Today’s Photos Finding Zen Under the Sakura

Yesterday was the perfect Spring day – warm and partly cloudy with just a few short sprinkles of rain that quickly disappeared. I took the day off to spend with the kids during their Spring Break and we made a spur-of-the-moment decision to catch a train into the city.

I have to admit that I had a personal agenda. I’ve lived in Portland for almost ten years and this is the first time I’ve managed to make it to the Waterfront while the cherry blossoms are in bloom. The kids agreed to let me take some photographs after I promised a visit to Powells and some rotating sushi for lunch. I think I got the better end of the deal.

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Ambulance Rides and A Curious Look Back

Our Spring Break is off to a rocky start. What started out as a nice, sunny morning, quickly became a scary situation when Kei was taken by ambulance to the hospital after suffering an allergic reaction to some medication. He’s OK now, but I was very worried. The up side? The kids were with him and experienced their first (and hopefully last) ride in an ambulance. Thomas said it was cool, even if they didn’t turn on the siren.

Side note: It hurts a little that, in an effort to save money I arranged a series of childcare swaps with friends rather than sign the kids up for day camps. It was a fantastic plan (and still is) but, sadly, it looks like that money will be spent on medical bills instead. Don’t get me wrong, the ambulance ride was absolutely necessary in this instance. I just wish it didn’t drain our bank account.

Let’s change the subject, shall we?

I was looking through my photos from the past few weeks and realized that apart from the red couch pics, I hadn’t shared the rest of our photos from our recent visit to OMSI. While I used to take Thomas to the science museum a lot when he was a toddler – they have a baby playroom – I realized I hadn’t taken them to check out the museum since they have been old enough to really enjoy and understand it. A school holiday seemed like the perfect opportunity.

After my kids asked me what this is…

…we made a stop in the ball room where the they had to build tubes and then use forced air to move balls through the tubes. Samuel showed me around.

And, honestly, I think they were a little delusional with this sign.

We then wandered around learning about balance and earthquakes and all things physics. I may have even learned a thing or two.

This was so much fun – paper, a pen and a pendulum.  think we made about six of these drawings.

Sadly the boys wouldn’t let me take any pictures of these with their static electricity hair, but this was the next best thing.

We built perfectly balanced arches…

Played with some puppets…

and looked for fossils.

We even sorted some recycling, although Thomas looks a little perplexed by this potato.

It was a great day – so much so that we stayed for about five hours and were forced to eat in the OMSI cafeteria. I have to say, though, that the food was actually very good. I’ve eaten in a lot of museum cafeterias and was incredibly impressed by the quality and the reasonable prices. I’m tempted to go back even without a museum ticket.

I’ve determined that 7 and almost 5 are great ages for OMSI. At this age, the boys have just enough curiosity that they’re not easily jaded by things like electricity and, well, puppets. I think we’ll go back agan soon although I think a trip to the Planetarium might be on the cards. I think the boys would really enjoy it and, to be honest, I might too.

My Little Magpie

Samuel has a very special eye for all things shiny and sparkly. Almost every day he comes home from school with something new that he found on the playground that he just can’t wait to share with me. Items that I have been presented with so far include: colored beads of every shape and size, charms from necklaces and bracelets (although nothing that could pay for my retirement), a handkerchief (ewww), about a dozen hair ties that were especially for me, and at least a couple of dollars worth of pennies. In fact, he found 4 pennies just by crawling under the table while we were out for dinner a few nights ago.

It definitely pays to go through Samuel’s pockets before I do the laundry.

I love that we’ll be walking down the street and all of a sudden he’ll stop and pick up something shiny that he spotted on the ground. Well, most of the time anyway. Sometimes I have to tell him it’s something we should leave on the ground (foil from a candy wrapper, for example, or more hair ties).

Who knows? Maybe he’ll strike it rich one day and that plastic gem he picks up will turn out to be a diamond. I’m sure that’s part of his plan. This kids knows the value of a penny.

Karate Tournaments: Not for The Faint of Heart

Yesterday marked an important milestone for the Ishida family – the very first competitive event for one of our children that had real winners and losers. OK, so there were no losers (everyone got a “spirit” medal), but they awarded first, second and third which is a big deal. Thankfully this time I didn’t have to deal with a seven year old’s disappointment because our seven year old won a third place medal in his very first Karate Tournament. It was a very big day.

We arrived at the community college gym at 8am on a Sunday morning(!). Thomas spent a little time warming up while we watched from the bleachers.

I posted on Facebook that this view made me feel transported to a scene out of Karate kid – but with a lot less teenage angst.

Side note: It’s been a while since I’ve seen Karate Kid. Is it too mature for a seven year old to watch?

Mr Yoshida of Mr Yoshida’s Sauce fame was the host and sponsor of the day. He has an amazing entrepreneurial story if you’re ever in need of some inspiration.

And, of course, what is an opening to a Japanese-themed event without a little Taiko drumming. I would love to learn Taiko if only I had the time. It looks like a lot of fun and a great arm workout.

We spent the first hour watching the “weapons” contests where knives, nun chucks and big sticks were moved from hand to hand in carefully choreographed routines. One thing I love about Karate is that it’s one of the very few sports where girls compete against boys in almost every age group – and the girls often win (shhh – don’t tell my boys I said that).

