Happy Halloween 2013

Well, well, well.  It has been a very long time, hasn’t it? Let’s just say that Japanese public school has been just as awe inspiring as expected. Sarcasm intended. Nothing but negative stuff to report there……

So, in an attempt to counteract the oppressive school environment that El is doing her best to wade through, we decided a couple of days at Disneyland might be needed and Halloween seemed a good time to go.

Halloween in Japan is fairly lame, and why shouldn’t it be? It’s something that’s grown little by little into the well marketed but fun-deprived opportunity to score candy if you wear a witch hat from the 100 yen store.  Trick or treat is just an expression, no one actually does it.

Soooooo, we figured if there were any place worth being on Halloween it would be Disneyland. We could not have been more correct!

We were looking forward to fun decorations but little did we know that Halloween at Disney is an annual costume party with plenty of regulars. Aside from Chip and Dale, we saw NO cast members wandering the park. They would have simply blended in….

Day One. October 30th.

The park decorations were everywhere. I miss big orange pumpkins and this is the only place El will ever see them.

Ready to roll.

Ready to roll.

It became apparent pretty quickly that there were a lot more interesting things to look at than the decorations.

Class trip?

Class trip? Even Peter Pan wants to check them out.

There were costumed people everywhere. It seems like costumes fall largely into two categories: homemade lame and homemade amazing. Decide for yourself….

Not your everyday crew.

Not your everyday crew.

The afternoon parade was colorful and entertaining.

Very Halloweeny.

Very Halloweeny.

But the real entertainment was hanging out in front of Cinderella’s castle.

The crowd was way more interesting.

The crowd was way more interesting.

Turns out the effort involved in these kinds of costume transformations can be exhausting.

Not even dark yet.

It was not even dark yet.

El needed some recharging too.

Fading? Not really, no.

Fading? Not really, no.

Ok, maybe fading a little. Time to call it a night.

Ok, maybe fading a little. Time to call it a night.

Day two. October 31st. Halloween!

A lot of visitors to Disneyland show up at crazy hours to wait on line so that they can make a mad dash to the Fast Pass kiosk of their choice. I kind of wanted to see that but it is just not how we roll.

View from our room. To say we got lucky with the weather for our little trip is a gaping understatement. It was raining before and has been raining ever since our visit.

View from our room. To say we got lucky with the weather for our little trip is a gaping understatement. It was raining before and has been raining ever since.

We headed first for Tom Sawyer’s Island. Not many people out there at all so it was a great way to start out the day.

On the way over we saw these Alice's waiting for a canoe. There were a lot of Alices in the park.

On the way over we saw these Alice’s waiting for a canoe. There were a lot of Alices in the park.

El always wants to be a cat.

El always wants to be a cat.

Costumed people were everywhere and we didn’t see even one official Disney character on this day. No one would notice them. El took pictures with a few and here they are…..

Pocahontas and friend.

Pocahontas and friend.

Kind of creepy Chip and Dale.

Kind of creepy Chip and Dale.

Reminiscent of something Disney-ish but can't put a finger on it.

Seems Disney-ish but can’t put a finger on it.

El liked Leah and Obiwan.

El liked Leah and Obiwan.

Mary Poppins and friends.

Mary Poppins and friends.

No idea who these two are.

No idea who these two are.

Tough Tinkerbells.

Tough Tinkerbells.

Toy Story buddies.

Toy Story buddies.

These aliens spoke a Kansai dialect.

These aliens spoke a Kansai dialect.

Ran into this gang of Ursulas. Costume enthusiasts have no age limits.

Ran into this gang of Ursulas. Costume enthusiasts have no age limits.

Monsters Inc fans at the Monsters Inc ride. El wondered why the purple  "kid" looked so old.

Monsters Inc fans at the Monsters Inc ride. El wondered why the purple “kid” looked so old. Ouch.

Bert and Mary Poppins were my personal favorites.

Bert and Mary Poppins were my favorites. Turns out Burt runs a restaurant and he and Mary make their own costumes and have been coming to Disneyland for Halloween for many years.

