Monday, February 25, 2013

Spring, and Cleaning

Spring is in the air. I can see the plum blossom from new DESK (more about that below) and that turn has happened in the weather, when you don't notice that the heater is off for a while...  you can do your work around the house in one layer... you can go to the car without and jacket and don't know where your gloves went and no longer care.

In worse weather news, hay fever season is upon us, and I wonder yet again whether I should go to the doctor and get either western meds or Chinese ones, or something over the counter, or a home remedy or just my usual method of put-up-with-it-and-it'll-go-away-soon. It's exacerbated this year by the awful pollution wafting over from China. This was where Japan was in the 60's, and Europe in the early 20th century, and I've no doubt it's just a phase and they'll get their shit together, but I certainly don't like being downwind of it in the meantime!

The hay fever is really only bad when I clean and get a face full of dust, which means often since March has pretty much become my cleaning month, after failing each year to get it done by New Year and having time in March. Back to good old Spring Cleaning, and while the weather is perfect for it - not too hot, not too cold - the constant sneezing certainly drains your energy!

I am happy with today's efforts, I got the study reorganized, which is phase two after building Amy's loft bed. Now Lena's desk is in the far corner, the two shelves that were in that corner are hiding in the alcove, the kitty litter trays are in the bottom of the closet, and Amy's old desk is pushed against the wall between the doors, with my computer on it!

Yes, I finally have a proper desk! Drawers and everything. I'm as giddy as a first grader getting her new desk. I hope sitting properly means I'll do my work more efficiently. I hope not being so cosily stuck on the floor means I'll spend less time browsing.

Meanwhile Erica gets the gap between the desks, kind of (she only has to wait until next spring until Lena gets her loft and she takes over Lena's desk) and all the old computers can go on the low desk where they might actually get switched on and used once in a while instead of gathering dust. Well time will tell where the clutter magnet areas are!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Time and Tops

We were on our way to Dates' house to take part in a tug-of-war. Lena, checking the time, said "Hurry up Mum, it starts at 11!"

I said, "It's okay, that clock is fast". And I wrote this response to a thread about things you miss about pre-kid life:

Deciding to go somewhere, and just going, instead of taking 10-20 minutes to corral each person with all their things to the car.... waiting for them to get ready only to realize they are waiting for ME to walk out the door before they START getting ready. Then sitting in the car for five or ten minutes while everyone finally gets ALL their stuff. Then going back to get someone's jacket.

Then I leaped up and watched my prediction come horribly true. 

Amy sat down at the piano and started to play. Lena, as suggested by her warning, was actually ready to go and had her coat on even. Erica was all over the place. I sent Erica upstairs to get some socks and said to Amy, "Don't wait for me while I'm waiting for you. I wait, you get ready to go!". 

She replied "I wasn't waiting". 


Well, fortunately it didn't take her long to get ready after she finally condescended to actually do so, and we all bustled out the door. (It's even more of a challenge actually getting out the door these days with the cats, they often use the opportunity to try to escape - no going on little adventures until they are fixed!!!). 

I brought Erica's jacket of course, it's just too much to expect her to remember it, but as I was starting to put it on her I noticed the breadcrumbs and nutella on her shirt from breakfast. 


We were going to see friends and out in public, so I didn't want to look like a completely useless mother (her hair was also not brushed) so I stripped it off her and told her run back inside and get another top. 

I do sincerely wish I hadn't been too lazy to take off my shoes and had gone up and got it instead. First she appeared downstairs with a top that was two sizes too large, which she declared her absolute favorite she loved it. Well, too large looks almost as neglected as nutella'ed, so I sent her back up again, starting to get impatient. She came down next with a sleeveless top, which she desperately wanted to wear because it was the same as Lena's. So I sent her back up again to get a top to put under it, because the sleeveless look in winter with singlet sleeves is almost, but not quite, as bad as too large or nutella'ed. She came down, with a pink patterned long-sleeve top over her singlet that was too small, so the sleeves were half way up her arms (I'd been keeping that top in the pyjama drawer to use as underwear), struggling to get the sleeveless top over it, but when I said "What are you wearing now?" she was so sincere in her attempt to explain to me that she now had the right type of long sleeve top for under her sleeveless top that I had to leave it. 

