Sunday, December 30, 2007

Firsts

It's all about firsts, isn't it.

Today for the first time, she grabbed something dangerous, an electrical cord while she had tummy time on her nappy mat. Oops, gotta find a new home for that new multi-region DVD player now!

Her First Christmas, which was also the first day she sat on my hip, watching me make the turkey gravy. The first time she rolled over, although Kanji tells me he saw her do it earlier, so this is officially 'his' first! I found her later on, crashed into the leg of the activity gym that's over her nappy mat, rolled off the mat and consequently in quite a state! Took her a while to get over that first!

Update, later on - another first! First laugh out loud - while watching her big sister on the toilet!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas presents 2007

ME

Mum - tea towels and earrings
JO - wrinkle cream and hair serum
BECK - Bath set
CHRIS - lindt truffles
Kanji - freezer
kawanos - scarf

KANJI

Mum - Key holder, mint chocolate
Jo - ferrero rocher
becky - Kahlua chocolate
me - luminarc bowls

ERICA

Santa - doll, snake, rattle, clothes
mum and dad - playmobil, bib set,
grandma - first christmas book, Marylou
P * A - name plate
mcleods - big rattle
beck - fuzzy buzzy bee
Amy and Lena - blocks

AMY and LENA

peter and amanda - name plates
mcleods - sand art
mitchells - black t-shirts
becky - Amy, funky girls drawing book, Lena, how to be a princess; dog tags
Grandma - Amy, Girls' book, Mr Men Mr christmas, Lena, classic nursery rhymes and Mr Men Christmas Carol
Mum and Dad - playmobil
Santa - clothes, Mell clothes and book, tutu, book - Amy, squids will be squids and ;Lena, dragons and petit marionette
Rachel - xmas earrings
amy from Lena - bag and clip; Lena from Amy, Mel shower

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Day





Santa came! Great! Though there was the usual non-chimney family's worries about access. Luckily we have a convenient upstairs balcony where we put out the chocolate milk (Amy found out from somewhere that Father Christmas prefers chocolate milk. Good on him) and cookies the kids had baked themselves, and painted with egg yolk and food coloring. Great - that meant I could eat ALL the Christmas cake! Gosh, it took me half a lifetime to acquire the taste, so I'm kind of happy it'll take the rest of them another 10-20 years to acquire it, because in the mean time, I have to make up for the last 20 years that I missed out on.

As usual in our house, Daddy was up first, and we tried to wake the children so he could see what Santa brought, but they were having none of it - we keep them up too late on Christmas Eve. I thought seven was old enough to be up at the crack of dawn toeing the presents at the end of the bed and hearing the wrapping paper crackle...

Father Christmas brought them some very dearly wished-for gifts. The favorite gift has to be the ballet tutus. Amy has been waiting two years for one. They got clothes for themselves, and clothes for their favorite doll, Mell. The clothes were from fairy tales and came with a book. Lena got Little Red Riding Hood, to match her ballet performance, and Amy got Cinderella. Finally they also got two books each, one in English and one in Japanese, since Santa knows they are bilingual. Erica got her very first doll, which is HUGE, and a big green stuffed snake, which she loves, also a tiny rattle that's just perfect for her little hand and a new dress.

Then we had our traditional ham and eggs Christmas breakfast. Or rather, I did, and the kids opted out in favor of cereal. Then we went to church! Yep, we actually went to church. Recently a lady from the Phillipines has been wokring at Youme Town, and she asked if we were going. I had been half-heartedly meaning to go past the church to check the times, but kept forgetting. So I asked her the times, then I had no excuse! There are a lot of catholics in the Phillipines, from the Spanish colonization that preceeded the Japanese WWII take-over that was followed by the American occupation that preceeded independence. Phew! There are some natives in there too I expect!

Anyway, I started my turkey cooking before we left, just like Mum, so it would be smelling delicious when we got back. Then I got to work on my roast dinner. I called Keio just before I started peeling potatoes, to see how many of the staff were coming - I had invited several of the foreign staff over for Christmas lunch. I received the shocking news that Manager had scheduled a meeting! It's bad enough that the poor buggers have to front up to work on Christmas Day, but to add insult to injury by calling pop meetings is just heinous! Not to mention it rather thinned out my planned lunch. So I talked to Manager and asked her if I could have a few staff members, please, as I had already cooked the turkey. Upshot was, Manager came over too, plus two American staff members, one with his Japanese wife who is pregnant. And Rachel, who used to work there and used to teach Lena. Lena loved that!

By this time the kids had been allowed to open up some of their other presents, including the one from Mum and Dad. We got them playmobil. My siblings will remember how many hours of fun we got out of ours. Mum will recall how expensive it is! I got an enormous amount of it second hand, it was being sold in sets, and I got several - I paid $100, but got my money's worth, since each $10 set would have been 40-60 brand new. I got a helicopter, a car, a waterfall, two buffalo, three horses, cowboys and Indians, an enormous pile of hospital gear, a Victorian toilet, a wedding party and a playground. The girls played with it for three days solid until I insisted it be cleaned up so I could vacuum! Lena has coined a new verb, she keeps saying, "Amy, let's play-mobil!".

Manager popped out for a few minutes to get something and I took the chance to open the champagne and slip my co-workers a much-needed drink! Then we put the gingerale bottle on the table. We had roast turkey with stuffing and gravy, roast potato, sweet potato and pumpkin, and peas. For dessert there was pavlova (more like a giant marshmallow than an giant meringue, the pav is still a work-in-progress) and a trifle. There was birthday cake and Christmas cake, which only I ate. And mountains of chocolate.

The guests left, and we opened up the last of our presents, made some phone calls, and spent the rest of day quietly, eating leftovers. The kids preferred left-over curry, which meant all the more turkey for me!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve is considered Christmas in Japan. Some people don't even know that Christmas is on the 25th, they think it's all over by midnight on the 24th! In Japan, it's a romantic date night.

Christmas is also Kanji's birthday. So we have developed our own little Christmas Eve celebration. Kanji's favorite meal is curry, sashimi and beer, so we make that for him, and also make a birthday cake. This year Amy and Lena decided on a heart-shaped pink cake decorated with marbles (which are Japanese smarties/pebbles/M&Ms). Only the red food colouring mixed with the yellow butter to make orange. I bought the cake too, so it wasn't the nicest cake ever, but it was good enough for a happy birthday song and a little party with beer and kid's champagne. Then we settled down to watch Polar Express, a magical little movie that has become an instant Christmas classic.

Finally, bedtime...making sure the stockings and sacks are well-placed, the cookies and chocolate milk are out on the balcony for Santa and his reindeer...and finally, in the wee small hours, Santa comes!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Update

I've been told to update my blog, so here I am. There wasn't really anything going on during the last week, except for Christmas preparations. I have made the hazelnut truffles and Christmas caramels from the small Edmonds Christmas book. The hazelnut truffles have been great fun. First I could find no hazelnut powder or hazelnuts, so they became almond truffles. Then my choc bits for the coating wouldn't melt properly, so I added loads of cream. It still wasn't dipping consistency so I gave up and added walnuts and apricots, and rolled it into a log, which didn't work because it was too runny. It turned into a chocolate splat.



Then I tried a different kind of chocolate to dip the truffles, which worked, but I had a ton leftover. So I cut the chocloate splat into squares, topped each with a now half-set glob of chocolate dip, and decorated it with a piece of apricot and walnut. Still I had chocolate dip/gloop leftover, so I rolled in the extra apricots and walnuts and wrapped it in tin foil to make a chocolate lump. Which I then ate.



By contrast, the caramels were much more successful, except I made the fudge in a non-stick pot, which stuck, leaving bits of non-stick-pot-muck through my caramels. Which I ate.



Now all I have to do is once again try a pavlova, and some lamingtons to bring to a pot-luck party on Sunday. Trifles for Christmas and curry for Kanji's birthday on Monday and roast something on Tuesday. By the time I get to the bottom of the pile and tuck into that second packet of crunchies (the first packet is all eaten already) I will have put on all the pregnancy weight I lost. It's obvious what my New Year's resolution will be.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Festival

Kanji was invited to participate in a festival this year. He's president of his Business Club this year, and was invited by the branch in the town where this festival is held. I don't even know what the festival is called, only that it involved carrying a Mikoshi, or portable shrine, across the river to it's home shrine on the other side.

The men carrying the shrine have to actually go into the water, and it's early winter so it's VERY cold! They are wearing fundoshi, the loincloth that sumo wrestlers wear, along with a cotton coat that I thought would just make them colder once it got wet through

Things kids say

I was taking a little rest, a wee nap, while feeding the baby. Amy walked past and said to me "What are you not looking at?" Apparently she thought I was shutting from my vision the knowledge of whatever mess or mischeif she was getting into!

In the bath, I was rubbing some cream on my tummy that Kanji had brought back as a souvenir for me from Tokyo. Recommended by some of the women in his club (they were all there for a conference) it's supposed to firm your tummy. It's an orange gel and it warms up when you put it on. I'm not inclined to believe that things like this work, it's probably just a coincidence as the tummy firms up naturally in the months after birth. But I was willing to give it a try, his heart's in the right place anyway!

