Friday, December 30, 2011

Day Whatever

I have a record four blog posts on the go at the moment, in different windows! This is the Big Clean-up-up-date one. I have no idea what day it is, somewhere at the end of the week. I think if I was in Samoa today I wouldn't even notice that they skipped a day.

I slept late today, wasn't up until 10am so again it's more a half-day's effort, which just reminds me of how much more I could do if I had the whole day! The genkan got finished today, and the Christmas stuff back in the shed. Then I started on the living room. The kids and Kanji took off to make mochi with family friends, and the kids will be going to Pushkar with them for a meal after its finished, and I will meet them there when I'm done here. Sounds like a grand plan, aye, but I actually wasn't too happy with it at first when K came home without them and told me I would have to pick the kids up later, it shattered my sense of timing. But all's well that ends well, as having them out of the house is probably a better idea (though they did help with window cleaning yesterday, the little darlings!), and not having to cook a meal is definitely a better idea!

Now it's on to the bathroom, and after I've tidied it, I will head off to Pushkar to pick up the kids, who will be permitted to watch one movie, whilst not moving a fingertip on the sofa - no toys, no books, no homework even allowed, NOTHING is going to mess that room up tonight!!! Then off to bed with them, leaving me the rest of the night to clean the bath (whilst cleaning self) and finally getting around to writing my New Year cards. And those three other blog posts!Link

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Day Two

...and I'm already internally renegotiating the terms of this effort...

The problem - everywhere I go in the house, there is another job that needs doing - school notices, all the families jackets, the pot cupboard, laundry backlog, CD case, the WHOLE spare room - again, the shed, etc, etc, etc.... plus I forget I have to do loads of laundry, dishes and cooking as well as (the children don't stop eating just for the big New Year clean-up!), which takes up quite a bit of the day! No, it's just not all going to be done by the 31st!

The best I can hope for is clean and tidy, I can achieve that at least! So this morning, I tidied the living room, did some shopping, cleaned the windows upstairs, and just had lunch (it's now 3pm!!). Next up is finishing some work that came in, and hanging some laundry on hangers to be put out tomorrow, and then get on to tidying up the Christmas decorations. Right at this point in time the carpet in this room is miraculously clear of stuff, so there's even a space for me to use! The girls have taken over the kotatsu with homework.

I did NOT get around to sorting my clothes last night! By the time I did the underwear, socks and wardrobe, I was so sleepy! So tonight, I do the clothes drawers after the kids go to bed.

I'm forming a loose plan in my head to do PROPER spring cleaning in March, after using February for decluttering. January is busy with a 3-4 out-of-town visits to friends and the Journal of course. I may even do some re-arranging, get Amy a desk & bed set, put Lena on the top bunk and Erica on the bottom, get their chests of drawers in there, throw out half the toys, and maybe even make myself a home office, since I can do most of my casual internet use on the ipad. Hmmm.....

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Day One...

Well, I got some cleaning started today! Pretty boring to chronicle cleaning, so I could tell you about Amy's efficiency and how TALL she is, or Lena's constant stream of jokes and funny stories, or Erica, who spent the day pretending to be a superhero wearing a blanket for a cape.

But I'm just trying to make myself keep up with it by sticking to the schedule. Considering I was going to give myself the day off today, and didn't start until 1pm, we got quite a bit done! We - me and Amy and Lena, who I made tidy their drawers. I did Erica's, including the hand-me-down boxes, and am NOW going to do mine, I MUST have the clothes sorted by tonight. Tomorrow morning I will tidy the living room, get rid of Christmas and then go back upstairs to monitor the girls' clearing out the toy boxes while I dust and do the windows.

I also pulled apart the bird and made a turkey quiche, and a potato and cheese soup. We'll have those tomorrow because Kanji brought home sashimi, pork skewers and potato salad. And I'll cook up the bones for stock for soup and pie, to be eaten tomorrow and the next day. Should be thoroughly sick of turkey by the weekend!

2011 Round-up

2010 round-up

1. What did you do in 2010 that you’d never done before?

Saw Mt Fuji from the sky.

2. Did you keep your new years’ resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

No, I did NOT keep the weight off or start exercising. Hopefully my increasingly creaky body and hypnosis tapes will provide me with more incentive this year!

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

Yes! Debra Greenwood gave birth to yet another perfect little girl this year!

4. Did anyone close to you die?

No, despite all the natural disasters!

5. What countries did you visit?


6. What would you like to have in 2012 that you lacked in 2011?

$0 in my visa account. New tatamis and fusumas.

7. What date from 2011 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

Feb 22 and March 11. August 10 and 28. Earthquake, earthquake and tsunami, Erica's operation, and the day Tropicoco burned down on my 40th birthday.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

6 more Journals!

9. What was your biggest failure?

As usual, diet, exercise and housekeeping!

