Japan Reading List


Behold the kids reading list for Japan!  Can you tell I’m excited about taking the armchair adventure on the road?  Maybe I need to become a librarian when I return.

Some of the non-fiction is fairly mature and I’m looking forward to conquering those books together, huddled in our beds, heads together, after a long day.  When I first started thinking about this trip years ago, I imagined a line of boxes of books labeled for each leg of the trip and the need to cajole a grandma to send to us along the way.  While I prefer to hold the precious weight of a book in my hands, I’m tossing paper aside for electronic reading during this trip.


  • A Geek in Japan by Hector Garcia
  • A Year in Japan by Kate Williamson
  • The Magic of Reality: How we Know What’s Really True by Richard Dawkins
  • Shockwave Countdown by Stephen Walker
  • The Rising Sun by John Toland


  • Samurai Mysteries series by Dorothy Hoobler
  • Spirits of the Noh by Thomas Randall
  • Blue Fingers: A Ninjas Tale by Cheryl Whitesel
  • Tokyo Heist by Diana Renn

Santa brought the kids iPads with keyboards for the trip.  We struggled with this.  Here we are making an effort to leave all the stuff behind which is ironically requiring us to purchase more stuff.  Huh?  The reality is that a tablet serves as an entertainment device, online resource, and a vehicle for reading, writing, and presentation building — it became a no brainer.

And I finally got my hands on the 6th-8th grade curriculum for math and science so progress is being made!  Itching to create the Southeast Asia reading list…

Road Schooling

Reading in Venice

Reading in Venice

How does one road school? My 1st lesson in road schooling is persistence…it has yet to pay off.

Here is my experience thus far:
• Reached out to Advanced Placement office, referred to school principals.
• Contacted said school principals, referred to Home Schooling Association.
• Contacted Home Schooling Association, referred to Seattle Public Schools curriculum office.
• Contacted curriculum office, referred to Advanced Placement office….wait, I’ve been there before!

Not sure what will be more challenging: nailing down the curriculum the kids need to keep up or teaching them algebra. (Oh who am I kidding, we all know what will be more challenging!)

I am excited about the “freestyle” curriculum that I get to create – how cool will it be to read Goodbye Vietnam while living in Hanoi or to study glacier formation while trekking across the Perito Moreno in Patagonia?

Suffice it to say it won’t just be two 6th graders being road schooled – clearly Kyle and I will be learning too.


Joan Didion describes grief as choking and its true.  It lodges in your throat – chest aching, mouth pulled down.  Some hours it’s numbing and others so terrifyingly painful, you don’t think you’ll live through it. 

It’s hard for any of us to think too deeply about what happened in Newtown this week because we simply couldn’t function.  To the families in pain, it must feel unreal that the world will continue to spin, that people will continue with their daily habits, that Christmas will be happily celebrated by most.  It seems only fair that these parents should be able to wear a badge that reads “I just lost my child, he was taken from me violently” so that all of us circling around daily life can stop and live their pain with them.  I imagine, no, I know that there is bargaining going on right now, “One more hug, if I can have one more hug.” Or “Can you bring her back? I’ll do anything.” Because life without your child is unimaginable.  And the pain in thinking of and trying NOT to think of their final moments unbearable.

We cannot take away these families’ pain.  They have lost the most precious of all.  But we can live in their honor.  Tragedy reminds us to be present for those we love.  It teaches us to be patient and kind and take the time to show others that we care.  It pushes us to live to a higher standard and to put our family first.  That’s the legacy of 26 souls in Newtown.

Candle Light 027

Is It a Mid-Life Crisis?

Reactions to our trip among friends, family and colleagues have been mixed.  We are fortunate that we have a wonderfully supportive extended family.  Thus hints of disapproval are subtly displayed…perhaps in a nervous smile or quizzical look.  I read through the lines concern for the kids – one of whom particularly does not adapt well to change.

In the end, there are many reasons NOT to take this trip…just a few:

  • Work
  • School
  • Aging Family Members
  • Beloved Dog
  • Newly Remodeled House
  • Money
  • Fear

What’s helped propel me forward?  Knowing that I have yet to read of a family who has done this who hasn’t said it was the most amazing family experience.  My kids live a blessed life – they are loved and they want for not.  I’d like to show them a world without shopping trips to the mall (I will be secretly thrilled to never have to enter another Justice store again!), the quest for the next video game system, and pleas to go to Menchie’s.

And it’s not as if Kyle and I aren’t immune from the accumulation of stuff – we are just as guilty.  Case in point, Michael Kors shoes that I’ve worn only once because they nearly crippled me.



One of my siblings spent last year teaching in South Korea and he took this picture while traveling in Vietnam.  Ahhh, perspective.

Abe in Vietnam

Abe in Vietnam

This is not a mid-life crisis.  It’s personal evolution.

Eight Months, Eight Countries

And so it begins!  A family of four headed to Japan-Thailand-Vietnam-Laos-Peru-Bolivia-Chile-Argentina.  A trip of a lifetime.  Why are we doing it?  Our twins will be eleven years old in February.  They are hurdling into tweenhood.  The desire to slow the clock, quiet the tick tock of the daily grind and expand all of our horizons beckons.

Originally each family member picked their most desired location — for Kyle it was Japan, for me Slovenia, Julia chose Greece and Sean chose the Silverwood theme park in Idaho.  Yes, really.  In the end, only Japan made the list because it gave Kyle the opportunity to explore Japanese woodworking to expand his recent fine furniture making education.

Beyond Japan, it was important to visit countries that would test our comfort zones, expose us to completely different cultures and not break the bank.  There are roughly 195 countries in the world and we’re only visiting eight!  We may squeeze a few more in however its important (to us) to have time in each country to better immerse in the culture.  Plus the kids will need time each week to address their school work.

We’re in fierce planning mode — eight month countdown!