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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

And we're off...

The concert was great! Check out facebook for photos for now. I'll write and maybe post a video or two when we get back from KOREA BABY!!!! Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Just in the nick...

I finally feel ready for this performance. Which is good, since it's tomorrow.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Ayaka and Yasuaki



Yesterday we went to Megumi's daughter's wedding. It was soooooo beautiful and classy! The wedding was a traditional Shinto ceremony in the hotel's very own shrine. Ayaka was beautiful in her white kimono, though it was a little difficult to see her face. :) She also wore three other oufits throughout the evening!


Despite being terribly busy, Megumi and Shigeki were so kind, and took the time to stop and chat with us. Megumi had a great time showing off her "granddaughter Hannah chan."


The reception blew us away. Not only did we enjoy a delicious 8-course meal (yes, those are gold flakes sprinkled on the sashimi), but Megumi sat Hans, Hannah and me right at her own table with Shigeki, their son Takahito, and their nephews. We were honored to be considered a part of her family. Even Hannah had her own little seat, name card and all.



I sang three songs during Ayaka and Tasuaki's candle service. I think it went fairly well, though we had to cut the last song short for timing purposes. I have a video, but....well, you know how I feel about that. :)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Thanksgiving

Late late late! I actually didn't take any pictures of our little Japanese Thanksgiving, but luckily some of the other teachers did.

Janelle and Heather mashin' potatoes.

Daddy-daughter time.
Hannah making friends.

Our cute lil' turkey.

Thanksgiving Japan style.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Hannanigans

I'm a little behind on uploading videos. I know I always say how perfect she is, so here are three samples of the MANY faces of Hannah.

This is how she gets around. This plus a lot of backwards scooting. No real crawling yet.



Here she is mastering the pincer grasp. It may not be a big deal to anyone but other moms, but it was huge for me (self-feeding, here we come!). She was pretty proud of herself, as indicated by the smug little chuckle.



And the piece de resistance, our little bird trying to fly through the window. Ah. What a heart-warming sound.

Sing Sing Sing

It's been really hard finding good practice time with little Hannah screeching her brains out whenever I sing above a G. Consequently, I'm behind on my memorizing, and getting nervous at my two upcoming performances, the first at a wedding, the second at Marugamemachi's crystal dome. Here are the programs for each:

Megumi's Daughter's Wedding - Dec. 20th:
In My Life - The Beetles
The Water is Wide - American folk song arr. Mark Hayes
Someone Like You - from the Broadway musical Jekyll and Hyde

Pretty eclectic, I know. Those are the songs they chose. I gave them lots of options!

Candlelight Concert- Dec. 23rd:
Broadway/American Folk
Shenendoah - American folk song arr. Jay Althouse
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes - from the Broadway musical Roberta
Summertime -
from the Broadway musical Porgy and Bess
Opera
Poor Wandering One - from Pirates of Penzance
Song to the Moon - from Rusalka
Christmas
Ave Maria - Schubert
O Holy Night - Adolphe Adam
Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming - Traditional German melody arr. Mark Hayes

I would have done more opera and art songs, but something tells me my audience will appreciate this program more than Poulenc, Wolf and Strauss.

So I have my hands pretty full. I did manage to get in a good practice session today. I left Hannah in the living room watching Lady and the Tramp (no, I don't do this often), and I moved my "studio" (ha) into the computer room, which is somewhat sound proof. Of course I peeked in on Hannah every 10 minutes or so to make sure she didn't catch on fire or anything. She was an angel. I suppose she just likes to whine when I'm in the room with her. Maybe she figures "Hey, you're here, why not?"

I'm kind of bummed none of the teachers will be there for my Christmas concert. Everyone's (understandably) leaving the day vacation starts, which is 3 days before the concert. Oh well. I would say they can watch the video, but we all know how lame home videos of recitals and performances are. As happy as I am with my accomplishments, I just can't ask someone to sit through 2 hours of Pirates of Penzance while I repeat all the lines to them because the sound quality is so poor and it's already hard to understand the words in opera. I've tried showing it before and it's always a downer for me. I swear I remember it being better than that....

