Adjusting to a New Environment

Haru started her first day of preschool in the US a couple of days ago. Luckily for me, this particular daycare has in room Internet cameras, so I was able to watch her for most of the morning. However, the camera quality is somewhat poor, and some of the cameras are set in really odd locations so it’s hard to see what’s going on, or even know who’s who.

At first, I was in the cafe, (which is really just a cafeteria), and  saw little girl in pink sitting next to another little girl eating breakfast. She look a lot like Haru, so at first I thought that that was her. But then, I soon realized that this little girl, who looked at lot like Haru, was way too well adjusted to be Haru.  She comfortable sipped on her milk and sat there without any adults at the table.   I then decided that that wasn’t Haru and I was right.

After about an hour of fiddling with web page and searching the rooms, I finally spotted her. Through the poor quality camera video, she looked to be crying hysterically and clinging to one of the teachers.   Ah yes, that’s more like the Haru I know. The teacher seemed to very patient, but I could tell that she was getting a bit tired and somewhat annoyed because she had to let Haru sit on her lap a lot of the times and sometimes even carry her.

After a while, Haru seemed to have adjusted a bit. She wasn’t as clingy as she was earlier, and she seemed to be listening attentively to the teacher. At that moment, I wondered what Haru was thinking. She was in a strange environment around people who don’t speak the same language that she’s been use to hearing for the last 2 and half years of her life. Although I did as much as I could to prep her with English lessons, was it enough for her to at least understand a little bit of what the teacher is saying?   Since the video had no sound, I wondered of Haru was trying to speak to the teachers in English, or if she was speaking Japanese to them. She didn’t seemed to be talking too much, but I noticed a couple of time she showed some flashes of frustration probably due to the inability to get her point across.

At times, it got unbearable to watch as the other children seemed to be well adjusted and use to being there, while Haru seemed so confused and out of place. I just wanted to pluck her off my computer screen and give her a hug and tell her that she’ll be okay, but of course that wasn’t possible.

One thing I noticed during the little time I spent in front of my computer screen watching Haru, was that none of the children seemed to be interacting with each other. The teachers seemed to just be telling stories or showing the kids what nots, but the kids didn’t really seem to be talking to each other. But then again, I only spent about an hour of her six hour day observing, so I’m sure that there was a lot more than meets the eye.

Finally, as the children quieted down to prepare for their afternoon nap, I thought to myself that maybe it was a bit premature to send Haru off to a preschool in a foreign country (perceived by her). But then again, I figured that this experience is going to make her stronger and prepare her for real school in the future, so whatever she gets out of it, it will all be positive.

Candid screen shots:

Listening  attentively to the teacher

A bit more relaxed

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Studying abroad

Last Saturday, Haruka and my wife headed off to the States. They will be staying at my mother’s house while Haru goes to preschool in the hopes that she learns some English. it will be difficult in many ways because Haru hasn’t spent no more than an hour away from my wife or myself for more than hour. The second challenge will for to be able understand and pick up the language to be able to communicate effectively with the others. Being only 2 years old, it’s the prime age to quickly adapt a foreign language and become proficient in it, because at 2 years old, she has yet become proficient in any language.

I drove both my wife and Haru to the airport. My wife was very concerned that Haru would fall asleep in the car and that she won’t be able to sleep on the plane. My wife decided to sit in the back seat with Haru to entertain her and keep her awake for the duration of the trip to the airport.   Fortunately, this strategy worked brilliantly, and despite a couple of attempts to nod off to sleep, my wife did a good job of keeping Haru awake.

At the airport, Haru was wide awake, but at the same time I can tell that the lack of sleep was making her a bit fussy.  She was in her I’m not listening to anyone! moods, and acted up a lot.  There was a water fountain in the middle of the lobby, where she wanted to play in.  Obviously, being only hours away from boarding 14 hour flight, it would be wise to play with the water, but unfortunately Haru thought otherwise and proceeded to dip her hands and arms into the fountain and nearly drenched herself.  I managed to pry her away from the fountain and take her to her mother where she was dried off.

Later, we all had lunch and lounged out in the lobby for a bit.  By the time it was time to say our goodbyes, Haru had mellowed out a bit.  Originally, my wife wanted to take Haru to the children’s play area passed the security check point to try her to tire out even more so that she’d sleep on the plane, but I advised against it.  Haru seemed to be down from a hyperactive high (for the lack of a better term), so I thought that letting her play in the play area will make her catch a second wind (or in this case, her third wind) and bring her tension level back up.  I figured that letting her come down a bit, while trying to keep her awake until for a couple more hours will make her sleep on the plane.  Luckily I was right and I made a good call on this.

