We cool.



We cool.  That’s right.  We cool.



Cool exhibit at our science museum.  Little handmade figures in different places.  Above are photos of Fukushima (Prefecture, I think, Not Fukushima City.)

I haven’t written about my Obama Mama Morning English Time recently.  (Obama’s Mama taught him in the early morning while they were in Indonesia to keep him up with the kids back in America.)

1.  Wimpy Kid School Planner–He writes a thought, any thing he wants.  For the last several months, he has written the same exact thing every day:  “I want Wi-Fi.”  He still doesn’t have it.

2.  Q&A a Day For Kids by Betsy France–Good book, although sometimes my son doesn’t like the question.

3.  Eiken Pre 2 Preparation Book–He gets most of the questions correct, but misses some.  We usually do this until he gets one wrong (or gets tired answering questions).  When he gets one wrong, I explain and I write it in a notebook.  Then I try to use that particular expression in the coming days when I think of it.

4.  Explode the Code–Still working on this book, one page at a time.

5.  240 Vocabulary Words Kids Need to Know–This is is for vocabulary building.  I like this series, but sometimes I think it is a bit hit and miss on the words. Some words are too easy, some too difficult.  Most are okay, though, I suppose.  I do like how this book has a theme for each unit–for example:  “Latin roots.”  “Newspaper Jargon”  “Prefixes”

6.  My Big Sticker Book–Just for fun.  A big of a mini-break.  He chooses one sticker and we try to guess what it is and place it in the appropriate definition.  For example:  Today’s sticker–“Hell” or “Lava”?  It ended up being lava, no surprise there.

7. Scholastic Success with Grammar–We originally did not do grammar, but I am really glad we started.  It’s an important skill.  There were lots of grammar points that my son was not getting, and hopefully we are clearing them up.

8.Scholastic Success with Reading Test–Extremely short passages.  We might take three days for one passage:  Day One– I read it aloud and ask my son about it, telling him about difficult words  Day Two–He read it aloud, again discussing it  Day Three–He reads it silently and answers questions

9. New Horizons Work and Test (from Japanese bookstore)–We do one tiny section a day.

10.  Spelling–I take about three or four words from New Horizons Work and Test.  If he doesn’t spell a word correctly, the next day he writes it three times.

After that, we are officially finished.  But are we really finished?  No…..I sneak in yet more English.

11.  I play some sort of game with him.  Hedbanz, UNO….more on that tomorrow.

12.  I’ve got a bunch of kids’ magazines that we had been ignoring.  I’ve been utilizing them by doing one little section.  Maybe reading it to him.  Or pointing out things in the pictures.  Like I said, this is English I sneak in.

Then we eat breakfast.  But wait.  Still not finished.  I talked long ago in a previous post about reading the Bible to him.  We are still doing that.  In fact, we just finished the Old Testament and have moved on to the New Testament!!!!!!!!  Hallelujah!!!!!!

13.  My son finished breakfast after I do.  So while he is eating I read from a Kindle Children’s Bible.  The text is not taken exactly from the Bible.  It is rephrased and made more listenable.  So it has taken a few months to finish Old Testament.  Which is a whole lot of killing and idol worship if you ask me.  I personally thought it was quite boring, most of it.

Here are some extra thoughts:

*I originally started the Eiken Practice Book to help prepare for the Eiken. But now I think it is really valuable practice–even if one does NOT take the Eiken.  The easy books were not that valuable (and he just did one test and we finished.) But now that we are on Pre 2, there are things that he doesn’t know.  So it is good to learn those things.  Pre 2 or 2 is probably my son’s level.

*You may notice that we may spend THREE days on one short reading passage in the Scholastic Reading Tests book.  I realized one day is just not enough.  I figured that out from my Japanese lessons and attempting to read Japanese passages in class.  It is really hard to get it the first day, and it is also hard with somebody sitting next to you waiting for your answer.  I personally need to really concentrate when I am reading an essay in Japanese.  I have WAY more motivation than my son (who I think does want to learn English, but doesn’t have as much motivation that I have) so I figure it is even harder for him to concentrate well and understand the reading passage.

