Friday, April 30, 2010


A very amazing strawberry

These photos were from our last Hanami, or cherry blossom viewing party of the season, which was held nowhere near a cherry tree, but in a florist's workshop, which is kind of in the same ballpark at least!

Host Mr Date the Florist manning the barbie.

What the kids cooked: Above right, how many girls does it take to yaku takos (fry octopuses)? I'm counting five here, plus some parental assistance. Florist Date-san has three daughters, as do we, and a third guest brought two daughters, which makes a LOT Of little girls! On the left, the finished product - tako-yaki (fried octopus balls) of course. On the right , seven of the girls, the eighth, and oldest was at the moment putting the finishing touches on a cake she had decorated herself for the occasion.

You're never to tall and big to be your Daddy's little girl!

This little girl, however, was content to chase around someone else's Daddy in train formation.

Nutcase daughter No.3 does her best 'Daddy on-stage' impression

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


Cake and nests. Charmaine in Kokonoe made the cake, give her a shout-out on TellandSell if you want one! I froze half, because while Charmaine's fruit cake is the BEST ever, fruit cake remains an acquired taste, it seems, and something that no-one under the age of 30 will touch. So I'm saving it for another occasion! Compared to the time and effort and months of preparation that go into making a good fruit cake, the nests were almost sinfully simple. Commerically bought 'Custard Pie' cakes, which have a custard cream filling. Cut a hole out of the top to expose the custard. Messily smear icing or melted chocolate around the edges and sprinkle with coconut and slivered almonds. Pop in the eggs, and you're done. The eggs are not 'Easter' eggs, but the foil wrapped ones that come in a pack of five and are always sold in the sweets section of Japanese supermarkets.

Coloring Eggs. Pinglet painted the same spot over and over in pink and left more dye on the chair than on the eggs, but she had FUN! A. and L. appear to be taking it very seriously. illahee's three colored 30 eggs between them!

I love how pinglet is valiantly holding up that peace sign despite not being able to look into the sun for the photo! Erica has her own agenda obviously. M. looks so adorable in this one!

M.'s Dad will ALL the kids -except M. No idea where she had got to!

Grass Fight!!

We ended the afternoon at the local play park, where Erica became obsessed with the roller slide. Spot A and L on the right!

Amy and her nest

Lena, who had had a nest the day before when we made them, skipped hers. I wish I had such self-control!

A strange little child we found from the 19th century in the garden. Part of the deal with the Easter party was having a chance to get the kids dressed up in the dresses we hardly ever get them dressed up in, and I chose this one, which I like the least, because I thought there might be the chance she'd get food dye all over it, and while that would destroy me if it was one of her cute new Pumpkin Patch dresses, I figured I could live if this one had to be trashed.

Illahee's three. I think Hiro stopped eating after he dropped his nest on the deck. Maybe. Tommy was absolutely fascinated with the hole in the egg. Sasha loved her nest. And I mean she LOVED it. She wanted another one...

Pinglet as Pyu-a Blossom. I think. M. pulling a face.


If Tuesday was a 3 out of 4 fail mark for kiddie scheduling, Wednesday was a shiny full marks in multi-tasking. How many different things can you do in one day?

Got up at 6:30/dishes, tidying/long walk with toddler/prepared 3 stacks of newspapers and magazines for recycling and 3 bundles of cardboard boxes/drove twice to K's work to pick up Erica/wrote half dozen emails soliciting Journal articles/cleared out Erica's small clothes/3 loads of laundry/corrected an essay/one blog entry, one blog photos entry/lunch and put Erica down for a nap/berated A and L into switching summer and winter clothes/supervised the cooking of spag bol by A and L/nagged A and L to do their homework/worked out annual schedule for kindy classes/annual schedule for college classes/class plan for this week's college lesson/created calendar for Journal/showered and washed hair/watched 2 episodes of Star Trek/folded laundry

I *think* that's all. I know it's said that you are more efficient and function better doing one task at a time, but there's something multi-tasking that makes you feel as though you are accomplishing A LOT - which is a good feeling to cultivate when there seems to be just SO much that NEEDS to be done NOW. It's a good way to feel you've made some headway, though so much remains to be done!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Calm Before the Storm

It's so quiet right now.

But not for long.

Amy and Lena will BURST into the house very soon with excited voices and a slamming of bags, shucking of coats and general mayhem. Erica may or may not wake up before then, most certainly will wake up soon after! She is such a quiet, gentle little soul when it's just the two of us, but her big sisters bring out the BIG VOICE. The one that turns heads and makes my face turn red. If you don't already know what I mean, you soon will.

