Last Saturday, our daughter’s primary school held “Undōkai” at their school ground, which is an annual Sports event organized by the school and students. The entire school (1st to 6th graders) are divided into two teams, White and Red, and compete. It is quite serious and formal – in a way it looks like a mini Olympic, with a proper opening ceremony with speeches & singing of the national anthem, followed by numerous games including cute dance performances and the exciting relay race, and completed with an impressive award ceremony.
It was the first time for our little girl as well as for her Dutch father to participate in the Japanese Undōkai. She just took it as it was, but my husband seemed to have gotten a little taken aback, describing it as a “military inspired parade”. I think he was exaggerating a bit, but maybe it could be a bit overwhelming if you’d never seen it before as an adult.
Anyway, at Undokai, traditionally everyone eats (usually homemade) bento for lunch on a picnic mat. I didn’t make anything special for the occasion but simple onigiri and some leftover side dishes. Still, we all enjoyed it together with all our friends.
To our surprise, our daughter ended up last in her group for the 40m dash. We always thought she was very athletic, but this proved us to be super biased about our own child. Instead, she performed superbly for the dance performances, showing us all the sweetest dance moves. Perhaps she could be a future performing artist…? … I know, I know, I shouldn’t pressure her into anything…
Win or lose, it was a great, memorable Undōkai, and we are very proud of her.
My daughter and her class had a so-called “Picnic Expedition” today. Basically, they left school during school hours and had a walk to a nearby public playground, where they played a bit and had picnic with their bento.
It sounds nothing special for us grown-ups, but it’s a big deal for the kids who usually only stay within the kindergarten property. They walked hand in hand with their designated partner, going through a small path they would never take with their parents. There was even a special instruction to the bento for the expedition – something “easy-to -eat”. Her class teacher reminded all the parents yesterday to pack finger food for lunch for the expedition, as the kids would be eating on a picnic mat instead of a table. Very hands-on adventure, but never mind, it is a wonderful concept for small children.
My daughter asked for onigiri (rice ball) for her special day, so here they are.
* The bento cloth in courtesy of Atelier Garaya
Just so my 5-year-old daughter eats more green, I sometimes put chopped spinach or komatsuna greens in omelet. She usually eats it all, but I was a bit unsure about this time since I might have added too much komatsuna.
When she came home, as expected, there was a few strings of komatsuna left. I just wanted to tease her a bit and asked her why she didn’t finish it all. She frowned at my interrogation, and whether trying to avoid getting into trouble or not, she said, “I don’t like this omelet with spicy green, but I always eat it because you made it with love”.
She left me there speechless.
Earlier last week I strained my back, possibly due to overstretching at yoga class, or just overworking on my translation assignment in the same sitting position for hours. It’s been haunting me for the past week. Does anyone here have good tips on how to get rid of the pain in your back?
With or without pain, bento making continues. I generally enjoy cooking bento for my daughter, but at times, especially now with the sharp pain in my back, I wish there was an alternative. I wonder if they (her school) judge me if I just put store bought bento in her backpack… In Japan we have unspoken rules everywhere, and where homemade bento is required such as at her kindergarten, it just has to be homemade bento no matter how simple it is. Also, I’m so used to making bento with different ingredients and colours I don’t know how to make them simpler and not let my daughter down too much at the same time.
Ah, the joy of bento making!
16/Nov/17 – Onigiri
17/Nov/17 – Stirfried-tofu (my daughter ate only 1/3 of it, saying she didn’t care for it much. What a disappointment!)
20/Nov/17 – Sword fish & lotus roots
21/Nov/17 – Penne amatriciana
24/Nov/17 – Chicken soboro & scrambles egg
28/Nov/17 – Sausage
Lately, I’ve been getting a lot more translation assignments. It’s a client driven business, so it’s highly due date sensitive. Because of that, I couldn’t post any of the bento pics last week, working my head off to meet the deadline.
I work freelance from home, primarily because I want to be flexible enough to have ample time with my daughter. She’s the only child, and I don’t want to miss a thing and don’t want to regret at a later stage of my life that I should’ve spent more time with her when it’s too late.
Having said that, I also think having a career is very important for one’s life. It is a great part of who you are, and gives you confidence as well as an independent mindset. Doing freelance was the choice I made, so that I can manage to have both.
