Friday, December 28, 2012

Six Days

I certainly hope I'll get some time to update the last week, although if you've read this blog from the beginning you'll probably be thinking "Yeah, right, I've read that before!"

We had a very, very, slow and lazy day at home today. So slow and lazy that only one of my three modest goals was met - cleaning up the living room and installing the kotatsu set. Goals 2 and 3, to do laundry and make something with the turkey just did not get done. So... all that's put off till tomorrow, and now it's already nearly 7 and I will soon order some pizza, because I have a headache and need to sleep soon.

For a quick update for reference:

22nd: Amy's class Christmas Party at home, for which I cooked hot dogs, sausage rolls, onigiri (actually Lena made that), and sandwiches, mini quiches and a Yule Log.

23rd: AFWJ Holiday Madness and Mayhem family party at Michelle's in Kitakyushu, for which I made mashed potato, mini quiches and a Yule Log.

24th: Daddy's birthday party, the usual cheese platter, sashimi and curry

25th: ham and eggs for lunch, turkey with roast potato, kumara and pumpkin, mashed potato, cauliflower with cheese sauce, cabbage and peas, then trifle and pavlova for dessert after we went to see the fireworks

26th: Boxing Day relax and leftovers party in Beppu, I bought Chinese and made yet another Yule Log.

27th: skating!!!

28th: Frazzled Friday - blob and don't move all day long.

Okay, off to get that pizza!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

2012 Round-up

1. What did you do in 2012 that you’d never done before?
Saw lightning hit the ground. First in the graveyard next to my house. Then in my living room.
2. Did you keep your new years’ resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
Ha bloody ha. I even bought shoes to run in - NEVER used!!!
3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
YAY Welcome to the world Izzy! Cutest first great-niece I could ever wish for. I can't say the neighborhood white stray was exactly close to me, though her three little offspring certainly became so - welcome Genki, Cinnamon and Vanilla.
4. Did anyone close to you die?
In the last two days two women died who I have never met, but who touched my life in different ways. A former President of AFWJ, and a woman I worked with last year as she submitted columns to the AFWJ Journal I was editing last year. Both dynamic, intelligent, well-loved women and I, as current President, am charged with the responsibility of sending flowers and letters to their bereaved families. 
Then just today, I heard the very sad news that my friend's Mum died. We hung out at her place a lot during high school, so I know her very well. And she loved mowing lawns and would come and mow the lawns at our flat when we were flatting together at Uni. I knew she was ill, but it's still so sad, and coming so close to Christmas. 
5. What countries did you visit?
6. What would you like to have in 2013 that you lacked in 2012?
100% decluttered house. And an extra day each week. 
7. What date from 2012 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
July 19, the day the lightning hit the house
8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Producing the AFWJ calendar.
9. What was your biggest failure?
10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Strained my wrist bathing kittens. Left knee painful, so that I have to come downstairs in the morning one stair at a time. Feet can no longer endure heels - this is horror to me!!! Hello to flats....
11. What was the best thing you bought?
A new iMac!
12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
How awful that I can't think of anyone! My lovely children - Amy for playing piano at a school event, Lena for getting her summer craft into the city display, Erica for the best turtle ever at the kindy concert. All of them for being good kids who help and actually want to please me and write me with sweetest cards for birthday, Mother's Day and Christmas. My husband for putting up with me. Okay now I'm starting to sound like a cross between a Hallmark card and an Oscar speech, so that will do!
13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
Every person in the US who still thinks it's a good idea for everyone to go around with guns. Anyone who still thinks nuclear power is a good idea in a tectonic zone.
14. Where did most of your money go?
Food, extra-curricular activities and social events
15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Mum coming to Japan! And associated travel: the two days at Huis ten Bosch, the three at Shonenji and three in Kyoto. 
16. What song will always remind you of 2010?
Angela Aki's Tegami, since I got to see it live (and meet her after)
17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
i. happier or sadder?
more conflicted
ii. thinner or fatter?
I think I'm fatter actually, but I stopped weighing... actually that pretty much means I'm fatter, right?
iii. richer or poorer?
18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
cleaning, believe it or not
19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
following links on facebook all morning
20. How will you be spending Christmas?
JUST the family this year
22. Did you fall in love in 2012?
Yeah... with Kanji.. again...sigh...
23. How many one-night stands?
I think this question should be retired. 
24. What was your favorite TV program?
Oh boy I HATE you Peirs Morgan cos I swore I hated you but dammit I like your show!
25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
Abe.  Foolish dick.
26. What was the best book you read?
Blackout and All Clear
27. What was your greatest musical discovery?
Duran Duran. Apologies all round, I have some serious music nostalgia going on here due to reading the memoirs of John and Andy.
28. What did you want and get?
New tatami and fusuma and shoji. A new computer. Not quite how I was expecting to get it, but....
29. What did you want and not get?
See No.6. Sigh...
30. What were your favorite films of this year?
I haven't seen it yet but I'm going to say The Hobbit anyway
31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
41. I had the BEST party!! We invited our bestest oldest Nakatsu friends. EVERYONE of them brought a bottle of wine, they all know what I love! I spent the night opening and sharing bottles and chatting and having the best time!!
32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Some International travel

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2010?
sigh. elastic waists. double sigh.
34. What kept you sane?
Wine and facebook, long hot baths, computer games and magazines on the ipad curled up in bed, listening to my children breathe. 
35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Naveen Andrews again for some ungodly known reason. You know, apart from him being rather sexy that is, I mean, why now?? Haven't watched anything with him in it lately, OH that's right, I had a dream. 
36. What political issue stirred you the most?
Guns and nuclear power. Just piss off, both of you!
37. Who did you miss?
38. Who was the best new person you met?
The new staff at work, we got some gems this year! And the K-A International Mothers!
39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2012.
This is it, babe, this is it.
40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:
"My girl wants to party all the time, party all the time, party all the tiiimee"


Which reads 'Christmas Kai (party)', with the girls from Amy's class.

I don't know how she talked me into this... no, actually I do. She flattered me. Told me that when she told her friends about my fantastic parties they all started clamouring to go! So she wanted to show them one of my fabulous parties. Well, what's a hostess with the mostess supposed to do? I agreed, but the only clear date was the 22nd, right on the cusp of the silly season.

Never mind, I thought, it was not actually one of my parties, so the cooking would be toned down, and I would not be drinking, and most importantly would be not obliged to entertain, meaning I could use the down time after the meal was served to catch up on some work. I would also be in a better position to insist that Amy help me clean up!

Being all hung-ho about her party, Amy was 100% front and centre with the preparation - HER friends were coming over and she wanted it to be clean and tidy! I got home from work on Friday night and we finalized the menu and went shopping. She was a little tired and reluctant, but I pushed it, reminding her it was HER party and we would be too busy in the morning. Trips to 3 out of my usual 4 supermarket visits followed, and I tried to stick to the budget - 14 guests each bringing 500yen (I was certainly not going to finance the whole party!), minus some for drinks which the girls were going to buy, because Amy told them that I always forget to buy soft drinks (it's true, I do).

