Sunday, October 11, 2020

Penelope's Birthday Party

Penelope sometimes puts a lot of thought into things and her birthday was one of those things.  She had been thinking for a month about what she wanted and what her cake should look like.  At first she didn't have any ideas for what she wanted so I was the one asking her and got this whole thing started.  I also knew that it often takes a month for us to order things online and we have limited shopping options so we usually buy online.  I had to figure it out early.  She said she really wanted a large teddy bear.  At least as big as Leon's hippo.  We measured and it is about 44", so a pretty good sized stuffed animal.  I wanted to buy her the giant one Costco sells but it is over $200 and way beyond our present budget.  

We ended up finding one online that said it was big, but it had mixed reviews so we were all waiting on edge as she opened the package to see how it would be.  It came prewrapped in this bag so Bob and I did not see it beforehand.  Many of the ones online were deflated looking so we weren't sure.

It is huge!
It is longer than her bed and she loves it.  The only downside is that now all the kids want their own giant teddy bear and we just don't have room for that sort of thing.
For her cake she had drawn me several pictures and even made an origami replica.  I tried my best but the pink frosting just wouldn't stick.  She ended up really liking it was was totally happy about it. 
She invited a few people over and had a friends party.  It was a little difficult because we had to limit it to 10 people including Penelope, Scarlett, and me.  I made sure to do it during naptime so Calista and Beatrix didn't need to be counted and Tucker and Leon left and went elsewhere.  I'm ok with only inviting seven people.  That is a decent number, I just feel horrible to leave anyone out.  There are many girls her age in our ward right now and it seems like most of them have sisters who are Scarlett's age who would also like to come.  We ended up with ten exactly.  

We did a paint party.  All I did was buy some painting supplies and find a youtube paint party video.  It was an hour long, longer with our pauses, and the girls all had a good time.  I loved how all their paintings turned out differently. After that we ate cupcakes and ice cream and the girls ran around playing hide a seek for a few minutes before their parents came.   I can't seem to find the memory card that I took the pictures with though.  So I quickly took another one of just Penelope and Scarlett and their paintings.  Hopefully one day I'll find the rest of the pictures, but I wanted to take a quick one just in case.
And thats a wrap.  Even with all the restrictions we managed to have three out of four friends birthday parties.  Scarlett's was a no go so she will have a friends party next year even though no one else will, I like the every other year thing.

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Art Exhibit with Nami

My piano teacher Nami-san invited me to an art exhibit with her.  Since she is my only Japanese friend, and I pay her so I'm not sure how much that counts, I wanted to go.  Even though I live in Japan it takes a real effort to interact with Japanese people and feel engulfed in the culture.  
The exhibit featured a painter Jiro Takemura, who died a few years ago.  The exhibit was put on by his children and was actually in his art studio.  It was pretty much the top floor of a house in an neighborhood.  The bottom floor was where his wife taught opera lessons.  The house were the previously lived was nearby.
I didn't even notice the laundry hanging in the window until just now.  Maybe I am getting more used to the culture than I realized.
It was only one train stop from my house and I met Nami outside the station.  Everyone there was very kind and welcoming.  Of course things are a little awkward for me when everyone is speaking Japanese because I cannot understand any of it.  But I'm ok with feeling a little uncomfortable.
I don't think they wanted us to take pictures directly of the paintings.  Nami sent me most of these pictures.  She was documenting the entire thing for her cousin who couldn't come.  One of the opera students from years ago sang and then someone Nami knew played the guitar.  After that they gestured to the piano and asked if anyone else wanted to play.  It was funny because my piano teacher tried to get me to play but there was no way I was going to do that.  At my last lesson Nami said I could only play the song at a 30% proficiency level.  I told her that she should play but she smiled like she was embarrassed and refused.  I happen to know that she is an amazing piano player.  Her parents teach piano lessons for their entire income so she learned young and as an adult she lived in Vienna for 8 years studying under some piano master.

Since no one else wanted to play we went back to looking at art and talking to people she knew.  
After about an hour she told me she had to leave in like fifteen minutes and do I want to go with her or stay.  I wanted to go, the whole place was the size of one living room.  I'm not sure what else I could have done there.  I don't want that to sound like I didn't like it.  I totally enjoyed myself.  The paintings were mostly local so it was neat to see if I could recognize the locations.

As we were on our way out she said that the guitarist was going to show us a tree.  I had no idea what that was about but it has been my experience that Japanese people are very proud of their trees.  Before we made it to the tree I saw the largest clam shell I've ever seen.  It was literally about 2 feet across.
And here is the tree.  The larger one to the right is the famous one.  I really don't know why it was famous or what the significance was.  The tree next to it was way cooler.
It was burned on the inside and pretty interesting to look at.

It was an interesting outing.  I totally felt like I could picture the life of this couple with the husband upstairs painting and the wife simultaneously teaching opera lessons downstairs in a little Japanese neighborhood.

