Archive for September, 2007

Another Long Weekend

In : El Japan, Kiddo, Picture Pages, Posted by on Sep.09, 2007

Yes, we are in the midst of another three day weekend.

I started it off with a bang on Friday night by chaperoning the middle school dance. It was ridiculously cute, and I had to try hard not to grin too much. It was all very innocent, and everyone stayed and helped clean up. The best part was that I left as Riley went to bed and was home an hour later.

Saturday had us venturing into Harborlands – a mall/amusement park on the water. It took us awhile to find it, and by the time we found the amusement park we were all beat so we turned around and headed home. Saturday night Jon and Celia came over and we ate dinner at our house. It has been a month since our shipments arrived (wow! time flies) and we still haven't been over to see their place, but they always come to ours. We are just bad friends.

I woke up with a cold on Sunday and Todd let me sleep in while he watched the girls. I really wanted to go to Kyoto, but it is a big trip. We ended up deciding to go to Himeji Castle, which is about an hour outside of Kobe.

The girls were horrendous on the train there and back. They threw tantrums, refused to sit down, screamed bloody murder, and whined endlessly. Tess even peed on the floor (even though she was wearing a diaper. We still aren't certain how it happened). However, in Himeji city and in the castle they were fantastic. We all returned exhausted and spent the late afternoon relaxing. Both girls went to bed early so Todd and I have had lots of quiet time to clean up our tiny apartment (it feels much bigger when it is clean).

Here are photos from the part of the day when the children weren't being the devil's spawn. Enjoy.

Respect for the Aged Day

In : El Japan, Kiddo, Picture Pages, Posted by on Sep.09, 2007

The third Monday in September is when Japan celebrates its elderly. Estimates say that by 2010 one in every five Japanese will be 65 or older ( We didn't have school and there are no formal ways to celebrate. We did let one elderly man cut in line for the elevator at the Sumiyoshi train station. I think we did our part.

Riley has been running a fever all weekend, and we couldn't take one more minute in the house. I decided that we would visit the Oji Zoo. Todd agreed, reluctantly. He later informed me that he would like at least 24 hours notice so as to get himself mentally ready for the zoo. He thought it was weird that I am always ready to visit a zoo, any zoo.

We took the train and walked for about 5 minutes north towards the mountains and into some dark skies. We saw some flamingos, a panda, and some great apes. Not much as Riley went into melt down sickness half way through the zoo experience. This accounts for the lack of photos (3) and her yawning in one of them. Tess fell asleep the minute we entered the zoo and woke up when we left as they decided to start jackhammering the very moment they saw our stroller. We did get a little bit of rain, but it was not too bad. I might even call it refreshing.

Riley fell asleep on the way home, and continued to sleep upon our arrival. After waking up in a horrible mood with a fever and calmly taking a dose of ibuprofen, Riley turned into the little girl we all love. Now it was time for swimming. It is still warm, but the seasons are definitely changing so we are not sure how many more weekends of swimming fun we will have.

The rest of day went as usual, and now the girls are fast asleep, but for how long – no one knows.

All in all a lovely day. Looking forward to next week when we have another 3 day weekend because Autumn Equinox is a holiday. Have I mentioned how much I love this country?

Click here for photos from the day.

Tess Turns 1

In : El Japan, Kiddo, Picture Pages, Posted by on Sep.09, 2007

Two entries in one night.  I am on a roll.

September 9th, 2006 Tess Olivia Welbes gracefully entered the world with her dark hair and looked like neither Todd nor I.

We have loved her obsessively ever since.

I decided that moving to a foreign country with two children under the age of 3, starting a new job, and making a house feel like a home isn't enough for me, so I added throwing a first birthday party to the mix.

We decided that the best thing to do is have it at the house and make it an open house.  This allowed people to come when convenient, but not to have everyone in the apartment at once (as we would not fit).  Todd cooked up a storm and the food was fantastic as always.  The company and conversation was great.  The kids were unbelievably good. 

Riley only freaked out twice.  Once upon getting hit in the head on accident and the second when someone else had her precious bunnies.  Other than that she shared her toys like a champ.  Tess was in a great mood all day.  She played hard, ate an enormous piece of cake, slept, and then came back for more presents.

Photos of the momentous occasion can be found here.  

One Month in Japan

In : El Japan, Picture Pages, Posted by on Sep.09, 2007

Well we have been in Japan exactly a month to the hour.

Now that the jet lag and the culture shock are beginning to wear off I feel that I can now begin to describe the wonder that it is Japan.

Ok, I have to admit as a Houstonian I thought I was immune to heat.  However, when we arrived in Japan it was hot.  I mean really hot.  Our apartment has two AC units: one in the living room and one in the master bedroom.  There is a door that separates the living area from the sleeping area so we can cool each side of the house.  It works well, but upon leaving the apartment we all became soaked with sweat.  Everyday this becomes better.  I am now able to wear pants with out dripping in sweat.  

That is the worst thing I can say about where we live – really other than that it is paradise.  Where to start….


