Before Sean was born, I was an avid reader and always read at least a few pages before going to sleep. These days I don’t have much time for reading, but I can still enjoy books with Sean before bedtime! I try to choose books that I think we both will enjoy. I hope to instill in him the same love for books my Mum did in me.
Sean is now two years old and he really enjoys reading time together. Today I’d like to introduce some of my favourite English books for 1- 2 year olds. We have bought many books for Seán since he was born, but these are the ones that have had a lasting impression, ones that he requests again and again!
1. Leslie Patricelli’s “Baby” Books.
This is a series of books, and by far Seán’s favourites at the moment! I would recommend them for ages 6 months up to around three years. There are books about a variety of every- day topics that children will recognize and be familiar with. The concepts are easy to understand and the drawings are simple, bright and so colourful. Seán loves looking at them. I think he can relate to the main baby character, as he discovers, explores and learns new things with his Mommy and Daddy. Doggy and Kitty. Among Seán’s favourite titles are “Toot”, “The Birthday Box” and “Big Kid Bed”.
I first read this to Seán at about 9 months old, and many times since then, and I hoped he would grow to like it. Now it’s one of his most requested books! I believe the book’s rhyme and rhythm is captivating, and the repetition is funny! There are so many funny characters, including Sam- I Am and the “Grumpy Guy” as we call him! There are plenty of crazy scenarios in the book, it is long but fast paced so he never gets bored.You could say that one of the lessons in the book is you have to try something before you can know if you like it or not! And another may be to listen to that nagging voice because it might be good for you!
Seán loves the friendly and brave little blue truck, who helps a big bully of a digger who gets stuck in the mud. Along with beautiful images and lots of imitable animal sounds, this story teaches the important lesson that your friends will help you out when things get tough. You are never too busy and important to give someone a smile and a greeting.
4. Monkey Puzzle by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler.
This is a cute and colourful book, like all of those in this series by these authors. A little Monkey has lost his Mommy, but a friendly butterfly helps him to search for her. A funny and charming book that also teaches children about the differences in appearance between animals. It has a rich variety of descriptive words used when talking about the various creatures met in the jungle. It also tell us that some babies don’t look like their parents, but they are still family.
This is a cute book, and Seán likes the well- meaning dog George who makes a bit of a mess after his owner goes out! It shows children that even when you try to be good, you slip up sometimes! But that’s ok. And, after some time you may learn to resist temptations!
Hello everyone! I hope you are all well, and staying safe. We are doing fine here in Shizuoka Japan, staying home as much as possible and being careful.
I’d like to talk a bit about our daily life in this post. Some people may wonder (I know I did) about how to raise a baby in a foreign country, or some good ways to foster a bilingual brain.
When I first had a baby, like all new mothers I wondered if I was up to the job, if I would know what to do. Adding the fact that I was doing this in Japan, thousands of miles away from home and familiar customs, perhaps you can imagine how anxious I was.
I managed to get through the first sleepless months with a newborn and settled into life as a mum in Japan. I’m so lucky to have a happy, healthily growing and developing boy and have had a very happy two years. Of course I read many books, blogs and received advice from friends and family about parenting, but one of the things that helped me the most was realising that there is no one perfect way to raise a child. The method that worked best for Seán and I and our family (this goes for all families of course) is unique, with pieces taken from here and there and adapted to our own style.
Maria Montessori method’s idea to “follow the child” really makes sense to me. When it came up sleep training, weaning, and potty training (which we are still working on), I found that making a routine that suits our family and that we can all be happy with is the best.
I hope to raise Seán to be an independent thinker with both empathy for others and self confidence. I try to talk to Seán as an equal an explain things to him calmly.
I found that having a somewhat set schedule/routine for every day really helps Seán to feel comfortable as he knows what’s coming next. It also helps us as parents to break the day up into manageable pieces.
At the moment we are social distancing, Daddy still goes to work but Seán and I stay home, and I do not teach home English lessons at the moment. So our schedule is somewhat different to usual.
Though Seán is only 2, I try to have a fairly set routine with some activities, outside time and play time included. Seánie still needs to nap, sometimes he will fight it and fall asleep before dinner which is not ideal. So I try to make sure he goes down around 1pm. He has 3 meals and snacks inbetween throughout the day, his eating really fluctuates week by week but as long as he is healthy, energetic and growing I’m happy!
I mainly speak English to Seán, and at the moment his English is slightly stronger than his Japanese. But if I am to continue his bilingual upbringing, I know I will have to put in more effort as the years go on. We live in Japan and that means everyone other than mommy speaks Japanese! His environment now is mostly English with mommy, the outside world is mainly Japanese as is daddy and his Japanese grandparents.
