Japan: Kawagoe & Asakusa

Kawagoe is off the beaten path. I found it because I heard we should find some older towns/neighborhoods to explore, and when we were planning our Tokyo trip I searched for some near Tokyo. Kawagoe seemed like a good choice, and it certainly was. We arrived later in the day, but if we had known how early stuff closed might have come a bit earlier to see the temple and castle ruins. But just walking the streets, browsing stores, and exploring a museum made it worth the trip!

I turned around to find shopkeepers playing peekaboo with S.

She loved the tatami mats.

Asakusa was a place my dad had been with Cait in 2009, one of Japan’s earlier capitals. There is also a large temple there, which we saw in the morning after we stayed the night in an Air B’N’B.

Decked out for autumn

The air always feels heavy to me in temples and shrines, but I don’t think it’s the incense. I think it’s the sad reality of how lost so many are.

Practicing our Japanese

Miss Munchkin is ONE!

Our silly munchkin turned one a few days ago. The year has flown by so fast, and I can’t imagine life without our little girl. Her personality is so much fun and I love being a mother to our sweet goofball. She loves people (usually even strangers, though Ezra and I are definitely her favorites), loves to ham it up for us or the camera, wants to be involved in everything I do, loves exploring, is determined but also sensitive – when she wants something, she doesn’t give up easily when she can’t have it, but even a gentle “no” (sometimes) causes her to burst into tears. I love watching her grow and learn new things, and all of the smiles she brings to people we pass and meet.

Looking back on the year, it’s amazing to see how much we’ve grown and also how important our families and friends have been, especially our mothers, my friends who came to stay (Anna, Angela, Hannah, Hannah, and Sarah), and the women that sent me encouraging messages and/or were there for me in the roughest moments – Mom Guest, Aunt Becky, and Jennifer A.
And there are so so so many sweet memories, especially surrounding those first weeks when all we did was cuddle (this post has some nudity but is amazing for ideas on how to spend those first few weeks).

Not that it was as easy as my memories make it seem. I got sick of hearing “it gets easier after 6 weeks… 3 months… 6 months…” and started reminding myself what my sister said – that it doesn’t necessarily get easier just different. Though that different for us has often meant fewer hard moments but harder when they’re there. There are ALWAYS hard things: if not reflux, then teething, or general crankiness, or moving too much too fast and getting hurt or frustrated. I so often fell into the trap of “once this is over it’ll be easier/I won’t get so upset or discouraged.” But I still do, even though it’s only one day a week or once week at a time instead of months without end. Which has shown me again and again that circumstances may be horrendous but my heart is even more horrendous and I need His help more than anything, and THAT, not doing fun things with my kids, is what’s going to make me a good mom – being one that says to myself and my kids “I’m discouraged, I messed up, I need Jesus just like you.” – and He’s here helping me, and He’s the one who gave us THIS baby with THESE issues at THIS time (so many times I prayed “seriously, God? You know we have stacks and stacks of paperwork and long lists of things to do to move across the ocean and his work isn’t any help and we’re dealing with a baby who won’t sleep on top of it all?”). But He knows. And there were definitely things I needed to learn (some I STILL need to learn – you’d think after all that I’d be more patient and not get angry when she doesn’t sleep…) through all of it. Not that that made it any easier going through it.
I want to remember all of it: the difficult but precious days of struggling to find time to do the dishes, feeling like I could never make dessert or more elaborate dinners, get back into writing and music or do special things with her, holding for all her short naps, etc., as well as all of the more numerous happy memories.

We celebrated S’s birthday a few weeks early so my family could be a part of the festivities. I didn’t really want to make a cake for just us and since they were here so close to her birthday we decided to celebrate then, and finish presents on her birthday since they weren’t all here or done.
I had thought about doing a bigger party, but didn’t, mostly because we were so new here – if we’d been in San Diego with all of her friends we would have done something with all of them. But because of those thoughts I had some ideas for food and decorating, so we had a bit of a “Japan” theme with chicken curry (S’s favorite food), a cake decorated like Totoro from “My Neighbor Totoro,” a bunting made out of some Japanese fabric, and one of her presents was a doll I made of Mei from Totoro. I also made her an owl hat, since the sweater I was making her ended up too small. She loves the owl, but hates wearing the hat.

Candace with the bunting she made (It’s now in S’s room)

Totoro! I used this tutorial, but without fondant. The white of his eyes is just frosting I rolled into a ball and flattened, and the black part is raisins.

