Monday, April 30, 2012

Disney Live

Friday night I took M on a date with Minnie and Mr. N to see Disney Live. We were all very excited about the show that was in English. I took M to her favorite restaurant in Ginza, Pecko-chan's, and then we went to the theater for the show. When we walked in, M was thrilled to get her picture in front of the sign and was jumping with excitement. However, once the show started and the lights went low, she was a bit scared and had to use the bathroom about 90 times during the first act. I am not exaggerating. I spent most of the first act taking her back and forth to the bathroom, only to have her not go potty. I knew she did not really need to go, but she was scared. They did some stories like Aladdin and Little Mermaid, and she got especially scared when the blue genie and Ursula came on stage. But when Mickey and Minnie were out and about, she was fine. The second act was mostly Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Goofy with an appearance by Sheriff Woody and Buzz Light Year. M liked this act much better. They even brought the lights back up and led us in a dance, which M fully participated in and danced in the aisle. Overall, it was a fun night. She said she only liked it when Mickey and Minnie came out. Part of me got really frustrated to be honest. We paid decent money for the tickets and Mama really wanted to see the show. :) But then I had to remind myself she is only 3.5 and I probably would have been scared too if I had seen this at her age. It was fun night out on the town and it was nice to have a little date with her and catch up with Minnie and Mr. N.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Scrapbook Day - April 12, 2012

Scrapbook day came and went for me. It fell on a Thursday this month and it was a jam packed day. We are in the process of changing our day with Nena so she did not come on Thursday. The reason we are changing it is because M has yochien, then sports class and straight from there we go to music class on Thursdays, not getting home until 5:30. I did not want to use Nena for just the K man, since M loves her, so we are hoping to switch our day with her to Tuesdays. M will still be in yochien, but I will arrange for Nena to babysit when she gets home and I can go out on the town for an afternoon. April 12th was our first day to start this new routine.

I dropped M off at yochien, and it was her second day. She cried on this day and was more scared. I think she gets scared when she sees the other children crying. After dropping her off, I went to a meeting for the yochien. My friend translated for me - well, we basically sat in the back and talked. The meeting was going over the rules of the yochien (like where to park your stroller when you drop off and pick up your child and that you need to stay seated, rather than moving to the side, during a ceremony if you want to take pictures or videos - and no, I am not making this up) and how they hope to develop fine and honorable citizens at age 3, but with all of the younger children crying and other mothers talking we hardly heard a thing. Afterwards you had to stay for a PTA meeting for your specific class. Thankfully nobody expected me to volunteer for two reasons - one, I have the K Man and two, I am American. So, yay! After the meeting I picked up M and we went home. The K Man took a nap, we ate lunch, the K Man woke up from a nap and he ate and then we were off.

Our extracurricular activities have changed days due to M moving on to an older class. Thankfully M's best friend is in both classes so it makes for a fun afternoon as we ride the train one stop and they get to walk and hold hands together. So cute. First we drop the girls off at sports class and have a cup of coffee while they play for a hour. Then we change the kids out of sweaty clothes and take the train one stop to music class where we sing, dance, and learn more music notes based on animals, people or fruit. M made huge progress this past week in music class as she went around the room by herself when they had to pick the music note and demonstrate the animal or person or fruit it represented. Usually she needs me to go with her. She also participated much more in the story telling part of the class where we act out a story. It really was night and day compared to the last class we did just three weeks ago. I loved seeing her engage in the class more.

