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'.