Monday, January 18, 2016

Bits and pieces. Dove's new oxygen and oil shampoos. Baking gingerbread. Making rice krispy treats. Some major Eiken pre1 studying going on at our house, go Branden go!

For us in Japan, Dove recently released some cool new shampoos and conditoners. I checked the American Dove website to see if we had these in America and we do, but the American versions of the bottles are not nearly as cute as the bottles we get here in Japan. Probably same product inside, but the bottles for us in Japan....are so cool looking. There are 2 kinds. In Japan this one is called Moisture +Oxygen. In America this version is called simply "Oxygen moisture shampoo" and the bottles in the US just look like... normal regular shampoo bottles. Where as here in Japan, the bottles are like half white and the bottom part clear-ish blue and the bottom design of the bottle is sorta jig jaggedy...meaning the white and where the clear part of the bottle merge. You can see the bottles in this picture and sorta get what I mean, I hope. The actual design of the bottle is what kept attracting me to these shampoos. Every time I'd go to the store all December...I kept thinking...I want to buy those. They look so neat. : ) The pouches on the left are for refills.

This bottle is of the second and final shampoo in this new line. It is called as you can see, Moisture +Oil. The pouch does indeed say new. It is a relatively new product. And again, the half white bottle/ half clear but you can see the yellow of the shampoo just like on the Oxygen shampoo up above...where you can see a slight blue-ish color. Again...every week when I'd run to the store...this very attractive bottle would catch my eye. I... as you know...I change shampoos often. Since July, I have been using a Japanese shampoo and conditioner called...Ja Laime. It smells fantastic. No complaints but...I'm getting bored. And this bottle keeps snaking my eye...every time I go to the store. Oh...in America this is called long name get ready, lol...."Pure Care Dry Oil shampoo." I much prefer the Japanese name...simply just Moisture+Oil. According to the US website this shampoo is said to..."deliver gentle cleansing and leaves hair sublimely silky with delicate oils that don't weigh hair down"  for the shampoo up above it is said to...be a gentle shampoo that gives your hair bounce. And for us in Japan...the tester...you can smell the shampoos scent in Japanese stores...it said both the oxygen one and oil one... have the exact same scent. Just an FYI...same scent no matter which shampoo. : )  So obviously...the oil shampoo is for dry, damaged, coarse, color treated, chemically treated type of hair. And the oxygen one is for more....quote unquote "normal" hair. 
I thought I should have picked the oil one. Why? Because #1, my hair is color treated. #2, my hair is chemically straightened. #3, I flat iron my hair about twice a week. #4, every time I shampoo, I blow dry. While my hair looks soft and silky...thanks to my hair dresser. I know...my hair takes a beating. If any one's hair could use a little extra "something something"...it would be mine. So, yeah I was definitely thinking...get the white and yellow oil one. Noboru happened to be with me at the store that day. And just the word...oil. Sent his mind on overload. He made that wincing face. "honey ummm it has...oil...are you sure you want a shampoo with oil?" It sounds very...heavy and...ugh ugh oily"....@_@ Love my husband. But...perhaps shouldn't buy a new shampoo with my dearest husband in tow. He suggested...get the oxygen one. Oxygen sounds much better then oil, he said matter of factly. : ) ....@_@...yes but my hair might need the oil. And the bottle doesn't say...heavy...says won't weigh hair down. Yes, I could have... just vetoed him and been done with it. But...I have to also take his opinion into account too...same as he takes mine too. And frankly he really doesn't care THAT much which shampoo I ultimately pick. However...I saw these 5 day trial packs for like 100 yen each. And I said...I will buy one of each and then decide after having tried them. That was last week. I used each shampoo twice. Because other people in my family wanted to try too. Hahaha. My verdict. They do both smell exactly the same as one another. They do foam up into a very dense lather...same as the body wash does. And they both made my hair feel fantastic. I think maybe in summer...I would probably prefer the lighter blue one...the oxygen one. But, I think for now...for winter. I think the oil one is perfect. If you have fine thin, normal or oily hair, you'd definitely want the oxygen one right away. If you have curly, coarse, color treated, chemically treated (perm or straightened)...you use a flat iron or curling iron on a regular basis. That type a stuff...you might want the oil one. Fwiw...there is almost no difference between the two. However the oil one... makes my hair just a tad softer. Does the oil one give me a greasy feel? Absolutely not. It feels clean. Fresh... not oily at all. Just feels a tad softer...my hair. But the oxygen one is good too. And I'll probably use the oxygen one in summer. But yeah...I am glad I tried both. And at least now I can make an educated... decision on which one I like. After trying both. : ) Next time I am at the store, I will be picking up the oil ones in the full sizes. : ) 

Friday morning, I baked the kids and Noboru some gingerbread.

