Friday, April 22, 2011


Which means Playing Models: Amy was the Director, meaning she conceived the themes, chose the costumes, accessories, hair and make-up, styled the shoot AND took the photographs while telling her lackeys (all the other party guests) what to do. Lena and Kotoka (the two youngest guests, the other three staying are all Amy's age) modeled.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Well It's Thursday Then

As the new April schedule sorts itself out, we all shake and ruffle and then settle our feathers back into the new life, and slowly it become clear how this year will look and feel.

And Monday takes the prize for being my new day off, with all three kids out of house by 8:30 and not back until 4:00, and no work either! And Thursday it isthen, that will be the day when I write a hurried blog post moaning about how busy I am.

Erica has to be at kindy by 8:30, then I go off to work, starting at 8:50. I'm done by 12, go pick up Erica and take her from Aiko daycare centre to Keio kindergarten, then come home, have lunch, then go back and pick her up at 2:15. She's loving it there! Hours are 10:00 to 2:15, Tuesday to Friday, so she goes to Aiko on Mondays, and also on Thursday morning, when my work hours clash with the start time.

Then it's back to Keio for Amy and Lena's classes at 5:00, then back to pick them up again, and then to Haradas, where we are teaching Karin and Momoka English. Finally home again and I even had time to read a chapter of Harry Potter to the kids - they are absolutely loving that, by the way, they had no idea the book was SO much better, and funnier, and more detailed!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Family Birthday Dinner

On the day of her birthday we had a quiet dinner at home with just the family, and this tiny candle!

Amy requested roast chicken! I found one online and it arrived in time (from The Meat Guy). Plus roast vegetable, mashed potatoes, peas and gravy

The girls eating up. Dessert was apple crumble and vanilla ice cream

We also opened the disco ball and the mini-disco ball ipod dock that I had bought for the disco slumber party, and had a bit of a play. The disco ball was a bargain - but you have to turn it by hand! We also don't have a spotlight, but the iphone's LCD light did a good job!

Happy Birthday Amy

Amy, 11. With ipod.

Amy + rock. Isn't my baby all grown up?

Earlier in the day, with her great big stuffed Marie, to match Lena's Cheshire Cat

Opening Marie

Present time! Marie, opening the clothes she got (the t-shirt and shirt she is wearing below, plus a pant-suit she hasn't worn yet, hm... ) and the notification of an ipod yet to come (it didn't arrive in time, so she got a 'letter' about her big present, like Lena's bike letter).

Erica hands over her present to Amy. Erica hands over Lena's present to Amy!

Opening some very well-wrapped pencils!

She was very happy with the lip gloss and nail polish from Lena, and the red pen and pencils from Erica.

My girl. And banana.

The ipod! And at actual size! It actually arrived on the 15th.

Well-packaged for something so small!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

School Today??

Not really... all 30 minutes of it.

Why on earth do they not just tell the kids they have the day off?? Instead they have to go through all the hassle of having everyone turn up at school for ONE lesson then hurry them all home again to get ready for the Entrance Ceremony for First Graders. Sigh. It's one of those 'Emperor's New Clothes' moments in Japan when you just want to stand up and say 'Hey, everyone, this is CRAZY!" because I'm sure everyone agrees that it is, they are just used to it and used to going along with it. Sigh. Rant over.

Average day, kindy class okay, Erica's second day at kindy went well, Amy and Lena biked to Baachan's while I worked and Erica played, only she wasn't there... we all came home in time to meet K back from the Entrance Ceremony, where he had to make a speech as head of the PTA. We all had lunch together, then Lena's friends came over to play. I went out and bought Amy presents, then took Lena out to buy her presents. Kanji went back to work, and Amy and Lena got started on the papier mache pinata disco ball...

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


Now I don't know what to write.

Went to work today, blah blah blah.

Erica's first day of kindy, where she apparently was rather 'energetic'. That's J. kindy teacherese for 'out of control we wanted to throttle her'. They don't expect too much from them on the first day though, hence the home time an hour and a half after the start!

All kids to hospital for asthma check and meet new doctor, very young, hope she will bold and let them go off their meds! Another month for now.

Amy and Lena settling into 5th and 4th grade respectively. Amy in particular had a good day, is in a good 'han' (group) and is having a good start to the year! I haven't heard much from Lena yet. She's doing her homework right now.

Bath and bed for me!


It's awfully quiet. Wonder why...

Didn't do much today, except catch up with myself (laundry mostly! some tidying), some internet shopping (for Amy's birthday) and internet searches for how to make a disco ball pinata for her pyjama party.