Anyway, there I was rubbing it on, and Lena was questioning me about it. I explained that it was supposed to make my tummy hard, and I wasn't really sure that it would work. So she said, "But tummies aren't supposed to be hard anyway!". You know Lena, you're right! Tummies aren't supposed to be hard! Sometimes it takes a kid to state the obvious.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

phew!

That's the bath - she loved her bath again last night, conveniently forgot the sneezing episode. Nothing seems to fluster this baby, she's one calm kid.

But I have other children, you know, and maybe you'd like to know what going on in their lives. Amy is a proud big sister, and is the best at getting Erica to talk or laugh. She has no shame! And it's funny to hear the kinds of things she says, which are copied off me, you know that dorky stuff you say to babies for lack of anything else to say 'You're a pretty baby, yes you are! what are you doing? Are you talking to Mummy, yes you are you clever little darling!' all said in that high-pitched baby-talk voice. It's the same in Japanese!

She has a big school run tomorrow - can't call it a cross-country, as it's around the city streets! They have been practicing in the grounds at school every day, and so far her asthma seems to be handling it okay. There is so much dust though! The school yard, for those who don't know, has no grass, it's just dirt, turning to a mud-bath on rainy days. She also has a toe-nail coming off, so between the two little problems, I'm a little concerned about the run. I'll go stake out a spot at the half-way point to see her come past, and check that she's okay!

School is going okay. She hates getting so much homework every day and is dying to get back to school in NZ, where there is much less. Not to mention grass! Everyday she has to practice sums, write a page of sums, do some reading and practice writing characters. In addition she has piano practice, and she wants time to play, so we are not getting any time to practice English, except for reading before bedtime. Due to all the classes, long winter baths and baby care, bedtime is getting later and later, which she doesn't like - she's made the connection between how good she feels in the morning and how late she went to bed, and is keen to get to bed earlier! "Let's go to bed at 5 o'clock tonight Mama" she says!

She's keen to start ballet and art again, although I am afraid that she'll just quit again. She's too independent! She likes doing her own thing - the downside to having a creative kid who very happily amuses herself without ever wanting to watch TV. Meanwhile, she's doing swimming and piano. Piano upsets her - she can't do it, and doesn't like to do something she can't excel at straight off. But I want her to persist, because I don't think it's good to only do things that come easily. You have to learn to put some effort in, and it's a much greater reward when you worked hard at something. It's been better though since I stopped interfering and left her and the teacher alone!

Lena is not enjoying Kindy as much as Amy did. She has 'friends', if you can call them that, as they seem to tease her as often as be kind to her. Lately her mood seems to hinge on whether one of them calls her hair-tie or her clothes cute or not. So every day is a battle to get her wearing something she feels will be acceptable to her 'friends'. We all want our kids to be stronge against peer pressue, but I lean towards giving in, as it just seems SOO important to her!

Often they reject her totally, and even tell other girls not to play with her, or you can't be our friend. So Lena plays with the boys. It got bad enough that the teacher called us to kindy to talk about it. Lena got so upset - they told her she had weird, 'different' eyes - she has the most beautiful eyes you can imagine, and she's made to feel ashamed of them! She wanted to change her name, seeming to feel that her name was wrong, or weird too. (It's actually a very common Japanese name). She wanted to change it to 'Ayumi', which is the name of Japan's No.1 pop star, because then everyone would like her. So I'm playing music to her by some pop stars whose Mums are foreigners. There are a few in my Foreign Wives' Club whose daughters have made it in Japan's music industry.

It seems to have settled down for the time being, but then again, she doesn't report to me what happens every day.

She had her ballet concert a few weeks ago. She was Little Red Riding Hood. Once again, they went all out, with professional costumes, lighting, sets, everything but the symphony orchestra! She has started piano, but she is very naughty, and prefers to do silly things like fall off her chair. She loves swimming, but I want her to take a rest for the rest of this month, as it makes her cough worse. I think she has asthma. Two weeks ago after swimming, I could swear I could hear wheezing in her lungs, as she coughed and coughed after her lesson. I have heard that although swimming is good generally for lungs, pool water can aggravate asthma. Also the hot air in there, then the cold air outside wreaks havoc on weak lungs. It seems her cough from a cold way back may have developed into asthma.

I gave her ventolin, and the effect was almost immediate reliefe. I took her to the hospital the next day, and the doctor said she couldn't hear asthma in her lungs, but her lungs still sounded better after the nebulizer. She gave me a short course of antibiotics, plus mucus and cough medicine, as, she said, they don't pass out asthma medication at the first showing. It may just be a bad cough. We are going again on Dec 26, when we will also get their second flu shots. With all this threatened asthma, and a baby in the house, I don't want any flu this season if I can avoid it!

Monday, December 03, 2007

Grab

Erica's amusing all of us with her new grabbing skills, though she still seems blissfully unaware of what she is doing! She's pulled a toy off her activity gym, her sister's hair, my necklace, my glasses off, and her bib off.

She's added 'uuAAuu' to her vocabulary, along with gaa, goo and 'algula'. She was quite proud and excited when she added 'uuAAuu', that 'AA' is the biggest sound she's made so far - I'm sure she felt like she was singing. She loves it when I sing to her. I like 'Hush Little Baby' because it's complicated enough to keep my attention - if you think about it you can go on and on forever. And it's amusing to hear Amy and Lena try to sing it and get all confused!

She's 6.2kg and a little round ball of a baby. I thought she was round when she was born, but looking back at a photo of her held by her Daddy, wearing just a singlet, she was a skinny lean litle bub then compared to now! Round head, round belly, round thighs, even round shoulders. She especially looks like a ball when we are in the bath and I hold her under her shoulders, letting her swim.

She LOVES her bath. Yesterday when I was getting her undressed on the mat outside the bath, she was nearly laughing out loud, and waving her arms around, eyes all big. I hope she still enjoys it today, because she got a tremendous fright last night - when her Daddy sneezed, of all things. He was holding her, and just about to pass her to me, so she was feeling a little uneasy already probably, as he had started to hold her away from his body. Also, I had just overflowed the bath (the joys of Japanese bathing!) with a big whoosh sound. Neither of these things make her cry usually, but the combination plus that sneeze were all too much and she screamed, and we couldn't console her and had to get out of the bath. She was still sobbing and shaking as she fed quarter of an hour later. So we'll see tonight which memory sticks the harder - a big scare or the two weeks of joy that preceded it!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Wedding Anniversary



It was our 8th wedding anniversay today!

Kanji got me flowers and sweets. The flowers are still alive and beautiful (as of the following Monday), the lilies having opened up in the intervening days. They have joined Lena's three bouquets from her ballet concert, and the two little ones Jiichan got for Amy and Lena. After a few days having them in various glasses, I finally caved and went and bought some vases. That didn't stop us spilling them though, most recently yesterday when I managed to knock down three bouquets with the laundry. At least it forces me to change the water.

The sweets were chocolate cakes, which I made into sundaes with banana, vanilla ice cream, walnuts and chocolate sauce on Friday night. Also chestnut whip puddings, which are just lovely and come in little ceramic ramekins, which we get to keep! I have five now, gulp, which means I just HAVE to get one more sweet little chestnut pudding, yum yum.

We took the kids out for dinner. We went to the Grand Hotel, which is the hotel we were married in, when it was called the Sunroute. I had no idea the Grand had such a good western food menu! We chose a set menu for us, and curry for the girls. Entrees were persimmon wrapped in ham, then pates. There was a fish course with salmon and sea bream, and a soup, maybe pumpkin and potato, steak with vegetables and a delicious chocolate self-saucing pudding with vanilla ice cream and chocolate and custard sauces. The pudding turned out to be an under-cooked cupcake! Interesting, easy and delicious - you know how yummy uncooked cake batter is!

Erica came too and was reasonable. It would have been a shambles if I wasn't such a consummate breastfeeder, if I may be allowed to blow my own trumpet. I took her from the restaurant when she first cried, but the lobby was large and decorated with hard materials that just echoed her cry. I had to go all the way to the toilet, which I am usually opposed to, as babies shouldn't be made to eat in there. But hotel toilets in Japan are scrupulously clean, and, like in malls, usually have a second separate room for handbasins, and even a third room with mirrors and chairs. This one had no chairs, so I got her latched on standing up. I was wearing a low-cut sweater over a higher-necked t-shirt, so I was able to do so with very little clothing moved, and when Amy came into the toilet to find me, she had no idea Erica was feeding, so I felt confident enough to walk thus across the foyer and back into the restaurant, where I sat down and resumed my meal, with my left hand, but otherwise in comfort. Kanji didn't even know until later on that she was latched on all that time! Everyone just thought she was asleep in a cradle-hold. She stayed that way through five course, which is why it would have been a shambles if I wasn't able to feed her so comfortably, or, for that matter, if I had chosen different clothes. Ladies - high-cut under-top up, and low-cut over-top down. Got it?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Well, I think I can almost say it without reservation...tempting fate here but...it'll all go to pack next week, or next time she has a growth spurt...but I think I can say she's nearly sleeping through the night! She's taken to having a LOOONG overnight stint, from bedtime at around 9-10, to anytime between 3-5 in the morning. Then she wakes, feeds a bit, wakes again around dawn, when I feed her and she sleeps through the breakfast/school thing.

