Saturday, March 31, 2007
This one is about favorite songs and this is going to be tough because we listened to so much music growing up. My parents are musicians and we listened to classical, Christian, jazz, big band, 60/70's rock and gospel. I remember we were allowed to listen to Lucretia MacEvil by Blood, Sweat and Tears and they said *damn*. I guess swear words were OK if they were set to really good music!
Once, when I was in high school, a friend of my brothers who came over for dinner told him that it was weird that our family sat around the dinner table and talked about music. I don't really remember but I guess that day we were listening to a new CD and one of us commented on the French horns and it just went on from there. It never felt weird to us because my parents were always engaging us in a wide assortment of educational conversations.
Then I met my husband, Chikara, who plays guitar and he would always comment on cool guitar licks in the music we would be listening to. I had never really paid attention to the guitar in music but now it's the first thing I hear. Now we spend time listening to music together as a family and teaching our kids about what they are hearing. I noticed that this was really working when I started playing classical music to "calm them down". This totally backfired on me because they have become really sensitive to the moods that the music creates.
I have tried to choose only five songs from all the music I've ever listened to and it was hard to choose because there is a lot of music that I like but here goes...
If you were only allowed five songs, what would they be? Take five that you would happily hold onto if all the rest of your music was demanded from you.
1. "It Had To Be You" by Harry Connick Jr. from the soundtrack for "When Harry Met Sally". Actually I love the whole soundtrack and I like to put it one while I clean the house because most of it really upbeat. Also I wasn't allowed to watch this movie because it talked alot about s-e-x (shhhhh!) but when I watched it as an adult I thought it was pretty tame and I was totally blown away by the soundtrack. I love Harry Connick Jr. He has a CD that's all love songs (Only You) which I highly recommend.
2. "Home" by Michael Buble. I love this song because when I listen to it makes me a little homesick and I take a moment to think about all the reasons I like my home and my family. Anything by Michael Buble is fabulous!
3. "From The New World" by Dvorak. This piece of classical music is so beautiful. I wanted to incorporate it in the music for my wedding but I just couldn't make it work. If you're looking to buy some classical music but aren't sure where to start, this is a good place. PS. The clip is only the first part of the song and it's set to some relaxation crystals - kind of weird - sorry!
4. "How Great Is Our God" by Chris Tomlin. I have listened to this song a million times and I still love it. This is the CD I play to calm my girls down.
5. "If I Had A Million Dollars" by The Bare Naked Ladies. I like songs that make me laugh! I find that musicians take music too seriously sometimes (myself included) and it's good to remember that music is for fun, too! PS. The clip is weird but the song is great - maybe close your eyes and listen!
Wow, that was difficult but really fun, too. My kids also have favorite songs including the "Theme Song" from VeggieTales, "It's A Hard Knock Life" from the soundtrack to Annie, "You Can Be Anything That You Wanna Be" from Blue's Big Musical Movie and an assortment of Japanese kid's songs for which I have no idea what the titles are.
I'm not brave enough to tag anyone but it would great if you would comment on what your favorite song is.
Thursday, March 29, 2007
But in planning out the next year we also made our very first Golden Week vacation plans. This is the sixth Golden Week vacation since we moved to Japan but we were always having babies or Chikara didn't have enough days off (once only 2 days off - stupid company). After last year's Golden Week, where we all sat on our butts the whole week, I decided that we need to do something more interesting. Because my husband's job deals with the car auctions in Japan he gets 3 whole weeks off every year and Golden Week is one of them. Woo-hoo!
I hadn't really thought out what we would do, the plan really fell into our laps. We had been planning to go to Tokyo and visit our friends (and Disneyland) in August for Oubonyasumi (sp?) but their second baby is due then (congratulations Kenji & Sachiko!) so we have decided to go and visit them for Golden Week instead. I don't know exactly where they live but they are two train stations over from Disneyland if anybody knows about that area. I don't think we'll go to Disneyland this time because Natsuki's too small and I can imagine that we wouldn't get to do too much because of her needs and wants so I guess we'll have to plan another trip next year sometime.
