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November 25, 2016

Thanksgiving

Food, Japan, Life

This is our third year of hosting Thanksgiving dinner. Unlike previous years where we hosted a Thanksgiving dinner for all our Japanese and European friends, this year we hosted Thanksgiving for E’s Girl Scouts of America troop.

It was our troops very first Thanksgiving since it was created a year ago. Everyone brought a dish and everything was incredibly delicious. Since everyone brought something to share, I only had to cook a few things instead of the entire dinner.

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One mom read a book about the first Thanksgiving and about the pilgrims to the girls so that they could appreciate this holiday. To make this even more special, it was the first Thanksgiving in many years for some of our troop moms who have lived in Tokyo for many years. I can understand the nostalgia and the feelings of homesickness during the holidays so I was really happy we could host this special dinner for everyone.

Sometimes, I really miss being able to celebrate this holiday with my family. My family’s Thanksgiving is always a mish mash of food that ranged from Spaghetti in meat sauce to the traditional turkey to the red bean soup dessert my grandmother made every Thanksgiving and Christmas. It’s always a strange variety at the dinner table but it was my family’s tradition so it was always special.

Of course, even if I were to be able to celebrate with my family again, it wouldn’t be the same since my grandmother is no longer here with us.

So now it’s up to me to start my own tradition while living thousands of miles away from the rest of our family. It’s why even though it’s a lot of work every year, I want to host a Thanksgiving dinner for our friends. That is my tradition.

June 12, 2015

Going On A Solo Adventure

Japan, Travels

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As I’m posting this, I’m on a train traveling a few hours out of Tokyo without my family.

Yes, I get a whole weekend all to myself. No kids, no husband. Just me, myself, and I.

I’m behind on writing my posts but it’s okay because I plan to write during my solo time.

I’m headed down to Kyoto by myself this weekend because I am having serious wanderlust and I really need to recharge myself before summer holidays begin.

There are several places I have never been to in Kyoto that I really want to go check out too. And then on Saturday, I’ll get to meet up with some ladies for the first time. They’ve been a big part of my life in Japan these past two years but we have been mainly Facebook friends.

A part of me is so excited but also scared out of my mind because I have never traveled and stayed overnight anywhere on my own. It sounds silly when I write it out but I’ve always traveled with a traveling companion(s). I’ve transited from city to city alone before but staying at a hotel on my own? Nope, never done it before and it’s so scary being out there on my own. But the freedom of being on my own time and schedule is also exciting and definitely something I look forward to.

Well, time to enjoy the scenery outside my window in peace!

April 7, 2015

E’s Entrance Ceremony

Japan, Parenthood

Yesterday was E’s elementary entrance ceremony and it was a big deal.

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You know it’s a big deal because Jason went out and bought a suit and tie for this event. Anyone who knows Jason would tell you that him wearing a suit for anything is an event on its own.

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Anyway, back to the entrance ceremony…

In Japan, it’s a big deal when your child enters grade 1. It’s like the end of their carefree days as a small child and the beginning of what will be their academic life as they go down the road towards becoming responsible adults. Everything changes when they become elementary school students.

To celebrate this big life event, many Japanese elementary schools hold an entrance ceremony on the first day of school, usually in the first week of April which often coincides with the cherry blossoms blooming. Also, everyone dresses up nicely for the entrance ceremony. Parents and kids both dress up in suits and nice dresses to commemorate this event. Thus, the reason why Jason wore a suit yesterday.

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Upon entering the school, the kids find out which class they are assigned to. In E’s case, she was assigned to class 1 while all her friends from her previous school were assigned to class 2. It sucks that she’s all alone in her class but it might be good for her in the long run since it will force her to make new friends. At least I hope she does.

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After registering E’s paperwork, she was given a name tag and went with all the other kids in preparation for the ceremony while all parents were ushered to gym, where the ceremony took place.

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The ceremony was entirely in Japanese with a few times where there was English spoken but not too much. The Principal made a speech and welcomed the first graders to the school. Then the classroom teachers were introduced followed by the rest of the teachers the kids will have throughout their first year. After that, there was some more people introduced. I’m guessing those are community leaders and whatnots. I started to zone out a little since I didn’t know who they were.

There was also a performance by the grade 2 students and a small welcome speech by 2 grade 6 boys.

All-in-all, the ceremony itself went on for about 45 minutes. At the end, all the kids left the gym and parents were asked to stay to listen to the PTA leaders talk about the PTA.