I've also felt . . . intimidated? jealous? amateur? seeing some of my friends who've continued their vocal study at the Masters level. Most of them are now auditioning for and landing roles in professional opera companies. I miss the theater. Concerts are well and good, but they don't hold the same magic. I just have to remind myself that I'm living the life I want to live, and that's nothing to be ashamed of. I don't need to be a "big deal" to anyone but my family. I love where I am, and I'll find a way to keep music in my life - on my own terms.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

You

Dear Hannah,

In a couple weeks you'll be 9 months old. It's hard to believe we've spent almost a year together. It's gone by entirely too fast. Already I can see some of your little quirks and mannerisms fading away into something new. Try as I might, I haven't been able to capture all of them in pictures or writing, and I'm afraid they might be gone forever if I don't write about them now. So excuse me for the gushing I will be indulging in for the next few paragraphs.

You really light up a room, when you want to. With fat rosy cheeks, bright shiny eyes and the biggest gummy grin I've ever seen, it's no wonder you draw all attention to yourself. People can't help but smile when they see you, and you usually oblige them with a flirtatious smile in return. When Daddy or Mommy enter the room, you pump your arms and pant with excitement, and even after a hard day of work, we inexplicably find ourselves rolling around on the floor like idiots, just to hear that heart-warming giggle bubble from your belly. When I pick you up, you greet me with an open mouth, usually looking for milk, but satisfied with a nose or cheek to slobber on. You also prefer to constantly have a tangled fistful of hair or beard in your sticky dimpled hand. I'm on the market for a doll with lots of hair.

My favorite moments with you are those precious minutes before bed, when you've been thoroughly nursed, burped and changed. Your heavy eyelids droop with contentment, and you flop back into my arms, and let me rock you and sing to you without your usual restless wiggles and grunts. You rarely protest when it's time to sleep - both at nap time and night time. We're lucky that you enjoy your rest, and hope this never stops.

There are nights, however, when you want to stay up and party with the rest of us. You'll go to bed at the usual hour (8:00), but wake up an hour later bright-eyed and bushy tailed! This is usually when we're watching a movie in the living room, so we plop you between us, and you quietly watch until you've had your fill and nod to sleep again. We don't complain, as you usually like to sleep in the morning after. :) When you wake up, you talk to yourself peacefully for half an hour while Mommy and Daddy catch a few extra winks. There comes a point though, when the day must begin for you, and you pull up your crib bumper to peek up at us and let us know when that time comes. Gone are the days of sneaking out of the room unnoticed for a quick pee or glass of water before taking you out of your crib. Without fail you catch us, your little intelligent eyes peering between the bars, as if to say "and where do you think YOU'RE going?"

Undoubtedly, your favorite times are meal times. I mean SOLID meal times. Breastfeeding you has been a challenge and a blessing. I cherish the intimate time with you, and don't want to give it up just yet. However, you have to be almost famished to have a good nursing session. Otherwise you'll play, squirm, talk, smile, bite, look around, and sometimes bite while looking around (OUCH!!!). I know the time will come when you'll lose interest completely, and I can finally have my body back to myself. Until then, I'll still enjoy that bond that is nobody else's but ours.

But back to solid foods. Your stomach is like clockwork. When it's time to eat, you mercilessly shout "NA NA NA NA!!!!!" until we put you in your chair and prepare your meal. Nursing won't suffice at times like these. You want FOOD. Your favorite foods are oatmeal, prunes (thank God), carrots, sweet potatoes and pears. We also discovered, on Thanksgiving, that you LOVE cranberries. Too bad those are hard to come by in Japan. Foods you don't enjoy so much are peas (which give you gas), pumpkin (you hate the homemade stuff I made, but you like the nasty freeze-dried and powdered Japanese kind - yuck!), and green beans (which you'll tolerate if you think it's all you can get). When you're eating something yummy though , you groan with pleasure with each bite. It's so loud that we can hear you from the other room.

You take your play time seriously. You can usually be found on your little futon in the living room, a stern look of concentration on your face as you tap, taste, or talk to your toys. Like most babies, you prefer "non-toys," with a particular fascination in cell phones, water bottles, books, paper and the usual pots and pans. You also enjoy a set of round boxes I bought at the 100 yen shop, which Daddy uses to create a "tower of toys," while you patiently wait to knock them down. Daddy also likes to tickle you with his beard, which elicits all kinds of fun little squeals. You're especially ticklish on your thighs, belly, under the arms, and just under your chin. Your only defense mechanism against such assaults is to pull hair or slobber on the face of your attacker. Neither of these tactics will work on Daddy though, because he has no hair to pull, and his beard is too itchy to slobber on. This makes him a formidable tickling machine.



