Friday, April 25, 2008

some pics

What a poser!!!

Finally, a quiet corner just for me!

Isn't this a cool shot?

I love the look of joy on Sakura's

Emi hates to lose...

Thursday, April 24, 2008


Did any of you other moms living in Japan have to do the bum sticker test this morning? And we get to do it tomorrow morning, too. Woo-hoo.

I don't even know what they're testing for. Sheesh...

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

if my life was a reality show...

If my life was a reality show then there would be someone there to catch all of those unpredictable moments on video. I wish I had known that...

...Misaki would come home so excited on Monday because she had HOMEWORK! Then I could show it to her a year from now when she learns that homework never ends. Ever.

...Natsuki would be so excited about being allowed to drink juice from a cup on her own. And that she would do so well and then say "yeah" and try to give me a high five.

...Emi would dance so well to the Hannah Montana song on the video I taped for her.

...our family would quietly (because I just gave everyone a warning) clap for Natsuki when she drank from a cup all by herself when we ate out at our favorite ramen restaurant. We must've been a sight!

Does anybody want the job?

an addition

I almost forgot the most amusing moment that I wish I could've capture on video. It would be the look on Misaki's face at dinner when Sakura told her to scoot over to make room for Sakura's new imaginary friend, Sakorika-chan. Even for Misaki, our creative child, this was out of the realm of possibility!

I've read about imaginary friends and children tend to create them after a big move or after older siblings go off to school and younger children lose their playmates. As much as Sakura likes playing with Natsuki, it's not the same as playing with her older sisters. Through some nonchalant questioning, we found out that Sakorika-chan is an one-chan (older sister) and that makes total sense to me.

I had imaginary friends when I was little, too. Actually I had three of them. I don't exactly remember their names but my parents clearly do since they've reminded me from time to time. Somehow I'm glad that at least one of my girls has created an imaginary friend for herself. Maybe the same will happen with Natsuki when Sakura starts preschool next year. I guess I'll have to wait and see. Hee-hee!


Everyday brings surprising things from Sakura's mouth.

Sakura-speak: I want to watch jo-nuts! (This is funnier if you say it out loud)
Translation: I want to watch Jonah (VeggieTales)!

Sakura: What day is it today?
Me: Thursday.
Sakura: You mean "cute" Thursday?

Sakura: Where are my craycils?
Translation: Where are my crayons?

Also, Natsuki's favorite new word is "woah". She says it for anything out of the ordinary.

Friday, April 11, 2008

how long will this last...

Last year I didn't create any kind of organizational system for all of the papers that Emi brought home everyday other than putting it all in one place in the closet in the living room. Although that worked well because it was easy, by the end of the year there was a pile a foot high of papers that didn't really require keeping. I just kept her school books in the same place and every morning we would take out the books she needed for the day and leave the rest on top of the pile of papers. This worked well until before Christmas when we lost her music book. I thought for sure that it got left at school but two weeks ago when I went through the pile I found it. Oops!

But last year's experiences did help me figure out what to expect this year and I am determined that all of the girl's books, papers and bags will be stored and organized in their room instead of my living room closet. I spent most of March looking at and contemplating storage units, boxes and filing systems but nothing really suited our specific needs. Although maybe if we bought a desk like every other first grader that would be the answer but there just isn't space for a desk (never mind two desks or four - yikes!).

After thinking about it for a whole month, I realized that I wasn't any closer to making a decision so I decided to go back to square one and write a list of what I needed to store and how often it needed to be accessed and then work from there.

School Books - need to be accessed every day as they bring different books depending on what classes they have.

Completed Homework - this is homework that has already been checked by the teacher and therefore serves no further purpose except to create a pile that I have emotional issues with (should I throw it out or not). Although they need to add to it everyday, I don't need to know what's in there.

Backpack - obviously they use it every day but different things need to go in there depending on the day and what they have scheduled so it needs to be easy to get to.

PE Clothes - once school really gets going they will take their PE clothes on Monday and then it home on Friday if they used it during the week. Then I just wash it on the weekend and they take it back again. But I also needed to have a place to store their extra shirts (long-sleeve and short-sleeve for different seasons). This doesn't need to be accessed all the time but we do need to know where it is!

