The second day (Haru’s birthday) at Tokyo Disney Resort was much better. It was cold, but the sun was out and it wasn’t raining anymore. We started the day by having breakfast at Chef Mickey, and we got to meet Mickey Mouse once again. Haru was in a better mood, she ate more than she did yesterday, and her asthma had subsided a bit, which was a relief. As bonus for staying at the Ambassador Hotel, we were given passes that allowed us into Disneyland 15 minutes earlier than the general public. It may not seem like much time, but it was the difference between having to wait hour to ride Monsters Inc (one of the more popular rides) and waiting only 20 minutes.
We were able knock out a lot of rides before the afternoon. We even got on Space Mountain, which we couldn’t get on last year, because Haru didn’t meet the 102cm height requirement. By the way, Haru was 101.5cm in October 2011. She is now 107cm. I can’t believe how much she has grown in just one year. On Karin’s (Haru’s 2nd cousin) 5th birthday, she was also 107cm, which means that they are growing at about the same pace. Haru didn’t like Space Mountain or Tower of Terror (two of the most extreme rides at Disneyland) because she said it made her “float” out of her seat. But considering that some of her friends were too afraid to get on these rides, or cried when they did, I think Haru did well.
Haru’s mood improved throughout the day and she even asked me to take her picture which was nice. We took her to see the shows and she especially enjoyed Stitch which is one of her favorite Disney characters.
By the evening, we were all pretty tired and were debating on whether or not to leave early and have another Disneyland trip minus the fireworks show. We left the park to have dinner at the Rainforest Cafe, a rain forest themed restaurant near the hotel we stayed at the previous night. After we ordered our food, Haru fell asleep almost immediately because her asthma was starting to act up a bit.
After we had dinner, we strategized on how to get Haru -now sound asleep and refusing to wake up, back to the car. No matter how much we tried we couldn’t get her to wake up. We had to cancel her birthday cake that we had planned to have delivered to our table after dinner.
After about 20 minutes, Haru finally woke up. I expected her to be sleepy, and in a bad mood again, but she was very upbeat and asked if we could go back to Disneyland again to do some shopping. Not sure of what to do, we hopped on the shuttle bus back to Disneyland where the car was parked. We asked Haru a few times what she wanted to do, and she insisted on heading back to Disneyland and getting some shopping and fireworks in before we left. She seemed to be wide awake and energetic again. It’s amazing what just a little sleep does.
We visited a few shops and told Haru that she could choose one more present, but she kept picking out dolls and stuffed animals which she already has too many of. I sneaked out if the gift shop that Haru and my wife were in to go to another nearby gift shop on Disney Main Street to buy Haru a surprise birthday present. I knew just what she wanted, and I knew my wasn’t going to buy it for her.
After 15 minutes of searching for it, I finally found it. The baby blue dress that Alice wore in Alice in Wonderland. I bought the dress but didn’t give it to her right away (because she would have insisted on changing into to on the spot.)
We watched the fireworks (finally), and called it the evening. Haru usually falls asleep before our car even manages to leave the parking lot, but this time she managed to stay awake all the way to the expressway. A very very eventful 5th birthday. Not sure if it’s worth repeating for the 6th birthday, we were already finding ourselves planning on what to do next year.
Haruka turned five today, and to celebrate this big milestone, we’re spending two days at Tokyo Disney Resort. Yesterday was the first day, and it rained ice cold rain for most of the day. This made Haru’s asthma act up, so she was in somewhat of a bad mood all day despite being in one of her favorite places in the world. She didn’t want to eat or have her picture taken. After spending a day at Disney Sea, we came back to the hotel let her rest up before dinner.
We had dinner at one of my favorite places, The Blue Bayou, which is a restaurant that is actually a part of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. We used our 2-day park hopper pass to get into Disneyland, jumped on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride (because the lines were really short) and had dinner. Haru was still not in a very good mood and refused to eat any of her dinner. We tried to cheer her up by offering to take her on the rides at Disneyland (even though we were due to spend the whole day there the next day), but she just wanted to go back to the hotel.
My wife wasn’t very happy about this. We had the chance to get on all of the premium rides without as much as a 5-minute wait, since it was late in the evening on a cold and rainy weekday, not to mention the fireworks show, but Haru wasn’t having any of it.
