Tuesday, March 27, 2007

We have tons of balloons left over from the party. Today, Amy and Lena were playing with them when Lena knocked one in front of the computer where I am sitting updating my blog! She said, "Sorry Mum, the balloon wasn't concentrating"

Tuesday Catch-up

Phew! What a week! Three parties, two outings, two graduations and some work as well! Here is a brief precis -

- Monday, clearing out the living room
- Tuesday, Amy's graduation
- Wednesday, day trip to Space World amusement park with the kids for the 'kodomo-kai' (the group of children Amy and Lena walk to school with)
- Thursday, Lena's birthday
- Friday, Lena's graduation and a party for my night class in Buzen
- Saturday, work, cake decorating, and a party for my co-worker who is going to Tokyo
- Sunday, Lena's birthday party
- Monday, two classes, and a visit to the OB

Monday, March 26, 2007

Hello Baby

I had another appointment today, this time with a different doctor, a woman. I wonder how many they have there, I suppose if they are the only clinic in town, the OB ward at the public hospital has closed, then there must be at least three. She was okay, a little grumpy. The guy was nicer.

Since I have my Mother/Child health book, they did urine, weight and bp checks (kindly gave me a second one when the first was too high), as well as fundus and tummy circumference.

Finally, a tummy ultrasound. Did I mention that the other two were vaginal? And I see that they have fancy 3D u/s too. Which I know is just a rounded out version of the 2-dimensional u/s which itself is just an echo of a sound wave...it's so easy to believe it's photo, but it's not.

Anyway, he waved at me. Actually they can't tell if it's a boy or girl yet, maybe next time. Kanji asked me what I thought, and I said, "hmm, a boy", and he said "You thought Lena was a boy too" so obviously that means nothing at all! Heshe is 7cm long, with a 4cm head. I saw his straight spine as he tried to wriggle away. And his feet. I'm utterly convinced all these u/s are unecessary, maybe even risky, but they are damned hard to resist, and easy to enjoy!

I still didn't ask my questions. I need make a list so I remember things that I easily forget, because they are too obvious, like can Kanji come in with me? Exclusive breastfeeding, not only if everything is 'fine', because 'fine' will be according to their definition, for example, they might insist on supplementing if the baby has jaundice, or doesn't put on exactly xg after each feed, or anything! No episiotomy, and I know I won't be happy with 'we'll only do one if you need it' because I know they think 100% of first-time mothers 'need' one, so how can I trust their definition of 'need'? My problem is that I just know too much. I can't just go in and assume the doctor is doing nothing that isn't necessary.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Lena's Kindergarten Graduation

More songs and certificates, more tears!

It was held in the kindy classrooms, and Lena looked adorable in her pale check dress and pigtail plaits. It started with some very teary farewell speeches from the two foreign teachers, Rachel and Marcia, who are both leaving. They had some very sweet things to say about the children, and we were all left feeling sad and wistful, but knowing that they were not leaving because they didn't enjoy the children.

There were some songs, and the children got their certificates. I went up with Lena to get hers - as well as the certificate, she got a folder with photos and artwork from her year at kindy. I brought her last year's one to NZ, if anyone remembers...She also got a laminated ABC card set, that she drew the pictures for herself. Amy also got the same set, so now we have two.

Then they performed a little poem together, with each child saying one line. Lena said "I had so much fun, thank you very much". Then they all bowed.

We all trooped outside for a photo and final farewells, which took nearly as long as the ceremony! Lena's classes mothers had prepared several gifts - flowers from the children to the teachers, given separately by the children so they all gave one, and the teacher ended up with a bunch. A bead necklace made by one mother, a t-shirt printed with a photo of all the kids (a photo that was an incredibly pain to take as one kid after another broke down for one reason or another, Lena first because it was too bright), and cards prepared by me and signed by all the kids. More tears.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Happy 5th Birthday Lena!

My little baby is five years old today! And in an unprecedented move, I didn't take any photos today! Don't worry, there are going to be hundreds of photos over this week!

It was a kindy day for her, she couldn't miss kindy as it was her last day! Before she went to kindy she opened her present from Grandma - 'very wonderful and beautiful'. Amy was just as happy to see the two white ponies (Lena requested white ponies). They were ballerinas and sisters, so they were perfect for my two girls!

When she was at kindy Amy and I wrapped our presents to her. I gave her a ??? what to call it! It hangs off her bunk, like a kind of curtain, consisting of strips of felt with flat images of Stitch and his toy. I will get a photo sometime! Amy gave her hairclips and a necklace which promptly broke, and between us we gave her an Ariel (Disney princess) ring with an attached scarf.

Next we visited Daddy at work, where she got her No.1 best present - a radio-controlled car. A Nissan Pajero to be exact. She had coveted a radio-controlled car for sale at Jiichan's shop for some time, so she was thrilled, and thoroughly enjoyed playing with it.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Space World!

