Heading to Japan

In a very short time, my husband, our girls, and I will be heading for Japan to meet Kiko, my new and only granddaughter.  Most grandparents experience this moment a bit sooner than international grandparents.  Quite often, they can even visit the hospital when the baby is born.  It’s not quite the same for those of us whose children choose to live outside of their native countries.

Kiko will be five months old when we arrive in Japan.  I’ve had five months of loving this beautiful little girl from afar.  I’ve watched her coo, smile, giggle, and cry, and even scoot her way across the floor without using her arms, thanks to video chats on What’s App.  I end every call with “Grandma loves you, Kiko.”

But to hold her in our arms, feel her soft baby feet, smell her luscious baby scent — these elusive moments are finally upon us.  My heart has been aching for this since before she was born, and I’m a bit terrified.  Will she like us?  Will we frighten her?  Will she let us hold her, kiss her, treasure her?  Will she cry?   Will she love us back?  Will she understand English?

For now, my family and I are packing our suitcases, preparing gifts for our Japanese family, confirming reservations, and making plans for what to do when we arrive in Japan.  I’ll be armed with lots of baby books and baby clothes for Kiko.  And I am experiencing the sweet anticipation of holding family in my arms.

We will be there soon, and I can hardly wait.  Grandma loves you, Kiko!

© Maryanne Zawlocki – The International Grandma

Preparing for Baby’s First Visit on a Budget

Recently I received the best news that any International Grandma could hear – my daughter Christine and my granddaughter Kiko are coming to America for a visit during the month of December!  Kiko will be turning 7 months old during this time – a great age.  My brave, wonderful daughter will travel over 6,000 miles with a baby in tow—just to spend time with us.

Suddenly, we needed to purchase baby equipment, so Kiko’s stay is comfortable and safe.

When shopping for baby equipment, we International Grandmas sometimes need to stretch our dollars while keeping safety first.  This is a challenge that is right up my alley.  I like bargains.  I also appreciate quality.  When the two meld together, I’m a happy camper.  The thrill of the hunt is a nice bonus!

I was lucky enough to find an excellent and relatively new $300 car seat at a local garage sale for $25.  It was used by another set of grandparents very sporadically, hadn’t been recalled or in an accident, and had an “expiration date” of 2026.  (Did you know that car seats now have expiration dates?  They have a life span of 6 years.)  Of course, it isn’t always a good idea to buy a used car seat – you really need to be careful.  This is one case that purchasing new might be best.  However, we saw very little risk with this car seat, so we snapped it up and checked it off the baby equipment list.

After several weeks of serious garage sale shopping, I was coming up short looking for a highchair.  Enter Facebook Marketplace.  In a matter of days I found a great highchair for $30.  When I went to pick it up, I met another International Grandma who lived with her son’s family and didn’t speak English.  We worked through the transaction with a lot of smiling and nodding!

Last on the list was a travel crib/playpen.  Once again, Facebook Marketplace came to the rescue.  I found a beautiful, barely-used-by-grandma model for $30.  SCORE!  Now Kiko will have a safe place to sleep and play.

For a total of $85, we found very nice, gently-used baby equipment for incredible prices.  After a good scrubbing and a little laundering, our like-new baby equipment is ready for Kiko!

© Maryanne Zawlocki – The International Grandma

She Flew Away

As a new grandmother, I took some time to reflect on how the heck my only grandchild ended up living in Japan — while her mommy’s family is settled firmly in the Midwest of the good ol’ USA…

The moment my first born Christine was placed into my arms, she looked at me with such intensity, it took my breath away!  That newborn baby looked at me!  Like she was finally able to connect a face with the voice that surrounded her during her time in the womb.  And those eyes!  That face!  Magical!

And then she was gone.

Oh, not GONE gone.  My little angel pooped while she was still in the womb (a family joke to this day), so they whisked her away to the NICU overnight to make sure she was okay.  I ached for my baby when she was away.  It was the first time we were apart from each other, and her little wings began to sprout.

When she was about 3 years old, we stopped at a local rummage sale.  As we drove away, I noticed a toy in her hand that did not belong to Christine.  I explained to her that she was not allowed to take something that was not hers and we returned to the scene of the crime.  I gently took her hand in mine and we walked up the driveway to speak with the rummage sale owner.  Christine handed her the toy and apologized for taking it.  Those wings grew bigger.

In preschool, she had a way of stirring up the little boys.  Christine’s face glowed with joy as the chosen “boy of the day” chased her down the hallway after class.  Although I had to stop this behavior, I secretly admired her powers of persuasion.  Those wings grew bigger.

In kindergarten, she began taking piano lessons.  She had a real talent for music.  She became a percussionist in her middle school and high school bands.  With every concert and competition, those wings grew bigger.

At age 16, she joined “Team Cream Puff” at the Wisconsin State Fair, her first job.  Her father and I marveled as she worked — confidently waving down the “next in line” and providing what I consider some pretty darned good customer service!  Those wings grew bigger.

In the blink of an eye, she headed off to the University of Wisconsin – Madison, where she made new friends, worked a few jobs, dated some boys, hosted some parties, and majored in Japanese.  When we were able to see her, she was the same — but different.  Oh, she was still smart and funny, but somehow she was now a more mature, more adult Christine.  Those wings grew bigger.

When she finished college, she told us that she wanted to go to Japan for a year to teach English.  One year.  We encouraged her to go.  It was a great opportunity.  We dropped that frightened, brave young woman at the airport and watched her fly away–all alone to a foreign country.  Those wings grew bigger.

One year in Japan turned to two.  Then three.  Then six.  Christine met and married her wonderful Japanese husband.  They bought a home.  And they started their family.  Those wings grew bigger, and boy, did she fly!

As parents we did our job–we allowed Christine’s wings to grow.  We encouraged the growth.  I sometimes wonder where she would be if we had clipped those wings ever so slightly.  Altered the course of her history.  Would she have settled into her life so far away from us?  Maybe.  I guess we will never know.

But maybe by giving Christine wings, she is now providing an opportunity for us to dust off and spread our wings, as we begin our adventure as international grandparents.  Japan, here we come!

I think I feel a feather growing…

© Maryanne Zawlocki — The International Grandma