Monday, June 29, 2009

Ends With a Bang

I filling Sundays up with fun stuff with the kids, AWAY from the house and its housework!

Today we started the day with a visit to Katy and the kids in Kumini. It's a long drive but it was fun, we had the iPod on and were dancing and singing in the car, aka floating disco aka mobile karaoke box. After a morning of balls and bubbles and bread and babies we left them to the unenviable job of getting all those infants off to sleep and took off to the beach.

Official Beach Season doesn't start until July, which means a)free parking (yay) b)no showers (boo) and c)no ice cream stand (hmm). Despite the absolutely perfect beach weather there were only a few other families there, serious beach-goers with suntans and no flotation devices. Frequency of beach visits seems to be in inverse proportion to the amount of STUFF deemed necessary for a beach visit - those who go once a year take a van-load of gear, including a whole barbecue set, ten-course meal, shade tent, blow-up boat, several changes of clothes and obligatory watermelon to smash to bits. Regulars bring themselves and togs.

I'm aiming this year to fall somewhere in-between, leaning towards regularity, although I've already missed several fine weekends. I loved every bit of it and vowed to come back every weekend, with a snorkel, one towel between us, no food, bottled water, no money, no cameras or other valuables, a few rings, a mat but no tent, and DECENT SHOES. (see below)

Erica slept on the way home, as expected. She was out like a light before we even got out of the carpark. We drove to a nearby soba stand and had an ice-cream each, then I stopped for a coffee and took the kids to a park for a play. Erica woke up just in time.

It was on the way back from the park heading towards home that I rear-ended the car ahead at the lights. We were practically motionless, so no injuries (despite Lena not being properly in her seat-belt). The light went green, and I began to move forward, then saw that the car ahead was not moving or had stopped again, so I went to stop, but I seem to have slipped off the break onto the accelerator with the stupid 100yen shop JANDALS that I was still wearing.

It's amazing how much damage you can do to a bumper at 5kmph and 50m. Of course we had to stop, and apologize and fluff around. I wish I could just take their number and swan off home, honestly I have every intention of paying! But we had to wait for the Police Emergency Response Vehicle (PERV) to arrive, and show our licences, and say what happened, and go back to the road and do a full reconstruction. I called Kanji, who called Jiichan, who called Aunty Toyoko. You see, the car belongs to the service station company, so it's their insurance company who is involved, so Jiichan came and Toyoko came, and we all stood by the road dotting i's and crossing t's, while the kids grew increasingly impatient and Erica started to cry.

Once it was all over and we were allowed to go, Amy has a little bit of an existential anxiety attack. Why, she asked, did something bad always have to happen? Should she make something bad happen at the beginning of a good day, just to get it over and done with, so she wouldn't have to spend all of her good day anticipating the inevitable bad thing? What do you say to a statement like that?? I said to not mess with fate by inventing more bad stuff to happen, cos fate might throw the bad stuff it had in mind for us at us anyway, then we'd have double bad stuff. I also tried to teach her 'glass half full/half empty' lesson, and let's look at what went right today!

So I went and bought hamburger fixings at the supermarket, and we went home and watched the American Idol final while eating hamburgers and home-made ice cream. Amy was going for Kris, and Lena and I were going for Adam, but she changed her mind after watching my supremely dorky 'Go Adam' cheer. Good. I already knew Kris was going to win, so I wanted her on Team Kris! They were so thrilled when he won! We finally got to bed, happy again after a hectic day!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Wacky Wednesday

The day we scatter to the winds and finding everyone and getting them back to one location is a tad challenging.

Today I forgot to pick up Amy, I remembered when I was about 3/4ths of the way home, maybe even 4/5ths. She patiently waited for twenty minutes, starving hungry. Then I had to swing by work to pick up my phone, which I had left charging on the desk.

Amy made me laugh on the way home, she was so hungry that when she looked at the sun, she could see a big fried egg.

Lena the clothes horse - I suggested to her that she wear her white half-jeans with her new pumpkin patch dress...and she said 'That's just what I was thinking'. We were sitting at the dinner table, no-one talking as we were all munching on our pizza, being all half starved after a very long day.

