Monday, December 2, 2013

My Stray Cat started playing video games? I don't even know anymore...

I've been able to make a few observations about people, and life in general, since I spoke about the thing about Sad

For starters, telling people you are sad makes them really uncomfortable. When I make people uncomfortable I tend to make stupid jokes to lighten the mood. Take this scene with an acquaintance, for example:

'Hey, B, how are you?'

'Feeling a little sad, actually.'

'Oh. Oh, I'm sorry to hear that.' (said while taking 2-3 steps backwards)

'Oh... it's OK. And don't worry; it isn't contagious. At least I don't think so. Damn it, I must have forgotten to use my mood sanitizer last time I handled a cart at the grocery store!' 

(awkward laugh, followed by equally awkward silence.)

'Well... see you around!'

'Yep, bye!'

And it occurred to me; people just do not want others to be sad. And I do not mean that from an 'aw, they care and don't want to see me sad' perspective. I mean it from an 'aw, my expression of real emotions makes them uncomfortable, they would rather me fake a conversation about the weather than talk about my feelings' perspective. 

But here is the thing...

 If you are in my life, be it is just a friendly exchange when we run into each other out and about or someone who could walk into my house uninvited and I would be OK with it... if you are in my life, I care about how you feel. And I really think that should be universal to all humans. We, as a community, should be responsible for one another. Don't give me fake; give me real. 

Warts and all. 

If you are sad, TELL ME. I'll slather myself with mood sanitizer and listen to your sad story. I know I can not expect every 'friend' I have to feel the same way about responsibility for each other. And maybe I am naive to think we, as a community, are capable of caring that much. But we should try. This last battle with my Sad Stray Cat really showed me that I want to try harder. To be there for the people that I surround myself with. 

Because, when you are Sad, sometimes all you want to hear is 'What can I do?'. And hearing that is enough. 

Also, I found peace with my Sad Stray Cat. He is playing video games.

I suppose I should mention that I actually know very little about gaming or anything tech-y, really. I think I am using a computer to write this here blog, but that is about as savvy as I get.

This analogy here came to me while watching a movie with my kids. 

'Wreck it Ralph'. Pure genius. 

There is a scene where one of the characters, Calhoun (voice of Jane Lynch) gets upset and angry about something. Another character says something along the lines of '... it's not her fault; she's programed with the most tragic backstory ever...' 


(Before we move one, can we all agree to start using the phrase 'jeepers' more regularly?)

As a normal human watching a movie about characters in a video game, I thought 'Well, that's ridiculous. That is just her 'code'. It didn't really happen; why should she let that effect her in the present?'

And it was like a proverbial light was turned on. 

Us regular humans, we have written our own program. Our past codes our present which codes our future. But, what if we were like a video game character or computer program? What if our experiences from the past are simply 'code' and 'backstory'? How are we ever supposed to change our programing if we keep thinking about our backstory? The only code that creates is more of the same. What if we look at our life in a linear fashion; code that was once written is now gone. Far too often I find myself holding on to my past experience, seeing them more like a character trait than an event that happened. How many times do you describe yourself as something that has happened? 

'So, tell me about yourself?' 

'Well, I got married when I was 23...' 

You get my point. Our character and our SELF is not defined by the events that happen in our life.  We need to stop holding on to past experiences, collecting them like little trophies,  as if they are a part of us. 

The things that happen, happen. Live it, learn it, write a new code for the better. Then let it go.

I'm not sure how the analogy of memory works into this; computers have memory and so de we. We aren't likely going to figure out a way to erase our memories (a la Eternal Sunshine of Spotless Mind... man, movies really can help you figure out your LIFE, man!).  I am not suggesting we forget the things from our past that have helped shaped who we are today. But we should put more emphasis on the TODAY part. Today. Who we are, what we are, and what is happening TODAY. 

So, basically, my Sad Stray Cat has been busy playing Tetris and I am writing new code for today. Yes, I have a backstory and it could be considered tragic. But today does not have to be a tragedy. 

However, if the Sad Stray Cat gets stuck on level 9 and comes scratching at my door again, it would be nice to hear a friend say 'What can I do to help?'