Saturday morning, we worked hard to get everything prepared. The kids started arriving before we finished, but that was fine. They counted money, divided jobs (sending some kids off to buy those drinks) and generally sorted themselves out. We weren't ready to start until after 2pm I think.

They were so cute... they had organized it just like a grown-ups event, with an official start, welcome and opening words, and kampai (toast - but in Japan it's done only once and signifies the start of food and drinks, you're not supposed to drink before that). They had a written schedule and had nominated this or that girl for each job. They even had crackers and a bingo game written into the schedule.

It was a lot of work, but worth it!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


Not a normal Wednesday. I'm usually despairing over my 'hump' and wanting to get to sleep so I have enough sleep before tomorrow but not wanting to sleep because then tomorrow will come faster. But I did my class already, and have the day off tomorrow!

Amy is doing a little self-study, Lena just measured her temperature as 37.2, which might thwart tomorrow's Christmas shopping plans. Erica is watching TV with a dolly baby-carrier backpack on, which was just holding her monkey. Kanji is channel surfing - one minute soccer, then a gourmet show, I was enjoying the 'funny lyrics' but that's off now. Oh well, not really interested anyway.

The kittens just woke up, stretched, ate a few mouthfuls and are now desperately searching for something to play with. They are over 1kg now, lanky and long-legged, but still with kittens faces and oh-so-soft kitten fur. And they are absolutely mad, I MUST tidy up the room so I can video them a bit more!

I thought I should do a general catch-up, cos it's been ages, and life goes on, and I post a random post every now and then about nothing in particular, mostly kittens lately, while things change that at some point in the future I think I might want to know about!

Kanji got promoted at work, he's Shatcho (company head) now, or Shatcho-in-training, not exactly sure. He doesn't talk about work, at all! I only knew because I heard Aunty say. I've always found that odd - my own father would regale my mother with tales from his day over a few beers before dinner. But this was quite a big change, it involves his moving away from the self-service stand he's manned for about eight years, and being based at the main stand again. I thought that would mean I wouldn't see as much of him as before, but in reality I am seeing more - he still leaves each morning at the same time, 6:30am or so every day including weekends, but he's often back by 8:30am, and hangs around for anywhere between half an hour to an hour. Then he's home for lunch, and finally more often gets home at 5 or 6, and has less of the 10pm finishes. Meanwhile, his cousin, who used to have his own business, is working the self-service stand now, because he got ill and couldn't keep the business going. I didn't know that until I turned up there one day to see him there, in uniform!

All of this is because Jiichan is ill too, with liver cancer, but being kept quite healthy with constant monitoring and treatment. He's in Kagoshima hospital right now, quite far away, and not easy for us to visit. Of course it's very worrying every time he goes in, but they take such good care of him, he always looks so much better when he comes out! Baachan is as right as rain. Mie is an empty nester, so available to do all the driving for Baachan to go visit Jiichan. Just as well because I am utterly swamped.

AFWJ President, calendar and soon to start the Directory. I also want to do a cook book! And overhaul the website, clean up B-mail, and maybe change the fee structure a little bit. Plus my blogs (I intend to write in the Greenwood blog and my object history blog too tonight) and then I agreed to write a blog for a new website in NZ for mums, called Mummii, run by a girl I used to go to high school with. I've found that really interesting, writing about my life with the angle that the person reading it knows nothing about life in Japan, rather than for my family, who know quite a lot, and of course my fellow Japan mum bloggers.

That's in addition to paid work, at present only a measly 8 hours a week, plus extra hours at home proofreading essays for students practicing TOIEC. The other, academic proofreading job is not very busy and only come in once a month or less. So I am in the unenviable position of needing a few more hours of this or that, but procrastinating about finding it because of all the other things I want to do!

And the house, the frickin house, which I hate at the moment, especially after seeing it in all its glory on  video just after we were married. Okay, so we had no kids, no pets, no furniture and no belongings, but hey, it looked good! So a from-the-ground-up declutter has begun, and it's so hard to keep the momentum going when I have to stop each day to cook and clean and care for kids and kittens. I keep stalling, because I start doing something then get interrupted. If only I could kick them all out for just a week! Well, harrass me about it please, remind me of a friend who just moved with two children to another county, while I just thought about cleaning up. I can do it!! Just not today, right?

The kids. Amy and Lena are not doing juku anymore, didn't see the point, even after they let them go for free! They were just getting too upset and losing all their confidence. Okay, I'm more of a fan these days of the Asian thinking that it's hard work and not talent that matters, but not enough that I am willing to do all that driving, and later nights, and more homework, and upsets over their failing grades in the tougher juku tests... not when Junior High in Nakatsu is public, and in districts - you just go to the nearest one. It'll be hard enough on them when they have to study for High School Entrance exams.

They are both still doing swimming, and Erica - when I remember to take them! I shifted the lesson to Wednesday, but part of me still thinks indelibly of Wednesday as my 'free' afternoon, with no classes, and the kids home early, the day we can take it easy. I just keep forgetting I shifted swimming to that day! I did that so Erica would not have to double up with karate on Mondays and Thursdays, which was too exhausting for her.

Amy is still doing piano, and Erica, the former very well, the latter extremely badly. Amy is playing the school song again, so she gets really good and can play it at school. I have to remember to hassle her to practice for at least an hour a day. Tiger Mom time. But hey, she asked me to make her! She is getting taller every day, and has already outgrown Japanese shoes. Such a shame. For the last year or two we were able to treat her with flea market ladies' shoes - she was a bit young for them, but I knew she would be too big for them all too soon and wanted her to enjoy it while she could! Luckily there are now two shops in Nakatsu selling not just LL but 3L, 4L and 5L. I'm a 5L. Sheesh.

Lena is still little, but eager to point out any signs that she is getting taller, or more mature. She quit piano, wants to quit swimming too, but I won't let her. Not least because she would then be sitting with me, waiting, which seems like a crazy waste of time. And because I want my kids doing at least one sportyish thing! They are turning into slugs like their parents. Her summer craft got into the city display, we went to see it the same day she sang in her class choir as part of the culture festival. She likes clothes, and friends, and kittens and going to buy sweets. She is such a girl! She wants to be a model.

Erica just reached a break-through at karate, and is enjoying it again. Great timing, as her first competition is on next Sunday! As a white belt, no hitting or kicking is involved, they just practice the poses/moves next to each other and the better kid wins. Erica is going to lose, she still does not concentrate enough. Nor on piano, which seems to be just a half hour of her testing the teacher in as many ways as she can think of. She is back at Aiko hoikuen after being kicked out for the month of October. I suspected it might have been because of the sports day (so they could concentrate on practicing), and I think I was right. Well, much as I hate that, Erica is very happy to go back, she had been begging me to go back just a few days before we got the call from them. Her friends at the other place are more 'frenemies'. They have a Christmas presentation on next month, I'm looking forward to that. At least she acts well. Has a super voice for theater! She's a turtle.

