Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Birthday Party

We had a wonderful birthday party for Erica on Sunday! I spent all Saturday preparing, and was so exhausted I spent Monday on my back with a headache, so it was really a three-day affair for me, but I couldn't have my little princess miss out on her special first birthday. Amy's was in a park here, with four other families we knew who had babies. Lena's was in NZ, with no other babies at all, but all four 2-year old cousins, and other assorted relatives and neighbors. I had to give Erica the best I party I could!

For some reason everyone I know had a baby last year, or so it seems! So we had a robust guest list. One older baby came, 14-month Nao, and there were another five babies younger than Erica - 11-month old Marina, four-month old Kiara, three-month olds Juna and Yuuko and tiny two-month old Miyu! Yuuki, the only boy, born on the same day as Erica, in the same hospital, was unable to make it as his mother had appendicitis! But we still had seven babies in the house, plus five older siblings, seven Mums and four Dads - and us of course. We filled up every available space in our modest two six-tatami-mat rooms!

Erica handled it all very well! She curiously greeted each new guest who came to the door, showing off her pretty pink party dress. Until there were so many that she didn't notice the extra arrivals! She was interested in her cake, but didn't wreck it. I started the party with baby foods only on the table - Erica's favorite vegetable soup and bread, jelly, baby cheese, bananas, crackers and Marmite, but she was more interested in the grown-up food that followed - potato chips, 'curls' (kind of like twisties), popcorn, crudites with cream cheese dip, and scones with jam and cream.

Friday, September 26, 2008


A new obsession - stair-climbing. Today she got all the way up without me, and boy was she proud of herself! She usually calls out to me about a third of the way up and won't proceed until I'm there behind her.

Here is the cap variation - one step, remove cap, one step, put cap back on. Wow, aren't babies clever!

All Day Long School Observation Day

But I only went for two classes, one each.

I really didn't want to go after my unpleasant experiences last time. I signed up for the CPR education session, and after having it demostrated, the instructor told us to come up in pairs to role play saving the legless dummy. I looked round the semi-circle briefly, as everyone did, saw that me and the woman to my left would be up third. I didn't catch her eye, but didn't think much of it.

The first two pairs went, then, just as I was about to stand up with the woman on my left, she and the woman on her left jumped up quickly together, not even looking in my direction once. I sat there quite stunned, as were several of the other mothers, one of whom came to my rescue by promptly organizing all the remaining people into pairs, including me!

Then in the meeting, as I struggled to make myself understood, and tried to apologize for not being able to feed the roosters as we would be in NZ, another mother ridiculed my by parroting my apology (sumi masen), which made me feel so embarrased!

So, not wanting to be exposed to this juvenile behaviour anymore, I was quite reluctant to go, but determined to nonetheless, because Amy and Lena love it so much when I do come, and get so heartbroken if I don't!

Lena's was first, we all went to the hall to do some stupid games. Okay, Lena loved it - as we were walking home she looked up at me and said "Mum I had so much fun playing games with you in the hall today!" So it was worth it. The first game was passing a hula hoop from one person to the next over your body, without letting go your hands.

Next was a relay where the kids went in pairs and picked a card with the name of someone's mother. Then they had to find her, and hold hands and run up to a cone and around it and back to the kids again. Only someone had the not-so-bright idea to have us parents turn our backs to the kids. I suppose the idea was to make it more challenging for the kids, but it left the parents with no idea how the game was going, which kids were having a turn, nor what name they were calling out as it was hard to hear their soft little six-year old voices over the racket. They found me pretty fast though, unsurprisingly. They all know me and call out "Lena's mum!" all the time.

Finally we played Janken Pon snake. Two people play a game of Rock, Scissors, Paper and the loser goes behind the winner and they snake along and meet another pair. The play again, then the the losing pair goes behind the winning pair and the set of four snake along, and so on until everyone in the room is behind the one person who didn't lose a single game. We lost on the second round.

I went home for lunch, and a nap, and came back to Amy's room after 2pm for the final lesson of the day. It was craft time, and they were making paper plates to spin on a stick. Here is Amy with the portrait she drew of Erica for her plate.

And Erica with her plate. (lots of help from a sad Mummy who noticed that Erica reached for the crayons with her left hand but just could not hold them with that stuck thumb)


Here's her hand, looking very smooth and well-healed in this photo. The wound is all cleared up, as the doctor also noted.

We saw the plasterer (what the heck do you call a medical professional who specializes in taking plaster casts of limbs and fashioning plastic braces out of them??) and explained that her hand was slipping out and curling in. He wasn't surprised. Apparently it's quite hard making them for such a tiny hand. He shaved off some of the sides, but then when we saw the doctor, he noticed that the thumb was stiffening up quite a bit, and instructed the 'plasterer' to make a whole new one that incorporated the thumb as well.

