Wednesday, May 30, 2007

YouTube is way too much fun!

I've been working on this post for over a week and I'm not really sure why. I've known about YouTube for awhile but mostly I've just used it to check out other people's links. Then last week Gina wrote a post about listening to some of her favorite songs while cleaning her kitchen and it made me start to think about songs I used to love to listen to and all the memories that go with them. This year is my 15-year high school reunion and it is really making me introspective (am I using that word right?). Last August one of my classmates passed away and I guess this is affecting me more than I thought. I'm not bursting into tears all the time or anything like that but I do find myself spending time trying to bring back "what was high school really like" type of feelings or memories or anything. It's hard to remember what a day of high school was really like. All that's coming back are memories of embaressing things I did or said, stuff I got in trouble for or the complexities of high school relationships and I use "complex" in a sarcastic way.

All these memories are making me wonder what my girls will go through when they reach high school. Part of me wants to start preparing them for the emotional rollercoaster and also how high school is at the same time important and unimportant. Yes, it's important to study well and have a positive experience but the hours spent worrying over what what a classmate said in passing or what clothes to wear or what that boy thinks of you is unimportant in the grand scheme of life and, obviously, unmemorable!

I'm sure that with my girls, because they are girls, we will experience the highest highs and the lowest lows of the emotional rollercoaster. Hoo! That's going to be so much fun! I'm already looking forward to it.

Following are some of the songs I found on YouTube as I tried to make my way down memory lane. Some of the following songs are not necessarily my favorite but they do carry some memory with them and others I just like for no particular reason and some I absolutely love.

Everything I Do by Bryan Adams. One of my friends dedicated this song to his girlfriend when we were in high school and everytime we would go out, they would play it in the car. I've heard this song so many times and when I found it on YouTube, I almost cried, since this was the friend that passed away this year. Although this time may not be his favorite memory, this song brings him back in my mind.

Nobody Wants To Be Lonely by Ricky Martin & Christina Aguilera. This is a beautiful music video.

Who doesn't like Jon Bon Jovi! Seriously, if you don't, I don't want to hear about it. This is a newer song of his It's My Life. The video is cool.

Next Time I Fall In Love by Peter Cetera & Amy Grant. This is about the time that Amy Grant fell from grace in the Christian music world. It's an great song, though!

You've Got A Way by Shania Twain. This song is the love theme from Notting Hill and it's just beautiful. If you haven't seen this movie, I highly recommend it.

The Reason by Hoobastank. Obviously this is not a high school memory since this song came out recently. We really like music so we listen to the radio a lot but it's mostly Japanese (duh!) along with popular music from the States and I loved this song right away from the first time I heard it.

Take Me Away by the Dixie Chicks. Cool song. I feel like this sometimes. Also, since they play instruments their music has a great sound to it.

The Power Of Love by Huey Lewis & The News. Michael J. Fox. Back To The Future. Nothing more to say.

The Prayer sung by Celine Dion & Josh Groban. Josh Groban got his break when Andre Bochelli couldn't make it to sing with Celine Dion at one of her concerts. The show's producer said that maybe his son could stand in, at least for the rehearsal, until some other solution could be worked out. There were no other options at the time so they said he could try and everyone was so surprised when he started singing. That was his chance, his lucky break and the rest is history!

You're The Inspiration by Chicago. Again, a very beautiful song with a lot of non-specific memories.

The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face sung by Celine Dion. This is one of those songs that you would want playing in the background during your first kiss. It's so poetic and very beautifully drawn out.

Hmmm. Quite the mish-mash of songs. I'm almost embaressed to post this but I spent so much time on it so I can't justify not actually posting it. Enjoy it or ignore it.

future gymnast?

I wish I was this flexible.

She got a little bit bored while waiting for her food! She's even still strapped in properly. Amazing!

Sunday, May 27, 2007

I don't even know where to start...

So many things have happened this week and I hardly know where to start with the telling of the craziness. I wrote that Misaki was sick last week but at the time it didn't seem like that big of a deal. She threw up a half a dozen times in the space of four hours and then she was fine and even went to school the next day. Plus she's old enough to take herself off to the sink to throw up instead of throwing up all over the floor (except for the first time because it caught her off guard since she hasn't thrown up for at least two years). You may be wondering why she's throwing up in the sink and that's because my girls are afraid of throwing up into the toilet. Or maybe the very idea just grosses them out. Whatever. I washed my sink with strong disinfectant and very hot water and we were good to go.

On Sunday, we went shopping with my in-laws for a printer. My MIL just bought her very first computer last week. It's a laptop and she really has no idea what to do with it. I could write more about this but it would just be mean. OK, one story. After we had finished shopping, my MIL said that there were some messages on the computer that she didn't understand. We went down to the parking lot and Chikara took a look at it in the car. He explained a couple of things and then said that everything was OK. My MIL said "arigato" and pressed the power button to turn the computer off. My husband took a short, sudden breath in followed by a moment of silent shock and then patiently showed his mom the Shutdown Menu one more time. We feel a little bit bad for her computer.

Anyways, they didn't find a printer, but as we were helping them out we found a TV. Woo-hoo! It's not a fancy TV, but it fits our needs. Lately, our TV screen has been going to black. This drives the girls nuts. They'll be watching TV as they eat their breakfast and then suddenly all hell breaks loose and they're screaming and jumping up and down. This has been going on for awhile but if you turn off the TV and then turn it on again then everything is fine. Around February we decided that we needed to get a new one so we began the search. We really wanted to get a flat screen TV but we could not believe the prices. We really like TV but not that much. Even though we have the money we could not justify such an expenditure. So we started searching for a regular TV but so far we hadn't had any luck. As we were weaving through the aisles, trying to make our way out of the store, we suddenly spotted a regular TV in a really odd location so we moved closer to check out the price and it was perfect. When Chikara paid for it, they said it would be delivered on Friday.