You have a keen sense for people. You know which people you can play with, and which to leave alone. You can sense danger or malcontent that isn't so obvious to us grown-ups. It takes us longer to figure out if someone might be a shady character, but you can tell in an instant. You don't let these people fool you. You're also understandably frightened of barking dogs, though we hope to expose you to some quiet, amiable ones so you won't be afraid of Frankie and Winston. You're a brave, curious little girl. You try new foods with delight, peek around corners with interest, and love playing peek-a-boo and being tossed into the air. We took you for your first DPT shot, and you didn't bat an eye when the doctor stuck your little arm. We all watched you expectantly, waiting for the eruption of tears and you just calmly looked back at us like, "what?"

You're the best listener I know. When you're in my arms, I can tell you all of my hopes and fears, and trust they'll be safe. I'm so blessed to have you, to share with you this roller coaster we call life. You are the light of our lives, our pride, our happiness, our joy and our hope. I love you more than I knew I could.

Love,

Mommy

Under Construction

Ok, I know I haven't blogged much recently, and it sucks! So, this is me, promising some blogs in the next week. This is both so you all know I haven't forgotten my blog, and so that by making a public promise I'll get motivated to get the dang things written! Ugh, that has to be the ugliest sentence I've ever constructed. Anyway. Here's what I'm going to write about:

Momblog: Hannah update
Singing
The Holidays

Come on, you know you're excited. I know I am. Now, I have to go dislodge Hannah from whatever chair/table/corner she's backed herself into, so the screeching will stop. Yeah, she's still only scooting backwards...

Friday, November 28, 2008

Things to be Thankful For


My daughter
A raise
A work-at-home job
Health insurance
Singing gigs
Friends coming back to Japan
4 years of wedded bliss
Mountains
Dad's successful surgery
Christmas in Korea with family and friends
Amazon Japan
Good Books
Japanese friends
Grad School for Hans
President Elect Barack Obama
New recipes
New babies
fbcusa.com
flyingpig.com
Fresh Produce
Frankie and Winston staying with the Stephensens
Our trip home last summer
Fleece, Slippers, Tea and Hot Water Bottles
English-speaking Doctors
Health
New Music
Charity

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Our Father

Whatever higher beings you might believe in, pray to them for my dad, who is having most of his cancerous kidney removed today. I love you Daddy. Get better.

*Update* Thank you for all of your thoughts and prayers. My dad pulled through the surgery, and there were no surprises. Now, if he'll just stay in bed for the next 3 weeks, and not try and go fix the deck or something...

Mini Me

If there were ever any doubts of who she looks like, these ought to set your minds at ease. :)


Friday, November 7, 2008

Hannah's 6th Sense

It's strangely satisfying that my daughter can sense when something's "not right" about a person. There are only a few people who have ever made her cry just by looking at her, and I have to say, she is SO right to be afraid of them.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Tick Tock Tick Tock

Election day is upon us (well, in Japan anyway), and I know I'm not the only one pacing back and forth while biting my nails at the possible outcomes.

It's been quite the remarkable campaign season. I've learned more about my friends' and relatives' political and religious opinions than I ever cared to know. For some, I was pleasantly surprised. For others, I was appalled. I now understand the old adage that family and politics don't mix well (in this case, family/friends and politics).

I look forward to the end of this race. Not only has it added stress to my relationships, but it has greatly shaken my faith - in people, mostly. At the same time though, I think this process has been healthy. It's good to shake things up a bit - to find where people stand, and why they stand there. It's been uplifting seeing apathy change to awareness. It's been inspiring watching people become politically active and trying to educate themselves on the issues and fight for what they think is right. Way to go, America! We did something right!

By the same token, I also look forward to forgetting what everyone's political opinions are. :) And not receiving campaign email forwards like:

"Obama Not Born in the US"
"Surprise Gay Day in California Kindergarten"
"The Church and Prop 8"
"Huntley Brown -- Why I Can't Vote for Obama"

If you want to share your political opinion with me, let's chat. But please don't use my email to send me this nonsense! Trust me, I'll be much more likely to listen if you just talk to me. If it's important enough to you, say it yourself, don't let "forward politics" say it for you. I'll most likely delete it or send it to my junk mail anyway.

Obama has a good chance of winning. I can stop pacing about that. But if Proposition 8 passes, I will be devastated to say the least. Will civil rights triumph over religious bias? Or will dogmatism, fanaticism and injustice run rampant across the nation once again?

Only time will tell.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Funny Kid

Yay, I figured out how to post videos! Here's my laughing daughter. She get's deliriously happy right before bedtime.


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

At Last

After about $200 in shipping, they're finally here. I spent a couple hours last night thumbing through these treasures, while Hannah spent a couple hours trying to eat them.