At Narita

Wanting to jump into the fountain

Saying goodbye

Playing at a park in the US


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Weekend Madness

Last weekend we spent the day at my grandmother’s house in Tokyo. We rarely have the opportunity visit my grandmother these days, so it was a good chance to meet up with everyone. Haruka’s second cousins were there and they made the same ruckus they usually do when the get together.

Haruka’s slapping habit seems to be resurfacing again. Before, Haruka had a very limited vocabulary so the only way she could vent her frustrations was to either cry or hit someone. But since she has a fair sized vocabulary now, her slapping habits have tapered off, but recently it seems to be re-emerging.

While we were at my grandmother’s house, Haru and one of her second cousins were playing with a very old message chair that has been in my grandmother’s house since even when I was a baby. For some reason, Haru and her second cousin got into a little scuffle. And being a boy, her second cousin strong armed her and kind of bullied her away, so that he could have the chair to himself. Well Haru, being somewhat of a bully in her own right (not too proud of this, and we are trying to fix this before she starts school), wasn’t having any of the bullying, and gave her second cousin an opened handed slap across his face…twice, Dr. David Schultz style. Well, as much as I want Haru to be able to stand up to bullies, I was not going to allow her to slap anyone without a scolding from me. So I sat her down and scolded her firmly. She later gave her second cousin a somewhat insincere sounding apology, but she’s only two years old so I can’t really expect her to give a heart felt apology.

Later that day, the unthinkable happened. While playing with her second cousins, Haruka managed to lock herself into my grandmother’s bedroom which caused somewhat of an incident. Somehow, Haruka was able to figure out how to lock the bedroom door which is a deadbolt type of lock that needs a key to open it. Unfortunately, the was lock in the bedroom with her. At first, we tried to coach Haru to unlock the door, but she didn’t understand the concept of what a lock is. All she knew is that the door would not open, and the more time we spent trying to coach her, the more she panicked.

We all frantically tried to find ways of getting the door open. I even contemplated scaling the outside of building from the second floor balcony, but there was nothing to grasp onto. When I got back to the bedroom door, Haru’s whimpers were now screams of hysteria and desperation.

I recalled a couple of occasions when I was a kid when I was confined in a small space and couldn’t get out. I remembered the traumatizing feeling I got of feeling trapped and panicked. The first time was in an elevator in a very old building. I was with my mother, but it was still very frightening none-the-less. The second time was in a car by myself. I remember screaming and crying for what seemed to be several hours in an empty parking lot inside of a car at night. It was an awful feeling that lingered with me for years, and caused me to have separation anxiety for a very long time.

The last thing I remembered was my cousin’s wife saying “poor thing” as Haru was screaming at the top of her lungs which was causing her to cough. And then, something in me snapped. The next thing I knew, I was on the other side of door holding Haru, trying to comfort her. I looked back at the door and saw a fairly large hole in it, and the wooden door seals were shredded into bits. It was only then I realized that I had broken the door down using brute force.

It’s something you’d only see in the movies, and until last weekend I really didn’t think anyone could actually break a door down; at least I didn’t think I could ever do it. Then you sometimes hear about the mother who lifted a car off of their child who was trapped underneath it. I guess in dire situations, adrenaline just kicks in, and all of a sudden, you have super human strength.

Afterwards, I felt really bad about the door and insisted that my grandmother get it fixed and send me the bill. But knowing her, she won’t do it, which makes me feel even worse. Haru seemed to be okay after the whole ordeal. She didn’t have any nightmares that night, so perhaps she’ll be okay and left untraumatized.

Haruka running laps around the room

Haruka and Karin sitting in the old massage chair

Haru and Shyu sharing the old massage chair

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Rocky: A True life Toy Story

Rocky is a little stuffed raccoon that my father gave me when I was a baby.  It’s probably the very first toy I’ve ever owned.  I’m not sure why I named it Rocky.  Perhaps I named it after Rocky the Flying Squirrel from the The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons (because he kind of resembles the squirrel), which were my favorite as a kid.  With my parent’s divorce and moving around a lot from city to city, Rocky was one of the very few constants in my life.  Every time we moved to a new town, I had to get use to a new school, a new house, and  make new friends all over again.  That was always very difficult for me, but no matter where we lived Rocky was there.  Rocky provided what little stability I had when I was kid.  He was my first and sometimes my only friend, and by far  my favorite toy of all time.  Still having it to this day is a testament to that.