And she just woke from her nap NOW, so off I go, I know she's really awake cos she farted

edited Wednesday: nope, she woke up at 2am and 4am last night. And I really needed the sleep too! I think I'm coming down with something. Or am I just tired?

Saturday, November 24, 2007



Above and below left, at the rehearsal the day before, with her much prettier un-made-up face, and plain shoes.
Below, Amy came too, and amused Erica!
Below, in full stage make-up, very bizarre close-up, like a drag queen, but it helps their features stand out on stage

L


Far eft, with a couple of other, equally gorgeously costumed little dancers. Left, the bouquets she received for her performance!



Saturday, November 17, 2007

Fun Things About Baby

1) Her smiles. Talking to her. That adorable succession of coos and gurgles as she tries with all her might to communicate with me. It's so exciting to watch her get closer and closer to an out-loud laugh! We are also teaching her to be tickled - squeeze her slightly on the sides of her ribs by her armpits while giggling madly at her. She's slowly catching on! And we're teaching her peek-a-boo (or Japanese inai-inai-ba!).

2) Breastfeeding. I just really enjoy it! I like the chance to sit down and just rest and forget everything and reconnect with the baby. It must be the relaxing hormones, because while when I am walking up and down the room to soothe her crying or get her to sleep, I am constantly noticing the things that need to be done, and disturbing her by picking up laundry or rubbish, plucking things up with my toes, but when I breastfeeding, I just kind of review it all with a resigned, "Ah, well, do that later". I love watching her feed, from the shark-like clamp-on when she's really hungry, the little noises she makes, her hands clutching at the boob or holding onto my finger. Her perfectly peaceful face when she drifts off to sleep with a nipple in her mouth - baby heaven! Eating, sleeping, and getting a cuddle from the person you love the most - All at the same time! And my favorite baby face is the one when she just pops off, clamps her mouth shut, lips all pushed up, a dribble of milk down her chin!

3) Bathtime. I've always enjoyed bathing the baby, it's a highlight of your baby day, getting to see the baby naked! You love ALL your baby, and you miss seeing those adorable little rolls and round tummy when they're hiding in clothes all day. But bathtime has taken on a whole new dimension since I started to go in with her. She's happier, because she feels more secure being held firmly in my arms instead of that awkward balance on two fingers behind the ears. The bath can be longer, because the deep tub doesn't cool as quickly as the small baby bath, a vital factor in an unheated Japanese bathroom in wintertime. And I get to cuddle up to her soft warm body! We're both loving it!



4) Watching her sleep

Friday, November 16, 2007

More of the sweet

I should know not to make any generalizations yet! Her next day after the last post was fussy and she cried quite a bit. The 8pm bedtime was a fluke, it seems, and her real habit is to cry and fuss from 8 to 10 or 11! Last night was another wondeful exception, at least I think it is wise of me to view it as an exception - she slept from around 9pm, to 3am, giving me such a refreshing six-hour sleep that I felt quite awake at 3am and read for a bit before sleeping again. She woke again at 6am, and I felt very energetic and got up, leaving her to sleep in until 8:30 while I cleaned up and got the laundry done.

So life with a little one is slowly getting more sane and predicable. She is pretty easy-going, she loves that activity gym, and will sit quietly in her carseat or daybed. She even goes to sleep by herself sometimes at night, and just with a little rocking during the day. Sometimes she needs to be held, but she knows the score so well now that she drops off after just a few trips up and down the room.

She smiles and coos, even in the bath - I've gotten in the bath with her every night since last Friday's wonderful experience. Now there are no more tears at all at bathtime, unless I put her in the baby bath to soap her up (no suds in the Japanese bath, remember!). And it lasts until well after her bath, so no more tears getting into her towel or getting dressed either. And we love it.

Amy and Lena have gotten in with us too, which they loved. They love her! They rock her to sleep, or shake the rattles on the activity gym. She stares at them, smiles at them and coos and gurgles to them, which melts their hearts of course.

Another photo

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Six Weeks

I'm sure there's an identical photo of Amy somewhere, and Lena too! That activity gym, which she loves to observe, that cushion, Mum's crocheted woolies, which it is finally cold enough to use!

If she looks a little puffy, that's because she has a bit of a cold, but she's getting her 'mama's milk medicine' so she's doing okay.

She is such a treat! She's settling into a very calm and happy baby. She's at her best first thing in the morning, when she grins from ear to ear. She opened her mouth wide in joy this morning, so I don't think it'll be long before she's laughing out loud. She talks and talks! Just coos and gurgles, but it's so purposeful, and she seems so excited to be having a conversation with me!

Last night she skipped the usual unsettled period, and slept soundly from about 8pm (not counting feeding breaks at 10, 2 and 5, but they were short and she went quickly back to sleep). And she chose the perfect night to do that - Amy and Lena were at Baachan's, and Kanji and I cooked ourselves dinner and leisurely ate it with some wine.

I also had my first bath with my precious baby - it was wonderful, it feels just SO good to hold their soft little body in your arms, skin to skin. She stayed in for ages, even let go of her towels, and really relaxed. Kanji managed to squeeze in too! She's in the day bed in the kitchen right now, talking to the ceiling. I might go feed her and see what comes next.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Yuk! Yuk! Yuk!

A centipede crawled across the baby's bed last night. I had just fed her and was ready to put her back in her bed when I saw it. It ran right across where her head had been. Mum will recall the little one I saw from my feeding chair, when we were still sleeping downstairs. I said then that they were coming up through the tatami from the garden, and I would move upstairs when she left to avoid them. So it's rather a blow to encouter one upstairs! And this was after I abandoned the tatami room upstairs, as the crumbly walls were exacerbating my allergies, which are playing up since I have a cold. I have spent the last few nights on the floor in the girls' room! So, I am left with no-where to sleep.

So I gave the room a thorough clean, and sprayed bug spray in every corner. Kanji, who managed to find and kill the creature last night, looked it up on Wikipedia this morning, where it said that the centipede-killing sprays are not very effective, and hazardous to human health. It's best to eliminate its prey - cockroaches and other small insects. I've never seen one before upstairs, so I'm hoping it was a one-off! And luckily I am tired enough to sleep anyway, even though I had to banish horrible images of the room being overrun with centipedes a few times before I slept!

See photo here

Monday, November 05, 2007

Erica comes to life

My squishy newborn is turning into a bouncing cuddly wee baby! I was just holding her here as I read the online news, and I looked down at her to find she was intently studying me, and grinned as soon as I looked at her. She was just waiting for me to talk to her.

She talks - she goes 'goo'. It's so cute! Kanji will be home this afternoon, so I'll try to video it, it's one of those precious things that go so soon, that you forget so quickly!

She turns those big steel-grey eyes and fixes her gaze on me with a look that says, 'You're my Mother' and nothing more. But oh how much that means!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Erica is growing fast! She holds her head up really well, even improving in the few days since Mum left. She likes to lie across my arm or leg on her tummy, gnawing away at whatever her mouth can find, and lifiting her head up to look around the room. She is starting to watch her sisters, and enjoyed watching them dance yesterday. She also likes to look at a painting Lena did, that has sat stuck to the side of the bookshelf for months, neglected and forgotten until Erica found it!

Amy and Lena have become expert cradle rockers. Amy can nearly pick her up, but I'm still a bit unsure about that! Their lives go on of course. Amy had her first field trip last week and Lena had a sports day where she aced the relay -the girl can fly! She is also doing very well with ballet - she is Little Red Riding Hood in the concert, and it sounds like she's getting her steps down very well.

I am managing to get the laundry done! I will go hang some now, but it looks like rain today so it will have to hang on the kitchen window. Typical, Erica wet her bed today! The typhoon passed over, and, alas, didn't ground Grandma and force her to stay in Japan for another week. Now it looks like we have a cold snap coming over, and I need to go bundle up. On the bright side, it is finally cool enough for me to take out some of the beautiful woollens Mum brought for Erica. She will wear a cardigan today!

The bad news is that I have a blocked duct. I think a combination of lying on it to read, then Erica falling alseep after feeding off the other side and it getting engorged caused it. So that's two reasons why Mum's post won't be going today - the other being the fact that our scales died, so I can't be sure of the weight, and the weight is important because there are special discounts avaialble for up-to-1kg and up-to-2kg packages, so I have to be careful to get them exactly one or two kgs!

