Archive for May, 2008

ELAC and Tex-Mex

In : El Japan, Kiddo, Picture Pages, Posted by on May.05, 2008

Although Riley hasn’t been officially accepted yet, I wanted to share photos of her new school.  It is actually Tess’s new school as well because there will be a 2 year old program in the building, too.  The building is officially known as the ELAC.  Unfortunately, I did not take these photos. A professional photographer took them, and the school shared them on their website.

Todd and I ventured into Osaka to eat Tex-Mex food for our anniversary last night.  We found it with almost no help, and it was fantastic!  The salsa, the guacamole, the chips, the burritos, and the chimicangas were delicious.  It has been 9 months since we had restaurant cooked Tex-Mex, and we both spent the evening constantly giving each other high fives for making the 3 hour round trip to eat at the restaurant.  It was worth every second.  And I bought a pair of sunglasses that I have been desperate for.  Happy Anniversary to me!

Interviewed and Entertained

In : El Japan, Kiddo, Posted by on May.05, 2008

Wednesday after school Wilma, one of our nannies, brought the girls to school to the aquarium in the new ELAC building (Early Learning and Activity Center).  Tess and Wilma went to play in the orange playground (as Riley calls it), and Riley and I went in for her interview.  Well, first, we went to the bathroom because I am no idiot, and the worst thing that can happen during a preschool interview is for the interviewee (Riley – not me) to pee on the floor.  Then we went and checked out a book from the ELAC library, which Riley feel instantly in love with.

When we entered the classrroom, Riley was attached to my hip, but she let Mrs. Labreque read her a book, and the real play began.  The elementary school prinicpal, Matt, and I chatted about Riley while she played.  He asked things like: what does she like to do, is she potty trained, does she take naps, what should the school know about her.  The hour flew by.  At one point Jon had a little break and asked Riley if she wanted to play, and she declined, which I thought was hilarious.  So then we cleaned up and went home.

Riley now asks to play with Mrs. Labreque all of the time, and on Thursday I was riding my bike past the school, and she was in the kiddie seat behind me, and she screamed “Look mommy.  It’s my new school!”  My heart almost broke from the cuteness of it all.

This past Friday we went to see a comedian perform at the Kobe Club, an old style social club, situated at the foot of the mountains.  The comedian was the brother of a parent of Canadian Academy and was here to visit his sister.  She convinced him to perform for a small group of about 50-100 people.  The set was just about an hour, but it was a fantastic hour.  He was hilarious.  There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.  Everyone left saying that they wished there were more events like this.

Speaking of funny, Todd just finished A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, and he just passed it along to me.  It is about 8 years old, but everyone should read this book.  The middle kind of drags, but throughout the book there are funniest scenes.  I wanted to quote part of the book on this blog entry, but Todd, with his position of editor, vetoed it.  When or if you read this book, the part about Christmas is the funniest thing you will have ever read.  I cannot even think about it without giggling hysterically.

It’s midnight, and I am off to bed.  There is a great rain storm tonight, and I love falling asleep to the sound of rain.


In : El Japan, Picture Pages, Travel, Posted by on May.05, 2008

So we went with about 16 other people to tour the Gion District at night in Kyoto.  Wow!  What a cool trip! We ended up going with several people we knew from our trip to see Sumo Wrestling.

We started the trip by finding out that our good camera’s battery was dead, so we had to take the not-so-good camera.  The shots are blurry, and Todd will complain, but I will post them anyway, and you can imagine what they would have looked like with our better camera.

The actual tour began in front of an old Kabuki theater.  Then we walked for an hour and a half through the Gion district.  The district is filled with boardinghouses, which is where the maiko (newly geisha) and geisha live.  Also there are tons of tea houses where people drink tea and are entertained by geisha.  Most of the establishments are private, which means that you cannot walk in off of the street.  You must know someone who is a member, and then you will be invited in.

We saw several geisha and maiko who were dressed up coming back from and going to jobs.   They start their career at 15, and then they train for one year.  Then they become maikos and are bound for 5 years to their boardinghouse, which provides them meals, kimono, and jobs.  Then they become geisha, and they have more independence.

Towards the end of the walking tour we made our way through a Zen temple complex that is open 24 hours a day.  It was beautiful, spooky, and enchanting all at the same time.  The moon was almost full, which I think added to the overall feeling.

We ended the night at a traditional Japanese restaurant.  Two maikos joined us and talked to each of us with their halting English.  I didn’t really know what to say, so the night Swiss woman to my right helped me out quite a bit.  Then both girls performed a dance.  Todd caught a snipet of it here.

Then we were offered a ride home by the French/Swiss couple who both work at Nestle.  It was great to be in a car again, but I gave wrong directions on how to get to our house!  Luckily, I caught my mistake quickly.  Things look very different from inside a car than they do when you are walking!

All in all, it was spectacular evening.

Let us not forget the children. Here are a couple of photos, and a video of Todd and Riley cooking breakfast with a little of Tess, too.

Cute Kids

In : El Japan, Kiddo, Picture Pages, Posted by on May.05, 2008

We have just about a month left of school, and Todd and I are ready for a break. This has been a long year, and we are ready for a long summer.

This past week we had a consultant, Kathy Daulton, in from the States to help us with the implementation of the newly adopted strategic plan. I worked with Kathy in Peru, and it was so nice to see her again and in Japan! It was a long, but productive week with her. I am sad to see her go, but I am looking forward to getting back to the classroom after a week of meetings.

We have a busy, but fun couple of weeks again of us. This Saturday we head to Kyoto where we will have a night tour of the Geisha district. We will then have dinner with a maiko, a geisha in training. After dinner the maiko will perform a traiditional dance. Todd and I signed up for this trip and paid for it back in January so this is like a nice present.