For a 'day at home' I managed to clock up 5 car trips out - to drop Erica at kindy, to go back to kindy to take her rice to her (and do some shopping), to take the big girls to swimimng, do some shopping and pick up Erica, then to pick the big girls up from swimming, and finally to the Kodomo Kai meeting.

Dinner was chicken pie, YUM and happily made enough filling to pop some in the freezer for next time, so I now have 2 pies ready to go, yum!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Spring Break Final Day!

You can read here GW's take on our day. For us the day started with a drive - it's perfect driving weather right now, and we spent the whole time pointing out and admiring the cherry trees. We HAD to stop at this spot:
It's just a small side road lined with cherry trees, but it was so beautiful. Japan does not 'do' tree-lined avenues very well... they get too scared of the trees getting in the way and chop them up. J. people are very careful and guarded of their behaviour in case they upset or inconvenience others - seems they apply the same attitude to trees. So it's all the more of a treat to see the trees allowed to grow wide and right over the road to make a ceiling of flowers. Of course it helps that they are cherry trees - while the hyper-vigilant pruning applies to almost all other trees it's cherry trees that are the most likely to be left natural.

Then onto GW's house, to swell the already full house with a further three children. Amy spends her time divided between the grown-ups and the children these days, and Katy clearly wasn't used to kids who could understand her witty asides, leading to her being put on the spot a few times by awkward questions... sorry Katy... actually I think she purposely sits in just to hear these titbits of adult life, that's why she's so damn quiet until you let one drop, then BAM go the questions!

Above, all the little kiddies! You can figure out who's who...

And a round of applause for Katy for doing such a wonderful job of lunch despite clearly feeling more than a little seedy. After lunch consisted of hanging out, alternately playing with the kids in the garden and trying to ignore them.

They played this game, and the 'kick the tent' version for over an hour. While Erica is hitting the rocking fish with her plastic trowel, Marina is totally missing each time - a fact she seems to find hilariously funny and MUCH more interesting than actually hitting it.

The adorable cat playing in the collapsed tent.

The trip home for us was an adventure as well. I've been trying to find a certain onsen in the mountains above Matama - last time I tried SpaLand, it wasn't that one. This time I tried another I found on google maps - it wasn't this one either! Finally on the way home I spotted a sign pointing up a side road, and finally found the elusive onsen, but we will have to wait until next time to try it out.

We also stopped by a community centre where I used to teach when I first came to Japan. I often wonder what has become of these kids, some of whom will have graduated from university by now!

A god-rock we drove past on the way to the onsen. Would LOVE to know its story!

Inside the onsen, Erica is just the right height to peek in at the rock garden.

Me outside the community centre/shrine/gateball ground where I taught all those years ago.

Dinner was KFC. I decided I would quite like one of their burgers. It isn't a particular favorite of mine, in fact I almost never eat them, I usually choose plain chicken IF I go at all, and we hardly ever do. But I just got it into my head that it would be nice (wine the night before does this to me!), and the kids agreed with me that it was a good choice for dinner. So we turned up at the counter and the burgers are 'finished'. Bloody hell, it was only 6pm on a Sunday! Who runs out of food in a fast food restaurant on a SUNDAY NIGHT? Some bad management going on there - not only were there no plain burgers (only 'wafu'(Japan style) chicken burgers) but there were also no wraps at all, and no crispy chicken. I ended up with a bizarre-tasting 'sandwich', sweet-and-sour I think it was, and a pepper chicken.

Home by 7, I think and after blobbing for a bit we all went to bed. I forgot to put Erica's pyjamas on! I got them out, then we all went up to bed. I did not notice when I tucked her in. I did not notice when I woke her in the morning and CARRIED her downstairs. I did not notice when she said bye bye to me at the door when I went to take out the rubbish. I only noticed when I came back to find her in the toilet, and saw knickers on the floor instead of nappies. Oh well, first dry night, and I didn't even plan it!

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Spring Break Day Twelve

And I just finished totally biting the girls' heads off about the mess! It doesn't take them long, especially since the living rooms are filled at the moment with over-flow from the in-process spare room tidying.

Plan for today was to go for a long drive to see a friend in Ajimu, but as we did not get ourselves organized until 5pm (ice cream with Mie, preparing for tomorrow's pot luck lunch, laundry, tidying, searching for the directions etc) we gave up and went back to the castle for an impromptu hanami. I had a picnic packed, as I was planning on stopping somewhere on the way to Ajimu, at any likely pretty spot we saw, but it was just getting too late for car touring, AND a picnic AND visiting the friend AND getting home in time to finish the pie and watch my TV show. So we were back home and in the bath by 7:30, and I now will have time to watch the second half of Pride and Prejudice, the one where Mr Darcy goes swimming in the lake...

