Friday, September 21, 2007

Murphy's Law

On Tuesday, while I was gone teaching English, something happened. Actually "something" always happens when I'm not around and it's still my fault. It's amazing how that works. This time the cap of one of the plastic bottles for blowing bubbles fell down the drain in the bathroom sink. There are a million reasons why this would not happen in a normal house but in our house we had taken out the stopper for the sink because it kept getting backed up with hair and we're too lazy to clean it out on a regular basis and I kept the bubbles bottles on the shelf, right above the sink, because then they were up out of the reach of the kids but still in a convenient place for me to reach them (because I'm lazy). It should be obvious by now what is contributing to our problems but there it is, chaos waiting to happen. Also, coincidentally, the cap is just smaller than the drain so it fit in perfectly and fell out of reach but still continued to block the water at random intervals.

In our typical fashion, we ignored it for a day, hoping that it would just go away but on Wednesday night it was still occasionally giving us problems so Chikara decides that he wants to call a plumber. I think this is ridiculous because they'll just charge us a fortune to say that they can't find it and plus Chikara's dad is doing this type of stuff now so before we drive ourselves to financial ruin we should ask him to take a look at it. Right? This makes perfect sense to me. Fortunately Chikara is busy right now and calling the plumber will take more time than calling his dad so he chose the lesser of two evils (I'm guessing that no self-respecting guy wants to call their Dad about this type of stuff). Since Chikara's parents come each Thursday to take the girls out for the evening, the timing couldn't have been better.

Or so I thought. I have to admit that in the summer I'm not very faithful with housecleaning and such. It's just so hot in most of the house that after ten minutes of minimal exertion I want to collapse plus Natsuki's mobile now so I have to bring her with me and basically all of this is a recipe for disaster (I wish I had taken a picture of her trying to climb into the toilet head first). It's funny because a lot of people I run into say that they respect me so much for being a mother of four, etc., but if they could see the state of our house on any given day, they would probably be horrified. I'm not sharing this as an excuse, this is a fact of my life, I have to decide each day what I'm going to do and then abandon the rest for another day (or month!).

So how does this relate to my story? Well, the bathroom is in horrible condition, especially the sink, where my father-in-law is going to be working but I figured my in-laws would come to get the kids late, as usual, and then come back and look at the sink later after I had cleaned it. You can imagine my shock when they appeared early and unannounced in my living room. There were toys everywhere, the 3 ft of counter space in the kitchen was covered with recycling and dishes, I didn't have a bra on and the bathroom sink was still not cleaned. I cannot even guess what they were thinking but they looked unaffected and Dad went right to work while Mom played with the girls. Fortunately Natsuki woke up so I gave her a bottle and then fed her while all of this was going on. Dad never did find the cap but he was able to force water through the pipes and we haven't had any more problems so I guess it's floating off towards the ocean somehow and will soon join all the other garbage in the sea.

It's sad. Not only are we lazy but we're also not eco-friendly.

In other sad news, I ripped a hole in the knee of the only pair of pants that fit me. I guess I'll be asking for money for my birthday so I can go shopping.

Some pictures from this week:

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Wow! That's a lot of old people...

I read this article online today about how there are over 30,000 Japanese citizens over the age of 100. That's a lot!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

recent changes

I think I wrote awhile ago that we're potty training Sakura and I'm sad to say that it's not going as well as I had hoped. She just doesn't care if she pees in a diaper, training pants, underwear, on the couch or in the toilet. About half of it is my fault because during the summer vacation we were all over the place and I wasn't being consistent with her but the other half rests entirely on her stubborn little shoulders. She's all for going on the potty because she gets a candy and she is also able to sit on big toilets without her training seat if we're not home but sometimes she's just having too much fun at whatever she's doing so she just goes in her training pants. She'll even come and tell me afterwards like "Oops... can you change me?".

Since part of the problem was me I knew I could at least fix that. I thought about it all last week and on Saturday I switched her to panties. All day, every day, panties only. She knew there would always be a safety net so I needed to take that away. When I was potty-training Emi I realized that this is one of the first experiences in life where children have the power to make the decisions. I can take her to the potty as much as I want to but at some point the decision has to come from inside of her to take it to the next level and always use the potty of her own initiative. Basically discipline doesn't work in this area so I haven't been getting mad at Sakura if she doesn't use the potty, but bribery and praise both work really well so we've been doing a lot of that. I knew that she understood what was expected of her so I bumped her up to the next level (she loves her Dora panties) and crossed my fingers that it would work.

On Sunday she pee'd literally on the church ten minutes before I had planned to take her to the potty so I cleaned her (and the floor) up but I hadn't brought any diapers or other underwear on purpose to change her into because I didn't want her to think it's that easy. At first she didn't seem to mind but as soon as we got home she asked for more panties so I could see that it did bother her a little bit. On Monday she pee'd on the couch while Chikara was watching her so that was a good lesson for both of them! But other than that there haven't been any other problems. I was most concerned about nighttime but that's where she's done the best. She appears by our bedside in the morning when she has to pee and then she goes right back to bed. In general, I've been impressed but we'll see how the next few weeks go.

