Tuesday, 31 January 2012

10 month old T

Can you believe it? The littlest monkey is already 10 months old. Of course I intended to write regular updates on him here, with snapshots of his life at each stage. So instead, here are loads of photos all from one month. Never mind...

With both boys we have been taking photos sitting on the sofa every month 'birthday'. I thought it would be fun to see how they've grown and developed, with the sofa there every time as a measuring stick. T looks quite happy sat there, doesn't he? I was ready to leap forward and catch him if he attempted to crawl off though...

He's been pulling himself up to standing and cruising around the furniture for a while now. He uses the kitchen chairs as a walker, pushing them round until they get stuck somewhere. This evening he was doing it while K was sitting on the chair, attempting to eat this dinner! He's also now mastered standing up unaided from sitting on the floor, grinning proudly and lowering himself back down again. Our job is to look on and applaud enthusiastically.

At the (deserted) children's culture centre the other day, T demonstrated his high-speed escape crawling. After this brief pause to look back at me, he was away and out the door.

No recognisable words just yet, but T is becoming quite the chatterbox and is set to rival K for his preschool 'loudest voice' award I think. With both of them around I can't hear myself think at times...

Putting things in his mouth is a popular activity at the moment, especially plastic beakers and Bob the Builder Duplo (usually Bob, Wendy or Pilchard). Since he needs his hands for crawling, he holds favourite toys in his mouth and sets off like a little dog...

T has a lot in common with K at this age. He eats tremendously, even more than K did. Like K, he'll eat anything we offer him, and with great enthusiasm. At the moment he eats 3 substantial meals a day and usually has 3 or 4 breast-feeds too. A typical day's menu might be porridge with fruit and yoghurt for breakfast, cheese sauce pasta bake with tuna and vegetables for lunch and meat and veg stew with rice for dinner. At the end of each meal we say 'Gochisou-sama-deshita'; if he's had enough he smiles and claps his hands but if not he immediately starts crying. He's very easy to understand. If he's still hungry it's not unusual for him to polish off a whole banana as dessert...

We're very lucky that T is also a good night-time sleeper (touch wood!). He usually sleeps from 8.30 or 9 until about 7.30 in the morning, occasionally waking up at late at night but usually settling again pretty quickly. However, he hardly ever naps. If we're out in the car or pushchair he might have a little sleep but if we're at home then the best I can hope for is 20 minutes in my arms after lunch, waking up if I attempt to put him down...

As well as giant Lego and stacking beakers, T likes his Scooby Doo toy (thanks Georgie!), bricks and whichever of K's instruments he can get his hands on. T likes to look at books, and already has clear favourites. I've seen him pulling countless books of the shelf until he gets to the one he wants.

He ignores all the teething rings I offer him in favour of his own thumb, and likes to clamp down on my leg too. He often crawls up to me and lies his head down on my lap or leg, which is very sweet. A favourite game is Get Mummy To Lie On The Floor And Then Climb All Over Her, one which K likes to join in with too...

Most of the time, T is a happy, smiley little boy, as long as I'm with him. H's mum looks after him twice a week while I work, for less than 2 hours a time. He starts screaming as soon as she arrives and doesn't stop until I get back or he falls asleep exhausted, whichever comes first. Even when I'm at home with him, if I leave the room for a moment he starts to cry and, on a bad day, even stepping into the kitchen (where he can still see me but not follow) or simply turning my back on him as if I'm about to walk away is enough to set him off. I think it's getting a bit better lately, but it can be quite wearing...

So sometimes T is a little demon...

...but most of the time he's our little angel...

*Did you spot the deliberate mistake?

One of those photos of T is actually a photo of 10 month old K.

Can you guess which one? I'll add the answer here in a few days time :-)

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Planet of the monkeys?

K is really into the planets, and space in general, at the moment. It was the monthly theme at preschool a while back and I was amazed at the information he retained. As well as remembering all the planets in order (so, already doing better than me...), he regaled us with all kinds of space facts, with probably his favourite being that Jupiter has 16 moons.

I have an old Usborne astronomy book, aimed at children quite a bit bigger than K, and he has spent a lot of time poring over it and reading what he can. From that, and a jigsaw we picked up the other day, he's learnt about dwarf planets, comets and asteroids too. We've also been watching an episode of Wonders of the Solar System each Saturday night as a weekend treat, which H got for Christmas on DVD. It's difficult for K to understand (heck, it's difficult for me to understand at times) but he's enjoying it, and the visuals are fantastic.

The other day, pootling around on the Internet, I found loads of free space-themed worksheets at Learning Page. I printed off kindergarten and first grade level maths, English and science pages and strung them together between card covers. K was so excited and has been telling everyone about his 'space book' and asking me for more pages to add to it.

I also printed out the planet cut-outs, showing all the planets in their relative size. I thought that K could colour them one day and then cut them out and stick them onto a mural the next day, but the combination of K's enthusiasm and an unusually long nap for T meant that we got it all finished just before H got home from work. K was so keen to keep going that he didn't even want to stop for an afternoon snack, a previously unheard-of situation!