Photos from the Hanami:

The girls heading down the road towards the castle and park

The castle behind the cherry trees, and on the right, the ubiquitous blue ground sheet. Once I would have cropped that out of the photo; now it just seems like an integral part of the scene!

Our picnic, very simple, the only thing I bought was the fried chicken, soy and ginger flavored fried chicken from our favorite store, which happens to be on the next block, and was recently voted one of the best in the country. Centre, flowers, a petal on my plate, and another ubiquitous hanami scene - shoes lined up by the mat. Japanese do not step on the picnic mat in their shoes. At the bottom, the kids play in the dirt. I rounded them up and brought them home not long after the rolling-in-the-dirt activity!

Pink and white and black and blue, on the left, the setting sun shining directly on the flowers brought out the pink; on the right, framed by the pale blue sky


Sun setting behind the Sakuras

Friday, April 08, 2011

Erica's Kindy Entrance Ceremony

To be honest I still think it's a bit of a fuss for just kindy starting...

Speeches, introductions, performances from current students, presentation of a name tag, some singing and a brief orientation for the parents. It all took about 30 minutes.

Not so easy these days to get a good photo of self-conscious/shy/naughty three-year old!

Three Girls

Clockwise from top left: Erica being presented with her name tag; being led back to her seat by a kindy teacher; in a circle singing the ABC song; watching the video in the hall before we started.

Being presented with her name tag.

Sitting for the group portrait.

Erica, kindy kid!

Group shot, Yokomatsus in the centre.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Spring Break Day Eleven

Last Day! School tomorrow! Though I am mentally extending the break til Monday, as the girls come home from school before lunch tomorrow.

Work has begun in earnest on the spare room! I have gutted and moved four bookshelves; the books themselves are lying in piles on the floor waiting to be sorted and moved to their new homes.

The china cabinet that was in the genkan has been moved to the spare room. The glass-doored bookshelf has taken its place in the genkan, and will be graced with my prettiest and most precious books, plus all the ones about New Zealand.

One more bookshelf has come into the living room, it will have the lower shelves filled with books for Erica, higher shelves for Amy and Lena, and the top shelves for me and Kanji; for me to put my current and next reading, for Kanji to pile up his little piles of 'stuff' that he does all over the place.

Two more shelves are in the hallway on the way to the bathroom, they'll be filled with various fiction and non-fiction. And I left one shelf in the spare room to take the English teaching materials, Japanese learning materials, etc.

Nowhere NEAR finished! We have lots more work to do!

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Spring Break Day Ten

I worked in the morning, so the kids went to Baachan's. She was happy to see them and they were happy to have Aunty Mie come and take them out for lunch!

After work I had a singularly bizarre meeting consisting of singing kindy songs.

I came home for a very quiet lunch, got called half way through to pick up a 'so sleepy she's nearly asleep in the car' Erica, who, when I saw her and suggested we go home for a nap, ran very quickly in the opposite direction saying 'NO sleep I wake!'.

Finally rounded up all children plus hand-me-down glasses and teapots from Baachan, and took them home; Erica upstairs to sleep, Amy and Lena off again to Baachan's on their bikes.

I spent the rest of the day starting the next task on the to-do list - the spare room - in between checking an essay, skyping Mum, supervising the delivery of the new dishwasher, and transforming said dishwasher's box into a house for Erica with a Barbie raincoat roof.

Finished the day with a nice glass of red in the cool April sunset, kids home and bath filling...

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Sping 'break' Day... nine was it?

Work work work. Certainly wasn't a break today, and still isn't as I have some paperwork and an essay to check before I can throw in the towel. Only 2 lessons today, but needed to do some prep for another one, as the curriculum has changed...

So it didn't feel very holiday-ish today, but at least I anticipated that by not adding something from the perennial 'to-do' list to the usual chores for today! So as soon as I've done typing this, my tired eyes and I can hit the pillow. Goodnight!

Monday, April 04, 2011

Spring Break Day Eight

So far the only holiday goal I haven't met is lying on the sofa reading. I guess that means I'm doing pretty well... I'm sorting out photos and uploading them, I'm sleeping in, and I'm working through that to-do list. Today's was to tidy the medicines, which I got done rather late, starting at 4pm!