The cake itself was this recipe, but I combined a few frosting recipes to make my own (1 c coconut cream, dash vanilla, 2 Tbsp maple syrup, 3 Tbsp coconut oil, 1 Tbsp coconut flour, 2 Tbsp arrowroot) I had to melt it and then let it cool, then whip it, and let it cool some more before I could use it. It was ok. I was limited in what I could do since it had to be pipable and nut, dairy, and sugar free. Next time I’ll invest in some coconut butter. I would also whip the cake more to make it lighter and only do one layer as it was pretty heavy and dense.

She approved, and was absolutely wild about the curry – her favorite foods are peas, carrots, chicken, and curry, and it had all of that.

When she was 6 months old I wrote some on our baby sleep journey so far, and wanted to update a bit with some more links and things we’ve learned. She’s not sleeping through the night yet but that’s just lack of desire and motivation on our part and is coming soon (I’ve already taken the first steps of not nursing to sleep at bed time and not comfort sucking in the middle of the night).
As time goes on, the more I am convinced that crying it out is rarely the answer to baby sleep problems (the only time it would ever be is for an older baby with prop issues. This has lots of good info on that. I can’t wait for her book!). Whenever S has had a harder time than usual sleeping, there’s something wrong and another way to fix it. Often it takes more time and work, yes, but it fixes the root issue much more gently.
For example – her wakings from 12-1 AM are almost always discomfort, and her early wakings are almost always because her wake times are too short, so taking off her sleeper, giving her chamomile for teething, etc. or giving her longer A times fixes it without tears.

At 6 months she got a lot more flexible with sleep and wasn’t so easily overtired, which was nice, but made it harder to gauge when something was wrong. Then at 8 months her naps got a bit shorter (1 – 1.3 hours, so just under “enough”), signaling longer wake time in a different way than before.
Finding a balance between attachment parenting and a more rigid schedule isn’t easy but I’m glad we’ve done it. I think it was especially important with all we’ve been through. I think we needed to guide/influence her more than attachment parenting often allows, but also needed to do a lot more babywearing/night nursing/nursing on demand than other “parenting methods” allow – and some of it may just be S, not the move and all that – she has nursed every 2 hours during the day since she was 6 months old, and nothing has stopped that. I don’t know if it’s comfort or legitimate hunger, but it is what it is, and we’d both be miserable trying to change it.

Some helpful links:
Baby & Toddler Sleep Regressions
How the Wonder Weeks Affect Sleep (I’m on the fence about Wonder weeks. most of the time S was not in line with them but other times she was and this helped a lot then).
Managing Nap Transitions (4-3 and 3-2 were very smooth for us, mostly thanks to basing her sleep times off of wake time lengths and being flexible with bed time when we needed to be).

Finally, REFLUX. Praise the Lord, that finally ended! An elimination diet revealed that dairy and gluten were at least partially the culprits, but I still had to avoid them until she was 8 months old.
The silent reflux was far rougher than any sleep issues (though it contributed to sleep issues). It’s a beast and especially with your first makes you feel like you’re doing everything wrong, and there are so few who really understand what it’s like. I got asked so much “is she on a schedule? Do you let her cry it out?” when people hear she didn’t sleep well. Yes, we have a routine and no, we don’t cry it out as it aggravates reflux (among other things), and we hold her upright after feeds and do smaller more frequent meals and no it’s not just normal baby sleeplessness. My postpartum depression was mostly gone by the time the reflux really flared up, but the reflux definitely made it more of a struggle after that and made it hard to tell sometimes if it was really gone or if I was just realistically discouraged from having a reflux-y, hyper baby that needed it pitch black to sleep and had a teeny-tiny sleep window between tired and hyper in addition to E’s unpredictable work schedule and all the moving paperwork and preparation.
I hated watching the other babies at church just fall asleep in the light or lying down, until one day I realized that it wasn’t ME it was S that made things different – she was a different baby. To mama’s with a reflux-y baby: you aren’t doing anything wrong. And it helps to talk to those moms with the “perfect babies” and find out that their babies also have sleep issues.

I’m thankful our doctor didn’t push meds and was open to us trying other things – probiotics ended the diaper change crying from lying flat on her back, though didn’t help with sleeping. She told us signs of dairy sensitivity which helped when S had some mucousy poop because then we knew what to do. We tried a homeopathic remedy but it didn’t seem to help much long term.

Really I don’t know what helped. We did a lot of things: clipped her small tongue tie (mostly because I was still in some pain nursing when she was 6 weeks), gave her probiotics, dealt with my fast let-down and oversupply, eliminated foods… she got older and started sucking her thumb (more saliva + more swallowing = less acid coming up) and sleeping on her tummy, and when she started solids we spent a while just doing gelled bone broth in an attempt to re-seal her gut (and only then was I able to reintroduce dairy and gluten, but that may have just been coincidence).

