Sunday, January 31, 2010


On Friday I met up with a new friend and her daughter who is expecting to go out to lunch, to check out the fabric store and to teach the mother-to-be how to make a nine-patch.

My new friend is someone I've met during my swimming and she asked if I would give some direction for making a baby quilt to her non-sewing daughter. It just so happened that one of my old English students has just had a baby. (Oh my gosh! She used to be in fourth grade!) so I decided to teach a nine-patch quilt and make one at the same time. And I had saved a simple pattern from someone's blog ages ago so I knew what I wanted to teach. (I gave some other options but let's just say a gently STEERED Expectant Mother to the simpler pattern.)

Before we met on Friday I went to a couple of fabric stores myself thinking I could make fabric suggestions. Let me tell you... We are sorely in need of a great fabric store in my part of the world. The first place I went had plenty of notions but no real "patchwork" fabric. Mostly broadcloth or polyesters. Lots of Japanese character prints (anybody want to make a Hello Kitty or Moomin quilt?) Things that might work for a child's lesson bag but not what I had in mind.

On another day I specifically went to a patchwork shop but was very disappointed to find the shelves understocked and many bolts leaning against each other or falling over because of too much space. I have a feeling the owner is ready to give up because the shop was icy cold and though I was there about 10 minutes (I should buy SOMETHING... Even BUTTONS) the owner never appeared and so I left empty handed. Most of the fabrics were in dark browns or red... I don't know why.

Okay, back at home I got on the Internet and looked at Thousand of Bolts. And found some nice stuff at FANTASTIC prices! I have ordered through Thousand of Bolts before so I thought that at least MY problem was solved. A couple cute juvenile prints (I don't often make quilts with juvenile prints... which is why I was going looking) BUT... for some unknown reason, Thousand of Bolts would not accept my shipping information. (They would accept the billing information but their computer didn't like Japan and the Japanese zip code.) Okay. E-mail them. Wait a day and get some advice. Try their advice. No good. E-mail them again. Wait another day. Get more advice and try it again. No good. I must have typed in card numbers and addresses and passwords etc. at least 50 times but after the third e-mail I gave up and said it was nice doing business with them but this was a waste of my time. If they could help me further let me know... But they didn't e-mail back so I guess Thousand of Bolts and I have parted ways. (But if I lived in the States I'd be their best friend!)

So on Friday the three of us went to the largest fabric store that I know around here and Expectant Mother and I both found fabric we liked. Not fantastic... Too soft and pastel for me, I wanted something a bit brighter but bright is hard to find in Japan, and Expectant Mother found dull pinks and greens that she was very happy with. Different tastes I guess. I have a feeling her quilt will turn out the nicer because it will all be coordinated fabrics. I'm planning to use leaders-enders and do this by machine. Expectant Mother is going to piece her quilt all by hand...

I have a feeling that patchwork and quilting is losing popularity in Japan these days. There was a time when it was the big boon and then there was tole painting and recently beading. I see a lot of felt work these days so I guess that is the wagon everyone is jumping on. Ah well. This week I'll start on a PATCHWORK baby quilt.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

I am a cat

"I am a Cat"

How about some cat pictures? I have so many pictures of cat balls but they all look alike anyway. Generally speaking, out of 6 cats 5 will gather together in a ball (to keep warm?) and everyone gets along nicely. Velvet hates Toi and Patora (and vice versa) and so lives alone with a heater in my sewing room. On the occasions when I forget to close a door and the three of them meet each other, Vel usually ends up under the sofa and as protection (like a skunk?) sprays and leaves smelly droppings.

The other cats all seem very happy with each other. USUALLY...

The other day I came home to THIS on the stairway landing. Has Tanya been lax is her vacuuming duties? Nope. This is cat fluff so at least two cats were involved in a confrontation. Which two cats? There is definitely some orange fur in there so I know Toi was one of the culprits. He usually is... Toi is getting so rowdy and aggressive that Tetsu and I have been thinking of letting him back outside when he wants... Work off some of that energy. Toi and Cleo are the two cats that have the most run-ins so the rest of that brown fur must be Cleo's. (Mi and Vel were locked up that day).

