The Highs and Lows of July

In : Kiddo, Travel, Posted by on Sep.09, 2011

Well, I would love to say that there were some low temperatures in July, but that ended up not being the case. Everywhere we went – Houston, Austin, Victoria, New York City, and Florida all ended up being almost 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Yikes!


July started out with a great plan, but a bad execution. Vicky and Dan watched the girls for the entire weekend while we went to Austin for Kevin and Sarah’s wedding. However, my neck was out of whack from the flight, and it was just getting worse. I finally ended up at the chiropractor, which only worsened the situation. It was so bad that I spent the wedding and half of the reception at the Brackenridge Medical Center, but I left with painkillers, muscle relaxers, and extra strength ibuprofen. I enjoyed catching up with high school friends – even if I was in pain and on drugs. Then we headed back to Houston where I visited another chiropractor who fixed me.  By then it was the 8th of July, and I had lost an entire week and the 4th of July to a drugged up stupor. I have been told that the kids were great and really enjoyed the fireworks.

Too hot at the Houston Zoo

Then we hung out in Houston doing all of the touristy stuff. Our visit to the Houston Zoo was a bust. It was just too hot. However, our trip to Space Center was fabulous, but getting lost in Clear Lake, where I grew up, sucked! Then we went to Houston Museum of Natural Science and the butterfly exhibit, which is always a hit. We didn’t get to see a ton of Todd, but we did get to see Kung Fu Panda 2, which was our first movie theater experience as a family.

Sisters snuggle while Gramps does all of the work



We also got to go down to Victoria to visit with my dad and stepmom. The highlight of the visit was taking the boat out and going fishing, which Tess tired of in about 10 minutes, but everyone caught a fish!


Then it was off to New York City. Todd went with his Masters program, and I flew on a separate plane with the girls. The girls and I were having so much fun going to museums, playgrounds, and parks. The High Line was my favorite. The girls’ favorite was going up in the Empire State Building at night. Lindsey, our babysitter, made it possible for me to go and see Freud’s Last Session, Upright Citizens Brigade, and War Horse, which were all very different and all very good.


Then the girls and I headed to Ft. Lauderdale to visit with Grandma and Grandpa Mau and enjoying the pool and beach and doing some much needed R and R.



So to recap July:

High: Girls in Summer Camp at Nature Discovery Center with Mary Ann

Low: My neck

High: Seeing friends in Austin and being at Kevin and Sarah’s wedding

Low: My neck

High: Having fun with the girls in Houston and catching up with friends

Low: The heat

High: Visiting with family and taking the girls on the boat

Low: Houston Zoo

High: Space Center Houston with Laura and Mitsuyo-san

Low: 1st day in New York City

High: All other days in New York City

Low: Barely seeing Todd

High: Visiting with family in Florida

Low: Realizing that this is really the end of our summer

Here are the photos from Texas, New York City and Florida.

Here are two videos from New York City: T Rex and Ferris Wheel

Awesome June in Japan

In : El Japan, Posted by on Sep.09, 2011

June was a fabulous month. It started off with the End of the Year party at Canadian Academy at the Swisshotel in Namba, Osaka. Two years ago we had the End of the Year party there, and we got a sitter to take care of kids in the hotel room while we went to the party and karaokeing afterward. This year our sitter requested that she spend the night with the girls in our apartment. Excuse me, but would that mean a kid free night at a fancy hotel? Sign me up!

Cute kids on the way to Yakitori

A few days later Rob, Rachel, Eleanor and Thomas arrived in Kobe for their Japan adventure. First of all, I’d like to remind everyone that we live in a 900 square foot apartment. Also, for those mathematically impaired, that is 8 people – 4 kids and 4 adults – in 900 square feet. Yikes! Despite all of my concern about space, things worked out beautifully.  The kids – 4,5,6, and 8 – all played together so well. They wrote a play, rehearsed it, made props and costumes.  Rachel was working during the first couple of days interviewing people about the built environment, attitudes and raising kids in Japan.