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Erica's operation on August 10. Technically her hand was 'fixed' and we talk about it to her using that word. (Amy tried to suggest to her the other day that the doctor 'cut' it, but she was having no part of that, though she agrees that he 'fixed' it). The thing she remembers most by the way, is the mask and the bad smell she didn't like. That's my strongest memory too, her lying on the operating table, struggling a little against the mask while I tried to reassure her, stroking her head and telling her to be quiet, sleep now, while she was obviously trying to tell me she didn't the like the mask or the smell.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

The 1920's flapper outfit for the AFWJ Convention, the white fringed dress, the two-tone shoes, the headband, the cigarette holder.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?

The countless unsung heroes of 'my' disasters and all the others this year, in Cairns, Brisbane, Perth, the US, Thailand, etc etc, who went out of their way to help others.

And Princess Kate, for being so elegant and genteel in the midst of an increasingly gross pornified raunch culture.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

Japanese people who criticized New Zealand's post-earthquake efforts in Christchurch, and our earthquake preparedness, as though we were somehow ignorant of the fact that we have earthquakes, whereas it was really all our detractors who were ignorant of the big earthquake the previous September that weakened everything (as is being discovered now in the inquests, but of course they're not listening now, are they). It was a shock, because I've always felt safer in NZ, as I don't trust older Japanese houses; I think NZ has better standards overall, and safer residential houses at least, especially if you look at what happened in Kobe. So who were the Japanese to be so smugly critical, bringing me to No. 2 person whose behaviour appalled and depressed me:

Me - for in a few mean-spirited moments after hearing about the March 11 quake, hoping that at least ONE building collapsed so the Japanese wouldn't be so damned smug about their earthquake preparedness and criticizing NZ. Never have I been so horrified and devastated to have a 'wish' come true, nor so ashamed for having in that moment of offended weakness, for having thought it.

14. Where did most of your money go?

Paying back the bloody visa card!

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Surprisingly, turning 40. Guess it just seems a whole lot preferable to NOT turning 40, which generally involves being dead.

16. What song will always remind you of 2010?

Anything by Amy Winehouse or Adele

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
i. happier or sadder?

Sadder. Too much sad stuff going on.

ii. thinner or fatter?

fatter, alas

iii. richer or poorer?

definitely poorer, oh dear, 3 out of 3!

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?

reading books and magazine. Still got a backlog to get through! I have to read them so I can shop for them again without that nagging feeling in the back of mind that I really, REALLY don't need this!

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?

clicking the next link...

20. How will you be spending Christmas?

At home with a roast turkey, family and good friends.

22. Did you fall in love in 2010?

Did that 13 years ago, and still going strong, woohoo!

23. How many one-night stands?

hmm, methinks this meme was written for 20-somethings...

24. What was your favorite TV program?

zilch, zero, nada!! I truly did NOT watch TV last year!

25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

Yes, added one more to the very short list, sadly

26. What was the best book you read?

Blackout and All Clear by Connie Willis. I haven't been so gloriously caught up in a novel's world for a long time, thank you Michelle!

27. What was your greatest musical discovery?

Adele, the glory of true emotion sung so purely.

Red One via J.Lo's On the Floor. Now I know who he is and that he's behind my favorite Lady Gaga tunes, I'm going to watch out for what he produces next!

28. What did you want and get?

Friends and fun!

29. What did you want and not get?

A new house.

30. What were your favorite films of this year?

Any one of those old westerns me and Kanji watched together on a hazy hungover morning while the kids were at school...

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?


I turned 40 this year, and it was a doozy! All through August I was reluctant to plan anything due to Erica's operation, and Jiichan's liver cancer having returned, meaning he went in for surgery too that month. So I only had a week to plan for my birthday ( once it became clear that all my immediate relatives would be healthy). In the end, I planned a night out at my favorite bar, Mexican restaurant Tropicoco, on Friday; Aile(the Turkish restaurant)'s summer barbecue party on the Saturday; then the Tsuru-ichi Jinja festival with fireworks on the Sunday (my actual birthday).

Tammy joined me on Friday for a few final drinks at Troppies - final, because the bar burned down the next night. After farewelling my friends at Aile on Saturday, and sending then to Troppies, I went home to put the kids to bed... heard the sirens... then got the phone call from Kanji telling me the sirens were for Troppies, which was on fire. This was around midnight, so literally on my birthday...

Sunday, my actual birthday, I got some lovely presents from my family, and Susie from Kurume came to help me celebrate with some champers. Then we went to the festival to see the fireworks with Kristin from Munakata and her family... and Raul from now-totally-destroyed Tropicoco and his family.

I will NEVER forget this birthday!

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

The earth not moving

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2010?

How to incorporate those fabulous shoes into my existing wardrobe.