Oh and those kittens! Almost almost nearly cured of their ringworm. Gangly like pre-teens. Answer to my whistle. Purr full-bore. Obsessed with getting into the kitchen and upstairs. Even willing to check out the bathroom, despite the torture they usually experience there (I have not bathed them for ten days now as they sprained my wrist last time). But utterly, utterly adorable, tearing around even faster and jumping into the air and climbing on things, like the doors, and up laundry onto the shelves. They get this wild look into their eyes, but they also say hello now, and come over and give you a little kiss. Sweeties.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Wardrobe Malfunctions

It's always a challenge trying to decide what to wear to my university lessons. I sign in at the office each time, so I have to stick to the business attire. The classes are from 12 to 25 kids, mostly boys, mostly 19 or 20 years old. I am on a dais at the front of the room, writing things on the white board, then coming down off the dais to walk around the room checking work and progress. So I have to watch my front, my back, my midriff and my cleavage.

Skirts cannot be too short, nor heels too high. Heels too high would risk a slip when I step off the dais. Skirts too short is self-explanatory I think! Pants can't be too tight - I lean over their desks to check work, and am just terrified at the idea of a split. Not to mention just the sight of my big bum in the next boy's face.

Waistlines must be high enough that I don't show midriff while reaching up to write or erase on the board. It also looks very unprofessional to be tucking in an undershirt all day long! Shirts need to be long enough to cover the gap - when deciding what to wear, I always take into consideration the height of my pants/skirt vs. the length of my shirt. Shirts also need to have a top or at least upper button - I may be old enough to be their mother, but a face-full of cleavage is still a distraction to your average hormonally challenged teen.

As well as having to take care about VPL, midriff, cleavage and bra straps, I also have to think about sweat...

The school where I teach is a beautifully designed modern eco-friendly building. They really take the energy saving seriously - we don't get air conditioning until the last week of June, and heating doesn't come on until mid November. The rooms have big windows and the sun warms them, so there's often a disconnect between the temperature there, and at my house, which is a typical Japanese house, built to protect from the heat, but very cold in winter. Consequently, I have to be very careful that the clothes I choose aren't too cool or too hot. In mid summer, if I wear a light shirt that was perfect at home, I might find myself freezing in the air conditioning. If I choose a sweater in winter that was just right in my living room, I will probably be too hot. I have to wear summer clothes in spring and autumn, warmer blouses in summer, and the same in winter with an undershirt and a jacket for outside. And if I choose wrong... hello sweat patches.

Then there's the body I'm squeezing into these clothes. I gain and lose weight (the former being more of an issue, of course). Right now, I am out of black slacks. This is a bit of a catastrophe, as I live in black slacks*. But they are not something you can easily buy online, I've found. You really have to try them on. And while there are larger sizes in Japan now, they are for short, fat Japanese ladies, and are always too short for me! Then the hair - again, thinking of leaning over desks to check work - my hair must be up, or am I not only constantly pushing it back, but it falls in their faces and up their noses and what-not. So the hair is always tied up in a twist or a bun.

A teacher bun.

So, there you have it, in a (big) nutshell, why teachers dress conservatively!

And... so knowing all of this, why did I fail so spectacularly today?

Because it was cold this morning, I chose my purple check pants, and my long-sleeve, green cotton blouse. Underneath, I wore a sleeveless cotton t-shirt as underwear to keep me warm.

I did my Halloween lesson today. Yeah, it's November 2, but sometimes it just works out that way, okay? Halloween lesson day means a fairly active class. We do a bunch of games - ring toss with a black blow-up 'spider' that looks like an octopus. Bowling with PET bottles covered with ghosts, purple bats and a pumpkin. Pin the hat on the turkey. Bingo. I am moving constantly, checking ring toss scores, blindfolding students, photographing turkeys and writing up the results on the whiteboard as we go.

All this action... a warmer than expected afternoon... and a light green cotton blouse.... means sweat patches. You know it's happening, you know you are hot, you can feel the sweat, you can feel the damp patch as you move. All you can do is hope that it isn't so bad, that's it's small, that no-one will notice. You start adjusting your movements, no more arms in the air, body side-on to the board so you can write without displaying those armpits!

I had the bright idea mid-class to escape to the toilets during the break, and take off my undershirt. Off I strolled, after having let the kids out early. Finally in the bathroom, I could survey the damage. Horrendous. LARGE patches, visible even when my arms were down. I practiced standing and walking, realizing that if I held my arms just so, slightly to the front, the patches were mostly obscured, but I should not push my arms back at all. I took off the shirt in the cubicle, and the undershirt, and then realized that I had nowhere to put the undershirt, since my bag was back in the classroom.

There was a knot of boys congregating at the corner near the bathroom, between me and the classroom. I did not want to go back to the classroom carrying an undershirt. I did not want to go back to the classroom, fetch my bag, and return to the toilets. That screams "PERIOD". I experimented with rolling it up to shove in my back pocket - nope. Folded under my shirt against my body? Hmm, still bulky, and  I still had to hold it there, and besides, what if there was someone there near my bad when I got back?

While testing undershirt concealment techniques in the mirror, I noticed the camel toe. Darn. Nothing I could do it about it either. I yanked and pulled and patted and squished, and it just kept coming back!

Oh, and my shoes squeaked with every step I took. Yep, today was an unmitigated sartorial disaster!

*By slacks I mean pants, Americans. Pants are knickers in the UK, which are of course, undergarments. I don't wear usually undergarments in the classroom, but I also don't usually like the word 'slacks'. It just sounds good with 'black'.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Bad Day

Stomped around for most of it snapping at people.

My Great Kitten Clean-up was thwarted by a nasty tummy ache this morning. I still pottered around and did stuff, very slowly, and got some some crap cleared away, but definitely nothing energetic. Neither the bleach nor the mop made an appearance.

The kittens nearly drove me truly, honestly, mad. Genki is in the genkan, in isolation as her ringworm is healing more slowly. Meanwhile Cinnamon and Vanilla are still in the living room, but spending more time than before in the cage, partly because I feel so guilty letting them run free while Genki cries and mewls out in the hall. Consequently, they have become much more reluctant to go in the cage, or to stay there when put in. They were quite happy to do so before, because they knew they'd be let out pretty much as soon as they miaowed once and put on a cute face. Extra points for all looking at me at the same time with ears pricked up and all moving their heads in unison to follow me and I moved from  place to place. SO cute.

But now, their only goal is to GET OUT.

And get out they did. Over and over and over.

At one point between about 10 and 11, I was trying to get them back into the cage, anticipating a more general clean-up in and around the specifics, meaning leaving the door open for me to come and go, meaning everyone had to be back in her cage. I would put Genki in her cage, and come back into the living room to see either Vanilla or Cinnamon wandering about the room. Back they would go, and I would wait just a few seconds to see which corner or bar they were fitting through, shove them back, and tape down the net, more firmly tie the second cage to the first, or add a peg or something... just in time to see Genki streak past, having escaped herself. By the time I caught her, I could hear V or C starting to mewl and climb and struggle and squeeze, and by the time I chucked G back in her cage, one of them would be out again, and it would start all over, and honestly this happened about ten times in a row, with only a few seconds spare to try to close the gap where they had escaped. I had masking tape between the buttons of the net, pegs holding corners, extra caging on the sides tied with wool, and even a cushion taped to the side of one cage. In the end I got so mad, I put the naughty pair in the travel cat box. When the claws started to show through the sides of that, I threw a sweater over it, and they FINALLY gave up and went to sleep (I had blocked Genki's favorite escape route with a cushion in the meantime).

