友だち Friends

It’s not hard to see that this past year hasn’t been easy for me emotionally or spiritually. Though my recent posts might give the impression that I’m down in the valley all the time, as I mentioned in the previous post, I’m actually quite cheery in person because of  the wonderful group of friends God has provided to support and pray for us.

Just this week one of these dear friends emailed to see how I’m doing. Our conversation was brief but her encouragement uplifted my spirit all week and I’m eternally grateful to her and many of our other friends for their extra love and care.

So today, in honor of these dear friends I’d like to share a song from Imai Miki, one of my favorite singers. It’s a song about friendship and since it’s only in Japanese, I’m posting a rough English translation.

The video doesn’t tell much of a story but Imai Miki (who appears in the video) is beautiful…I hope that you will enjoy this simple but heartfelt song.

My dear friends,

I know that all of you face your own struggles yet you take the time to share in my burdens. Thank you for crying and laughing with me through all of the ups and downs.

I love you and hope that someday I will be able to lend you the same kind of strength and comfort as well.

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

「友だち」今井美樹

Tres chere amie

Dearest friend

ありがとう

Thank you

返事がまた遅くなってごめんなさい

I’m sorry to reply late again

あの日からあなたのこと

とても心配してたの

Ever since that day I’ve been so [or very] worried about you

元気になってよかったわ

I’m glad that you’re now [feeling or doing] better

彼も気づいたでしょう

I’m sure he must have also realized (by now)

やっぱりあなたが誰よりいちばん

大切だってこと

that you are more important than anyone else after all

何げない私からの

言葉に救われたなんて
不思議よね そう言われて

I was amazed when you told me that something I had said offhand [or casually] actually helped you

私も励まされたわ

[And] I was in turn encouraged by what you said.

一年前のあの頃と
想像できないくらい
空気も時間も今は穏やかに
流れてる感じよ

Space and time seem to be passing by so calmly now in a way that is unimaginable (at that time) a year ago.

あの時 あなたやみんなが
支えてくれたことが
今でも私の宝物だって
いつでも思ってる

The support that you and everyone gave me at that time is my treasure [or is precious to me] even to this day.

A bientot また逢いましょう

Goodbye. Let’s meet again!

Je t’ embrasse 連絡ください
待っているわ

“Hugs and kisses” Please be in touch [or contact (me)]. I’ll be waiting.

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

Note: the original Japanese flows beautifully but my literal English translation is choppy. I’m not completely happy with the translation so I will probably play around with it some more to see if the English can flow as smoothly as the original – please check back later if you’re interested.

Our second bundle of JOY!

Oops…I was so focused on being discouraged earlier that I didn’t realize that I hadn’t announced the arrival of our newest rug rat…

So here he is, Enoch Y. Yang, our precious new baby son!

Happy 5 months BABY, thanks for being mommy’s sunshine on cloudy dark days!

End of year resolution (of some sort)

Thanksgiving bouquet

I’m either really late for 2008 or somewhat early for 2009 but this week I made my first (I say first because it probably won’t be my only one) resolution…

Okay, so here it is: From this point forward, I resolve to “help cultivate an appreciation for beauty” in our family.

I’m not sure if I’m putting this right but basically, I want us to enjoy the beauty of everyday living more.

A few weeks ago I placed an order on http://www.books.com.tw because my dear friend T agreed to help lug some stuff from Taiwan on her next visit in January. In the busyness of things I had forgotten all about the order until this week when I received an email notice from the retailer saying that they had shipped one of my items, a translated Japanese book about cultivating children’s creativity through their sense of beauty (at least that’s what the Chinese title suggests). To be honest, I didn’t really know too much about the book when I ordered it so I googled the title to remind myself why it was worth importing from Taiwan.

According to this blog post, the book’s main point is that a children’s awareness of beauty and the world around them is heightened when parents (or caretakers) share the experiences with them (i.e. a child will “notice” or remember seeing a sunset when someone sees it with them and/or points it out to them).

Around the same time, I happened to browse this blog which I tagged a long time ago but never really revisited. There I stumbled upon Moline’s photo set (of her home) on flickr. And one thing led to another…until I was left with this tremendous sense of dissatisfaction about the state of our home…

Don’t get me wrong, we have a nice home – it’s spacious, warm (important in the winter time, especially in the Bay Area), and comfortable (babies and dogs can go everywhere) but something was missing. In other words, it’s like the feeling of someone realizing that she’s been eating everyday without ever tasting the food. Horrible, right?

Since I haven’t read Yamamoto’s book yet I don’t know what her recommendation is for improving our senses but I know that I want Noah to grow up more aware of the world around him. And I want Noah to see beauty on a daily basis.

So obviously our home would be the first place to tackle.

But before I can beautify, I must first remove the clutter…this is not easy to do when most nights I just want to put my feet up and rest. But if I work on it a little every day hopefully within a few weeks (crossing my fingers), our house will be tidy so that more of my time would go straight to making the place more appealing to our senses.

