Archive for April, 2009

More birthdays

In : General, Posted by on Apr.04, 2009

Birthday kids!

Today we celebrated a triple birthday: Zoe, Andrew, and Jazz all met to share a party.  The celebration moved to the school, because typhoon force winds had covered the backyard in a layer of laundry from all over Kansai, but there was still plenty of fun and food to make everyone forget the bad weather.  Oh yes, and the theme was princesses and pirates, so, of course, our girls dressed up like princesses.

Todd’s last minute compromise of “pirate princesses” was ignored.

The girls had a blast, and they are still playing with the recorders.  And thanks for those, by the way. They’ve really added a lot to our afternoon. Your gift has already got me thinking of suitable retaliation in the next round of goody-bags.

Here are the photos.

Riley Got a New Bike!

In : General, Posted by on Apr.04, 2009

The girls on their bikes

So we have been thinking about buying Riley a bike for some time now, but we didn’t want to spend a small fortune.  So while we were at our biannual Costco run, we picked up a cute little pink and white Huffy.  It is a little big for her, but she can pedal and steer all on her own, and she got to the park all on her own.

Tess usually demands that it is her bike, but so far only a few minutes of meltdown before she will reluctantly get on her bike.  Here are photos of the bike, the girls, and the playground.

FFF, Denis’s BDay, Easter, Family Update, and Summer Plans

In : General, Posted by on Apr.04, 2009


Wow!  Last weekend was really busy, but we have some great photos from it.

Last Saturday, the PTA had its big event, the Food and Fun Fair.  I organized the Parade of Nations and the National Costume Contest.  Todd took some great photos of it here.

The kids waiting to start their Easter egg hunt.

Then Sunday was Denis’s 2nd birthday and Easter rolled into one big party (with his real birthday being Monday).  Celia helped the kids make Easter baskets, and she had each kid select a color of eggs, and then the Dads went and hid them.  The finale was that each kid got their own good bag with treats and crackers (mini explosive devices, not the savory flat treat).  Also, there was great food and fantastic mimosas.  Pictures are here.

This week I am recovering from a 24 hour flu with fever, aches and pains, and fatigue, and Riley is recovering from a bad ear infection. Todd has been helping out with the alumni magazine, and Tess has been talking up a storm.

Riley finds her first pink egg.

Riley has been so much better with the temper tantrums.  She has also been such a good sister.  She has been sharing her favorite things with her sister.  We will soon be purchasing a new bike for her to celebrate her big girldom.  She is reading up a storm and loving school.  The author, Jon Agee, just visited the school, and she received two autographed books from him (that I purchased beforehand).  But he wrote in each, “To Riley” and then he drew a picture related to the book.  It was so cool that she was able to meet an author/illustrator of books that she already owned (and now she owns some more).  Riley has also been obsessed with pictures of me, Todd, Tess, and her when we were all babies.  Riley and Tess’s pictures are online, but she has also been looking at actual pictures of Todd and I.

Tess sees something spectacular.

Tess has made so much progress in speaking.  She says complete sentences and notices everything.  We are reading an alphabet food book that the Schatzkys gave us (really, Celia), and she says every fruit and vegetable from rhubarb to swiss chard.  I think it is hilarious, but she takes it all very seriously.  She has been struggling with sharing, but she is first to announce (loudly) that some is “not sharing Tessy.”   She still has a fantastic appetite, but her favorites are plain yogurt, popsicles, bananas and blueberries.  She is finally going to bed easier.  It is almost not a fight to get her to go to sleep.  Above all else, my favorite thing about her right now is when she runs.  She put her head down, and she gives it her all.  She is also addicted to a purple knit hat that the mom of my friend, Rachel, made when Riley was born.  So she is running all over Rokko Island with a purple knit hat (and it is not that cold).  It just cracks me up.

Summer is gearing up.  A good friend is moving into our building.  Another good friend is leaving earlier for the summer to have her second baby.  Finally, another good friend is gearing up to move here.  Todd received funding for his Japanese lessons and Japanese theater studies this summer.  Todd and I will also be teaching summer school again.  And a summer would not be complete without visitors, so Vicky, Dan, Lindsay, and her boyfriend, Tony will be joining us for about a month starting mid June.