By now I felt so behind, and like I was running in one spot! I went shopping for cat food and things for dinner, and bought some netting to add to the cages. I really wanted - and needed - a nap, but got so busy again, cleaning the cage and clearing out the computer corner and cutting the net and cooking tea and taking Erica to karate and then well here we are, with kittens still escaping all over the place.

I just added the nets. Vanilla is half out. Yay! Success! She could not get further than her head. Genki is crying LOUDLY - while means she is stuck. Escape is usually silent. Vanilla just tried - and failed - another corner. I still anticipate a long night, waking up to chase kittens...

Friday, October 19, 2012

Kitty vids


and blogging, and blogging and blogging and blogging and blogging. And thinking about Tumbling. Yes, that is five different blogs I am thinking about, plus the Tumblr idea, which is more nostalgia, once I get some old stuff scanned...

I'm not drinking tonight, so no drunkbooking, maybe some soberbooking, or just booking (I might pretend I'm drunk). I have too many things to do tonight, too many things to do tomorrow, plus I have only 27yen left in my purse for this week.

It's a peaceful Friday night, Erica is playing with the kittens, Amy and Lena are doing homework, I think. K is in the kitchen cooking. I couldn't for the life of me think of something to cook this morning, (plus all my money for the week was GONE on late fees for DVDs I forgot to return - ¥2700) so he decided to cook something. Now he's preparing salmon with vegetables and butter wrapped in foil and baked. He cooks well, but has no idea about timing and children's empty stomachs!

I had a funny week. After PANIC on Tuesday after losing the calendar, I finally got it finished at sent off. OH SHIT! Just remembered I had better give them MY address to send it too, or it'll end up with last year's mailer! I'll just pop out and do that, and I'll be back.

Okay, that's that done. I only had one essay this week, so I actually found myself BORED. Not that I lack a mountain of household chores to do. And I clean forgot about my blogs. I'd just sit at the computer checking my mail boxes and thinking there had to be something I was supposed to be doing!

As the first line of this blog suggests, I found the answer. Two down, three to go. Then trademe things to send, and a kitty corner to create. A cookbook to create and a house to declutter. Recipes to sort and old photos to scan. Really, I have no business being bored, none!

The kittens: they are now double the size they were when we got them (400g --> 800g) but still have rather nasty ringworm. They are absolutely adorable though! "It's so fluffy I could die!".

Friday, October 12, 2012

Drunkbooking 101

1. Wake up, get onto facebook and reply to every post

2. Cook dinner and do laundry IN THE MORNING to minimize distractions

3. Check fb again at lunchtime, and during breaks at work. Comment on everything. Make some semi-controversial comments about a subject you feel indifferent about. A good debate is interesting and instructive. DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES comment on any subject you feel passionate about. Being attacked and offended is not fun, no many how many wines you've had.

By the time you actually get that first glass in your hand, you should have a dozen or two shiny little red notifications to work with!

4. Post cute pic of kids and/or kittens.

5. Update status with something interesting, dammit! Preferably a question.

6. Keep commenting on everything. Laugh a lot. Post update of a hiccup to see how many likes you get (good indication of how many other drunkbookers are out there).

7. STOP. Or pick a close friend or two to have a super stupid long dumb conversation with, but for God's sake otherwise, just STOP!

7.1 Go back, just for a minute... just to see...

10. Wake up next day. Do not check facebook at all, ever again. Swear not to drink again either. Yeah right.

I did it!

I spent the whole day quite sure that I would be heading this post 'thwarted'.

All I have wanted since about June was to come home from work on a Friday afternoon, and enjoy a nice glass of wine before the sun went down.

There's something special about that hour, the moment of transition between day and night. And there's something special about those first two glasses of wine, and the gentle buzz and happy feeling that result. It's a tiny slice of heaven when the two combine.

Easy enough you say, just waltz in, ignore children, head to fridge, grab glass, uncap wine and drink away, BUT no....

It has to be PERFECT you see. There can't be laundry hanging around, waiting to be hung, folded or put away. Dinner must be prepared, the room tidied. Then I can relax and enjoy the moment. So, too many times I've rushed home from work, then spent the next hour, or even two, trying to catch up and clear things away before I can truly feel I am in that 'now I can sit down and relax' space. So I've managed to fail every week, sometimes because it was too hot outside, with too many mosquitoes, sometimes because it was raining, sometimes because we got home too late, sometimes because I was finishing up laundry or taking too long cooking something.

And when the sun clouded over as I drove towards home today, I was so sure I would be adding today to the long list of thwarted Friday afternoon sunshine wines, but NO! I did it!

A tiny sliver of sun shone into the yard for just long enough to light up one glass of champagne.

(Grudgingly, I have to be thankful to the gardeners who trimmed that big tree in the corner. I usually despise them for promising me they'd just 'cut a little' then butchering the whole tree).

Thursday, October 11, 2012


Funny how when you unexpectedly get some, you don't know what to do with it.

Waiting for homework to finish, no essays to do, AFWJ business 'booked' for tomorrow morning.

An average day. Thursday is much, much better since they kicked Erica out of daycare and Kanji moved back to the main gasoline stand. Now he just turns up at home at 8:30 and I leisurely trot myself off to work, no running around trying to find the right towel, two pairs of clean knickers, the right cup, etc etc, then doing the drop-off and crossing my fingers that sensei won't have something to chat about as I watch the clock... merely preparing a bento seems like child's play after that, and even easier today since we had NOTHING in the house so I instructed K to buy her one at the combini.

Lovely bunch of new students, and I have pointedly NOT asked for a photo sheet this year. The last two years I've had one, and managed to not remember any names at all. I think I relied on the photos too much and didn't make an effort. This time, I've gone back to my old system of visual cues, mnemonics and puns. Taisuke looks like Woody Allen. Kenta has pretty eyes like the Kenta last year did. Daiki reminds me of that friend of K's who hugs him a lot. Takahiro is short and thin (while the name means tall and wide). And much less nice ones, like 'pizza-face' and 'cone-head'. But IT WORKS dammit!

I was supposed to spend the afternoon sipping tea at my computer screen and proofreading a medical academic article, but it never turned up. I'm a bit annoyed about that, because if they send it to me now, with the original Friday deadline, that means I have one awful Friday ahead of me. And if it doesn't, well, that was rude, not to mention a loss of cash!

Karate again tonight. All the other students have been upgraded to the other class, although all of them started after Erica. So it's just her and Sensei. The first half of the class is fine, when he is more gentle and instructing her. But then towards the end he starts getting tough (part of the game), she starts to cry. Can't win any fights if you burst into tears anytime someone smacks you. I wonder if he wants to kick her out, but can't because Baachan's his auntie. I'm quite determined to be the most stubborn in this fight.