Napkin, Hand Towel and Tissue - I had a crash course on napkins last year. I though napkins were paper napkins that they took each day but they're actually a 50cm x 50cm handkerchief that they put on their desk to protect it when they eat lunch. Last year Chikara had to rush out the night before and buy a few so that Emi had something to take the next day. I think most kids take a new napkin everyday but Emi and I decided that if it wasn't dirty then it could be used again so we go through 2 or 3 per week. The kids are also required to have a hand towel (for drying their hands after using the bathroom) and tissue in their bags but Emi has informed me that she "never" uses them. She just air dries her hands. But I try to make sure it's in their bags anyways. So obviously these items require easy access, too.

Book Bag - this is a separate bag that they take only when the teacher requests it, usually to bring back a whole bunch of extra stuff that won't fit in their regular school bag. They use it maybe once a month.

Other - last year we bought a painting set for Emi that is all neatly contained in a cool bag with a handle and shoulder strap. It hasn't been asked for yet so we're just keeping it at home. Also they both have a kenban harmonica that they will eventually need, too.

Backup School Supplies - both girls have a wide assortment of extra pencils, erasers and other supplies to be used as replacements in their pencil case if somethings gets lost or used up.

OK, I think that's it. The room is pretty small so I had to be creative but I think what I came up with should work pretty well.

I bought these plastic see-through containers to go under their beds.

They pull out easily from under the bed.

The front part of the lid flips up so they can have easy access to the front part so that's where I put their books, napkins etc. and backup supplies go in the front while their extra PE clothes are organized in the back portion.

I found these colorful trays at our local 100yen shop so everything doesn't slide around.

Their book bags and school bags (not pictured) hang on the end of their beds. These hooks don't fit securely on the board at the end so I'm still looking for something that I trust more. But for now it's good.

Underneath their bags is the other stuff that they'll eventually take to school. The pink bag is Emi's paint set and the yellow things are their kenban harmonica cases.

I put these two black trays in their closet to collect their homework but I don't really like it so I'm still looking for something that can tuck away out of sight. Hmmm...

I put these clear cases on the inside of their closet door to hold their school schedules so we can easily reference what they're supposed to be bringing everyday. Eventually they'll be writing in their renrakucho (a notebook for communication between parents and teachers) each day so we'll refer to that instead.

I really like it because it's all of the storage items I bought were able to tuck away into unused spaces. Because the room is small I'm trying to keep any floor space free and clear so the room feels bigger. So far this system is working well but we'll see how long it lasts....

I didn't really write much about how the walls turned out because they turned out great and I didn't have much to add. Repairing the hole in the wall tried all of my patience and I had to try a few different things until I felt it would be long-lasting so it was a great relief when it was finally finished. My FIL used to be an electrician so I asked him to come and replace all of the switches and outlets for me. I knew I could do it by myself but my in-laws had been totally uninterested in the project (even though the girls went on and on about it) so I wanted to include them somehow. Anyways, he came out one afternoon and switched them around and when I went into check them I saw this:

Can you see the line leading out from both sides near the bottom of the plate? When he was screwing in the backplate he did it too tightly (which is normal) and it moved back the piece of sheetrock that I had added there and now you can see a line even though before it was very smooth and impossible to know that there had ever been a hole there. I should've warned him to be careful but I'm new at this and I didn't think about it. I am very heartbroken and it's taking all of my willpower not to take it apart and do it again. Grrr! Oh well, I learned something for next time.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

the beginning of a new school year

I have been looking forward to this last Monday for over a year now. Both Emi and Misaki are in elementary school together. No more trying to follow the schedules of two schools. This will only last for one year and then for the next 15 years I will have kids in at least two or more schools at one time. For example, next year Emi and Misaki will be in elementary school while Sakura will be in preschool and then the year that Natsuki finally becomes a first grader, Emi will go into junior high school. So not until the year that Sakura and Natsuki are both in high school will all my school age children be in one school again. And even after that there's still three more years to go. I'll be 50 when Natsuki finally graduates from high school. But that's looking waaaaaay too far into the future. For now I'm going to concentrate on this year of respite from "the schedules" and try to enjoy myself. I'd love to take on another DIY project, either the stairs and hallway leading up to the 3rd floor or Sakura & Natsuki's bedroom.

But my main goal for this year is to find a pace for our post baby-making lives. We've talked before about building a house but we're feeling more and more like we need to learn how to manage this life before we try to take it to the next level. I'm talking about household chores, ministry, community events (there's a lot of these), family, husband/wife relationship (dates? what's that?), budgets, work, teaching the kids English, etc. There are a lot of things that I feel we should be doing that we have put on the shelf each time we had another baby.