Monday passed by quickly and on Tuesday, while I was gone to teach my English class, Emi got sick. She threw up a couple of times and by the time I got back home, she had a fever and her face was pretty white but her tummy was feeling better. I decided that she should stay home from school the next day. On Wednesday, we called a tatami repair store near us and asked them to come in and re-cover our tatami. We made an appointment with them for Thursday morning. I was so excited. When you move into a new house in Japan, you're supposed to get new tatami, but when we moved three years ago, we couldn't afford it and I was going to have a baby soon so we didn't give it much thought. During Spring Break, a hole was torn in one of the tatami so I decided it was time we did something about it. I couldn't put Natsuki down on the floor because of all of the debris. Sakura thought it was fun to pull more tatami out of the hole to "clean" it.

The tatami guys came Thursday morning and took away all the tatami (six of them). I cleaned the floor while they were gone and around 6 hours later they were back and put our living room back in order. Just before they came, Sakura woke up suddenly from her nap screaming and saying that her tummy hurt. As soon as the tatami guys left, Sakura and I went to pick up Misaki from the bus stop. As we arrived back home, Emi came walking down the street back from school. We all marched upstairs and Sakura promptly threw up on the couch. I don't think Sakura's ever had stomach flu before and throughout the next few hours, it was such a task to get her to throw up into any sort of container or to get her to open up her mouth and spit it all out or to stay on the waterproof mat. During that time, Natsuki woke up and I fed her and then tried to keep her entertained but at a safe distance from Sakura. Emi & Misaki went out with Chikara's parents so at least they were out of my hair. Chikara came home around 7 and by that time Sakura was done with the throwing up and Natsuki was in bed for a little nap. By 8, Sakura was in bed and I attended to Natsuki and put her down for the night. Emi & Misaki came home around 9 and they promptly went to bed too. Even though it was a long day, at least the puking was over although I was really praying that Natsuki wouldn't get it.

By Thursday evening, I was pretty tired but also happy that we had accomplished so much in one week. We found a TV, had the tatami replaced, I bought a mat/rug thing to put down in the living room for Sakura to play on and finished all of the laundry that's been piling up. Also we dealt with three sick girls and I was relieved that they were all better.

Friday morning, our TV came and we are all thrilled. The day went pretty smoothly and when Chikara came home we decided to go to Costco. It's about a 45 minute drive so I brought some snacks for the girls to eat in the car. There wasn't too much traffic so we weren't delayed at all. Natsuki had pooped while we were driving so as soon as we arrived I took her to the bathroom and changed her diaper. It was dinner time so we decided to eat first and then shop. Chikara found a seat and as I turned to go buy the dinner, Sakura said that her tummy hurt. I thought that she was just saying that because of all the special attention she had received while she was sick so I picked her up to take her with me. We hadn't gotten more than 20 steps away when I felt her body roll in my arms. I held her a little bit away from me to ask if she was okay and before I finished my sentence she threw up all over me. On my face, my shirt, my shoes and all over the floor right in the middle of Costco. People came running from all over to help us. As I started wiping I realized that Sakura didn't get any throw-up on herself, only on me and the floor. How did she do that? I went to the bathroom and washed off my sandals and then grabbed my wallet and went through Costco and bought a new shirt. As I was walking around, I got the weirdest looks from people. I felt like stopping to tell everyone what had happened but I just kept moving until my shirt was changed. I actually threw my dirty shirt in the garbage. I just couldn't deal with it.

At this point, I couldn't decide what we should do. On the one hand, I just wanted to go home but we had come so far and we don't get a lot of chances to go to Costco. Also, by this time it was way past dinnertime and the girls really needed to eat. Grrr! We decided to risk it and stay at Costco. Chikara found a small box for Sakura just in case she needed to throw up again. I ordered pizza, clam chowder, chicken caesar salad and pop for all of us. We divided it all up and ate as quickly as we could. Once the food was spread out, Sakura asked for some pizza but I absolutely did not want a repeat of what had just happened so she just had something to drink.

With dinner out of the way, it was time to shop. We went out the exit to re-enter the store and the gate was closed. Seriously, at this point, I just wanted to cry. Fortunately all of the staff had seen the puking incident so no one stopped us when we went back through the exit to shop again. I only had a few minutes so Chikara watched the girls while I ran through and got the stuff I needed. I was so glad when everything was finished and we were able to go home. I let Sakura sit in the front with me in the car on the way home, just in case, and she seemed fine. Really fine. Totally and completely fine. Little monkey!

This is one of the downsides to having four kids. They pass the same sickness around so I have to go through the same procedure many times. Fortunately Natsuki still sleeps in a different room so she seems to be spared from the germs of her older sisters but eventually this will change. So not looking forward to that.

Monday, May 21, 2007

sit down before you read this

If you're wondering what's going on in Japan, take a look at this. As we raise our girls in Japan, crime that is planned out in advance doesn't worry me, but the random, crazy stuff freaks me out!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

things I love about Natsuki

Tomorrow Natsuki will turn 9 months old. As I think about her little life and how much she has changed our lives, I just had to take a moment to share about the cuteness that is Natsuki. I know that "cute" is an overused word but Natsuki is the epitome of cute as you will see.

I put Natsuki to sleep in her crib 3-4 times a day. When I lay her down, she stays perfectly still, like she's been glued to the mattress, and only her eyes move. They follow me as I fuss over her blanket, start her mobile and say good-bye to her. As soon as I move away from the crib, she immediately turns onto her left side, put her left thumb in her mouth and pulls the blanket up to her face with her right hand. Then, she flips her right leg up over the bumper and starts to hum to herself, even with the thumb in her mouth, before I've reached the door. A few times I've stood at the door and watched her for a bit as she lulls herself to sleep.