This is the first time ever, where he left Disneyland without watching the fireworks. We boarded the shuttle bus back to the Ambassador Hotel, and there was very little conversation between any of us. When we got to our room, my wife, who was thoroughly irritated with Haru for being, well…-a brat, put Haru to bed almost immediately. Although I was a bit disappointed with not being able to get on the rides with lining up for an hour, I was very exhausted and my feet were tired from walking all day, so it was somewhat of a blessing to be able to go back to a nice warm bed after walking in the cold and freezing rain.
We all woke up at around 6 AM this morning to prepare for breakfast with Mickey. The weather, although colder was a lot sunnier with no chance of rain, so the outlook for the day looked much better. Haru was also in a lot better mood, after all it was her 5th birthday and the presents we gave her seemed to have cheered her up a lot. Hopefully the rest of the day goes well.
Last week, we rented a high bar so that Haru can practice doing a move that has been very difficult for her to master. My wife was against me renting the high bar, because she believed it wasn’t going to much good, and would just collect dust and take up room. Haru promised us that she would practice hard if we got it for her, so I thought it was good idea to give her some help. The deal is that she gets one month to practice on the high bar and then we have to return. Honestly speaking, I didn’t think she would be able do it, but she proved everyone wrong. As a matter of fact, on the very first night that I set up the high bar, she was able mount a back hip circle. It took several tries, and on her very last attempt of the evening, she did it.
The next day, Haru practiced for several more hours after she got home from kindergarten class. Although her last attempt of the night was successful, I also thought it was somewhat of a fluke and that she wouldn’t be able to repeat it -not right away anyway. And again I was wrong. Not only was she able to repeat it, she was able improve, and be more consistent. I was truly impressed.
We took Haru to her gymnastic last on Sunday morning. Although she had improved considerably during the previous day, we weren’t 100% convinced that she’d be able to do it in class, or at least do it well enough to be promoted to the advanced level class. One reason for this was because at home, I provided a visual cue for her. The cue was a little pink toy rabbit that I had hung from a string right above the high bar. When she does the move, I told her to make sure to look up at the rabbit, and to try to kick it when she kicks up. The pink toy rabbit was very helpful, but maybe a bit too helpful because she became too dependent on it. When I took down the rabbit, she would lose her reference point and wouldn’t be able to kick over. No matter how many times she tried, she was not able to kick over the bar unless the pink rabbit was there. I told her that there will be no pink rabbit in her gymnastics class, to which she responded “then I can’t do it -I need the pink rabbit.”
We arrived at her gym about 30 minutes early as usual. The instructors are usually on their lunch break during this time, and the other students usually don’t start coming in until about 10 to 15 minutes before the lesson starts, so we’re able to get the gym completely to ourselves. The high bars were all set up already. Previously, when we saw the high bars set up, it was somewhat of a disappointment, since it was a weak point for Haru. During her class, she would make a few good attempts, but wouldn’t be able to do it, so she would become discouraged. But this time around, there was some glimmer of hope that Haru would be able to overcome her high bar barrier. But as we entered the gym and approached the high bar, the glimmer of hope disappeared.
There was one thing I had completely underestimated while teaching Haru how to kick over the high bar, and that was the height of the bar itself. On the rental high bar at home, I had adjusted it so that the bar was about nose level. But the high bar at the gym was nearly above her head. This was not good, because she never had a successful kick over when the bar was higher than her nose.
I took Haru over to the high bar and she tried to kick over, but as expected, she couldn’t do it. She had no pink toy rabbit to refer to and the bar was too high for her. I stacked a bunch of mats below the high bar to give her about 6 inch boost up, and it was only then, she managed to just barely get over the bar. This was the first time she had a successful kick over without any visual cues. For the rest of the pre-class practice session, she struggled to pull herself over. I quickly lost confidence that she’d be able to do the kick over in class and move up to the advanced class.
For the rest of the pre-class practice session, I let Haru just play with her classmates, as they started coming in. I didn’t want to exhaust her by trying to get her to do a kick over on the higher high bar. It wasn’t a complete loss; she knew the basics and we had the rental high bar for another 3 weeks, so I had plenty of time to teach her on a higher setting. Admittedly, although I know I am wrong for feeling this, but I felt a bit disappointed that she wasn’t able to do a kick over at the gym. I know I should be more proud that she was able to get to where she is in such a short period of time.
