The Monday After


Its been one week since Princess passed away.  Although I am less emotional, I am still profoundly saddened.  I’m taking it day by day, and I feel as if things are getting better for me, but at the same time, a part of me feels guilty for feeling better.  I feel as if I owe it to Princess and Jenna to mourn and feel sad bit longer than just a week.

Looking at old pictures and videos helps.  It reminds me of all of the good times we had, without otherwise, I would have probably forgotten.  The trips to the mountains, the onsens, to Chiba, and the trip to Okinawa right before Haruka was born.  I just wished I could have done more and taken them more places, especially towards the end

Yesterday, I took Haru to her weekly gymnastics lesson.  I had promised her a week earlier that I would rent some movies for her on the way home, so we stopped of at the DVD rental shop and picked out some movies.  The hole time she was looking for a movie to watch, I kept looking at the clock on the wall by habit.  It use to be that every time we leave the house I would have to always be aware of the time because of Princess’s hypoglycemia.  If unattended to too long, she would have a seizure, so it would be my job to be the time keeper.  Now that she’s gone, I don’t have to do this anymore and yet I still do.  I just wish I could just finally move on and not think of them so much.

While looking at old photos of Princess and Jenna, it reminded me of all the times we use to get together with other westie owners.  Princess and Jenna loved playing with other dogs, especially other westies, and this was a very happy time for them.  It made me wonder what happened to the other dogs, so I looked them up and have found that most of them have passed away too.  But during my search, I found that one of the westies named Wing, who amazingly was Princess and Jenna’s cousin, had just passed away just last year.  Wing was born in 1995 which made her just over 18 years old when she died.  Wing was one of my favorites, because she had this amazingly long tail that was trimmed in a shape of a feather or wing.  Looks-wise, she looked like a cross between Princess and Jenna, and there was definitely a family resemblance.  I visited Wing’s homepage last night where there were even a few photos of Princess and Jenna, and I could tell that she was deeply cherished as well.  It makes me wonder if Wing’s owners felt as sad as I do when she passed.  I wonder if they recovered or are they also still in mourning -after all 18 years is a very long time.

September 13th and 14th will forever be etched in my memory as one of the saddest days of my life.  If only they had lived one more month, we could have had a huge celebration to mark their sweet 16th birthday, which I had been planning.  But never the less, I will celebrate their birthday anyway, complete with cake, candles and birthday wishes to thank them for being such great companions.

 

These are some rare photos that I haven’t even seen, taken from Wing’s homepage.

 

 

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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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The Most Important Thing in My Life


I promised yesterday that I would try to focus on Haru, and I am going to try to keep that promise, but in a more gradual sense.  I am still feeling an enormous sense of loss and loneliness, and I feel as if the only person who understands me and the profound sadness I feel, is me.  I am at best. a “functional” emotionless zombie at work.  One of my coworkers commented that I looked very fatigued, in which I gave very little or no reaction to, not because I was offended, but because I really didn’t know how I should react.  Right now, I feel as if I have to turn off all emotions while I am at work otherwise I will fall apart, which is never a good thing in a structured environment.

However, by doing this, I feel that my despair over the loss of my dogs are being too suppressed and they tend to build as if I were holding my breath, to the point where I erupt with sadness the moment I walk into the door at home.  I know Haru feels bad for me, but she’s not too sure what to do about it.  It’s totally understandable -I mean, how is a seven year old suppose to react to an adult who constantly cries, especially when it’s their own father.  She came into the bedroom last night and offered me ice cream, which I thought was kind, but I feel so weak in that I couldn’t even sit down and have ice cream with my own daughter.

I think my wife is getting sick of me.  I haven’t eaten much in days now.  Just maybe some bread and orange juice in the morning and that’s about it.  I’m afraid that if I go out to lunch that I will start to think about them again.  It’s best to just keep busy and keep my mind off of them as much as possible. so I would either work through lunch or sit on the bench in front of our office building for an hour and just space out until its time to go back to work.  My wife actually got angry with me last night for not wanting any dinner, but  I really didn’t feel like eating, and being in the living room is still too difficult. Even as I was sitting at the dinner table and Haru was spilling food all over the floor, I would think, it’s okay, Jenna will be by to lick it up, but of course that never happened, and I broke down and cried while my wife looked on with more anger.  I wish she were a little bit more understanding of my pain, rather than caring so much about the time she wasted preparing my dinner. I just wanted to do what I did the night before and just go to sleep so I didn’t have to think about anything anymore.

