Here is what I did during my 2-week vacation at home:
- Watched 15 DVDs during my morning "study" time and one movie at the theater.
- Cuddled and played with my kids as much as possible.
- Cleaned and re-organized several areas of our home.
- Created several scrapbook pages (digitally).
- Read 1 1/2 books. (Ha....I guess reading wasn't a priority this time.)
- Updated our budget for 2012.
- Roasted a kick-ass turkey for Xmas dinner.
- Took the kids on a short trip to visit friends in Odawara.
Last year was a toughie. I am hoping that 2012 will be a little easier and that I can focus on more important things. I was forced into supervising the Debate Team at my school, which I spent most of the year feeling very bitter about. Good things did come out of it though. I got to work with a great group of kids and then we made the trip to Kanazawa together. Kanazawa is a snowy area of Japan and I had never been there before, so I was excited about that. The Debate topic for the year was "Death Penalty", and let's just say it is a depressing topic that made me feel even more bitter and down in the dumps than I already was. I am glad it is over, and I hereby would like to announce that I will NOT, under any circumstances, allow myself to be forced into supervising the debate team for another year. I need to focus on other things this year.
One Goal for 2012
So, one thing I want to focus on is my health. It's difficult when you are working full time, parenting two small children, juggling grad school classes and cooking and cleaning daily, but I found that my health declined greatly this past year. Call it the Freshman 15, but it was crazy how much weight I gained just in one year of sitting on my butt studying my a*# off. I know it will continue unless I take some action soon. I hereby declare that I am joining Curves and will go after work at least twice a week. Since my contract says that I can leave work at 4:05 every day, I plan to actually DO that and take advantage of that extra time I have before going to pick up the kids. Curves is only a 30-minute workout, but it is a start and it will get me up and moving around more often. Fortunately, our local Curves is in the same department store building where I often study for my grad school classes AND it is next door to the grocery store. Ailin's English class is also in that building, so I might be able to fit in a workout while she is at her English class.
Another issue we are having is saving money, specifically for these astronomically expensive Disney World trips to the USA! I mean, we don't actually go to Disney World, but I think that we have to spend twice the amount that a typical American family would spend on a trip to Disney World, so it feels like that's what we are saving up for every year. Last year, I opted not to travel to the USA because it is so expensive and I was way too busy and stressed to deal with it all. This gave us several extra months to save money for our next trip. That said, I am balking at the amount of money we have to sock away each month in order to make our next trip in July. (Then, Yusuke came along and insisted that he also go with us....so tack on a car rental, his plane ticket and the pet hotel fees for Max. Oy vey.)
Grad School Update
So, how did grad school go this past year? It was difficult and demanding. I have never worked so hard in my life, but it was gratifying and true to my "word of the year" which was LEARN, I did a whole lot of learning. The great thing about studying while working is that you can immediately apply what you learn at work, and I saw a lot of positive changes in my teaching approaches and my classroom management. I did well in all of my classes, but it was never easy. Any time that I spent on grad school was at the expense of my children and my marriage. People often asked me how I could do it all. The truth is that I couldn't and I'm not going to lie about that. There were Saturdays and Sundays that I spent all day at the library or an internet cafe stooped over my computer while my husband and his mother took care of the kids. When I could, I would take a day off work in order to make progress on a paper. Most courses required two extensively-researched and well-documented papers...it was hell, I tell you. But, I am proud of my work, and with every course coming to a close, I know that I am closer to my degree.
My grad school requires us to attend two residential sessions somewhere in Asia. This past year, it was a four-day session in South Korea. It was my second time to visit Korea, but I was scared out of my mind. I had never traveled anywhere in Asia by myself before, and I was nervous about getting lost or not being able to communicate. I know that's stupid. I am an English teacher, for god's sake! It turned out to be a simple trip where I met many of my classmates and three of my professors. I was so excited and happy to meet these people in person, and I felt like we already knew each other so well. I also met my soul sister...a woman who lives in Kamakura, not far from Tokyo. We got along really well, and we've been able to encourage each other and give each other advice since then. Aviva rocks!
Ailin and Luka Update
Now, to my first love - my kids. They have grown and thrived, despite my being so busy and irritated! I try to give them lots of cuddles and kisses, so they know how loved they are. Luka began talking about half way through the year, and he is a great communicator. I am not sure if others can understand him well, be we sure do. He uses gestures and facial expressions to along with his sentences, and it is just comical. Ailin is starting to learn to read and write, but it is a slow process. I know that if I was home with her more, I would be able to teach her, but that just isn't going to happen any time soon. She is now attending an English school once a week with a boy who recently returned from the USA. I like the English school because they study a variety of subjects - liberal arts, math, science and art. Each month, there is a topic, such as "Sensory Organs". I think she enjoys going, but Yusuke wants to enroll her in some kind of dance class as well. We'll see if that will pan out.
And, now for my second love - scrapbooking. I thought I would have to put aside scrapbooking for the entire time I am in grad school, but seriously, I could NOT escape from my desire to do it. Of course, I didn't make pages on the scale that I was doing before, but I did two projects. One was Ali Edward's One Little Word which is an easy project that kept me on track with my new year's resolution. I only had to make one lay out a month, and it was quite enlightening. My favorite assignment was making a soundtrack of music that reaffirms our word in some way. I love my soundtrack. Then, we had to make a lay out based on our song choices by choosing some of the lyrics that really stands out to us. I love this lay out because it made me realize that the ONE THING I was learning about was how to be more independent. That is something I never would have realized without seeing all those song lyrics excerpts on one page. The second project I did was Ali Edward's December Daily. You guessed it, this is a 31-lay out project for the month of December. I did every day except for the 13th. I thought of this as a way to tie up 2011, seeing as I had not done any other lay outs throughout the year, and it was a way to celebrate the end of the Debate Season and my first year of grad school.
I have updated my Scrapbook Pages slideshow on the upper left corner of my blog. Please click on that to see many of my pages from the last two years, including the two projects I did in 2011.
So, what's on the agenda for 2012? Aside from no debate team and a promise to leave work at 4:05 every day, here is what Yusuke and I have in the works:
Tokyo Disneyland for Ailin's birthday in February
A Women's Education, Language and Learning (WELL) retreat in February (Adie and I are scheduled to present at it.)
A trip to Miyagi (Yusuke's mother's hometown) in May
A big trip to the USA in July and August (also cousin Ashleigh's wedding)
A residential session for grad school some time in the fall
Personally, I am hoping to control my weight better, or to at least not gain more, and to eat more vegetables. Ailin will be in her last year of kindergarten, so I hope she learns to read and write. Luka should be potty-trained some time in the next year...fingers crossed. Yusuke will be coming home earlier than before due to a cut-back movie schedule. Let's hope it stays that way...he could use the rest. And, I will keep on plugging away at grad school so I can tick off another five courses this year!
I want to thank all the friends and family who have supported and encouraged me over the years. I only wish we all had more time to keep in touch, even with all the technology out there, it doesn't matter when the huge time difference still exists. Still, best of luck to all of you in 2012 and I hope your lives are filled with joy and love.