Summer Slumber party


For last several months during the remodeling of Haru’s bedroom, the neighborhood kids, whom I fondly refer to as the mini breakfast club (in my own head of course), have been clamoring to have a sleep over at our place.  This whole idea sounded absolutely disastrous to me.  A bunch of little kids staying all night in Haru’s tiny little bedroom? I wasn’t having it.

But as time went on, tensions built up to the point where this sleep over was going to happen no matter what.  My wife had already been speaking with the kids’ parents and planning on things like what to have for dinner that night, the kids were talking about this practically on a daily basis, and for Haru, it was almost a constant topic of conversation.    So whole the event had grown bigger than me to the point that if I had forbidden it, I would had been perceived as an overbearing person not only to the neighborhood kids, but to their parents as well -not that I really cared what anyone really thinks of me.   So at this point, the event was beyond my control and it wasn’t a question of whether or not it was going to happen, but when it was going to happen.

As we finished up Haru’s bedroom and D-day approached, I learned more details about who was going to be coming over.  Initially, I thought it would be 2 or 3 girls at the absolute most.  Since Haru talks about Ai and Momo, the sisters who are pretty much the leaders of the breakfast club, I was under the impression that they’d be the two friends staying over, and only those two only.  But I quickly learned that more kids had been invited to stay over, and I was beginning to see to what scale this inevitable disaster was going to be.

By the time all of the talks and invites had happened, it wound up being three girls and a boy who had been invited.  Wait a minute.  Hold the phone!  A boy??!  No one said anything about inviting boys over for the sleep over.  This is when the proverbial foot came down.  NO BOYS!  I don’t mind when boys came over to play during the day, but stay over?  No way!  Not while I am alive!  I was adamant about this and I told Haru and my wife straight out, girls -yes, boys -absolutely positively unequivocally NO!   NO EXCEPTIONS!!!  In my opinion, allowing this would set a precedence and give Haru the idea that we think its okay for boys to come over and spend the night; this is definitely not the message that I want to install especially at such a young age.

This may be a slippery slope argument, but if we were to allow this to happen, what is stopping her from inviting two boys in the future?  Or instead of a six year old boy, what if she invites over a 10 year old boy? Or even a 13 year old boy?  Where do we draw the line?  After all, Ai and Momo are both much older than Haru (11 and 12 years old), so what is stopping her from inviting a 11 or 12 year old boy to a sleep over?

The counter argument is that the boy is the brother of one of the girls who was invited to stay.  I happen to know this boy, and he’s not really like the other neighborhood boys.  Despite being a year older than Haru, he is very small (a few inches shorter than Haru), and he is very innocent and even somewhat girlish.  He’s not the typical rowdy, loud, rude, and unruly boy like the other neighborhood boys.  But that is really besides the point.

Over the next few days, Haru kept nagging me to allow the boy stay over, and my answer was always the same…No!  I even went as far as telling her that if she keeps pestering me about it, that the whole sleep over will be called off, and she became quiet after that.  Later that day, my wife approached me and said, “let the boy come”, and again my answer was no.  A six year old girl should not have a boy staying overnight in her room.  Its a very dangerous precedence to set at her age, I explained.  Then my explained that if we don’t allow the boy to come, his parents won’t allow his sister to come.  My immediate reaction was, so what?  That’s really not my problem.  All I need to be concerned about is Haru’s well-being.  But at the same time, I knew that Haru was really close to the other three girls and the boy.   I personally don’t care if the kids hate me, or if their parents hate  me, but I knew that if I stood my ground on this, Haru might express some resentment towards me later, and she  might also get the backlash from her friends.

So what do I do?  If I allow it, I have to be prepared for Haru asking if the other neighborhood boys can spend the night in the future.  If I said no, then this may be the first and last sleep over that she hosts.  After careful -very careful thought, I came to a decision.  It wasn’t the perfect solution, but it was a compromise.

I sat Haru and my wife down, and told them that the boy can come to the sleep over.  However, I made it abundantly clear that this was a VERY special case and that it won’t EVER happen again.  I don’t care who it is or if the boy is the brother, cousin, or best friend of one of Haru’s other friends, the answer is going to be an automatic and non-negotiable no, and not to even ask me the next time.  And IF they do ask me, I will forbid the whole sleep over all together.  This would be an extremely special circumstance, and if the boy or anyone else misbehaves in any way, they’ll all be sent home immediately.  They both agreed (hopefully).