I coloured, cut and taped Jupiter and Saturn, and H cut out the stars, but K did the rest. I hadn't got a background prepared when we started, thinking I'd have at least another day to sort something out. In the end, the best I could come up with from what we had in the house was 2 thick paper shopping bags, cut open and taped together. Don't inspect it too closely; one bag is black and one is very dark blue, and the black one had a logo on it in white, which I scribbled over with black crayon. I think it'll do though; it's not really noticeable from a distance and K doesn't mind. In fact, he was jump-up-and-down-shrieking-ly pleased with it :-)

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Millions of money!

Unfortunately a gross exaggeration, but 'millions of money!' was K's reaction when we tipped the change pot out onto the table the other day. I loved sorting out change when I was little and I thought that K, with his love of numbers and order, would enjoy it too. Oh, and I also thought that it might keep him occupied and quiet for a little while...

What I didn't realise was that he would insist on turning all the coins the same way up, and lining them up in rows. It all took quite some time...

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Cheap(er) shipping until the end of January!

I'm afraid that I've been neglecting my shop lately, but there are still lots of lovely fabrics available there, plus a few great Japanese craft books.

Today's shop news concerns shipping. The strength of the yen recently means that the amount I charge for shipping doesn't actually cover the shipping costs. I've been making a loss on shipping for quite some time, and have finally accepted that I need to put the prices up. I don't really want to, but I can't really afford not to.

The good news is that I haven't done it yet! I'll be adjusting my shipping charges on February 1st, giving you another 10 days to place orders at the old, cheaper prices. Pop over and have a look, and see if anything takes your fancy...

Thursday, 19 January 2012


A couple of weeks ago our neighbourhood celebrated Tondo-san, marking the end of the New Year period. The day before, K and H took a walk to our local shrine to add our New Year decorations and good luck charms from last year to the growing bonfire...

Lately, especially with the building of a new house just beside the bonfire site, there has been concern about the risk of the fire spreading. This year then, instead of one mega-bonfire, three separate piles of things to burn were made. Only one was lit, and things from the others were gradually added to the bonfire as it burnt down. More sensible I suppose, but not anywhere near as much fun...

On the morning of Tondo-san, H and K got up before dawn to go and see the fire being lit at 7am.

T and I stayed in bed.

Once the fire was lit, a procession set off to take a portable shrine (o-mikoshi) around the parish boundary, stopping at various places along the way for blessings - and refreshments. The shrine looks like it should be carried on the shoulders of strapping young men, but is now pulled on wheels instead :-)

We caught up with the procession mid-morning at our local community centre. The shrine, and the drums accompanying it, was carried inside. Singing (mainly by H's dad), flute playing and drumming continued while the bearers ate and drank. Anyone who turned up was served with pork and vegetable soup and sake.

As well as the portable shrine and it's musical accompaniments, a shishimai (Chinese lion?) was also part of the parade. Being 'bitten' by the shishimai is supposed to bring good luck, especially for children. K was a bit wary of it, but T didn't seem bothered...

I realise now that this year's Tondo-san was the first one in several years where there was no snow on the ground. Although we've had a few snowy days this winter it has generally been very mild so far; keep your fingers crossed that it stays that way...

Friday, 13 January 2012

Christmas Day 2011

A white Christmas

Father Christmas came!

T, Katherine, K and a little pink pig from Uncle Hide

K's favourite present

A present for T

K and T playing together (caption by K)

Another present for T!

And one for K too

A rare event - T happy in the playpen

The only present I made this year - an already well-loved sock monkey for T

Forgot to take any pictures of lunch, but H's cracker contained this star ornament

Hope you had a lovely Christmas too!

Sunday, 8 January 2012

December days

Not surprisingly, the times I have lots to tell you about are the times when I'm too busy to post. I'm sure you don't need me to tell you that December was busy. I composed lots of blog posts in my head, usually in the shower, but never actually got around to writing anything. So here's the Reader's Digest version, just to give you a little taste of the days leading up to Christmas here in the Monkey household.

The month started like this...

... and went on to cover things like this...

...and increasing amounts of this:

One of our advent calendars this year was made up of activities to do with K, such as this...

and this:

There was quite a lot of this sort of thing...

...and this too:

We made flowers for the concert guests...

...and then it was finally time to hang up the stockings:

There were lots of things that didn't make the photographic cut too, like our annual potluck party (topping last year's, with 42 attendees), a couple of Christmas concerts and school parties.

And of course Christmas Day itself, and the all important concert; but they are stories for another day.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Happy New Year!

Hello there, remember me?

Yes, I am still here, even though I haven't actually been here for a month... Sorry. Is it too late to say Merry Christmas?

Somehow, December turned out to be quite a busy month. Funny that. There was a lot of festive fun which I wanted to share with you, but I just never quite got around to it. This week I will try to post a few Christmas photos, but please don't hold me to it.

At the best of times I find New Year in Japan to be a bit depressing. It's supposed to be the biggest holiday of the year, but nothing happens. There's nothing to look forward to or really enjoy for me. This year was far from the best. Since H's grandfather passed away last year, we didn't send or receive New Year cards, one of the few points of interest of the season. And then, at the end of the year, both H and I got sick. Luckily the boys were basically OK, so we sent K over to stay at H's parents for a couple of days so that we only had to muster enough energy between us to tend to one little boy.

Luckily all of that has passed now, and I feel much happier now that Normal Scheduling has been resumed.