*The Bible.  I do it because I am Christian…..but my feeling is that if you aren’t religious this is still an important book to read and learn about.  Doing the Old Testament with my son, we are able to clearly see why Jews consider Israel their Holy Land.  And there is so much worshiping of idols….well, I can connect the dots between that and why certain radical groups in Syria go into museums and destroy all the exhibits claiming them to be “idols”.  (Makes me want to read the Koran next.)  Understanding the Bible is key to understanding the world around you.



Gimpy Foot


This is the post in which I will tell about my gimpy foot.

In January, 2015, my left foot became gimpy.  That is, it hurt when I walk.  Ouch. Step. Ouch. Step.  Ouch. Step.  Ouch.

Okay, so I was talking to my mom and telling her about my gimpy foot.  Dr. Mom said, “Oh, you have plantar fascitis!”  (My mom is not actually an accredited doctor, but she has watched a lot of crime pathology TV shows and therefore has some training in medicine;-))

She went on to tell me about how her foot used to be gimpy, and my aunt’s foot used to be gimpy, but they discovered wonderful SAS shoes which have a lot of cushioning and that cured the problem.    She said she would send me some SAS shoes.

So anyway my gimpy foot did not get better so went to the Stupid Real Doctor who told me I have “Something In Japanese But I Can’t Remember Now” but I went home and looked it up on the internet and the Japanese translated into……Plantar Fascitis!

So Dr. Mom was right.  (As usual ;-)  Aren’t moms always right.)

Here are the SAS shoes she sent me in the mail:




Purty.  If I was a talented photographer, I would have placed them next to a lush field of green grass instead of the brown train floor, but hey.  Whatever.

So my foot hurt through January and February.  Finally in March it got better.  But I think I am forever relegated to the land of comfortable shoes.   So anybody else out there with Plantar Fascitis?  I think it is pretty common.

Here is a great post from a great blog that I saw just a few days ago.

junior high school rules!


Yah!  Dude, it rules!!!!!!!   Seriously!  :=)

There are lots and lots of rules concerning uniforms.  And they are strict.  I think everybody in Japan who horror stories about the half kid who gets in trouble for dying his hair (NO DYING HAIR ALLOWED!) even though his hair is naturally brown or blonde or red.    Stories like that that make you go what?!?!?

I went to Catholic school, so I grew up wearing a uniform.  It was a white blouse and blue plaid jumper (pinafore?).  The socks were either blue or white and the shoes were regular sneakers, any kind.  The blouses and the jumpers were washable.  So we had two jumpers each and just threw our jumpers in the wash.  I won’t say there were never problems–like accidentally wearing my sister’s too large jumper to school, or my hem falling out without me realizing it.   But it was pretty easy.

But now.  The horrors.  Dry clean only uniform for my son’s school.  According the wise women on facebook, it can be washed.  However, so far, I am scared to try it.  I looked for a label and can’t figure out what exactly is the material.  I know some materials will shrink really badly.

The uniform thing is just really a pain.  I know uniforms are supposed to be easier, but the Japanese way is NOT easier.   It’s easier to grab jeans, a t-shirt and go.

Here are the stringent rules:


I did not bother to read this chart.  My husband is the uniform boss.  He checks our son every morning.

Okay, here’s a funny.  My son’ hair goes every which way.  I had a photo on FB and my always hilarious niece says, “Japan doesn’t have combs?”

So then we got him his own comb.  The problem is, combs don’t work on his hair.  Sproing!  It is back up again.

So my husband got some hair spray and I saw him spraying our son’s hair this morning.   So his hair did look good today.

Okay, that’s it for jhs.  For now.


JHS Entrance Ceremony


Hurray!  My son is now a junior high school student!!!!!!!!!   After a short spring break, he had his entrance ceremony.  (Entrance Ceremonies are a big deal in Japan.  I don’t think we have entrance ceremonies in America.)


