Thursday, October 30, 2008

Sarah Rosa Greenwood

I couldn't go on blogging about the mundane events of my life without acknowledging the momentous and life-changing event that occured last week in the lives of my family - the loss of this wee baby girl, Sarah Rosa Greenwood, in the 33nd week of pregnancy. She passed away peacefully before she was born, due to the mother's illness. She was the first born of my little brother Chris and his wife Deb.

Her funeral was held yesterday, and we participated by releasing white balloons with a message into the sky at the same time all of Sarah's 11 cousins, her parents and grandparents did so, in NZ and in Japan.

Here is the eulogy my brother started to read at his daughter's funeral, finished by the eldest cousin, Rachel, when he was unable to go on.

"I wasn’t prepared for what it means to be a father, despite people trying to tell me. They were right about one thing in that it is something you can’t describe until you experience it. For us though the height of that Joy is matched only by the depths of the despair we now feel.

How can I try to explain the pain of seeing our bundle of joy transformed into a tragic sadness? Instantaneously it transformed what should have been the happiest day of our lives into the darkest.

We didn’t get to look into our Daughters eyes, and she didn’t get to look upon our faces, we didn’t get to see her take her first steps or teach her to ride a bike. We didn’t get to see her fall in Love or have children of her own, our lives from now on are going to be a long list of things we didn’t get to do together.

As countless fathers have probably thought before me of their children, I think that Sarah is the single most Beautiful thing I have ever set my eyes upon. For such beauty to not be allowed to flourish to it’s potential is such a tragic thing that I don’t think that I will ever be able to comprehend that it could have come to pass.

We should, however try to look past the loss and try to be happy for the miracle of life that she was, however short.

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message She Is Dead,
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

Time may dull the pain of losing you, but you will never be forgotten, goodbye my sweetheart, know that we will love you always."

Erica's Hand

We went to the plastic surgoen and plaster technician today. Verdict - surgery in at least six months or up to a year. Not Yet. Not until after NZ. And since the scar is hardening, she is condemned to wear the splint ALL DAY.

Kanji came too, and we are both getting a bit fed up with the doctor, who doesn't have an ounce of bedside manner. We came pretty early today, and got an appointment right at 8:30. I thought there would still be a little bit of a wait, so I went to the car to put some things away, wondering idly what would happen if they got called while I was gone.

Yep, you guessed it, they were called while I was gone. The car was right next to the building, but it was all over by the time I got back. He was already on his computer selecting the date for our visit next month. Fortunately I had discussed my concerns with Kanji in the car before we arrived, so he knew what I wanted to ask!

So Kanji told me what he'd said about the splint having to stay on 24 hours a day now, and I just had time to ask him about the peeling skin on the scar tissue on the palm and the red marks on the back of her hand from the splint. He said we needed to keep putting on the cream, which I do of course, and as for the red marks - we need to see a dermatologist about that. Grrr. We could have gone two weeks ago if we'd known that!

The other problem we were having was that her thumb would just slip out of the thumb section of the splint almost as soon as I put it on her, no matter how tightly I secured the velcro straps. Just before we left the hospital last time, the Plaster Technician slipped in a tiny extra bit of black foam to help it stay in place, and I've been so careful to use it...then last night I finally lost it and decided to just try it - and found out that her thumb stayed in place all night!

To think that all this could have been prevented if I'd just lost that damn bit of black foam earlier. With the thumb in the right place each night, the scar wouldn't have contracted as much as it has. It's causing her a great deal of pain now to put it on, and stretch that thumb back. She starts to pull her hand away and wail, that high-pitched wail you know means real pain. I hate doing it to her!

I also asked about the pool, as I was worried that the pool water was causing her skin to peel. But this guy barely took the time to listen to me, instead laughing that 'of course you can take it off for swimming'. I don't think he realized what I was trying to say. He must think I'm an idiot, thinking she'd have to wear the splint in the pool. Well, he must think all his patients are fools if he doesn't take the time to listen to them.