The sleep over happened on the final weekend of Haru’s summer break.  As you can imagine, Haru was extremely excited and hyperactive all day.  I mean she was lit!  If they could harness all of the energy and excitement that was coursing through her veins and make some kind of synthetic drug from it,  it would sell like hotcakes.  No one would ever use meth or cocaine again, because this drug would be a thousand times more potent.  She was literally bounce off of walls and furniture, and there was no way to defuse her.

The plan was to have all the kids come over in the evening after they have bathed at their homes, so that when they arrived, they would have dinner, watch some TV, and go to bed.  That was the plan, but of course things like this never go as planned.

Everyone came over a little after 7PM.  I went out to go fetch the pizzas at the local pizza shop.  When I came home with the pizzas, the kids had already had Pirates of the Caribbean playing on the DVR.  The tension level had risen by a thousand percent, so high that the kids where laughing at places where it wasn’t even suppose to be funny.  The only quiet person in the bunch was surprisingly Gosuke, the only boy.  He was quietly watching TV and not really paying too much attention to the girls.

As soon as I delivered the pizzas, everyone dug in and scarfed them down.  I had ordered a Hawaiian Delight pizza for myself,which was pretty much the only pizza made in Japan that I really liked.  Everything else they sell here is pretty gross.  For example, the kids requested shrimp and mayonnaise pizza, which in my opinion is pretty disgusting.  Haru also likes the Hawaiian delight, so we shared my pizza, while everyone else at the weird stuff.  But when the kids learned that Haru and I were eating a pizza with pineapples on it, everyone gave a simultaneous gasp of disbelief.  Pineapples??  Really? Ewl gross!!  However, Ai, the eldest girl was willing venture into the unknown and try a slice of the Hawaiian Delight.  Although she ate the whole slice, she never really commented as to whether on not she liked it.

After everyone finished their pizzas, the kids decided to play Tarzan on Haru’s climbing rope.   Tarzan was a huge hit.  Everyone took turns swinging across the room on the gym rope.  This went on for about an hour until I finally called bedtime, and everyone hustled up to Haru’s room, where my wife had set up the air mattress and futons for the kids.  We expected that Haru would sleep up in the loft, while the other kids slept on the floor on the futons and the air mattress.  But for some reason, all of the kids (all five of them) bunched up together on the double sized air mattress.  I told them to spread out a bit so that they can all sleep more comfortably, but they all refused and continued to sleep on the air mattress.

I left them on their own and headed to the living room to watch some late night TV and do some net surfing.  But I could barely concentrate or even hear anything on TV over the racket being made up in Haru’s room.  The sound of laughter continued for several minutes, and gradually died as it got late.  Things seemed to have dies down at around midnight.  Finally! I thought to myself.  Now I can finally enjoy a quiet evening to myself….or so I thought.

After about 30 minutes of silence, a huge laughter broke out once again.  Ugh!  These kids will never go to sleep!  Then the sound of five pairs of feet hurdled down the stairs lead by Ai, the leader of the bunch.  We can’t sleep, can we stay up and watch TV with you?  Absolutely positively not! I said.  Go back upstairs and go to sleep, or you all go home.

I escorted the kids back up to Haru’s room.  Again, they all huddled together on the air mattress.  Why don’t you all spread out?  You’ve got so much room, there is no need for all of you to sleep on that little mattress together.  They all looked at one another as if to choose which person would sleep by themselves.  But before they even made the decision, I told Haru to sleep in her own loft, and the sister and brother sleep together on the pair of futons.  Haru started to tear up and cry.  I don’t want to sleep by myself, I want to sleep with everyone else.  Sigh!  Alright, the loft can hold two people.  Anyone else want to sleep in the loft with Haru.  Moe, the boy’s older sister half-heartedly raised her hand and volunteered.  Does Haruka sleep soundly, she asked.  Haru has been known to fall from bed on a quite a few occasions.  We had to put a bed guard on her loft, because she could seriously injure herself if she fell from her loft onto the floor. Not to mention that she tends to kick people while asleep.  But before I could say anything, Moe got a glance at the bed guard and put her hand back down…never mind, I will sleep on the floor.  After several minutes of trying to negotiate with the kids, I decided that my efforts were fruitless.  Sleep wherever you like, but if you are not asleep within the next 30 minutes, everyone goes home.  The kids bunched up on the air mattress once again, and they were asleep within minutes.