But Cleo and Toi were sitting together comfortably on the sofa so whatever their problem was they worked it out. (And I vacuumed up the evidence of their argument.)

Tetsu is a HUGE fan of Mi.

"Mi is the cutest cat we've ever had." And the feeling is mutual because Mi climbs into Tetsu's futon and seeks him out when he is home.

Here's a picture of Patora adding some cat fur to my baby quilt. Oops. This quilt has been done for a week so I guess the picture is from awhile ago.

And Chip and Toi make minor use of the cat tree.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Fire warnings

Winter is cold and dry around here. I don't know why in the summer this country gets so humid that I look like little orphan Annie with ringlet curls and sticky skin and in the winter my finger tips and heels crack and my hair tries to go straight. Many people keep humidifiers mostly to protect against cold and influenza germs... and in the summer they put out DE-humidifiers to take the moisture out of the air!

All this dryness makes for a lot of fire hazard warnings and a fire really scares people. Traditionally houses were made of mud walls slapped up against wood and even our more modern house is mostly wood... A fire can spread very quickly through a whole neighborhood and what with everyone using kerosene stoves and drying clothes and things in the same room, there are a lot more fires than you might expect. And the many smokers... And the deep-frying for tempura...

A common practice in Japan during this season is for volunteers to go around the streets clacking wooden blocks together as they walk and in a sing-song voice to call out

"Be careful of fires~~ Check your fire spots! Be careful of fires~~"

In the cold winter nights the clacking and singing can be heard faintly going down the streets and past the windows. This isn't done as much as it used to be but when our neighborhood had a series of fires we all took turns to go out every night clacking wooden blocks and calling out warnings... I don't know how effective it is but I guess we housewives will check one more time to make sure the main gas line is turned off for the night or to tell Dad to stop smoking before he falls asleep... The wooden clacking always seems to me to be a very Japanese sound.

Another sound I heard just the other night was after fire engines had raced to a call (a false alarm, thank goodness). When the fire engines' sirens scream everyone peers out their windows or stands in the streets to see where the smoke might be. But when the fire engines return to the fire station after putting out a fire or determining that no action needs to be taken, they slowly go down the street ringing a lone bell.

"Clang-clang~~ Clang-clang~~"

This all clear sign lets everyone know that all is well and we can relax and go back to doing whatever we were up to before the excitement.

The other night after the disturbance, the fire engines made their way past my house spreading reassurance as they went.

"Clang-clang~~ Clang-clang~~"

All is well.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Cat Art

I'm slow today getting to the computer... I cleaned my house! That sounds like I don't normally (which may be true) but I was having guests today and later this weekend and figured I might as well spend blogging time baking cookies, vacuuming and putting things away instead. You never know when a guest might want to see the sewing room (heaven forbid!)

But cleaning is done, cookies have been eaten and guests have gone home. My blogging schedule is haywire (I usually am on the computer in the morning) so what can I show you today?

A far away acquaintance who used to live in Japan and is now in the States (and we "re-found" each other because of my blog) sent me a link to a Japanese lunchbox that she knew I would like. So cute! Lunch boxes in Japan are filled with little tidbits of things and the kindergarten mothers can get quite artistic making children's lunchboxes. I'm afraid this would be too cute to eat and besides I don't make lunch boxes very often anymore (thank you Lord!). The years that the kids were in kindergarten it was an every morning chore and when Takumi hit high school he had to take a lunch every day too. While I was at it I made a lunch for Tetsu (and charged him for it! What a wife! Tetsu forbade me from making Takumi pay for his!) so I have had enough of making lunches. And of course mine never were as elaborate as this one. (Picture from the Internet)

The lunchbox kitty looks like it is made of rice balls with stripes of black seaweed (nori), a common "paper" for wrapping rice balls. The arms and legs look like fish cakes and the pink accents are probably ham. I guess the fillers around the edges are deep fried shrimp, vegetables and salad etc.