Turns out Burt runs a restaurant and he and Mary make their own costumes and have been coming to Disneyland for Halloween for many years.

El’s not used to being photographed so much and I guess it wiped her out.

Taking a break.

Taking a break.

After all this it was time to focus on what was really important.

Splash Mountain! El says she wasn't scared but her face seems to say otherwise.

Splash Mountain! El says she wasn’t scared but her face seems to say otherwise.

We figure that a visit to Disneyland should become our family’s way to spend Halloween from now on.

We could definitely get hooked on this.

We could definitely get hooked on this.

Sure beats  walking through the local department store collecting hard candy from register staff.

Happy Halloween. (Belated)!

Happy Halloween. (Belated)!




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El’s Airplane Picture

It’s been a month of accidental accolades for El. The swim medal for a race we didn’t realize she’d won (see previous post), and then a letter saying El had painted a picture at school that would be displayed with other such paintings at Narita Airport over the summer break.

Since lots of kids were asked to paint pictures of airplanes, we figured there were lots chosen as well. Turns out that was not quite the case…

It seems El’s picture was one of 112 accepted out of 8,538 submissions.

We found this out when we went to the airport to take a look.

The paintings were all pretty amazing.

This was El’s painting.

The artist and her work.

Looking at paintings was nice but getting an ice cream afterwards was likely the highlight of the trip.

El holds nothing back when it comes to eating ice cream.

If anyone’s in the area of Narita Airport and wants to take a look, the exhibition dates are as follows:

Exhibition information is on the bottom right, number 4.

From July 21st to August 9th the works are hanging in Terminal 2, in the hallway leading to the Domestic Terminal.

From August 11th to September 3rd they move to Terminal 1, across from the Narita Airport Authority (NAA) Art Gallery on the 5th floor of the Central Building.

Happy skies.




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Water Baby

So I have been remiss in writing for quite some time but it seems that in the last couple of weeks El has been might-T busy with quite a few things worth writing about. Let’s see if I can get caught up…..

On July 16th, El participated in an Area Swim Event sponsored by her swim club. She’s been enrolled in swim classes since before kindergarten, so I guess that makes it about four or five years now that she’s been taking lessons. She’s kind of a water bug.

It has not always been like that though….

First time in the Tummy Tub.

After the initial surprise, things got better….

Pool = Nice

By the time she’d hit kindergarten, she was fully at ease in the water.

She moved on from the Tummy Tub to a regular flexible carryall bucket. We DO have a more or less regular bath and shower by the way.

Although El is very attached to her goggles and buckets, she also is a big fan of the beach.

At the beach in Connecticut. You’d never know by her face that she’d just spent the last few days feverish in a hotel room. A trip to the doctor, two visits to the ER and about $2,500 later, she finally made it to the beach. Two words of advice here: Traveller’s Insurance.

So, after all these years of swimming lessons, she finally made it to the annual swim meet. It was held at a sports club about an hour away from us. The building had a supermarket on the first floor which was kind of deceptive. I’d never been there before and was looking for a sports club not a place to buy groceries. The pool was on the 6th floor. That kind of freaked me out a little.

I always forget to look up.

The pool facilities apparently were not designed for events like this. Lots of parents and grandparents came to watch but there was no place to watch from. We all jammed into a couple of narrow hallways with no air circulation. Very hot, humid and generally all around nasty.

This was a six hour event. Standing room only.

El had two races. The backstroke was in the morning. El’s heat was early and I almost missed her. The kids started swimming from the far end of the pool and it was difficult to tell who was who. Turns out El won this race but I had no idea till she got a medal for it a few days later at her regular swim club.

First place?

Aside from not being able to see very well, another reason I didn’t know her results was because there were no announcements at all. If you didn’t follow along with the written program, you’d be lost. The kids stayed inside the pool area for 6 hours with a break for lunch. They all ate together too so I didn’t see her until it was time to leave.

The far window is packed with kids on the poolside. El is here too although you’ll never find her. She is in the forefront of the picture, surrounded by larger kids sitting right up in front.

Her second race was in the afternoon. She swam the crawl in Lane One and came in second. That one I saw for sure.