We all slept in again today. I would have read in bed but Erica woke up and wanted to get up. I took my sweet time having a cup of tea and checking the computer stuff. Amy and Lena got up and took their sweet time too. Finally we were galvanized into action by the daycare calling and asking Where was Erica. Huh? Nobody told ME that the dates were finalized for April and she'd be starting April 4. Apparently they called K, but he can't remember. Hmm. If this doesn't make them realize that calling the MUM is the best idea even if she speaks Japanese as a second language and you feel you can communicate better with the Dad...

We got her there about 10:30, and decided to have her stay for the nap, so I went back and rustled up her futons and brought them back (it's about 2 minutes drive away). Then me, Amy and Lena, um, took it easy again... they only got dressed because I told them I'd take them out for lunch. We went to Joyfull. New Spring/Summer menu, same old same old, only the gobo salad has gone, boo hoo, but the mixed pizza has been jazzed up a bit. We didn't have drink bar tickets!!! Kristin can you believe that?!? The ones in my purse were expired. We did without, since Joyfull is also about 2 minutes from home, and we figured we could wait that long for a drink of water. In the end we stopped by Daddy's shop (right next to Joyfull) and got some water there before we went home.

Cue more taking it easy (interspersed with four laundry loads, cleaning the kitchen and tidying the living room, I should add, but these things have to be done every day so I don't really even think of them when I consider what I have done today).

Amy was still feeling a little ill, so we skipped swimming. We rode the bikes to Joyfull and I rode to pick up Erica, so I got a bit of exercise done. Which brings me up to now, 7pm, dinner nearly done, then bath and bed for an early night!

Spring Break Day Seven: Hanami

Company Picnic. I don't know how I've managed to miss it for several years running now... not sure why I missed it last year, but 2009 I was in NZ, 2008 perhaps it was because Erica was little, and I wasn't working at the time, 2007 probably because I had pg nausea and found the idea of going and smelling meat cooking and watching everyone drink beer to be quite depressing!

Coming up the road by the park

Kids and parks, always a perfect mix. Top: Lena's tree-climbing antics, and two priceless expressions caught on camera in one day! In the second, it's taken literally a second after she said 'She's killing me!'. Middle: Amy's games - getting lifted by Nakano-sensei, who succeeding in lifting her after trying to move Rob off the ground. Running around with baby Sara, and getting a swing off Rob. Bottom: Erica playing hide and seek with her Daddy, clutching her precious Candy Apple, which I refused to buy for her, but which Daddy bought for her after approximately one nanosecond of begging. Such a softie! Bottom right, with her soon-to-be kindy teacher Tomomi.

Flowers and family

Top left the kids' photo. Top right with goofing-off teachers included: Kiwis Andrew and Mari, Rob bugging Hannah and Emma (sisters) again, with Kevin's brother Ken, on the right, Sara's Dad Kevin talking to Erica's other soon-to-be kindy teacher Kristian.

Dudes from the next picnic along who we roped into taking our group photo. Loved the guy with the red hair, leathers, and fag hanging out his mouth as he took the pic! Even the toughest J. guys go to admire pretty flowers and politely take strangers' photos!

Kids and trees, another winning combination. Erica getting a bit of help!

As the afternoon wore on

Kids play. Somehow they figure out what the other is saying...

Spring Break Day Six continued

Last night's barbecue was great - only a fraction of the five thousand invited guests actually turned up so all was well and the onigiris sufficed.

Top left: I managed to get all the kids in one shot, quite by accident! Lena, Erica, Momoka, Ui, Fusa, Karin and Amy. Top right, Karin and Amy with the food. My sausage in bread idea didn't go down too well. I was the only one who ate it! Bottom left, Momoka and Lena set themselves up nicely with yard junk. Bottom right, Erica seemed to be the only one who chose to sensibly dress for the ACTUAL weather, not the weather we just hoped for.

Karin and Momoka arrived first, sans parents, and immediately set to playing very hard with Amy and Lena. Next Egami sans wife and daughter (hard out playing Volleyball) and the Nagakura family (Mum, Dad, 2 boys) arrived, and we fired up the barbies and got cooking and eating. N brought me some champers which me, K and E drank while he watched and asked for opinions about its flavor. Neither he, nor his wife, drink - but they own a bar. So he wanted to know if it was any good! It was fine of course, champers on a sunny afternoon always is!