Speaking of cats (I was, you know), I took a couple pictures of my student's cat the other day. This is Kuro-chan which means Black. A HUGE cat and black. But not really. I have always found Kuro-chan so striking because underneath the black he is pure white.

Fluff up Kuro-chan's fur a bit and he is really a white cat with just the tips of each hair black...

A beautiful kitty!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Bridges to Cross

Yesterday I had an interesting conversation with a friend and her husband about their experience with an exchange student. Unfortunately it has become a "bad" experience and the host mother was teary eyed about the outcome.

The high school girl who has been in their home for the past 10 months has become uncooperative, refusing to speak with them, avoiding them, unwilling to join in on family activities, snubbing her nose at the family rules. The parents have scolded, tried to reason, nagged and coaxed but in the end the father told the girl if she wouldn't change her attitude then she would have to leave. To which the girl answered "fine." And so the girl was leaving them yesterday after the argument the night before. The exchange program staff was coming to pick her up and find her somewhere else to stay or send her back to her country... at any rate a promise of apology was given (from the staff) before the girl left. How sad for all concerned. The girl, the parents, the younger son who has watched the confrontations, even the old grandma who stood around the kitchen asking "Why is this happening?"

It is not so uncommon however, and during the year I have listened to this family's misunderstandings and clashes in opinion. And I see my friends' experience with the exchange student over-layering Leiya's own experience of living with a host family for her three years of high school in Ohio. How hard that must have been for everyone involved and it was the tenacity of both the family and Leiya that saw that experience to its completion.

To say it plainly, it is hard to have another person come into your home to live.

Teenagers are self-centered and blunt. They don't think about consequences, they have a lot of moods that make them adventurous and wanting to be FREE one day and then angry and "LEAVE ME ALONE" ornery the next. They think they can do anything. They are completely helpless. Old fashioned ideas; ANY ideas other than theirs are dumb and boring. This is true of kids even in their own families! And then throw in a few cultural differences, child raising differences, language differences, different expectations or different habits, the stresses of living away from loved ones and friends, and there is bound to be friction between people.

Leiya's host parents were wonderfully patient. They gave her every opportunity available to them. They guided her (sometimes too much she thought), they spent money and time on her, they helped her with homework, they sacrificed some of the love they could have spent on their own children to help Leiya experience American high school and American family life. And in general, Leiya was appreciative. But she was also a teenager with her own ideas and preconceived opinions about how a family should run or what should be expected of her. So there were arguments and blow ups and I'm sure I only heard a fraction of what went on. I do know that there was at least one time when Leiya goaded her family by saying "then kick me out if you want to!" (and they didn't!) God really gave Leiya's host family a commitment to go through the trials of raising a teenager who wasn't even their own. And He gave Leiya the stubbornness to see something through to the end. We are infinitely proud of Leiya.

What it boils down to for me is that the host family has opened up their home and their hearts. They are under no compulsion to do so but they want to make a difference in a young person's life and they want to enjoy learning a little about another country themselves. They want to help build a bridge between two cultures. There may be three or four members in the family and none of them are obligated to change their attitudes or habits for a guest in their home. The exchange student is the one who has to make the effort to understand the quirks, the rules, to eat the unusual food or follow the seemingly ridiculous customs. Unfortunately, even though this might be drilled into the exchange student's head before he or she arrives in another country, somewhere along the line the "me" and "my way" falls into the daily thinking and gratitude seeps away.

As I say, it is hard to have a person join your family and it is hard for a person to try to adapt to another family. When Leiya was newly in Ohio I had to laugh when I mentioned to my pastor that Leiya and her host family sometimes butted horns, and the pastor responded,

"Leiya's getting great experience for someday living with her mother-in-law."