When she's sitting in one of the many contraptions we have for her and I come to pick her up, she always looks immediately at whatever part of my body is in front of her, be it my knees or my stomach and then follows my body up to my face. It takes her a second to recognize that it's me and then she smiles with her whole entire face. Then, and this is the cute part, she looks embaressed for a second that she smiled so big and she bends at the waist until her nose is almost touching her knees. She pops up again and smiles and if I don't pick her up right away she keeps on the with bending, up and down, up and down. Her older sisters love it when she does this.

For a long time she didn't like being on her stomach, but in the last few weeks, she's started turning over on her own and playing with whatever is in front of her. Although she's not crawling, she does move around in a circle so I do have to keep an eye on her. Since she hasn't had much practice being on her tummy and her arm muscles aren't that strong, every few minutes she'll lay down, with her face turned to one side, and tap her hands on the floor like she's bored and just waiting for someone to come and entertain her. Her hand motion kind of looks like something Ernie from Sesame Street or Fozzie Bear from The Muppet Show would do. It's so precious. I've been trying to get a video of it but everytime she sees me coming, her head pops up right away.

Natsuki loves being tickled anywhere on her body. She laughs a half courtesy laugh, half real laugh and then waits, her eyes wide with anticipation, for the next tickle. She especially likes it when I do raspberries on her neck, which usually leads to kisses all over her face. Recently she started asking for kisses by opening her mouth with her bottom lip pushed out a little bit past her top lip. She'll put her hands on both side of my face and giggle as I kiss her. Of course, now that she's teething, she also tries to bite my lips and when she gets nothing but air, she'll throw a little tantrum.

Although soon we'll need to curb the tantrums, right now they're pretty cute. We get them the most in the morning after she first wakes up and then in the evening before she goes to bed. In the morning, all she wants to do after waking up is nurse, but if she's got a poopy diaper, I have to change it first. I'll lay her down on the sofa, and she imediately plants the soles of her feet on the couch, lifts up her bum and slams it down on the couch. She'll repeat this until I come with her diaper and then once she realises that I have not forsaken her, she calms down. After this, she'll cry if I'm not getting my boobs out fast enough but once she's latched on, she's good. In the evening, when she's tired, anything can set her off and sometimes, because we're mean parents, we'll watch her for a bit and comment on how she's getting her bum up higher which has to mean that she's developing some serious muscles somewhere.

Along with the temper tantrums, we also enjoy the other ways the Natsuki has begun to express herself. She does a serious head shaking thing. Sakura thinks she's saying no, but I think she does it because she enjoys the slight disorientation that comes after. It's pretty amazing to watch her do it. Another thing she does when she's sitting in her hair chair is wiggle from side to side. It looks like she's doing a little dance but, at this point, it could be anything. On Sundays, during the worship service, she does little bob in time with the music so it could be related to this. At least I can be assured of the fact that she knows what's going on around her.

She loves Blue's Clues: Blue's Big Musical movie. When I need to get something done, I'll sit her in her bouncy chair and put it on for her. She'll be quietly watching and all of a sudden she'll laugh a little laugh, like "Oh, Steve, you're so funny". She doesn't laugh at the same place everytime so it's hard to know what is tickling her funny bone. I know she loves the music but the colors must also be very interesting for her. Her older sisters are sick of watching this movie but when Natsuki laughs, they'll try anything to get her to laugh again. She doesn't. She's saving her laughs for Blue & Steve. She's a loyal fan.

This is pretty cute too! And how could you resist this, even with the puke.

I rest my case. We've been having so much fun with Natsuki that we don't mind the fussy moments. We know that soon she'll smile and throw a little sunshine our way.

the house-cleaning maniac and the silent puker

As you can see by today's title, the last few days have been very interesting.

On Tuesday afternoon, while I was at my English class, my husband cleaned the house. He tidied up the living room, vacuumed, washed the dishes, made dinner, washed a load of laundry and hung it out to dry, gave the girls a bath and did another load of laundry. Yes, he is the house-cleaning maniac, not me. Since Spring Break, my focus has been entirely on Emi and elementary school, Misaki and preschool, Natsuki and her schedule, Sakura and potty-training (more to come on this) and me and my English class. Everyone in the right place, at the right time with the right stuff has been my goal and, with the exception of a few small hiccups, everything has been going very well. To accomplish this goal, I have been doing the minimum amount of work in the house. I'll do laundry only if someone needs something the next day or I'll vacuum if someone is coming over, etc. My husband has been pretty patient during this time but I think on Tuesday he finally snapped and the urge to clean overwhelmed him! The result is a fabulously tidy house which I have been trying to maintain to show how much I appreciate all the hard work but honestly, I don't care. I'm trying to make it through until June when our life will even out (hopefully) and go back to normal.

June. It's getting closer and then I will have no more excuses left. In preparation, I have been making all sorts of goals to help me keep focused.

Personal Goals:
Find some sort of exercise I can do 3 times a week for 30 minutes with Sakura & Natsuki.
Drink 8 glasses of water a day.

Family Goals:
Potty-train Sakura.
Help Natsuki with her crawling.

House Goals:
Fix the tatami in our living room.
Make a safe play area for Natsuki on the floor.
Buy a bed for Chikara and I.

There. I wrote the goals out for the whole world (the Internet world) to see so now I have to do them. There are other things I want to accomplish this year but I decided to break it down into smaller bites so I can remember them. My memory is not what it once was.