Kitties are still sick. I think it's ringworm not mange now, and little Cinnamon has it worst. She doesn't eat at much as the others and is a whole 100g smaller. I hope they don't have to be shaved.... they are very very cute now belting around the room, up on the sofa, on top of the cage. They are terrified of the vacuum cleaner, no prizes for guessing that one, and happily really hate getting squirted with the water bottle, so the shoji are still in one piece - I caught Genki very delicately pulling at a tear in the paper with just one claw.

Monkey party was a success.... promise some photos from that!

Friday, October 05, 2012

A Lull in the Proceedings

Kitty update: I can't see them right now, but I can hear them... one is scratching on the Princess tent, trying to 'catch' a piece of elastic. One is under the computer table, climbing up on the speakers. THUNK there goes one falling behind the sofa against the door. schuk...schuk... Erica's hardhat skidding across the floor... PLOP one falls onto the sofa... clatter! as one dives into the peg basket and knocks it over!

They've grown about 1-200g each in two weeks, and are about two months old. They tear around the room like maniacs, jumping on each other and stalking things with their little bums wiggling. We have a spritz bottle of water ready to squirt them when they try scratching the paper doors or tatami, or climb up the screen doors or paper shoji doors.

They got mange... the Vet calls it 'kabi' which also translates as 'mould' but it looks like mange, caused by mites, so I guess it's the same thing. Apparently they inherited it from their mother (who I saw the other day, looking like a new lady, fat and healthy! And hopefully not pregnant again). I've given them two baths, and that is to continue, twice a week... forever? A wet kitten is a pitiful thing. Without that fluff, they are bony rattish creatures. It takes over an hour for their fur to dry. They get so cold and shiver, so I wrap them up in a blanket with a hot water bottle and cuddle them for half an hour after the bath. I've been treating the mange sites with cream and lotion, but from today we have switched to medicine. And yes, I DO remember how to give a cat medicine, it came right back to me!

Meanwhile the human children have been busy too. Amy just came back from her school trip to the Peace Park in Nagasaki, where they visited the museum and some sites associated with the nuclear bomb. They spent the night in 'school trip hotel' and then went to Huis ten Bosch the next day! She left early Thursday morning, and Lena also had a field trip that day, she visited a car factory, airport and courier depot. AND Erica did not have daycare, but Keio kindy that day, so both her and Lena needed a packed lunch (normally I have NO lunches to do on Thursday) and all this on the first day of a new semester at the college.

That's why this is the lull... it's full on tomorrow. Erica's super-duper Monkey Party is on Sunday, but Yuki, her birthday twin, can't come! So we've invited them tomorrow, and made an extra cake, so he will come tomorrow with his sisters. I will be baking and making all day, and preparing for the party. It's her fifth, so even though she won't start school until she's 6 & 1/2 here, it still feels like a big deal to me! We've invited all her kindy class (only six in the class so no big deal) plus a few others. At first I was going to continue into an evening barbecue, but then we were invited to another barbecue, which I am REALLY pleased about now! It'll be SO good to just leave the house, go to someone else's and just sit on my butt drinking beer. SO much to do in the 45 hours between then and now, but I'm focussing on it as my reward for a party (two parties) well done!

Message from Genki:
"5____ww7777euussssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss  z                                ı


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Little Kitty-cats

What I thought I would be doing today: cleaning out the downstairs toy closet and computer cupboard, maybe going for a swim, definitely taking the kids for their swimming lesson, making Oakhill Potato and the Frankfurter dish and finishing the day chatting with Mum and my sister Jo over a wine.

Ticked off that list: wine.

What I never dreamed I would actually be doing today: being interviewed for a TV soft news piece, adopting three kittens and nearly setting fire to the kitchen...


I was feeling out of sorts this morning as I drove around town shopping for a mini desk for Erica, doing some banking and the shopping for those dishes I was going to cook. I had watched a TV ad for Proactiv, which I hated firstly because it was set in a school room, with the teacher touting the product, and secondly, because one school boy asked "I thought it was formulated for 'gaikokujin' ('foreign') skin?" to which know-it-all teacher replied "It's been re-formulated for Japanese skin!". Only problem is, what exactly is 'foreign' skin? Chinese? Indian? Norwegian? Kenyan? Peruvian? Proactiv is an American product presumably sold to Americans, a population which includes every ethnicity on the planet, including Japanese. 

The 'specially for Japanese skin' line is just a marketing ploy that feeds off, and feeds into, the notion of Japanese people being "unique", which just bugs me.

It didn't help that the other two YokoYamas in town did not sell Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc, only the CabSav and Gewurtztraminer AND I passed a Nationalist truck on the way back. There are blessedly few ultra-nationalists in Japan, but they make themselves heard, driving around town in big black buses with tinted windows (shame, boys, shame!) blaring nationalist songs from a loudspeaker. I rely on general Japanese non-violence, but honestly, those trucks scare me! If any violence is going to start in Japan, it'll start with them. I don't think it's a coincidence that they were out today, with the trouble over those stupid islands and the awful anti-Japanese protests in China.

So I was very out of sorts this morning, and getting a little frustrated that my main goal for the day - to clean out the toy closet - was not getting any closer to being done. I got home in time to air out the mini desks (which were wet, but hey, for 800yen at the second hand store I was not complaining!) and have some lunch and do all the laundry before I had to go pick Erica up from kindy.

It was when we arrived home that I heard the kitten crying. We have a lot of stray cats around here, so every year there are kittens somewhere. At first, I thought it was one of the May lot, that Mum and I and the kids tried to catch/watch. But at the same time I knew the cry was too young, and wondered if another litter had been born. The house in front of me is currently unoccupied (the old lady went to live in a care home) so I surmised that a mother cat had had a new litter over there. I wanted to see the kittens if I could, so I followed the sound. I checked over the front fence and over the side, before I realized it was coming from MY shed! I opened the door to check, and yes, the plaintive MIAOW was coming from within! 

I moved away the kerosene cans, the Christmas Tree, the spare table and the iMac boxes, and I saw a tiny gray kitten poking its head out from between an old shelf and a plastic storage box. I also heard hissing, and at first I thought that this bold little kitten was calling for aid AND telling the world to piss off at the same time. Then I saw the mother cat, and two more kittens, inside the plastic box. The best thing to do was scoop up the kitten and give it back to its mother. But not before I had a wee cuddle and let Erica have a hold too.

A hour later, Lena came home, too late for the swimming lesson (which I had already given up on because I cannot find Erica's swimsuit), but carrying with her a meishi (name card) from TOS, the local TV station. She said that she had met this woman in the street who wanted me to call her. So I thought maybe this is another model scout, and I would call her later. 

It was only when I remembered about the kittens and told Amy and Lena about them, so they could go and have a look, that Lena told me that the TOS lady was looking for stray cats. Amy and Lena leapt out to the shed to see, and I got the story from Lena that the TOS people were here specifically to report on the stray cat problem in our neighborhood, and were wandering around looking for stray cats. 

