A Belated Congratulations and It’s About Time!

Yesterday was a bit better, I think.  I managed to get through most of the day without having too many thoughts about Princess and Jenna, which in reality means that instead of thinking of them every single moment of the day, I thought about them a bit less than that.  The memories have been slightly less painful, but they are still there and still painful none the less.

I think what remains to be the hardest part of the day is coming home.  Right now, that house is a toxic haven for memories for me.  The moment I see the house as I walk down the street, I begin to see the dogs on the balcony poking their heads through the railing, and hear their paws clicking against the wood deck as they bark and welcome me home from work.   And as I walk closer, they begin to fade, only to bring me back to the realization that they no longer exist -except in my memories and in my heart.

Yesterday, coming home was particularly difficult, because my wife had taken Haru to cheerleading practice, so I came home to in empty house.  As I opened the front door, the silence was deafening.  Usually, I would come home to the sound of the TV blaring in the background, or Haru talking or singing out loud, or to the sound of water running in the kitchen or bathroom, or …to the sound of the dogs clicking their paws on the wood floors of the hallway to see who just walked into the front door.   Instead, it was just lifelessness, darkness, and dead silence, and the memories started again, and I began to cry.

This weekend is going to be hell, because it will be one week after their passing, and I already know I am going to struggle with it.  Since its a long weekend for me (9 days off from work due to national holidays), I really wished we could just go somewhere far away from this house.  But since we didn’t plan anything because of Princess and Jenna’s illnesses, it would be too late to plan anything now.  I thought about going out to the summer house in Chiba, but that place would be equally painful for me because we spent so much time out there with the dogs.  So in essence, I would feel trapped and imprisoned in my own home with painful memories tormenting every moment that I am there.

I am very angry at myself because I haven’t been able function well in almost a week.  Aside from work, there seemed to be no purpose for doing anything.  I just wanted to sleep all day, and I feel really bad for feeling this way, and for neglecting Haru.  Haru, if you read this someday, I hope you forgive me for those days when you always saw me  sad and crying.  I shouldn’t let this sadness take over our lives , and I feel really really bad for not giving you more attention, and I promise to make it up to you when I feel better.

Despite the dogs leaving us, we had one really good thing that happened that unfortunately got overshadowed and nearly forgotten.  Haru finally FINALLY got chosen to join the advanced gymnastics class!  I couldn’t be more proud of her.  She actually participated in her first class as an advanced gymnast last Saturday (right before all of this happened).  She struggled with it at first because she had gone to her usual class earlier that morning, and was fairly tired by the afternoon.  But her new advanced gymnastics coach, which is the same coach she had when she first started out in her kindergarten gymnastics class said that she will do fine once she gets use to the new routines.

Haru will actually be starting advanced gymnastics regularly in November, once she has completed all of her cheerleading events which will take up most of her Saturdays in October.

So out of curiosity, we all wondered why it took the coaches so long to recognize that Haru was ready for the advanced class.  I thought that perhaps my wife and I were just being stupid parents for thinking that Haru was better than she really is.  Or perhaps the coaches just didn’t see any potential in Haru’s ability, and just thought it’d be best to keep her where she is, or eventually that she might even quit.  Or maybe it was because the coaches where just plain stupid and not paying any attention to the fact that Haru was clearly out performing everyone in her class including the much older senior level students.  Well, the answer is none of the above.

Apparently, the coaches did recognized Haru a long time ago, apparently back in her kindergarten days.  But the reason why she never got promoted to the advanced class was because of one misunderstood comment she made to her gym coach back when she was in kindergarten.

When Haru just started cheerleading a few years back, she use to be so proud of her cheerleading hair ribbon, that she use to wear it everywhere -even to gymnastics class.  When her coach asked her what the ribbon was for, Haru said that she is a cheerleader and that she was so busy with cheerleading that she had forgetten to take it off.  (which wasn’t true -she just wanted to wear it) Based on that one comment, her coach assumed that Haru would be way too busy to commit to being in advanced gymnastics and passed her up.  She assumed that Haru was doing cheerleading several times a week, when in reality it was (and still is -if you don’t count tumbling) only once a week, and in no way would interfere with her schedule if she joined the advanced class.