Helpful link: The Great Baby Reflux Epidemic (Or Not)

Here’s to year two and all of the laughter and tears it will bring! All glory to God for bringing us through this first wonderful year of parenthood.

Japan: Tokyo, #1

Learning to be fashionable in Harajuku

View from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building (read: don’t spend money going up the Skytree; this is free)

It’s free and everyone will want to take pictures of your little blondie.

The Imperial Palace gardens were closed because it was Friday, but we still walked around the outside, which was gorgeous.

And S was the main attraction again.

Tea Ceremony. (where to see one. Next link: about the tea ceremony).

Air B’n’b meant sleeping in a tatami room! Yay!

The machine ate our tickets.

Tokyo is mostly baby and stroller friendly. Restaurants don’t always have highchairs so eating can be hard if we don’t have the stroller or there’s no room for it, and elevators aren’t always around or easy to find.

The exit also isn’t always easy to find, even when you know the kanji for it. This man showed us the way out of the metro and took us most of the way to the Imperial Palace.

Japan: Jogoshima

When my family was here we took a day trip to this beautiful little island.

It seemed like a place that locals go for the day, and not touristy, which was really nice and refreshing.

…and after all that I’m still not entirely sure where the emphasis goes so butcher the name every time.

First week in Japan + October

Layover in LA before our flight to San Diego the day before we flew to Japan.

All our stuff.

Food on the plane. S did so well; I was amazed and thankful!

Our first glimpse of Japan! I looked out and thought “oh, land!” and then realized it was Japan and got so excited!

Flowers in our neighborhood – they smell amazing!


Studio Ghibli stuff! Still crazy expensive, but at least we can find something if we want it. ;)

She found the white noise and was happily playing with it when I went to (I thought) wake her up from a long nap.

Cocoa, sweaters, and Doctor Who.

Following some ladies to a fish festival. AKA the time I realized that just because I can ASK where “sakana matsuri” is doesn’t mean I’ll understand the ANSWER.

Enjoying my first Autumn in 10 years.

She refuses to fall asleep when I cover her head in the Ergo. Thankfully with a bunch of swaying she’ll pass out even with it light out, even on my back.

Made a measuring stick! This also signifies my first time driving outside of our neighborhood. A friend needed help transporting some wood from the store so I drove her there and picked up some wood for myself. I haven’t driven far by myself yet as I need another pair of eyes on the road (or pedestrians). Fun fact: it’s my 4th driver’s license in the 4 years I’ve been driving. 2 states, 2 countries other than the US.

I love having plants in the house.

Figs were easier to find here than in San Diego!

Dancing to American music while we waited for our restaurant to open


There are some beautiful flowers around here!

Cooking with mom and Candace.

I have a lot more photos of places we went while my family was here, but I’ll be posting them in separate posts because it’s a lot of pictures!

favorite recipes// fig tartlets // pumpkin chocolate chip coconut flour muffins (or quick bread) // maple glazed kabocha squash // couscous stuffed tomatoes // Japanese curry from scratch // soaked baked oatmeal (so good with steel cut oats) // spinach artichoke chicken // spinach artichoke egg casserole

best of online//  Beauty is a “clue” that God exists // of weddings and heaven // parenting persons, not projects // DIY measuring stick // 70 skills every holistically minded homemaker should know //

reading of late// not much. It’s been kind of crazy with settling in and family visiting!

thinking about// what church is and if or how it’s different when you’re only somewhere for a year // El Faro, Psalm 107, Eternal Father Strong to Save, and many prayers for everyone we know on the water. // “The heart is as impossible to satisfy as the grave – until Jesus enters it, and then it is an overflowing cup.” – Charles Spurgeon

what brings joy// S’s laughter and cuddles // being all together // Studio Ghibli movies // exploring // Japanese food // quiet evenings with craft projects, tea or cocoa, and Doctor Who // finishing IBCD level 1 and passing the exam!

Miss Munchkin// walks everywhere. She likes to strut around the house playing with her belly fat or patting her chest. I’m thankful we’re over jet lag but teething is hitting us pretty hard right now.

writing// I posted another part of Javi’s Cafe, but writing has been on break right now due to everything else that’s going on, but I’m actually enjoying it.

Food in Japan: Part 1

sugared black beans. They were not bad, but definitely different.

steamed buns. So yummy. I have a recipe I can’t wait to try.

First few drink experiments: The pouch is actually jello in a pouch. They’re really into jello-y things. The melon shake was good, but very thin. The aloe peach drink was good, but very sugary.

This one, though: melon cream soda. It’s delicious.

