Monday, December 17
Tuesday, December 11
Yesterday we went to Sakura Tenjin Jinga, a little shrine in central Nagoya that has a very special feature. Wedged between high rises, this tiny jinga houses not only kamisama but a wishing cow.
Most jingas have some specific purpose like wishing for romance or academic success. This one lets you choose anything you want but you have to pour water over the cow as many times as your age.
We have something to wish for right now so we headed there yesterday in the wet snow. There was something really beautiful about pouring a ladle of water for each of my years. I hope it did the trick.
It was super cold so afterward we headed to a sweet little soba restaurant to warm up.
And some of us slept through the entire journey.
Saturday, December 8
Nico's really into making things with paper. Origami, paper cuts, boxes, birds, you name it and it will be in paper form in a matter of minutes. (As I type this Jason is trying to convince Nico to delay the tape-box he's making for me until after dinner. It's like water off a stone with our determined boy.)
A few weeks ago, I taught Nico how to make snowflakes. A thousand snowflakes later and I am prepared to declare him an addict. Now and then though, he makes a mistake. I say mistake only because that is how he perceives them. I am not sure if his idea of perfection is rooted in nature or nurture but I do know that I want him to relinquish the negativity he associates with mistakes and see them for what they really are: learning opportunities. Thomas Edison said regarding his failed lightbulbs "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work".
Mistakes can also be a source of discovery, as Nico found out today.
A broken snowflake is really just a pair of wings.
And once one person has a pair of wings...
Colette was happy to be a choucho (butterfly) and immediately jumped off the couch with great hopes. Landing with a thud, she said あれ (Japanese for 'huh?'). I love that she believed she could fly.
I also love that when Sebastian return from playing with friends, Nico asked him if he wanted a pair of wings too.
I love that Sebastian said of course.
Friday, December 7
(Gu Choki Pa candy- ramune flavor)
In the next few weeks, we will be able to announce which direction our little family is headed in the river of life. Until then, I can say that I will be resurrecting the Etsy shop or an Etsy shop soon. It will be a collaboration of Jason's and the kids' designs and my hands. I was going to do it before but got swept (rightfully) into the busyness of the kids' flow and my writing. At one point I was really anxious about it all but now, I think I might have struck a decent balance that takes care of everyone. The trick, it turns out, is setting flexible distant deadlines. And being kind and forgiving to yourself. Realizing there are only 24 hours in a day and working within that framework is a lot easier than trying to push the boundaries of time to suit your needs. It is one of those lessons you must learn for yourself. Staying home with the kids means I have a new rhythm in my day, freedom from set schedules but there are certain points which must be met to make family life smoother. Mealtimes. Clean laundry. Story time. Park time. Turns out kids like consistency and food. Luckily they are not so concerned with the finer details of housework and would rather see me making something than dusting. I haven't quite gotten them to appreciate the time I spend at my desk muttering do myself and hunched over my keyboard but that is what the post-bedtime hours are for.
So be on your guard. Gu Choki Pa is back.
Thursday, December 6
One of the challenges of raising bilingual kids is helping them to learn in both languages. For the most part we are more concerned with their childhood experience, encouraging exploration and acts of empathy/sympathy. We try to let them have as much free time as possible in the afternoons so they can play with friends or each other. For the most part, they determine how their time is spent, an element that is crucial as they step closer day by day toward adulthood.
I do want them to be scholastically well-equipped to support their journey through this world. So this year while I have been on maternity leave, we have started doing home study days. We sit down twice a week and do some formalized lessons, either with paper worksheets or more tactile materials. As you may remember, I try to incorporate Montessori methods in our home whenever possible. Colette is using the sandpaper letters and metal insets in preparation for writing. She is super alert to finding her "w's" as she refers to the alphabet whenever we are out and about. During the day I do more practical Montessori activities with her like pouring rice and dressing frames to learn how to use buttons and laces.
Nicolai is into Bob books, the movable alphabet, and math. Yep, math. He walks around counting by threes and fours and loves the hundreds board app on the iPad. The boy sits down and writes out addition problems, filling out the entire page with sums.
For Sebastian, I just try to supplement his school work to help him in what his teacher considers to be his weaker areas. I personally abide by the theories of multiple intelligences and various learning styles. I do not think Sebastian's weaker areas are truly weak but since the school wants well-rounded students, I try to help him to feel more confident in areas that he is not so interested in. I also work with him on his English reading which was really slow going until recently when we switched from phonics to sight words. And he is such a rabid reader in Japanese that I do not worry about his abilities.
We are still smoothing out some of the kinks of home study time (and by kinks I mean resolving disputes sparked by having three very determined and different learners at one table) but that is all part of the journey.
Monday, December 3
Saturday, December 1
Saturdays are a work day for Jason so it is just me and the four kids. Saturday is also a big chore day around here so there is not a lot of time for a proper lunch. I have come to rely on Sebastian to run down to the neighborhood shop with a list in hand. It builds his knowledge of shopping and related math while giving him a special responsibility that he can be proud of. Then we get to gather around the table, all five of us, and have a simple lunch.
And this guy is a happy participant in these meals. After all you don't get to be 24 pounds at 7 months just by smiling.