This all came into realization when Haru attended the nature camp last month with her gymnastics school.  My whole intention for Haru to attend that camp was not only to make new friends and have fun, but to also to be able communicate with the coaches in the hopes that they would recognized that she is a good gymnast -and IT WORKED!  While at camp, her once was, and soon to be again gym coach approached her and asked how her cheerleading career was going, and Haru responded okay.  Then the coach asked, are you still really busy? to which Haru replied, no….it’s only on Thursdays.  The coach probably assumed that Haru was a competition cheerleader who practices several times a week and do complicated cheer routines, hence her ability to do skills beyond what is taught in regular gymnastics class.  Thus, started a new dialog between us and the coaches and clarifying what Haru’s schedule is really like and how we wondered when Haru would ever move up into advanced gym.

The reason why the coaches what so concerned over Haru’s schedule is because her regular gym class was once a week and 50 minutes per session.  Once she moves up, this can go up to 3 times a week and 90 minutes per session.  If she moves up further to competition level courses, it can go up to 5 days a week and 3 hours per session.  By this point, Haru have to make a commitment and pretty much quit everything else she is doing (including cheerleading and tumbling), and I know she isn’t ready to do that.   But for advanced gymnastics, we both have time in our schedules to do it at least twice a week.  Three times a week will be more of a challenge, but we will cross that bridge when we get there. So at this point, we are just going to ease in the advanced class to test the waters.  If she enjoys it and is good at it, we will see about bumping it up to twice a week, and maybe even more if she wants to.

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Summer Break

I just realized how many unpublished blog post drafts that I still have pending.  It’s been quite busy lately especially at work, and now with Haruka out of school on summer break, both Saturdays and Sundays are spent either at gymnastics and tumbling practice, or just keeping her entertained (which isn’t easy sometimes).

For me, summer time is a time to create memories, and I have a lot of fond memories of taking trips to Japan during summer break as a kid. So, I find it to very important to create good summer vacation memories for her.  Ideally, I would like to take her for long vacations preferably out of the country, but with two aging dogs and no one able to take care of them, this plan will have to go on hold for a while.

In the meantime, we try to keep Haru busy by sending her off to summer camp.  She’ll be going to two summer camps -one through her school, and the other through her gymnastics school.  It would be really nice if this were gymnastics camp, but unfortunately it isn’t.   It’s just a nature camp that is set up and sponsored by her gymnastics school.

Of course, spending time with family is also important.  We don’t want Haru to look back on her childhood and think that we sent her to all of these camps just to get rid of her for the summer.  So I decided that we pack up the dogs and do an overnight stay at our favorite onsen and pool resort in Chiba.

It wasn’t too long ago since the last time we went there.  As a matter of fact, the memory of being stuck in a 3 hour traffic jam because of an overturned truck on the Yokohama Bay bridge was still fresh on all of our minds.  But the last we went, it was just a day trip, and because our stay was significantly shortened by an irresponsible truck driver, we didn’t quite have the relaxing and joyous time we were expecting to have.  So this time around, we decided to make it an overnight trip.  And since there is an on-premise pet hotel, we could take the dogs with us and check on them periodically.

Haru LOVES overnight trips.  We could be staying at the Motel 6 and she’d still love it.  But we all love this resort because its so close, but just far enough out of the city as to feel that we’re taking a trip somewhere.   There is nothing too spectacular about this resort; it’s far from being a five star luxury hotel, yet there is something very charming about the place.  My wife thinks it too much of a pain because its quite a bit of a walk from the hotel rooms to the dining and play areas.  I think the vastness of the hotel is part of the charm.

So we left for Mikazuki Hotel in the late morning with the anticipation that there would be some summer season traffic, but the trip there was pretty pleasant -absolutely no traffic at all, so we made it there in under an hour.   This was a vast contrast from the  three and half hours it took the last time.

We got there three hours before check-in which was perfect.  we had a light lunch that we bought at a nearby convenience store, and immediately headed for the pools.  Although the pools were pretty crowned from all of the kids being on summer break, it wasn’t too insane.  I was imagining that it would be like Tokyo Summer Land -which is the least desirable spot to be in probably all of Japan.  It’s like being in a subway during rush hour, and being wet and in a bathing suit at the same time.  What a nightmare!  Why anyone thinks that’s fun is way beyond the realm of my comprehension.

After a 3 hours of pool hopping, and playing a few rounds of hide and seek, which Haru kept cheating at, we went to the onsens and then headed up to our rooms which by then were ready for us.  By this point, Haru was in super hyperactive mode and was still bouncing off of the walls (almost literally).  We tried to get her to take a nap before dinner, but there was no way she was going to calm down.  So I suggested tat she play some video games until dinner, which my wife hated.  It it were up t my wife, all video games would be banned from the face of the earth, even though she plays them.

