Thursday, June 30, 2011

Kiddie Pool for 節電

There is a new word in my vocabulary this year - setsuden 節電.  It can be translated at conserving electricity.  Thanks to the disasters this spring we are facing a few unexpected challenges this summer.  The biggest is staying cool in one of the hottest years on record. If as a collective we (Tokyo) don't cut 15% of our power usage then there will be blackouts during the hottest hours of the day.

So, if you have kids how can you stay cool without wasting power?
The kiddie pool...
and 水まき (spreading water on the ground)
To help avoid heat exhaustion, which is a real concern this year, we set up the sun umbrella and use the pool mostly during the early morning and late afternoon while it is in the shade.  Since the kids love pouring water we also water all the concrete and blacktop around our house.  It is a Japanese tradition to do this and it actually helps lower the temperature of hard surfaces.  Every little bit helps!

This year I picked up the wooden deck pieces to add to our pool set-up.  They are 30 cm x 30 cm squares with a plastic back frame which allows them to connect together.  The water can drain through and run off.  We have just enough of them to make a sitting space outside the pool.  With Mega being so little it is great to have a cool and non-slippery surface for her to play on next to the pool.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Bible Board Game

Zilla is 3 yrs. 8 months old
Recently Zilla has shown an increased interest in counting. He has figured out the basic colors and he is also understanding about taking turns.  We have finally reached the point where he is ready to play simple board games.  This is a Bible-based one we've had just waiting around for him to be ready to play.

When everyone is home the after supper hour is a great time for a family activity at our house.  However, we only have about an hour. Because of the low numbers which came up when we rolled the dice this took much longer than planned.  I think next time we'll use 2 die to speed things up a bit!

A Bit Of This and A Bit Of That: Teddies For Tohoku

Please take a little trip over to this blog. Within the foreign wives community here some lovely women are working together to get teddy bears to the kids who have lost so much. My son often asks for his favorite stuffed friend by saying "I need somebody to hug". There are many kids right now who could also use a friend to hug.

A Bit Of This and A Bit Of That: Teddies For Tohoku

Friday, June 17, 2011

Baby Race

We don't have a backyard in the traditional sense of the word.  The space outside our house is more like a parking space with a built-in planter on one end.  This space is also where 3 (very small by American standards) cars are parked on Sundays as this is the church parking lot.  Sometimes cars park there during the week too so we can't really set thigns up and leave them out...


We have figured out how to use sidewalk chalk to make the most of the space we have.  
This is what Zilla calls a "baby race".  Each person is to carry a baby as they race around the track.  The track also doubles as a biking course, BBQ pit, hopscotch grid and a swirly maze.  One thing we love about this not being painted on is that after each rain we can come up with a new plan.  Since it is rainy season right now that means a new plan is created on each sunny day.
Kids really don't mind running in circles so even when space is limited you can still get some good exercise!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Washing Up

There are many reasons to let kids experiment with water at a young age.  There are also many reasons to encourage them to do practical life activities... and one of the greatest is that a year or two down the road your son will be able to say "Hey, I'll wash the asparagus for you."
He may be 3 yrs. old yet he can be a great help in the kitchen... and he enjoys helping.

Now if only I could get him to eat all the veggies which he helps prepare...

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Endurance and Sickness

This week's lesson for us has been about endurance and sickness.  We have a cold which seems to be bouncing back and forth from one family member to another.  It is the first sickness in at least 10 months and Miss Mega has her first fever and first runny nose.  It seems that the only thing my kids willingly share with each other is this cold!
In and effort to heal and relax we have stayed home and done very little.  It has been a long time since we have actually spent the better part of a week at home.  With the rainy season starting it was kind of nice not to be out and about all the time.  It was tough on me though to have two little kids making a mess of the house at least once or twice a day though...

Here are a few of the learning moments we had:
 One night after supper we have a Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head play time before heading to bed.  I had no idea a 10 month old would be so interested in this!

Baby wearing is all the rage at our place...

This little lady has figured out that you can not go anywhere without a bag.  I think she has tried to carry every style of bag which we have in our home.

Whatever brother is doing I can do it to...
At the same time...
On the same chair...

Thankfully he is very tolerant!

 Last Sunday we didn't attend church with our regular congregation out of concern that whatever Mega had could spread to others.  So, we had church at home.  All of our best animal friends joined us.  We got out the guitars and had a wonderful, but off-tune, sing-along.

And here is the church building we used...
After the service we filled the day with VeggieTales and Prince of Egypt.  It was fun to follow along in Zilla's children's Bible and watch him make the connection between the story on TV and what we have read in church on Sunday!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Plane / train Entertainment for Toddlers

This is a repost from my personal blog which I wrote 2 summers ago.  Many trips later this is still our travel style with toddlers!
When flying / taking a train with a toddler it can require some careful planning to give the best chance of going smoothly.
In an online group that I'm part of the general rule of advice is to have a new activity for each hour of the flight/ride. In the weeks leading up to our trips I make activity bags - 1 for each hour of the longest (usually 13 hour) flight. On shorter flights (we had 7 total one trip) I'd pick and choose what to bring in the carry-on and leave the rest in the checked baggage.
This bag had a big pocket - perfect for one of Zilla's favorite books. The two smaller pockets were filled with finger puppets and a homemade string activity. Zilla had as much fun practicing opening the zippers as he did playing with the things inside!
Here is a glove finger puppet book, train book and a pice of string. There is also a small key-chain flashlight. Believe it or not the string in this pack got the most use. Zilla imagined it to be many different things!
A little coin purse can hold small toys and a couple of bracelets.
A house/dog theme for this bag lended itself to some fun playtime.
This is another glove puppet book and a couple of cloth books.
These are the sponges that come in the little capsules that open in the water. They were a surprise addition - Zilla was playing with them so much at Grandma and Grandpa's house even outside of the water that I just had to throw them in.
This was a wonderful garage sale find! Two cloth mats (about place mat size) with a couple of small cars. When waiting at the airport this was the perfect toy to pull out. The mat is just the right size for the seat of a chair.
Bilingual flash cards - perfect for the toddler that wants to know the names of everything!
Another hit is the pad of paper with little stickers. A pen can make circles into so many different things!

These are 9 of the 14 activities that I took along. The others included a small magna doodle (magnetic writing pad and pen), some homemade cardboard shapes with yarn for lacing, a few small animal figures and a favorite doll.

I've followed a couple of basic guidelines:
- light weight
- inexpensive (things may get lost or destroyed)
- things that hold interest

We aren't planning to go anywhere for a while but I"m sure next time we do I'll be searching for this post to figure out what I packed last time!!!