Archive for July, 2008

Pictures and the Wii – and 1 picture of the Wii

In : General, Posted by on Jul.07, 2008

Riley has the best score in Wii golf
The duck followed Tess around, but I am not sure how she felt about that.

This is really a picture post.  We went to the botantical and bird wonderland of Kachoen again with my mom and Maurizio and to the river several times.  Here are tons of photos of the kids.

We also went to a sake festival today and then ate conveyor belt sushi, but because the kids weren’t there, we didn’t see any reason to take photos.

We love our new Wii and so do the kids, especially Riley.  She loves to watch Todd play and discuss the game with him.  She already really good at Wii golf.  My shoulder and wrist are sore from Wii baseball and Wii tennis.  Much to my dismay, I suck at Wii Mario Kart, and I used to be able to beat anyone at any level at Mario Kart 64, so my ego has taken quite a beating.  I have yet to break out the Wii Fit I ordered.  I feel like I need an empty house for a bit so if when I look like an idiot, then no one will see.

The Heat is On

In : General, Posted by on Jul.07, 2008

Wow!  It is really hot now.  We are still able to go outside, but we are all coated in sweat by the time we get to the elevator.  Luckily, we have still been able to get out and see some of Japan.

Swans on paradeWe went to Kyoto on Wednesday to see a little of the Gion Matsuri Festival which is one the biggest and most important summer festivals in Japan.  The festival ends with an enormous parade, which is quite spectacular.  The parade originally started in 869 to ward off an epidemic that had just hit the city.

We didn’t make it to the parade because Todd was in class that morning, it was going to be beyond crowded, and traveling with our stroller is hard enough without having to fight the crowds.  We did go to Kyoto the evening before the big parade.  We went with Yuka and Miki (the same friends from our Suma trip).

We arrived in Kyoto and headed straight to the Yasaka Shrine.  This shrine is located in the famous GionYasaka district that is home to Kyoto’s geisha.  At the shrine there were food stalls and fun games for the kids to play.  Riley really spent most of her time playing with the pebbles on the ground while Todd took pictures, and I corralled Tess.  We grabbed food and headed to the Maruyama Park, which is right behind the shrine.  The girls had a blast playing in the park.  After eating our dinner and ice cream (mine ended up on the ground), we head back towards our train station.  By this time they had closed the street to traffic, and so we had much more room to walk.  We saw a procession of kids dressed up like swans, and we saw lots of Taiko drumming.  Then we headed back home.  We were all in bed by 10:30, and we look forward to seeing the big parade next year!

Here are the photos.

This evening we went over to Murray’s house to make him dinner.  Murray fell in Tokyo last week and fractured his knee and really hurt his ankle on his other leg after falling into a hole.  He lives on the second floor, and the elevator does not stop on that floor, which is common for Japan.  So he has been housebound since he returned from Tokyo.  I watched the girls intently so they did not destroy his house while Todd cooked a mean green curry.  Murray tried to find cartoons that Riley would like, but she was scared of all of them, but he did find some sumo wrestling that captivated her.  Tess ate dinner with us, and then visited every room of his apartment, but she was partial to the kitchen with its drawers of Polish pottery and knives.

After dinner we took the kids to the river to get their daily fix, but that was not the end of their evening.  We knew there were fireworks taking place in Ashiya, which is across the water from Rokko Island.  We were told that we would probably have a good view from the eastern part of the island.  So we followed the greenbelt from the north end of the island around hoping to find a nice spot where we could see the fireworks.  It was really dark, and we didn’t see much, which is kind of dangerous when you are riding a bike, and you have a 22 month old strapped to the back of that bike.

Suddenly we saw a break in the foliage and about 15 Japanese people standing around.  Ta Da! Fireworks!  A first for both of the girls.  Riley watched for about 10 minutes and then started playing with an activity book.  Tess ran around for about 10 minutes and then plopped on my lap to eat mekong (Japanese oranges).  We stayed for about 30 minutes, but the fireworks show went on for over an hour, but it was late, and people were getting cranky (I won’t name names, but I am sure you can guess).

Sorry we have no pictures.  You will have to take our word for it – the fireworks were cool and the girls were cute.


In : General, Posted by on Jul.07, 2008

We think the girls are officially recovered from whatever they had, and I think we are now officially recovered, too.  We never got sick.  We were just sleep deprived, but alternating naps has helped cure that.

Now that the girls are well enough to leave the house, we are spending even more time at the river, and one evening this weekend, we took our bikes on a ride around half of our island with part of the trip along the oceanfront boardwalk.  There they got to see people fishing, cargo ships unloading, and the air traffic control tower of Kansai airport (which I mistook for a light house).  Tonight we went on another bike ride, and a tug boat passed the boardwalk. Its wake sent waves up on the boardwalk washing up crabs that quickly ran back to the water.  The girls loved it!

