Miss Polly the Dolly

Perhaps a little over-ambitiously, I wanted to make at least ONE gift this Christmas. Since Miss Mei wasn’t the happy recipient of any crafty items from me on her arrival, largely as a result of my working full-time and lavishing any spare attention on her brother in the gestation period, I felt compelled to remedy this lack now. The obvious first project was to make her a stocking to match her brother’s…but then I wanted to make something to go IN the stocking.

Enter Miss Polly. Five years ago I saw something similar online – probably on someone’s Etsy site. Sadly, this pre-empted Pinterest, or I’d be able to share my source with you…I have to confess to being quite derivative in my crafty activities, so I drafted a pattern like the softie I saw online and made a Miss Polly the Dolly for our soon-to-be-Kazuo baby. Although he is not a big doll fan now, he did go through a baby phase of cuddling and chewing quite happily on Miss Polly.

Since it is a nice simple pattern and one I could zip together in nap time, I chose to make the wee girl her own Miss Polly. Here she is in progress:


The fabric is from Dotty Brown as I have made cushions and chair covers for Mei’s nursery – when we finally get to that point – using fabric I ordered from them earlier in the year. Miss Polly is stuffed with organic cotton wadding I ordered from the US for toy crafting – here she is being stuffed :


Mei has recently started grabbing at things and Miss Polly has already had a few bemused cuddles, here she is in her final sleepy incarnation, I think the little pocket would make her a good tooth fairy doll if you were so inclined.


Three Months New

This week we celebrate our little Mei-bug’s first three months with us – no longer a newborn anymore! We have had a lovely time getting to know her and letting her settle into herself. Autumn’s shortening days allowed us plenty of cosy quiet times to savour the snuggly delights of a new person who really did just want to be held for most of the first weeks.


In the past few months we have done school holiday craftiness…


…had a lovely visit from Grandma, Grandpa and Uncle Kenji and a wonderful fleeting visit from Great Aunt Mary…


…celebrated Halloween…


…including the wee guy’s first school Halloween disco…


…had lots of early morning snuggles with the new girl…


…gave big brother cuddles…


…attended several birthday parties and had some great animal encounters…


…discovered how to giggle together…


…got cosy for the Arctic blast of Winter…


…mastered the joy of battering at toys on the bouncy seat…


…and became more completely family. A wonderful first three months – I am already getting excited about all the new things to come in the next three!


Our New Arrival

Introducing our little Mei.

Little Miss Mei

She joined us in the world on 17 September and is making herself at home with us. She is a very calm and content little girl whose only real dislike seems to be disrobing. She is also still rather cuddly and so far not that keen on sleeping anywhere but in our arms, which is rather lovely, if not a little awkward at times. But we are loving the baby snuggles!

Her big brother has been occasionally a little wary of his place being usurped, but on the whole he has been delightfully affectionate towards her and very excited to see her in the mornings and on his return from school each day.  Life has slowed down and narrowed itself into that sharp focus of keeping someone new and defenceless alive and contented – intensified by the wobbly hazy fug of sleep deprivation.  This will pass…for now we are mostly revelling in the wonder of finally having little Mei tangibly and delightfully here in our midst.

Big brotherly love

Another Long Silence

The past months have really silenced me more than usual.  Let’s face it, since I began to work everywhere…and thus to really use this space to reflect on how we filled the interstices of our abundant yet somewhat overfilled life and to keep those of our widely dispersed family and friends even a tiny bit connected with our activities…I have been erratic and mostly silent anyway.  However, it is with fairly good reason this time…I’ve been incubating again.  It has taken a bit of getting used to, and I have been rather exhausted by the whole experience.  But it seems that the little pre-person is taking shape slowly, and I am well into that supposedly more lively second trimester.  So this is the latest excuse for my silence, and will probably inform future musings.  We are slowly getting excited and the little guy seems rather relieved that he is not going to have to carry on being the only kid around here!

Construction has begun

Mama Came Back

In younger days, when I contemplated parenthood, I had this idyllic dream of raising my children in community – surrounded by family and friends who loved and helped to nurture them.  My children, I mused, would be confident and relaxed and outgoing…and happy to spend time with any caring adults who came their way.  They would not be tied to my apron strings, they would be set free to flourish in a warm communal setting.  Lofty ideals…and still rather cherished.  But there is no accounting for circumstances.  Life as we are leading it right now has meant that Kazuo has spent rather more of his days with just Mama than I would have ever envisaged.  It is a happy existence, but it makes for a slightly different view of raising a child than I imagined.  It also means he has a few more hurdles to overcome right now as he is getting used to being with people outside the family.

