Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Vacation days were approved, so everything’s set now for July. A little Old Navy shopping, a good deed and a relaxing night at a yakiniku restaurant with my family...

How is everybody doing? I have some pretty great news. Noboru *did* get his vacation days off, in July as requested. So it is official, we are going away, on a family vacation. We will be gone from July 17th, to July 28th is when we will be returning back to Japan. Again though depending on which flight, it could be a day early or even 1 day later. But those are the dates.  I want you all to keep things, on the down low for now. And, frankly speaking, I wasn't going to mention dates at all, and usually I will NOT mention dates. But yep, it will be a very nice long vacation. We are looking daily now... on which flight looks best for us, to get to California. Haneda or Narita. Narita for us is best, because we live so close, all the Delta folks know Noboru at Narita so that helps. But if we go to Haneda, we don't know any of those folks and frankly Haneda is very far from our house and Haneda people are sticklers with the weight of their plane, and cargo. So often they bump folks, even if seats are available. Second resort would be... for us to fly Narita to Seattle. That flight is wide open and then us transfer via Delta to LAX (Los Angeles) Again we'd get there, the same day as if we flew directly to LAX. So flying via Seattle wouldn't be bad either. Also, I half heartedly wrote a shopping list. Because frankly we weren't 100% sure... if we could get there... if he didn't get his days off or not. But now that we know, it's 100% set. Now, I am spending a lot of time...again watching YouTube videos. Seeing what's new in America. Checking Sephora and Target online. Going through my food pantry, what do I need to stock up on? So...if my blog does go a bit quiet as time draws near....July comes and rolls on...you who read this...will know. Yep, I know why, Gina's blog is quiet. : ) Quite a few of his coworkers did not get their vacation days off. And they wondered why Noboru did. However...Noboru didn't take a vacation day off. Not even for a observation day. He would tell his manager, this week is my kids observation day and I am not going because I am saving my time for July. And then Noah had another observation day and he again made it clear...again it's my son's observation day and I am not attending because...I am hopeful for July. He went to work sick once and said, I am not taking off because I am hopeful for July. Since January he has not requested a thing off. And they knew it. And so when the time came...they had to be fair. The other guys requested days off each month but not Noboru. we found out last Wednesday or Thursday...Noboru called me at work and said...guess what? I got my days off and we are GOING! I screamed from excitement! Ahhh. The boys both know now.  Anyway hopeful for California and we think we'll get there. But as usual...our last last resort is.. we go to Honolulu for vacation, which would still be amazeballs. However though...we really want to take the boys to Universal Studios. So anyways...enough talk about that, for now. I better hurry up with this post, I have a ton to do today. : ) Friday, I made the homemade pizza dough. And after picking up the boys, we had homemade pizza from scratch and sodas and we just relaxed for the night. Saturday was spent relaxed and low key too, we had a family movie night at home. 
Sunday we four, went to the Aeon mall in Tsukuba, Ibaraki. This mall is *huge* ya'll. Plus they have Old Navy. 

Not sure if you can see the sign in the window at Old Navy 100 yen flip flops for the family.They had huge 50% off sales, 20% off sales and 30% off sales too. Men's swimwear was 900 yen. Not all of it but, most of it was. Bran got 2 new pair of shorts around Golden Week. And so Sunday Noboru bought Bran 2 extra pair of shorts. So now Bran has 4 new shorts this year, plus 1 pair from last year from Uniqlo that still fit. So 5 pair of shorts for Bran. Shorts wise, he is done! Also, important to note, while Branden was in a dressing room and Noboru was also in another dressing room. Noah was with Branden in his dressing room. I was sitting in the center in a chair waiting on Bran or Noboru I glanced at the open dressing room next to Bran's dressing room and someone left a shopping bag with wallet left in the bag. I was like OMG! So, I ran it outside to this Japanese man pictured here. He's my favorite worker at this Old Navy, he's worked here... since it first opened, he speaks English fluently, used to live in America, he's gay (sorry TMI, but we have talked through all our times shopping there, but it's just the back of his head so his identity/privacy is safe) but he's wonderful. I told him right away...I found this wallet, he said...OMG thank you and he ran it inside and put it behind the counter and instructed the 3 check out people...who were crazy busy with a long line of customers, which is why I didn't give it to them first. He told them...if anyone claims a wallet have them describe it and then he popped back outside. I believe he is the manager for that store. After that... we went upstairs and went to Sports Authority and bought Bran's rashguard. By the way...this is the 2nd time I have found a wallet here in Japan and I have blogged about it both times. I am a firm believer in return things to their rightful owner...because it's just good karma! It really is. 
And Sunday nights dinner. Yakiniku! We wanted to celebrate Branden being finished with all his tests for this semester. Now we can all sorta take a load off and relax. And during this picture we already knew we were indeed going to California. So...we had even more reason to celebrate. And we also wanted to celebrate Noah too. Because we don't want Noah to feel...left out. So we said this is for Branden finishing up on his tests and this is also for you too Noah...for doing so well in swimming this week! : ) Which made him smile. Both boys were happy. Wow...funny what a difference a week makes right? Last week at that time...Bran was in hardcore study mode. And so were we. Now 7 days later we're all...like Julie Andrews singing...the Sound of Music on a mountain top...type ecstatic! : ) Yep what a difference a week makes. : ) We also ordered a veggie platter and some flat leaf lettuce to wrap our meat with, but it didn't come out...before this pic. 

Happy smiles from Noah.
Happiness and *relief* from Branny B. You also know the movie "Nanny McPhee"? I also call B...Branny Mc B, a lot of times. Branden...B, Bran...Branny...Branny B...and finally Branny Mc B! I love it! : ) I tell you. Bran has about 5-6 things I call him...and he loves all the names, that I call him. I'm playful with my kids, like that! We ate and stuffed ourselves silly and then we came home. And we all took turns showering and then we all just relaxed and enjoyed the rest of our Sunday.
That's right...after yakiniku we went to the grocery store... so I could pick up some fresh cut pineapple, yogurts and fresh bread for the next morning. But, while there, we saw these newest flavors of Gari Gari...watermelon, yumm. : )
I love word play. Love it! And instead of high fashion...it's hi, fashion! Hahaha. 