I told my husband dinner on Thursdays will be either leftovers or bentos, and that is what it was on this past Thursday. The picture posted are ones I took at the end of the week. You can see yochien and all of this activity has worn M out. She was "resting" and watching a video after dinner and her eyes were very heavy. Below on the floor, the K Man, was crawling around and looking for any kind of trouble he can find. M is making a great transition in yochien. She really seems to enjoy it even though she is a bit unsure of herself in the morning at drop off. A little girl in sports class is in her yochien class and she has befriended her. They play together a little bit every day, which makes me very happy to know she is not so alone like she was in the beginning. This little girl speaks both Japanese and English to M. I can see M's Japanese taking off. She is not speaking to us in full sentences with it, but she seems to understand everything at school and with her Japanese teacher. Today I heard a bit of their lesson and she was speaking in Japanese. It is very neat to watch develop. The K Man, well, he is happy as ever and into EVERYTHING! He is trying to pull himself up on things but still has a hard time. He wants to, but cannot quite do it just yet. Plus, we do not have a lot of stuff he can practice on. He still does his army crawl and gets around pretty fast. He gets tired now of sitting in his stroller so I have to find parks with a baby swing so he does not get bored watching M run around. When he sees the swing he starts grunting and kicking his legs! He is a charmer - every old lady he sees, he smiles at and they LOVE it. M was so shy with people on the train from an early age, but the K Man eats it up. He also is sinful. There is a reason the Bible says we are sinful from birth...because we are. He will go for a drawer to pull open and I will look at him and say "K no touch." He looks up at me, looks at the drawer, looks back at me and then pulls it open. If I smack his hand a bit to tell him no, he just looks up, grins his sweet little grin and starts laughing. I told my husband that his troublesome is coming full circle as I think the K Man has his personality - a charmer with the ladies who is looking for trouble. :)

Saturday, April 14, 2012

A Tribute to Grandma Bruns

On Thursday around 2:30 PM Eastern Standard Time my Grandma Bruns passed away. She was my last living grandparent and a very special lady to me. There is something about loss - it is just hard. It does not matter how old anyone is, loss is still hard. It was expected. She was 90, I believe, and her health was slowly deteriorating. But even though it is expected, it does not make the loss or pain easier. And being in Tokyo, thousands of miles away, the grief is different for me. In some ways it does not seem real and I feel a bit disconnected from my family. But in truth, I know it is real. I got to talk to her this week, say goodbye, even though she could not verbally talk back to me. My mom said she did acknowledge me which makes me smile. In some ways I wish I could have seen her in the last two years. In other ways, I am glad my memories of her most recently are of her in good health, playing with Miyako at her baptism. I wish I could fly home for the service, just for four days, and if I did not have a baby on the breast, I would. But it is too much for the K Man for just four days and M is in a bit of transition with yochien and I feel like I need to be here for that. So, since I cannot be there in the flesh, I thought I would write a little tribute to my Grandma.

My Grandma was a very strong woman. She lived through more trials than anyone I have ever known. Her dad passed away when she was very young and she was forced to take care of her brothers while her Mom worked. All she has known is being a caretaker. She got married young, and she had 10 KIDS! Can you imagine? Ten Kids?! I often think of her when I am going nuts with two and wonder "how on earth did she do it?" She left a legacy - 10 kids, lots of grandkids (over 20) and lots of great grandkids. She was even pregnant with one of her kids when my Grandpa was called to clean up crew in the navy for Pearl Harbor.

It is the memories though that I will cherish most - lots of fun memories...

Fishing at the lake, teaching me how to make scrambled eggs, calling her to tell her I was "sick" when she was visiting - sweet Grandma would come pick me up from school and we would make chocolate chip pineapple cookies (I know, they sound gross but are delicious) and homemade noodles. The woman could cook, let me tell you. I loved her fried potatoes and requested them every time I went to her house. She loved to play games - we played aggravation, euchre, and backgammon as our favorites. Grandma and I were always partners in euchre. It used to make my Grandpa so mad when we beat him and my mom. We always sat on the "crack" along the kitchen table and would double high five when we got points. Ice cream - her house always had loads of ice cream. Marion's pizza and Friendly's were our favorite places to eat together in Dayton. I always looked forward to spring break and summer vacation when I would spend weeks at a time at her house. There are tons more, and I am sure the rest of her grandchildren could add to this list forever. She loved...and she loved well. And she will be missed. But, I am grateful she is out of pain and reunited with my Grandpa. Even so, it still does not make it easier.

Grandma Bruns, I love you dearly. I am so grateful that God put you in my life. You loved me well. I loved your home, the trailer and lake, and your spit fire personality. The memories with you will forever be in my heart and I will tell my children lots of fun stories about our times together. May the Lord bless you and keep you sweet Grandma.