Plasterer frowned and commented to me that the doc had said the week before not to worry about the thumb, which I had asked about, as we'd deal with that later. But I thought it was getting stiffer and more 'stuck', he must have noticed the difference after a week.

So, we got a new plaster cast taken, and we'll go back next to see how that fits. Meanwhile, I'll be using the old brace, and the cream every day. She has a bit of trouble sleeping with the brace on, so I'm quite tired - like having a newborn again! Not fair! It's going to be worse next week. She cried and cried as he fitted the cast as he had to pull back on her thumb, and she hates that, it hurts her. So it's going to sting every night. God I hope she can sleep!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Our Autumn weekend

Yesterday was a public holiday, the Autumn equinox, so even though there was school on Monday, it still feels like it was one loong weekend. Saturday morning we went to Baachan's so Erica could get used to Baachan (and I could start to leave her there!) but Baachan went out to the doctor's. Why she didn't tell me this pertinent fact on Friday afternoon when I told her we were coming, I don't know. I busted my gut getting ready on time! Probably that fake Japanese modesty that requires her to act as though she herself couldn't possibly matter or be the reason we were coming, even though she knew perfectly well it was. Or does decades of practice with this modesty really bring it about and she really didn't twig that 'coming to play' meant with her and Jiichan?

Anyway, I was in the car reading a magazine with sleeping Erica, and then Dipti rang for a favor so I went around there instead, coming back in time to get some lunch off the travelling baker who stops there every Saturday lunchtime. And played a little bit with Baachan who still alternates between falling all over Erica and swamping her, then giving up with a sigh.

Saturday afternoon Daddy had off work, so we subjected him to a home video from our recent trip to NZ, then him and me and Erica took a nap and left the older girls in the capable hands of Mr. Disney. Sunday we went to karaoke with friend Akiko and her Australian exchange student Chayla, whose mother is a New Zealander.

Akiko and Amy

Daddy helping Lena sing, while Erica enjoys her first experience of karaoke

Chayla with Akiko's mum Junko (r) and another friend, Yukko

Sunday night was the annual Keio Academy summer party. Lots of beer and shouting in an izakaya, followed by more beer and even louder shouting at karaoke. Here's the bosses being cute.

Yesterday we went to visit Haradas, and ended up somehow at Egamis' eating Haradas' gyoza, Egamis' curry, my banana bread. And more beer.

The kids enjoying their curry. And here is a vid of Erica and her birthday twin Yuuki.

Monday, September 22, 2008


Okay, I've been taking too many videos, but she's just too cute, and keeps doing stuff that desperately needs to be recorded for posterity! Erica learned this trick, oh, about two minutes before I videoed it. Hence a baby very proud of herself for mastering a new trick.

Flavor of the week though, is climbing. I've caught her several times on the table, but haven't yet managed to catch her actually climbing on, she seems to be keeping that a secret. Here, she's distracted by something much better...

That camera is way better than this ball!

Tantrum time!


Well, here it is, and also a few photos so you can see what it is. She has it on now, for the second night. She's dealing with it alright, though she tries to take it off if I put it on her too soon before we settle down to sleep, and of course it comes off first thing in the morning, before she has time to fuss. I don't know if it's doing the trick though, as it seems too loose, and her fingers slip down in it, and she can even curl her fingers under, so I don't know how effective it is going to be in keeping that finger straight. We're going back to get it checked on this Thursday.

Every day it seems to be curling up more, and more painful to her when I try to stretch it out. I have to put cream on it morning and night, another case of the doctor believing in the power of mother to achieve the impossible! Put cream on a baby's palm! You might as well skip the next step and just smear it all over your furniture yourself. At night, I wrap the finger area of the brace in glad wrap, my theory being that if the cream rubs off on that, maybe some of it will rub back on! And in the morning I utilize the power of Wiggle. Erica loves the Wiggles so much now that she grins from ear to ear and makes a beeline for the telly where she starts to dance. So I put the Wiggles on, and I can be sure of a good half hour of not using her hands, time enough for some of the cream to sink in. And a little bonus vid...listen carefully...the reason Erica is not responding to me is because she is watching Amy and Lena fighting. Listen and you should hear a slap, an 'ow' and Lena whining 'Aaaaamyyyyy'

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Doin' a Britney

I may not be blond but I can still be stupid. Here's Erica driving the car. In my defense, only from one side of the carpark to the other.

Dancing Baby

Now, check out the headbanging and the air guitar! It may be Will Smith, but she has the soul of a Metaller. Daddy is quite proud!

The Brace?

I'm not quite sure what to call the thing they made, and have no pictures yet as it was a little imperfect, needs fixing, and will be sent by mail later on. 'IT' is kind of like a half-open cast, held on with straps with velcro and snap buttons. The closed part goes over the inside of the wrist, the palm and the fingers, pushing the fingers backwards to stretch out the scar tissue. It even has little flowers and ladybirds on it to make it pretty for her. But the thumb hole was a little too large, and it looked like her fingers would too easily slip out, so he took it back to remake it.

