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....


Gina said...

Congratulations to Emi for becoming, ichinensei this year!!! She looked beautiful! I think you'll love this year too because both girls will both be in the same school. I really understand what you mean a lot! From now until october, we only gotta do the 1 school thing, same as you. But from October, I'll be juggling, Noah's yochien and B's elementary school. Help me through that when October comes around please...will ya Sarah? Ha ha ha. : )

I think another DIY project sounds perfect for you, especially because you were so sucessful with the girls' bedroom! I think no matter what you decide to do, it'll come out wonderful!

And holy toledo!!! I am so honored to be given an award by friend...a person I have emailed with back and forth quite a few times in the year or two since we first "met"... a person I have come to know and depend on in the good and even the hectic times of our crazy life we both have in Japan, you are a wonderful friend to me! One day, we will meet and let our kids run and play, while we share a cup of coffee or iced tea! Thanks for the award and the friendship! : )

Tigermama said...

Congrats to Misaki! She is a gorgeous little girl. I hadn`t realized how many of us in this Japan Blogging World have kids starting elementary school. We should arrange some kind of meeting or convention. :)

Gina said...

Thank god Tigermama got it right! Sorry, I got the girls names mixed up. : ( Tigermama you are a lifesaver! Congrats to Misaki, is what I shoulda said, ha ha ha, lol!!

Sigh...says Gina who is now hanging her head in shame for getting it wrong, he he he! Okay I gotta get dinner started, have a good night!

And....I'd be game for a get together...totally! : )

Nay said...

Well your life with 4 young girls does sound hectic!! But I am sure it filled with lots of fun and good times! Congratulations to Misaki, she loves gorgeous in the photo you posted! I'm looking forward to hearing more about her school adventures!