Saturday, July 26, 2008

we arrived safe and sound

We survived the trip! The girls did so well and the airport in Taipei was awesome. They had huge playstructures for the kids to play on and there was a Starbucks and a Subway Sandwiches and I could pay in US Dollars and they gave me US Dollars back in change. Really except for the sheer amount of TIME (an entire 24 hours), the trip could not have gone better.

Here's some pics from the trip.

Just to prove that we have actually completed the trip, here the girls are having breakfast outside with Grampy!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Sakura's blog

I posted a new song on Sakura's blog. We have been having so much fun together picking songs, recording them and then watching the video clips on her blog. She totally knows that this is a special thing just for her and she loves to ask her sisters if they've seen her "computer". I'm proud of her sisters for being genuinely excited for her.

For those of you who check her blog, we probably won't do any new songs until September when the summer break is over. I would really like to say thanks for your comments and encouragements to Sakura. It's hard to say if she realizes that people all over the world see her singing but for sure she enjoys it when I read the comments to her!

new favorite picture

Thursday, July 17, 2008

five more days!

I'm surprised we haven't spontaneously combusted from an overabundance of excitement over here.

I've got my lists going but they're not as long as it seems they should be so I'm nervous that I've forgotten something.

Emi has written two lists: one list of stuff she wants to bring and one list of activities she wants to do in Canada. On the to do list, every third one is "play outside". I had to make her wait until Friday to start packing her carry-on and we're not leaving until Tuesday!

Misaki doesn't have a list but she reminds me everyday that I promised that I would put the batteries back in their Tamagotchi so they can play with them on the trip.

Sakura keeps asking me if she can bring "stuff". The answer to that is "yes" and "no".

Natsuki is so cute and fun right now and I'm afraid she's going to turn into a cranky two-year-old before we get there and everyone will miss out on her cuteness and funness. I probably shouldn't worry about this...

Also, can anybody help me? I'm trying to find a portable internet device for Chikara while we're on vacation. When we're at my parents house, it's no problem, but when we go camping he still needs to be able to work a few hours every day (my concession to his being able to come). His computer (Dell) already has a wireless internet connection built into it so I just need to find a . . . what? I have no idea what this is called. A few months ago he travelled in Japan to a conference which was in the middle of nowhere so he rented a satellite internet connection thingy that was a card with an antenna that just hooked into his computer. Does anyone know what this is actually called? What do business people use when they travel overseas? Help!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


Short of fleeing to the closest airport, whipping out your credit card and paying an enormous fee for airline ticket that would take you home RIGHT NOW, how do you handle the inevitable and sometimes unbearable feelings of homesickness?

Yes, we're going home next week but we probably won't be able to take a trip home next year due to the rising costs of the fuel surcharge and also just the fact that there is six of us! I know during the times of "no trip home in the near future" that homesickness will crash over me unbidden and then I will do what I always do. Buy a book. Yes, this is my ultimate cure for homesickness. Somehow buying a book, either a new one or a golden oldie that I love and want to pass onto my children, and sitting down to read it helps me create a little Canadian/American bubble that I can climb into and relax in for awhile. It never fails.

Also, I count my blessing. Life in Japan has gotten so much easier to live in the past seven years. There's Costco, FBC, Expat Express, Ikea, etc. We have internet access and cheap long distance rates. I created a blog and thereby made a lot of new friends who understand exactly what I'm going through. I've learned how to speak Japanese and I've made awesome Japanese friends. Well, the list goes on and on but stopping to take a moment to focus on the positives in my life make the negatives a little bit more bearable.

So, what is your "cure" for homesickness? I know a few ladies who are in the throes of homesickness and they might appreciate a few new ideas on how to dig themselves out!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

family pictures

I need some advice! One thing we're doing when we go home is have family pictures taken. A friend of ours from college has her own studio. I've been following her blog for the past year and almost from the beggining I knew that I wanted her to take pictures of us. Well, you can see for yourself. Her name is Katie Kelly and this is her blog, her new blog, her website and her slideshows (this is my brother and his family). I love how natural her pictures feel. She seems to really capture the spirit of the moment and that's exactly what I was looking for. She does have a studio but Chikara and I miss the greenery of Portland so we've decided to have our session outside.