On Wednesday, I made spaghetti for dinner, which the girls love, but when I called them for dinner, Misaki said her stomach hurt. When Misaki says this, it could mean anything, so I ran down the list of probably causes. Do you need to go potty? Are you hungry? Do you need to spit-out (throw-up)? She said no to all of them so I told her to try a few bites and see how she felt. An hour later, she was still sitting in front of her bowl and it was still full. That's really unusual for Misaki so I told her she didn't have to eat her food. We were sitting on the floor in front of the couch, I was playing with Natsuki and my back was turned to Misaki. I mean, she was literally right behind me. I heard her say "Mom" in kind of a weak voice and I turned around and there was puke all over the floor. I hadn't heard a thing. Usually there's some sort of retching sound but Misaki, always one to be dainty, puked silently.

As I was cleaning it up, Emi said, "Just looking at Misaki throw up makes me want to throw up, too". I gave her my best Don't-Even-Think-About-It look. Misaki threw up about 10 times during the next four hours. She didn't have a fever and she was pretty upbeat so she must've eaten something that didn't agree with her. Finally around 11pm, she fell asleep on the couch. I moved her to our room so I could be near her if she needed to throw up in the middle of the night. This morning she really wanted to go to school because they were having an open house so I let her go. When I saw her around 10am, she was jumping around so I guess she's doing OK.

Next week, Misaki has a field trip so I have to start thinking about what kind of bento I'm going to make for her. She's not a picky eater so anything will be fine but I want to try to make one that she can be proud of. See here and here if you want to see what I'm talking about.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

golden week part four: Osaka

I wasn't going to bother posting about this but I have the greatest pictures of Chikara with the girls so here goes...

We got back home late on Thursday (May 3rd) and everyone slept until around 8. We did absolutely nothing on Friday. I bought some milk and orange juice but we just laid around the house. All the girls had naps and so did mommy and daddy. We went out for dinner and rented some videos and then the girls were back in bed by 8.

It was good that we had a lazy day because Saturday we had planned to spend with Chikara's parents. My FIL is a busy guy. He works 5 days a week for a company that installs those Eco-Cute systems and then the other 2 days a week he is a pastor of a small church, but he does get these kind of national holidays off so we wanted to make sure and spend some time with them. We had originally planned to go with them to surprise my MIL's parents (that's a whole other post) but we decided against it at the last minute. My in-laws wanted to go to Kyoto but I had visions of being stuck in traffic and the girls were already sick of being in the car so I recommended we go to Rokko Island in Kobe.

I love Rokko Island. It's a man-made island where many foreigners live. Food Buyer's Club (FBC) has a store there along with a large shopping center that has a Wendy's. But our favorite place to hang out is a system of water ways that the kids can play in. The water is about 5 cm deep and set aside especially for this area (ie. not sewer water!). Right by this area is a Subway Sandwiches so with a turkey sandwich in one hand and a Frosty in the other, I can watch the kids as the play and everyone enjoy a wonderful day.

Here are some pictures of the girls walking around in the water. They got totally wet so we had to go buy more clothes for them...

These pictures are the ones that I had to post. Chikara and the three older girls would go and take leaves off some bushes and drop them off one side of the bridge and then run to the other side of the bridge to see who's leaf would make it through first. Can you see Sakura's pants hanging down?

Yes, he's a good daddy.

Because it was Golden Week, there was a lot of fun stuff for kids set up around the island. Most of it was free so the girls got to play a lot and the rest of us sat around and watched them. I was amazed at how much energy they had even after such a busy week. I felt a little old!

We got home around 9 and the girls went to bed. Natsuki didn't sleep as well this night because she's teething! Right now she's got two little nubs on her lower gum. Everyday I pray for those teeth to break through so I can get some sleep. She likes to wake up around 4am which is when I am totally unconscious. But I'm getting off track...

Sunday we went to church and as soon as the service was finished, 3 other families plus us went to one of our friend's house and had a BBQ. We'd been planning this get-together for about a month but the weather worked against us and it rained so we BBQ'd inside the house on hot plates. It was still very delicious, kind of like cooking yakiniku in a restaurant. All of our friends had kids so again it was a family-friendly get together. Natsuki took a nap in a totally empty room on a blanket. I thought for sure she wouldn't sleep but I guess she's as tired as I am because of all the waking up in the middle of the night.

We were home by 7pm. As a family we moved slowly through our bedtime routine and everyone was glad to finally be in bed. The end of a busy week and the end of a fabulous week.

This week we met with Emi & Misaki's teachers but I'll write more about that later.

another meme

I got tagged to do a meme by Abigail. I have to say that when I read her post, I knew my answer right away.

"What do we wish we had been more serious about in life?"

I wish I had been more serious about my/our finances. There is so much awesome information available (for free) on how to manage your money and make it grow and I wish I had tapped into that a little earlier in life. We haven't had any serious money issues but for how seriously we've taken our jobs, there should be more money floating around somewhere. Like in my pocket!

We're just now feeling more confident about our financial decisions but we also have more expenses than we've ever had before (yes, kids suck up your money in unexpected ways). As always, I am working towards finding the right balance between saving for the future and enjoying ourselves now.

Again, I'm not brave enough to tag anyone but feel free to leave a comment.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

me teasing Misaki - just a little bit!

Every night before we go to bed we pray together with the girls. In recent years, Emi & Misaki have prayed by themselves and this years Sakura has started being able to pray by herself too. When it comes to this point in our bedtime routine, we'll ask the girls who wants to pray. For the most part, they all want to pray but sometimes they don't and that's OK.

Last night, when we asked the girls who wanted to pray, both Misaki & Sakura said they didn't want to. Following is how the prayer time went.

Me: Go Emi.