I had to have a slice in the day, because my gingerbread would not fit onto the plate. Hahaha. Honest. : ) 

This 98 yen bottle of spray bleach for kitchens is my favorite. I go through 2 of these a month. I love it. I use one in my 2 toilets and for the sink upstairs. And 1 in my kitchen. It's cheap, it's store brand and I love the smell of bleach and knowing my house is disinfected. I always try to get the house ready and finished Friday afternoons so by the time everyone comes home, the house is all ready for the weekend.: )

OMG, you guys! So, I was at my one and only grocery store in our town. Yes, our town only has 1 grocery store. Hahaha. Anyways, so like on Wednesday, I first saw this bag of rice crackers. Senbei. The picture totally attracted me. Extra virgin olive oil. The package said, extra virgin oil and salt flavor. I resisted buying them. While I was buying last minute stuff Friday a few days afterwards....after I had the house cleaned and the gingerbread baked. I went to the store. And I said...I will buy 1 bag of these and if we like them fantastic...and if we don't, no big deal. They were only 150 yen or 160 yen. So the kids get home. They switch into their comfy clothes. And after dinner and dessert...and after showers. While watching TV...I went to the pantry and whipped these out. These are so good you guys. These are the best tasting rice crackers I have ever had in my life. I'm not really big on Japanese food at all. I have extremely western taste buds. But these rice crackers in particular...amazing! So good. 

This is upside down on purpose...it says...olive oil....salt.. rice crackers. These are so good. Noboru even said...these are GOOD. So much so.. that Sunday when Noboru ran to the store...he came home with 2 extra bags of these olive oil rice crackers. And he said...I bought the last 2 bags of them. So...just wanted to info share. If you live in Japan and you should see them...you might really like these. These are so good. I hope my store restocks these as soon as possible. or else, I will have to track them down at one of my other stores, I cruise to. : ) Definitely worth trying out a package. In fact....I am going to go to the kitchen right now and get 1 of these senbei right now, so I can munch while finishing my post. : ) Brb...

Saturday, Noah and I made rice krispy treats. Branden meanwhile has been studying his ever lovin' brains out for the Eiken pre1

From 8am to 4pm, Bran and I studied for the eiken. We did stop for lunch. And he did get a few breaks here and there. But...while we did that. Noah and I did make rice krispy treats (have to spend time with both kids very important). And Noboru meanwhile ran to Costco early Saturday morning. The rotisserie chicken was for dinner Saturday night and the tortillas were for Sunday nights supper. Beans and pork green chili. Note, they changed brands of tortillas at Costco Inzai. Did they change brands at all Costco's in Japan? My thoughts on the new torillas? They're delicious. Light fluffy and the flavor is spot on! See the silver covering the plates? Noboru brought the boys 1 slice of pepperoni pizza each... for Saturdays lunch and he brought me a slice of combo pizza. And he brought himself back a beef bowl. And Bran and I took a break from the eiken. We had lunch and then got right back to studying for the eiken. We have been studying for this pretty hardcore all last week. And all this past weekend. His test...the written part is SOON. 

