Monday, October 30, 2006

misaki elisabeth

This is Misaki Elisabeth. She is 4 years old and will be 5 on Valentine's Day! Misaki is a compassionate, observant of small details, going-my-way little sweetheart. She is outgoing and makes friends easily. When the rest of us get sick, Misaki is healthy which is probably due to the fact that she sucks her germy thumb and therefore has built up antibodies to almost everything!!

If I would dare to compare Misaki with Emi (good mommies are not supposed to do this), they seem to be complete opposites. Emi loves sports and although Misaki will participate, it's not her favorite thing. At the sports day, when Misaki ran her race, she paid attention and followed the form that she had been taught for starting but instead of running "full out with her eye on the goal", she half-ran/half-skipped and was totally pleased with her performance. They both love music, but where Emi will practice until perfect, Misaki will practice until someone let's her stop! Where Emi loves to know all about the music being played, Misaki would prefer to just enjoy it.

The one thing that Misaki excels at is art. She has constantly surprised me in this area probably because I'm not much of an artist. She can't color within the lines to save her life but give her a blank piece of paper and a pen and she's happy for hours. She attends the art club at her preschool and they have taught her so many things (I think - it's hard to get out of her what she does all day) and her drawings really show her personality and what she thinks about the world around her.

This is a drawing that Misaki did this week. A friend of mine saw it, loved it, took it home, cut around the interesting parts, colored them and arranged them like this. I was speechless when I saw it!

I couldn't believe that my little Misaki had done something so creative. Honestly it's a relief because for the first year of her life Misaki did little more than sit and smile at us. She was so cute and so chubby and not really interested in much of what was going on around her (probably because her big sister Emi was monopolizing everything) but when she started to walk (finally - 15 months old) her personality really blossomed and now she's the most interesting one of my daughters. She is constantly doing and saying things that are beyond funny and you never know when she'll have one of these inspired moments. A lot of the time it seems that she isn't paying any attention at all - but she is - and that is the mystery that is Misaki!

It's hard to say what Misaki's life will be like with the not conforming, not coloring within the lines type of personality she has but for sure there will never be a dull moment! Please pray for us!!!

Friday, October 27, 2006

emilia claire

This is my daughter Emilia Claire. She is five going on six in December going on 16! She is sweet, smart and full of the wiggles. Her cup runneth over with self-confidence and she is the cheekiest monkey you'll ever meet. She is aware of everything and everyone around her and likes to keep us on our toes! I love her so much and I am glad that she is my firstborn.

Emi has many interests, but music and athletics are her favorites. We don't have a piano in our house but she has taught herself to play many songs on the church piano or on the piano at Grammy's house. She is in a music club at her preschool and at the sports day she played the snare drum in a marching band. It was very cool. She loves to sing and make up songs. Actually it's hard to listen to a CD with her because she asks questions the whole time about the singer, the singer's age, when did we first hear this singer, etc.

Emi also loves athletics. When she started preschool in December, the other kids in her class were practicing jumprope. So Emi practiced and practiced and in a few months she could jumprope forwards and backwards and a variety of other special jumps. We were very impressed.

At the sports day this year, she also impressed us with her running. She was so fast! We shouldn't have been surprised, though, because she kept telling us she was the "fastest in my class". As I said before, lots of self-confidence. This is a picture of her race - she's the one out in front! During summer vacation, she took swimming lessons at the preschool and learned how to put her whole face in the water! All in all it's been a big year for her!

But all of this doesn't really tell you who Emi is and that is always the hardest to express in words, isn't it? Emi is a leader. If you can imagine the child at the playground who organizes the kids into a game or the child in the classroom who actually listens to the teacher and follows the directions to the letter while helping the person beside her, that is Emi. We could also probably categorize her as bossy (where does she get that from?) and strong-willed so Chikara and I have made a concerted effort to teach her the difference between leading and being bossy. We still have a ways to go but we feel that Japan needs kids that have healthy self-confidence, the ability to lead and know the difference between right and wrong and have the support of their family help them back up when they fall.

