Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Trail of Destruction

Or Why My Living Room is Such a Mess

jewellery - I take it off and leave it in front of the computer

teacup - well, I suppose it actually LIVES in front of the computer

new phone box- bought a new phone, the box and packaging are still all over the floor.

photo frames and baby books and wall hanging tape measures - My 'to-do' pile, several years old in places, starting with LENA's baby book...

sewing - my favorite top and skirt, Erica's favorite overalls.

Pile of school notices and sundry papers - things to look up on the computer.... it never ends.

Erica's dressing gown - Why?

overflowing toy cupboard, kids' desks - a large part of the mess in this room is the desks, they just LOOK messy even when they are tidy, with all the bits hanging off them. The toy closet overflows as soon as it's tidied.

Halloween bag - mid-Halloween preparations, we have a box of costumes, a bag of toys and games and decorations

Dry laundry - and wet laundry, dirty laundry, folded laundry, always always some laundry to do!

piano, guitar, drum kits, Rody horses. - The piano and guitar don't look half bad when they are in their place, musical instruments enhance a room, I think. The double kiddy-drum-kits are a bit much, and the damned Rodies, the goddam rodies! Blow them up, they deflate, then sit around looking at me accusingly and taking up space! Guess I should toss them, but it seems such a waste.

spare clothes - all are guilty, but especially K. Jeans at the end of the sofa, suits hanging on the wall. ALL leave socks lying around, jackets and warm sweaters. Winter is worse, of course.

birthday present, wrapping paper - a job on the go, got a party to go to, yay!

Halloween costumes mid-repair - another job on the go, hence in the TV part of the room, where I will theoretically get around to it while watching TV. However, if you read my last post you'll realize that never happens, so the jobs on the go tend to pile up!

remote controls, cushions - GRRRR!!!! I remember my mother also had a thing about the sofa cushions on the floor. Now I get it, it's just SO unnecessary! And my Dad had such a thing about the remote controls that he actually CHAINED them to his chair.

nebulizer, magazines, iphone - in front of the TV, where I give Erica her medicine. Either I play with the phone while she watches TV, or she plays with the phone while I read.

GENKAN is just as bad at the moment:

AFWJ Journals, recipes to be filed - two big boxes of AFWJ Journals, that I WILL get time to look through one day. And I WILL get around to filing those damned recipes, they just all look so delicious!

work bags, kanji's mail, jackets, things 'to go somewhere' undelivered mail, recycyling, spare tables, Kanji's never-ending portable wardrobe relocation project.

potties and bath chair - to be cleaned and stored

tables - yes, TWO tables in the hall and genkan, waiting to either be used for a party, or returned to the shed.

recycling - another thing that lives in the shed, to be taken out when I get the time

shoes - okay, they belong in the genkan, but not in this state! Five people and several different shoe categories means most of the time, you can't see the tile floor.

bags - handbag, medicine bag, empty shopping bag, work bag, kindy class bag, puppet bag! I think I need to rethink where the bags go...

coats - supposed to be hung in the portable closet by the spare room door, but often just strung over the nearest spare table!

KITCHEN of course, has issues too:

plastic kitchen - Erica's toy kitchen, but seems to fit better in the kitchen that where it was in the study half of the Living Room, and it seems more appropriate.

baking and cooking ingredients - for parties, piled on the table rather than put away, as I am going to use them soon

tissues, scales, magazine, leftover food - always tissues and a magazine on the table, scales are a recent addition since I started calorie-counting, and leftover food comes and goes. often cookies and cakes. All this stuff often ends up on the freezer during meals.

medicine boxes, cookies, playdough utensils. - sometimes on the table, sometimes on the freezer.

oil, teapots, water bottles - on the bench between the sink and the stove. Always the dirty oil, sometimes a bottle of clean oil, two teapots and various water bottles waiting to be filled.

scissors - I had to remove them from the drawer when Erica found them, so they are now cluttering up the windowsill.

