Thursday, July 31, 2008

then it was my turn

I tried to drink on the job...

first job

Conor earned $2 babysitting Max for 20 minutes. We were all home at the time, just distracted by the usual family chaos and needed somebody to make sure he didn't tumble off the couch, eat anything dangerous (my sister chastised us all when she found nuts and Risk armies on the carpet) or leave the house.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

bowl of blueberries

my mom with Dylan, in the kitchen of our beach house

Monday, July 28, 2008


As a mom of 2 boys, it has been a real treat having so many girls around these past few weeks...Here's Jen (red hat, friend since forever ago) with her own daughter, Patti's two girls and Dina's two.Meanwhile, a few yards away, the boys (mine and Jen's) keep busy constructing a fort for their Pokemon out of large rocks and stray fencing.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

gimme the scoop!

Conor does a chin-up at Nagle's ice cream window on Main Avenue
Jen and Patti, Pelham friends I've known for 30 years, with some of the kids

All the kids and me!
From my left: Elizabeth, John, Conor, Dylan, Harrison, Sophie and Mia


Me and my niece

Thursday, July 24, 2008

still "home"

I know this is supposed to be about our life in Tokyo, but we're in New Jersey this month, so for now it will just have to be BeachBlog. Appropriate as I also have BeachBrain.

My sister came last week with her 10-month-old boy Max. Have a look.

Here he is again, on the beach with his mom, surrounded by cousins...

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

American summer

To walk up the boardwalk from Ocean Grove to Asbury Park is like passing from one surreal world to another. At the border is a discount surf shop that sells plastic shovels and water blasters and cheap flip flops and food items like canned peaches in heavy syrup. They also play U2 and The Red Hot Chili Peppers from their rooftop speakers. It's as if an invisible sound-proofing wall keeps Bono out of God's Square Mile, the place of B&Bs and landmarked Victorian homes, old-fashioned street lamps and flower pots, because we didn't hear "Pride (In the Name of Love)" playing until after we had stepped past the store's front doors.

But the more obvious gateway into Asbury Park as you approach from the south is the dusty, deserted, cavernous Casino, an echo chamber with skylights built in 1929. Beyond it is a brand-new strip of boardwalk shops and restaurants and food stands; we saw a color rendering of a future waterpark on display inside one of the storefronts, stopped by the Candyteria, had blackberry sorbet pops from an organic snack bar and played mini golf at a course that looked like it opened yesterday. You can see The Stone Pony from the green.

We had lunch in the old arcade building, at O'Toole's, an Irish pub that opened a month ago. Across the way I bought a "Skull Boy" T-shirt designed by a local artist, and the guys who sold me the shirt -- they were very chatty, maybe because it was a slow Monday -- told us about the ongoing efforts to revitalize the area, and said that the place had been jam-packed last Saturday night, thanks to the roller derby. The Jersey Shore Roller Girls hosted "Anchor Assassins vs. Right Coast Rollers" at the convention center, which shares a roof with these other commercial spaces. If only we'd known!

Monday, July 14, 2008

the beach and Ben 10

We don't have cable or satellite TV hooked up in our Tokyo apartment, so you can imagine how happy the boys are right now to be living in a house with Cartoon Network. I think they also appreciate the fact that this place is three blocks from a very nice beach, and that Ocean Grove (our temporary home for the next few weeks) has a pizza shop and two ice cream parlors, but one can't deny the pure joy of Ben 10. Dylan is off the couch right now, dancing to the theme song. Hey, don't judge, the TV is the only reason Terry is still sleeping at 8:45 am.

The kids aren't the only ones getting their American TV fix. Last night I managed to get my MacBook to talk to the cable modem so that we could watch the episodes we've missed of 30 Rock on The site doesn't let you stream video from outside the U.S. (Which reminds me, anybody know how to hide an IP address?)

Of course, we will eventually leave the house and go to the beach and maybe even hit some balls around the tennis court down the street. I might also take a walk over to the Radio Shack, which is in a strip mall just past the town gates, and see about getting a cell phone. I want a burner like the drug dealers in The Wire.