So we pray for our Emi and her future while enjoying her antics and the funny stories of all the interesting people and things she encounters everyday.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

why mess with perfection

When Chikara and I first got married, we went down to the Futon Factory off of Belmont in Portland and bought a futon bed. I wanted my husband to feel comfortable sleeping on a futon and I really liked their pine bed frames. I wasn't really sure about sleeping on a futon myself but the futon mattress was about 4 inches thick and it turn out to be very comfortable. Another nice feature was that one person's moving around didn't bother the other one. It was perfect!

On our first anniversary we stayed at The Empress Hotel in Victoria, BC. We upgraded to a room with two Queen-sized beds for a larger room (we learned that trick on our honeymoon). My husband was sick and couldn't get comfortable so he moved around all night long. I ended up sleeping on the other bed just to get some sleep.


When we moved to Japan we didn't bring our fabulous futon bed with us because we didn't know how to get it over here and also weren't sure if we would have room for it. It was probably a good thing at the time but now we really miss that bed. We sleep on a futon now on the floor (like the majority of Japanese people) and I was OK with it until recently and now it is starting to drive me up the wall. I want my old bed back (imagine this comment in a whiny tone)!

I think when we go back at Christmas I am going to go down to the Futon Factory (I hope it's still there) and look into buying that bed and having it shipped to Japan. It will probably cost a fortune in shipping but I know I would have to try really hard to find a bed that we would like more. Why mess with perfection?!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

in the middle of the night

I am happy to report that Natsuki has been sleeping 8 hours through the night since Saturday night. You would think that this would mean that I too would be getting 8 hours of sleep but this is not the case. I'm not sure why but every night since Saturday one of my other children has woken up at some God-forsaken hour and needed my attention. For the last few months the older three girls have been sleeping like angels through the night. No potty breaks, no bad dreams, no falling off the bed, nothing out of the ordinary. It was nice, but it didn't matter since I was waking up anyways to nurse Natsuki. But now that Natsuki is sleeping through, they neeeeeeeeeeed me again? Hopefully it will end soon because I dearly need my sleep.

Monday, October 23, 2006

my house is a mess

It should not come as a surprise to me that my house is a mess but it does. How does it get this way? is what I think to myself but I should know that the answer is: because I don't clean it!! Or at least I don't clean the house often enough to enjoy it in it's clean state. Also with all the sleep deprivation I forget what I have cleaned and what still needs to be done.

For example I went to use our 2nd floor bathroom and was baffled by it's condition. Once I took the time to think about it I honestly couldn't remember when I had last cleaned it. This is disconcerting for me because it means my brain cells have yet again decreased with this last pregnancy. I think it would actually be dangerous for my mental health to have another baby. I have heard that for people who feel their mental activity is slowing down it is recommended to learn a new language. I'm already doing that and it's not showing any good results or maybe it has helped save brain cells that would otherwise have been decimated by pregnancy. It's a toss-up. I'm going to have to resort to making a chart or using index cards to keep my chores on track until I come out of this postpartem fog.

I have two words for those of you who think that this will never happen to you and you'll be way more together after you have your kids: Wishful Thinking!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

hard to shop for

My birthday is this week. I feel really bad for my husband and my family because I am hard to shop for. Not because I'm picky (although this is a factor) but because I'm too busy right now to have hobbies or other interest so the options are limited. I don't want clothes (yet!) because I'm not back to the size I want to be after giving birth to Natsuki two months ago. I would like books and magazines but I want to pick them out myself (I guess the pickiness is a bigger factor than I thought). My poor husband is basically at a loss on what to get for me.

I have other things to be thankful for, though. For example, my two month old slept last night from 10:30 to 7:00 for the first time. If she really starts keeping to this schedule that would be an awesome birthday present from her. Emi & Misaki know all about birthdays and special birthday girls so they have pledged to be sweeter than normal and they also sing "Happy Birthday" for me everytime I turn around. Another thing to be thankful for is that a new mall was built recently near us and it has a Mexican Restaurant. I think since we moved to Japan I've seen two Mexican Restaurants so having one only 10 minutes away is a small miracle. We'll go there on Tuesday for my birthday lunch. Another plus, my husband has Tuesday off so he'll be home to be nice to me all day long. Lucky him!

