The rice is born!!

Yeah! Isn't it cute. :)

We headed to the rice farmer's house to remove the protective coverings from the rice and it was so satisfying to see that it all lived- yeah!

While we were there we also dug the duckling nursery:

The ducklings are so sweet and while they can swim from birth they can't walk very well (flippers too big for their bodies) and they're prone to tripping up so we had to be careful to make gentle slopes between their pool area and their island area. Don't you think the varied coastline will be a fun place to hang out? So much more interesting than a straight line, right? (I may be in danger of overthinking this whole thing...)

The rice season is really gaining momentum now!


Like father like daughter

K loves to read.

He loves non-fiction books.

The weirder kind of books. The ones that never ever make the best seller list.

Some of them are highly technical. Things like 'Varying viscoelasticities of polymers'.

Others are just eye-rollingly weird '21st century amazing inventions', 'effective sleep for maximising brain potential' and a whole slew of books about doing stuff the easy way- learn English in 5 minutes a day, right brain training while you sleep, breathing exercises for longer life etc etc etc.

So, Meg is on holiday and fabulous friend W took the girls to the library while I was at work.

I found her lying on the couch reading.

The book?

'Secrets to improving your brain.'



Drying the futons Amy style

Notice the giant koala and water bottle- she was going to do this properly!


funghi success!

Don't worry, this is not a personal hygiene post!

Every year the neighbourhood kids' club plants (imbeds?) shiitake mushroom spore laden wooden pegs in logs and each kid takes one home.

We have four now.

Meg has done three and Amy one.

And so far they have just been decorating the front garden as we have been completely and utterly mushroomless.

I haven't felt too bad though as no one else has had any success either.

I think it's because while the shiitake mushroom farmers are all wetting and rolling and arranging their logs depending on the season and age of the log the kids' club mushroom logs are just sitting around chilling somewhere in a garden.

But today I was cleaning up the front porch when I noticed-



So when we got home I showed Meg and she insisted on a photo journal so here goes:

Posing with her mushroomy log (Amy posing with her very un-mushroomy log in the background)

Having sliced and washed the mushrooms.

Cooking the soup. I am not sure what these faces are about.... the google eyed pose...?

The finished product- carrot, shiitake mushroom, enoki mushroom, vermicelli noodles, Korean soup stock and tofu.

She was thrilled with her efforts and Amy and I mmmed and ahhhed and yummmed appreciatively.

A real funghi success story!


Amy is not doing the Atkins diet


Amy found a restaurant where you can choose to have a side order of chips with your macaroni and cheese.


And they refill your cup of strawberry lemonade as many times as you like!

But they didn't have chopsticks so she had to eat her chips with her fingers.

Poor kid.

The girls both had a great time but coming home I offered to get some burritos to take home for tea and Amy replied:

"No thank you. I want just one small rice ball."

And Meg added "Yeah, I haven't eaten Japanese food in such a long time."

Yeah, it was a whole weekend and all!


my singing is legendary


If you've ever been to karaoke with me you won't go again.

I'm the kind of person for whom earphones should be illegal- unaccompanied singing??

Once at work I couldn't get the cd player to work so started singing twinkle twinkle little star acapella and a group of three year olds told me that's not how the song goes....

But today my singing hit a new low.

It was quite a dash to the confidence that a pretty much pre-verbal child showed distress at my singing....


I was travelling in a car and the 1yo was tired and grumpy. Her mum said singing 'If you're happy and you know it' always works.

So I did.

And it did.


I had to take a picture of her face, it was priceless:

She stopped crying but look at that frown!

Oh well. What I lack in pitch and tone and whatever I make up for in volume- I could sing to a whole busload of kids if need be!


Amy wrote her name!

So what?

Well, as compulsory education doesn't start here until primary school they literally start from zero. The old tabula rasa blank slate educational philosophy and all that.

So at school literacy classes start with the alphabet, right?


Before that.

Zig zags and swirls, right?


Before that.

They don't even start with how to hold a pencil.

What on earth is before that?

Why the correct posture for sitting when writing of course.

It goes a little like this- feet flat on the floor, back ramrod straight and tummy sucked in. (Because so many 6yo's have guts, right?)

And they practice that.



So it has taken a lot of days of school to work through the steps to finally being able to write our names.

About two weeks in fact...

And so with much tada and tadum!


