First, I wanted to say thank you to everyone who commented on my last post. After reading all of the comments, I felt very encouraged and also a little relieved that this thing with Misaki can be overcome and it will pass. Maybe one day when she's a mommy and dealing with her little ones, she can come back here to be encouraged, too.
I haven't written much the last few weeks because we've been all over the place. There were a variety of national holidays and school events but from today everyone's schedules go back to normal and stay that way until summer vacation starts. I tried to take pictures along the way but I didn't always succeed so let's see what I've got.
First up, isn't Natsuki turning into a little girl. She had a growth spurt and she's jumping, running and talking up a storm. She's also fighting with her sisters and pulling their hair, etc., but then the next second she's smiling, dancing and singing so we've got quite the rollercoaster of emotions going on over here. I trimmed her hair in the back now that her bald spot has grown out and maybe that's what's contributed to the change in her look.
The first holiday that came up was just one Tuesday in the middle of the week at the end of April. I had decided to still teach my English classes that day so the night before, after dinner, we went out for ice cream and a walk. It was almost too cold so we took refuge in a Starbucks. The girls were on a sugar high from their ice cream and hyper since it was past their bedtime so on the whole, I'm not sure that going out was the best idea but we wanted to start off Golden Week with a little something special so in the end, I was glad we went out. Here's the girls hogging up all the comfy chairs at Starbucks.
The first weekend in May was the second half of our Golden Week vacation. My pastor's wife had asked if I would sing a solo with her gospel choir for the Takatsuki Jazz Street Festival so that was what we spent Saturday doing. This next picture is mostly for my mom.
Yes, that's me in the middle singing. The festival is really cool. They have over 40 different sites, some in parks, some in bars or restaurants, some at shopping centers and open-air shopping centers and then different jazz or gospel groups sign up to participate and are assigned an area and a time. Basically for two days you can just walk around this 1 square mile and listen to jazz or gospel all day long. We wish we could have taken more time but it wasn't really fair to the kids. I took this picture of Emi while we were having some ice cream (it was hot that day) and listening to a band. They played some Eric Clapton and some James Taylor so it's hard to say if they were trying to be jazz or rock. Anyways, I love this picture of her.
The next day was church and then in the afternoon we got together with one group of friends and then in the evening we got together with another group of friends. Needless to say we were exhausted by the time Sunday was over. We had planned to go to Kobe on Monday but the weather looked less than promising and everyone was so tired that I knew it would end up being not fun at all so we decided to take a relaxing day at home. This doesn't usually work because it's rare that all of us are tired enough on the same day but this day was perfect. Everyone slept until 9:30am (totally unheard of!) and then we all took a 3 hour nap and then everyone was back in bed again by 9pm. Even with all of that extra sleep, Natsuki fell asleep waiting for lunch (again, totally unheard of).
Tuesday was a family day spent with Chikara's parents going to visit Chikara's grandparents. We decided to meet early and have lunch and doing something fun before going to grandma and grandpa's house. My FIL knew of a lake that was on the way so after lunch at a restaurant (at which Natsuki screamed through the entire lunch because she wasn't allowed to hold her own drink - sigh...) so we stopped there. They had paddle boats so Emi and Misaki went out with my in-laws.
We waited at shore and I was less than thrilled to see Emi trying to climb out onto the front of the boat. There were no lifejackets and I didn't know how fast my in-laws would react so I was totally prepared to jump in and swim after them if something had happened. Sakura was totally OK with not going on the boat but I think Natsuki would've liked to go.
After that we headed to grandma and grandpa's house. Amazingly they were ready to go within 10 minutes of our arrival and we headed out to the one and only restaurant in our town that grandma will deign to go to. I've mentioned before some of her OCD tendancies and while we were getting our shoes back on I managed to take a picture of the entrance of their house and the hallway leading to the living room.
Do you see the newspaper taped down on the floor? Under the newspaper there is tissue so it's a little padded. The bottom picture where the blue slippers are is the entrance to the bathroom. I really wanted to get a picture of that but I didn't have the guts. Also, do you see the tissue stuffed into the slippers in both pictures? It's always like this. Although this trip was the first time that grandma praised grandpa for doing a good job with cleaning and laundry so he must be getting used to all of this.
Here's a picture of all of us (except me, the picture-taker) after we ate dinner.
