Saturday, December 20, 2014

This Is So Amazing It Should Be on Pinterest

Pink P has lost four teeth over the past two weeks. And, really I--I mean the Tooth Fairy--was doing a good job keeping up with it all. Then my semester ended and 60% of us got sick (including Pink who had a fever for EIGHT days), and I lost my everloving mind.

Loss of mom sanity leads to all sorts of collateral damage. In this case, it meant that I TOTALLY forgot about Pink's lost tooth and my role in the Tooth Fairy exchange. I completely spaced it. That is until Pink woke me up at 5:15 in the morning a couple of days ago to tell me that THE TOOTH FAIRY DIDN'T COME!!! WHY DIDN'T SHE COME?!?!


I suppose this might be like forgetting to move the Elf on the Shelf, which, by the way, is why I won't ever allow one of those darn things into our house--that and the fact that the elf requires me to maintain a pattern of constant and intentional deception, AND it teaches kids that they should behave only when being surveilled. Given my stance on the whole elf thing, the irony of my response to Pink's tooth dilemma isn't lost on me. As soon as I realized I'd blown it, I told Pink that the Tooth Fairy probably didn't come because Pink had been treating her brothers so badly lately. I'm not proud (even if it is true that Pink's been a bit of a terror, what with the fever and all). Parent fail times two.

Later in the day, I encouraged Pink to write a letter to leave for the Tooth Fairy. She wrote this:

FRONT: Dear Tooth Fairy, Why did you not come? I lost my tooth. Why did you not come? (Repeated and highlighted for added effect).
BACK: Please come next time. Merry Christmas, Tooth Fairy.
Oh, to have a child who believes so strongly and to be a mom who fails so miserably! (I also, for example, completely forgot to prepare gifts for approximately 40% of the people who work with my children, but that's another story).

After I saw Pink's note, I swore I'd do better. No way would I forget again. Never!

The next morning, Pink came in crying because the TOOTH FAIRY STILL DIDN'T COME. MAYBE SHE DOESN'T LOVE ME. WHY DOESN'T SHE LOVE ME?

How could something so cute induce so much fear?


This time, I did what any rational parent would do in this situation. I told Pink to put her tooth under my pillow and sent her back to bed.

When she was gone, I locked myself in the bathroom with the tooth pillow, a pen, and all the coins I could scrounge up. I wrote this note, put the note and coins in the pillow and shoved the whole thing back under my pillow.
Merry Christmas, Pink! Sorry I was late. Lots of teeth and the cold makes my wings slow. Love, TF
Five minutes later, Pink was back asking for it. She thought it would work better if she kept it under her own pillow. Thirty seconds after she walked out with it, I realized I HADN'T TAKEN OUT THE TOOTH! 


When I went to her room, I asked her if she'd checked the tooth pillow. She hadn't. This gave me the perfect chance to pull out the coins and the note and hand them to a thrilled Pink. "Wonder when she left this stuff?" I asked, sneaking the tooth out of the pillow and flushing it down the toilet.

"I don't know. I just saw the note and I didn't see a dollar, so I thought she forgot. I didn't know she left coins!"

"Next time you should look more carefully BEFORE you get upset. The Tooth Fairy wouldn't forget you," I said without an ounce of irony in my voice.

Sigh. With these kinds of parenting skillz, Christmas could be a complete catastrophe!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Three Wishes

Some times these kids just blow my mind... Today, Sky brought a paper titled "Three Wishes" home from school. I'd seen it hanging on the wall outside his classroom a month ago when I went for his parent-teacher conference. As I stood waiting for my turn to meet with his teachers, I read 20+ wish lists from the fourth-graders in Sky's class. A lot of the kids wanted things like new puppies, televisions, and gaming consoles. When I got to Sky's, I stopped short. 

Back when he was in Catholic school, Sky asked his classmates to pray for his dad every single day. He believed that God could hear his prayers and make Ren's back better. I believed that, too (still do). But, I also believe sometimes we don't get the answers we hope for.

As it has become clear that the back isn't going to get better, my conversations with Sky have shifted to an ongoing discussion of how life doesn't always go the way we want. This is a hard one for my boy who only sees the world in black and white. There's no good social story for this universal truth.