Here he is walking to school on the first day to the entrance ceremony.    Nervous but brave.

(A Funny Story:  My son saw this photo and said, “You’re stalking me?!”  He has been attending JHS for a week now and thought the above photo was a regular school day.  I said, “This is the entrance ceremony day!”  He was relieved.)


Up the slope.  Do you remember the photo of Mt. Shinobu I showed a few days ago?  It’s a long low mountain, and his school is on the side of this mountain.


The principal speaking.  All the students in the school are there for the entrance ceremony, but nevertheless you can tell it is a large room with lots of people.  There was one class in each grade in his elementary school.  Now in his jhs there are six classes of first year students.  So he is a small fish in a big pond.


All the teachers in the school introduced themselves.  I liked this.  I think this would be a nice thing to adopt in America.


View from his classroom.  I didn’t take photos of him in the classroom because of an ever so slight shake of the head from him told me “No. Mom.  Not here.  It’s not cool.”


Our son stayed with his friends after school.  My husband and I walked home.  Without him.



No more slides down the slide.



Oh, hey!  A shrine.  Never noticed that before.


Cherry blossoms were in full bloom.


Hanami Memories


Sakura Explosion


We passed by my son’s elementary school.  I think I want to go in and start all over again, six years ago!  LOL

I’m so worried about the coming three years of jhs.  Bullying (known as ijime) is one of my top worries, along with coping with studying and doing well in school.  I often worry about his Japanese skills.  He’s just average at Japanese*, and I feel like there’s still stuff he doesn’t know.   So anyway I hope he does well at school.

*By Japanese I mean the subject at school.  I am not referring to his speaking skills.  Although I imagine he is just average (compared to other jhs students) there, too.



Play Cult



Well.  I have written about it before.  “The Play Cult.”  That’s how I think of this group I am in.  You pay 1000 yen each month per person and are entitled to see four (I think?) plays per year.  So um 12000 divided by four is 3,000.  So like 30 bucks a play.  I think that’s a good deal.  This is Fukushima, where entertainment is mainly what’s on TV.


These plays really are professional quality.  I had never seen so many wonderfully done plays/tap dance/music etc. before I joined this group.

It’s a complicated system.  There are two tracks.  Adult (junior high and up)  Children (elementary and down)  We are on the children track.  And in truth, I like the children’s track.  It’s not dumb dumby dumb plays, but rather lots of folk tales using extravagant puppets and incomprehensible Japanese (to me.) (One reason the folk tales have difficult Japanese is that they use dialect and/or old-fashioned Japanese.  They are folk tales, and therefore the characters speak in a folksy way.)

So anyways…..to make a long story short.

My son and I go to this play.  And before it starts, I get asked questions.  And I get told my Japanese isn’t very good.  (Because I can’t understand the questions, which are are all about the Two Track system.  The play we are about to watch is on the adult track, and if it is on the adult track that means we must pay extra.)  And then this mom lady looks at my son and says, “Does he speak Japanese?  I have never heard him speak Japanese.”

Um, excuse me?  EXCUSE ME, BITCH?

This is a play group.  Where we sit and watch plays. We hand over our tickets, watch, and leave.   That doesn’t require my son to say a word.  Which he doesn’t.  And in truth, he doesn’t even want to be here, anyway.  (He asks to go home without seeing the play, and I let him.)

So now they want him on the adult track, since he is a jhs student.  They said: “The adult plays make you think.”

I responded with: “I don’t want to think.”

Which is true.  I don’t want to think deep thoughts about the meaning of life, I just want to enjoy a little tap dancing.

Okay, fast forward to several hours later.  My son wants to drop out of the Play Cult, and my husband supports his decision.  So I guess no more play cult.

In truth, Play Cult was sort of feeling like Date Night with Mommy.  So I guess it had to end.  Once you get on the adult track, 90% of the audience is female.  Play Cult is just not a guy thing.

Update:  The Play Cult Representative Lady came by (as she does monthly to collect my fee) and she said, Gosh, a really good play is coming up this summer so we can’t quit before that and also a really GREAT play is coming up this winter so we can’t quite before THAT.