Okonomiyaki. I’ve had this two times and it was different both times. The first time it was cabbage, egg, sweet potato, mayonnaise, and the filling (garlic and cheese that time). The second I had tuna and leek as my filling but they didn’t use sweet potato and instead used noodles. It was still good with noodles, but I didn’t like it as much, and with the sweet potato it was a favorite. Once cooked you top them with chuno sauce and fish flakes. YUUUUM.

Matcha ice cream swirled with purple sweet potato ice cream. The matcha is good and I’d had it before, but the sweet potato ice cream was just sweet, not much flavor.

Coco’s curry with some friends. The “fast food” curry. It was still really good, though!

*Something* at a fish festival. I thought it was going to be fish inside… but it wasn’t. Still yummy!

I don’t know what these are called, but they’re sweet dough with fillings like pumpkin, sweet potato, caramel, chocolate, and red bean. I liked sweet potato best.

Grape soda with bits of jello and something else… it was definitely different… and we probably won’t have it again.

At an all-you-can-eat Yakiniku and shabu shabu place. The yakiniku is grilled and the shabu shabu goes in water and boils. You pick your meat and then cook it yourself.

Leftovers are roughly $2/100 grams, so eat up!

wagashi – what they traditionally serve with tea. This one was made with beans and sweet potatoes.

Very tasty lunch: miso soup, rice, some pickles, tea, and then we each had a different kind of meat with veggies in our bowl. The manager talked with us a lot and helped us know how to eat it all properly. ;)

We followed a sign and a line to these tasty, hot sweet breads.

A sampling of ice cream. ;) They like ice cream and they like displaying models of their food.

If you like Frozen you’ll like this whipped cream.

Ramen and gyoza

This has ice cream, but it is not an ice cream cone: it’s a crepe with cream, a brownie, and matcha ice cream. They’re all over the place here. It was a neat idea, but the cream was kind of gross. We want to try to make this ourselves.

Grapefruit soda. Very refreshing.

Rice cracker with sugar and sesame.

Onigiri – shaped rice with fillings, wrapped in seaweed, but in such a way that the seaweed stays crisp.

I was told McDonalds is higher quality over here, so we tried it. Not recommended.

But they do have interesting choices, like breaded pork with black sesame paste.

Not caramel… “peanuts cream.” VERY sweet peanut butter.

Lest you think we eat out all the time… fruit from a shopping trip. It’s expensive, but very good. And we finally found figs, after searching for a year in San Diego.

And we try to copy what we eat out at home. This is Japanese curry and it was a lot of work, but so good!

Overall the food so far is very tasty, though sometimes quite different. I’m glad we’re adventurous eaters and like to try new things because there is so much good stuff out there!


My photos from September are spread around the road trip post and an upcoming Japan post, but here is my usual monthly update, minus the recipes since we were on the road for most of September, so I barely cooked, and when I did it was old recipes.

best of online// How to Fight Anxiety (Piper) // Did Christ die for us or for God? (Piper) // Brushing Shoulders // Courageous VS The Incredibles // Writing Begins With Forgiveness // Teaching Our Children the Raw Parts of Scripture // To a Woman Considering Abortion // Your Child is Your Neighbor (ouch) // Confessions of a Social Media Addict (ouch, especially in a new place when E is not home) // Relational Justice (Olasky) // Your To-Do List (Belz)

reading of late// The Gospel’s Power and Message – Paul Washer

thinking about// “When a civilization falls in the fog of war, and no one pays attention, does it make a sound?” – Mindy Belz // the movie Boychoir: how polyphony was used to change a pre-teen’s life. Yeah, Tallis!

what brings joy// watching S grow // surprise visits to E // Redwood trees // rain // not flying an American airline // finally being in Japan // iTunes on shuffle: Tallis followed by the Hobbit followed by Song of the Selkies followed by Britten’s War Requiem followed by Louis Armstrong followed by King’s Singers with Albrecht Mayer topped off with Arabic hymns

Miss Munchkin//  is a super-duper traveler: 35+ hours in the car, 12 hour flights, 16 hour time changes. She’s also covering more ground on her own. Her record is 15 steps, but she almost always starts out walking now if she’s standing and will often walk between things. She has 6 teeth, likes to hold hands, stick her tongue out, and melt the hearts of teenage Japanese girls with waves and monkey noises. A transoceanic move mostly on my own with a 10 month old would never have been my first choice. But with the worst of it over, I can say I’m so glad to have had this crazy kid with me the whole time, monkey noises, cautious walking, and laughter especially. My two favorite things about being her mom are watching her learn and all the smiles she brings everyone around her.
She also love Ethiopian and Indian food, and occasionally says dog (da), hi, and kitty (seesee).

writing// Javi’s Cafe, 21.