Ren's back is not going to get better, Sky will always struggle on some level with his difference, and, yes, those two realities means we are all sometimes more stressed than we'd like to admit. But, like I tell Sky whenever our conversations turn to questions of why, the why doesn't really matter because in the end it's up to us to find joy in the hard stuff.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

On Being Strong...

Awhile back, I wrote this post about having my hands full. Then, I was sure I'd reached the limit of what I could carry. It was a metaphor, of course, for dealing with Ren's unexpected back issues while working full time and parenting three young kids who happen to have a whole host of allergies and developmental challenges.

It turns out, I had no idea what I was talking about in that January 2012 post. Because after I wrote it, Ren had four spine surgeries, including one 6 weeks before my dissertation defense, and we learned not only that he has permanent nerve damage that will forever impact his ability to walk but also that the back isn't done, yet.

The back is bad.  I mean, really, really bad. See, Ren has congenital spinal stenosis. In other words, he has an unusually and severely narrow spinal canal. As a result, the nerves in his spine are highly susceptible to impingement, whether it be from arthritis, disc damage, or bone spurs. In practice this means that one day he can feel like things are getting better and all of the interventions have helped, and the next he can be laid so low by some other something going slightly out of whack that he can't even get out of bed.

Last week, when were visiting the spine doc to follow up on an MRI, I finally got the courage to voice the questions Ren and I have been subconsciously grappling with for months—you know, the ones that made us buy a house with minimal steps required to get in the front door and a master suite on the first floor.

I love Ren's doctor because the first thing he did was apologize--I mean sincerely tell us how sorry he was that all of this is so difficult. It's hard when you know you're making your doctor feel bad. It's not his fault the back is what it is. We know that, and I told him so. But, we also really need to know how this might go. So, I kept asking questions. And he kept answering them.

"Will Ren become unable to walk?" I asked.

"I hope not," he answered, exhaling sharply. "We will keep on top of it so that doesn't happen."

"Will the pain become so debilitating that he won't be able to function?"

"There are things we still haven't tried," he said, this time reassuringly. "They should help."

"Will there be more back surgeries?" I asked, already knowing the answer but wishing I didn't.

"Yes. At some point, the whole spine is going to go."

"When?" I already knew the answer to this question, too, but I had to ask just the same. Sometimes I can't help but be optimistic.

"I don't know," he said, "but we need to hold that off as long as we can. He's still young."

He's still young....

He's still young, you guys. At least young enough that none of this should be happening to him. But it is. It's happening to him, to me, to all of us.

It turns out that having a spouse with a somewhat rare, chronic, life-altering condition is a lot like having a kid on the autism spectrum. Little by little, the reality of what you face opens before you. It's not a dramatic shift, so for a long time, you hope you aren't seeing what you think you might be seeing. Then, slowly, in increments, you start to understand the nature of your new reality. It's incredibly disempowering and frustrating. At first.

But then you figure out how to get up and face each day. You figure out how to do whatever it is that you need to do. You learn to laugh. Sometimes you cry. But most of all, you just keep going.

Friends tell me I am strong, that they can't imagine how I manage it all, that they would never be able to do what I do. I never know what to say in response. Often I say nothing. And, mostly I wonder if having the capacity to handle a great deal of adversity makes me strong or whether it is just proof that I have never, not in my whole entire life, known when to give up. I'm pretty sure there's a difference between the two, but, then again maybe it doesn't really matter.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Reno (Or Should I Say Demo?) by Pink P

When you become a parent, you develop a supersonic sense of hearing. From two rooms away, you can tell which kid is playing with which toy or whether the thud you heard was someone's head or a book. That's why when I heard a crash larger and louder than any I'd heard before, my instinct was to run downstairs to see what was wrong.

Pink and Stow were playing together so nicely, though, and since I didn't hear any yelling or crying, I decided it was just my imagination (Parenting Pro-tip: It's never just your imagination).

Fifteen (fifteen!!) minutes later Pink came to me and calmly said, "I think I made a bad choice." This was a whole new and slightly disorienting tactic for her.

"Why?" I asked.

"I was trying to reach a toy and the shelf fell," she replied just a tad too nonchalantly. Pink doesn't do nonchalant. Ever.

"Which shelf?" I asked, though thinking back to the large crash, I already knew the answer.

"Don't worry," she assured me. "It landed on something sturdy."


Before we moved into our current house, we finished the basement.