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

First Day of Yochien

Today was M's first day of yochien. I cannot believe she is in preschool. A couple of you asked questions as to what yochien is and why they start in April, so before I dive into the actual day, allow me to give the small explanation as I understand it in my feeble gaijin (foreigner) mind. We all know the Japanese people value school, and do a lot of it (like Saturday schools), and the prep for school starts at age 3 when most kids can go to public "yochien." It is like preschool for us in the US, only it is offered in the public schools in many areas of the city. Some sections of Tokyo start yochien at public school from age 4 and on, but in our ward it is age 3. The reason they start in April is because the Japanese school calendar and fiscal calendar for businesses start in April. It is custom to have an entrance ceremony so for the last week or so we have seen kids of all ages and their parents parading around town in their navy or black suits/dresses and attending entrance ceremonies. We had the entrance ceremony yesterday and start school today. A friend told me that out of all countries in the world, Japan attends the most days of school. Not sure if this is true or not, but I would not be surprised considering they start you at age 3. There is not a lot of academic work. It is mainly play time as I understand it. Children attend yochien for 3 years (going a bit longer each year) until first grade of elementary school. For the first week or two, the kids go for two hours. Then, they build you up to 3 hours. The entire time is 4.5 hours for the first year, including lunch at school (making obento lunches will be a whole different blog post that I am happy to put off until August when I have to make such a fancy lunch box). Wednesdays are always shorter yochien days. And sometimes they will have a function on a Saturday. School starts in April. Everyone has a holiday in the beginning of May for Golden Week. Then they will have a break in August. They will get a short time off for New Years Holidays and finally have a spring break in mid-March to beginning of April. There are even different types of yochien. My friend Minnie sends Mr. N to a sports yochien where it is focused on activity and sports. A bus for the school picks him up, with teachers on it, but he is doing this by himself at age 3. A friend told me the Japanese idea for yochien is to make them tough and independent, and I saw this today at drop off.

Miyako seemed indifferent about going to school this morning. She was not overly excited but she was not crying about it. Drop off was at 9:10 and we were there a bit early (thankfully Daddy worked from home this morning so I left the K Man at home and could focus on M). In hind sight I wish I had not gotten there early as she just kept watching the older kids go in, and I could sense her anxiety building up as she kept asking me "Is it 9:10 yet?" The drop off was pretty chaotic. You have to get their outdoor shoes off and put on the indoor shoes. I was trying to help her with this amidst the loads of moms and little ones doing the same thing. The teacher came up and told me to let Miyako do it (they eventually want them to come in on their own, change shoes, put the outdoor shoes in their cubby, and go to class), so Miyako listened and started doing it. Then the teacher politely shooed me away. I asked if it was ok and she said yes. So I left. Without saying goodbye to Miyako. Without showing her on the clock when I would be back like we do every week at sports class. It felt traumatic for me. Miyako does well when I leave her. But she always says "hug" and we hug and I typically show her on the clock when I am coming back. I wanted her to have the same security for her first day of yochien. I kept trying to look in the window to see if I could see her, but there were too many people to find her. So, my friend and I went to Starbuck's and bought an overpriced cafe mocha and talked about our little girls wondering how they were doing.

Daddy was able to go with me to pick up Miyako. When I saw her sweet face through the door, she was sitting in her little chair just fine. We had the K Man with us, and she was wanting to sit and play with him (which rarely happens)...makes me wonder if she was glad to see her little brother and a familiar friend. The teacher told Kan she did not cry at all. She got all of the stuffed animals to play with in her arms and played by herself. The teacher thought she went to the stuffed animals because she might have been a bit lonely and playing with these helped her. I am not sure, but it makes me sad to think of her as being lonely. However, it also makes sense since she does not speak Japanese as a first language. The teacher did say when a little boy asked to play with Anpanman, she gave it to him without hesitating. The teacher was very pleased and thought she had a good foundation. She seemed to have fun and enjoyed playing. They also colored and the teacher sang and read books. I wonder if it will be harder on her once she realizes this is every day. Or if she will continue to transition just fine. I was really proud of her. We will typically keep her out on Wednesdays to keep going to BSF, but she will attend Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. She is not upset about going, but she did ask me today when we would do school at home. :) I have some preschool stuff in English to do with her starting in August/September when the US school calendar would start so she has a bit of "school" in both languages. Plus I would like to get a feel for what home school would be like.