So I’ll tell my son and let him decide.

I think part of him enjoys the performances and part of him doesn’t.  Kind of like if a grown man goes to a “Frozen” movie.  He’ll enjoy it because it’s a wonderful movie, but part of him will be like “What the hell am I doing here?”  I think my son has the same sort of conflicting feelings.

Hanamiyama, Spring 2015


Every year I anticipate the cherry blossoms so I can “hanami”. I was wanting to go some place I’d never been before.  In fact, I quizzed my Japanese teachers about various places in Fukushima and southern Sendai.  When a beautiful Saturday with perfect weather came along, however, my husband checked the internet and discovered that other spots in Fukushima were not blooming yet, but Hanamiyama (Mt. Hanami) was blooming.  So we went there.

I’d been there many times.  It’s really close to our home and it’s very famous.  Loads of tourists come from other parts of Japan to experience its “hanami”.

Last year we went there, but it was a bit too early, so it was nice to get there this year while the blossoms were really blooming.


This is approaching the mountains.  These food kiosks are temporary.  They are not here in the off season.  Hanamiyama is dead empty during the winter.   (I know from experience!  But no matter the time of year, it’s always nice.)


The requisite dango.  So colorful.


Hey, little guys with the huge testicles.  This road leads up to the mountain.


My son is definitely not the sort of kid who wants to go Hanami.  But once he’s out there enjoying nature and hiking, he loves it!


This is the park entrance.  The sign says “Hanamiyama Kouen”  (Mt. Hanami Park)


A lovely view as we traipse up the path.  It took about twenty minutes to walk up?  (I’m guessing.)  It’s not really a hard climb.


Lots of hikers.  Crowded but not too bad.  I was told the blossoms opened early this year, so the scheduled tourists hadn’t arrived yet.    (The ones from places like Tokyo who make their travel plans weeks in advance.)

I noticed that there were many old people (like around fifty to seventy), more than younger people.  I thought that odd, considering that hiking seems like a young person’s activity.  But my husband said that Hanamiyama is an Old Person’s Disneyland.  LOL


Walking up!  My son went on ahead.  I like to look around.


The city of Fukushima in the distance.


Pretty, pretty.


Lovely, Lovely.


Delightful, Delightful.


At the top.  You can see my son waiting.  And playing with ants.


On the way down!  I definitely recommend Hanamiyama.  Cherry blossoms bloom in the beginning of April or mid April.   If you manage to get to the Fukushima City train station, it’s an easy bus ride from there.  In the peak season, the buses leave every fifteen minutes and go straight to Hanamiyama.   You can’t miss the bus in the peak season because it is parked right in front of the station (East Exit).  There are friendly guides to help you buy the ticket and answer the questions.It costs 500 yen round trip for an adult bus ticket.


Sixth Grade Graduation!


My son graduated in March from elementary school.  (Graduation is in March in Japan.)  The poster below says, “Sotsugyou Omedetou” 卒業 おめでとう  Literally,  Graduation Congratulations.



The number of students enrolled in each grade.  Very small school.  His jhs is MUCH larger.  Six classes of first year students.  So he is a fish moving from a little pond to a big pond.


Goodbye, School!


Farewell, Classroom!


The last six years have rushed by too quickly.

My little boy is growing up.  I feel bittersweet about it.  Happy of course, and a bit sad.  But mostly happy.  A lot of people seem to think that it will be hard for me to separate from him.  But I want him to grow strong and independent.  I don’t want him to be a momma’s boy.

I’ve taken him by the hand….and when it’s time to let go, we let go.  It’s not really time yet because he still takes me by the hand.  I occasionally embarrass him with my gaijin bumpkiness, but generally he loves being with me and he often takes my hand and holds it as we saunter along.  So when he is ready to let go, we let go.   But not until then.  He decides.   Not me.


A child said, What is the grass? fetching it to me with full
How could I answer the child?. . . .I do not know what it
is any more than he.

~~Walt Whitman