34. What kept you sane?


35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?


36. What political issue stirred you the most?

See above re Japanese criticism of NZ about the earthquake.

And, Kim Jong Il's death - are they going to nuke us now??

37. Who did you miss?

My lunch ladies

38. Who was the best new person you met?

Julia and Rory and Indigo

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2010.

That life is what it is, and here I am

40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:

"Don't stop, keep it moving, put your drinks up!!"

Sunday, December 25, 2011


Well, it's done for another year, and I am going to add to this with some photo posts showing what we did and what we ATE! Starting from our family dinner out on Thursday night, to our family dinner in tonight, I'm counting a five day Christmas, and now we have four days of frantic cleaning ahead of us before another several days of New Year holiday!

The fridge is still full of leftovers, and turkey soup and turkey quiche (with the secret ingredient of leftover cauliflower and cheese) are on the menu for tomorrow, and there's still one serving of pavlova left, hiding in the back of the fridge for me to sneak when no-one's watching, plus a bit more brandy trifle and a WHOLE chocolate flan! I cooked so much!!!

Thursday we went out for yakitori, Friday was the Big Shopping Day, I visited six shops in three hours and spent 25,000 including a few presents, but mostly food from four different shops! Friday night we ate fish and chips while I cooked desserts, then I made the curry on Saturday morning. Saturday afternoon we went to a birthday party for Maguno Leon at their new place on the side of Mt Hachiman. Raul said it would be a barbecue, and I didn't quite believe him, but sure enough, there he was, barbecuing away in one of the three small snowfalls we had over the 24-25th.

We came home by 4pm to meet up with Dad, and we gave the kids our present from us - boots, jacket and pyjamas, so they could dress up to enjoy a drive-in movie! We were home by 7:30, and took Dad on a Christmas lights tour before returning home for his curry and sashimi birthday party.

Christmas morning started off with Santa presents, followed by cocoa pops, loads of cooking, a ham and eggs brunch and a Christmas party just after skyping with family back home for a present-opening session and enjoying a chocolate Japanese Christmas cake with Jiichan and Baachan. All the guests had left by 7pm, leaving just the family to exchange gifts, more about that later...

Boxing Day we went to Beppu to Julia and Rory's house for leftovers' lunch, and today I actually had a lesson! A private class at home, so we gave her Christmas cake and played Christmas games on the ipad. I finished the day with a HUGE glass of red wine in a very hot bath, followed by a mop-up family meal of leftovers. Now it's 11pm and the kids are in bed with their Papa, after the big girls watched a movie while Erica played with her new Zuzu pets. I don't think I've even seen a more perfect match of toy and developmental level! She adores them!! Thank you Aunty Becky for the cute new pet!!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve

We always hold Kanji's birthday party on Christmas Eve (see post) but this year was a little different, we added an extra event - a trip to a drive-in movie. No, Nakatsu doesn't have a permanent drive-in, it's held just once a year on Christmas Eve. We missed the first one last year as we were in New Zealand. It was part of a Winter Fantasia event that included two drive-in movies, a kids' movie at 5pm and a grown-ups one at 9pm, with fireworks in between, plus bonfires and festival stalls and even an ice sculpture.

Before we left we gave the kids their present from us, boots, a new jacket and pyjamas.

The drive-in was at the fishing port on koiwai, the island in the mouth of the river. They have a big enough block of space for it over there, and no chance for people to sneak a view! The sound was through an FM radio station. The kids sat along the front seat - times like these you wish you had bench not bucket seats in front! While I sat in the back and had a nap. I'd seen the movie before - How to Train a Dragon - and it was in Japanese this time, so I thought my time was much better spent catching some Zzz's!

But not before we all tucked into some hot chocolate!! Into the cups we got at Hong Kong Disneyland last Christmas

After the show, we went for a tour of the Christmas Lights houses. There's one street in Nakatsu where nearly all the houses participate. And then there's this house, which is by far the best, with not a surface uncovered, and extras all over the garden. It's also in the middle of rice paddies, so it can be clearly seen from afar. There was a traffic jam on the tiny road through the rice paddies leading to it!

Last but not least, the carrot, cake and milk for Santa, looking lonely on our windblown balcony.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Little Grace Period

Busy as a bee over the pre-Christmas week and whole winter holiday in fact, but finally here I am, with a wee snatch of time between 'things' and a promise to myself to fill it with a wee update!

I had only two hours of lessons this week, but took on two proofreading jobs, so that has kept me busy today, and I have just finished the first drafts of those, in between the kindy run, shopping, bento-making, and quiche-making. I will do a final check in the morning, when I am fresh, and, more importantly, when the damn kids are out of the house! I think if I'm going to take on more proofreading work I will need to convert the spare room into an office! I can usually do it, but today there were just a few too many random observations, unecessary request, and bumps on my computer chair.