You will notice in the picture she has a backpack (that is empty), a yellow hat, an umbrella because it was rainy today, and a bag in her other hand. In addition, I was carrying her large Hello Kitty book bag (separate item from the backpack) with her shoe bag and earthquake guard inside it. They have SO many stinking bags, and each bag needs her name and symbol on it (she is the panda). It is a huge deal and a lot of moms make the bags (and compete about it, or so I hear), but not this mom. I went to the Wal-mart of Japan and bought them. Thankfully we picked a popular symbol and I could find panda patches to put on all of the bags and shoes. They have to carry an earthquake head protector to and from school in case we had an earthquake on the walk to and from school. Her yellow hat she is wearing is the one for emergencies and also for rainy days. She also has a navy winter hat and a light brown summer hat to wear to and from school. They have a bag for dirty clothes where I keep a change of clothes in there just in case she gets dirty or has an accident. She has a book bag for her earthquake guard and shoe bag, and the shoe bag is to carry her indoor shoes because to keep the school clean you wear one pair of shoes just inside the school. Both indoor and outdoor shoes also must have your name and symbol on it. In fact, the indoor shoes need them on the front and heel of the shoe. Sadly one of her pandas fell of the indoor shoes already, but this also happened to my Japanese friend so I was not too worried about it. Daddy may be drawing a panda on the shoes this weekend. The earthquake guard had to have her name sewn into it and her symbol. Since I do not sew, her Japanese teacher helped me out with that one, and sewed her name in like 5 minutes. I cannot imagine what we will do once she starts taking lunch - she has a bento box (lunch box), and a bag for it, along with a cup and a bag for it. She has a hankerchief that needs her name on it and a towel to dry her hands that needs both the symbol and the name. Are you keeping up with all of this?! We take these home on Wednesday and Friday to wash. Can you see why it stressed me out a bit to get this all ready? Thankfully a friend of ours is attending the same yochien and she was so helpful for me - even took me shopping to show me exactly what I needed to buy. It is amazing all of this stuff for a 3 year old. Thankfully the only bag we brought home today was the backpack and earthquake guard. The other bags stay at school until Friday and you just have to bring them on Monday. Poor girl will need a suitcase by the time she is in high school if we keep her in school here just to carry everything. :)

Some of you were wondering if she had an uniform. They do not have a uniform per se, but she has to wear shorts, even in the winter, that are elastic so they are easy to take up and down to go potty. Of course the inside of the shorts needs her name and symbol on them. Her socks also need her name on them, but no panda. She can wear any kind of shirt and it can have writing on it. I bought a pair of khaki shorts and jean shorts (both a bit long for chilly weather) and two pairs of knee socks for when it is cold. I figure we can wear one pair of shorts one week, with the other pair in the change of clothes bag, wash it on the weekend and switch out if we like for the next week. As soon as we got home, she wanted to put on pjs anyways since it was wet and rainy outside, so I imagine she will change clothes when she gets home on most days.

Miyako-chan, Mama and Daddy are so proud of you. You did a great job today, going to an environment that is unknown with a language that is not your first. We pray this makes you stronger and develops great character in you, even from this young age, and that your language skills will improve so that God might use them in you one day. We love you sweet girl!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Yochien Ceremony

