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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🎶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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Ski Suki

A couple of weeks ago, Haru got the opportunity to go skiing and camping with her second cousins (on her mother’s) side.  Apparently, my wife’s cousin’s family just purchased an RV camper home and had been planning to take a ski trip to Niigata.  Although I was invited to go along as well, with Princess’s hypoglycemia condition, I had to stay home and take care of her.

Haru had only gone skiing once (last year at Luck Ski Camp), and hadn’t skied since, but she seemed to be able to pick up where she left off pretty quickly.  Overall, seem liked everyone had fun.  I only wish that I could have gone too.




Fast Tube by Casper

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Mother Farm 2015

Since we can’t travel too far away because of the dogs, we decided to spend some time up at the summer house in Chiba.  We thought that we’d never be able to go up there again since it was put on sale a while back, but fortunately for us, no one has bought it yet.

In the time we have been away, the area ha changed quite a bit.  For one thing, there are a lot more houses being built so what was once a fairly open and spacious residential area, has turned into a crowded subdivision jam packed full of houses.  Its pretty saddening because this area is really suppose to be somewhat of a vacation rental type area full of interesting and exotic looking homes, but now people are starting to build ordinary and somewhat boring looking houses, which I think is significantly degrading the charm and appeal of the of the whole area.

The house is about 17 years old now, and is beginning to show signs of aging.  Since its deserted 90% of the time, it seems that ticks have made quite a home of the place.  I can’t even walk into the place with having a serious allergy attack.  Haru’s asthma acts up pretty badly while we are there as well.  I think the place needs a serious cleaning.

In its nearly 17 years of existence, this is probably the first time we visited the place during the winter.  Perhaps its probably the first time that anyone has visited the place in the winter, and we figured out why.  The place is insanely cold during the winter, and none of the air conditioning  units are strong enough to heat the whole house, so the night there was absolutely miserable.   Even with the heat on at full blast, the house would absolutely refuse to warm up.  But by the end of the second day, the house got warm enough to be habitable.

Haru had been wanting to go to the Mother Farm for a while now so decided to to drive up there on the third day.  the cool thing is that during the winter, they have a skating rink set up.  Since Haru has never been ice skating before, we thought it’d be a good opportunity to teach her.

Although I’m no Kristi Yamaguchi, I consider myself to be a pretty fair skater, since I started roller skating when I was only 5 years old, back in the disco roller rink days.  I got pretty good at it, and I also roller bladed a lot during my college years.  I often roller bladed to my classes since many of them were spread out all over campus.  It was a fun and quick form of transportation.  Since roller blading is pretty much the same as ice skating, ice skating came pretty natural for me.

With the exception of swimming, Haru picks up most sports pretty quickly.  She learned to ski quite well in only a couple of days, so I figured she would be able to pick up ice skating pretty quickly as well.  Although she fell a lot (partially due to the poor condition of the ice at the rink at Mother Farm), she finally was able to skate in short bits.  Overall she had a lot of fun skating and she said she wanted to it again  Since there is a skating rink in Yokahama, perhaps I will take her there someday.

After a full day at Mother Farm, we had dinner in town and returned to the house.  Overall we spent 5 days there.  It wasn’t too bad, but we probably won’t go again until the weather is warmer.

Haru’s first ice skating outing:

Fast Tube by Casper



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Its seems as if Disneyland is now a family tradition, because we have been going there every year on Haru’s birthdaysince Haru was 2 years old.  We really wanted to do something different this year, like go to the new Harry Potter theme park at Universal Studio in Osaka.  Unfortunately, we decided against it for two reasons:  #1.  Waaaaay too crowded.  The attraction just opened last summer, so it’s insanely crowded and hardly worth the trip.  #2.  The dogs (especially Princess) can’t make the trip in their conditions, and they are too old to get a dog sitter to watch them.  So again, we settle for Disneyland.

But even with Disneyland, it was a bit of a challenge in strategizing on how to go about the day.  First of all, we needed to figure out how to deal with Princess’s hypoglycemia.  At most, she can only go 6 to 8 hours without eating something, or without a dose of glucose.  We estimated that we would be away from the house at least 13 to 14 hours, which meant that Princess would probably have a hypoglycemic seizure sometime in the middle of the day and possibly again in the evening.  This wasn’t good!