Next Ozaki turned up. Single guy, DJ and all-round music freak, he brought his iPad with music channels and hooked it up to speakers he brought and set in the garden. Times like this I feel very lucky to have neighbors who are mostly either deaf or dead. A shop on one side, a river and cemetery out the back, a deaf old lady out the front, so I only worry about the young family next door. N was also complimenting how great our place is for a bbq. I have mixed feelings about my yard/garden, probably because I have NZ friends with better garden nous who have actual lawns, but in comparison to most of K's friends, it's a perfect bbq space, with double doors that open from from the kitchen and living rooms to the garden, fully walled so the children can't escape, and the river out the back means we have a feeling of space as there are no buildings on that side. When I thought about all the others guests' houses I realized it was true, we DO have the perfect garden for bbqs, and I should be grateful and not moan too much about its failings.

Left to right: Egami and Kanji; Ozaki and speaker; Nagakuras Kotaku and Megumi

After the first flush of cooking and eating we all sat down around the barbecues to keep warm and drank more wine, this time French chardonnay from a plastic bottle! Me and K handed out jackets for everyone to wear since it really is too early in the season for bbqs! We switched from the sunny reggae channel to Irish music on YouTube as the sun went down and I translated such Pogues gems as 'I am gooooing... I am goooing... where streams of whisky are floooowing" which everyone agreed was a pretty good idea.

Multitasking Barbecue Master

The Harada parents finally arrived with little boy Yuki for Erica to play with. Hirakawa arrived sans family (wife and FOUR kids would have been a handful to feed!) More beer was drunk. E called for more wine, still not sure who brought it, red this time. More meat was barbecued and more people marveled over the risoni (nobody had ever seen it before). More jackets were handed out and I changed from my blue jewelled wedge sandals to my 12cm platform studded mules since Maki had a pair almost exactly the same. I then proceeded to fall all over the place so promptly gave up and switched back to the wedges. I do love those shoes though - but perhaps not for bbqs.

Finally the cold chased us inside, and we set up around the round table, heater on, almost felt like pulling out a nabe! In the meantime Osamu, Harada's brother arrived. Osamu is the drummer for the Sex Pistols cover band K plays in, and for another band with the guy who is bringing my new dishwasher on Tuesday, and the guy who is a DJ at the radio station where Nagakura and Kanji have their radio show. Hirakawa and Egami are the singer and guitarist in K's Rolling Stones cover band. Osamu's brother, Maki's husband, also plays guitar in another band with their sister and the electrician again, who didn't come but popped in for a few minutes the night before.

I will admit to not remembering much after this. Hirakawa is a baker and brought some very delicious cakes which we all ate. K brought out the whisky. He tells me they were all gone by midnight, and by the state of the kitchen and living room and garden the next day, it looks like everyone had a go at cleaning up, if not quite finished....

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Spring Break Day Six: BBQ part 2 and Daylight Savings

Did you ever have a day where you just wanted to add a few hours? Well, that's exactly what we did yesterday. I woke at 7:23, read a book, Erica was up next, making me get up about 8:40, and I had tea and checked email and facebook and did some photo blogs. Then Lena came down at 10:17. However, the clock on the wall in the living room said five to nine.

"Wouldn't it be great if it really was five to nine," I said. Meanwhile Amy had made her way down. And it was then that I decided that it WAS five to nine, that regardless of what the real world and everyone in it said, today we would go by that clock. It was great, because suddenly I had ages more time to finish doing the laundry, have breakfast and get ready for our picnic, and finish the photo/blog tasks I'd set myself.

So off we went to our picnic at "11:30". And we got back home at a respectable "2:00". Kanji came home not long after, and we started our barbecue in the sunshine at "3:00ish". After food and drinks, we had a long hot bath, and managed to get to bed by "8:30". Wow!

While sitting in the sun sipping beer we called a few friends, but no-one could come. So we decided to do it all again the next day! Kanji promptly called everyone he knows and now we have about a million people coming over TODAY, very soon, and all I have to do is shopcleantidyrollonigirisforthefivethousand. As you do.

One more thing came up as we sat there - he told me he's ordered a new dishwasher! It finally broke down the other day, and when he told me the new part would be $150, if it was even available for such an old model, I just assumed that it would go WAY down the bottom of the list of things to buy for the house. But it just got shoved up the top, and he's going to pay it off.

Two seconds later I found out why. He's ordered a new digital HD recorder as well...

April 1 Family Barbecue

The Barbecue King. I just KNEW, when I heard him open the sliding door from outside, that a bbq was in the works.

Top: The kids are keen to take over the barbecuing. Yay! So me and K get to relax with a nice cold one. Kids in the yard. Centre: Erica being a robot. Bottom: kids! Erica admiring the sky, Lena's dual utensil technique, and Amy the Caravaggio.

Even Joelle the new Brat joined us!