or hate it" type craft.

Whereas one would never think to look at a needle-pointing crafter and say, "What you are doing is absolutely insane, and I would never do that. I mean, in 20 years, people are going to think all your needlepoint projects are hideous and they'll be trash." No, people usually look at the needle-pointer and say, "Wow, that's a lot of work. How cool!"

I haven't done a scrapbook page in several months at a CnC because I was working on some decoupage frames for quite a while. Other times, I had Luka with me and couldn't do much, so I just brought magazines and chatted with people while I paged through my magazines. This time, I prepared 2 lay outs, and I was hoping to work on both. I only got one done, but I was met with much "crafticism."

Here is what they said:
"Your kids are going to rip those pages apart."
"Those pages are going to fall apart in 20 or 30 years."
"Your kids will need certain photos for school projects and will go through your albums, take photos out and then not put them back."

Here is what I say:
Well, you know how when people say really shocking things to you, but you can't say anything right at the moment because you are too shocked, or because right after they say it, they have already moved on to another topic? So, perhaps I will feel better if I defend myself here and now, on my blog.

My albums aren't sitting out for my kids to play with. In fact, I only bring them out once in a while to show them because they are still young. Anyway, the pages are protected with plastic sheet protectors, so they wouldn't actually be able to rip them apart easily. I do make a small-sized album which my kids can touch and play with, but they are all digital pages. We use it as one of their bed-time stories, in fact. This is when digital scrapbooking really comes in handy.

Okay, if my scrapbook pages do indeed fall apart in 20 or 30 years, does that mean I just shouldn't bother? (Kind of like how most people don't bother doing anything with their photos?) The truth is that I enjoy the art of scrapbooking, and I enjoy trying out various techniques on my pages - it is not always for future generations to look at.

Maybe YOUR kids removed photos from your collection and never put them back because you had kids before digital cameras were invented. Fortunately, I have computer files & a scanner. If my kids need a photo, we can scan it and print for them or we can find it in the digital archives and print it off. I do this all the time, even now, with my scrapbook pages from several years ago.

And finally, get off my case! I don't know what the big problem is with people who do NOT scrapbook making comments about people who DO! Events like Craft 'n' Chat should cultivate a non-judgmental atmosphere where women can come together to make progress on their crafts while chatting about whatever they want.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Traveling Tuesdays: Sawara, a piece of heaven

Last week, on Thursday, we went on a field trip with the students visiting from our sister school in Texas. We took them to Narita Temple, and then to nearby Sawara. These are some of the photos I took on that day. I was trying to stay in manual mode, when possible. 

Narita Temple

Just behind the main building of the temple is this display of over 100 monk statues. Apparently, these disciples are here to remind us of our need to let go of our earthly desires.

Behind Narita Temple is a huge park, and this is the view from above.

And, from below. Yusuke thought this was a nice photo because of the clouds and how the tree branches sort of frame the photo.

The teacher who went on this trip with me, Mr. Ishii, took this photo of me. I kind of like how it turned out.

Gotta love those tree canopies.

The most striking thing about this park is the waterfall, and both of the Japanese teachers accompanying us had never known about it, so we just had to show them.

It's a little blurry, but I had never seen a live shrimp before. This one had caught a little fish and was devouring it.


Sawara is a small village northeast of Narita, and in June, the irises are in full bloom. This botanical garden houses hundreds of species. It was gorgeous and serene at the same time.

We took a boat ride on the river. The bottom of the boat was covered in tatami, and we had to remove our shoes before getting in.

I have never seen so many lilypads in my life. No cute little cartoonish frogs though.

And, finally, my 2 best photos of the day. I worked hard to get these. Yusuke says I am getting better all the time.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Manic Monday: Photography

I love taking photos, and when I can, I try to do manual. Manual, with my camera, only really works on cloudy days. Sunny days produce stark shadows, and I have not figured out how to get around this. Anyway, when I have a chance, I try to practice what I learned in that photography class I took last year from Candace Stringham.

This was taken late in the day when we had a chance to take a spontaneous walk on the cycling/walking road just in front of our apartment building. Ailin grabbed my sunglasses from me and was striking a pose.

Last weekend, we stopped at a park in Makuhari and I shot some photos of Ailin. It was about 3 or 4pm, so the light wasn't horrible, but you can see the contrast is still a bit stark.

Again, in the same park. She likes to pick flowers for me lately. Chiba is known as the city of flowers, so there are many for her to choose from. I know, these are always part of the landscaping, and technically, she should not be picking them, but it is too darn cute when she says, "Here, Mama."

I have more photos to show but am saving them for tomorrow. We took a field trip last week and I took some nice photos.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Scrapbooking Sunday: May Lay Outs

My Mother's Day lay out. It was an assignment for the Dimensional Details class and we were to sew on our pages. It was a first for me since I am not a sewer, but the theme of handmade, ugly stuff goes along well with my sewing job. If you look closely, by clicking on the image, you'll see that I tried to sew a border around the page, zigzag stitches across the bottom and a free hand heart right on the photo. 

I plan to do another lay out for this theme using the photos taken by the professional photographer who followed us around that day, but we haven't seen those yet. These are just some of the photos I took, which explains why I am not present in any of them. It was another assignment for the class, and we were supposed to make a title using some method we had not used before. We also had to do more with grouping our embellishments. I found these cool flowers at a local Indian store and decided to use them here.