The biggest problem was that both Princess and Jenna will eat all of the food that is placed in front of them, so we couldn’t just give them a whole lot of food and and expect them to self-ration throughout the day.  Chances were very high, they would have eaten their whole meat within the first few minutes.

I tried to think of ways of putting together some kind of device that would pull a lid off of their food bowls at a certain time.  I experimented by tying a plastic lid to the hour hand of an old to see if it had enough power to pull the lid off after a certain time, but of course it didn’t work.  The dogs would probably just knock the lid once they figured out what was underneath.

I searched online for a solution and found exactly what I was looking for on Amazon.com.  Basically, it was a food bowl with a lid that is connected to timer.  When the timer reached a certain time, the lid pops up exposing the food underneath.   The timer can be set up to 12 hours ahead of time.  The best part is that there are two bowls and two different timer, so I can set one to open in the afternoon, and one late in the evening.  It was the perfect solution and didn’t cost much, so I ordered one.

The timer/doggy bowl thingy arrived the next day, and it worked well, but it brought up a new concern.  Even if the timer worked perfectly and the bowls open like they should, how do we know which dog will their food, assuming that they would even wake up and eat at all.  There was a strong probably that Jenna would both servings.  I struggled all day to think of way to make sure that Princess did eat at least one of the servings, but aside from separating the dogs into separate rooms, there was no way to make sure she would eat when the timer went off.  It was a risk we had to take.

As precaution, I set up the webcam we used as a baby monitor when Haru was a baby.  I pointed the camera to the dog bowls and set up our iphones so that we could monitor the dogs while were away for the day.

The next day was Disneyland day.  Still concerns of whether Princess will wake up and eat before Jenna does was brewing in my head.  I tested the web camera and the iphones again to make sure that they worked, and they did.  We were able to see the dog bowls and the bed where both Princess slept using our iphones.  If by chance, we could see that Princess wasn’t eating, or that there was evidence of her having had a seizure, we would have to cut the day a bit short and come home early.  I was really hoping it wouldn’t come to this, but we all realized this is something we would have to prepare.

Disneyland was more crowded than ever.   We left the house at around 7AM, expecting to get to get there a little after 8AM.  As we got closer and closer to Urayasu, traffic got slower and slower until we were at complete stand still.  We realized that the jam we were stuck in was the line to exit to Disneyland, and we were still a quite a distance away.  Overall, we must have been stuck in traffic for over an hour, and we eventually arrived at Disneyland at just before 10AM.   The park was already packed, and lines were already very long by the time we got in.  We decided that we wouldn’t make getting on the rides such a high priority, but rather just take it easy and just enjoy the park itself.

At about noon, I checked my iPhone to see if the first timer had opened the dog dish.  However, when I checked my phone, all I could see was what looked like a closeup of a wooden floor.  No matter how I tried to move the camera remotely, I couldn’t get a clear picture of anything.  When we got home that evening, I discovered that one of the dogs must have knocked over the camera and it was facing face down towards the floor.

I was very concerned that, since I couldn’t see anything through the camera and I couldn’t tell if Princess had woken up or not, that Princess would not wake up to eat her food.  I was debating on whether to leave Haru and my wife at Disneyland while I rushed home to check on them (potentially a 3 hour round trip), or to just risk Princess having a hypoglycemic seizure.

We decided to have lunch at the Alice in Wonderland restaurant.   While we were taking our break from the activities at the park, I checked my phone again.  This time I noticed that there was light being reflected off of the floor into the camera lens. I quickly realized that this was the bathroom light.  The bathroom light is hooked up to a motion sensor, so if it detect movement in the hallway, the light will automatically turn on.  We got this a few years ago because Haru was still too short to reach the wall switch.  So this meant that one of the two dogs must have walked towards the dog dish within the last 5 minutes or so.  I decided to just risk it and not bother going home.  Even if wasn’t Princess who woke up, she would have another change in another few hours when the timer on the second dog dish goes off.