Space World

First of all, a link so it all makes sense to you. Space World is an amusement park with roller coasters and other rides and attractions. I went there years ago with Kanji and rode on the Titan and Venus. It has a space theme, so there are aliens, and a Nasa shop and a Star Wars shop with a life-size Jango Fett. I'm sure Peter would love it!

We met the Kodomo-Kai group at the station, and we all went there together, and got our tickets, but then inside, we separated and each person did their own thing. I was pleased about that, because with two small kids, we couldn't go on the roller coasters. Lena was just tall enough for some more exciting rides.

We started here at the Soft Egg bouncy thingy. The kids nearly wore themselves out here before we had even begun! Next we took a ride in the teacups, I ride I have coveted since childhood! It was major fun too! The best thing was that, unlike the big-kids rides, there was almost no waiting time at the kids' attractions! Next came the planes, trucks, carousel, and bus , the first ride that had a height check - Lena must be exacly 110cm at the moment, because she only just made it! Then we stopped briefly at the Space Jungle playground where the kids had a go at this vertical slide - you have to hold the bar at the top and go down with your hand above your head to stop you going down head-over-heels. If that sounds way too dangerous for the safety-paranoid Japanese, it was -they had playground assistants who climbed up with the kids and taught them how to do it properly!

We stopped for lunch, hot dog (I had a healthy salad pita bread roll, but coveted the hot dogs so much that I am going to cook them for dinner sometime!), and went to the Galaxy theater, which wasn't an iMax, and I had thought, but the kids have never been to the cinema before, so it was a big deal to them. It was a pretty cool short movie about a dinosaur world, visually stunning, but not the most impressive film I've seen. Then we went here , a maze and slides inside the volcano. They were tube slides, and very dark at first, so I had to go down first, braking on the way, with the kids behind me. They got some confidence after that and slid down happily over and over again.

We stopped after that for ice cream, then went to the Star Shaker, a virtual reality attraction with a movie screen and moving seats. And boy did they move! The movie was an Indiana-Jonesish adventure, basically with a lot of scenes of going down rushing rivers and waterfalls and once down the throat of a snake. That was the best fun so far, and Amy wanted to go round and get on again, but I vetoed it because my precious tum was getting a bit shaken up! Welcome to Space World junior!

Next we went into the Space Dome for the Mission to Mars, another VR attraction, where after a briefing, you walk down Star-Trek-like corridors to a space shuttle in front of HUGE screen, then go for a VR spaceship ride from Mars to Earth. Or vice versa, I wasn't really sure what was going on! It was fun though. Then a giant blow-up space-ship slide, which I got to go on because kids under 7 needed an adult to accompany them.

We had just enough time at the end to go to the 4D theater, which was dumb, pretty much a let-down for the last event of the day. The 3D part was fun - watching the kids reach out to try to touch the things that came out at them. But the 4D stuff consisted of a blast of air at our heads, getting whacked on the ankles with a little rubber strip coming out from the chair, and then at the very end, the chairs moving back a little.

We finished up in the shops, where I bought a space blanket, a dinosour egg (which has now hatched, the girls called her 'Puppy', made a cage for her, and fed her soggy cornflakes) a wooden dinosaur to construct (unfinished), and some astronaut freeze-dried food.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Kindergarten Graduation

Amy's career in kindergarten came to an end with a flourish and a fuss at the 101st Hokubu Kindergarten Graduation Ceremony.

Somber suits, formal speeches and lots of tears. They take this really seriously! Japan's motto seems to be, 'If it's worth doing, it's worth doing well', and they do it, whatever it is, to the utmost best of their ability. The children filed into the hall wearing their usual kindergarten pinafore/jacket with a special pink ribbon rosette to mark the occasion. In groups of four or five, they walked onto the tiny stage in the little kindy hall, and onto a box where they said their name and what they want to be when they grow up. Amy apparently wants to be a cake-shop owner, along with her best buddy Chisaki. Later she told me that was only if her 'boyfriend' Yuji was in the same shop. He wants to be a doctor. I'm sure someone coached him on that answer. Two more honest kids declared they wanted to be supermarket cashiers. One ballerina, a couple of superheros, tons of cake shops owners!

The four then posed for snapshots, and sat down. When they were all finished, it was time to receive their graduation certificates, a real adult-looking one. They called out a big 'HAI' when their name was called, took it in both hands, then bowed. Parents were asked to wait at the side, where they would take the certificate, and hear a message from their child. Amy told me 'Thank you for the omelet'. That's one of her favorite dishes that I put into her lunch box several times a week. I told her I was proud of her, and gave her a kiss and a hug.