So now's the piano lesson, so everything else must stop, I can't exactly take a bath while she's here (though I did when Erica was a baby!)

Today I did my kindy Christmas lesson, yesterday my hospital class Christmas lesson, and last week my college Christmas lessons. We've had two cookie parties and I've sent out about 22 Christmas cards, so all of that plus the tree, the decorations, and the presents arriving to put under it are making me feel very Christmassy!

The plan so far is to clean up and catch up on blog photo posts and laundry tomorrow, take the kids shopping for the final gifts (they still haven't got their father anything) and ALL the Christmas food on Friday, plus make the pavs, make curry Saturday morning, go to TWO birthday parties and the drive-in, then have our Christmas party at home, a 6kg turkey this year, plus ham and eggs for brunch, pavlova, trifle, chocolate pie and eggnog.

There. If I don't get around to posting anything else, at least the skeleton schedule is there!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Cookie-making Party I

Early in December, I made cookies, fudge, and coconut ice to send to family in NZ. I sent five bags, with no notes because Japanese 'small packet' postage rules do not allow a letter in the package (and yes, they sometimes check!). So there was nothing to explain it, but I thought that with Mum, bro, and 3 sisters, Mum would twig that 5 bags was supposed to be one each... but no... apparently my superior sweet-making skills got the better of her, and after sharing one bag with guests, she started dipping into another. I left her to decide which poor kid gets the gutted bag.

Anyway, I did NOT send any of the following cookies, which were all eaten up here at home by the kids. The two guests also brought home enough to feed their families. I kept some aside to decorate in peace the next day, away from the girlie cookie-cutting and decorating frenzy!

Rolling the dough, with LOTS of flour! The rug was rolled up and shaken outside at the end, seemed a simpler solution that cramming everyone into the kitchen!

Cutting shapes - the fun bit! We have a quite a collection of play-do cutters to choose from.

And then icing and decorating them. Below, the finished result:

Bonus pic: Erica the Superhero, challenging me and my rolling pin with her plastic machine gun wielded as a sword.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Family Bonenkai

I just wanted to go out for dinner with just me and Kanji and the kids, just us, not having to worry about anyone else. We went to my (now second) favorite restaurant, Kokoro, and called it our bonenkai just because it's December!

We walked - the weather was still quite mild in early December.

At the table. All the tables here are private, one reason I like the place!

Cheers! Beer for Kanji, a not-too-bad generic white for me and calpis or cola for the kids

Naughty Mummy, I let the girls have their first taste of wine. At least they hated it! Erica is being a turtle.

Some of the reaons I like Kokoro: the cheese board, and the chocolate desserts! They also have chocolate fondue.

Me and Kanji

Friday, December 02, 2011

Catch Up

A WHOLE month, wow! Well, at least when I look back on this time, I'll know it's every second month I'm online because of that Journal!! I suppose I could type out a few lines each night, but I usually like to fuss with photos and stuff too, so I put it off, and then I have to get into the head space, but my head is all full of Journal Journal Journal so I just don't! There you have it!

Well it's Friday, so I'm drinking wine and chatting on facebook while Kanji practices the bass and the kids watch Disney. Some Fridays I'm a little more sociable and watch a movie with them! Erica is already asleep on the sofa, and I need to get her upstairs before she wakes up with a new lease of life, and does not go back to sleep until 11! (done!)

So, what have we been doing? Kanji is working, doing his radio show, and playing in the band. He enjoys watching movies more than variety shows these days, which is happy for me! And gave me a great idea for what I want to get him for Christmas...

Amy is still swimming and playing piano and drawing in every spare moment! She started writing a movie (first scene done, but it's actually written like a story not a movie) and now knows more about iMovie than me after playing with it all day last weekend making a fantastic slide show that I can't fully share as she matched it with commercial music and it got taken down from youtube and facebook! Surely that's taking copyright too far, after all we did pay for the tunes originally, and can hardly be accused of taking their customers when their OWN videos are available to watch for free! Grrr! She grows approximately an inch a month, and already fits into Japanese women's clothes. That means we will be in heaven for the next year or so while she can comb the flea markets, but she'll be stuck with online shopping like me if gains any more than another ten cm. She does well in school, in fact she's a bit of nerdy-swot, which is just lovely! She actually does extra homework so she can be the one in the class who did the most. I'm reading Harry Potter to them before bedtime, I think she really identifies with Hermione! She does not like sport at all and reads during recess. She talks back and tell me how to do things. Sigh.

Lena has stopped piano and wants to stop swimming too. She is interested in starting dance classes, and we found one, we just have to get around to going! She also wants to start modeling, but I'm still not sure about that... we got given a card by an agent a while ago, but I lost it! She gets along in school well, seems to have a new friend every day. I'm totally over their big eyes when they visit for the first time, but I have to suck it up and say Hello nicely!