It went from this:

to a space that includes a bedroom, a bathroom, a play room, and a "media" room. While I appreciate the extra space and (most importantly) the fact that the kids can GO DOWNSTAIRS TO PLAY, what I love more than anything is the playroom closet. When we were designing the space, the contractor came up with a conservative little 5 ft x 5 ft closet tucked away around and beneath the stairs. "That's nice," I said. "But it needs to be bigger."

See, I envisioned a closet so big that not only would it hide each and every toy in our house, but it would also provide storage for all of our seasonal items. I imagined a magical world free of toys in which I no longer had to climb down cellar stairs (or up attic stairs) to unbury boxes of holiday decorations. In other words, I imagined heaven on earth. It took a second opinion and  a different contractor to get what I dreamed of--a glorious 6 ft x 12 ft closet running the length of the room. When the basement was finished, the sight of the new closet brought tears of joy to my eyes (NOTE: I am only being slightly hyperbolic here; I mean a person can only take so much toe-stubbing and cellar digging before she's reached her breaking point).

The kids immediately took to the space:

The first day, begging to camp out.
Soon the closet was full of all the junk I imagined it would hold and more.

And everything was perfect.

That is, until Pink decided to try her hand at demolition. The good news is that no one was hurt and nothing on the shelf was destroyed. The bad news is that she pulled an 8-foot wire shelf out of the wall.

In case you're wondering, I questioned the contractor about the strength and stability of a shelf this long especially given its proximity to the ground, and he assured me it would be safe. Yeah, right.
Pink is the kind of kid who weeps when someone looks at her sideways, and who tends to overreact to everything. But, she did not make a peep when this monster of a shelf came out of the wall, bringing with it toys and Christmas decorations. This may turn out to be one of the greatest mysteries of my life.


The detached shelf left us with 20 perfectly aligned little holes just like this one.

Ren and I have our skills--his being, by and large, more useful than mine--but neither of us had ever patched a wall before. That's the joy of having children, though. You always have opportunities for skill development and personal growth.  

After Ren was finished, we had a wall full of awkwardly-shaped (but perfectly aligned) blots of spackle.

Fortunately, most of the spackle spots were soon covered by the various storage containers that now fit nicely where the shelf once hung.

It turns out that Pink P's forced shelf removal may have been a stroke of genius. More things fit in the closet now, and now there is no tempting dangerous shelf for the kids to climb.

Need storage solutions for the holidays? We've got a nice 8-foot shelf to spare, and we're thinking about renting out Pink P's renovation and reorganization services. Who knows, maybe things will work out as well for you as they did for us. Then again, maybe they won't. After all, not knowing is half the fun.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Winter's Coming: Sensory Bins Revisited

Here in the upper Midwest, our pleasant autumn with its golden leaves and bright orange pumpkins turned into cold, colorless, and eternal winter over the course of a couple of days (much to my chagrin and to the chagrin of our neighbors who probably really wanted me to mow one last time). In the blink of an eye, the kids went from riding bikes and scooters up and down the street and playing in the backyard, to being inside All. The. Time. 

I'm already tired of it, and it's not even December, yet.

Such dire conditions immediately triggered my survival instincts, so I turned to our stash of sensory bins. (Click here for my original post on sensory bins). Stow has been playing with them on and off for most of the last year, but Pink had all but forgotten about them. So Saturday morning, I pulled out the fairy box and suggested she make a fairy garden. Twenty minutes later, she had this:

Kids playing quietly together for 20 to 30 minutes while also using their brains and being creative is the goal for any toy/craft that finds its way into our house. Pink's garden was enough to inspire me to go ahead and put together another bin I'd been contemplating for awhile, Star Wars.

Whenever I make a new bin, I try to recycle stuff we have around the house as much as possible. For this bin, I used the following:

Empty medicine bottles turned escape pods.
An egg carton space station.
Abandoned marbles make great planets. Some of them even have their own cloud cover (which, according to Sky, makes them much more convincing).
My original plan was to use Sky's old Star Wars figurines in the bin, so all I would have to buy is a bag of black beans. But, when Sky went to get his Star Wars guys, they were GONE!!!!!!!! (EDITOR'S NOTE: The only one surprised by this was Sky. We all know that no one stole his Star Wars guys. He just can't remember where he put them). To avert the meltdown that was bound to happen each and every time I reminded him to look for the Star Wars figurines, I decided it made more sense to just buy the cheapest possible set of plastic Star Wars pieces to complete the bin. 