Now THAT'S a cultural chasm for sure!

Monday, January 25, 2010


The other day I was reading a book to the third graders in my class and the book had a lot of numbers in it. Like: "I have 2 brothers and 1 sister", "I have 9 brothers and 12 sisters." and finally the fish said "I have 1,928,538 brothers and 1,276,301 sisters." or something silly like that. The fun was to see if the kids could say the numbers. And one boy I noticed was "scribbling" on the table with his finger as he said the numbers and at the end of the book he said

"That means there are 3,xxx,xxx brothers and sisters in all."


It seems that Keita-kun goes to abacus class and he likes to compute numbers.

"What's with all the scribbling?"

"Oh, I have an imaginary abacus in my head and I was moving the imaginary beads to get the answer."

WHAT? I didn't understand that much more.

This last week Keita-kun brought his abacus and practice book so that he could show me how he uses the abacus. And he explained in detail how he computes but I'm afraid it was so complicated that I didn't understand that either.

"And how old are you?"

"I'm seven years old." (Good English!)

"And how long have you been doing abacus?"

"Since 4 or 5."

Keita-kun demonstrated his calculating prowess. Slap that abacus on the table, position the numbers directly under it, zip your finger across the beads, and at lightening speed start snapping them up and down.

"Wait a minute. What all can you do? You can add and subtract... How about multiply and divide?"

"Oh yes, I can do that too."

and Keita-kun flipped to the end of his practice book. And proceeded to show me how he does division problems. I was long lost on the process but the important thing is that Keita-kun definitely knew what he was doing.

"Wow! You're a genius!"

"Oh no. I didn't pass into the next level on my last test. I wasn't fast enough."

"How fast do you have to be? How fast can you do a problem?"

So number 50 is the division problem he did while I timed him. And Keita-kun solved it correctly in 22 seconds (checked the answer in the back of the book... I wouldn't have been able to give you the correct answer even with a calculator).

Sort of looks like a genius too, doesn't he? Can't wait to see what he grows up doing in life!

Sunday, January 24, 2010


Applique finished on the mini-Round Robin. Now I get to decide how I want to quilt it... Machine would be easiest but it takes the most thinking... A filler here, a filler there. Decorative hearts or flowers or more Celtic swirls (could I even do that?) over many different blocks. But this is mini so time-wise whatever I do will get done quickly.

I came back from a walk with Choco and if truth be told, grabbed the front of my jacket with my teeth so that I could pull down the zipper with one hand. Aaaugh! A chunk of my front tooth chipped off! RATS! Okay. Call the dentist. Oh no! He's on vacation for three days. Call another dentist. Nope all appointments filled until Tuesday. Hmm. I could walk around looking like Huckleberry Finn I suppose... why be vain? I could pretend I have a cold or don't want to catch influenza and wear a mask like other Japanese. Or I could throw myself at some dentist's mercy and stand in his waiting room until he helped me.

I chose the latter route and smiling broadly (See my half a tooth? See how dorky I look? Don't you want to help me?) I randomly chose a dentist whose parking lot looked empty and said I wouldn't mind AT ALL waiting until the dentist could fix my tooth. (I had my Kindle.) And the unknown dentist very kindly saw me in less than half an hour.

I no longer have a dorky smile (though it is a bit crooked, isn't it?) and I only paid about $20 out of pocket.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Jewel Box finished!

Yeah! First completed quilt of 2010! I put the finishing stitches into the Jewel Box quilt yesterday morning. Certainly a different feel from some of the gorgeous Jewel Box quilts I've seen on other blogs (I LOVED Nancy's!) but this is cheery and nice for a child. Sort of an odd size for a baby quilt but better than nothing.

