It’s the year of the sheep.
Here I am, as usual, sitting in front of my computer on January 1st trying to make the New Year’s cards that should have been finished by December 25th (according to Japan Post). I am always late making these things, even though, I actually LIKE making them. I simply don’t have the time to make them before January 1st.
December is full of events for us. Every Japanese family has various things to do and loose ends to tie up. You have to prepare for the year end, get the house cleaned, attend year end parties… Our house is no exception, BUT we have to add a Canadian style Christmas on top of that, quickly followed by DD2’s birthday. I’ve also decided to add Japanese New Year’s cooking to my list of challenges.
That all done, I’m ready to sit back with a good cup of coffee and get New Year’s cards sent off (better late than never).
But first I’d like to look back on 2014…
I’m happy to say that 2014 was a safe and happy year. At this age that’s all I really want. We were also blessed with a few fun events as well to add a little spice to life.
As usual, I started the year by climbing Odo-yama. DH seemed content with doing that only once, so at 5 am when the alarm went off, he declined and reclined. He and DD2 stayed home while DD1 and I did our New Year ritual of heading out before the crack of dawn. It was the first time in 3 years that we didn’t have snow on top of the mountain! We didn’t see the sunrise (as usual).
DD1 turned 8 and wanted a sleepover. I let her have one friend stay over and a small gaggle of girls came for a party the next day. We made pizzas together and played spin the bottle – the kid version- with silly commands to pull from the bottle.
DD2 had her kindergarten concert in February. It’s a huge event and this year was no exception. They are just so cute in all their outfits but these outfits were the best. The 4 -5 year old girls danced about with fans.
I finally gave up being 29 so I turned “39” this year.
Around this time, a cat adopted me. I really didn’t want or need a cat but she kind of grew on me. She is still with us but the dog hates her. If anyone wants a very friendly cuddly cat, let me know.
At the end of March, our neighbours moved. We find it quite lonely without them. They were a friendly lot, and their youngest son and daughter often played with my my two. The son often helped me around the garden. I have fond memories of sitting around a fire, roasting marshmallows with them or sitting on our step eating snacks or drinking tea.
The new school year. In our neighbourhood they have a special cermony to bless the new kids going off to school. Older kids do a special dance called “Mikomai”. DD1 was finally able to participate. Usually you have to be much older but there are so few kids around here now that she was eligible (She’s a 3rd grader).
DD2 stepped up to the “senior class” of kindergarten. She is now an “elephant”.
We tried archery! It was certainly a lot of fun. Even DD2 could have her own bow and target. She managed to get the hang of it too. DD1 went out on the trail with her father and friends. I stayed back on the practice range with the wee one.
As usual, I spent Mother’s Day waiting for DH to complete his 200km cycling event. Fortunately, we have friends up in the town now so I spent a lovely sunny day hanging out in fine company while DH tried to kill himself on a bike. He completed his 200km without complaint. Actually the only thing he said at the end was “oooahhhgh”.
This year, I just didn’t have it in me to plan a big camping event, so we spent May 24th in our “back yard”. Our “back yard” serves as a perfect nature park. We set up tents and lit a fire in my fire pit and we were ready. We felt like we were way out in the woods even though the house was only about 50 m away.
June is one of those months that drifts by every year. The only event was a kindergarten “beach party”. It was cold and drizzled and the kids didn’t even swim as they usually do so even that was a less eventful than usual.
For the first time in 4 years I got back home with the girls. There is simply too much to write here, so it would be better to jump back to this entry. Canada 2014
After a little over a week in Newfoundland, we hopped across the country to Vancouver to see my brother and his family for a week. Ours kids are all under 9 so they all got on pretty well together. We did a LOT of stuff there too. Every day was an adventure and it was especially important for the cousins to get to know each other. I’ve just realized that I never posted about that leg of the journey. I’ll have to work on that one.
September had beautiful weather- perfect for being outside in the garden so we did a lot of that. We also squeezed in a little horse riding lesson. DD2 was too young to get on a horse by herself but she was allowed to ride a pony. She seemed pretty content with that.
