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Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Wizard of Oz: Zion`s Last Undoukai

The Wizard of Oz, Zion Preschool Parent/Child Field Day

We are nearing the end of our life in Japan. In just a few weeks it will all be over. Everything familiar to us and the children will change when that plane lands.

One of the unique events in Japan as I have posted previously is Undoukai or the Field Day. At Manna`s preschool it is even more unique.  They have a story theme added to the day`s events and at the end one of the characters from the story shows up and they have a parade.  The children also dress up as characters of the story.  This year was the Wizard of Oz.


A quick snapshot of the food we brought for Manna`s Undoukai.

At the Undoukai it is tradition for families to eat lunch together usually in a picnic style outside, and usually lunches are homemade and have a lot of food for everyone. However, the little kids don`t eat that much so we made this much, and even that had plenty of leftovers.

Typically extended family members attend showing their support and cheering on the child in the number of competitve events held on that day. It was just Yumi and myself with kids though

We are certainly going to miss the little things like these events that have their own unique flavor and always leave us with a smile.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

One Last Trip to the Beach


With all the chaos that has happened our summer fun time this year was pretty limited. Usually we would often go to the beach about a 2 hour drive away during summer vacation but not this year.

On a warm autumn day we took one last trip down to the beach of the Boso Peninsula. Still the fear of another tsunami had me planning escape routes as the girls pounced around the seashore. We have taken the children to very few places this year, especially involving the outdoors for obvious reasons. Radiation being another one of them.

The girls love the beach and love the water and it was difficult to keep them from jumping in.  Although they did get their feet quite wet. Afterward we warmed up in Ashi-yu or in other words took a foot bath. 
It felt very nice. Ahhhh I want to go back


Cana enjoying the warm foot bath after walking on the beach.



As this video shows the girls were very excited and I am trying to make sure they are okay, especially Cana who is always trying to keep up.

We ate dinner at the restaurant over looking the ocean and stayed till the evening.  We dined on fresh sushi and shellfish from the water below and counted our blessings as we enoyed the meal and atmosphere.

We are certainly going to miss places like these...

Monday, October 24, 2011

Growing Girls


The girls on the lawn by the outside food area at Costco, Japan

The girls are getting heavy, I carry them to bed sometimes and it really is getting difficult. They do more, eat more and energy seems to be unlimited. Meanwhile mommy and daddy are trying to recover our strength whenever we can get the chance. 

When they play together it feels like heaven, when they are fighting, or annoying one another and making messes it feels like a nightmare. Guess which one we experience more often.

All three girls are at different ages and different stages. It is quite difficult to manage and rarely do we have solo time with them to check on their "progress". The way mommy and daddy treat the group versus one on one is quite different. In a one on one opportunity we either discipline, encourage or instruct and this happens occasionally.  However, most of the time the girls are in the same room and it is somewhat hard to tell whether they are playing together or seperately.  Well unless somebody starts crying and the parents have to once again investigate. They go back and forth freely making a team of three and then two and then playing by themselves. It is like watching some sort of chemical reaction with a lot of energy being released.

The girls playing a pogo stick jumping game at an arcade in Yachiyo, Chiba


Just as they are growing I too feel like I am growing in my capacity as a parent and my understanding of the dynamics of raising children.  Growing children are always learning and teaching each other as well. Even if it is mistaken. Children enjoy teaching each other things and sometimes I have great joy in watching them tell each other stories or teach a song or dance to one another.  And isn`t that what life is all about?

"GROWING"


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Learning to Label

Drawing by Anna on the chair. She tried to hide it with her hand while doodling it during our conversation.

Recently we have been catching Anna writing with marker on things. It first started with drawings of characters she likes, or creative portraits of her and her sisters, but now she is writing labels on things. Like Anna`s cup, Everybody`s chair, and the like. She is learning the fun of labeling and it is getting a little out of control.

My first reaction is to sigh and get angry with the fact that she hasn`t stopped even though she has been warned, but then I step back.

In her world objects have little or no value. She doesn`t know the price of the chair or cup or book. To her they are just things and things have a purpose and that is for people. The innocence of her actions tell me that for her it is important to know who is using or should use those objects.

At such a young age it starts with labeling your stuff but soon it moves to labeling people and places. And that can become a tricky subject to say the least.

But it has begun, she is developing the ability to clearly label the world around her. Now comes an important time as a parent to guide her and help her understand such concepts and teach her in the way she should go.

I am in awe of it all, like watching a flower blossom. But also aware I need to protect that precious flower within her.