I couldn't find a cheaper-looking collection of Star Wars things if I tried, and these STILL weren't all that inexpensive. It's amazing what this one mom will do to avoid unnecessary meltdowns (Plus, Stow had a leftover gift card from Target, so that enabled me to pretend these guys were free).

In the end, I bought a two-pound bag of black beans (for $1.97) and a collection of junky plastic Star Wars guys (for more than $1.97). But, I wound up with this:

On the bin's inaugural mission, Stow played with it for 40 minutes while we made dinner and begged for it again after breakfast the next morning. Those little plastic dudes are going to pay for themselves in no time!


Day four, and this is still the first thing he asks for in the morning...

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Powerful Art by Pink P and Sky

The kids brought home Thanksgiving-related school work in preparation for the holiday. In a book called "Thanksgiving," Pink P describes her excitement about going to an aunt's house, smelling apple pie in the kitchen, and eating salad. 

It all seems so idyllic until she drops the hammer on Big Sissy.

"I feel like I could cry because Big Sissy will not come."
I pointed out that Big Sissy WAS coming for Thanksgiving, but Pink P said it didn't matter because Big Sissy doesn't come nearly enough. I texted a picture of this to Big Sissy, mainly so she could see that everyone really does miss her, but also because I was really glad someone else was on the receiving end of a Pink P guilt trip for once.

Pink has perfected the art of guilt-inducing creativity. On the first day of school, she brought home this:

Dear Teacher, Please quit asking Pink P how she feels because obviously she is neglected by her mom and her big sister.
Last week, she insisted I mail a letter to my parents that said, "Dear Grandma and Grandpa, Please come to our house and bring bean soup and nail polish. Love, Pink P." To Santa, she just sent a list, only adding "From Pink" when I pointed out that he might find her letter of demands to be a tad rude.

I'm not sure Sky is doing much better, though. He brought this home from school:

Cannibalism and talking turkey legs--not to mention serious lack of compassion.

Inside the card, he seemed mostly thankful that we are all not dead.

In other writing, he nicely articulated how fortunate he is to have a family that loves him, a school where he can be educated, and plenty of chances to grow as a human being. Here, however, he's glad to be "rich" and not dead. Uh, thanks, Buddy. 

Just when I'd started to seriously worry about where we went wrong with Sky, he handed me this:


In reality, we don't have chores at our house. We have jobs--all of us working together for the good of the family and none of us doing it in hopes of getting paid. At least, that's what we call it and how we think about it. Then again, that might just be semantics. The important part is that he wants to to stuff to help and that he's thought about what specifically he can do. Things like:

This is actually a pretty great coupon book. I just hope he doesn't start charging me once the coupons run out.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

60 Simple Steps to Sending Holiday Cards

Step 1: Forget to take a family picture until the very last possible minute leaving yourself with the conundrum of whether you will be sending Christmas cards, the also appropriate Japanese-style new years card, or possibly even Valentine's Day cards.

Step 2: Decide to do a Christmas card and realize you don't have any decent clothes for the kids to wear in a picture. Also, they all need haircuts.

Step 3: Waste three days trying to decide whether to take them to get haircuts.

Step 4: Decide not to.

Step 5: Manage to pull together passable outfits and take the picture.

Step 6: Surprise yourself by taking a decent one.

Step 7: Post all the awesome outtakes on Facebook.

Step 8: Search online for the cheapest possible photo card.

Step 9: Get distracted by a toddler who needs to use the potty and forget about ordering the cards. For three days.

Step 10: Remember you were trying to order cards but realize you forget where you saved the picture.

Step 11: Get distracted by a potty-training toddler again and wonder if he will be in college before he figures it out.

Step 12: Find a coupon for ordering cards online and remember you still haven't ordered them.

Step 13: Get hung up on whether you will wish people merry Christmases or happy holidays.

Step 14: Make the decision based on the color of the graphic and go with the one that clashes least with your kids' mismatched outfits.

Step 14 1/2: Wonder what happened to Joy, Love and Peace, and question whether such things ever existed. (BTW, this is from the card we sent last year since I haven't gotten around to ordering them this year).