Bran's waist size is a 30 American size. With a pinch of room for comfort and breath-ability..meaning you don't want your tumtum strangled to death. However these are slim fit....so he needs a size bigger for comfort. If you are in an airplane for 12 hours, do you want to be wearing skin tight pants or shorts or comfy ones with a pinch of room in your waist and tummy area. Yep, you'd pick the comfy ones. So, we're the same way... so we had him get this size since they're slim fit. 

These were 20% off of 1990 yen. So a really good deal. 

A bit blurry, but also 20% off. 

These are California shorts with spots/areas in California written all over. 

I think these are so cute and perfect for Bran! 

Rashguards are supposed to be skin tight and the medium fit skin tight. But Noboru asked B to try on the men's large. See it says men's large in the pic. And it fit better, still slim fit, but a pinch of room. UPF 50+...so great sun protection. And even though B is much tanner coloring wise, than Noah is...I still worry about skin cancer for Bran too, because I know any color/shade can get skin cancer. 

Branden has a very nice brand rashguard. OP, is a nice brand. And a men's large. This will match beautifully with Branden's navy blue turtle swim trunks from Costco. And by the way my Costco, sold out...of all men's swim trunks, they're all sold out and gone. So glad, we snapped up Branden's swim trunks, when we did. So Bran is all set now swimming wise. : ) 

This has a rubber piece at the bottom for when you boogie board, your rash guard won't slip up. A nice feature.

This will be at the back near his neck area. : ) 

Meanwhile Noboru bought himself 3 pair of shorts. This is a big deal because Noboru hates buying clothes for himself. I swear he has tee shirts, older than Branden! Hahaha. : ) He picked navy with navy sailboats. 

These were 50% off. 

The navy with navy sailboats to the left with 30% off and the pair to the right were 50% off. 

Noboru picked the same shorts Branden did too. He said he didn't want them at first knowing Bran picked them already/first..."I don't want Branden to think I copied him" I said ..."he's not going to mind, we're family"....so, I asked Branden..."is it okay if daddy gets the same pair of shorts as you?" "it's fine..I don't mind dad" Noboru was like...okay as long as you're sure. : ) Of course they won't wear them, on the same day or anything. : ) 
I washed these Monday/yesterday. And they dried up nicely outside. Now they're all ready for the guys to wear! And Noah's tinier pair on the far right. That he wore to yakiniku. And Bran's navy pair with pink flamingos that he wore, next to Noah's orange pair, that he wore to yakiniku. : ) 

Hi Noboru's shorts! : ) Hi countryside...rural Japan. : )

Anything else to add? I went and did the weekly grocery shopping yesterday, as soon as I hung up the laundry/shorts outside. I bought a weeks worth of food. Monday/last night, homemade karaage (Japanese fried chicken, so good), broccoli, rice and the hubby and kids had miso soup with theirs. Tues/tonight, we will be having curry with lots of fresh veggies and skinless chopped of chicken breast. Wednesday we will be having curry spaghetti. Again this just helps because I can double the amount of curry tonight with extra veg and meat and tomorrow will be an easy peasy meal of delicious and filling curry spaghetti, with garlic toast on the side. Thursday night we will be having niku jaga (a nice hearty meat, onions potatoes and green beans), in a shoyu, mirin and sugar base really delicious and we'll have that with rice. Friday, chicken enchiladas and Spanish rice. And Saturday will be American Independence day....so we will be having a Costco rotisserie chicken ,mashed potatoes, gravy, veggies and probably a Costco salad. Delicious but super easy too. Was going to BBQ July 4th, but Noboru's working (which is fine and with the vacation days off...nicely in the bag now, I REALLY don't mind haha)..So, Saturday, of course, I still want to celebrate the 4th as a special day with the boys. : ) Which means...I will be heading to Costco...to get big hunk of cheese (for the enchiladas) and salad and rotisserie chicken at the end of the week. But everything else...I have every ingredient for, until Friday.

Noah has observation day this Thursday, Noboru and I are both going to that (the guy who makes the schedule who is a very good friend of Noboru's said.."I gave you a very late shift, so you can go and see your kid on observation day!" What a great friend, Noboru has. He knows Noboru has not got to go to Noah's school since December. So that was very nice of him to do that. So that's how Noboru can go and see Noah now.. Noah's excited, daddy gets to come this time. : ) And I guess...that's about it for now, you guys. : ) 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Finals are done! We can all relax now! And an interesting thing happened, while at Costco...

The hills are alive...with the sound of music...tralalala! : ) Okay so the finals for the semester are now officially done and over with! Oh thank the lord! We survived to tell the tale, ya'll. : ) So the finals were Wednesday. I picked up Noah from the plaza first and then we sat in the car while waiting for Bran to get out of school. While waiting for Bran to come out...all the JHS kids we saw walking or riding away from the school looked so happy. Like they were on cloud 9! I think all the kids were feeling RELIEF. Relief the tests were done and now all their brains could take a rest. I sat in the car and then I saw a group of 8th grade boys walking and sure enough that was Bran and friends. Bran was smiling *so* widely with his friends and laughing. Then he waved them good bye and came to my car. He jumped in the car and was like this picture! "I am so happy, to be done", he said. "Oh honey...I'm so happy you're done too." Now we can all take a rest now. "No tests until August", he said. So...huge feelings of relief. Noah in the back seat asking..."how did you do Branden, how did you do?"...Bran said...we all had to write that certain part of the "Tale of the Heike"...but I totally knew it, he said! Oh thank god, I said! : ) How was the English?! I asked. He said..."I know I didn't miss even 1...it was so easy", he said. I told him, "yeah for you. it's easy!" Hahaha. We chuckled. When we got home, Noboru was waiting. We were all really brain fried as a family and physically exhausted...so that day/morning Noboru and I decided to go to Costco Wednesday night. That way we could eat a cheap dinner. I would not have to cook, because honestly I stayed up so late with Bran the night before...I felt zombie-ish all day. All of us did, well except Noah. He was bright eyed and bushy tailed! : ) Besides we were out of popcorn and we needed cheese for our Friday nights pizza dinner too. Noboru asked Bran...how was the math? He said he felt really good about it all. So....we all sorta just stopped talking about the finals after about 7 minutes and we didn't talk about them anymore for the rest of the night. I think because we're all fried. Branden the most... since he did mostly all the work, though we did help and stuff too. At this point...you just say to yourself, it's now out of our hands and so, like I always say..."it is what it is." He'll get the tests back soon. But...knowing how his past scores were...and how much work went into it...I know he did amazing. So to Costco, Chiba New Town we went. Wednesday evening. 