'Mother must try harder'. Great. I tried so hard, I don't want her to have surgery and I thought if I do this right, if I get this scar softened, maybe she won't need it, so I tried hard! But without sitting down and listening to me, he must just think I'm lazy and stupid.

Well, we got a new kind of cream anyway, a heparin cream, and I'll put it on more often, even though the doctor just gave us the standard 'morning and evening' instruction. What I'd like is a long chat with a nurse or someone with some experience looking after these types of injury, with advice on how to manage it day by day.

I think I'll take it off in the morning and leave it off until it starts to dry out again, then try to get it back on, then take it off again for the bath and leave it off until bedtime. I thought I might also take it off for lunch. That's four nasty putting-on sesssion, that's enough! But I do want her to have time to use her hand. She's just started to use a pencil - in her left hand. I just sent Mum a birthday card with a message from Erica - the first she wrote, and she might not be writing any more for some time if I have to keep this splint on all day!

So I thought that morning; lunchtime and eating lunch; bathtime and bath play; and after the bath could be time for me to concentrate on getting her to use that hand. I am actually quite worried, not only that she'll lose the use of the hand with the bones and tendons cramping up, but also that she'll miss the boat developmentally because of this, if she loses the opportunities to learn and grow that she would otherwise have, making little discoveries about things with her hand.

ALL of this, of course, it would be nice to talk to a professional about, instead of having to make it up myself. At least the Plaster Techinician takes the time to listen to our concerns and try to find solutions for us. We told him there's no way Erica will leave it on all day, and wondered if we could get buckles instead of velcro. He is concerned about getting it on tight enough with buckles, and suggested a double-layer of velcro straps with one set opening on the other side. He has taken the splint for the week to work on it, which means that we get ONE WEEK of blessed freedom before this 24-hour marathon begins.

And I will be looking for any advice on the internet, and if any one of the many medical workers in my family or anyone else knows a plastic surgeon/hand specialist/burns specialist/pediatric sugeon who could even just point me in the direction of some advice, please do let me know!

Monday, October 20, 2008


Say that three times and a gold-spinning leprechaun will appear. It's the name of a local street festival, two days of crafts, flea markets and festival food in a street near our house. I go and pick up cheap Hello Kitties and kimonos to sell in NZ. I spend FAR TOO MUCH money on the festival food and drinks. There were performances, including Kagura - dancing devils who steal naughty children. And Lena danced with her school class.

Lena and the 'Mejiron' dance, which every kid in Oita prefecture knows by now, as it's the theme song for the national sports contest being held here this month.

Another dance with hats.

And the demon. Erica didn't seem too worried, even when a kid near her got taken. Later on, another demon picked up Erica and gave her a whirl. She made a lot more noise than this kid did! She was very happy to get back to her Mummy, but it didn't stop her from wandering out of the crowd to dance near the demon again afterwards.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Friday, October 10, 2008

Baby Swimming

No cute photos yet, but she looks just as adorable as you'd expect in her little regulation club togs. No swimming nappies - nobody cares that much about baby wee, and there's only half a dozen babies in the pool all day, either that or the toxic levels of pool chemicals takes care of it all.

She was so excited and intrigued when she stepped through the door and saw the pool! As always in Japan, we had to shower first. Then we sat on the edge and kicked and splashed. We got in and I held her in my arms and pulled her through the water. She was in heaven, she loved it.

We moved in a circle with the other babies going back swinging the baby from side to side, facing the front, then the back. We threw them in the air, and blew bubbles, which she found the most fun. We practiced catching them and holding on to the edges, then we did our 'widths' - the width of two lanes.

She starts sitting on the edge, I count to three and 'catch' her (or pull her in!) and we do a length then go back and do it again. The whole thing finished off with playtime, with the babies sitting or standing on plastic boxes placed in the water.

Photos next time!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Licence Done...