I’m not sure what time I fell asleep but it must have been some time after 2AM.  I was so tired and was looking forward to sleeping in the next day.  Since the kids didn’t go to sleep until late, I figured that they would be sleeping in pretty late as well.  It seemed liked only minutes since I closed my eyes and fell asleep, when I began to hear giggles coming from Haru’s room again. Sigh!  C’mon!  Go to sleep already! I thought to myself.  No chance!  The giggles grew louder until it became full laughters.  I opened my eyes and glanced over at the wall clock. 5:45AM!  You’re joking!  Sounds of feet heading down the stairs soon followed.  Ayayay!   They only slept like 3 or 4 hours. Where do they get all this energy from? I gave my wife a little nudge to wake her up.  It’s your turn.

 

I headed down to the living room at around 8AM.  The kids were eating left over pizza while watching TV.  No one seemed too tired except for me.  What a long weekend!  But everyone seemed to have had fun.  But hopefully there isn’t another sleep over for a while.  I don’t think I can take another one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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CheerFest Summer 2014


Last Sunday, Haru performed her cheer routine in public for the first time as a member of the “Clover Team” (a promotion from the previous “Peach Team”.)  Although her routine wasn’t without it’s mishaps, there were no noticeably huge mistakes.  I think the only people who really noticed was my wife and me.

For some reason, Haru was particularly excited about performing this year -so excited that she invited most of the neighborhoods kids, and some of her kindergarten classmates to come and watch.  I didn’t see any of the neighborhood kids in the audience; this might be due to the fact that Haru gave them the wrong location, or perhaps they didn’t try to come at all.   But, three of her former classmates did show up and watched Haru’s cheer in the audience.

Unlike last year, the weather wasn’t too hot.  In fact, it was much cooler than normal which was good for Haru and her fellow cheerleading teammates.  But as usual, the Hearties Junior cheerleading event was by far the most popular event of the day -far more popular than the magic show (although I did get a kick out of it when the “magician” dropped all of his magic balls that “mysterious” seem to change colors at the wave of the hand, revealing the secret to the trick), -far more popular than the  senior citizen singing quartet, -far more popular than the other cheerleading teams and hip hop dancers, -even more popular the 50+ year old Flamenco dancers.  Hearties Junior really pack the audience in, like they did last year, to the point where they had to extend the spectator area again like they did last year when I lost my perfect unobstructed view of the stage and ranted about it on this very site.

This year, I was prepared!  I had a better lens for my camera (my Disneyland “Go To” lens that does everything -presumably), although its not quite the lens I would liked to have used, it did its job.  And when they moved that rope that held the spectators back, closer to the stage like they did last year,  I was able to get right up their before all of the people started piling in.  So I was front row center, no obstructions what-so-ever.  The only issue was that perhaps I was too close, because the cheerleaders who were in the front row (where Haru was) was now literally three feet away from me.  I didn’t want to make Haru nervous, but she didn’t seem too phased by me being so close and visible.  Haru’s friends Sakura and Yuka S (Haru’s personality twin and kindergarten rival). were also in the front row and a few feet away from me, watching the event.  At times I could hear them shouting “Look! There’s Haruka.  Go Haruka!”  I was a bit concerned that this may also make her nervous, but Haru confidently waved back and smiled.

Haru’s debut as a Clover went well.  No major mistakes, no falls, and no nervousness.   There’s still some kinks that she needs to work out of her routine, but not a bad performance at all.

 

 

 

 

EDIT:  Video from the event:

 


Fast Tube by Casper

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Tumbling


Haru started her elementary  school level gymnastics classes last month.   Initially, I was contemplating moving her to a different school because I was not very satisfied with the lessons she was receiving from her current school.  There were a quite a few unruly kids whose seemingly only purpose for being there is so that their parent(s) can get an hour to themselves to text message or play games on their phones.  They obviously didn’t care whether their child can do a round off or cartwheel, but rather how good the signal quality in the gym was.  Personally, although it was admittedly annoying to see these parent(s) more engulfed in what was being displayed on their phones rather than what their own kid was doing, I didn’t care too much about what they did.  For each is own.  However, I get thoroughly annoyed when these disruptive kids take up valuable lesson time from the other kids when the teacher has to chase them around the gym, or when they are assigned a private instructor (which isn’t free according to their own homepage) for free, and to just make sure that they don’t run around and climb on the equipment.  It takes away so much from the kids who genuinely want to learn and become good at what they do.

I thought that moving up into the elementary school level classes would change all this, and for the most part it has changed somewhat.   Since this class goes from first grade all the way up the sixth grade, I figured that there would be some kids who would be really good -I mean near competition level good, but unfortunately the older kids aren’t that much better than Haru.  As a matter of fact, in a matter of a few weeks, she has pretty much come very close to what the sixth graders are doing, and to some respect, she can do more than they can do.   Normally, Haru should be in the first grade group, but she is in the second grade group, and she still out performs everyone in her group.  The next level is the third grade and up group, but since the kids are physically so much bigger than Haru, I think the instructors are reluctant in advancing her up another age group.  So for now, I am just going to wait it out…after all, it’s only been a month.