Windowsill - crazily wide in a Japanese kitchen, traditionally you put pots there.

miscellaneous junk - every house as a place for this unameable, unplaceable, but undisposable STUFF!

overflowing aprons and lunch mats - I settled on a nice basket-on-a-shelf neatness technique, but it's not working, it keeps overflowing.

recipe books - always one or two out lying on a bench somewhere, though the actual shelf is quite neat at the moment.

Purpose of This List: nothing really. But later it was worth its weight in gold when Amy got all morose and complained that it would be better if she didn't exist, because then her mess wouldn't be there messing everyone up and putting Mum in a bad mood. So I said to her, Amy, I just made a list of the mess in the room, because I know that one day, when you are all gone and I am at home alone, I will think about how messy it used to be... and miss it, so I made a list so I would always remember the shocking state of our living room when all my little girls lived in it!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Foiled Again

Part I: You know about this, my failed attempt to watch a TV show of my choice as sundry family members imposed.

Part II: Time - check. Family - quietly disposed of in various beds, sounds asleep. DVD - check. Pop it in the machine. Nothing. The multi-region DVD player is in its box, neatly tucked away under the box with all the remote controls in it. Nah, it's too late to go through all that... I go to bed.

Part III: Time - check. Family all asleep - check. DVD player - check. This time it's not too late and I make the effort to unpack and plug in the DVD player. DVD - uncheck. It's gone. Parts 2 and 3, yes, in their box by the stereo where I left them last time. But Part 1 seems to have gone awol...

Aha! There it is, in the remote controls box. Where else? I pick up the DVD player to get the wires plugged into the TV and hear an ominous clatter. I know that clatter. It's the clatter of a loose DVD inside the DVD player. At some point, when I've packed it away I forgot to remove the DVD. And as I packed it or as I moved its box around, the DVD has slipped out from the tray and fallen somewhere inside the body of the machine.

Cue tragi-comic DIY attempt to remove DVD from player using iphone LED torch and jewellery tweezers. No luck. Wiggle it into place? I must have looked like I was playing one of those motion-sensitive iphone games as I gently tilted the machine to get the DVD directly under the tray, then FLIP quickly turn it over, hoping it'll settle back into place. No luck. Time for bed.

Part IV: Time - check. Family asleep or out - check. DVD - check. Screwdriver - check. The top of the DVD player easily comes off, only 7 screws, which I fiddle with while watching a documentary on human cloning - yes please! Just one more me, to catch up on all the TV shows, movies, books and magazines I have lying around while the other one does all the work, like unscrewing DVD machines.

Wiggles DVD successfully removed from machine, lid successfully replaced, DVD finally inserted into machine, press Play and...

... nothing. I get some sound but no picture. Time for bed again I think!

postscript: In a moment of inspiration, I decide the TV is at fault, and connect the Little DVD player to the Big DVD player. After some fiddling to find the right channel, success! Sound AND vision and I am now going to sit up all night watching TV!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Eggceptional Week

Well, I got my eggs from Jo - four trays, and I gave one to Baachan and Jiichan of course, which still left 3 trays of eggs for us to eat!

I started out with omelets for lunch that very day, and happily served them up to Kanji and Erica after marvelling at the YELLOW color of the free-range eggs.

Lunch the next day was fried eggs on toast, then scrambled eggs on Saturday. Saturday night I used the eggs to crumb chicken nuggets, then made everyone an omelet. Sunday I made mashed egg for sandwiches. Today I've made a quiche, and I have some spinach to make an souffle tomorrow night. After that, I might actually run out of eggs!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Erica Starts Kindy

Erica had her first day at kindy today! Actually she stayed home her official first day with a fever! Here she is, ready and rearing to go with her pink backpack on (which she calls "my pink" or "packback").

She was very keen to go! Never looked back. We had been there three times to enrol, so she knew the place very well. She had not been inside yet though - she is obsessed with the outdoor play area. Once she'd gone inside and registered the fact that there were other children there, she came back to the door where I was waiting, took my hand and led me inside. I'd come early so I could stay with her as long as she needed, so I went in. She started to play with the kitchen, and the teacher encouraged me to leave. She looked a little surprised when I said "goodbye, I'm going to work" (she is used to that, as I say that when I leave her with her Daddy or Baachan).