I needed one more Hokkaido Family Trip lay out and decided to do a funny one regarding my amazingly huge sunglasses and some of the funny/ironic things about the trip. I used a lace doily piece that I found at our local craft store, and I printed some brushes (in photoshop) onto a transparency. Using transparencies is a great way to add layers to your lay out without covering too much up! I love doing this now.

Look familiar? It's because I made a very similar lay out a few weeks ago. Since it is about Ailin's former daycare teacher, I decided to just show it to her since we had recently been talking about my scrapbooking hobby, and she said she was curious to see some of my lay outs. When I brought it to to show her, she misunderstood me and gladly accepted it as a gift. I was stunned, but what could I say? I immediately started calculating in my head how I was going to make time to produce a very similar lay out for myself. Check this link to see the original.

In preparation for Luka's 1st birthday, I was busy taking photos of his newest developments. This lay out uses some boyish elements such as small metal frames. 

Monday, June 7, 2010

My Boy's Birthday

I'll take a break to tell you all about Luka's 1st birthday!

Luka turned 1 on June 3rd, and since we were not planning a big birthday party for him, I just made sure to take lots of photos of his everyday life, including some of his new skills.

Just Mama & Luka: Happy we got through one whole year in one piece!

Clap Clap Your Hands, Clap 'em just like this. Luka's first word is "clap" pronounced more like, "cla, cla, cla"

Getting ready for a bath. 

With Papa in the morning. Often, Papa is delegated to getting Luka dressed in the mornings.

Happy Happy Boy

Eating birthday breakfast of chocolate chip steamed muffins & yogurt.

Waving Bye-bye

About to dig in to his birthday dinner of cream stew & french bread.

And, about that cake! This was my failed cake, but everyone ate it very obligingly. First off, when I de-panned it, the top of the cake got scalped! I patched it back together, and then stuck it in the freezer. Didn't solve the scalping problem though!

Then I frosted it (with Ailin's help!), but I over-whipped the ganache frosting and ended up with this very strange texture. (It's supposed to be a flower!)

I employed my mother-in-law with the task of making the bugs. I bought a kit at ToysRUs and realized when I got home that the bugs needed to made from scratch! She had to use ingredients like coca cola, apple jam, grape juice, etc. Of course, all are edible. I thought it would be fun to have this cake for Ailin's sake, but apparently, she was totally grossed out and wouldn't eat the bugs or the cake that had been touched by the bugs.

The traditional "first piece of cake" for a one-year old's birthday didn't go over so well with my Japanese family. They all cringed every time he dropped a piece on the floor or squished some up to his mouth. It's wasn't the most jovial atmosphere in the world.

Presents: Thanks to Shannon for sending some gifts over. We still haven't gotten any from my side of the family. We gave Luka a wooden fire truck, an activity cube, and his first pair of shoes. Shannon gave him some toy trucks, a remote control toy & another toy which we are waiting to open (don't remember what it is at the moment!). Aunt Nanako sent over some towels and wash clothes which will be useful for daycare. Then, she surprised us with a special delivery from a balloon store - 5 helium birthday balloons and one has his name on it! Grandma Yuki gave him some packaged food that will be useful for when we go out to eat ... sometimes the restaurants don't serve food appropriate for young children.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Working Mom Wednesdays: Our Needs Met Last

If my kids get sick, my first thought is "take their temperature." Then, decide whether we should go see the doctor or not. Then, take them in and go through the whole process. It takes time and may mean that anything we had scheduled will be postponed or even canceled.

If I get sick, my first thought it "what do I have to do next?" In other words, keep the schedule running as normally as possible and don't let on that I am suffering.

Granted, this is not always possible. There have been cases when I was so extremely  and acutely ill that my whole world stopped spinning for a few hours while I tried to recuperate. Yes, you read that correctly - a few hours, not one whole day, not a few days, not one week, but a FEW PRECIOUS HOURS.

Yesterday, while getting ready for work, I was suddenly crippled with shooting pains in my back that escalated whenever I tried to pick anything up. The pain was on the left side of my upper back, just in the place I cannot reach. I was yelling out in pain which of course caught the attention of my husband.

Rather than rush to my side and help me, he was more concerned about the fact that HE might possibly be put out. The kids were not quite ready to go yet. Somehow, they would have to get to daycare. I had to make a decision of whether to call in sick or not.

I lay there, frozen in one position, thinking about the logistics of it all. I had a first period class, during which I would be evaluating 20 informative speeches that the kids had been working on for weeks, and my partner teacher and I were anxious to "get them over with!" Later in the day, I would have my Everyday English class, for which I had no specific lesson plan and didn't really want to bother other teachers with the task of having to teach it. The bone doctor, the same one I see once a month for an unrelated ailment, always has a full waiting room and there are certain strategies one must employ if he/she doesn't want to sit there waiting for the entire morning. It was already too late to employ Step One of that strategy.

Yosh! Decision made. I will go to work today. I'll roll off of the bed, put my shoes on, drag the kids' bags out the door and make my way out to the car. By this time though, Ailin was really upset because she could see something was wrong with her mama. Yusuke was still moaning and groaning about the possibility that he might be "put out" by all of this.

My back did eventually loosen up enough to drive the car and to carry Luka up to his classroom at daycare. I got through the workday without having to see the doctor. Yusuke came home with some special medicinal patches for my back and he stuck them on for me in the evening.