Friday, December 21, 2007

It's beginning to look a lot like...

... a lot of work for mom! There is so much that goes into making a holiday special and sometimes I forget that it's *me* that has to do it. It's *me* that has to stir up a Christmas Spirit in my kids that is so wondrous that it lasts in their memories for years to come. No pressure!

One thing I decided that I would do for sure this year was let the kids help me decorate the tree. You don't know how much of a challenge this was for me because I'm a bit of a control freak (stop laughing Hannah!). Last week, in the middle of everything, I got our fake Christmas tree out while Sakura and Natsuki were having their nap and let Emi and Misaki help me put it together and spread out the branches. I left it that way for the afternoon because I wanted to see how Natsuki was going to do with resisting the urge to touch the tree. I think she was actually a bit scared of it at first and then she become interested in it and as soon as she went to touch it, I said "no" and she looked at me out of the corner of her eye and walked away from it. That's pretty much how it's gone since then. She knows she's not allowed to touch it but she'll try every so often, just to make sure we were serious about it.

Once Natsuki went to sleep that night, I got out the lights and decorations. We have about four strands of lights that I've had since Chikara and I were married. I laid them out and checked to see if they would light up and all except one strand were fine. I told the girls I would put the lights on real quick and then they could put the ornaments on. I wrapped all three strands of lights around the tree but when I went to plug it in, only one strand lit up. Huh? I wiggled the lights that weren't working and checked for broken bulbs but it all seemed normal. So, I took all the lights off again, laid them out and plugged them in one by one and, you'll never guess, they all lit up just fine. I connected them together and plugged them in and, again, no problem. Argghhh! It's like the lights were teasing me. So I left them plugged in and wrapped them around the tree and they stayed lit. Yeah! By this time it was later than I had planned so I got out some of the kid-friendly ornaments and let the girls put them on. They had so much fun doing it and I was really glad I had let them be a part of this tradition.

After they went to sleep, though, I had to take all those ornaments off and start again because I found some other ornaments that should go on first. I really tried to be less control-y but it didn't work. Sigh... but it turned out really nice and the girls didn't seem to notice that I had changed EVERYTHING around.

The next day, after the third night of no sleep, I *had* to prepare for my speech. No nap for me. After Sakura and Natsuki had started their nap, I figured I had about two hours to focus on the speech so I made myself a cup of coffee, put on some Christmas music and plugged in the tree. Only the bottom strand of lights lit up. Unbelievable. I wiggled and jiggled all the strands but the other lights wouldn't work and somehow *that* was the last straw for me and I just wanted to pick up the Christmas tree, ornaments and all, and throw it out the window! But I figured that would be hard to explain to the neighbors so instead I had some chocolate and got to work on my speech. Good thing, too, because an hour later Natsuki woke up screaming and that was the end of my private time.

In spite of my craziness, the girls have revelled in the beauty of the tree and all it's lights and shininess and that segued into the Christmas parties and Christmas services that we had last weekend and now the girls are ready for the real thing. They haven't asked too much about presents and I haven't been as good with promoting Santa Claus as I probably should be. The presents have been accumulating in my closet and I realized that if I didn't wrap them last night then Christmas Eve would be my only other chance. My mom had sent a box of presents but had only wrapped mine so I wrapped those presents and the presents we had bought for the kids. I was really tempted to put them all under the tree but I didn't want to spend the day yelling at the girls not to touch them. Now that we're so close to Christmas, I think the Christmas presents will "appear" on Christmas morning. Less stress for me! So all the wrapped presents went back into the closet but I was proud of a job well done.

Every year I appreciate more how much effort my parents put into making the holidays such a special time for us when we were kids. I hope I will be able to make the same impression on my own children.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

the aftermath of being extra nice

All of our kids got sick last week. Yes, in the middle of everything else that was going on. Isn't their timing perfect? Emi started it off with a cold which she passed to Misaki who also got an ear infection who then passed that off in turn to Sakura and then Natsuki. Usually it's Emi who gets the ear infections so I was really surprised when Misaki came into our room in the middle of the night saying that her ear hurt. Misaki, Sakura and Natsuki all had one or two sleepless nights, which means that my husband and I had 5 sleepless nights altogether. They're all feeling much better now but we are starting to notice the curious side effects to all the extra love and attention they received while they were sick.

