Thursday, April 29, 2010

Time to make the donuts

But not eat them. Today, was a special day for us, for many reasons, but most of all, a Krispy Kreme opened in Osaka, only 45 minutes from our house. There are other Krispy Kremes in Japan, mainly near Tokyo, a 4 hour train ride away. Now, the bad thing about today being the opening day was that it was a National Holiday here in Japan called Showa no hi (Emperor's Day). I asked a japanese friend yesterday what the holiday for today was, just so we'd know, and she didn't even know really what it was, she had to tell me later. Evidently, the emperor Showa's birthday was April 29 and when his reign came to an end, the Japanese government was looking to add more National Holidays to their calendar, which is how his birthday came to be one. The thing about this holiday is that it is the kick off Golden Week. During Golden week, there are four National Holidays, which means A LOT of people not working and not in school. Since it is such a long time to have off of work, this is one of the only times, besides New Years that Japanese people travel. So, put a National Holiday together with the opening of a popular foreign donut chain in a very large city and you have MASSIVE CROWDS!!!!

Dave and the kids went into Osaka today to go to a Tomica Car convention, just basically lots of toy cars and model cities set up to look at, but with a BIG gift shop at the end. I decided after three hours of cleaning that it was okay to get out of the house, plus I wanted to see what this Krispy Kreme was all about (knowing full well I probably wouldn't even get a bite). Guess what? I was right, the wait was over three hours. Sorry, no donut is that good, I'll go in two weeks after the holiday is over during the week when everyone else is in school and/or working.

Did you know there are actually quite a few other foreign companies that have launched chains in Japan? To name a few, Wendy's, McDonald's, Cold Stone Creamery, Starbucks (my favorite), Tully's, Hard Rock Cafe, Outback Steakhouse, TGI Fridays, and Bob's Big Boy (that was a shocker to me). I'm sure I've missed some, but basically you shouldn't be afraid to come here because you can find a taste from home, you just might have to wait a few hours to get it ;)

Here are some shots of the new shop:

The three hour line:

The best part about the Golden Week holiday is look who comes out to be photographed:

And my personal favorite:

Oh and one more thing, I found out what shoes are in season this year while making my way to the donut store:

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Train table makeover

Look what has become of our train table:

I decided it was time for a new look, there were a few things that I didn't like about the table, including that it became a storage unit. In this picture, you can see the side handles are low and stuff falls right off the table under them (like marbles or cars), defeating the point of keeping small things off the floor. Also, the surface was quite slippery.

First thing, we cut some cardboard into strips tall enough to fit inside the edges of the table, to cover the handle holds and to give us some creative edge (we painted them black). I didn't use a ruler, figured it wouldn't be up for long anyways, plus we have sooo much cardboard ready to use, if I messed up, there was plenty more waiting to be used.

Then, a lot of hot glue gun sticks and four rolls of felt later, voila:

A surface easy to drive on, not slippery, and easy to remove and put something else on when we change our mind on what we are playing with. I have already cut out pictures of gas stations, etc. from our car magazines for the next change. Total cost: 400 yen ($4.00) and one big blister on my finger from being burned by the hot glue gun.

Our writing and drawing work

One thing I learned from our current and past experience with Montessori work is that kids tend to be more willing to write and creative with their work when they can choose the topic. All school year, about twice per week, I'll give Nathaniel a piece of paper that is blank on top and lined on the bottom and have him draw a picture and write about it. Lately, we've been studying space, so the examples you'll see are from his space binder, I've been asking him to draw a picture about space and write about it. He has been doing all of this writing of facts from pure memory.

I love the V20 at the top, he thinks he's cool for coming up with it for "venus second planet zero moons".

We keep all the papers together in a binder with clear page covers in case anyone wants to read them or look at them.

Another thing we do is put together mini books about a topic. Here, I have stapled together about 12 small rectangles of black paper with a white cover. He has written "My constellation book" on the cover. Each day, he chooses a few constellations to draw and label. I am trying to get him to realize that the dots are more important than the lines because the dots are what you will only see in the sky. We are using cray-pas to draw on the black paper. He enjoys looking through all the books, trying to choose which constellation to put in his book.

Monday, April 26, 2010

It's me the puppet

Or is it me? When you're far away from home and your family, you have to get creative so the kids remember everyone and don't miss them as much. Another thing that's tough being this far away is that you have to send bday cards a week in advance. If you don't, well, then you have to get really creative. The kids got a kick out of this and they were having so much fun, it was like the guest of honor was actually here with us. Can you guess whose birthday it is?