We ate first and then shopped. We did this because... sometimes if you wait to the last minute...towards closing... the pizzas sorta suck and could be old. So, we thought it best, since it was an hour and a half before closing, for us to eat first. So we did that. Boy oh boy, does Bran look happy here! Like a huge cloud, has been lifted. He can now be a kid again and be free...no stress or hour upon hour...to study his brains out... until right before the next test, of course. : ( He needs this rest, from now until August. : ) Noah meanwhile was getting a refill, so he's in the back of Bran in this pic. : ) 

Popcorn, needed for movie nights. Black pepper (finely milled) was almost out, only had about 2 pinches left, glad we have a new one now. : ) Chocolate milk straws, my boys love these! Lovelovelove these! Mozzarella cheese for Fridays pizza night. Nutella. And one of my American/western friends in Japan kindly emailed me a week ago and told me..."Gina please try those cinnamon rolls at Costco, they're new and they're the bomb dot com!" Of course she was totally right! So, we bought them yesterday evening. They were Noboru's, Bran and Noah's and my breakfast this morning. And I have to say....thank you for recommending them to me. They're so good! Thank you! : )  In fact, I may go and get another piece in the kitchen right now. : ) I love when people rec me stuff from Costco Japan. Love it! : ) Or even from regular stores in Japan. Love food recommendations, especially if it's good yummy stuff. : )  If I could rec'd stuff from Costco Japan, to a person who has never went to one before? I'd suggest..well... they're oldie but goodies (not new products)...I'd have to say buy their rotisserie chickens. The flavor is seriously so good. I have not even bothered making roasted chicken myself again after buying theirs. Also the tiramisu at Costco Japan is the best! It just is. I love it, so much. Also the big hunks of Colby Jack cheese, Kirkland brand, it's about 300 yen cheaper than buying Tillamook here. And so for me..I'm cheap, but I still want a lot of cheese, so I just prefer save the 300 yen and buy the Kirkland store brand one. : )  

You know he's a good kid, when he holds his mama's Prada bag...so she can snap a "cart pic" that's a really sweet boy, right there! Both boys are real sweethearts. : ) I spotted choco covered marshmallows at Costco Japan. And I must say...I love chocolate covered marshmallows. I love them so much! They were only like 1000 yen, maybe 1090. Like $9US, but a huge box. I resisted and did not buy them. But...I really debated with myself over them. Maybe when I go back in 2 weeks, I'll buy them. I also wanted to buy Reese's peanut butter cups, but...hell to the NO.... am I paying 2000-2100 yen for a bag. I'll wait until I am in the states in July. That's just too much money....$20 for chocolate. I'll hold off on that. : )  So anyway we are just really happy now. No stress. No study cram sessions or finals test stress. Sorta feel like, we can all breath right now. : ) *happy sigh*
See this shocked kitty picture? Well something funny...or weird, happened at Costco last night. So we were walking to go and stand in the Costco food line right, to order our dinner. 2 slices of pizza for Bran, etc etc. So, there was a Japanese family in line...followed by a large family, about 5 kids (all daughters) and a mom and dad, the parents were speaking Spanish. And a Japanese lady behind them and then us. The family with Spanish speaking parents...all their daughters only spoke Japanese (most likely their daughters were all Japan born and schooled here). Anyway as we walk up...and fwiw (for what it's worth) you could just tell they had never been to Costco before...and you can hear the kids saying...what should we order...I don't know what to pick, they were just ...."very deer in the headlights"...being there, you could tell it was their first time. They were speaking in Japanese. Anyway, I was happy seeing them...I'm happy seeing anyone no big deal though, you know...they were foreigners and I am a foreigner too. I go to Costco a lot so, I'm used to it. But...they turned around and looked at me and gave me the cat face expression. Shock! Utter shock. Which their expression, surprised me a bit. Fellow foreigners, being shocked by my foreignness? Is that a thing now?  @_@ Hmm. Okay. : ) So they ordered...the kids ordered for their parents. And then the lady in front of us went and then it was our turn. I also must point out...the seating area was 100% full. As in..we could either stand and eat...go and eat outside with the mosquitoes or sit at the table behind the Spanish speaking parents and girls. So we sat behind them. Ages. Yes...the parents looked to be...early 50's in age. The oldest kid looked around 16 years old The 16-year old daughter sat directly behind me. And her sister next to her. And the parents were facing the girls. I speak English...I speak English with my kids and my husband. And...that's just the way we roll.We just don't change our dynamic no matter where we are, or  who we are around. You know every family is different. Their family went...the kids speak Japanese. And quite loudly, I might add, you'll understand why I say that in a minute. And the parents spoke in a quiet hush...Spanish (not sure why, I personally think Spanish sounds so super cool!!!) When I was speaking to the kids. My kids. Their table went dead silent. I also must point out...I smiled at them a few times...because well, I am friendly. But they were just gobsmacked, shocked. : ( But you know...we were eating and like Noboru asked Noah...do you want me to go and get you some ketchup on your hot dog, while you fill my cup. Noah would answer..."sure, which drink do you want?" So...we are alive...right... so we have to speak, communicate somehow. Bran meanwhile was eating his pizzas and saying we should get some ice cream, which yes we did. This is all happening in English. So anyway all our 4 are sitting and all their family is there now too...one of their daughters around Noah's age. She was a real spitfire by the way. : ) She said very loudly in Japanese to her family..."mama are they gaikokujin too???" It's a much politer term than saying gaijin, though I don't personally mind either term. : ) Keep in mind because their kids speak in Japanese...we can understand EXACTLY what they're saying. So not even a second after she said that....Noah who is sitting right next to me and right behind the girl who just said that...he turns his head...so fast it's amazing Noah didn't get whiplash. Branden immediately heard it as well and looked at their table. The parents were...mortified. Those poor embarrassed parents, you guys...you could just feel their pain.  They were so mortified they didn't even answer her or reply! Shocked to silence, they were. I was hoping Noboru wouldn't reply because he's just not as tactful, as I am. Hahaha. : ) You could hear a pin drop though between our 2 tables.