I have been an English teacher in Japan for years and usually teach kids at home, so I have a pretty good repertoire of English games and songs. I like to do games often with Seán.
Here’s an example of a weekend schedule in April 2020, during this period of social distancing.
7am Seánie wakes up. We open a window to let in fresh air and talk about the day and today’s weather, filling in our chart.
7:30 Mommy and Daddy’s coffee time! Seánie has milk and picks a fruit to snack on! Mommy makes breakfast, on weekends we often have French toast or pancakes. I like to use whole wheat as much as possible, I really miss Irish “brown bread”.
8:00 Toilet. Get dressed. Seánie picks what to wear from his clothes and socks. After breakfast we do some simple exercise and then Seán has free play time or watches Anpanman.
9:00 Clean up time. Mommy does some tidying, washing etc. and Seán plays. Sometimes he helps me fold landry etc. Then I join him for an activity, painting, play-doh or a game.
10:00 Even while social distancing, I like to bring Seán outside once a day for sunlight and fresh air. We stay away from other people and busy parks, usually doing a nature walk or run on the grass.
11.00 Come home, use toilet (potty training), wash hands. Possibly change clothes. Mommy starts to prepare lunch and Seán can help. I give him some role in each of my tasks, however simple. We often have onigiri, soba, udon or pasta.
12:00 Lunch. Tidy up. Now Seán has some free play time and we wind down for a nap. We read lots of books and I often sing a song and rub his back to help him fall asleep.
1-3 Seánie’s nap. Mommy and Daddy do video editing, housework or other necessary jobs.
3:00 Toilet. Wash hands. Snack. Activity/game. If we can’t go outside again, we go on the balcony and do some sand/water/ messy play. We tidy up together.
5:00 Prepare dinner. I try to give Seánie a job in the kitchen to help with preparation! On weekends we eat together as a family, and Seánie often eats the same dish we are eating.
6:30 call Mommy’s family in Ireland. It’s a great way to keep in touch and Seán has to use English with Granny and Grandad since they can’t speak Japanese!
7:30 Books, pajamas, brush teeth, bedtime routine
8:00 Seánie is (hopefully!) asleep. Mommy and Daddy get some work and editing done and take a break.
We will upload a video on YouTube introducing a typical day in our life, so please check it out if interested!
Every year in Japan, supermarkets and shops get into the spring and Easter theme. Although shelves are not packed with chocolate eggs, there are chicks, bunnies and flowers galore! In Japan Easter is all about the arrival of Spring.
We took a trip to Kanazawa at the beginning of February. We have a Youtube vlog about our trip, so please check it out! Here is a little about our trip and the wonderful city itself.
(Note: Around that time in Japan, stories about a new virus from China were making the news. We were aware we had to be careful while travelling, and made sure to stop for bathroom breaks to wash our hands often. We also brought hand sanitizer, and didn’t go near large crowds.)
It was our first time to visit this area of Japan, and we didn’t really know what to expect! As it was a surprise trip, Daddy only mysteriously mentioned we would be going somewhere cold, so we prepared for low temperatures.
Kanazawa is the capital city of Ishikawa Prefecture, located in the Hokuriku area of Japan lying along the Japan Sea. It was home to a powerful feudal clan, the Maeda, during the Edo Era. Many skilled craftsmen, musicians and tradesmen came to Kanazawa and it retains this high level of traditional craftsmanship.
There are famous products that come out of Kanazawa, such as gold- leaf, kutaniyaki porcelain pottery and soy sauce.
Although it does not often appear on many “must- see” lists of foreigners visiting Japan, it has beautiful gardens, castles and cultural treasures of its own.
Kanazawa has a rainy climate and experiences heavy snowfall in winter, which is clear by the lush greenery all around. You will see unique “Yuki tsuri” structures of ropes suspended from bamboo and attached to trees. These are used to catch falling snow to prevent branches being weighed down.
These Yuki tsuri structures on the pine trees are a very common sight and characteristic of Kanazawa.
Eki- ben at Shizuoka station: Before taking the Shinkansen (Bullet Train) from Shizuoka Station, we picked up “Eki- ben”, which is a boxed lunch filled with food from the local area.
Daddy got Maku- no- Uchi (Behind the Curtain) bento, the most popular choice. It was filled with Shizuoka’s ‘soul foods’ like wasabi (Japanese horse radish) paste, and kuro hanpen fish cakes.
Mommy chose the Fuji- san bento, shaped like Mt. Fuji! It was filled with locally grown vegetables, and “Sakura Shrimp”, tiny pink shrimp which are caught in Shizuoka’s Suruga Bay. It was healthy and delicious. A great start to the trip.