Erica is speaking better and better now, including some gems: she came rushing downstairs ¥ crying and to show me the scrape on her back, and said 'MUUUUUM, I... BROKE my... BODY!"

Today they are doing road work again. We bumped over a patch, and she asked why it was bumping. I said the road was broken and they were fixing it. She said something about police which confused me (we often see police there) then she said 'Did a dorobo (robber) break the road?'. Ah.... kids simple vision of good and bad!

And me? Well, still working those 4 (or was it 6) jobs, and tackling the Journal and trying to keep on top of the house, and catch up with friends and save money and spend just enough of it to have some fun too and trying to shed a few kilos and enjoy food too, and planning a super Christmas!!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Luigans and Hilarious Photo Fail

I won a Halloween special lunch for two at the Luigans, the resort hotel where we held the 2006 Kyushu convention. I took Christine and Kristin because they also entered the competition, and we split one lunch cost between us.

You know how you always get the waiter to take a photo of your table so you can fit everyone in? And most of the time it's okay, occasionally a bit rough? Well I had to laugh this day, because I cannot image a dafter pair of waiter-photo attempts than these:

Kristin's lost her whole head! I look HUGE, Ken looks drunk, but hey, Christine looks okay! To be fair, it was a very bright sunny day and a naturally dark interior, so the sun REALLY poured in - and the flash WAS on!

The next sensible thing to do was to avoid the sun, so we thought it would be a good idea to all sit on the sofa. But we had to get Ken in the photo. But not take him out of the stroller, because once out, he would never go back in, and his Mom would have trouble finishing her meal. So we asked our very kind waiter to fit him in too. He did....

Friday, October 28, 2011

Not skewering chicken

... which is what I thought I would be doing at about this time until Lena threw a spanner in the works and scattered my carefully constructed house of cards, dealing me... a better hand that resulted in a much more relaxed and enjoyable day!

Poor Lena. Seems she is prone to tonsilitis. Actually she threw her first spanner last night, when she reminded me about her field trip today, and the lunch that I had to pack her it. So I flew off to the supermarket to pick up cheese sausages and broccoli. It's just not a 'real' Mum's bento without cheese sausages and broccoli.

Then this morning she threw the fever. When she flew into my room in a panic to tell me, I actually thought that with some meds she might be able to stagger out the door and onto the bus, but she lost her steam half way through breakfast, and didn't even finish her weetbix, even with brown sugar on top.

Kanji working until 1pm. An essay to check and the weekend shopping to do. Erica at kindy by 10am, but home again at 12:15, and me starting work at 1pm. Erica going trick-or-treating with her kindy class at 3pm, me finishing work at 4:10pm and a doctor's appointment for all three of them at 4pm. Then a visit to Kanji's parents to see Jiichan after his recent return home from another short hospitalization. Chicken skewering and oreo-witch-hat making sometime after we got home.

In case you haven't twigged yet, that's not doable with a kid with a fever. (In fact I doubt if it was actually doable at all). Usually we would take one kid to Baachan's if we were stuck between a rock and a hard place like this, but we couldn't expose Jiichan to germs in his current fragile state of health. So it had to be done... I called and *cancelled work* GASPhyperventilatepanicattack! You just don't DO that on a part-time short-contract job. You don't cancel when you only work a few hours a week. You don't cancel at short notice when your contract is coming up for renewal. And finding the time to do make-up lessons is always a hassle too.

And so I ended up walking around Jusco Mall with the Mad Hatter, 13 charming pre-schoolers and a gaggle of camera-toting parents, instead of coaching teens in the finer arts of octopus ring toss and Pin the Hat on the Turkey. The chicken was skewered at the more leisurely hour of 1pm, and the oreo witch hats were very enjoyably constructed with Amy's increasingly expert assitance after dinner. The only crunch time was the overlap between the end of the Halloween Walk and the doctor's appointment, which saw me running in to the hospital late with a mini witch in my arms, after the others had finished, and then being late at the chemist (and running into the take-kid-to-doc-after-work crowd), then late shopping for dinner, so I bought fast-dinner stuff (tofu, gyouza and packet soup with bread) as I knew I'd be met by cries of 'Mum, I'm hungry!' as soon as I walked through the door.

Now all I have to do is successfully coordinate packing and pie-making in the morning, and pray no-one else gets sick, and we might just get through the weekend!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


So I found out today that I've been de-friended by two people on facebook. To be honest, I do not keep a record of how many friends I have, I can only tell you right now that it's just over 400. So I wouldn't notice if people 'dropped off the bottom'. I suppose they do every now and then as sometimes I remember about someone I haven't seen in a while, or even see someone who I thought was a friend, but who isn't (anymore? or never was?).