Thoughts? I love kids! They're so refreshingly honest. And they're so refreshingly curious! That's exactly why I went to university to become an elementary school teacher. My love for little kids. They're amazing! And I hope that little girl *never* looses that. Was I offended by the question? Absolutely not! Yes, little girl, I would have gladly answered her, with a great big smile...*I* am a gaikokujin, same as you... and how wonderful we both are, right...ne~ However...no, my 2 sons are *not*...they are hafu. Half Japanese and half American and so that's a little bit different. But we are all beautiful, am I right? And that's how I was going to answer the wonderfully curious little girl. I was sorta waiting for her parents to answer and I thought...as long as she was curious...and I was not offended... it would be a valuable and sorta cool thing to have a 1 minute talk about it, with her. And I'd want her to know..it's *good* that she's curious and she should *never* lose that! That spark...she should keep forever and ever! However...her parents...were terribly embarrassed...mortified beyond belief, you guys....and they looked still superly upset with her... when they were leaving the Costco. : ( Her parents didn't even want to make eye contact with us after that : ( Poor little girl. So because her parents chose not to answer...I didn't answer her either.

Also important to note...a Japanese family (young man and wife and young child) started talking about that family a split second after the Spanish speaking family left. The Japanese family was saying..."their kids were speaking Japanese." Oh Japan!!! @_@ They went on. What language were the parents speaking? The mom guessed Portuguese and said she thinks they were from Brazil, the dad guessed South America. Good grief this couple. : ( I whispered to Noboru..."I bet you 500 yen as soon as we leave...this Japanese couple with little kid will start talking about us too." Hahaha. : ) Noboru said in their defense (because you know, he does have to protect team Japan, hahaha)...they can't help it...where we live... "foreigners are still pretty rare." That word just floated above my head for a few minutes.  I thought...rare...hmm. Are we rare? I meant me and the family who just left. Maybe....I don't know. I see me....on a daily basis, while brushing my teeth, I don't feel so rare to me, I see me all the time. Hmm. : )

Also during my dinner at Costco as if that wasn't enough excitement, for 1 evening, hahaha. A little 3 year old-ish age Japanese girl...saw me...while her dad was getting a refill of soda. And she waved at me and said..."hello" and I happily waved at her and said..."hello" right back. The young couple who likes to do commentary on foreigners, then smiled at me. @_@ Hahaha. : ) Being American that happens to me *a lot*....even once more while shopping last night. After we ate we got a cart and started shopping in Costco. A Japanese little girl around Noah's age... saw me and got this HUGE smile on her face. I swear...this stems from the NHK English kids programs, Japanese kids watch daily... in Japan...the westerners on those shows are so happy and bright and cheerful and so they instinctually/naturally think we're all nice and so they...love westerners. So in their defense... Japanese kids can't really help it... when they see one of us, in the flesh. It's like their 1 big chance, you know! : ) So she waves at me. And I wave at her. And she hops 2 steps. Think almost like hop scotch. And while I am with my cart...I oblige her... so I copy her and I hop 2 steps with my cart and she laughs. Her mother is pushing their cart and is oblivious that her daughter is playing with me. : ) She tilted her head left to see if I'd copy her and so I too tilted my head left too. And she laughed. Her mother still talking to herself... not realizing. Then her mom turned down an aisle...and I followed Noboru and he turned in the next aisle from the little girl. And she bent down to see me through the aisle...and I bent down and she hopped twice again and I hopped twice again and then I gave her a good bye wave...because Noboru was...going to a different aisle. Noah told me..."stop playing with her mommy!"...I told the kids..."I'm sorry, you know mommy can't help it"...kids in Japan see mommy and they immediately get happy and want to play with mommy. So they do understand and yes it did bother Branden too, when he was younger too. : ) It does drive my kids nuts sometimes! This happened at the Aeon about...2 months ago too when I was with B and Noah. 2 kids a brother and sister duo saw me in the drink aisle...and they squealed with delight and no I am not kidding...they ran to me and left their mother. She was in eye view. They said to me...hello hello!!! I stopped my shopping for a sec and stopped talking with my kids for a sec too. And asked those kids..."how are you...are you kids genki?" Yes, yes we are very very genki"...they said! Their mother comes running apologizing to me (In Japanese she is apologizing profusely...I am sorry they have bothered you, she said, I am so sorry, she keeps bowing)...I said..no problem. Totally fine..and what smart kids you have, I told her! She realizes...I'm nice. She sort of breaths huge sigh of relief. And we go our separate ways. Took only a second. My kids were irritated that happened... that day. And I do understand that...they want me just for themselves. They want it clear...I'm their mom and no one elses. I get that. But also from my end...for my defense..I can't just be a complete jerk to innocent kids either. That's just not who I am. That's not the type of person, I am. And I do like kids. And it's just for a sec. My boys though in their defense too... they want us to be able to shop in peace without kids...running to me and wanting to say...."hello"...to me all the time! If you are a westerner in Japan, you will no doubt have had that happen before. Not sure if that happens in the big cities where foreigners are more common... but here in the countryside/inaka, foreigners are...as Noboru said rare, so the chit chat does happen for me a lot more often... since there just aren't many of us around this area. Anyway so that's that. I think we're all caught up now right. You and me? : ) Have a fantastic day ya'll. : )

 It's Thursday here. I can barely wait for the weekend to be here. Noah gets out of school today at 3pm. Noah swam yesterday at his elementary school and he loved it. : ) Bran, gets out today at 4pm. We're having chicken teriyaki for supper tonight, salad, corn on the cob, it's so sweet and in season right now...and some rice. Friday/tomorrow night will be pizza from scratch. And Sunday...Sunday is celebration time! Time to celebrate the finals are done and dusted! We will be going to have yakiniku at our favorite yakiniku restaurant, this Sunday. We will also be doing some shopping for summer clothes for Bran, Sunday, in the day. Boy oh boy...is it nice that we don't have to think about tests or finals until August. I think it's going to rain today. Hmm, looks like rain, the way the clouds look in the sky right now.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Branden's hardcore JHS finals prep and an update on that...