Erica's been talking. Today she had a major tantrum because she wanted to wear her winter jacket (it was out to see how well it went with the matching hat I got them from pumpkin patch, which arrived yesterday). She sat on my knee wailing for a good five minutes, then calmed down, and said, "Where Amy go?" She's been saying Amy's name clearly for a few days now, and had obviously decided Mum was no good, she'd give her big sister a try!

She also impressed me on Monday, again having a tantrum (about clothes again, bad pattern emerging here) but this time she drew a tear on her cheek and said "saaaaad". I've been teaching her this word and sign for when she's crying.

A bit later on she rushed up to me at the computer and repeated, over and over again, wain, wain wain. She was very excited. So I decided to follow her, and took her hand and let her lead me. She took me over to the air conditioner, which was broken and leaking water all down the window and dripping onto the floor. Yikes! She put her hand under the shower and repeated 'wain!'. Yes, darling it's raining. Inside.

Before I forget I want to add the fish. She says it a lot, but not until after what felt like hundreds of repetitions. Then one day, she was reading a book by herself, when suddenly she jumped up and ran over to me yelling bish bish bish! She'd remembered the word and was quickly running over to tell me. It was cute. Guess you had to be there...and be the mother....okay...oyabaka accusations welcome...

Father's Day

I totally forgot until the morning, and good thing I remembered
as dragging myself out to shop was the only thing that got me moving,
I was in total slug mode on Sunday.

We went to Jusco and bought lots of stuff and did print club and went out for dinner to a family restaurant that cost waaaay too much and cheated me on the parfait by filling it up with rice bubbles and gross chocolate jelly. Much as I despise Joyfull, they do have better parfaits.

We got Daddy a guitar fret-shaped pencil case to put his guitar picks in. He had a gig tonight with his band, the Nakatsu Sex Pistols, and it's the first opportunity I've had to bring the girls to see him play, which was nice timing on Father's Day.
So off we went walking, and waltzed into the Live House with the stroller!

They found it exciting but a little confusing I think. Amy kept asking why
he had his glasses off, and said he looked weird without them, and why do
you have safety pins on your t-shirt, are they kakkoii, but you can't see
them from the audience and do you enjoy the band? That last comment had a
guy standing near us in fits of laughter. Kanji was wearing the leather
pants Susie gave me.

Erica had fun, I was worried about the noise, but she even danced! Lena ran
around the room in between the slam-dancing punks being chased by the
drummer's sister who was trying to stop her from being squished. I'm not sure
where Amy was I was too busy videoing the 18-year old 'Sid Vicious' do an
amazing version of the real Sid's 'My Way' with a blow-up doll that Erica
was terrified of. She hates mannequins and dummies, scarecrows, masks and now blow-up sex dolls. Poor Erica. Well, I suppose I can think of worse things to be scared of.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

A Week's Work Done

And it felt really good. I might not feel so great at the end of the five weeks! I think I would quite like to continue working in the mornings, and the elementary schools aren't as bad as I thought they were going to be. But I'm not enjoying the juku classes as much, and I HATE the timing. I've always avoided full-time work because of the late afternoon hours which eat into the limited amount of time I get with my children, and coincide with the busiest part of the day.

All the disadvantages of full-time work showed their face - not enough hours in the day, and having the few hours you get with your kids telescoped into a squeeze at the beginning and end of the day, with them vying for attention with the housework, the cooking, the laundry. Feeling exhausted, and needing to go to bed earlier, leaving even less time to do your own thing (good thing I gave up on devoting evenings to my 'projects' since I got pregnant with Erica, or I'd feel even more frustrated). No time to do background or catch-up housework like de-cluttering or sorting school papers, or even getting the winter blankets squished into vacuum bags in the closet for summer.