Last night, I heard noises again.  This time it wasn’t the sound of the dogs walking on the wood floors.  It was whimpering sounds, -the kind of sounds that Princess use to make when she wanted to go outside. I buried my head in pillows and just begged for it to please stop.  Why is my mind torturing me!  But after a while, I realized that the sound wasn’t my imagination; it was real.  So I got up and tried to figure out where it was coming from, but it was so intermittent, that I couldn’t pin point it.  It sounded as if it was coming from the hallway.  Maybe it was my mind playing tricks on me again.  Then it happened again, and it came from Haru’s room.

I went into Haru’s room to check on her to see if she was alright.  Her asthma seemed to be flaring up as she slept, because her breathing sounded rough.  It reminded me of Princess in her final days; her breathing was very rough too.  So naturally I was very worried.  I crawled into her bed with her and every once in a while she would make whimpering sounds in her sleep -the same sounds that I had been hearing all night.  I hugged her, and asked if she wanted to sleep in our bedroom (which she loved to do) but there was no response.  She just continued to sleep.

I couldn’t sleep for the rest of the night.  My thoughts shifted from the dogs to worrying about Haru.  She is the most important thing in my life, far more important than the dogs, and if anything were to happen to her, I couldn’t imagine being able to continue on.  Life wouldn’t be worth it anymore.  All I could think about was Haru’s breathing and whimpering in the next room, and how Princess did the same thing before she passed away.  So I stayed awake for most of the night making sure that she’d be alright, and walked back and forth to her room periodically to check up on her.

Having only slept a couple of hours or so, I woke up the next morning and immediately checked up on Haru again.  She was breathing much better, and wasn’t whimpering anymore.  I felt a great sense of relief, but then my mind shifted its attention back to the dogs.  But this time, I felt a bit better.  I think that realizing that the most important thing in life for me is Haru, and she is living and breathing and is right there with us.  I need to stop feeling so much misery because it wasn’t doing me any good, nor was it going to bring the dogs back.  I need focus on Haru and give her my full attention going forward, because she is who counts the most. This helped me to take a step closer to coming to terms with the loss of our dogs.  I am still very far from achieving acceptance, but I think I am finally on the road to it.

 

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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.

 

 


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Skater


The latest fad around our neighborhood seems to a strange looking contraption called a Ripstick. No, I didn’t mistake my R’s and L’s, that’s what they are really called. All the cool kids have one, according to Haru, and of course, by virtue of coolness, she must have one too.

At first glance, it looks like an ordinary skateboard, but upon a more careful inspection, you’ll realize that this skateboard is missing two wheels. Yes, I kid you not, it’s a two wheeled skateboard. Sounds difficult to ride? Well, it is!

I am not a stranger to having wheels under my feet. Admittedly, I never took well to riding skateboards, even those of the four wheeled variety. But roller skates, roller blades, and grass skis, are all pretty easy for me. However, this silly looking Ripstick thingy is just absolutely absurd. First of all, it’s ridiculously squirrelly and impossible to stand on unless you’re grabbing onto something, and If somehow you’ve managed to stand up on one, you would have to have the balancing expertise of a tight rope walker to stay up on one.

Haru had been wanting one for quite a while now, every since her kindergarten era friend and now gymnast rival, Yuka S. got one when she was still in kindergarten and took to it right away. The thing looked way too dangerous for little kids to be riding so we held off on buying one for Haru. However, Haru had been borrowing a Ripstick from one of the older neighborhood kids and was able to learn to ride it fairly quickly, so we decided to get one of her own. It was a good alternative to staying home and playing with her Nintendo 3DS all day.

Now, we have a neighborhood Ripstick club, where the older kids teach the younger kids how to do tricks. Haru doesn’t know how to do too many tricks yet, but she is practicing doing jumps with her friends, so I think its just a matter of time until she gets to be really good at it.

 

 


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8 Years


 

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Tumbling Progression


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

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

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

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

 

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


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


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


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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:


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Promoted!


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

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

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

 

Last day of intermediate class:


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The “A” Team


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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