Saturday, October 12, 2013

How'd that take so damn long?

Okay, so I finished work at 1pm, and had nothing else on for the rest of the day. Images of relaxing at home as the sun went down, nice glass of wine when the sun was still shining.

Reality: run around like a headless chicken and finally crack open the now-not-quite-so refreshing and relaxing champers at 8pm.

Got home, tired, and sat on the sofa reading and 'thinking about' tidying up until Amy reminded me about art class. Drove to art class. Drove to Gooday to get kitty litter. Gaclunked out of Gooday on a flat tyre to K's stand for him to change it (luckily only two blocks away). Picked up L & E, drove to Jiichan and Baachan's stand to get  new tyre. Drove L to salon, picked up A at art, back to salon, to be told that A's hair treatment will take two hours. Back to Baachan's with L to eat ice cream and discuss event timetable, swapping with B one "backstage at the fashion show" for one "karate tournament". Back home for a quick clean up and to change that kitty litter finally. Back to Baachan's to get L then back to salon to fix L's wonky fringe and pick up A, and talk about her new role as spokesmodel for the salon (she gets free cuts and treatment in exchange for generally looking fabulous. Win-win in other words!). Back to salon after driving one block away as I remembered to order Baachan's friends' fashion show tickets. Back to Baachan's to get E. Tyre still not done. Out for dinner with B, A, L & E. Back to Stand, tyre finally done! Drive by cosmos on the way home, get sucked into buying sweets for the children and a shiny new notebook with all new clean pages for A (I share her love of new pages, my Mum will remember how all she needed to do to make me happy was give me blank pages, and A shares this obsession!). Back home yay!!!! Search for The Devil Wears Prada, fail to find it, kids put Gru on (Despicable Me), finally open that damn champagne!!!

Wednesday, September 04, 2013


I won't be here long. Very soon, the screen will go black. I will be able to keep typing (I think) and the notification tings will continue but I


will not type and I'll go away and wait until it cools down or gets its groove back or whatever the heck is wrong with it!

Kids are all back at school, I've been a work nearly all my hours since half way through August and all through my birthday week, so that was a bit of a bummer and a bit of a less fun summer than usual - what with Amy's school sports club having 13 practices through summer (very tame compared to some other schools/sports, which practice nearly every day) and all the extra-curricular activities continuing. PLEASE someone remind me next year to cancel EVERYTHING if we're to have a chance to relax, and fit in some day trips and overnights, and maybe even get the bloody homework done!

Well, not much else to add. I really need to use the time I have before the next blank to back up the computer!


Monday, August 19, 2013

Bouncing Chicken

The chicken was bought last Monday, right at the beginning of Obon week: I thought I'd start off with a nice healthy dinner: chicken, onion, cabbage and red pepper stir fry; salad; and corn on the cob.

Then the kids decided they had to stay the night at Baachan's. Well, who's going to argue with that? Dinner plans were delayed, who knows what I ate, but I'm sure I chased it down with some wine!

And I realized that since Tuesday was o-Bon and we would be eating at Aunty Toyoko's house that night, that the chicken's next date with my kitchen would be Wednesday, so it really should go in the freezer in the meantime.

Wednesday came, and I took the chicken out to defrost in the fridge, Monday's dinner plans in mind. K came home, and lounged on the wicker chair while I tried to finish off a bit of decluttering I had started that day. It was hot, I was tired... we chatted... realized tonight was the only night this week we would all be home... and therefore, this was our chance to to go out for a family dinner.

So... Mr Chicken went back in the freezer, and we ended up eating yakitori with the Haradas, followed by karaoke at the Biliken Club. No chicken.

Thursday was beach day! K had meetings, so because we knew we wouldn't be meeting him for dinner, we ate on the way home. Amy wanted omuraisu (a thin omelet stuffed with flavored rice) so we aimed for the family restaurant in Jusco. It was pretty disappointing...

Friday we went to Oita for a TPet Blinky Bits recording session at Bitts Hall. (I'll explain what that means in a future post!) and this time went to the restaurant I think we all decided would have been the better choice the night before: Capriccosa, an Italian chain restaurant that is truly yummy!

Sat... Sun...

Monday rolled around again.

And, dammit, the chicken got cooked. You'd think I'd be dying to get that damned chicken cooked by now, but there was a part of me (okay, a very BIG part), that was desperately hoping that the children would again beg to stay at Baachan's, freeing me to flee along the coastal road... but that was not to be. Chicken it was. It was okay, after several consoling wines, picking at it while K and I watched stupid J variety shows late at night. At least he likes my chicken stir-fry now, he used to hate it. Or rather, I cooked it the first time, he said 'yum', I thought he meant 'yum', but he was just being polite, so I cooked it again and again until he finally told me he didn't really like it... but that was years ago, before I trained him. Or, is he still being polite? Who knows?

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Beach Heat, Fridge Heat and Cat Heat

We had an absolutely fabulous day at the beach on Saturday. It went off without a hitch, I don't think I got annoyed once, I think everyone was just so happy to finally be going! Even the car ride out was fun, with everyone joking and laughing. Nothing makes us happier than the beach! I'm glad I've passed that on to my girls, but sad that they have to miss out on the MONTH-long beach trips I enjoyed as a kid, the 2-3 swims a day, and the spectacular surf. Moments like that I kick myself for not living closer to a beach, but there's not that much I can do about that, except pile them all into the car for the trip at every available opportunity.

One thing we do that I didn't do as a kid is snorkel. I really love snorkelling! I can't wait to visit a prettier ocean; the sea grass and occasional small fish at Nakasakibana is not very exciting, though I still find it so lovely and peaceful, just moving through the water, the snorkel the only sound in the universe, the sand moving along under you, sun sparkling through the water.

And I finally got the definitive Lena beach shot. I've only been trying to get this photo for four years now, since I took a perfect beach photo of Erica when she was 1. I already had one of Amy, so all I needed to round it out was Lena. Now all I need is to print and frame them.

I was half thinking of visiting Katy, but we only left the beach at 5:30pm, right on dinner time, and I thought it would a bit jama for them and tiring for us. Until next time! Chicken and Sav, right?


We got a new fridge. That's the second new 'white goods' in a month, after the washing machine broke last month. I *think* there's nothing else now that will break in a while, though the microwave is second hand, so I guess it could go anytime. 

About Thursday we noticed the bottled water wasn't as cool as usual.... that could be just people drinking it too fast or opening the door too often, but then Friday it started to make noises like a lawnmower. Amazing how quickly things got stinky after that. I moved some things over to the freezer Saturday morning, then K and I went fridge shopping later in the morning. We got a mid-size Toshiba, with a vegetable drawer in the middle and a separate ice tray and cooling box (so you don't have to leave leftovers out on the bench, OR put them hot into the fridge or freezer). Dull gray, and I don't like it as much as my last one, which was red. 

It was delivered today (Monday) so the rest of the fridge inhabitants moved to the beer fridge in the meantime, itself a sub-par, seal-challenged, dusty outdoor behemoth, useful really only for parties. And mid-summer, 36 degree heat, fridge breakdown emergencies! Only problem is that the outside of it is so HOT! I hope that's only because the freezer was firing up...

Bloody cat. Or rather, bloody ME! 

Vanilla is in heat. She is NUTS! She is far worse than Genki, who is too skittish, and Cinnamon, who is too lazy to move very far. Cats in heat don't bleed, and keep themselves clean, so it's not gross. They are very affectionate, kissing and rubbing up against you, or the other cats. They miaow a lot more than normal (Genki the most, since she is the most vocal to start with), sleep way less, and spend those waking hours wandering around the house, miaowing and trying to get out. 

Since it's full-on summer and topping 35 every day, a lot of doors and windows are open. We have screens on every single window and door, but the cats can open either the screen or the window. Most egregious is the front door - it has a screen, but one installed by a moron, with a 10cm gap at the top, enough for a cat to fit through. I jerry-rigged it up with an umbrella in the gap yesterday morning, and held it shut with a guitar case, just so we could get some air through the house.

I woke up to Kanji telling me he was off to work when he saw Cinnamon on the roof. He found all the cats and got them inside, but let me know there was a security breach somewhere. I think they got through the bathroom window that time. I opened the front door. She got through the top of the screen, I caught her that time, so that's when I set up the umbrella and guitar case, then I then saw her get out again, after knocking the umbrella down! So I chased her, barefoot in my nightie, then retreated home to change before squatting down to check under the cars, their favorite place to hide. Once dressed, I found her under our neighbor's car - my neighbor was up, peering at me from her living room window, so I had to go say Good Morning, excuse me, my cat is under your car. Oh, you have a cat? she said. She came out, while I snuck behind the wheel and grabbed Vanilla by the scruff of her neck. I thought I had better introduce her to Mrs. Noda, but that freaked her out and she lay a very deep scratch half way up my left arm in her panic. 

Then last night while we were watching a movie, we heard a ferocious screech coming from outside. We quickly counted cats, and found Vanilla missing. Everyone went in all directions to find her, inside and out, and after we finally managed to find a torch that worked, I found her on the kitchen step outside, rubbing and rolling. She let me pick her up this time. The black and white Tom was sighted too, so I was very worried that she had just lost her kitty virginity, hence the screech. 

Then it happened again today! This time, I taped had a yoga mat taped to the top of the screen door in addition to the umbrella and guitar case, but she still managed to open the door - or maybe Erica had left it open for a bit when she went outside to skateboard. Again, the first we knew about it was the unholy screech. It seems that however much she seems to crave it, when it happens, it's a bit of a shock! I just hope it wasn't enough to impregnate her. I'm kind of hoping they have to do what their mother does with the black and white Tom and the ugly white Tom - spend hours together, doing it again and again, all night long, very loudly, for it to stick. 

If not, she's one dead cat. With her blood disorder, she will not survive giving birth, or an abortion. When I look at her sweet, soft furry face, I can't believe she has so much of a death wish. Well, scratch or no scratch, I'm giving her lots of love. I think she is not long for this world. 