We didn’t really have the opportunity ride on too many rides.  We spent most of the day taking pictures and doing other activities like participating in a How to Draw Mickey Mouse class.  I think Haru enjoyed that class the most.  Overall, it wasn’t a bad day, and everyone had fun.

On the way home, I was dreading the worst.   I could see three possible scenarios: 1. Princess sleeping through the entire day and nothing happened.  2.  Princess had one or two seizures and she is laying on the floor probably drenched in her own urine (which of course I hoped did not happen). Or 3. Princess woke up and ate her food as planned and she is perfectly okay.

When we got home, amazingly Princess was awake and waiting for us by the door.  Both dog dishes were empty and there were no signs that Princess had a seizure, so everything worked according to plan.  Overall, it was a big win for all of us.





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Return to the Onsen

Its been two and half years since our last overnight trip Mikazuki Onsen.   Although we went there last November for Haru’s sixth birthday, we weren’t able to stay overnight because Jenna was still ill and unable to walk.  But fortunately, she made a miraculous recovery and is pretty much back to normal. Princess is still the same.  She is still suffering from hypoglycemia or diabetes, so we have to make sure to regulate her blood sugar level, otherwise she’ll have a seizure.

Monitoring her sugar level isn’t that difficult.  We just feed her foods that are have a high GI like bread, rice, cereal, or cake once or twice a day.  Or, if it looks like a seizure in immanent,which we can tell when she starts twitching or loses her balance, we might give her a few spoonfuls of vanilla ice cream laced with powdered sugar a sugar that is easily converted to glucose -which seems to work the quickest.  We also found that when she is excited or over exerts herself, her sugar level dips pretty quickly, so she needs to be monitored more closely when we take her out of the house.
It was a three day weekend in Japan, which means crowds..BIG CROWDS.  This is why I don’t like traveling during national holidays in Japan.  You are guaranteed to either be stuck in traffic, stuck in long lines, stuck in a sea full of people, or all of the above, and unfortunately this holiday is no different.  And now that Haru is in elementary school, we can no longer skip class on normal schooldays to take trips, so we are forever doomed to travel with the rest of the country whenever we want to go somewhere, which is one thing I really hate about living in Japan.

We left the house on Sunday morning just before noon in the “attempt” to avoid traffic.  But of course, being the second day of a three day weekend, being stuck in traffic was inevitable.  At first, traffic was flowing pretty smoothly and it looked as if we got out early enough to have avoided the holiday gridlock, but as soon as we got near the Aqua-Line, traffic slowed down to a crawl.  We noticed that there was a long line in the far left lane that seemed to stretch on for several kilometers, as we continued to wiz passed it in the far right lane.  As we got closer to the entrance to the Aqua-Line, it dawned on all of us that the very long line that we were looking at and passing was for the entrance to the Aqua-line.  As I approached the on ramp for the Aqua-Line, I managed to cut in front of a car towards the front of the line, that had opened up a big enough  gap for me to shoe horn myself into.  I felt REALLY bad about doing this, because we must have passed at least a hundred cars that will probably will be waiting another couple of hours just to get to the point where we managed selfishly and shamelessly squeezed ourselves into.  Even from that point, it took us another 30 to 40 minutes just to get to the Aqua-Line, so I can’t even began to imagine how long the car at the back of that long line had to wait.
Once we got onto the Aqua-Line, traffic opened up but only slightly.  We went from a crawling pace to a walking pace.  As a matter of fact, if someone were to walk across the Aqua-Line, they would probably would have a pretty fair chance at beating us to the other side.  I think all of our patience were being tested at this point -especially Haru, who has no patience for traffic jams.   But fortunately, by the time we reached the midway point of the 11 kilometer long bridge/tunnel, we were back up to a good expressway pace. An hour and half after we left the house, we finally made it to our destination.  Haru was eager to jump right into the pool.  I needed a bed because the traffic jam exhausted me, but there was no chance that Haru was going to allow me to rest up before going to the pool.  After we checked our bags in, we headed to the pool area.