I'm proud of us for making plans to take a vacation that doesn't involve family. We always go to either Canada/US or Miyazaki (Kyushu) where my father-in-law's family live. Although while we were talking about it we did decide that we'll go back home in August 2008 and take the girls camping. Natsuki will be 2 then so I think the timing will be good. Plus I am looking forward to escaping the stinking hot Japanese summer!
We will be driving to Tokyo. With a family of six and four carseats there is no way we can get around Tokyo without renting a car. Plus I am planning on going to Ikea and I want to bring some stuff back with me!
Also I forgot to write about what Golden Week is. During the first week of May there are three national holidays so many people take this opportunity to take a vacation. Japanese companies don't give many days off in a row. I think the maximum my husband ever had was 4 days in a row and that was a miracle because of the way the holidays worked out but then they made him work the following Sunday to "make up for it". But the company he works for now has 3 whole weeks off every year - New Years, Golden Week and another week in August - so I KNOW that this is the best company in Japan. The owner is from New Zealand so that's probably why...
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
She has taken to her schedule so well that she actually enjoys being put down to sleep. When I take her upstairs to her room she flaps her arms hysterically but once I lay her down she lays still and just smiles at me until I finish arranging the blankets. When she was 3 months old she started sucking her thumb (like Misaki) and although I know one day there will be a big fight to break her of this habit, right now it's really cute.
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
Friday, March 23, 2007
I, on the other hand, am realizing that my tendancy towards procrastination is more deeply rooted than I would have previously believed and the house has completely fallen apart because of it. The only reason my husband hasn't complained yet is because he is too busy to notice which somehow seems wrong. My procrastination is usually kept in check by the fact that if I don't keep up with the things that need to be done then our existence cannot continue but with the girls on break and Chikara so busy this has ceased to be true. Did you know that if your kids stay in their pajamas all day then there is less laundry to do? Did you know that if you make extra pancakes at breakfast that you can serve them for lunch too?
I think part of the reason I'm choosing to do nothing about this is because from April our lives will become more complicated and scheduled than we have ever been before. Emi & Misaki will have different schedules and events, Sakura & Natsuki are at home but on different schedules, Chikara's schedule is pretty much the same but with more responsibility and I will be going back to teaching English two afternooons a week. It's the first time we've all been headed in different directions and although I know we'll figure out how to manage eventually, it's the time inbetween that has me all tied in knots.
For example, today I took Misaki to the preschool to find out what class she's in and buy any school supplies that she needs for next year. I did it all wrong. We woke up late, I couldn't find my ID Card, as we walked out the door I realized that I hadn't turned in our pictures for next year's ID cards and spent 20 futile minutes looking for them, took Misaki in her regular clothes instead of her UNIFORM, forgot the piece of paper I was supposed to turn in and so on and so forth. I managed, all by myself and in Japanese, to accomplish all the stuff we had to do at the school like find out which class she's in, buy more PE clothes and school supplies, get her name tag, find the places she puts her stuff away but when I asked for new ID cards because I couldn't find ours I got the "raised eyebrow". Sigh. I could've made my husband go with me and probably everything would've been done better but eventually I have to be able to do this stuff by myself. I guess I'm learning by trial and error. One thing about living in another country is that my ability to find humor in my mistakes has definitely increased.
On this note, in an attempt to embrace the procrastinator in me, I will not stop here and clean my house but instead do an Expat 54321 Meme (I don't know what a meme is so please don't ask me!).
Name five things you love in your new country:
- Convenience stores. They are open 24 hours and you can pay your bills there any time that is convenient (hence the name). When I was pregnant the fact that you could buy food at any hour came in really handy.
- Preschool. They do amazing stuff with the kids here. You would think it was high school for all the effort they put into it. They really teach the kids the protocol needed for elementary school (but no actual studying!?). Plus they're so cute in their uniforms.
- Sense of community. Our neighborhood is very friendly and helpful. We have sports days and summer festivals together and everyone helps out with keeping an eye when kids are playing outside.
- Fall. October and November are a welcome respite from the hot summer. The weather is fabulous and it doesn't rain very often. This has got to be my favorite season now.
- Costco. I know it's not Japanese but I'm glad that Japan is westernized enough to have some familiar stores.
Name four things you miss from your native country:
- Clothes. I miss being able to buy clothes that fit and match for me and my family at a reasonable price.