Friday, November 8, 2013

The thing about Sad

I like to personify things. It is simply how my brain works and processes different information. I imagine what accent a certain snack food might have. I feel sorry for the pair of socks that are stuffed so far back in the sock drawer that they never get to live to their full potential; they are almost always frowning and jaded, sure, but they just need a little heel. 

I have my momentary (and admittedly asinine) conversations with the snacks and socks and then go about my business. 'Yes, southern sounding potato chip, you ARE perfectly salty. Now, I must eat you.'

 But I tend to personify emotions. Contentment is a cat sitting in a patch of sunlight. And to me, sad is a bit like an overweight stray cat. I am not sure why, but feelings are cats. If you think about the analogy, I'm sure you'll agree. 

I digress...

The thing about personifying emotions is that I want to ask them questions. 'My southern sounding snack was totally chatty. This Sad Stray Cat will likely be the same... I will just ask him a few questions. See what the deal is. Why is he here, yo?!' 

I feel the Sad approaching.

'Oh, hello, little fat cat. It's you again. Where have you been? I see by your flubby tummy you have been well taken care of.'

The cat does not answer. Real cats don't answer (I'm not THAT crazy) and personified Sad Stray Cats really don't answer. 

But still, the cat lays at your feet. Head cocked to the side, looking at you and needing something. If you try to give it attention, it gets agitated. If you ignore it, it follows you. 

That is the thing about Sad. Much like a stray cat, no matter what you do, ignoring it will not make it go away. Feeding a stray cat (or feeding INTO sad, as it were) will almost promise you it will stick around. 

So you try to strike a deal with the Sad Stray Cat. 'If I scratch your head, just this once, you will run off and go find someone else to bother.' But, let's be honest, you can not trust a real cat, let alone a Sad Stray Cat. 

In real life, this looks like sitting down at night and having a good cry. Thinking about all the things that have happened that just suck. All the things that have happened TO YOU and how everything and everyone just does not get it. You indulge the Sad, making it grow, by pointing out every single little thing that has ever made you sad. INCLUDING the time in 5th grade when you were talking to the cute boy at swim practice and thought he was smiling because of your witty repertoire, only to find out you had a booger hanging out of your nose the entire time. That might be a true story.

Don't get me wrong; scratching a Sad Stray Cat's head is not necessarily a bad thing or without its merits. But you don't want that damn cat to get too comfortable. Next thing you know, he's following you around even more. 

So you go cold turkey. 'No more, Sad Stray Cat! I am DONE. No more scraps of food, and certainly no more head scratches. I am closing the curtains to my house. I can not see you; YOU ARE NOT THERE.'

And so you go about your business in your house, fooling yourself that the Sad Stray Cat is not just outside those closed curtains.

In real life this looks like 'busy'. The Busy is something we all do to ignore the Sad. And it works really well and, for some, for a long long time. The effect seems lasting. 'If I do not acknowledge that I have a Sad Stray Cat, then I AM NOT A SAD CAT OWNER. Just look how busy I am! Far too busy for the likes of a stray, Sad Cat. I am on COMITIES and in GROUPS. I am not the owner of a Stray Sad Cat!' 

But then something happens. Something that makes you peek outside your drawn curtains. And there he sits, that stray, Sad Cat. He has been there the whole time. Feasting on your trash. 

In the real world 'trash' is the stuff from your past that you have not appropriately dealt with. We all have trash. And it all stinks. Don't even try to compare the smell; I promise you, you do not want my stinky trash and I sure as hell do not want yours. Trash is trash. And if you do not deal with it, the Stray Sad Cat will have something to live off of; even when your curtains are drawn. 

*******************

And this is where I am in life. I was in my pretty little house adorned with hand sewn curtains. And then my Nanny, my Dad's mom, passed away. And I peeked outside those pretty little curtains and saw the damn Sad Stray Cat. And got a good whiff of my stinky trash. 

I gave that Sad Stray Cat a good scratch a few times. And I am ready for him to leave. No more curtains for me this time. For real gone. 