The pool was PACKED.  It wasn’t quite Chinese swimming pool packed (if it had been, I would have left -by the way, look how filthy  that pool is…YUK!), but it was more crowded than it was the last two times we were there.  The water slide that we were all looking forward to just wasn’t going happen.  I actually timed how long it took for the last person in line to get to the front, and it turned out to be around a 30 minute wait, which was plain ridiculous and stupid.  There was no wait the last time we were there, so we were able to go down the water slide over and over again up to the point where we were sick of the water slide.  Had we waited in line this time around, we would been in line for the majority of the day. Without the water slide, it just wasn’t the same, but since it was warm outside, we were able to use the outdoor swimming pool.  One thing that we didn’t account for is that the outdoor swimming pool wasn’t heated.  It wasn’t quite ice cold, but it wasn’t exactly comfortable either.  The outdoor swimming was a lot less crowded, and somewhat cleaner.  I say this because every time we tried to open our eyes underwater in the indoor swimming, our eyes would burn.  Many believe that a high content of chlorine in the water causes the eyes to burn.  But in reality, its not the chlorine but a high concentration of ammonia that does it.  Ammonia is one of the main components of urine, so if your eyes hurt from being in a swimming pool, it’s because there is a lot of pee in it, and it was pretty obvious given the  number of small kids in the pool, and the murkiness of the water that this pool had a lot of pee in it. We had planned to spend the majority of the afternoon in the pool, then head to the baths to wash the urine off of our bodies before going to dinner.  But given the fact that the water slide was too crowded, we were pretty bored by mid afternoon, so we packed it up and headed to the onsens early.

Again, I am not particularly big on taking a bath with a bunch of other naked men.  It always makes me uncomfortable to be in the same room with a bunch of naked men.  So I cleaned up quickly and headed up to the lounge where I just kicked back and relaxed until Haru and my wife finished taking a bath -which seemed like hours.  Afterwards, we got our room keys and headed up to our room (unfortunately not in that order) and rested up before dinner. Our room was a bit bigger than the last time stayed.  It was kind of like a suite room, where the bedroom was separate from the living room.  We even had a nice view of the ocean and the outdoor swimming pools.  We had choice of having dinner at 5:30 pm, 6:30 pm, or 7:30 pm.  Rumor had it that if we went to the 5:30 dinner, and we got their early enough, they would serve opilio crabs -something we missed out on the last time we were there.  Apparently, because it’s an all you can eat style buffet, they run out of the crabs before the second dinner hour, so we made sure to get there as early as possible. The dinner menu was pretty much exactly the same as as the last time, except for the crabs.  The crabs were “okay” at best, but not particularly great.  They tasted really bland and kind of dry. One helping of it was enough, which begs the question why they run out of it before the second dinner hour.  I suppose to some people thought the crabs were the best thing since sliced bread, but none of us thought so.  Nothing that they served was that great, but it wasn’t bad either…just “okay.”

After dinner, we went to the arcade area and let Haru play some games for a while, then headed to check on the dogs.  No expensive $40 candles this time.  Both Princess and Jenna were perfectly fine.  Princess showed no signs of hypoglycemia, but we gave her a few spoonfuls of ice cream just in case.  It was a bit too early to give them dinner so the ice cream was just to keep her sugar level up.  We then headed to the pool once again to watch this so called “laser light show” that they held in the evenings.  Suffice it to say, although the lights were “pretty”, it wasn’t particularly  captivating nor was it a must see event.  It lasted like 10 minutes at the most and comprised of a silly laser show with repetitive music from the hotel’s TV commercial playing in the background.  We then headed back to walk the dogs and feed them.

Although relatively early, I think we were all pretty tired and ready to call it the day.  I immediately headed to the bedroom and I was asleep within minutes.  The last thing I remember was Haru asking me if I was going to sleep already and me mumbling something incoherently back at her.

We all woke up pretty early next morning to catch the early morning breakfast hour in the hopes that we might get something special and elusive like the opilio crabs.  Unfortunately, no such luck.  Just the same old stuff we got the last time, not to say that the same old stuff is bad, just not particularly special nor was it elusive, unless you consider the little tiny bottles of Yakult special or elusive.  We basically repeated what the previous night.

