Sunday, November 24, 2013

Beady Boy

Zilla is 6 years Old

This week Meg's was sick a couple of days. When Zilla came home fr school to find her napping the the first thing pout of is mouth was "Csn I do beads?"

He has been a fan of the beads (that fuze together when ironed) for the past couple of years. While they are not out all the te as an activity choice, they are stored on a shelf he can see. This is one activity he really prefers to do alone so he gets very annoyed when Mega wants to "help". 
I am often surprised by how much he grows from season to season but this time with the beads it felt like a leap to a whole new level. The person, Christmas Tree and rainbow all came together withou adult help or a design to follow. This afternoon he even managed to correctly iron/fuze his own creation. We are impressed. I think he is even impressed with himself! :-)

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Seeds Of Praise: Free Download Through Thanksgiving

Need some good music?
Want to give it a listen for free?

Seeds Family Worship has great music at a reasonable price… and… for Thanksgiving:

Seeds Of Praise: Free Download Through Thanksgiving
1. Go to:
2. Just above Buy Now says Digital Album. Click that and enter 0.3. Enter your e-mail address and they will send you a link.

Did I mention that they also list the cords for each song on the homepage? 
Love it! (Our Music > Chord Chart)

While this may not seem kid-related it really is all about the kids.  What we teach them in terms of faith (or if you choose not to) lays the groundwork for future beliefs and world views.  Even little kids benefit from knowing what you believe and why. 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Fall Books

Zilla is 6 years old
Mega is 3 years old
Here are some of our favorite fall books.

As the weather cools we read about harvest time and the change or seasons.  It is also a great time to learn some American folk lore.
Paul Bunyan by Carol Ottolenghi
The Story of Johnny Appleseed by Aliki
The Biggest Apple Ever by Steven Kroll
 Stone Soup From Scholastic Trade
Gathering: A Northwoods Counting Book By Betsy Bowen
Jamberry by Bruce Degen

Thanksgiving Books

Thanksgiving isn't a holiday in Japan (for obvious reasons) but it is still part of our family's cultural heritage so we celebrate it every here.  Here are some of our favorite Thanksgiving books.  While most focus on being thankful, we also use this time to learn about Native American culture and why settlers left Europe all those years ago.

Mega's selections:
  Corduroy's Thanksgiving From Viking Juvenile 
The Berenstain Bears Give Thanks By Jan Berenstain, Mike Berenstain 
The Biggest Pumpkin Ever by Steven Kroll 
  The Pumpkin Gospel: A Story Of A New Start With God! By Matt Whitlock

Zilla's selections:
Read and Write Booklets Thanksgiving Grades K-2 By Alyse Sweeney
Hiawatha By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Hisashiburi Sushi!

When you have small kids there are some things which are just not worth the effort to do them. For us one of those things is going out to eat. Many styles of food in Japan are not child friendly. Ramen is too hot, yaki niku has grills with hot coals and raw meat on the table, and the rotating sushi places have raw fish passing by on a conveyer belt within easy reach of a child.
 Every once in a while we try one of these places to see if the kids can manage to eat like little adults without turning the meal into a test of our patience. 
Recently we tried going out for sushi. It has been a while but the kids are still not at the point where we can relax and enjoy the meal.
At this place you order what you want on the touch screen as well as pick up dishes that look good when they make their rounds. The thing I love about these places is that there are enough things other than fish on the menu for me to eat. Emo and Zilla love that they can order all their favorites. Mega likes watching everything go by.
One of the interesting points about this kind of place is that you pay per plate. The 4 of us ate 35 plates... Zilla, Emo and I each ate about 10 plates. It won't be long before this kind of place becomes too expensive to go to as a family!
~ Houdini

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Homework Time

Zilla is 6 years old
Mega is 3 years old

As we enter the 2nd half of the school year one of my "jobs" is preparing Zilla for 1st grade.  The school has been chosen, he is officially accepted and the uniform is ordered.  We are budgeting for the upcoming expenses (school supplies, commuter train ticket etc.) and thinking about how our life will change with getting up earlier and making a bento lunch every day.
One thing I am trying to do to help make the transition easier is to have a daily "homework time" after school/before supper.  Miss Mega does not like to be left out of anything so she is also spending some time doing homework each day.
Right now we are using mostly Kumon workbooks.  Each day Zilla has a page each of English, hiragana, math, clock, cut & paste and maze. Mega has two pages each of cut & paste, writing basics and coloring.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Masked Kids

Todaty's after school art project was decorating a couple of masks from a kit. While the kit is Mardi Gras theme and the stickers are Thanksgiving theme, the creations are completely original!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Early Morning Art

I guess the plus side of jet lag is having 4 hours before school to do art projects?
We picked up these wooden masks at a craft store in the US. A very easy and fun project to have on hand!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

TED Talks - Lessons for Parents

For those who are keeping track we are still jet lagging around here - hence the 3 AM/4 AM posts :-)

One of my favorite things to do with "extra" time is to watch a TED Talk or two.  It is important for parents to continue learning especially as their kids grow.  A quick/easy way for me is to have a TED Talk on while doing housework.  Here is the one I just watched this morning after seeing it on a friend's blog. (Thanks Jo!)