Once they are all assembled here in the house...

(Erica just woke up, she is now thumping down the stairs like an elephant. Why is it, the smalller they are the LOUDER the thumps? Now, I've thrown in her front of the TV cos I don't have much more time left, and no more quiet)

...once they are all here, and their father too, we will RUSH off to the hospital for their monthly asthma check. New doctor today. I am assuming all will continue their meds, Amy and Erica because they cough a bit if they miss a dose, Lena just because the others are continuing, though I might suggest we take her off for a while to see what happens.

That's at four, and then at five they have a lesson at Keio Academy, while I have a lesson to teach at the hospital. I'm still not sure how, or even if, we are going to be able to pull this off actually, since visit to the hospital usually take at least an hour! Hopefully Papa will drive them to Keio, while I go to work, then he will take Erica home. I will RUSH to Keio after work and pick them up, and race around the office like a headless chicken collecting resources for my class on Friday, finding the folder, and informing anyone who'll listen that A. and L. are NOT going to Keio on Thursday. Ever.

Then back home by 6:30pm for the piano lesson, where will ask Maiko if she will give Lena voice lessons, since she is still averse to the piano. Just in case she wants to become a rock star after all, something she's not sure about anymore as she thinks it might be boring just singing songs all the time.

Then cook dinner, throw everyone in the bath and be in bed by 8:30? Hmm.

If last year Tuesday used to be my 'free day', which ended up being full of stuff some how, then this year it's going to be my absolute frantic day, which I wouldn't dare encumber with any more jobs. Did I say I fit in a baby swimming lesson this morning?

But I'm aiming to keep it this way for now, after all we don't always have a hospital visit, and doing two classes on Tuesday means A. and L. are free Wed. Thurs. and Fri. afternoon, so I can relax when I get home from work on Thurs. and Fri., and we can all take it easy on Wednesday, which I have now designated at Kids' Cooking Day, since they are home early from school that day. We are going to start tomorrow with Spaghetti Bolognese, which they all love - will let you know how it went tomorrow.

- hospital: Fail. Decided not to go when everyone didn't get home until 4:15. Re-scheduled for a Friday.
- Keio: Fail. Ended up agreeing to bring them twice a week. How did that happen?
- Work: Fail. One student, talked about my photos, but my heart wasn't in it, it was at home on the computer trying to find a cheaper car hire than $300!
- Music Lesson: Success! Amy played a beautiful song on the piano, three pages of notes swimming all over page, I'm impressed! Teacher agreed to teach Lena recorder and vocal lessons from next month.
- Bedtime: Yeah, right! Although 9pm wasn't too bad considering Kanji and Amy went shopping at 7:30! (I agreed because I was right in the middle of another car rental search...)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Oita Shopping

As part of Amy's tenth birthday present I took her shopping, just her and Mum, out of town, to the big mall! She was so excited, and felt very special, getting Mum all to herself AND getting to choose her own things to buy.

We started out at Wasada Town, Tokiwa department store mall, where there was absolutely nothing for her! I, however, scored big in a sale, nabbing these sunglasses (which Amy is just trying on) for 1000 yen, plus a big floppy white straw hat for 1000 yen, a new black leather bag discounted to 3,000 from 8,000, and some Lancome Tresor perfume for only 2000. I also got Amy some perfume, poor thing, HER shopping day, and she's sitting to the side, while Mummy tries on dozens of pairs of sunglasses!

Then we went for lunch, along with a new AFWJ club member who lives in Oita. We went to an Italian place and had a floppy pizza, and a huge salad. Friend took this photo of happy mum and kid.

After that we gave up on Wasada as just not having what we wanted! It's quite hard to find clothes in her size - there's mountains of kids' clothes, but most of the kids' stores only go up to a size 120-130, whereas Amy is at least a 140. And the women's sizes seem to start at 150-160. There were also NO shoes - she's already out of kids' shoes in Japan, I have to buy her women's shoes, so of course it's hard finding kid-friendly ones that don't have too much of a heel. I knew there was a baby Gap at Park Place, so off we went, for the Great Shopping Mall Trip, second attempt:

A cool fountain Amy wanted me to take a photo of:

Here's what we found at Gap: a sparkly blue spaghetti strap dress for 6,800 and matching cardigan for 4,800:

For shoes we found some lovely LOW-heeled black strappy espadrilles:

and I also picked up these fabulous Cinderella shoes for 500 yen for the dress-up box!