I thought after six hours of hanging around the pool El would be tired or grumpy but she said she had a really good time.  I guess I was just thinking of my own state of mind…..oops.

The drive home was not exactly relaxing. It was a national holiday so lots of people were out and about.

Not the beautiful Japanese scenery from coffee table books is it.

Turns out El really was tired after all….

Nearly as soon as she sat down, she was out cold.

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What can I say…?

Oh my, oh my.

Could it really be that 4 months have passed since my last feeble attempt at writing? Indeed it can.

Spring flowers in our yard. Too bad it’s Summer now.

What’s going on you may ask. Well, aside from that pesky business about living in constant proximity to potential nuclear disaster, “not much” is my reply.

Well, I guess that’s not quite true. Our days revolve around two things.

Of course, El is number one.

“Walking the Dog”

Her school life is going great guns. Up at 7, at school by 7:45 then home around 3. Does her homework immediately. She has math and Japanese classes EVERY day so her homework is either one or the other. Pardon me for disliking this curriculum but it hardly leaves any room at all for anything creative or inspiring at school. It is constantly used as a reason for why no changes can be made to the schedule. The children’s time is booked solid. Most recently I heard it used as the reason why pool time had ended even though temperatures are over 90 daily now and summer vacation has yet to begin. The school’s big, beautiful blue pool sits unused. Japanese and math classes must go on!
El loves school and I am grateful for that. I try to keep my big, opinionated mouth shut as long as she’s happy there.

School pool. What a waste of a very nice pool. 

Her after school activities are the same, she still enjoys them all. She swims from one to four times a week. She’s currently working on the breast stroke. She has piano lessons but rarely practices. She has an art class twice a month. Her ballet teacher just decided to have a mini-recital in December so I guess her weekly classes will focus on that from now on. She’s a busy bee but still manages to buzz around local parks to play with her classmates nearly every day after school . When I write it out like this I think it looks nuts. As an elementary school kid I recall my idea of fun was running around and around my house and throwing eggs at trees. El’s childhood is certainly different but I’m pretty sure she thinks it’s fun too. So she says anyway. Maybe we’ll try that egg thing someday though….,

The other focus of our lives recently is dogs. Rescue dogs to be specific. Rescue dogs shipped to us from Okinawa to be even more specific.

The earthquake made it impossible to just sit back and hope Someone would do Something about the troubles around.  There was no going back to the way things were before March 11th, 2011. Do What You Can and then Try to Do More took root. Now that things have settled down (kind of), we have turned our attention to doing what we have done for the past 25 years, we’re just doing it officially now. We take in animals that need homes and work with a local animal support group to rehome them.

No sharks El. Sorry.

El is becoming a bit of a dog whisperer. She had been asking for a dog for a long time so I guess you might say her wish came true…with a twist of course. She has a steady stream of dogs. I write about them on a different blog called Okinawa Dogs as a way of keeping a record other than the regular business files I have to keep.

El and Buddy, the day he arrived.

So we have no complaints. We keep ourselves busy. One season rolls into the next.

Faster than I realize.

Summer skies over nearby rice fields. That is NOT a helicopter by the way….


Posted in all god's creatures, Dogs, Earthquake and After, Family, Second grade, Sporty El, Summer | Tagged | 2 Comments

Starting Second Grade

Today is the first day of the new school year. El is starting the second grade.

It’s been so windy these past few days. That’s probably an understatement.  It’s so blustery that when I think of El walking outside I have visions of Piglet flying off on a leaf on that very blustery day in the Hundred Acre Wood.

Oh dear. Oh d-d-dear….

No more yellow first grader hats. No more bright yellow covering for her school bag.

Looking like one of the big kids now.

We started out from our house all together.

It's hard to tell but it was so windy that El couldn't wear a hat. She's allowed to wear the hat of her choice now.

Along the way we picked up other kids straggling along on their first day of school.

Crossing this overpass was kind of scary.

The school doors weren’t opened yet but there was already a crowd waiting to get in.

Once inside, El had to put her shoes in her own labelled shoe cubby. She seemed a little nervous looking for it but we saw her little hand put the shoes away and off she went.