After about an hour or so, we headed down to the dining hall, inconveniently located on the other side of the hotel, where we had to go through long hallways, board a series of elevators, and take off our shoes somewhere along the way.

The dinner was exactly the same as  the previous year.  A buffet with a variety of both Japanese and western food.  It wasn’t too bad, but nothing special either.  But for some reason Haru had lost her appetite and wasn’t feeling well.  We figured that the hyperactivity crash kicked in and she was feeling sleepy, but she kept assuring us that she didn’t feel sleepy.  As the dinner progressed, she sipped on some clam soup an had a couple of bites of fries and that was it.

After dinner, we headed back to our room, and Haru laid down for awhile on the bed.  She looked tired, but just when we thought she was out for the evening, she burped.  After that, everything was well again,and she was back to her hyperactive self.  Stomach gas!   She even insisted that she was hungry….arrrg!  But instead of giving into Haru whining about being hungry, which is a very common occurrence these days even after having a big dinner, we decided to take her down to the game arcade and play area to help keep her mind of of her insatiable appetite.

Before we went to the play area, we stopped by the pet hotel which is right in the next building to check up on the dogs and give them their dinner.  Both Princess and Jenna seemed to be doing fine and both ate their dinners without issue.  We then headed to the arcade which was on the other side of parking lot.

Haru really likes little stuffed animals and dolls, so I spent most of my time (and money) feeding the UFO catcher type games with coins to try to win prizes for Haru.  I managed to win 3 or 4 little stuffed dogs for her which she was really happy about.  Haru and my wife spent their time competing on Taiko No Tatsujin, a game where you beat a taiko drum to the beat of music.

After about an hour or so of playing games, we bot some drinks at a little gift shop near the arcade, and then headed back up to our room.  Haru was again bouncing off the walls with excitement, and the half a can of Mountain Dew she had probably wasn’t helping to calm her down.  It took about two hours for her to finally calm and enough to go to sleep, but by then, I was already out like a light.

The next morning, we headed down to the restaurant for our morning breakfast.  Once again the menu was unchanged from the previous year -a buffet with a mix of western and Japanese food.  Haru was feeling better so she ate a bit more heartily than the previous night.

After breakfast, we went to check on the dogs once again and fed them their breakfast.  We also brought them a few things from the dining room which they seemed to enjoy.

Originally, we planned to go to the pool and onsens once again, but Haru wasn’t up for it.  I want to go swimming, but don’t want to have to take a bath and wash my hair again.  It’s too much trouble, she said.  So instead, we decided to head back to the game arcade….yay, let’s spend more money!

We basically repeated what we did the previous evening.  After about an hour, we decided it was about time to leave, but Haru didn’t quite want to leave yet.  So as my wife went shopping at the gift shop, I took Haru to the play area where they had air filled tumble tracks.  When we went their a month earlier, I challenge Haru to do a round off to double handspring, and although it wasn’t quite the perfect landing, she was able to do it none-the-less.  And because of that, her tumbling coach is working with her to tidy up her landings so she can do it at an actual event.

This time around, I challenged her to try to do a back tuck, or a back flip -an aerial skill using no hands.  Since she’s never done that skill before (ever), she immediately said, no I can’t do that yet, so I told her to just practice her handsprings to which she agreed to.

She did a couple of round off back handsprings on the air tumble track, and then said., it’s too hard doing a handspring on the tumble track.  It’s too bouncy so my hands don’t touch the ground. At first I didn’t understand what she was saying.   What do you mean your hands don’t touch the ground?, I asked.  She then proceeded to explain that when she does her handspring, she bounces so high that her hands are a few inches above the track.

I immediately realized that she was effectively doing a round off to a back tuck, which is a more difficult skill.  I then told her that instead of trying to touch the ground, to keep her hands to her sides instead.  The result was a near perfectly executed round off, back tuck.  I was amazed because no one had taught her to do this yet.  She taught herself, almost by accident.

After spending a half hour in the play area, Haru and my wife played one more round of Taiko no Tatsujin, then we all headed home.  Haru was obviously tired and so she fell asleep in the car on the way home.  It wasn’t even noon yet, and yet it seemed like a full eventful day.

Fast Tube by Casper



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Tough Competition

It’s July and the weather has been getting quite warm lately.  Funny enough, until last week it rained practically everyday so the temperatures were quite cool.  Since it was already July, I was beginning to think (and hope) that it would be a cool summer like back in 2003, when the raining season lasted until almost mid-August, and the summer heat only lasted like two weeks.  This is suppose to be the last day of the intense heat and the temperatures should be significantly cooler again tomorrow, partially due to a typhoon scheduled to hit Japan.