After what seemed like an eternal wait, it was finally Thomas’ turn on the mat in the 6-7 year old age group. I felt better knowing that, as a seven year old, he may have a one year jump on some of the other competitors. I wasn’t prepared though for the intensity that can exist in the heart of a teeny tiny six year old.

Right about this point is when the nerves kicked in (mine and Thomas’). We signed Thomas up only for the Kata contest, which means he was required to run through his karate routine at the same time as another child. Five judges sat in chairs around the edge of the mat, each with a blue flag and a red flag. At the end of the routine they each raised a flag for the child who did the best routine. To be honest, I’m not sure how they worked it out. Thomas is an orange belt and the kid that he was up against was a blue belt (two belts higher). I don’t know if they account for that difference or just judge based on the routine.

Anyway… This first kid was a little… intense. He made more noise and generally looked like he wanted to kick someone’s butt. He was also about three feet tall.

At the end of the routine I anxiously waited for the result only to see the judges raise five red flags – Thomas was blue. I began to feel a little teary, mainly because Thomas looked upset and I knew he’d be disappointed, but also because we spent $60 for him to do  a one minute kata and it seemed to be over.

But a few spars (contests? battles?) later and they called Thomas’ name again.

This time there were five BLUS flags. He won!

And just when I thought my heart was going to jump out of my chest, they immediately called his name again.

Five RED flags (he was red this time). I can’t tell you how excited and proud we were.

Samuel was pretty excited as well.

The results had to wait until after the Kumite portion of the contest. Kumite is the fighting part of Karate where they put their moves into action. We decided Thomas wasn’t ready for Kumite this year and I am so grateful we made that choice because, honestly, I wasn’t ready for it. Kumite is when the 6 and 7 year olds start to show their age. That kid who was so fierce in the first round with Thomas, turned into a mess of tears when he lost his Kumite round. Others cried when a kick or a punch hurt a little more than they were expecting. It was hard to watch but Thomas will likely do it next year. I think that’s when I’ll take my bathroom break.

After the fighting was over and the kids had stopped crying, they announced the winners of the Kata and Kumite competitions…. drumroll….Thomas won third place in the Kata! The kid who beat him won first place.

I was so happy for Thomas, especially since he’s been working so hard at his Karate over the past few months with three lessons a week and lots of practicing at home. Mostly, though, I was just relieved that we didn’t have to deal with the look in his eyes if he hadn’t won – although he still would have gone home with a spirit medal if he hadn’t placed and he definitely showed spirit.

So, I feel as though we’ve started a chapter in our lives. Next year, Samuel may be required to participate in the same tournament (although I’m willing to wait a year) and Thomas will likely be required to participate in a little hand-to-hand combat. I’m not sure that my Mummy nerves will be able to take it. My only hope is that he keeps smiling, regardless of the outcome.

Todays Photos of Lego Mania

On Saturday afternoon, while Kei played a leisurely game of golf in some gorgeous sunshine, the boys and I headed to the oregon convention center. While I was disappointed that we weren’t out enjoying the sun, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to check out some amazing lego creations at Bricks Cascade.

The boys (and Thomas’ friend from school) loved it all but by far the biggest highlight was a super-sized Hogwarts Castle. Kei finished reading the second book to them on Friday night so we coincidentally enjoyed a post-lego convention viewing of the The Chamber of Secrets. More (better) photos of the Hogwarts Castle can be seen here if you’re interested. Apparently it’s quite famous.

But Hogwarts was only the tip of the iceberg…

Name that movie.

I kind of want to build this one.

The boys in front of Portland’s “Union Station”. Some were more excited than others.

Lady Gaga in concert.

A cute little camp ground… with a freight train running by (relaxing).

And, possibly my favorite (apart from Hogwarts), an ode to The Wizard of Oz. This is Emerald city, of course.

And Munchkin Land..

This one’s for the Geeks (including my husband)

And I’m only posting this one because my kids get so much glee out of the fact that their Mother is deathly afraid of spiders. I fought my fear and stood within just a few feet of this giant (lego) creature.

And, finally, a little flashback to legos from my childhood. My kids still play with this set when we visit my parents in Australia. I just love that toys from my childhood are now considered “classic”.

The best part about the day is that Thomas and Samuel immediately went home and started building things without using the instructions. The first thing they built? A home for their new Dobby minifigure…of course.

How He Rolls

Samuel has been dressing himself for a long time now. And, if you know my child at all, you won’t be surprised to learn that he’s very particular about what he wears. He’ll sometimes spend a frustratingly long time digging around in his drawer for that one exact shirt that he needs – sometimes it’s the one with the breast pocket so he can carry his pen. Other times it has to be a plain shirt with no pattern or picture or not THAT Star Wars shirt, the OTHER Star Wars shirt.

Interestingly, none of his clothing selections are based on one thing looking good with another thing. It’s always a practical choice and it’s always for a very good reason.

Samuel still hasn’t shared his reasoning behind yesterday’s outfit, but I’m dying to understand. Prepared for an emergency Hippie Soccer convention, perhaps?