Monday, October 20, 2008

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Oh yeah, so THIS is why I haven't learned Japanese yet.

How to count to ten in Japanese: ichi, ni, san, yon, go, roku, nana, hachi, kyu, juu.

How to count flat things like paper, Cd's, shirts, plates and pizzas: imai, nimai, sanmai, yonmai, gomai, rokumai, nanamai, hachimai, kyumai, jumai.

How to count books (which aren't included in the flat things): issatsu, nisatsu, sansatsu, yonsatsu, gosatsu, rokusatsu, nanasatsu, hachisatsu, kyusatsu, jusatsu

How to count electronics, appliances and bicycles: ichidai, nidai, sandai, yondai, godai, rokudai, nanadai, hachidai, kyudai, judai.

How to count candy, coins, pencils, furniture, hats, cups, bowls and boxes: ikko, niko, sanko, yonko, goko, rokko, nanako, hachiko, kyuko, juko.

How to count minutes: ippun, nifun, sanpun, yofun, gofun, roppun, nanafun, hachipun, kyufun, juppun.

How to count shoes and socks: issoku, nisoku, sansoku, yonsoku, gosoku, rokusoku, nanasoku, hachisoku, kyusoku, jusoku.

How to count trees, bananas, knives, spoons and forks: ippon, nihon, sanbon, yonhon, gohon, roppon, nanahon, hachihon, kyuhon, juppon.

How to count small animals like dogs, cats and fish: ihiki, nihiki, sanbiki, yonhiki, gohiki, roppiki, nanahiki, hachipiki, kyuhiki, jupiki.

How to count large animals like cows, lions, horses and elephants: ichito, nito, santo, yonto, goto, rokuto, nanato, hachito, kyuto, juto.

How to count people: hitori, futari, sannin, yonnin, gonin, rokunin, nananin, hachinin, kyunin, junin.

How to count coats, jackets, suits, pants and skirts (but not shirts, because those are flat, remember?): ichaku, nichaku, sanchaku, yonchaku, gochaku, rokuchaku, nanachaku, hachichaku, kyuchaku, juchaku.

Friday, October 17, 2008

And Now I'm Stuck in the Web You're Spinning

It really sucks when the people you work with don't trust each other. I feel myself getting stuck in the middle of some pretty complicated webs of he-said-she-said exchanges. It's gotten to the point where I'm having to write contracts of agreement between people. I'm not qualified for this!!!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Naoshima


This past weekend Hans and I took a day trip to the artsy island of Naoshima. It's about an hour-long ferry ride across the Seto Inland Sea from Takamatsu. It's main attractions were contemporary art museums, a museum dedicated to the James Bond book The Man with the Red Tatoo, the Art House Project, and a recycling plant. I know a recycling plant doesn't sound so exciting, but this one boasts creative and artistic slag ceramic byproducts generated in the melting process of recycling industrial waste. Cool, huh? You can also make reservations to participate in slag pottery-making and painting classes at the ceramics studio. Unfortunately, we didn't have time to tour the recycling plant or ceramics studio. Maybe next time...




The Chichu Art Museum was my favorite. It features works by Claude Monet, Walter De Maria, James Turrell and Tadao Ando (the architect who designed the building). "Chichu" is a Japanese play on words meaning "underground." The entire museum is inside a rolling hill on the island, and all of the lighting within is natural. I was most impressed by the works of James Turrell. His works present light as the actual art, and he creates spaces in which to experience different aspects of light. My favorite work was "Open Sky," which was simply a room with a square hole in the ceiling. We sat in that room for quite some time, contemplating this fascinating piece. It took us a while to figure out we were staring at the actual sky! The design of the hole was an optical illusion, because we couldn't see its walls. It just goes to prove that the greatest works of art are still in nature, and while most artists spend their entire lives trying to imitate it, Turrell just said "why not let nature be your canvas?"


The Chichu Monet garden featured plants that inspired many of Monet's paintings, including his "Water Lily" series, which was on display.


For lunch we found this cool little vegan restaurant called "Aisunao." Their specialty is brown rice, which is VERY hard to find in Japan! The food was great. I especially enjoyed the vegan chocolate cake for dessert. Yummy!





As you can see, Hannah also had a lovely time. Here she is playing at the restaurant, and in her stroller with her "sail" up.



And, for a little treat we found these suspiciously shaped popsicles! And yes, they were frozen in mysterious rubber "balloons." We had great fun joking about them. Too bad I didn't try the peach flavored one. It was flesh colored. :)