Like, I said in my last post. Your child gets 2 weeks to study for these tests. They also get a very specific syllabus of what WILL be on the test. So there are no hidden surprises here. Anyway, I have been taking pictures of Branden's testing practice all this time, so, I could give a little bit more detailed post of what we personally do for our son. And what works for us (granted am I saying it will work for you? Nope, only you would know what works for you and same here only WE know what works for us too). Branden is in the 8th grade now, so he's been at JHS for a full year and he's got this testing stuff down to a science! The kids got it! As, I posted earlier, your test will cover all core subjects at school. Branden is *very* strong with math. I personally find the way they teach math in Japan extremely thorough and good. Last year, when Branden was in the 7th grade, we bought Branden, this book but the 7th grade version. And at the 2 week before the testing period. Branden would spend hours on this book. He'd do 5 pages each day. And so when his tests came back, his math scores for example were freaking high. Branden also used these books in the summer at home every summer break, all through elementary school and these can be bought at any Japanese book store) As you all know, both our kids have been in Kumon for English and Japanese since they were in kindergarten. Branden age 4 and Noah age 3. So we love Kumon, we feel their methods work! And if your child went to Kumon, since kindy age, you will really have no worries with JHS here in Japan. Especially if they did English at Kumon, I'll explain later on that. So, this year our school year started in April and Branden became an 8th grader. We went right out and bought the Kumon math workbook for an 8th grader. This book pictured. It says it is for a JHS student 2nd year, which means an 8th grader (he can use this all year). For the whole 2 week study period, Branden has been going through this workbook doing 5 pages each day. Just...tightening up his already super strong math skills. 

Keep in mind Bran also has an actual 8th grade math book... he does daily anyways. But...this is just additional. And during the 2 week time period he tightens up *everything.* Noboru would, go through his workbook. And then randomly write 10 math questions/equations from this Kumon workbook, down and we'd time Branden with the timer on the stove. We would allow, Branden to take no longer than 2 minutes, per math question. Because...frankly during the test...you are NOT allotted infinity time. You are only allowed 45-50 minutes per test at JHS. So training yourself to do the questions... in a timely manner, is also extremely important. So, yes...we made sure...his techniques are down. No tiny mistakes with the equations and there were none. And then we did for time. By the time, Branden was done. When Noboru last tested him, yesterday. Branden could go through 10 random math questions...and attack said 10 math questions with ZERO mistakes. Showing all his work. And Noboru who is super good at math turned to me and said flat out..."he's got this!!!" Anyway we have been going through math with Branden super well. And for what it's worth...half of Branden's class also has this same exact Kumon JHS work book. This book really helps. Best couple bucks, you could ever spend! I tell ya that! The "professor" Bran's classmate and good friend, uses this workbook too. And many of Branden's classmates, do too, about half the class use this. I'll tell you things... about a Japanese JHS that many won't. For example, in Japan, you are ranked in JHS. You are ranked by your child's class. Meaning, individual class. Say, out of 50 students for example, your child ranked 2nd place in Math, that type a thing. You will be told...each subject what your child ranks. You are also ranked...you are ranked by grade. All 8th graders for example. Your child may be best at math for their class, but rank 3rd place by all 8th graders type rank. So ranked by class and ranked by grade. And while...the American in me...says it does not matter... what rank you are. As for getting into a high school here. It does matter. Because each high school, for example might have 30 spots/openings for high school and say 300 applicants for said 30 spots. Do you see, what I am saying. So...while it's nice to say..."oh it does not matter." Actually...yes, yes it sorta of does, if you live here in Japan.  There is a list online of all Chiba high schools by rank, meaning the best high school to get in... all the way down to the worst of the worst high school, to be in. There's also a chance...if your child's grades are too bad, they may not get into *any* high school, it happens here. In America, you get to go to high school, by where you live, your closest high school. Here...you get to go to high school depending on your grades... the grades that you got in JHS. So in that respect...yes...how you do on your tests, does play a lot, into it. 

Noboru has been spending hours upon hours with Branden daily, these past 2 weeks. He does have a study desk in his bedroom, of course. But it's just more useful for us...our family, if he does it in the kitchen. Noboru going through the science with Branden...social studies, history, etc with Branden. 

Here he was explaining something to him. He adores his kids and he wants them to do well. When Branden was 4...he put Branden into Kumon. He used to tell Branden....whoever knows the most wins...whoever knows the most, will have the ADVANTAGE. So, we knew what JHS would be like here. Which is why... we well prepared our kids with English Kumon and Japanese Kumon at an actual Kumon and Math Kumon workbooks every summer. They're so prepared. If your child went to a juku or Kumon in yochien and elementary school, you will be thanking your lucky stars you did that..come JHS time. Because then they can relax a bit, in JHS. Because they worked so hard *before* JHS. Granted Bran still studies. But he's not all freaking out about it. Because it's just he did the hard parts in elementary school. 

Going through subject after subject after subject. For us, we feel. Our children's education, is our most important investment. Which is why we spent the big bucks of sending them to Kumon at over 60 bucks/6000 yen, each subject times 2 kids, times 2 subjects. We are so glad they were in Kumon for all those years. It's paying off now. I tell you that! It is. Branden's tests scores show it! The way he attacks a question and answers it, in a speedy manner. Yeah..he's kicking ass at JHS. Sorry, but he is. He really is. And I go through the English with Branden daily, all the 2 weeks. We do it year round, but during the 2 week testing time, we go hard core with it. We back and forth to near infinity. He's ready, you guys! His test is tomorrow, Wednesday! 

Meanwhile...yes it was a leak in Noah's tire! Not to worry, papa fixed it! And back to normal! 

Branden meanwhile asked for Noboru to check his bike too. He's still a kid and he wants to not feel left out. Hahaha. So Noboru gave it the old.... one two, look over and declared Branden's bike, perfect! And so Branny-B went back into the house and got right back to his studies. 