Every third Sunday of the month, Haru’s cheerleading class holds a special tumbling class for girls who want to improve their tumbling skills.  The tumbling coach is really good and pretty much taught Haru all of her tumbling moves.  This coach also has his own tumbling classes on Monday evenings.  Haru has been wanting to go to his tumbling class, but it had been full for a long time, plus its held pretty late in the evenings, so my wife would have had a hard time taking her.  This month, some students advanced up into the advanced classes, leaving a couple of openings in the classes.  I thought this would be a really good opportunity for Haru to advanced her skills and give her a better chance to finally  overtake even the older kids and move up in her gymnastics class.

Since my work schedule is pretty flexible, I am able to come home fairly early now and take Haru to the tumbling classes, so it was a done deal.  We signed Haru up for tumbling classes once a week every Monday.  The only drawback is that parents are allowed to watch only on the fourth Monday of the month, which I thought was a strange policy,  but its perfect because my gym is only two blocks away.  This gives me an opportunity to workout and get free parking (since free parking comes with gym membership), while Haru does tumbling.  Its a win-win for everyone!

 

 

This is a video of what Haru was doing in class.  She was the only one in her gym class to be able to do this.  In contrast, almost everyone in her tumbling class can do this.   Although still not perfect, she is improving everyday.

 


Fast Tube by Casper

 

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New School


Three years ago this week, Haru started what is to be a 15 year (minimum) academic career.  She was only three years ago, and I remember thinking how she had grown up since she was a baby.  But as I reflect back and read my old blogs and look at the old pictures, I can’t believe what a little baby she was back then compared to now.  Of course, six years from now, when she graduates from elementary school, and six year from that point when she graduates from high school, I will probably looking back to this moment and looking at these pictures and saying the same exact thing.

Three years ago this week, when Haru began Kindergarten, it was for some, the very first time away from their families.  Many kids were crying at the initiation ceremony, as they were forced to sit with their fellow classmates and away from their families for the first time.  Haru never shed a tear through the whole event.   As a mater of fact, she offered comfort to her now best friend, Yuka, who back then was a very quiet and somewhat sad child, who rarely smiled.

The initiation ceremony at Haru’s new school was quite different.  First of all, there was hardily any crying -not by the students at least.  I did spot one boy who was crying during the ceremony, but I have no idea why.  As the new first graders entered the the auditorium, a chorus of upper class boys and girls sang songs very off key and off tempo, and they really did sound unrehearsed and just plain awful.  At Haru’s old kindergarten, this would have been un-thought of, but I guess the quality level drops a bit when going from private school to public school.  But the one thing that really caught my attention were the teachers -more specifically the principal teacher.  Apparently he is new -just started this spring, which was kind of obvious.   He gave a really awful speech during the ceremony.  Maybe I am just a stickler for proper wording, but he was say some really peculiar things in his speech.  As an example, there was this one line that caught my attention, he said, “We are trying to become a more happy and cheerful school”.  Trying?  In my own head, this implied that the school is a sad and gloomy place to be, and going by the school’s overall appearance, it did seem that way.

Maybe I was too use to seeing the cleanliness and upkeep of Haru’s kindergarten, or maybe I was too use to the cleanliness of the elementary school that I attended, but Haru’s new school looked pretty bad.  Maybe the principal was referring to the external appearance of the school?  If so, that would definitely be a welcomed change, because I’d personally hate to spend six hours a day where the paint is pealing, and walls looked so gray.

On a brighter note, Haru was able to see some of her old kindergarten classmates at the initiation ceremony.  Except for Yuka, who wound up being in Haru’s class once again, the other former classmates were sorted into other classrooms.  But having Yuka in her classroom once again was a very positive thing, since the kids have been the best of friends for 3 years now.

 

 

 

 

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Camp Luck II


It’s April, and this is Haru’s last week of spring break.  Last week, she spent four days at Luck Ski Camp, with a few of her kindergarten classmates.  When I was initially approached about this  camp idea a few months ago, I didn’t think it was a big deal -after all, she did attend the Camp Luck last summer and she had a great time.  I also thought that this would be a great opportunity for me to have some much needed quiet time for myself.  However, as the time came closer and closer, I became more aware of the details about the ski camp and it had gotten me into somewhat of a personal frenzy.