DH finally made a dream come true! He has been talking about doing a triathlon for ages and he finally signed up for one. It was on the base in Iwakuni, and sadly, security is so strict there that he was not permitted to take photos. He has no neat picture of him crossing a finish line or anything. He did complete it. He grumbled about his time but he finished! Shouldn’t that be enough?
I didn’t go because it was on the same day as DD1’s sports day. This is an equally big event for her so I cheered her on. DH is big enough to deal with crossing the finish line alone. DD1 needed someone there to cheer her on. I got this great picture of her giving it her all.
DD2 is an “elephant” so this was her last sports day in kindergarten. They get to steal the show and are in lots of events. They did acrobatics with a parachute, showed off various “poses” such as helicopters and centipedes and pyramids. They raced, we carried them in makeshift rickshaws with monkey hats and lots more. It’s always lots of fun
This year the WHOLE family ran in the Iwami Airport Marathon. (in Japanese) Usually we just cheer Daddy on but since DD2 is an “elephant” we decided that the “elephant class” and parents would run for charity. We gathered sponsors and did our run. I’m proud to say that we gathered almost $1100 for the local children’s home and we got to run on the runway!!!
DD1 and her grade 3 class sang in the local Grand Toit Hall. They sounded pretty good too but DD1 is a serious sort. If her teacher tells her to practice, she takes it to heart. I had to spend months listening to “Tomorrow, Tomorrow…” from Annie. She sang it just about everywhere. In fact, she sang it so much that DD2 can sing it too.
Halloween is officially a work event for me. Our English School puts it off every year but it is becoming a huge event in our school. The girls take part every year and this year they both got on local TV. Actually the whole family did! It’s in Japanese of course.
I went to Osaka for an English teacher’s convention. It’s an annual event but this year I changed the venue. Well actually DH signed up for yet ANOTHER marathon on the same day as my usual venue so I had to make a sudden change of plans.
DD2 starts school in April and tradition in Japan is to buy the kid a desk . DD1 inherited my “desk” (aka my sewing table) so Dad got to work making a replica. He did a really good job too.
As I said earlier, Christmas has become a big event in this family lately so I was busy preparing for that. I know it’s a really busy time, so I actually got going early and was pretty much ready for Saint Nick this year.
I took them to Christmas Eve Mass. I’m not Catholic and I’m not even sure is I can claim to be Christian but I feel it is just not right to celebrate “Christ Mass” without knowing why. Luckily, my two see it as a social event and DD1, being the ever serious kid, listens as best she can to the priest’s message while DD2 giggles away with her little friend and enjoys the carols.
Christmas morning went smoothly but I had to wake the kids up. Shouldn’t it be the other way around? This is Japan though. I kept DD1 out of school so she was determined to get that extra hour of sleep.
We opened presents and then went out for a lovely, slow brunch together. We leisurely walked the beast, did a little shopping and went home so I could get started on Christmas dinner.
By the time Christmas cools down, I have to jump into the next festive event. DD2’s birthday. Same as last year, she opted for a day at the skating rink. She invited her giggling friend (from mass) and big sis invited one friend (this was to keep big sis from bothering the birthday girl and her friend). We had a nice day of skating complete with break for birthday cake. By the end of the day we had a posse of “skater friends” playing tag with us.
Then the next day, I jumped back into the kitchen to prepare the new year’s traditional foods.
I realized this year, that this is my annual challenge. DH enjoys destroying himself in sporting events. I try to destroy myself in the kitchen.
This is not like annual Christmas baking full of familiar sweets. This is a completely foreign thing to me. I have to look up recipes on the net and then try them out and HOPE they are right. One time I fed something to a bewildered husband. “Here” stuffing mashed sweet potato glob into his mouth… “so…?” I waited for an answer and he looked at me quizzically. “So… what?” “Is THAT kurikinton?” I asked. I had no idea if this glop in my bowl was kurikinton. I was simply asking him if this was it? “Oh! I see… yes”
The above picture shows that I have come a long way.
This year after dinner, we went to a hot spring, cleaned the kids and let them fall asleep in the car on the way home. We rang in a quiet new year in the kitchen.
I hope 2015 can be as peaceful as this last year.