Walking through the low tide

Todd and I finished school a few days after their arrival, and that day we headed to Miyajima island which is right across the bay from Hiroshima. Miyajima is one of the most sacred places in all of Japan. It has a imperial shrine along with many other temples and places to visit. It is such a sacred place that births and deaths are not allowed on the island. We stayed in a traditional Japanese house with only a few tables, a couple of cushions and futons, all on tatami floors. The house also has a kitchen, so we brought our own cooler full of food. Our way there turned out to take much longer than I expected, so we arrived after all taxis on the island had stopped – oh, and it was pouring down rain.  We found dinner at an okonomiyaki restaurant. As we walked to the house, Thomas ended up falling into his umbrella and coming out of his shoe. Poor guy did not have a good time after that. Luckily, the owner of the house found us and gave Todd, Tess, Rachel and Thomas a ride. Rob, Eleanor, Riley and I walked the rest of the way, and they were total troopers.

The next day was gorgeous, and we ventured up the island on some cable cars and did some shopping. The day after was a little rainy, but we headed into Hiroshima, and Todd and I watched the kids while Rachel and Rob visited the Peace Memorial Museum.


Then it was back for 5 more days in Kobe, which were filled with Kobe beef, Hanshin Tiger game, Bunraku, Kyoto, antique shopping, and recycle store shopping. We were sad to see Rob, Rachel, Eleanor and Thomas head to Tokyo for some time at Disney, but we had such a good time with them.

Then we had about 5 days to pack and get ready to head to the States for Todd’s Masters in Theater for Educators that he is doing through the University of Houston. We spent about 5 weeks in Houston, 5 days in New York City, and a week in Florida before returning to Houston for a few days before, finally, heading back to Japan.

Here are our photos from June. This is a photo album dedicated completely to our first Japanese baseball game.

May 2011 – A bit of a blur

In : El Japan, Kiddo, Picture Pages, Posted by on Jul.07, 2011

I really don’t remember much about May. It was just have a huge work evaluation at the end of April a nice few days break for Golden Week.  My senior class, Diploma Geography, finished their course at the end of the April, so I was down to two classes. We were also starting to prepare for the Kimbros arrival at the beginning of June.

The kids at the beginning of the tunnel

May is usually the first month that it gets warm enough to explore outside without a coat on, and so we took advantage of a beautiful May to do some hiking with the Schatzkys and play in the River Mall. Here are the few photos from this month.

On final event of note was our ITGS students put together an auction where people in our community offered services that they would provide, and the money raised would be given to Tohoku relief. Zoe, Riley’s friend and classmate, won a Fancy Nancy Tea Party put on my our elementary librarian and a 5th grade teacher, and Riley and Tess were guests. They loved it. Here are the photos.

A Beautiful April

In : El Japan, General, Kiddo, Picture Pages, School, Posted by on Jun.06, 2011

In North America, the saying goes, “April showers bring May flowers.” This is not true in Japan. Our rainy season begins in mid-June, and it is hot and humid. April in Japan is usually still very cold, and this is the time for cherry blossoms. In addition, one of our favorite school events happens in early April, the International Food Day.

Tess and Mommy

International Food Day is when lots of the countries represented at CA come out with their best dishes. The event usually starts with a Parade of Nations. Tess and I walked for Peru with Maximo, and Riley walked the USA. Todd took photos. There are also games for the little kids and music and dance numbers by the CA community. The weather was cold and dreary this year, which made me miss last year when we hung out at the playground.

Here are the pictures from April and the International Food Day.


Last year, we did not get to go to Ohanami because we had a 1:1 workshop at our school. This year we were wary of celebrating because the nation was in mourning due to the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. We talked to several people before deciding to go. We usually head to Sakura Shukugawa which is a neighborhood that has a river running through it, and the cherry blossoms ring the river. The Lemleys got their the earliest and nabbed the perfect spot.  The Japanese participants did not want the black wrought iron fence to block their view, and we wanted it so that our children did not fall off of the cliff into the water below. There was tons of food and the kids had a blast. Luckily, the weather was lovely.

Here are the photos.

