Tuesday, April 24, 2007

bouncing baby

This is what Natsuki does to amuse herself. Enjoy!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

her timing is perfect...

Natsuki, what a cute outfit! Smile for mommy! Smile!

Natsuki, don't look at the TV! Smile! Look at mommy!

There's my smiley girl!

Cool shoes, eh!

What a serious face. Can you smile!

You even have a cool jacket to go with your outfit. Smile!

Chikara! Get some tissue! Natsuki spit up all over her outfit!

I don't know how many times this has happened to me with each child. You get them all spiffied up for church or an outing and inevitably they spit up all over everything!

Saturday, April 21, 2007


Friday was a busy day. I know I sound like a broken record, but lately it seems that everyday is busy in it's own way and yesterday was no different. On the menu for Friday, in addition to normal daily activities, was an open house at Emi's elementary school and an open house at Misaki's preschool. Fortunately, Chikara was able to get the day off, but he had work to do at home so he wasn't going to be able to go around with me, but he would be able to watch the younger two so I wouldn't have to take them with me. That in itself was a huge help.

So I got up with Emi at 7:20 and helped her get ready to be out the door by 7:55. Natsuki woke up in the middle of this so I also nursed and fed her during this time. At 8, everyone else got up and we had breakfast and then Misaki got ready for school. The two of us walked to the bus stop at 8:55 and just after 9, I was back home and the morning rush was over. Usually this is when I sit down with a cup of coffee and check my e-mail, but today I jumped into the shower in an effort to make myself presentable. I know this is not really necessary but since Natsuki was born I haven't been making much of an effort at all and knowing that is a chance to make a good first impression with a lot of people, I primped. A lot. I put on my fancy Mac make-up, straightened my hair, and spent more than 1 minute picking out my clothes! I should've taken a picture but there was no time.

At 10:40 I was out the door to go to the school with the other moms on my street. As I stepped out the door, they all looked at me in surprise. I didn't ask why but I'm sure they were surprised at my appearance. We walked to the school with our slippers in hand and me with my camera. Just me. My neighbor and I had been talking the day before and she told me that elementary school is different than preschool and that no one brings cameras. Hmm. Obviously that was some sort of big hint. I talked with Chikara and he said that there is too much peer pressure, even between parents, and that if I wanted to take my camera then I should go ahead.

We arrived at school in time for 3rd period and watched the teacher interact with the kids and teach them about the hiragana character "u". He was very energetic and the kids really responded to him. Before we knew it, time was up. All the kids went to watch a video while the teacher talked to the moms. He had to be nervous as there were at least 25 moms and just him. He started off by telling us a little bit about himself. He is 27! Chikara and I are 32 so he's 5 years younger than us. Wow. He has taught at this school for the last 3 years for the 3rd grade, 5th grade and now 1st grade. He told us that for the events they've had in the first two weeks that our kids have behaved appropriately. Cheering for the 5th & 6th graders when they put on a show for them, listening quietly during story time and following instructions when on a school tour. He told us his plan for the next year, etc. In the middle of this, I realized that it was time to pick up Misaki from the bus. I half-ran/half-walked (I am so out of shape!) and made it just on time. She came back to the school with me for the last part.

When it was finished, the three of us walked back home. I fed Natsuki and then left her with Daddy and took the other three to lunch at a local ramen store. As we sat down I realized that I have never ordered ramen by myself. I couldn't remember the name of the ramen I wanted or how to order gyoza so I did my best. The right food came so I guess it was OK. The girls were well behaved, which was good since I was already tired from the morning.

We were home by 2 and I put Sakura and Natsuki down for their afternoon nap. Emi went outside to play and Misaki and I went to the preschool for her open house. I had heard from a friend that the first part was really long and boring so I had planned to go a little late. This year the preschool has made a lot of changes. There is a new principal, a lot of new teachers and a new philosophy. All of it is OK, but one of the changes has me a bit confused. If we want to cancel school lunch for the kids we have to call two days before or we will be charged anyways. What are you supposed to do if you kids get sick suddenly? Do you still have to pay for lunch? Hmm. The only reason I went was to meet Misaki's teacher because she's new so after an hour-and-a-half of talking, they finally let us go to the classroom. Misaki's teacher seems really nice and mature (not old, but really together). She told us that one new thing they're going to do this year is work with the 3rd year kids on their characters. Also, the principal wants the teachers to help the kids work on their manners, especially how they ask questions and respond. This is going to be so good for Misaki. We've been working on this at home so it'll be nice that it is reinforced at school too.

