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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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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Disneyland….Again


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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The 753


 

It’s November which means Haru’s 7th birthday is coming up soon.  This also means its almost time for her second and final Shichi-Go-San.  When I look back to when she had her last one 4 years ago, I can’t believe how much she has grown.  I remember back then thinking how she’s not a little baby anymore, but in reality, she was really just a little baby.  I also remember how desperately we tried to keep her from sitting down on rolling around on the ground while she wore her rental kimono.  This year, Haru was very particular about what kimono she wanted to wear.  Although I preferred that she wear a red kimono like the last time, Haru wanted to wear something pink.  But after trying on about five different kimonos, we all agreed that yellow looked best on her.

Last time, we did the photo shoot, the visit to the shrine, and the celebratory dinner all in one day, but this time we decided to split into two days.  We would do the shrine visit and the lunch this time, and then do a photo shoot next month.  This gave us a chance to try a few different hairstyles.  This time we would do nihongami, or the traditional hairstyle for Shichi-Go-San’s. It’s a bit old fashioned, but it really looks good on Haru, as opposed to the more contemporary look that most girls choose these days.   Next month, when we go for the photo shoot, Haru will be wearing two different outfits: a western style dress, and the kimono she wore today.  I am not sure what hairstyle she’ll be wearing with the western dress, but personally I think she would look good with French braids.  But of course, my opinion rarely counts when it comes to things like this.

For the kimono, Haru will probably be wearing a shin-Nihongami hairstyle, which is an updated and modern take on the traditional Nihongami hairstyle.  I always refer to it as the Anmitsu Hime hairstyle, named of the 1980’s anime character.  It’s basically the same as  the traditional Nihongami hairstyle, but has more trinkets and ornaments in her hair kind of like a first year Maiko-san.

At the studio, we ran into Sakura, one of Haru’s kindergarten era friends.  She was there for her Shichi-Go-San as well, and was taking photos with her mother and father.  Sakura was wearing her mother’s kimono that she wore when she was a Shichi-Go-San, but was styling a much more modern hairstyle.  I saw it as a great photo op to have both kids dressed in their kimono’s, but after a couple of shots, we were told by the studio not to take any more photos.  I was hoping that Sakura’s family would finish up their shoot early so that we can step outside away from the studio Nazi’s, and freely take as many photos as we wanted.  But it seemed that they had just started and it’d be while.

We took Haru to the shrine nearby our house and did the usual Shichi-Go-San blessing from the Shinto priest.  Afterwards, Haru wanted to tour the neighborhood wearing her kimono, so that the neighborhood kids would see her and tell her how cute she looked.  Airi and Moe, the two older girls Haru hangs around with a lot came over and took pictures with Haru.

Apparently the obi on Haru’s dress was wound pretty tight and it became somewhat unbearable after a while, so rather than going to lunch, we rushed back to the studio to have her dress, make-up, and hair undone, which was a big relief.  Afterward, we had lunch at a nearby restaurant and finished just in time for her tumbling class that evening.

 

 

 

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Autumn Matsuri


Yesterday, our nearby Shinto shrine held their annual autumn matsuri.  Of course, Haru LOVES these things because of the little candy treats and toys that they sell there, not to mention it gives her an opportunity to play with all of the neighborhood kids.  Initially, I thought this would be the first year that Haru would be going to the matsuri with her once best friend Yuka Y., but I was wrong.   Haru had met up with you and played together as if there was never any ill-feelings between her and Yuka Y., or the feud between the mothers.  Of course, we treated Yuka Y. as we normally do, which is the same as we treat any other Haru’s friends.

Yuka Y. seemed to in good spirits as normal.  She wasn’t acting like a she-devil like did in the recent past, probably because the older neighborhood kids were there and they tend tell parents everything that the kids do, so the younger kids are usually on their best behavior around them.  Yuka Y. didn’t stay too long; her father came by and left the matsuri fairly early, which indicated to me that they continue to baby and overprotect her as usual.  I guess some things won’t ever change.

Haru has been eating A LOT lately.  I suspect its due to her very active schedule.  She now takes cheerleading, tumbling, gymnastics, and swimming.  During the matsuri, Haru her and friends approached and told me that Haru was feeling very  hungry despite being before dinner time and having a fairly large snack.  So I took her over to the Yakisoba stand to get her some Yakisoba.

 

The lady running the stand was in a somewhat generous mood.  For 500 yen she would fill a plastic container with as much yakisoba as we wanted.  When the lady asked Haru how much she wanted to eat, Haru responded “a lot”, and the lady scooped up several spatulas-full of Yakisoba and began it pile it into the plastic container.  Yakisoba overfilled the container to the point where she would  have a hard time closing the lid, yet she still asked Haru if she wanted more, and Haru responded “yes! A lot more!”.  The lady then scooped up about 4 or  5 more spatula-fulls of Yakisoba and piled into the already overfilled container.  Millions of strands of yakisoba was sticking out all over, and the lid wouldn’t shut all now.  The yakisoba lady had wrap the container with several rubber bands to keep the lid closed just enough so that the Yakisoba wouldn’t fall out.  But even so, yakisoba spewed out everywhere.  There was no way that Haru would be able to finish the Yakisoba.  There was no way I could even eat that much yakisoba.  There must have been several plates full crammed and compressed into that little disposable container.  Clearly the lady was being way too generous, but even for 500 yen, she was still pulling in a nice little profit because Yakisoba is pretty cheap.

With the Yakisoba pouring out everywhere, the lady placed overstuffed and ready explode container into a plastic bag so that the Yakisoba wouldn’t fall out everywhere and make a huge mess.  I paid the Yakisoba lady her 500 yen and Haru and I both walked over to the giant blue plastic sheet that was spread in front of the temporary stage so that spectators (mostly little kids) could sit down and watch the show that “Lucky” the clown was putting on for us on stage.  Haru immediately dug into the huge pile of Yakusoba and scarfed it down like a starving child in a third world country.  She ate it as if she had never been fed, and all of the other kids were amazed at how much she ate.  15 minutes later, what had been a humongous pile of never ending strings of Yakisoba was a completely empty plastic dish.  I was amazed.  Were you hungry? I asked, to which she nodded yes.  Do you want more?  I asked half jokingly, fully expecting her to say no.  She responded, Not now...maybe later though.  Haru’s friends show up with their own containers of Yakisoba, but it wasn’t as nearly as much as Haru had gotten from the Yakisoba lady.  Some of her friends even shared a container.

Lucky the clown performed his usual balloon animal act as everyone looked on.  Haru’s friends encouraged Haru to go one stage to make balloon animals with Lucky, but she didn’t want to go up unless someone went with her.  Momo reluctantly volunteered to escort Haru up to the stage and  both twisted and pulled the balloons into animals.

 

We wound up staying pretty late; well past Haru’s 9 o’clock bedtime, but she enjoyed herself so it was well worth it.  She did get hungry again (or so she said) right before we put her to bed,  but we knew she wasn’t really hungry, so we just let go to sleep.

 

 

 

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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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Summer Slumber party


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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CheerFest Summer 2014


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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

EDIT:  Video from the event:

 


Fast Tube by Casper

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New School


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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

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My Graduation


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Video of the graduation ceremony


Fast Tube by Casper

 

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