Emi: (prays a sweet prayer)

Me: Go Misaki

Misaki: Dear Jesus, thank you for today... WAIT A MINUTE! I didn't want to pray!

Me: Oh, sorry, go Sakura.

Sakura: Dear Jesus (followed by a sweet little prayer in a little tiny voice that we could hardly hear!)

Me: Go Misaki

Misaki: Dear Jesus... NO, I said I didn't want to pray!

Everyone: (laughing)

We laughed so hard. I wasn't trying to make them pray, I just wanted to see what they would do if I prompted them anyways. If it had been Emi, for sure she would've said something right away, but Sakura just prayed anyways and Misaki started praying both times and then realized what had happened after the fact.

But one other thing that is different between Emi & Misaki is that if this had happened to Emi, she would've been mad that we had all laughed, but Misaki just laughed along with us. She's a sweetie-pie!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

favorite pictures

We bought a new digital camera just over a year ago and when I was going through my pictures I decided to group some of my favorites together. Enjoy!

two front teeth

Emi lost her two front teeth last week and I kept wanting to post about it but obviously we were gone!

Emi's bottom two teeth have been loose for what seems like forever. She rarely wiggled them to help the process along. I kept trying to pull them out (gently so she didn't know) or turn them but, just like the owner, the teeth were stubborn. On Thursday, April 26th, Emi came home with a huge smile, a little gap and a tooth in her first. It had fallen out at school and she gave the story from A to Z, including a detailed report about how much blood there was. I was a little disappointed that I wasn't there for it but the best part was yet to come. My mom had sent us little tooth-shaped plastic boxes to keep the teeth in so she put it in there and put it under her pillow when she went to bed. I've been telling her about the tooth fairy ever since her teeth started wiggling so she knew what was going to happen.

When it was time for bed, she got her tooth-shaped box and put it under her pillow. I told her to try to keep it in the same place so the tooth fairy would be able to find it. She nodded very seriously. I had decided to give her 500 yen ($5) for each tooth. It seems steep when I think about it American dollars but for Japan, I thought it was fair. I didn't actually have a 500 yen coin so Chikara and I went to a vending machine and tried to make change. Instead it spit out a whole bunch of 100 yen coins at me. Grr! I had no choice but to give her 5-100 yen coins in a little bag. Around 11:30, I went into their room to make the switch. I took some laundry in with me just in case she woke up but she was snoring so I knew she was really asleep. I put my hand under her pillow and found the little toothbox right away. I took out the tooth and put the box back under her pillow along with the money and walked out of the room as quietly as I could. Success! I have to admit I was nervous. I've never had much success in getting the girls to believe in Santa Claus so I was determined to succeed with the tooth fairy.

During our trip, Emi lost her second tooth. On Sunday, she was playing hide-and-seek and suddenly she popped up from between the rows of chairs and came running towards me. I thought maybe she had bonked her head but she held her little tooth in her hand. She was very excited once again to make a big deal about the blood. What is it with her? I thought that her tooth might come out during our trip so I had brought her toothbox so we wouldn't lose the tooth. Unfortunately, I still haven't been able to find it although for sure it's somewhere in our stuff so I'll keep looking.

One of her new teeth is already coming in so the gap will soon be gone. It's too bad because she's so cute when she smiles. Here are some pictures!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

golden week part three: Nagoya

So now we're on the road to Nagoya. We didn't arrive even close to the time we wanted to but at least we did arrive. I had been trying to get the girls to sleep in the car since they usually have a nap in the afternoon but the more I tried, the more they resisted so they all ended up falling asleep about 20 minutes before we arrived. Classic! It was 4:30 when we arrived and they were all cranky from being woken up.

Our friends were waiting for us, Yuu & Sayaka, Yoshimi & Midori and their two children and Yoshimi's older brother Mitsuru. Chikara has been friend with these guys since he was very little and Yuu and Yoshimi went to the same college as him so I've known them for awhile too. Yoshimi & Midori have a 2-year-old daughter named Yumi and a 5-month-old son named Yuma. Last time we met, both of us were pregnant and we commented on how nice it was NOT to be pregnant!!

Yoshimi & Mitsuru's parents were also there and it seems like they helped prepare the dinner and snacks. All of us (9 adults, 6 kids) fellowshipped for a bit and then ate dinner. By this point in the week, my girls were so mellowed out. They ate everything I placed before them without complaint and when they were done eating, they just sat in their chair until I said they could go play. Everyone kept commenting on how well behaved they were and I felt bad taking compliments because really they were just too tired to misbehave! Has to be a first for them. We stick to our schedule pretty good when we're at home so usually they get enough sleep to misbehave just like all children do!

After dinner, Yoshimi's parents took all the kids upstairs to watch a video so that left all of us to hang out and fellowship. Yuu had brought his Japanese version of Settlers of Cataan so we opened that up and taught those who hadn't played before the rules and played through one game. If you haven't played Settlers before it takes at least one game to figure it out but as we played we all talked and joked around and everyone behaved just as they always do and therefore we had a wonderful time.

The first few years we lived in Japan, we didn't really get together with Chikara's childhood friends very much. We were all busy and I was having babies so it was hard to make the time. I think Kenji was the one we saw the most and that was probably once every 6 months. I always wondered why but I think God was preparing me and my Japanese so that I could become friends on my own with the wives of Chikara's friends. It's just in the last two years that we've been able to meet every so often and my Japanese has been good enough to hold my own and enjoy the time we spend together instead of being stuck to Chikara's side so he can translate for me.

Around 10:30pm, we realized that we should be going since we still had to make it to Yokkaichi. We brought all the kids down and took a picture together. Again, we had such a great time and the time went so quick that we really didn't want to leave. We all hugged and made our good-byes. Yoshimi's daughter Yumi asked Emi & Misaki, "haggu wa?" (where's my hug) so even our girls got in on the hugging. Thank you to the Takahashi family for your hospitality!