Finally, the Elementary School Leadership group ran a Walk-a-Thon to raise money for Tohoku Relief.  Here are the photos from that event.

The girls attend the royal wedding.

And what better way to end the month than with a royal wedding. I was 5 years old when I watched Princess Diana and Prince Charles walk down the aisle. I remember it vividly. The girls, being 4 and 6, were as excited about the royal wedding as I was 30 years ago. Their friend, Zoe, came over for a play date, and they dressed up like princess as well.

A Memorable March

In : El Japan, Kiddo, Picture Pages, School, Travel, Posted by on Jun.06, 2011

I’ve been doing some analysis of our blog since school’s been out, and I definitely see a pattern to our lives, which is undoubtedly run by our school calendar.

Every March we find ourselves counting the days until Spring Break.  This year was no different, well, a little different.

Day 1 @ the ER

March started out with a big bang – I mean fall. I was running down the stairs with Todd to get final approval for an advertisement that Todd and I had been working on together. I ended up falling down the stairs, hitting my eye, my computer went through the wall and fell 2 feet to the ground. Upon further analysis, we’ve come to the conclusion that my boot heel caught the strip of rubber on the stairs designed to keep people from falling, I smacked my eye on something still undetermined, and my computer survived unharmed, while its hard pink plastic case shattered and was not salvageable. I ended up spending the entire day in two different hospitals, with Amy as company. I was deemed healthy and relatively unscathed after an CT scan, two X-rays of my legs, and a tilt test – all done by gorgeous ER doctor.

Here are the photos of the change in the bruise above my eye over the course of a week.

Friday, March 11th, I’d come down with a stomach bug, completely unrelated to the aforementioned fall, and stayed home from school.  I was bummed because I was afraid that I would be sick the whole weekend.  It was just before school let out that I felt really nauseous.  When I stood up, I felt more nauseous. It was then that I heard the tell tale signs of an earthquake – our apartment was making a steady clicking noises as it rocked back and forth. This motion is why Japanese buildings are so resilient to the earthquakes. It is also why people feel seasick in the buildings during an earthquake. It was not super strong in our prefecture, but it was long.  I immediately called Todd who was watching a soccer game at school.  He did not realize that we were having an earthquake, but then the school siren went off. I was on Japan Meteorological Agency, which issued a tsunami warning immediately after the earthquake. All students and teachers also had a tsunami warning and went to the second story of our school, which is a several 100 meters from the coast.  When he went into the school to help, we hung up and that was the last cell coverage for a few days. We could still text, but talking was difficult.

As soon as I found out that the family was ok, I went on NHK live stream in English just as the tsunami was hitting the North. I had just deleted my facebook account the night before because someone had hacked into it, so I took to twitter to recount as much of the actual news coming out of NHK as possible. Tony and Lindsay stayed in Yokohama, and their school canceled classes for two weeks on Sunday night, and on Monday morning they headed south to stay with us. All Shinkansens were back up and running south by that time and were standing room only so they weren’t turning anyone away. Tony and Lindsay were worried about the constant aftershocks, rolling power outages, and lack of public transit. Once they arrived in Kobe, they realized how unaffected our area was. Many places here were reducing power, and instant noodles, bottled water, and ginger ale were no where to be found, but those are insignificant issues compared to what the North was facing.

Since then our school has been doing as much as they can by raising money, creating bags for people in the North filled with things that they would want/need, and some teachers have even ventured up north to lend a helping hand. The area is no where near “normal”, but there have been massive efforts to start the clean up. Here is an article of the recovery efforts by the Boston Globe.


After the earthquake and subsequent tsunami, the ever present nuclear situation had everyone on edge. Some of our students left early for Spring Break because their parents’ companies requested it. The uncertainty of the situation was difficult. I had planned already to go to Washington, DC with another teacher and 17 students. There wasn’t any talk of canceling our trip. I really wanted to Todd out of the country as well – not because I thought he was in danger, but listening to the news in Japan for a week was not going to be a relaxing Spring Break. So Jon, Todd, and the kids headed for Bangkok and Cha-Am, which is just a short drive south of Bangkok. They had a great time relaxing by the beach. The kids loved the Kids Club, so the grown ups even got some time to themselves. Here are their photos from the trip.