Then I noticed she still had no socks on. 


At this point Amy reappeared in the doorway, and miraculously found a hair brush right there in the genkan. Erica tore up the stairs and down again with socks now, and we finally got out the door, although not without a final screaming session as I told Erica to "get out of the door!" meaning OUT, quickly, so the cats would not follow, but which she took as a sign that something was dangerous and retreated back IN.  

The final irony? While I thought it was at 11 and we were late and missed it, it turned out it was not until 1pm!!! That's the second time Kanji's done that to us, told us a start time over an hour before the real start time. I don't know why, because my instinct is always to add an hour anyway. I was aiming at leaving at 10, knowing that would mean 10:30 in reality, and without the top drama, I would have arrived at about 10:35, well in time for the so-called 11am start. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Junk Treasures

Sometimes I wish I didn't have an eye that looks over a pile of junk and sees treasure, but that eye that looks over a pile of junk, and sees a pile of junk. I'd have had a lot less washing and organizing to do this afternoon if I had!

But... Nah, on balance I'm pretty pleased with my scores.

I was invited to take my pick of the leftovers from a closed restaurant. Kanji's sister's husband's relatives  restaurant. When we went there when Erica was a baby, it was kind of old-fashioned Japanese style teishoku, or tray of dishes. Then it was a Taiwanese restaurant. So you can imagine, there was quite a selection of dishes to choose from. At first it looked just like that pile of junk mentioned above, with the best stuff already picked through. But then my treasure-spotting eyes got into focus! Here are some of the gems I picked up:
Cut glass platter

I didn't even realize how lovely this was until I got it home and cleaned it. I just saw a large-sized glass platter in the piles, caked in dust. It was when I was drying it that I saw the iridescent rainbow colors somehow inside the glass, and realized the cut was the in the shape of a peacock.

Seashell dishes

I couldn't resist their kitchy glory! They'll be great for dips, or lollies for kids' parties

Taiwanese platter

Well, that's what I'm calling it, because it was a Taiwanese restaurant at one stage, and it's not a recognizably Japanese decoration.

Pyrex pie dish

Another score! My own pyrex pie dish, which was a little smaller than this one, broke about six months ago. I'd never got around to replacing it. Photographed here with a brand new do-nabe (earthenware pot) I also picked up.

Curry plates: Yessss!!! We had ONE for many years, and now we have a full set! Everyone is going to be very happy on curry nights!! (I got you a stack too Jo)

and divided plates: Interesting, though I'm not totally convinced they'll be all that useful yet. We often eat Japanese style, with the fish on one plate, and a side salad in a separate plate, so these could be useful for that, BUT these won't fit in the dishwasher like the piles of separate, but small, plates we usually use do. We'll see. Nice score anyway, I thought.

Champagne glasses

Because I am always breaking champagne glasses! I'm especially happy to get hold of the ones with 2000 on the stem (on the left) - the year of our NZ wedding, and Amy's birth, and my new life in Japan as a mother. I had had a set, bought that year, but broke one! So it was a real bonus finding three!

Most impractical, but irresistible find: a set of ten brandy snifters.

Will I ever use these? Hell I don't know. I think I might give some to a friend who needs to stop feeding me wine from a frickin cup.

More glasses
We go through the glasses! I can't even blame the kids, who mostly use the plastic cups. It's the dishwasher, and haphazard storage more than anything. So it's always a good idea to have spares.

And the rest:
Stuff to sell (above).

I think I might be able to convince someone to part with their cash for these items: tea cups that can be shot glasses, shot glasses that might also be egg cups. Little tea pots and a couple of nice vases.

Plus some more everyday stuff, including soy sauce dipping dishes, large noodle bowls including two champon sized ones (K is very happy about these two acquisitions!), rice bowls, some more potential serving dishes, and ice cream bowls.

More platters and some flatware

When Baachan called me to come pick up some stuff, it was the two large white and blue ones she had put aside for me, along with the stack of brown large plates. I also picked up the oval platters, which are probably better suited to my menus (Jo, I got you three of each type of oval platter.)

Plus flat plates in two styles, again, though I'm thinking of giving some away, and some wide bowls with silver trim.