This month I have begun the process of helping Kazuo to settle into nursery school.

He has been a brave little trouper really.  For such a self-contained little person, he is developing a fairly healthy sense of his own situation.  Yesterday was our last official settling session.  It is two weeks since the last as he has not been too well in the intervening period.  As we drove into the school carpark he said ‘No, no nursery school’…and my heart sank a little.

At the previous session,  I left him for 20mins. First I  announced my intention, then I  gave him a hug goodbye, and satisfied myself that he was intent on pottering about in the tiny kitchen and would find some toys to play with.  Then I retired to the reception area and watched him on the CCTV.  Thank goodness for modern technology!  I could see that he was happily engaged for most of the time, and that the nurse in charge was very attentive.  As I returned he had a little meltdown, having just really noticed my absence.  But some cuddles from the nurse, followed by hugs from Mama seemed to do the trick.  Our dialogue for the following week went along the lines of ‘Mama left, Mama came back, cried…’  ‘Who cried’  ‘I did’…this last part was eventually replaced with ‘The babies’ – either a little displacement, or an observation of the slightly more needy nature of several of the much younger babies in his class.  I choose to think the latter…

Yesterday Kaz was a deal more reluctant to let me leave.  But in a firm but Mama-like manner I hugged him, said ‘Just like Dada going to work, I will come back’, waved out the classroom window and retreated for 40mins to the reception and the CCTV. He did remarkably.  The staff ratios were good enough to allow him to have the attention he needed, when he needed it.  So he got hugs during a couple of tearful episodes, and they managed to ascertain that he likes to read Charlie and Lola (since he seems a little obsessed right now this does not surprise me) and got him a special book to read.  Last night  he also told me that he cooked ‘ham and sausages with the lady’ in the teeny kitchen.

The overriding narrative is still ‘Mama came back’…which allows for time to discuss the fact that I will ALWAYS come back…and that the ladies at nursery school are lovely…and that it can be fun playing with the kids.  But a little overwrought episode post-nap later in the afternoon, when he thought I had left him and in fact I had just gone to do a little cleaning in the bathroom, suggests that deep down – or perhaps not so deep – the separation is quite affecting.  Which of course is to be expected, but nonetheless heartbreaking.

I know that he will become a stronger person for these interactions. I am fairly confident that we have found a safe and stimulating and caring environment for him to learn a little independence.  I know that these days it is normative for children to be cared for outside the home and that advocates of daycare focus on potential social and developmental benefits…But for all that, he seems so little to be making this transition.  And I am concerned that maybe he might not really understand it…so I am doing all I can to help him feel safe about it…

The best we can say is that ‘Mama came back’…’cos she will ALWAYS do that.

Feeding the Wee One

When we began introducing the wee guy to food and flavours, he was a little reluctant to wholeheartedly consume some of my un-favourites like peas…but he tried everything and generally ate rather heartily for a little person.

Somewhere around the 9mth mark he kinda slipped into being a mainly-eats-sweet-potatoes-and-a-few-other-things kinda guy, though he was still trying out some textures.  Suddenly, around Christmas it was all about grown up food.  Pureed baby food was 100% off the agenda and only the big people food would cut it.  This was fine by me as it meant that I could try tempting him to eat what we ate most nights.

With the carnivore and I we generally eat the same vegetarian thing with a side of meat.  But suddenly there were two carnivores…so I began cooking more meaty meals…though the wee one would eat lots of my tasty vegetarian dishes at lunch and often if the meat option was a little chewy (like beef burgers) he preferred Mama’s more palatable meatless version.

For someone of Japanese extraction, rice has been a long time coming to Kazuo.  He ate a lot of pasta in those early months.  Though I managed to keep secreting some home-made vege mixes into those pasta dishes and so I consoled myself on the days when he would not eat whatever I had lovingly prepared.  But somewhere in the trans-Atlantic transition he seems to have given up almost all vegetables.  He spies them in the smallest quantities and rejects them out of hand.

I have read all the ‘failsafe-your-kid-will-love-this’ books and recipes I can get my hands on.