Step 15: Place the order and then do nothing for the next several days while you wait for the cards to arrive. Sure, you could go to the post office and buy some nice Christmas stamps. You could even find and update your address book while you wait. You do none of these things.

Step 16: Once the cards arrive, open the box and admire your handiwork. Then place the box in the corner of your desk and forget about it for a couple of weeks. Ignore that nagging sensation that you forgot to do something.

Step 17: Write a blog post about writing Christmas cards. Find it funny that this doesn't motivate you to actually write them.

Step 18: Wait a few days. Move up two levels on Candy Crush.

Step 19: Give in to the guilt and decide to start working on the cards.

Step 10: Get distracted by a Love It or List It marathon and do nothing.

Step 21: Sit down to work on the cards and realize you've lost your address book. (Who are we kidding? The last time you had an address book, you were just out of college. After that, you had the information in your computer, but that was when you lived in Japan, and you didn't bring that computer with you when you moved. What you're actually missing is the stack of cards from last year that you saved in order to send out cards this year.)

Step 22: Proceed to track down the addresses of everyone you can't remember by searching for them on or calling your mom.

Step 23: Spend at least 15 minutes being totally creeped out by how easy it is to find so much personal info about family and friends online.

Step 24: And an entire day bummed that even though you are an adult your mom is STILL more organized than you are.

Step 25: Once you have the addresses, obsess about whether your handwriting is neat enough to address the cards by hand.

Step 26: Decide it's not but be too lazy to figure out how to do this on the computer.

Step 27: Have an internal debate about whether you want to address people as Mr. and Mrs., Family, or simply by name.

Step 28: Decide that you'd rather not offend anyone by using the wrong title and address the envelopes with no titles at all thereby potentially offending everyone.

Step 29: Write a brief note on every dang card even though you said you weren't going to do that this year.

Step 30: Repeat Step 25, only this time obsess about your writing on the backs of the cards. Hear your mother's voice in your head telling you to write neater and eventually find it impossible to write anything at all.

Step 31: Take a break to look at Facebook and check if anyone has been reading your blog post about writing Christmas cards. Worry that maybe you're the only one who has this much trouble writing Christmas cards.

Step 32: Try to bribe your son into licking shut all the envelopes.

Step 33: Fail.

Step 34: Tell him this is one of the ways he can help you with Santa's job. Convince him to seal a few but quickly send him off to do something else when he starts devising other ways to get the envelopes wet.

Step 35: Notice that 6 of the 10 envelopes he licked before you fired him didn't seal completely anyway and ponder how you can improve the seal.

Step 36: Become temporarily grossed out by the possibilities.

Step 37: Lick all the envelopes yourself, quickly and without swallowing.

Step 38: Wonder where you put your address labels.

Step 39: Find them and realize they only have your name on them.

Step 40: Wonder whether it's appropriate to use an address label with only one person's name for a card from the whole family.

Step 41: Decide you really don't care as long as you don't have to write or lick anymore.

Step 42: Realize you also can't find your stamps and wonder why in the world they aren't with the address labels.

Step 43: Look everywhere for them.

Step 44: Find some old, ugly "Forever" stamps and decide they're as good as any.

Step 45: Wonder if your international stamps are still good.

Step 46: Go online and discover that international postage has gone up by 10 cents again. WTH?

Step 47: Dig through your drawers to see if you have any 10 cent stamps lying around.

Step 48: Discover you don't and realize you're going to have to go to the post office anyway.

Step 49: Give up in defeat and spend the next two hours watching reruns of The Big Bang Theory.

Step 50: Pull yourself together and sit down for the final haul.

Step 51: Write, lick, and stick until every last one of the ragtag bunch of cards is done.

Step 52: Put the finished cards in the car to take to the post office.

Step 53: Forget about them for a couple of more days.

Step 54: Finally remember to mail them when you go to buy 10 cent stamps.

Step 55: Stamp the last of the international cards and drop them in the mail slot on December 24th (if you're lucky).

Step 56: Have serious doubts about whether any of that was really worth it.

Step 57: Realize you forgot to stamp a few when they show up in your mailbox briefly tricking you into thinking you've actually received a Christmas card.

Step 58: Ditto the cards that had the wrong address on them.

Step 59: Vow never to send Christmas cards again and throw away your address list.