Today we had M's yochien ceremony. I went out late last night and bought her the standard uniform dress that 90 percent of the other Japanese girls would be wearing. It was a tough sell as she really wanted to wear her purple dress that we wear about 3-4 times a week, but I convinced her she could put on her purple dress as soon as we got home. She looked so cute and grown up, and very Japanese. Most of the students sat up front, but M got a little gun shy and sat with us in the back. After the ceremony, we had lunch with some friends who lived in the US, but are Japanese. It was a fun morning, but I can see the nervousness building up in M. I took her to the bathroom and she asked, "Why do I have to go to school?" She is also concerned that they will not speak English. I know the first few weeks will be tough, but once we get through that she will be fine, I just know it. Basically they just play in yochien so as long as they have a play kitchen and Anpanman she will be set. Here are a few pictures from the ceremony - I made Kan take a picture of all the dads lined up on the side with their video cameras. is just so stereotypical, I know, but you should have seen the number of cameras at this ceremony?! I think it was 1.5 cameras for every 1 person! :) I can write this because my husband made the same jokes. :)

I will have a whole other post about her first day tomorrow - with a little more heart from mama - but right now I am trying to show her the positive side of yochien so she does not see mama's heart a little bit sad on the inside. My baby girl is growing up!

More Hanami

We celebrated more hanami this weekend with a picnic along the Sumida River with another couple on Saturday. It was a bit chilly but we had a great time. It is interesting, the whole hanami spirit in Japan...people really do "let their hair down" so to speak during the blooming of the sakura. Everyone is out, enjoying family and friends with good foods and drinks. There is a lightness in the air that is hard to put into words - everyone seems to have an extra sparkle in their face and an extra skip in their step during the blooms of the sakura. We are already starting to see the blooms fall. Today at M's yochien ceremony, it looked as if it was snowing as the sakura blooms fell to the street. I am going to pay more attention this year and see if the serious side of Tokyo comes back to life once the hanami season is over...I have a hunch it will.

We celebrated Easter this year by decorating eggs and going to church on Sunday. Sadly I did not get any pictures from Sunday...I guess I think of that more in the US with the special Easter dresses and bonnets. M had a lot of fun decorating eggs. Afterwards, she hid them all over the apartment like Lucy does in Easter Beagle Charlie Brown. After a few cracked eggs, I had to switch out the real eggs for some plastic eggs to hide. We enjoyed our church family on Sunday celebrating the Resurrection. As we were singing "Christ the Lord is Risen Today" I closed my eyes and envisioned myself at Cedar Springs Presbyterian Church, with our Opah singing beautifully next to me. I literally could here my American in-laws voices when we sang that song, as I love to listen to both of them sing.

I hope everyone had a blessed Easter.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Sakura Luncheon, Naka-meguro

There is a river in Naka-meguro lined with cherry blossom trees, and it is a major attraction this time of year. I went to a luncheon today sponsored by Wa-Navi Japan, and after a beautiful and tasty sakura themed bento box, we walked along the river lined with blooming cherry blossoms and happened upon a gorgeous Japanese garden in the middle of the city. The food was fabulous, the scenery was gorgeous, and I was in good company. I even met a new friend, which is always fun. I am taking a break from my Japanese lessons as I am having to switch my Nena day once Miss M starts yochien next week (insert gasp), and have decided to do some fun events around the city to appreciate the city a bit more like this luncheon or take in a museum or art exhibit. Once Miss M is in yochien full time (they start with just 90 minutes in the beginning and work themselves up to four hours) I can go back to Japanese class, but for now I will enjoy being a tourist for a few hours each week. Sadly my pictures do not do justice of the beautiful sakura in bloom...they are absolutely stunning and unless you have seen them in person, it is hard to capture to share (unless you are my fabulous friend/photographer), but hopefully these few shots will give you a glimpse. If you want to see them, you better come quick - the blooms do not stay on the trees for very long.

Dress Up

So, Grandma brought some dress up clothes to Hawaii, and we brought them back to Tokyo. They have literally been around the world, and my girl LOVES putting them on. Isn't she the cutest?