The best thing to come out of the week is Erica's increased attachment to her Papa. Yesterday when he came home from work, just before I headed out, I was holding her and she reached out to him. Earlier in the week she would have clung to me. On Friday as I bustled about getting ready to go, she just ignored me, and then when I came back in to get something I forgot, she didn't even notice me. Earlier in the week she stood in the genkan wailing. And this morning, when she decided to come downstairs, as usual she sat on the fourth step from the top and called Papa to come get her. She sounded almost surprised when she saw me - "MUM!?" (Those who have met Erica will know how she YELLS 'MUM' at the top of her voice, never says a gentle 'mama')

I talked about missing her the other day, but I miss the older two just as much. I feel like I haven't seen them at all this week, as we eat and go to bed after I come home, and I spend a lot of that time cleaning up and organizing things. Lena especially misses me, and told me so. I told her we only had four more weeks to go, it'll be okay. Erica knows by nature how to re-attach to me, and runs up to me when I come home. I pick her and she asks politely to breastfeed. She really does have a sweet way of asking - a babble of nonsense syllables, ending with 'jis'(this) and sometimes a fist squeeze baby-sign meaning breastfeed. Or she'll pick at my collar. So I end up spending a lot of time when I get back home re-connecting with her. It's not so easy for the older two. Reading to them before bed helps. Only one more chapter of Willy Wonka to go, what's the next best Roald Dahl book??

Saturday, June 20, 2009

6am on a Saturday

This is just a random whinge. Yes, I have to work on Saturday! 5 1/2 hours, actually, and I'll probably spend the hours in between classes prepping for next week, so it's a full day's work. On a Saturday! Obviously I miss my 'sleep-in' (not that you get much of a sleep in with a one-year old sitting next to you head giggling and saying 'MUM! MUM!' but it's just the feeling that I could sleep in, and I'm choosing to get up not forcing myself to!)

At least I get out PTA volleyball. See June 2008 to see how happy I am to be able to avoid that fiasco!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Missing Bubs

One and half days of work and I'm missing my baby already! On paper, the schedule looks friendly enough, away for 3-4 hours in the morning and 2-3 in the late afternoon. But of course, as soon as I come home for lunch she's ready for her nap! She's up there now snoozing away, and as soon as she wakes, we'll be off for the afternoon session at 3pm and I won't be back until well after 7.

That'll be 11 hours altogether, during which time I will have spent half an hour with her at lunch, when she screamed the car down when I took her home instead of setting her to sleep instantly right there on the gasoline stand forecourt. And another half hour or so dropping her off to Kanji again, during which time she'll probably be in a bad mood from having been woken too soo. I can see why Mums working full-time find their toddlers' behaviour trying - it's so much easier when I work part-time and have the time to sit down with her a give her a cuddle after she wakes up, or to actually play with her, or just talk to her.

The logistics of pick-ups and drop-offs are particularly difficult today. Amy and Lena have English, and Amy has a swimming lesson, and Kanji has an event from 6pm so they have to go to Baachan's for dinner. I'm still not sure who's picking up whom, where and when and wiil I get any dinner??

If I'm not wrong...I wake Erica when Amy and Lena return from school, and take all three the green car to Kanji at work, where I leave Erica, and then get the white car and take Amy and Lena to work with me, where they'll do their Japanese homework in the genkan until their class starts at 4pm. Then ?someone? will pick them up at 5 at take Amy to her swimming lesson and Lena to Baachan's. That someone will be Kanji I think, and he'll take Erica to Baachan's then too. Or maybe Baachan herself will pick them up, with or without Erica, in which case where will her carseat be?? Then I have to hide in the office so she doesn't see me, because she'll cry. Then I finish work at 6:50 and rush to swimming to pick up Amy who finishes at 6:40 but takes half an hour to get changed so no worries. And we go back to Baachan's for dinner, or rather Amy will eat while Erica clings to me like a limpet and catches up on a day's worth of cuddles and milk while I pick at food with one hand.

Looks like we'll be skipping baths, I'll have a shower after they're all asleep - providing I don't fall asleep with them!

termite sex

It's the annual termite or shiro-ari mating season. Which means, when you live in an old wooden house like mine, an infestation. Last night we were up until 9:30, reading chapters of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory in between bouts of termite-killing and generous insect spraying.