This was all too bizarre to be true, so of course when I walked out the front gate, the TOS lady was right there at the end of the drive. It was just that kind of day. We spent the first ten minutes talking about bilingualism - turns out she is married to an American, has three children, is from Usuki and just moved back to Oita last year. She wants to do a piece on bilingualism sometime, so at first we chatted about how I kept up my kids' English. Once we got all that over I told her about the kittens in my shed. 

She immediately called her cameraman, who was off somewhere filming god knows what, because they specifically wanted to catch some stray kittens on film for their news report. She made sure the cat was not mine, and I assured her that I had just found them an hour ago! Before long, I had a cameraman in my shed, filming the cats, and they also decided to interview me, for my opinion on the local cat problem and how I came to have three kittens in my garden shed!

So, I will apparently appear on TV tomorrow night, as long as nothing important happens. Bonus - Rie, the news lady, being fluent in English, interviewed me in English. I was relieved, because I was panicking about how to say it all properly in Japanese! Sorry people who want to confirm that we do indeed speak Japanese... it was just too easy to say yes to English!

Part II

Camera crew gone, kids still checking the kittens every five minutes, and Kanji comes home. 

And wanders into the kitchen, as he does. "So, I'm going to be on TV tomorrow" I said. "eee?" he said.   And in one moment, me, Amy and Lena tell him what had just happened. Next minute, they all went out to the shed to view the kittens again. 

When they came back in, we had to talk... and answer the question the TOS interviewer asked: "What are we going to do with these kittens?"

"Call someone to take them away" K suggested. We all groaned. There must be another way! I suggested that we should find someone to take adopt them, there must be some place we can take them where they can find a home... but I already know that they put them down within a week. Even the verb he used, 'tsutete' means to throw them out. 

For a long time I've wanted a cat, but even so, I never thought I would keep these ones. They were too young. I think its better for kittens to stay with their mother for the first 3 months, and I judged these kittens being about a month old, so I thought the best thing to do was to give them back to their mother. At the same time, I knew I would never see them so close again. She would abandon this nest that had grown so dangerous. And they would end up like the last bunch of kittens, and the ones before that, too old to be caught, let alone tamed. 

It was the girls who went out to the shed again to see them. But it was I who encouraged them to pick them up. The mother had gone, so I said it was okay to pick them up for a cuddle. Besides, there were only two, and the other one was stuck behind the box. So I shoved some other boxes aside so I could remove the box, and get the last kitten (still aiming to leave them with their mother). But then we had the box in our hands... and I could see K was relenting... and then...

And then we had them inside. I guess once they had crossed the threshold there was no going back, even though at the time I still thought, "well maybe we should given them back to their mother... " We saw her a half hour later, passing the front door on her way to the shed, sniffing around for her babies. Then she just sat down on the path. This is exactly what she did when we Kanji and I saw her when she was still pregnant. She just flopped there. I don't think she's very healthy. I feel so guilty for stealing her babies, but I also hope that I gave her a chance to regain her health! I'm just a dedicated nanny! 

In the meantime I've read some websites, and learned that I got them at just the right time. They start to wean at 4 weeks, and the Vet judged them to be about 6 weeks. The websites say that for stray cats, you have to adopt them before 8 weeks, or they can't be tamed. I also have the sick one - she was weak and shivering just 12 hours ago when I met her, but after the milk and cat food I've fed her, and the medicine for her eyes, she's come to life! I'm pretty sure she'd have died soon, like the runt of the last litter in May, who I never saw again. Justifying baby theft.... saving kittens... 

The next thing to do was consider what to do with these kittens we suddenly found ourselves in possession of. K and I have both kept cats, so we knew we had to do vaccinations and stuff, but were a bit non plussed about what to do with such wee ones. So we called Yuko, our good friend and major cat lady. She was in the bath (this is important, because I started cooking dinner), but when she called back, she told us to hightail it to the Vets RIGHT NOW! 

So we all piled into K's van, the kittens still in the box that we had pulled out from the shed, and headed for the Vet's. Kanji seemed to know exactly where to go, and the Vet's reaction when he saw us was not 'hajimemashite' (nice to meet you) but 'hisashiburi!' (long time no see!). He commented that the kids had gotten older, while I tried to place him, but I gave up trying when he saw Erica and said 'oh, you have another one!'. I still don't know how we 'know' him! Small towns...

He weighed the kittens, judged their age to be six weeks, sexed them as girls (with a maybe on the little one), and gave them a birthday (August 1) so he could set a care schedule for them. He de-flead them with spray (we go back every month for that treatment, 1000 x 3), booked them in for their shots and even scheduled the spaying for February (18,000 each, eek!). He gave us eye drops for the little one, and a shampoo for the spot of mange on her left leg, with instructions on how to administer them. He explained about litter boxes and litter, then undid all his sales talk by accidentally showing us his newspaper version in the back rooms, but recovered by giving us a litter box! And he told us exactly how much to feed them, how to prepare it (pellets soaked in boiled water) and how many times a day, and most importantly, that they don't need milk! 

Unfortunately my babies don't like that food he recommended. Kanji just told me that his cat didn't like it either. So for today, I've been feeding them the melted pellets with extra water in a dropper with the end cut off. Now they love me and miaow whenever I walk past the cage. I will buy them some canned kitten food tomorrow, because as much as I love being a much loved Mama cat, I do like kids who feed themselves. 

We also bought a cage, so they have somewhere safe to sleep with a litter box and a food bowl (that they have no idea how to eat out of) and a water bowl (that they keep ever-so-cutely stomping their delicate little paws into) and furnished it with some hot water bottles, some old towels, and a Hello Kitty blanket. They are calmly sleeping now. Until I walk past the cage again. 


OH and the kitchen?? When we left in a hurry to go to the Vet's, I left the sausages boiling on the stove. The ones I had bought to go in the Frankfurter dish that I didn't have time to make, and then decided would just go in bread with some cheese and tomato sauce. I remembered about them at the Vet's and we spent a very stressful ride home worrying - I came home just in time to hear the first peep of the smoke detector and fine one very ruined pot and absolutely inedible sausages. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

A typhoon and a holiday

On one side, a fan blowing full bore to keep us cool, on the other side, my children nearly being blown away as huge gusts blow through the house. I just went and closed the storm doors in the kitchen so Lena and Erica could finish eating their carrots without their mayonnaise ending up all over the room.

The sun is shining bright and I'm hot and still sweating (I'm SO sick of sweating!) so I think it's okay, then suddenly we all get blown away again. Not typhoon weather, where's the rain? But the wind is whistling in the sky, so I really can't decided if I should take Erica to karate or not! For ME any excuse not to go is a good one, but I don't want to look silly if everyone else is out there being normal!

We slept in the living room last night, the first storm in two years that I've taken that precaution. Mostly because Lena said she was afraid, and she was sleeping under the window. The upstairs bedrooms have windows looking out over the small cemetery and a large empty lot, so we feel like sitting ducks for flying debris. Downstairs though, has storm doors all across the south side, and bars on the windows to the east and west. Once we close off the corridor from the living room, we're in a pretty secure little box.