I have been sharing what's inside of the books my kids have been working on for years, and will always continue to do so. This is interesting for those of you in the US for example or outside of Japan. Because many of you hear the words..."Bran is taking the Eiken pre1" but I am sure you are wondering..."what does the level pre 1 looks like." And for those of you in Japan who have kids who haven't yet taken this...here is a glimpse or heads up. : ) And things like this. The start level is Eiken level 5? I think it's 5. That's for like beginning English learners. Very basic. Each test in Japan costs like $50 US to take. So they're not free tests. They do add up cost wise. Branden started with the Eiken level 2. Only because knowing his English skill and considering the $50 cost for each test...it's sorta absurd to have him take the level 5 for $50 bucks if it's just gonna be an easy pass. Same for the level 4 and 3 and pre 2. Considering $50 bucks each test. We just saved the $200 bucks and had him start at level 2. Level 2 was an easy pass for him. And that's where we stand. Level pre 1 is $80 or $90 bucks. Again...expensive. Not free. So we paid that outrageous free this December. However...there are benefits for taking it. Huge benefits for taking and passing it. If you go to high school here in Japan. There are so many different parts to the Eiken pre 1. You must know a huge amount of vocabulary. A *huge* amount. You must also listen to a CD and listen to native English and answer the questions...this part is easy... because my kids hear me jibber jabber super fast... all day long going blah blah blah. So the listening is no problem. If you look at this picture, check question #5. If you're child is living in America...going to school in America...clearly they'd know right away, the answer to #5 would be intrinsic. But for a child...who has never gone to school outside of Japan. To actually know...the answer is intrinsic....it's sorta badass! Sorrynotsorry for saying that...but it is. Really if you think about it. If I were to take an estimate of all the vocab words...maybe 500 to 1000 vocab words. And for my kid...I don't want him to just answer the question. I will actually call out Branden...and ask him flat out..."what does intrinsic mean?" And I will ask him even the other words next to it...what does this mean? Can you explain it to me? Why do I do that? Because I want to make sure...he can think for himself. And that he REALLY knows each meaning. Not just knows the right answer. But...does my child know the actual meaning of each of these words. Yes he does. So yeah...we have gone hardcore this whole past 8-9 days. And we will be studying for it... all this last final week too. 

Question 6 here...Branden answered correctly... forfeit. But I asked him...what does procure mean? He said..."umm to get or to buy" I said...okay acceptable answer. What does apprehend mean? He said..."ummm... to like capture...or to place under arrest" I said...okay acceptable answer and you clearly watch too much Law and Order! Hahaha. : )  Question 8....implementation. Again...if you live in Japan and your kid can answer that. And tell you what it means in his or her own words. Amazing! My kid can answer that too. And can you also explain what implementation means in your own words, I asked. By gosh...he knows. How do I know? Because I have asked him what implementation means every single day, these past 8-9 days. hahaha. So this is the vocab part. 

Another part of the Eiken pre1. Read this email. And you reply. They want to see how well you can write...freestyle. All on your own. Your reply should be around 100 words in length. Each email is worth 14 points. There are 7 practice emails in the Eiken pre1 book. And every morning this weekend, I had Branden write 2 of the replies to the emails on a sheet of paper. The Eiken pre1 tests is 3 hours long on actual test day. However the test will be enormous. So, I set the timer for 30 minutes and said... you should time yourself to write each email within 15 minutes. Meaning each email should take no longer then 15 minutes. Also, I assume most people taking the Eiken pre1... will be writing this email reply in print. While in American it's pretty standard to write in cursive all the time in JHS, it isn't as common here. However, I want Branden to show his examiner or person checking his test.... he has that skill as well. I have been having Branden write his email reply in cursive. And every evening he writes the other 2 emails. And so we have been going again and again...about 4 email practices each day. 

You need to be able to read this email and reply to it. Your child must be able to write this reply... without the help of mom or dad or anybody else. Answer the questions in the email. Spelling should be on point. Penmanship should be on point. Branden has written this reply so many times by now. He can do this in his sleep. I do think the repetition of him practicing these daily. Helps. He has gotten really fast at replying. His cursive is fast and pretty. Penmanship is clean. Spelling is on point. Is he answering all their questions? Yes he is! He has been coming in around 7 minutes per email reply and that's not bad. So, I think he is definitely ready for his Eiken test this coming weekend. 

Another email. Again...Branden feels so comfortable and confident (not overly confident or cocky... but definitely relaxed)....he knows that there will be some emails coming up on the test. And he is prepared. Better to be overly prepared, then under prepared.

Another part of the Eiken pre1 is called by me...the...huge boring enormous paragraph with lots of scientific jargon. And answer the questions afterwards. is this not the most gigantic paragraph ever? Spans 2 pages. @_@  At this point your English comprehension *has* to be hella high. To even understand this gigantic boring paragraph of doom! There will be many of these on the Eiken pre1. Because there are so many of these in the practice book. The multiple choices of 1,2,3,4 all sound so so similar to one another. Not obvious like in the Eiken 2 test. You really had to have read the article and clearly understood it. To get the correct answer. 

