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Daphne

travel

A week in Tokyo

Just got back from a week in Tokyo with the husband and I think it was straight up right there in the top 3 most amazing trips we’ve ever had.

We’ve done Tokyo twice before with the kids; it’s one of our favourite cities in the world. Tokyo checks all the boxes for a good time – delicious food, all the desserts one could possibly want to taste, bizarre but delightful experiences, lots of shopping, efficient transportation and warm hospitality. Even though I only know like 5 Japanese words, I always feel at home in Tokyo. Maybe not necessarily my home I suppose, but the home of a favourite aunt who fills your plate with the most yummy food.

This trip, I was looking forward to doing all the things we normally would not be able to when we’re traveling with kids. I love them with all my heart but when there are 5 babies all up in my face telling me they’re tired or bored every 2 minutes, it can be very difficult to perform basic human functions in a city like Tokyo. Even easy things like shovelling food into my mouth took tremendous effort – I remember having to stand outside the crowded izakayas to tag team eating during our previous trips.

Here are some of the memorable things we did this time around:

1. Bike tour around the city.

I’ve developed a bit of a love affair with bike tours. It’s in that sweet spot between a bus tour (where you cover a lot of ground but always feels impersonal) and a walking tour (which is more intimate but you get to see much less).

We found Soshi’s Tokyo Bike Tour after checking several reviews and had the most incredible afternoon cycling around the city. Soshi took us on a super chill 3-hour bike ride starting from Ginza shopping district across the Nihonbashi bridge, through little alleyways to a quaint shitamachi (like a Japanese old town that used to house Kabuki theatres years ago), stopping by at Ryogoku sumo wrestling stadium, across Akihabara tech city, around the Imperial palace and finally to Hibiya park. We got to visit some very charming little alleys that we would never have explored on our own, and the cherry on top of this amazing cake was hearing stories about these places from a local.

2. Robot restaurant.

Tokyo has some of the most bizarre experiences one can possibly try and it’s characterised but an evening out at the Robot restaurant in Kabukicho. While planning the itinerary, just looking at photos of the place online was enough to trigger seizures I never knew I had. I can only describe this as an insane take on a Disney parade but with too much acid or speed or ice. I don’t know what it says about me that I really enjoyed it. It was so committed to being campy and absurd and outlandish and just so much fun.

*The only thing I’ll say about it is that while they claim to be a family family establishment, I definitely would not bring the kids till they’re much, much bigger because their little brains will explode from this much visual stimuli.

3. Creepily awesome arcade at Kawasaki.

In line with the theme of bizarre but wonderful experiences in Tokyo, we also visited the Anata no Warehouse in Kawasaki, a creepy dystopian Kowloon themed arcade that redefines hardcore. I wasn’t sure about this one at first because haunted houses are not my idea of a great time.

Turns out that this measures very low on the haunted scale and as far as theming goes, is a solid 10. Whether you’re a fan of Hong Kong’s gritty Kowloon Walled City, this arcade is nothing if not completely dedicated to providing an immersive experience, which was surprisingly fun.

4. Eat all of the food.

I don’t even know where to start with this. There is so much delicious food in Tokyo that you’ll definitely find something that speaks to your palate. We had gyozas in Harajuku, yakitori at Memory Lane, sushi at Tsukiji, street snacks at Asakusa, ramen + soba everywhere, and the desserts…good heavens, the desserts were unbelievable.

If I had to pick one favourite meal though, it would have to be Satou steakhouse in Ginza. I’m not a fine dining type of girl and my favourite meal back home is a hearty $2.50 ban mian which I would be happy to have every meal for months. But I do love a good piece of meat and the matsusaka beef from Satou is unquestionably the most delicious thing I’ve ever put into my mouth. It’s pricey for sure but for a special night out, this was from start to finish a most delightful experience. All of the courses were a home run and the staff were warm without being intrusive.

We didn’t actually eat at this yakiniku bar, but if anyone asks, this shall be my new motto in life. Hashtag no meat, no life.

5. Go for drinks.

One of the benefits of being without kids is being able to go out for drinks and spend the night talking. We had sake tasting at Kurand Sake Market and whisky/cocktails at classic Japanese bars like Zoetrope.