Everyday Set.
I decided to get six of each variety of dish shapes I could find in this pattern, to use for everyday meals. The four-sided ones fit together as a hexagon, and the pentagons are unusual too, which will make for a nice change.

Nicer set (below right).
These dishes are quite heavy, and I liked the design. I will probably keep this set in the spare room and use it for special family occasions. (Jo, I got you 18 of the large round plates)

On the left, some more party/sell/give away things, including chawan mushi bowls (now I am obliged to try to cook it - savory custard). Divided dipping sauce/condiment trays, a set of 12 plain white dipping bowls for parties, and assorted serving bowls. 

Sushi dishes, udon bowls and some odd stuff

Sushi dishes (centre left).
Hmm, probably don't need so many, but hey, these things are expensive! Especially the large ones. Again, might have to give some of these away. Wish I'd got them all actually, they are not too heavy, I could have sent everyone one for Christmas!

Udon bowls (bottom right). Yup, always need a nice big noodle bowl. And yes, half are yours, Kristin!

A small plastic picnic set. I cannot resist picnic sets!!! On the upper right, definitely my most bizarre find - canned snow.

And finally at the bottom, Erica's contribution to the photographing business!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Little Surprises

First, a Nice Surprise: Kindy Graduation in the afternoon. 

On Wednesday, I sauntered into the office in search of flash cards for my class to find Manager at the photocopier.

"So, what about the graduation?" I said.

"Oh", she said, "It's in the afternoon".

"Oh really? tasukatta!"

"Of course", she said, "We want you there! It's important".


Then she added that she has a school graduation in the morning too. ;-)

Next, a Sad Surprise: Kicked out of kindy - again

We turned up at the other kindy the next morning, to be told that they were terribly sorry, but they were very busy, booked up since a long time ago, and would not be able to look after Erica again this month. Or next month. Or ever. Well, they didn't say that last thing, but since she is starting the public kindy in April, no more this or next month meant that this would be her last day!

This is the second time she's been kicked out, the last time was in October. The teacher herself is lovely, and very apologetic, so I couldn't get mad at her, but I just hate this system! Erica is kind of enrolled on a daily basis, and they can only take her when they have staff to spare or something. In practical terms it doesn't matter too much as she still has the English kindy, and I only have one more week of work before having the whole month of March off, but still. It was so sudden. I guess I should have taken the hints being offered in the form of not being given, as I usually am, a list of all the available dates for the month. I was being given just the next one date. Still. Oh well, we'll get Erica to write a Thank You and Goodbye letter and bring it back. And then look forward to next year, when we'll be down to just ONE kindy and while public kindy PTA duties can be a bit rough, it has to be easier than juggling two places and such awkward times.

Finally, a very Odd Surprise: Kitty peering at me from inside the roof!

I rushed home after work to get the camera that day so I could get some pictures of Erica and her teacher on what was now her last day of kindy. I saw Kanji's car in the drive, so I thought I'd also grab him, since it was her last day.

Walking towards the door, I heard a rustle and looked up - and there was Cinnamon, peering down at me from inside the roof! Our front porch has a square flat roof overhanging it, and I'd noticed some time ago that the wood strips on the ceiling (the underside, what you see when you look up when you are in the porch) were coming loose. She had crawled through the roof space from the broken ceiling panel in the toy closet, followed by Genki, who was now peering out behind her. I had no idea the two spaces were connected! It was obviously too high for her to jump out - yet. It doesn't take cats long to get up the courage to jump!

I called Kanji to come outside; we had to hurry up and get these cats out, and then back inside, so we could get to the kindy in time to pick up Erica. I kind of flapped about a bit, wondering what to use to get up that high, until Kanji pointed out the chair. Amy's old desk chair, which had literally fallen to pieces, hence it being kicked outside until our next trip to the rubbish centre. So I dragged it over and literally held it together, sliding the wooden pegs back in their holes and grabbing the edges with my hands while Kanji clambered up to the hole.