- Food. I miss Taco Bell, Olive Garden, Newport Bay and Elmer's. I miss being able to find food that I want.
- Snacks. I miss my favorite snacks. When I go home I gain weight because I lose all sense of self-control in the snackfood aisle.
- Family & Friends. This should really be first because I miss my family a lot. Plus I miss being able to converse easily and feel like people get me.
Name three things that annoy you a bit (or much) in your new country:
- Smoking. For such a health conscious society they sure do not take smoking and it's harmful effects seriously. I get in trouble all the time for giving the girls a little pop because the carbonation is bad for them. Seriously? If I was going to have a problem with pop it would be for the sugar and caffeine, OK!
- The System. Everything in Japan is regulated and organized sometimes to the detrement of the people it's supposed to be helping. It gets overwhelming sometimes, the paperwork, the waiting, the looks of disgust you receive when you ask a simple question, and my husband puts up with it on my behalf a lot. Thanks, sweetie!
- The lack of support for the family. The birthrate has gone down in Japan and I can tell you why. There is not a lot of positive support for the family. The government is trying to throw money at the problem but that's not going to change a thing. Dads need to be able to be home more, you need to be able to get around in a stroller easier (don't get me started on this one), nurses, doctors and public health people need to be nicer and more encouraging, parents need to be able to take a break once in awhile (ie. babysitters) and the school experience needs to be a little less stressful.
- How nice people are to me and my daughters. I really expected some discrimination but so far we've experienced the opposite. People go out of their way to be friendly because we are not Japanese.
- How people feel powerless to change their situation. I find that having a difficult life is really valued here in Japan. I hear people (especially women) say that their life or a certain situation is difficult but everyone else is experiencing the same thing so that makes them feel better. What a bunch of hooey! I feel like screaming every time I hear this sentiment. We actually get picked on because our life is "easy" but actually we work very hard to resolve issues in our life.
Name one thing in your new country that you would miss terribly if you had to leave it:
- Probably the sense of community. Being from Canada where neighbors are more friendly and then moving to the States where we hardly saw our neighbors, never mind talk to them or have a BBQ together, I have found that I really appreciate the friendliness of our neighbors. When the kids are outside, it's reassuring to know that all the neighborhood moms and grandmas are keeping an eye out for the kids and for strangers lurking around, etc.
You're supposed to tag people to do the meme next but I won't. If you'd like to try it yourself, go ahead and put it on your blog or post it here. It was surprisingly hard to come up with things I genuinely liked about Japan. I can see that I'll need to work on that.
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
So Emi's been home since Friday and I can tell this spring break, although it is only three weeks long, is going to seem really, really long.
Really, really, really long.
I'm not really sure what we're going to do all day. I have a baby so we can't be going out all the time so I've planned a couple of fun things for each week but I still have to do housework, grocery shopping, laundry, etc. and Emi is totally not getting this. From tomorrow Misaki will be home too and Sakura is already feeling that her rights are being infringed upon by Emi being home so I can only imagine the chaos that will be my day tomorrow. It'll be like Saturday, every single day!
Does anyone have any advice for me? The older two can play outside if the weather is nice but I'm not sure what to do when it rains.
I have no idea how my mother handled all four of us for three long months each summer. Mom, you're amazing!
Friday, March 16, 2007
But I would like to say thanks to those who commented and gave advice regarding this issue. I know that sometimes I'm too practical and I have a hard time giving control to people who like things fancy. I'm working on that. Last year when I went home to Canada, my sister took me shopping for make-up. She knows me really well but I was nervous about what I would end up with. I'm glad I let her choose because I get comments on my make-up all the time. Thanks, Hannah!
I also really enjoyed reading the results of the personality test that some of you posted or e-mailed. I find those types of tests to be fascinating and I enjoyed getting to know more about you.
Kim, you were wondering about the sakura blossoms. I don't think they grow actual cherries, they're just ornamental. But they are so beautiful. It's kind of like when it snows and everything is white and beautiful. Suddenly everywhere you look there are these delicate pink or white blossoms. When we drive in the car the girls yell out "SAKURA, SAKURA!!" whenever they see them. Here are some links to see what I'm talking about (you'll have to scroll down a bit).