It is amazing how a simple shift in thought can make your whole world seem to shift on its axis. And there is no going back. I am not sure if I am equipped well enough to appropriately deal with or even understand the way that I feel about certain things. Hell, some might say the fact that I have personified Sad into a fat stray cat shows that I really REALLY need me head shrunk. 

I am, of course, deeply saddened by the loss of my Nanny. She lived with Alzheimer's disease for the better part of seven years. I am comforted by the fact that her body and spirit now know peace. But I am shocked by the unresolved issues her passing shook up.

So, if you need me, I will be here... trying to figure out a way to rid myself of the Sad for good. 


Tips and advice are appreciated.



Monday, September 9, 2013

Summertime roundup

Hello, humble blog! I decided to take the summer months off from blogging; with the lack of routine for the kids and no real set 'alone time' to think and write, I just could not eek out a post. 

To be honest, nothing spectacular happened this summer. We were gleefully without schedule for most of the time. Noah participated in swim lessons a for a few weeks but other than that we had no commitments.


We spent almost every day up at the pool. I remember, when I was younger, we would head to the pool before it opened for swim team practice and stay until the last whistle blew in the evening. Noses tinted with zinc, bellies full of PB&J, pretzel sticks and Capri Sun (summertime staples around the pool). It's nice to experience a version of that with my own kids even though we are living in Japan. Side note: there are barely any outdoor pools in Japan! Who knew?



We also spent a lot of days at the beach. Zushi beach is a short train ride away from where we live. A few shovels and buckets and the kids would be set for a few hours, needing me only to revel in their latest sand castle creation, then off to splash and play on their own. Perfectly sandy, salty and sleepy at the end of our visit, who doesn't love the beach at summertime! 

The pictures above were taken at the beginning of the season so there were not a ton of other beach goers. The season gets in full swing with the construction of infamous beach huts; basically beach bars right on the sand that they build (and tear down) at the start (and end) of each season. I ventured to the beach solo one weekend to catch some rays and experience the scene; it is straight out of MTV Spring Break. The reserved Japanese Nationals that you pass on the street or see on the train seem to strip themselves of all cultural constrains and really let it all hang out. Literally. Many a banana hammock sporting fella going for a jog along the water line. Japan is such a beautiful contradiction within itself; stoic, strong and reverent to boisterous, colorful and a little bit crazy. It's unlike any place I have ever been in the States. 


Along with the beach, Zushi also hosts several quaint shops and fun restaurants. One of our favorite adventures is to hop on the train and stroll around Zushi. The kids each get a few 100¥ to pick out a prize from the Diaso (the Japanese version of the dollar store, only more amazing!) and we always stop for ice cream at Moo Moo's. Moo Moo's would have a line out the door in the States. Understated in such a fantastic way, they serve three flavors a week. Vanilla, the 'flavor of the week' and swirl. The featured flavors range from salted caramel to chocolate, banana to mango, black sesame to green tea. The kids look forward to this every time I suggest taking the train to Zushi. My favorite part is all the fresh produce vendors, who house the freshest and best priced goodies that are in season. Although the peaches will leave you penny-less (or yenny-less, as it were). Mo mo's (Japanese for peach, who knew?!) grown in Japan are juicy, sweet and worth the price. From Moo Moo's to mo mo's, trips into Zushi were certainly a highlight of our summer. 




Most of my summer days were simply spent with these two little cherubs. They are the best of buds. I honestly do not know what I did right to foster such a sweet relationship, but they get along so well. I would be lying if I said I wasn't waiting for the proverbial 'other shoe to drop' in that department, but for now, they are thick as thieves. And Amelia idolizes her big brother. She keeps right up with him in his superhero play and outdoor exploring. She has no concept of how little or young she is in comparison. And Noah is the quintessential protective big brother. Don't let me fool you; they certainly have their moments of classic bro vs. sis screaming matches. But at the end of the day they would rather snuggle one another than strangle, and I consider that a major win. 