During these two hours, we had to sit on the little chairs that the kids use. My butt hurt so bad and I was really glad when the whole thing was over. As I left I stopped to say "yoroshiku onegaishimasu" to the teacher and she told me I was *pretty*. Although I appreciate this since I spent time in the morning especially to make a good first impression, somehow I was also a little bit offended, although I'm not sure why. I had a strong urge to tell her that I was smart too.

I was home a bit after 4 and while I was nursing Natsuki, I told Chikara all about the day. As I was talking about Emi's teacher, I told Chikara that I really liked him and Misaki piped up and said, "Do you want to kiss him?". We all had a good laugh about that and I clarified that I liked him "as a teacher" for Emi.

By this time I was tired, too tired to make dinner so we went out to a restaurant near us for dinner. They have a new kid's menu so I had to take extra time to pick. One of the new menu items is a "Make Your Own Sandwich" plate for kids. I ordered three and the girls had fun making and eating their sandwiches. When we got home it was 7:30 and the kids were cranky and tired so we went right to getting ready for bed and by 8 all the girls were in their beds. I ran to the store to buy more diapers for Sakura, came home, nursed Natsuki and put her down to sleep. At 9, I made some popcorn, opened my Dr. Pepper and sat down to watch "The Core" on TV. I love Friday nights because they show movies in English on TV. I'm kind of at the mercy of whatever they pick but for the most part it's fairly entertaining which shows how low my standards have become!

It was lovely to fall into bed and I was out within 5 minutes. I had weird dreams about meeting the two comedians of Downtown and trying to take a picture with them. Very weird.

From Monday, Emi & Misaki will be starting school lunches and be in school until the afternoon. My house desperately needs attention and hopefully life will get back to normal, whatever that is!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

daylight savings

Does anyone else besides me wish that we had Daylight Savings in Japan? It's only April and I'm already tired of it being light so early in the morning. Natsuki has been waking up between 5:30 and 6:00 am for the last few days, as opposed to her usual 8 am, and it's really having a toll on me. When I hear her crying and I look at the clock I can hardly believe the time.

After a few mornings of this, I put a blanket up over her window last night and this morning she slept in until 7:50. I don't know why it took me so long to remember this trick. I did the same thing with Sakura two summers ago and it worked great. Hopefully this will help Natsuki sleep until a normal time and let me get the couple more hours of sleep that I desperately need.

Emi is doing great in school. After the crying episode on Wednesday morning, I wasn't really sure what to expect from her, but there haven't been anymore problems. I really believe she cried because that was her last chance to try a little emotional blackmail on me!! She started having homework from yesterday and she was pretty excited about that. It was only one page of some hiragana writing but as soon as she came home, she whipped it out and completed the whole thing. I've heard that there is a big jump in the amount of homework from 1st grade to 2nd grade so my goal this year will be to create a healthy attitude towards homework that will hopefully carry her through the next few years.

I mentioned it before but each day the kids need to take different stuff to school so I've been checking each night and making sure all the right things are in Emi's bag and then go over it with her in the morning. It's all written in hiragana so I can read it and I felt like it was going really well, but yesterday when Emi came home, she told me that she couldn't participate in an activity in the gym because she didn't have her gym shoes. What!? I looked at the schedule again and it does not say gym shoes anywhere. I'm going to have to ask one of the other moms about this. Sigh... I thought it was going so well...

As far as I can tell, Misaki is enjoying preschool (she's in her kindergarten year). These first two weeks are only half days so once they get there, they do a couple things and then come right back home again. When I ask Misaki what she did each day, all I get is "I don't know" or "Nothing". This might be true, but I'm not really sure. On Friday, they have an open house type of thing so I'll go and meet her teacher and hopefully find out more about what she's doing each day.

Actually, I have to go to Emi's school on Friday, too, so that's going to be a busy day. Chikara's been taking a lot of days off lately and he doesn't think it's a good idea to take anymore so I'll be taking Sakura & Natsuki to the elementary school in the morning for an hour or so and then taking all the kids to the preschool in the afternoon. Needless to say, Wednesday and Thursday are going to be spent doing nothing so I can save all my energy for Friday. I'm pretty sure this is another reason why the birthrate is going down in Japan. It's really hard to attend everything that you're supposed to if you have more than two kids. I'm a little jealous of my neighbors who have their two kids in elementary school this year. Of course, they're not doing anything brilliant with their free time. Mostly they do laundry and cleaning. Once my kids are all in school, I am so going to be going out and/or getting together with friends as much as I can.