After breakfast, we went to walk and feed the dogs (again, both dogs in good healthy spirits), we went to the arcade once again and visited the “Trick Art” museum, which is something we had been meaning to do since our first trip to Mikazuki, but never got around to doing.  The museum was pretty interesting.  It was basically big room full of paintings of optical illusions.  It seems to work well if you take pictures of your subject (in my case, Haru) standing next to or near the optical illusions, so I got to excessive my photography skills. Lastly, we bought her little souvenir, which I still have no idea what to call that thing.  It looks like a block of sand with rocks hidden inside.  As long as it costs less than the $40 candle, I am fine with.  We then picked up the dogs and headed home.


Luckily, the trip home was a lot easier than the trip there, and took less than an hour to get back, which was a big win for me.  I initially thought that Haru was unimpressed by this trip given that the water slide was too crowded to slide down, the outdoor pool was too cold to stay in for a long period time, the food was so-so, and laser show was just one big commercial for the hotel, but when I asked if she was given the choice to come back, or go to Disneyland, she chose the onsen.  Maybe she was just saying that because the excitement still hadn’t worn off yet, but I guess the trip was a success.


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Fall is Here Again

September is here…finally.  But having said this, summer seemed unusually short this year.  This is in part due to the usually long monsoon season that lasted until mid July.  Things started cooling off by the last week of August, and now it pretty much rains everyday so the weather has been quite cool.  I’m not too keen on hot weather, especially hot and humid weather which is common in Japan, so this for me is a welcomed change.

Around this time last year, we had planned to take a trip to Mikazuki onsen, because Haru had been wanting to take an overnight trip somewhere.  But unfortunately, with both Princess and Jenna (our beloved but aging westies) had both fallen ill, we had to cancel our trips which had deeply disappointed Haru to the point where she was wishing away their existence.

Although we kind of found a work around to Princess’s ailment, and that was to basically keep her GI (glucose index) in check by feeding her high glucose foods (which we still do to this day), Jenna was another story.  She had lost her ability to walk, and eventually she was no longer able stand or even move at all.  The vets told us it would be a minor miracle is she even survives until the end of the year, let alone ever walk again.

Fast forward one year, and $3000 in vet bills later, and not only is Jenna still alive despite the death sentence our vets handed down to her last year, she is alive and walking again.  As a matter of fact she is even running again.  She isn’t in perfect condition of course, she still walks with a slight limp, and she is still unable to walk up steps, but she is able to eat, drink, and go to the bathroom by herself which is far more important.   This “minor miracle” baffled all of the vets at the animal hospital.  They told us that if they hadn’t seen it for themselves -if they hadn’t seen the condition she was in last year, and the condition she is in now, they would not have believed it was possible. She had a slipped vertebrae which takes a very long time to heal even for younger healthier dogs -and sometimes they don’t heal at all, so owners often put their dogs to sleep.  She has Cushing Syndrome caused by a possible inoperable tumor in her brain.  And she has arthritis in her hind quarters, which the vets said was probably causing her a lot of pain.  She had a long laundry list of health issues, none of which was going to get better because she was too old to recover -so said the vets.

Despite the vets advising us to seriously consider putting her to sleep, I made the very difficult decision not to listen.  I decided that the line would be drawn if one of two things happened:  1. She loses her appetite and no longer has the desire to eat, or 2. She is in so much pain that its not worth keeping her alive.  Jenna never lost her appetite.  As a matter of fact, if anything her appetite was bigger than ever, often out eating Princess.  She never seemed to be in pain either.  We would pick her up and move her about pretty freely and she never yelped or tried to bite us, or do anything that indicted she was in any sort of pain.  So as long as she had the will and the strength to live, and as long as  we could afford to keep her alive, I was willing to keep her alive.  And less than six months later, she was walking again.

So, one year later, we are going to try to take our trip again.  We are confident that both dogs are healthy enough to travel, although we’ll need to monitor Princess’s diet carefully to make sure that she doesn’t go into a hypoglycemic seizure.  we’ve been pretty good at being able to catch her before she goes into a full seizure, and the quick fix is to give her some vanilla ice cream coated with powdered sugar which has a very high glucose index.  We’re not even worried about Jenna.  She is pretty healthy and a trip away from the house would do her good.