Erica is sleeping right now, so I'm going to get a cup of tea and have a rest and a sleep and nurse this breast, and hope it doesn't develop into mastitis.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Halloween and no Grandma

Well Grandma left yesterday morning, a very sad day and we all miss her terribly! Poor Amy had a dream that she was gone - then woke up and it was true! Erica did not smile at anyone, and Lena was very sad. I was sad too of course, and we're all counting down until we return to NZ in August next year.

Erica slept most of the day yesterday, although she had a hard time settling in the evening, leaving me walking up and down for about 2 hours until she finally settled at about 10pm. Today she had her unsettled period over lunchtime, while I was hosting a party!

Yes, mad though it may seem, I decided to have a Halloween party! I made a pumpkin pie on Friday, so Mum could try it. I roasted pumpkin (or more acurately, butternut squash) yesterday for the pasta, and started tidying yesterday morning. The girls took care of the decorations. I even got a load of laundry out this morning!

Maia and Emily and Masaki and their Mums came, bringing muffins and drinks and bread rolls to add to our feast. We played 'trick or treat' with Maia's Mum taking care of the front door, Joanne being house No.2 at the living room door and me being house No.3 in the kitchen. Then they just played outside while we talked, I didn't have time to arrange any elaborate games or activities.

Tonight I think we'll have take-aways, and then get to bed early. Erica slept for six hours at night on Thursday and Friday nights, but woke twice again last night. On Friday we took her for her one-month check-up. She's now 5kg, well above average for her age! Big in every direction!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Smile! Smile! Smile!



Yes, our baby is smiling at us! A few days ago, that big-mouth type, the day before yesterday, a wide one, and today, after an unmistakeable grin when I picked her up and talked to her after changing her clothes, she smiled at us several times. Of course, now the challenge is to either video or photograph the little miracle, and what's the bet she thwarts us!


We had her weighed the other day, she's around 4.4kg, and seems to have grown 2cm since birth. She'll be in kindy in no time! Here are some photos

Friday, October 12, 2007

Baby Erica

For obvious reasons I've been rather too busy to keep this updated!

She will wake up any moment so if this post is unexpectedly cut short, you'll know why. In the meantime I'll try to provide a brief update.

She was born, as expected, on September 27. I went from the blog to resting on the sofa with Kanji, and we left for the clinic around 1am. She was born at 2:35am, after a fairly mild labour and a very quick delivery - in fact the nurses held her in so the doctor could get there on time. I didn't like that and fought it, though I tried to hold off pushing a bit when the doctor came. I held myself off the reclined birth chair-bed to push in a more upright position, and I avoided an episiotomy and tearing too!

She was bathed with he Daddy and Grandma watching, and after that she was with me pretty much 24/7 except for her morning baths on the first two days, and a temperature check in the afternoon. I cuddled up with her in bed for hours after the birth, dozing and letting her suckle. She was cold after the bath and they gave me a warm mat to put her on, like a mini electric mattress, which I had in bed beside me, so I could keep her close for body warmth, the most effective way to warm up a wee baby.

The clinic stay was rather long, and fairly relaxing, although the amount of mother and baby health checks all day long prevented me and her from getting any sleep! The meals were superb, and the best thing was my friend Maki gave birth the same day, so I had someone to chat to and ask questions! We came home on the following Tuesday.

I developed a cracked nipple, and decided to use a nipple shield, which did me further damage. After trying to go bare again and suffering excruciating pain, I tried a pump to give it a rest. That worked, although I wish I'd just persisted with the nipple and not tried the shield in the first place! As of yesterday we are back to nature, no extras, which is such a relief, as I seem to have so many more hours in the day when I am not pumping, washing, disinfecting and warming bottles! Time to blog, for example!

She's now two weeks old, and a treasure. She is quiet and contented, and only really lets rip while I am getting her dressed after her bath. She sleeps well at night, wakes around 1 or 2 and again around 3-4, and then sleeps until about 7. She fed all day yesterday, but that doesn't bother me as much as it did with Amy! I know better than to have any expectations of a newborn. And I know that in about five minutes she'll be walking, and tomorrow she'll be starting kindy....so I get as many cuddles of my newborn as I can while she'll still this tiny, floppy, velvetly soft, milky-smelling and endlessly cuddle-able creature!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Birthing Time Has Begun

It's 10:40, Mum's asleep, and I think I'll leave her like that for now! Kanji finished work at 10 but is not home yet, so I am alone right now, being very quiet and relaxed, waiting for things to pick up. I've been having hard BH contractions all day, although that didn't stop me going shopping! We thought it was better I should keep moving.

I started to feel hormonal late in the afternoon, a bit moody. But it wasn't really until I put the girls to bed that I really felt it had started, because the hard tummy finally coincided with the back pains! I came back downstairs and had a nice long bath, and I have just finished doing a couple of puzzles. To those in the know, I had a bit of 'show' and the easiest visit to the toilet in months, if you know what I mean....that's a sign, they say!

I thought since I had a few moments I could do a little update, let you know how things are going. I might sit on my birth ball in a minute and listen to a relaxation recording on my iPod. Or lie down and sleep until Kanji gets home. And he's home! I'll let him eat dinner and we'll probably be off to the clinic soon! Wish me luck!

So it looks like she's going to be born on Corbyn's birthday!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Mum in Japan

Mum got here finally, after a long tiring flight and a major drama at Auckland airport when she lost her passport! It slipped out of its cover when she was shopping, and she nearly missed her flight. Luckily it was found in time!
Kanji went alone to the airport to pick her up, and they arrived back here by 11am. We had her favorite champon noodles for lunch, went to the park and then came home so she could put her feet up for a few hours, since she'd blown up like a balloon after all that flying and stress! We went out again in the evening with Kanji's mum to a barbecue restaurant, followed by green tea and ice cream at Baachan's.


Yesterday the kids were off from school for a public holiday, so we decided to go on a picnic. We spent the morning shopping - the most unproductive shopping trip I think I've been on, since we didn't get even one of the half dozen or so items we needed. We did, however, get tons of other stuff we don't need.

We came home and cooked a bacon and egg pie and made some sandwiches, then went up the mountain for the picnic. It was much cooler up there, with a nice breeze which made it much more like a NZ summer. It was very hot on Sunday, over 30 degrees, so Mum was really feeling it. Luckily just after our picnic finished, a thunder storm came over, so last night and this morning are much cooler.


Mum cooked a delicious chicken salad - a little different from the NZ version, I gather, since we could not get red wine vinegar or smoked chicken, but delicoius all the same. Today we are going to try to do the shopping again, and I hope we can make it to the onsen this afternoon!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Nearly Here!

Speaking of baby and mother, that is.

I had a bit of a worry last night when I got a sore tummy. But it wasn't a pain in my back, which is where my other labours were. I got a tummy rub (at one stage all three of them were rubbing me!) and lay down and then had a bath and felt all better again. No more painful contractions, but lots of painless ones.

I called Mum last night to see how the packing was going, and convinced her to swap a cardy for a sarong and a couple more t-shirts! I know how hard it is to imagine how hot/cold you are going to be when the real temperature around you keeps interfering, and I could tell the cold winter was making Mum worry about being too cold here!

But it really is still stiflingly hot here, though I had thought it would have cooled down a bit by the time she got here. But I spent yesterday morning outside at the 'Mini Sports Day' (regular school day full dress rehearsal for the real deal School Sports Day next Sunday) and that got me thinking about how hot it still is, and what a shock poor Mum is going to get, because it's still hotter than a NZ summer. I informed her that is has cooled down just enough that I now need - sometimes - to put a sheet on at night. And I don't need to put the air conditioner on until nearly lunchtime, as opposed to around 9-10am. I usually change my clothes at least once a day (making three changes counting pyjamas) just because I get so sweaty.

Kanji is all set to go pick up Mum. Mum was a little worried about what would happen if I went into labour while he is gone, and it is a concern. I asked Kanji and the only answer he had was to pray! Okay, so I'm not allowed to start until lunchtime tomorrow. I think I can hold on that long. The contractions continue, but my dilation hasn't changed at all. I think it's rather silly checking actually, since it means absolutely nothing.

I wasn't too pleased with the clinic visit this morning. I got a very sore back lying flat on my back for the non-stress test, a situation that was not helped by my believing such tests to be mostly unecessary and pretty useless. After all, it only tells me how she's going for that particular half and hour, and I don't usually lie on my back, so it's all wrong anyway. It's not so easy to endure discomfort and pain if you don't believe it's necessary. I hope they are lenient with the goddam monitor during labour! I know from experience just how much less it hurts to simply sit upright or lie on your side.

The other thing was, the doctor started to tell Kanji about how long they'd let me wait to go into labour naturally - while I was in the next room getting ready for the (useless) dialtion check, no less. Lucky I heard through the door. Medical personnel ALWAYS do this to us, and I have come to prefer not to have Kanji there, so that they will make an effort to communicate with me. Usually the doctors, although shy of using English, do know the technical terms, and are much better than Kanji at explaining things to me - he not only just nods and agrees whether he understood or not, he then forgets half of what they said. This is not a good way for me to get information about my health! Not to mention he is unlikely to - god forbid - ask questions or disagree.