We arrived after a few hours. Seán did really well and was excited to ride some new trains. Along the way, Daddy told us where we would be going and we pored through the guidebooks.
Kanazawa Station is sightseeing spot in itself! Like Kanazawa city, the station has the feel of preserving tradition while incorporating modern ideas and styles. I had heard from Japanese friends that Kanazawa station is know as the most beautiful in Japan, and never quite understood until I saw it for myself.
The most striking feature is the huge wooden gate outside. It is designed like a Torii gate, these are structures that usually mark the entrance to a shrine. This gate has become an icon for Kanazawa city. It is known as “Tsuzumi Gate”. A Tsuzumi is a type of drum used in traditional Japanese Noh theatre, this reflects the cultural richness of Kanazawa.
There is also a glass and aluminium dome over the outer part of the station, protecting commuters from rain and snow. The station has won awards for its design and has been featured in lists of the world’s most beautiful train stations.
There are water features and lanterns outside the station, making it a spot where you will definitely want to stop a while and take everything in.
After off- shouldering our bags and taking a little breather, it was time to get some dinner! Our first stop on our trip was “Mori Mori” Sushi, a local “Conveyor belt” sushi restaurant in Kanazawa.
Daddy had done some research and found a much- loved kaiten sushi restaurant, with high quality sushi at reasonable prices. The interior was really beautiful, the staff friendly and at around 5pm it was not busy at all. It quickly filled up later on in the evening so I recommend getting there early!
We definitely wanted to try Black Seaperch (Known as Nodoguro), which is famous in the Hokuriku region. Though it is a white- fleshed fish, it has a high fat content and is loved for its rich taste and thought of as a ‘luxury’ fish.
They offer a variety of fresh raw, boiled and baked seafood, including the usual tuna, salmon and egg sushi (Seán loved the Natto soy beans!). They also have a great selection of specialties from the Hokuriku area, shellfish, crab and sea urchin.
It was really delicious, a little more expensive than the usual conveyor- belt type sushi restaurants, but the quality is also much higher. If you at it another way, Morimori sushi allows you to enjoy some of the most famous kinds of sushi in Japan for a more reasonable price than many high- level sushi restaurants.
If you are not into sushi, they also have delicious Miso soups (we ordered the seaperch and crab varieties), and other dishes.
We were enticed by the French Ice- cream dessert, so we got some for Seán after dinner. It came with cornflakes sprinkled on top- he was a happy boy!
Check out our video to find out Mommy and Daddy’s top 3 things on the menu, and Seán’s best choice!
After dinner, we checked out a craft shop selling Kutaniyaki, which is a kind of painted porcelain pottery from the Kutani area in Ishikawa Prefecture. It is famous for its bright colours and unconventional patterns. We went home with two little plates chosen by Seánie himself. He really loves Daruma dolls and yellow chicks!
Next week, we visit one of Japan’s most beautiful gardens, Kenroku- en. It was designed with the principles of the six most beautiful aspects of a garden in mind, and did not disappoint!
Please leave a comment if you’d like any more information about anything in this post!
On our second day, we visited DisneySea. This park has a marine- theme, with areas like the Meditteranean Harbour, American Waterfront and Ariel’s Mermaid Lagoon.
It is very atmospheric, and you can really enjoy just walking around and soaking it all in. You could say it’s quite romantic too, there are Venetian Gondolas and some very nice restaurants, perfect for a special date. The two of us went to Disney Sea when we were dating and it holds a special place in our hearts!
In Disney Sea, we rented a buggy for Sean, it costs 1000 yen for the day and you get a cute Mickey Mouse design buggy for your little one (and as a bonus you can store some bags underneath!)
Seán LOVED looking around at the Disney scenery, waving at the people going by, saying “bye- bye” to the trains and hearing how his voice changes when we went over a bumpy spot in the road! We loved watching him have so much fun, and not even on a ride!
We headed to the Mermaid Lagoon. It was already a personal favourite spot of ours, but we were so excited for Seán to see it.
There is an indoor “Under The Sea” world inside King Triton’s Palace! It is full of rides, restaurants and kids’ play areas. The fact that it is indoors means that kids can spend time inside if it gets too hot/cold/rainy. And parents can take a bit of a break!
Ariel’s concert in the Mermaid Lagoon Theatre is fantastic and we highly recommend it to everyone, young and old. Definitely worth getting a FastPass ticket for! The rides are appropriate for children and there are some nice places to get ocean- themed snacks.
We had a look inside the whale- shaped souvenir shop for our giveaway presents! Daddy found a Disney Model Train set and loved it, I can tell how excited he is to buy one for Seán and build it together. There were so many awesome gifts to choose from, we coudn’t decide!