Apparently she was so happy playing when her Daddy came to pick her up an hour later that she really didn't want to leave! So it's been decided that she will stay for the whole four hours. So, that was easy! Helps I suppose that we waited until she was ready - putting on her shoes and yelling out to me "Mum! Let's Go Yuu-kun!" (her friend's name) or "Let's go Baachan" because she was bored at home.

Left: on the way to kindy on her new bike. This was a few days before, and we were going for a talk. Kanji still had his blond hair at this point - it's got spray-on black on it just for this meeting!
Right: the kindy gate, and the hondo on the left. The kindy is at a temple.

Left: eager beaver can't wait to get in!
Right: on the famous Dinosaur climbing frame. I was terrified because she immediately copied an older kid and held on to that red bar at the top by her hands and I wasn't sure if she could swing her legs over to the platform or the down bar. She can't grip around a bar with her scarred hand, you can see in the picture how she is wrapping it around.

The sandpit. Ooookay... You've got to wonder why they bother...

Monday, October 11, 2010


More than once!

First, I had to cancel my 'No.1 Fan' appearance at my husband's gig, due to Erica falling sick. At lunch time, I thought she was bit lethargic, not eating her soba with as much gusto as usual. I pretty much guessed, even before I touched her skin, that she was running a fever when she complained of being cold - part of lunch was barbecue, and there was a grill in the centre of the table, really hot, so there was no chance she was actually cold! Her temp. hit 39.3 by evening, but I avoided going to the doctor.

I still took Amy and Lena to stay with Baachan, as per the original plan (Which was to dump all three kids on their grandparents and run away to be a groupie). With Erica feverish and sleepy, I figured I could spend the night watching TV, eating whatever I wanted for dinner, maybe even having some dessert, after I got the laundry out of the way.

BUT. Just as I was finishing the laundry, the phone rang. It was Jiichan. Amy has a fever and a stomach ache. "Does she want to come home?" I asked. He went off to find out, then called again. "Yes, she does". Just before hanging up, he told me the Stand was shut, so could I park around the back. What? You expect me to bundle poor suffering Erica into the car again on a cold night when she has a fever? Luckily sense prevailed, or maybe Baachan reminded him, as he called back 2 seconds later to tell me he would bring her home.

So, she is fine except for a very painful tummy. We suspect the milk she drank at Baachan's. They don't drink milk much (since Jiichan, who drank a cup of milk a day since primary school, saw an NHK documentary on the evils of milk) so it might have gone off. Well, I know there's nothing much you can do about that but wait it out, and the most comfortable way to do that is lying curled up absolutely still. And if you are lying absolutely still, what else do you want to do but watch TV?

Aladdin happened to be on Disney, so they watched that. Erica was awake by now, and under a second lease of life after pain and fever meds. I only give those if the fever goes over 38.5, I'd rather have a sick kid in a fever-induced sleep, quietly healing, than running around the room because they feel better after meds. But she was up to 39.3, and complaining of pain too, poor thing, so I gave her some. So they settled in on the folded out sofa-bed, while I went to search for K's concert streaming live online.

I missed their set, they were on first, back when I was folding laundry, cooking toast and taking Erica's temperature and trying to get her to eat some soup and bread.

Not quite the Arrested Development evening I was expecting.

Finally the movie ended, Erica was tired enough to get to sleep, Amy could finally move, so I finally got them up to their own beds, quietly asleep, and starting thinking NOW I can finally relax, watch some of my own TV and maybe have a bit of dessert.

And Kanji came home.

How can you complain about that? At least he was home in time to guard me from monsters when I wanted to go out to the car to get my phone. At least he was thoughtful enough about Erica's condition to come home instead of going to a post-gig drinking party. But it did mean I was back over on the damn computer again, while HE took over the cosy sofa and watched variety shows.

So Kevin, if you're reading this, this is one of the many reasons while I will have your DVD box set for several months before I get a chance to watch it!