Oh, and I just stood on Cinnamon, and she got her revenge instantly, with a very deep claw to my left heel. 

So I am a very bloody cat owner today. 

Friday, August 09, 2013

Some little odds and ends

I used to be organized, I promise. I knew where every little tool and piece of paper was in this house, and things like desks and bags would be regularly tidied and everything put in its place. Then I had kids, and started volunteering, and worked more, and slowly lost control. Now I'm wresting back that control, piece by piece, and that means pulling down the odd box full of assorted papers that once upon a time I would have make short work of, but more recently just got thrown together on top of a bunch of recipes.

Mostly receipts and notebooks, phone numbers and addresses, but I found this:

KIMBALMANA (goannas)
Wesley NGANJMIRRA (Lightning Man)

Which are the names of the Australian Aboriginal artists who created the art works that have graced my hall walls for years. I helpfully wrote them down before I got them framed and covered forever the backs, where the names are written. I was just thinking the other day how sad it was that I had forgotten even the names/themes of the pictures!

Second was a hilarious reminder of getting your way around Japan pre-smartphone. Three note pages of directions to get to somewhere! I have no idea now where this was heading, and I don't blame you for not reading through the whole thing, but I'm writing it down anyway, just because:

- R at しらかわ shingo
- 254 michi go straight.
- pass road cosmo and nakano
- straight at rd narrow past lake. rd thin and narrow
- L at end of road
- R at next shingo/JA
- up hill, right down to 210
- ? miss landmark, ? top of hill
- no corner just curves down past ?
- back to R10. blue house 本 cosmo and Maruwa intersection L
- R at shimono?? sign (Shell self, Best denki)
- L at ビースパ pett onsen

- After coffee gasoline Left at pink "Kandamachi"
- right at P + perm (before Station) ? up rd past bikes by tracks
- cross brigde left over tracks. to right.
- down hill now on tracks left
- left at white prefab

Where ever the heck that was, I have no idea how I found it.

Then I found a list numbered from 10 to 25:

10. Just converted her 66yr old mother to the joys of the Japanese houchou (knife)
11. Loves sleeping with her babies
12. hate flying
13. dated a millionaire in Sydney
14. Covered all four walls of her bedroom with Duran Duran pictures when she was 14
15. has a Southern Cross star constellation of freckles on her left cheek
16. did self-hypnosis for childbirth
17. had a cat called Church, dogs called Pixie & Doris
18. likes food starting with 'ch' - chicken, cheese, chocolate & champagne
19. accidentally went possum hunting once - never again!
20. loves swimming in rivers and waterfalls in Australia
21. strung pearl necklaces for her father's shop as a kid
22. is teaching her baby signs
23. likes making delicious desserts
24. owns a kimono & a yukata

Looks like one of those memes for blogs that got passed around so much 3-4 years ago.
Obviously I never made it 25. I wonder what 1-9 were!!!

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Ugh, I am SO sick of today!

I really need today to be over. I really should be in bed, only I'm sure it isn't cool enough yet, so I'm trying drinking. I usually don't bother when I'm annoyed, I just go to bed and read so that tomorrow hurries up and comes quicker, but the teency bottle of German bubbly was beckoning me from the fridge. Souvenir from a student. It's only so-so, but why would be any good, since today is a shitty day.

No reason in particular, just stupid hot weather, and not really achieving anything except driving round in circles and making the heat worse by going from cold to hot over and over again.

I went to work and realized I didn't have a class just after I arrived. Neutral. I'm usually happy when that happens because it means an unscheduled break, but I was just kind of blah today. The highlight of my day was a new kindy class. And the shark cat roomba (see YouTube). At the kindy, the kids had fun, and the staff (I had six of them in there at one time!) were impressed. Little K-chan was so nervous before the class she was sweating (I wondered how the teacher could tell the difference, since the place had no air con) but was sticking her hand up for every turn by the end. Little T-chan usually stutters - but did not stutter once during my class! Okay, that made me feel good, who doesn't like a little ego boost?

The day went downhill after that, for no particular reason except heat and not getting anything done, except a job at the PO and the shopping. Failed to pick up the kids at Baachan's - Amy hadn't finished her essay. It was due at 4pm (and that was overtime) but she didn't finish it until 7. I managed to get Erica to her swimming lesson, but that was just more in and out, hot and cold. Back to get Amy and Lena, failed again, back to swimming, back to Stand, to school, then finally home and called to quit juku, dammit, I am NOT going out again, I'm going to drink. Well, eat first. And shower.

So I finally got that wine open, and sitting in one spot finally with the fan on me, I am now only sweating where body bits touch other body bits, which is gross to read no doubt but so much better than just sweating all over the place.

Oh, and Vanilla is in heat again. MIAOUW!!!

Monday, August 05, 2013


I only managed to be 90% lazy today, despite my best efforts.

Slept till 10, and then managed to stay there playing with my devices until nearly 12! Reluctantly got out of my pyjamas to go do some shopping, I got people food, cat food and laundry powder to help me with that 10% of having to do some work.

Work: one load of laundry, tidying the living room and kitchen, and filled two rubbish bags out of the spare room, one burnable and one non-burnable, just to feel I wasn't completely useless and was making inroads on the grand decluttering and re-decorating effort. Actually, I was supposed to work on that all morning while Amy was at her junior high sports club, take the kids to the beach then go to work in the evening... but Amy skipped club, they both decided they needed to stay home to get some homework done, and I realized my class is next week. Oh well.

Next up, pasta for dinner and we're going to watch The Hobbit. I may get home sick...

Saturday was so-so busy, with a meeting, and ferrying the kids to classes (Amy's art and Lena's T-pet idol lessons). Sunday we went to Alex's farewell party, FAREWELL Alex! Make sure you come back and party again! I wrote up about last week, so I'll post those too in a moment!

Friday, August 02, 2013

Three Summer Days

It finally feels like the summer holidays!!!

The first three days the kids were at camp, then I had a full day's work, then the next two days I was hard out cleaning and shopping and cooking for my Gion party, then Gion was upon us, with Amy taking part, then the party and recovery day, more work and then finally this week, Wednesday, Thursday and today were HOLIDAYS!

(Well, mostly. Amy had juku on Wed night, Lena had dance on Thursday and Erica had English and karate!)

Wednesday we hit the shops, Thursday we celebrated a birthday and today we finally hauled ourselves into a pool!

Have I ever complained about the rules at Kampo no Sato? If I have, please tell me to shut up. After Nakatsu public pool, it's a paradise. There's that 'lifeguard' problem again - just high school boys working part time - none of them even seen well trained enough to even actually look IN the pools, instead of anywhere else, preferably in the direction of the cutest bikini. But that worked in our favor today - they are also far too cool to pay any attention to the customers, meaning we got away with diving and jumping and letting the little kids on the water slide!

We went with Julia and Indy, and we were there for three hours - only a wee splash in the baby pool today, thank goodness, most of the time going round and round and round the 'nagare' pool, which had a current that pushes you around. What on earth are they called in English? And two swims in the big pool, and three turns on the water slide and none of it barred from use by any ages and lifeguards too bored to bother telling anyone off! Perfect!

The kids were exhausted after, I was too. Thank goodness Kanji called just after I fell asleep on the sofa from his favorite bar, and agreed to get us take out! So we ended the night with a family meal in front of a silly Japanese game show, eating izakaya food - fried chicken, potato salad, onigiri (rice balls), yakitori (meat on skewers), and potatoes with cheese - and drinking beer from the bottle (thank you Tomo!)

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Happy Birthday Kitties

Thursday I got some work done, and some decluttering! A van-load of random crap and old rubbish from the shed to the rubbish centre. They have a nice system, a lot easier than the old dump in NZ! You drive in, and park your car on a weighing plate, and the lady (who I recognized as a mum from school) gives you a numbered card. You drive into the building (it's a massive incinerator) where there are bays for various recycled materials, and big metal conver-belt shutes for burnable and non-burnable items. The signs say you're supposed to do it yourself, but in reality a bunch of workers descend on you to make sure you get your trash into the right place - and bascially do it for you. I've learned to just grab something, walk aimlessly towards a shute and expect to be roughly told off and told where to take it. They end up doing most of it for me! Wood and furniture; garden refuse and bicycles are taken outside to the yard.

Then on the way out, you park on another weighing plate, and hand back your card, and they calculate how much you brought and charge you for it - my van-load was 600yen. It would be cheaper to sort everything nicely and get it out on the right day for municipal garbage collection, which is free, but it's nice to get a WHOLE lot of crap disappeared in one go.

I came home via the supermarket with sushi for the Cat Birthday Party! According to our Vet's estimate, they were about six weeks when we got them, so he gave them a birthdate of August 1st for the records, so we went with it! We bought them katsuoboshi - shaved, dried fish. Humans also eat this in Japan, sprinkled on dishes as a condiment or used as a stock, and the damn cats will drag the packets out of the cupboard if we leave the kitchen open at night and attack the packet until they can get it open. We got them a few other treats, and some cat toys that were a huge hit, even though they didn't work as advertised (they totally did NOT fly) - I think the cats thought they were real, they 'caught' them and dragged them around the room between their legs like lions, then tore them to bits overnight.

We went to the city pool in the afternoon. I hate the city pool. There are two pools, one VERY babyish, very shallow, just a big round concrete pool with no activities and no shade, and a very deep lap pool. The two pools are separated by a chain link fence, and pre-schoolers are not allowed in the big pool at all. Elementary school kids are, but only with a parent. You can only go in alone from junior high school age. Meanwhile, kindy kids cannot be in the kiddy pool alone. My kids are in junior high, elementary and kindergarten - see the problem?

So Lena ended up in the baby pool, except for when I took her to the big pool, during which time Erica had to just wait on the seats there. Luckily they were both enjoying their first swim of the season enough that they tolerated it... Lena wanted to go in the big pool, but declared the baby pool fun anyway. Erica waited patiently by the big pool, but felt sad that she wasn't big enough to go in. Roll on next year, when Amy and Lena can go to the big pool all by themselves, AND Erica can come in with me!