And that was the extent of my storm preparation. I must go fill a bath with water, just because I felt I really should have at least done that last night. But we've lived through several large typhoons now, and while you might have to endure a few hours without power or water, they don't tend to wreak much more havoc than that. The supply lines don't fail, the supermarkets don't empty. Famous last words??? Nah, this one is well on its way to Korea. I'm sure the kids will be at school, and me at work tomorrow morning. Though we might sleep downstairs again tonight!

Oh, and once again I am swearing to get some blog catching up done! I have finally given up on the photos, I will now be preparing photo essays in InDesign and uploading them to Issuu as magazines to leaf through. I'll add single photos to the blog, and vids, cos I love looking back at the vids!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Monday Monday

This morning I was thrown out of bed, and rolled down the stairs into chaos.

The first few weeks of the summer holidays are full of anticipation, excitement and hankering after things to do and places to go, leading up to the long empty days of obon, the only time you get that 'what day is it?' feeling. And the last two weeks of desperately trying to fit everything else in, finish the homework, finish the craft, START the projects I thought I'd have time to start, and pack, shop, prepare, order, sort and get ready!!!

I truly thought yesterday that we had nothing today. I was more than a bit wrong about that - Erica had kindy, Amy and Lena had to go to school for 'Step Up' (apparently school kids in Oita are a bit thick, and apparently an extra 10 hours of school during summer is going to fix that), all at 9am, so when I did wake up (at 9am) and remember all of this, it resulted in a bit of an unholy rush! I dropped Erica off without her rice, went back and made that, corrected an essay, boxed the rice, dropped it off, went shopping at Fadie's and Shinsenichiba, got home to pick up Amy and Lena, went to Gooday to look for snorkels (for the Miyazaki trip), and Youme town for cottage cheese (for the pumpkin and eggplants cannelloni), dropped the kids off home, back to Youme Town to buy a pop-up tent, picked up Erica, and finally got home.

Then we had an afternoon far more suited to the summer holidays. Long, and hot. Amy doing her origami mosaic, Lena doing her papier mache ballon houses, Erica pestering both of them, and me doing laundry and cooking the cannelloni while we watched all three hours of the Olympic Closing Ceremony.

They only have another seven free days: we are going to Miyazaki for three days this weekend, the following day is my birthday and we are having a party here, then the next day is our only chance to go to Fukuoka to see the girls' photos in the exhibition. And since I have work on Thursday and Friday I have to get ready for all that tomorrow! Wish me luck.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Wada-san modeling part III, on location

 Wednesday afternoon, we turned up at 4:50 at the studio, but he asked us to get back in the car, then led us to this little place, a little old building that had been turned into a cafe.

Amy by the wood pile

Lena enjoyed wearing her dress again, with the addition of this sweet hat.

Amy was the first, above, seated on a park bench. Below, a sweet one of all three of them.

Erica outside the old windows, we could read the cafe menu through the glass

Then all of a sudden a lady in a kimono with an umbrella stepped out of no-where. Bottom, I had to the be the photographic assistant!

Thursday, August 16, 2012


Seems I am failing at the summer scheduling. I've managed to double book us twice last week, with one more coming up and then Kanji threw one in a double-booking on top. That was just him saying Amy could work on Saturday, while actually we were going to Kunimi. Well, his mistake, and he quickly called back to cancel.

I thought Aki, the computer guy, was coming on Monday evening, so I made curry. Can't have him slave over the hot computers for hours and not feed him! Then Kanji came home and called him (why he didn't call him earlier, I don't know) and he couldn't come, so we arranged for him to come Tuesday night (I threw together a Greek salad and made a chicken mix to put in pita bread). Then Mai-chan texted and said yes, she could do the piano lesson on Tuesday.

Since the piano and computer are in the same corner of the room, that made for an interesting evening! Me and Kanji just sat there drinking beers and barking orders at the children, and invited both Mai and Aki to my birthday party on the 28th.

Thursday was much, much worse. On Sunday I had arranged with Maia's Mum for them to come over on the 9th, and we could have dinner together then go to the festival. I was looking in my diary at that moment in time, and nothing else was written there except 'Toro Matsuri'....

I had completely forgotten that I had agreed to go help set up the festival, and while I KNEW we had karate on Thursday, for some reason my brain did not connect 'Thursday' and 'the 9th' despite it being on the page in front of me!

I handled this in a very Japanese manner, quitting nothing, burying my head in the sand, and hoping for the best. As the day progressed it seemed obvious even to me that I was going to conveniently 'forget' about setting up. Then Kanji came home early and saved me from the karate lesson. We were free!

Then Sevki called and was adamant that he had to give me a bottle of wine NOW. And I should go to YoumeTown NOW and go meet the girl in a white t-shirt with a heart on it to get your wine. Luckily, just at that moment in time we had all decided to go get ice cream, so I ordered Erica a Bear-shaped parfait, handed Amy my wallet, told everyone 'chotto matte' and ran outside to meet the wine-toting heart-t-shirt girl. I love how Maia's Mum reacted when I returned a few minutes later and plonked a bottle of wine in the middle of the table outside the ice cream shop. So cool. "Oh, wine, how nice. Turkish, you say? How unusual. Hmm, what's that writing on the bottle, must be Turkish!" Like you have wine with your ice cream at the mall every day.

Speaking of Sevki, his birthday party is on the 18th, and I have strong hopes of going - no one parties like Sevki! But the Bon dancing by Baachan's house is on the same night. Bright side thinking: once at Baachan's the kids invariably insist on staying, Erica especially. Home is so damn boring. All I have to do is turn up early, let them turn on the charm, casually ask if they might stay, as if it meant nothing at all to me, and then run away gleefully jumping for joy. Wish me luck.

Broken Chronicle

My camera just decided to stop working on Thursday, swear I didn't do anything to it! This is the one I bought just at the end of May, because the one I had before had stopped working during at the School Sports Day after I was a little too encouraging with the sometimes-sticky lens, the lens that got sticky when I left it face down on my udon tray in Takamatsu, only for the udon to slosh out and splash it: this being the camera I had bought in the New Year Sale last year after getting the one before it stolen at Disneyland in Hong Kong. Which is the one I'd bought to replace the one I'd broken when I dropped it into a river while pregnant. At least I wasn't responsible for the breakage of the first one - a friend kindly took care of that for me, though leaving it on the edge of a table with the lens open was probably not a wise choice on my behalf.

But everything seems to be breaking on me lately! Why do appliances break in sets? Microwave, dishwasher, mixer and blender all went together last year. Going out in sympathy? Not counting lightning strikes, I seem to be having just one thing after another go wacky on me lately.

iPhone is playing up. We made an effort to get it fixed, went to the shop, who got us to call the helpline. Between me not understanding the polite language and Kanji having no idea how to work the phone, we failed. It's okay, I said, I can handle no sound in the apps and the sticky home screen button. But now the alarm and phone sounds sometimes don't work. Nor the vibe. What good is a phone if no-one can call you?

