Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The belly busts out

Just sneaking this in.  Boy am I getting huge.  Or, as Rich says, "Holy sh*t, what have we done?"

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Shinkansen to Karuizawa

This past Saturday, we rode the "Awesome" Asama Shinkansen to Karuizawa.  This is one stop prior to Nagano, site of the 1998 Winter Olympics.  It was great to get out of Tokyo and it's always a plus for Max to broaden his knowledge of the Shinkansen trains so he can then beg for the models for his "blue tracks".

Here, Max and Rich pose in front of our train.  In just 65 minutes, we traveled 90 miles.  But perhaps more impressive than the speed, we felt worlds away from Tokyo.  

Karuizawa is a mountain resort town with an active volcano (Mt. Asama), hot springs, and tons of outlet shopping.  While Rich and the other dads we met there played with the kids, I went to a concert with two other women to hear famous Japanese tenor Shigehiro Sano accompanied by a solo pianist (also famous, apparently). Not normally my interest but it was lovely and a great escape.

Here's Max and Daddy waiting to board our train.

We lucked out when a Max train pulled into the station on the track opposite ours so we got a family shot in front of it. 

Here's Max from inside the Asama Shinkansen with the Max train in view on the opposite track.

Here's Max with the three little girls he spent the day with.  He was at a bit of a loss with them.  The language and gender differences are starting to become more of a social stumbling block.

But you can't go wrong with ice cream.  In this picture he looks pure Puglisi. Those of you who have seen pictures of me as a child will understand.

Have you lost your marbles?

This summer Nannu gave Max a gift of a marble maze construction toy.  How else to explain it? You stack up the chutes and channels to make a run for the marbles.  Well, we play with it every day.  Rich wanted me to leave it in the US but I was convinced Max would pine for it.

I like the following picture because it shows Rich covered in calamine lotion from bug bites likely from the notorious bedbug experience at our shore house on Long Beach Island.  A most uncomfortable end to a nice vacation. 

Oh, and the blocks are also handy for stacking and making a place for the Cars to rest.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Back to basics

It's time to get back on the horse, so to speak and post something.  

We've been home (as in Tokyo) for 2 weeks now and are settling back into a routine.  Max has a new preschool that he attends M-W-F from 8:30 - 2:00.  He's adjusting fine and I am grateful to have some free time.  What to do with that time remains the question.  With no plans to continue my Japanese and Ikebana lessons I have to put together a routine that includes more than meeting friends for coffee or lunch.

Part of the reason for not continuing the Japanese lessons is that it's looking like we'll be moving back to the States in December.  Yup.  Our sojourn in Japan is almost over.   Perhaps I'll go into more detail later... but I think we are all ready.

I close with a few shots from summer vacation in the US.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Countdown 'til the States

Just four more days till Max and I fly off to Newark to set foot on New Jersey soil/pavement. It's been a rough few weeks for me with school out for Max, the awful humid weather and Rich working 16 hour days.  

I am looking forward to being with family and catching up with friends. Whereas last year I was worried about reverse culture shock, this year I know that baring jet lag and living out of a suitcase for 6 weeks, the transition will be easy and all will be very familiar.  

I hope that my family enjoys Max and he gets to spend some solid and memorable time with his cousin and aunts, uncles and grandparents.  It will be good to spend time up in Vermont where I can walk outside in the morning to see not a building or soul but rather just the green mountains. Max and I will pick blueberries at my mom's and tomatoes and beans and whatever cornucopia of veggies my dad is growing over at his place. I expect to take Max to some tractor sales places and a good smattering of real farms. If I get my act together, I'll reach out to a couple of high school friends that I have been in touch with recently through Facebook. Seems like most of the people I knew are still in VT and living in the boonies with dogs, chickens, bees, rabbits and other such wildlife. My life couldn't be farther from that at the moment.  

Who's happier I wonder.

Signing off for a while,

Thursday, July 2, 2009


Late this morning, I made Max come with me to the Starbucks because I desperately needed a coffee.  I have a headache, I told him, I need to get a coffee.

Tonite, as he desperately tried to extend the bedtime routine which included tickling him as he lay in bed, I said, I can't play anymore, I have a headache.

He fired back, You need to get a coffee at the coffee shop, Mommy.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

First Major Train set-up

  Quick shot of the ever-evolving train set-up that has taken over Max's room.  Rich was impressed that I constructed this.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Thailand Holiday

We recently spent a week in Thailand on holiday.  Rich had been working a lot and the break in Phuket, a resort island, and Bangkok was well needed.  We first spent seven nights at a resort and had lots of relaxation time and going out to eat in the little towns that dot the shores around the island.  Most of our time was spent by the pool, as the water was a bit rough - as attested by this wave that soaked all our stuff despite our being almost as far away from the surf as possible.

The one hiccup on the trip was Max having a 102 – 103 fever for three nights.  We actually took him to the hospital on the fourth day (the Phuket Bangkok hospital being the nicest hospital we have ever seen) but fortunately by then the fever broke.  He seems to have started a pattern with getting sick on holidays.

We then spent two nights in Bangkok.  We splurged and stayed at the Mandarin Oriental, which was a bit over the top for us.  The service was great and each floor actually had a butler if you had the need for one.  All the staff knew Max by name and they even had a little bathrobe for him to lounge around in.

When Max pressed the butler call button and asked for a milktini, truffle chocolate chip cookies and to have the pillows refluffed we realized we had set ourselves up for trouble.