Wonder who her teacher will be…..hope she doesn’t get the “scary” one she was telling me about yesterday. We’ll find out soon enough……

Tulips. What first day of school would be complete without them?


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Piano Recital Time Again

The years are whizzing by! El’s third piano recital has already come and gone. We were a little worried about it this year because no one’s focus has been on music lately.

Except maybe Gordy. Sorry to bother you Miss G.

The piece to be played is chosen around the end of December and the recital is at the end of March. El chose a spooky tune she liked called, “Halloween Festa”.  She wasn’t into practicing much and we don’t really push her. The cats offer their own form of encouragement though….

Gordy takes the low end, Jack Jack takes the high.

First it was New Year’s that kept us busy and then it was back to school business and finally it was the flu that kept El away from the piano. I was kind of resigned to, “just do your best” mode.

El just didn't seem to be taking things seriously. Perhaps it was the furry distractions.

She borrowed the collar from Mei the dog who had just been spayed.

A good friend calls this a Barkaphone.

We hadn’t actually ever heard the piece played completely from beginning to end without a cat walking across the keyboard so were not sure how the big day would go.

As it turns out, El can really pull it out of her hat when need be. Or as they say here, 本番に強い。

Getting ready to play. Her teacher comes in to help adjust the chair.

Certainly looks like she knows what she’s doing.

We kind of missed the cats on the piano.

She definitely had us faked out.

Pinkies up.

Somewhere along the line, I guess she learned the piece and didn’t bother to put it all together until she had to.  In typical El fashion, she wasn’t nervous at all. This year she did comment however that she was nervous bowing in front of people. I guess the thought of total failure in public hadn’t crossed her mind. Bad mommy and daddy……

It seems that somewhere along the line our baby has turned into our little girl.

Good job El. おつかれさま。

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The Big G

When I was a kid growing up in NY, I loved when it was Monster Week on the afternoon movies. I have little or no recollection of doing homework like El does but I can remember plenty about Godzilla.

Loved this guy.

I hadn’t thought about the Big G in quite a while but I have our nutty cat Jack Jack to thank for reminding me. JJ is quite the personality. He was literally handed over to us after being discovered emaciated and flea ridden by a friend of a friend. We’ve had a lot of cats over the years but Jack is unique. As a kitten, to El’s delight he threw up a little green frog one day. A real one. I guess the frog had made the mistake of coming through a slightly opened window and his fate was sealed. The vet assured me he was fine but after that we kept a closer eye on him.

...and Jack Jack kept an eye on us.

He was frustrated repeatedly by our slightly curmudgeonly kitties who just would not play with him. In their stead, El has tossed his favorite mouse (toy) for him over and over to the extent that he fetches it like a dog and if you’re not quick to toss it back out for him he’ll tap you on the leg to remind you. Sometimes we suspect he is a dog reincarnated as a cat.

He definitely knows how to handle them.

He has a way of knocking down things regardless of where they are. He generally chooses the route of most destruction in getting from A to B. This is how Godzilla came back into our lives. Since he does tend to leave a path of damage and destruction in his wake I jokingly told O one day that we should call Jack, “Godzilla”. El had a question for me…

“What’s Godzilla”?

"What's" Godzilla? "What's"????

Hard to explain exactly so it was time to start renting DVD’s. It seems that there are about 28 different Godzilla titles available to rent, including a Hollywood version with Matthew Broderick and Jean Reno. El loves them all.

Wishing he were real.....

She loves all the creatures he battles but perhaps her favorite is Mothra.

El flying her own tissue Mothra.

She draws pictures of Godzilla and his monster buddies everywhere and I’m pretty sure she has memorized the whole Mothra song. It’s all we listen to in the car these days.

No blank surface is spared....

So now that El knows more about Godzilla and his friends than I ever did, she understands fully why our cat is nicknamed after him.

Two of a kind.

Godzilla spews flames.

Jack is just Jack. All day long.