So I had him promise that 'on the day' he would ask them to direct their questions, explanations etc, to me. He's quite happy to do that! He knows he can't relay it all to me in either language, and I think it makes him extremely nervous when they do start telling him stuff, as he knows he's going to get questioned intensively by me later on!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Still here

I'm feeling very relaxed and not too tired today, enough energy to do a few light jobs, sort through some papers, get some last minute baby things organized. Maybe because the kids stayed with their grandparents last night, making for a very quiet and gentle morning here! Today is a public holiday in Japan, so no school. No school means no getting up to make lunch and rally the children to get ready on time - but also means a constant battle to keep the place relatively tidy!

The baby has no bed yet! We'll probably just sleep downstairs on the floor, and I have a daybed, but I just set it up, and it doesn't look too secure. I have one I can borrow off a friend if need be, or get a Moses basket. And I've just embarked on getting the carseat organized. Last night when we dropped the kids off I remembered about the baby carseat - it's been waiting upstairs at Kanji's parents' house since we came back from New Zealand when Lena was one! So it needs a bit of a clean. The cover is now soaking in the very last bit of Napisan and the shell is waiting in the kitchen for me to get around to scrubbing it.

I also finally got around to buying some nappies yesterday, and some baby soap. And I finished packing my hospital bag. So I guess I'm all set. Hurry up Mum!

But for now, I'm probably going to search for a nice photo of me for facebook and send off a few more emails.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Any Day Now...

The race is on to see if my Mother or my daughter get here sooner!

I'm a few cm dilated, and having strong braxton hicks contractions constantly. I'm suddenly ravenously hungry, while at the same time unable to produce more than a tablespoon in the lavatory, which means the baby's head is engaging. I'm exhausted and all the last-minute 'I wanna just do this' things have all been sidelined. NOW, if I suddently start cleaning things, you have my permission to call it nesting.

Friday, September 14, 2007

sick, sick, sick

Amy's turn. She over there on the sofa today, moaning away. She is having trouble breathing and has a sore throat, so I will probably take her back to the hospital. I have to decide soon, as I have to be there before 11am to get an appointment.

I finally figured out the system. I have to go to get an appointment before 11am. That means bringing the kid then and seeing the doctor then, NOT making a booking for later on. So I decided yesterday that I just had to see the doctor we had been seeing before, so I went at 10:30 to make an appointment, after doing several other jobs, but realized finally that I should have brought Amy with me to see him now. So I rushed back to school, parked by the entrance nearest her classroom - only to find that they were in the hall at the other end of the school! Raced down there, fetched her, then back to the hospital where I had to park miles from where I wanted to go, of course, raced back in and got to see the doctor.

And completely exhausted myself. I spent the time in the waiting room wondering if my waters were going to break, because I kept on having Braxton Hicks contractions. I took Amy back to school, did one more important job and was almost in tears as I drove home because I was SO exhausted! I rushed inside, drank half a litre of water (I realized as I ran around doing my errands that I had had nothing to drink all day, and only about 1/4 of a cup of cereal, since we had run out of milk) and scoffed about 8 pieces of chocolate for quick energy replenishment!

Kanji was busy getting his licence renewed, and couldn't pick up Lena so I had to do that too! But once she was home, it was over for me - I had a TWO HOUR nap, waking briefly only when Amy came home.

I feel a bit more normal today, and a more determined to take it easy. We may have to go back to the hospital - she's still heaving and moaning over there - but I won't be rushing anywhere. I have to go to the clinic this afternoon anyway, so we'll see if those braxton hicks contractions are doing anything!

Gotta go, her breathing just gets worse!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


Above: Baby's face. I know people find it a bit hard to see at first, but once you can see it, it really pops out at you! The whitest part is her forehead above her left eye. The eyes are closed, the dark curve beneath the whitest part is her closed left eye. You can see the nose to the left of that, and just a hint of a mouth at the bottom, approximately in a line with the red dateline. This one is self-explanatory! See how nice that new nursing bra set is! Only I forgot to clean the mirror first...might have another try nearer the time with the red set.
Another face shot, this time in profile. She is facing the left. The tip of her nose is approximately parallel to the '20' of 2007, a rounded cheek to the right of that, and the black line above is her closed eye.

......


Lena's off kindy sick today, she's finished watching Harry Potter and is just starting to get bored, she's taken the box of cards out of the toy closet, and is sitting there humming a song and sorting through the Charades cards. She's still in her pyjamas, because she thinks they look cute. She's wearing long-sleeve pyjamas again after a long hot summer.

It's finally cooled off a bit, enough to require some covering at night anyway. It's 11:25am at the moment and the air conditioner is on. I've totally finished work. It's strange but relaxing to have no set schedule. I'm giving myself lists of things to do...I have to finish marking some tests today, clean the bathroom (hands and knees is actually quite a comfortable position!), visit the 100yen shop, clean up at least one of the shelves in here and repair some broken things.

Two weeks to go! I can get tons of things done in two weeks, I suppose, but I'm still not calling it nesting, because I'm not restless, I'm feeling quite lazy, and I might just go have a wee nap after lunch!

Amy is not too well either, although she went to school. I should have taken her back to the city hospital where she was being seen, but I didn't want to brave the red tape and fight staff who seem to make it their goal in life to make things as difficult as possible. But we took her to the pediatrician, but he was away and we got the spare, who is a bit of a doofus, and just gave us ten days of cough meds. Well, if all this practice for the school sports day gets her asthma really bad again, I guess I'll just have to brave the city hospital's wacky way of organizing things!

Monday, September 03, 2007

baby news

Well, I'm onto weekly clinic visits, so I guess I'm on the home stretch! Born this month! Luckily I'm getting so huge and heavy that I'm looking more and more forward to getting it out of me! I'm doing okay still so far, but I can see myself getting to the end of my tether very soon.

So I'm having a weekly ultrasound and here are the latest pictures, which are very good. She looks like her sisters. She doesn't look quite real to me though, the wriggling thing in my tummy is the real thing. I can make out a bony bottom, I tickle her feet, her head squishes my bladder, I think I felt hands fluttering in there the other day. I am also having non-stress tests, which I think are rather a waste of time, but they don't hurt so I go along and practice hypnosis. Next visit is Saturday, and I will be getting my information for check-in then. Which means I have to bring up my birth plan again. With the size of this baby I am getting worried about the episiotomy again, and I started worrying about them putting the baby in the incubator for this or that flimsy reason, and can I veto that, and will Kanji side with them or with me?

The doc is estimating 3.6kg, which sounds very big to him but not so big to me. I have to keep reassuring him that a big girl like me can fit out a big baby like that! I don't have a Japanese lady's bottom! Ultrasound assessments can be out half a kilo either way though. But it feels big to me too - my guess was 3.7. Kanji is going for 3.6, born Sep 23. Hurry up Mum!

I'm still sleeping, but less well. My sink-in-the-middle bed is quite convenient because when I lie on a flat surface the heavy tummy sinks to the ground, and pulls on the muscles on the other side. So when I am on the bed, the slight angle gives my tummy somewhere to rest. I remember laughing at Becky for stealing airline pillows - who on earth would want an airline pillow! But guess what, that airline pillow has come in very handy for propping up my tummy when I lie down on the futon.

So on my bed, I have five pillows and only one for my head, the others are piled up on either side of me so when my hips start to hurt on one side, I can just roll over and throw my leg over the other pile of pillows and not have to move them. There's no room for Kanji of course, although I supposed I could throw a leg over him.

During the day I am getting more tired. This morning the girls started school/kindy again after the summer holiday, and I tried doing what I normally do and spend the time between waking up and them leaving cleaning, but I had to take a break when I got a painful braxton hicks contraction! I had to have a wee rest on the sofa. Almost every place to sit in the house is less than ideal, including my computer chair, the kitchen table, even the sofa! The best place to sit is actually my car seat!

But I am getting things done, bit by bit. I have about half the shed finished. I piled up Kanji's books today for him to go through. And next on my agenda is cleaning up the pool. I might call Erin to come over and help me. The girls are finishing school/kindy early today, then Lena's friend comes to play, then swimming lessons, and finally a lesson at 8pm! I have four more lessons this week then it's all over. I'll be keeping busy tidying the kitchen. Don't tell me I'm nesting, because I've been nesting since January.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Birthday

I had my first birthday party on Saturday the 26th. After seven years of cooking my own birthday dinner and having to do tons of cleaning because the kids were too young/Kanji was at work or unable to cook, I finally got a 'birthday dinner' presented to me. I was so excited, so touched!

Kanji has been cooking a lot over the last year, so he finally felt confident enough to do it, although it was things he could cook, rather than my old favorites! We had cold noodles, fried chicken, salad made by Amy and Lena's favorite miso soup with potatoes in it. And then cake! The girls LOVE looking through the decoration cake books. They have their next cake planned up to a year in advance. So they wanted to make me one, which means me making it. I usually do, for the 'practice' (yeah right!). But this time, Amy wanted it to be a surprise cake. I figured out a way to do it - I baked a chocolate cake, whipped up some icing and left the three of them in the kitchen with a bunch of lollies they bought.