Somehow, I was under the illogical notion that the camp will be fairly close to Yokohama.  But of course, that would be impossible, because snow in Yokohama in late March would be an extremely rare occurrence.   Even if it did snow in Yokohama in late March, it would be implausible that there would be enough snow to ski.  So I don’t know why or where I got the idea that it would be anywhere nearby.

Her previous Camp Luck trip was to Yamanashi, which is about an hour away, should there be a need to drive up there in the case of an emergency.  This ski trip was in Niigata which is about 4 hours away, assuming that there is no snow on the roads on the way up.  So unlike her previous trip, accessibility would be pretty poor, should something happen.

This sent my mind racing with “what if” questions.  I tried to hatch up contingency plans for these what if scenarios.   Would I be able to get to her, if she is injured?  What if something happens here?  Would she be able to come back?

Later, I learned that her kindergarten friend and rival Yuka S. was not going.  Apparently her father was not comfortable with the idea of his daughter being so far away, and didn’t want her to attend camp until she has started elementary school.  Again, I started to question if this ski camp was a good idea.  If this was just a regular camp where they would be spending a few days in the mountains catching bugs and lizards, then it wouldn’t be such a big deal to me.  But so many things can go wrong on a sports outing such as this, especially given the fact that Haru has never skied before.

I began to debate in my head whether to pull the plug on this whole ski camp idea.   This is a bad bad idea.   I thought to myself.  She’s too young.  If I said no and explain to her why she can’t go, she would surely understand.  She can stay home and watch cartoons, and play with the neighborhood kids.  But the more I tried to justify the reason in my head, the more ridiculous it got.  The reality is, she would never understand.  She would be extremely disappointment and resentful that I canceled her much anticipated trip just days before she planned to leave.  I just have to get over my own silly anxiety.  After all, hundreds of kids are going, including her friends from school, so it will all be good, and I can get the much needed quiet time that I really needed.

The night before Haru left for ski camp, I was a bit of a nervous wreck.  I made it point to put down my usual routine of checking my email, surfing the net, and doing other thing I would normally do to wind down after work, in favor of focusing more of my attention on Haru.  I found myself lecturing her on being careful and to listen to everything that the camp counselors say.  She went to bad at her usual time, 9PM and usually I would stay up later to catch up on my TV shows etc, but I went to bed only slightly later.

The next morning, I woke up at my usual wake up time, 4:50AM.  Haru was still fast to sleep.  I was tempted to wake her up so I could give her a hug, and lecture her again on being careful and listening to the camp counselors, but I knew she would not welcome that.  So instead, I just gave her kiss on her forehead and left for work.

The next few days were suppose to relaxing cartoons, toys, child, and noise free days for me and I had been looking forward to it.  But the reality is that although it was a cartoons, toys, child, and noise free four days, it was packed full of worries.  It’s amazing how a person’s mind under stress and anxiety can imagine even the unimaginable.  There were no daily pictures, emails, or progress reports from Camp Luck to relieve the worry or anxiety.  Even the pet hotels that we boarded Princess and Jenna at gave daily reports.  So unfortunately, the relaxing  carefree Haru-free days that I was anticipating turned out to be much more stressful than I had planned.  The only day when I had any sort of relief from the worries what when my wife and I went to see a movie together.  This is the first time in probably 10 years since we went to see a movie without Haru.

Haru returned from camp last Sunday evening.  Sunday was probably the only day when I got any real peace from anyone including myself.  I felt relieved that she was finally coming home.  She was extremely excited and all she could talk about was how much she loved skiing.    As a matter of fact, she insisted that we all pack up and go skiing the following weekend.  We explained to her that ski season was coming to end and that we would have to do it the following winter -that is if we go at all.  I guess she figured that there was always snow up in the mountains because she didn’t quite get the concept of what a ski season was.  Eventually, although it took several hours, she calmed down and got off the subject of skiing.

 

I was happy that she enjoyed herself and relieved that she came back in one piece.  Although I haven’t gone skiing in almost 20 years, I think this is a good opportunity start again.  Perhaps this winter, we can go all go skiing together.

 

Below are pictures from the camp.  They are not the best of quality, because I actually did a screen capture from the DVD that the camp sent us.  I was surprised how quickly she was able to learn to ski.  She stumbled an fell a lot on the first day, but by the second day she was skiing fairly well.

 

 UPDATE:

Here is the DVD video from the camp coordinator.   It’s very long -almost 2 hours, so I included some links of the areas where Haru can be seen.