Then came the speeches. The principal of the kindy and attached primary school was a bore. The next guy, god knows who, was much better, the kids actually heard what he said as he made an effort to speak directly to them in a manner they understood. Last was a lady who stayed behind the desk rather than go to the lecturn like the Principal or in front of the kids like the second guy.

Next, they sang a song about what they did that year, and the sniffing started. They finished off with a song about becoming a primary school kid, and then the kindergarten song. The children gave the teachers flowers, then the proceedings officially ended, and the guests and grandparents escaped, while we parents had to stay for a budget meeting. More final last words and tears and interminable one-more-things and we finally got away.

The kids were in their classroom, listening to what looked like a rather overwrought final words from their teacher. A lot of them were bawling, and Amy was red-eyed too, although she told me later on that she was just crying because other people were, and that made her cry. Apart from that she was as happy as can be, a box of beans bouncing around the room, posing for photos. Now worries!

She got, as well as the certificate, a memory book, school photo, and gifts including two note pads, colour pencils, plain pencils, a cup with a picture she drew, a DVD of the play she did with the High School last year, and some mochi (pounded rice cakes).
Left to right: With Ms Kakuta, with Rie, her teacher, and with her Mum and Dad

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Kanji's 'Event'

We spent a long day at a campsite by a dam doing stuff. Kanji is a member of 'Young Enterprise Group' a business/social/charity group kind of like Lions. They put on an event for kids with loads of activites, guests from the International University in Beppu, mochi-making and curry for lunch.

We walked around the lake in the morning, stopping to answer quizzes and riddles and score points at activities. Amy and Lena bascially didn't get any of them, and I would have had trouble too if I wasn't walking around with K's friend and his kids. Even so, I provided two of the answers by searching on the internet on my phone!

There were students from Sweden, Estonia, Uzbekistan, Indonesia, Mongolia, and China as well as Japan. They set up some games in the afternoon, and Amy enjoyed learning some foreign words, although it didn't look like it, she was acting so shy! So we learned Uzbek and Indonesian for 'Hello', 'My name is...', and 'Goodbye': 'Salom' 'Mineng Ismam...' and 'Hayr' and 'Salamat Siang' ?? I forgot and 'Dadah'. She also liked the Chilean pipes live music.

By far the best thing was the woodwork shop. Just a glue gun and piles of pre-cut wood. I think It was addictive! I think I'll buy a glue gun and stick together random piles of stuff from the house and garden. Oh, Amy and Lena loved it too. Here are some samples of our work:

Saturday, March 17, 2007


Universal Studios! No, some mums couldnt' come.

African Safari! No, too cold.

Bowling. Boring. Those words are pronounced the same here. Isn't that enough of a hint?

But we ended up going bowling for Lena's end-of-year kindy event. It crossed no-one's mind to book, and the place was crowded, so I had a moment's hope as the possibility was discussed that we might not be able to fit it. But a slot was found, only we had to wait 30 minutes! The children were perfectly happy. Next to the incredibly noisy lanes was an even noisier game centre, with slot machines and video games and a hockey game. They didn't even need money, like kids everywhere they thought they were someone affecting the sample display on the screen. And they were quite content to invent their own version of hockey with no pucks, just slamming the round puck-hitting handles down the table to each other.

So the wait was pleasant for them. We mums discussed Lena's party, where to have lunch, what to wear to the graduation, and I lingered over a cup of hot chocolate (I'm still off coffee). With typical Japanese efficiency, everyone had to finish and start at the same time, and everyone had to wait for the last people to finish the last game. Fortunately those people were in 'our' lane, which minimized the frustration of waiting for no-one to finish nothing. Then we had to wait for the clean-up.

Finally we got to play! Or rather, the kids did, which was fine by me. They picked up the basics very quickly, and their various methods of getting the ball to go down the lane were adorable - much more fun than boring bowling usually is! (There were guards up along the gutters that the balls bounced off, otherwise every child would have had a gutter ball every single time!)

Then Lena blew us all away by being really good at it, a born natural! I don't even know how she lifted that ball, let alone let it fly down the lane. It bounced off the gutter guards, so she would have been stuffed without them, but she had a way of putting a spin on that ball that sent it crashing into the leftover balls nearly every time! She ended up with a score of 69, and would have won if it was not for one child's older brother, aged 8 or 9 who had clearly done it before. She beat Amy, who got 50, and the other kids, who got between 33 and 55. Everyone kept asking if she had done this before, but no, this is her first time, I responded, dumbfounded. I assured them this talent was not from me - last time I played, my score was around 40, so was Kanji's - we had to combine our scores to get anywhere near the other players!