6. Massages/Onsen.

I didn’t think I’d love Japanese onsens this much but I do. The first few seconds of stepping into a geothermal hot spring (springs?) feels like you’re being cooked, but totally in a good way. And then after a while when your body acclimatises, you start to feel your problems wash away in the relaxing warm water. There was a very decent hot bath at our hotel (Hilton Shinjuku), but we also visited Oedo Onsen Monogatari at Odaiba. It’s admittedly more touristy and crowded that I would have liked but the place was big enough to still be relaxing. Also, Japanese massages are pretty amazing.

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We got to do some really fun things this trip but what made it special was getting to spend a whole week with the one person I like most in the whole world. There’s something magical about getting away to a different city that lets you discover the side of yourself that had been locked up and stored away in a dusty little box back home.

We’ve spent so much of the past 11 years being solid, responsible adults who had to take care of the kids and bills and homework and chores and healthy meals and more bills and work stress that it was necessary to let go of the spontaneous, free-spirited, super fun part of ourselves. I mean, it’s hard to put on the hot and exciting wife hat when I’m wearing my boring make-sure-the-kids-are-fed-and-home-is-in-order wife hat all day, every day.

I tell myself that I’ll get to that box again someday but then a year passes and then another and then another and years later, that box is still there, now hidden behind all the other boxes of lost toy parts and old books and leftover craft supplies.

I’m grateful for the life we have and I wouldn’t trade it for anything (and also, I missed my babies every moment till my heart hurt) but it was a treat to spend a week feeling like kids again. We held hands and walked for hours under the stars like teenagers; the way we used to when we first fell in love. We stole kisses on escalators and on sidewalks. We did a lot more than steal kisses but you probably don’t need to know that. We talked and laughed and talked some more until it felt like we would run out of words, but that would have been okay too because just being together in silence was good enough for me.

It’s hard to imagine that we’ve been together for 18 years and married for 12. It’s both the easiest and hardest thing I’ve ever done. At the same time, this feels like the only life I can remember, waking up every morning next to this wonderful man.

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We’ve only been back home for 2 days and being able to hold my babies again makes my heart complete. It also suddenly feels like the trip was whole lifetime ago because that box is back up on the shelf again, this time displayed a little more prominently so I get to glance at it from time to time as I go about my day.

I’m happy to do all the boring grown up stuff with this man and for however long that box remains on the shelf, it makes me smile to remember that we’ll always have Tokyo.

Truett

Truett is 11!

Truett turned 11 last week. I’m now at the point where I’m losing track of how old my kids are, like “Tru, you’re 12…, no, 10…, no, 11? Wait, you were born in 2008, which means…yeah ok 11.” And the kids will just look at me with sympathy like I am the epitome of old people problems.

I love this kid so much though, and 11 is such a great age. Look at how big this boy is now.

It’s been a whole decade ago since he was this squishy little baby face.

By all accounts, the terrible teens will be upon us in a year or so and I can’t say that I’m entirely ready for it. In preparation for this very difficult time in my life, I’ve been reading up on techniques to deal with the teenage transition.

Be prepared for mood swings, angst, frustration, emotional withdrawal, and all of the wisecracky retorts, they say. Give them space but always be there for them. Understand them but be firm at the same time. Set boundaries but provide opportunities for them to discover their own way. Know when to be a parent and when to be a friend and don’t take it personally when everything you try blows up right in your face. Basically all of the things I do not enjoy doing.

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But for now, 11 is looking pretty sweet.

11-years-old gives the best piggy back rides.

11-years-old knows how to talk about his feelings. This is a huge jump for a boy who would bury his teary face into my shirt and refuse to talk whenever he got upset. It used to be so difficult getting him to give words to how he felt; he would just power down and keep everything inside like a locked vault. Now that he’s 11, he has become more forthcoming about how he feels. It’s like all these years of telling him that we’re here for him and he can talk to us is finally paying off. And if he’s unable to vocalise his feelings, he writes them down in long letters which I’m always happy to receive.

11-years-old still goes for the hugs and kisses. I have to say that this surprised me. I wasn’t a very huggy-kissy 11-year-old and I was fully prepared for my kids to be all “Ewww mom, please stop” but Tru still leans in for a hug and kiss when I drop him off at school or at bedtime and this always makes me smile. “I love you, mom!” he says, before running off. I’ll enjoy this for as long as it lasts.

11-years-old makes an amazing fruit salad.