It will only be put on at night! Then she is to use the hand normally during the day, and we also have a cream to put on morning and night. That all means of course, normal clothing, normal bathing and no more questions out in public, unless someone gets a close-up look! Everyone wants to know what happened when they see the bandages.

The above photo shows how it looks normally; in the one below I'm pulling back her thumb, and you can clearly see the 'V' shaped scar which is causing all the trouble. The doctor speaks very fast, unfortunately, but I think he said that thumb area would eventually need to be grafted. I'm not looking forward to that! But that's for later on, for now we're dealing with the fingers.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Now THAT'S a weiner

And now for something completely different. Japan is well known for downsizing everything to fit their small bodies, small apartments and even smaller appetites. I especially appreciate the small serving sizes, as you can have more variety. You can have about ten desserts at a buffet! But this, ladies and gentlemen, really takes the cake. It's a cheese sausaged, in case you can't focus on something that small.

Long Weekend

Just spent a long weekend in the company of my lovely daughters, and, with just a little bit of 'encouragement', the house is actually tidier now than it was at the start. And THIS time, the desks are going to stay tidy! Amy will learn to put a project away before starting on another one. Lena will learn to dispose of, or find a new home for the items she decides she doesn't need, instead of simply putting them on the piano table or the windowsill.

Saturday we were going to go to a picnic at the castle, but it got cancelled. I got picnic in my head though and made a bacon and egg pie for lunch anyway. We popped down to the castle to see if anyone else had turned up and found Amy and Lena's new English teacher, Will, being shown around by the other Kiwi at Keio, Andre.

Saturday night we went to the Kagura and Raffle festival at the shrine out the back of Baachan's childhood home, where her nephew and niece now live. Coming along for the party also were his Chinese factory staff, who hadn't seen me since I waddled in hugely pregnant this time last year. Cue round of cheers for little Erica, who would have been the star of the show if she wasn't in a dreadful mood caused by lack of sleep. Lena happily took up the baton and became chief pet of the young Chinese ladies.

Sunday we went to another festival to see a friend of Kanji's perform in his band. Or rather, THEY went to watch the show while I waited in the car with sleeping Erica, reading a magazine. I honestly didn't get out of the car once. Acutally it wasn't that bad - I haven't had as long an uninterrupted reading time for quite a while. I normally fall asleep over the pages at night now. I made up for it with an ice cream on the way home and a girls only trip to the onsen. I have been hanging out for an onsen trip, but haven't been able to go because of Erica's hand.

Kanji meanwhile went to band practice. It's a Sex Pistols cover band called Nakatsu Sex Pistols Metabo 37, Metabo meaning metabolic syndrome, a buzz word in Japan this year, referring to their middle-age spread, though it's a bit of a humble misnomer as they are all very lean. Kanji plays bass, which makes him Sid...and me Nancy Spungeon. After that he went to the radio station to do his radio show. He played Metallica.

The girls are back at school today, and quite happy. Amy is back in with her gang, and making plays and designing costumes and teaching everyone how to do the splits. School work is definitely a side issue. Lena seems to be happy too, but she doesn't talk about it much. She went swimming with Maia yesterday and was very happy to meet up with that friend again, and asked this morning for a promise that Maia will come on Friday as usual.

Erica is talking and dancing and singing! Constantly saying something, she's currently practicing high and low notes, so it's like she's singing. And she dances whenever any music starts up, head-banger style, plus air guitar - she must be taking cues from her father.

She's starting to use her hand after having the big bandage off for several days. She still points at it and stares at it when the small bandage is off. The main part of her palm and the fingers are pretty much healed, but still very pinky-red. The articles I read said that burns that heal within three weeks are usually fine, ones that take longer have complications. So the parts that healed fairly swiftly are okay, and that area to the left side is still problematic. There's a V-shaped scar running from her thumb onto her palm and up onto her index finger. This would have been the part of her hand that touched the iron with the greatest force, so perhaps it was more badly burned. In two areas (the point where the thumb pad meets the finger pad, and a point at the base of the thumb) the scar seems to have contracted, limiting her from fully extending her finger and thumb back, but all in all it's not too bad, she's using it well enough.

Well then I'm off to do my chores for the day - I've got to get a new licence, and get Erica's booster DPT, a head cleaner for the video camera, and get dinner cooked EARLY today so I can get Erica to bed and she won't fall asleep on the sofa again.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Erica update

Well, today was a lot better than I thought I was going to be. Turns out we were just getting a cast of her hand made today, and we'll get the 'thing', whatever that it, put on next week. Which has got me hoping that the 'thing' will be removable and I'll be able to bath her.