First observation day today.

I was a mess and all in a tizz trying to be in two places at once.

Amy was less phased.

She was just chillin.


Found in the garden this morning.
Did I eat it?
What do you think?


keeping themselves amused...

We spent Saturday, Sunday and I spent Monday, too getting the rice ready to go in the nursery field.

Saturday and Sunday it was all four of us.

And while K and I were busy the girls had a blast keeping themselves busy with the other kids there. There was another 8 yo and a 5 yo as well as a 1yo. The 1yo was everyone's favourite toy but when she was sleeping the big girls had a great time and there was one game that had us all in stitches.

It was a kind of non-competitive charades. One girl stood at the top of the hill and told the other three girls what to mine and they did. This continued till the caller ran out of ideas and then someone else would take a go. And it went on and on and on. And some of the mimes were hilarious- be an apple, a worm under the ground, a cloud, your teacher, your mum, copy the farmer over there etc etc.

This one was being people praying at a temple. I kind of like that it looks like they are praying over the rice nursery. The little rice needs all the help it can get this unseasonally cold Spring!


In the rice nursery again

Yup. That time of year. In the rice nursery again.... This year we are going to grow glutinous mochi rice for making sticky rice and rice cakes and the like as well as the regular rice for all our regular rice needs.

Very few pictures of all this as I am quite klutzy enough to know that having my camera anywhere near the water is not a good idea!

W raking out the nursery beds to be flat. Seriously there is a whole 2cm leeway. @_@

The water is in, the protective sheet is down (so the rice roots don't grow into the paddy)and we're waiting to see how flat it looks with water in there before going ahead with putting the rice seed trays down. (Bonus shot of K's bum...)

Explanatory shot of wy K was head down bum up in a rice paddy- he was working on a manual pump that works using some law of physics I guess I would explain as 'water attracts water'. It's all very complicated as you need to keep both ends of the pump level as you fill it with water from a watering can then quickly and simultaneously put the inflow part under water and the outlet part out and watch the magic work (or not- it's a fiddly process!)


What's 1/5 x 1/5 x 1/5 as a percentage?

I have no idea but it is surely something infinitesimal, right?

And yet this is the odds that have befallen Amy this year.

There are three bi-racial kids in the group of 163 grade ones that everyone knows about. (I say it that way as for reasons political, historical and otherwise some Korean-Japanese and Chinese-Japanese prefer not to make their ethnicity public knowledge but anyway...)

There are five grade 1 classes.

All three of the kids with foreign mums (we're all foreign mums) have ended up in the same class.


A 1/5 chance each right?

The first thing I did was scrutinise the homeroom teacher...

Nope, no obvious signs of amazing English ability...

And anyway, I'm the only one from an English speaking country...

It could be (1/5 x 1/5 x 1/5) purely a coincidence....

It doesn't really concern me so much as make me insanely curious to know why!

I was a bit nervous as to what the reaction of the other parents would be... would they think our class was some kind of foreign ghetto?

Nope. According to at least one mum:

"It's great! My husband says our class is just like International School!"

Ummmm yeah......

A very Japanese one- even the 'International' kids are all half Japanese afterall!

So I guess it's 1/2 x 1/32 x 1/2 x 1/32 x 1/2 x 1/32 International?


Dear Teacher...

April is the beginning of the school year in Japan.

That means a new school year in the English school as well.

New students by the dozen with new classes and kids who've changed classes into my classes and all sorts.

And the mind boggling Japanese equivalent of teaching a Jamie, a Janie, a Jane a James and a J'aime for good measure. My head is swimming!

I am slowly getting there remembering most kid's names and keeping meticulous records just in case but have been feeling like I haven't got my teaching groove yet though.... Not teaching to my satisfaction anyway...

And then I got this letter and a bunch of wildflowers (isn't that the nice word for weeds?) from one of my newest students:

It says 'Teacher thank you. I really like you.' and has some coloured in paper cutouts attached to the paper with so much stickytape I think it's probably waterproof. Isn't that sweet?

I got a real kick out of it and it gave me a boost that maybe I'm not doing so bad after all huh?

If only I could keep my Jamie's and Janie's straight.... @_@


so Japanese, so un-Japanese

We went to a friend of a friend's house.

We took a packed lunch.

Everyone else brought food to share.

It was no big deal- we didn't know.