Of course they wouldn't come out. They are cats, after all! And Kanji is, well... too nice. So up I went, feet carefully placed wide to attempt to balance the rickety chair, and I got Cinny by the scruff of her neck and dragged her out. I don't allow the kids to pick up the cats by the scruff of the neck usually, but it's okay for emergencies! I handed her down to Kanji, and reached in for Genki, who avoided my hand. I missed her scruff, and got her head, which of course caused her to retreat even further in!

Meanwhile, Kanji took the cat and walked off! Leaving me balanced precariously on the chair, unable to move - I could feel that if I lifted one foot, the shift of weight to one side would cause the chair to completely collapse, and me to tumble off with it. As I had a concrete wall corner in front me and rocks in the garden behind, and a few rubbish bags of unburnable trash beneath me, no direction seemed safe to either fall or take a leap of faith.

So I called out to him, Kanji! What are you doing! He turns to look at me, so innocently with that sweet fluffy little cat in his arms, "What?" he says. "I'm going to fall off, hurry up!". So he hurries away from me to go and put the cat inside. Finally he comes out to save me, and I rush inside, having decided to try to lure Genki out from the inside of the toy closet this time, by calling her for food. It only took a few whistles and her stomach led the way, I made once last lunge, caught her, and quickly dragged out a shelf of board games so Kanji could climb up into the closet to replace the ceiling panel that had fallen out, giving them their entry to the roof space. Luckily he got that done fairly quickly and we could rush off to kindy to say goodbye to Erica's teacher.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

12pm and, enough!



I got the curry cooked.

I took my temperature at about 10 and it was 37.7 so I did what no sane person would do unless they had three children and three cats and a husband at work and immediately went shopping. At the time I was still feeling quite good, having slept much better (waking only for Lena to join me in bed in the early hours, complaining of a bad dream). I woke up at 8:30 to the sounds of Erica's 'trumpet' (the pipe for one of those cheap plastic air pumps), and tidied up a bit before checking.

Then, knowing I would only sink as the day went on, I rallied round and got ready.

Now the laundry is hung, curry is on the stove, the soup doctored up with extra stock for Day Two, the salads in the fridge along with three different types of yogurt, and bananas, mikans and apples. I think we'll survive the night now! I even have the ingredients for quick microwave chocolate cake in a cup and yummy raspberries to go with it, though I doubt I'll have the energy to make it.

So I've had it at 12pm! Lena is out playing with a friend, Erica is a soccer-playing cowboy today, drawing pictures of the 'party' (which as far as I can gather is a cross between a zebra and a hammer-heard shark), and begging me to go to kindy! Amy is upstairs in bed, the warm afternoon sunshine on her bed. I've given her a whistle to call me because she lost her voice!

And now it's time for a nap. When I find out where the cowboy soccer player just went.

Friday, February 08, 2013

Snowflakes and Flu

The snowflakes fluttering down were so pretty this morning. I've really been looking forward to a good snowfall! The weather has been disappointing me so far - a little flutter, then sunshine and everything melts. No chance for a snowman at all. Then this morning it actually stuck a little!

And I could not enjoy it. Today was the Junior High School orientation. I was 'looking forward to' a hour or so of detailed explanation of the rules in a freezing hall. Amy was looking forward to being able to attend a junior high school art class and getting to check out the clubs. She's interested in the brass band and track. And maybe basketball. AND she had a fever last night and was in bed by 7pm. So early I was still tidying something up there! So I really didn't need snow complicating things today!

Then I woke up feeling crap. I don't know if it was the flu coming on, or just the bad night's sleep - checking Amy again at midnight, then going to bed to read, and getting reeealllly cold  (I had extra layers on but it was not enough), and trying to ignore it but having to give in and go and get a hot water bottle... then finally getting warm and then feeling guilty and getting up again to add extra blankets to each kid's bed.. then hearing a commotion that I just knew was Erica coming to my bed. She took ages to come, because she brought her pillow, pink fluffy blanket AND oversized Stitch toy! She stood at the door, all forlorn, and said 'I was a little bit scared' As she climbed into bed ("Your bed is SO WARM Mummy") she muttered something about the underside of Lena's bed being scary, so I guess I'll have to put the boxes under the bed again, at least until Amy's loft comes and Erica finally gets a real bed! AND up again at the crack of dawn when Lena came in to tell me that Amy was downstairs and needed the thermometer, and a hug. As I attempted to move my body, she came back to amend the message: Amy has a thermometer now, but she still needs the hug.

