Sunday, December 30, 2007


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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!