We also stopped by the S.S. Colombia for a break. We went to the Teddy Roosevelt Loung inside the ship during our Disney date years ago, and wanted to see it again. The S. S. Colombia is designed like an early 1900s ocean steam liner and is very realistic, with an authentic atmosphere. There is a dining room (a little expensive and you should try to make a reservation if you can!) and the Teddy Roosevelt Lounge.
The lounge is an homage to the 26th U.S. president Roosevelt, complete with wooden bears holding up the bar! It has a menu of appetisers, mains and desserts and a variety of whiskeys and cocktails. Coffee too!
It is well-known that unlike in Disney Land, you can enjoy alcoholic drinks in DisneySea, and you can try a special seasonal cocktail in the Roosevelt Lounge. They also serve seasonal parfaits! The pricing is reasonable, we had coffee and cake for less than 2000 yen. It’s worth visiting for the atmosphere, moody lighting and to see the cast- members’ 1920’s outfits!
After our break, Seán thought it was about time to meet ‘n’ greet a Disney Character, so we went on the search! You can queue up to meet some characters, but often the wait- times are astonishingly long! I heard from another Disney fan that the other day, which was Goofy’s birthday, there was an 11 HOUR wait to meet him! ? I couldn’t quite comprehend that one.
Anyway! We bumped into Daisy Duck on our travels and after a bit of a wait (she’s very popular and even received hand- written letters from fans) we got to take a photo with her! Seán was a bit shy at first but he was delighted to meet her!
After that, more shopping!
Every time we have gone to DisneySea, we try to see “Big Band Beat” a New York- inspired musical show. But we can never get tickets in the daily raffle.
This time however, with our lucky charm Seánie, we got tickets! The show was really enjoyable, even Seán sat through it without fussing (thank you Seánie!). Try to get tickets if you can!
And finally we went to the Arabian Coast, home of Aladdin and the Genie! Here, there is a big, beautiful carousel, beautifully painted with lights and gorgeous horses, camels to ride on. I think this might have been Seán’s favorite part of the whole trip. He looked so amazed, sitting on this beast and moving up, down and all around. Looking back on that video makes me smile every time.
Our little baby Seán turned one year old in April. It is such a cliché, but it feels like only yesterday that we were waiting at home for everything to “kick off” so we could head into the hospital. I won’t go into too much detail in this post, but it was a memorable experience to say the least!
We spent the first few months of Seán’s life in Ireland, before moving back to Japan. I was really glad to be close to my family and familiar surroundings when Seán was born and as we were getting used to being new parents!
The first year has flown by and Seán is a happy and healthy one year old! We decided to celebrate his birthday in the happiest place on Earth- Disney! Tokyo Disney Resort (TDR) to be exact. There are two Disney parks in TDR- Disney Land and Disney Sea. Each park has its own special charm, attractions and atmosphere.
It is said that Disney Land is geared more toward younger children, and had appropriate rides and attractions to reflect that. Disney Sea has rides that are a little scarier, and the park has a more adult atmosphere.
The park is water themed, and in parts feels like you could be strolling through Venice, at the docks in New York, or Under The Sea with Ariel. Disney Sea also has some special characters, Duffy the Bear (and friends), who can only be found in that park. Hubby and I went to both TDR parks on one of our first trips when we started dating. Since then we only went to Disney Sea, and mostly at Christmas time because we are both crazy about Christmas (my influence I think!).
We realized afresh how lovely a park Disney Land is, especially seeing it through Seán’s eyes. We arrived on Saturday morning, and as we weren’t itching to get on the rides this time, we could take our time. We put our luggage in a storage locker just outside the park, and headed in. The first thing we did (after gazing in awe at Cinderella’s Castle and the beautiful Easter scenery) was get a Fast Pass for It’s a Small World.
Before you go, I recommend choosing the rides you definitely want to go on, and if they are part of the Fast Pass ticketing system, get a Fast Pass! You scan your Disney Ticket (or the app on your phone) and are given a time to come back and go on the ride. This saves a LOT of time waiting in line. You can get a Fast Pass ticket once every two hours. For some extremely popular rides (Toy Story Mania in Disney Sea) the Fast Passes run our early in the morning, after that the waiting time is about 2 hours. So if you want one, get there quickly!
In Disney Land you have Pooh’s Hunny Hunt, a ride that takes you inside a story book of the adventures of Winnie The Pooh. It’s a Small World is another lovely ride on a boat, traveling though many countries of the world and seeing the people, animals (and of course Disney Characters) dancing and singing among beautiful surroundings. Disney Land has the extremely popular Electrical Parade “Dream Lights”.
We think Seán had a great day in Disney Land! Hope he will look back on it, watch himself in our videos and smile.