Friday, October 08, 2010

Pinch Hitter

I have met about 217 people in the last two days. Around 100 5th graders, 31 6th graders, and 86 university students! And before you bother asking, No, I cannot remember their names, although, surprisingly, several stand out in my memory, names attached - and I know I will never forget them!

I've been called a Pinch Hitter 3 times in the last few weeks, so I guess that must be the latest Japanese katakana word for 'substitute teacher' and I'm guessing it comes from baseball (correct me if I'm wrong lurker Emily!!!)

I'm filling in between teachers again, a nice 5-6 weeks of extra classes that reminds me both of how much I can achieve in one day, and the downside of working full-time - laudry piling up, short-tempered with the kids, no time for hobbies, weekends spent cleaning etc!

The oddest thing is that while I am working tomorrow, it's only 3 juku lessons, so it feels almost like a holiday! I think it's funny how normally it would FEEL like 'Oh my god I am working on a Saturday', but now, after 217 students in 2 days, it feels like a day off in comparison!

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Too many Books - even for me!

I decided to gather all my reading material from all the places I stash books - by both my beds, in the car, in the kitchen, in the living room, and even I was a bit stunned! I hadn't realized I had THIS many on the go!

I read several books at once. There are a number of reasons for this.

First, to suit my mood - sometimes I want to be challenged by something a little more philosophical, to inspire my thoughts, while at other times I just want to switch my brain off (hello People magazine). Second, while I have the attention span when I'm fresh to take in the information overload in books like "Hold on to Your Kids" or "Cradle of God", when I'm tired, I need a story that just falls off the pages of the book, like Stephen King or chick-lit. Third, I have a wide range of interests, but I'm not gung-ho enough about any of them to want to be caught up in that world 24/7. So while I'm interested in the idea of turning my house into a mini-Montessori kindergarten (easier than you think) I don't want to read about it every day. I'm a Renaissance Soul. Finally, it's good to have on-call books lying about the place just in case you get caught out there with nothing to do. So there's a book on the seat of the car, one in my handbag, in the kitchen, used to be one in the toilet, but there isn't right now, in the living room for late-night reading, and as I said, by both beds (the double bed in 'my' room has the big picture book as I can read in the full light in there, while the futon in the kids' room has the novel with a small book-light).

They are, clockwise from top left:

Digital camera how-to book, dipped into every now and then for tips and advice, none of which seems to stick much.

Hardcover big pretty picture books: I like diving into a visual feast like these books! Rolling Stone history of Rock 'n' Roll, African Jewellery and Japanese Calligraphy are on the menu at the moment. In back is the stupendously large and beautifully illustrated book about fashion over the last 3 centuries which is truly a pleasure to open up and browse through. This book has a bit of a story - I saw it first in a bookstore in Fukuoka two years ago, but felt I couldn't afford it. Then when I went back to the same bookstore this January, and it was still there, marked down a little, I felt it was fate that I should have it! Actually the 8000 yen price is pretty reasonable for a book this size - it's actually two volumes in a case.

The next bunch are my on-the-go and out-and-about selection. At the bottom is a Japanese history comic I bought, my attempt at studying Japanese! Then the Philosophy book, "50 Philosophy Ideas"; a book of essays about self-transformation called "Women Re-invented" to which a friend of mine contributed; "Chicken Soup for the Teacher's Soul", some very heart-warming teaching stories that I keep in my work bag and read when the kids are REALLY pissing me off; and at the top, "50 Books that Changed the World", my 'red light book', kept in the car...

The next pile I confess to not having opened yet, this is my 'next' pile: "A Brief History of Nakedness", self-explanatory; "Empire of Chocolate", about Hershey's in the US (I just want to learn about how chocolate is made); and "The Color of Water", a memoir from a mixed-race American, which I actually forgot until now was on my 'next' list! I didn't buy the book. I got it when a woman I know in town, who used to live in the US and speaks fluent English, left it on my doorstep. She often leaves me books like this (her son lives next door) and she has good taste in literature!