This Spring Break almost every afternoon I set aside one hour and worked with Emi and Misaki on their English reading and writing skills. The school that my dad is the principal of in Canada uses a great program called Spell to Write and Read. I've modified this program for my ESL classes and have found it to be very successful but I wanted to use the full program for my kids. Last year it was totally out of the question but this year it's a real possibility. I decided to jumpstart the program during Spring Break and then carry on throughout the year once or twice a week. Emi and Misaki already know their ABC's and can write most of them from memory so we started in on phonics and within one week they could read any 3-letter word I put in front of them. It was a good start and they participated wholeheartedly. When my mom visited two months ago she spent some time reading to the kids and Misaki especially was really interested in picking out and reading words that she knew. Anyways, I hope I can keep this up!

In preparation for the start of school I took Emi and Misaki to get their hair cut. I do not like the cut Emi got. It's not straight for starters. It looks good from the front or the back but definitely not from the side. Unfortunately I haven't had a chance to take her back and get it fixed. She doesn't like it because it's shorter than she thought it would be and she cried for a whole hour after it was cut. I've taken the girls to the same salon for the past year and I've always like their cuts so I'm at a total loss as to why we got such bad service this time. I'm a little nervous to try again.

What do you think?

Yes, I took this picture without her permission. Yes, She'll freak out if she knows I posted it here!!!

On Monday was Misaki's ceremony for the start of school (Nyugakushiki). Compared to last year's experience with Emi, this year was a breeze. Misaki knew exactly what to expect so she just sailed around with a big smile on her face. Her favorite friend from preschool was in her class and sitting beside her. Kazuki-kun! If Misaki was a cartoon character her eyes would turn into little hearts everytime she says his name. He is a sweet boy and I can see why she likes him. He's exactly the same as her! They both tuned out everything that was going on and just fiddled with their clothes and stared around the room with big, huge, lighthearted smiles on their faces. Funny kids.

It was impossible to get a good picture during the ceremony. The weather was awful outside so there wasn't a lot of light inside the gymnasium. I tried different settings with my camera but nothing came out right. I like this picture anyways. This is Misaki and Kazuki-kun walking out at the end.

This picture is in their classroom as they were getting ready to go back to the gym for their class picture.

This picture it the best I could do under the weather conditions. You can see the cherry blossom tree a little bit in the corner.

The next morning we woke up early and met all of the other kids in our neighborhood to walk to school together. There are almost 60 boys and girls in our immediate neighborhood who are in elementary school and they are divided into "hans" led by an older student and then they walk to school with their group. I took a few pictures but Emi and Misaki wouldn't let me take a picture of them together outside and Misaki refused to smile. I'm not sure why.

All in all, they seem to be enjoying themselves. Emi found out what class she's in on Tuesday and some of her friends from last year are in her class again. We won't meet her teacher until the first open house at the end of the month. It's kind of a funny system but I have no reason to complain. School lunch starts tomorrow for Emi so she won't be home until 2pm but Misaki continues to have halfdays until the 23rd. My goal for this month is to get the girls into the habits that I want them to keep for the year about where their school stuff goes. I'll post some pictures soon but I'm hoping that we can work out a system so that all of their school books and stuff can stay in their room. We'll see how it goes.

In other news, I bought a new vacuum cleaner! We haven't bought a vacuum cleaner since we moved to Japan. Chikara's dad gave us an old one they weren't using and we also ordered a cordless vacuum from a catalog that someone gave us as a gift. The battery on the cordless vacuum gave out after a year (although it was still in our kitchen) and the other one had slowly started to come apart (literally). We've been talking about buying a new vacuum for about a year but finally I got frustrated and just bought it. We wanted an upright vacuum not one with a cannister and a long hose. Our house is the stories and I had carrying that kind around plus it's a pain to store in a closet. Also we wanted a bagless vacuum and Chikara insisted (and I concurred) that a cordless vacuum was out of the question. I hadn't really seen anything that I liked until this one. Among it's many cool features, the cord retracts at the push of a buttom and the handle pulls out so you can vacuum corners and stairs, etc. Plus it was on sale!

I have to say that I love it and I've already vacuumed more in the last week than I have in the last two months. It's so easy to take from floor to floor and the cord is nice and long but still retracts easily. Being able to take the wand out and vacuum hard to reach corners is really awesome plus it's very powerful. After I vacuumed the tatami the first time it felt cleaner than it has in a long time so we're all happy!

That's all for us right now. I took this week off from my Tuesday ESL classes and it has been lovely although I've totally lost track of what day of the week we're on!

