Tag Archives: japan

Down Memory Lane With Our Japanese Family

Most of our family we don’t choose, but friends we do get to choose, and we are so happy to say that some friends become like “family” over time.

Like I said in the last post, we had a visit from our wonderful friends/family the Wakatsukis’, from Japan, this last week.

They were our neighbors at the first house we lived in here in Georgia. We moved here when JJ (now 15) was only three months old, and met them when he was around one.

All five boys are just great buddies and have been for a lifetime!

The original four, left to right (ages are approximate):

Kaoru -4,  Gerrit -3,  Darren -12,  JJ -2

Kaoru was three years old when we met, and is exactly a year and a two days older than Gerrit (now 16). These boys have grown up as “brothers” and even though Kaoru and his parents have long since moved back to Japan, they still come back to spend some time with these “American brothers”! There were a couple of years when Nagisa and Yuji couldn’t make it out, but sent Kaoru alone. They were all so brave to do that!


Me putting him on a plane back to Japan

I do believe this is all of us back in ’02 saying goodbye to them as they moved back to Japan.

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The boys and Kaoru

Many great memories of us all together over the years!


Kaoru & boys on waterfall-best one




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Harrison was still a baby when they moved back, so they have had to watch him grow up through photos and once a year visits.

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Kaoru & Van - game boy play off!!

My oldest, Darren, has been fortunate enough to have made it out to Japan, twice now, since his high school graduation. The first time was a graduation present from Nagisa and Yuji. So, we truly have a special and wonderful relationship with the Wakatsuki family!

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We have watched/listened to Kaoru on the violin from age five to 17, and look forward to many more years of it. The visit this year was short, so no violin was packed. 😦

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We are very proud of our other boy!



We are honored that they spend the time and expense to come visit us every year.

Here are some photos from this years visit:

Our routine visit to Cracker Barrel for Nagisa to get her fried okra. 🙂




A very brief and VERY cold visit to Line Creek.

Boys at Line Creek

Nagisa and Yuji getting to know Peeps.



The boys… my how they’ve grown up!

Nagisa went with me to take my sweet, old girl Jetta (black one) to the vet, and found out that she is wracked with advanced arthritis in her legs. She’s on daily meds. now, and we hope she will be feeling better real soon.


Yuji, Nagisa and I had a fun time in Senoia, Ga one day. If any of you watch the Walking Dead… this is where a lot of the filming happens. Actually, Senoia has been the location of about twenty films and shows. Great little shops and the best coffee!



Eating fried green tomatoes and fried pickles at the Redneck Cafe’.


We said goodbye this morning, and they are on their way back home to Japan. But we look forward to the next visit, and more fun times together.

Thank you for spending your vacation with us Wakatsuki family!

(The cats miss you!!)




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Some Sulkers

Sulker. It’s a word… I looked it up! Even though the spell check on here wants to change it… and that makes me uncomfortable… I’m going with – it’s a word, since I couldn’t find the correct spelling of the word I always use for this type of behaviour… and I can’t even tell you what it is… because I found NO spelling of it. WHAT? Does that mean it’s not really a word? I’ve used it for hundreds of years! It rhymes with soap, and starts with an M. Do you use that word? How come I couldn’t find it?

Well, we had a fantastic week with our friends from Japan! They are just like family to us, and the boys spent the three days after they left, sulking. I would occasionally hear, “I miss Kaoru.”, “It just isn’t the same without Kaoru.”, “When is Kaoru coming back? I wish he lived here.”

They love their Japanese brother!

I think he might have been doing a little sulking of his own. Maybe.


Here are some pictures from their last night here. The boys were having a great time goofing off for the camera.

The boys in order of age:

Darren;24, Kaoru;almost 17, Gerrit;almost 16, JJ;14, and Harrison;11

Kaoru wants to be as tall as his brothers!

Kaoru is not only very skilled on the violin, smarter than the average bear, and a good-looking young man, he is also a black belt in Karate.

Harrison kept “poking the bear” to get him to do some of his moves. A very dangerous game of jest indeed! Kaoru was just picking Harrison up here… no Karate moves.

And here they all are in the morning just before we headed to the airport.

They made it safely home and we are so happy that they came out to see us. Thank you Nagisa, for I know it was an effort to travel so many miles. You are amazing! We miss you both and love you all. Looking forward to next time! 😉

Well, although I feel like I’m moving in slow motion these days… I am at least moving forward. eh? So much to do and the days just whiz right on by without checking with me to see if I’m done or not. So aggravating.