I’m still working on defining “beauty” but I know that I don’t want to just end up buying useless decorations that you sometimes see on those design shows. We already have a lot of stuff. My task to bring out the beauty in what we already have, not to collect more. At the same time, it’s sometimes okay to bring into our home objects that might add meaning to our lives.

For example, this week, while decorating our Christmas tree, I decided to start a new tradition of having an annual theme for our ornaments. Last year, rather than buy boxes of shiny balls just to have something on the tree, we decided (since Charlie doesn’t really care about these things, my decision ends up being our family’s decision ^_^) to acquire ornaments one at a time, so that each one would be more meaningful. Needless to say it was pretty easy to execute my chosen theme this year (candy canes symbolizing the Shepherd’s cane and how God has guided us through the year). A few boxes of candy canes tied with some ribbons, and the look is complete.

The end result looks like this:

2008 Shepherd's cane theme

I know, that’s not the most beautiful Christmas tree you’ve ever seen* but I really enjoyed every minute spent decorating it and I know I’ll enjoy telling people about the meaning behind the ornaments (don’t worry, I won’t talk about it unless I’m asked).

Close-up of candy cane*I intentionally kept the tree sparse in case Noah decides to pull on things because this is the first year he’s been able to reach the tree.

In any case, this is going to be a long term project. No one is pressuring me to do anything. There’s no deadline for completion and no one is going to come and give me a critique of our home and my efforts so I’m going to slowly cultivate my own sense of beauty…then hopefully someday Noah’s as well.

Already I feel happier about waking up every morning and the beauty I might find in the day’s activities.

Here’s wishing everyone the time to see a sunset…and a loved one to share the moment.

美感是最好的家教 (Chinese version)

子どものセンスは夕焼けが作る (Japanese version)


Muji Taiwan starts online service~!

I know I should finish the draft posts waiting in the queue (especially the ones about maternity/postnatal meal stuff) but I can’t help but share this great news first….

Muji Taiwan now offers online shopping!

For those of you who are big fans of Muji but find NYC or Tokyo….or UK a bit far now you can shop from home!

Okay, so Taiwan is not close either but some of you might have family who live there who can help bring stuff over or ship it. Looks like they’re giving away freebies until the end of August so there’s no time to waste!

Thanks Sona Queen for sharing this great news!

Now if only someone would tell me how I could ship these Muji furniture back to the US…Anyone got a cargo container that they need help filling?

Image: Muji Taiwan

An ordinary kind of love…

Breakfast

Today after a hearty breakfast of scrambled eggs (with green onions), Taiwanese sausage, and steamed buns, I left the house for a few hours to run some errands. When I came back, I noticed that the Le Cruset pot that was sitting in the sink had been washed and is now sitting on the side to dry.

Normally these things don’t stand out to me but they did today because Charlie did them despite being very sick with a bad cold. In fact, he was so sick that he’s been mostly in bed for the past two days.

Just a few weeks ago though I wasn’t as appreciative of these acts of “love.”

*****

On Mother’s Day I woke up with great anticipation – this was my first official Mother’s Day and I was excited to see what surprises Charlie had planned for the day.

“What do you want for breakfast?”

“Oh, whatever you feel like.”

“Okay, how about ham and cheese on toasted bread?”

“Sure.”

“You want coffee?’

“Only if it’s decaf.”

So, breakfast was the usual. Nothing special.

Then we went off to Sunday worship service at church, followed by a Mothers Only lunch with the other ladies at a nearby restaurant. Charlie watched Noah like he always did when I’m out with friends.

When I got home Noah had already been fed and put down for his nap. And there was a card waiting for me. It was signed by both Noah and daddy. “Sweet,” I thought but I was looking forward to the “real” surprise.

But it never came. I had homemade breakfast, then time to myself, and a card. All very nice things but where’s my present?

That night I went to bed a little disappointed. And Charlie after learning about my disappointment, became sad too.

******

I’d like to say that I woke up all cheery the next morning but I didn’t. It took days of moping before I snapped out of the funk.

What’s the big deal about getting a present and why did it bother me so much that I didn’t get something?

“Was it because your sister got an ipod?” asked Charlie. “But you already got a new one last Christmas so you don’t need another one” he said.

I am not sure why I was so bummed about Mother’s Day and at first I thought that it’s because I was having trouble with my new identity as a stay-at-home-mom and receiving a gift would mean that I was doing a “good job” (kind of like getting a bonus or raise at work.)

But this week, I realized that I felt disappointed that Sunday because I get special treatment every day. Ironically Mother’s Day wasn’t special because every day was already “mother’s day.”

******

Every morning I wake up to fresh homemade breakfast. No matter how rushed Charlie is before work, he always makes sure I get my protein and he pulls the espresso shot for my Americano right before I get to the table so that it will be fresh and hot.

About once every other week I meet up with my friends for some R&R and Charlie always takes care of Noah so that I can fully relax.

I hate loading up the dish washer and washing all the heavy pots and pans so every night before bed Charlie makes sure to load up all the dishes and wash by hand the ones that don’t fit.

All this I enjoy regularly whether it’s Mother’s Day or not.