Thanks for reading

Monday, September 5, 2011

A Night at the Festival

The main stage at the Summer Festival in Natsumi, Funabashi Japan
During the summer break we were able to keep with tradition and go to the Matsuri, (祭り)or festival.  The summer nights are hot in Japan and it is often difficult to sleep.  But the good thing is that they are cooler than the daytime and in Japan night time young people roam the streets and families often take their children to the neighborhood parks where festivals are held.  Many people gather and dress in traditional summer clothes usually Yukata (ゆかた)and Jinbei.(じんべい)

The matsuri festivals have music playing and a large taiko drum on the center stage keeping the beat as the people dance the Bon Odori.  Many volunteers help make these festivals possible along with many vendors who sell food, drinks, alcohol, and toys.  There are also games for children, prizes, and many other entertaining things to do.  The children always enjoy their time at Matsuri.  The only problem is that it can get quite expensive $$$!



This video shows the stage and the drummers drumming the beat to the Bon Odori, which is done in a cirlce around the stage. Usually there are official dancers that take the lead for the dance and anybody is free to join along in the circle as the song plays.


Cotton candy is a big seller and of course very exciting for the kids to get too.


 
Often we run into neighborhood friends and classmates at the Matsuri.




We were able to go to the Festival a couple times this year. I will post more photos with another entry later.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Matthew`s first month

Most recent picture of Matthew Yoshiya taken on July 28th, 2011
Well time flies when you have four children.  Matthew passed the one month mark a little over a week ago and he is starting to put on the weight.  He is now over 10 lbs and has a strong neck.  He gets a lot of stimulation from his sisters and recently has begun to make smiley faces and some happy sounds.

Newborn babyness is a precious thing, and Yumi and I both want to enjoy it the best we can.  Yet there is the hard side of it all, staying up late and Yumi breastfeeding or holding Matthew round the clock.  And don`t forget Cana is also breastfeeding too. 

There certainly is never a dull moment.  Those moments are called necessary rest breaks!

I was not able to be home for Matthew`s first month.  I was in the hospital (more details) and was not able to help with the kids.  Finally after two weeks I am feeling able to help where it is needed.  However I still need to be careful and not overdo it or I may find myself back in the hospital again.

Matthew is one month old and we hope that he stays healthy and strong in the months to come.  There are concerns over his tear duct which often is clogged and of course radiation is a major concern as well.

We are living in an area of Japan which is borderline safe.  It is not as bad as other hot spot areas in Chiba but it 4 to 5 times higher than the normal level.

But for us life continues on and we must cherish it while trying our best to be wise and safe with our children.

Trip to the Zoo




We took a trip to the zoo a little before Matthew was born.  It was kind of like the last trip with just the girls.  We went in the afternoon and avoided the crowds and spent a couple hours walking around and watching the animals.


The great thing about Chiba zoo is that you can get quite close to the animals and there is enough variety to keep the children entertained.


The giraffe`s head is just a few feet away as I took this picture of it eating grass by the fence
The girls are just a couple feet away from the giraffe.  You can see their shoes, the red ones

They don`t have the more agressive animals like the rhino or hippopotamus, or predatorss like tigers or lions though, but the usual big guys are there: elephants, giraffes, gorillas, and the like.
Ultimately the zoo reminds my children that the animals in their books are real.  In suburban Japan there is not a lot of exposure to wild animals, so the only thing you have are the pictures on the ABC charts and in books. 

It was fun and only took a couple hours to see most of everything.






Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Manna, in her own world



Manna is the middle child and since being born has probably suffered the most out of all our children.  She had to have surgery to open her tear duct before she was even one year old.  She has suffered from asthma and was admitted to the hospital with pneumonia before turning two years old.  She has fallen down the stairs more than once.  She has fallen chipping teeth, scraping and bruising her very white skin more times than I can count.  Recently she had a bad accident and had to be taken in an ambulance to the hospital to stitch her Achilles heel. A week later she had chicken pox all over her face and her body. She still has a way to go to recover...

It has been hard to see her go through so much, she is still only 4 years old!  She sometimes prays for it to go away, or for her sisters that they won`t get sick or hurt like her.  The experiences of her life already have put her in an almost completely different world than other children. 

She is still silly and loves to dance and run around and jump on her daddy`s back.  Yet she knows real pain, real suffering for a four year old.  She has empathy from it already.  I hate to watch her suffer, but I hope that somehow it can be used and be a blessing to many.

She is growing in her understanding of her own world.  And with that understanding there is a special wisdom.  At times she can say the most encouraging of things even to me.  The other day she told me that she can give her best because she sees me try my best everyday.  She told me not to worry about her because she would give her best effort not to cry because she doesn`t see me cry even when it hurts.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Welcome to the Family-Matthew!