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Keeping Up With the Hayashis

Our extended family meets only twice a year, in the summer and during the winter around the holiday season.  Since the meetings are somewhat infrequent, we try to make the most of it, especially for the kids.  Haru loves her second cousins, especially Karin.  But with all of our busy schedules, unfortunately we can only meet at those times, with the occasional exceptions when we share the summer house together like we did last year. Haru also has 3 other second cousins, whom she rarely sees these days.   One is a boy, who’s in junior high school now, so is considerably older than the rest of the kids, hence probably can’t be bothered entertaining little kids.  The other two are twin girls, who unfortunately due to internal family issues, we probably will never see again      ….yeah    …really unfortunate  ….sigh.

At any rate, I always treasure these moments because I know I have a lot of fond moments of the my own childhood spent in Japan with my cousins.  But since my childhood took place in the  era of print (not digital) photography, when film, development, and print costs  were expensive, I don’t have too many photos of us as kids.  This is why I always carry at least one if not two or three cameras with me at all times.  I often get criticism (especially from both my wife and Haru) that I take way too many pictures (sometimes in the thousands for a single event).  But I think when Haru is much older, she will appreciate the efforts I have gone through to photograph, video tape, and write about her childhood.  At least that’s what I hope.

Over the weekend, we visited my grandmother’s house  like we always do when my mother is in town.   We usually make it an effort to tell everyone beforehand that we’re going so that the kids can get together and play.  And of course, it makes for great opportunity take pictures as well.  One of the advantages (if any) on getting together so infrequently, is that we can see how much Haru has grown in comparison with her second cousins.  Haru, being the youngest of all of the kids, had always been the smallest.   Around the same time last year, Haru was just past Karin’s shoulders.   Up until that point, Haru and Karin had been growing at about the same pace, so Karin was always a few inches taller Haru.  However, this year, it seems that Haru has all but caught up to Karin.  She was only about a half an inch shorter than Karin.  All kids grow differently and at different paces, so there is no telling how this is going to end up.  But at the rate that Haru eats these days (which is a lot…I mean A LOT), she might overtake Karin by the time the winter holidays roll around.

When we all get together, we usually all go out for dinner together (or order pizza, which makes life a bit easier).  The issue with all of us going out to dinner is that most restaurants in the area have a hard time seating all of us.  So often times we would have to hop around until we can find a place that can seat 13 people (preferably at the same table), serves food that appeals to small kids and adults (so McDonald’s is OUT), at a reasonable price (my grandmother usually flips the bill, so we don’t want to bankrupt her), and can do this all WITHOUT a reservation.  Yes, this is a tall order, and a tall order that many restaurants could not fill.

We hopped around to no less than four different restaurants.  At the first restaurant, we got to the point where we were all seated at our table, but then found nothing on the menu was too appealing, so we left.  Second restaurant, we got up to the restaurant where there was a large aquarium, where the kids had gathered and admired the fish swimming around.  As we were looking at and admiring the fish, someone decided we should find something else.  The kids were disappointed because they liked the fish and wanted to stay.  We get to the third restaurant where a staff outside of the restaurant door assured us that they had seats, the food was good, and that we would get a 20% discount off the bill.  Hmm…sounded fishy, but at this point, who cares… let us in!!!

All 13 of us were seated at table that was clearly for no more than 7 or 8 people at the most.  We were all crammed together and there was no way we would be able to comfortably eat our food (assuming that food for a party of 13 could even fit on a table made for 8).  The table next to our table was empty, so we asked is we could use both tables.   Staffer had to get approval for some reason, which I thought was silly.  But when we threatened to leave, all of a sudden it was okay.

We all rattled off what we wanted to the server, who was frantically trying to keep up with the verbal shout outs of random menu items that he was suppose to be inputting into his little order taking device thingy.  I figured that there was no way he was getting this order right, but it didn’t matter, we could sort it out later.  After having gone to two other restaurants earlier and walking around looking for a place that met our requirements, we were all pretty hungry and just wanted to get the order in.  At this point we would have probably have eaten anything, regardless of whether we ordered it or not.