Last summer Mrs. Furui and I participated in quilt project for children in Italy (sponsored by Roberta) and we donated a couple quilts each. My scrap quilts were nothing to rave about, but Mrs. Furui's delicate quilts were pastel colors and soft and sweet. When we later saw the pictures from Roberta's blog of some of the quilts that were donated, Mrs. Furui's comment to me was.

"I realize that I should have used brighter colors and pop fabric for children..."

That is not true! Mrs. Furui's soft-colored quilts are always heirloom quilts and I'm sure God directed them to some sweet child that needed a little peace in his or her life. All quilts are beautiful. All quilts will fill a need.

When I see my happy Jewel Box quilt I think...

"Hmm. Maybe for a baby, a color coordinated, pastel quilt would have been more appropriate. The poor child is never going to be able to get to sleep with this in the crib!

Then I remember. All quilts are beautiful and will surround the baby in love. All quilts will fill a need.

Friday, January 22, 2010


Yesterday morning I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what to do with the Mini Round Robin. And I followed BrendaLou's advice and broke the rules! The instructions were to put a 5 centimeter border around all... but since I wrote the rules for this MRR, I decided that if the quilt just measured the same as all the others in the end, I could put the "border" wherever I wanted. So I put a wider "border" (looks like blocks) on only two sides. So far so good.

Now, what to do with this border which is also boring. Think Celtic! Easier said than done because I couldn't find a corner pattern that I liked. So I made some graph paper (none of that around the house) and had a go at making a Celtic-like pattern. And enlarged it.

And tried it out on my design board with cording and finally made bias tape and ironed it onto the quilt border.

Hm~hm~~! What fun! I'm back to enjoying this quilt. I wish I could show it but while the recipient doesn't read English (she HATES English!), she does visit my blog. I'm now aching to finish the applique. Isn't that funny. A couple of days ago I was in a stew and didn't even want to see this thing! Quilters (this one) are so moody!

Another thing that put me in a great mood was a happy e-mail from a Japanese blog visitor who sent a picture of some mini-animals that she made. And she made "them" from the instructions on my blog! But I only showed how I made a little bear and she went SOOO much further and made a rabbit, a fox, an elephant and a dog! All her own patterns! Aren't they the cutest things? Thank you Kiyomi! I'm going to try to make the dog first!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Calligraphy lesson

I thought I'd show a picture I took at the kindergarten yesterday of the children's winter calligraphy homework. And relate some more memories.

In Japan, schools assign homework during the winter holidays and one of the traditional tasks of scholarship is writing a Japanese character in calligraphy for the New Year. Depending on the age of the student, the degree of difficulty changes and the teacher will usually select a character representing the New Year… "Hope", "Effort", "Friendship" etc. (Picture from the Internet)

In the Watanabe family history, every year the kids would come home with calligraphy homework during the winter break. They were to write ONE character on ONE sheet of paper and turn in what they thought was their best work to be posted in the classroom. Easy enough. Unfortunately (for Takumi and Leiya) Tetsu took charge of overseeing their calligraphy homework. Well, maybe he only oversaw it one year because after a major blow-up on my part I refused to EVER LET HIM COME NEAR MY CHILDREN'S CALLIGRAPHY HOMEWORK AGAIN!!! And yes, they were MY kids when I blew up at him. I felt that Tetsu didn't have the right to call them HIS kids!

I don't even remember what the character was but Takumi was probably in 1st grade. Something simple like "tree" or "house" or something. A couple days after New Year's day and before school started, Tetsu sat Takumi down at the low table in our Japanese room and with brush, ink, ink stone, water, newspaper, rice paper, paper weight etc. proceeded to teach Takumi how to write the character. Oh what fun. Daddy's going to spend a few minutes helping me with my homework. HA!

Tetsu's calligraphy is beautiful. There is no denying that. He meticulously controls the heavy pointed brush with precision making characters that look like works of art. (In fact, my mother has put some of his letters to her under glass. She can't read them but they look beautiful.) But you can guess that this means that he is a PERFECTIONIST when it comes to calligraphy.