On Sunday we have another birthday party. It is for Rocket, and he is turning 5. Riley has a little crush on Rocket. Whenever he is around, she is glued to him. He is so nice to her as well.

Then next Wednesday Riley has her interview for the the Building Blocks Program, the 3 year old program. The main issue for her acceptance is whether or not she is potty trained, and fortunately, I can say that she is. The way that it works is that there are several parents being interviewed at once by the elementary principals and counselor. While the parents talk, the teacher plays with the kids. Here is the thing – Jon Schatzky is one the principals and Riley kind of loves him. He will be in the room interviewing someone else, so I have had to explain to her that she cannot play with Jon while he is working, but she can play with him after work. We will see how it goes. Fingers crossed.

To end the year with a bang the school is hosting three parties in two weeks – one to celebrate the end of strategic planning, one is a teacher appreciation party hosted by the PTA, and finally the end of the year party to celebrate the end of the year!

Oh, and I almost forgot! The Girls! Here they are in all of their glorious cuteness.


Update: Toys

In : El Japan, Kiddo, Posted by on May.05, 2008

DAY 1 after the great toy reorganization of 2008 is a success.   Toys are still in the correct locations when we arrived home, but many toys we had not since used in months were out.  

The only unfortunate issue is that my labels are peeling off of the plastic bins.  Oh well, I will have to think of another ingenious method for labeling their toys.

This weekend there is a community garage sale at school.  Here in Japan we call it a Sayonara Sale because people have to sell their stuff before they leave the country.  No, we aren't leaving, I just have a problem.  I will be spending my Saturday morning selling an enormous suitcase of clothes that Tess has grown out of since August. 

The Sayonara Sale happens in the parking lot of the school, and there is a fee for renting space at the Sale.  The rental space is one parking lot space.  There are no tables, shade or anything else provided.  My plan is to bring a few blankets and pillows for us as we have to sit on the ground for several hours.  I am trying to rig up some poles so that I can hang the clothes, but that is not going so well.  Riley, newly potty trained, will be helping me.  That should make for an interesting time!  If anyone has any tips on how to have a successful garage sale of mostly clothes, let me know. 

Right now I am thinking of the slogan "If it is stained, it is free."   That will get everyone on a mission to find a stain, and along the way they will encounter several must have items, and then we all win! 

Toy Organization

In : El Japan, Kiddo, Picture Pages, Posted by on May.05, 2008

So, I finally completed the great toy redo of 2008. It took me two days longer than I thought it would, but I completed it before I have to return to work tomorrow. It involved a lot of sorting, throwing away and labeling, but I think it looks great. I will be interested to know what it looks like tomorrow after the girls have had all day with it.

Also, I took some photos of the living room and dining room to show what the rest of the place looks like.

Here are the photos.

Golden Week

In : El Japan, Kiddo, Picture Pages, Posted by on May.05, 2008

We are in the midst of the Golden Week Holidays here in Japan.  Golden Week is a string of days in late April and early May that are various national holidays but mostly past Emperors' birthdays.  For us that means we didn't have school on Friday and Monday. 

Riley still had school on Friday, so I dropped her off and met up Todd and Tess, and then we all headed to Sannomiya to shop at the world's greatest store – Tokyu Hands.  It has 18 floors of everything.  We bought all of the odds and ends that we needed.  We spent the rest of the day hanging around the house.

On Saturday, we waited for IKEA to deliver our purchases.  While we waited, I changed around the girls closets.  I removed their winter clothes and moved in their summer clothes.  This took me all day and while I did that, Todd assembled three toy storage shelves.  They are great, but I am still trying to get the toys in them.

On Sunday, we ventured into Kobe with Karen and Paul and their two kids, Andrew and Amelia.  We headed toward Maya Mountain which is just behind the city.  We took the bus from the main hotel on the island.  We ended up at Skin-Kobe station where we walked to the Skin-Kobe Ropeway, which is a gondola up the mountain.  Unfortunately, the wind was so strong that it woke Tess up from her nap after only 30 minutes, which made her inconsolable for the rest of the day.  This is the reason for the pacifier, which we have been good about taking away during the day, but an overtired kid will make any parent resort to the pacifier.

Once we got to the gondola, four adults and four kids, and our enormous stroller squeezed into one gondola.  We went all of the way up, and when we arrived, we found great views and good food.  We sat down for lunch, ice cream, and a couple of Asahi beers. 

Eventually, it was time to head down the mountain.  As we walked about half way down the mountain, there was always a breathtaking view in front of us, and all around us there were herb gardens and flowers.  We then found a greenhouse that Riley named "the jungle."  In it was a spice exhibit, tons of plants, streams, ponds, and waterfalls.  We kept going further down the mountain where we discovered a fantastic bouncy castle.  Riley has a problem with bouncy castles.  She never wants to leave. Today was no exception.  She was timid to get on, and when we told her it was time to leave, she threw a huge fit and had to be brought out.  We now have a "no bouncy castles" policy until she is older and leaves this tantrum phase behind.

It was a smooth ride home with lots of games of eye spy for Riley.  Todd taught her the game on the way up the mountain, and now she is obsessed with it. 

Tomorrow the forecast says rain, so our plan is to stay in and continue to organize the toys and finally change our closet and put away the sweaters and bring out the shorts.  I have a massage at 1pm to help my right shoulder which is so stiff I cannot move it as well as I would like. 

Then back to work on Tuesday.  It should be a quick end to the year.  We have just about a month left. 

Here are photos of Riley playing with our IKEA stuff, our playroom before the great reorganization (after pictures to come soon), and finally photos from our great mountain expedition.