I remember one time when I was about 5 years old I lost Rocky, and I cried for literally days.  I also remember that a little boy had a stuffed raccoon that looked identical to Rocky and I accused him of stealing him from me and took it back away from him.  But I was so in touch with Rocky that I soon figured out that that stuffed raccoon wasn’t Rocky.  It’s snout was was yellow and it was a bit more worn than Rocky was, so I gave it back.  I don’t remember exactly how I got I Rocky back after that; I think my mom eventually found him somewhere, but I remember how much I missed him and I never let him go after that.

A few years later, we got a little pet toy poodle that I named Toto (yeah, after the little Yorkie in the Wizard of Oz).  Rocky quickly became a second stringer to Toto, after all Toto was a real living dog.  As a matter of fact, Rocky became Toto’s chew toy.  I always took Rocky away from Toto if I saw him chewing on it and trying to destroy it.  But some times I would leave Rocky on my bed when I would go off to school, and Toto would grab him and try to tear him to bits.  Unfortunately, one day Toto succeeded.  Toto tore Rocky’s head eyes and nose off, and his felt hands and feet were chewed off.  Needless to say, I was devastated.  My mother tried her best to repair Rocky.  His head was sewn back on, and his nose was replaced with a small shirt button, but one of his eyes was never found.  After that I kept Rocky as far out of Toto’s reach as possible.

As a teenager,  I had Rocky on a shelf on in my bedroom.  Of course, I didn’t sleep with Rocky at my side like I did when I was a kid, but I did take it down from the shelf from time to time just to look at his tattered and torn face and body, especially on days when I was sad and depressed.  He reminded my of how much we been through together, and that there is no problem that can’t be solved, or trouble I can’t recover from.

I moved into my university’s dorms during my first year of college, so of course I couldn’t take Rocky with me (for fear of ridicule, but more for fear that I may lose him or that Rocky may be a victim of a college prank).  As with my other belongings, I packed Rocky away in a box and stored him away in the attic in my mother’s house.  Over the years, I had completely forgotten about Rocky and his whereabouts.  My mother had since, moved to Atlanta so I didn’t think that she would take Rocky with her…but she did.

A few nights ago, my mom surprised me with bringing Rocky to Japan.  This is perhaps Rocky’s first trip to Japan, and it felt strange to see him here.   He still had his tattered torn  face and shirt button nose, but it made be so happy to see my oldest and best childhood friend again.  He looked very fragile as if his head might fall off or something, and he looks a bit skinnier (undoubtedly from losing some stuffing from holes in between my mom’s  hand stitching on his neck.)  The fur was no longer soft and supple, but more hard and stiff.

I decided to give Rocky to Haruka, because she took to him immediately.  Strangely enough, she keeps calling him kitsune, which means “fox” in Japanese, so I corrected her and told her that his name is Rocky and that Rocky is a raccoon.   She was able to figure it out because she pointed to a picture of a raccoon on TV and said “racoon,  like Rocky”, but sometimes she still refers to him as kitsune.

I still have a lot of plenty of sentimental attachment to this toy which now seemed be  an old rag.  I want Haruka to enjoy him as much as I did when I was a kid.  But in the condition that Rocky is in, I don’t think he will survive another childhood.  I went online and found some stuffed animal repair shops on the web.  Apparently, some of these shops can completely refurbish stuffed animals by unstuffing it, washing the fabric, replacing missing eyes and noses, replacing or restoring any missing material, and then restuffing him.  I thought about having Rocky refurbished, but then I got to thinking.  Rocky hasn’t never been washed or cleaned before.  To me, all of my childhood memories and my tears from all of times I cried holding Rocky is on the fabric that makes Rocky.  To me, that is what makes Rocky …Rocky.  And if he is refurbished or washed, then Rocky will no longer be Rocky, but rather just another stuffed animal in Haruka’s collection.

Then it happened.  The other day, my wife took Haruka grocery shopping and Haruka wanted to take Rocky with her.  I told  Haru to leave Rocky home because Rocky is old and not feeling too well.   But she said she would take care of kitsune.  So I decided to trust her.

My wife, Haruka, and Rocky spent two hours at the grocery store while I ran my own errands.  The hole time I imagined Rocky’s head being torn off or losing his other eye.   Maybe I shouldn’t have let her take Rocky!  Or Maybe I should have at least told her to leave Rocky in the car!