I was able to bath her today! She had a lovely time, it's been ages since she had a bath, and nearly two months since she got in the nice deep bath with Mummy. The wound has all but healed, and all we have on now is a small adhesive bandage, plus whatever I want to put on top to stop her pulling that off, so I'm adding tape and a sock thingy (I can never remember what they are called!). Thanks Becky for the roll of sock thingy! I have a week's supply of adhesives so I can bathe her every day.

So her hand is practically free, and she's had a lot of time to look at it, and gingerly touch it, though she's not really using it a lot yet. Whether it's painful, or just habit, or if her fingers won't move smoothly, I don't know. Actually all her fingers move quite well, but I am worried about her thumb, which seems to be stuck slightly forward onto her palm. Doc says we won't know about whether that's going to be a problem for up to year from now. Right now he's not concentrating on it, but on the fingers.

The cast we made today was off her wrist and hand, excluding the thumb but covering all fingers, and with the fingers all stretched backwards. This is to help the fingers heal with contractures. We're looking at weekly or monthly visits for the foreseeable future, probably for a year. It's just unbelivable that it's this severe, and this much work to heal it - it only took a second.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


I'm up late updated my iPod with the UK's top ten and some BBC podcasts in preparation for another three hours in the car tomorrow. Good thing I don't mind driving! I am getting worried about what's going to happen when we arrive.

I've been reading up about palm burns in children and what they say pretty much agrees with what our doctor said, that it's generally okay if the wound heals under three weeks - our doc said two - either way, Erica's out of that cohort. After three weeks, the liklihood of sequelae is...100%. That means scarring, or the fingers curling up or needing a skin graft. Tomorrow we're getting some kind of splint or cast that will hold her hand and fingers flexed back so the growing scar tissue doesn't cause her to lose function. So you can see why I'm a little worried. Let's hope it ends here, and this treatment results in a cleanly healed hand with full function and minimal scarring, because there will be scarring.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Erica's First High Heels

A girl after her mother's heart...Erica does a pretty fine job of walking in heels for the first time, not yet one year old!


Not much change in two days, but the fingers are mostly healed. The dressing stuck a bit so there is bleeding in the center.

We don't have to go back for two days, yay! We are scheduled to go back on Thursday to see yet another specialist (that's the eighth doctor, not counting four others she's seen in the last two months for other things) to get her hand stretched and some kind of cast or splint put on to keep it straight. I'm not sure exactly what right now. Update on Thursday!

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Erica's Hand

Here is a photo (removed) of Erica's hand yesterday morning. For those who don't know, she burned it on an iron on August 18th, so it's nearly three weeks old and nearly healed. Mum and my sisters who watched or helped change her dressings over the last few weeks will see how well it's healing. Might be a bit of a shock for anyone else seeing it for the first time!

I am concerned about the area between the thumb pad and the index finger pad, which appears to be sticking together. There are also a few holes in the centre of her palm which are basically areas that had healed together that were opened up when we opened out her hand. Also she tends to hold her thumb inwards, like it's sore or tight to stretch out.

We'll see the plastic surgeon again tomorrow to talk about subsequent treatment, right now we're concentrating on getting the wound healed, we'll look at scarring and movement when that's done.

Chasing Lena's Feet

Erica thought it was just the most fun to chase the puppies on Lena's feet, and she has learned to stomp her feet and walk sideways and backwards too!

New Doll

Keep checking old posts guys as I'll add stuff about NZ, Erica's hand, our trip home etc. For now just a couple of vids to keep you busy while I do the #!%&$# laundry! Erica got this doll for Christmas but she didn't show much interest, so I kept it aside on the windowsill in the Study (okay, that's the other half of the living room, but there are desks in there so let me call it a Study, okay?). Today when I opened the shoji paper door over the window, she saw it and made a beeline for it, pointing and babbling so I felt the time had come!

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Back in Japan

Well, we've been back in Japan for five days now, but I haven't had a moment to sit down and update this blog. Monday, flying. Tuesday, trains. Wednesday, doctor in Yamaga and work, Thursday and Friday, doctor in Beppu and work. Today, doctor in Beppu again and finally an afternoon off and a chance to catch up!

I'm just having a well-deserved cup of tea before doing the shopping and cooking dinner. I just finished cleaning the genkan and moving the bags and packages of clothes upstairs - they've been clogging the hall and living room since we got home! I am now the proud owner of 32 pairs of shoes, including 15 flats, 10 pairs of heels, six pairs of boots and two 'inside' shoes, ballet flats I use instead of slippers. Next on my list is the laundry, which I should get done today, then I can start on the clothes nice and early tomorrow morning, before it gets too hot up there.

Erica's hand is looking much better, but I am quite worried about how the scar tissue is forming with her hand somewhat closed.