Back in the car again! The girls were all asleep within five minutes. We made it to Yokkaichi in about an hour. Our friends, Andrew & Yuri, helped us get everything in the house. Yuri's dad was also visiting to help build a deck for them. They just finished building a new house right before Christmas and haven't finished the landscaping so her dad came up for Golden Week to help out. He is also the father of four daughters so each time we've met him, he's been so sweet with the girls.

Emi, Misaki & Sakura were out as soon as we put them in their beds. Natsuki was stubborn for about 10 minutes and then she conked out, too. As soon as I was sure she was asleep, I relaxed and I was out within minutes. It was very dark in the room (which I like) so we slept soundly until morning.

I had planned for this day to be one of our "down" days. I really wanted to fellowship with Yuri, since it had been awhile since I'd seen her, and hear about her house and their life. After breakfast, Chikara decided he wanted to help Andrew and his father-in-law build the deck so he got ready and went outside. Yuri's two daughters, Emily & Ailie, are about the same age as Emi & Misaki so they paired up and played really well for the entire day. Sakura tagged along but when they went outside, I kept her inside because I didn't want her to disturb the building of the deck. She was totally content to be inside since Emily & Ailie have an abundance of girlie toys. She especially enjoy dressing up as a princess as you can see from the picture.

Natsuki was amazing. I wasn't sure if she'd fall asleep for her naps since it was an unfamiliar place and there were a lot of unfamiliar noises but both times I put her down for a nap, she didn't make a peep and was out (I checked many times!). This gave me the break I needed and I went through our suitcases and organized them a bit since I hadn't really done that even once during the whole trip.

Yuri and I talked for the majority of the time. She showed me lots of magazines that they looked through when building their house. The information she shared with me was invaluable and I had been looking through the Internet at the stuff she showed me ever since I got back. We are really hoping to build a house in the near future so I'm gathering information and advice so I can be prepared once we get to that point.

The girls had such a lovely day. They played inside and outside. They "assisted" the guys with the building the deck, played in the dirt, colored pictures, played with the toys, etc. They kept going all day and I almost felt bad when it was finally time for us to go and they had to leave their friends. Yuri had prepared yakiniku to say thank you to the guys. After the dinner, Chikara hopped into the shower and once he was ready, we packed up all the stuff into the car, said good-bye again, fastened the girls into their seatbelts and, once again, we were in our car and driving away.

We were home around 11, and without much ceremony, we put all the girls to bed, brought our stuff into the house and dropped into bed ourselves. It was such a lovely moment when we were finally laying down (even though the futon is still uncomfortable). We both said thank you to each other for making the vacation such a wonderful time and promptly fell asleep.

We has such a fabulous vacation and I wish that I had the right words to say thank you to all of our friends who welcomed us, fed us and encouraged us in different ways. I hope that all of you could tell how much we were blessed by your hospitality. Thank You!

Here are some pictures of the girls riding in the car.

We did a couple more things in Osaka for Golden Week so I'll write about those tomorrow but this is end of our tour of Japan! Thanks for reading to the end.

golden week part two: Ikea and Lalaport

The next day, Tuesday, the weather was supposed to be cloudy with some rain so we decided to go to Ikea. I had really been looking forward to this day. Again, there wasn't much traffic and we were there within 40 minutes. I had found out before that they have a free play area for kids who are between 100-135cm and potty-trained so I asked Emi & Misaki if they wanted to go in. Misaki was all ready to go but at the end Emi decided she didn't want to go. She's a bit of a chicken sometimes (reminds me of me!) so we decided to have lunch first and see how she felt after. We had some yummy Ikea food (not hotdogs though!) and then after that Emi decided she would try it. They played in there for an hour while we walked around and looked at all the stuff.
I mentioned it before but I was really hoping to buy a bed. I didn't think Ikea would deliver it to Osaka but I was even willing to pay to have it delivered by another service if I found one I liked. Those of you who have been to the Ikea in Funabashi know that the second floor starts with living room ideas and then works around to bedrooms eventually. When we got to the bedroom showroom I looked around but I didn't see anything I really liked or could even settle for. I want to buy a bedroom set that is in dark wood but they didn't really have anything like that. Chikara thought everything was great which started getting on my nerves when we went to the mattress department.

I will stop here to give you a little background of the beds we've slept on since we got married. When we started shopping for our first bed almost 10 years ago, I really wanted Chikara to be comfortable so we went to our local Futon Factory. They made their own bedframes there and had a lot of choices for the thickness and size of futons. We settled on a fabulous pine bed frame and a medium thickness of futon mattress in a queen size. I wasn't sure how I would like it but it turned out to be the most comfortable bed I'd ever slept on. Plus it turns out that Chikara moves around a lot at night so it was better that we had a futon than a spring mattress because then his constant motion didn't wake me up. For our first anniversary we went to the stay at The Empress Hotel in Victoria, British Columbia. It was the first time since we'd been married that we'd slept on a spring mattress and I didn't get much sleep. At all. Especially after this incident I was glad that we'd bought a futon.

When we moved to Japan we were planning to live with Chikara's parents for a bit while he looked for a job and we didn't know how long it would take for us to get into our own place so we decided to leave our bed in the States in my sister's apartment. At the time, I didn't think much about it because I was going to Japan, the land of futons, right?! Chikara's parents had bought a double futon for us and we have used it for the last 5-1/2 years and it has served us well. I haven't had any complaints until my last pregnancy and it has just become too uncomfortable. Even now I'd rather sleep on the couch than in our bed and I don't think that's too good for our marriage!!