We went there again the next day (it's ok- they invited us!)

Meg decided we needed to make up for our earlier social gaffe by providing something extra for everyone. (Very Japanese).

She made bread.

(In the bread machine, but still.)

Then she put it in a container and labelled it: "home made bread".

And she put jam in a little container marked- you guessed it- jam.

Then she proudly explained that I was to declare loudly that "This bread was not made by me it was made by MY DAUGHTER, MEG!" ALL BY HERSELF!!

That last bit is very un-Japanese.

But that's cool as I'm very un-Japanese.

So I did just that.

Minus the shouting.


first day in the garden!

Just weeding (but not really 'just' with the state of the garden!) The chooks and I had a grand time weeding and bug eating respectively. Roll on the growing season!


school is such a disappointment

Amy is not impressed with Grade 1.

She has been twice now.

For a whole 2 1/2 hours each time.

And she hasn't had any real study.

She hasn't had any homework.

She hasn't learnt any new complicated kanji characters.

Noone has taught her her times tables.

She hasn't even used her textbook yet.

She's very unimpressed.

School is such a disappointment.

She thinks she should try grade 2 or just go back to kinder if all they're going to do is play.

From Wednesday she will go until after lunch.

And she has high hopes she will learn something.

And I have high hopes she will learn some patience as there is at least half a year to go before she learns any kanji (and she knows most of the grade 1 kanji already anyway) and they don't learn their tables until grade 2....

Poor kid. She's got big sister envy.

And Meg?

She thinks it is grossly unfair that she isn't having Amy's cruisy start to the year.

School is such a disappointment.


Thanks Jennifer!

Fabulous friend Jennifer organised an Easter Party with all the bells and whistles in a fabulous heated, clean, spacious and light-filled room in the middle of a park (the girls were in heaven!) and as well as an Easter egg hunt with over 100 lolly filled eggs (not an easy feat in a public park but parks around here are big enough and wild enough that there is even space for private easter egg hunts) there was easter egg dying:

Our chooks lay brown eggs so our dying efforts are rather muted but even still the girls had a ball decorating their eggs and the only near problem was when Amy wanted to add her egg to the Easter themed display in the genkan rather than eating it for tea. A quick and very emphatic description of the smell of a rotten egg and we were back on track and had boiled eggs for tea.

Thank you Jennifer!


yummy beany cheesy goodness

I made quesadillas today with home made refried beans...


That's not a bragging YUM! it's surprised YUM! as while I have been on the lucky receiving end of quesadilla goodness many times I had only made them once and that was with meat and this was a completely different thing all together and I made the refried beans which I had never done at all so it was all pretty risky as my cooking adventures have been known to be rather disastrous...

Anyway, this one was so good I had to share (and apologies in advance that I am sure I will have broken a hundred cuisine rules but then you know I put garlic in miso soup so there's really no hope...)

The beans:

2 cans kidney beans, drained (I saw Jamie Oliver say you don't need to drain them but I always do. That juice is just so thick and slimy looking....)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 onion really really finely diced
1 Tb cumin
1 Tb turmeric
2 tsp chili powder
1/2 can whole tomatoes, crushed

I sauteed the onion in bacon lard (because I'm unhealthy and old fashioned enough to keep dripping...) and then added the spices, beans, tomatoes and about two cups of water. Cooked over low heat for a while and then mashed it all up with a potato masher. Yum!

It's actually much more attractive than this picture which was taken 14 hours after they were made so you'll just have to make some to see for yourself!

It was a side dish with scrambled eggs for brekky and then the filling for the quesadillas and rocked both times. I'll definitely be making this one again!

This is getting boring....

Ho hum, another snow picture, blah blah blah....

As you can see it melted wherever the sun got it but even so, enough already, hey??


Off to school in pictures

1: A little nervous (Meg is looking at K who was also taking pictures- no moment left undocumented here!)

2: Trying to look at the camera and show off their school bags: It'S hard to see but Amy has a yellow bag cover on her bag. It has a picture of Alp-chan the Matsumoto mascot and is the equivalent of a learner driver mark. It tells others on the roads that these kids are only 6 and just getting used to walking to school so be extra careful about them. They wear the cover for the first year of school and I know it isn't a magic protector or anything but I like it anyway.