Me and coffee. We hit the cafe for cake after our hard work shopping. We also picked up a present for Grandma! (sorry STILL haven't sent it!) and a Lucky Bag of hair accessories. These work well for us - three long-haired girls and a toddler, someone's bound to like what's in there!

Then suddenly some belly-dancers appeared. It was a strange sight indeed to see a line of belly-dancing Japanese women suddenly sashay out of a store towards the pond. We stayed to watch a bit of the dancing, they were lovely:

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Amy's 10th Birthday

Wednesday the 14th was a school day, but Amy didn't seem to mind. It was out of the ordinary as it was the first day the new First Grade kids would be walking with the Walking Bus - and now that the two 6th Grade students we had last year have graduated, Amy is the leader.

The previous week she'd told me to make her cake a surprise cake. I made no mention of cake at all when we planned her birthday - her favorite curry and a self-saucing dessert, then roast and trifle on Saturday night, and finally a private shopping expedition with her Mum - and in fact I forgot about cake until the night before! I whipped this up after they all went to bed the night before and hid it behind the dishwasher in the morning, hoping they wouldn't notice the baked-cake scent in the kitchen!

Then I decorated it while she was at school. For her birthday she got a watch from me and Kanji, and her sister got her a new alarm clock, so of course I had to do a clock cake! For a cake whipped up at the last minute - or maybe because it was a cake whipped up at the last minute, so I couldn't 'experiment' - it turned out fabulous, one of the best cakes I've cooked for ages.


Instead of a party this year, Amy took some friends to Joyfull for a parfait party. On the left, Maia and Lena, then Emily, our NZ/Japanese friend from the next next town, then Amy and two school friends, Chisaki and Yuki.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Hana Matsuri

Otherwise known as Victoria's birthday party.

We drove all the way to Takachiho to help her celebrate. It was a major birthday, so it was worth the trip, and the kids LOVE going to Takachiho, so they were happy too. I took only Amy and Lena, and left Erica with her Daddy. Victoria's place is big and rangy and chasing a toddler there means literally chasing - every five minutes or so you think, 'Where is she' and off you go on a kid search. I don't know how Victoria managed to raise toddlers without going mad (perhaps she didn't, or perhaps she locked them inside more often). Anyway, to enable myself to sit on my fat bum for longer than three minutes at a time, I didn't bring her.

Her birthday coincided with the Buddha's. She really is a special lady ;-)

So at the temple they had a big ceremony to celebrate, with children from the congregation focused on.

This is Renni, her second son, reading. This is old-fashioned pre-electric traditional Japanese television. The story is written on the back of the following card, so you can flip the card to the front of the pack and read the story as you go. He read really well, much better than the older girl who followed, who seemed to be trying to read it as fast as humanly possible, forgetting there were some people actually listening and trying to make sense of the story, unlike the 'ondoku' (reading out loud) the kids do for homework everyday, which no-one listens to!

Then Junsho gave a talk. He explained the symbolism of the Buddha statue. I hadn't realized how much had sunk in until Amy sculpted her own Buddha a few weeks later out of play-do.

Next we poured a libation on the Buddha's head. This festival is in spring, so of course there were beautiful flowers everywhere, Victoria's work. On a little dais under a canopy, surrounded by flowers, was a statue of the Buddha sitting in a little pool of something. Each person spooned some over his head.

After that, the kids went on a Treat Hunt - I kind of Easter-egg hunt, with no Easter, no eggs, and no rabbit. But with hidden cookies and kids, it was tremendous fun.

Finally we were treated to lunch - curry! Everyone's favorite.

Later on we had the party for Victoria. A few of her best local friends, plus me and Kristen, a barbecue, a silly hat, some cake and loads of champange!

Friday, April 02, 2010

Trick Art

The Spring Holiday 'doin stuff' extravaganza continues.

We spend the morning chatting to Katy and a very smiley, happy Ryu. All three kids barely took a step inside, they spent almost the whole time playing in the yard, Erica soaking her pants on the still-damp anpanman slide, climbing around the castle and playing on the swings. Lena fell in love with golf. Amy happily is still just young enough to enjoy it all.

We met Kanji in Bungotakada on the way home, and visited the Trick Art museum again. They change the pictures to keep you coming back. A lot of the tricks don't show up until you take a photo, so here they are!

A rare shot of me, as a butterly

Well he is very yummy, though...

Lena grew A LOT after her last birthday!

She managed to escape, but it was a close call

Toddlers, always getting into things! Erica lets the fish out.