Now that you've seen what she's capable of, this is my question. I was thinking of buying us new casual clothes in a coordinating color scheme for the pictures but the other day I was looking through our old pictures and found ones of the girls in their summer kimonos and I realized that I would love to have a few pictures of the Japanese side of us, too. Our session is only 90 minutes long so I don't want to waste too much time getting changed. Maybe if I took the girls to the session already dressed up in their yukatas, then we could change easily into casual clothes and finish the session with our family pictures. Do you think it would be too much of a hassle? Do you think it would waste too much time?

I already have yukatas for the girls in all of their sizes so it would just be a matter of finding space to bring them. Probably the person I should really be asking is Katie.

Last year's Star Festival picture:

Star Festival picture from two years ago:

In addition to the question of yukatas or no yukatas I was also wondering if anyone has good ideas for a color scheme for our family outfits, too. I am eagerly awaiting your thoughts and ideas!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

classic Misaki

Today Misaki had swimming class at school so when she left this morning she took her pool bag with her. However, when she came back she didn't have her pool bag in her hands. When I asked her where her pool stuff was, she stopped for a second, looked up thoughtfully and then grimaced and said she must've forgotten it. Great, I'm thinking, all that wet stuff sitting overnight is going to get all musty and moldy. Why, oh why, does she do this?

It was a hot day and they were pretty sweaty so I let them sit down with a popsicle to cool down before they did their homework. Once both their popsicles were gone I reminded them to get out their homework and as Misaki opened her bag, she suddenly exclaimed and then giggled. Her pool bag was inside her school bag. She pulled it out with a slightly embarrassed but mostly relieved look on her face. "Oh", she said, "I forgot".

How is it possible that she could forget this in the short ten minutes it takes to leave her classroom and get all the home. Boggles the mind.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

just a little embarrassing

I wrote two weeks ago about a busy day that we had running errands. The third errand on that day was to go to a friend's house and try to get Natsuki infected with chicken pox. Knowing that two weeks of incubation had passed I was on the lookout for poxes. On Saturday night it seemed like Natsuki had a few pox-y looking type marks on her face and Sunday morning when she woke up they were still there and she had a low-grade fever so I decided to be safe and keep her home from church. Usually when we need to split up the kids I'll take Natsuki & Sakura and Chikara will take Emi & Misaki (or vice versa) but there was no reason for Sakura to stay home so Chikara decided to take all three pox-free children to church. He was a little nervous since he had a meeting in the afternoon but the girls behaved very well for him.

Natsuki and I had a lovely, quiet time at home. I just sat on the couch and she ran around and made me "food" and we did puzzles and generally had nice time. I kept checking her body for more signs of chicken pox but by the time I put her down for her nap, nothing more had materialized. She had a fabulous 3-hour nap (and so did I) and right after we woke up Chikara called to say they were on their way back home. Natsuki had no new poxes so we decided to risk going out for dinner because we needed to take some much-needed Tylenol to a friend's house.

Then on Monday there were still no more poxes.

Tuesday. No poxes.

Hmmmm . . . maybe she doesn't have chicken pox after all. The timing of whatever was on her face and her fever was amazingly coincidental, though. I'm going to be a little embarrassed when I go church on Sunday and have to tell this story a million times over and over again. Sigh.

Well, on the bright side, I don't have to deal with an itchy, cranky baby for the next week and I don't have to worry about leftover scars preventing us from getting on the plane and going to Canada.

Only two more weeks! Yeah!

and we all breathed a sigh of relief...

Two weeks ago we blew a fuse in our car (how?) and suddenly our stereo wouldn't work. I know it's an easy thing to fix but these small details are the type of thing that we are not good at actually getting around to.

Maybe I should share here that our family loves music. We always have a CD playing in the background when we're at home or in the car. If there's not a CD on then we're singing. All of us. All six of us at one time, singing the same song at the top of our lungs. It's awesome and Chikara and I could not be more thrilled about this. Once I got Chikara his iPod for his birthday, it totally expanded our music library and we were able to introduce the girls to The Barenaked Ladies' If I Had A Million Dollars and the W's The Devil Is Bad and all sorts of other songs that we had totally forgotten about. It's a good job I limited how much money we're able to use at iTunes or we'd be bankrupt by now!