Todd and I went to a great Tapas bar called Tapas last Saturday night.  We almost couldn’t find it, and we didn’t bring a map or a phone number.  Luckily, we did find it because of my amazing memory (it was under the Port Liner monorail, which told us at least what street it was on).  The food and wine was great.   It was our first night out without the kids in a long time, and we are hoping that we can go out  without the kids about once a week.  We will see if we can do it.

Den of Sickness

In : General, Posted by on Jul.07, 2008

I found out on Tuesday when I picked up the girls that a classmate of theirs was diagnosed with Hand/Foot/Mouth disease, which is not to be confused with Hoof and Mouth disease.  It is a very common childhood virus, which makes kids irritable (yay!), feverish (yay!), and can cause rashes (yay!).

Well, both girls woke up this morning with horrible fevers and couple that with Riley’s rash on her bottom, I was convinced they were infected, too.  So we dosed them with some ibuprofen and off we went to the doctor.  The girls were in a great mood, and Tess walked with us all the way to the train station (2nd day in a row).

The doctor ruled out Hand/Foot/Mouth disease, gave medicine for Riley’s rash, diagnosed the girls with summer cold/flu, and diagnosed Tess with a sore throat, which I am to treat as an infection if the fever lasts more than two days.  Wow!  He gave the meds right then, and then we were off.  Both girls were asleep within 5 minutes of leaving the doctor’s office, and they continued to sleep for another hour after we got home.

Todd arrived home from Japanese class about 5 minutes after the girls woke up, so we have been playing doctor to both of them.  Unbelievalby, we were even able to sneak in a game of Settlers of Catan card game.  We both have acknowledged that the girls have been so good despite being sick.  Riley’s two favorite (and cute) statements right now are, “I am really sick,” and “I am weak, mommy.”  Tess has been super cute as well.  I was holding her, and I was about to put her to bed.  Todd was running over to the school to buy some Gatorade out of the vending machines, and Tess lifted her head off of my shoulder and waved bye-bye to Todd as he left.

We both should head to bed right now because I cannot imagine that either of us is going to get a good night sleep.

Hopefully the girls will be on the mend by the weekend.  We will keep everyone posted.

Wordle is Cool

In : General, Posted by on Jul.07, 2008

Picture 3

Wordle is program that creates a picture of the most used words on your site.  This is the wordle for Welbi Round the World’s front page.  I stole this idea from our friend, Rachel.

4th of July Observed

In : El Japan, Kiddo, Posted by on Jul.07, 2008

Today we (Todd, Riley, Tess, I, and our friend Debbie) celebrated the anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence at the Kobe Club.  It is a nice expat club at the base of the mountains.  We had all you can eat BBQ, and they had a kiddie pool.

The first thing we did was put the kids in the pool.  Wow, was that a mistake!  Before I had a chance to run down to the locker rooms and put on my suit, Tess had slipped and fallen in over her head.  I raced in with shoes still on.  She was freaked out a little, but she was back in the game within seconds.  I was soaked, and I put Todd on Tess duty and went to change, but before I could leave, she slipped and fell in again.  Again, she was up and back in the pool almost immediately.

I have to admit – it was not her.  The floor of the pool was very slippery.  Todd slipped and almost fell in.  I slipped and fell while carrying Tess and banged my elbow good.  We’ve iced it all day, and I can still move it. But if anything touches it, I scream bloody murder.

But besides all of the falling and slipping, the BBQ was great.  The company was outstanding.  Tess had a blast, slept for an hour, and woke up in a great mood ready for more.  She really wanted to go into the big pool!  She is fearless.  Riley was excellent.  She swam, had her first Shirley Temple, ate BBQ, ate chocolate cake, played with other kids, and shared her toys.  Stellar afternoon!

Tomorrow Todd starts his language lessons.  He studied the first nine lessons by himself, so he could place out of the basic stuff.  He took his placement test on Friday and scored an 82%, which means that he will be in Level 2, which makes Todd very happy.  He actually took the test in hiragana, and most people take in romaji, so he is pretty much a bad ass.  For those of you who don’t know, Japanese has three different alphabets.  Kanji are 2000 characters from China.  Each character has its own sound and meaning.  Katakana are the symbols that are used to write (or draw) foreign words.  Each symbol represents a sound.  The hiragana are symbols that represents sounds that are Japanese words.  Romaji is using roman letters to spell out Japanese words.  So learning Japanese using romaji is the easy way out.