Most noticeably, they've all turned into whiners and forgotten how to speak.

Conversations with Misaki go like this:

Me: Get changed out of your uniform and then you can play.

Misaki: okay...

(five minutes later)

Me: Misaki, you're not getting changed.

Misaki: okay...

(five minutes later)

Me: Misaki, you need to start getting changed now.

Misaki: But...

Me: No, just start by taking off your jacket.

(five minutes later)

Me: Thanks for taking off your jacket, now take off your vest.

(we go on like this until she's gotten everything off but now she has to hang it on the hanger)

Me: Okay, sweetie, now put it on the hanger.

Misaki: (sniffling) but I can't!

Me: Yes, you can, start with the skirt.

Misaki: (starting to cry) ... but I can't do it fast!

Me: You don't have to do it fast, you just need to do it.

Misaki: (full wail) ... but I *want* to do it fast.

Me: Then do it fast.

Misaki: BUT I CAN'T DO IT FAST... (tears pouring down her face)

(I can tell she's tired so I go to Plan B)

Me: Here, I'm going to set the timer for 5 minutes. If you can't get changed before the time is up then I'll help you finish and you can take a nap.

Misaki: (crying) ... I'm not tired.

Me: Okay, I started the timer. You've got five minutes.

Misaki: I DON'T LIKE FIVE MINUTES (full wailing with tears streaming down her face)

(I ignore her and miraculously she manages to get all of her uniform on the hanger within the 5 minutes)

Me: Yeah, you did it, now you can play.

Misaki: (sniffling) ... but I want to play this game.

Me: Go ahead, that's a good game. (cheerily)

Misaki: (wailing) ... BUT NO ONE WANTS TO PLAY WITH ME.

Me: Sigh...

That's how most of the conversations with Misaki have gone this week. Sakura is no better. If she needs to go to the potty she suddenly appears beside me, holding her crotch, and her eyebrows are raised as high as they can possibly go and then just looks at me. Obviously I know what she wants but I ask her to tell me what she wants in words. She says, "Potty", so I ask her to say it nicely, to which she says "I have to go potty", and then we go. We repeat this at least six times a day. And if you saw Natsuki at any given moment, you would think her life is going to end. Soon. There's a lot of crying and dramatic head throwing and putting her hands over her eyes, etc. It's all a lot of fun.

But even with all the extra drama, we managed to get everything accomplished last week that we needed to. I did my speech on Terry Fox at the junior high school. It went really well. I was mostly worried about forgetting my Japanese all of a sudden and/or losing the kid's attention but I sailed right through everything I wanted to say and the kids were watching me the whole time. Later, the teacher that had invited me in the first place said that they had never had a speaker use the telling of the story of one person to illustrate the culture of a country but that it was, in fact, very effective. I took this to mean that he was nervous before I started speaking that I was going to make a complete fool of myself and, by association, him but that he was very relieved that I didn't.

Also, I sang at with the gospel choir at their concert. I was nervous because on Monday and Wednesday, I lost my voice entirely and when I went to the rehearsal on Tuesday, I was probably at 50% of my normal voice. I was thinking that I had four whole days in which to get better but all four of those nights I was up with one of the kids so I wasn't getting any sleep at all. But in the end, all that worry was for nothing and everything went very well.

Now I'm trying to get ready for our trip to Miyazaki and finish up our Christmas shopping. Hopefully since everyone was sick last week, no one will get sick next week. Fingers crossed!

Monday, December 10, 2007

all business, no pants

Notice that she's concentrating so hard that she isn't smiling! Sorry for the awful singing in the back. :(

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

plans for December

I added the links that I forgot the first time!!

Hi! Did you miss me? Well, I've missed you, dear Internet friends.

There has been a lot going on and I would need a full-time assistant in order to be able to get it all onto this blog. I don't know how many times I've started this post, just to be interrupted, just to get back to it and realize that everything has changed so I'll have to start over. So let me try one more time.