Next, my parenting pile. I'm always pondering the vagaries of child-rearing - what's right and what's wrong, what works and what doesn't? And I'm always reading another book with another point of view. "Hold on to Your Kids" puts the blame on parents and children not spending enough time together. Montessori is famous - this book is how to do it at home. Not sure I'm ready for the mess yet...

The next pile is my magazines - I subscribe to National Geographic, Mothering and Mental Floss. There's also a People magazine in there, classic brain(less) downtime reading, a Marie Claire (used to be much better, but still tries to push the envelope with a serious subject every month), and a NZ parenting mag. I stock up on mags in NZ and read them throughout the year or so I am in Japan before I get back again.

Finally, in the centre, my paperbacks, or 'reading' reading material. From the bottom, "Cradle of God" a biography of Hiram Bingham, the man who 'discovered' Machu Picchu in Peru. I have temporarily lost this one, and I am hoping I left it at OIT. Next, Rebecca Otowa's collection of essays, "At Home in Japan", a wonderful selection of experiences and opinions. Next, my novel of the moment, Anita Brookner's "Latecomers", very 'serious' literature (and another one from my neighbor's Mum). "True Hauntings" is my kitchen book - bite-size tales of ghosts, because for some reason I love reading spooky ghost stories in my sunny kitchen! Finally Stephen King's "On Writing" which was quite interesting.

And right now? I am reading NONE of these, Mr King inspired me to finally pluck "The Stand" off my shelf and read it after owning it for about a decade.

Friday, October 01, 2010

swiped from Midori via GW...

1. What’s your middle name?

Lillian, after my Nana

2. What’s your favorite magazine?

AFWJ Journal! Okay, I'm biased. Overall, National Geographic and Mental Floss. Love the occasional NZ Women's Weekly. An occasional Vogue or Vanity Fair too.

3. What are you wearing right now?

black skinny jeans with a hole in the knee (actual, not cosmetic), khaki camouflage shirt. Cleaning clothes!

4. What color are your bed sheets?


5. Who was your third grade teacher?

Sister Elizabeth. She slapped my hands with a ruler, I'll never forget it because it wasn't my fault!

6. What is the weather like right now?

Sunny, perfect.

7. Do you know how to ski?

No. Snowboarded twice.

8. What was the last thing you drank?

Cup of tea, and another one coming up. No surprises there.

9. Dream vacation?


10. Favorite article of clothing?

My tribal maxi dress.

11. Do you prefer baking or cooking?

Cooking. With a crappy oven and humidity ruining doughs and baking powder, I fail too much at baking.

12. Is your hair above or below your shoulders?

Below, but seriously thinking of losing it all.

13. What drink do you order when out?

A jockey of nama. Or a good white wine, if they have one (which is almost never).

14. What book are you reading?

I actually have a blog post coming up about the absurd number of books I am reading right now. Mainly The Stand (great timing, with all the kids coming down with colds this week) and a Marie Claire magazine.

15. What did you dream about last night?

I lost Erica! I was rooming in with other staff from my company, and was convincing Manager that Kevin and I should have the small downstairs rooms, so the babies could play in the empty spare there... then I was on a busy city street, and saw Erica's toy box on the road, but realized she hadn't been hit and killed because there would people and police etc standing around if that had happened. Then I heard a loudspeaker announcement (like the ones they do in shopping malls) saw a crowd gathering in a cafe, and heard her surprisingly loud voice (in reality she has a super-loud voice) as she was greeting and being friendly to all the staff.

16. What was the last movie you went to?

Alice in Wonderland

17. Any injuries at the moment?

Cut my hand on broken glass yesterday as I was wrapping it for disposal. Broken toe almost 100% healed.

18. What color is your bathroom?

Cream with blue tiles. I hate it.

19. What’s the state of your laundry right now?

Two loads on the genkan floor waiting for line space, three loads on the line, one load unfolded on the chair in the kitchen, towels lined up for tomorrow morning.

20. Do you take vitamins?

No, and I just read that they will give you cancer, so there.