After all the long speeches were done, we took class photos. All the parents of class 1 went up to the stage to stand for the photo and our kids sat at the front with the principal and teachers. After we were done, class 2 went and took their photo while we went back to the classroom.

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The homeroom teacher spoke to the class and parents about stuff. I wasn’t actually in the room since it was too crowded and didn’t hear what was going on. It didn’t really matter anyway since it was also all in Japanese. At least Jason was in the classroom getting all the info.

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The class then said their goodbyes to the teacher and everyone packed up ALL the stuff that was given to them from the school and headed home.

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This was all the stuff that we were given by the school to take home and label. Text books, desk sets, math sets, etc. Every little thing that can be found in this set of stuff had to have her name on it. Every little thing includes each individual card from a card deck, every single crayon…which means I have my work cut out for me this week.

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It doesn’t sound like a very exciting day from the way I explained it but it was definitely an experience for Jason, E, and I. E doesn’t remember any Japanese and just went with the flow of the class. She was talking with the girl who was her partner but that girl probably didn’t have E’s English fluency. She’s super shy and scared of being alone in the class but is making an effort to learn how to fit in.

Jason and I were just proud parents of our little first grader. It was as much a rite of passage for us as it was for her. It’s also mixed with worry about how E will fit in with her lack of Japanese. Hopefully, she will make new friends in the next few weeks who will help her out. We were already approached by several parents who introduced their kids to E in English. So that’s a good sign.

So now we wait and see how things go. Hopefully, she’ll pick up more Japanese in the coming weeks and gain more confidence as well as overcome her shyness so that she can make good friends in class.

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Congratulations on your entry into elementary school, E!

April 5, 2015

Ready for the Big Day!

Japan, Parenthood

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School hat… Check!
Randoseru (Japanese school backpack)… Check!
Gym shoes… Check!
Slippers for parents… Check!
Bag for outdoor shoes… Check!
All necessary forms filled out and prepared… Check!
Daycare extended hour care for K… Check!
Jason’s suit ensemble… Check!
Nice clothes for me… Check!
E’s outfit for the entrance ceremony… Check!

All we need to do now is make sure we wake up and get there bright and early and on time for the elementary school entrance ceremony tomorrow!

August 27, 2014

Summer Shenanigans – Legoland

Japan, Parenthood

This summer, one of the things I really wanted to do was spend a bit more solo time with E since I know it’s been hard on her ever since K became more possessive of me.

So I put K into daycare a few more days every month so that I can go out and do things with E without constantly getting distracted by her baby sister.

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One of the things E really wanted to do with our mommy-and-me time was to go to the Lego Discovery Center in Odaiba.

Prior to this summer, we went at most twice since we didn’t like being in the crowd and it’s always trickier to go with both girls since E and K play in different areas. But with K in daycare, E and I went quite often. (I lost count of how many times we went!) I even got us annual passes which we quickly made good use of.

It’s a pretty great place despite the fact that it’s not very big and definitely not as impressive as Legoland in San Diego. Legoland in San Diego is an amusement park while the one in Odaiba is more like an indoor play space.

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It’s good for us though since I can take E there and let her run loose and play without worrying about her too much. I do keep an eye on her when she moves from one area to the next so it’s not like I am unaware of where she is.

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The Lego Discovery Center is pretty fun since they do have some small rides, a 4D theater, a giant play area for kids to climb around and slide, and several areas for kids to play with Legos. They even have a small cafeteria area, though I find them a bit expensive for food that is a little subpar. I usually get E to eat before going and then we eat again after we leave.

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E loves this place a lot even though I’ve lost interest in going a while back but since we go because she wants to, I don’t mind so much. They also have a Lego shop at the exit, which I have unfortunately been unable to avoid purchasing Lego kits every time we went. It’s my own fault since I want to buy Legos to play with just as much as E does and it seems easier for me to let her buy her own set than to let her play with mine.

Yes, I should set an example and share but I don’t really want to :)

One other nice thing about Legoland is that after you leave and take the elevator down, there is a Baskin Robbins right by the exit of the building. We both love Baskin Robbins so we always make a pit stop for some ice cream before heading home with our new toys.

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The fun doesn’t stop there for us since E and I spend the hour or two after getting home building our new Legos and playing with them before K comes home from daycare with Jason.