The truth is that with a family of four children under the age of 5 my time is so full that there is little time left over for me. I do have projects I would like to do for which I have all the supplies but not the time. But I have embraced this reality and feel comfort in the fact that my children will eventually grow up and not need every moment of my day and then I can get to those projects. And probably on that day I will be sad and miss the old days when my girls needed my every waking moment. Life is odd that way so I will enjoy these moments now and enjoy my hobbies and projects later and hope that my husband doesn't give up on trying to find a present for me in the meantime!

Saturday, October 21, 2006


When I think of Saturdays from my childhood, I remember long days of doing whatever I pleased. I would sleep in (especially as a teenager), make myself breakfast, read, go out with friends, pretend to do homework or whatever. We usually did some chores but otherwise Saturday was pretty relaxed. Even after I was married, my husband and I followed pretty much the same schedule. We were so grown-up!

Those days are no more. Actually I haven't slept in for at least two years. It's very distressing since that was one of my favorite pasttimes. Once on a Saturday morning when I was 20, the youth pastor of our church called me at 7 in the morning to ask if I would please help him out because the piano player who was supposed to leave on a ministry trip with him and his team in a few hours had an emergency and could I please come if I wasn't busy. I should have been flattered but I was totally ticked off because he had interrupted my Saturday morning sleep-in. I told him no and he was surprised and apologized for disturbing me. Even today he remembers this story and marvels that later I became his secretary for three years in which time I was much nicer.

Fastforward to today and I will give you a snapshot of what my Saturday looks like. My husband works every Saturday (the only downfall to his otherwise perfect job) so it's just me with four girls at home. I don't have the car and right now the baby is too small to be able to take just anywhere. So basically we stay home and I try to think of things for the girls to do so they won't be bored and start to whine and annoy me. We wake up at 8 and I make breakfast which they eat in front of the TV. I find that the girls are able to entertain themselves until about 10:30 and then they neeeeeeeeed me. So then I'll make a fort for them or get out the ball house or playdough. Usually this will entertain them until about 11:30 at which time I'll either put on a short video for them or make a game about cleaning up (this still works!). Then we have lunch, which is usually Macaroni & Cheese, and then Sakura goes down for a nap. Emi & Misaki follow her an hour later and they all sleep until 4. From then is another period of time where they seem incapable of entertaining themselves. All their toys are dumb and everything I suggest is equally dumb. Somehow we make it through to dinner when daddy comes home. From this time the girls are magically perfect and happy. I'm sure my husband has a hard time wondering why I dread Saturdays since the girls seem perfectly easy to manage when he comes home. Around 7 he gives them a bath while I recuperate on the couch and then they go to bed (my favorite time of the day). All throughout this day, the baby wakes up every 3 hours to nurse, play and then go back to sleep.

Honestly every Saturday is a test of my patience, sanity and brain cells (which have diminished with each pregnancy) but somehow I make it through and have many stories to tell my husband once the kids are in bed at which time the stories seem funnier and my children seem more adorable than they did all day.

Friday, October 20, 2006

american obento

This week Emi & Misaki had a field trip. This meant that I needed to make a lunch (obento) for them. This sounds pretty harmless except that I live in Japan so making a lunch is actually a big deal. This happens a lot in a country that is foreign to you, things that seem simple become complicated (a lot!). Usually the girls eat lunch prepared by the school but since they're going to pick potatoes (I'm serious), then it's my turn.

Making a lunch in North America means a sandwich, a piece of fruit and a cookie. If you're feeling fancy then you can add a juice box or a pudding cup. Lunch in Japan is an art form. They actually sell lunch making kits and books and there are whole television shows devoted to it. We use a small tupperware container type of box that come in many sizes and colors and is plastered with pictures of your child's favorite television character. The main ingredient is rice and then we use a variety of other foods to create (again) an image of your child's favorite television character. It's a lot of work and Japanese moms take pride in making a beautiful obento for their child. Plus the children also take time to show off their obento and compare it with their peer's obento before digging in.