Summertime means having the extra time to earn my badge of 'Mother of the Year'. A few evenings we would stroll up to the campgrounds and one special night we made a fire and s'mores. Noah still talks about this night, acting it out when he and Amelia are playing. When I have treats like this for the kids, the sky's the limit. He roasted till his heart was content and subsequently ran the entire one and a half mile back to our doorstep and into a warm bubble bath. Another summer evening we joined a few other moms and kiddos for a firefly hunt, again up at the ever popular campgrounds. It's evenings like these that define summer for me. No rules, out past bedtime, making memories. 

Also, a carrot pooping hippo. No schedule means having the time to create whatever off-the-wall combo Noah comes up with. I am fairly certain that he assumed I would not be able to deliver with this request.... 'I want a pooping hippo mom, can you do it?'. Why, yes, yes I can. 

***************

And so the season ends. Summer is over and we are back to school, Pre-K to be exact, and are embracing our newly (re)found schedule. Noah is still in the PSCD (preschool child development) program here at Ikego where he receives speech therapy; I adore every single teacher and professional that works with my little dude. I will be writing more about his progress and the sort of things we have been working on but suffice to say, Noah is a sponge these days and surprises me daily with how he displays his gifts and talents.

Amelia is a true and tried TWO YEAR OLD. Struggles and joys daily. She is so different than Noah was at this age and forces me to flex new parenting muscles that I didn't know I had. Prepare yourself for these posts, if you dare. 

Bring on the pumpkin and cinnamon and roasts; we Rodenhizers are ready for Fall! 







Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Fossil

When I first met Jeff, I could not believe he was 12 years my senior. That is a number so large, that it is OK to use numerics when writing, say, instead of three or five. 

My groovy room mate and I coined a nickname for him; 'the Fossil'.

There are a lot of things you wouldn't be able to tell just by looking at him. Like that he is 43 years old today. The man is smokin hot. And his use of emoji when texting is elaborate. It still makes me chuckle whenever I see a random cat, or something else that he clearly scrolled through to find, pop up on my screen.  

And he is a wonderful father. A role he might never have planned for himself, but he has fantastic instincts and loves his children. A lot. 

And he is one of the most morally sound fellas I have ever met. He does what is right... almost all the time. In fact, just sitting here now, I can't recall a single time that I have been disappointed with a decision he has made when morals are called into question. 

He is fair, generous, kind and funny. Hilarious, when he wants to be. 

He is a good man, and today is his birthday. 

Happy birthday, Jeff! We love you very much.


Monday, June 3, 2013

The end of the tunnel

Well, I did it. Delete. 

Although, recovering a deleted FaceBook account is as easy as signing on once again. I am not too worried about a relapse, though. Just half a day into it and I already feel like a weight has been lifted. 

(Don't you secretly wish you could 'like' that?)

I woke up this morning, made my cup of coffee, signed on for the last time and read a few comments and messages from friends about my last post. I did decide to create a page for this blog so that those people who really are near and dear to me, but whom with it might be difficult to call or email, could still have a way to catch up and connect. 

I deleted. And then I laced up my shoes, put the kids in the running stroller, and headed out for a run. 

I have started running in the mornings with a lovely gal and her sweet boys. She is encouraging, supportive and authentic. We chat about all sorts of things when we run/walk, and I was looking forward to telling her about my decision to disconnect (she is on FaceBook, but not very active). I ended up getting our meeting time wrong so I was on my own for 3 miles.

It was one of those runs (don't let me fool you, I move at a snails pace, at best, and I walk a majority of the way) where the kids were well behaved in their seats, chatting to one another and randomly calling out things that they saw. I was able to really focus on my breathing and find a rhythm that works for me (2 breaths in, 2 out on hills. 3 in and 3 out on flat land). 

I was focusing on my breathing, trying to clear my mind, but I kept thinking about all the people I would likely never hear from again since I was off of FaceBook. And I suddenly felt very lonely. Isolated and, well, sad. It didn't help that I had messed up my meeting time with my running buddy. Or that Jeff has been gone for a month and I talk more to toddlers and preschoolers than I do actual adults. And I began to panic. 

I DON'T have any real friends! The only thing resembling 'friendship' or 'appreciation' in my life are the people who I USED to be friends with on FaceBook! At least I could pretend that the people who liked my post about a funny Noah poop story really KNOW and LIKE ME!!