My trip was fantastic – other than being stuck overnight in San Francisco because we missed our flight by 20 minutes. Our experiences during our DC were amazing, I got to meet Katy’s family and I saw Marilyn again. Patrick and Maggie rocked as our guides and coordinators during the trip. I blogged about each day at my professional blog. Here are my posts of Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5, Day 6, Day 7, and Day 8.

February in Kobe – Cold and Crazy

In : El Japan, Kiddo, Picture Pages, Posted by on Jun.06, 2011


February in Kobe is usually just known for being very, very cold. This year was no different, except this year there was an extra element of craziness added as Todd put up the musical, Return to the Forbidden Planet. Canadian Academy only does a musical every 3 years. I think this is the policy because of all of the craziness that goes with a musical.  We didn’t see much of Todd that first week in February, but it was all worth it in the end. The girls and I went to the matinee performance, and we all loved it.  It was funny, and the music and singing were both fantastic.

Kirsten on the ski trip

Shortly after the musical wrapped up, I was off for three days with 60 8th graders on their annual ski trip.  This is the first time that I’d been on this trip.  The company was great, and the skiing was fantastic.

Then as soon as I got home, Todd was off to Korea with APAC drama kids.

Serious craziness. Of course there were fun and non-work stuff going on as well.  Here are some general pics from February.

Snowbunny - Tess.

We also were able to get out and about around Kobe during the month.  We took the girls up to the sledding hill on Rokko Mountain. We also went hiking with Jon and Denis, where Tess and Riley carried around big sticks.

Riley loses a tooth!

The most exciting news of the whole month occurred on the final day of February, which was the day that Todd returned from APAC. Riley lost her first tooth!

…and we’re back (in January 2011)

In : El Japan, Kiddo, Picture Pages, Posted by on Jun.06, 2011

That was definitely the longest break from the blog that I’ve ever taken. I have to say that it was mostly due to some very good books that I’ve been reading, but also, I it’s probably more about avoiding touching a computer once I am home.

So to rewind to January, we’d just returned from Yokohama with Tony, Lindsay and Bob. It was a great Christmas, and Riley turned 6! The exciting adventures of January continued on when we went to Nara to watch the burning of the hill.


We get a local magazine here called the Kansai Scene. In this magazine, there are always a ton of cool events that are happening all around our area. However, we rarely get out to them because of the time and distance involved. Now that the girls are getting older, 4 and 6, and we don’t need a stroller, an enormous bag of snacks, nor a diaper bag, we are trying to get out and see more and do more in Japan.

So when a big group of friends decided to head to Nara for the burning of the hill, we decided to join them.  We aren’t sure why they burn the hill, but they do. They also set off some amazing fireworks. The girls were fantastic, but it was COLD. Here are the photos.

Oops, Riley’s Birthday Party

In : El Japan, Kiddo, Picture Pages, Posted by on Jan.01, 2011

The recent media has been filled with stories about how much having a December birthday sucks, but for many of us, the date of our first (or subsequent) child was not a choice, rather an unbelievable dream come true.

She blew the all out herself.

So Riley was born 7 days early on December 31, 2004.  The whole story of that birth can be found in the archives of this site.  Every year we’ve had a party for her.  Her first birthday party with family and friends (and no little kids) was held at Vicky’s house.  Her second birthday at Vicky’s house – again with no little kids, just family and friends.  Her third birthday was in Kobe with other faculty kids.  Her fourth birthday was back in Houston with family and friends, but now Eleanor and Thomas joined in.  Then for her fifth birthday we were traveling back to Kobe from Hawaii, and we celebrated a few days early with family.  She has really never had a full on little kid birthday party.


That was her request for her 6th birthday party.   So on December 11th, we invited the entire class and their siblings, and we booked the Community Hall for our apartment complex (think big empty room).  Todd cooked up a storm for the kids and the adults as usual.  The theme of her party was kookie, crazy, so we had an monster the kids created – like pin the nose on the monster.  We had a stop rocket and a target, which were quickly destroyed, and then we had an artsy-crafty section where the kids could draw a kookie, crazy picture.  We also had bomb candles and Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich cake.