Haru has been doing cheerleading for nearly two and half years now and she seems to be really enjoying it a lot.  I remember when she first started, I wasn’t particularly thrilled with the idea, nor was I against it.  My only condition is that it cannot interfere with her gymnastics practice.  Interestingly enough however, cheerleading has not only enhanced her gymnastics skills, it’s literally put her at the top of her gymnastics class.  There is no one in her gym class who is even comes close to equaling her, which is why I get a bit irritated and frustrated that she was not promoted to advanced gymnastics last April.  As a matter of fact, there were three kids who were promoted ahead of her, who are not that good.  Never mind the fact that Haru is better than them, one of the three kids absolutely SUCKS at gymnastics and was still promoted.  I have a feeling that she was promoted only because her twin sister who is pretty good, got promoted, and they didn’t want to break up the set (which of course is a stupid reason for getting promoted.)  Although Haru felt cheated that she wasn’t able to advance up to the next level, for the most part, she has been in good spirits about it because of her advancements in her tumbling class. Additionally, she is often called upon by her coaches to demonstrate skills that no one else can do, in front of her class.  This seems be a key to keeping her motivation up.

Her tumbling coach is really good, and unlike her gymnastics coaches (with an exception of a few), her tumbling coach will actually physically demonstrate difficult skills like the back flip, and front and back handsprings, instead of just verbalizing it.  Since Haru responds better to visual instructions rather than verbal instructions, she is able to pick up skills faster from her tumbling coach, as opposed to her gymnastic coaches.  And because of this, she has been able to advance to advanced tumbling within six months after starting tumbling, and is quickly catching up (in terms of skills) to the two best girl in the class (who by the way are competition cheerleaders), and earning much respect from her older classmates.

This Thursday, Haru will be up for promotion in her cheerleading class, and will be given a skill assessment by her cheer coach.   Previously, when she had moved up from Peach to Clover class, the only criteria is that she’s able to perform well on the Peach team for one year.  However, to advance up to the next level, which is the “Ace” Team, the conditions are a bit tougher.  She will have to demonstrate superior tumbling skills, concentration skills, dance skills, and do it all with a big happy smile on her face.  Haru will have no problem with the smile and tumbling parts, but I am very concerned over her concentration skills, because Haru is easily distracted.  She does well on stage, but apparently she has a hard time keeping focused during practice.

Another issue is that she has a hard time remembering her dance routines, and often looks over to the person next to her to make sure she’s getting it right.  Again, this seems to be more of an issue during practice than on stage (at least less noticeable on stage).  The standards for being promoted to Ace where never this tough, but there are only four slots available, and a quite a few girls are looking to move up.

Haru’s biggest advantage is her tumbling skills.  Currently, there is only one girl in Ace who can do a back handspring, and it’s a skill that is traditionally performed by the Ace team during the Cheerleading Festival in the spring.  All of the other girls who were in Ace and who were able to do a back handspring have all either quit or moved up to the Elite team, the highest group.  So Ace is in desperate need of a cheerleader who can do a back handspring on stage.  Right now, Haru is able to a round-off back handspring, which is an Elite skill, nearly perfectly, and is working on her round off double back handspring with her tumbling coach, which is a skill that only a few of the top Elite members can perform.

Haru’s biggest disadvantage is her ability to keep focused.   It seems as if her mind is all over the place.  Strangely enough, when she is performing on stage, she is very highly focused, to the point where she often forgets to smile, which is one of the highest criterias for being advanced to Ace.  It was just the other night during Haru’s tumbling practice, I overheard one of the mothers saying that no matter how well the cheerleader can dance and stay focused, is she cannot do it without a smile on her face, she will not make it into Ace or Elite.  This is why the cheerleaders in the Ace and Elite teams always have a big fake looking smile on their faces during the shows.

As much as I want Haru to advance up and succeed, I don’t want this to be a source of stress for her.  Although these teams don’t compete, the internal competition amongst the girls is apparently pretty harsh.  Many of the older girls take it VERY seriously, and although I have never seen bashing or bullying in her cheerleading class, apparently it does happen but in a subtle way.  I have seen Haru become a victim of some very subtle bashing amongst the older kids when she first started in her tumbling class (probably because she was new and one of the youngest), but she has since become so much better than the girls who had bashed her, the respect from the other older kids has completely overwhelmed the bashing, and they have become completely irrelevant.