I stopped running, my breathing chaotic and heart racing. I bent at the waist, still holding the handle of the stroller, to stretch my back and open my lungs. When I stood I saw the tunnel.


It's funny how those negative thoughts can come racing into your consciousness. Uninvited and toxic, this type of thinking can lead anyone to make a bad decision; self doubt, loathing and negativity. We run through this tunnel every morning, and often comment on how pretty it is. All the different shades of green, the cool air coming from the woods, the sounds of tree frogs and birds. 

I kept running. Three breaths in, three out. And I changed my thinking. 

'At the end of this tunnel, I am going to let go. Let go of the negative thinking that's telling me that I don't have friends. Telling me that I am only as good as the number of 'likes' I get on a status update. I am better than that, and this is a good decision. The people who matter will find a way to keep in touch. The rest don't matter.'

I finished my run. And when I returned home I had two new emails from dear friends to respond to; emails that shared more and meant more than I would have ever gleaned had I only 'caught up' with these women on FaceBook. 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Off the book and unplugged

I made a decision today. Honestly, it hit me like a ton of bricks, suddenly, after my morning run with a dear friend. 

I am deleting my FaceBook account. (Gasp! Shock! The horror!)

For the most part it is a harmless form of entertainment. And there have been several times, like the loss of a loved one, that FaceBook has reconnected me with other loved ones to share in the grieving and remembering and joy and sorrow. 

But for some time now I have been thinking about 'meaningful connections' with the people who are in my life. And what true friendship looks like. And I feel like, to a certain extent, being friends with someone on FaceBook lessens the actual friendship you have. 

I want to be intentional. I want the connections I form with people in my life to be mutually appreciated and reciprocated; not because someone 'likes' a silly status update I post about something off the wall my kids do or say. 

Genuine friendship is hard to find, I realize that. And I am lucky to know some wonderful people and even luckier to call them friends. I am going to concentrate on those connections. I realize it won't be easy; calling or emailing to check in one-on-one is not something I am remotely used to since the dawn of my FaceBook account. But I want the people who call themselves my friends to feel special; to know that they are thought of more than when their name pops up on my news feed. That they are in my heart. 

So, dear friends, let's keep in touch! I plan on writing a whole lot more; half of the things I post of FaceBook are watered down blog posts anyway! So this blog should be a good way to 'check in' and see how we Rodenhizers are doing. I also plan on keeping my instagram account because, well, I have some precious to me pictures on there. 

And I would love to start emailing with anyone who wants to connect in a more personal way. My email address is bryna.richter@gmail.com. We also have a skype number that can be called from any phone line, free of charge (depending on your cell plan, of course). Email me if you want the number! Also, if you have an iPhone, we can FaceTime or iMessage till our hearts are content... email me for my cell number if you'd like. 

Part of finding contentment and joy in my own life involves focusing on the people who are in it; weather their presence builds me up, knocks me down, or is of no significance. I feel like this is the first step in surrounding myself with people who really want to be there. 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

A tea cup is a tea cup and a saucer is a saucer. And that is... OK

Today was amazing. A good friend and I had the opportunity to sit and chat with a Buddhist Priest at his temple. Kimberly met him the week before during a session of Zazen Meditation for foreigners in Japan, which he helps facilitate at another nearby temple. He told Kimberly that he would love to chat with her any time to answer questions about Zazen or Buddhism. When she asked if I wanted to tag along my heart skipped a beat with excitement. 

(If you are interested in learning more about Zazen, Kimberly wrote a great post about her experience! Read it!)

Let me start by saying, I was a little intimidated by this meeting. I was nervous I would ask a silly question or seem foolish. That the image I had of Buddhism from the movies and the books I have read was all wrong. But I was immediately put at ease the moment I met this kind man. An inviting smile and an easy exchange of greetings and I knew we were in for a treat. 

I am still mulling over everything we talked about. Kimberly and I asked a ton of questions, all of which he answered thoughtfully (in perfect English!). But one topic and one of his responses is still resonating with me...

