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

There’s No Place Like Home “ish”…

My husband Mark and I recently took a vacation.  We live in Wisconsin and for the past few years we have been tourists in our own state.  I recommend doing something similar where you live, so you become an expert on amazing activities to share when your family visits!

The idea of becoming a local tourist was a brainstorm of my older sister Cindy.  Due to her husband’s job demands, Cindy and her family moved many times while her kids were growing up.  They took advantage of the unique opportunity to explore and experience each new place surrounding them whenever they moved.  They often found that they knew more about things to do in their area than their neighbors, who often spent a lifetime in one place.

For those of you unfamiliar with Wisconsin, it is one of 50 United States – located along the southern border of Canada.  It is in the middle of our country, surrounded by four other states — Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, and Michigan.  It is home to portions of legendary bodies of water – the Mississippi River to our west, Lake Superior to the north, and Lake Michigan to the east.  We have four very distinct seasons.  Although winters can be brutally cold, the snow and ice can be breathtakingly beautiful.  And you can build a snowman to brighten up the day!

On our vacation, Mark and I headed to southwest Wisconsin, known for its breathtaking topography of rolling hills, forests, lakes, and rivers.  It is in the heart of “the driftless area” – land untouched by glaciers during the Ice Age.  Included in the driftless area are portions of Minnesota, Iowa, and Illinois.  The name “driftless” comes from the fact that no glacial “drift” (soil material from other places) was deposited on this pristine area.  Hills and caves that formed millions of years ago remain intact.  It is a geologist’s dream!

Aside from the fact that getting a cell phone signal was an occasional challenge, we had a great time!  Here are some highlights:

We hiked in some fantastic state parks in Iowa and Wisconsin.  Lots of hills = lots of butt burning!  Gotta stay in shape to keep up with grandchildren!

We visited Spook Cave in Iowa – where we rode a boat into a cave.  The young captain was entertaining and adorable!

We visited the Driftless Area Wetlands Center, scooping water into buckets and marveled at the swimming creatures captured.  We even looked at them under a microscope.  None were harmed during this activity, and all were returned to the water after viewing.

We rode a boat down the Mississippi River while listening to bluegrass music until we had to race a storm back to safety.  Although we all got wet and the ride was cut short, seeing eight bald eagles made the trip worthwhile!

We stopped at a riverboat casino for about 5 minutes and walked out with enough cash to pay for a nice dinner.  Luck was a lady that day!

We visited Taliesin – Architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s estate and a UNESCO World Heritage Site– and bought a souvenir lamp.

We happened upon the once-a-year Lands’ End Warehouse Clearance Event in Dodgeville, Wisconsin and found some great deals!

We stayed at The Silver Star Inn,  a lovely bed and breakfast where we pet friendly chickens that roamed the property, met interesting people, watched the hummingbirds battle for food, and ate delicious breakfasts prepared by owner Elise.

The more we discover about our area, the more excited I become to share it with our granddaughter Kiko.

Consider expanding your world at home to help your grandchildren expand theirs!

©Maryanne Zawlocki — The International Grandma