Sakura has been having an awesome time while her sisters are gone in the morning. Having some time to herself has brought back my happy little Sakura and this has made life a little bit easier too. On Sunday, when we went to church, my friend noticed the change in her instantly. Also, having time to herself on the weekdays helped her be able to handle Saturday, when everyone is home, a bit better. She doesn't do much during the mornings but she can do whatever she wants which is the key for her. I've got her home for at least two more years so it's good that she enjoys being here!

Next week Emi & Misaki have full school days. What will I do with all that time? The following week we are going to Tokyo to visit our friends for Golden Week so I have much to look forward to in the next couple of weeks.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

and life goes on...

You know when you plan and look forward to an event or trip and when it is finally over you're not sure what to do next? I had that feeling Tuesday morning. But all the things still to be done came back to my mind quickly. Like my first English class in the afternoon. Yes, in the midst of everything, I am going back to teaching English one afternoon a week. I took a break last year a week before my due date. I thought I was being so clever to keep myself busy right up to my due date but Natsuki came two weeks late so I was bored out of my mind waiting for my labor to start. I actually wanted to be in pain, which has to be a first for me.

Anyhoo! I did take Emi to school Tuesday morning. After she was dressed and ate breakfast, we checked her school bag to make sure all the right things were in there, including her SpongeBob SquarePants handkerchief. Her school supplies have turned into such a mishmash of characters. We left the house around 7:55am and walked around the corner to the next street over to meet all the other 54 kids from our neighborhood who go to the same elementary school. Yes, 54 kids and 10 of them are in first grade. On Monday, everyone met 10 minutes earlier and divided up the kids into groups to walk to school. Each group has a 5th or 6th grader as a leader (hancho) with 4-5 other younger children to watch out for. On Tuesday, I met Emi's hancho and she led our group as we walked to school together. A couple of the other first grade girl's grandmas came and they were unbelievably annoying. One grandma asked questions nonstop from the moment she got there. I could tell the older girls didn't know what to say after awhile. Then another grandma, whose granddaughter is in our group, called out instructions to everyone as we walked to school. "Keep to the left, keep to the left, we're crossing, crossing, crossing, stop, stop, the light is green, hurry, hurry, RUN, RUN, STOP, STOP!". Like that, on and on. Emi kept looking at me with wide eyes. When we got to school, Emi changed into her inside shoes (uwagutsu) and another little girl was waiting for her and they walked to their class together.

I'm getting ahead of myself in order of events for this post, but today (which is the last day I go with her) when we arrived at the school and she had put her inside shoes on, she suddenly turned and started to cry. I was totally caught off guard by this. Emi's been wanting to go to elementary school since last year and before school started she was counting down the days. We've been getting reports from her about all the fun she's been having from the first two days so I just didn't see this coming. I tried giving her a hug and asking her why she's crying. I tried encouraging her about school and how much fun she will have today. I tried being a little bit stern with her but nothing seemed to calm her down. She was clinging to me and doing her quiet cry. One of her friends was waiting for her and seemed pretty concerned. Finally, a teacher came by and said I could go. I have no idea what happened after that and althought I was worried, I knew leaving was the best thing to do.

When it was time to pick her up, I waited to ask her teacher about how she was during the day. He said he hadn't seen her crying and that she was fine during all the classes. Then he said that maybe I should talk to her if I wanted to know more about it. I got the feeling that he thought I was babying her and I should *know* that we don't do that in elementary school. So I learned an important lesson there. I did talk to Emi about it when we got home and she seems like she understands that I can't go to school with her and that because she's a big girl she gets to go to elementary school so she needs to take responsibility like the big girl she is. We'll see how it goes tomorrow. Sigh, there's always something, isn't there!?

Back to my English class, I was tired before I went and I wasn't really sure how it was going to go. Some students are new and some I've taught before. Also, I hadn't really had a chance to get out my materials so I planned to review and see what everyone remembered. I was a little nervous before I started but everything went really well. I forgot how much teaching energizes me. This year the class balance is very good. There are 8 kids in the beginner class, 4 kids in the second level class who I taught before so they're all at the same level, and 2 in the third level class. At the end of the class all the moms gave me a some presents for my girls which was really nice.