HAPPY BIRTHDAY GRAMPA!!! (yes, a day early because we actually did this early and were too excited about it to wait until your actual bday!)

I found this idea again on Filth Wizardry and how could I not want to do this with the kids? I simply took a close up photo, printed it on 8 x 10 paper, then cut out and laminated it. I did hot glue gun on the popsicle stick because the regular school glue did not adhere well to the laminated paper.

Who's who?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Old t-shirt turned cute skirt

Check this out, I am sooo excited about this baby! I found an idea online a while ago about turning old t-shirts into skirts for little girls or shorts for boys. I googled it and today, I followed this tutorial from sew much ado. Can I just say "I LOVE MAKING RUFFLES!!!"

Here I am, how easy is this, highest tension settting, longest stitch, the machine does the rest, whheeee!

All in all, this skirt took me less than 45 minutes to make, including choosing the shirts and cutting. This is great because here in Japan, they don't really have Salvation Army bins or clothing drop boxes, you are supposed to put old stuff in your burnable garbage, how guilty would you feel burning perfectly useful stuff? Now, all I want to do is find clothes Dave and I don't want, so I can make skirts and shorts.

Finished product:

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Outer space mural

Currently, we are studying outer space. I have not limited it to any specific part of space, so we are looking at all aspects, to name a few: constellations, space shuttles, planets, and space exploration. We are looking through a LOT of non-fiction books and watching some great DVD's, I'll post a list later.

We got a giant sized roll of paper from Dick Blick. Let me tell you something, if you can afford it, it is a GREAT investment, it will last a long time and you can cut off a big enough piece to keep lots of kids busy for a long time. For the mural, I printed off a picture of an astronaut on an 8 x 10 piece of paper (I don't remember where I got it, I just searched on google). Then, I printed out a head shot of each of the kids on a 5 x 7 photo paper. I cut out the kids' faces and put them in the helmet of the astronaut picture, cut the astronaut out, then laminated for more stability.

First, the kids and I painted the background with black, blue, and white paint, we tried to do swirls and big strokes to make it look like space:

Good thing we used washable paint:

Finished with the paint:

Starting to decorate with planets and stickers:

The bird of paradise constellation:

The completed project hanging in front of our fireplace:

Close ups of the astronauts, yes Nathaniel is thrilled that he is touching the sun:

After it was hung, the kids were running up to it pretending they were going to different planets and then Nathaniel started running a quiz show. Here are some of the questions he asked:

1) What object on the board is not a planet, but a star? The sun

2) Which planet has an atmosphere that would crush you if you didn't melt first? Venus

3) What is the coldest planet and swings inside its neighbors orbit? Pluto (yes I didn't break the news to him)

4) Which four planets have rings? Saturn, Jupiter, Uranus, Neptune

More to come when the rocket makes its way in by the end of the week!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Marist Sports Day

Today was Sports day for Marist (the school that Addison goes to). Every year, the school holds a sports day for the last day of their spirit week in April. Sports day activities are very common throughout the country, in fact, there is actually National Holiday for sports day. In japanese, you would call this holiday "Taiiku no hi", in english, you would say "Health-Sports Day". It is held annually on the second Monday in October. It started to commemorate the opening of the 1964 Summer Olympics being held in Tokyo, and still exists to promote sports and an active lifestyle. I think Dave even has this day off of work, and on this day if we are out and about, we have even witnessed large sports day festivals at the local schools, marching band and all.

Speaking of sports days, I recently found out that my husband's company has daily exercise/stretch time at 8:25 am, 11:55 pm, and 7:55 pm- they last for about 5 minutes, there is a recorded song that plays and there must be some routine they know to follow. In fact, until recently, he said he did participate in the first two of the day. Also, he just had his annual jump rope contest at work, which sadly to say, his team did not win, last year, I think his team was in the finals.

My kids went on a "homeschool" field trip to the Pocky factory, this is the biscuit sticks dipped in different flavors of chocolate. The highlight of the trip, according to the three boys and our two neighbors was watching the workers that were switching shifts do their stretches before beginning their day of work. This morning, when I was out running, I noticed the man who operates the scooter garage, standing outside his office, after opening the gates doing his toe touches and shoulder stretches and I had to chuckle. However, chuckling aside, you rarely see an overweight japanese person, I wonder why.

Here are some photos from Addison's sports day:

Lining up with his classmates:



Obstacle course:

Playing tag:

Tossing a ball (look how high his is):

Our other athletes:

After receiving his ribbon:

Proud ribbon holder "first place":

All the kids (yes, Nathaniel is doing the tree pose):