Reading to Big Kids

The kids are bigger now and I actually have time to myself, but I sort of got out of the habit of writing this blog. Maybe I should come back.

When the girls were little, I read to them a lot. Especially DD1 because I just seemed to have more time then and could actually get through a book without falling asleep myself.

I remember that my brother was reading something to his son that was quite difficult for a little 4 year old (at that time) but he has quite an exceptional little lad. I went on with my kiddie books for my kiddies and then I seemed to get out the habit of reading to DD1 since she could read on her own. She does, however read in Japanese and not English. Try as I may, I couldn’t get her to read in English so I just started to give up.

Then one day I took a slightly longer young reader’s novel home from the classroom library. We read a chapter or two a night. Both girls loved it. especially DD1, since the story was more appropriate to her age group.

I’ve realized that this not only brings the joy of reading back to us, it gives us that important time together and she has learned a lot of new vocab and possibly grammar from the books. I used to think that once she went to school she would no longer enjoy being read to but that is certainly not the case.

We’ve recently enjoyed Charlotte’s Web but I’ll save that for another post. Right now I have to go read Mrs. Piggle Wiggle.

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Home At Last

I finally got a chance to bring the kids home. There is this culture that they don’t even know but are slowly learning. There are tons of relatives they have never even heard of but are slowly meeting. Then there is this vast environment filled with things to see and feel that they are discovering. Every day is filled with new sights, sounds, tastes, smells and even new sensations. I think they are having a good time. I know I am.

These are the pictures we are sending to Daddy who couldn’t join us on this trip.





root cellar in Elliston


Bird Island


Elliston from Bird Island


we thought that this rock looked like a puffin too.



we got this close to puffin


A sandy beach in Elliston


A delightful lunch with a great friend. We haven’t seen each other in 7 years




capelin. A real delicacy in Japan. Free around these parts.



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Learning to live with critters in the country

I’ve been cleaning up old emails and stumbled on this weird thing that happened way back last fall…

Fall is upon us and every fall is the season of the stink bug! These nasty things get into everything especially your clean laundry and well… stink! As long as you don’t disturb them they are fine, but given that putting a hand into a pile of laundry to transfer to the washer or to fold if it is clean constitutes a disturbance, these “miniature skunks” are often going off.

The other day, I pulled DD2’s notebook out of her nursery school bag to write a note to the teachers and there it was- a stinkbug. These days I have taken to flushing them down the toilet so I gently brought the notebook with it’s passenger to the toilet.

MUCH to my surprise, something moved in the toilet!!! It looked about the size of a gecko so I figured one had managed to fall in there. NOPE! it was not a gecko. It was a MOUSE!!! I have NO IDEA how he go in there. He must have fallen in. Lucky for him, these newfangled eco-toilets aren’t filled with water like they used to be so he was sort of hanging on for dear life to the dry “shore” of the bowl and hoping for the best. SO Mr stinkbug was forgotten as I went to the kitchen and dug out an old plastic cup. I lay it down near the little guy to push him in but he very willingly leaped into the cup to safety. I covered it and after showing him to DD1 and DH and insisting that we NOT keep him as a pet (DD1 wants to keep EVERYTHING as a pet) we released him to the back yard so that he may come back some day and maybe eat up our rice or cookies or something. I couldn’t hurt the little guy.

Ah life in the countryside… always full of surprises. The other day the wild boars did the job on my broccoli! Yup they didn’t even eat them, just dug up the whole garden hoping to find something good and left the broccoli uprooted. Little devils! Time to move the dog’s house to the veggie garden or get a hunting license. Of course I wouldn’t have the heart to actually shoot if I couldn’t even flush the mouse down the toilet. And then there are all these tasty pheasants strutting around in plain view… Sheesh!


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Golden Week

In Japan, uniformity is the rule. Even holidays are generally uniform. Everyone is off at the same time clogging the roads and attractions which have to make most of their money during those few peak times and then they sit relatively dormant for the rest of the year.

Golden Week is one of those peaks. From April 29th to May 5th A LOT of Japanese people have several days off (the lucky few have all that time off) so most of the big places are chock a block full of Japanese people “relaxing” during their few days off a year.


