Kids Have Strokes, Babies Have Strokes, Even Unborn Babies Have Strokes…

Seriously.

In fact, for infants under one month, strokes happen once in every 2,800 live births.  And for kids ages 1 to 18, they occur in 11 out of every 100,000 children.

And Big Cutie is one of those survivors.

May is National Pediatric Stroke Awareness Month, so I want to talk about this a bit.

{You can read our complete stroke story here. You can learn more about pediatric strokes and the Children’s Hemiplegia and Stroke Association here}

When I first heard that very scary word stroke, and had to learn to navigate a world of doctors, therapists, and braces, I focused on all the things Big Cutie might not be able to do.

But not any more.

Because Big Cutie is amazing.

riding

From the time she was fitted for her first leg brace and could take her first steps, if she could figure out how to do it, she was willing to try it!

rockwall

When she was much younger we used to call her “The 30 Minute Girl.”  Originally we thought she was shy and needed a bit of time to hang back with Mommy before entering the fray.  Later, we figured out that she was simply surveying the situation, figuring out how she could best participate, and then would join in, full force.

surfing

kayaking

In fact, Big Cutie now forces ME to try new and adventurous activities because otherwise, I’d be the only family member left out!

IMG_0461

biking

Whether it’s in the air, ziplining or in the water, swimming, she’s got a big smile on her face!

diving

She’s even gone high-tech in her adaptive device, so she can be on the move more.

hulaing

Big Cutie is the best example I know that you don’t have to finish first to be a winner in life.

Is she cool, or what?

cool

CHASA creates a special montage of Pediatric Stroke Survivors every year in honor of Pediatric Stroke Awareness Month.  Check it out and see if there’s anyone you might recognize around the 6:00 minute mark!

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Why I’ve Been MIA

I’ve got Blogger Guilt for not writing in over a week.

It’s not you, it’s me, I swear.

We’ve simply entered that end of the school year craze where the calendar is beginning to resemble a rainbow of appointments, social events, and school functions.  I’m doing my best to keep my head above water and have fun while doing it!

Since we last chatted, here’s what I’ve been up to ~

Threw a small dinner party for work people

As always, it’s a challenge sometimes to work with Western recipes in an Asian country.  After a year and a half, I’ve become accustomed to getting out my little kitchen scale and looking up how to convert grams to ounces or cups, but I still stumble sometimes in the purchasing department.  For one recipe I needed dried tarragon.  After trips to three different markets, I realized that tarragon is only sold in large pieces in Japan as opposed to a fine powder.  Clearly, that was not ideal for a salad dressing.  In a last-minute attempt to not have to re-plan the menu, I bought a small mortar and pestle, which worked brilliantly, and had the added bonus of bringing oohs an aahs from The Cuties!

mortarandpestle

Spent an afternoon with a local framer

Oh Tokyo is spoiling me rotten.  Instead of loading up my art and heading to Michael’s or a neighborhood framing shop, a lovely man came to my apartment with a suitcase filled with frame and mat samples.  Two girlfriends joined me, and we drank tea, helped each other and placed our orders.  Simply, divine.

framing2

Scheduled my first appointments for Big Cutie’s Bat Mitzvah

We officially have a date on the calendar and are very excited!  Big Cutie has all sorts of ideas about what she wants for her party and I am so looking forward to planning things with her.  I’m really thrilled she wants to have an active role in her big day.  The challenge for me, however, is trying to explain to the Japanese what exactly it is I’m scheduling…..I’m having a lot of conversations that run like this, “it’s sort of like a wedding ~ without a groom ~ and oh yeah, the ‘bride’ is only 13.”  I imagine after I leave they are talking for hours about the crazy American lady!

Attended Middle School Parent Orientation

How the HECK do I have a child going into MIDDLE SCHOOL??!!!!  Like an impending birthday isn’t making me hyper-focused on gray hairs as it is, sitting in an auditorium listening to information on lockers, changing classes, laptops and dances – DANCES, people! – sure is.  Big Cutie, of course, is SO excited about it, and why shouldn’t she be?  It’s all bigger and better in her world.  Me?  I just found myself counting the years ’til she heads off to college and had to sit down and compose myself {7 in case you’re wondering}.

backpack

Surviving the Husband’s Week+ Business Trip

I know most of my Expat friends have husbands who travel all the time, but I’m very blessed and mine does not.  I’m also VERY out of practice to having him gone, and we all miss him terribly, but we’re entering the home stretch and will have him home before we know it.  Which is critical for two reasons:  most importantly because we love and miss him, and a close second because the Apple TV has been out for more than 48 hours and I’ve been unable to fix it.  As the Person in Charge of All Things Electronic, this falls under his purview, so I am extra-looking forward to his return!

