Blog Posts by Akemi

  • In another life, I probably would have been an elementary school teacher. I missed the boat to teacher school, so when my twin boys reached school age, I eagerly signed up to work in the classroom. At our school, volunteering is not mandated and I have no plans to use it as a pathway to becoming president of the home and school club. I truly enjoy teaching children which is why I'm in the classroom every day.

    Here are some of the more humorous reasons why I love volunteering to work in the classroom.

    I witness fashion trends. Did you know that the Silly Bandz fad is nearly over? My kids were never into Silly Bandz so it wasn't until I stepped into the classroom to volunteer that I witnessed the fashion insanity that was the Silly Bandz craze. But lately, there's been just a handful of kids in class sporting Silly Bandz. If I hadn't been working in the classroom, Silly Bandz would have come and gone and I wouldn't have even noticed.

    I've been Cheese Touched. My boys and I hadn't read

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  • A Ripple of Kindness Brings Books

    I do know the difference between a random act of kindness and a random act of charity.

    Paying for coffee for everyone in line at Starbucks is a random act of kindness.
    Refilling the doggie water bowls that dot the sidewalk of my local downtown is a random act of kindness.
    Helping to carry someone's grocery bags to the car is a random act of kindness.

    It's all good.

    As part of the Yahoo! Motherboard, I'd been given $100 in seed money from Yahoo! to begin my ripple of kindness. So I sat there at Starbucks, clutching a stack of How Good Grows cards to give to recipients of my kindness. I looked at each customer as they walked up and wondered when I should begin. Her! I'll pay for her! Him! I'll pay for him. And her! And them!

    It would have been so easy - and so much fun - to start ripples of kindness right there in that Starbucks line, but my thoughts kept turning to the shy little girl in my son's 1st grade class.

    I wanted to give her the gift of reading.

    She's quite a bit older

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  • Parenting Guru: Give the Gift of Experience

    I just splurged and bought my 6-year-old son a gift he'll always remember. It will dance and march and swirl about him in a dreamlike sequence, spinning tales of wonder in his sweet little head. He'll be wearing his much detested collared shirt but when he sinks into the velvety softness of the seat that will be his at San Francisco Ballet Nutcracker, he'll be thinking not of that shirt, but of Clara and Fritz and the Mouse King.

    Of course, then my little boy will want me to buy him a nutcracker toy but the point is that the number of presents beneath our tree will be tempered by experience gifts, unwrapped and ready to go.

    Experience gifts need no storage in our already cramped playroom. Time spent alone with mama never needs a shelf.

    This is how I stay sane during the crazy holidays. I don't indulge my inner desire to hit the mall and go crazy; instead, I make a list of experience gifts and see what we might be able to do as a family.

    You might not want to deny your children

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  • Day After Thanksgiving Tradition: Jook

    The day after Thanksgiving has always meant only one thing, a steamy bowl of my father's homemade Chinese jook (also known as congee).

    There is no one recipe for jook. Some are served with 1000 year old eggs. Some contain shredded pork. Other recipes calls for sesame oil or a bit of ginger. Anything goes in this very forgiving soup.

    This year, after many years of greedily slurping up my bowl without knowing how it was made, I paid attention. I watched my father in action as he stirred up the steamy mixture. I asked questions, filing away the answers because I want to pass down this traditional dish to my children.

    As I watched, I discovered a surprising secret ingredient: Simplicity.

    Jook as made by my father contains nothing more than broth made from a turkey carcass and a cupful of rice. Sprinkle a little white pepper and a pinch of cilantro into individual bowls and voila, simple jook. What could be more resourceful?

    My father makes his jook from memory, never really measuring.

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  • When I was in second grade, we read a lovely Russian folktale about a lost peasant girl who is trying to find her mother. The villagers run over to help, asking the girl to describe her mother.

    "My mother is the most beautiful woman in the world," the girl replies.

    So the villagers bring the girl the most beautiful women they can find and to each one the girl says, "No, she is not my mother."

    At the end of the book, the girl tearfully reunites with her mother, a plain and dumpy peasant woman.

    The message resonated with my then 7-year-old self: The mother is not beautiful to everyone but she is beautiful to her daughter. To love is to see beauty.

    For years, I've remembered this tale and its lesson. (It's actually a retelling of a Russian folktale by Becky Reyher; the dialogue above is mine, created from memory so the story as I remember it may differ from the book.)

    Today, my 6-year-old son gazed up at me with sincere eyes and touched my face and my hair so tenderly and said,

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  • O Christmas Lie, O Christmas Lie!

    The first lie is unexpected. We'd turned a corner in our local crafts store and there they were. Elves. In summer. They were tiny and green and one would almost think they were lawn ornaments save for the accompanying tinsel and boxes of ornaments. As I take in this chance encounter with Christmas in August, my 5-year-old son stares hard at the elves. His eyes narrow and he asks, "Are they real?"

    "They are not real but the real ones are busy at the North Pole," I reply, casually steering him toward the store exit.

    So begins the chain of lies that has become my unintended Christmas tradition.

    Santa has secret cameras.

    Saran wrap will keep the cookies fresh for Santa ...
    and away from ants!

    I guess the Elves are very good at making the same Star Wars Lego kits you see at Target.

    While it's not my intention to pass down my talent for spinning lies, I do wish to perpetuate my secular version of Christmas that takes liberties with my children's imagination. There is a Santa. There is a

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