...for another three years. Erica is behind me, playing the piano. She's not particularly skillful, but she knows where the volume dial is.

You have to sit through a two-hour lecture to get your licence renewed in Japan, and as K was working, I had to take Erica with me. No worries, I like bringing my own toy/excuse/get-out-of-jail-free card. She was an angel though. Sat on my knee for the first 15 minutes, then I gave her cookies when she started getting distracted. It was her nap time though, so eventually I had to feed her. I thought I was wearing fairly breastfeeding-friendly clothes - a shirt, singlet top and nursing bra, but the bra kept pinging back up, the singlet is stretch and kept squashing my boob and the shirt kept closing again, so I had the devil of a time getting bubs on without baring the whole damn boob. But she finally got it, went to sleep, and stayed that way for nearly an hour.

They talk mostly about accidents. Rules, manners, cautions, the 59 people who died last year in Oita prefecture. The penalties and consequences. A video showing Japanese prison, testaments from speeding and drunk drivers who killed someone, and a heart-rending letter from a bereaved mother. All very sober stuff. Look ahead, don't talk on the phone, nothing wrong with drinking but don't drink and drive. A video showing how even a stunt-car driver can't handle a car as well at 60 as at 40kmph, and can't avoid hitting the pedestrian at 70.

Erica woke up, and refused all water, cookies, and toys. I walked around with her, including over to a rude young man who was blatantly asleep with his head on the desk. I knew if I stood there long enough, she'd yell in her super-loud voice, and she did. He nearly jumped out of his seat, drool dripping down his chin. Idiot. Consider it my revenge for years of enduring sleeping students in my own classses.

I even stayed back at the end to ask a few questions! I've been driving in Japan longer than in any other country, but I still wonder about a few things. I found out that:

- if you're driving along minding your own business and some idiot in front of you decides to reverse into a parking place and crashes into you patiently waiting behind, it is indeed his fault, even though you are technically the one in the rear. That he indeed should pull over to let you pass first, instead of just expecting you to back up and get out of his way. This has happened to me twice! Nice to know.

- there's no right-hand rule in Japan - it's the left-hand rule. Right. Well, that explains a lot! Like why Japanese people can't use round-abouts, which depend on the right-hand rule. They also explained that it's very rare to have a completely indication-free intersection anyway, and the usual big-road first, straight-ahead-moving person first rules apply.

- re the above-mentioned big-road-first rule - it's often the other way round in Japan when the car on the big road is turning into the small road, on account of the fact that the small road is just too narrow, so they just have to wait for the car to move out of there. Sometimes there's a little bit of a stand-off if you're the one on the narrow road, when you think there's enough space for them to get in, but they don't, and you inch forward and brake until you figure yourselves out! So, who is at fault if you crash, given that the person on the small road is supposed to be giving way? Well, both. Maybe. It's a gray area. Nice to know.

(Actually this gray area, or double-fault is not uncommon in Japan. Instead of pinning all the blame on one person, Japanese police like to dole it out to both parties, balanced according to how they judge the level of responsibility of each. So while a rear-ender might be mostly the fault of the person behing who was following too close and not paying attention, the person if front might also have to take some of the responsibility for braking too suddenly.)

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Sunday, October 05, 2008

The Swing

Camping in Heels

Okay, in my defense:

1) It was presented to me initially as a 'pasta and wine' event, which conjured images of daintily sipping Italian wines inside some kind of structure, with tables, although I should know by now that most public or community facilities in Japan are No Shoes, which means that my lovely shoes would have ended up decorating the genkan while I shuffled around inelegantly in a pair of honky slippers.

The 'okay you can stay in a bungalow afterwards' was kind of an afterthought. In Japan, 'bungalow' often means a log cabin with a bathroom, a kitchenette with fridge, kettle and stove tops, a TV, and air conditioning. Not real camping. What we got was a wooden tent. It had electric lights...and nothing else.