I know that grandpa turned 80 this year so grandma must turn 80 later this year or next year. It seems, despite all of their complaints, that they are in good health. They polished off an a la cart dinner before I was even halfway through mine and they carried on conversations while giving orders to everyone. Fortunately Natsuki didn't scream through this meal. Well, actually she did but they were screams of joy and she thoroughly entertained both of them. I was worried that she might be too loud for them but all of the rest of us were tired so she really carried the entertainment all by herself!
We got home not too late but Emi and Misaki had school the next morning so we got everyone right into bed. I had been looking forward to Wednesday morning all week because Chikara had promised to clean the balcony for me. In an effort to prepare for cockroach season in the summer, I had really wanted to scrub the floor and walls of the main balcony of our house where I put out our laundry. Last year we had two cockroaches come in the house and we can only guess that they came from this balcony. All of the garbage has been moved down to the garage but just in case there were any leftover eggs or bits of garbage that would attract them, I had asked Chikara if he wouldn't mind cleaning it for me. He hates cockroaches just as much as I do so he was more than willing to tackle this project. This picture probably doesn't look like much so it's mostly for my mom who was here in February and can probably appreciate the difference.
Thank you Chikara!
From Thursday (last week now) everything went back to almost normal. Chikara had to go to work and the girls were in school but they were coming home an hour early each day because of parent/teacher conferences. There are two of these each year and the one in May is when the teacher comes and visits our house and the second one is in the fall (right?) and the parent goes to the school. Both Emi and Misaki's teachers were coming on Friday and I wasn't sure if they would just want to talk in the entrance of our house, which is what has happened in past years, or if these teachers would want to come upstairs. I couldn't decided how much to clean so in the end I took some extra time and cleaned up everything which is good because both teachers asked to come upstairs. Chikara was shocked but I knew from reading the blogs of other expat moms that this happens, too.
Both of the girl's teachers had really good things to say about my girls. I had been worried about Misaki and if she was paying attention or not but the teacher said that she was doing really good. Misaki's teacher also said that she was surprised at how good Misaki's writing had gotten in just a short time. I explained that after the first two days of homework, I noticed that Misaki wasn't writing *on* the lines but *around* them so I told her that probably the teacher wanted her to follow the lines to learn how to write her characters correctly so by the third day she had started doing it properly. Emi's teacher was totally fascinated by me, of course. I had actually been relieved to meet Misaki's teacher because she was very focused on Misaki but Emi's teacher was all, how did you meet you husband and where did you get married, etc. She also asked if we could possibly translate a song from English to Japanese for her to teach to the class. She was really sweet though and I don't think Emi cares if her teacher is focused on her or not so it seems like both of the girls are going to get on in their classes very well.
I had actually had a dream the night before they came that Misaki's teacher had showed up at 5am in the morning (instead of her 3:30pm scheduled time) and basically talked badly about everything I was doing. In the dream she was shocked that all the kids weren't up and dressed and I was trying to say that 5am is way too early, etc. When I woke up, I was in a bit of a panic and it took me a few minutes to orient myself. I was very relieved to meet both of the teachers and find out that they were very nice ladies. I hate it when my subconscious interferes with my sleep!!!
What else? Oh, we bought an airconditioner for Emi & Misaki's room and Natsuki and Sakura loved the box.
Also, this week Natsuki started playing with dolls. She's pretended to be interested when her sister's had played with their dolls before but this was the first time I saw her get out the dolls and accessories by herself and have imaginary play. It was so precious and she didn't even care that I was taking pictures. She kept saying, "baby, baby" and one time she said, very sternly, "NO". I wonder where she gets that from...
Since we didn't get to go to Kobe last Monday, we decided to go this Monday after the girls got home from school. My friend Abigail had her second baby on May 1st and we hadn't gotten a chance to visit them and since they live in Kobe, too, we decided to just make a day of it. We visited with Abigail first. When Natsuki saw the baby, she thought he was a doll and she wiped her hands on her shirt and held them out to me. She really totally expected me to hand him over. I did let her hold him later (with my help) and I think she was unprepared for the fact that he was real! I wish I could've captured the look on her face at that moment.
They named their son Joel, which is the name of my youngest brother and when I told Emi and Misaki that we were going to go and see him their immediate thought was, "Uncle Joel turned into a BABY!". Uhhhhhhhhh, no. I also told Abigail that my brother likes to be called Joel the Magnificent and it seems like they might just borrow that for their little Joel!
OK, I'm totally losing steam here so I'll write all about our Kobe adventures (including a visit to the new Ikea) later on.