Thursday, July 26, 2007

summer vacation is receiving mixed reviews

I am happy to report that, in general, the summer schedule is working. There have been a few moments of destruction on the part of Sakura and Misaki followed by moments of exasperation on my part. Emi has swimming lessons at her school every morning this week while Misaki only had a half day of regular school on Monday with nothing else scheduled for her until Friday afternoon. Since both Emi and Misaki were not home on Monday morning, it was fairly quiet.

Tuesday morning, however, brought the mayhem. As Emi went out the door at 9:15, I went downstairs with Misaki and Sakura to show them the play area. I gave them my usual speech about the rules to which they agreed most solemnly and as I went back up the stairs I gave myself a pat on the back for having the foresight to make such a schedule. I *am* so clever!

Just five minutes later my peace was broken with a request for bubbles. Sure. I had bought a whole litre of bubbles last month at Toys R Us for just this occasion. I went downstairs and poured the bubble solution into little reusable bubble containers and handed them to the girls along with the blowing wands. I cautioned them to be careful and not spill it right away (one of my pet peeves) and then put the cap back on the big bottle and put it away in the closet. I returned to the living room and continued drinking my coffee while catching up on the news and watching Natsuki. After a bit, I realized that it was quiet. Too quiet. Chikara took a peek out the window and said, with some alarm, that the girls were playing with the water and had a big bottle of bubbles beside them. Crap. I put Natsuki down for her morning nap and went down to see what they were up to. Unbelievably, they had found the big bottle of bubbles and had poured the ENTIRE BOTTLE into the little box where our outside water faucet is kept. Seriously, a whole litre of bubbles down the drain. I'm not sure what they were thinking and actually, this is the problem with the two of them. They don't try to do wrong things, they're not mischievous like that, but they don't think ahead about the consequences of their actions.

I stood for a whole 10 seconds trying to decide what to do. On the one hand, I don't want a repeat of this every day for the whole summer so some decisive action needs to be taken but also the two of them are not used to being unsupervised so how much responsibility needs to put on them for their actions. I sent the two of them inside of the house to wait for me while I cleaned the bubbles off of the asphalt with water from the hose. They were soaking wet so we took off all their clothes in the laundry room and I sent Sakura upstairs so I could talk to Misaki. She knew that she had disobeyed me so I told her what she had done and why it was wrong and then gave her a spanking. I held her while she cried and then we talked together about not doing the same thing again, I gave her a hug and told her I loved her and then we went upstairs to put some clean clothes on. Once we were upstairs I had a talk with Sakura, too, but it was more of a stern warning since she's never been in this type of situation before.

Yes, we spank our kids. It's the third step in our discipline process and we don't use it more than once a month on any of the kids. First we give a warning and if the offense is repeated, a time-out or loss of privilege is applied but if the behavior is repeated then we do, with as much love as we possess, give a spanking. We find that because they know that we will not hesitate to spank them that their behavior is usually changed before we get that far. Both my husband and I were spanked as children and have never felt oppressed or abused but actually appreciate that our parents taught us the pain that comes with disobedience in a safe and loving environment before we were adults and thrown into the harsh realities of life.

So why, if spanking is the third step, did I do it right away? Because I have had this conversation with Emi and Misaki many times before she has already had her warnings and time-outs many times throughout the last two years and since she's 5, she needs to remember the rules previously learned. Anyways, after the two of them calmed down, I sent them outside again with a few more rules and they played without incident until Emi came home around 11:30. I went to the store during this time and bought groceries and all the things that make a household run smoothly. I bought some peanut butter sandwiches for the girls for lunch since I was going to have to get ready for my English class and Chikara was still busy working at the kitchen table. The girls started to wander in while I was putting the groceries away and soon I was able to set out their lunch for them. I was taking care of Natsuki while the girls were eating their lunch so I wasn't necessarily watching them when suddenly Emi yelled out, "Misaki!". I turned to look at Misaki and she quickly hid her hands behind her back. I told her to show me her hands and when she did, I couldn't believe it. She had scraped all the peanut butter off of her sandwich with her fingers and each finger had a big ball of peanut butter stuck to the end of it. I was so mad, I actually had to stop and count to ten. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. It helped a little bit. Again, playing with her food is something that we've been working on with Misaki. So, we had another conversation and another spanking because that kind of behavior is totally unacceptable. Wow, two spankings in one day has got to be some kind of record for our family. At this point, I decided it would be a good idea for Misaki to take a nap during the afternoon while I was gone to teach English.