Lazy Sunday

The beach doesn't open until 12:30pm on Sundays (Ocean Grove is a Methodist camp, and while the community founders' 'blue laws' -- one prohibited businesses from opening on Sundays -- were declared unconstitutional several years back, this rule remains in force) so this morning we took the kids to the playground by the lake and drank a bottle of wine. Kidding. About the wine I mean. We did go to the playground. And we played tetherball, like Napoleon Dynamite and the girl from Corrina, Corrina. It's tougher than it looks...
Okay so I'm at the Barbaric Bean getting ice coffee and Terry is waiting for it so must pay my $5 for the use of this computer and skedaddle...
More as soon as we figure out how to connect from the house!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Runner-Up

"Modern-Day Parenting Technique #32: Empowering Your Child"

"Holiday Road..."

We're here! In 3 days we've hopped from taxi to train to Narita airport to Dallas-Fort Worth to Washington Dulles to Papa Jack's house (swimming! barbecued ribs! Tyson's corner, Wall-E!) to Aunt Ginny and Uncle Jim's (homemade blueberry pie! sparklers! home movies from 1989) to Greg and Marga's (new house! new baby!). Today we head to the Jersey shore.

But the sun is not up yet. So why am I writing this? Well, Dylan has been up since 4:20 am (he passed out at 5pm yesterday and we couldn't slap him awake; now he's watching "Herbie Fully Loaded" on my computer). It is not my turn in Risk (Come on, Eileen...bring it!). And I have been meaning to take care of certain unfinished business -- that is, declaring a winner in the Caption Contest. And so, after careful consideration, the glory goes to...

Mary Ellen!


"Sorry Dad. I refuse to give you either of my hairs!"

Now tell her what she's won!


Thanks for playing our game.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

homeward bound

We leave first thing tomorrow morning for the U.S.
First stop: Washington DC.
Then it's on to the Jersey Shore, then Pelham, NY, where I grew up and my parents still live.
I find it hard to believe that we've been here for six whole months...
We can't wait to see everybody!

if you can't take the heat...

...stay inside and paint! The Children's Castle on Aoyama-dori in Shibuya has a fine arts room where kids can make things with construction paper and string, or grab a brush and hit the wall.

Independence Day

Some American friends we met at tennis camp invited us to a barbecue at their place for the 4th (and served the best brats I ever tasted). Here's Conor and Dylan outside in the garden with new pals Henry and Max, working their way through a seemingly bottomless bucket of sparklers. It was all perfectly safe I assure you...

beware of the caterpillars

sign posted in Arisugawa park (Minami-Azabu, Minato-ku)

Sunday, July 6, 2008

"muh-muh-muh my Shimoda..."

Sorry, I've had The Knack's big hit in my head since we got back from our weekend in Shimoda, a coastal town just 2.5 hrs. southwest of Tokyo by train. We went with four other families -- altogether 10 adults and 12 kids, from under 2 to 9. We bunked at the Ernest House, a no-frills homey hotel about two minutes' walk from the beach, and ate and drank right next door, at the Paradise Cafe, whose massive deck gave us parents a way to keep socializing after the kids were down (if somebody woke up, they knew where to find us). On Saturday we boogie boarded and body surfed and played in the sand and poked around the rocks. I snapped hundreds of pictures (scroll down to see some).

On Sunday a typhoon sent us packing to the aquarium, where we watched a dolphin show and a stingray feeding; the diver who pushed squids into the rays' muppet-like mouths bowed at the beginning of the demonstration and again at the end -- not easy to do gracefully underwater. We also watched a sea otter float on his back and break clams open on the wall of his tank. Every time he slammed the shells against the glass (boom! boom! boom!) the kids cracked up.

Even though it rained buckets that second day and our train was canceled (we had to hire a bus to take us to Atami, where we caught the shinkansen -- a temporary setback) overall it was a fantastic weekend (thanks to Clare for organizing!). The kids had a blast and, even better, pretty much ignored Terry and me as there were several pretty girls to flirt with, and boys to swap Nintendo DS games with.