Another big giant boring as heck paragraph of doom. Hahaha. Oh and for what it's worth. At one of the high schools we are considering for Branden. According to the information packet they sent us. 30 kids in the English program have passed the Eiken level 2. 60 have passed the pre2. And 90 have past the Eiken 3. The level of hardness between the Eiken 2 and pre1 is huge. And while many squeaked by passing the Eiken 2. Many won't pass the Eiken pre1. It's just that hard. It's honestly no joke.The difference between the 2 and pre1 is huge. Oh and according to the information packet the high school sent us to our house. There is not 1 kid...who has passed the the Eiken pre1 at that specific high school. Branden would be the first. So...passing the Eiken pre1...is a big deal for those of us in Japan. High schools *especially* the kids in the English program...would be much more desirable if they had that Eiken pre1 pass certificate. 

Noboru checked online yesterday. Noboru is really into studying and researching about the 2 high schools we have narrowed it down to. We first had 3. We just narrowed it down to the top 2 high schools. Anyway...he has welcome packets for both high schools. Packets of information. Noboru has been reading tons on JHS Parents of JHS and high school info boards in Japanese... reading threads and whatnot. For example today in Kanto is...getting into private high school testing day. Not the date for public schools, they test for public schools on a later date. but if you are trying to get into a private school today and in Kanto...today is your test if you are in the 9th grade right now and live in Kanto. Noboru is getting really informed. And don't laugh but information is power....parents who know versus the ones who don't. If you are in Japan be informed. Read blogs..get even the tiniest idea of what you might be in for... in the future. And Noboru's also studying Eiken stuff. And what he found yesterday was most people taking the Eiken pre1 are...high school or university students. The least common taking the test this weekend will be JHS kids. So Brannny McB will be youngest this weekend most likely. We will be going with him for safety. The test is 3 hours long and granted they won't let you leave early...even if you finished early. So, we will take him...check him in and when he goes to take the test we will go and sit in some coffee shop. And then about 30 minutes before the test lets out... we will go back and wait. Also the info facts Noboru read online yesterday said....that out of everybody taking the Eiken pre 1...did you know only 15% will actually pass it? And how many people actually pass the Eiken 1? Only 10% who take it will pass. So yep, while many are squeaking by with passing the Eiken 2...many will stop there and go no further. And for the Eiken pre1 only 20% of those taking it are from JHS. Anyway if you live in Japan, and your child is a 5th grader or 6th grader...my only advice would be...maybe read blogs about JHS here. Get info. Will your child do club/bukatsu? Have you decided?  Just be informed. Our JHS made it sound like parents and kids had *no* choice or option..to not do club. We knew when Bran was a 6th grader we wouldn't have him do club and we stuck to our guns about it. Bottom line... we are the parents! Yes the school should be respected but contrary to their belief...they are not the ultimate deciders...we are. We do have a say. They're our kids... for crying out loud! And whatever you decide... stick to your guns. Don't be bullied by the system here. Elementary school life in Japan... is all about fun and learning. And it's just a lot of fun in general. JHS in Japan is fun sometimes too. It's not all bad or doom and gloom. But a lot of JHS is about tests. And those tests and how well you do on them matters...if you get into high school or not? Or if your education ends with JHS. In Japan, high school is not required, like JHS is here. High school here is optional and therefore you must takes tests to get into high school here. And there are only a certain # of kids... each school can take/accept. So JHS...kids do have lots of stress about...how well they did on tests. We don't have this system in America. Everyone can go to high school in the US. And we didn't have to take tests and have to claw our way to get into high school. Like here. So again...just food for thought. And something to think about. But one thing that is rarely spoken here is. We as parents do have a say. One day I'll tell you how shocked they were when we said...we choose no club. Their utter shock..."ehhh no club?" And I'm not anti club. It's just clubs that run year round...go on Christmas day...no summer break really. To me clubs should be fun. Here they're just to the extreme. At least for us... the ones in our town, are to the super extreme. Anyway enough talk on that...for now...: )

Noah needed some new pencils, so I picked these up on Friday and the matching eraser.

Name stickers and a piece of tape cover each name sticker. : )

How's the weather? It apparently snowed in Tokyo last night. Not here in our town though. Rained like gangbusters all night long though. It's raining even now. But no snow for us yet. : ) Tonight's dinner? Chicken cutlet, salad, rice and veggie. : ) Noah gets out of school at 3:45pm and Bran gets out at 3pm. : ) Tonight after supper, Bran and I will be studying for the Eiken for about 2 hours. And then call it a wrap and relax for the rest of the night.  Have a great day and night everyone. Stay warm. : )