20 long minutes later, we had already gone through 2 rounds of soft drinks and nothing of real substance had arrived yet; just the appetizers and side menu items.  Out of hunger, we all started ordering more soft drinks and smaller and simpler food items in the hopes that they might be able to prepare and deliver them more quickly.

Another 30 long miserable minutes later, we were on our fourth or fifth round of drinks, and still nursing a now stale and cold plate of appetizers.  My mother and aunt were really getting impatient and somewhat angry, which I thought was interesting.  Usually in situations such as this, I would be the first to lose my patience and start barking at the restaurant staffers for better service.  Perhaps it was because I was kind of already  full from drinking four classes of orange juice that I hadn’t reached my tipping point yet.  The same couldn’t been said about the ranting duo, who were really digging into the server, and demanded that our food be served soon.  The server frantically went back and forth to the kitchen, but had yet to produce any of the food that we had ordered, just more drinks.

Eventually, my mother lost and demanded the check.  If there was any time when I needed a bag a popcorn, this was the time, because this was a pretty good show.  She totally tore the server apart at this point, telling him that he had no right pulling us in without having the ability to serve us in a more timely manners, and went on to tell him off over and over again about how horrible the service was for making us wait over an hour for our food.  The server apologized profusely for the diabolical  service and handed us the check.  Now, this is where it got even more interesting.  Almost none of our food was served, so naturally it should have been subtracted from our check.  We even reminded the server before he served us the check that we would NOT be paying for anything that didn’t arrive.  He agreed…    naturally.   But when we got our check, NOTHING was subtracted.  As a matter of fact, not only was nothing subtracted, all of the items that we had ordered,  that I initially suspected had not been properly taken, was surprisingly on the check!  Wow, the server got our order right, so there was no real excuse for the lateness.

As the server looked on, we passed around the check to verify what items that should not be on the check.  We all scoffed and laughed at how he had the nerve to charge us for something that was never served.  We rattled off all of the stuff that was never delivered in a rapid fire session back at the server, who at this point looked like he was having the worse day of his entire existence as he crossed off the items of the check.  After we were satisfied that my grandmother was not going to be paying for something we didn’t eat, the server went away briefly and came back with a calculator and began removing items off our bill, as my mother hovered over him to make sure he got it right.  And as final kick to the groin, my mother then said, “don’t forget the 20% discount you promised us.”  The staffer barely looked up, and simply responded OK.

After the staffer recalculated the bill, the final price came to an unbelievable $200+ (with the 20% discount).  This isn’t $200 for food, but $200+ worth of appetizers and soft drinks.  We all groaned and voiced our grievances loudly calling the place a complete rip off right in front of the server and within ear shot of other staff and customers.  We were obviously gaining some attention by the other onlooking staff at this point.  My mother added a final stab to the chest by saying, “is this the way this restaurant does business?  Really shameful!”  I don’t blame her anger at all.  As a mater of fact, I don’t think I would have been so graceful and calm.   I think if it were me, I would have had the restaurant manager or owner involved and demanded that they knock off another $100.   Everyone who knows me well, knows that when I am dissatisfied about something, or when some kind of injustice is forced upon me, I will let EVERYONE know about it.  I never knew where I got this trait from.  I figured that perhaps I may have inherited this trait from my father, whom I never really knew too well, or perhaps I am just a grumpy person by nature.  But now I know where it comes from.  It’s a Hayashi-side trait.

The 13 of us, some of us still very hungry, some full from overpriced poor quality soft drinks and appetizers, finally found a nice place where we could get good prompt service, decent food, and reasonable price.  We went to family restaurant (similar to that of Denny’s).  Yeah, it wasn’t fancy or even nice, but it got the job done.  We should have went there in the first place, because at the end of the day, the kids don’t care were we go as long as we are all together and having fun.  In fact, I think the family restaurant was perfect because they have the kid’s menu and free drink bar.  Next time, we know.






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