2) I actually brought another pair of shoes, and they are still there, under the seat of the small car we left with Baachan, while we all piled into her larger car to get there.

Like Mother Like Daughter. The sad thing is, Lena did it too. The kids often make inappropriate shoe choices. Getting out the door is normally somewhat chaotic, and I often miss what shoes they chose to put on. Lena chose the sweet little shoes we bought her for her Entrance Ceremony. They didn't have a heel, but they had a tight strap, and she ended up with a very sore ankle.

Just in case there's anyone left who thinks I might be sane, I brought 13 bags for an overnighter.

1) My carry-on bag, with mine and Erica's pyjamas and changes of clothes.
2) Amy's carry-on, with her pyjamas, activities and a change of clothes - nothing warm, and no spare knickers. They pack by themselves, hence their own bags, and their own mistakes!
3) Lena's, ditto.
4) Erica's nappy bag
5) Towel/onsen bag
6) 'Outside' tote bag - contains ground sheets, mini stools, hats, fans, sunglasses and sunscreen. It lives like this in the spare room waiting for events, so it went in as is.
7) 'Inside' tote bag, with any miscellaneous junk we 'need', like my novel, the Rawleighs, toys for Erica, towels, tissues, Erica's juice, etc. Usually lives in a semi-chaotic state in the car.
8) Food bag - weetbix for breakfast, sugar, cookies, sweets, bananas, paper plates etc
9) Cold food bag - milk, tea, wine, yogurt
10) Medicine bag. I've taken to keeping all the medical things, the insurance certificates, Mother-Child health book, and medical dictionary in a small tote with wet tissues, a few small toys, a Reader's Digest, and a spare nappy, ready to rush off to the hospital at a moment's notice. So in it went, with pain/fever meds, First Aid kit (used to dress Lena's ankle, see above) and antibiotics and eye drops for Amy's sore eye.
11) Camera bag, with video camera and all relevant extension cords, plus still camera
12) Ipod bag, with all the cords and things for that and...
13) My handbag! Essential of course, though I didn't touch it all weekend!

Despite the rain and the autumn leaves underfoot, I didn't fall over, break a heel or even burst a blister (unlike poor Lena). So my faux snake skin, 9cm strappy heels may only have cost $13 at the shoe warehouse, but they rock!

Here's me and Kanji with our bub eating dinner in the hall - the No Shoes hall. My shoes redundantly sat outside decorating the step.

And Erica eating spaghetti.

The girls had a great time with the swings and tree houses. I'm sure we'll really enjoy it next year, shod appropriately, and prepared for the lack of facilities!

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Pumpkin gets a pixie

Well you know I've been talking about getting Erica's first baby hair made into a calligraphy brush, it seemed like a cool thing to do. Not trusting my own hand with scissors and baby hair after what happened to Amy (no blood, just the world's dorkiest looking baby for many more months than I realized a bad haircut lasted!) I went to the salon. I needed a trim, and Amy was off school that day (eye infection) so she could play with Erica while I got my cut.

I had talked to him about the brush thing on a previous occasion, and Kanji mentioned it on the phone when he called to see if they were free, and I mentioned it again as we sat down, BUT guess who just wasn't listening! He combs through the hair and deftly trims off the feathery baby hair-ends with razor-cut scissors, about one centimetre. "Oh," says I, "what about the brush?". "Oh!" he goes, "you wanted to do the brush!" as if he'd never heard the idea before. Grrrr. I know you have to do a bit of pretending-to-understand to get by, you can't go walking around with a dictionary, saying "repeat that please", it impedes smooth communication. But you'd think you'd switch your ears on a little bit when a customer sits down for a haircut.

Well, he did his best with the remainder, and we have a lock of hair now. It's still her first hair, even if it's not as whispy as it could have been. Well, maybe they don't need that whispy bit anyway...