Fast Tube by Casper

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Kidzania


It’s spring break -or at least it is for Haru.  For me , the 6:30AM to 4:30PM workdays still continue.   Haru will have about 2 weeks off until she starts the first grade.  It will be a new school with a new teacher and new friends.  She will be amongst strangers once again.  Not only will she be entering the first grade, she will also be in a new gymnastics class, and a new cheer leading class.  Everything will start off fresh and new, which can be daunting to some.

So, to make the transition a bit smoother, Haru has set up some play dates with her kindergarten friends.  Yesterday she spent the day at Kidzania with Sakura, one of her (now former) classmates.  Originally, Yuka (Haru’s personality twin and de facto rival), Sakura, and Haru were all suppose to go, but apparently Yuka was grounded by her father and could not go, so it was just Sakura and Haru.

Kidzania is a theme park that allows children to have a very realistic experience of being in various occupations within the workforce.   The children are given Kidzania money, which they keep in Kidzania bank, which has a real working ATM in which the children use a real ATM card to deposit and withdraw Kidzania money.

Within the Kidzania city, children can choose an occupation of their liking, and get first hand experience or what it would be like to do that job.  There is a Morinaga candy factory where children can make real Hi-Chew candy, or they can experience what it’s like to make a real MOS Burger hamburger.  Of if they don’t want to work in the private sector, they can choose to be firefighters or police men and women.  Haru and her gang of friends visited Kidzania not too long ago and had already done the Morinaga candy factory and the fire department.

The candy factory is one of, if not the most popular attraction, so you basically have to get there really really early, because they start limiting admission to the factory really early, and late arrivers simply don’t get in.  The other popular attraction is the modelling agency.  Haru has been wanting to do this for a long time, but not only do you have line up really early, you have to be at least six years old.  Now that Haru is six, she is able to experience what it’s like to dress up, walk down a runway, and even have her picture on the cover of  Kidzania magazine.

ANA flight attendant and a Kidzania police officer are some of the other occupations that Haru and Sakura participated in this time around. Overall, it was a good day for all.  Next up on the agenda is Luck Ski camp next week.  Given that Haru has never skied before, it’d be interesting on how she does.

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My Graduation


Last Friday was Haru’s final day of  kindergarten and her graduation ceremony.  It was a fairly big and ceremonious event, probably even bigger and more eventful than my college graduation, which in contrast was somewhat unceremonious and boring.  Initially, I thought that the whole idea of graduating from kindergarten was a bit odd and silly.  I don’t recall having any graduation ceremony when I moved from kindergarten to first grade, or from elementary school to junior high school, or even from junior high school to high school.   I kind of felt that it somewhat minimizes high school and college graduation which in my opinion are much more significant.  It kind of reminds me of this argument between Helen and Bob from The Incredibles, in which Bob says, they keep creating new ways to celebrate mediocrity… which is so true.  However, having said this, I did find that Haru’s kindergarten graduation a good opportunity to say her final goodbyes to the friends whom she had spent the last three years in school with.  Many of her friends will move on to other elementary schools; some will even move away to other cities all together.   Even the kids who will continue on to  the same elementary school that Haru is going to next month, will probably be sorted into different classrooms.  So in some ways, its a fresh new start for everyone, hence its a true commencement ceremony for the rest of her academic career.

We were all seated in the school auditorium in tiny little chairs that were obviously built for 5 years olds.  Most of these chairs were over 30 years old, which is probably as old as or even older than the children’s parents.  The stage was tastefully draped in the nation’s flag as well as the school flag.  I was a bit concerned that that the lighting was a bit poor because the sunlight blazed the through the glass facade behind the stage causing a back light, making it difficult to take photos of people’s faces without a flash.  After tinkering with the million settings on the camera, I was able to get a decent, albeit not perfect setting that allowed me to counter the back light without using a flash.

We sat in the tiny steel and wooden children chairs for about 30 to 45 minutes before the graduating class made their entrance.   My back was already killing me, and according to the program, we still had at least another 3 hours that we had to be in the seats.  As the children filed in into the the auditorium, sounds of camera shutters fluttered in mass, as if a bunch movie stars were walking down the red carpet.  I don’t about anyone else, but I was already in pain from sitting in my chair.  At this point, I was just hoping that a blood clot doesn’t form in my leg and go to my brain and kill me before I leave the ceremony.

The head master called each student up to the stage one by one where they were handed their diplomas?  graduation certificates? -for a lack of a better description of what those pieces of paper are.  Each student received their certificates in a genuine imitation leather folder, and respectfully bowed to the headmaster as they exited the stage as kindergarten graduates.   The whole process of reading off each of the student’s name and presenting the certificate to them took about an hour and half.

