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

Erica's 4th Birthday Dinner

Her party was on the 25th, so on the day of her birthday, we had a quiet dinner at home.

Left to right: I always have to fit cheese into the menu somewhere... this is fried cheese; We kept a gift aside for her to open on the day; It was a fairy castle tent, and I threw in a little plastic fairy castle, which she loved.

Amy took care of setting up the tent. Erica was so excited! On the right is another tent she got for her birthday, at her party on Sunday. She LOVED that one, and all the children disappeared into it as soon as I opened it! Magic tent!

Dinner: the first course, sashimi (and beer for the grown-ups). Erica trying to eat her sashimi with a knife and fork. Lena and Amy looking, well, unposed... The main course was a roast, which didn't work out very well, I tried roasting the 'beef block' you can buy here, but it was too small and dry)

The Parents

The dessert: Apricot cheesecake. (It was a flop, actually, the recipe needs to be re-written because that's the second time I've left out the icing sugar and lemon juice. However, using distasteful fake butter 'butter-type margarine' in the base is all my own sorry fault)

After the party.... Amy and Lena finishing their homework (it was a school night). We were watching a move (The Devil Wears Prada) but Erica got a bit sleepy and nodded off right there on the tatami under the table. In my defense, since she was a baby, she has consistently rolled off every cushion, bed or sofa I've put her on and slept on the tatami, so now I just let her go to sleep there! I did take her up to bed very soon after...)

Monday, September 19, 2011


I'm shamelessly flogging Katy's car history blog, because her mention of the $700 Vauxhall Viva reminded me of my equally cheap Hillman Imp, which also broke down in the middle of nowhere when the radiator overheated somewhere near Bulls, and I hitchhiked home! I still remember the two nice guys who picked me up and drove me to Wanganui, then all the way across the city to the other side so I wouldn't have to walk to the main road. And I do NOT remember who picked me up after that!

Doogie (named Doogie Howser for its DH license plates) was a 1960's model, and originally belonged to my brother-in-law, who was living with my sister in Auckland at the time. He swapped it for the little yellow scooter which was my first set of wheels. He had a bit of a thing for classic cars, later buying an MG in British Racing Green.

Doogie was not quite a classic though, more of a tin can on wheels and THE hardest car to find parts for! Ah, those old cars, fully mechanical, that you could take apart and put back together again and thereby learn exactly how they work! Well, not me, but Dad that is, who did that sort of thing for fun and could therefore be relied on to fix stuff in a pinch.

One fine day found me scrambling over cars in a junk yard with the guy who worked there, determined to find a certain part that required the guy to crawl under the old Imp several cars down in the pile on the far side of the yard with his screwdriver and detach the part from the accelerator. Which I (under close instruction by phone by Dad) then attached to Doggie's underbelly - set to go for another week at least.

Doogie's boot was under the bonnet (meaning the engine was in the back), a quirk that never failed to amuse me as both mechanics and passengers headed to the wrong end of the car! Once you have a car of course, your popularity increases exponentially, which resulted in several dodgy road trips, a bender to Foxton and the usual trips 'home'. Lizzie, that time we barely made it up the hill outside of Wanganui - that wasn't Doogie, that was me being so dumb that I didn't realize that you have to change DOWN to get more power, not up. Dad later told me that the gear with the most power is actually reverse, so if I got really stuck, turn around!

And that's it for my experiences of driving in NZ. I'm always astonished when people ask me about how it is driving in Japan, assuming I'm 'used to' NZ driving conditions. In reality, I'm far more used to driving in Japan! The rest of my stories are from Japan, but I'm just going to post a photo of Doogie and be done with this for now...


Mum (to Erica, asking about her toy LIZARD): Is it a boy or a girl?
Erica: No
Mum: Is it a boy?
Erica: No
Mum: Is it a girl?
Erica: No. It's a MOSQUITO!

Mummy: No, Erica, DON'T put your teddy on the toilet! Here, here's teddy's toilet (pointing to rubbish bin)
Erica: No, that's yucky, THIS one is nice (hovering precious teddy over the bowl again) THIS one is paper is yucky (pointing to the used toilet rolls in the bin)

Child One: What does it taste like? (referring to wholegrain bread)
Child Two (while Mum is not listening, busy with toaster): You've got a pudding bum (to her sister)
Child One: I don't have a pudding bum!
Mum: It's crunchy and kind of nutty (in response to the the toast question of course...)