Chikara watched all the kids while I was gone and will continue to do so every Tuesday afternoon. I wrote out a schedule for each of our kids with detailed instructions for him. He is very good with helping out all the time but left by himself with the girls, he tends to forget what's coming next and then the whole evening gets off track. I once left Emi & Misaki with him for ten days while Sakura and I went back to Canada to do some shopping when I was almost 7 months pregnant with Natsuki. All three of them were alive and well when I came back so obviously he can handle a few hours each week.

Another thing I like about teaching English is being able to take a break from being "Mommy" for a bit. I really appreciate the girls more when I get back. Also it gives me a chance to be "Sarah" and regain a little bit of personal identity. I don't know about you, but I find that my identity as a woman is always connected to someone else. Like Chikara's wife or Emi' mommy or Alynne's daughter. I like all these people so it's okay, but sometimes I forget who I am personally so it's nice to have this opportunity every week to be me, apart from everyone else.

Tomorrow I *need* to tackle the house. It has gotten totally out of control and we're almost out of clean clothes. The weather is supposed to be good tomorrow and then it might rain for a couple of days so tomorrow is do or die!

Monday, April 09, 2007

what can I say...

Well, we survived the weekend. I can honestly say that as a family we've never been this busy before.

After all the pressure I felt when buying Emi's school supplies last week, part of me (albeit a small part) didn't really want to go to the Nyugakushiki or even send Emi to elementary school at all. Like if I didn't go, then it wouldn't happen. There has been so much talk on the news of bullying at school (ijime) and everyone knows that there is so much pressure on kids in Japan to perform well in school. I really want the best for my kids and because I wasn't raised here I really have no idea what that would be.

Also, sending Emi to elementary school means that I will be stretched a little bit more with my organization and my Japanese and I feel like I've had enough of that. But time marches on and my experience in the past is that it's just better to accept what's coming and find a way to make things smooth and fun for my family (and me!).

Now that I have prefaced this post with all of my concerns, I can say that all (well, maybe most) of my concerns were swept away at the Nyugakushiki. Everything was perfect, even the weather. The sakura trees were in full bloom, we all had the proper attire, we were ready on time (a small miracle) and Emi was really excited. Chikara had worked all morning and when were ready to go, he still needed to get ready, but that worked out perfectly because Natsuki was able to take a little nap and then Chikara brought her when he was ready. Even with only 45 min. of sleep, instead of the usual 2 hrs, she is a much happier baby.

When we got to the school, we received the class list and I was relieved to see that my neighbor's son is in the same class as Emi. She was very helpful with preschool stuff and I had prayed that they would be in the same class. Then as we were taking off our shoes to go in, a lady spied us and said "Yokatta" (Yeah!). I wasn't sure what she was talking about but it turns out that her daughter (who went to the same preschool) had been hoping all Spring Break that she would be in the same class as Emi and the mom was relieved that it had worked out. Even after these first five minutes, I was already encouraged.

We went in and checked her name off and a 6th grader took Emi off to her class and we (me, my MIL, Sakura and Misaki) went into the gymnasium. We were one of the first and we found a seat near where Emi would be seated. The lady who spoken to me when we first came in was beside us and we chatted for a little bit. The gym started to fill up and Chikara came with Natsuki and I started to wonder how Emi was doing and how long the ceremony would be. The chairs in the gym were set up in a square with a big open part in the middle. The 1st graders would sit facing the 6th graders and then perpendicular to that parents and teachers sat on both sides.

Then the ceremony started and the three 1st grade classes marched in 2 by 2 holding hands. They looked so small compared to all the 6th graders and adults. Since our name starts with I, in the Japanese alphabet it comes near the beginning, so Emi was sitting in the front row. Unfortunately, it was about this time my camera battery died. The principal and local community leader spoke for a bit and different 6th graders made certain announcements throughout. Then the 2nd graders came in and sang a few songs and did a little speech about all the fun the 1st graders would have throughout the year. Then they announced the teachers for each of the classes and when they announced the teacher for Emi's class, all the 6th graders whooped and yelled. At the time, we had no idea why. The ceremony went on for about an hour (not too long) and then as the 1st graders paraded out, the 6th graders played a song on recorders. It was all very sweet.