"Sit up straight on your knees."

"Hold the brush this way."

"You aren't centered."

"Do it again."

And again, and again, and again. And again and again and again for all eternity. I'm sure that's what it felt like to Takumi. He only wanted to please Daddy and make a nice looking character. Over and over and over on countless pieces of newspaper, Takumi was instructed to do it again. And again. And again. As the hours wore on and the poor child became tired Tetsu became more and more irritable.

"You're slouching. You're not thinking. You're not trying."

Over and over and pretty soon the tears started to come.

"If you can't do it without tears then be a quitter. I expected you to be better than that."

So of course Takumi wasn't about to quit. And yes, I tried to smooth things over a couple of times too but the door got slammed in my face and Takumi was accused of being a Mommy's boy and wanting to go crying into my skirts. And I was told to leave the child to Tetsu and let father and son be.

This is called "Sparta Education" in Japan. Rough, abusive, somewhat military education. Insults are thrown out. Psychological abuse rears its ugly head. And it is valued as a viable way of teaching; sports, especially. In the schools of course there are laws but Sparta Education is not uncommon in the training of children and students in their clubs and sports. And remember, Tetsu was immersed in this type of education himself when he was doing judo as a student. The idea is "The teacher is so passionate about his subject that he can't permit error and he so loves his pupils that he doesn't want them to settle for any less than the best." So the calligraphy lesson, in Tetsu's eyes was a lesson reeking in love. As a Japanese father to a Japanese son, one doesn't just give a hug and say "I love you." The sterner, the stricter the father is, the more the child knows that the father is doing it all in love. In theory…
(Takumi's 1st grade classroom at school)

It goes without saying that a finger was never laid on Takumi. There was no physical abuse… Between Tetsu and Takumi… But when I finally stepped in HOURS later…..

"You will not do this to MY child!" bang, I barged into the room.

"This is child abuse." I pushed Tetsu off balance.

"Takumi has no idea when this hellish situation is going to end… It goes on until YOU are satisfied and there is no satisfying you!" I punched Tetsu in the chest.

One of the hundreds of papers that Takumi had written was hurriedly stuffed into his book bag and I pronounced it good enough for the calligraphy homework. I think Tetsu was so surprised that he quietly put everything away and Takumi's calligraphy lesson was over.

Takumi and Leiya have always disliked Japanese calligraphy and they never asked Tetsu to help them again. And Tetsu remembers that day as the one where I committed a little husband abuse for the protection of my son…

"My wife is the scariest person in the world." -- Tetsu

I got permission from Tetsu to write this post.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Sofa cushion

It is still cold around here. But not snowy. Every year we get less and less snow which is nice since I don't like driving in the snow and Tetsu doesn't much like shoveling snow. I remember there was one year when the first day of school after winter break was cancelled and instead all the parents were asked to shovel the sidewalk from our neighborhood all the way to the school (about a normal 20 minute walk). So far this year no snow.

But the water in the gutters freeze. The bushes along side the river freeze. Even the usually damp soil from in the forest and rice fields freeze. And Tetsu complains that he is freezing.

Yesterday I went to the electronics store. Truth be told, I was looking for a cat kotatsu. A kotatsu is a low wooden table with a heating element under it and blankets over it to keep the lower half of your body warm. It is the traditional way Japanese stayed warm in the winter and it used to be heated with coal. Ever since I've lived in Japan kotatsus are electric and most homes use them. We don't just because they take up space.

BUT...! I heard that the stores sell small CAT kotatsus! Just small enough for a cat! And I heard that they are a little pricey (but cats love them so it's worth it, right?) And I realized with 6 cats I'd have to buy at least three (one cat can sleep inside the warmth, one cat can sleep on top). But no cat kotatsus to be found. It must be so cold that everyone with cats has bought them (or no one is as cat crazy as I am and so the stores don't even sell them...) (Cat kotatsu picture from the Internet).