For this reason, I have been trying to avoid going very far for this holiday and I DREAD the time when the kids get big enough to realize what I have been doing, and, they too, wish to join the pilgrimage to Disneyland or Universal Studios.


Luckily DH loves “hunting”. He follows his manly instincts to hunt via Yahoo and for the last few years he has managed to successfully find little unknown gems in the nearby area. We have ridden little trains in tunnels with glowing images made by the local kids; We have run around a labyrinth cave looking for the clues to the mystery; We have found reasonable accommodation and this year he found archery!!


What poise! What grace!


After watching Brave, DD1 has convinced herself that she IS the Japanese Merida. We have the wig and dress. Daddy made her a bamboo bow and she can shoot rubber suction cup arrows pretty successfully at the target on our patio door. So when Daddy found real archery, they both got pretty excited.


I was much less excited. I can’t aim and luckily I don’t have to hunt for dinner. I was an outfielder in high school softball because I had a helluva strong arm. I could bring the ball in from way out there, but nobody knew where it was going (including me) I’d catch it and lob it in to the team. They were all on alert and ready. So here I was, about to spend my day with a dangerous weapon on a shooting range!!


We got there and they set us up with our bows, and a quiver full of arrows. I found out that I’m “left-eyed”! I didn’t know that could be, but it turns out the if I aim with my left eye I should shoot left handed! THIS may have something to do with my poor aim?!


We went to the beginner range and stood about 3m from the targets. They told us the rules, how to actually shoot and then we all had a go. After about 30 minutes we all had the hang of it. Even I was hitting the target. Notice, I said “target” and not the bull’s eye. I was still pretty thrilled.

After about an hour the big kids and the Dads went off to the trail and shot at targets while walking around the course. It was like golf with a bow instead of a club.


Meanwhile, I stayed back with DD2 and my friend decided to stay and keep me company. We were chatting and shooting as if this were so completely natural. I may have even eventually hit a bull’s eye but it was just so fun to be outside doing something so interesting that I never really noticed how I was doing.


The most amazing thing, however, was looking over and seeing the 5 year-old casually taking an arrow out of her quiver and shooting it off as if this is what all 5 year-olds do. I recently read about “50 Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Kids Do” and I’m going to see if archery is on the list.  I just looked and “throw a spear” is on there so archery counts. Hmmm that book looks interesting. I also found this guy’s blog. My quest has begun!



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Reduce Reuse Recycle

I took a chance on this. A few years ago, DD1 was given a pair of winter boots. We don’t usually get a lot of snow around here but a few times a year they come in handy. Also that year, her kindergarten class went on a field trip to a ski slope to go sliding.

The boots were really cute and I put them away for DD2 to grow into. Over the course of a few years though, the “fake leather” coating disintegrated! It left only the bare fabric and this great rubber bottom.

DD2 loved the boots anyway and wore them almost every day for a few weeks. This left these nice white boots looking really grubby and worn out. I was ready to toss them but I hate waste and I HATE throwing stuff in the landfill (I will wear all my shoes until they are worn out. I had one pair of leather shoes for 15 years. It broke my heart to finally toss them).

But what to do with a cloth that would likely leak if DD2 ever played in real snow?


I had already started painting when I thought to take the picture

I was fixing the dollhouse (another post about that later) and I had a small jar of white paint in my hand when the light bulb went off. Hey, I had nothing to lose. These boots were destined for the trash if I did nothing so…

I washed them up and I painted the fabric. Water paint on this fabric looked… well… it looked…  better than before but still quite lackluster. Nothing could stop me though!

The next day I went to the hardware store and bought a nice enamel paint for about 300 yen and got to work. This actually looked alright. Then I remembered that I had a special waterproof spray to put on our various outdoor items and dug that out and sprayed the boots.


I’ll take a picture with the laces and update this later.

By the time that dried I was quite proud of myself. Last night I put the laces back and put them in the porch for DD2 to see. She pretty much has a new pair of boots. I saved them from the landfill for a few more years and learned some new tricks. I’m quite proud of myself.