And yet another day. This time Branden was wearing his Broncos Football tee shirt. See...I was so ready to make this updated JHS finals post! Took pics of this... all weekend. This day...they did 2-3 hours of math yet again plus the rest of day and night for other subjects... just to tighten it up. Though frankly Bran's math is flawless and he's ahead of most of classmates, if I'm to be honest. Same with his English and science. So this day he spent most of his time on his Japanese.  Oh and how much does he study. Saturday for example...Branden studied from 10am to 11pm. And no...I am not kidding I actually asked Branden to stop at 10pm but he said, he'd like to study a bit longer and stopped himself at 11pm.. He did take a few breaks, he could take a 10-20 minute break each hour, all day long when needed. He knows to keep track of his breaks. And when he's feeling fried for a bit...he'll go sit down on the couch, lay down a bit and close his eyes. But again...we remind him...your classmates are doing this too. Well...the ones who want the good grades are. Hahaha. 

He must know 50 kanji from the set list. This list is what the teacher made. Again...so there are no surprises. See, the notebook, writing, Branden was testing himself. Again and again. He tested himself for hours with the kanji. And if he missed one, he'd write it down 3 times, so it would get stuck in his brain. and then he'd test again. Noboru finally read the 50 kanji to Branden and he got all right! And I don't feel it's being oyabaka.To say how well he is doing... because believe me...if your kid studied between 10-12 hours on the weekends (Saturday and Sunday). And about 4-5 hours every weekday, before a big test. You as a parent would rightfully be proud. because you could personally... have seen the work, put into it and then know...when the test scores come back...that they deserved those high test scores. Because...they simply worked hard for it. Oyabaka would be...a kid studying 1 hour during the whole 2 week, time period and the parents saying...oh he'll ace it. Umm yeah, whatever. But...it's not being oyabaka, when he's actually putting the hard work into it. 

This must also be memorized by all 8th graders at Branden's JHS. It's famous, super well known here. In English it is called..."The Tale of the Heike", in Japanese it is called, "Heike Monogatari", the kids must have this part pictured memorized. However...since we actually study with Branden and also invest our time too. Noboru found the *best* way to memorize this. It's on YouTube and there is a song for it, to help kids memorize it. And so Branden learned and listened to the song a bunch of times yesterday. He then went through it and read it..Branden then went back and forth and sang it...then read it..then sang it. I asked Branden...did the song help you at all? He said, yes, the song totally helped. So Branden has this thing now memorized. How will they test Branden for this? Maybe they're make him write the entire part down. maybe it will be fill in the blank. But no matter...he's got the "Tale of the Heike" down!!!"  I tell you the amount of time Branden has spent studying for this final. The amount of time Noboru has spent studying with Branden for this. The amount of time *I* personally have spent studying with Branden. Noah too. Noah now knows all questions and answers for the 8th grade English final. LOL. I now know half of the "Tale of the Heike" myself. @_@ I couldn't help it...I heard it and heard the song about a billion times. It got trapped in the ol' brain. Hahaha. : ) I think our Branden will do fabulous tomorrow for his final, you guys. He's certainly spent a *crazy* insane amount of time on it. If you do the hard work...you should be able to reap the rewards. And I think he will. Good luck for tomorrow Bran. Tonight's plan...Noboru gets off at 4pm today and he will spend, the entire evening with Branden and so will I. Going through all the English with Branden one more time. Noboru's said he will math test him tonight, science test him...have him recite the "Tale of the Heike" , maybe have Bran, write it down for him too. We just want to utilize our last evening. And tomorrow...I am sure Branden will just want to get it all over with. He's really worked hella hard you guys! He's a good kid.

Branden is ranked 1st place in English by his class and ranked 1st place, by his entire grade. He's always top 3 in math. Top 5 in Japanese. And basically Branden's kicking it... for all his subjects. He really has no real stress or worries about getting into a high school. Branden is just really competitive. He's truly like the most competitive person, I have ever seen, study-wise. And he and a few of his friends are always vying...for top spots in class. So...that competitive nature in Branden really pushes and fuels him on with his studies. I actually see him coming in best 1-3 with math this time too, could actually be first place this time around for math. Bran and the professor (a nickname the kid loves)...are always competing. And it's good...they're super good friends and the friendly competition is good for them.

Some special info...tidbit about the English in a Japanese JHS. Again...do I have to share this info? No, I don't, I can just quietly keep it to myself. But again...one of you with younger kids, might find this info useful. If so..this is for you. And again...am I pushing you to do things our way? No, I have never said that either. I am just giving you the info and it's up to you... to do whatever you want with said info. Now here is the story....you can take the story... if you have younger kids and sort of file this info away for later years.

You know how I have 2 really good friends. Mom friends, I met a billion years ago at yochien/kindy.  Anyway, they're both brilliant ladies. One was in university to be a lawyer, I have mentioned that before. the other was an English teacher for 10 plus years. Could even be 15 plus years. Now she works elsewhere. But...anyway her coworker at the English school. White man who moved to Japan, 2 years earlier. Moved to Japan, with wife and with a kid. Not sure if the kid is a hafu (half Japanese, half white) or 100% western) but nonetheless, he studied all his years before...in their home country. America, I think. Anyway...this kid is 1 year or 2 years older than Branden. I think this story happened when Bran was a 6th grader. Anyway...the kids report card came and his child is flunking/failing English. @_@ Keep in mind the child went to school in the states...his whole life until he moved here. Impossible right? How could this kid be failing English. So the dad, my friends coworker... was super upset right...he hopped in his car and drove super speeds, in anger. to the JHS. So he went in the school and really unloaded a bunch of angry words to the teacher. Blah blah blah...how can my kid... of all kids be failing freaking English. Before this school he went to American school. So this is crap...this is impossible. Blah blah blah. Unleash of a few more tasty paragraphs to said teacher. and the teacher is quiet and reserved and Then the teacher finally speaks and says. English..in Japan is very different. You need to be able to read the sentence in English and translate it to Japanese. And vice versa, he needs to read the Japanese sentence and translate it according to the book, into the English sentence. Dead silence.....The teacher then showed the riled up parent. And went through each question asked on the test... versus what his child answered. And it became quite clear. English in Japan is a *whole* different ball game entirely. Anyway..he did see and understand why he got the grade he got...and so he did go to work. And he told his coworkers his story. And my good friend...thankfully, told us during lunch this same story. As I said...Branden was in 6th grade, at the time. And I will honestly tell you....hearing that story. Made me thank, my lucky stars Branden has been in English Kumon...since age 4. Because simply knowing English...won't guarantee your child...will do well in JHS English class, here in Japan.