Lena had wanted to know before Erica's birthday what she was going to be able to do know that she was one. I laughed and explained that it didn't work like that, you're just the same the day before as you are the day after, but you know kids, they put a lot of store in that digit change. They constantly refer to their skills and achievements in terms of "When I was (fill in age just passed) I couldn't do xyz, but now I can"

But then Amy commented the other day that indeed some age magic seems to have occured, as Erica has suddenly gotten very, very cute lately! She sways her bum while dancing, babbles in a close immitation of language, and has a rainbow of adorably silly expressions. She gets excited and stamps her feet, then giggles at the effect. For nothing more than my own memories in years to come, I'm going to keep a 'cute' diary for the weekend, back at you on Monday with more unapologetic GUSH

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Baby Signs

Okay, it's not terribly impressive, yet, but believe me, she really is exhibiting a baby sign here, the sign for 'dog', which is panting. Her version is either poking out her tongue, or opening her mouth and breathing loud, she can't coordinate the two yet! But she does it consistently and appropriately, when she sees a picture of a dog, or a real one, or this one that she saw on TV.

Family in NZ will remember her sign for 'bath', which she still does whenever I take her clothes off, and once also as she peered into the toilet. Clearly it means more to her than it does to us! Now we have some posters in the bathroom, ABC and hiragana with pictures, but I'm using them to teach her signs. She LOVES it, and kind of gets carried away and just starts flapping her arms around and squeezing her fists together.

NZ family will recall her fist-squeezing sign, which I couldn't assign a meaning to. I think she was just doing that cos she could! Another one she does is flap her wings for duck, especially while watching Captain Feathersword. She wrinkles her nose up for 'flower' and pats her face for 'cat' (supposed to be fingers drawing wrinkles).

Oh, and she waves 'bye bye', which, of course, is where this all began. We took a rest for a month after she hurt her hand, and now we're just getting back into it all. I don't really believe all the hype about it increasing intelligence, or bonding or anything, but it's fun, and fascinating to see what she notices and the associations she makes, like 'bath' while looking in the toilet!

A new one

A new brace/sogo/thingy that is. We went to Beppu today to see the plastic surgeon and the 'plasterer' again to get the new one fitted. I thought we were going to get away with it at first, when he first fitted it on, and it seemed quite comfortable, but the doc took one look and got him to re-cut it to squeeze that thumb back. So, as expected, this one is going to hurt.

Not a particularly sympathetic doctor either, his only response to my comment that she keeps trying to take it off, is that I'll just have to do my best. My best, I think, will be to give her pamol before we go to bed, and then try to slip it on once she's asleep, then buy some more batteries for my booklight because I'm going to be spending A LOT of time coaxing her back to sleep over and over again.

We don't have to go back to Beppu for a month, at least, unless we have trouble with the brace. And then it'll probably be six months of monitoring, with a possible skin graft taking skin from her foot if she doesn't regain movement.

At least the 'plasterer' is a lot nicer, a very sweet man, talkative, and constantly comments about how hard it is to design a brace for such a small hand, but he keeps trying. He has the worst halitosis I've ever encountered on a person though. I still like him more than the plastic surgeon, who seems very knowledgable and competent, but rather impatient. Certainly doesn't take the time or effort to explain things to me, I just hope Kanji remembers it all!

Kanji came with me again today, though I did the bulk of the driving. We ran out of gasoline!!!! Can you believe it? A Gasoline Stand man and his wife, I think it was a bit embarrassing for him, though it was largely my fault, since I was driving. But I've gotten so used to him filling it up for me whenever he has the car that I often don't even look. At first he wanted someone to come from Nakatsu, from our Stand, but we were a hour's drive away! So he took my suggestion that we ask at a nearby post office (Higashi Yamaga, for those who know the area). I have a friend nearby, but I couldn't call her because my phone is stuffed!

The PO people called a local gasoline stand for us, and he came with a delivery in about ten minutes. Thank goodness for gasoline delivery, back in NZ we'd have been in for a long walk and the purchase of a tin.