MY FUNNY VALENTINES

Valentine’s Day at school was always a beacon of light in the middle of a long dreary winter. Winter break had ended long ago and spring break seemed so far away it was pointless to get excited about. We were in the daily doldrums of cold bleak winter weather, battling illness sweeping through the school, and of course, boring school work. Sheets of hand-outs and work-packets, or as my teachers called them; dittos. Dittos for us to complete math problems and practice our perfect cursive handwriting. But for one day, one day in the middle of the darkness, for at least an hour, we had Valentine’s Day.

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AKI MATSURI and MAKING YUKATAS

The kids go to a Japanese immersion school as their primary school. In addition to learning the Japanese language, they also get to participate in cultural events. One of those events is called, “aki matsuri,”or Fall Festival. For half the day, we convert the school into different games popular in Japan during these festivals. At the end of the games, the kids parade around the school with decorative floats, chanting, and dancing. One thing that is very common for people to wear at the fall festival is a yukata. I’ve been told it’s like a casual kimono. The girls really wanted to wear one, but even after all of our trips to Japan, we had never bought them one. The basic garment is constructed similarly to a bathrobe. It looked simple enough, so I decided to make them one. I mean, I made an Elsa dress for Halloween before, I could handle this​, right? In the end, I was right. But getting there, that was the tricky part.

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DARE TO BLOWFISH

The only knowledge I have of blowfish is from an episode of the Simpson’s I saw while I was in college (I think my eight year old daughter actually knows more about the fish than I do). What I took away from that episode is that blow fish is poisonous and if not prepared properly, you die. So when my father-in-law asked me if we wanted to go out to a blowfish restaurant, it took me a minute to answer while I recalled this highly accurate information I learned from an American cartoon I saw 20 years ago, and debated my own consequences. It felt like the culinary equivalent of sky diving. Was I ready to be this close to death? And with my children? Well, Homer Simpson lived, so I decided to give it a try.

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MATCHA!

Every time I visit Japan, Aya’s parents always ask if there is anything specific I’d like to do or try. They have done an excellent job at showing me Japan beginning from my very first trip fifteen years ago. I’ve tried all of the most popular Japanese foods, and even some of the not so popular ones. I’ve seen the scenic sights and the city sights. I’ve gone to the hot springs, and sang karaoke. I even saw my favorite enka singer in concert! After all that, it still seemed like I had a list of things that I wanted to try. During our previous trip, I requested the KFC Christmas chicken dinner (it’s a big deal there). But now, it’s getting harder to find things I haven’t tried yet. That was until I discovered matcha.

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AIN’T TOO PROUD TO DANCE

Chloe attends an all Japanese pre-school. And while it’s incredible to watch her develop a second language and get to experience her Japanese culture, it often sends me out of my comfort zone. I could easily just do drop-off and pick-up and nothing more, but I’m determined to not be invisible and be the involved parent I want to be. I have been involved, but sometimes it’s not always in ways that I would expect, or prefer. I don’t know if it’s a Japanese custom, or just-at-this-school custom, but the school likes to have a group of parents from each class to “perform” for the kids at the holiday party. That’s how I found myself doing a synchronized dance about rice with a group of moms at the holiday party.

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