I am not at all apprehensive about summer vacation. Did that comment surprise you? It surprised the heck out of me! Thanks to the post of a blogger friend, I was reminded fairly early that I should plan ahead for the summer vacation this year. Spring vacation totally caught me off guard this year. I didn't think it would be a big deal. Misaki, Sakura and Natsuki were home with me all day anyways, I didn't think that adding Emi to the mix would make much of a difference, but it did. Emi is truly the big sister and where Misaki and Sakura had figured out how to play together, Emi came and ruined it all. Not that she was mean or difficult, but Misaki naturally preferred to play with Emi and the games that they play, Sakura could not for she is too young and this was frustrating for everyone. Especially me.
Although it took me a couple of weeks, I have devised a strategy (read: schedule), which should help all of us through the next six weeks.
8:00am - wake up
- There are radio exercises each morning at 6:45am that school kids are encouraged to participate in. I cannot think of one good reason to wake up that early and send Emi out the door. She will only be unreasonable for the rest of the day because of the lack of sleep. This is the total opposite of what I'm hoping our summer vacation will be so I will need to have a conversation with our neighbor, Nozaki-san, and let him know that Emi will not be attending. This is one of those times that I'm going to pull the foreigner card and not participate in something that everyone is doing.
9:00am - outside playtime for Emi, Misaki & Sakura
- I have bought some new toys and stocked up on their favorite things (eg. bubbles). I am also creating an inside play area in the entrance of our house. Our entrace is quite wide so I bought another small fold-up table and a small shelving system to store some toys and activities in so that if it's raining or too hot, they can invite their friends in and play together in that area. I've already spoken to Emi about all of this and she's excited (wonders never cease). I don't really know if Sakura will stay outside for the whole morning or if she'll be able to find her place in the activities. I've been sending her out once a week with her sisters for about an hour each time and she's done really well. She does come inside every 15 minutes to give a report of what is going on. I'm worried about her being unsupervised since she's going through a destructive/curious stage but I'm sure big sister Emi will inform me if anything too crazy is going on. Natsuki will be taking a nap during most of this so I will have some time on my hands to take care of stuff around the house.
12:00pm - lunch
- I'm thinking that this will be a good cooling down time for them. Even if lunch doesn't appear until 12:30, I want them to relax for a bit under the air conditioning.
1:00pm - Sakura takes a nap, Emi & Misaki study!
- This is usually the hot part of the day so I want the girls inside although if their friends call to play, I will probably let them go. If no one comes, we'll work on some English study, Emi's summer vacation homework, craft projects, and some piano practice (we bought a keyboard last week - it has weighted keys so it's like a real piano and headphones so it's quiet which is not like a real piano!). All of this makes me sound very virtuous but after spring break, I know that I need to be prepared, also Emi has requested that we study phonics so she can learn how to read English books so at least I know her heart is in it. Misaki may spend most of the time drawing pictures but I'm fine with that, too. Natsuki takes a nap from 2pm so I'll be able to focus on Emi and Misaki during this time.
4:00pm - snack time
- At four, everyone wakes up from naps and I'm off the hook for teaching the girls. At this point I'm kind of at a loss for what to do next so the hopefully the girls will be able to decide for themselves. There may be days when it is too hot to go outside and they are sick of being inside so on those days we will go to the nearest shopping center and run around for a bit.
6:00pm - dinner time
- My goal for the summer vacation is to eat dinner at the table every evening (if we're not out). I have gotten into the bad habit of letting the girls eat their meals on a folding table in front of the TV when Chikara's not home to eat with us. It's just easier and now that Natsuki's crawling, the table is where everything ends up and I can't be bothered to clean it off just for the four of us. Somehow when Chikara is home, dinner seems more like a family affair and we do really enjoy our family dinners. The girls say the most interesting things, especially Misaki, and after the girls have gone to bed, we'll recall the moments that we enjoyed the most and laugh over them again.
7:00pm - video time/bath time
- I've decided that after dinner will be when I let the girls watch TV without feeling guilty about them *wasting* their summer vacation. I'm assuming that by this time they'll be worn out from their day and will lay all over the furniture in the living room and veg out for a bit. Either that or we'll take a bath. I'm not big on taking baths every day. I think it's hard on the skin and it's quite an effort to bathe four girls who don't get that dirty during the day so we economize and take a bath every other day.
8:30pm - tidy up and get ready for bed
- One of the things that Emi has to do as part of her summer vacation homework is "help" so I'm going to give her the job of tidying up the toys each night. Misaki and Sakura can help if they want although it's actually not a big job and it would help me out a lot. By this time Natsuki will already be in bed.
9:00pm - girls go to bed/mommy and daddy time
- Emi, Misaki & Sakura share a room with one set of bunkbeds and a single bed. They do pretty good with going right to sleep and not fooling around. We do not share a room with them and I can't imagine that I would get much sleep if I did so I'm glad that everything has worked out this way. After all the girls are in bed, Chikara and I are slaves to no one and usually spend the time any way we feel like it. Mostly for me it means watching TV, folding laundry, catching up on e-mail, etc. but sometimes we play games (our current favorite being Settlers of Cataan) or talk together.
I should mention that when I say that the girls are going outside to play, I mean only as far as the street we live on. For some reason, all the kids in the neighborhood congregate on our street so the girls are not required to go any farther than their front door to find someone to play with. We live in the middle of the street so the kids have enough time to get out of the way if cars come through but it's not a main street by any stretch of the imagination so it's fairly safe.
I have made three rules for the girls regarding playing outside. The first one is that they are not allowed to leave our street under any circumstances. The second is that they are to play nicely. You wouldn't think that this would not need to be a rule but sometimes the boys outside get too worked up and Emi feels that she needs to "fix" them all. I once caught her chasing a boy two years older than her down the street with a broom. Also, they get into little girl-type fights very easily but if they break this rule, they have to come inside straight away so for the most part they do their best to keep it. The third rule is that if it starts to rain they need to come inside right away. We get a lot of lightning storms around here and I also don't want them catching colds. I had to make this rule because Emi thought it was cool to get soaking wet in the rain. I'm going to implement a new rule about cleaning up after themselves starting from next week.
So there you have it. My plan for a "sane" summer vacation. In the middle of this, both Emi and Misaki have swimming classes at their respective schools but it doesn't last throughout the whole summer so I'll have to watch the calendar carefully to get the right days. Also, we are going to stay at a cabin with some friends and attend our church summer retreat, Chikara's dad's church's summer retreat, a sunday school summer camp and other various summer events. It seems like are lots of fun activities for everybody to enjoy. I have some back-up plans just in case things don't go as smoothly as I hope. These mostly include Chikara taking two of the girls to his work for a day or retail therapy.
Wish me luck!