Last week we welcomed a new member to our family.  Matthew Yoshiya was born on Thursday morning in Japan.  We were both excited and relieved to see him and to know that he is healthy.  In Japan radiation is a big concern and he has a high risk of being affected by it.  We were told that he might have Down Syndrome or a birth defect during Yumi`s pregnancy according to a test she took.  Also Yumi has been exposed to radioactive water and other contamination after the Fukushima plant melted down in March, but we are yet to see any ill effects in Matthew.  We thank God that he is well and is home with us. 

Matthew now is going to be in the middle of a tug a war of attention.  All three girls want to hold and cuddle him.  We are definitely going to have to keep an eye on him and make sure the girls take good care of him.




Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Cana from baby to little girl

Karaoke is something we try to do from time to time.  The girls love it!
It seems like Cana has been the baby for the longest time.  But recently she is becoming more and more like a little girl.  The fact that I can converse with her and have an actual dialogue even though she is still only 2 years old is still something I am trying to fathom. 

She is in a stage of growth, the once angelic persona is often mixed with tantrums and unexplained crying sessions.  Something is definitely going on inside, something is developing within her. Yet I am still amazed that she will heed our words.  She will put up a fight but it appears she thinks it through and eventually returns with affection. 

Describing Cana one thing I have to say is that she pays close attention to those around her.  She often will pick up on non-verbal cues or even on dialogue and respond by helping or being the first to jump in the bath tub, etc.  Most of the time we rarely have to persuade or ask her to do much.  This is something that the other two do not come by naturally.  Seeing the differences and similarities in my children makes me reflect on the fact that part of me is in them too. 

Am I looking at a part of myself when I look at them?...when I look at Cana?  Of course I would like to take the credit for the good behavior and shun the bad, but the truth is probably the opposite.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Things Change...

Picture of our backyard last summer.  We grew quite a few plants in our small plot of land.  The sunflowers got real tall.  Those were happy times.


Looking back at the days gone by and browsing through pictures a smile comes across my face and along with it my eyes become a little watery.  Our life in Japan these days is very different for a lot of reasons.  After the earthquake we were forced to move.  The house that we spent the last couple years raising our three daughters is no longer.


I drove by a few weeks ago and was shocked to see what used to be our home completely gone. It is a complicated feeling looking at such a place.

So far things are going okay, but I say that knowing that perhaps they will soon change again.  We are about to have our fourth child sometime this week.  Again things are always changing.  It is sometimes sad when you think about it never being the same, but also there are good things that may come.  We are believing for the best and trusting God for the rest.

Manna and Cana, the talkers

Manna and Cana sitting together while riding ANPANMAN shopping carts taken in 2010

Most of my posts have focused on Anna, the oldest daughter of ours.  The other two Manna and Cana have the same energetic blood running through their veins but express themselves differently.  While Anna loves to get physical with her energy these two love to talk and talk and talk. A day doesn`t go by when they don`t stop to ask a silly question or make up a silly story.  Manna especially loves silly stories.  For example, she will stop you and ask you to listen and then say that she had a dream (her way of referring to her imagination) of ponies flying and when they landed they all had daddy`s face.  Cana loves to repeat what she hears.  She will sing and dance around repeating what everyone else is saying in the room.  They are precious..up to a point when we have to settle them down or get them to turn down their volume. As you can imagine it is quite a lively scene when I arrive home from work.  All of them talking to me at once, all the while Yumi is trying to give the daily report of the day`s happenings and things needing to be done.

Both Cana and Manna are very good at articulating their feelings and thoughts a big difference from raising Anna. Anna barely spoke a word for years after moving to Japan.  My wife and I both feeling very sorry for her, since it was probably a shock for her to go from aEnglish to a Japanese speaking environment.  Though we tried to keep English as the home language.

So as I spend time with Manna and Cana I realize they respond and act differently using language as a form of play.  It requires me to engage beyond the typical dogpile and wrestling type parenting I am used to. I have to stop and think, and while most of the time it is overwhelming, I cherish it.  There may come a day when they say to me, "Dad I don`t want to talk about it..." or "You never listen to me" So for now I am investing as best as I can while trying to keep my sanity. 

All my girls love to sing and dance. But Manna and Cana will make your ears sore!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Anna`s UNDOU-KAI

A boy waves the flag for the red team (Anna`s Team), as a girl drums the taikodrum behind him as the runners race around the track at Field Day UNDOU-KAI
A few weeks ago Anna had her first Field Day (UNDOU-KAI) on Saturday.  It is a custom for Elementary schools to hold these events on the weekends so that parents, grandparents and friends can watch the students participate in a variety of competitive games such as tug of war, relay races, dashes, hurdles, ball tossing, and many more.  They even have special dances performed by entire grades.