It's run by retirees, and is so crammed in by rules that no-one goes, meaning it makes no money, so it has to be run by retirees, and not proper life guards, who can't watch everyone properly, so they need parents to go, so no-one goes, and they make no money... in an endlessly downward spiralling loop. It's open in three 2.5hr sessions, with an hour between each session, and you have to pay for each session. Last straw? Being told my Amy that last time she was there with her friends, they saw a man on the castle next door training a camera into the changing room. I hate that pool.

After that, Thursday was just Thursday - English lesson, dance lesson, karate lesson. Same old same old.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Shopping Day

Wednesday was shopping day!

I worked in the morning, while the kids did their homework. After lunch, we hit the mall. I bought Amy and Lena a 'rash guard' each. That always seems like such a dumb word for it when we don't use them for surfing, but for sun protection. Both of them were fine with going brown last year, but Amy decided on her own that she didn't want to tan this year, and Lena was TOLD by her 'Idol Class' teacher to choose either an all-over tan, or none at all! Luckily the trend for what I prefer to call 'swimming tops' is catching on here, and there were some cute ones this year. Amy's has Winnie the Pooh on it. Cute never goes out of fashion in Japan. Lena's is pink with mesh panels in the back and under the arms, which looks really cool, but is maybe a bit loose for proper swimming.

And I bought a parasol! Right now, despite the ozone layer and melanoma rates, NZers will be thinking I am certifiably bonkers. But dammit, it's very convenient carrying your shade with you! I have to walk to the train on Tuesday, and then from the station to the factory I teach at in another town, and it's DAMN hot! I've been using umbrellas, but I decided I wanted a real parasol with a lining to reduce heat and cut UV rays. It's black, and I managed to find one without lace trimmings, just a subtle damask-style rose pattern, black on black.

We also bought face powder - Chacott. Stage make-up, I know, they even had a pure white one, but it was only ¥1200. This was after the girls and I spent a good ten minutes drawing lines all over my face of different Revlon powders, only to find that my chosen shade was sold out. That tells you something about the goal of make-up in Japan - it's for whitening here, not blending in, so while I clearly have lighter skin, it's *my* shade that's sold out!

We also got some toiletries, the yummiest cheese and bacon bread ever at the Jusco supermarket bakery, a water gun for Erica, a t-shirt and summer cardy combo for Amy (she bought it), stuff for the cats and ice creams for us all. We stopped by Shimamura on the way home, where Lena got a top and shorts, and Amy got a gorgeous dress, and I got floral jeans, a peasant top and a maxi dress with a string top to go over it. Amy, Lena and I all happily tried on clothes for an hour, while Erica played hide and seek with her new bestfriendsforever that she met five minutes before.

Ahhh... shopping with the girls!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

More Joyfull

I can't seem to keep away.

Apparently there's a girl in this house called Amy, but I'm not sure, I don't see her often. She's quite nice, she's says hello and goodbye, and I think she's human, because she moans dreadfully about the noise when I wake the other two in the morning for rajio taiso. (If you don't know what that is by now, stuff it, go check July of every other year!).

She appears out of bed, nags me incessantly for the ten minutes demanding to know where her gym clothes are, where her underwear is, where she left her head, and MUM PLEASE DRIVE ME! Which I do, because a) it's only time I get to talk to her, b) it's already a hard morning for her running in the sun let alone walking there too and c) there's air con in the car.

In the morning Lena and Erica do homework. I gave Erica a kindergarten book to work with, and Lena helped her with it - who knew? She is a natural teacher, patient and good at explaining. And Erica is an active learner - she spent most of the time with her feet kicking out behind her, she would stop moving long enough to write a word, then kick again. This does not bode well for school, but we'll cross that bridge when we get to it.

The wraith appears again around lunchtime, which she skips, checks once with me that her outfit looks okay (feeling happy that I'm still trusted to know, though she defers to Lena if she's there) and off she goes again. They reappeared once this afternoon to 'show' me their very tomboy friend, the 'big version of Erica'. Then off again, to Joyfull apparently, where they went yesterday too.

Amy handed me the drink tickets when she got home (for a discounted all-you-can-drink drink bar), but I told her to keep them. She was so happy - more so at the implication that it was fine that she went, and fine for her to go again.

She reappeared again at 6, having spent THREE HOURS at Joyfull. And off again to Gion practice. I'll be taking Lena and Erica to Joyfull in a moment, I'm not cooking tonight after slogging away all day today getting the living room clean, including sorting and cleaning books, and 4 DIY projects involving, one of which worked.

That was the extra long studs to hold the book shelf in the bookcase. My attempt to fix the lower panel of the front door screen failed (wrong materials), clearing the paper from the shoji paper doors is a work in progress, and my el cheap air conditioner is still under construction...

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Crazy Joy

I'm not sure why my student wants her lesson in Joyfull, a busy family restaurant. I met her first at her house, she has a huge house, and no-one it in - daughter moved out, son at school all day, husband passed away ten years ago. Maybe there were grandparents hiding somewhere, who knows. But her living room was bigger than some people's apartments, and had this... thing... in it. A corner of the room walled off with glass, with a sunken floor and sofas around the four sides of the square that resulted. I couldn't quite figure out what the architect had in mind (and yes, this was the type of house that most definitely came from the mind of an architect, not the pages of a house company brochure), but it seemed ideal for English conversation, as did the coffee table bigger than some people's cars.

But she preferred to drive into town, get a table at Joyfull, pay for drink bar tickets for both of us (which is why I am still awake, still buzzing on the cappuccino), and natter away at our booth, hopefully not disturbing the neighboring diners too much. At first I found it both a bit embarrassing, and limiting - I couldn't really connect the 'quiet dining' persona with the 'outgoing English teacher' persona, who is a lot louder! But over time, I got used to it, to just talking normally, neither too quiet nor too loud.

Unlike our fellow diners tonight.

First of all, we were sitting next to a booth containing high school girls. To tell the truth, they were actually quite well behaved, but you just can't have high school girls anywhere without squealing and loud laughter happening at least a few times. There were kids, of course, being a family restaurant at the start of the summer holidays, but the crying baby, dancing kindergartener and loud requests from the kids at the table in the corner were NOTHING on Loud Guy and Nasty Guy.

Loud Guy was apparent from the start of the night - everyone in the place knew he ordered a cheese-in hamburger. Nasty Guy was sitting with a very quiet wife, son (?in-law) and daughter (?-in-law) and kid, who all looked very cowed, but I didn't notice him until he and Loud Guy started arguing - I didn't hear the whole exchange but it included one telling the other to be mindful of the other customers with that loud voice, then both of them calling each other stupid. I should add Japanese almost never have public confrontations like this. Like everyone else, I very quietly pretended it wasn't happening. Except to take a peek at the protagonists the next time I filled up my Pepsi (not happy with the drink bar selection, by the way).

Finally both lots left, to be replaced by a table full of loud teenage BOYS - much to the delight of the table of high school girls, but not such good news for us! The last thing we did in the lesson was list verbs saying what we are doing right now: sitting, studying etc. I added 'listening to very loud customers' and my student laughed, then Nasty Guy slumped past the window outside on his way to the car park. Grumpy, I said, which resulted in me and my student both looking up the word for a Japanese definition. And me finding this

I swear, the guy looked EXACTLY like this. Whereupon student and I joined the noise and giggled our way out of the lesson!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Hot, hot, and then some

I'm sitting here, in front of my computer,

... wearing a house dress (well, just a loose cotton dress I bought online that is too loosely cut in front so I can't really wear it outside of the house),  fan on full bore blowing on me, not oscillating, a bottle of ice in front of it in the hopes that that will cool the air just a little more, another fan on full bore in the next room, this one oscillating and blowing by me every now and then, with a chamois draped around my neck for more cooling, and another towel to daintily dab the sweat from my face, and a water bottle, empty, because I tend to drink all 500ml at once.

And like that, I can concentrate on work.

Yeah, it's hot, but there are some hidden advantages to going no air con! I am COOLER a lot of the time, except for that one time of the day when I feel like I'm going to melt. But most days around that time, I'm at work (air conditioned), and if not, I take a shower, or go shopping (air conditioned) and every evening I have to take the kids to various classes in the car (air conditioned) so I do get to escape it usually, though I end up having to fight with my students over what temperature to set the air conditioner at!

I'm cooler at night, sleeping. I remember when we used to have the air con on to sleep (switching off later) I would always feel hot in the morning. Now I get to enjoy, really enjoy, the cool breezes of morning, and those moments when I actually get to feel COLD and - gasp - have to put my blanket on (my cotton air cell blanket).

But the best thing is not instantly wilting and breaking into a drenching sweat the minute I leave my house - or just the living room. Which means I can get more done around the house but best of all, spending time outdoors is much more pleasant. All I need is shade and a mild breeze and I feel fine. Night events are even better, no sweat (literally) in the cool evening.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

A Few Things

Laugh of the day: Lena was sitting on the floor at the kotatsu doing homework this morning, and felt something brush against her leg. Thinking it was a cat, she reached out to touch.... A cockroach! While she stood on the sofa eeking and freaking and literally crying, the rest of us tried very hard not to laugh, and the cats and I chased the cockroach until I caught it under the bug spray can. Yes, wrong side, I know, but I left it there to deal with later... only to find the can knocked over later. Kind of hope the cats got it, kind of don't, since we sprayed it a lot last night when we first saw it.

(shudder: a cat rubbed against my legs just now!!! Creepy!)

Lena's hissy fit was probably only marginally less ridiculous than Kanji and me squealing and trying to hide behind each other when we first attacked it last night - and it flew at us!!!

But not nearly as funny as Kanji trying out the brand new 'one spray per day' (eg, every 12 hours: no, we have not worked out how that works yet) and spraying himself in the face.