Appletv

So that’s my story {and I’m sticking to it}.

I hope life is calm, cool and collected in your worlds!

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Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah!

This summer my Cuties are going to sleep away camp for the first time.

For a month.

Everyone is over the top excited, but the Mama in me is rather sad at the prospect of not hearing about their day each evening at the dinner table.  So they’ve promised to write to me on a semi-regular basis {I’ll let you know how that plays out!}.

To best facilitate the whole “I promise to write you every other day thing” I made up a special box for each of them to take to camp.

letter box

{For the record: while I considered many things while naming The Cuties, I never thought about potential alliteration for summer camp paraphernalia, and this is merely a coincidence, I swear!}

Because we do not have Michael’s or Target in Japan, finding an appropriate box that didn’t cost ¥5000 was quite the challenge.  I finally found these at Uematsu, a proper art supply store for a very reasonable price and can now think of at least a half-dozen other ways to use them so I will be headed back for more!

Here’s what I included inside each box {from left to right}:

boxinsides

*address labels with my summer address and their Daddy’s when he has to be back in Tokyo working, as well as return address labels with the camp address {can you tell I don’t want there to be any excuses not to write?!}

*Air Mail stationery for letters to Japan

*Personalized notepads from camp {if you subscribe to their newsletter right now you can receive 15% off your order!}

*Flat notecards and envelopes.  These are the perfect size for 9 & 11 year olds. {My cards are a little older from my stash I’ve bought during Boatman Gellar’s incredible online tent sales, however their designs continue to be adorable, so I’m sure you’ll find something you like!}

*Stickers for decorating envelopes.  {I’m pretty sure I decorated my letters home from camp over thirty years ago with Mrs. Grossman’s stickers, too.  Does that make me or the stickers vintage?}

*washi tape for sealing envelopes, and because pretty much my philosophy in life since moving to Tokyo is you can never be without washi tape.

*Colorful pens for writing home! {I’ve written about how much I love the erasable pens easily found here in Japan, but last summer I discovered that the ink faded when left out in the heat of the sun, and I didn’t want to chance an envelope not making its way to me, so I avoided using these in this instance!}

*Japanese stationery sets.  For someone like me who loves to buy new stationery all the time, I love that most stationery sets in Japan only come in packs of five; it allows me to justify buying more!

*****

So The Cuties will be ready to go when we head to the States and I send them on their merry way.  All I have to do now is add stamps.

And I haven’t forgotten the grownups, of course!

I’m gathering up my own things and plan to shop a bit in America, however I want to leave things set for my husband.  The Cuties’ camp director has graciously said that he can send emails to them and they’ll be permitted to write back due to the distance issue, however he’d also like to send some “real mail” their way as well.

So I made this up to leave in his office for him:

dads file

He’s got labels for each girl, stamps to mail things from Tokyo to camp, and a bunch of cute cards from Japan.

One project down, twenty-seven more to go before we pack to head to summer camp!

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There’s a Little Less Pink and Green in the World

The lovely Lilly Pulitzer Rousseau passed away today.

For so many of us Lilly Lovers it began watching our mothers or grandmothers emulate this beautiful fashion icon, but not me.

mothersdayLilly

My love of Lilly began with my Grandfather.

Ever-dapper, ever-colorful, he embodied the Lilly life the way Lilly herself wanted people to.  And when he passed away and I went to clean out his closet I couldn’t help but smile at the stacks of sherbet-colored cashmere sweaters and golf pants.

preschoolLilly

But what really caught my eye and made me grin the most were the sea of Lilly Original sport coats in amazing shades of apricot, fuchsia, mint green and more.  All lined in her signature prints, they were a burst of extra happy when you snuck a peek at the bold lions or lavender seahorses dancing inside.

FallLilly

I wore Lilly through both of my pregnancies and The Cuties’ childhoods will forever be defined by Lilly.  Every special occasion, vacation and most treasured photographs have a Lilly touch somewhere within.

WhiteHouseLilly

A special thanks to Lilly for making all our days pink, green, happy and bright!

LillyHawaii

I know you’re somewhere sipping drinks with umbrellas, wearing something fabulous and throwing one helluva party!

 

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If You Give A Room a Rug….

You know the book If You Give a Mouse a Cookie?

Where every little action has the consequence of requiring another action?

Welcome to my life.