A topic that has always weighed heavy on me when it comes to religion is the tendency for one person or group to insist that they are right, and that others need to believe the way that they do. And while, for many, this desire to see the world believe the same as they do comes from a pure and loving place, I often feel like it comes from a place of judgment and anger. I am right and you are wrong. You must believe like I believe. I feel like these assertions come from a place of almost hatred and intolerance; not acceptance and love. 

We asked the priest about this in regards to Buddhism. And the question seemed to confuse him for a moment, but he quickly said that in Buddhism they accept everyone. A group of Muslims had come to his temple and were welcome to pray the way they pray in the Buddha room. Sometimes people are different. And it is OK. 

'This tea cup is a tea cup. And this saucer is a saucer. This... this is OK.'

The belief that we are all one, that we are all connected. It is a beautiful thing. To unquestionably love and accept your neighbor, regardless of their beliefs. Without wanting to change them. How beautiful. 


I often find myself in awe of those who are authentically kind. I strive to have unwavering kindness and tolerance; from dealing with a preschooler in the thralls of a tantrum to existing with those who do hurtful things or have beliefs that I do not agree with. Needless to say... I have a lot of work to do!

I am so thankful to have friends like the gal pictured above. And I am so thankful to have the opportunity to learn more about such a loving and accepting religion. We have been invited back any time, and I certainly plan on taking him up on this offer; I still have so many questions! Our next trip will include a session of Zazen and I am so excited.

Now... off to read some Sutras:-)





Thursday, May 2, 2013

'Do you own an itch?' Or, How to get a hair cut in Japan.

The thing I most mourned when I found out we were moving to Japan was the loss of my hairstylist. I can FaceTime and Skype with family and friends, but a hairstylist? Irreplaceable. Well... and Target. I miss Target. 

I went months in Misawa without getting a haircut; waiting for the next trip home to look a little less like a homeless chick. When we moved to Yokosuka I knew that we would be closer to salons that were, ahem, up to my standards (read: I am a haircut snob) and I was thrilled. But nervous. Because my Japanese repertoire is lacking... which is putting in mildly. 

So if you ever find yourself living in a foreign land please heed this one tidbit of advice: When you see someone with cute hair, immediately befriend them and ask them where they get it cut. 

Because getting your hair cut on a US Military base (when you are a self proclaimed haircut snob, like myself) is not acceptable. 

I am so thrilled to have a regular stylist. Who speaks a little English. And works in a salon a short train ride away from our home. 

And what a treat it is. 

I was greeted at the door with smiles and bows. There is chatter, all in Japanese, and a lot of gesturing and nodding. The first time I went I was as nervous as a cat in a room full of rocking chairs. I came armed with my iPhone loaded with pictures of Anne Hathaway and Gwyneth Paltrow circa 'Sliding Doors' (which, by the way, is a movie that I am pretty sure was seen only by me). After scrolling through pictures, again with lots of smiles and nods, I was ushered over to the hair washing station. 

And this is where it gets real. Haircuts in Japan are like a day at the spa. The chair to the hair washing station is fully automated and reclines you almost completely flat. The adorable and hip hair washing guy places a plush throw on my lap and something that looks like a maxi pad across my eyes. Do not be frightened. Embrace the eye maxi. When I get my hair washed in a States, my inner dialogue sounds something like this:

'Dum dee dee, getting my hair washed. Oh. Oh man. I can see straight up his/her nose. Oh boy. I don't want to see that. Wait. If I can see up their nose, then THEY can see up MY nose. *sniff* OK, I think I am clear. OK, I will just stare at that ceiling tile. Crap. Water splashed into my eye. I will just close them. Wait. Now it looks like I enjoying this shampooing a little too much. OK, deal with the water in the eyes and the booger sightings, KEEP EYES OPEN.`

You get the idea.

But with the eye maxi pad, you avoid all that awkwardness. The adorable shampoo guy (who is wearing skinny jeans and platform shoes. I love Japan) leans down and asks 'Do you own an itch?' I am not sure what this means, so I say 'I am fine, thank you!' I am immediately even more grateful for the eye maxi pad that is now hiding my confused face. 