So . . . this is my first time making obento for my girls. Misaki's class went on Wednesday and fortunately she doesn't really care about the obento etiquette so I did my best and put an M on top of her rice in furikake (dried seaweed and egg sprinkles - yum!) and also teriyaki meatballs and yakisoba and that was good enough for her. When I took them to the bus stop, the other moms were talking about what character they did for their obento and I just pretended I wasn't sure what they were talking about. After the kids left for the bus, one mom shared that she had worked all morning to make a ZenmaiZamurai obento for her son which turned out good but when she showed it to her son, he said he wanted Pikachu and could she start again. There wasn't time (she actually would have done it all over again if there was time) and then he was mad. Finally he took it but he said he would trade it when he got to school.

After that I was nervous because Emi DOES care about the obento etiquette. What was I going to do? When Emi came home from school we talked about what she'd like for an obento. Everything I suggested she turned down until finally I asked if we could try an American-style obento. I caught her attention with that. She asked what an American-style obento was and I told her basically just a sandwich, fruit and cookies. I had her with cookies. She was so excited. Please, please may I have an American obento. I was excited, too. A sandwich is so easy.

So off she went to pick potatoes the next day with her American obento pleased as punch. When she came home she related to me that her other friends were jealous because her obento was so easy to eat - just use your fingers - and could she please, please from now on always have American obento.

I have unwittingly made my life a whole lot easier!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

I bought my tickets!

I paid for my tickets today for my family and I to go home for Christmas! My husband was able to get 3-1/2 weeks off so we're all going together. I'm glad because I didn't think I could handle all four kids on the plane by myself. Phew! The tickets cost a fortune, I actually cringed while paying for them, but it will be worth it. I haven't been home for Christmas in 6 years and I have found that I am most homesick during the holiday season so I'm looking forward to not having to deal with my own emotional roller coaster.

The last time my husband and I were home for Christmas was 2000 and Emi had just been born. My brother and his wife had Jairon who was 1-year old and had just found out they were pregnant with Ethan. It was a great time because we all knew that the wonderful family time that we'd been having for the last two years would soon end as many of us would be moving away from Portland. So it was me, my husband & Emi, my brother, his wife and Jairon, my sister and my youngest brother and my parents.

This year it will be a different story from the quiet Christmas of 2000. Now there are 10 grandchildren, my Natsuki being the latest. My sister has married and has two children, my brother and his wife now have four and we have four. I do feel bad for my youngest brother Joel because this Christmas is basically about the grandchildren and he hasn't made any yet. But he gets to be "Joel the Magnificent" and my kids think he's the coolest and they're looking forward to throwing snowballs at him!

My mom has planned a Fantasy Christmas complete with ice skating and Christmas dinner at a fancy hotel. Our whole family hasn't been together since my sister was married in June 2004 so we're planning a family picture which should be interesting. I have a hard time getting my four girls to face the same direction and smile for any picture-taking session so it'll be interesting to try to get 10 kids to do the same. But we're up for the challenge since we don't get many chances at a whole family picture.

I love my family and I can't wait to hug everyone.

getting started

I've just recently started reading blogs written by my friends and realized that I should do this! I'm just sitting at home all day with my kids and they keep doing and saying the craziest things that I want to record and share with my friends and family. Also, I don't have a lot of English-speaking friends here in Japan so my English vocabulary has gotten so lousy.

Since I'm such a big procrastinator this will be a new challenge for me to keep up with blogging. But that's what I need, right? A new challenge? As if living in Japan wasn't challenge enough or my four girls weren't keeping on my toes already. I want to communicate with people more so I'm going to do my best.

So if you want to know what it is like to raise your children in a country that is foreign to you, then this is the blog for you to read.