Last Sunday’s Summer Festival (in the rain)

Fast Tube by Casper

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🎶June is Bustin’ Out All Over🎶

How the year goes by so fast.  2015 is already at its halfway point, and its already June.  Every since Haru graduated from kindergarten, a weekday off spent together has become a rare thing.  Anytime we all go somewhere together, it would have to be on a weekend or a national holiday when the whole country has the day off, so it would be crowded no matter where we go.

But once in a blue moon, we do have have the same day off, while the rest of the country has to fulfill their obligations as citizens, and today was one of them.  Haru had the day off today because her school had a Saturday class over the weekend, and today was their compensation day off.  For me, it was a more odd and complicated reason.  I actually started my new job today, but for some reason, my new company wasn’t ready for me, so they gave me a 5 day paid leave straight away.  So we decided to take advantage of our shared weekday off to visit our favorite indoor pool and onsen in Chiba.

You’d think on days like this, things would be smooth sailing for us.  You’d assume that since the rest of the country is assumed to be at work or school, that we would have very little traffic, and we would be able to get to where we need to go effortlessly.  Well, unfortunately we all know what happens when we ass-u-me.

On the way to the resort, we ran into the traffic jam from hell, and what was suppose to be only a 45 minute trip, turned into a 3 hour gridlocked jam.  Apparently, some jerk driving a rig across the Yokohama Bay Bridge rear ended 8 other cars causing a massive accident that jammed traffic for nearly six hours.  Although we caught the end of the jam, it still took us three hours to get out of the bumper to bumper traffic.  Afterwards, we found out that a 36 year old truck driver caused the accident because he had been texting while driving, and sent 9 other drivers to the hospital with injuries ranging from mild to severe.  What a jerk!

Anyways, without going into a complete rant about how irritated I was having to spend my very rare day off with my family on a weekday stuck in traffic because one inconsiderate a-hole, I can say the rest of the day went a bit better.  However, when we arrived at our favorite resort, we learned that we weren’t the only ones in Japan who had the day off.  As a matter of fact, it seemed like everyone and their mother had the day off and decided to visit the onsen/pool as well.  How irritating!    But having said this, even though it was more crowded than expected, it wasn’t jam packed and we were to do everything we wanted to do.  ideally we wanted to some more time there, but our schedule was already limited due to Haru’s tumbling class in the evening, and the traffic jam shortened our stay significantly.

We did have a lot of fun though.  As much as we wanted to stay over night like we usually do, Haru had already made plans to see her friend the next day, so we agreed to the over-nighter some other time.

After we finished the onsen bath, which I still feel uncomfortable using, Haru and I decided to visit the play area.  The play area had a balloon house, and an inflatable tumble track.  But best of all, the place was completely empty so we had the place completely to ourselves.  Since we had the whole tumble tack to ourselves, I thought it would be a good idea to train Haru to a double back handspring.  After a few goes, and a few failures, she was able to successfully do a round off double back handspring, a skill that no one in her gymnastic class has yet, and only 2 other people (who are much older than her) have in her tumbling class.

After spending the day at the pool and onsen, we grabbed dinner on the way home and then headed straight to tumbling.  Quite a busy day for all of us, but a lot of fun.  This is pretty much the level of activeness we have to keep Haru, otherwise she’ll be restless all day.  But with the traffic jam, swimming, water slides, onsen, back handspring practice at the resort, then the 30-40+ additional back handsprings she had to do at tumbling practice, this was a bit much even for Haru, because she asleep within 10 minutes of laying her down on her pillow.



Fast Tube by Casper

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OT: New Look

After nearly six years of the same old look, I have decided to freshen up the look of this site a bit.  Although the color scheme is pretty much the same, the coding is newer and incorporates some new technology that will allow me do some more things with this site.  But best off all, the banner changes every time a visitor refreshes the page, so essentially the page will look a bit different every time you come back.

Pretty cool stuff!


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CheerFest 2015

Another year and another CheerFest has gone by, and as usual it was extremely exhausting for everyone.   Last year, the event organizers did a horrible job with crowd control.  Despite the fact that we were practically first in line, we weren’t given our choice of free seating.  We were basically seated wherever the ushers told us to be seated, and that was pretty random.  I wouldn’t have minded this so much if it weren’t for the fact that the people who spent much less time in line than we did, were ushered to better seats, thus aggravating those like us, who spent 2 hours or more hoping to get a good location.