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It’s a weird way to spend time together for some parents but I’m happy to share my love of Legos with E :)

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August 17, 2014

So far this summer… Splash pool fun

Japan, Parenthood

Summer is winding down finally! We have 2 more weeks left before E starts her last year of Kindy. All I can say is that I’m all burned out from this summer and in desperate need for a few days off from the kids. I really don’t know how stay-at-home moms do this all the time.

This summer has been a busy one with the kids home and us moving and all. We’ve been quite productive though and there is always never a dull moment. I always want to write about the places we go and the things we do but I get distracted easily and never actually get around to it. So here’s an attempt to write a little about some of the shenanigans we’ve been up to this summer (since I’m currently “hiding” from my family at Starbucks on a Sunday morning).

One of the things we’ve been going to a lot this summer that I’ve never done much of in previous years was to go to splash pools (or wading pools if you prefer to call it that).

Summers in Tokyo are unbearably hot and humid. While Jason and I don’t mind staying indoors in the AC all day long, our kids need to be out and about to get some energy out. Unfortunately, it’s also really hot and humid outdoors which in turn makes us all grumpy and sweaty.

That’s where the beauty of splash pools come in.

Apparently, all over Tokyo there are parks that turn their fountains on during the summer and allow kids to go in and play in the water. The best part is that even babies in swim diapers are allowed in. It’s a big revelation since a lot of the public pools here don’t allow kids in swim diapers to use their facilities. It’s the reason I don’t go as often as I’d like to.

Anyway, this year we went to a few that some of our friends introduced us to. All I can say is why in the world did it take me so long to discover these little pool of water heavens? These places are perfect sizes for small kids! Unfortunately, it seems they are meant for kids only since I have yet to see an adult throw themselves into the fountains. I would love to run through the fountains too if it didn’t make all the other adults look at me strangely.

Here are the few that we went to this summer:

Toyosu fountain

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Technically, this photo was from last summer but K and I did go there once this summer. This play fountain is great since it’s right in front of a bakery so while the kids play in the water, parents can sit back and enjoy a coffee and some baked goods. It is a little awkward though since the fountain is also in front of a business/house high rise so if you go during the weekday, you’d see a lot of working people walking about during lunchtime. Good access too since it’s right in front of the elevators coming up from the Yurakucho subway line.

Odaiba park by the Maritime Museum

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This water fountain is located near the Maritime Museum in Odaiba, right by the bay. It’s great because it also has these nozzles that sprays out water every few minutes and the kids just go nuts over them. Another good feature is the slight incline into the ankle deep waters. K was at first intimidated by the fountain but she gradually worked her way into the deeper parts of the water and had a lot of fun playing in it. There’s even a large pirate ship playground nearby for post-pool playtime.

Shinjuku Chuo Park

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This splash pool is located in a park that I didn’t even know existed in Shinjuku since most of the time, we go to the pay park. But this one is free and even has a flea market on the weekends. It’s in an enclosed pool area and the water tends to be a little deeper than the previous ones we went to but it really only goes up to my shins. It does get a little crowded on the weekends and they make you get out every hour for cleaning, I think. There is also a play area adjacent to the splash pool.

Honshibakoen park by Tamachi Station

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This one is a wonderful discovery made by our friends. It’s actually pretty close by to where we live (it’s located in our ward) and we can easily access it by the local bus. The nice thing about it is that it’s not that crowded and is located in a small park by the JR Tamachi train station. It’s great for us since we don’t have to travel too far to get to it and the kids love it.

Rinshin no Mori

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This one is a bit farther out there since it’s located closer to Meguro. It’s actually the most natural looking fountain since it’s located in a really big park. Unfortunately, it’s also super crowded and has the strongest smell of chlorine. It has a pretty cool waterfall that kids love to climb up and down and they do have a faucet area to rinse off afterwards though. Lots of shade too.

Andersen park

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This one is actually way, way out in Chiba at the Andersen amusement park. E went there with her school for their annual spring fieldtrip. The fountain is really huge and the kids had a blast playing in here. It’s definitely E’s favorite one because of the size and she constantly asks me when we can go back there. Unfortunately, it’s really far out there and I think you need to have a car or find a tour bus to take you there.

Splash parks are really cool and I really wish that I could put on my swimsuit and join the kids in them too. Luckily, they are all located in parks or near parks and are free. Summer may be coming to an end soon but at least I know where to take the kids next summer!