Anna in her dash was put against the faster runners in her grade and she came out in 1st place.  She also was chosen to run in the relay race but her team finished in 3rd. It was great to see her compete and do her best.  That morning she woke up with great excitement and determination.  It was like she had prepared, worked hard and knew she was going to win.  And just for the record, I am not the type of parent to pump up and train my kids to be super over-achievers.  This was all her! I just told her to go run and have fun today and "You`ll do great Anna!" As you look at the pictures you may wonder why Anna is wearing a mask.  She lost her two front teeth and decided that she should wear it. Here are a few photo highlights from the day.

Anna is wearing the mask and has her hands out in victory after finishing first place in the dash.
The school grounds were filled with about 3,000 people and everybody had their cameras out and the weather was quite warm as well.  It will certainly live on to be a great memory for us and Anna.  She was beaming after she came home that day knowing how well she had done and enjoyed such a time with her classmates and friends.
The children compete by tossing colored balls into a hoop and the team with the most balls wins.  TAMA-IRE

Anna during the Disney Dance.  She loved practicing for this and still does it all the time.

Amidst all the hardship and trials she has been through it brought a little tear to my eye to see her so satisfied and happy...

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Watching Anna Grow

Took this photo at a studio we took the kids to almost two years ago.
My first born daughter has the advantage and disadvantage of being the first child to go through each developmental stage.  The advantage being that she has her parents full attention and focus, but the disadvantage being that we lack experience in the situation.

These days she is going to school and learning to listen to her teacher`s instructions and many times she forgets her assignments or doesn`t tell us what needs to be brought to school the next day, etc.  She is learning to focus her high energy and learn with by it and after a couple months it seems that she might be doing okay.  Of course all I really know is what she says and what her teacher writes down in her communication log which each student receives.  In Japanese it is called a Ren-Raku-Chou. (連絡帳)The entries are not daily, but are written at the discretion of the teacher when they want to share a concern or let the parents of a child know how things are going or possibly share a story from class about their child.


Apparently Anna`s teacher is quite strict and often doesn`t give her full marks on her assignments or homework.  Anna has a hard time with this being a very temperamental child who strives for perfection.  She cries often when she is not able to meet expectations that she puts on herself.  One time Anna had to practice writing the character よ and got so frustrated that she ran out of the house.  She didn`t return for quite awhile.  My wife became concerned and contacted me, but then Anna suddenly came home.  In fact she returned bearing gifts for everybody.  She had walked down to the market and with her own money gone and bought snacks and chocolate for everybody.  Of course Yumi warned her not to go out like that, but she couldn`t help but be moved that Anna would do something so sweet. She even chose the brand that her sisters and mom like.  It looks like she pays more attention to detail than we realized!


Anna`s grossed out after I caught a crawdad at the park with a stick and some squid for bait. I asked her if she wanted to hold it while I took a picture :)

Anna is showing us more and more that she can learn on her own and that she has a very sweet side behind her rambunctious, energetic, and sometimes harsh personality. I truly pray for her and wish her joy and happiness as she lives out her childhood.  She has endured so much from infancy and now she is growing into a fine little girl.

By the way she lost her two front teeth and it looks like more teeth are loose as well!


Sunday, May 15, 2011

Down on the Farm

A cow from Chiba`s famous Mother Farm located in Futsu.

During the end of Golden Week (a week of Japanese holidays at the end of April beginning of May ) we took a trip down south to the Mother Bokujou (farm). The weather was very nice but quite windy. The area is very rural and is on top of a mountain near the end of the Chiba peninsula. The fun part for the kids was being able to touch and handle the animals. They got a chance to milk the cow and hold the bunnies and watch the pig race. But they seemed to enjoy running around and playing in the grass just as much. With everything going on it felt good to go out to the country for awhile and let the kids run free.


With all that is happening we are concerned for the children most of all.  However, giving them a chance to be kids and enjoy the life they are living is still very important.  We don`t want to live in a bubble but we also don`t want to take unneeded risk when it comes to their health.  We are still trying to figure out what the next steps are in adjusting our lifestyle to keep them safe.  It was fun to see them enjoy the country life even if it was just for a day.


Below are some video clips from the day.




Monday, April 25, 2011

My Daughters are Not Wall Flowers


I came across this photo in my photostream on my Flickr account and it got me thinking about my children.  It was titled "Wall Flower" and I thought about the concept of a wallflower.  Still beauty or shy beauty certainly does not aptly describe my children.  They are constantly in motion bumping into things, running around, singing, jumping, playing doing about anything they can to get the attention they crave.

When it comes to the world outside,
they are not shy,
they are not well-behaved,
but they are to me, beautifully made.