I occasionally scanned the audience of proud parents as their children received their certificate.  Some (like me) were growing restless, as they constantly shifted in their seat in an effort to find a more comfortable position.  Some spaced out and sat emotionlessly, as they stared at either the ceiling, the floor, or the walls as they increasingly grew bored with the already long and drawn out ceremony, probably wishing they were somewhere else.  Some where captivated by the whole event and snapped pictures non-stop or shot videos of even the less interesting parts (like the speeches that the instructors made).  I even spotted some emotional parents in tears as if they were on the verge of an emotional breakdown.

By the time the ceremony was over, my leg was completely numb.  I could have stuck a dull and rusted butcher knife into my thigh and not felt a thing because of the numbness.  I was happy just to be able to stand up from the old 30 year chairs, so that my blood could flow in my legs again.  We all walked back to Haru’s classroom where Haru and her classmates waited.  After a few minutes of restlessness, a smaller less eventful ceremony took place.  Each student were presented a canvas bag with various items inside.  One of the items consisted of a yearbook filled with photos of all of the “class of 2014” students, and various events they participated in during their “senior year.”  The only things that were missing were the “most likely to _____.” section, and the notes and signatures from the students.  When I got home later that night and flipped through her yearbook, and I could help to think what I would have differently to make the yearbook a bit better and a bit memorable.   For example, I would have definitely included a “current events” sections with news clips of some some the major events that happened during Haru’s last year of kindergarten.  For example, the Sochi Olympics, the rise of the national sales tax, the capture of the final Aum subway terrorist attack suspects, etc…just to capture significant historic events of the time.  For me, it was the fall of the Berlin wall, the Loma Prieta earthquake, the Exxon Valdez  oil spill, and the election of George H.W. Bush.  But I guess I sort of captured the history already by mentioning it this blog.

After the final ceremonies were completed, and Haru’s teacher had finisher very tearful speech, we changed venues and moved over to the Yokohama Prince Hotel, for the post graduation banquet.   It was held in a pretty lavish banquet hall, complete with waiters, table cloth, and cloth napkins.  And the buffet, although made more for small children, wasn’t too bad either.   Wow, all of this for a bunch of kindergarteners.  I didn’t get anything like this during any of my graduation days.

Haru got to see, what would probably be the very last day she will ever see some of her friends.  One of her friends will be moving away, while others will be going to other elementary schools.  Even her Disneyland buddy, Ayaka will be going to a different school next month which Ayaka looked noticeably saddened by.  Ironically, she only lives only about 5 minutes away, but she lives on the other side of the school district line from us, hence different schools.

For the majority of the banquet, I made it point to take pictures of as many of Haruka’s friends and teachers as I could.  Thank goodness for the digital camera, because I snapped close to 1000 photos during the course of the day.  Had this been an old fashioned film camera,   I would have spent close to $400 USD on film alone.  Strangely, Haru preferred to hang around her best friend Yuka, who will be attending the same school next month.  In reality though, Yuka is more clingy towards Haru.  Prior to to the start of the banquet, I had a chance to speak with Yuka’s father, and he told me that in the 3 years she’s known Haru, she had changed a lot.

Three years ago around this time, Yuka was a very quiet and secluded child who was riddled with various health issues, rarely smiled, and constantly cried.  Every morning was an event for Yuka’s mother, because for the longest time, Yuka could not board the morning school bus without breaking into tears.  Haru had the difficult job of trying to comfort her every time she got homesick on the bus or during class.  Seeing Yuka smile back then was a very rare event, and her parents were very concerned over her well-being.  But over the course of the last three years, Haru and Yuka had become very close.  Yuka stopped crying, she smiled more, and was able to make her own friends.  Haru always remained her best friend to this day.  And for this, Yuka’s father thanked me for helping break Yuka out of her darkness.  I knew Haru had been a positive influence on her, but I had no idea to what degree until my conversation with Yuka’s father.  I could only hope that Haru can remain a positive influence on Yuka as well as others going forward.

Then there is the other Yuka.  Yuka Sasaki, who is said to be Haruka’s personality twin and de facto rival.  She too is very athletic, and somewhat hyperactive, and has her own following among her own friends.  I never really got to know Yuka too well, but from I have heard and seen at the banquet, the assessment that Yuka is Haru’s personality twin is pretty accurate, as they competed at who was better at gymnastics.  Although Haru could do more gymnastics moves, Yuka wasn’t too far behind.  No one seems to agree with me, I think she kind of resembles a young Corey Feldman. Unfortunately, Yuka is one of the many students who will be going to a different school next month.