And now the cut. The gal who was recommended to me is awesome. I observed the other stylists, who were all doing an amazing job as well. Extreme precision and attention to detail. Friendly smiles and attempts at small talk. Despite the language barrier I end up with the exact hair cut I wanted. 

This is where, if in the States, they would style your hair and send you on your way. But in Japan you get a second shampooing, complete with eye maxi, and... the most incredible head/neck/shoulder massage. That's right. The adorable shampoo guy rubs you up good after conditioning your freshly cut locks. The only problem, from what I can tell, is that without the eye maxi on (you are escorted back to the chair for the massage) you run into the same question of 'Do I close my eyes or leave them open?' I chose to look down and my feet in the mirror. And I tried not to moan like Monica getting a massage from Phoebe on 'Friends'.

A quick blow dry and I was done. Off to pay. And, what is even better than the massage, the maxi, the perfect cut... NO TIPPING IN JAPAN! So no awkward moment, wondering if it is enough/too much. No tiny envelope to stuff all your spare ones into because the salon in the States won't let you add a tip to your credit card (what IS THAT, people?!). More Japanese is chattered, bowing, smiling, and opening the door and off I went.  

It is a wonderfully different experience. I encourage anyone who lives in Japan to step outside their comfort zone and indulge in this little treat. 


And then take an awkward selfie, showcasing your style. And then, maybe blog about it. 



Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Happy Cookies

The biggest lesson in life that I hope to impart upon my children is that happiness is a choice. 

It seems simple and obvious, but being happy feels good. Anger, sadness, restlessness... these emotions just don't feel good. Some days it takes extreme effort to choose happiness and not to give in to your anger and frustration... but it is worth it in the end. 

Whenever emotions are running high and tantrums seem like they are around every corner I call a snuggle circle. The kids sit on my lap and we list the things that make us happy. I explain to Noah that, even though he is mad/sad/angry about x, y or z... that there is always something to be happy about. No matter how small. It is ok to feel mad/sad/angry... but happiness is in there as well. Because there will always be chocolate chip cookies. And spiderman toys. And trips to the park. And these things make you happy, even if taking a bath at night when you would rather be playing makes you mad. 

And the lesson is starting to stick. 

I will hear Noah tell Amelia to think of something happy when she is screaming and screeching (the way only 21 month year olds know how to do). When I get frustrated with the kids and my words are curt and stern Noah will say 'Mommy... be happy.' 

It's perspective. 

And you know what has happened? Noah is one delightful little guy. He loves to do things to make his friends happy; bringing treats to the park to share, or giving them his favorite toy to play with, or lending out his prized spiderman costume to a friend. And he literally jumps for joy with a continuous smile on his face when he is engaging in one of his favorite activities. 

Like making cookies.

Again, this seems simple and obvious, but cookies make this little family very happy. Noah loves the whole process. Gathering the ingredients, following the steps... 'careful, careful, stir, stir, stir!'. He loves setting the timer, watching them bake and laughing when the buzzer startles him. 

In an effort to keep things healthy around here I decided to play around with a simple three ingredient banana oatmeal cookie recipe that I found online. This is what I came up with and, if I do say so myself, they are amazing.

Noah's Happy Cookies

- 4 ripe bananas
- 1/2 cup peanut butter
- 1 egg, slightly beaten 
- 2 cups old fashioned oatmeal 
- 1/4 cup milled flax seed
- 1tsp baking powder 
- 1 cup dark chocolate chips 

Preheat your oven to 350. In a large bowl, mash the bananas with the back of a fork. Add the PB and the egg and stir until combined. Add the oatmeal, flax and baking powder, mix well. Finish by adding the chocolate chips. 

Spoon about 2 tbs of the mixture onto a lightly greased cookie sheet. Slightly flatten with the back of your spoon. Bake for 10 minutes or until slightly brown and firm. Cool for 2 minutes on the sheet, then transfer to a cooling rack. 

And there you have it! I really love the fact that we have 'treats' in our house that don't leave me feeling guilty. And I love that this simple task brings so much happiness to my little guy. 