But I am happy when I look at these pictures of all the boys enjoying their time together.





Filed under Our Friends Around the World, The boys

Private Concert

We are so lucky to have our friends from Japan here for a visit this week. It is a short one this time, but we’re happy for anything we can get with them.

If you know us or have read anything I’ve written about them before, you know that Kaoru is like another son to us. He was our little neighbor boy who started showing up at our house after his preschool, and would often stay until bedtime! At first I was “Gerrit Mom”, and we called him “The Boy”, but soon we were hanging out with his parents and have had a great friendship with them ever since.

Kaoru will be 17 in May, the day after Gerrit turns 16. Kaoru is just one of the brothers, and is cherished by all my boys. But even more importantly, both families are cherished by each family! It’s been 14 years, and we feel so blessed that they come to America to see us almost every year.

On Monday, Harrison had a piano lesson, so I took everyone with us and after the lesson Kaoru and Ms. Karen gave us a little concert. Kaoru has been playing the violin since he was 5 and was able to play, on Ms. Karen’s violin, some beautiful songs while she accompanied him. It was such a treat! I was so proud of him. I think Ms. Karen enjoyed it as well. 🙂

I will be putting a link to a video that Darren took of this soon.




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As Our Hearts Break

It is hard to sit here (in my house, on my couch, blessed with my family all around me) and share anything about my life with you, when so many people are hurting for the loss of loved ones, and major destruction in Japan.

Everything I have to say seems like trivial dribble.

However, we are SO happy to share with you that our dear, dear friends over there are just fine. I spent a nervous day Friday waiting to hear from them, but heaved a big sigh of relief when Nagisa called to say they were okay. I still worry quite a bit as I watch the news reports this morning. More earthquakes and then the whole nuclear radiation scare.

We are praying for all of Japan.

May God be with you and give you strength.

And for those of us a world away… may we truly appreciate what we have around us and not take the important things for granted. When it’s all said and done, our families are the most important things we have in this life. All our possessions, obviously, can be swept away in a heartbeat.

We wait.

And our hearts break.

We pray.

And know that God is good, all the time. And all the time, God is good.

We love.

And hold our children close. (figuratively speaking – of course – since they don’t hold still for very long.)



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Special Guests

Every summer now for the past several years we have had the pleasure of having some very dear friends come and visit us all the way from Japan!

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We met around 1998 when we were next door neighbors! They had a little boy who became friends with my boys and they played together for quite awhile before we got to know his parents. I believe he was three years old at the time… and mine were 13, 2 1/2, and not quite one. Harrison wasn’t even thought of yet!

Watkasuki's 039Kaoru (I think about 5 or 6 years old)

Their little guy Kaoru, was at our house almost every day after his preschool! He just gradually became one of “our boys”!

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And our friendship with his parents began to grow over time and has been such a blessing to us all these years.

We love all three of them and were very sad when they had to move back to Japan.

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(One last farewell hug! 2001 – I think.)

But we look forward to seeing them every summer when they come for a visit to America! And this summer is no exception. Although it will be the shortest visit to date.

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Nagisa has taught me many things. Things about Japanese cooking, about being open minded to other ideas and cultures, and about reaching out to others even when you are told information that may discourage you from doing so. Because that information may be WRONG! She is truly one of my most precious friends.

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We don’t get to see Yuji as much anymore since he is unable to come out in the summers, but he does come to America for work now and then and we are lucky enough to have him spend some time with us when he does. He is a very special person and so kind to our kids!

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And Kaoru (who is now 14) is just one of the most wonderful kids I know! He has a spot in my heart that will always remain just for him. When he used to come over as a very small boy he soon learned that if he was going to be at my house he was going to have to play by my rules… and he did! He began to just be part of our lives and a part of our family. I loved it… and so do all four of his “brothers”!

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So many different photographs are coming to my mind right now… of when they were all very little young (Darren was never very little!) and although I would love to put them up on here for you… they are in a box. One of these days I am going to get that out again and rescan them. I lost a lot of my old photos when my computer died.

But here are a few of Kaoru these past few years on his visits.

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For Darren’s high school graduation a few years ago, Nagisa and Yuji’s gift to him was a trip to Japan! Needless to say they think a lot of him! Then the next year a friend of ours paid his way to go and accompany her son on his trip to Japan. How does one get so lucky? This is a picture from his last trip. He plans on saving up his money and going again in the future. And yes, a six foot three and half inch blond guy does attract some attention over there! As shy as he is… I think he loves it.