I am surprised how easily they make friends and how their energy seems to be contagious to the other kids around them.  Some kids give energy and some require it to engage in play time.  My daughters are the stimulators, the first ones to go for the gusto, how they exhaust me and their mother.

Yet when I take a step back, I am amazed at the beauty of it all.  They are untainted and delicate, waking each morning to the world as pure children, unique in their ways. 

I only hope that as they develop that they learn to speak not only Japanese and English, but also that they learn to speak with wisdom and understanding.  I want them to understand the value of words and power of words. 

Eyes of those around them are watching them and when their time comes.  I hope they can share themselves in a way that is a blessing to those around them.

They might grow tired and sit down for a break, but they are far from your typical "Wall Flower".

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Dinner in the Dark at McDonalds

 

As a result of the earthquake in Japan and the continued problems with restoring power, most places have significantly reduced their use of electricity.  Here is an example.  We went to McDonald`s tonight for dinner and the lights were out.  We thought it was closed but as we entered we saw people sitting in the dark and eating.  There was light by the register of course since they need power to run the register and cooking side of things.

It was a very interesting experience and a reminder of the situation we live in.  Conserving electricity is a major priority in Japan and it shows how willing people and businesses are to sacrifice convenience for the sake of others.

The video is dark and disorienting.  I took it for me so I can remember this time one day and for you readers so you can experience a little of what it is like in Japan for us.

Things are back to normal in a way, but still there is uncertainty lurking.  There are signs of the times that can either terrify you or make you thankful to be alive and well.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Starting School


Anna on the way to Opening Day Ceremony at school

Well, it has already been a week for Anna.  She started school last week on Monday with a ceremony and now has entered the ranks of Shou-Gaku-Sei. (Elementry Student).  You can imagine how troubled we are to see her go off to school, with all the earthquakes happening almost daily. 

But Anna was in high-spirits as the week began.  She woke me up 3 hours before school started asking me if she could go to school yet.  She was so excited and inquisitive about school and things she was going to do there.  Not growing up in Japan, I really couldn`t answer much but the general stuff about what school is like.
So after eating breakfast and making doubly sure of all her stuff we began to walk to the meeting point, so Anna could meet with some friends to walk together to school.  So I took my cane ( Yes I am recovering from hip surgery by the way!) and we began to walk, but Anna went ahead much faster.  She even turned back to me and said, "I know the way. you don`t need to come, daddy."
  
So I followed from afar just to make sure.  It is about 5-8 minutes to Anna`s school.  Anna, being determined as always, walked quickly noticing some other kids up ahead. She walked past the meeting point and continued to go towards school following the flow of the other children.  Being in my condition I couldn`t chase after her, so I decided to wait and apologize to Anna`s friend and explain to her mother that Anna had gone ahead to school.

So ended the first morning of the send off. 

As the week progressed, Anna started to become tired.  The early morning preparations and stress began to take effect.  She said, the all but familiar phrase, " I don`t want to go to school anymore!"

Upon hearing that I had to laugh, knowing how pumped up she was at the beginning.  Of course with some coercion she was able to go and keep the streak going.  Today she arose a little late, but was in plenty of time to go to school determined to do well

Anna has a lot to learn, and so do I about school in Japan.  There are a lot of responsibilities and tasks given to little first graders.  There are a lot of necessary items and equipment that must be remembered.  It is quite daunting for these little 6 year olds to have to remember so much. 

I just hope that Anna doesn`t lose the pure child-like heart, as she begins the journey of education.  She seems to be enjoying meeting many new faces and playing at school and hearing that makes me smile.

I am sure there will be more stories to come about Anna and her adventures on the playground and in the classroom.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Back to Life...



It has been over two weeks since the BIG earthquake that changed Japan forever.  To know more see my other blog http://holyfirejapan.blogspot.com/

We have just moved house and are trying to get back to "normal" life, but it seems surreal.  Everything has changed, our home, our things, our entire situation seems to be completely different from two weeks ago.  We went to the park a few times and that helped ground fears and gave the children a chance to be themselves. 

Fear is hard on parents but even harder on children.  When our children see mommy and daddy rushing to get everybody huddled into a safe place for the next aftershock they see the reality that mommy and daddy are not in control and that we can be afraid too.

A lot of children can have trauma from an event like this.  We are praying that our children will not be affected in such a way.  We are doing our best to be safe, but also to try and get into a rhythm of life that is healthy again.  Having to ration food and water is not fun with children who do not understand why they have to save food for later when they are hungry now.

Let us hope for things to settle and for peace to return in the coming days and weeks.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Waiting for Spring

Well it is now March in Japan, and that means Spring is getting ever so closer.  Although recently it certainly does not feel like it.  The last couple months we have gotten little opportunity to play outside with the girls.  When they are outside, especially in the yard and playground behind our house it is a precious time.  When they are inside they tend to fight more over toys and what TV show to watch or are just a lot more fussy in general. 