While at the store I noticed an electric sofa cushion "for people who like to lounge around on the sofa". And they were less expensive than cat kotatsus. And Tetsu is the all time sofa lounger who is always complaining that he is freezing, right? Hmmm. Do I want this? How much is it? Hey, if I was willing to pay more for my cats' comfort then I should be able to afford this for my husband's, right? (Of course I feel sorry for my cats. My husband I think should just put on another sweater.) So I bought Tetsu an electric sofa cushion.

Tetsu was very happy and "lounged" all over the sofa late last night and said it really kept him warm.

And the cats like it too! Successful purchase.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Works in Progress

I'm not doing too much today. I counted up my Works-in-Progress.

I have the Bunny Hill BOM and though I'm ahead in that, I'm working on block number 4... I don't know why when there are other things to do. Oops, I guess I didn't show block number 3. March has St. Patrick's Day so the clovers. A little hard to explain to Japanese friends who don't know St. Patrick's Day.

Feathered Star... poor thing, again relegated to a corner.

Jewel Box which has been turned into a nest by Mi.

And this morning I was making a simple nine patch because a new friend wants me to help her get started on the simplest pattern possible so that she can make a baby quilt for her grandchild -to-be. She isn't willing to try machine piecing so I hand pieced this sample and went through in my head how to explain making a template, cutting fabric, matching seams, etc. All those things moderately advanced quilters take for granted. I guess I have enough experience that I can teach this. The question is can I pass my enthusiasm for patchwork on to someone else without overwhelming her...

Oh rats, I have that mini-Round Robin sitting on the table too. I loved some of the suggestions for that project.

Thank you BrendaLou! Fantastic advice!

"#1 Law of Quilting: All rules are made to be broken!"

Maybe I can relax and enjoy this a bit more...

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Modern world

Tetsu and I lead a pretty quiet life now that the kids aren't around. Often people ask me if I'm not terribly lonesome and don't I regret that my children are on the other side of the world. Well, no. For one I'm proud of how they've kicked in and seem to be studying HARD and playing HARD. I mean they seem to do both and realize that there are opportunities and times for both. I think if they had continued their education in Japan they wouldn't have been able to adjust that balance. That's not to say that other Japanese kids can't, just that Takumi and Leiya seem to be incorporating both Study and Fun equally in their American lives and I don't think they would have if they'd stayed in Japan. Both kids have really become responsible adults. (Don't mean to brag here.... Happy mother you know....)

I don't know about Tetsu but I can hardly complain about having my two children in another country since I did the same thing to my parents and left America to start a life in Japan. My parents seemed to survive so I don't see why Tetsu and I can't too. And it is interesting because when I went away to Japan my mother often said,

"The modern world is so wonderful. You're grandmother left Japan NEVER to return and in her days there were no airplanes and telephones etc. She REALLY left! It doesn't feel like you are so far away because you come home every summer, we have air mail and can talk on the phone whenever we feel like it."

And compared to 30 years ago when I came to Japan, now there is e-mail, chat, digital photography and visual chat. I can get on this computer and have a conversation with Takumi and see him in the school library and wave to his roommate's mother who is in China through the two boy's computers (the other guy was on visual chat with his mother too.)

Yesterday Tetsu and I were "chatting" with Leiya and we had the computer camera on. We were ready for lunch and were going to sign off but Leiya wanted to watch us eating ramen noodles in the living room. How fun is that...? And since she does have a digital camera (but doesn't use it as much as Tetsu and I would like) she "sent" pictures of herself for us to enjoy.

Tetsu hasn't worked out computers quite as well as I have but he has figured out how to capture pictures from my blog to put on his computer screen at work. So at Tetsu's request I'm posting a couple of Leiya's pictures here.

Takumi doesn't seem to have a working digital camera so Tetsu hasn't captured pictures of him for months... Takumi! Would you please send some pictures!

The modern world is so wonderful!