I've also made a change with Natsuki this week. One thing she has done that her older sisters never did was take an extra nap each night. Usually she wakes up at 8am, has a nap from 10am -12pm, another nap from 2pm-4pm and then a nap from 7pm-8pm after which I wake her up for a bottle and then she goes right back to sleep until the morning. Her sisters never did the 7pm nap but I think she's just overwhelmed by all the noise and commotion at that point and needs a break! I started noticing that sometimes she didn't really sleep and then a few times last week she was wide awake after that nap and didn't want to go back to sleep right away so I surmised that it was probably time to drop that nap.

So the new plan is to keep her up until 7:30pm, then give her a bottle, change her clothes and then put her to sleep whenever that is finished, around 7:45pm. I'll follow that schedule for a few weeks and then push the whole thing back to 8pm. We did this with her the last two nights and she did great. She wasn't overtired, she drank all of her formula, she was quiet when we put her down in her bed and she slept until the morning without waking up. Probably next month we'll be dropping her morning nap but so far she seems to need it and she still sleeps great in the afternoon so I'm counting my blessings and sticking with it!

Personally I am not liking having to wake up early in the morning again. 7:20am is too early for me but I am enjoying spending a little time alone with Emi each morning. Both of us aren't morning people so we move at the same speed which makes it a nice start to the day.

Emi and her school

Someone asked me recently how Emi is doing at school and I've been meaning to write more about that so this is a good opportunity. Emi is doing great at school. It's hard to ask her about "everything" without being too obvious but it seems like she's enjoying herself.

I had a lot of worries before school started and it was mostly because I had no idea what to expect. Did Emi know enough going into first grade? Would I know what was going on? Did she have the right supplies? The questions went on and on and although I asked my neighborhood friends about a lot of it, I still felt unsure. It turns out that all my worrying was for nothing. For example, I wasn't sure how much Emi was supposed to know before she started school. She could write her name and she recognized most of the characters and could write about half of them from memory but I've heard so much about the pressure that is put on kids when they start school so I wasn't sure if it was enough. On the other hand I didn't want to put pressure on her either so me worrying about it seemed like the best option!

But they started the first week with the first letter of the hiragana alphabet and worked through all 50 characters over the next 3 months until summer vacation. Once they knew about half of the characters they started reading homework where they had to read 1-2 pages with us each night. They would read the exact same pages for about a week and then move onto something else. With math they started introducing numbers 1-5 over the course of a few weeks and then moved on to addition of sums up to 5 and then a few weeks later started with minus equations. Even now they are only studying up to number 9. I was very relieved at the pace at which everything was taught and at the amount and type of homework that was given. They really build upon what was taught before and I could see that Emi feels very confident doing it.

I also didn't know what the school and the teachers would be like. The school didn't look very appealing from the outside and I've never heard a good story about teachers in Japan. Ever. But in the first week of school they took the kids on a tour of the school so they would know where everything was and who was in charge of different areas like the library, nurses station and teacher's lounge and she came back from that day so excited about the school. Another thing that worried me was if she would be teased because she's half or even just because she's a little first grader but throughout the first month of school the first graders did a lot of activities with the sixth graders and I think this gave the kids a little self-confidence around the bigger kids. I felt like it was a good introduction to school, which is good since she has to go to one for the next 12 years!

We are noticing a change in her attitude though. She says "mendokusai" a lot with a little I'm-too-cool-for-you tone which we're not really thrilled about. I know she's not going to be a little girl for forever and that eventually she'll be a teenager and hate us and that there is a process from here to there but that doesn't mean I like it. Also we feel it's an attitude she's picking up and not something she actually feels so I'm trying to decide the best way to approach talking with her about it.

Otherwise we have been pleasantly surprised by how smoothly elementary school is going. I know just saying that is asking for trouble and we're only 1/4 of the way through the year and only 1\48 of the way through her whole school life but so far so good...

Friday, September 07, 2007

bum-biting bug song

There is a song on NHK (our public-broadcasting station) that the girls really love right now. They've even learned the actions and everything. I found this version on YouTube and it has the English subtitles on it.

It's called "Bum Biting Bug Song". I could not make that title up and as you will see from the lyrics it has no real meaning but it's cute so enjoy.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

a quick update

Emi and Misaki are back in school and I thought that would give me more time to myself but so far that hasn't happened. Maybe next week. I didn't want anyone to think I'd abandoned my blog so here are a few pictures from the last few weeks.

Misaki trying to cover her ears while drying her hands

Two legs on one side!

tan lines

Cool First Grader!

I can play the piano, too!