So you can imagine that when our car stereo stopped working it was weird. The silence was weird. We can only sing for so long and sometimes Chikara and I need to talk instead of sing and sometimes the girls fight over which song to sing and who's allowed to sing it, etc. Finally on Monday Chikara had a window of opportunity to take the car and get it fixed. He had a huge smile on his face when he came back. That evening we had been invited to a birthday party for my best friend's son. We piled all the kids in the car at the appropriate time and started off. About two minutes into the drive I realized that we still hadn't turned on the stereo so I hit the button and the radio came on.

From the back seat I heard, said in a half-sigh: Yes.

I feel exactly the same way Emi!

Saturday, July 05, 2008

as requested...

We only started using a digital camera two years ago but my photos from before then are actually pretty organized so I went through and found a few favorites of the girls from when they were younger. What do you think?

Emi - 7 months

Misaki - 6 months

Me - 28th birthday, Emi - 22 months

Emi - 23 months

Emi - 2-1/2 years

Misaki - 16 months

Emi - 3 years, Misaki - 23 months

Misaki - 2 and a bit

Emi - 3-3/4 years, Misaki - 2-1/2, Sakura - 4 months

Family Picture, Chikara and I - 29 years, girls - same as above

Emi - 4 years, Misaki - almost 3 years

Oh man, that was way too much fun!

comparison pictures

My mom wrote a comment on the last post that the last picture of Natsuki drinking from a cup could be any one of the girls since we've used the same high chair, same bib, same cup, etc. for all of the girls. Hmmm....

Sakura at 22 months:

Natsuki at 22 months:

Sakura's first pigtails (22 months)

Natsuki's first pigtails (also 22 months)

Seeing a pattern? Only the vacuum cleaner has changed!

Thursday, July 03, 2008

picture update

Would you like to see what we've been up to?

Look! All four girls participating in the same activity and being nice to each other! I'm starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Natsuki sucking on a sucker while waiting for Emi to get her hair trimmed. She managed to get only a little sticky.

Misaki made a puppet of a girl who is dancing. Today she made a boy to go with it. I think she got her inspiration from the Princess and the Pea book I bought for Sakura's birthday.

Checking to see if her goggles fit. Swimming lessons have started at school. Twice a week both Emi and Misaki get a chance to swim without me even having to lift a finger (almost!). Emi's already starting to get tanlines on her back.

If Chikara lays down on the floor, Natsuki just can't leave him alone. Her little cheek resting on his shoulder is adorable.

A rare sisterly moment between Emi and Sakura.

I went to Emi's school for a parent "fun day". We made a kaleidescope together. Sakura stuck by my side the entire time but Natsuki ran all over the place. No fear that girl!

Emi's tomatoes! They were still green last week but today she brought home a red one.

Sakura loves her blue blankie. It's been her constant companion since she was about 3 months but finally she put enough holes in it that we had to say good-bye to it. Fortunately I did have an extra pink one so it was an easy transition.

More evidence of the holey-ness of poor blue blankie!

And last but not least a little update on the life of Natsuki.

It's amazing how quick she goes from this... this! In a one minute period she can fall apart, pull herself back together and then flip out again. Never a dull moment.

Natsuki having a time out. Can you see her hands on her knees? She's so cute having a time out that I almost don't mind her being bad just so I can see her cuteness. Well, almost.

Another thing we've dealing a lot with is Natsuki's pickiness as an eater. Emi and Misaki were not picky at all but Sakura was fairly picky and now Natsuki by far is the pickiest. I've been trying more creative ways to present food so that she might be more interested but even as cute as this lunch is she still only ate the rice and then I had to cajole her into one carrot, one piece of watermelon and her meatballs. Still too much work.

On the other hand she has figured how to drink from a cup all by herself so I guess I'm not a failure in all areas!

So that's what we've been up to. My friend who had her baby breach has been freaking out a bit since she's been home. I kind of saw this coming but it's taking up most of my extra time. Her capacity for freaking out is large so my posts may be sparse for a bit.

I did buy a notebook so I can start writing lists for my upcoming trip home. Less than three weeks now!