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Penelope Birthday Photography

Penelope is eleven!  We snuck to the backyard one morning to take a few pictures before we got down to our usual homeschool morning.
She is an amazing smart, honest, and kind girl.  I sometimes talk to Bob about how much integrity she has and about how she is so good that it makes me feel bad about myself.  If I tell her to do something she usually does it.  And I'm not talking about one time, she will remember and do it every time forever, even when I forget.  She is the only one of my kids like that.  She is the best at saying her prayers, brushing her teeth, and just following the rules.  The other day we picked up Bob from work and he gave each child a cookie.  When we got home Penelope came up to me and quietly asked me if she could eat the cookie.  I was confused and she looked upset, "Of course, Dad gave it to you," I said. She then explained that she didn't finish her lunch earlier in the day because Tucker ate the last of her cheese nip crackers so she probably can't have the cookie.  She wanted it, and her dad gave it to her, but she knows that we say no snacks if you don't eat your meal so she was conflicted.  What eleven year old is so meticulous?  
I'm not sure what type of work is suited to that sort of exactness.  But I really think she can do amazing things when she grows up.  She told me that when she grows up she wants to be an artist.  She makes nice cards and notes for me all the time.  She even drew Scarlett a multi page book for her birthday.  Not Scarlett's birthday, Penelope's birthday.  For about a month Penelope worked at least an hour a day drawing and tracing a Hello Kitty book and then she gave it to Scarlett on her own birthday.  She said she likes to give people things.
Penelope doesn't like people to know things about her.  She is very private.  She never wants to share in front of people, even her family, and it takes her a little bit of time to open up to people.
Penelope is a great sister.  She takes really good care of Beatrix and Calista and enjoys playing with them.  It is more than just babysitting them.  She likes to be with them, she is always asking me if she can get them up from bed and she has fun with them.  She also shares with everyone.  Whenever she gets candy she will share it with her siblings.  It doesn't sound like a big deal, but my other children don't do that.  She does it all on her own too.  
We are so happy she is in our family.

Kurihama Flower Park

Penelope's request for her birthday was to go to the Godzilla at Kurihama Flower park.  The flowers were in bloom and it was beautiful.  I'm pretty sure her birthday lands on a Japanese holiday because we were there at 9am on a Tuesday morning and it was more crowded then when we usually go on a Saturday.  When we were leaving there was a line of cars waiting for a space in the lot.
This park has a beautiful pathway of flowers leading up to the playground.  We mostly speed on past but checked out the flowers on our way back down.

Beatrix was fearless walking on net pathways.  Her feet could have easily slipped right through them and not only was she not even looking at her feet she didn't want me to touch her either.  I was trying to have one hand on her in case she slipped but she wouldn't have it.  I'm not surprised, she is the only one of my kids who doesn't like to hold hands.  Now some are growing out of hand holding, but they all used to love it at her age.
Tucker said he was going to sleep so Calista promptly laid down next to him.  Then he kept laughing and opening his eyes when he saw I was going to take a picture.
Penelope was so busy running around I barely got any pictures of her.  

Can yo spot Tucker and Leon fighting in the background?  The pretty much wrestle around all the time.  It is funny how much they do it and the girls just don't.  Boys and girls just like to play differently sometimes.

I love that we could just drop everything and go to the park.  Now that the kids are back in school it won't be so easy.

Thursday, October 1, 2020


Natto is a common Japanese food that can be eaten plain or with rice.  It is fermented soy beans.  Many people like it for breakfast but it really can be eaten any time of the day.  I went grocery shopping with a Japanese friend and she sowed me some food items to try.  There was a whole area of Natto with many options.     
I was warned that many foreigners do not like natto, but I thought I might like it anyway.  I love kimchi and that is fermented cabbage.  I also think I am pretty open minded about food and can eat mostly anything.  I would not consider myself picky.  In fact often eat something because it is easy or convenient even when I don't like it.

It came in a cute little package with it's own mustard and soy sauce type dressing.
I mixed it all up and gave it a try.
It was disgusting!  It smelled rancid and was probably the worst thing I've ever had in my life.  I am not exaggerating.  I have no idea how Japanese people eat and like this.
I couldn't even get Beatrix to eat it and she loves plain beans, plain yogurt, or bone broth straight.  I thought if anyone in our family would it it it would be her.  The smell is hard to get over but I did force a bean into her mouth.  She instantly started crying and spit it out.  She really tried hard to stop me from feeding her any more.  I've never seen her dislike any food so much.  But I get it.
I'm curious as to if anyone likes natto who wasn't raised on it.  I forced down a couple bites but couldn't finish the container.  I even tried it one more time that night with Bob, but it was just as bad the second time around.

Calista would not eat it, but she did want me to take a picture of her eating her cereal.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

2nd First day of School

Scarlett and Leon had their first day back to school on Monday.  The've been doing virtual school, but now that our covid numbers are super low the actual school has opened back up full time to students.  I, of course, have mixed feelings about it, but overall things went as well as they could.  

The kids had a ton of stuff to bring back with them on the first day.
Masks are mandatory.  That includes at the bus stop, during the bus ride, and the entire time at school.  The kids also have plastic barriers set up on their desk.  Their desks are spaced out.  The playground is sectioned off, and their one recess is short.  Their lunch times are extra early.  I think in order to reduce the amount of children in the cafeteria some kids are eating even earlier and some even later than what would be considered normal lunch time.  The bus children must arrive 10 minutes earlier and leave ten minutes after everyone else.  There is no sharing.  
Leon likes his teacher, Dr. Maxey.  His best friend from last year is in his class again this year so he is pretty happy.
Scarlett also likes her teacher Mr. Sinski.  He is fun and so far she enjoys her class.  She says that it is easier than virtual school and I'd have to agree.  It is easier for both of us for her not to be doing virtual school.

Things have been much calmer and less stressful at home.  I'm still plenty busy with homeschooling Penelope and Tucker and watching Calista and Beatrix, but now I don't feel like I'm being pulled six different ways all the time.  Virtual school was not a good fit for us.  I hope the schools stay open for the rest of the school year, but that is not guaranteed.  I feel bad for sending Scarlett and Leon to school all day where it almost seems like they are treated like prisoners.  I would not like it at all.  They are on the bus for about two hours a day, even though we live 15 minutes away.  They are doing fine though and so I think it is the best we can do this year.