He's not having a good week. He got caught not stopping at a Stop sign. Twice. At the same intersection. sigh. They've been fixing up the roads between our house and his shop for years, and this intersection was finally totally finished, painted and perfect. What better time to set up a sting? I've been stopping at it for ages, because I've noticed the police on that road numerous times - it seems whenever there is roadworks, people think there are no rules any more and do what they like, so the cops follow them there and catch them. Apparently Kanji had not noticed though!


Just did something I have not done for years, and never in this house. Carried a warm, freshly washed and DRIED load out of the laundry to fold. Ever since the shocking failure of my last drier, which took six hours to dry one load into a crumpled heap because all it did was blast hot air on the just-spun load, I've had to do without. So it was a mixed blessing when the machine started to play up, and a piece of happy luck to find a combination machine on sale for 88,800 (they are usually about 150,000). Now all I have to do is try not to use it too much!


Three new recipes tonight, mixed results. I added grated carrot to my corn fritters - that worked! I love corn fritters with sweet chili sauce. And added moyashi to latkes. Or, mung bean sprouts to the potato cakes we used to have that we called mock whitebait fritters. Bean sprouts make much better fake whitebait! I also tried crumbed pumpkin slices, Lena's idea after I tried crumbed zucchini a few weeks ago, which she loved. Fail. I tried doing them in the oven and added too much oil. Anyone have any idea how to re-make too-oily crumbed pumpkin into something?

At Fadies to get the chili sauce, I saw.... drumroll please....

Babich Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. 1980 yen. ($25). And yep, you just know I'll fork out for it! I only just, with a great show of will power, that I managed to not buy it tonight, knowing it would just sit there taunting me all week. Now I am seriously thinking of how many other ways I can cook mung beans and tofu for dinner tomorrow and Friday so I can afford it!


It's a new Wednesday. Bye-bye laid-back Wednesday, although with swimming starting later the afternoon felt longer. I added juku for Amy from 7-9, after her swimming lesson, so she needed a snack. Now I really do only have Friday left!

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

One little monkey jumping on the bed

Well, actually she was jumping OFF the bed. The bed in question isn't exactly fun to jump on, with its wooden base with a futon on top... So OFF the bed, landing awkwardly, possibly skidding on her futons set on the floor and

She fell off and bumped her head

Well, cut it open actually. Crashed her head into the squared metal pole supporting Amy's loft bed. I heard the thump, and thought it was particularly loud (I am used to loud thumps from upstairs that I know is the sound of kids jumping off the bed onto the floor. It always startles guests because the whole house shakes and it feels like the ceiling is going to come crashing down, but I know from experience that it won't!). The sound was different this time, so I thought she had dropped a toy drawer to the ground from its place in the upper half of the closet, since her mission that afternoon was to find 'Littlest Pets' toys to give to a friend.

I was eating a banana, so I thought I would finish that then go up and help her clean up the mess. THEN came the scream. You know how the longer the gap, the bigger the scream? Yeah.

So up I rushed, amazing how fast you can streak up stairs when you need to! Banana still in hand, sisters also appeared literally from no-where, I'm sure I was all alone in the living room before that, then they were just there!

I saw the blood running down her face and freaked out a little bit! OhMyGodOhMyGodOhMyGod! Shake hands like fool. Then order Amy to fetch me a towel as I looked around the room which was relatively tidy for once and therefore had no towels lying on the floor. Dump banana on clothes box. Look at sweet, frightened baby and realize I had to pull myself together. Start speaking in a deliberately slow and gentle voice, telling her it was alright, just a little blood, we'd get it fixed up soon.

Pressed towel onto bloody head. "Shall I get your phone?" said Amy, who was thinking more clearly than I was at the time. I had no idea where my phone was, so we all trooped downstairs. We called Kanji first, who was still miles away, having gone to a meeting out of town that day - worst luck, normally he would be able to come.

Mama called the doctor 

Well, the ambulance actually. I was so concerned about holding the towel to her head, and driving, and wondering where I should go, that I decided to call the ambulance.

I probably wouldn't have unless Kanji hadn't suggested calling them that night I broke my toe. If that was worth a call, this was!  and got all annoyed when they started to try out their three sentences of English on her,

and the doctor said,

Well, the ambulance driver said, "Watto aduresso". Damn. Honest, it was just a moment's hesitation, just turned to Amy once to check the word for 'pole', and BAM, that "this person speaks no Japanese so I have to use my three English sentences on her" thing happened. Nice of them to try, of course, but I can speak a whole lot more Japanese, including directions and medical terminology, than the page or two of English they have on a little bit of paper in the back of the ambulance. It wouldn't bother me, of course, only it can sometimes take several repetitions of "I can speak Japanese" for it sink in and for them to both stop trying out their English sentences and worse, trying to decipher my 'English' answers (which are actually Japanese, but it shows how much people can block their hearing).

So I threw several more quickly spoken fully Japanese sentences at them and the switch happily happened, and the ambulance driver said,

"wait outside the bank we'll be there in a few minutes".

I should add here that they really are 'ambulance drivers'. Not paramedics, not nurses. The amount of actual medical procedures they can do are limited - they can't put in lines or give pain medication. What they can do is drive you there safely, and they know where to take you, which, in Japan, is not as clear as it should be.

Meanwhile I found my phone in my pocket, where it had been all along.

Out we go to the street, me holding Erica in my arms, awkwardly pressing the towel against her head, Amy holding an umbrella as it had started to rain. Then she held the towel because my hand was getting sore all twisted around. At this point I thought I might have been able to drive, as I realized Amy could probably do the first aid, though I still didn't know where to go (Kanji had the hospital number, though we could have called and asked).

Meanwhile neighbors gathered. A woman came round the corner, I vaguely recognized her, I think from the school. She stopped her car, jumped out and came over to see if we were okay. "Oh, the ambulance is on its way", I said. I could hear it by then. It seemed to take ages. I remember wondering how they would get the house if we couldn't come out to meet them outside the bank - run in with the stretcher, I suppose.

By the time they arrived I was feeling quite embarrassed, and quite a wee crowd had gathered outside the bank. Oh well, I thought, everyone knows now. So I climbed in the back with Erica (Amy and Lena stayed home), and they wrapped her head up with gauze after judging it to be about 1cm long and1/2c wide, and off we went, Erica's temperature and blood pressure being taken, and me being asked if she had passed out, seen stars or felt sick.

I forgot to look out the front window to see the parting of the ways, except for one point when we were on the main road, and I saw all the cars lined up on either side of the street as we went down the center - meanwhile Erica was calm enough to be fiddling and asking questions about the stuff in the back of the ambulance... by this time I was quite convinced we didn't need an ambulance, but well, it was a bit late by then.

So they drove us up to the door of the pediatric emergency entrance (there isn't a dedicated emergency department in the hospital) where we had to wait a bit for the one on duty pediatrician. She declared it too big for her boots, and promptly called the surgeon. I had time then to call Kanji, who was still on the road, and Kristin, who was on her way to visit with 3 kids (eek! but also, phew - will you arrive and promptly babysit and cook dinner while I hang out at the hospital, please?).

He came pretty quickly, along with my student from last year's hospital class! Erica was SOOOO good. She really likes hospitals and doctors, goodness knows why, with all that has happened to her! She was quite determined that it wasn't going to hurt and she lay still while they cleaned it up and applied the steri-strips. The nurse was funny, handing the surgeon what he needed just before he asked... he'd say 'are...' ('that one') and there she'd have it. Yes, Maria, Mum and Rebecca, I know, you nurses always have to tell those doctors what to do! She was real smooth too...

And we were given two days worth of prophylactic antibiotics and told to go to any old nearby surgeon on Monday.

Back home in time to cook dinner, then everyone arrived - Kristin and the kids, then Kanji, and Erica made a miraculous recovery so she could play with her friends and then everyone said,

no more monkeys jumping on the bed!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Toy Story

It is not a good idea to attempt to manage the toy closet (ie, chuck stuff out) in between watching installments of Toy Story. Skip to 2:15

Not when your kid talks about how the poor toys are going to be burned....

I happily explained that ours would not be going in the burnable trash, that's not allowed in rubbish-mental Japan, but would be nicely buried where some achaeologist of the future will dig them up and and they will be treated like treasure.

Thank goodness my kids don't know the word 'landfill' (skip to 40s)

The other thing you must not under any circumstance do, is use personal pronouns to refer to them. A few weeks ago, I brought Jamma Lammy downstairs to toss, having finally had enough of her. She was a gift ages ago, a girl-shaped alarm clock that sings an annoying song. I don't think we've ever used it as an alarm clock - it's too annoying, and we could never seem to coordinate the feat of having working batteries in both the doll and clock parts of the device. But then each kid in turn 'discovered' her, and had to keep her, occasionally pressing the button that makes her sing and then say "Alright!" over and over again in that way kids do with toys that are supposedly 'interactive' (meaning they just make noise when you press the buttons, so the kid does it over and over again like some kind of drug) So it kept hanging around until the next clear-out.

Then I made the fatal mistake of referring to it as 'her', that I was going to throw 'her' out because 'she' is not very useful, we never use 'her'. Cue sad eyes around the breakfast table. Poor Jamma Lammy.

So, part of the solution is to give some things away.

A little girl we know in Beppu will probably be thrilled to inherit our entire zuzu pet collection, plus accessories. I hope her parents don't kill me.

Kristin, you should know that next time Sasha wants the Littlest Pet shop plus pets and accessories, she is going to be allowed to take it home.

I know a little girl called Pinglet's mother does NOT want more toys, but I hope an elegant evening purse with a few items of costume jewellery that were too nice to throw out will be fine. I guess I'll ask first if she want the old Puri-kyua outfits.

There are two energetic little boys in Oita who will have endless fun with the Fisher-Price toys.