They keep crawling out of the walls, out of the tiny cracks in the window frames and behind the closets and even up a gap between the wall and the floor - right by my pillow. We kept squishing them into tissues, and spraying into whichever hole we thought they were coming out of. There was no way we could sleep until we were satisfied that there were just a few were escaping, and those quickly dying from the spray. I wedged spray-soaked tissues into the crack by my bed. After each spray, we opened the windows for ventilation for a few minutes, then shut them again to keep the mosquitos out (the screen windows are frayed).

Usually I run away to the parents-in-law's house for two nights, which is all it usually takes for the annual orgy to be over. The first year, it happened when Amy was a baby, and she just happened to have a fever at that time. So I was not in the mood for 'one more thing'. We had the house fumigated after that, and it seemed to do the trick for several years.

But despite more fumigating, we've had them back every year and the same time - mid June, just as the humidity goes up during the rainy season. I think they must have an instinct to go 'up' and also to head towards the light - of the moon, maybe? I don't know where they originate - rotten wooden piles deep under the house...

I explained the life cycle of ants to Amy, who had started to make up her own ideas about honeymooning termites. We took perverse pleasure in destroying the dating chances of this crop of bugs - by squishing them.

Well, here's hoping last night was the worst night, and tonight won't be so bad...

Monday, June 15, 2009

Day of the Dog and other Japanese pregnancy customs

From Sheila Kitzinger`s `Rediscovering Birth`, about birth
customs all over the world.

Some extracts from the chapter about pregnancy:

"the Day of the Dog in the fifth month of pregnancy, according to the Shinto
religious calendar, is associated with the rite that celebrates the
pregnancy and guards the baby against harm. The Dog, one of the twelve
animals of the zodiac that form the ancient oriental calendar, is a
messenger from the gods and chases evil spirits away. It as an auspicious
time for the presentation of the expectant mother at the temple and for the
donning of the hara-obi, the sash that protects her baby, ensures that it
stays `down` and keep it `warm`. She goes to the Shinto temple with her
mother-in-law, and often with both prospective grandmothers, to get the obi
from the priest and have it blessed. The women pray together at the shrine."


"The oldest surviving medical text that includes guidance about pregnancy is
the Chinese `The Fundamentals of Medicine` or `Ishin-Ho`, dating from around
984AD. There are thirty volumes altogether, five of which were translated in
to Japanese in 1692 and published as `A Useful Reference Book for Women` or
`Onna Chohoki`. It teaches that fetal development is affected by a pregnant
woman`s diet and by what she sees and feels. There are recommendations for
each month of pregnancy.

"Japanese beliefs about pregnancy are all Chinese in origin. Taikyou is the
way in which an expectant mother should concentrate her life force to
`create a sage`. The Japanese dictionary definitions of the word taikyou are
as follows: `Education for unborn children. A woman should try to sit
straight, to have a correct diet, to see no evil, to listen to good music
and suitable counsel in order for her to provide a good influence for her
unborn child.` ; `During her pregnancy a pregnant woman maintains her mental
and emotional calmness and trains herself to behave better so that she can
provide a favorable influence for her unborn child`.

The word taikyou consists of the kanji characters for `teaching` and `womb`."


"Japanese parenting magazines are packed with articles about how talking to
the baby or playing music, massaging the uterus and touching the different
parts of the baby can raise a baby`s IQ level and might even produce a


"From ancient times the Japanese have had general dietary rules for pregnancy
which were themselves derived from China: sweet things hinder the baby`s
bone formation; spicy foods unsettle the baby`s soul: sour foods harm the
baby`s skin."


"Traditionally, pregnant Japanese women are not supposed to eat crab lest it
cause a transverse lie. Perhaps this is something to do with the sideways
movement of crab. Ginger root is also forbidden because the baby may have
extra digits sticking out like the fingers of the root."


"In Japan it is believed that a diet high in fruit and vegetables helps the
baby`s skin to be clear and beautiful"


"In Japan traditional philosophy regarding the value of hard work during
pregnancy has been revived and given a new twist by an obstetrician, Dr
Yoshimura, who told me that `Pregnant women have usually finished their
housework by about 8.30 am and the lie around watching TV until night time.
The men don`t come home until 7 or 8 pm, so women have nothing to do.` He
sees this as a surrender to American values introduced after the last world
war: 'I seek a return to traditional ways of living. The great evil is
industrialization. Industrialization in the cancer of mankind. We have no
antibodies to it.