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Shari Fest 2012

"Shari-fest 2012" is in full force this week. It started on my actual birthday, Monday April 2nd, and I got to start my day with a run and my IPod along the beautiful Sumida River. Then at lunch, Miyako-chan gave me a card with Minnie Mouse and lots of pink heart and butterfly stickers, a pink flower and a small piece of cake for us to "share." She sang to me with Kan and we blew out candles. In the afternoon, we we went to Shinjuku-Gyoen with my running partner and friend from BSF. The kids love her, as do I, and we enjoyed walking around taking in the beautiful sakura and letting Miyako-chan run in the grass with her jump rope while the K Man crawled around and ate grass. The night ended with a Girls Night Out dinner at Roti's in Midtown, a favorite restaurant of mine, with real New York style cheesecake and lots of gifts from friends. To top off a wonderful birthday already, my alma mater brought home the National Championship for basketball, the first one in 14 years and 8th total. GO CATS! Tonight after the kids go to bed, I plan to watch the celebration that I taped and the hanging of that 8th banner. But as you know, the birthday festivities must last all week. Friday we are going out as a family to dinner and to do a little birthday shopping. I still have a pedicure to cash in on from my American MIL. And Saturday night we are celebrating with two other couples with a date night out on the town. More details of Shari-fest to come!

Gas Museum

There is a gas museum that is FREE about 15 minutes by foot from us in Toyosu. Last week we met some friends there for a play date and had a blast! They have lots of hands on exhibits for kids and tables where you can sit and play with toys such as play food. They also had an area where the K Man could crawl around and get out of his stroller. And, you could take your food in and eat lunch in the cafeteria which was nice. Plus, you could go on top of the roof and play in green grass with a gorgeous view of Rainbow Bridge and Odaiba. However, on the day we went it was super windy, so we could not stay up on the roof long as it was a bit cold for the K Man, and his stroller was rolling down the hill at one time. Miyako loved running in the grass, playing soccer, jump rope and rolling down the hill. It was a lot of fun. On Saturdays they have craft time for kids. I imagine we will venture over there when we have a low key Saturday to enjoy the craft time. For you Tokyo friends, I highly recommend this place.

11 Months Old

The K Man turned 11 months on April 2nd, which is also my birthday. I cannot believe in less than four weeks he will be a year old!! He is still not walking, not even really pulling himself up, but that is okay. He gets around pretty fast with his army crawl. I do not want to rush it. He is eating solid foods along with 4-5 nursing times a day. I went back to the dream feed at 10PM which resolved all of my middle of the night wake up calls. I know he is big enough to go 12 hours but I would rather feed him at 10PM than at 2AM or 5AM. He has been much happier in the morning when he wakes up and is sleeping until 7-8 each morning, so I will keep this feed until I ween him completely at a year. We have been trying to find parks with baby swings. He LOVES the baby swing. Problem is Big Sis wants to ride in the baby swing too even though she certainly does not need it! He is babbling a lot more and will saw mama. He also signs for "more" food by clapping his hands. I have been lazy with his baby signing, but when he wants more he will let you know by either banging the table or clapping. He also says mama when he wants more so he knows who provides the food. He does not really have a favorite food. He eats anything I give him. I wish I could just pause this time...even though I feel like I want to pull my hair out some days, the kids are a lot of fun at this age.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Final Vacation Post

So, I highlighted the big things with vacation - a day with an old friend and breakfast with Minnie and Mickey. But I am sure you are thinking, "didn't you do more than that?" Honestly, no. Kan and I are not "tourist" vacationers. We do not feel the need to see every cool thing in the city or place we go. We simply go to relax, and eat, and relax some more. So, since I had been to Hawaii before (for SG's wedding) and already saw Pearl Harbor and Diamondhead and Wakiki with all of it's craziness, we did not do any other sightseeing except to see what the beach and pool had to offer. My parents took a day and drove to the North Shore and they also saw some of the Eastern part of the island after we left, but with two kids who are not super crazy about car seats, we decided to save that for another time. This is why we will not vacation in Europe any time soon - we will save it for when our kids are older and enjoy sightseeing - because we really do not have the energy or interest to tour with two small children. We did go to a luau one night, which was fun and we saw a beautiful sunset that evening. But other than that, we did not do much. So, this concludes our vacation in a nutshell - lots of grandparent time, lots of beach time, lots of pool time, lots of great food (I had fish tacos twice in one week!), and lots of reading The Hunger Games after putting the kiddos to bed (my mom brought me the books...I am on the third one book review will be another post). It was a great vacation, but sadly only a few weeks later and I have lost my tan. :)