One more little girl in Usa marked herself as a victim of our 'charity' by expressing a love of ponies the other weekend. I hope she likes the pony princess dress we throw in as well. I'm sure her brother will LOVE mowing the astroturf on the deck with our noisy toy lawn mower.

And GW, what do you say to some Bratz dolls, or Barbies?

Thank goodness I know so many people with little kids!

Bonus Jamma Lammy vid:

Friday, June 14, 2013

Calm, clean and quiet

Curry cooking on the stove, kitties curled up or stretched out on the sofa, fan whirring on the other side of the room, treating me to a little flutter of cool air every now and then. Not even the birds are tweeting on this hot morning, leaving me with quiet and peace.

And a living room floor that is STILL clean two hours after I vacuumed! Amazing!

I think I like Friday mornings. Friday mornings are quickly becoming my 'sit at the computer and pretend to work while reading stuff suggested by the gods of facebook' morning. This is a daily habit I have been weaning myself off for a month or two now. With my eager, interested morning mind in top gear I tend to click on everything, and before long have ten tabs open all with thrillingly fascinating or important issues that I must read right now! And of course, nothing else gets done that morning, so I've quit it, but quietly allowed myself to do it on Friday morning (of course I also tidy up, do the dishes, do some laundry and often start getting dinner on as well, but hey, that never ends! By 'doing nothing' I mean not getting on the de-cluttering, class prep, essay checking, yard work or whatever other pressing jobs need doing.)

Today is Father's Day. Not in NZ of course, where it's in September, or in Japan either, where it's on Sunday. But our Father is working on Sunday, and going drinking with a friend on Saturday night (harrumph! I thought it was my turn!) so tonight it is. Curry is on the menu of course, what else? But with a bit of twist tonight - hot Java curry for the mince, and I made a second curry with chicken and a really mild roux. I'm also going to make stuffed ball zucchinis and garlic butter scallops. With sashimi and beer added, and some champers for me, it'll make a nice feast, and no doubt the Father will put something on TV, and that'll be our night.

I've got most of it cooked, so I have a little bit of time after work to shop for a present, eek! What to get! And pick up the booze and sashimi. So it's off to work now, not a particularly taxing job this afternoon, what with having done the same lesson yesterday so I know what I'm doing. And while this bunch can be annoying sometimes with sleepiness, not listening and not following instructions, I'm so used to it that I think I'd be put out if they suddenly all turned into star pupils.

But it's a hot, hot day, and the air conditioning isn't on yet, so we'll all be sleepy, and aching to get out of there....I'll be dreaming of cool champagne and hot curry and watching the clock tick, tick, tick...

Tuesday, June 04, 2013


Rainy June. But not today, beautiful weather today, sunny and warm with a light breeze.

Sounds just like the start of a Japanese school PTA letter. Which means the next paragraph will contain the real business.

Okay, here's the next paragraph. Sorry, nothing to add. Or rather, I really don't want to list all the things I've done but haven't updated on the blog yet, like convention, undokai, parties, bbqs, blah blah blah.

And I certainly don't want to bore you with yet another break-down of my busy schedule, even though it's my personal obsession. And I'm still looking for more work! I'm know I'm mad, but the madness has a purpose.

Ahhhhh.... I know.

I'll blissfully rhapsodize over tomorrow. Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love ya tomorrow, you're only a few hours away now, and I have nothing scheduled. Well, until 2pm anyway, and not counting getting up at 7 to make Erica's lunch to take to kindy. Apart from that I am going to try to squeeze extra ipod game time, extra novel-reading time, extra movie-watching time and perhaps extra sleep into the six hours I have guaranteed with nothing to do (which of course means loads to do but I'm just ignoring it), and the rest into the other six, where I'll juggle swimming lessons, uniform shopping and making dinner.

With any luck I'll turn up at work on Thursday morning and have a panic attack about the stuff I have to do before the weekend, when I have plans to take the kids to a Reubens exhibition in Kitakyushu, visiting friends on the way.

Now, back to looking for photos and starting that convention post...

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

My desk

One of the most strangely interesting entries in my old diary is an exhaustive list of what lay on my bedside table. Instead of my usual narcissistic monologue, here was an insight in the mundane little details of everyday life, the things I did not think were important enough to devote a diary entry to.

It's like when you look at an old photograph, and find yourself spellbound by the background details, overlooking the smiling faces to laugh at the old wallpaper you remember, or a coffee cup on the table that you loved and smashed to bits decades ago.

So with that in mind, voila! Here is my desk:

At the top is my year planner. Would you believe I couldn't find a poster type, and had to make it myself!? I guess I could find one if I looked harder, they must exist, but was busy and it just needed to be done. With four (maybe five) different annual calendars to juggle (plus private classes) I needed something where I couldn't quickly check, visually, what I have coming up in the next few weeks, and most importantly, when they all happily coincide and I get a holiday! So far there are only three weeks this year when that happens, one week in summer and two over Christmas/New Year.

Next comes the stack of AFWJ Journals and Directories, and folders relating to meetings, the cookbook and calendar committees and convention handbook! So much always to do there, and kept here nicely in reach. It'll be nice to stack those back in another place finally when I stop being Pres next year.

Next come a stack of photo CDs waiting to be loaded into this computer, just as soon as I get iphoto sorted and re-loaded with the backup photos as iphoto seems to have lost dozens of photos (I just get a broken line box where a photo should be), and a framed photos of my girls dressed in kimonos for the girls' festival - the photo frame plays the Hina Matsuri song.

Then there's a weight management hypnosis CD and a Lazydown DVD (a kid's show, just coincidentally next to the weight-loss CD, although if I did the dances from the DVD I think I would lose quite a bit!).

Next comes nihon-go, half a shelf devoted to the books I am supposed to be studying Japanese with, but never do, accompanied by a couple of English grammar books, and the full history of National Geographic on CD-ROM.

Hiding behind are an unused pen stand, one random AFWJ photo CD, AFWJ and other cookbooks for reference, a container full of memory sticks and cards, more CD-ROMs and a bunch of floppy disks (I think I'm hoping they'll sprout a USB hub if I leave them long enough in close proximity to my Mac). A heart-shaped cushion with "I love you Mum", and external hard drive, a fold-out mirror, a Paddington Bear purse, a screen cleaner and a heart-shaped cardboard box that was a present from Erica for something, made at kindy.

The pile of detritus scattered around the base of the computer is normal verging on bad. It gets cleaner, but has got worse too. There's a roll of selotape, a water spray bottle for cat management, a hairbrush, the ubiquitous massive tea mug I use, a letter and a money envelope, a lego figurine (knight from Erica's new castle set), a miniature jack-in-the-box, providence unknown, two earrings, a necklace and a hair clip, a peg with a strap attached (never could work out what these things were for), a broken pair of Kanji's glasses, some parts of the smashed computer screen wrapped in newspaper (there as a reminder to myself that I still have not disposed of the whole smashed screen because I don't know which type of trash to put it wish, or just take it to the dump next time we go), a fake Chanel cigarette box with no cigarettes in it, on top of some notes about the cute things Erica said as a toddler which I have yet to transcribe, a photo, a sock, a beaded hair comb, 2 pencils, a spool of red thread, a thank you letter to Kanji, expired passports (OOPS!), two camera battery chargers, a framed photo of my sisters, the video camera, an ancient Milo tin and a yellow and black dress I wore when I was 16 (about to be blogged about on a different blog), DVDs of the Tudors and some Vanilla scent.

In the second picture you can see the printer, toner yet to be put in, and a few bags and some folders in a box. That's my English teaching resources! There's a whole lot more in the spare room, this is just the 'grab bags' of the things i need every week, sorted into class folders. Under the desk (Amy's old desk, she has moved on to her upstairs loft bed with a desk under it now) are a bunch of photos to be scanned.

UGH that was scary!! I just added I don't know how many things back onto my 'to do' list from where they had fallen off despite being right in front of my eyes.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Golden Week

Another glorious, sunny, relaxing Golden Week at Victoria's in the bag.

And I'm not going to say it's always the same, but different this time, because it was mostly just the same. Except for the mini-circus and me collecting injuries like girl scout badges (in addition to the broken toe, I spent the whole drive down trying to get something out of my eye. Tammy finally gave me some eye drops and the chair collapsed under me while I was leaning back to put them in, leaving me with a streak of purple bruising along my upper arm. Well, the chair was several decades old. Finally I collected a wasp sting at the bbq on the second night, which Victoria cured with ammonia, making me smell like a two-day old nappy all night until I covered it with a plastic glove).

Oh, and I never stepped foot in the temple once! I went up to the toilet 3-4 times, but we did all the cooking in the lower kitchen, and I slept in the corner by the sofas in the old kindergarten with Erica.

Amy and Lena slept in a tent in an old rice paddy out the back of the back garden with Sahara and Sasha. Never seeing them except for when they miraculously appeared at mealtimes is par for the course I suppose.

As is the G&T's on the lawn and the endless bottles of wine, cups of tea in Victoria's kitchen, the bbq and sashimi and chips and dip, shopping and onsen trip and women chattering loudly in English in the kitchen.

This year's parent was Karin's dad Issac, who made the hummus, and made it REAL good. Victoria's helpers were another French couple, this time the girl was the outgoing one, the guy kind of quiet. They were act two in the mini-circus with their hula-hoop routine, following Yuko the balloon lady. I have to say the BBQ night entertainment this year was top-notch!

I skipped the river swim due to my foot, and was happy that Erica didn't seem interested in the river - until the next day, when I knew about it only when she appeared in the back garden soaking wet. Erica being another year older and more sensible is probably why I felt this year to be particularly relaxing - instead of panicking whenever there was a quiet moment, I rested. Since Lena was 5 when Erica was born, I guess that means this is the *most* relaxing it's ever been for me, despite the fact that being an old hand now means I do a lot more of the cooking, cleaning up and shopping, since I know where things are!

The trip there was great.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013


Mum said I had to update, so here I am.

But that was on Sunday, when the most exciting thing happening was our hilarity at the delay on Skype between Josh screaming and his mouth opening. Small things amuse small minds.