The instructors gathered the students and began their warm ups as usual. After the warm ups, they broke up in their usual groups. The little 3 year olds went off to bounce on the trampoline, while the 4 and 5 year olds lined up behind the high bars to be sorted into normal in advanced groups. The high bars used for the sorting was set lower than the high bars for advanced group so Haru had still had somewhat of a chance of being sorted into the advanced group, but there was still the missing pink toy rabbit factor. She hadn’t had one successful kick over without the toy dangling above the bar to help her guide her.
Haru lined up first in line, which made me grimaced. I was hoping that she would line up further back in line so that she could see the other kids do the kick over first, but it was too late, she was already in position on the bars to attempt the move. Usually, the kids who have a hard time doing the kick over are told by the instructor to take a really wide scissor stance and to get sort of running start while keeping their hands on the bars. This isn’t the proper way to do this, but it gives them more momentum and makes the kick over easier. I can tell, that Haru’s instructor was trying to tell Haru to get into a wider stance, but Haru looked like she telling her that she could do it without getting into the stance.
With her feet together, Haru took a giant jump up and swung both of her legs over the bar and came back up fully mounted on the high bar. A perfect execution, and she did it without the help of the pink toy rabbit. She surprised everyone, including her instructor who couldn’t believe it. A couple of week earlier, Haru couldn’t do this and she had struggled for several months trying to get her legs high enough. I was so happy that she finally got over this barrier that plagued her for such a long time. But she wasn’t completely out of the woods yet.
Haru was successfully sorted into the advanced group for the first time ever. This time, she needed to do the same kick over on a much higher high bar. Fortunately, she had lined up second to last in line, which gave her plenty of opportunities to see her classmates attempt the move first. I was completely convinced that she would not be able to do this. The bar was way too high for her and she had never practiced on a bar that high nor was she able to do it during our pre-class practice. She made a lot of progress, so it would be no big deal if she couldn’t kick over. We’ll just practice even more on a higher bar.
It was finally Haru’s turn. She had been watching her classmate before her, and they had all succeeded without any spotting (assistance) from the instructor. The pressure was on. If she didn’t succeed, she’d probably bumped back down, and be told to practice her kick over with the other class. She grasped the bar, now positioned nearly above her head, and a lot higher the bar she had been practicing on. The instructor stood to her side in position to catch her if she falls, but offering no assistance. She kicked up on both feet as she had done earlier, pulled both of her legs and hips over the bar, and did another perfect mount. I was truly impressed!
For the rest of the session, Haru had no problems mounting onto the higher bar. The class practiced doing the back hip circle which she still needs practice with, but so did everyone in the advanced class. Haru was very happy to be able to finally get onto the bars successfully and she continued to practice on the high bars throughout the day at home. My idea of renting the high bar proved to be a complete success.
Her class is divided three age groups: pre-school (for ages 3 to 4), pre-kindergarten (for ages 4-5), and kindergarten (for ages 5-6). During the course of the class, the kids are divided into these groups based on their strength and skill levels. The pre-school kids never mix with the older kids because they are so small and do a completely different gymnastics course. But the pre-kindergarten class (Haru’s class) and the kindergarten class often interchange their student. For example, when a child in the kindergarten class can’t perform a certain gymnastic lesson like a cartwheel or a front roll, they are put in with the pre-kindergarten kids, so that they can learn to do that move at a slower pace. Likewise, if a child in the pre-kindergarten class is able to do the lesson as well as the kids in the kindergarten class, they will be bumped up to higher class for that particular lesson.
In the beginning, Haru did as well as most of the kids in her own age group. However, she wasn’t very limber and struggled with lessons that required kids to be limber. She also struggled with any lesson that required a lot of upper body strength like handstands and high bars. But over the course of the months she limbered up and put on a lot upper body strength, and now she is put in with the kindergarten kids in almost every single lesson.