This year was a bit different.  Although the organization was still a bit poor, this year it was completely free seating.  First come, first served.  For me, this was great news, because I don’t mind lining up early as long as we are guaranteed first come first served seating.  So like last year, I started lining up two hours before the doors opened, and I was FIRST in line.

After about 30 minutes of waiting, people started queuing,  and about 30 minutes after that, the line was already out into the streets.  Then the event coordinator did the unthinkable.  Instead of what was a double file line,  the event coordinators brought people from the bottom of the line and line them up next to me.  I was furious!  Do these people know what they’re doing??  At that point, I decided that I wasn’t going to have a repeat of what happen last year, and that the event coordinators will not dictate where we choose to sit.  I am going to make absolute sure that I am going to sit where I choose to sit even if it means totally bypassing and ignoring the ushers.

At precisely 12:30PM, the doors open and the crowd rushed in with us still at the front of the line.  Then the stupidity and disorganization struck again.  As we got closer to the auditorium door, the event coordinators stopped us again at the bottom of the stairs that lead up to the entrance doors.  The event organizers then announce that the cheerleaders will be rehearsing until 1PM and that we had to wait until they clear the auditorium.  If they knew that the girls were rehearsing until 1PM, then why bring the audience halfway in and have us wait another 30 minutes until they were ready??  By that time, people were getting restless and started cutting in front of others in line.  I predicted that as soon as the coordinators gave the okay sign, everyone would rush to the top of the stairs as if were a horse race, and quite possibly someone might be injured.

At 1pm, the doors to the auditorium finally opened and surprisingly we all slowly proceeded to the top of the stairs in a very controlled and orderly fashion.  When we reached the door, I noticed that there were no ushers in the auditorium randomly telling us where to sit like last year.  It was truly free seating, so I rushed to a spot where I know I could get a fairly clear view with little obstruction.  Although it wasn’t totally obstruction-free, it was good enough.

Hearties Jr. were first on the roster, so initially we thought we’d watch Haru’s team perform, and then go home.  But as the show proceeded, it got harder and harder to leave because there were so many people there, and because we thought it might be bad to yank Haru away from her cheerleading friends, who were all watching from the upper deck of the auditorium.

Fortunately, the decision to stay was a good one, because I actually won a canvas bag during the raffle at end of the show.  So overall, it was a good show.  Haru performed really well and even nailed her solo routine.



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8 Years


This month marks the eighth year since I started writing about Haruka’s story.  So far, its been great, and I look forward to many more years writing about the events in Haruka’s childhood.

Around this time last year, Haruka attended her first ski trip at Camp Luck.  We were planning to send her again this year, but her friend from kindergarten whom she planned to go to camp with again, decided not to go.  Haru didn’t want to go alone, so she decided not to either.   Luckily she was able to go skiing a couple of weeks ago with her second cousins, otherwise she wouldn’t have had the opportunity to ski this year.

Haru has decided that she longer wants to do swimming classes.  This is probably due to the fact that her friend and rival, Yuka S. was promoted to higher level class ahead of her.  Haru wasn’t very happy about been left behind, so she decided that she she didn’t want to swim anymore.  I really didn’t like the “I can’t so I quit” attitude and I offered to help her pass her next swim test so that she could moved up to the same class that Yuka is in, but she refused.  She said that even if she passed the swim test, she still wanted to quit.

Swimming was never too high on Haru’s interest list.  She only took the class because my wife felt that it was important for her to learn to swim.  But I guess over the months, Haru has become somewhat “proud”, and didn’t like the fact that she wasn’t progressing as  quickly as the others.  After having thought about it for several weeks, she finally decided that she would continue swimming until she is able to swim freestyle.

In contrast, Haru has been skyrocketing passed her classmates in both gymnastics and tumbling and her interest level has climbed quite a lot.  Naturally, when a child is good at something, and kicking the other kids’ butts doing it, she is going to enjoy doing it more.  She has even asked if she could take gymnastics twice a week (on top of her usual once a week Saturday morning class).  However I told her that her schedule is already overloaded with extra curricular activities, so she should really either consider  giving up one of her other classes, or really think about this carefully.

Three of the top cheerleaders in Haru’s tumbling class quit last week in order to pursue other activities.  This now effectively puts Haru in the top 3 (in my opinion, she is probably in the top 2) which is amazing progress.  This means that her tumbling coach will probably progress her onto much harder skills ahead of the rest of the class.