They fought over which cake to make, so Kanji decided to make three! I wondered why he ran out of icing, but he had sliced the top of the cake off to make two, then divided one into a moon from him, and a butterfly from Lena. Amy decorated the other circle, writing Happy Birthday on the cake.

They got me presents - some very pretty candles for the table, Amy chose pearl earrings and Lena a garnet flower necklace. Kanji got me a book! He got himself a matching one in Japanese, they are books about Birthday personality. I'll be looking you all up sooner or later!

Birthday part two was on the actualy day. I opened my cards and presents - thank you all! Mum got me two cards in the end (there was a card in with the case, Mum!) and a credit card case. It's beautiful with a washy blue ground and a diamante dragonfly, which is a symbol of summer in Japan. Everyone I've showed it to loves it, it really suits Japanese taste. Mum also got the kids a book each, and a message card each, which I put in my card case. I got a book from Maria, which I am a third the way through, emails from Chris and Pete and Jo, and a rimu key holder and newsy letter with photos from Becky, and a card from Chris. All in all I had a lovely morning opening my pressies. I bought myself a new camera.

In the afternoon it was back to the kitchen, as I attempted a pav. I failed. I did manage to make weiner schnitzel, even if I had to slice it myself. So we had stuffed potatoes, schnitzel, peas and gravy, all a bit hot for mid-summer!

And my third birthday was on the next Saturday, when I took myself and the girls to go see Mamma Mia! More about that another day

Monday, August 20, 2007

Another trip to Oita

After our failure to see the body exhibition last time we went to Oita, we had another go today. It was definitely open - and crowded! A Saturday in the school holidays, one day before the exhibition closed! There were so many people there the air conditioning was stretched to breaking point and it was getting hot in there.

Photos here if you want to check it out. Here is a link to the original German process. The one we saw was not the original, and the specimens were all obviously Japanese.

I was actually rather grossed out (sensitive pregnancy hormones?) and felt like I was just gawking at dead bodies. It all seemed so unecessary - Gray's Anatomy (the famous book, not the TV series) does a better job of describing and picturing anatomy in a way to make us understand our bodies. Plus most of the specimens were clearly elderly with wasted muscles and enalrged bones from arthritis. The organs were beige/grey and shrivelled. And only one female, whose bits ended up in different rooms. Not exactly enlightening. As they say in the Wikipedia article, a computer simulations, with colour and zoom capacity and motion would be far more effective.

In the end, what the kids enjoyed the most was the visit to the beach on the way home! Amy has a ton of summer homework, including drawing pictures and writing a little bit about some of the things she did. Her picture from this day included no plastinated dead bodies - but a picture of her snorkelling in the water, seeing jellyfish, and then seeing another one in the sand, which she poked and prodded in her own little science experiment that she clearly found much more memorable.

Lena has finally made peace with deep water, and was thrilled to go up to her neck. She loved to swim alongside me and we both glided over the sand in the shallow water, ostensibly looking for fish, but mostly looking at each other. She was so cute in her fish-shaped goggles, learning all the things her body can do in the water and calling on me to 'be watching' every few minutes. Amy followed her own course with the snorkel while me and Lena had goggles. Of course, Amy kept finding all the good stuff, and we had to keep going back to where she was to marvel at the latest discovery - mysetrious mounds of sand like spaghetti (perhaps deposited by something burying a hole in the sand?), mudskippers, jellyfish, the occasional big fish, shells and stones. Amy wished we had brought a net and bucket. Maybe next time.

I can't believe how much more FUN we had without the ubiquitous flotation devices. Safety-conscious Japanese have a bit of a mania for them. One kid, swimming in foot-high, clear, calm water, was wearing a life-jacket as well as his ring. But, remembering the lilo scares of my childhood (and distant memories of Jaws?) I am convinced it's safer without them, because the kids will not go out of their depth and are forced to practice breath-holding, balance, swimming and other skills. It was incredible to watch Lena's latent water-baby emerge.

Camping

We were intending to have a slow Sunday after our big day out Saturday, but Kanji told us on Saturday night that we were invited to a family camp at the lake nearby. We decided to go.

It's the same place we've been for the last two years with Lena's kindy group. Not really camping, but staying in a bungalow and having a barbecue. There were five families and a total of twelve pre-teen children. After a brief thunderstorm threatened to ruin our fun, we arrived at about 4pm. One Dad had already started the dinner. Instead of the ubiquitous yakiniku (thin slices of beef and pork dipped in sauce) he had a dutch oven and made a kind of casserole out of onions, potatoes and chicken, all pre-fried, then left to simmer in the oven. The potatoes were especially delicious! So nice to have a BBQ in Japan with no rice anywhere!

That Dad was a sweet-shop owner, so we were treated to some yummy cakes too. One other couple ran a sushi shop, so we got some excellent sushi. One other was a generic 'salaryman' (never did find out what kind, though he is in Kanji's young businessmens' club, so I guess he's a business owner of some sort). And finally our hairdresser and his wife and kids, who I used to teach.

The children of course just ran around and played games of their own devising while the parents ignored them and drank beer. I found some 0.1 alcohol beer, so I got to enjoy the taste of a nice cool beer on a hot summer afternoon, even if I was left just feeling tired. I chatted with the Mums, one of whom I knew quite well, the other a little bit. She, the mother of four, assured us all that the third and especially the fourth child were easy compared to one or two! That matches my theory, which is that two is easier than one. Mothers of one seem to be the busiest! Maybe because while the first one changes your life, subsequent babies just slot in. Plus they play with each other.

So the night wore on, chatting and drinking, with a brief interlude for fireworks. Getting the kids to sleep was every bit as hard as you can imagine! We did leave them until about 10:30, when the older, and more sensible ones were wanting to go to bed (Amy included - she knows her bedtime and pretty much likes to stick to it - she beats me to suggesting that we should have an early night tonight! But she was happy to stay up late playing). I had to lay with them and literally teach them how to select what noises, etc to respond to. "Keep your eyes closed...that's just the toilet door...ignore that...don't sit up every time someone comes into the room..." Of course, most adults can't get to sleep in those conditions, so you can't really expect kids to. Finally they went to sleep, the grown-ups continuted to drink, and me? I went home! It's only a 15 minute drive, and with my hips playing up lately, and the fear of being kicked, there was no way I was going to sleep in the middle of that melange of bodies!

I returned in the morning. Lena had slept through, Amy had woken several times though. Aparently one mother slept in her car, and three Dads where they were on the chairs around the barbecue, including ours.

The plan for the day was to go swimming in a river. I really wanted to go, because swimming just feels lovely, my body feels so light. And it's so refreshing. But it was a very long way, and we didn't leave until about 10. Kanji had to go to work, so we were on our own. The place was quite far, and was a shallow swimming hole by a concrete bridge and roadway. All the kids went in of course, but I was the only adult to brave it in my togs! I think everyone was more worried about me than the kids! It was a bit slippery, but I found sand paths between the rocks that were not.

We weren't there for long though when I dropped my camera in the water. It's sitting in front of me now, two days later, still refusing to move. I think it's dead. So guess what I'll be buying myself for my birthday this year? Hopefully the photos are okay - I have retreived the chip. Then I slipped, but saved myself. Then a thunderstorm started, just as the guys were firing up the barbie again. Since we were exposed, and the road in was very steep and dangerous when wet, we all quickly packed up and left!

We decided to have the barbecue back in town. I should have gone home at this point, but I thought Kanji might be able to make it for lunch, so I stayed. However he never did, and we ended up there until 4pm. 24hours was enough! We went home, then went out for ice cream and to the onsen to wind down before coming home and going straight to bed!

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Typhoon coming

And all that means this time is ballet is cancelled, cleaning out the shed has been postponed - again - and my intention to get some baby things washed thwarted.

Well, the typhoon hurried Kanji up anyway! I have been out there twice in the last few days tossing unwanted items out onto the path - where they are now a typhoon hazard. He's out there now transfering them to the car to take them to the rubbish centre.

And now I should really start dinner - we're having Spam. Kanji brought it back from Okinawa last time he went, but neither of us has eaten it before, so I looked up a few recipes, and I will be making a small spam and pasta salad, and spam and cheese sandwiches on rye bread. Then it's an early night I guess! Once more the 'typhoon' is so far just cloudy skies and a few drops of rain. A welcome respite from the nasty heat, which has drained me of all energy. Time is crawling. When the kids get home from Keio summer school, we'll go upstairs and clean their desks.