When we enrolled Branden at Kumon, at age 4 for Japanese. The teacher told us..because Branden was using English with us and we with him. She said..and I could just kiss her for this...she said. "Your son speaks English." We said...yes, he does. She said..."I have older kids" hers were just entering JHS, when Bran was 4"...she said...In Japan...there is a set way...JHS and high school students must study and do English. I know your son speaks English. But...he could greatly benefit from taking English, that way when he is big/older and in JHS...he will be prepared" ...her being a mother and having an older kid, I took her as my senpai" Senpai means an older wiser person to learn from. I took her words to heart and Noboru said...if you'd like to sign him up, we should do it at the same time. I could see it on the sensei's face. She said it out of care. It was the right thing to do. And so...Branden did English since 4 years old there with her. He knows regular American ways and that's good. But...and this is the most important if you live here in Japan. He knows...the Japanese way of doing English too. And that's *really* important if you live here. So for us...are we glad they both did English at Kumon. Hell yes! One of the best things we ever did.

Flash to now...all these years later. Branden can translate Japanese to English and vice versa...and the way the books here expect him to. He's 1st place, ranked 1st place by class and by his entire grade (I know I said it before, but seriously if you think about it..I mean like *really* think about, that's sorta really bad ass, that's he's that good.) He's basically unbeatable in English, at our school, he's just been doing it since age 4 and he also studies his brains out...2 weeks before... tightening up his already tight English skills... again and again, by now he could do it in his sleep. Again...you do what's right for you. But I for one...will always be tremendously grateful to her words of wisdom, our Kumon teacher...and when Noah became age 3, he entered Kumon with Japanese and English, with his big brother too. Our Kumon teacher has made sure...both my kids are both well prepared. And for that. I thank her from the bottom of my heart. Thank you Megumi-sensei!

Anyway...Branden's final is tomorrow, Wednesday. Tonight we're having baked chicken parmesan with pasta. Yesterday we had sara udon (chicken chow mein, with lots of veggies and stuff)

Another little story to think about. Again...if you have young kids, it's something to think about. Our neighbor 2 doors down, he's in the 7th grade this year. He just started Kumon this month. Apparently according to his mama, my friend. His grades aren't so hot. And she's worried, she's very worried, which is why I am not saying who, for her privacy. : (  I personally find..here in Japan at least. If you send your kid to juku or Kumon in kindy or elementary school. You do that... so your kid can be *ahead* of the game. And then there are the kids whose start juku or Kumon when they're in JHS. And those are usually just the kids who have realized...I'm not doing so well. I may not get into a good high school. And so they're trying to play "catch up" And so their JHS life is very stressful, believe you me...I have friends... I have heard the stories. And so the "catch up kids" spend every living waking moment...year round during JHS studying non stop. So those are just 2 different types that I am mentioning for right now, with regards to if they picked to do Kumon or juku before JHS or are just starting it...for the first time... while in JHS...so those are the..."ahead of the game kids" or the "catch up kids" So...again..if you have young yochien aged kids, right now or elementary aged kids. You can decide...if you want to prepare them *before* JHS or wait until JHS and try to play catch up. Or again...you don't need to do either.. and just wait and see. Again...whatever way you pick..just pick the right way *for you.* What you pick... won't have any affect on me...and vice versa....the way we picked won't really logically... affect you either.  For our case, we are glad we prepared Branden to be ahead of the game...instead of being behind the game or playing "catch up" for 3 years. Thank the lord... we don't have to play that, "catch up" game. Again do what's right for you. Just know though that...JHS in Japan is serious stuff. It's not even remotely like my JHS experience in America, where I sang in choir and made crepes in French class, had a school dance/social...decided which costume or what to dress as for Halloween. @_@  JHS for kids in Japan can be quite stressful. Elementary school in Japan, on the other hand...fun for days! Fun fun and more fun! : ) However, Noah is quietly doing Kumon and studying and preparing himself.

Anyway...today Branden is swimming at his JHS. And he's really happy about that. He and a set of about 6-8 kids total. Kids who also went to swim school and competed in elementary school. They're all going to compete together today, friendly competition. So he's been looking forward to that all weekend. @_@ Told ya, he's competitive. Hahaha. : ) Oh well...it will take his mind off his studies for an hour today, at least. Anyway...tonight's Bran's last night to study. Tomorrow is the big day. Finals day! Good luck tomorrow Branden, we love you! And not to worry, you're ready, you really are!
 

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Their American passports arrived. Swimming has started at the local elementary school. Branden's final exam at the local JHS this coming Wednesday and a few other bits for good measure...

Branden and Noah's American passports both arrived together, they arrived Thursday, June 18th! Now the boys can travel, and come and go. What a load off our minds, I tell ya! : ) We took their passports to be done, June 2nd. So that means, their passports took only 13 short business days to get here. And while they do offer expedited passport services at the American Embassy, for an extra fee, I personally feel, the United States passport renewal in Tokyo, can't speak for any other location...but it's lightning speed at getting to us and we did not use expedited services or pay an extra fee. We just used the regular speed and it's still SUPER fast at getting to us. 13 business days...is awesome! I triple checked the spelling of both the boys passports and everything is in order. So...done and done! A huge relief to get them back. : )  
A beautiful yellow and brown butterfly. Almost looked like stained glass the design. Anyway this butterfly kept me company all day long Thursday and she even stood out there until it grew dark and I had to close the blinds. The next day, I opened the blinds hoping she'd still be there and she was gone. This morning however (days later), while I was out in the front yard a pure bright vibrant yellow butterfly, with no brown, flew right near me and hung around for a minute or two. Sorta cool. : ) 
Pic from the homemade from scratch, cheesy gratin potato bake. 