Mum (to child three, or anyone who was listening): You can lie down on the bed. Or on the sofa if you're not feeling well. You CAN'T lie down on the chair, or on the kitchen floor.

Sister to sister: Your FOOT is in my FACE!

Me to Lena last night: Sorry, I bumped your elbow with my ear

Amy calling to me from the house as I waited in the car: HELP!
I did nothing. Somehow I just knew she had really meant to just say 'WAIT!'

Walking towards the kitchen, hearing Amy's voice, then suddenly seeing Lena flying across the room after Amy entered the room with a great deal of energy, knocking Lena off her feet. The best thing - neither of them cried or implored me to punish the other. The benefits of SEEING the event!!!

And the best: "Erica, please don't eat cars" (in the supermarket carpark, where she was, literally, taking bites out of people's cars)

Friday, September 16, 2011

Nothing... and some scar care

Really, nothing to say.

Got home from the hospital (asthma check-ups) to an early dinner and the bath is ready for Erica to hop in. She's the only one who wants to get IN in this heat! It helps soften her scar. Now she's collecting some of her little treasures off the floor into her pink doctor's bag while telling herself a story. Things like her wooden trains, tiny teddy bear, Dora book, hour-glass).

Amy is exhausted beyond belief after getting NO sleep at camp last night, with crazy kids wandering around the room complaining that it was too dark, or too noisy, or too hot to sleep, and keeping awake everyone else! Lena's kind of doing her homework, but mostly showing Amy a documentary about octomom. (? the stuff Kanji thinks would be cool to show the kids....)

No work this week, but some proofreading and essays to keep me busy, plus the Journal, which I've been badly neglecting. Promising myself to give it all morning tomorrow (going to visit Katy in the afternoon) and ALL day Sunday.

The kids are going to Kurume tomorrow to visit Jiichan. Erica's off on a field trip on Friday. Ana's birthday party that same day, then Erica's on Sunday! Fun weekend next weekend! This weekend, I can but try to stay away from that by-now very expertly chilled bottle of 2011 NZ sauvignon blanc in the fridge.... have to bath Erica first and change her dressings. That is getting very tiresome...

I spend about 1000yen a week on new dressings - gauze, bandages, tape. I only need to do the foot once a day, and just change the sock over it in the morning. I have to do the hand twice a day, a brand new fresh dressing after her bath, with gauze and a pressure bandage and a splint to stretch her thumb and finger out. And then again in the morning, when the splint comes off so she can live her life, but I replace it with a piece of sponge held firmly on with tape and bandages. Being an active kid, and now going to kindy, means everything has to be held on with extra tape and layers of bandages and protective socks.

Underneath it all we have silicon gel laying directly over the scars to keep it soft. It works really well, but it's really expensive - I paid 5000 yen for a 20cm square sheet. So I've been told to wash it and hang it on a peg! So I have cut pieces to fit and diligently wash and hang them every evening! This is all scar care - her wounds have all healed, but with a genetic predisposition to hypertrophic scarring, it's to be expected that she will scar badly again, so I am doing all I can to minimize the damage.

On the bright side, she is very pleased that she can now do the thumbs up (when her dressings are not on!) and make diamonds with her two thumbs and forefingers. She couldn't do that before.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

A Sad Day

I usually make an effort not to 'count my woes'; you know when you start adding up all the dreadful things that are happening, start LOOKING for them, and end with something like 'And THEN I dropped an egg on the floor AND my tea got cold again' even though those things wouldn't usually make it to your trauma list.

And I've done a good job of sticking to that I think - I refused to add a father-less Father's Day, the anniversary of Christchurch's first quake, and the upcoming 9/11 tenth anniversary.

It was still a sad day...

Kanji and I drove off in different directions to two different hospitals, him to see his Dad, who had surgery on the cancer in his liver on Saturday, and was still in ICU on Tuesday. So I couldn't help but be reminded of my own father's cancer, and that of a friend's father. She only lost her mother to cancer six months ago, which is such a cruel blow.

Swapping cars at Jiichan and Baachan's stand, I bumped into Raul, whose bar burned down last week. More about that in another post.

And another post also for an update on Erica's post-surgical healing, suffice it to say that the reason I went to the hospital today was because it's scarring up again. Sigh. 

And the day ended with me hearing about two friends' children with serious illnesses, so by the time I arrived at Baachan's in the evening after work, it seemed like I couldn't possibly fit any more sadness into one day. We went out for noodles with Baachan and came home and went to bed! I hope the rest of the week brings more good news for me.