The first fit into that category. I wouldn't have known, but her sister announced the birth of her baby, and I hadn't even known she was pregnant. I had seen her wedding photos, but I can't remember if I saw them on her own newsfeed or her sister's. Never mind. I only met her a few times, around her sister's wedding and Stagette, and if I ever feel the need to contact her again, I can contact her sister.

The second was a bit more dramatic. She posted, I replied, she replied, I replied, she replied, I replied (I kept trying to defuse the situation, say something that would lighten the tone or explain myself), she replied and threatened to delete the thread, I posted one more time and poof! In the time it took me go pick up Erica from kindy, not only the thread, but SHE was gone too. De-friended just like that.

I don't think it was the result of just that one conversation though, because if you looked at it, surely you wouldn't think it was that bad. She was also annoyed at what I'd written on someone else's post (that person wasn't, though!) and to be frank, she sometimes seemed to get annoyed at the things I wrote or I got the feeling that I'd written the wrong thing. I never deliberately rubbed her up the wrong way or purposely attacked her though.

Thinking about and analyzing what I wrote (or what I remember I wrote, since it's gone) I feel like a high school student endlessly dissecting friendships and who said what to whom and where and why and how, or sending their friends on an errand to ask who said what about who... there's a burning desire to know, if only so I can defend myself from the attack!

Friday, October 07, 2011

Farewell Queen, Welcome Esther

I received mail yesterday informing me that my sponsor child had left the area with her family, and was now no longer part of the program. I knew it was coming - I've sponsored Queen since 2002 when she was in her early teens, and only last year agreed to continue the sponsorship beyond the usual cut-off date of her 18th birthday, so she could continue in school. Still, it's sad to say 'goodbye'.

So they sent me information about another girl in a another village in Zambia, and how can you say No?? So Welcome to the family Esther!

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Back into the Grind

It feels like a Tuesday, with the piano lesson going on the background. Amy was keen to get started again - given the (hypothetical) choice to give up all her extra-curricular lessons, she said she would quit English, and give swimming a break for a few months, but continue piano. Erica is starting today, Lena having finally given up for good. We coached her through some rough patches, so I was sure she wasn't just giving up because it was momentarily difficult, but she never really caught the bug. She has also pulled out of swimming too, finally, and we are now trying to find her a dance class. THAT is something she can do well and really enjoys. Erica was so excited to be starting! We'll see how it goes on... we are also thinking of starting her in karate. She's been bitten by the ballet bug, as most four-year old girls are, but ballet is to damned expensive!

A new OIT semester begins tomorrow, 84 bright and eager new faces... well okay not quite so bright and eager, maybe mildly curious about the gaijin teacher and quiet-for-now...

In other exciting developments on the home front the laundry is not yet finished (what's new?) but we did have a mammoth 90 min working bee and got the bedrooms mostly done - winter clothes change and toy closet sorting are waiting until Saturday.

I've been using up my bucket-loads of non-Journal-panic 'free' time (read: time I should be doing aforementioned laundry but choose to please myself instead) making some new blogs. Check these out:

Meanwhile, searching for my own blogs, I found THIS, so weird, it's like a bizarre language copy of my silver week blog of two years ago. It's like she took a thesaurus to it, you should try reading it first, and see if you can figure out what the heck it means before reading the real thing. Sigh, the things people do with their spare time...

Monday, October 03, 2011

English - bad; License - good

So, my first job today was to deliver the exam results to the college. I ended up spending half an hour or so there, mostly trying desperately to convince them the students need LESS hard-out grammar memorization and MORE communication practice. Sigh. How many times do you have to have this conversation in Japan??? They are the first to admit they are no good at English, but keep on thinking that all they need is more grammar and more words and then it'll be alright and they'll know 'everything' and then be able to speak English. And we keep trying to convince them that no, they have enough grammar and vocabulary stuffed into their heads for now, to start with at least, and they need to jump right in and start USING it, not as memorized sentences, translations of phrases and words, and parsing sentences but using what they have in their head already like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle to generate unique, original language about their own observations and experiences.

Phew, rant over.

This stems from a meeting I had with the principal a few weeks ago, in which he noted our students' rather low English level, to which I agreed, but then he said we need to aim for reinforcing, or repeating, what they'd learned in junior high school. I tried to convince him we needed no such thing, that what they needed was to be taught how to USE what they had already learned to communicate with confidence, not being constantly afraid of making mistakes. Well clearly I didn't convince him. The plan was to continue with the communicative, false-beginner text I have been using, but to add something on. He said we would meet again to discuss that, and I thought it was getting a bit late in the break for that little talk, but I had no idea he'd just set someone else up with the task! I met today with another woman on staff to discuss the issue.