I love the idea of "granny cloud" and having kids work in groups with computers rather than on their own.  We see the power of "granny cloud" every week when my kids talk with their grandparents via iChat.  There is something special about grandparents! I'm now looking forward to when my kids are a little older and can handle the computer a bit better so I can give them some mystery questions!

Here is another talk that I enjoy - Patricia Kuhl: The linguistic genius of babies

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Way of Jet Lag

A lesson we relearn every year, with every overseas trip, is to respect jet lag and flow with it. This is our 4th jet lag experience in the last 2 months. The novelty has worn off and I'm ready to return to "normal" life!
Jet lag is what you feel as your body adjusts the natural rhythm (sleep/wake/eat) to the day/night timing of the location you suddenly are at. It can cause sudden, deep sleep which is very hard to wake up from, pounding headaches and great hunger at odd times.
Here is what it often looks like when the kids are trying to adjust to a 14 hour time difference after 24 hours or so traveling...
Day 1: Arrive at destination in the evening, try to get kids to bed by 10PM
Day 2: Kids wake up at 2 or 3 AM, hungry and hyper. By noon they slow down a little and have had at least 3 meals. About 1 PM they fall into a sudden, deep sleep. 3 PM we attempt to wake them up again but this is often unsuccessful. At least one adult goes to bed by 7PM in order to get some sleep before the kids wake up.
Day 3: Kids wake up at 3 AM hungry and ready to play. Nap may happen earlier (11 AM) leading to missing lunch but creating the chance to be awake a little in the afternoon but that might make bedtime later than normal.
Day 4: Kids up at 3:30 AM. Morning goes well, kids stay awake into the early afternoon but fall into a sudden deep sleep around 2 PM. Attempts to wake them up for supper are successful for one but not the other.
Day 5: Kids wake up at 3 AM again but aren't starving so they will lay somewhat quietly for an hour before getting up. Morning goes well, perhaps we won't have a nap in the afternoon? Can they stay awake until the normal 8PM bedtime? No luck, 1 child is asleep by 4 and the other at 6.
Day 6: Kids get up at 4 AM but are somewhat quiet and don't ask about eating until 6 AM. Day goes well but 1 child falls asleep by 5PM and the other just after eating supper at 6:30PM.
Day 7: I'm guessing that they'll sleep a little closer to 5 AM and we may have supper as a family for the first time in a week! I can let you know how it goes tomorrow :-)
There are many approaches to getting over jet lag quickly but honestly I have never found one way that works all the time.
Here are some things that do help:
- Jump into the new time zone schedule as soon as you get off the plane.
- Keep the daytime bright and active, night dark and quiet.
- Don't plan anything important that kids "have to" be awake for in the first few days after travel. This will save you from experiencing a jet lag induced screaming/crying fit.
- Roll with the sleepiness making graduated adjustments towards the desired waking/sleeping schedule. You can do the sudden change method but don't expect a small child to be able to understand the yucky way the body feels or be able to force himself to stay awake. This only leads to frustration and tantrums.
Every trip, jet lag presents a little differently. While I have general expectations when we travel I've also seen times when a child gets over jet lag very quickly or takes 2 full weeks to recover. On a recent trip my kids "jet lagged" opposite each other (when one sleeps the other is awake) which meant I was up nearly 24 hours a day for the first few days so I could keep an eye on the non-sleeping child.
While jet lag is not fun it is part of travel. Knowing, accepting and working around that has made traveling with our kids a bite a easier!

To T or T or not to T or T...

This year we had an intersting and unplanned quick trip to the States for a funeral but it also happened to be at the time of Reformation Sunday and Trick or Treating.
While Halloween is growing in popularity in Japan it is far from the "everybody does it" feeling we had in the US. I'm not a fan of the "holiday" and choose not to celebrate it. However, like we do with many Japanese religion-influenced customs, I try to find a way for my kids to still experience the general custom but with our own take on the meaning.
We read books like the "Pumpkin Gospel", play dress-up and talk about Reformation Day & All Saints Day. Zilla is reaching the point he can figure out some of the US customs from what he seems on Disney Channel and other TV shows so he has started to ask more detailed questions but they mainly focus on wanting to go collect candy or try bobbing for apples.
One thing I never thought my kids would experience during their childhood is Trick or Treating. This year they did for probably the first/last time.
It just so happened that Grandma made matching cowboy/cowgirl dress-up clothes for the cousins over summer. It just happened that Walmart had matching boots in their sizes (which we picked up on the way from the airport!) and it just happened that we would all be together on the afternoon of trick-or-treating. So, to Zilla's extreme joy, Mega's growing understanding and the yougest one's initial confusion we loaded up the little red wagon and went to greet the neighbors while collecting candy which they so kindly offered. It was a fun way to greet some of the neighbors I haven't really seen in years.
One of the things which pleasently surprised me was seeing Zilla and Mega get as excited about handing out candy as going door-to-door to collect candy. They took great joy in guessing what the various costumes were and talking to the visitors. They will probably forever remember the "robot" who came first even though it was just a preteen boy wearing regular clothes with a box on his head. If you listen to their version of the story you'd think a transformer or Buzz Lighyear had showed up in person!
While I'm still not a fan of the Halloween I am glad the kids had a chance to experience part of it. It is a part of their cultural herritage and that is a valuable thing.