The kids had eaten, played all of the games, and were restless after an hour, so we headed out to the yellow playground right behind the Community Hall with all of the cow balloons (kookie, crazy, right?).  Unfortunately, it was sprinkling a little bit when we went outside, but that soon stopped long enough for the kids to go outside and play on the playground.  After 45 minutes outside, we headed back in for goodie bags and good-byes.

We cleaned up and headed back to the house for a couple of hours of rest before we got dressed up and went downtown for our school’s Christmas Party!  That is kookie, crazy!

Here are the photos.

End of an Era

In : El Japan, Kiddo, Picture Pages, Travel, Posted by on Jan.01, 2011

of holidays, that is.

We’ve been on holiday since the 17th of December, and we head back to work tomorrow.


The first part of the holiday was spent taking care of Tess and Riley as they ran fevers for 5 days each, back to back.  Riley was mostly recovered by Christmas Eve, and we headed to the Lemleys for a Christmas Eve feast along with Bob, Lindsay and Tony who came to Kobe from Yokohama to help us celebrate.  Lola spent most of the night laying in my lap.  The older kids had a gift exchange, which they loved.  The adults drank and ate way too much, and we headed back to the house late in time to prepare for Santa’s arrival.  The girls also got to watch a special video from Santa for each of them before heading to bed.


Christmas Day the girls slept in until 9:30, and the adults had all been awake, eaten breakfast, and were almost bored by the time the girls finally woke up.  Santa’s gifts were a doll house, Star Wars Legos, a puzzle, and a Nutcracker.  The girls loved them all as well as all of the gifts from family and us.  Luckily for us (especially the girls) it started snowing half way through present opening.  I bundled them up, and we headed outside to chase huge fluffy flakes.  It snowed for the rest of the day on and off, but unfortunately there was no accumulation.  In the afternoon of Christmas Day, we had friends over to partake in some delicious seafood gumbo.


After Christmas, we had a few days to relax before heading on the Shinkansen to Yokohama to stay with Lindsay and Tony for a bit.  Yokohama was lovely (and warmer than Kobe).  The girls loved spending more time with Bob, Lindsay and Tony.  Riley also celebrated her 6th birthday in Yokohama with some pumpkin pie, Star Wars Legos, Burgers, spider playgrounds, and Bornelund.  She had a fantastic day, and she is so excited to be 6!

We headed back to Kobe on the 1st, after I got sick and ended up with Pink Eye in both eyes!  I spent a few days recovering while the girls spent a few days playing with their new (and old) toys.  Riley’s been working on riding with only two wheels, and we took the pedals and training wheels off of Tess’s bike so she can learn how to balance herself.

So now the house is back to normal with all of the Christmas decorations put away, and we are just relaxing the evening before heading back to work.  Tomorrow is going to be rough!  I don’t think any of us has been up before 8am since the 17th of December!

UPDATE:  I forgot to link to the photos.  Here is the album from Christmas Eve at the Lemleys.  Here is Christmas Eve night and Christmas day.  Here is our first trip to Yokohama.

Book Characters

In : El Japan, Kiddo, Picture Pages, School, Posted by on Dec.12, 2010


Last week, the girls had to pick their favorite book characters, and then they had to say which Learner Profile trait they showed. Finally, on Friday they came dressed up as their character, went on a parade, and finally made a human bar graph depending on what Learner Profile trait they picked.

Riley chose Diary of Fly as her book, with Fly being the character.  Her trait was risk-taker because Fly wants to be a super hero.

Tess chose Diary of a Spider as her book, with Spider being the character.  Her trait was open-minded because she didn’t want to eat Fly.

Fly and Spider are best friends.

The books are actually hilarious, and we own Diary of a Worm, who is the third friend in the trio, but no one wanted to come dressed as a worm.

Here are the photos.  There are some from Thanksgiving in the album as well.