11-years-old is the best company. Sometimes we talk about his favourite Avengers characters or trade new jokes, sometimes he joins me for a run even though he hates running, sometimes we split a strawberry cake and sometimes we just sit together because that’s fun too.

11-years-old is great at conflict management. He knows when to take the hit and look suitably remorseful, and when to talk his way out of a situation, and when to skilfully negotiate for what he wants.

He also uses these skills to mediate between his siblings’ squabbles and if I haven’t made this clear before, watching him intervene when the younger kids are quibbling brings me so much joy. “Ok, what happened? Theo, you talk first.” he’ll tell them. The small kids will take turns explaining themselves and he will give them the same look of exasperation he’s seen so frequently on my face, then sigh and be all like “This is not a big deal guys, ok Finn, you just say sorry for hitting his Politoed so hard and Theo, the Politoed has no nerves, he’ll be fine.

Happy birthday, Truett! Being your mom for the past 11 years has been the raddest ride.

Hayley

And then I was like…

I had thought that after 11 years and 5 kids, I’ve seen all the hilarious things babies get up to, but I will say that baby Hayley has managed to surprise me.

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Last week, Theo was having a particularly emotional day after being told that he wasn’t able to have a third round of afternoon snacks. You know how it is when they start talking and increasingly feel all of the feels and their speech escalates into a high pitched “butIonlyhad3snackspleasemomI…hadfhefafkjhjeshkjfha

I was about to give him a hug and ask him to take a breath for a bit when a baby voice quipped, “It’s ok kor kor Theo, there’s no need to cry. Just talk like a normal person.

We were all like “wait a minute, did that come from baby Hayley??” and indeed it did and the big kids (even Theo) all cracked up like it was the funniest thing ever.

It’s one thing to know how to tell someone to take a chill pill, but to nail the timing and delivery with such finesse? That’s something else.

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I’m not sure how this developed but Hayley now speaks like a valley girl and I’m so here for it.

Mom, can you like, bring me to like, the playground or something?”

I’m like a bit like, y’know, hungry…can I like have a snack?

That’s way too many likes in one sentence and I like cannot. I don’t know what it means to like have a snack. Does that involve having an actual snack or just pretending to have a snack or having something that’s like a snack but not actually one?

It’s so adorable though and we have a running tally of how many likes she uses in a day. 53 is the record so far.

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I also have to tell you about the time this baby hatched an elaborate plot to sneak in some candy during bedtime because this one is impressive.

We had come back late one evening after a long day out and it was an “everybody wash up and go straight to bed” situation, which usually translates into a fair bit of mayhem. Amidst all the baby showering and pre-bed routine, nobody noticed that a pack of skittles had gone missing from the dining table.

So everyone went to bed and Hayley was climbing around my bed for 20 minutes when she was suddenly all like, “I think I want to sleep down on the mattress by myself now.” This is where I started getting suspicious because Hayley never volunteers to sleep on her mattress. She wants to be in our bed every chance she gets.

Do you want mommy to lie down with you on the mattress?

“No need!” she replies hastily.

Alright fine, as you wish.” I’ve learnt not to question it when a baby decides to do something uncharacteristically mature such as wanting to sleep in her own bed by herself. “It’s progress and I’ll take a win when there’s one,” I told myself.

All was quiet for several minutes and then I start hearing a rustling from the mattress. I turn on the light to check and sure enough, this baby was trying to open the bag of skittles as quietly as she could. I was like “Is that a bag of skittles? How did it even get here and wh…

Sorry sorry, mom! I was like trying to…um, you can keep this in the fridge!

Okay, many things had to line up for us to get here. First, she needed to plant the bag skittles strategically under the side table to keep it just out of view or she would have been busted straight off the bat. Then she had to bide her time on my bed and find an opportune moment to relocate herself to the mattress while playing it cool and convincing. That’s forward planning, delayed gratification, reading situations and improvising on the fly all happening in her brain and she might just have gotten away with the whole thing too if she had been more skilled in opening a bag without rustling.

To be clear, I don’t encourage candy-sneaking or sneaking of any sort, but I do recognise resourcefulness and this is next level.

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On an unrelated note,  here are some photos of Hayley enjoying a shake shack (took us 40 minutes in the queue) and a delicious beverage.

And this, this is what I call the just-got-busted-but-trying-to-figure-her-way-out-of-it face. I love this face.