3. And they're off! Again, you can hardly see anything in this picture but they were holding hands and walking with the two other little girls from this area who walk together. Well actually they were kind of jog-skipping at this stage but I'm sure they slowed down eventually!

Even though yesterday was the entrance ceremony today really felt like Amy's first day to me. She had her school bag packed and went off in her school clothes (not her uniform as they only wear them for PE but regular clothes for school rather than the formal dress of yesterday) and without me to boot.

It was a pretty smooth morning. Meg was up before her alarm and downstairs dressed, bag packed and making herself a drink to go with brekkie before the alarm even went off which is pretty normal for her.

Amy's alarm went off and kept going and going and going. I went in to see if she had gone downstairs without turning it off but nope. She was fast asleep. Hmmm, may need a different alarm for Amy! I woke her up and she flopped back down again. Sat her up and she grumbled without opening her eyes 'Why are you waking me up so early???' I explained it was a school day and this was our new time to get up. Poor thing. She does love to sleep!

We had brekkie and packed her bag with only a small mishap when she didn't know the difference between a text book and a notebook and had the wrong things in there. No problem we checked it all together and I explained the difference and that it was no big deal and I'm sure her teacher would explain again in class anyway. Meg and I have such a smooth system going in the mornings that I forgot that it's all new for Amy and a bit daunting to boot but we'll get there!

They were ready 5 minutes early (time to take pictures!) and happily went off to school together which was a relief as I think if Amy had of even sniffed I would have started bawling! My little baby going to schooooolllll!

And then after we said good bye the strangest thing happened....

The house got all quiet....

And K and I had a nice leisurely brekkie together....

Chatting and schedule checking and it was eerily peaceful...

There's a whole hour between when the girls leave and when K has to leave for work now...

Strange... but I am sure I will get used to it!


bright shiny grade one-er

That sounds odd in English but very cute in Japanese where bright and shiny is the melodic "pika pika" but anyway...

Amy is a schoolkid!

In usual bah humbug Spring-less 2012 Nagano the weather was most un-cooperative with the celebratory occasion. I believe we swung between sleet and rain about four times? Maybe more. Oh and a strong wind that blew the rainsideways across the covered walkways around the school leaving everyone with chilled feet in soggy slippers from our trek from classroom (reception) to gym (ceremony) to classroom (holding bay and teacher intro) to gym (official group photo) to classroom (reminders, rollcall and goodbye) again.

But nothing could dampen the mood and the kids were bouncingoff the walls and each other, the kimono count hit double figures, there were corsages and fancy up does galore and, while Amy's first, second, third and fourth best friend's are all in different classes than her (she had numbered them off in the car on the way) she soon started getting on like a house on fire with her seat mate, the kid behind him and the kid behind her.

Getting along rather too well and chatting and laughing through the teacher's talk on packing your bag but hey, it's only day one right? I'm sure they'll cover discipline at some stage...

Pedantic me was very impressed to see that the kids were sitting in straight alphabetical order. So what? So, sometimes they order the kids all the boys first then all the girls and have them sitting girl, boy, girl, boy. No big deal in the scheme of the universe but I like to break down the gender stereotyping that is rather too prevalent here and this is a nice start!

Amy is sitting next to a little boy, T. He and she hit it off right from the start and after everything was done he asked if his mum could take a picture of them together.

Poor K.....

He tries really hard to be as cool about it as I am but he would definitely like Amy to make some more girl friends as throughout kinder her bestie has always been a boy and now to see it all start again (albeit with a different boy?) sigh....

When T reached over and poked Amy's cheek to make her laugh he even muttered 'can't he see her dad's here???' Sheesh! They're 6 years old!!!

Heaven help our girls when they do want to go out with a boyfriend and not just a boy friend as I reckon K will end up tagging along at this rate!

Amy is the pink splodge on the far left of the right hand block of kids. The fashion for kiddie girl's formal wear at the moment is based on the pop group AKB 48 and it's black with bright pink or red frilly accents. The skirts are mini and many come with matching frilly over pants that we called bummers when I was at school and I think North American's call booty shorts. Cute on a six year old, huh? Being an out of fashion prudish mother Amy is wearing a light pink, knee length skirt with white knee high socks and a jacket top. She wanted to wear it too which was a bonus.

In class:

And not listening anymore...

Let me take a picture to send to Obaachan:

Take 1......

Take 2....

OK. I give up!

