Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Pocket Art

I am all the time finding little papers like this around the house - usually folded up into tiny squares because they have been in someone's pocket.  Depicting anything from stick men to epic battle scenes.  I don't dare throw them out, since the resident artist remembers and asks for them from time to time and I've made that mistake before.  Perhaps I'll get a container of some sort and start a collection.

Sunday, January 12, 2014


Oshogatsu is the Japanese New Year.  One way that Japanese celebrate New Year is making and eating mochi.  We've recently joined up with the Kobe ward, and yesterday they were making mochi for oshogatsu.  We've always been curious about it, so we went to the church to join in the fun.

First you have a wooden bowl and mallets that are heated with scalding hot water to keep them at a constant temperature while pounding the rice, and also to keep them from sticking to the rice, I imagine.  A special kind of extra-sticky rice is cooked and then placed in the bowl.

Mike wielding his mallet

The rice is then pounded with mallets into a sticky, somewhat gelatinous mass.  We were told it is good for couples to pound together, so Mike and I went at it.

Then the kids took a turn.

After the rice is sufficiently pounded, it is coated in corn or potato starch and formed into soft little cakes - often filled with sweet bean or some other filling.  The ones at the church were filled with sweet bean and strawberries.  (We requested some with only strawberries for the kids!)  There was also mochi with ginger, some coated with a soybean powder and sugar, and some wrapped around cheese, dipped in soy sauce and wrapped in seaweed.  We actually liked it plain, but the Japanese people thought that was strange!

The really good mochi pounders get into a nice pounding rhythm.  Mike, Chris, and Bro. Mizuno give us a nice demonstration:

Monday, January 6, 2014

Happy New Year

Some school/work breaks are better than others.  Sometimes it is so pleasant to have all of my family home all day, to sleep in, to have no definite responsibilities or plans for each day.  I have to say that this break has not been one of our best.  The kids have been picking at each other.  Bear, at almost 11 years, has been acting like a pre-teen.  The last couple of days have been highly unproductive.  It's possible that I have even gotten on Mike's nerves, although he isn't the type to say so.  I'm not dreading the return to school tomorrow.

I've been particularly challenged lately to get my elder child to just be nice to his younger brother.  He gets irritated by Beaver's immaturity and eagerly jumps on any opportunity to assert his authority, and then feels offended and misunderstood when I come to Beaver's defense.  It's a delicate balance beam I am walking on!  What Bear doesn't understand is that, unfortunately for him (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), the tenor of their relationship rests more heavily on his shoulders, simply by virtue of being the oldest.  It is certainly true that Beaver is not always the innocent victim, but I'm sure that if Bear made an effort to be nice, Beaver would generally follow suit.  

This morning I sent Bear to take a shower.  After a satisfactory amount of resistance and stinkerlyness, he declared that he wanted to take a bath instead.  Fine with me.  I got Beaver dressed, with plans to bathe him before bed, and then got in the shower myself.  Before I even made it into the shower, I heard Beaver knock, knock, knocking at the bathroom door.
"I changed my mind that I want to take a bath with Bear."  He declared.
Of course he did.  And of course Bear didn't want him to.
"What did Bear say?" I asked.
"He said no!  But I want to take a bath right now!"
"I'm taking a shower, sweetie.  I'll talk to Bear when I get out, but maybe he wants to take a bath by himself."
"But I already have my shirt off!"
"Beaver, I'm already in the shower.  We'll talk about it when I get out!"

So, I continue with my shower, and when I turn the water off, Beaver is still knocking on the door.  Probably has been the entire time I've been washing my hair.

He responds to my inquiry with hope in his voice. "This time Bear said 'Maybe'!"
I hear him running back to the kid's bathroom, and then returning. "He said if I know what is one times one, then I can come in!"
"One times one is one."
Swift footsteps down the hall.  Angry footsteps coming back.
"He says I can't come in because you told me!"

I slip on my bathrobe and open the door to discuss to situation.  Beaver is outside the door, already stripped of clothing, ready to get in the bath.

"Listen, honey.  You just stay in here and leave Bear alone for a few minutes while I dry my hair.  By the time I'm done, maybe he will be ready to let you in."

Beaver complies, and once I'm done with my hair, I go to ask Bear if Beaver can come in the bath now.  "I guess." he responds, very unenthusiastically.

Beaver happily climbs in the tub, but it isn't long before the drama starts again.  He wants the robot that Bear is playing with.  This time I'm squarely on Bear's side.

"Beaver, Bear was already playing with the robot.  You can't come into his bath and then take the toy he has."

Angry protests, angry defenses.  Beaver declares that he doesn't want to take a bath if he can't have the robot.  I offer to get him out.  No, he doesn't want that either.  He just wants to sit in the bath and be angry.  Bear is snapping back at him with derision.  I sigh and go back to my room.  Why can't they just get along?  As I put away laundry, I am formulating the lecture Bear is going to get later.  Not an angry lecture, just a discussion of how he has more responsibility and he sets the example, and friends will come and go in his life, but his brother will be his brother always, and all those things that I'm sure he doesn't want to hear.

Then I hear Beaver laughing.  Bear is playing with the soap - letting it slip out of his hands and then making a big show of trying to find it and catch it in the soapy water, but it always slips away again.  Beaver is laughing harder.  For the next hour and a half, they remain in the bathtub, having a fabulous time.  When they finally get out, I have two clean and happy boys.  A magical combination.

Maybe it was just that Bear started the game with the soap for himself.  Or maybe it was an actual attempt to cheer his brother up.  Whatever it was, I am proud of him, and you can be sure he escaped a lecture of any kind.  We'll save that for another day.  Or maybe, just maybe, he doesn't really need it at all.