So now you know what we're looking for and I really want to buy something that's gonna last us for awhile so I am on the hunt for the "perfect bed". In other words, I'm being picky, but with this type of stuff, Chikara's not picky at all (since he can fall asleep *anywhere*) so every bedframe he saw and every mattress he tried out was, to him, perfect. Finally, I just gave up, much to the frustration of Chikara and probably the amazement of our friends. Sorry, I just can't decide in that kind of environment.

So no bed, but I did find cutting boards, a cheese slicer, a new whisk, bed sheets for the girls, kid's cups, a round mirror to hang on the wall, hooks for coats for the entrace of our house, cute storage boxes, cheap pillow covers, and some other miscellaneous stuff. Also, they had salted licorice, which is probably going to gross a lot of you out, but my dad gave it to us when we were kids and I really like it now. Probably reminds me of hanging out with my dad, who I miss a lot.

Our friends watched the kids for us while they ate ice cream so we could run through one more time to make sure I didn't miss anything and I found a collapsable laundry basket that I can take with me as I go around the house picking up dirty laundry. I'm always trying to carry everything in my hands and I inevitably end up dropping socks along the way. After the wonderfulness of Ikea, I didn't think I could take anymore shopping, but just across the street is Lalaport. And here I have to say sorry to Lily because I didn't know there was more than one Lalaport and were in the one in Tokyo, not Yokohama (thanks for the info, Gina!). They have an awesome playland that is 500yen ($5) for each kid and they can play as long as they want on the weekdays. The pictures say it all.

For dinner we ate at Wendy's because I didn't want to take my cranky, tired kids to a real restaurant. As soon as we arrived Emi started crying for some reason so I knew I had made the right decision. We had cheeseburgers, chili-cheese fries and Frostys. It was awesome. When I was pregnant with Emi, whenever I had 99 cents in the car I would drive through Wendy's and buy a small Frosty. That was an awesome time! After Wendy's, we got some Starbucks and wandered around for a little bit but soon it was obvious that we should take all of our kids home and put them in bed. Again Natsuki slept very well (hallelujah!). Once all the kids were settled down, Chikara and Kenji promptly fell asleep on the couch and the floor, so Sachiko and I talked until about 1 in the morning. We had such a great time gabbing without interuptions! But finally we were tired too so we woke up our husbands and went to bed.

The next morning we woke up, got ourselves ready and packed up our things because it was time to leave. I have to say that we really didn't to go. Kenji & Sachiko, thank you so much for your hospitality. You guys handled having six other people in your house very graciously and we appreciated that so much. Thanks for treating us to such a wonderful weekend.

One our way out of Tokyo, we experienced the only real stop-and-go traffic of the whole week. I just kept throwing food at the girls to keep them calm but after an hour we were on our way to Nagoya. On the way we were really hoping to see Mt. Fuji. Neither of us have seen it before but it was a little bit cloudy so we weren't sure if it was going to possible. From the freeway we got a great view of it in between the clouds. It was so beautiful. There was the ocean on one side and the mountain on the other with the sun shining down on us. At the Fujigawa rest stop you can see the mountain from a different angle but unfortunately the clouds were blocking it this time. I took a picture anyways and if you look really carefully at the left side of the pictures above the hill that's in front, you can see the where the bottom of the mountain sloping up. It was a little disappointing but at least we did see it from the freeway even if we were flying by.

At the rest stop they also had a blown-up play area that kids can go inside of and jump (what are those things called?). It was set up for Golden Week and it was free. Also, and this is very amazing, there is a Starbucks at that rest area. Chikara and I got a coffee and the kids got to jump and release some of their energy and Natsuki was released from her car seat. After about 15 minutes we were back on the road.

to be continued...

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

golden week part one

I will give you a rough view of the schedule we had planned for Golden Week and then fill in the details and add pictures after. Our plan was to leave Saturday night after Chikara came back from work and drive through the evening to Chiba so we wouldn't hit any traffic and the girls could sleep in the car so they wouldn't be asking "are we there yet?" a million times. We would stay with our friends, Kenji & Sachiko and their 1-year-old son Tsuguki, until Wednesday morning and then drive down to Nagoya to visit other friends for the afternoon/evening and then continue onto Yokkaichi that evening and stay overnight with another family (who just built a house), relax Thursday at their house and then go home Thursday evening. We were trying to hit as little holiday traffic as possible but still travel around and visit as many of our friends as we could. Then Friday we would relax at home, Saturday would be spent with Chikara's parents and a BBQ with friends on Sunday after church. I was a little nervous about putting the kids through such a busy week but we couldn't miss such a great chance to visit with friends.

I spent the few days before the Saturday we left trying to catch up on laundry. Fortunately the weather cooperated but on Saturday morning there was still one more load to do. I woke up early Saturday morning with a long list of things to do and a huge headache. I think it was a migraine and it just pounded me all day. The "do or die" pressure helped push me along so I washed the load and hung it out to dry, made breakfast, took a short nap on the couch while the girls watched a video, got the suitcases down from the loft and gave the girls a bath all before noon. While I was making lunch, the girls were on the couch watching another video and suddenly Emi yelled at Sakura. I turned around to find that Sakura had found a pen and proceeded to draw all over HERSELF! I took a picture, washed off as much as I could and gave her a time out. Monkey!

By two o'clock, all the girls were in bed for a nap and I packed as much as I could and then laid down for another nap since my head was still killing me. Around four, we all woke up and I called Chikara to see how he was doing. He was doing one more thing and then he would be able to come home. Besides the headache and Sakura drawing on herself, everything seemed to be going smoothly so I started tackling the last of the packing while trying to keep the girls reigned in. Around 6, I still hadn't heard from Chikara so I called him and he was still working on the same "last" thing.