I had to give her credit - she'd listed all the grammar points covered in all 3 years of junior high school, and slotted them into the 32 weeks of my course. She asked that I hand out a simple explanation of each grammar point as part of each lesson, explain it, then pass out a simple fill-the-blanks exercise. Her initial concern was would I have the time to do it? I said yes, I have time, but... I just don't LIKE the idea! For one thing, the grammar points were totally out of whack with my text's - eg, she's got me handing out simple past tense the week after next, while I have it slotted in for next July.

On the other hand, it's true that my students have trouble, not just with keeping up, but with understanding what's going on. Of course the MAIN reason for that it that they just don't listen to me - I often explain what to do, then go around the class explaining again to everyone individually, using the same words and pointing at the same part of the book, but 'teacher talking in front of class' seems to be a universal symbol to switch off and daydream (or actually sleep) while they HAVE to listen when I am standing right in front of them!

So I thought perhaps the way to meet in the middle here (consensus and compromise being a much preferred solution in Japan) was to cut back the amount of handouts and have them line up with what I am teaching. I offered to hand out the first one in my introductory lesson, give it to them as homework to be tested the next week, and then use my textbook to practice and back up what they hopefully learned from the handout. This way I can use the hard work this woman has done, and hopefully benefit the students, without the classes turning into more pointless rote memorization. (can I have another little 'grrr' here - why on earth do they think it's going to work this time when it didn't work the first time! SIX YEARS of 4-5 hours study a week, and 95% of Japanese student not only cannot speak English, but they have become convinced that English is intrinsically difficult and that they, genetically, cannot ever learn it).

So... the woman gathered up her papers to ask the principal if this compromise would work for him, and I will hear back later in the week.

Through all of this stress about content, I forgot to be relieved that I wasn't fired. I was actually a little concerned that the principal's observation of my class and discussion changing the classes would end up with the whole English program being cancelled.

Chore No.2 today was much more pleasant - I got my license renewed. I was in a bit of a panic actually, as I was supposed to go to the safety seminar last Wednesday, and was sure, what with the Japanese preference for sticking strictly to the rules, that I would have to start the process over (at least my NZ license is still valid, so I would only have to get that changed again, not actually sit any tests). So I was mightily relieved that all I had to do was stamp my inkan in the right spot on a list and they handed it over to me!

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Erica's 4th Birthday Party

The birthday girl - no cute poses, she's decided she hates the paparazzi (me) this week.

Erica, filmed by Amy, reacting her seeing her cakes for the first time.

Yuuki and Erica with their cakes and matching masks. He is a Kamen Rider, she's Gokai-pink, from Gokaija, both are Sunday morning super-hero TV shows.

The power of Kamen Rider: all kids ignoring the sweets to watch it!

The table:Clockwise from bottom: sausage rolls; potato chips; Griffins Sampler biscuits; mini hamburgers with french bread and condiments; edamame; twisties; sandwiches made by Lena; licorice allsorts; Mum's apricot no-bake cheesecake; strawberry jellies with grapes; hokey pokey biscuits made by Amy; lollipops including light-up Halloween ones; NZ Party Pack lollies including milk bottles, jetplanes and jelly beans; jaffas; and home-made coconut rough.

Cake with candles. Yuuki with mum Maki, Erica, and Yuuki's sister Karin

Happy Birthday song

Cutting the cake; Erica and Yuuki get the first pieces

The Party.

And then Ana arrived with the Pinata! Dora the Explorer (Erica calls her Dora-ble, because I kept calling Erica DoraDora-adorable!). I don't know why Erica looked so grumpy at Yuuki!

Centre: setting up. Yuuki on the left (see video below) and Erica having a go on the right.

Our neighbors grandkids, Kiara, Airi and Yukia. There was one more little boy but he was too shy to have a go.

Left, Max; centre, Lena; right, Momoka - she was the best!

Left, Amy; centre Karin, right - Raul on the fence! The pinata works best strung over a rope that can be raised or lowered depending on the size of the kid hitting it. Kanji was on one end in the house, and Raul jumped on our stone wall - luckily he did not fall in the river behind!

Yuuki! Go Yuuki! A little harder...

The final whack, courtesy of Yuuki's mum. And the lolly scramble begins.

Left, Amy with a knife. Right, Momoka and Lena

Dipti arrived early enough to have a quiet moment with Erica opening her present, a book.
Erica opening her present from the Tambourinos - a ball tent! It was amazing, kind of like a magic trick, we opened it up and BAM all the children went away and silence descended.

Erica delivering our present to Yuuki

Me! Along with Lena, Dipti and Max. On the right, Erica's posse, Hana, her, and Kiara.

And yes, we did have a keg. And no, I did not drink it all.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Wasp, Toppo, Scar and Pie

Which could be the characters in the latest version of Grange Hill, but is just my last few days' random thoughts.