I thought that December wasn't going to be too busy since we didn't have to do any music for the Christmas service at our church but we just filled it up with other stuff so now we're busy again. Tomorrow my friend and I are going to decorate the church for Christmas. Chikara is coming along to keep an eye on the kids. This year we are putting up a Christmas tree covered with red and white ribbons with clear lights in the entrance of the church. In the dining hall we are going to hang paper snowflakes from the ceiling so it looks like a Winter Wonderland (hopefully!) and then we'll be putting pointsettias with lights around them on the stage. I'll post some pictures when we're done.

Then tomorrow night I'm going with my friend Abigail to see a Red Priest concert. Abigail discovered them recently and then she found out they were giving a concert in our area so she asked me if I'd like to go with her (of course!). Chikara's going to watch the kids (Thank You!) so I can go with her and enjoy a girl's night out. What should I wear? I have no idea. Any suggestions?

I think we're going to end up celebrating Emi's birthday on this Sunday instead of next Sunday (which is her actual birthday) because Chikara's parents are busy. Yes, sometimes they suck at being grandparents. She's getting a new bicycle for her birthday so we'll go shopping together, let her pick out the one she likes, go out for dinner and then come back to our house for cake. I'm thinking of buying a Baskin Robins ice cream cake instead of making the traditional chocolate cake because I can't see how I'd actually get the cake done between now and then. Cake-baking fairies coming into my kitchen and baking one while I'm asleep are more of a reality at this point.

From Monday I get to prepare for a speech about Canadian culture. How I got roped into this is a long story. The short version is that I'm doing a favor for a friend. I will be going to a junior high school in our area next Friday and speaking to 290 students for 20 minutes, in Japanese, about Canadian culture. At first I thought about sharing about how Canadians celebrate Christmas but I couldn't imagine being able to capture their attention so I've decided so speak about Terry Fox and through his life share about Canadian culture and how Canadians think (I hope!). His story is very interesting so at the least I should be able to keep their attention but I'm hoping to plan a seed of hope in their minds. Now I just have to learn how to say "fundraising", "prosthetic leg" and "Cancer Society of Canada" in Japanese, plus figure out a good translation for "Marathon of Hope" and I'm ready to go.

The Saturday after that is the Children's Christmas Party at our church. Chikara is doing some music for that and both Emi and Misaki are involved so we'll all go to that and then the next day, Sunday (the 16th), I will be singing with the gospel choir that our pastor's wife leads. She asked me awhile ago if I would be willing to sing the solo for two of the songs that they're doing since they don't have a good soloist. I said yes before everything got so busy. But I think it'll be fun. If I could just get some time to practice...

The following Friday we are going to Miyazaki on the evening overnight ferry to attend the wedding of one of Chikara's cousins. We haven't been to Miyazaki for almost two years so I'm really excited to go and see everyone. Chikara's dad is the second of five siblings and they all have at least two or three kids (Chikara's cousins). Chikara is the oldest cousin so when we visit there are a lot of teenagers to watch our kids! Only one of Chikara's cousins has kids so far and they are around the same age as my younger two. We'll be there all of Saturday and Sunday and then leave on the Sunday night ferry arriving home on Christmas Eve morning. Dad wanted to stay one extra day and return on Christmas Day but I said no. Sleeping on a ferry is not how I want to spend Christmas Eve. Ever.

I don't think that Chikara's dad has Tuesday off so we'll get to spend Christmas alone with our girls. Yeah! Last year we went back to Canada for Christmas. It was a very special time and my girls still talk about it like it just happened a few weeks ago. They all thought for sure that we were going back again this year and it was a huge disappointment when I told them that we're not going back until next summer. But I am looking forward to starting our own traditions with the girls now that three of them are old enough to participate. I can't tell if they actually believe in Santa or if they're just pretending to make me feel better so I'll just go with the flow on that point. I am planning to make a nice lunch and maybe use my fine china (twice in one year!). But mostly we'll just relax and enjoy each other, especially since the few weeks before will be a whirlwind.

Oh, and in the middle of the whirlwind I need to find time to put up our Christmas tree and buy all our Christmas presents. Right about now a personal assistant sounds like a good idea.

We have on purposely planned nothing for the New Year's holidays but I'm sure that will change quickly. Hee-hee!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Amazing Christmas Light Show

For those of you who get homesick around Christmas, you might enjoy this!