We did take a camera, but that just did not happen today.  Maybe next time.

Suma in the Sun

In : General, Posted by on Jul.07, 2008

So Todd and I and the girls and my friend Yuka from work and her daughter, Miki, headed down to Suma to visit their aquarium.  It was supposed to be a cloudy, rainy day, but it ended up being hot and sunny.  Riley got sunburned and blisters on her feet, but she was a trooper the entire day and loved every minute of it.  Tess was awake for about half of it, but she seemed to like what she saw.  Riley really liked playing with Miki, and they were adorable when they were “watching” the second dolphin show.

Here are some photos of the girls around house and at the aquarium.

The River

In : General, Posted by on Jul.07, 2008

IMG_0831.jpgis my favorite place.  We biked over to PriceClub with the girls this morning to order my flat of beer for the next two weeks and to pick up some other US imports.  Actually, my beer is a Belgian import, but its all 100% more expensive.  After that we stopped by the river, so that the girls could have some fun, and Todd and I again ate Subway on a towel.

I would have taken more photos, but we have a video on my little camera that I forgot about and now cannot get off.  Also, half of the photos Riley took.  They are very interesting.  Here they are.

School and Clouds

In : General, Travel, Posted by on Jul.07, 2008

I don’t think I’ve mentioned it, but Riley did get into the BB program at Canadian Academy.  She is very excited about starting her new school although she is still attending her old one.  We talked about her new school tonight after I finished reading to her.  We talked about how mommy and daddy don’t work during the summer, and when we go back to work, Riley and Tess will go to their new school.  I am not sure how much of what we talk about she understands, but we did have a breakthrough this week with her.

Swimming started this week at her preschool.  Riley loves to swim, but she does not do so well with people messing with her routine.  So I started talking to her last week about the change in her school schedule.  She said that she did not want to swim at school, and then started to cry.  She mentioned that she didn’t want to swim indoors.  Weird – I took her for a couple of swimming lessons when she was less than a year old at an indoor pool in Peru.  She hated every minute of it, and we stopped after a couple of lessons.  That is the only time we have swam indoors, but luckily the pool the kids swim at her preschool is outside.

So this morning, I packed the girls’ gear in their own bags.  Tess’s was blue and Riley’s was red, and we headed off to school.  There was a relatively low cry level at the drop off, and when we picked them up 3 hours later (after some mommy and daddy quality time shopping and lunching), Riley had gone swimming!  Yoshi her teacher said that it was crazy with 14 kids changing their clothes to go swimming.  She said that in the past this would have freaked Riley out with all of the craziness, but Yoshi said that Riley was the calm in the storm, just calmly changing and getting ready to swim!  Riley has brought it up about a 1/2 dozen times by telling everyone in the room that she swam at school today.

Tess has no problem swimming anywhere or doing anything anywhere really.  She knows her mind and loves to do things on her own.  Those girls couldn’t be more different – my petal and my bulldozer!

You know Tess really wants to leave the house because she will start bringing everyone their shoes.  She knows who wears what and will offer them several choices if they don’t take her first.

Also, we have three different sections to our fridge, the top is the normal fridge, the middle is the freezer, and the bottom section is a crisper.  We moved all of the kid friendly food to the crisper, so the kids could just help themselves when they wanted something.  Riley still will ask, but Tess is so happy that she can to get it when she wants it.  I often her hear her footsteps go into the kitchen which are followed by one of three things: 1) the kid spoon drawer open and slammed closed, which is a drawer she is allowed to use.  2) the fridge phonics toy 3) the opening and slamming close of the crisper.  She loves the independence and the food on demand it offers her.

So tonight I will finish a great book, The Cloud Atlas, which I cannot recommend enough.  Again, the book is old, 2004, but I have had two kids since then, so I am due to be a little behind on things.  If you have not read this, get it and read it.  Nevermind.  Send me your address, and I will send you my copy.  I am not sure what I will read next, so if anyone has any suggestions, I am all ears.  Just leave a comment giving me the name and author.  I can order most books in English through, so don’t worry about availability in Japan.

Todd is madly studying Japanese.  He has to take his placement test by the end of the week because his classes start next Monday, and he really doesn’t want to be in Level 1 where he will be bored.  Our good friend, Debbie, is going to be in level 2, too, and he would much rather take the course with someone he knows.  And Debbie is funny, so that helps, too.

Off to bed.  Sorry no new pics of the girls.  I forgot to take photos of the girls at the river, which was really too bad because they were hilarious.  Tess did take a spill at the river, and now her nose is skinned.  She cried a bit, but she was back in the water in under a minute.  See more evidence for that bulldozer nickname.