"Pregnant women go to his house in the early morning to do his housework,
unaided by electricity or labour-saving equipment. They wash the floors,
sweep and cook over an open wood fire set in a pit in the ground, do
gardening and chop and saw great trunks of wood. I saw women in the final
weeks of pregnancy drawing water from the well and sawing, chopping and
stacking enormous quantities of wood in Dr Yoshimura`s grounds.

"I was invited to a meal at Dr Yoshimura`s ancient house. We knelt round the
open fire over which a heavy iron cooking pot was suspended in which fish
and cabbage leaves were boiling. Swathed in clouds of smoke, the pregnant
women attending alternately stoked the fire, producing thicker billowing
smoke that made my eyes water and choked my throat, and, in response to a
wave of the guru`s hand, threw more fish and cabbage into the bubbling water
and passed round small bowls of sake.

"Today in the West there is great concern about air pollution and its
relation to asthma and respiratory diseases and cancer. It struck me
forcibly that when household life in conducted in one room with a wood fire
with no chimney, everyone has to breathe highly polluted air, babies and
pregnant women included. This kind of ancient environment pollution is
easily forgotten but continues today over much of the world, and together
with the ever-present risk of fire, is another major health risk for women
and children.

"When I asked Dr Yoshimura how he got women to engage in this heavy labour
and endure such onerous conditions, he answered, `I have charismatic appeal
and they hear my words as from a religious master.` I was left unconvinced
by his recreation of the ancient Japanese birth culture.

"It is true that before Japan was industrialized, pregnant women in all but
the wealthiest families had to face hard physical labour of this kind, as
they still do in most countries. On the other hand, after a birth in
traditional societies, respite from physical labour is linked with rites of
postpartum segregation and nurturing by other women, and a new mother is
assured a break from work and some kind of sanctuary for a short time after
giving birth. Rather than wanting to `get back to normal` as soon as
possible after the birth, now the norm in industrialized cultures, an Asian
woman who has just had a baby expects to be cared for and to rest while
others do the work."

Thursday, June 11, 2009


Only two days and teaching elementary school's done me in already. Okay, so that's a bit of an exaggeration, and it's just as likely that it was lugging the baby around, slumping at the computer and reading lying on my tummy that caused a muscle in my neck to get pulled somehow. Either way, I spent yesterday in a great deal of pain. Happily it's much, much better today, so gone are the nightmares of teaching elementary school English in a neck brace, or worse, waiting for hours and spending loads of money at clinics to get to get told it was nothing, or sent home with tylenol.

Two me's occupied my head yesterday, one in a foul mood, rather like PMS, getting annoyed and everyone and everything, just because I was in pain, and the other one, disinterestedly observing, marveling at how just a little pain (it wasn't that bad really, shooting pains if I turned my head too far or too fast, but otherwise tolerable, just stiff and tense) can affect mood. I wonder how people with chronic pain do it! I was exhausted too, physically as well as sleepy of course since although I got to sleep okay, I couldn't go to sleep again once I woke at the crack of dawn.

I went to my classes as usual, and actually felt better after my elementary class in the morning. Then of course I went to the hospital class in the afternoon. Although I don't ask my doctor students for diagnose me, I do ask them for recommendation as to where to go - the most confusing thing about the Japanese medical system is figuring out which doctor or type of clinic to go to - since they are all specialists, and there are no GPs. You almost have to diagnose yourself first.

Of course, they usually say 'go to an internist', which they seem to feel is the same as a GP. You will get properly diagnosed and referred by an internist (at full cost), but not treated, even if it's just a small problem. I've come to the conclusion that that's the vital difference between having a general or family doctor and going to an internist. If you go to your 'naika' with an ear infection, which might be easily cleared up with a course of antibiotics, they might tell you that's what's wrong, and give you a referral or recommendation as to which ENT to go to, but they won't give you the antibiotics.