By the time I returned from teaching English, the girls had had quite a long day and were pretty worn out. Usually Chikara gives them a bath but his parents had asked if they could stop by to talk about my MIL's parents. Grandpa had an ulcer flare up over the weekend and he had to be taken to the hospital by ambulance. They live almost two hours away from where we and my in-laws live and they have been talking of moving closer so that we would be able to help them for emergencies just like this. Unfortunately Grandma is a very picky woman who has an OCD-like affinity for cleanliness.

For example, if you go to use the toilet in her house there are slippers outside the bathroom door to use that have tissue stuffed in them. Once you step into the bathroom there are two parts, a sink room and then the toilet room beside it. The floor of the sink room is covered with newspaper and then when you step into the toilet room, there is a different pair of slippers also stuffed with tissue and then newspaper all over the floor of that room. They had a Japanese-style toilet that is set up about a foot and a half off the floor and you're supposed so take off your slippers and step-up and then squat over the toilet. There, and this is the clincher, she has placed a neat pile of about 10 pieces of tissue right at the place where you're supposed to put your feet while using the toilet. This type of stuff is repeated all over the house so you can imagine how much energy it takes to do all of this. Grandma has been suffering from a problem with her back and so Grandpa has been in charge of taking care of these types of things since he retired 5 years ago. I'm sure not a day goes by that he doesn't wish that he hadn't retired. The stress of taking care of Grandma and being with her in the house all day has really taken a toll on his health and recently he has aged visibly so we weren't very surprised that something like this happened.

The evening that Grandpa's ulcer started giving him problems, there was something spicy mixed in with his food and while he was eating, there was a sudden pain and he clutched his stomach and fell to the floor. Grandma ran to get the phone and call the hospital but no one answered so she called her only child, and only possible help, my MIL, and there was no answer, so Grandpa told her to call for an ambulance and she asked him how to do that. Mind you, he's an 80-something-year old man with a severe pain in his stomach laying on the floor and he had to guide her through all of this. 1-1-9, dial 1-1-9 (our 9-1-1). So she calls and first apologizes for calling and then explains what has happened to them.

You would think that this story couldn't get any better but it does. When the ambulance arrives, they check Grandpa and decide that he should indeed be taken to the hospital. As they're loading him in, the EMT turns to Grandma and says that she should get in, too, because she doesn't look well, either. She says that she has to take care of some stuff in the house before she goes so while Grandpa waits in pain in the ambulance, the EMT helps her turn off the gas, unplug all electrical appliances, throw away their dinner and put the dishes in the sink, get some clothes for her to change into and lock up the house. That EMT is a very patient man. Once they get to the hospital and Grandpa is checked and admitted, Grandma asks the nursing staff to call her a taxi so she can go home and they inform her that, unfortunately, that night is the night of the summer festival for their town so no taxis have been running since 6pm. She tries to call Chikara's parents, but they don't answer, so she sits on a stool beside Grandpa's bed until morning when the taxis are running again. She tried every hour to get ahold of my MIL but they didn't hear since their phone is on the 1st floor and they sleep (separately!) on the 2nd floor.

Honestly, *this* why we have been trying to encourage them to move closer and finally they understand the kind of predicament they can easily find themselves in and are willing to move quickly. They have opened up more about their financial state (good) and have given us more leeway in picking a place for them to live (very good). And so this is why Chikara's parents stopped by on a Tuesday night and consequently why the girls didn't get a bath. Sorry for the detour but I had to write that story.

Wednesday went a little bit better although I still had to go out and tell Sakura that she was *not* allowed to play with the water to which she answered with a surprised "Oh". And actually all day I would peek out the window and see them doing things I had just asked them not to do and everytime the ensuing conversations would go something like this:

Me: Hey, I thought I told you not to play with the umbrellas.

Misaki: But Sakura wanted to.

Me: Who is the big sister? You or Sakura?

Misaki: me...

Me: Then don't let her do stuff she's not supposed to do, okay?

Misaki: okay...

By Wednesday afternoon all the little girls in the neighborhood had figured that our house was the place to be and when I went to call my daughters for dinner, there were 9 girls playing in the entrance to our house. 9 girls. They didn't even really fit but it didn't seem to bother anyone. Emi was enjoying hosting everyone and calling out orders from the stairs (I'm assuming so that she could be taller than everyone) and everyone seemed genuinely sad when it was time to go home.