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2013 Looking Back

Although 2012 seemed to be our big year for changes, this was a big one for milestones. Looking back it seems a lot happened in 2003 so we had a lot of 10th anniversaries to celebrate.


All four of us “climbed” Odo Mountain to watch theIMGP0325 first sunrise of 2013. I had been doing this for a long time now, and several years ago, I brought DD1 for the first time. This year DH brought DD2 as well. I say we all “climbed” but DD2 mostly rode on Daddy’s back. The kids LOVED the snow at the top.

DD1 turned seven. I remember being seven. It always seemed such a magical age to me.


  IMGP0354DD2 wowed us with her dancing in the kindergarten concert. The family and adopted grandma and aunties also came out to see her. She was really good if I do say so myself.

We continued skating and DD2 started to do it with little help. She would just follow her big sister and friend. I found her some great used skates online and she was thrilled.


The dog turned 10 and I turned 29 for the 15th time.

The family cooked me up a heaping helping of my favorites!!! Pizza, and fries and lots of other fried things. Not healthy, I know, but heck, birthdays are for celebrating how for we’ve made it. Besides, I DID eat my salad.


DH turned 50!!! A guess that’s a big milestone. He keeps himself fit and still looks younger than me but he’s a half century old! Since the great earthquake and tsunami fell on his birthday, he feels he should lay low on his birthday these days, so we didn’t give him a huge “Happy 50th Bash”. We had a quiet party at home with the four of us.

DD1 finished first grade and during spring holiday, I took them to see a dear friend in Shiga. We took the night bus home and at this time DD2 (only 4) travelled really well. It wasn’t an easy thing for her to do but she did it. I sensed then, that she was growing up.


IMGP0473  DD2 started grade 2. Her homeroom teacher lives just down the road from us. I’m not sure if this is a good or bad thing.

I had taken the girls to see “Brave” (the movie about the Scottish Princess rides a horse and is a mean archer) and DD1 adored the heroine. She lives for archery and horses now and at times even speaks in a Scottish accent. It’s great for getting her into her Celtic roots but it is hard when she asks constantly for a horse or at least a bow and arrow. We did get her to Tsuwano to watch “Yabusame“. This combines the two and she was enthralled.

DSC_0975  I found an old dollhouse on the net. it was a handmade one and based on a Japanese house. I started to work on sprucing it up for the girls. It brought back so many memories of the dollhouse my Dad had made me and the HOURS I’d spent painting and remodeling. I ended up calling it my house and the girls were not allowed to play with it. It is a slow process but I am enjoying fixing this up


Things warmed up fast and I started to look forward to summer. We marked 10 years of living on Harada Hill.

201305ride  DH did his annual 200km run up and down the mountains of Iwami. The girls and I played on a beach and hung our with friends in town waiting for him to finish. Maybe THAT’S why he looks younger than me.


June always seem to slip by without notice on Harada Hill. hmmm wonder what happened?


The girls (including the biggest one) went off for a camping201307horseX3 trip up the coast again to Tottori. This time the goal was to ride a horse at Mt. Daisen. We packed all all our gear but due to rain we could only sleep in the tent for one night! We DID get to ride the horses and DD1 is totally enamoured with them now.


eating dinner and waiting for the clothes to dry at the laundromat. What a great design for a car!

DD2 seemed so grown up after the spring  trip? But she really seemed so much bigger during this trip. During my time with her I guess I finally noticed how she is now a little girl and every trace of toddler/ babyness is gone.


Summer holidays and lazy days. DSC_1282I realized that if the girls were not allowed to touch the original dollhouse, I would have to make them one, AND to avoid hair-tearing fights, I would have to make one EACH and so I did.

The summer had been very dry but suddenly in late July and again in August we had floods big enough to make national news. Although we were not personally affected two of my students lost their homes.



Bewildered Daddy (and one child had already gone home)

201309Lundo  This month flew by with various events including DD1’s sports day. She tried her best and after the event we all ended up somehow, roasting marshmallows in our back “yard”. Before I knew it we had a gaggle of kids around and by the time it all ended, 3 of them were to stay the night at ours. They played musical beds for quite some time before they all settled in. Everyone had fun but DH seemed rather surprised to have a house suddenly fill up with kids.