Sakura trees during the day
Sakura trees at dusk
Lastly, I wanted to comment about how much I appreciate those of you who read this blog and comment. I originally started this blog as an outlet for me and to use my English more but I've been surprised by the new friends I've made through sharing about my life and reading yours. Thank you for making this such a fun experience.
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
This is so Japanese. I felt so bad for the three guys who had to do a press conference and bow after apologizing. They also interviewed obento (lunch box) stores who were frustrated because they had released their special cherry blossom obentos two weeks too early and some Japanese citizens who were also quite irritated by the mistake.
You're probably wondering why this is a big deal and mostly it has to do with traditions. In Japan when the cherry trees blossom people get together with their friends and family and go for a picnic under the trees at parks or wherever there are cherry trees. This is called hanami and it could be compared to Fourth of July picnicing in the States except that it's still cold during this season and therefore not as much fun. But it is beautiful.
Another reason why I am always interested in cherry blossom season is because of Sakura. Sakura means cherry blossom (although we changed the Chinese characters for her name so it means "the blossoming of good") and people always think she's born in March/April since that's cherry blossom season and then I have to tell them that actually she was born in June but we chose her name in April. People are always puzzled by this so it's probably something she'll have to explain for the rest of her life. I feel bad that I have unwittingly thrust this problem upon her. Fortunately she's cute so she'll be able to get away with it!
You can read the article about the cherry blossom mishap here.
Saturday, March 10, 2007
|Your Five Factor Personality Profile|
You have medium extroversion.
You're not the life of the party, but you do show up for the party.
Sometimes you are full of energy and open to new social experiences.
But you also need to hibernate and enjoy your "down time."
You have medium conscientiousness.
You're generally good at balancing work and play.
When you need to buckle down, you can usually get tasks done.
But you've been known to goof off when you know you can get away with it.
You have medium agreeableness.
You're generally a friendly and trusting person.
But you also have a healthy dose of cynicism.
You get along well with others, as long as they play fair.
You have low neuroticism.
You are very emotionally stable and mentally together.
Only the greatest setbacks upset you, and you bounce back quickly.
Overall, you are typically calm and relaxed - making others feel secure.
Openness to experience:
Your openness to new experiences is medium.
You are generally broad minded when it come to new things.
But if something crosses a moral line, there's no way you'll approve of it.
You are suspicious of anything too wacky, though you do still consider creativity a virtue.
Tuesday, March 06, 2007
But I read this article which said that when women reach their late 20's and on that we need to cultivate six different types of friends and that having friends like we had in high school won't meet all of our needs because our lives are more complex from this point on. I know my life has gotten more complex since my 20's!
Six Must-Have Friends:
1. Work Friend
2. Friend In Your Kid's Class
3. The Friend Who's Known You Forever
4. The Hobby Friend
5. Straight-Talking Friend
6. Feel-Good Friend
Honestly, I felt so much better about myself after finishing the article. It's not that I'm not good at making friends but that my friends meet different needs in my life. It would be impossible to find another person exactly like me who's life was exactly like mine. If I did find someone like that they would probably be irritating anyways!
So I stopped and took an inventory of my friends and found that I have friends in almost every category and that in every aspect of my life I have made good friendships and that most of my friends are Japanese and that because of these friendships my Japanese has gotten where it is today. Lord knows that my husband hasn't been helping my Japanese along. He still looks at me with a puzzled look when I speak to him suddenly in Japanese. Sigh...
I am still surprised sometimes by the life that adults lead. I still feel like I'm 21 and shouldn't be allowed to have this much responsibility because I'll probably screw it up. But when I have these kinds of moments where I realize that "I am an adult" it is surprisingly reassuring. I'm headed in the right direction. I'm doing adult things and having adult emotions. I'm not behind my peers. Woo-hoo!
If you'd like to read the whole article, click here.
Monday, March 05, 2007
So today Emi and I went to look at the dresses. In the car on the way I explained what we were going to be shopping for and she said, "OK, but I don't want a skirt". As soon as she said this, I was glad I had decided to take her first and look around. Once she realized that everyone would be wearing dresses she agreed to try on a couple of outfits and we were able to pick one that she liked (still $80) so I'll tell my MIL on Thursday when she comes to get the girls that she can go ahead and buy that one for Emi. I'm debating whether I need to go along to make sure there's no confusion but I'll wait until Thursday to decide that.