Posted in all god's creatures, At home, Capital "C" Culture, Dogs, Family, Very cool | Tagged , | Leave a comment

We are Heartbroken

Our little Lucy Bird has died. She was killed when a car came speeding past our door just as we were heading back inside. She decided to chase it. Her leash slipped out of my hand, the world slowed down, the worst happened.

She was only with us for a little over 2 weeks but in that short time she became the center of life in our home. There are 8 cats and 2 dogs in our house but things are eerily quiet.  Lucy came from the Ozato animal control facility in Okinawa and was sent to us by Doggie Orphans Great and Small who rescued her, cared for her and fostered her until she could make the trip to Tokyo. She spent her early life in Ozato in a cage. When she arrived at our house we kept her in a crate at night and it was a little sad to see how familiar and comfortable she was inside it.  She figured out housetraining quickly though and the cage turned into a place for Jack the Cat to have fun sleeping in instead. He was Lucy’s good friend. (Lucy and Jack playing).

She LOVED to be outside. She would go outside and get a good stick and plunk herself down into a big patch of thyme in our garden and chew away happily.  If neighbors were out, she always wanted to visit. She was curious about the things in the world and unfortunately knew nothing yet of their dangers. (Day one in Narita). I am devastated that I couldn’t have protected her better.

El of course is lost. Lucy was her first puppy and they were friends immediately.They were together all the time.

El was at school when the accident happened. It took a couple of days, but she has finally begun to come to terms with the fact that Lucy is not coming back. She cries a lot. We all do.

We buried her in the yard next to the patch of thyme. We know that her short time here was happy but we wish we could have given her the long life filled with joy that she deserved. We are so, so sad.

Fly with the angels now Miss Lucy Bird.

(More pictures of Lucy are posted here).

Posted in all god's creatures, At home, Dogs, Family, On the sad side | Tagged | 4 Comments

March 11th Charity Event

Quick note for anyone in the area…..

Tomorrow, March 12th, O and I will be participating in an event to raise money for victims of the earthquake and tsunami one year ago.

It will be held at Cafe-Deli Hashira in Narita from 1 to 5.  There will be mini workshops and lots of fun things for sale. Plus yummy coffee……

Please stop by!


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Not Again!

El’s class just recently was off for a week because so many kids were out sick with the Type A Flu. El managed to squeak by with just one day of fever on that one. Well,  Type B Influenza has been ripping through her school lately and she was not so lucky this time around.

Her fever hit suddenly last Saturday. She woke up, ate breakfast as usual and then went back to bed and didn’t wake up until 2 in the afternoon. Very worrisome behavior. Up to the doctor we went and he tested her for the flu but the results came up negative. Still he suspected the flu and gave us Tamiflu which I was not eager to have her take. In fact I refused it at first but the doctor’s staff kind of made me feel like it was a mistake not to give it to her so I caved. It made her throw up  though so for better or worse she didn’t take the drug. The next couple of days looked mostly like this…

Nurse Gordy on the job.

We burned through what was left of our Children’s Tylenol and Children’s Motrin trying to keep her fever down. We started using the Japanese fever reducer medicine which works fine, I just don’t care for the zero-information packaging.

For fevers. No labels on the packaging but you do get a paper information sheet when you pick up the prescription.

On Monday morning I had a little something to do so wasn’t home. While I was out, O took El back to the doctor and this time the test results were unarguable.

Type B Influenza. Clear as a bell.

So the whole week has been spent trying to keep fluids in El and make her comfortable. She has no appetite. The fever comes in waves.

Seven days and counting.

According to El’s doctor, this sort of two peak pattern is a textbook example of the Type B Flu with a cough and runny nose starting after the first peak. This morning her temperature was normal and the doctor felt so sure this would be the end of it for El that he only gave us 3 more doses of fever reducer. I just hope that’s the case….because this evening around 6, her fever was back up again.

I’m sure she’s healing but this is a very pernicious virus and recovery is slow. The only ones that might be happy about El being stuck in bed are the cats, never ones to turn down a nice source of heat.

Nurse Popo attempting to relieve El's headache with his tail.

Posted in all god's creatures, At home, First Grade, health, Winter | Tagged , | 2 Comments