Worse, some specialists will just declare that there's nothing at all wrong with you - just because there's nothing wrong with the part of you that they specialize in. Thus, the orothpedic surgeon we saw about Amy's sore leg took an x-ray and declared nothing was wrong. I was so mad because she was in pain and I wanted to know why! So we tried the pediatrician, who just happened to have been skating at the same ice rink as us the previous weekend, and figured out it was probably her Achilles tendon, pulled from all the unaccustomed movement while skating.

Anyway, enough ranting about the medical system, back in Hawera, I'd probably still be in Southcare's waiting room, gathering cobwebs. But no, it never ends. Back to the pediatrician today with Erica with a fever and sore throat. I was worried because she had a bit of wheezing on Tuesday night, so I wanted to get ahead with some asthma meds in case her cold worsened her asthma. And back into the bloody system again tomorrow, as both Amy and Lena have cavities.

That's been a headache, because I had to get them checked by the pediatrician at City Hospital to make sure their asthma wasn't too bad, because apparently the painkillers can make asthma worse. That meant getting another appointment there - which we couldn't do until Monday, and then making another appointment for the dentist - all to hopefully be completed before my full-time hours start next week!

Do you wonder why I want to avoid more hospital waiting rooms if I can possibly do so?

Okay, I was going to mention that I played dodgeball on Tuesday, a possible origin of the pulled neck muscle, although I didn't feel anything at the time and the pain didn't begin until around 6-7 hours later. But it could have been that, PLUS the wonky computer chair and hauling the plump toddler in and out of her carseat. The point of this being that I'd never played, nor even seen a game of dodgeball before, only having heard vaguely of it as a game where people - quite bizarrely, I thought - threw balls at each other. Well, that was pretty much what it was, although there were some actual non-human targets thrown in there too. The kids absolutely LOVED it, they were SCREAMING for points at the end. Me, well... me and balls don't mix. Ever. They scare me.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Busy Day

I'm sitting here listening to Amy and Lena singing the Dragon song from 'Okaasan to Issho' while they finish their homework. We'll all be off to bed in a minute, it's still early enough that I'll have time to start reading them another book, if Amy gets her page of maths done in the next few minutes!

I had a very busy day, I started at 7am cleaning and doing laundry and checking online maps for my little excursions today. I finished editing an essay then left Erica with her Papa and popped into the bakery on the way to my new class. I'm filling in for a new teacher who can't start until August, I'll be doing elementary schools every morning and juku classes every afternoon. I'm sure my house will be like a hurricane hit it after I finish at the end of July, because cleaning is last on the list!

The highlight of my day was getting to cuddle the bunster Ryu. I wanna go back and cuddle him again! SO small, so soft, so sweet-smelling with the softest baby hair. He really is a very good-looking baby, with the lovliest skin. Surprisingly I didn't immediately want one, I guess Erica is babyish enough still, sleeping next to me and breastfeeding several times a day that I don't feel like I'm bereft of baby flesh!

I rushed home from that visit for a final 'ladies lunch' with some friends who are heading back to Canada and the US this month. It's a sad month.

I managed to fit in some shopping before Erica completely melted down, so I was able to cook some curry as well as edit two more essays while she slept. Piano lessons at 6, after a quick curry dinner, and I just dosed them all up with their asthma drugs ready for bed.

I haven't finished yet...after the baby gets to sleep, it's back downstairs for me, to finish the last essays and the laundry before doing it all again tomorrow!(Except for the cuddling Ryu bit, I have to wait until next Monday before I get my next cuddle.)

Thursday, June 04, 2009


I'm just keeping a running commentary here of the tactics Erica is using to distract us. Amy and Lena are doing their homework, and I am editing an essay. We're all at our desks in the study/playroom, and Erica is in the middle of the room.

So far she has:

- sang and danced on the piano
- whacked herself in the head with a plastic frying pan
- stomped around the room with a doll on her back
- threw the doll and hit it on the head
- showed off her belly button and patted her tummy
- took a mouthful of water from her sippy cup, then opened her mouth so it dribbled down her top
- had a tantrum when we took the sippy cup off her.
- peered into the hole in the table and said "wow!"
- pretended to sleep - snoring while standing up
- rode her rocking horse while called out 'neighghghhgh' and 'yay!'