My guess is that being inside, close to each other with limited space to run, dance, and play, causes both stress and irritation.  The girls are all free-spirited and strong willed in their own way and as soon as somebody steps on somebody else`s toes, the bell rings and the craziness begins. 

Another thing about inside activity for most of the day is the issue of boredom. This eventually leads to a lot of trouble making, as we all know;  I.E. tearing wallpaper, writing on the furniture, getting into cabinets, sneaking snacks, and tons of other types of mischief.  Being one person having three girls to look after, chores to do, meals to make, and many other motherly duties leaves my wife exhausted when I arrive home from work. 

This makes winter the hardest time of the year.  Getting the kids outside makes a huge difference in home life.  Being able to let the kids be messy and creative outside is a real joy.  They almost naturally cooperate with each other in that context.  I see one talk to the other about making something and then the other ask one to bring a tool to the sandbox and it`s like all of a sudden I feel like a "good" parent! LOL

So I guess what I want to say is that at times winter has its charm, but for a parent of three, I can`t wait for spring much longer! So let`s get on with it.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Year of the Snow Bunny



This is the year of the rabbit, according to the Chinese calendar.  We woke up the other day to a snow covered scene that excited the girls.  Even more exciting was the mysterious snow bunny left in the parking lot in front of our house.  Whoever made it took a lot of time and effort to do so.  The facial features were quite detailed and if you look at the photos it is quite large.  I imagine that took a few hours of the early morning to make.

Anyway it was a surprise, seeing that we do not get much snow in winter time.  But this winter has certainly been a long and cold one, and we are awaiting its end, eagerly. 

Apparently the year of the rabbit is seen as a year of ease, comfort, and leisure.  It is a year of temperance, care free and happy without too much annoyance.  It is a stark difference from the previous year, the year of the tiger. 

Interesting to note the strong cultural ties between China and Japan in reference to such things as superstitions, astrology, and other mystical traditions. 

However, all mysticism aside, to be honest I really hope this year is indeed a rest from the storm of raising the girls in the midst of many other struggles.


So here`s to a new year, already underway! May it be a good year for all of you as well!





Monday, February 14, 2011

Turning the Page

Well, just one more month to go and we are in a new chapter.  Anna will be starting first grade in April. There a lot of preparations that still need to be done, clothes need to bought, and other various school supplies as well. 

The thing that I think I keep putting off is the mental preparation.  It hasn`t hit me yet...  I still cannot imagine it clearly.  My little girl, who I use to hold in one arm, will be going off to school all by herself.  Part of me is afraid to think about it.  The other part is shocked that we made it this far already.

Having three children keeps me busy, and I must confess that it is difficult for the oldest one.  They have a higher set of expectations placed on them and as a parent you lack the experience to guide them, because for you it is the first time too for everything.

My mistakes as a parent will ,no doubt, be apparent as my daughter enters school.  In Japan, school is serious business and I am far from serious when it comes to study myself.  I am confident in my daughter`s abilities, but fear for her weaknesses.  I can only hope and pray that she is able to engage herself and connect with good people.

As the time draws near and the page begins to turn, I feel my heart yearn for the time of her infacy, her precious little smile, and the look of joy and peace in her eyes as a new born babe, but it is passed.  We must go forward, despite our many failures and struggles, regrets and short-comings. 

We must turn the page and witness the events of the lives of our children, hoping to cherish it all, but weather the storm of parenting them through it all.

If you really want to see what you are a made of, taking care of three little girls will definitely teach you a thing or two!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Little Girl Drivers

This past weekend we went to one of our favorite parks.  The weather warmed up and it was fun to see the girls get out and have fun outside.  Winter is always hard on us, because the kids stay indoors most of the time and have lots of energy which is difficult to keep under control.  Surprisingly, February is the coldest month of the year in Japan, but the weather and weekend came together nicely for us.

The unique thing about this park is that the girls can actually drive around on little cars and motorcycles.  There is no track, so it is true open road.  It seems to be both scary and exciting for them, but they have really gained confidence in their driving skills as of late.  I laugh thinking about it.  I don`t remember driving Go-Karts before the age of 6 years old, and here my girls are riding around like it`s no big deal.

Of course there are the occasional "WATCH OUT"s and "I`m stuck Daddy!", but overall it isn`t very stressful for me.  I enjoy watching them figure things out, and I love to see the excitement as they drive around.

As you`ll see below, it is pretty cool that they can ride around freely.



Oh and don`t forget the horsies too!


And also I took some video of the girls chasing bubbles.  I focus on our youngest since she was the most excited chasing after the bubbles.