Each class went outside and took a class picture and then proceeded, with all the parents in tow, to their classroom. The teacher spoke to the kids for a bit. He introduced himself and used different things to help the kids remember his name. For example, part of his name is "bara" so he brought out a rose, which is "bara" in Japanese, so the kids would be able to remember by association. Chikara was totally impressed. I've mentioned before that he didn't really have a good elementary school experience but he was immediately taken with this teacher who was so nice to the kids. Last year this teacher taught 5th grade and it seems he was well liked since all the 6th graders screamed when his name was called. Then the teacher spoke to the parents for a bit. I don't really remember what he said, which shows how low my memory retention has become. But we were really encouraged after meeting the teacher and being able to see a little bit about what Emi would be experiencing this year.

The whole thing was over within 2 hours which has to be a record for any ceremony I've been to in Japan. We went outside and our very patient neighbors took pictures of us with their camera beside the sign that said "Congratulations" and the sakura trees. Emi really enjoyed herself and knew many of the kids that were in her class and both Chikara and I were reassured about the choices we have made for our kids.

Even though there were still things to do, we went out to lunch. When we got back, Chikara took his mom back home and went to work. As he was leaving, I was trying to change Natsuki's diaper so I could put her down for a nap. When I was in the middle of that, something happened with Sakura, and I turned away without putting Natsuki's new diaper on. When I turned back to her, she was peeing all over the couch and the older three girls were yelling about something. All the stress I had been feeling bubbled over and I yelled at the older three to be quiet. I finished Natsuki's diaper and put her down, took the soaked sofa cushion outside and told the girls to give me a few minutes. I hate it when I yell at the kids, even when it is necessary, especially after they were so well-behaved throughout the whole morning. Sigh...

Saturday, again, was spent keeping the kids on course, but Saturday night I pulled out the Easter candy I bought last month and put little chocolate eggs in little plastic eggs and then hid them around the living room. On Sunday morning, the girls searched for the eggs and I have to say that although they were excited about finding the eggs so they could eat the chocolate, they were a little lame at actually *searching* for the eggs. They would take turns meandering around and then looking at me and saying "I don't know were they are". Duh, of course you don't know, that's why you're supposed to search. Sigh. Maybe next year will be better. They were really excited about the chocolate so I let them eat two eggs worth of chocolate.

In the midst of the ensuing sugar rush, we got ready and went to church. Chikara and I, along with some other members of the music team, sang "How Great Is Our God" by Chris Tomlin, translated into Japanese by Chikara, as a special song and Chikara was leading worship so we had to be there early. Chikara was in a rush and on the way to church, I asked him, as a joke, if I could stop at the convenience store. He was not amused! The service was great and after lunch, the children's church workers had an Easter Egg Hunt for all the kids of the church and their friends. After they found eggs, they colored and decorated them. At one point, Emi put her fingers in the bowl of pink dye and her fingers were stained pink.

At around 5, we left church and called Chikara's parents since we were supposed to have dinner them for my MIL's birthday. I had realized at church that I hadn't bought new sneakers for the girls for school so we stopped at the mall to get some. During this time I started to feel sick. I asked Chikara if we could postpone mom's birthday but he didn't think it was a good idea. After we bought the shoes and proceeded to the restaurant, I started to feel more sick. I tried my best to enjoy the evening, but I could hardly eat. Natsuki was being difficult since she hadn't eaten very well all day. I used her as an excuse and went out to the car to nurse her.

We all went back to our house, even though it was a complete mess, to have cake and coffee. Yes, I gave the girls cake right before bed, even though it was late and Emi & Misaki had a big day the next morning. There was no other choice. At the earliest opportunity they were down to sleep and we spent a little more time talking with Chikara's parents. Once they left, I realized that I had a fever and I was not doing well. My husband spent the next few hours making sure all of the girls things were ready for the next day. He spent most of that time writing Emi's name on her school supplies.

One thing that I learned from this process is that at elementary school, the kids need to bring different things to school and back home each day. Perfect. One more thing to keep track of. Fortunately they write everything in hiragana which Emi can read so my goal will be to get her to a point where she can organize her things by herself without too much help from me. There is so much stuff that we'll have to prepare a place for her to keep the stuff she doesn't need to take. At preschool we have the same type of program, but each week is pretty much the same so once you get the hang of it, it's easy to remember. Seems like elementary school is not the same.