It felt much hotter and humid in Bangkok and that first afternoon Rich and I left Max with a sitter in the hotel play room.  We  took the river taxi up to Chinatown and wandered through small alleyways lined with stalls selling foods, textiles and other completely random stuff. Rich sampled some street vendor spring rolls for which he paid a small additional price for the next day.

We then got caught in a deluge (it happens to be rainy season in Thailand in June).  After waiting under an awning for about 20 minutes the rain broke enough for us to continue onwards, but we had to improvise some rain gear. I started with an elegant plastic bag "rain sheath”, and

then Rich located a person selling rain ponchos – probably 1 millimeter thin plastic. It kind of balanced luxury of the robes.

And here are some pix of the Golden Palace and the Reclining Buddha at Wat Po...






Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Happy Birthday Max

We celebrated Max's third birthday last weekend. Saturday the 30th was a relatively quiet day with me and Max shopping and baking. (Rich spent most of the day in the office.)  

That evening we sang happy birthday over three cupcakes,with plans to have the big cake the next day.  That evening I completed the birthday cake for the big party on Sunday and packed up all the decorations, paper plates and such and finished up the cardboard box cars for the party.  

On Sunday morning, Max opened his presents which included a new train set with "blue tracks" that he had been asking for for months.   

We had 11 kids coming that afternoon and I needed to transfer all the party gear downstairs to the community hall we rented and decorate.

As expected, it was chaotic and a mess, but the kids had a lot of space to run, play with the cars I had schlepped from our apartment, race track, speedway, etc.  We decorated cardboard box cars and the girls ended up being more into that than the boys. 

The cake was a hit. It was fun and easy to make and Max really liked it. And the kids devoured it so it must have tasted ok as well. More suger-infused running around followed cake time and then the guests trickled home. Our dear friends Fumie and Seiji stuck around to help us clean up and bring every thing back upstairs to our apartment, including a boatload of presents. 

We have some extremely generous friends and in addition to other great gifts, Max received additional trains and track sets. His room is now taken over by a pretty big set-up that I put together.  (Rich was actually impressed.)

There two were trouble...here they are trying to accost the cake

Birthday Boy

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Miyajima Island

As part of our trip south to Hiroshima, we spent a day at nearby Miyajima Island.   Just a short 20 minute boat ride away from our hotel, we entered another world on this heavily touristed yet peaceful island.

Miyajima is a sacred island and according to Fromers, no one is permitted to die or give birth there. There are no cemeteries or maternity wards.  Also, one may not cut down trees.  

In any case, the place is most famous for the floating Torii , a 50 foot high vermillion gate leading to Itsukushima Shrine.  At low tide you can walk up to the Torii but at high tide, the gate appears to float in the water, casting reflections and highlighting spectacular sunsets. Itsukushima Shrine was founded in 593 and is built on stilts. As the tide laps in and out, the entire structure also takes on the appearance of floating in the bay.

The shrine and torii were stunning but I really enjoyed a visit to the Daisho-in Temple.  It's actually a whimsical place with playful statuaries interspersed with more traditional collections.  We saw two buddhist monks painstakingly creating a sand mandala.  After my quick tour of the temple grounds, I hoofed it back to the pier to catch our boat back with only seconds to spare.  

View of the Torii from Itsukushima Shrine - low tide

Itsukushima Shrine - low tide

Rooftops of Daisho-in with mountains and Hiroshima Harbor in the distance

Who are these guys?

And these guys?

Relaxing statuaries

Creating the Mandala (Tibetan Buddhist "sand painting") 

Millions of grains of sand are laid out over days or even weeks into a spiritual design.  The tool in the photo is a chak-pur.  It holds the sand.  The second tool is rubbed over the chak-pur and the vibration causes the sand to flow out like liquid.  Mandalas are usually destroyed soon after they are finished to emphasize the impermanence of life.

From the mouth of babes

I'm going to make an effort to start recording some of the stuff Max is saying these days.  I know every parent must go through this and think their child is oh so clever but here I go.  I thank god there are moments of humor because otherwise, I'd be pulling my hair out 100% of the time.

After banging his knee while jumping on and off the sofa, he sat down in front of his Radiator Springs cars which he often keeps lined up on the coffee table and said - 
"Hey guys, I hurt my knee!"

After a bath, laying on his back in the empty tub.
"I wanna go down the drain."

Heather - "What do you want for dinner?"
Max - "Dessert."

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


How do you talk about visiting Hiroshima?  How does it feel to be standing at "ground zero" of the first atomic bomb blast aimed at decimating a city and its inhabitants?  It feels eerie and uncomfortable and unsettling - yet hopeful.  Each blade of grass, sturdy tree and flower bed is like a miracle.  A large prosperous city stands where there were ashes.  Several rivers lead to a beautiful and bustling harbor; trolley cars click-clack down the thoroughfares; high rise office towers and apartment buildings sparkle; the sun shines on Hiroshima.  

In what was the epicenter of the explosion, the city of Hiroshima has created a Peace Park filled with a museum and several monuments in remembrance of those who perished and to nuclear disarmament and world peace.  

The A-bomb Dome is the only remnant of the city's fate.  And it has been left alone and preserved as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Despite the glorious weather and spit and polish evident in the new city, I could not escape a feeling of being haunted by the suffering of those who were killed and injured in the blast. 

View of the A-bomb Dome (Hiroshima Industrial Promotion Hall)

Rich and Max by the Flame of Peace 
(to be extinguished only when all nuclear weapons on earth are eliminated)

A-bomb Dome and Flame of Peace seen through the Cenotaph
 (A memorial containing the names of the victims)

On a lighter note - happy and running in Peace Park

Max in Peace Park entertaining schoolchildren on a field trip

A happy moment