Just another day with the girls, they go bye quickly and there is something to cherish with each one, particularly the fun days...

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Good Dad, Bad Dad

Got you, you little brat!

Some days being a dad is a blast! The kids enjoy being with me and I enjoy seeing them have a good time.  It brings me joy and I am inspired to be a better father and make the most of the years I have with my little children.

However, I must confess there are days I wish I could do over.  Days when I have to play the bad guy, when I have to raise my voice or punish, when I respond to their disobedience and bad attitudes by giving them a day filled with tears.

When I find out that bad behavior is going on and I try to find out the details, it turns into a dramatic situation.  It is kind of like when you watch a show on TV and the interrogation begins and you have the old good cop, bad cop routine going on.

I ask one, usually the crier "What happened?" and then move on to the culprit.  Asking the questions and demonstrating with angry gestures how mad I am.  e.g. ANGRY FACE, HANDS FLAILING, FOOT STOMP, etc.
Other times I will sit the culprit on my knee and talk to them sweetly and promise a reward for their change in behavior. An example being, "I know you did something wrong and I know you want to do the right thing, in fact, if you leave your sister alone and be good for the rest of the night I will bring you a treat home from work tomorrow."


The approach really depends on the situation, and I am sure I probably go against every book on "child raising" the way I parent.  Yet it works for now, and the more I see my girls mature the more I realize I need to modify my approach as well.

The key I think is growing together with your children, not trying to raise them perfectly.  If you stay flexible as a parent you will be able to understand your children and speak into their lives with more impact when the times comes.  Well that is my hope at least.

So again as I watch them go to sleep as I type this, I wonder what kind of daddy I will be tomorrow.  Good Dad or Bad Dad?  Recently I am little tired of having to play the bad guy...but somebody has to do it, right?

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Fighting the Flu


Well that season has struck again.  Every year it comes around and knocks a week out of your life.  Flu season is in full force and has just finished sweeping through the girls` preschool.  Last week was almost like a second winter vacation, except for the VACATION part.  For my wife and I, it was a rough week. We were afraid we might end up with the flu but didn`t catch it as far as we know.  I had a fever at one point, but I guess it was just exhaustion.

When illness strikes our home, the everyday battle takes on a different form.  Instead of the usual hurding the children for meals and other scheduled events or settling them down and getting them ready for bed, it gets a lot dirtier as you could imagine; cleaning clothes, floors, wiping noses, etc. in a fight to maintain a sanitary, germ-free environment.

Not to mention the "worry bug" keeps biting you all throughout the night.  You suddenly feel a prick that wakes you up from your sleep to go check temperatures, breathing and make sure they are staying hydrated.  It`s more than a double shift, it`s almost a triple shift!!

Yet now that everybody has recovered, we are getting back to life as normal.  Sickness is a bummer, but for a parent there is no time to let sickness get you down.   In a way, it forces you to your limits and sometimes you find strength you never knew you had.

BOOST YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM & TREAT YOUR BODY NATURALLY!
























Monday, January 24, 2011

Stray Cats


On the weekend I took Anna to the park by her request.  Everyone has been under the weather recently and she was getting quite stir crazy.  We went to the park to play, but Anna found a group of stray cats.  She spent over an hour following them around and watching them intently.  She would study and copy their movements and smile back at me. 

Then I thought about it a little deeper.  In America, I had cats and a dog and a backyard to play in.  Anna has never experienced raising a pet or spent a lot of time with animals.  It was a special time for her, something I take for granted having growing up in a different place, a different time.

Appreciation for life is an important lesson for children to learn.  The only way to learn it is to actually spend time with animals and experience the life in them.  These days, especially in Japan, it is getting harder to teach children about the value of life.  The outside world is filled with risk and even danger for children, but also discovery.  It was a blessing to watch my daughter discover and interact with the stray cats. 

Most of these cats were thrown away by their owners and live off of the generosity of those who come to feed them on occassion.  I wonder what she thinks about it all.  I could see her processing it, but not quite sure how to feel or express it in words.


Just another little story from raising children in Japan...

Please leave a comment :)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Making Time


I find that one of the challenges of parenting is making time to be with your kids.  I know I am with them taking care of them a lot of the time, but that doesn`t mean I am "making" time for them.

Most of the time I spend with my kids is far from organized or structured.  It has been that way for some years now, maybe it`s an age thing or I am just lazy.  In the past I have tried to settle the kids down and show them something or play with them in a structured way, a lot like my lessons at work.  However, I have found it difficult to keep their attention at home.  I have very little room to work in our little, undersized town house and with three little kids, it is hard to find a quiet spot to sit down and do a puzzle, or draw pictures, or practice the ABCs, etc.