21. Where do you love to shop?

Anywhere that has clothes and shoes that fit me! In NZ I end up in Sussan, Just Jeans, Glassons, Bendon outlet, Warehouse, Hannah's and the No.1 Shoe Warehouse every time I go there.

22. How often do you buy groceries?

Lately 2-3 times a week, I'm getting better at constructing a meal out of the bits and bobs at home in the fridge.

23. Do you have a pet/pets?

No, but I really want one! A cat and a dog, but I want them inside, and DH vetoes inside pets. Bit of a dilemma.

24. If you are married, when is your next anniversary?

Next month, and we have a discount ticket to a nearby restaurant that is one of my favorites, so we will go there. With or without the kids, haven't decided yet. Probably with, as we fly to NZ the following week.

25. How do you take your coffee and/or tea?

Coffee, however it comes. Tea MUST have LOTS of FULL-CREAM milk and never any sugar, or I just can't drink it. Tea is totally my comfort food.

26. Mac or PC? Desktop or Laptop?

Both. Both. Fujitsu laptop, old NEC desktop, new Dell desktop, shiny happy new Mac desktop.

27. Favorite month of the year?

Probably August, I love the holidays, the hot summer, beer and barbecues, and it's my birthday. Or December for the endless partying and Christmas of course.

28. Do you have a hobby?

Blogging, reading, really need something more focussed, I think.

29. What salad dressing do you prefer?

At the moment, aojiso or just Balsamic vinegar.

30. Live or fake Christmas tree?

LIVE! Very rare in Japan, but I have a friend who sends me one every year.

31. Did you walk or take a bus to school?

No, there isn't a decent bus system in this town, and it's too far to walk. Sometimes I walk or bike to work.

32. Do you have any phobias?

Don't like flying, how crazy is that? Living overseas, you dumbass....

33. What’s your favorite snack food?

Chocolate! Or fruit, or nuts or cheese on crackers.

34. When do you take your shower/bath?

Sometimes a morning shower, sometimes an evening bath with the kiddies.

35. What time did you get up this morning?

7am - got a 30 minute sleep-in this morning!

36. What’s your favorite animal?


37. Have you ever broken a bone?

Three: The ulna in my left wrist at age 5, when I slipped off a jungle gym. Then last year I broke the little toe on my left foot and this year I broke the little toe on my right foot.

38. Do you wear makeup?

For tertiary and up classes (not elementary or kindy classes) and for going out in the evening.

39. Do you speak any foreign languages?

Japanese and some rusty secondary school French

40. Have you ever played a sport?

I was forced to play netball in primary school and hated it. I played social basketball for 2 years in High School. I was by far the worst player in our team, perhaps in the whole league - I shot three baskets in two years, all of which were elaborately set up for me by my teammates when we were playing against an even worse opponent.

41. Your last UPS package contained …

Dora the Explorer party set - two days after the party...

42. What’s on your desktop?

Wow, I just cleaned it this morning! Still - scented candles, 2011 calendar, my camera and webcam, a book someone just mooched, some snack ideas from a magazine, a letter from my African sponsor child, latest issue of The Tombo, a marker, cloth covers for the computers, a plasticine Buddha head sculpted by Amy...

Just realized, it said deskTOP not desk, right? Well, pics of my three girls, on both computers. Pic of all 3 girls plus assorted cousins on a trampoline on computer No.3. Original background on ancient laptop as it no longer has the oomph to do anything clever like host photos on the desktop.

43. What is your home page?

I have a bunch: facebook, scrabble, 2 blogs, Stuff news

44. Extrovert or introvert?

Not sure. Bit of both. A social butterfly who loves to spend evenings at home reading a good book.

45. Favorite board game?

Trivial Pursuit or Pictionary, or Scrabble

46. What class did you like best in high school? In college?

Art History, we had a fabulous teacher and I loved all the art.

47. What would you do with an extra hour each day?

Read a book.

48. Do you have allergies?

Not really, though cleaning sends me off sneezing, but I think that's more a natural reaction to a face-full of dust than an allergy per se.

49. Are your nails painted?

No, but toenails are fading red.

50. Where are you right now?

At home.