Well, that is about it from the Welbi for now.  I am sure I will have more updates and photos after Riley gets her new bike!


In : General, Posted by on Apr.04, 2009

Cherry Blossoms

Viewing cherry blossoms is one of the major pastimes of the Japanese.  There is a very limited set of days when the blossoms are at their peak.  This year cherry blossom (sakura) season has been plagued with cold weather, rain, and gray skies.  These conditions make less than perfect viewing of the blossoms.

Tess refused to sit down and clung to the side of the merry go round.

Yesterday it rained all day, and so today when the forecast was mostly cloudy, we decided to venture out to the see the cherry blossoms even though they wouldn’t probably peak until next week or even until next weekend.

There are a ton of destinations in the area for optimal cherry blossom viewing.  We decided to return to the same place as last year, Sakura Shukugawa.  Shukugawa is a river that runs through a residential area and the walking path that follows the river on both sides is lined with Sakura trees.  The added benefit of having a close playground sealed the deal for us.

Riley and Tess asleep in our bed.  It was much cuter after we were awake.

So we (including the Schatzkys and Williamses) headed out early this morning (9:30am) to secure a place for our tarp, and then spend the day relaxing.  It all worked out well.  We got a lovely spot.  There was a lot of interesting stuff to see – country line dancing, Japanese dancing, drunk young adult Japanese playing drinking games.

More cherry blossoms

I have scoped out an even better location at the same site for next year.  I hope that the blossoms and the weather are better next year!  Here are some great photos – mostly of the kids, but there are a few of the cherry blossoms.

Miyajima and Hiroshima with lots of 9th graders

In : General, Posted by on Apr.04, 2009

Each year the 9th graders visit Hiroshima as a part of the 9th grade curriculum.  I was fortunate enough to be able to tag along as a completely unessential member of the trip.  I took some great photos, so I guess I was the photographer.

We all met at Shin-Kobe station where we boarded the skinkansen for the 1.25 hour train ride to Hiroshima.  From there it was a short train ride to the ferry that transported us to Miyajima.  Here the famous Shinto shrine has its gate is in the water.  It is one of a handful of imperial shrines in Japan, and it is said that the original structure was built in the 500s.

Here is my attempt at the story behind this shrine:


Amateratsu and Susanoo were “sibling” gods.  Amaterasu is the sun godess and probably the most important god in Shinto.  Her brother, Susanoo, was the god of storms.  They didn’t get along, and because of him, she locks herself in a cave.  To lure her out, the gods place a mirror and a jewel in front of the cave and have a party.  She was lured out, and she rejoined the world bringing the sun with her.  The party is the root of all Matsuri (Japanese festivals), and the mirror and the jewel become two of the three imperial regalia.


His actions that make her lock herself in a cave also get him banished from heaven.  He ends up in the Izumo province on the coast of the Sea of Japan.  There he sees a man, his wife and their daughter crying.  He asks them what is the matter, and they explain that there is an 8 headed, 8 tailed dragon that threatens the city, and so a child is sacrificed to keep it from attacking the city.  Their daughter has been selected to be sacrificed.  Susanoo says that he will take of it.  He gets 8 barrels of sake and leaves it for the dragon.  The dragon drinks the sake, gets drunk and falls asleep.  While he is asleep, Susanoo beheads him, and cuts off all of his tails.  In one of the tails he finds a sword, which becomes the third piece of the imperial regalia.  The family is so happy, and Susanoo ends up marrying the girl he saved, and they have three daughters.  The Miyajima shrine is in honor of the three daughters.

We stayed there for the morning and had lunch at a great Okonomiyaki.


Then we were off to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.  They had a great audio tour and very moving exhibits.  Once we finished the museum, we ventured into the Peace Park and ended up at the Children’s Peace Memorial.  This Memorial is the memory of Sadako who was 2 when the atomic bomb hit Hiroshima.  She died of Luekemia 10 years later, and she was trying to make 1000 cranes to bring her good luck and hopefully save her life.  She died before she finished, and her classmated finished the 1000 for her.  It is not uncommon for visitors to bring 1000 cranes with them as our 9th graders did.

Then we returned to the train station, and we were home by 6pm.

It was an amazing trip.  A special thanks to Bob Hengal who makes it happen year after year.