After running my errands, I returned to store to pick up my wife and Haruka from the store, hoping that Rocky was still in one piece, or at least in repairable condition.  After a few minutes of waiting in the parking lot my wife and Haruka emerged from the store.  I glanced over at Haruka and she had a fully in tact Rocky in her hands.  I breathed a sigh of relief.

On the ride home, my wife told me about the “situation” they had with Rocky.  Apparently, Haruka stopped off in the toy section to play with some toys.  She  then told my wife that she needed to use the restroom so my wife took Haruka to the restroom.  After she finished her business, she told my wife “kitsune is gone!” The two of them had scrambled frantically looking all over the store looking for Rocky.  Eventually, they found him right where Haruka left him -in the toy section.  Rocky was way too dirty and damaged to be mistaken for a new toy, so someone must have figured out that the someone left him, and propped him up so that Haruka could easily find him.

This whole situation  got me to think that Rocky is no longer my toy, and that although I have a deep sentimental attachment to him, I need to let go and give Haruka a chance to enjoy him.  Perhaps eventually when she get older, she’ll appreciate how precious Rocky was to me and take good care of him.  But in order for her to have a childhood with Rocky without him falling to pieces on her, he’ll need to be fixed properly.  So when Haruka goes off to the States this weekend, I am going to send Rocky off to get repaired.

Haru and Rocky

Haru and Rocky

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Summer is Here

Lately, Haruka has been involved in a lot of extra-curricular activities.   She has been attending her usual pre-school, which is now once a month, as well as starting gymnastics and going to English pre-school.  I have notice good strides in her English abilities.  She’s got a good sized vocabulary and she seems to understand me when I speak to her in English.  She’s still not very good a forming complete sentences (in English yet).  She can say This is a _______, but often times forgets to say a or is, and her speech is a bit choppy.   I guess this will improve with time, and I just need to be persistent in teaching her.

Another thing she is having a hard time with is remembering colors.  It seems that when she doesn’t remember a particular color, she’ll default to blue.  So if the color is yellow, and she can’t remember the word yellow, she’ll say blue.

She is very good with tangible objects and nouns, especially animals and food items.  Sometimes she surprises me when she actually remembers things that I had only taught her once, or never taught her at all  (undoubtedly, something she picked up from either TV or her English pre-school).

This is a period when she is able to pick up things at a very alarming speed, probably faster than she’ll be able to learn any other time in her life.  Therefore I think its really important to get her more exposure to English language, much more than I can offer and even more than her English pre-school can give her.  The only way I can really think of to get her 24/7 exposure (or close to it) to a native English environment, is to send her to the States.  So from the 19th of this month, Haruka will be spending 6 weeks in Atlanta with her grandmother.

During her six weeks abroad, she will be attending a privately run pre-school so she will be among other children about the same age.  Hopefully, this constant exposure to teachers and other children who speak English will force her to learn native level English.  When she returns from the States, my plan is to not speak to her in Japanese anymore, and to maintain her English by speaking to her in English and continuing my own English lessons with her.

Below is a video of Haruka and her second cousin enjoying playing with the water:

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There was some serious downtime in the last few days.  I spent a lot of time in the last few days upgrading my blog server and trying to recover data that I thought was lost forever. Luckily for me, I was able to bring the dead hard drive from the broken blog server back to life long enough to recover the years worth of missing blogs. This was a HUGE relief to me. I was so sad when I thought I had lost one year of Haruka’s life because of my carelessness, but all is well now. I have added a MUCH bigger hard drive the the server, and took a back up of the data. I still need figure out a way of automatically backing up the data on some kind of schedule, because doing it manually is some what of a pain. Additionally, the upgrades, which yielded a lot more disk space allows me to add a gallery to this blog, so I may update it every few weeks or so with new pictures.

Haruka and her mom will be going off to Atlanta in a few weeks. This is an effort to try to get Haruka, whom we now occasionally refer to as “Vicki” (her western nickname), to learn English. She has picked up a lot from me in the last few months and is able to understand it, but she still struggles with saying full sentences, and remembering verbs. She also seems to struggle with colors. I would hold up a blue object and ask her what color it is, and she would say “red”. However, one thing that I am impressed with is the fact that she does know the difference between Japanese and English, so that is a very good sign that she will be able to adjust to life in an all English speaking environment.

taking Princess for a walk

and a run.

Hugging her lion.

undoubtedly being mischievous

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