Most people ride bikes everywhere.  Mothers have bikes with a basket in front and a kid in a seat on the back.  Most people ride their bikes to work as well.  There is a father and son that live in our building that leave the same time we do.   The son walks to school and the Dad gets on his bike to ride to work.  We don't have bikes, yet.  We live across the street from the school, and the nearest grocery store is 10 minute walk.  We usually use the stroller, so we haven't deemed it necessary.  Riley got a pink Schwinn tricycle that she hasn't quite mastered yet, but as soon as the family becomes more mobile, I definitely see us buying bikes for the whole family.

So we usually walk.  About that 10 minute walk to the grocery store.  We pass three playgrounds and only one street.  There are roads on the island we live on, Rokko Island, but VERY few cars.  And enormous cross walks.

We decide to venture off the island we jump on the monorail that runs down the center of Rokko Island.  We ride this to Sumiyoshi station where we transfer to the JR (Japan Rail) line.  On this line we can go anywhere in Kobe, or Japan for that matter.  We already have multipass cards that we can refill, and we have traveled as far as 30 minutes south on the JR line.  We feel pretty comfortable using the trains.  They are CLEAN.  No one talks or talks on their cell.  No food and drink are allowed and the windows fog over automatically when they pass close to a residence – for privacy sake.   We can see the monorail from our balcony and when Riley sees it she screams "train".  Trains are definitely a hit in our family.

For Fun:

As I mentioned above their are a plethora of playgrounds.   There is also the school playground which we have yet to try out.  In addition, there are a group of families who live in on-campus housing and they all share a backyard.  This backyard has become an informal playground.

Also there is a shallow man made river that runs down the center of the island.  This is filled with kids when it is warm.  In addition, the city planners thought long and hard and wove the river back and forth under the monorail line.  You cannot hear the monorail at the ground and there is always part of the river shaded by the monorail line – GENIUS!  We don't go to the river enough, but it is so convenient that we just take their swimming trunks with us when we run errands and a take a 20 minute swim break.  

Our grocery store is the bottom floor a 9 floor mall.  The sixth floor of this mall is filled with kids areas – balls, balloons, rides, etc.  All for kids under 5.  It is kid heaven.  

Also there is a store called Woody Puddy that has the best kid play area ever.  We have never gone, but we hear great things from the nannies and Riley.  All of this is on the island.  We have also heard about a great Zoo, an Aquapark, and Aquarium which we have yet to venture to.

Our home:

Yes our apartment is small, but it is perfect.  We have our living room / dining room that opens to the kitchen and to a separate room for the kids' stuff.  Then we each have a bedroom.  My favorite part about our house is the shower.  The shower is in the same room with the tub.  The shower is not just a stall, but it is the entire room.  I love it!  The best part about our new abode is the independence it is fostering in the girls.  They just run off (well Tess still crawls really fast) to Riley's room.  I can tell Riley to pick out two books and meet me in her room for bedtime.  This may sound normal to most of you, but when you live in a three story townhouse with brick staircases you don't let your kids do anything alone. 


We have not experienced much of Japan, but the places we have gone are spectacular. They are clean, pristine, lush, and have amazing architecture.  The kids have been amazingly well-behaved so we have been able to really enjoy ourselves when sight seeing.  

I just thought of two more "problems" with our new home : everything is expensive so we just don't talk about money any more and the language is obscenely hard.

Still despite the heat, the price, and the language we are VERY happy with our new home.

Tomorrow Todd goes to the beach with some teachers and students on a Middle School trip.  I am staying home to take care of the girls. Well, really I am going to work and the nannies are staying with kids while I am at work.

If you would like to see pictures of our first month, click here.  Vicky and Barbara's photos are included as well.   

The Long Awaited Return of the Welbi

In : El Japan, Picture Pages, Posted by on Sep.09, 2007

Yea, Yea, Yea.

I know we haven't updated the site in months. We had a move to orchestrate and little ones to care for. Excuses, excuses.

First of all, let's backtrack. There are still photos of our final days in Peru that no one has seen. There are some great ones of our shipment and of Riley's good-bye party in preschool. There is even a cute one of Todd and Riley at a Father's Day celebration.

So on June 28th, our last day of school, we packed up the kiddos and left Peru. It was so sad. We left our friends. We left our nannies. We left our weekly massages. I am still in touch with our friends and our nannies, but it difficult to understand that we will probably never see most of the people we saw every day.

We spent 6 weeks in Houston staying with Vicky and Dan and a week with my dad. The weather was hot, but not as hot as Houston can do in July. The kids enjoyed the time with the grandparents. It wasn't all relaxing as we had to buy everything for our Japan household before the 6th of July. Our shipment from Houston to Kobe left Houston then, so if we wanted anything, we had to buy it during that first week. We had decided to buy most of our furniture at IKEA and then ship the boxes to Kobe unassembled to save on space and ultimately save on shipping. So there were many trips to IKEA to get everything we wanted.

We were finally ready to go on August 10th. Vicky and her sister, Barbara, accompanied us on the flight and stayed with us for 2 weeks after our arrival. The were invaluable to our relatively stress free adjustment to life in Japan.

Here are some great photos from this summer.

More on Japan soon!