Step 60: Go through the exact same process approximately 12 months later.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Perfect 10

Sky turned 10. I'm still trying to wrap my head around this, actually. When he was an infant, I looked at moms of 10 year-olds and they seemed like parenting pros. Ironically (or, perhaps, totally predictably), I don't feel any more competent or skilled as a parent than I did the day he was born (though I am a heck of a lot better at dealing with bodily fluids).

On that day, when it was just the two us for the first time, I felt pretty overwhelmed. I had no idea how I would parent this kid. But I did know that we were definitely in this together, and that no matter what, I would always love him and I would always have his back. I told him that then. He sighed and snuggled, still getting used to the bright big world.

Last week, I told him this story of our first conversation. The cool thing about Sky is that if you slow down and pay attention, you can watch him hear you, process what you said, and then react slowly and deeply to it. I watched him do this after I told him this story. It took a couple of seconds for the light to shine in his eyes. He knows I love him, but he also longs to hear every detail of the wondrous story of us. "Thanks, Mom," he said with with a huge smile. I could tell he was simultaneously relieved and really touched. In his book, if I've had his back this far, I'm good for my word.

Random Sky Art
To tell you the truth, though, I feel unbelievably lucky to be this kid's mom. Sure, it's challenging and mind bending at times, but holy cow! He's so smart, funny, and creative. He's kind and a genuinely sincere kid. But, none of these adjectives comes close to describing what it's like to join him in his world and glimpse things through his eyes. It's a trip, and it's also the best ride of my life.

And, the thing that makes it all better is that we are slowly but surely figuring out how to make autism manageable for us, for him. There are still days when the stims, the anxieties, and the social/sensory stuff just totally quash our good vibe, but we are figuring it out. And, more importantly, Sky is figuring it out. He's learning to see all the awesome in himself and share it with others. He's learning how to track with the rest of us, and It. Is. So. Much. Fun.

Yesterday, we went into the Hallmark shop where we discovered the newest collection of Christmas ornaments. Much to the chagrin of the woman working behind the counter, we tried out most of them. I was particularly fond of the Brady Bunch ornament (in case you're wondering, it plays the whole entire theme song). Sky was interested in the newest Star Wars offerings. If I buy one, it will be the Cantina Band ornament. It will most definitely not be this one:

Go ahead, click on the link. Trust me. You'll be sorry if you don't.

When we listened to this in the store (after looking for the darn button for about 5 minutes--hint, it's on Vader's left), it seemed to be turned up to the-whole-store-can-hear-it volume level. At another time and in another place, Sky would've freaked out when I pushed the button to stop the ornament short, saying, "Wow. I can't imagine an ornament with more Christmas spirit."

Instead of freaking out, though, he laughed and walked out of the store grinning. No meltdowns. No resistance. Just good-natured ribbing.

On the way to the car, I said: "It's like saying, oops. I killed the woman I love. Merry Christmas!"

He joined me on my riff, "Or, someone ate all the Christmas cookies. Nooooooooooooooooo!"

"Yeah," I agreed. "Nothing says Happy Holidays like death and destruction!"

We're in a sweet spot.  Sky's coming into his own. He's figuring it out. He's understanding jokes. He's learning to read people's non-verbal cues. He getting better at keeping his sensory-driven impulses under control. Sure, he still has to work hard, and it's not always easy. But to me he's  perfect--a perfect, perfect 10.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

October 2014 Japan Trip, Postscript

Just when you thought I was done photo dumping....Well, I am. Kind of. I just had a couple of more things I wanted to share with you.

First, the eki bento (a.k.a. ekiben). Ekiben are boxed lunches sold in train stations to folks preparing to board the bullet train. I bought mine at a shop like this right before I set out from Kyoto to Tokyo.

As you can imagine from this picture, there seems to be an infinite number of possibilities when it comes to ekiben. Most stations sell station specific ekiben as well as a wide array of seasonal and old favorites. 

Traveling by shinkansen is much more pleasant and enjoyable than any kind of train transportation available in the United States. The cars are clean and quiet, and the ride is incredibly smooth. The seats recline, there is plenty of legroom as well as adequate tray space for a good-sized ekiben and drink.