So, so what if I didn’t get a big flashy bling bling for giving birth or that breadmaker on Mother’s Day?! I’m happier that every day is full of small acts of love than having only one day when I receive special treatment.

Charlie, I am sorry for taking these things for granted. Thank you for making each ordinary day extraordinary.

*The photo is one of the breakfasts I regularly enjoy. On Mother’s Day we made it “special” by eating outside.

Brag books…

Other mommies have them. I’m too lazy to assemble one. (Besides, it would add extra weight to my already heavy diaper bag.)

But I can’t help but post these two photo taken by our friend Hy from HyStudio.

Noah by HyStudio

Obviously we love all photos of Noah but my favorite is this one which captures one of his “grown-up” expressions and his kicks, which I had felt throughout my pregnancy.

Kung fu shot

Noah, mommy and daddy are so blessed to have you!

*For more Noah photos and to see other beautiful works by Hy and his partner Frank, visit their website at: www.HyStudio.com

Staying warm this winter – take a Japanese ofuro in your own home

[Update 10/20/2010] Here are some interesting stats on Japanese people and their ofuro habit. Note that over 50% (55.3% to be exact) of the respondents said that they reuse their water for washing machines.

http://whatjapanthinks.com/2006/11/28/over-half-the-japanese-re-use-their-bath-water/

The post was written in 2006…it’s now 4 years later and here in the US, this option is still not available to us…as one of the Japanese commented (on another discussion site), it’s hard to believe that the US is a technically advanced and “green” country…sigh~

Actually, speaking of conservation, I wouldn’t mind having one of the Japanese style toilet + sink combos either.

http://donkeymon.net/donkeymon/gallery.pl?whichGall=Life%20in%20Japan&whichImg=5

It saves water and space…what’s not to love?

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

Even after enduring two icy cold seasons in the Midwest, Charlie and I find winters in California to be the coldest. Last year we managed to keep warm by freeloading off our downstairs neighbors’ heat (we lived on the top floor of a four-story building) and taking advantage of the new double-pane windows and central heating system in the building (the apartment complex was completed the summer we moved in.) Then in August we moved to an older one-story home with hardwood floors and poor insulation so we were apprehensive as the weather got colder.

Thankfully God provided a solution in the form of a Japanese soaking tub. And now every night we go to sleep toasty even when the outside temperature drops to the low 40s (I know, I know…this temperature would be spring-like in the Midwest.)

I came across the Takagi Tub several months ago while researching the Japanese ofuro (baths that allow you to soak up to your shoulders). Back then, we were thinking about acquiring a wooden tub because it seemed like the only portable and inexpensive option. But it turns out that wooden tubs can be quite costly and the ones available in the US are large and some even require custom installation. Then I read about the Takagi Tub, which is light-weight, easy to install, and fits in a standard shower stall. Even though At-House, the company that sells the tub, has a website that provides detailed information on their products, I was hesitant about buying the tub because it just seemed too good to be true – otherwise, why wouldn’t everyone have one? (My google search turned up only product/commercial descriptions and no user reviews.)

Then a few weeks ago, Charlie and I talked about soaking and decided to look it up again. According to At-House, since the tub is only 50 lbs, it’s highly “portable,” which means that we can take the tub with us when we move. Also, being able to install it ourselves means that we wouldn’t have to alter any of the existing fixtures (we are leasing our home.)

After reading the company product information carefully and measuring to make sure that the tub will indeed fit our stall, we took the “plunge” and placed our order, just in time for Christmas. They were sold out of the small model so we ordered the larger one which is only $20 more than the smaller one.

For $800, you get the tub and a cover which helps to retain the water temperature and to keep the tub clean when it is not in use. Shipping is a flat rate of $80 for anywhere in the US – no discount for living only 8-hours away but we got the tub in just three days.

Since there seems to be no user review or post about this tub, let me post some photos for those of you out there who might want to purchase one.

Box

How the package looked when it arrived

Taking it out of the box

Charlie taking it out of the box for inspection. The delivery guy isn’t allowed to help so he’s just standing there and watching. I’ll bet he doesn’t get to see something like this everyday!

Tub in box

Look at the simple but efficient packaging!

Lid

The tub lid/cover

Bottom of the tub

Bottom of the tub. Everything looked fine.

Getting it in the door

We forgot to measure to make sure that it would fit through the door. Good thing it did!

Installation

Charlie took off the glass shower doors before installing the tub.

Wood planks

The tub was slanted (for drainage) towards the opposite side of our shower head so Charlie added some wooden planks to prop it up the other way.

Tub in shower stall

And it really does fit in a standard shower stall! (We put the glass doors back in later but they fit without any problems.)

First soak

First soak that day…at 4 in the afternoon.

 

So how do we like it? As Charlie puts it, “It’s the beset $900* we’ve ever spent!”

Here’s the link to the Takagi Tub page on At-House’ website

 

*$880 before tax

P.s. Forgot to mention that in addition to keeping us warm, soaking in baths every night has also many health benefits, including better blood circulation and relief from aches and pains. My backaches from picking up and holding Noah has lessened a great deal since we started soaking! If only I can do yoga consistently too…sigh~