I am also happy that on the whole, he eats a raft of nutritious whole fruits, loads of good calcium-laden things like yoghurt, cheese and milk (though since he gave up the bottles, it has to have some tasty residual flavour…thank goodness for being able to sneak a little organic Green and Blacks choc powder into the mix) and plenty of protein (esp fish, ham, ground beef/lamb) that is usually gobbled down if it is presented in a format he can agree with.  And lately a triumph has been his delight in my milder red Thai curries (a few veges snuck in there…don’t tell him) and nibbling on a felafel/rice wrap (again a few sneaky veges).  And he still loves cucumber (what is that all about?)

But other tasty vege treats like Courgette Pie, Spinach and Ricotta Cannelloni, Baked Sweet Potato Chips  and Tomato soup are off the menu.

Now I know, from reading and chatting to other Mamas, that toddlers are notoriously fussy.  Also, that nursery school may go some way to helping him socialise earlier than usual into eating things with his peers that he won’t touch at home. And I also know the old adage that it takes 15 tries to decide if a food is palatable or not…so the palate is not set yet, nor are his real preferences.

But I also have the perhaps unfortunate experience of having been an extremely fussy child myself.  I know that fussiness did not stay with me for life.  Suddenly, in my 20s it was like a switch was turned on. I went from only eating terribly processed meat and potatoes and corn, to eating pretty much anything (though around that time I also decided that it was not such a good idea to eat EVERYTHING…but that is another story).  But it is a little stigmatizing to be the kid at school camp or in other social settings who will only eat one meal out of four…  And I am sure I would have been a more energetic and healthy child if I had eaten a broader range of foods.

I hope for his sake, that Kazuo has inherited some of his father’s willingness to embrace new foods,  rather than his quite comprehensive list of food allergies.  It is less worrying that Kazuo is a little picky right now…just a bit vexing when I serve up something he would normally eat/should by all accounts love and he refuses to eat it…but then he is needing to exert his will in so many ways right now.  I am a bit concerned about the lack of vegetables in his diet…but I vow to kindly keep pursuing, and as he gets more able to negotiate (and this skill is slowly emerging) we may be able to introduce some friendly enticements to try new things.  Equally, he is growing well and is largely quite a healthy little person so far, and no allergies have shown themselves, so that is much less worrying.

I guess I am just interested – as always – to see what other people manage to encourage their wee people to eat…and while comparisons in this area are terribly odious…to discover new strategies for inserting the missing links into Kazuo’s diet so that he grows as well as he can.  I am conscious to make his intake as unprocessed and healthy (and locally produced and fairly traded and organic etc etc blah blah) as possible.  But mainly we try to make food fun (homemade butterfly and teddy bear pizzas this week…) and enjoyable so that he doesn’t ever feel wrongly conflicted about gaining nutrition.

My hope is that Kazuo’s delight in playing with fake vegetables, and asking for them at most meals, and hopefully growing his own this coming summer, will eventually translate into a love for eating them…

Working…or not…

I began writing here a couple of years ago when we landed in the USA and I suddenly had no paid employment prospects on the near horizon.  At the time I was searching for a new sense of worth…convincing myself that being at home/unemployable (for reasons of immigration policy, not a sudden lack of competence, though at times that is still how it felt) was a legitimate use of my resources.

Then, in true international-post-doc-wife fashion, I fell pregnant, and the ensuing couple of years became about the labour of love that caring for Kazuo certainly entails.  There is a kind of strange interplay between the Stay At Home Mother and the SuperMother…a bit like the evil dichotomy of Virgin/Whore that women have been trying to shake off for decades.  I feel very strongly that both positions are valuable, that we make the choices that best fit our circumstances and that women who are at home with their families AND women who return to some kind of paid employment outside the home are doing the work of community building and should be celebrated.  Personally, it was suddenly much easier to create a kind of network and sense of legitimacy in being a SAHM, even though I knew that had to be a temporary state of affairs.  This early in our life together (without owning a home or establishing ourselves) we cannot really afford to live on one income for too long.

But returning to the UK (and thus, the possibility of employment) has thrown up a raft of new Not Working kinda issues for me.  In the intervening years there has been a global recession, a change of government and some massive (and ongoing) belt tightening in the UK economy.  This is not a good time to be trying to find employment in a small community.  I am also discovering the costs of moving countries twice within a decade and of leaving here mid-career in my mid-thirties.

Finally, there is some cost involved in some of the other decisions I made over the past decade with respect to my teaching career…moving into boarding and letting some of my teaching professional development fall by the wayside was perhaps a bit of an error.  It was certainly foolhardy to keep thinking (in a very ostrichy way) that I would one day return to New Zealand, so jumping through hoops to register with the General Teaching Council when I had a secure position in an independent school was unnecessary.  Sigh.