Of course, none of this matters if you are traveling with small children because then you are holding at least one of them on your lap while also trying to balance your boxed lunch and manipulate chopsticks in such as way as to force your toddler to take a bite of the salmon already. Traveling on a quiet and clean bullet train with kids is worse than flying with them because there's no ambient engine noise to drown out their poorly-timed observations or high-pitched protestations. Plus, the aisles are so darn wide, they can actually race each other down them (not that I would know from personal experience or anything; though I can say with a degree of certainty that you might be asked to keep your children quiet even when that's quite impossible given the excitement-provoking double whammy of TRAINS! and first-time views of majestic Mt. Fuji).
Pink shows Stow Mt. Fuji for the first time (back in June).
But, I digress. Back to ekiben...There was a time in my life, when I was a conservative ekiben consumer, but that time seems to have passed. Last week, before starting my marathon journey from Kyoto back to Tokyo just in time for a 12+ hour flight back to the US, I purchased this makunouchi ekiben.

 Check this out:

The only real surprise was the baby octopus in the bottom middle slot. I'm also not a huge fan of clams (top left). The other stuff was heavenly, though. I especially liked the tofu and pumpkin (sharing space with that darned octopus).

Anyway, the moral of this long-winded story about ekiben is that you should go to Japan and eat one, preferably without small children on your lap.

And now, I promise, the last of my interesting English pictures from this trip.

This is a souvenir shop in Kyoto Station. I looked. The store did not have a single heart, human or otherwise. Talk about false advertising!

This sign hung on the wall just above the toilet paper dispenser in my hotel room taunting me every time I used the toilet. Even now, I can't make sense of it (reading the Japanese doesn't help, either). If I don't need the whole roll, it seems wasteful to finish it, no?

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Epic Bad English Photo Dump

On my last day in Kyoto, I found my favorite kids' clothing store on the 5th floor of the Yodobashi Camera. Score!

Nishimatsuya is still the best place to find a seemingly endless supply of bad English clothing, though I think I can now argue that Aeon wins the prize for highest concentration of obscene children's clothing.

The thing is, my kids have enough clothes. Stow needed a couple of long sleeve shirts and they could all use underwear that fits, so I bought those. The rest, though, I photographed at the store. I generally try to avoid this because on top of wanting to fully support the bad English industry, I also don't want to be thrown out of a store (after all, I'd like to think my stupid foreigner days are behind me***). Unfortunately, we just don't have closets big enough to house all of the insane English out there, so I decided to break my own rule just this once.

I MAY have gone a tad overboard. Brace yourselves.

First, the slightly odd:

You just heart to believe if you want to take off.
Clank! It is success.

Sometimes I just can't get enough of those positive donkey feelings.
Wait, what? Universal beating around the back and edge?
Take the high ground and wistfully Boom Out!
The world ties the hand that made me happy. (And, frankly, that makes me very unhappy.)
I'm not sure what to do with all the mixed messages:
You! Just follow your dream, OR ELSE!!
Wait a minute...
Just follow your dream, as long as you're going MY way.
Decisive decide.
No, really, decide already. 
If you don't have BRAVERY, what's the point?:

Now, what I like to call The Warble Trilogy:

My Hot Time--I can't think of a worse tagline for a kid's shirt, but all the awesome SAT words makes it better somehow, especially on a faithful boy.

Raggle taggle you pithy high-spirited kids!
Fly high, you jocund amusing fair boy.
Man, if I had a dollar for every time one of these said jocund I could buy more shirts.
Mirthful? Feeling sanguine? These shirts should help.

I actually bought this one. No bad English, but super tacky and with trains.

Win win.

Last, but not least, these might be my new favorites--t-shirts brimming with grammatically perfect but totally unnecessary English. It's like some overachieving English-speaking genius got a job at the T-shirt factory and didn't know what to do with all that skill.

Such good and pointless English.
As American as apple pie and coveting your neighbor's apples.
This is my FAVORITE. Perfect English in the form of a conversation about playing together after school with a particular focus on making sure they do their jobs well at cleaning time. Unfortunately, these were toddler shirts, so I didn't get one for Stow (who according to size tags is the same size as a Japanese 7 y.o.).
Phew. That's all for now. I just hope the person who proofread those last three shirts doesn't set a new trend. I'm not sure I will survive without a steady supply of bad English children's clothing!

***We have to know each other a lot better before I start to tell you THOSE stories.