Need new glasses. Okay, so in this case they did not break, I left them on top of the car when I was putting on sunscreen and then left them there. I blame Kanji of course. It was his clever idea to put sunscreen on RIGHT NOW and not when we got there, and then he finished of course, while I was still pottering about trying to get it on the kids, then I got Erica into her carseat, still unfinished, and by this time our friends were ready to go, so into the car I hopped and no more glasses!

Car door stuck again. This happened last year too! I can handle the passenger's side door being stuck, not the driver's side though - but last year after we got the passenger's side door fixed, the driver's side got stuck, so fingers crossed it doesn't get stuck again soon, or I'll be climbing in to drive through the back door over Erica's carseat, eek!

Smashed a heater clearing out the shed, and one electric fan gave up the ghost this year.

Washing machine making ominous noises, a huge GYEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE when you turn it on. Dodgy.

My Wifi router broke. This was before the lightning strike, so I can't blame that. After our friendly computer guy showed me what to order online, I did so, only to find in the confirmation email that I had inadvertently ordered two! This was not a language fault, it's pretty bloody obvious when you have two of something in your shopping basket in any language. It was language though that made fixing it near to impossible. I tried replying the the email - got that email back. No contact email anywhere! I went back to the website and found the contact button, filled in all the fields, but still they two routers turned up next day. I gave one to the guy who fixed our computer. Then found another one in the cupboard that I think belongs to AFWJ...

The tape player doesn't go. That doesn't sound like a big deal of course, except that with no TV, I was going to listen to the books on tape that we inherited a while ago. So I went out and bought another one, a little cheap one... only it doesn't go. And I lost the receipt because I bought it the day before the Gion party. Yes, yes, I do really need to be a bit, no a LOT more careful with receipts!!

So next I tried the MD, as I also inherited a collection of audio books on MD. No luck. Hopefully I will soon be inheriting a new tape/CD/MD player off a friend. With my luck, it'll be broken by the time it gets here.

Obon Happened.

As it does.

A major family holiday in Japan, and I never plan a single thing. Or rather, I've learned to not plan a single thing, and wait for the inevitable phone call from MIL.

So Monday was the main family dinner, and we did get a few days warning about that one actually, she told us on Friday. We spent the morning cleaning up, trying to get through the mountain of laundry after the weekend! Fail.

We went round to Aunty's house at about 5, her daughter is back in town for the holiday and my girls like to play with her. Nothing much for me to do except fiddle with my phone and read a magazine. Kanji came at about 7, and we waited around for Jiichan and Baachan, who were late and arrived closer to 8. The kids were getting SO hungry, but we all had to pile back into the cars first and go pay our respects at the family grave, carrying back lit incense in the car to put on the family altar.

Then the eating could begin! We had a mixed feast of sushi, pizza, chawan mushy (savory custard), clear soup, onigiri, chips, renkon (lotus root) salad, gobo (burdock root) salad, potato salad, and tomatoes. And no-alcohol beer. I know some bloggy/facebook friends moan about obon spent with families who sit around and drink all day - I'm kind of jealous! Everyone in our family still works - the Stands are not closed during the busiest days of the year - and everyone's driving, so no-one drinks at all! Aunty used to provide beer, but stopped bothering a few years ago, now she gets non alcohol beer and we all politely drink that for 'cheers' then move on to our favorite soft drink. The whole thing is over in 3-4 hours.

Finally Kanji's sister came round with her two kids, though not until after a bit of phone wrangling by him and MIL. They brought donuts, which we hardly needed, though the kids ate anyway. At some point we agreed to go with Baachan to her family home in the mountains the next day, so after another slow morning making a very small dent in that laundry pile.

Then Mr. Wada phoned again, and we arranged the next modeling session for 5pm the next day. Then Kanji turned up just as we were leaving to ask us if we could go to the Okidai Bon Dancing event that night. See how stuff just happens?

The trip out to Yabakei was interesting, seeing all the flood damage. Part of the road washed away, and we had to take a detour. Most of it was cleaned up, but you could the houses that had been inundated, with a too-clean outdoor area in a mud-wash color. We didn't stay long, just long enough to scoff the proffered grapes and pears, and play with their new long-haired chihuahua puppy.

I think I'll do another post with photos for the Bon Dancing. Different... it's gone from a nice little summer party and barbecue with friends, during the middle of which the kids dress in their yukatas and pop off to the festival, to just our two families this year, or rather just me and the other Dad, and some bentos! The Mum recently took over a restaurant, and was working her butt off there, so no party, but the girls all wanted to get together and go to the dancing anyway. Amy and Lena stayed the night.

After beers at the 'party' and a nightcap or three, I was feeling pretty shattered on Wednesday morning, so when Kanji called to say that another friend wanted to go to the pool,  I declined. Not with Amy working (doing some lunch-time shifts at the friend's restaurant) and the modeling at 5pm. I thought that was that, until 2 seconds later I got a call from Amy and Lena to beg! They already knew about the plan, and Amy had been told not to work today. I couldn't say no when all their friends were already set to go. And I couldn't make Erica stay home (she was home with me, but overheard the phone call). And I didn't want her to go without me because she's mental in the water presently - crazy about putting her head under the water continuously, with hardly a break to breathe, so I have to keep an eye on her like a hawk.

So.... off we went to the pool. More photos from that later. It ended when a thunderstorm came over. We are getting one almost every day this summer!

We got back in time for the photographer - a location shoot this time, at a very picturesque cafe right near where I work that I had no idea existed. It was shut for the day, but I could peep at the menus - coffee, ice coffee, toast, cheese toast, aaaah, that's why I've never been there, old fashioned Japanese cafe menus are very uninspiring!

Today, back to work! The other day when I mentioned going to the beach this Friday, Lena actually stomped her feet and complained! "When will I ever get my homework done!" But then when she's home she just plays with Erica or swans around, helps with laundry, which she has decided is 'fun', or does sit-ups (I casually mentioned that I could do about 80 at her age, so I think she's been practicing on the sly!)

Monday, August 06, 2012

THIS fabulousness

Here's my new summer living room with the shiny new things finally installed! The piano (below) is on the left, and the computer (close-up below as well) is in the corner, a little dark. Sofa on the left and media centre on the right with the dysfunctional tape and MD players. Usually the shoji are at the other end of the window to keep the computer corner cool. The wicker chair sits in the cross breeze between the front and back doors, plus with fans from the other two directions it's the coolest spot in the house - I thought until today when I figured out the genkan was. I am seriously considering moving my wicker chair out there for my afternoon tea! What a bloody granny.

From the other direction.... a bit more cluttered, with Erica's tent and Amy and Lena's desks. But better than it is right now - but it's still not bad enough yet to take a true 'after' shot so you'll have to wait for that. I will happen! 

Gratuitous cute shot. Erica on 'Grandma's' wicker chair. It rocks! I mean, literally, not as in 'it's cool'. Though it is cool, if you mean temperature-wise.