Just a simple down home cooked, country...southern type...good old American dinner. We had baked from scratch cheesy gratin. Fried pork chops, we had some steamed broccoli and a store bought salad with Thousand Island dressing. We also had it with some lemonade. Country Time lemonade. : ) Simple, but good. : )

Swimming started for Noah this Friday. Rain was expected and rain like the dickens...it sure did! So...I really didn't expect Noah to swim, on Friday, since I knew according to the forecast it would be raining all day long up, until 7pm. However...Noah needed to bring his swimming kit/set to school regardless. So here it is. Noah has some really cute flip flops we bought a tad big last year from Old Navy, for super cheap, for like 200-300 yen and they can still be worn this year. His name is on each flip flop. At schools in Japan, everything has to have a name label or name written on it. No worries, I'm so long used to it. It's fine. : ) Swimwear has to be navy blue at our elementary school. No color other than navy blue or black would be allowed, however I had lifeguard duty back when B was in 6th grade...and I looked for 1 black swimsuit and didn't see...a one. Everyone definitely brings the classic navy. Noah's rashguard has his name written on the tag on the inside. His swim cap has his name written on it, right on the front. A few years ago...you could wear any color cap, regardless of grade at our elementary school. So both my kids always wore bright yellow swim caps, because...easy to see and find it a sea of dark swim caps. However...last year they changed the rules. And now the color cap... changes depending on what grade. Last year all 3rd graders wore green. @_@ This year was cool...because the color chosen for the 4th graders was yellow...awesome! Because we still had that bright yellow Adidas swim cap... one size fits all, for Noah. So he can use that. Noah's swim wear from last year...still fit waist wise, but length wise it didn't. Noah was lucky enough to inherit Branden's elementary school uniform swim trunks. Noah has worn size 140cm Adidas since first grade all the way until last year, 3rd grade. Noah's super skinny and so they fit. All 3 years. However...they still fit with room to spare waist wise, however Noah may be skinny, but he's not short. Granted he's no giant. But...he's average height. So...they basically looked like booty shorts and there's no way I am letting him wear booty shorts. So, I pulled out Bran's other shogakko swim trunks (he got new ones almost every year, because he just grew so fast)...Adidas size 150cm. A longer length. I do think the waist is a tad big for our super skinny minnie Noah-chan. But...you know...it will be fine. 

Bran only wore these 1 year, he just grew like a weed. But, I bet Noah's so super slim he can wear these for this year and next year too. I did white out the 2 kanji for our last name. But the rest just says...4th grade class 1. And it says Noah. : ) 

99% of the kids do not wear rashguards. But Noah is very sensitive and weak with the sun. He's extremely fair and he'll either turn lobster red or he'll freckle. So he needs to wear a rashguard. Noboru has written a note about it every year and the school is more than aware and they're cool with it. Hahaha. : ) So this is the required stuff Noah needs at the local elementary school. A pair of flip flops to walk from the school to the pool (that rhymed). A swim towel, it says Adidas. His swimming bag it is Nike, you can see the swoosh on the side of the bag. Yellow swim cap since Noah's in the 4th grade. Goggles. And that's it, the rashguard, is something Noah really needs, so he takes it. And he's all set. Noah, brought it to school Friday. For what it's worth it was pouring rain all morning, even when I dropped them off at the plaza, also rained all day and even when I picked up the boys at the plaza yesterday when it was time to come home. How much did it rain?....well, my windshield wiper blades were on the fastest setting type rainfall. Branden on the other hand starts swimming this coming Tuesday at the local JHS. Branden has swam since age 4, at a private swim school and swam competitively during his elementary school years. He had swim meets and the whole shebang. Noah has swam since age 3 at the same private swim school.  Noah has also competitively swam... last year for the first time...his swim school thought he was good enough to go head to head with about 8 other swimming schools. So both of our boys, have competed. Noah at the swimming school and he did receive some medals last year, I didn't share them on here/the blog, but I will soon. Branden on the other hand, has competed for his elementary school against other elementary schools. So...both of the boys are *extremely* strong with swimming. They have *crazy mad* swimming skills. And they look forward to swimming at their local schools this time of year! : ) 

Dinner yesterday. Friday nights easy but home cooked meal. I had that delicious handmade pasta from Costco. I had a nice jar of pasta sauce, olive and extra garlic. Delicious sauce, found at my closest Kaldi. 

I used up the last of the lean ground beef from Costco. And some fresh mushrooms and bell peppers. Then poured the sauce in. The pasta meanwhile boiled only about 7 minutes since it's fresh pasta. 

I just kept things super simple and used what I had here on hand. Some garlic bread, Bran had 2 slices, Noah had 1 slice and I had 1 slice. Noboru had a shift where he unfortunately could not have dinner with us Friday/last night. So...no worries we just kept things simple for us 3. : ) 

You can see Noah's red shirt sitting in the seat in this picture and I love that. Because it's a *real* picture. Of our real dinner hour. The boys were at the table digging right into their spaghetti and meatball dinner. I was about to join them. Snapped this pic and then...I joined my boys. : ) 

Today, Saturday morning, I made everyone omelets. The sliced ham from Costco, some mushrooms, bell peppers. I first sliced some potatoes and made skillet fried potatoes and we had some omelets with cheese and ham and veggies. And toast. Noah had chocolate milk, Bran had a mini carton of almond milk. Noboru and I each had a hot coffee. I enjoy nice leisurely breakfasts with my family. Yeah...a nice breakfast this morning. : )

Last BIG test until the JHS kids go on Summer break, in July! So this is really indeed Branden's final, before summer break. Branden has his last big test, this coming Wednesday. The kids get a syllabus (like college or uni in the US) and they are told exactly what the test in each subject will indeed cover. They are given 2 weeks to study for it. And so Branden's been studying his ever loving brains out, for it. He's been hitting the books super hard you guys! Their test will be all day long. First period they will go for example their English exam. Next class will be their math final. Next class/period will be their social studies exam, next science, etc for example. It is like a flat out...all day...test! The kids by that point... are all fried from studying. So they just want to get the exams over with. So...the finals are this Wednesday. Go Branden go! You can do it kiddo! : )