Once that damn shed is done, and I have transferred a few things from their room and the spare room into it, I'll be pretty much done! I can get onto more relaxing things, like sorting photographs, which I can at least do from the comfort of an air conditioned room.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Venetian art

I took the kids to Oita today to visit the art gallery and see some Venetian Renaissance and Baroque art. No Titian or Bellini, but there were several Giorgiones and Tiepolos. The girls really enjoyed it - Lena loved having found someone who can draw better than Amy and rubbed that in! The plethora of questions needing to be answered was mindboggling! The Bible stories, mythology, European history, religious practices, clothing, techniques!

We had lunch at the kids favorite, Joyfull, then went to go to an exhibition on the human body, which was closed. So we went instead to the ruins of Oita castle, and walked around the perimeter, hoping one or another of the guard towers would be open. None were. A bit of a non-event, but the girls had great fun pretending to be ninjas. Not that you can hide too well wearing white coordinated sparkly Pumpkin Patch skirts and blouses.

After that I promised to take them to a pirate ship I was sure I had seen on the coast, but I couldn't find it, so we made a brief impromptu visit to a beach. Again those sparkly white pumpkin patch outfits weren't exactly suitable, but we all tucked our skirts into our knickers and went wading. Their joy and glee was uncontainable, I haven't seen them bounce so much for ages! We must go to the beach again.

We finished the day with ice cream, of course, and came home to collapse into bed. I hadn't intended to walk so far - the castle and beach were unplanned - so I had a bit of a sore tummy, which Kanji graciously rubbed for me. Next time I will check the holidays of the exhibitions I go to see!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

HOT HOT HOT!!!!!

God it's hot. We're in the first real heat wave of summer and it's a killer! We had such a hard time getting to sleep on Thursday night! We forgot to turn on the air conditioner, but even with all the windows open, we were just dripping sweat. We ended up getting up to clean the air conditioner's filter because it just didn't seem to be working. Friday night was better, but we still needed the fan and the air conditioner, and although we turned the air con off, we kept the fan on all night. Only last night was endurable, and I finally got a good night's sleep. Naturally carrying my own little hot water bottle doesn't help, nor does it help to have the positions I can sleep in limited. I need to keep a pillow between my legs to stop my hips aching, but it gets so hot!

We stayed at home today, but it's Gion Festival weekend, so the fun came to us - six of the floats stopped near our house for dancing. They leave from the shrine in the morning, stop at Youme Town for lunch, go towards the main street in the afternoon, then back to the shrine after dinner. We just have the good forutune to be on the morning route.

We also went last night to the main street to watch the street dancing and procession of the floats. Heaps of people go at that time, so there's a real festival atmosphere, festival foods and always, somewhere, someone we know to talk to. We got back at around 9 to a room that someone - Kanji - remembered to leave the air conditioner on, so we easily got to sleep! Reminds me, I must go up there now and turn it on for tonight.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Summer Holiday

Cicadas screeching in the garden...summer fruits...fan whirring in the living room...

It's summer and the holidays have begun. They get a full five weeks this year, which some parents are grumbling about but I think is marvelous. We have a very full schedule. Lena has summer school at Keio Academy this week, and they both have summer school there next week. Today Amy and I are going to make soap at the community centre. Tomorrow morning we have an English lesson with a Mum from Amy's class, so the boy is coming too, and Amy likes to teach him. She even gave him homework! Friday I think we're free, except for Summer School and work, that is. Saturday we have a birthday party to go to, and Sunday there is a beach-combing event on. Monday I plan to go to Oita to go to a couple of exhibitions, and maybe some shopping if I have any money left! Oh, and Thursday night I am going to watch the new Harry Potter movie. I am half way through the book.

Amy received a ridiculous amount of homework for the holidays, which upset me a bit because I planned to use the time to concentrate on English. Right now they are practicing English. They like doing their workbooks. We get up at 6:45, get dressed and go to 'rajio taiso' - we stand in a circle with the other members of the 'kodomo kai' group who get together to walk to school, and do some simple exercises to a song. We come back home, eat breakfast, then settle down to do some homework.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

An Incredible Dessert

It's called Banoffee, which is 'banana' and 'toffee' mixed up.

The amazing thing about it is how you get the toffee. You cook an unopened can of condensed milk in a pot of boiling water for two and half hours! It takes a bit of forward planning because you then have to cool the can for SIX hours until you can open it.

The rest is dead simple! Make a biscuit crust, spread the now-caramelized condensed milk on the biscuit base, layer heaps of sliced bananas on top of that (we used 7, but even more bananas would be nice, don't beafraid to go up to 10 or so) and then whipped cream and shaved chocolate.

It's wickedly sweet and wonderful
Worst Mother Award!

Or, Damned Schools!

In an incredible thirty minutes yesterday afternoon, I learned that my precious child has viral warts, worms and nits. Which is, of course, why I have subtitled this blog Damned Schools! There is a chance I picked up the nits in one the schools I teach at though.

But what a nasty thirty minutes! First Amy told me that the school nurse had caught a bug in her hair and showed the teacher it on a piece of paper. Amy had found a bug in her own hair on Sunday, but since she had spent the afternoon outside chasing grasshoppers I assumed it was a bug bug. Horrified, I asked to see her school notices, since I was sure there would be something about it there if it was nits. And she showed me a health check sheet which said there were some worms!

Lena's friend Maia's Mum was there all along - she's a doctor and helped me read the notice. She was the one who confirmed that the pimply thing on Amy's arm was indeed a 'mizu ibo', a kind of wart that can spread. Any one of these things could keep Amy from the pool that she so loves, so we had to deal with them!

First up was the nits - Kanji got the message from the school, and picked up the special pesticide shampoo. We all used it - I finally realized that I was not getting heat rash or a dandruff relapse but I probably had nits too, gross! Then the comb, then the hair dryer. I washed every towel, sheet and blanket in the house, what a job! Especially since it's raining cats and dogs so I had to take them to the laundromat to dry.

Today we visited the dermatologist, who gave us anesthetic tape to put over the warts in preparation to having them removed sometime later in the week. I haven't even thought what to do about the worms! Guess we'd better visit the pediatrician too. And we've only just finished Lena's dental treatment! Gosh, you just can't stay away from the doctor's when you have kids! After all this, my visit to the OB next week will be a pleasure!

Friday, July 06, 2007

Doula

Well you wouldn't believe it, but I have a doula! A doula is "a woman experienced in childbirth who provides continuous physical, emotional, and informational support to the mother before, during and just after childbirth. We don't have them in NZ because so many women use a midwife, so they're not really necessary. And I never thought I would have one here, but then one just turned up out of the blue!

Erin is from Canada, and is working at Keio. We teach the technical college classes together on Thursday and Friday. She started in April, and soon after learning I am expecting, told me she had been a doula. At one stage she had started to study towards becoming a midwife, but found the hours a killer! So she has assisted at half a dozen births. Not quite the 1000 or so my NZ midwife Chris has clocked up over her long career, but still, suddenly coming across someone who is on the same page, in the same language, was quite an unexpected bonus. Wasn't I commenting recently on the unexpected things fate throws in your path?

So I asked her to 'be my doula' - just to have someone to talk to and prepare with. Several months ago, I bought a Hypnobabies course. That's a birthing method using self-hypnosis so reduce or manage the pain. They claim that with the right method, you can even achieve a pain-free birth! I'm not putting all my eggs in that basket, though, and I don't really care - I've coped before, it's nasty but it's over soon! But since I used deep-relaxation techniques to get through the first two, including dozing during the middle of Lena's labour, I figured I might be able to make this work. I was not, however, getting around to even opening the folder, let alone listening to the self-hypnosis CDs, hence the doula!

She came around last night for our first session. We talked through the information in the First Class - mostly about the theory of hypnosis, vouching that it works, that anyone can do it, and an overview of the fear-tension-pain cycle (tensing up makes pain worse, and giving in to the fear produces adrenaline, which can slow labour). Then we listened to the first two hypnosis sessions, the first one about creating a Special Safe Place in your mind. I was just going to listen and not do it, but it got into me - I haven't relaxed that much for ages! It worked.

Unfortunately, the second part, about Painfre Childbirth, kept getting stuck and jumping back at the 7minute part! I will sort that out tomorrow, because I am due to listen to the Special Place session again today. I have to alternately listen to each one every day! That's going to the be the hard part, although I'm not really starved for time - I have every morning or every afternoon. I've decided on 9am as a good time, after breakfast so I am not worried about my rumbly tummy.

Well, who can say if it's going to work, or if I am going to keep it up. The baby comes out anyway, no matter what you do! But if it can help me relax, and help me get over my fears about giving birth in Japan, then it was worth the money (only $30, as I got it second hand!)

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

My expanding belly

I've decided I'm good at being pregnant. It's all the practice. It's just so much easier this time. I worry less about things. I know what to expect and what I need to do to stay healthy. I'm still eating well, although my sweet tooth is back with a vengeance, trying to make up for the last six months. I found a Bounty under Amy's desk on Monday! Must have fallen out of Jo's or Bec's bag. What a bonus! I stashed it in the fridge to chill and ate for lunch yesterday. YUMM!