Fast Tube by Casper


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Tumbling Progression

Since Haru started advanced tumbling last month, I have been keeping a weekly progress log to see how she progresses in this class.  I’ve also taken videos so that I can show Haru where she needs to improve, and to also keep records of the progress.

Back in December, when we audited the advanced class, the tumbling coach introduced Haru, and one one other girl , Natsuki, who is the same age as Haru and also got promoted into advanced tumbling, to the rest of the class.  The class, which is comprised of mostly older girls of at least 9 years old or older, looked at the two new younger girls with somewhat disapproval.  The coach then said, they may look small, but they are really good.  Be careful, or they may overtake you.  This comment puzzled me at first, but later the coach explained that lately some of the first graders have been out performing the older kids, which may explain the look of disapproval during the introductions.

On her first day, Haru didn’t perform too well.  He coach commented that she seemed too tired.  This was probably because the advanced tumbling class started an hour later than the class she had been going to.  Her class now goes from 7:30pm to 8:30 and often goes up to 20 minutes over time.  So by the time she is done, it about 9PM, which normally she would be preparing to go to bed.  I grew concerned that maybe this time slot maybe too late for her, but by the following weeks, she had already gotten use to it.

The following week, she had a high fever so she had to skip tumbling.  But by the third week, she was showing the other girls (of whom two were her student coaches who were teaching her how to do some the skills,  just a few short weeks earlier) how things are done.  And last week, she had surpassed half her class (including her two student teachers) by doing skills that they couldn’t do.  So overall Haru is really taking off.  I told Haru that her target is the girl from the Funky A’s, because she is the best, and if Haru wanted to be the best, she was the one to watch.


Week 2:  A lot of form correction.  The coach did a really good job in working with Haru to correct her form.  Although it’s still not perfect, there is a noticeable difference.  They even practiced a round off to back handspring which I din’t think they would do for a while.

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Week 3:  Haru was given a chance to the the handspring without a spotter.  This effectively advances her past 5 or 6 other girls, two whom were her teachers just weeks earlier.

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Week 4:  Just for giggles, I had a deal going with Haru that if she is able to do a round off to a back handspring (a difficult skill that only 2 or 3 girls can do in her tumbling class, and no one can do in her gymnastics class) by herself, that I would treat her and rent some of her favorite DVDs.  I thought it would be at least another month before she could do this, but when Haru is determined to go something, she will do it, and this was no different.

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Haru began her tumbling class about six months ago.  At the time, it seemed like everyone in that class was better than her.  These girls were really serious about being good at both tumbling and cheerleading, so I told Haru that is she wanted to be as good as these girls, she would have to practice hard.

Well, after only six short months, Haru has surpassed all of them and was promoted up to the next level: the advanced tumbling class.  Just to see what she was getting into, we audited (attended without participating) one of the advanced tumbling classes, and it was pretty amazing.

I thought that the girls intermediate glass were serious, but they look like total children compared to what the girls in the advanced class were doing.  The best girl in  the class (a member of the elite Funky A’s cheerleading team) was doing, round offs, double back handsprings, and back tucks.  It will be quite a while before Haru catches up to her, but it will definitely be fun watching her try.


Last day of intermediate class:

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The “A” Team

Every since Haru started gymnastics, I have always made it a point to try to get to her school at least 30 minutes before the class begins.  When she was in the kindergarten gymnastics class, that usually meant that we were always the very first ones there and we had the gym all to ourselves.  However, now that Haru is in the elementary school age class, no matter how early we get to the gym, there always seems to be someone who gets there earlier than us.  Most of these kids get there to do stretches, or train on their own.  I usually take Haru there early so we can do my own routine of stretches that are a lot more stricter and harder than what Haru gymnastics class offers.

For a while, no one really seemed to care whether we were there or not.  In essence, we were completely ignored by the other kids as if we were completely invisible.  Haru and I would just grab a corner in the gym and we would conduct our pre-class workouts and no one would really care or notice.