The downside is I don’t get paid so well. The rate of freelance translation projects is not something you can brag about. But I take pride in doing this job. I hope one day my little girl will look back at this period of her life and remember her happy time she spent with her mummy, who always gazes at her computer, typing and mumbling something weird.
Tuesday 7/Nov – Bi-color bento with grilled salmon flake & scrambled egg
Wednesday 8/Nov – Onigiri for 2 (the school closed before lunch and it was raining outside, so we had a indoor picnic on the living room floor at our apartment)
Thursday 9/Nov – “Omuraisu” Omelet rice bento
Friday 10/Nov – Grilled Spanish mackerel bento
Since the start of this week, I’ve been working on my translation assignments and didn’t have a chance to post my daughter’s bento. No matter how tied up I can be, the bento making happens everyday. When you are busy, time passes in an incredible speed. I can’t believe it’s already Thursday, and I hadn’t posted any of these bento pictures.
23/Oct/17 – Tori-don
24/Oct/17 – Chinese stir-fried beef & green pepper
25/Oct/17 – Sandwiches
26/Oct/17 – Onigiri
Looking back, I’m pleasantly surprised how versatile my daughter’s bento’s are from one day to the other. I wonder if this makes any difference in my daughter’s perception to food. I hope this means something to her, and that she’ll one day realise how much variety of food she is exposed to on a daily basis.
After being postponed on last Friday due to forecasted rain, the field trip to the Ueno Zoo was finally on today. This means I need to prepare another field trip bento, and this time, our daughter requested onigiri balls.
Actually there was a specific instruction from her school for what kind of bento we should prepare for the field trip. Onigiri, sandwich and the like, something that the kids can easily pick up and eat, rather than using chopsticks or cutlery. They told us to make sure the kids bring a water bottle with a strap so they will be hands free at all times. On top of that, they advised us to pack “oshibori“, the wet hand towel, so the kids don’t have to look for a water fountain to wash their hands at lunchtime, and no waste will be produced at the same time. Despite the fact I occasionally feel a little annoyed to be instructed in such great detail, I highly respect their teachings. With years and years of experience spending time with small children, these teachers know what they are talking about.
Oh and just FYI, our daughter and her friends (around 60 of them) went to the zoo without being accompanied by their mum or dad, which means they walked from school to the nearest metro station on foot (10 minute walk), took a metro to the nearest station to the zoo (10 metro stops), walked around the zoo (quite large), took the metro back (another 10 metro stops), and walked all the way back to school (another 10 minute walk), solely with the handful of teachers (7 – 8 of them).
They all came back safe and sound.
Menu: Onigiri balls (grilled salmon & goma-konbu), Spinach omelet, Steamed broccoli, Cherry tomato
Japanese Nashi pear for desser
Summer holiday starts at the end of this week (usually 21st of July) in most of the public schools in Tokyo. Our daughter’s school is one of them, and today is the last day for me to prepare a bento for the next 40 days. Despite the joy of bento making for my dearest daughter, it is such a relief not having to do so every day for a while.
Menu: Onigiri with grilled salmon filling, Omelet, Boiled edamame, Boiled vegetables in chicken stock
Kiwi & banana for dessert
The daily bento making will resume in September. Until then, I will try to write some essays on cultural topics I’ve meant to write for a while…
Thank you always for visiting my blog. It means a lot to me.
Last night my daughter came up to me while I was washing her bento box in the kitchen, and asked me why I only cook rice or pasta for her bento box and never any onigiri (rice balls). She sounded quite desperate on the verge of bursting into tears. She said one of her best friends’ mummy always pack onigiri for her daghter, but I never do it for her, and she’s very sad, bah bah bah…
I felt a bit trapped with her teary request because I don’t make onigiri always for a good reason; it takes an extra step to make onigiri in the busy morning. I’d rather just pack freshly cooked rice, and get an extra 3-minute-sleep. Wouldn’t anyone?
Nevertheless, I gave in and made onigiri for my daughter out of mother’s love this morning.
Menu: Onigiri riceballs with nori seaweed, Niku-jaga stewed potatoes & meat, Cherry tomato omelet, Boiled green beans
Banana & Apple for dessert
1/Jun/17 – Hamburger bento
2/Jun/17 – Onigiri picnic bento