Monday was a holiday, Golden Week has begun, but it's chopped in half this year, so it'll feel squeezed into two weekends.

Then I cam home on Tuesday after going shopping with Erica to find Vanilla on the sofa, just sitting in that typical cat paws-under-body style, blood pouring out of her left ear. Lena got me a damp cloth to clean it up, and a dry one, and I wiped and wiped, and held the cloth down on her ear a bit to see if I could stop the bleeding. Whenever I thought it might have stopped, I left her for a bit, but then I'd notice it welling up inside again.

Meanwhile I was running around like a headless chook trying to find the cage door for the cat box to take her to the Vet. To do that I had to clear all the cat stuff out of the spare room where we stashed it for Amy's birthday party. I eventually found it on the shelf of our home-made cat tree/feeding station thingy, but not before cleaning up the spare room!

It looked like a murder scene inside the cat box, as she kept shaking her head and scratching. We were actually triaged at the Vet's and bumped up ahead of two customers. They couldn't find the source of the bleeding, and I began wondering if my fears of some kind of hemorrhage weren't actually true. They put the cone of shame on her to stop her scratching, and he gave her a pain killing medicine that made her really dopey, and had a further look but still couldn't find it. He offered to keep her for a few hours to see if the bleeding stopped, so we left her and came back two hours later.

The bleeding had not stopped. The Vet suggested a general anesthesia next, so they could check more thoroughly, so she was knocked out, complete with tiny oxygen mask. He found the cut, deep inside her ear, and cauterized it with an electrical zapper (complete with friendly Vet's stories of the time he cauterized and treated his own arm wound with his Vet equipment!).

He was already commenting on how unusual it was for such a small cut to bleed that much, so the idea of hemophilia came up at that point. He took a blood sample from her thigh (remarking at how thin her blood seemed), and checked it, and at that point said it looked fine, so I was hoping again at this point that it was just an unusual bleed.

We left her there, and I rushed home and rushed off to a class. Kanji interrupted my lesson (at Joyfull restaurant near home) to get the cat box out of the car, because the Vet suggested bringing the other two in for tests. He quietly told me it was a serious illness, which got me quite worried, it was a challenge to finish the class!

But I did, and called him and he told me to wait for him outside the restaurant (he was at the mall over the road). He told me the Vet had said Vanilla would quite likely die, but the Vet was watching her and giving her blood, and they had decided not to test the other two, because of the nature of the problem. So I went home, very sad, to crying children (Erica happily had fallen asleep on the sofa). We all had a restless night, which for me included  a horrible dream.

(We were on some kind of boat, it was sinking. I was trying to save everyone of course. I looked up and saw a massive typhoon bearing down on us, and I just knew there was no way - we would die. The only thing I could think of to do, as there were no props to use, was lie on our backs and float, and tell the kids to think of something pleasant. I had to be the Mum who had to tell her children they were going to die and try to prepare them, every mother's nightmare. I held the baby on my stomach. My right arm was around Amy's head, and she inexplicably and oddly - even in the dream I thought it was odd - wanted to think about trying beer for the first time, because she never got to try it. Even my dream self couldn't handle seeing what came next, and I 'cut' to a news show with a very very bad report of the disaster, with a kid brought on the show to show everyone how the kids in the disaster would eat their candy. Then I was in a helicopter, with the realization that I was alive. And the kids weren't with me. I had hope they too would be found, of course, but also had to admit that it was not likely that they survived being in the open ocean in a typhoon. Genki was saved and inside my sweater. I woke bawling of course, feeling guilty for getting angry at Erica and Amy earlier in the week. Lena was beside me in bed, which I think is why I didn't feel she was gone. And of course waking to the realization that one of my little loved ones really might be gone). 

I avoided calling the Vet's all day as I had to work, and knew it would be nearly impossible if I thought my kitty was dead or dying. As it was, my tiredness and sadness meant the students didn't get their (parents') money's worth today - slack teacher!

I picked up the kids and we all trooped off to the Vet's to check on her. She saw us and miaowed and kissed our hands! She wanted to come home! She was finally stabilized, but the diagnosis was certain now that he had done more testing. Hemophilia. No cure, no treatment, just rush her to the Vet if she ever gets cut. He said he worked until 3am to stabilize her. She's coming home tomorrow.

Where we will forever have to keep her inside, because she cannot get pregnant (fingers crossed she isn't now from the little escape she had a month ago) and she can't have the operation either. Of course it also means that treatment if she gets ill will be limited, and she won't ever be able to have an operation. And we'll have to rush her to the Vet if she gets even the smallest cut. I don't know if it means we will be going through the whole (expensive!) blood transfusion and three days in hospital thing every time she gets a cut, but the thought of leaving her to bleed to death is just horrific.

And of course the other two might have it too!

The only good thing is that my broken toe (now just aching, but I still can't wear even my most comfortable shoes) prevented me from bringing them in to get spayed, which I had planned to do three weeks ago. If I had, Vanilla definitely, and maybe the other two as well, would have died on the operating table. At least this way we have time to get used to the fact that our kitties will not live long, and spoil them rotten while they are here!

Thursday, April 18, 2013


Empty Nest!

Well it took four days. I slept on Monday, cleaned up on Tuesday, worked on Wednesday and today. But it was this morning as I left the house - gloriously on time, without shouting at anyone! - that I felt just a little twinge of it. That this was what life is going to be like now on a daily basis, me on my own, or heading off to work. Not so much missing them, and certainly not bored, but more realizing that it's the end of an era. No more hanging out at home with the kiddies or going shopping with my little side-kick

Man, that was quick.

I'm glad I did it, slowed down a bit, spent the time with them, enjoying them, doing things together.

Of course it's hardly all over yet - the kindy reeeeally eases them into the routine and Erica's coming home at 12pm for the first month, so the side-kick shopping trips continue for now, and of course there's the mad mad afternoons - Amy came home with her school sports timetable - she's practicing with her club until 6pm every night, plus Saturday mornings, with matches often scheduled on Sundays and public holidays so it's certainly not over yet! But the days become mine and mine alone.  I'm sure the novelty will wear off soon and I'll fill up the spaces!

They are all in bed, Amy's under-loft desk-space blocked off by a blanket so the other two can go to bed at 9pm. And that's probably the earliest I can manage on a Thursday! Erica will be doing karate until 8pm now, and Amy and Lena won't be starting their homework until 7pm. Dinner and baths.. yes it's very easy to see how Japanese are awake until 10 or 11pm on a school night.

Foot news

Catch 22: if I don't use it, it hardly hurts at all - but if I then use it, it hurts! When it doesn't hurt, I feel like I am being such an over-dramatic sook with my crutch and elaborate limping. Wimp. But then the pain if I foolishly try to act normal! So-so today, because I used the crutch, even though it felt like I was overdoing it.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

And then some more moaning

After a whole family meltdown on Friday, followed by hard-out party prep on Saturday and a bbq birthday party on Sunday, I went to the doctor on Monday. The splint and bandage were taken off, not because it's healed, but just because it's such a nuisance. I felt a little worried, but more happy - like the light at the end of the tunnel. Nearly over folks!

I'm still supposed to use the crutch though. I don't at home, it's too much of a nuisance, but I do outside. I've also started driving, I had to in an emergency yesterday morning to get Amy to school. She'd been promised a ride, and the Mum texted Kanji to tell him she couldn't go, but he didn't read the message until they were due to pick her up - no time to walk. So I drove half way to the school, and it wasn't bad.

It was bad today though, all the way to work, inside to pick up resources, to Mr Max to get crayons for Erica for kindy, then driving to the kindy, resulting in a numb, tingly pain through my whole foot. I was so glad I arrived 10 minutes early and could give it a rest before going in! About to try driving again and go to my hospital class, it should be okay, at least I don't have to jump around so much when I arrive!

Well that's done, and I was a good girl and took my crutch this time, so it wasn't as bad. Having the crutch, I felt justified using the disabled parking space - it's quite painful to walk a long way. The new hospital is finished but the grounds are still under construction, and the new parking lot not finished. One area being used is the former back parking lot, and it's a bit of a mess. They made an effort to supply some disabled parking though, three spaces right by the back door, in front of a mound of dirt that might some day be a garden. They are marked off also with traffic cones on the lined spaces between the spaces. They are off-centre to the other parking spaces, between the bus stop and a narrow road leading to more off-kilter spaces beside another mess of dirt.

So I parked in one spot, happy not to have to go too far. But then when I came out, I found a car parked directly behind me!

Now life in Japan has me scratching my head at times, but this truly baffled me. WHY would you do that??? And after hours, when the parking lots are emptying out? And at a hospital, where you can pretty much guarantee that quite a few disabled or limited mobility patients will be needing those spaces?

There's only two options: utter stupidity, or stupid nastiness.

It could be someone who decided I wasn't supposed to be there (because it was after hours maybe?) and that I deserved to be blocked in. The stupid part of course being that they had no way to tell if I was 'worthy' or not, as Japan doesn't have the cards you need in NZ to use these spaces. They operate on trust - and fail miserably, I might add. While these three spaces were pretty much left alone (maybe people in hospitals are a bit more conscious of the trouble patients have getting around) there are many places where every disabled space is filled every day with perfectly able-bodied people!

Or it was someone just being a brainless copycat? There were also cars parked in front of, but not IN the other two disabled spaces. Kind of a parking version of having your cake and eating it too - you get to occupy the space (there is still enough space for cars to pass between these double parked cars and the row on the other side) but not break the rules about not parking in disabled places.

If indeed it was not someone being nasty, but just being phenomenally stupid, perhaps they just pulled in alongside the other two cars, thinking it was rather odd to see my car parked there. Perhaps they park like this every day after hours and it's become so normal to them that they thought I was actually in the wrong.

Either way, baffled.

