We had a fun and busy week while the nieces were here last week. The kids went to the newest Harry Potter movie with their cousins one day, we all went to Tokyo Tower the next and then the nieces ventured off on their own for a day of window shopping at a popular new site on the other side of Tokyo.
On the 31st the little old lady from the 3rd floor stopped by with some New Year's money for my kids while I was out shopping and S invited her in for tea. She stayed long after I returned with the groceries and watched while I chopped vegetables for our "grill it yourself monja yaki on the hotplate" lunch, happier to be here with 6 young girls and L than alone at home. She declined a lunch invitation, not being fond of the menu but did accept some red bean paste filled snacks to take home for later.
After lunch, the girls suddenly decided they'd like to go ice skating and L chimed in that he'd like to go, so I had to get ready and go too as he and N are a little too much to burden the older girls with for the long train rides and rental skate selection etc. Our septuagenarian visitor happily said farewell and returned to her apartment as we made our way out the door. Halfway to the station the 14 yr old niece decided that she was too tired and cold to go and returned to sleep all day to shake off an oncoming cold. She had been a little depressed that her plans to return home earlier than her sisters and have fun with friends on New Year's Eve had been impossible due to several million people already having reservations on trains, planes and buses going out of Tokyo for the annual New Year's trek to their hometowns. She kept in touch with the friends on her cellphone, texting and talking and did manage to be pleasant and kind to her little Tokyo cousins, taking and sending lots of pictures with her phone. S's sister called and complimented me on how big the kids were, so I guess some of the pictures must have been sent to her phone too. She also thanked me for keeping her daughters for the week, especially the 14 yr old, half of whose friends were picked up by the police on New Year's Eve for disorderly conduct, if SIL is to be believed.
Anyway, back to the Ice Capades. We arrived a little after 3p.m. and learned that the rink would close at 5 that day so we rushed to rent and lace all my kids into their skates. J, N and L had been skating once before and managed to do quite well while M, expecting it to be as easy as it looks on TV, especially with her natural prowess, was greatly surprised. After about an hour of screeching and laughing hysterically each time she fell (about every 30 seconds) she finally learned to relax a little and glide. The 18 and 19 yr old nieces did fairly well, having skated a few times before in Kyushu. Their main problem was my kids running into them or grabbing them for support. All were impressed by my grace on ice (ha! I still skate like a hockey player!), not expecting an older, larger person to be able to skate at all... I was the only member of the group with no bruises or aches after our 2 hours of skating.
Returning home, I rushed around making the New Year's food for the next day while S and the 7 kids watched special New Year's Eve TV shows and ate special buckwheat noodles to celebrate the changeover to the new year. We all walked to the nearest Shinto shrine to wish for good luck this year at midnight and say happy new year to the neighbors who were all doing the same thing.
After breakfast of the traditional food I'd made the day before with some hot chicken/bonito soup with rice dumplings, S told us we should go have fun at the local karaoke place. There was a "all-you-can-drink" soft drinks plus karaoke for a set fee so we all guzzled soft drinks (well, I had a few cocktails too...) and sang for close to 4 hours. L was in seventh heaven with so much soda. We returned home around 5 to collect luggage and head out for dinner before sending the nieces on into Shinjuku for their bus back to Kyushu. S wondered if other diners thought that all 7 were ours as there are similarities.
At the station, M managed bravely not to cry but the dam broke on the way home. L started to cry at bedtime, realizing the kind cousins had gone. N was happy to have a chance to sleep in the new futons I'd bought the day before the cousins arrived and J was just happy to sleep at all after such non-stop activity.