We got a wasp nest removed from one of the trees outside our front door last night. Suzume-bachi, big fat wasps. I was stung by one once about five years ago while camping at a river. I thought one of another camper's fireworks had hit me, it hurt so bad! So of course we had to get rid of it, and a guy whose day job is loading containers came and took it out for 10,000 ($100). He waited until dark so they would all be home, tending to their big fat babies, and Amy and I watched from the stairway window as he donned his protective gear, sprayed them, then cut the nest out of the tree. We all piled outside to examine the remains after. The grubs were still alive, and he informed us that they are edible, and some people eat them. Apparently they taste like shrimp. But (luckily) we could not eat these ones as they were coated in poison. OH, what a shame!!

Top left: the nest by day. It was actually quite beautiful, I don't know how they make it, probably spit or vomit! But it had a variety of colors like a parquet floor. Top right: after the deed was done. Bottom left: a close up of the eggs and larvae, and those perfect hexagons! Bottom right: this is how BIG they are! (and these are the 'small' ones, apparently there is another variety 'oosuzume-bachi' that are even bigger!)

I bet you had no idea they were this cute!

Their offspring are totally NOT cute though!

I got my Toppo back! Since I've been driving a sleek and fancy automatic 7-seater airstream with leather interior, navigator, clear speakers and enough space for the kids to have a whole row of seats each you might wonder why I would be so happy to be back in my tiny bouncy manual 4-door hatchback (it's missing the right-side passenger door) tin-can K (660cc) with the sticky doors, missing visor and wipers that suddenly stop mid-windscreen but it is just SO much easier to maneuver! The steering is so tight it can almost do a 360 on the spot, making getting into, and especially out of, our very narrow street much simpler! No more 20-point turns backing out of the driveway at night. I can now BLAT around the street and ZIP into parking spaces again!

A very bad photo of my car

Scar update: same old same old... I'm down to one change a day, and even leave it for a day and a half sometimes. On her foot, the silicon gel, followed by the sponge wrapped in gauze (so it can last more than one day) held down with an over-size bandaid and extra tape, then a bandage and then a sock, because she's an active little kid and even with all the protective layers it still starts peeling off under her toes after about half a day! On her hand, again the gel and gauze and tape, with sponge during the day (just to stop her curling the fingers in) with a sock on top of that for day, then at night, the sponge is removed, a longer sock put on top to protect her skin, and the splint of top of that. The hand is SO tricky, because the scar goes from just above the centre knuckle on her thumb, down to the palm, then back up her palm up the centre of her index finger about half way up. So I cut 2-3 pieces of gel to fit, and trim and cut bits of gauze and sponge and hold it all down with bits of tape going this way and that, all the while yelling at her to hold her hand open! Bless her for being so patient. She likes to take all the bandaging off by herself, and clean and massage and itch it! I was told in no uncertain terms today to not look, so she could rub and scratch in peace without me hovering over her examining it and picking at it! How long will this go on? No idea. The daily silicone gel is amazing - I did leave it off for a day, and was amazed at how hard the scar tissue got in that short amount of time. I might be doing this for months, or until I either get so sick of it that I just stop, or am satisfied that the scar has matured enough that it isn't going to harden too much.

Dressings! Top left: my resources - the gauze packets and tape and bandages and socks. Top right: the silicone gel drying on the clothes line. It's so expensive we're encouraged to wash and re-use it. Bottom left: the splint for nights. Bottom right: the sponge and gauze bandage for day, minus her hand - and I thought I'd done such a good job of taping this one on!

Finally PIE! Just baked one. Our school sports day was back in May, but we are going to a friend's one tomorrow. Two families are at that school that we know, one said to come with just our empty stomachs, but I'd feel a bit off taking nothing, so I decided to bring sandwiches. The others will probably have onigiri so I won't be repeating anything. Then at the supermarket I saw chicken breasts marked down to 90 yen in the late-evening sale so decided to buy them, and then decided to whip up a chicken pie and take that too. One failed pastry (stupid margarine) and a quick trip back to the supermarket for bought 'pie sheets' and the pie is half done - to be finished off in the morning so it's still warm when we eat it. Mmmmm.....

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Erica's 4th Birthday

Choccie Brekkie time! With a table full of presents

One of her favorite gifts - a little barking puppy. She calls him 'puppy'

Erica in the cup!

With some of her presents: Clockwise from top left: little singing bus (from Raul and Ana and family); fork, spoon and chopsticks for her kindy lunch (from neighbor Kiara); Elmo purse (from Amy and Lena); in her Gokai-pink mask; with her puppy and chocolate cereal for breakfast; puppy in the Kitty mug from Karin; Snoopy; Goofy from Momoka; and at centre, the gokaija pink mask, actually Yuuki's, but we borrowed it to make the cake