This year, though, I really want to buckle down and try it again and see if the kids are ready for structured learning at home. I think making space and time is the important key factor.  Next is the discipline of creating a routine for that every week.  It`s worth a shot! Wish me luck.

This is my New Year`s resolution!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Anna`s Quest

Yesterday, my eldest daughter had an idea.  She was at preschool at the time.  She wanted to go around and record the names of all the girls in the school and write them down on a paper.  Recently she has been learning how to write, and is very excited about it.  She decided on her own that this would be her new project.

So she started her quest, to get all the names of the students and staff who were girls and then write them down.  She was diligent in searching out every girl she could find and asked each one their name.  She asked the teachers one by one until she was finally finished.  Then one of the teachers asked if she had asked the principal yet.  Anna reacted with surprise.  "The principal has a name!", she said.  She immediately went to ask the principal. The principal was delightlfully surprised and answered, "Teruko"  Anna never had heard that name before, so she reacted with a smile and astonishment, "Teruko!"  She then continued to go around the school telling everybody the principal`s name. And then wrote it down for everybody to see.  Her quest was finished and the story was so funny that the prinicipal told it to all the mothers while waiting for pick up time.

So when I came home guess what was the first thing Anna showed me?  Her list of names and she explained to me how much fun she had on her little quest.

Hope you enjoyed her story too.  If you did, please leave a comment :)



アンナの調査


アンナの幼稚園にお迎えに行くと、必ず園長先生(みんなにばあば先生と呼ばれてます)が
インフォメーションで今日の出来事やニュースなどを話してくれます。

昨日のインフォメーションで、ばあば先生が

”おもしろことが今日ありました。入学前に自分の名前を読めないと困ると思ってか、
おうちでひらがなの練習などをされているようですね。
ある年長の女の子が、女の子全員の名前を聞いて紙に書いて回ってました。
先生にも聞いて、事務のまり子先生にも聞きにいったら、ばあば先生にも聞いてごらんと
言って、私に名前を聞きに来たんですね。
てるこだよっていうと、その子はすごいびっくりしていました。
私のなまえはばあばだと思っていたんですね。それでみんなに戻ってばあば先生の名前は
てるこなんだよって言いに言ってました。
ばあばって思っていて微笑ましかったです。”


という話でした。


アンナを教室まで迎えに行くと、アンナがいつものように画用紙に何かを書いたのを
手渡します。

いつもは大体絵ですが、広げてみると、見事に女の子のお友達の名前がずらり。。。

もちろんそこには
てるこの名前も。。。。

今日のばあば先生の話はアンナのことを話されていたんだなと思いました。

アンナからばあば先生はてるこって言うんだよっていう報告ももちろんありました。

私はこの幼稚園の方針のように自由保育、幼児のうちはのびのびと方針なので
文字なんて教えたことはありません。
でもアンナは自分で興味をもって年長になってすぐ文字を覚えたのでした。

Monday, January 10, 2011

Cute treats

One thing about Japanese, is they love cute things!  Cute sells here! Especially to children and parents. 

Recently my wife bought some donuts at Mr. Donut, she couldn`t resist buying the pink bear donuts for the kids.  I had to take a picture real fast before they were gone.  Needless to say, daddy didn`t get to taste them, but that`s okay...like I need the extra calories. 

Snack time in Japan or Oyatsu is around 3 o`clock in the afternoon.  It is a somewhat official time for young children to have a snack after coming home from school, or nursery.

And of course that is when the bakeries, snack shops, and other places open the windows to entice the children with fresh baked goodies.

But if you want to guarantee a sale, make sure your snacks aren`t just fresh but cute as well.

Most of time, we get the kids to have fruit for snack time as a healthy alternative.  However, if you live in Japan you know that fruit is outrageously expensive.  One apple will cost you about $1.20 and strawberries $5.00 a basket, and don`t even think about melon, you might have to break a $20.  The cheapest available fruit is banana.  Still about $1.50 a bundle.

So often we find ourselves going back to the cute treats...which in a way are the cheaper alternative...kind of...ENJOY!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Once in awhile

Most people on their days off relax, or go out and experience the world through dining, shopping, travel, or other varieties of leisure.

During winter vacation, my wife and I were able to get away from the kids for a day and enjoy those long missed activities.  The girls enjoyed the day at a nursery.  And WE had coffee, lunch and went shopping together and were able to talk.  I mean really talk, Uninterrupted for over 10 minutes.  It`s something you take for granted until you have children.

Every year or so we get an opportunity, to have a day like this.  How I wish we had more chances, but that`s all we can do.  I won`t even say how much it cost to have the kids watched, but it was worth it.  It`s okay every once in awhile. ;)