Finally, there is Yuna Murakami -another member of Haru’s fan club.  She’s a tiny girl, even smaller than Yuka if that is even possible.  Up until the graduation ceremony, I only knew her by name so I didn’t know what she looked like.  Apparently, she is another one of Haru’s clingy friends.  As matter of fact, Yuka and Yuna actually got into a heated fight as  to who gets to sit to Haru, which I thought was funny.  Eventually, Haru had to settle the argument between the two.

When I was at the graduation banquet, I noticed a very tiny little girl who somewhat resembled a bull terrier puppy, sitting at our table by herself playing with her mom’s digital camera while her mom helped organize the banquet.  She is so tiny I initially thought that she was the younger sister of one of the graduates; perhaps a first year student who just wanted to wear the school uniform on graduation day just to fit in.  But as it turned out, that was Yuna.  Yuna also followed Haru all day, and often jumped into to get a photo op. with Haru.  Yuna’s father company recently transferred him to Osaka, so she was moving away in the following weeks, so I felt that it was especially important to get as many photos as possible of her, because she is probably one of the kids Haru will probably never see again.

Haru will be free 2 weeks free, until her first day of elementary school.  Until then, she will have somewhat of a busy schedule with her cheerleading and gymnastic practice, ski camp, and other what-nots.

 

 

Video of the graduation ceremony


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Last Year


This is Haru’s last month in kindergarten.  She will graduate next month and start her first year of elementary school.  Often times, I think about what I was like when I was six years old.   Like for example, on my first day of first grade, was I able to read and write?  I think I was able to, but not so well.  I remember there was a girl in my first grade class named Rebecca.  She was unusually very smart.  She was able to read and write like an adult (or so it seemed at the time).  While I still had to sound out my words (example: c…aaa…t, cat!), she was reading whole sentences fluently.  The teacher would often call on her to read out loud, because she read so well.

Haru’s reading and writing level is not quite at the Rebecca level, but it does surpass what I was able to at her age.  She has been writing letters back and forth to her friends since she was four.  I’m not sure if this is normal for person entering her first year of kindergarten, or if she’s a bit ahead.

There are certainly things I could do when I was six that Haru still struggles with.  For example, I think I was able to put together moderately difficult puzzles and model cars when I was her age.  Haru doesn’t seem to have the patience or attention span to spend more than a few minutes piecing together puzzles together before she gets bored.  I think I was a lot more aware of my surroundings back then than Haru is.  For example, when I would overhear two adults talking, I would know what they were talking about.  I remember one day on the way home from school, a strange guy who was visiting our apartment complex said hello to me.  I didn’t respond because, well …he was a stranger, and kids are taught not to talk to strangers.  He then turned to a woman (our neighbor) next to him (presumably his girlfriend) and ask “what’s his problem?”.  The woman responded “He’s probably going through separation anxiety.  Most latch key kids do.”  I remember thinking to myself back then, “No stupid, I don’t talk to strangers!”  Although I may not have known what “separation anxiety” meant at the time, it didn’t sound like a good thing, and those words, along with many other words that I didn’t understand when spoken to me at that young age, stuck with me until I was able to figure out what it meant a few years later.  But I am sure that this isn’t too normal.  I have a very strange, near photographic memory that let’s me recall only strange things that happen to me.  Its too bad I can’t apply this ability to more practical things.  In that respect, I think Haru’s lack of awareness, or at least not having the same awkward and somewhat useless awareness ability that I had when I was her age, is more due to her innocence rather than intelligence.   When I was her age, I had to grow up and learn about things going on around me quickly, hence making me lose my sense of innocence and oblivion at a much younger age.

In terms of talents, Haru is by far much more talented than I could ever wish to be at her age.  She has an innate ability to do things on stage, and do it with a smile.  Perhaps this is from doing cheerleading for nearly two years.  While the other kids get stage fright and stand their like a deer in headlights, Haru looks very comfortable and relaxed.  She often says that she gets nervous, but she doesn’t show it all, which is a sign of a real showman.

And of course she is pretty good at gymnastics.  This year she will be bumped up to the junior level so she will be able learn some new things without being disturbed and distracted by the unruly little brats  kids in her class.   Most of the kids in the junior class are kids who want to take gymnastics, and are serious about it, as opposed to their parents forcing them to be there in the attempts to get them over their little quirks or phobias before elementary school.  The junior level class definitely separates the wheat from the chaff.

A video of Haru putting on a show with her classmates at kindergarten:


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