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Oh, there is so much I want to say here… so much to tell about these special friends… but I must cut this short and just say that we are very blessed to know them and are getting very excited about their visit. The boys are especially anxious to show Nagisa all the things that they’ve made over the last two weeks, and to see how tall Kaoru has gotten!

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Here’s to good friends… wonderful memories… and many more years fo sharing our lives with each other.




Filed under In The News, Our Friends Around the World, Something Special

Virtual Japanese (Jr.) Art Exhibit

Well, we’ve wraped up our two week study of Japan. I know that we just scratched the surface of all there is to know about this wonderful, very old country. But I believe that we will visit there (in our classroom) again sometime! My boys love almost everything there is about it!

We learned just a little bit about ancient Japanese Art. We tried our hand at a mid-15th century peice by Shubun.

August 09C 013-b(Isn’t that neat how JJ & Guy’s pieces hook up at the mountain like that? Totally NOT planned that way!)

We learned to bind a book by hand. Something that the ancient Japanese culture was known for. They still have some very old books in great condition because there was no glue involved, therefore nothing to crack and break. Very cool. I enjoyed this one very much!

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Next time I will use bigger string, but even with the big holes and little string… the boys struggled to make this work. They got pretty frustrated, but when it was done they were very glad they did it. I tried to teach them some water color skills on the cover… but they wish they had left it blank or just painted it a solid color because they are not happy with the way their pictures turned out. Just so you know!

The problem we have here is that they see the one I did as an example and they want theirs to turn out JUST as good as mine… and then if when it doesn’t, they get frustrated. We talk about the fact that I have way more years of experience than they do and that we are all just learning. But it doesn’t seem to help. I am not real sure what to do about this dilemma yet… but I’m thinking that maybe I shouldn’t do my own version of the project. The only problem with that is how do I show them how to do it, without actually doing it? Yea… I’m confused too!

Anyway… okay… well, we made our own Kimono’s! They turned out wonderful. We cut the collar off of some cheap ($7 – Ross) mens white dress shirts and painted the logo of choice on the back of it. Cut off all the buttons and cut the sleeves up to three-quarter length. Then wrap an obi (sash) around it and there you go!

Here they are on the boards drying.

August 09C 010-b(Harry’s, JJ’s (he’s not done yet) and Guy’s (and yes, I helped Guy draw Mnt. Fuji, but he painted it!))

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(I took a dozen pictures of Gerrit and he shut his eyes in every one. Little turkey! He used to be SO photogenic!)

And the only thing left to put on this poster is our written report.

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They wrote it and Guy typed it, but the printer is not working… so we will have to wait on that one.

It is Japanese custom to fly a fish flag for each of the boys in the family in the order of birth for the month of May, so we made one for Darren too. (At least that is what one book said! Nagisa will set us straight on that if it’s not true. Either way… it was fun to do.)

I know that in America food isn’t  necessarily considered art, but in Japan they take great pride in making their food just as beautiful to look at as it is to taste! “You eat with your eyes” is an old Japanese saying. We did not get to make sushi this week, although the boys would have loved it. I just didn’t find the time. But we did make ramen soup. This is a favorite at our house and we learned that noodles are a very important part of the Japanese diet. Right after rice and soybeans. Noodles are considered a fast food over there… and now that they sell the broth in an instant powder form… it is even faster!

However, the instant broth kind has MSG in it and so I learned to make the dashi broth from scratch. I don’t know how good mine is… but the boys and I enjoy it… and don’t get headaches from it!

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We LOVE this stuff!

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We put cubes of tofu in the bottom of our bowls and put the ramen soup over it. Then top it off with some seaweed flakes.

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I lucked out a few years ago when I found these wonderful “ramen” bowls at Target! They are special bowls that we use just for our Japanese meals. This one with the fish is Harrisons. Oh, and we pour some shoyu (soy sauce) on the tofu before we put the hot soup in.

Yummy for the tummy!

We did some Roseta Stone and learned a tiny bit of Japanese. The boys did WAY better than I did!!

We will be sure to visit this country again sometime. It was a joy to all of us to learn more about where our friends Nagisa, Yuji and Kaoru live! And speaking of them… next week we get to enjoy their company! They will arrive on Tuesday for their yearly visit. Our “other son” returns!

I will be doing a post of them and how we met real soon.

Komban wa!

(Kome-bahn wah = Good evening.)



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