The train we took to get there on Friday was a direct limited express (or rapid?) not a bullet but it was speedy all the same, and the last car was a double-decker with this playroom downstairs, which occupied the kids while the parents could have a cold one in peace on the upper level. Dylan's the one in the batman shirt:

About a minute after checking into the hotel on Friday evening, we walked down to the beach to check it out. I took this picture before all the girls stripped down to their undies so they could take a dip (not sure I should post the after shots online!). I had put my boys in swimsuits, but the other parents figured they could keep theirs out of the such luck!
Pizza for dinner. Dylan charms the ladies...

Terry, David and a few of the kids watch a Japanese dude catch a wave. Like so many others who were out there that day, he seemed exceptionally considerate about sharing the surf, carefully steering clear of our group. (I'm not sure I would feel so at ease at Rockaway Beach...somebody want to argue this point?)
Terry and Conor ride one in (if you click the picture you can make it bigger on your screen):
Conor and Caitlin, Caitlin and Conor... (Conor is on the right, wearing a white rash guard; Caitlin is at left, with the blue top)
Dylan (right) amazes himself by taking one all the way in...and not wiping out! That's Rupert on the left, sharing the glory:
Gotta get back in there!
My other surfer boy...
Almost got all three of 'em in the same shot...
There it is! From left: Conor, Dylan, Terry:
Heading to the pizza place for lunch; that's Clare with Charlie on the left, my 3 guys on the right
Sand, the natural exfoliator (exfoliant?).
(I borrowed Ali's wetsuit because the water...was...freezing, though of course I was the only one in my family who thought so.)
Charlie (in the hat) with Dylan:
Exploratory to the parking lot:

Thursday, July 3, 2008

if you show me yours...

It's summertime, we have no place to be until 4pm, mom is on her computer (and ignoring us), so why not take a good hard look at our Pokemon card collection?

deck hand

Dylan is very knowlegable about caring for plants, having taken an after-school gardening course.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

attack of the killer hydrangeas

School's out, and the only scheduled activity is tennis camp (it's so nice to bum around the house, have cereal at noon, not to have to pack lunches or run for the bus...). We take a shortcut through the Sacred Heart campus to reach the courts, and it is absolutely lovely, a secret garden path past enormous hydrangeas and other pretty plants. When we reach this fork in the road, the boys argue briefly about which way to go (it just takes Dylan a moment longer to decipher the sign, which reads "ISSH" (as in int'l school of the sacred heart) for the arrow to the left, and "No Entry" to the right. Conor is being all Mr. Smarty Pants about it here...

After lessons we make our way back to the side gate and onto the narrow winding street that takes us home, past the flower shop and the barber shop and two Buddhist cemeteries.
I'm glad I snapped these (admittedly poor quality) shots (only had the camera phone with me) last week because today, on our way back, we noticed that this whole area had been groomed and, in my opinion, overly pruned back. Too tidy, I say; too much (neatly packed) soil in between the bushes. I preferred it overgrown, as did Dylan, who actually let out a disappointed "Oooo-oh!" when he saw what had been done.

it's officially a birthday tradition

A year ago I walked into a karaoke bar on the Chinatown end of Mulberry street (or was it Mott?) in New York, and was surprised (yes, Terry had me fooled) to find a bunch of friends already there, drinking and primed to sing. This year, for the first couple of hours (yes, hours) it was just Terry and me and three salarymen at Smash Hits in Hiroo, a basement dive with four mikes, a pile of tambourines and a stage, wallpapered with LP covers, everything from Olivia Newton-John to Patty Smith. Terry threw down "Lola" and "I Will Survive" (Cake's bluesy-groovy version) like a champ while I attempted to channel Pat Benatar ("Promises in the Dark") and Amy Winehouse ("You Know I'm No Good" - twice!). Then new friend Clare arrived, three other game mums from the British school in tow, and put us all to shame with her spot-on rendition of AC/DC's "Big Balls"... then, of course, there was Abba...

Some pics...

(I'm not wearing blue tights! it's just poor lighting)
(These guys, above, were into Simon and Garfunkel and Billy Joel)
Terry killed!

The dude in the white headband brings the drinks...