Now we're up to today when we'll see if all the preparation we've done is enough. We woke up just after seven to get Emi up and ready on time, but she was already awake, of course. She changed into the clothes she had picked out the night before and had breakfast. Chikara took her at 7:45 to the meeting spot for our neighborhood. All the kids and parents of the 1st graders walked to the school together. We have to take her to school and pick her up for the first three days and then after that she will go to school with all the neighborhood kids and then come home with any kids who are done with school when she is. I am thankful that our school is close. Some 1st graders take a train *by themselves* to go to school and come back home. I don't think I could handle that.

At 8, we woke up Misaki and Sakura. Misaki got ready for school. Her bus comes around 9 so she will have a nice relaxed morning all year, which will be good for her temperament. She's not a morning person! While Misaki was getting ready, Sakura kept saying "I'm going to elementary school". She was very disappointed when only Misaki and I went out the door. After coming back home, I was exhausted. Natsuki, who hadn't eaten very well on Sunday, woke up at 2:30am, so I woke up and nursed her, and then again at 6:30am, when I ignored her until 7:00. Also I was still not feeling well so I went back to sleep for awhile. Natsuki was already back in bed for her morning nap so Chikara only had to watch Sakura.

When Emi came home, she willing shared about her day. They learned aisatsu (greetings), which was mentioned at the Nyugakushiki at least 5 times along with signs everywhere saying "Let's Do Greetings Happily", where the bathrooms are and about where all their stuff goes. I was relieved to hear the girl beside her and the girl in front of her had the exact same pencils. She really enjoyed herself. Misaki also had a good day. She has a new teacher who's name is also Misaki, which she thought was cool.

I think the climax of the weekend for me was tonight. The older three girls were already in bed and I had sent Chikara off, too. I had just finished nursing Natsuki and changing her diaper to get her ready for bed. As I stood up to burp her, she started choking on some phlegm (she's had a cold) and suddenly she threw up all over me. I was silent for a moment and then I laughed out loud because it was so typical of the youngest child to have the last say. Chikara had to come down and hold her while I mopped everything up. I hope she sleeps well tonight!

Other than that debacle, it seems like all of our hard work has paid off. For me, it's been quite an emotional ride, which is probably why I've been sick sometimes. Fortunately, the girls have a very positive attitude towards school so their enthusiasm pushes us along. As a mom, it's hard to watch my kids grow up and move on without me. It's what we've been working towards but when it actually happens, it is an emotional time.

A new step has been taken by our family and it will be fun to see where it takes us. I know this was long, so thank you for reading to the end!

Saturday, April 07, 2007

parenting book meme

I've been inspired by all the kids having temper tantrums in the supermarket to create my own meme (now that I know what it means!). I've said it before and I'll say it again, there is not a lot of positive support for parents, especially moms, in Japan. It makes me want to write a book, not because I'm an expert on parenting, but because I want something good and positive to be available.

So here goes...

If you were going to write a book on parenting, what five (or more) things would you make sure to include:

1. It is good for you and your spouse to be on the same page in regards to daily and future goals for your kids. This means lots of conversations. Both of you were raised differently and it's going to affect how you approach parenting your own kids. Instead of waiting for a conflict to arise that will force a conversation, talk about it now. Your children will find it easier to obey you if you present a united front. My friend's SIL's daughter (2nd grade) started lying about anything and everything and as this mom tried to get her to stop the dad suddenly started saying that he believed the girl, even though he knew she was lying, and it's been really difficult for the family. Whatever the reason for the dad saying he believes her, this family would be having an easier time if these parents were on the same page, whatever that page is.

2. You can never show your children enough love. Love means a lot of things to different people and it's important to find out what the one thing you can do that will mean the most to your child but it can also mean discipline (whichever method you use) to ensure that your child grows up to know the difference between right and wrong so they can be a functioning member of society. Love also means encouraging your child to be himself and accept his strengths and weaknesses. Love also means lots of hugs, smiles and fun. My parents modelled this for us growing up and I know that I really appreciate it now that I am faced with the daunting task of doing the same for my four girls.

3. Balance. I'm talking about balance in sleep, food, activities, time with mom and dad, pressure, fun, discipline, expectations and any other aspect of childhood. I come back to this word so many times as my husband and I try to strike the perfect balance with all the influences on our children. The balance for your family will probably be different from other families and that's fine. Don't try to keep up with the Jones'!