So we moved into the new apartment.  And were fortunate enough to now have both a Playroom and a spare bedroom that we’ve designated Craft Room Central.

In the old apartment, we had a cute Ikea rug in our spare room.

ikearug

But that clearly needed to move to the new Craft Room Central to serve its life mission of protecting ridiculously light-colored carpet in a rental apartment (because any new rug would come from the furniture rental shop, thus defeating the point of being the great protector from messes if I had to protect the rug protecting the carpet – see the madness, here?).

And so it was moved.

craftroom

And a new rug was procured from said furniture rental facility.

stripedrug

And the silly man with whom I live thought all was right in my world until I tried to explain to him that the new rug and the old sofa pillows looked terrible together.  And he promptly gave me the same sad and confused puppy dog eyes our Newfoundland used to give me when I’d make him wait for dinner.

TANKFACE

But not to worry!

As always, I have the deepest and most ridiculous craft stash at my beck and call, and so once, I again, I present you a project for which nothing was purchased!

I printed templates out of card stock on my Silhouette and cut them out of felt {I know that I can have the Silhouette do this for me, but I didn’t have the proper materials on hand, and as usual I wanted instant gratification, and certainly didn’t want to have wait for an overseas care package}.

templates

I then pinned my letters and symbols to my pillow pieces and sewed them down with the machine in a simple, short straight stitch.  I love how appliqued felt looks; reminds me a little bit of trapunto.

machinestitching

Then I sewed up the pillow covers right over the old pillows and was good to go!

textpillows

There were plenty of LOLs and OMGs from The Cuties.  These definitely got my tween girlies’ seal of approval.

OMG

LOL

And that, my friends, is the story of how if you give me a new apartment, I’ll need a new rug….

….and all new pillows.

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Elephant Nature Park

“You know…they say an elephant never forgets.  What they don’t tell you, is that you never forget an elephant.”

~Bill Murray in “Larger Than Life”

I know you all know I have a thing for elephants.

It’s yet another topic I talk about a lot.  I’m a bit annoying.  I get it.

But bear with me, ‘cuz I’m gonna do it again.

While in Chiang Mai, Thailand last week we had the opportunity to spend the day at the Elephant Nature Park.  About an hour and a half north of the city, the Park is home to more than thirty elephants who have been rescued and/or rehabilitated from abuse, begging, disease, injury and more.  Visitors can go for the day, spend the night, and even stay and volunteer for up to two weeks.  We just spent the day as the overnight options were completely booked ~ how wonderful is that!

The Felt So Cutes were lucky to have visited an elephant park last year while in Phuket, but ENP is rather different from anywhere else.  Stayed tuned for why.

Because elephants eat the majority of the time they are awake, we did start off with feeding one of the herds.

Now this is a serious pantry!

pantry

We fed the elephants from a raised viewing platform, which was ideal, as we were essentially eye to eye with the lovely ladies.  Everyone comes running at chow time!

dinnerbell

Some of the elephants are blind due to abuse but because their sense of smell is so strong, The Cuties could simply hold out a piece of fruit and the elephants’ trunks would find it and wrap around it to take it away quick as can be!

feedingtime

watermelontreats

And speaking of eye to eye, do you think pretty Dani gets eyelash extensions like all the ladies in Tokyo? :-)

lashes

And here’s what’s so incredible about ENP.  After we fed the elephants, we climbed down from the viewing platforms and simply walked around the park with the elephants!  Yes, you read that right.  We were just walking around, hanging out with them, petting them, talking to them and chilling {OK, not so “chill” in 100 degree weather, but you know}.

roamingherd

{I’ll confess I have no idea where Little Cutie is while that picture was being taken, which probably isn’t really stellar parenting with 7 ton animals strolling about, but please take note of her pink hat and safe reappearance in the next photo!}

chillinwitheles

Each elephant has their own mahout, who is with them always when out in the park with volunteers, but there are no weapons, no chains, nothing.  The elephant ~ mahout relationship is amazing to watch.  It’s about love and trust, and the ENP mahouts get their elephants to move and go where they want by verbal commands and a lot of delicious bananas.  The secret to a family photo with raised trunk, smiling elephants surrounding you?  Baby bananas!

familyelepic

So at this point, we’re pretty hot and sweaty, so I can only imagine how the elephants feel covered in one inch thick skin.  Fortunately, the ENP includes a river, so we all changed into our bathing suits and headed there {well, those of us who walked on two legs and cared about otherwise swimming in just our hide!}.bathingbeauty

Having spent several years of my life bathing wiggly, squirmy toddlers, I can accurately report that bathing an elephant is actually easier than bathing one of my own children.