Congratulations not-so-little-anymore Amy!


tricked again...

I saw this yesterday:

YEAHHHHH!!!! Spring is here!!! I got all excited and opened the windows, hung the washing outside, went and looked at the sad post-winter garden with hopes and dreams instead of despair at all that brown and slushy snow and exclaimed to my house plants as I put them outside "It's Spring!!!! Feel the sun, breathe the fresh clean air and ENJOY!"

Then this morning I woke up to this:

Which was disappointing. But it's not much. Nothing really. It melted before 9am.

But not before it did this:

Which was more than just a little disappointing.

I felt betrayed by the weather.



And I felt so responsible for the poorly state of my sweet little flowers (a ranunculus I think?) that were a thank you gift from a class I can no longer teach.

I was feeling sad enough about saying goodbye before I destroyed my thank you gift.

Now I just feel all glum and bah humbug about this rotten cold Spring-that-isn't.

Hurry up already, yeah??


ooooo eeeee errrrrr jump!

It has been really windy today.

Really windy.

The kind of windy that makes me all on edge and jumpy and squeally and turn into a wind wimp.

But this time I wasn't overreacting.

They even extended the news by half an hour to talk about the two people who died in the winds, the 160 people injured, the trucks and busses that overturned, the torrential rain, the hail, the 150km/h winds, the planes and trains that couldn't run, the huge waves and the fact that while this bears all the hallmarks of a typhoon it most definitely isn't for some weird meteorological reason to do with warm and cool air currents that I didn't understand...

We live in an old house. An old house with an even older house behind us on our property. The even older house has a new(er) roof on it after the original roof was blown off in a storm....

Our house had no balcony when we bought it (balcony door, just no balcony) because the balcony blew off in a storm....

So, you see I really think there is a valid reason for being a little freaked by the wind. A little ooooo eeee errrr jumpy even.

But today all that happened so far that I have noticed is two of the roof panels blew off the chook cage. This is not fabulous but compared to you know our roof coming off it's not too tragic. K and I will just have to get out there tomorrow before work and give it a go at fixing it. For now they still have shelter where they sleep and there is wire netting surrounding them so nocturnal predators are no problem but sheesh.... enough with the wind already!

I saw this on FB and felt relieved- Nagano is the long yellow bit with the black spot in the middle (the black spot is actually the very beautiful Lake Suwa with the unfortunate name) and we were one of only a handful of places with only a secondary advisory type warning and not a full blown warning warning.

Then just now I went to show K and share the smugness and I just logged on to the site and damn it- we got upgraded to warning warning.

At least now I feel like less of a wimp for being so freaked out about the wind though. I'm not freaked out about mere advisory winds you see. Pah. Don't be ridiculous. Only full-on warning warning winds scare me!

oooo eeeee errrrrr jump!


doki doki waku waku

Ohhhh, another first.

First day of going to after school care (well after school care's holiday programme) together. Even though Amy hasn't started grade 1 yet, as of the 1st of April and the new academic year she is no longer a kinder kid and now a primary school student and so instead of going to the kinder holiday programme she goes to the school programme with Meg.

Ahhhhhh, she's so big now...... sniff... sniff...

So anyway, we packed two lunches, two drink bottles, two homework books (after school care has structured activity times and one of the activities is homework/ self study but of course Amy doesn't have homework yet so we got Amy a writing practice book) and then 4 rolls of toilet paper and two floor cleaning cloths as each kid needs to contribute to the cleaning/ upkeep of the hall once a term and that was it.

Then they got dressed and Amy wanted exactly the same hairstyle as Meg and chose a zip through hooded sweater and leggings like Meg and matching socks (to Meg and to the other sock, too) and it was all doki doki waku waku which is excited and nervous all mixed in together.

Amy was so excited she was ready an hour early and then we had to find something to do until it was time to go but we went and they've gone and I signed them in and found their shoe lockers and their bag lockers and their name tags and Amy ever-so-carefully wrote the time next to her name on the sign-in sheet and then I was just trailing them around not really needing to be there any more but you know just wanting to make sure Amy was ok and didn't need me to tuck her short in or fix her hair clip or something like that when Meg said 'I love you mum' and hugged me and Amy turned away and said 'you can go now... please.' And I had to admit that that sounded like a definite exit line and so I said goodbye only a couple more times and then left.

And I was only a little doki doki waku waku.