4. Have rules, make sure your children know them, and consistently help your children keep them. I know that as a product of Generation X we are not into rules but our children really need them. They need to know what is expected of them or the unknown will create an uncomfortable feeling of dread, for example, knowing that they may unexpectedly find themselves in trouble at any moment. Also, having to have kept and understood rules in the safety of a family environment will help them succeed when they go to school, start to drive and become a parent themselves.

5. Create family traditions. Again, this is kind of a knowing-what's-coming thing for your kids but it also gives them a sense of identity as part of your family. It can be as simple as singing a certain song before you eat dinner or as elaborate as themed vacations and holidays. These are the memories that your kids will hold with them throughout the years and give a foundation on which to build their lives.

I know there are many aspects to parenting and no parenting book can cover everything you need to know but if I was writing a book to encourage parents and give them practical tools this is where I would start.

I'm supposed to be writing a post about Emi's nyugakushiki and I'll get to that. I will say that it went really well and I am encouraged about what kind of experience Emi is going to have next year.

Those of you in the blogging community are very busy now with impending births, new pregnancies and preparing for another school year so I won't tag anyone but if you would like to add your thoughts or if you want to do the whole meme, please do so.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

what was I thinking...

Today is one of those days where I wonder why I thought I would be able to handle raising our kids in Japan. This has happened a few times and, like before, I'm sure I'll get over it soon but it's frustrating all the same. It feels like it's a test that I'm failing (which I hate).

I realized on Thursday or Friday, when Emi asked me, that I only have one week until Emi starts school. Somehow I thought there were two more weeks (sigh). Although I had thought out where and when we were going to get school supplies for Emi, I hadn't actually started (oops!) and now the pressure's on. Honestly, I work better under pressure but not every member of my family does. I had already made plans to go to a friend's house on Friday and after that we met Chikara at MyCal to get Emi's hair cut (I'll post a picture soon - she's still pretending she doesn't want her picture taken) and buy school supplies. Unfortunately Emi started complaining of an earache so we went to the hospital instead of buying supplies. OK, no problem, we'll go another day. I've got plenty of time. Right?!

Saturday was a weird day because I got sick! I actually had a fever which is weird because I can't remember the last time I had a fever that was not pregnancy related (No, I'm not pregnant!). Basically Saturday ended up being a total waste of time. So now we're onto Sunday. We went to church in the morning, ate lunch, practiced for an Easter special and ended up staying until 5pm fellowshipping with friends. From there we went back to the mall to shop for school supplies. Yeah! Everyone is healthy and we've got time so I was thinking that we'd be in and out. Boy, was I wrong.

As we pull into the parking garage, Sakura starts crying and I have no idea why but we push on. We get to the school supply section with our fancy list from the school and...


...there are no school supplies left. I'm exaggerating a little bit but I'll explain. When you send your kids to school with their precious school supplies, their supplies have to be the same as everyone else's or your child will get picked on and this will lead to bad nicknames and being left out and you can NEVER fix this. It's like a "You only get one chance to make a first impression" type of thing. I've heard this from many different sources. My problem is how am I supposed to know what *everyone* has. I've known this moment was coming for awhile which is probably why I didn't start shopping for school supplies earlier. But heed my warning, you must shop early, like February-early, if you want to get good school supplies or at least have a choice.

I don't remember this being a problem when I went to school. Crayons were Crayola. Pencils were yellow #2. Rulers were wood, 12 inches. You could buy them anywhere, anytime. Easy.

Also, I don't know if I buy into all this "be the same as everyone else" thing. My kids are going to be different than everyone else no matter what I do. I've been hoping that they will have some pride in who they are and appreciate the options that being multi-cultural brings them but just because I hope doesn't mean it will make them feel better if they are teased.

I think probably I'm overthinking this, or at the least over-worrying, and Emi's tough and very self-possessed and isn't into being the same as everyone as far as I can tell. Also I really believe that God has his hand in all the things that come our way so I try not to mess it up (as much as I can!).

So tonight we searched the Internet with not too much luck so I went to a different mall and found Disney's Marie school supplies so I bought the last one (Phew!). I really hope these supplies help Emi pass whatever social test is waiting for her.

One thing for sure, Misaki is sure going to benefit from this experience!!