And a lot more fun.

elebath

{Of course Lilly suits with elephants were worn special for the occasion.  As if you doubted it?}

gotchaLike you didn’t see that coming!

The day passed incredibly quickly and after feeding the elephants again, we took a few more pictures and then headed back to our hotel.

All Big Cuties like to have their pictures taken with their mamas.  Here’s my Big Cutie with me, and the adorable eight year old Tong Jaan and her mama, Mae Bua Tong.

mamasnbabies

If you’re ever looking for a great cause to donate to, I can’t recommend the Elephant Nature Park highly enough.  Their work is incredible and the Park is amazing.  You can sponsor meals for an elephant for a day or more, medical treatment, etc.  If you want to see more of the Park and learn about it’s founder, Lek, here are some great videos.

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Planes, Trains, Automobiles and More!

This Spring Break will go down in history as the trip of many modes of transportation!

First, we hopped a PLANE from Tokyo to Bangkok, where we landed and realized it was actually not the start of Spring, but rather, smack in the middle of the Thai Summer Season.  Yikes.

I always remember to check that we are avoiding Monsoon Season when booking our travels, but clearly need to start checking out what to expect a little more than just hot.   So scratch that and make it more like Yikes – with a double scoop of hot sticky sweat on top.  We’re talking super steamy hot, folks.

We grabbed an un-airconditioned TAXI from the airport to our hotel where all four of us got to snuggle up in the back seat because Thai taxis run on natural gas.  So the huge tank occupies most of the trunk and our luggage rode in style in the front passenger seat.  Now make that a triple scoop of hot sticky sweat!

The next day, our adorable tour guide Oi met us at our hotel to take us around Bangkok.  We first took the TAXI WATER FERRY over to the SKYTRAIN so she could teach us how to do that on our own if we wished.    After walking all around the Grand Palace {AMAZING – watch for a post on this soon!}, we took a LONGBOAT ride on the Chaophraya River and canals.

thailongboat

That night we headed to the train station to board the OVERNIGHT TRAIN from Bangkok to Chiang Mai.  Look how cheerful and genki we are at the start of our trip!

overnighttrain

Fancy Pants Peeps that we are, we sprung for the First Class Cabin, which entitled us to an actual door instead of a curtain to our berth, as well as a sink.  Fortunately, we were able to arrange connecting rooms, which gave us “roomier” accommodations with the doors open.

bunkbeds

You see “roomier,” dontcha? ;-)

There was a slight moment of comedy when I returned from the first trip to the bathroom and simply handed my husband my phone with this image on it:

trainsquattoilet

We did subsequently find the Western style toilet further down the car, but after chugging through the mountains and shifting tracks, and a lot of splashing water, the squat toilet eventually seemed a better choice.  When in Rome!

We arrived in Chiang Mai after fifteen hours looking {and smelling!} decidedly less cute, but happy to be in the mountains.

overnighttrain2

After taking a VAN TAXI {this time there were plenty of seats!} to our hotel, we were thrilled to be greeted in the lobby by cool towels, iced lemongrass tea, and the news that our rooms were ready and waiting even though it was only 9:00 in the morning.  I’m noting that shower as one of the very best ever.

teaandcooltowels

The easiest way to get around Chiang Mai is by TUK TUK, which the girls especially love.  I can’t help but think about all the agonizing and researching I once did over minivan safety ratings, and how I extended harnessed The Cuties in car seats long past anyone else in their preschool and kindergarten classes.  And now I regularly let them ride around the streets of Thailand in these {and this was a brand new one ~ Little Cutie would like you to note the extra cool flame job!}.

tuktuk

Because this wasn’t a beachy-type vacation we were able to participate in all sorts of tourist and experiential activities.  At the very last minute, we decided to head up north about an hour and half to The Flight of The Gibbon ZIPLINE tour of the rainforest.  I’ll confess to you I was totally freaked out that I might not be able to do it, but watching Little Cutie hop right on and go and love it, and Big Cutie push through her initial fear and then absolutely love it too, made me a believer and it was AWESOME.

We immediately fell in love with Chiang Mai.  So much so we changed our plans to take the train back to Bangkok to tour more at the end of the week, and extended our trip in the mountains until the very last minute possible and then flew back to Bangkok and home to Tokyo {did you catch that was two more PLANES!}.

And of course, to get home from the airport, we took the usual BUS and then yet another TAXI.  It was a full-on, complete adventure of a week.

And I haven’t even begun to tell you about the elephants….

:-) :-) :-)

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