He finally came home after 7 and had a few more things to do for our trip so I washed the dishes, finished putting everything together and around 9 we finally left the house. We got about 2 minutes away from the house and I realized that I had forgotten all of our blankets and pillows. We went back, got them, closed a window I had left open and then were really on our way. We stopped by a friend's house and I gave her all of my perishables, filled up with gas, got some snacks at the convenience store and hopped on the freeway. By this time it was almost 10 and I was exhausted and cranky but we were on our way so I resolved to calm down and enjoy the trip. We drove without stopping to Chiba and arrived around 3am. The girls had slept most of the way and we didn't hit any traffic at all.

When we arrived at our friend's house, the older three girls went back to sleep right away but Natsuki refused to go to sleep so I had to walk with her for about an hour before she gave in. The next morning, after breakfast, we all got ready and went to Hope Church. Many of our friends from college go to that church so it felt like a mini-reunion. The service was awesome. I burst into tears during the worship service which hasn't happened to me for awhile. Emi was sweet and got me some tissue. It was very refreshing for me somehow and really reminded me of the church we used to go to in Portland. The girls behaved really well during the service even though they were tired for which I was very grateful.

After the service, all the church members bought lunch at a convenience store and ate together at the church. The people at the church were so outgoing and at first I was a little taken back and it made me realize how much I've gotten to used to how reserved Japanese people are. After a lovely lunch, we went back to our friends house for a little break but soon we were back in the car and off again. Another couple from college, Katsumi & Angela, had arranged babysitting so we could all go out for dinner together and catch up. Honestly I can't remember the last time someone other than family has watched our kids here in Japan. I thought for sure I'd get a call as soon as we left but the girls were fine. So Chikara & I, Kenji & Sachiko, and Katsumi & Angela all went out to Asakuma for dinner. They had reserved a private dining room and it was so awesome to be able to have the freedom to talk away without worrying about disturbing other diners. I had an awesome steak dinner. We talked for hours until finally I did get the call that Natsuki had been crying for the last hour. We went back to Katsumi's house and my older three girls were all lined up on the couch watching a video. They didn't even blink when I said hi to them, they were that tired!

We went home and once all the kids were in bed, we started playing Phase 10. We were just getting into the game when I heard Emi & Natsuki crying. I went in to discover that Emi had thrown up and woken up Natsuki in the process. I went into mom mode and cleaned everything up and put Emi back to bed but Natsuki would not go back down so easily so we stopped the game and all went to bed. Natsuki did go to sleep by herself after about 20 minutes but she woke up around 6 so I nursed her and put her back in bed where she slept until around 8:30. Not too bad but my goal was to get her to sleep through the night in the room with her sisters.

On Monday the weather was fabulous so we made plans to go to the park but my head started to hurt again and Natsuki was worn out from the night so Sachiko and I talked the guys into taking Emi, Misaki and Sakura to the park so we could take a break. Natsuki and Tsuguki took a nap and eventually Sachiko and I did to. That nap totally took all the tiredness away so after a relaxing afternoon we got in the car and went to Odaiba to do some sightseeing and have some dinner.

Behind the Odaiba shopping center is the Rainbow Bridge. I have to confess that although I have heard about the Rainbow Bridge, I thought it was in another city. Imagine my surprise! It was very beautiful, as you can see. There is also a miniature Statue of Liberty and that was surprising too. We walked down to the beach and I tried my best to keep the girls out of the water since we were going to dinner after. It was all very beautiful.

Soon we all started to get pretty hungry so our friends took us to the Red Lobster for dinner. I have to admit I'm not a huge fan of seafood but the food they ordered was delicious. Chikara had Kenji order a pasta dish with a gorgonzola cheese sauce for me which was heavenly. The girls were surprisingly adventurous during that meal and I was also very happy that nobody spilled anything!

We went back outside to see the Rainbow Bridge at night with all the lights on. Apparently once every hour there are lights in the color of the rainbow that will shine on the bridge and although we could see the bridge even during dinner, we never saw the lights. Emi kept asking me why it was called the Rainbow Bridge if there wasn't a rainbow. She was pretty disappointed since she loves rainbows. It was still very beautiful. If you look to the right of the closest tall part of the bridge you can see Tokyo Tower all lit up in red.

We went back home and put the girls right down to sleep. Even Natsuki went down pretty easily and she slept until 7:30 the next morning which also meant that I slept until 7:30 and that felt great. Again, after all the kids were in bed, we played some games with our friends and this time no one woke up to disturb us. Sachiko won the game but we think it was because of her pregnancy luck!

To be continued...

Monday, May 07, 2007

it was an awesome vacation

Our vacation has come to an end, but it was so wonderful while it lasted! The kids were troopers. We really messed with their schedules and they had to sleep in unfamiliar places, but they had awesome attitudes and it made the trip so much easier. It was great to see our friends from college. Almost everyone has kids now so we met in family-friendly places and just hung out and fellowshipped together. We did lots of sightseeing and shopping so it's going to take me a few days to blog about it all.

Before I do that, I wanted to share some pictures of me! Some of you asked about it before so here you go. I just got my hair cut so here is before and after pictures.

One of the things on my to-do-list for this year is to get my teeth fixed. They have become more crooked with each passing year and I need to do something about them. I'm only 32 so I've got at least 20 years or more before my teeth can look like this and I can get away with it! It's one of my pet peeves that Japanese people (in general) don't take care of their teeth very well. 4 kids out of the 14 kids in my English class have totally black teeth. I don't get it. My excuse is that I've had four kids in the last 6 years but that's over so I need to get back to taking care of myself! I even shaved my legs yesterday...

Hopefully I won't procrastinate too long with writing about our trip!