Today one of the neighbor girls brought corn when she came to play. I'm guessing her mother made it this morning to say thank you for letting her play all day the day before. It was still warm and I was so excited because I hadn't been able to decide what I was going to make for lunch and here the answer was provided. I added some rice and some teriyaki meatballs and we were all set. I was also excited because that meant I was done with cooking for the rest of the day since Chikara's parents usually come and get the kids every Thursday night. Even though they were going to see Chikara's grandparents during the day, they said that they still wanted to come and get the girls. By 5pm, I hadn't heard from them and I had a sinking feeling that they weren't coming so I started to think of something to make for dinner. By 6pm, I hadn't received any answer to my text messages so I went ahead and made spaghetti. The girls were so worn out from the day that they didn't put together that eating dinner at home meant they weren't going out with their grandparents.

They appeared around 7:45pm without an apology and then went on to exasperate Chikara with their lack of a plan of any kind regarding the next couple of weeks until Grandpa goes home from the hospital. Chikara is an only child so throughout my in-law's whole married life they could just do what they want when they wanted to so they totally do not understand that with four kids we need a little bit of advanced warning if they want something from us.

So that has been the first part of our week. I also went and saw Die Hard 4 by myself last night. Chikara went and saw it last week with his work buddies and for some reason I really wanted to see it. Wednesday is Ladies Day so it only cost me 1000 yen ($10) but as I sat down I realized that I have never been to a theatre by myself. I was a very odd feeling but once the movie started, I forgot that I was alone and really enjoyed myself.

Also, recently a friend and I did a book exchange of sorts and, among other things, lent me a few Jane Austen books which then made me want to see the movies but I was unable to rent Emma (with Gwyneth Paltrow) which was a little bit sad. I found it on Amazon and then while I was searching, I also found that they are selling the complete seasons of Little House On The Prairie. I'm tempted to save my pennies and buy them over the next few years and watch them with my girls. Even Chikara remembers watching Little House on TV when he was younger.

Now I'm just sharing random stuff, although it feels good to get it off my chest. One thing about summer vacation is that I'm stuck in the house, but the schedule is working and the rules are starting to have their desired effect. I think we will survive.


Anonymous said...

oh my gosh!!! k i know it was a bad thing but the bubbles sound like so much fun. It made me thing of one of those little plastic pools and you should fill it up with bubbles, the girls would have so much fun. When we were younger my mum watched the neighbourhood kids and she had a pool and filled it up with rice!! it was awesome! I understand about the spankings, not necessary all the time but i think talking will only do so much, i know i wouldnt behave if i wasn't thinking something would happen when i misbehaved. Plus, your parents in laws? sound very difficult, but that's nice they've put so much trust in you with finding them a home. I hope your grandfather-in-law is ok! I think that's all i had to comment on as i was reading! It would have been awesome if you sent pictures of the bubbles, but you were probably a little flusterd by then!
Love Kim!

Hannah said...

I know about the whole spanking thing. It's hard to admit for some reason, because it's something we feel so strongly about. I have to say, once again, that the example you and Maria set with your kids in this area totally helped me and David with setting rules and expectations for our kids. Way to come out of the spanking closet!

cara said...

sounds like you are having an eventful summer so far...i've been babysitting 3 kids plus Ayva every ngiht this week and so it's made me think of you and Rebecca a lot. you guys are amazing and inspiring moms. just thought you should know that. thanks for being so open to share the daliy goings on in your family. i hope that EMT gets paid extra for stuff like that. what patience!

Heidi said...

I too was spanked as a child (caned, actually). Regularly. Twice a day sometimes. I was a "curious" kid. And from what I read in parenting books these days, it seems that I would become an adult with self-esteem and violence issues amongst other issues just because I was caned. But I am happy to report that I am not like that I have none of those issues. I think spanking is OK if used as a last resort, is fair in the circumstances and the spanker is not out of control.

Hope the grandfather gets better and the grandmother is so funny! (Although I am not sure whether I would be saying that if she were my grandmother!!)

Mom said...

It's not really true that you are stuck in the house all summer. You get to go outside and discipline your errant children, and you get to hang out the laundry every day, and you get to go an buy a truckload of expensive groceries - see? Lucky you!

Love Mom

Lily said...

I really appreciate such open posts. Thanks for sharing. Hope things go better this week.

Henri said...

Proverbs tells us that using "the rod" drives out "folly" from the heart. If we're to be God's agents, by being caretakers of our kids, then it seems to me that spanking is pretty much a command. Besides, I think spanking is a good time to show that we are sinful people, unable to do "good" all the time, and thus are in need of Jesus' forgiveness and help.

Just some rambling...

Anyway, Sarah, I loved the MIL story. Very funny.

Say hi to C. :)