Monday, December 26, 2005

Falling into the Christmas gap....

Phew, we made it through Christmas! For me, the Christmas holiday is such of an embodiment of what happens when I get stuck in the gap between expectation and reality. No matter how low key I try to keep my expectations, this always ends up being a stressful week for me. There's a lot of excitement for my 6-year-old to process. She's off her game being out of school, having houseguests, attending Christmas Eve church with 100 other hyper kids, staying up late, not to mention opening gifts. I could see her getting wound up, stressed, and in many cases disappointed and melting down. It was like looking into a mirror at times, as I react the same way internally under holiday pressure. For all of the other Moms out there who wake up on December 26th breathing a sigh of relief, I am right there with you!

My favorite story to put the whole season into perspective is David Sedaris' commentary, The Santaland Diaries, which launched Sedaris' career after the essay first aired on NPR 13 years ago. His irreverent story about his life in hell working as a Macy's Christmas elf morphs into a knowing commentary about the way parents build up Christmas into a horrific "are we having fun yet??" frenzy. Hearing this story always makes me laugh and also warns me not to take myself too seriously. I've listened to all of Sedaris' books on audio. He's truly a storyteller who is best experienced in his own voice.

I am really looking forward to the fresh start that the New Year offers. I have a lot planned for Mojo Mom in 2006. Stay tuned!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Playground Revolution: MotherTalk, Meet the Mojo Mom Party Kit

Playground Revolution: MotherTalk, Meet the Mojo Mom Party Kit

I am testing something with again is the link to Miriam Peskowitz's blog.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Re-entry to life...musings over feminism

Today ended up being a good day, but it's been a rough re-entry back into our real lives after coming back from our long trip. I was so sleep-deprived for the first week back that I remembered what I felt like after I'd spent my first 4 weeks of parenting a newborn. This morning I stepped out of the shower to realize that I had shaved only one leg, but it was too late to go back and fix it.

Nonetheless, things picked up. I got in contact with writer Miriam Peskowitz to let her know about the Mojo Mom Party Kit as a useful companion to her MotherTalk salon idea. Miriam embraced the idea of joining forces and letting our readers know about each other's resources, and she wrote about my party kit on today's edition of the Playground Revolution blog.

In related news, life at the intersection of feminism and reality is getting very interesting as more women write about it. I agree wholeheartedly with some of them and disagree vehemently with others. While I want to avoid fanning the generic, mass-media-fed "mommy wars," I am interested in engaging in vigorous critical dialogue about motherhood. As author Faulkner Fox noted, "feminism has always, and must, include judgments." While I do not always agree with Faulkner, that perspective rings true to me the more I read among the variety of recent literature about mothering.

While I am not surprised that I can't stand the harsh and unforgiving prescriptions of neo-traditionalists like Darla Shine, what is most interesting to me is how much disagreement there is among feminists about the current state of motherhood and feminism. I have been thinking about that for the past week, and I'm collecting my thoughts to expand on my brand of pro-mother feminsm, which I'll post here when I've had a chance to write.

My current state with one shaved leg and one hairy leg now seems like a weirdly hilarious unintentional metaphor for my effort to bring together the fields of motherhood and feminism!

Monday, December 05, 2005

We're heading home/TNC & TAC

It's Monday morning in Tokyo and we're packing up to fly home. I still want to blog a little more about our trip. I didn't get to write yet about two of our most significant events: meeting with staff of The Nature Conservancy's Beijing office, and giving a "Mojo Mom" talk at the Tokyo-American Club. Being a "trailing spouse" of a husband who is sent overseas, and raising kids in a new country, combine to intensify the challenges of the Mojo Mom experience. I really enjoyed talking to this group of women--they were one of the most responsive audiences that I have encountered.

I need to sign off and wake up Little T., so for now I'll just say thanks to our hosts for both of these events.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Lost in Tokyo, most of the time

Here's what I've learned about traveling in a country where you really can't speak or read the language: you can get things mostly right most of the time, but you never get anything completely right.

I can choose a Japanese versus Italian restaurant, and I know I'll get some kind of Japanese food, but what exactly it is, I won't know until it's served, even if I pointed to a picture on a menu.

I can pantomime to the pharmacist that I need stomach medicine, and she'll sell me some, but I won't really know what I am taking (even after googling it).

I can find the Shinjuku subway station, but it may take me 45 minutes to find a store that is 2 blocks away.

Spatial confusion in Tokyo is profound. Several times I have been able to see a destination but not get to it with any sense of efficiency. Michael and I had dinner in a restaurant on the 32nd floor of a skyscraper. We could see the subway station we wanted to go to, but when we took the elevator down and tried to walk to it we still got totally lost.

The Shinjuku subway station in particular is truly a maze. It must have 24 different exits, and if you take the wrong one, you will be blocks away from where you intend to be. Today I went back to a destination for the third time. I was so close to getting it right, but I made one crucial wrong turn. I was really only 1 block away from being somewhere recognizable, but I ended up walking up, over, and around. I passed 3 different Starbucks on my path from the subway station to the store I was looking for. ("The Starbuck" has almost become a measure of urban distance to me on this trip. There is a Starbucks about every 3 blocks. Some conquerers come over the wall. Some take advantage of palace intrigue. Others come bearing delicious vanilla lattes.)

The sense of dislocation here is made even more challenging by the fact that you're really operating in three dimensions as a pedestrian. There are raised walkways, subways, and most stores have at least 8 floors. The subway is the easiest thing to navigate. Thank goodness, or I'd probably still be wandering around underground somewhere.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Harper's article on China

I plan to post more thoughts on our time in China, but in the meantime I want to recommend Bill McKibben's article in the December issue of Harper's Magazine. "The Great Leap: Scenes from China's Industrial Revolution" reports how the Chinese are adopting rather American consumer/industrial aspirations. I share National Geographic's impression (reported by McKibben) that the country is in danger of committing "ecological suicide." The air in Beijing was astoundingly thick, and at the end of the day I had a sulfur taste in my mouth. Water pollution, as evidenced by the spill in Harbin while we were there, as well as long-term water resource draining, is another huge concern.

But McKibben does more than say that the Chinese want to consume like us (U. S.). He acknowledges that we Americans need to take responsibility for setting an unsustainable standard, and being unwilling to curb our consumption. He concludes, after visiting a booming district in Shanghai, "The only neon spectacle I've seen that compares is Vegas, with its pyramids and dancing waters. But what is Vegas? It's the search for some kind of new stimulus for the jaded....Some attempt to figure out what more might mean when you've already had too much. Whatever else it is, China is not like that at all."

The article is not available online, but it's well worth buying the December issue of Harper's.

Packing tips #2

Here's a brief coda to the packing tips post:

There's an important exception to the "pack half as many clothes as you think you need" rule. When flying with kids, always carry on an extra outfit for the kids (one outfit may work for a couple of kids if you're lucky) and also an change of clothes for yourself. I have had more airline drinks spilled on me than I'd care to remember. Bringing your own cups with lids is a partial defense against this.

Second related tip: large ziploc bags are a great way to pack clothes if they get wet, but don't leave them sealed any longer than you have to. It's important to get the clothes out and washed ASAP or they will ferment! This happened once with Little T's dress that had orange juice spilled on it. I forgot about it, and by the time I found it in our luggage it looked like a petri dish experiment gone amok. I threw the dress away rather than create a biohazard by opening it.