However, when Yuka joined last month, I also started training Yuka in much the same way I would train Haru before class, and lately Yuka has been really doing well.  She is already surpassing many of the older kids on the high bars and vault, and it’s only a matter of time she will also surpass the other kids on the mats as well.  So every Saturday morning, Yuka’s mother would bring Yuka in about the same time Haru and I would arrive and begin our own stretching routines.  But unlike before, we are beginning to grab the attention of some of the other kids, more specifically the girls in Haru’s class who are serious about becoming good at gymnastics.  One girl in particular, who is about the same age as Haru, tries to join in our workouts.  I don’t really mind that she joins in, as a matter of fact, I do welcome it.    However, I am not really a gymnastics instructor of course, and  I am just using stretching routines that I used when I was doing karate in high school, and they are pretty intense.  There were a few times when I even made Haru cry because some of the stretches are so painful.  So naturally inflicting the same amount of grueling punishment on a child whom I barely even know would not be good.  So usually, I  just let her watch us and emulate what we do, but for both Yuka and Haru, or my “A” Team, I actually push them into ungodly positions to get them to stretch themselves.

I also briefly did gymnastics as kid, and I was really good at tumbling, but not so good at everything else.  Although Haru surpassed my abilities a long time ago, I still know the techniques on how to do many of these skills, so I am able to teach Haru how to do the skills, without physically being able to them myself.  As a matter of fact, many of the floor or mat skills and bar skills were taught by me, not her gymnastics class, hence, she is far better and further along than the other kids.  I have also been trying to get Yuka up to speed well, but since I only have 15-20 minutes a week to to teach her, I often give her “homework” which means that she needs to go home and practice everyday, which she apparently does according to her mother.

Right now, I am training Haru to do the back handspring.  This particular skill is like the holy grail skill for beginner to intermediate gymnasts.  People who want to do gymnastics usually want to do it because they want to be able to do either a back handspring or a back tuck.  It’s not a particularly difficult skill to master (although I can’t do it), but it is a somewhat VERY terrifying skill to learn because you are essentially doing a back dive onto your hands, and then pushing off of it.  And while you are doing this skill, everything in your head is telling you to STOP because you’re going to land on your head and break your neck, and your body autonomously reacts accordingly to try to protect itself.  Therefore about 25% of learning the back handspring is about training your body the proper method and technique, while the remaining 75% is training your mind to get over the fear of jumping backwards onto your hands.  This is why it takes so long for a lot of people (especially older kids) to learn.  Unless you have complete control of fear, the older you are the more harder it is because of the fear factor.

Last Saturday, after we completed her usual pre-class stretches, we practiced some back handsprings on the firmer tumbling mats.  At about the same time, one of the older boys (going by his size, probably a sixth grader), was also practicing back handsprings on the other side of the gym while watching Haru and me.  I hope he doesn’t ask me to spot him too, I thought to myself.  He is only a bit smaller than me so there is no way I would be able support his weight.  Haru was already a handful.  At that point, one of the newer instructors came down, and the boy rushed over to his side and asked the instructor to spot him as he practiced his skills.  He had obviously been practicing quite a bit because his handsprings were really good.  The instructor took the boy over to the trampoline where the boy practiced his back handsprings.  Haru and I continued to use the mats which were admittedly difficult to use, because they weren’t soft enough to serve as a cushion, and not quite hard enough to get a good solid jump off of.  Seeing this, the instructor asked us if we wanted to use the trampoline, so Haru, with the assistance of the instructor, Haru was able to train on the trampoline and got some free tips on how to make her handsprings better.   The instructor then commented that Haru probably can do a back handspring on her own, but she needs to get over her fear first.

Training Haruka to the back spring has been a challenge to say the least.  She already has a fear of hitting her head, probably because when she attempted it while back, she did hit her head.  But since she was doing it on our bed, there was no real bodily harm done.  Over the last 6 months, between her cheerleading tumbling coach and me, Haru  got some really good training on her method and technique.  When supported, she has really good form, but when she attempts to do it by herself, she freezes up and she is unable to overcome the fear to be able to jump backwards onto her hands.  But last Monday, we finally made a breakthrough.  Haru managed to scrape together enough courage to be able to attempt a back handspring without support.  Although it wasn’t the best of form, it was the best attempt to date.  Now its just a matter of cleaning it up a bit to make it look like a proper back handspring.

Haru also has been doing really well in tumbling as well.   She’s been doing it for less than six months now and she is already in the top 2 in her class.  I already knew that she was the best in her class, but now it’s not just my opinion, because her tumbling coach confirmed it the other night when he told me that if Haru is able clean up her back walkovers so that her legs are much straighter when she does them, Haru will move up to the advanced tumbling class with one other girl.  This will be a serious step up, because most of the girls in advanced tumbling are much older and very good.  They are the “aces” and “elites” of the cheerleading team, so it was definitely nice to hear that Haru is doing well enough to join the best.

Still needs work, but here is Haru’s first attempts at a back handspring without any support from me.

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