Sometimes... all you need to be happy is a chocolate chip cookie. 




And, of course, eating them naked doesn't hurt your happiness cause, it can only help :-) 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Little Green Wonders

I have been making green smoothies for over a year now-- Noah is a picky eater and it is one fool proof way to get a green in the kid. After a dear friend turned me on to this website I really started to step up our green game. And it has been awesome! I drink at least 16 ounces of green smoothie a day, and it has helped to improve my energy, my complexion, my mood... I am less bloated and I just feel... fresh!

A few people have asked me how we got started and what recipes I recommend. So I thought I would share!



Of course, having cute cups helps anything taste delicious. 

The first YEAR we did the same thing:

2 cups spinach

1 cup OJ

1 banana

We do not have a fancy blender. In fact, we have a very basic 7 speed Cuisinart blender. But it works for us. Of course I am lusting over a Vitamix. And we are more than likely going to get one soon, but this is how I blend with my little humble contraption. 

The trick is to blend your green and your liquid very well before adding anything else. So I would blend my OJ and spinach on the highest speed until I could no longer see specks in the OJ, about 1 minute. Then I add the banana, one chunk at a time. 

And about the bananas... 

A banana makes anything green taste good. The more ripe, the better. So whenever I have a banana that is about to turn, I peel it, cut it into chunks, and throw it in a ziplock bag for the freezer. This also makes your smoothie nice and frosty, and a cold green smoothie is a good green smoothie. 

And that's it! If you are just getting started, I really recommend keeping it simple with this recipe. You can not taste the spinach at all, and the kids love it. I usually make a double batch so I can make popsicles with the leftover. The kids ADORE popsicles and think they are getting a treat. Desert before dinner? Sure, why not! 

So for the past couple of weeks I have been changing up our smoothie routine, thanks to the gals over at Simple Green Smoothie. Our go to recipe was great, but I felt like I should try to incorporate different greens and attempt a liquid other than OJ, which is high in sugar. Now, our smoothie routine looks a little like this:


I keep my freezer stocked with frozen strawberries, mangos and peaches, along with the banana bits. And whenever I have any fresh fruit that is about to go bad before we can eat it (grapes, strawberries, blueberries, kiwi, melon...) I add it to the banana bit bag. A note about frozen fruit: as to not wreck my humble contraption of a blender, I often put the fruit I will use in the fridge in an air tight container the night before so they defrost a bit. This also helps sweeten them up. If I am being honest, I usually forget to take the fruit out to thaw and end up defrosting in the microwave for a minute or two. This probably does something to the nutrients, but oh well. I think this is why ye old Cuisinart has lasted 4 plus years. 

Along with adding different fruit to our smoothies, I slowly started to change our liquid base. I started by cutting the OJ with water. With the additional fruit, the kids did not seem to notice at all. Now, I can use unsweetened almond milk and they still think it's the bees knees. I also throw in 2 tbs of milled flax seed so it can do all it's flaxy magic. 

I have also gotten a little more adventuresome with our greens. I have tried romaine and bok choy... the romaine had a very strong taste, and the kids did not like it. I didn't mind it but it was not my favorite. I still prefer spinach.

Basically, that's it! I love making up new combos and looking for fun new liquid bases and greens at the Japanese markets. And I love that it is something the kids are into. They both get their stools to reach the counter and help me pick out different things to add. We all stick our straws in for a taste test and decide if it is just right or needs a little something else. 


It really has become a routine that we all love, and all feel better for. But be warned... you AND your toddler will pee a whole lot more, so keep close to the john. 

Happy blending! 


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Namaste, y'all

Something has changed.

Besides the obvious changes around this humble blog (new url! new title!) there have been some changes of the existential kind over in these parts. 

I've taken up yoga. And green smoothies. And overall happiness as a life choice, opposed doom and gloom and woe is me. 

I was trying to force things: our move back to the States, becoming a runner, the type of marriage I thought I wanted. 

Then I learned to down dog it, y'all.

Expect more posts in the future... but until then- it's nap time and I have a date with my yoga mat.