201310Mundo  Then the next week DD2 had her sports days. I have to admit that a kindergarten sports day is lots of fun. There was lots of dancing and fun events but here she is running as fast as her little legs could carry her. We vetoed any sleepovers this time. Neither I nor DH could handle a house of four and five-year olds.


Puffin (my English School) celebrated it’s 10th anniversary. We made and realized we had grown from just over 30 students to 180 students.

10 years ago today we adopted the dog. She and I had a quiet celebration during her walk one morning.

201310visit  My cousin and his partner came to visit Japan!!! We hadn’t seen each other in over 20 years so it was quite a treat to see him again.

I got to play guide for a short time in Hiroshima and here in Masuda but they are both seasoned travelers so they were pretty independent otherwise.

It was a fantastic time for me to have them around and for the girls and I to get to know some more of the family. Now, I know, I really must go visit them next time.

P1010647Trick or treat! Halloween is a work event for me but the girls get to do it every year and they LOVE it. DD1 was Merida while DD2 was supposedly Kiki from Kiki’s Delivery Service but she would not wear a black dress nor would she wear the witch’s hat or even hold the broom I’d made for her. We are not really sure what sh actually is, but in her head, she’s dressed for Halloween.


2013-7-5-3DD1’s 7-5-3 festival. Her last chance to dress up in a kimono and be adored by all until she’s 20. This time the kimono shop asked to take her picture in their kimono so she could be a model for their next flyer. And so her modelling career has begun.

DD1 also had her school concert. She was the narrator for the class play.

ZZcharlieRunC  At the end of the month my mom sent me an email with a little story she had made up years before for my nephew. It was about a little bird and a horse. She’d forgotten all about it but had found it in her computer files. She asked me to draw a few pictures for it so she could give it to the youngest grandchild. I got so engrossed in the task that we ended up with a small illustrated children’s book, and I got back into drawing, making things and being creative again.


  Christmas!!! We got to have 2 Christmasses. We invited family friends to celebrate with us but they had to cancel due to snow. We still had a roasted chicken ordered so I got to have a “dress rehearsal” of the real Christmas.

On Christmas eve we had a family gathering and EVEN went to mass!! I haven’t been to a mass in over 20 years?? DD1 was full of questions. DD2 was full of energy and DH was bored stiff and I sang the hymns in English and spent an hour comparing the Japanese version to the English version (not much different except they bow and say “Peace be with you” instead of shaking hands)

201312-10years  Christmas day was actually a school day here but I took DD1 out of school and had a Christmas with the girls. We opened stockings, presents and took it easy. We had our big Christmas dinner on the 25th and DH and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary.

201312skate  December 30th. DD2 turned 5! She was allowed to invite one friend and she chose to go skating. Her little friend soon took to skating and they had a hoot. We even had a birthday cake at the rink. Then I got a call from DH saying that big bro (my stepson) was home for the holidays so we hurried back to have dinner with the family.



Then I got to work on making traditional Japanese new year’s food. Not an easy task for a Canadian but, for now, I enjoy the challenge.

We ended the year in a hot spring and got the kids in bed and mellowed out with a glass of wine until midnight.

Happy 2014 to everyone and may you have a healthy and happy year

Posted in Letters to Friends and Family, Uncategorized

Child translators

 Ah the joy of raising bilingual kids! The 4 year old has had a sudden interest and a surge in English. It is great and it is really funny to hear the girls playing and the 4 year old says to the 7 year old “Don’t use English!” the little one is the language police now.


 Right now they are playing outside with their Japanese friends so is is pretty much 100% Japanese. I went out to see what they were doing and they announced that they were playing “hotel” There appeared to be a bar set up so I walked up to it and asked for (and I have no idea why) a Tia Maria. The “bartender”- fully Japanese- just looked at her little translator (the 4 year old) who hesitated for a second and looked back up and translated this as “ocha” meaning “tea”. I guess it makes a lot of sense when you are 4.

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