I've been meaning to share my vote for the You Cheer Me Up Award and it has to go, hands down, to Gina. She is such an encourager, not only in what she writes on her own blog but also the comments that she makes on everyone else's blog. I can always count on a sunny outlook from her and I would LOVE to live at her house just so I could eat all the of the wonderful things she cooks. If you haven't read her blog then you should definitely check it out. There are many other wonderful bloggers who's blogs I find thought-provoking and insightful but for cheerfulness and feeling cheered up, Gina would definitely be my choice.

Thanks Gina for being such an encouragement to me this year. I hope I can return the favor!

PS I went back to April 2007 archives to try and link to what I wrote about Emi's Nyugakushiki and imagine my surprise to find that I hadn't written *anything*. gulp! I wrote about all the prep leading up to it and then nothing until the first open house. I kind of feel bad about that. On the upside, it was fun to read through all I was going through last year! Check out the March archives, too. Hysterical stuff with my MIL.

PPS Why is the spacing so screwed up when I post pictures? Is anyone else having this problem? How did you fix it? Grrr....

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

all shades of pink

I am very proud to say Emi and Misaki have moved into their new room! It's not exactly like what we first talked about but it's beautiful nonetheless and the girls are really excited about it. The room kind of looks like an explosion of pink and honestly, a little too much pink for my tastes, but it's perfect for the two of them.
I painted the room last Saturday (two Saturdays ago maybe). I painted the light pink first and I was so proud of it but when I showed it to Chikara and the girls they couldn't see the difference. Then I painted the last wall the dark pink color and after the first coat it was too much. Chikara asked if he could see it and I wouldn't show it to him! It looked like the circus had come and thrown up on that wall. So I mixed some of the light pink with the rest of the dark pink paint and tried that on the walls and it was much better. It's still bright but I wanted it to be contrasting. And it is!
Then on Monday I took all the girls to my friend's house in the morning and Chikara and I started in on moving the bunk bed from one room to the other and putting everything else in place. We were shocked by all the dust and pieces of paper that we found behind the bunk bed. I think I've cleaned back there maybe once since we bought it three years ago. Obviously I'm going to have to be a little more diligent from now on. The more I worked on the room, the more I liked it. The bedspread is a little darker than the light pink walls but not as dark as the bright wall and the curtains have a white background with different color flowers and then the rugs are another shade of pink and red.
We finally finished around 3:30 in the afternoon and I went to pick up the girls. They had had a lovely time and weren't even curious about what we had been doing. I hadn't told them because I wanted it to be a total surprise. Also, I was worried about how Sakura was going to react to being left out. Once we got back home, I asked Misaki and Emi to take some folded laundry up to their rooms and put it away. I was waiting at the bottom of the stairs with my camera but no sound came from upstairs. I waited and waited and still nothing so I went upstairs and Misaki was already sitting on her bed and Emi was standing in the doorway with her mouth hanging open. Then she turned to me and said, "So *this* is why we went to Ruri's house!". Can't slip anything by her!
They were so excited. They said thank you and exclaimed over every part of the room. Misaki kept saying, "I don't know what to say!", and they hopped from the bed to the closet and back to their beds again. Both of them said they wanted to go to sleep RIGHT NOW! But it was only 4:30 so they had a little more to go. I told them that this was their room now and that Sakura and Natsuki weren't allowed in. They are allowed to come up whenever they want and they can put all their "private" stuff" on the shelves in their bed. Already I can tell that there will be more peace in the house because everyone will have a little bit more space from each other. We enjoy our time as a family but sometimes six people in one room is too much!
Anyways, here are some pictures for your enjoyment.

I have yet to buy the mirror or make the picture frames for their drawings but I haven't seen anything that I thought was right for the room. Ikea is opening in Kobe in two more weeks so hopefully I'll be able to find something there.

Special thanks go to my mom for making the curtains and duvet covers when she visited in February and for the advice about the changing the light fixture. Also, my friend Kelly brought the pink and red rugs from the Ikea in Tokyo this weekend. Thanks Kelly!

Here are Emi and Misaki in their special room.

Amazingly, Sakura has had no problem with the fact that Emi and Misaki got a special room and she didn't. Since she is now sleeping on the single bed that used to be Emi's, she thinks that she got all new stuff, too. I'm a little worried about Sakura and Natski sleeping together but I'm sure they'll figure it out. Natsuki's never slept in a room with anyone before (except for special trips) so she's waking up early in the morning thrilled to find a friend to talk to. We'll keep working on it!

Thank you everyone for your encouragement along the way!