Realistically, I do not want to return to the classroom just yet.  I know many mothers do so…I am just certain they have more personal resources than I do…I would find it difficult to sustain planning, marking, reporting and being a committed member of a school community whilst still maintaining a focus on the family life we are trying to build while Kazuo is still so young.  Equally, I think that since he has not been cared for by anyone outside the family, the transition to daycare/nursery needs to be a little more gradual (we are settling right now, and it seems a heart-wrenching process for both of us…), I would find it hard to leave him in care for a full week  just yet.

But it seems that right now, I am suddenly less employable than I have ever been, in the most fiercely competitive market I have ever entered.  Part-time jobs that pay well and have regular schedules just don’t seem to exist.  I am still looking…and persisting…but that feeling of being a little unworthy has descended again…even though I still have the safety net of our daily Kazuo and Mama routine to anchor me.  I am not sure I will feel properly settled here until I have resolved this issue, and gotten our schedules a little more fixed, and figured out just what I am ‘about’ for the next little while.  This keeps shifting every time I spy something I may be ‘qualified’ for…a stranger concept than I ever expected.

Anyway, there is a what’s-on-top about all that just now…I am sure I will bring some more clarity to this discussion in the next wee while.  But it is Wednesday, and I feel the need to try and find something new to apply for this week.  One job a week is the goal…getting there.  Wish me luck!

This Moment

{this moment} – A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.

Check out SouleMama for the inspiration.

Settling into a Northern Kingdom

What a transition the past few weeks have been.  We have finally made ourselves at home in the Kingdom of Fife. After more than twenty four hours of taxis, airports and flights, we arrived to a very warm Scottish welcome in the tiny village of Kingsbarns.  Enroute, Kazuo finally made the acquaintance of his great-grandmother in Dublin. He was a tired little boy (and still in his PJ top after sleeping until touch-down on the trans-Atlantic flight) and understandably a little bemused, but he talked about ‘grey-ganma’ for the remainder of the week. The next morning we tried all we could to rouse our little tiredy-pop, but he snoozed on for more than thirteen hours and pretty much reset his little circadian rhythms to within a couple of hours of the local time. After picking up the keys to our new house and spending much of the day in St Andrews getting essential items like mobile phones, we finally made it down to the lovely beach at Kingsbarns in the dying light. Kazuo, who had never seen the sea before, finally got a feel for the beach.  He was not much taken with the sand in his sandals, and could not be persuaded to touch the seaweed – but he was really happy to see the sea. Akira returned on the weekend with grandpa and our dispersed belongings and we set about making ourselves at home in our new house.  We took a blustery morning outing to St Andrews where we showed grandpa the sights and gave Kazuo another shot at the long sands of the West Sands beach. The day before Akira started his new job we ventured south to the charming villages of the East Neuk.  A thick fog covered the land near Anstruther, but Crail was sunny and beautiful… …complete with a rusty but very serviceable playground for the wee tot. We headed back to the Best Fish and Chip Shop in Scotland in Anstruther for lunch – we are still making up for two and a half years without a local chippie! The following weekend gave us a chance to collect our new/old Honda in Dundee and although the weather was rather rainy and variable, a trip to the local farm shop yielded some tasty treats on Sunday, and the afternoon was perfect for another trip to the beach at East Sands.  Kazuo has discovered that wellies are a great innovation and that the waves are loads of fun. While the playgrounds here might not have the variety of well-cared for equipment we had become accustomed to in the Lou, how many in Missouri could boast this ancient and moody backdrop? Kazuo and I stayed at home for most of Akira’s first week at work while I waited for confirmation that my driver’s licence was being renewed.  The long walk down the drive gives Kaz lots of opportunity for diversion – berries, sticks, stones, bugs, mushrooms – and we are enjoying the daily delights of our new rural outlook. This past weekend was cooler and blustery, but we made some happy outings, including Kazuo’s first encounter with ancient monuments at St Andrews’ Cathedral. Well…a long-winded catch-up from me, but it has been an eventful few weeks and although we still have a little fine tuning (like getting me a paid job…) and we are feeling the solitude of being in a remote area where we are yet to make friends…having left a wonderful community behind us…I have a sense that we have ‘come home’ and it is a very happy feeling.

This Moment

{this moment} – A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.

Check out SouleMama for the inspiration.