She was so proud of herself. She reacted at first with a poker-faced shyness typical of her, looking almost upset, and definitely in disbelief. But as she went on she got more confident, and finished each bowl with a balletic flourish, raising her hands above her head in a very delicate way, then slipping to the floor on her knees to watch the ball go down the lane (they bowled so slowly, it took some time for ball to get to the pins). I was so happy for her - she had had quite a breakdown a few weeks earlier, when she just couldn't draw as nicely as Amy. Everyone is always commenting on Amy's drawing ability, and Lena, like most little girls her age, loves to draw and color, and it was hard for her to always be in her sister's shadow. I think we're all happy she found something she can do better!

I should add that Amy had a wonderful time too, and wants to return for her birthday. I was proud of her too, because she didn't mind in the least that Lena was better than her, in fact she was very proud of her champion sister, and cheered her on.
From left: Keito, Yuto, Kyosuke and his Mum behind him, Koshi's Mum and Koshi, with Kyosuke's sister Sachi in front, Keito's brother Yuju, Amy, Lena and Maia

Sunday, March 11, 2007

We went swimming today! If that sounds mad, fair enough, but it was an indoor pool/onsen complex in Yufuin, a hot springs resort village in the mountains near here. I want to live there. The landscape around there is spectacular, almost like Canterbury with the big bare hills, but volanic like the North Island. It's right on the expressway, so it's no further time-wise from Fukuoka, and a lot closer to Oita. In fact, it's only half an hour's drive to the huge shopping centre at Waseda, which has English magazines and books, and two international food stores, with cheddar cheese and weetbix! And Yufuin itself is full of interesting shops and gorgeous onsens. Now, I just have to think of a reason to move there...

We went with a friend who lives about two hours from Nakatsu, who has two kids around the same age as Amy and Lena. We arrived at 11am, swam, then ate a picnic lunch in the relaxation room. Then we swam again, and finished off in the onsen. We were done by 3pm, enough time to visit the shopping mall and get some mags before heading home.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

After that tiring case of Fridayitis, I slept 12 hours! Or rather, I slept nine, then, deciding 6:30 was ridiculously early to wake up on a Saturday, I deliberately went back to sleep. It wasn't easy - the kids were awake and chatty. Amy wanted to know how they know the shapes of the countries on the map above her bed. Trying to limit my answer to as few syllbles as possible so as not to wake myself up, I told her they measured it. "From a rocket?" she asked. "No, from ships and by walking across it". That was enough for today it seems, as she went quiet after that. A previous morning her contemplation of the map brought forth the question, "Where do all the countries get their names?". And Lena wanted to know why, when it was all so small on the map, did it take so long to get there in a plane! Something only a frequent-flying five-year would ask.

I finally convinced them to go away. They went to have breakfast, which they can get themelves. Judging by the bowls they left, they had potions instead. When I found them making potions last week, I said they had better eat them, because they were wasting food. To my surprise, they did. The most popular potion so far is yogurt and parmesan cheese. Just imagine the sick smell of parmesan with the natural sourness of unsweetened yogurt! What a treat! I might try it once my morning sickness fades. There must be something to it. Or maybe it's just because they are used to eating natto (fermented, ie rotten, soy beans) which are even smellier.

Friday, March 09, 2007


I'm so tired today! All I did was go to work, and that was not exactly taxing - mostly reading my book as they had final exams today. I decided it was a case of Fridayitis.

I am losing weight again, just like when I was pregnant with Lena. I have totally lost interest in food. I feel fine not having eaten - and gross just after eating, so I tend to put it off and off and off! I didn't eat anything until 1pm today. Now it's 5:30, and I might cook some toasted sandwiches later on. The kids are watching Cars right now, and they had a bowl of rice at 4:30 so they won't be bugging me for a while.

I'm not having any really strong cravings or aversions - the whole idea of eating anything is so off-putting that I wait until I am starving, then fix onto the most appetizing thing I can think of, and have that. Often, that's the only time I can eat it - I never want to see it again after that. Yaki-niku, all pork, crumbed chicken, McDonalds, spag-bol and anything fatty have joined the list of 'yuck'. I am slowly but surely going through every dish I know of.

Fotunately there are a few things that remain edible - bananas and other fruit, yogurt, cereal and milk, muesli and stewed apple, eggs, beans, vegetables - not a bad diet, really! And most of all, Marmite on toast. Just last night I scraped the very very last dregs out of the jar. Maria has promised me some more, sent with my maternity clothes purchase from Pumpkin Patch. I check my visa account every day to see if she's been to the PO yet!

We also went to the city office today to pick up my Mother/Child Handbook. You have to register your pregnancy with the city office, and you get a few coupons for discounted health checks. Pregnancy and normal birth are not covered by National Health here, although complications are. The lady just called back and saw that she had forgotten to give me one more coupon, something to do with being 36 when the baby is born. Looks like I am eligible for another test, although I did not understand her, so I don't know what for!