There was just enough space to get out (god knows what I would have done otherwise, called the security guard I suppose). There were a few guys hanging around the smoking shed on the mound of dirt that may one day be a garden. If they weren't there I would have taken a few more photos (I got one photo). They were kind of partly watching me, as I loaded my bags and crutch into the car, then hobbled around to the front and back to gauge the distances. So that when I got in and started to back up, one of them came in behind me to help direct. I didn't really need it as I have a rear-view camera, but it was nice of him. I did wonder if it was his car... they didn't seem like staff, so maybe they were visiting a sick friend and taking a smoke break. But then why didn't he move the car? Too lazy? Too embarrassed? Too confident that I would be able to squeeze out? Or just noticing my conundrum and helping out. That's a nicer thought anyway.

Good News Bulletin

* I can drive again. So nice to have my independence back.

* School started. All three kids out by 7:50, it's amazing but it's Wednesday and the living room is still passably tidy!

* I solved the Erica bed problem (it broke again on Monday). I simply laid the two slabs of wood on the FLOOR between the sides of the frame, instead of balanced on the lip of the frame, as they are designed to do. Can't possibly fall off the floor, and the wood slabs keep the mattress off the ground. Actually, it was Erica's idea! Well, she decided she wanted to sleep on the floor inside the bed frame, and I added the bed slabs.

* I found a ring. This time a year ago, I bought a cane chair at a second-hand store. It rocks on a spring base, which is hidden inside a circular base. This double-base makes it impossible to clean inside - but also apparently creates a perfect hiding place for lost jewellery. I was reaching past the chair, which had been recently moved around as we prepared the room for the party, and just spied it there inside the base. I reached in and plucked it out, put it on, gave it to Amy, took it back.... looked a bit closer, and started to wonder. It was dusty, but very nice. A central oval cut emerald in a bezel setting, with two diamonds, one on either side. Looked inside, and indeed it had a gold mark, it's 18c gold, and you don't usually put crap stones in 18c gold, nor such tiny diamonds. If you're going to go fake, you go proper fake and get big ones!

So I suppose I'll have to get it valued sometime. If a comparison to my engagement ring is anything to go by, it could be worth $1-2000.

Of course, the other thing to do is wonder whose it is and if I can possibly find them. I haven't had anyone tell me they've lost a ring at my house, but if they do, well hey, I just found it guys!!

I suppose I could lodge it at the police station for six months, I think you get to take it back if no-one claims it.

I don't think the shop itself is a good bet, since the purchase was a year ago, and I'm pretty sure they don't keep records of what they buy either, and I would worry that they would decided to keep it 'for if the customer comes back' and then sell it themselves! I could tell just give them my phone number in case someone calls I suppose.

Or just keep it. Like Kanji said, it's fate, it's payback for losing my sapphire ring all those years ago (and both my signet rings!)

I'm wearing it now. I should take it off so I don't get too attached to it so I can sell it once I decide it's really mine, and take the kids on holiday. Maybe only to the next town for a picnic though if it's fake!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

What to write?

I really don't know what to write. I should write about the nyugakushiki, Amy's junior high school entrance ceremony, but I can't be bothered. People have already put up so many photos on facebook that I'm bored with it already, and face it, it's a pretty boring event! But I took some nice photos so I'll put those together in a nice post for her for posterity.

And I was going to write about how I had decided that Wednesday was going to be my whinging day this year, what with classes at 10:30, 2pm and 5:30 for an hour each, plus a swimming lesson thrown in the middle.

But now I'm just exhausted. This is what I was writing the other day before I just got tired and went to sleep:

"I've had enough. It's only been one week but the novelty has definitely worn off, I am sick of this stupid foot. Doc today said I could drive maybe some time between the 15th and 22nd.... so poor Kanji is stuck with being my chauffeur and organizing his work life around mine, with me feeling increasingly guilty for putting him out so much - not that he's been anything but sweet and accommodating.

Maybe it's just that I was drinking last night (work do) and I always feel depressed the day after.

But not having my independence and getting so exhausted just trying to get around is very trying.

One thing on the up side - I did figure out that I can ride a bike, so I can now go shopping and maybe even take myself to a few lessons. We'll see how it pans out."

Well I wasn't drinking last night and still feel depressed! I guess that must be normal, right, if you have pain, and you're so tired, and have to shuffle and limp instead of walk, and you can't do anything above a snail pace, and have lost your independence.

The entrance ceremony was fine, but I was in tears before it because I had left my camera at work. Or rather, failed to pick it up (guess why?) after a co-worker borrowed it on Sunday to take pictures at the work do. Bless her, she turned up at the school gate with her own camera for me to borrow.

Then I got ANGRY at Manager for failing to notify me that the 2pm class had been given to someone else. Not happy at having a hour removed from my schedule (and paycheck) but in reality that class was going to be a pain in the neck and I didn't want to do it in the first place... angry because they hadn't told me I didn't need to come in today and I went through so much to get there - we had a rushed take out lunch after Amy's entrance ceremony instead of a leisurely lunch in a restaurant, I was tired from walking all over the junior high school (they picked the furthest classroom from the hall!) and Kanji of course having to take off more time to get me across town. Then, because I was hoping someone at work would drive me to the kindy, I had no ride back once I learned I had no class, and had to call Kanji back to pick me up.

I went straight home and, having no-one to call and abuse, went straight to bed and fell into a deep sleep. And I'm still tired!And I'm off to bed as I'm sick of myself moaning - good luck if you made it this far!

Saturday, April 06, 2013


No photos, you can work with a word image.

Deep Japanese bath.

Naked me, right foot wrapped in a plastic shopping bag over a towel over plastic wrap over a bandage sock over a bandage, balanced on a stool OUTSIDE the bath, left leg IN the bath, up to the thigh in steaming hot water. Things are kind of getting a bit playboy centrefoldish with the legs. And now I have to sit down. Slowly, slowly, knee inching closer to nose, I sink in. Have you ever got in a bath fanny* first?

(Take a few moment to yank out some in-grown hairs since I haven't been this close to my shin for.. well, at least since Susie's last yoga session.)

And sit! I did actually manage to get in! Then sat there with one foot poking up out of the bath like an olive in a martini.

And I did actually manage to enjoy it a little too, once I got my limb balance sorted out. I needed a nice soak on a wet day.

Having a shower is a lot more dignified, I should add, once I got past the mistake of standing up (water just ran into the bag). Sitting down, I can rest my foot outside the shower.

I don't remember it being this complicated the last two times. I suppose I did the dressings myself the first time, so I just took it off and re-did it after my shower or bath. And the second time, the silly splint would fall off in half a day so I just took it off, taped my toes, and slipped it back on to go to the doctor!   Again, I could easily re-do it myself, so I did, after the shower.

Looks like I'm stuck with shower shenanigans for a few more weeks this time.

* American or NZ interpretation work okay here

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Broken Foot Life

The biggest thing is the driving. How do you not drive for 2-3 weeks?

I'm actually working it out much better than I though I would be able to. No driving since Saturday now, and with any luck, I can hold out until Monday the 15th, although I may need to drive by next Thursday. Still, that's one more week from today, and it feels a lot better today - feels better every day of course.

I can walk. It's not that hard really, I walk on the heel or side of the foot, but the problem is I end up with sore shins, knees, thighs and hips from the cacky walking, so I got a crutch, which I could not coordinate for the first few days. I make myself use it to prevent having a sore everything later on. It wasn't this hard with the other toes, this must be worse, or in a worse place. Drat.

And rest, yeah, who needs that? Great excuse to blow off the spring cleaning though. But I still have things to do, cooking, laundry, cleaning up. The girls are helping but aren't terribly efficient... I know from experience that I can do a whole lot more - but will regret it by nightfall. It feels fine in the morning and begins to ache more and more as the day goes on.

Kanji's having a go at being soccer mom. That's fun. You should have heard him yesterday rehearsing out lout tonight's duties. Then I reminded him to add the English lesson from next week...

He's been taking me to the hospital for dressing changes and to work and took me shopping on Tuesday, I tried to buy a week's worth. Shopping hurt! I thought I'd be okay leaning on the trolley, but no, I needed that crutch.

It's surprising how tiring it is! I suppose between energy for healing, the extra effort it takes to walk anywhere, and slightly disrupted sleep, it's to be expected.

Oh, and I need to add to the bad luck list. Vanilla knocked the computer of the table and smashed the screen. Grrr.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Bad Luck

I've been having a bit of a run of bad luck.

Erica sick on her graduation day, my favorite plate broke that day too, AND Vanilla went missing (plus all three cats the other night). I got rear-ended at an intersection and harassed on a train. Lena's pyjama party was a bit of a flop, and my iphone conked out, but last night I really topped it and broke my toe.

Ah, deja vu? I've written this post before, right? Yep, twice before, this is the THIRD time I've broken a bone in my foot!

Oh and just now, I lost a filling.

And I still haven't got around to writing about the creep who tried to touch my daughters and smacked me on the head when I protested!

But back to the foot, which takes pride of place as the most irritating and inconvenient of all my unlucky events.

At least it was suitably dramatic this time, not just a bloody door frame or low concrete wall. I fell down the stairs. Or, a few steps anyway. It was during Lena's pyjama party for her 11th birthday. She'd already had a cry because it wasn't as spectacular as Amy's disco party two years before - most of the invitees either couldn't come or couldn't stay the night. So we were happy when the younger sister of one friend decided she would be able to stay. Their parents were standing in the genkan at the time, chatting away and making sure it really was okay for the little one to stay.

There were two futons downstairs, and I needed to get one more, plus blankets and quilts, so I went up with Lena to get them. She hauled the double futon out of the bedroom door, and I warned her not to try carrying it down - just push it, I said, it's safest for it to tumble down on its own (providing no-one's coming up the stairs at the time!). She gave it a wee push, and it went down a few steps along with a blanket she also pushed down. Then I followed, decided I would be better for this job, carrying a quilt or something. I think I was intending on gently pushing the futon down the rest of the way, but I slipped on the blanket, and went down just two or three steps, but enough for my toes to fold beneath me, quite a lot further than toes like to be folded.