Unfortunately, there is one lesson that she continues to struggle with and that is a move called the Back Hip Circle （逆上がり）which is done on the high bars. If she can perfect this move, she would be able to every single kindergarten-level lesson, making her the best in her age group. At first, I had faith that she would eventually be able to do it just by going to her weekly classes, but her gymnastics class practices high bars only every 2 to 3 weeks. And every time they do the high bars, it seems like Haru had forgotten everything she had learned in her previous high bar lesson. So it was always one big circle, and it was starting to frustrate her.
I then decided that she needed to practice the high bars more frequently outside of gymnastics class. I tried to take her to the park to practice the high bars at the park, the bars are too high and it was difficult for her to do it with her shoes on. So, I decided to rent a high bar from an online rental shop, and set it up in the house.
I set up the high bars in our house last Sunday, and Haru has been practicing every day for several hours a day. She even started to develop calluses on her hands but they don’t seem to be bothering her. Every night, I would come home from work and she would show me her back hip circle move and it had gotten progressively better every night.
Last night, Haru practiced for an hour and half, and she came close on so many occasions. Finally it was her bed time, so we told her to stop, which of course she didn’t want to do. If she had it her way she would have practiced for another hour and a half. She was adamant about being able to get it right. My wife then told her she had one more try, but then she had to stop and go to bed. I told her that if she was able to do it, I would buy her a strawberry shortcake. She was really excited because she loves strawberry shortcake. On her very last try for the evening, she nailed it! She was able to do one back hip circle. I was amazed! So now I owe her a strawberry short cake.
She’s hasn’t perfected it, and she’ll still probably have to practice several more hours before her gymnastics teacher allows her to do the kindergarten level high bar lesson, but it was a positive step and huge progress in such a short period of time.
It’s November again, and it has gotten quite cold. Days are becoming shorter and its getting increasingly difficult to wake up in the mornings. But with all that said, I like this time of year. People become more and more festive, and holiday decorations start going up, but best of all, it’s almost Haru’s fifth birthday. This is a big milestone for her, so we will be spending it a “bit” differently than we usually do.
Going to Disneyland on Haruka’s birthday has become somewhat of a tradition with us, and that is one thing that won’t change this year. However, I wanted to do more for her big 5 birthday. So this year we will be spending two days at the Tokyo Disney Resort. We will be going to Disneyland on the first day. Since Haru is nearly 106cm tall now, she can get on almost all of the rides (with exception of maybe two of the more extreme and exotic rides), so she is really looking forward to it. Last year, Haru was deeply disappointed when she didn’t quite make the 102cm minimum height requirement to get on the “Space Mountain” and “Tower of Terror” rides. She was a half a centimeter too short, which really irritated me as well, because it’s such a minuscule amount of height. If we had gone to Space Mountain first, she probable would have made the height requirement (since people do shrink a bit during the course of a day) She had been talking about those rides for a year now, so hopefully they live up to her expectations.
We will then be spending a night at one of the in-park Disney themed hotels. The rooms are draped in Disney character decorations which sounds like a lot of fun. We haven’t done this since 2003 (before Haru was born), when we spent 5 days at Disney World in Orlando, Florida (which is something I want to do again when Haru is a bit older) . Personally, this will be a huge relief for me because it’s really tiring to drive back home from a long day at Disneyland.
The next day, we will spend a day at Tokyo DisneySea. I am not particularly a fan of DisneySea. Although the park itself is much more picturesque than Disneyland, the rides are pretty mediocre. DisneySea tries to be too many things to too many people. It wants to be a date spot for couples, so it has a more mature picturesque theme, which can be boring and too “unDisney-like” for smaller children. To compensate for this, most of rides are geared for smaller kindergarten-aged kids, which is boring for older kids and adults. So there is vast demographic of people ages 30 to 50 who find DisneySea unappealing but go just to appease their kids. However, in recent years they have introduced some more “extreme” rides like Tower of Terror to appeal to the older people, so its a “bit” better.
Haru has been insisting on wearing her Belle (from Beauty and the Beast movie) costume. The costume is pretty sheer so we’re not too keen on letting her do this since it will be cold outside. But I guess we can take the costume with us and let her wear it at dinner, breakfast and around the hotel if its too cold outside. I also bought her some Minnie Mouse and Stitch (her favorite Disney TV show) clip on ear rings to go with her dress. I’m sure she’ll be pretty pleased with those.