Since we were there, we went over to look at the ceremony dresses for mommies, too. I still can't decide but one thing I know for sure is that I will not be wearing a silk-flower corsage!
Saturday, March 03, 2007
The other day Misaki came up to me early in the day to ask if she could set the table...
Misaki: Today can I set the table?
Me: Sorry sweetie, Emi already asked if she could do it today.
Me: But you can do it tomorrow if you'd like?
Misaki: Yeah, I'll do it tomorrow...
as she walked around the corner, she suddenly popped back
Misaki: ...keep it in your heart, okay.
I can totally deal with this cuteness!
Friday, March 02, 2007
Before I jump into how much my MIL is not getting what I'm trying to tell her I would like to tell you a story about the childhood of my husband and I. Both of us, for completely different reasons, were bad at completing homework. I was clever (or so I thought) and therefore felt I didn't need to do homework (this was always a mystery to my parents who both hold master's degrees) and my husband hated school and avoided homework at all costs (he still hates any form of paperwork). Both of us wish we had been more faithful because school would've been a better experience. So we decided a long time ago that our kids would do their homework at the kitchen table where we could monitor them and also be available to help them until they had created a good homework ethic or graduated from high school, whichever came first. This sounds good, right?
What I did not realize is that in Japan when kids start elementary school there are things that every "responsible" parent is supposed to buy and that grandparents like to help out financially in this area. Without trying I have inadvertently cause my MIL major frustration by telling her that we don't need these things.
The first is a randocel (sp?). Click here to see what I'm talking about (scroll down the page). This is the classic backpack that elementary kids use to go to school. It costs between $250 - $500 which seems crazy but the bag is very sturdy and in most cases kids can use the same bag for all 6 years of elementary school. The city of Settsu (where we live) decided many years ago that instead of the randocel they would issue a backpack (also pretty sturdy) to each child for free! When I found out I woo-hoo'ed but when I told my mother-in-law she was crestfallen because she was really looking forward to taking Emi to buy one. This wasn't really my fault so she got over it quickly and we were on to the next disappointment...
Then she asked what type of desk did Emi want. Desk? I'm not planning to buy her a desk. This comment was met with disbelief (crestfallen having already been used). No desk? What will she do her homework on? Uh, the kitchen table. I explained to her what we had decided and why and she was decidedly embaressed when I mentioned that Chikara wasn't good at doing homework, like I was blaming her for the fact that Emi was going to be deprived of the joy of having her own desk. Click here to see what type of desk "regular" kids get. Yes, you read the price tag right, 500 bucks! Also, we really don't have space to put it, I told her. So she started to look around my house for a good place to put a desk even though I had said WE ARE NOT GETTING ONE. (the yelling was in my head!)
With these two major purchases off the list of possible gifts for Emi, my MIL has moved onto smaller things like school supplies, etc. This is great, I would love help in this area, knock yourself out (although I said it nicer and in Japanese). I showed her the list and she went right out and bought about half the stuff and GAVE IT TO EMI TO USE RIGHT AWAY! So basically I'm going to have to buy it all again and save it for her to use at school. Sigh...
So now, like me, you would think that this crisis would be over but it seems that my MIL is very determined that Emi also be properly attired for her New School Ceremony and has asked (through Chikara this time - clever!) if she can buy Emi an outfit for the ceremony. An outfit? What is she talking about? My husband explained it to me and you can click here to see. Did you see those prices? Just put a dot before the last two zeroes. This outfit is just for the ceremony and it will never be used again. I kind of knew about this and that parents are supposed to dress up too. That means I have to buy one of these and I just don't know if I can do it. Hannah, what should I do? Expat moms?
So this is the latest in the seemingly-never-to-end struggle between my MIL and I regarding Emi's starting elementary school. Although it seems like there couldn't be much more to explore about this situation I have witnessed my MIL's "selective memory" in action before and I also know that the disbelief that I don't know How-Things-Are-Done will continually prompt her to "help" me. Woo-hoo!