I was fine in the immediate aftermath. Having the adrenaline rush of actually falling, and the relief of stopping 'safely' I felt fine, and reassured everyone I was okay. As Kanji finished up chatting with the parents in the genkan, the pain slowly increased until by the time they left, I limped out to him and told him I thought I'd broken it.

We considered going to the hospital right then, with Amy babysitting. I didn't really want to do that, but  it was better than his other suggestions of actually calling an ambulance, eek! No way. So we called. It turned out the one hospital that does orthopedic (no such thing as an emergency department in this town!) was busy with an emergency.

So we went the next day, and the hospital was still all closed down and quiet (and very, very cold - I had worn a skirt in case I got a cast and no socks of course, and I froze!). X-rays taken, foot examined, small crack in the bone at the base of the toe, nothing serious. A foam-lined, metal splint was bent over the toe, just like my little toe last time, taped on and gently bandaged over. It seemed to be a more sensible idea with the big toe than it was with the little toe (it kept falling off).

Aaaaand back again on Monday - 2 hour wait - and back again tomorrow and back again Friday, yep the endless dressing changes have begun and I am dreading the rehabilitation, I really don't want to be spending two hours every second day at the cost of $10-20 to wiggle my toes in a mini spa pool.

More tomorrow on the logistical nightmare caused by being NOT ABLE TO DRIVE!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Schedule and Feline Sex

Well that has to be one of the most boring words in the English language, don't you think? Schedule I mean (more about the rest later).

And pretty boring to harp on and on about it too, though I can't help it - the last weekend of March is like this, trying to figure out what your daily life is going to be like for the next year, with everyone leaving the final details until the last minute. Even the dance teacher tonight kept going on about the Fuji matsuri in May, although my quick iphone google told me the dates were in April - no-one knows any damn thing!

Quick low-down then just to get it out of my system, though you are quite free to skip it, in fact I'll tuck it away at the bottom of this post and talk about sex.

Vanilla disappeared on Friday night. While we were enjoying the bruschetta, or maybe the lasagna, one or another of the kitties opened the lounge room door. I had left it shut, but unlatched, earlier in the day when I was hanging laundry. I didn't know they were strong enough to open it. We first realized they had gone when we heard a miaow from outside! We quickly found Genki outside on the jungle gym, and Cinnamon was inside, but Vanilla was no-where to be seen. I stayed home to watch poor sleeping sickly Erica and 'hold the fort' in case of unexpected kitty return, while Kanji, Amy and Lena went out with the torch to try to find her.

No luck.

The next day, we made posters and Amy put them up around the neighborhood. All day long, either her or Lena were out looking. They did nothing all day but worry about her and try to find her. I was a bit more relaxed, having had roaming outside cats all my life, but still worried because it's spring and she hasn't been spayed, nor does she have any experience with the outdoors or with cars. I've had kittens before, but we usually took them outside very young, so they got a chance to get used to it.

By nightfall the older girls were distraught. (Erica was still feverish and sleepy). Lena cried herself to sleep.

When Kanji came in at 6am to tell me Vanilla was home I jumped out of bed even faster than I jump out of bed when I have a plane to catch! And even got annoyed that he hadn't woken me earlier.

At this point, I think Vanilla was miaowing and rolling a little more than usual in the days before she went missing - but she's a kissy, lovey cat anyway, so I might not have thought it out of the ordinary.

Then last night, all three went missing - again, that living room door, and my fault for doing laundry and not latching it after. We didn't even know until Vanilla appeared back at the door - apparently having had enough of the outdoor life, she quickly came back in. We found Cinnamon next, on the garden wall in front of the house, with White Daddy, one of the neighborhood Toms (and a possible father to my bunch). She's our scaredy-cat/homebody and allowed herself to be picked up and brought inside.

Genki, however, was a different story. For about an hour we chased her from our yard, to four different neighbors, with White Daddy following very close - too close - behind her sweet little virgin kitty bottom. She was scared out of her wits! And kind of weirdly attracted to the dirty old man. Poor cat. She kept running off. Eventually Lena caught up with her at the front neighbor's house, just after the three of us (Amy, Lena and myself) decided that we needed to stay in a yard each to catch her.

Which brings us to today, and Genki displaying the classic signs of  cat in heat - loud vocalizations, rolling around rubbing on stuff, and sticking her bits out when scratched on the back. Cinnamon is there too, but much more quietly. They have all been restless all day, and just now, Vanilla mounted Genki, which they both seemed to enjoy. OH well, at least lesbian cats can't get pregnant.

Monday: new class at a sports college in Usa. (Expect more Monday morning visits from me then Joanne)

Monday night from June: new evening class in Buzen, an hour's drive from the first class, and I have to pick up Erica and take her to karate in between the two somehow. Kanji will have to pick her up, and I will get home at either 8:30 every Monday or 9:30 twice a month, to be decided.

Tuesday, new business English at Yaskawa in Yukuhashi, even further than Buzen, in fact I will taking  the TRAIN! Yep, 16 years working in Japan, and my very first train commute. I was not expecting to work until May, but they want me to start training from NEXT WEEK! I'll have to take the Sonic (the expensive express train) to fit it in as I already agreed to do an fill-in class in the morning! As of today I have checked the train schedule and realized I have to ask one or the other boss to give me 15 minutes lee-way...

They also would not move the class to the morning, meaning I have to give up my hospital class, worse luck. After I finish in Yukuhashi, it's straight back to Nakatsu to to a private lesson, and home at 8:30.

Wednesday two kindy classes in Nakatsu, one after Erica finishes kindy. Since she's the same age as the students she's been allowed to come with me! That will be something new, but if it doesn't work out, there is a class at Keio at that time that she can attend.

Thursday and Friday, I will fell relieved to be back at OIT, a familiar stomping ground!

There is one more private lesson to squeeze in, plus the proofreading I am already doing.

Expect dust to form in this house.

March 22

The Big Day. Well it worked out okay in the end, kind of... 

First thing in the morning, Lena (sleeping in my bed with Amy) woke up to her present - a new iPod shuffle! She was expecting it, as Amy got one for her 11th birthday, but the way I wrapped it caught her off guard and she momentarily forgot about it (it was in a small gift bag inside a box with wrapped CDs) and claimed to have been surprised! 

Next up was Amy's primary school graduation. Yep, I still can't quite get over the idea of 'graduating' from any place where 'graduation' is automatic, especially the level of formality involved. Here she is receiving her graduation certificate with BOTH hands, in the proper Japanese manner. And yes, she bowed, clearly all the kids had been well trained in how to bow with a certificate in their hands! 
I only nearly cried once, when they processed in. They all looked SO grown up! Amy is big enough to fit into adult clothes, so she was able to buy this gorgeous dress (the top part is shaped like a white blouse, but it's in one piece). She also loved the black poncho-style jacket. 

In front of her school after the ceremony. After the official ceremony in the hall, with speeches and songs, all the kids trooped back to a classroom, parents following behind, to farewell their teachers and present them flowers. Then it was back to their own classroom to receive their certificates all over again (apparently after getting them in the hall, they stashed them in a pile somewhere so as not to crease them) this time quickly rolling them up and slipping them into a case. They were also gifted another photo album (they got one at their entrance ceremony too, glad now that I didn't fill it as we now have two to fill with school pictures!)

Then the graduates filed out of the school arm in arm with their parents, and passed through a human tunnel of 5th graders, who were both too short and too tired to make a proper tunnel. Then it was photo time. Amy and I had our hair done that morning at the salon, hers looks super!

Meanwhile Erica was at home! She was originally going to come with us, but she had not recovered from her mystery virus and had a temperature of 38.5 or higher, very listless and quite likely to vomit at any minute. So we made some emergency phone calls and finally found my friend Dipti free to come and watch her for the two hours or so we were at the graduation ceremony. 

We also canceled her hair appointment and our family lunch out - she needed her energy for her event, rather than being exhausted by being dragged out to lunch and to have her hair done. I rushed off in the car to pay the salon bill, deciding at the last minute to book poor Lena in for later on so she wouldn't have to miss out on her birthday, and buying McDonald's for a picnic lunch at home on the living room floor while Erica ate three bites and slept some more. 

We managed to get her dressed, and I told her she was going to a party. Big mistake. Erica is normally very enthusiastic about things, but she really had no energy left to work with today - when we pulled up at Keio, she decided this wasn't the party she had been anticipating, and pulled a full-on melt down. Wouldn't even go in the door at first. We took it very gently - she was really sick after all - and managed, very slowly, to get her in the door. She would not wear the cap and gown, and just sat on my knee, resting her poor sorry tired head on my chest. We managed to balance the cap on her head in this pose, and get the gown around her in time for the presentation of her certificate, though I had to go with her for that. 

Since they had practiced this over and over I figured the best thing to do would be to just follow whatever came next naturally, and I steered her over to her seat with the other graduates, waiting behind her just in case she threw up! She was able to do her reading and songs, thank goodness they had practiced so much that she was able to just move through the motions.

On the left, she'd perked up a bit by the time it ended, here she is with my bosses, out of the gown now and in her pretty dress. On the right, a rare family photo! Expect to see this on the New Year card, it's unlikely you'll get us all in the same place so well dressed again! I also had to do a speech at this event, on behalf of the parents, and Kanji, as head of the PTA, had to do one at the previous ceremony. We were a busy family!

Birthday girl

After the kindy graduation finished, off we went to the hairdresser (third time in one day!), then it was home for Lena's birthday dinner, which I didn't start cooking until after 6pm! It was a great dinner, if I do say so myself! Bruschetta and a salad with baby leaves, tomato, cheese, and parma ham for starters, lasagna for the main course, and banana splits for dessert (at about 10pm!) We all watched a movie together and toasted our birthday girl with beer and sports drink!

Amy with her graduation certificate

Poor little one missed the party - asleep again