Baby is kicking like a trooper, she tends to beat me up when I sit a bit slumped. I don't know if that's because she's getting squashed, or because I can just feel it better when everything is jammed together. She still goes miraculously quiet whenever her Daddy tries to cop a kick in the face!

I am still sleeping well, and grateful for every moment. That's my No.1 reason why I think this pregnancy is easier - I know it's going to get worse, get more uncomfortable, heavier, harder to move, harder to sleep, so I appreciate every realtively easier moment. Hopefully this attitude will last right until the very end - even big as a house, it's easier to cart them around when they are still inside. I appreciated popping into a store yesterday on the way home from work - I know what a chore that is when you have to strap a baby in and out of a car-seat, cope with sudden tears, and negotiate around nap times to get to a shop!

My back is still okay, better than before I was pregnant when I was slack about my sleeping position. I am diligent about sleeping with my back straight, and stuffing pillows between my legs to ease the strain on my pelvis and hips. I find two fat pillows elevating knee above the level of my hip prevents the hip from getting too sore. I am alternating sleeping on the floor and on the bed. My hips have a better time on the bed, my back fares better on the floor! I am having to wake up for one toilet trip, alas, the toilet-free nights seem to be over. Baby chooses this time to practice ballet. The heat also sometimes keeps me awake, but overall things are going well.

I still haven't put on much weight, so I'm not feeling particularly more heavy overall, but I am feeling the weight in a different place. I sit, stand, and work quite comfortably still, although I have to be careful not to overdo it - standing in the station on Sunday talking to the festival organizers, I started to feel ill and faint and had to go to the waiting room to recover. I am a little worried about a school tour my students are taking me on next week, but hopefully there will be ample chance to sit down in the rooms they take me to.

And here is the child herself! Not as good as last month's effort. No nose last month, this month a pig's nose! The next picture is hard to work out, it's a profile, showing the right side of her face, her chin at the bottom - Amy's chin! A button nose (not a pig's, thank god). And no head, but that's the limitations of the technology, not the baby's problem. I think they get the image by rounding out the conventional ultrasound image, not by taking a new image.

A Day in the Life

The alarm goes at six, although I'm often awake before it. But I'm still a slug-a-bed at heart and sometimes the snooze button is put to good use! We all get up at the same time, usually early-bird Amy is the first up, with Daddy, while the lazy ones, me and Lena, sleep on!

From the time I get up until the kids leave for school, and sometimes until quite some time after they're gone, I clean up the living room and kitchen and do laundry. I'm getting fat-bellied and heavy so I often do the laundry now sitting on the computer chair, watching CNN. I can grab the clothes off the mini coat-hanger clothes-lines, fold them and put them on the low table without having to move much.

After that first bit of work is done I write in my blog, check the email and write email, and read the online news (Stuff) and have a cup of tea and some breakfast. I don't usually work until the afternoon, so I schedule some things to do for myself in the morning.

Today I plan to work upstairs between 9 and 10, organizing the tatami bedroom a bit. Yesterday I bagged the winter bedding in vacuum bags, but I have to wait until Kanji has a few spare moments to get the bags into the closet. A lot has to wait until Kanji has a spare moment! The Spare Room waits until the Shed is done, and as Bec can vouch, the Shed is a shambles. Most of it is still full of the junk the prior owners left, with our stuff piled precariously in a heap at the door. I need Kanji to help me move our stuff, so we can toss out their stuff, and finally get our stuff along the walls. Then I will move the old carpet in there, the spare room wardrobe, and the round table, heaters, spare clothes and a few boxes of toys that will probaby become really exciting again once they move position.

THEN I'll be able to move my trade-me flea-market things to the spare room, and have a fairly clear tatami room! But for today, it's a just a bit of re-arranging piles, cleaning up, and starting to pull down the baby things to see what I have and what I need. I'll be able to go through the clothes soon now that the baby is 'probably' a girl. Every month she gets more probably a girl!

At 10 I have scheduled a break! I have a long day today and I don't want to get exhausted. I am going to cook some apples for my lunch, then settle on the sofa, tidy through the girls' school notice folders (you wouldn't believe the volume of notices they hand out!) and figure out some kind of scheme for teaching them English. At 11 I'll showerd and have some lunch, then pick up Lena at 12 and take her to Baachan's.

I start work at 1:10, and it's my least favorite class, a very challenging 'junior university', meaning it's a two-year rather than a four-year course. The students are scraping the bottom of the barrel, they're the ones who didn't get in anywhere else, and they are pretty much coddled through. We can't fail them. They just sit the test over and over until they pass it! You have to be really determined to fail! So they learn that they don't have to put in any effort, and most of the teachers are too afraid to discilpine them, they just ignore them and keep talking, so the students tend to ignore the teacher, and keep talking while you try to explain something or give instructions, which is very frustrating. I tell them to shut up. I'm quite stubborn and I tell them to shut up, but they don't always, and if they do, it's not for long. They are not all like that - half the class work really well.

Between 12 and that class starting, I either go home and rest (again, I'm good at that. This is one pregnant lady who will not get over-taxed!) or I go to the office, if I have prep to do. I do today - we are starting unit six, and I need to copy the teacher's book. Unit six is the last unit I teach! Yay! Only three more lessons! I also need to see how the other teacher is going with the test - we talked yesterday about what to put in it, but he took the job of putting it together, as I had a million things to do at home, while he had compulsory office hours to fill.

After that class I come home just in time for Amy to arrive home from school, and I take her to Baachan's. There is just enough time to check the email, plan what I'm doing in the class and get going again. The next class is at the hospital, I teach the residents. Jo and Bec came to this class with me, and will tell you how un-responsive they can be! Many students get that it's a 'conversation' class, and conversation goes two ways - this class doesn't, possibly because it's compulsory. So it turns into a question and answer session, with me asking questions over and over and over, and them bluntly answering, or me talking away and them nodding. I always have to have things prepared for them to do.

I have about an hour and a half after that class until I have to leave for my evening class. Enough time to get a meal ready, eat and look over what I will teach tonight. I think we are doing time and morning routines today, for which I have just been inadvertenly practicing in this blog! That class is two hours, but it's voluntary students with good study habits and enthusiasm, so it's a pleasure to teach. I get home around 9:20 and pretty much collapse into bed! A few chapters of Harry Potter (I've pre-ordered the 7th book and I'm half way through book 4) and I'm sound asleep

Monday, July 02, 2007

Introducing Nakatsu

I spend an intriguing day yesterday acting as a guide introducing the town of Nakatsu for a website. Of course, they had already decided where and what I would be introducing, and they asked most of the questions. Basically, I was just the photographic model! The page is not up yet, but here is an example of some previous 'guided' tours. O-net

FinishedPage

First I rocked up to the station where a team of festival helpers were constructing a festival float inside the station. Every July Nakatsu hold the Gion Matsuri. I go every year in some capacity, including helping pull the floats on Wada-sensei's team for three years running before I had a baby to cart about with me. Other years I have worn a yukata (summer kimono) to the Friday night fireworks, or just gone to the main street on Saturday evening to watch the dancing and the floats, or just waited at home - our house is in the ancient part of town, on the festival floats' route, and they come past every hour or so on the Sunday, stop at our intersection and dance on the back of the float.

So this was a good choice of theirs for me to introduce, and I learned some new things - I had thought they stored the floats in a garage every year, but they actually dismantle the whole thing and re-assemble it every year. I had always wondered how they got it in the station concourse! Next we visited the castle where another float was being constructed. Here, as at the station, I kept meeting people I know, or friends of Kanji. My 'guides' were surprised at first, but got used to fact after a while that I can't go anywhere in this town without meeting someone I know!

We took a few photos at the castle, at the red-wall temple where I took Jo and Bec and at Yukichi Fukuzaka's old house, then went for lunch.

We went to Chikushitei. Click on the third link from the left along the bottom to see the room we dined in. This is a beautiful traditional Japanese restaurant, in a 120-year old wooden building that seemed to go on forever with corridors and rooms and inner gardens stretching back from the entrance. Click around the site for our hostess, who was a fount of information - she knew every little detail of the history of the house and area, and filled us in with all the theories of Japanese dining. In fact, she talked for three hours straight and we were late for the next appointment!

The cuisine was eel - Nakatsu is famous for it's 'hamo' eel. We ate it in several different ways - in soup, as sashimi and as sushi, as tempura (lightly battered and fried) and lightly boiled in a broth and dipped in a sauce with ginger and spring onion. They took photos of me holding, dipping and eating it - can't wait to see those photos!

Our last appointment was to learn about Kitabaru puppets. This is a traditional form of Japanese puppetry, with large dolls operated by one, two or three people. The more famous Bunraku always has three people operating the puppet - in Kitabaru, as the puppeteers get more skillful, the puppet can be operated by two people, and masters can operate the puppet all by themelves, using both feet and hands, with different fingers operating the facial expressions, and even using the mouth to pull some of the strings. I saw it performed a few years ago, when Kanji was hanging out with an old friend of his who does Kitabaru as a hobby.