Amy had a fever and sore throat, so she couldn't go. At least she felt grotty enough to not want to go, after bargaining last night about possibly being able to go. When she started coughing up loads of gunk later in the morning we decided to take her to the hospital, and she got the dreaded poke up the nose and a positive test for flu. We got relenza, fever meds, mepuchin to ease her breathing and mucosolvan to loosen the phlegm. So I missed the orientation too. Kanji had to go because he's the PTA Pres.

Next on the list was food of course. I have a tendency to cook when I feel an illness coming on! Must be prepared! I think a curry would have been more practical than the salads I made (white cabbage, yellow pepper, tofu and tuna salad, and roast potato, spinach, bacon and egg salad) but the cauliflower soup should come in useful tomorrow. While trying to decide what to cook, we decided to eat chocolate, the world's healer of everything. I had plans to cook chocolate cake in a cup for dessert tonight, but then K went to a friend's cake shop and came back with some super treats so we're about to have those right now!

The snow came fluttering down again as I prepared dinner, but I was much happier about it this afternoon. With all the obligations out of the way, food bought and no plans for tomorrow, we can enjoy the white-out, if we get one. It's just a little sad that there won't be snowmen or snow angels tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

March 22, 2013, Amy's Primary School Graduation, 9am to 11:30am.
March 22, 2013, Erica's Kindergarten Graduation, 11am to 12pm.
March 22, 2013, Lena's 11th Birthday, all day event (phew!)

Anyone detect a wee problem?

I find myself now dearly wishing I could bring back the indifference to official ceremonies I so blissfully had several years ago when Amy was just starting out. We missed her kindy entrance ceremony to go to New Zealand. If I could blow off one, or the other, that would be so much more convenient!  But I've become fonder of these events over the years, and I would really feel I was missing out! 

Of course it would be the Erica's ceremony that got the boot – and here is where I pause. Amy's feels like more of a big deal because it's a family first – but is it really more important? Little ones just don't get fussed over like the precious first born. You try, but it can't be helped, it's just not as big of a deal the third time round... which is even more of a reason to make the effort to go.

So the plan at present is to do our utmost to make it to both ceremonies. Luckily, Lena is being remarkably gracious about the whole thing, probably because she has been promised an entire Birthday Weekend, complete with sleep-over!

My first idea was to slip out of the first event early, thereby arriving late for the kindy graduation, but still managing to do both. But then I was told that the final activity of the primary school graduation was quite a big deal - walking out of the school with your parents, clearly symbolizing the end of the school's influene over you and your being handed back to your parents' care. Amy's face dropped when I suggested I leave early. She clearly doesn't want to miss this. After having watched this ceremony for the last five years, she's keen to be the one finally doing it, and obviously wants both her parents beside her for what must seem to her to be a huge step in her life.

Sigh. Next on the list then is trying to get the date of the kindy graduation changed. I have a meeting scheduled with the kindy, and I have a few little reasons tucked up my sleeve explaining why it might not be pure madness to hope for a date change.
  1. There are only six students graduating. Small numbers makes for easy changes!
  2. I've worked for the company that owns the kindy for nearly 15 years – employee loyalty might count for something!
  3. It's the last graduation for the kindy, which is closing this year. Since the Big Girl was in the first graduating class, they might like the idea of having her there too.
Still, it's a long shot. Failing this, my second plan of attack is to beg for a time change, and switch the kindy graduation to the afternoon – then our smartly dressed family can race from Graduation No.1 to Graduation No.2., eating sandwiches in the car on the way.

The final option, and probably the most likely, is an alternate graduation just for my precious. I know this sounds astonishingly self-entitled, but honestly I would never have considered it if they hadn't done this last year for a boy who could not attend the final graduation. Failing ALL of these options, we will probably recruit the girls' aunt to attend the kindy grad for us, perhaps with Baachan, and arm them with our cameras, and also lean on the kindy to provide me with lots of prints and a video.

Wish me luck in sorting this out!

Monday, February 04, 2013

Mediocre Monday

A dull day. Day one of the Great House Reshuffle, yeah I know I have one of those every year, but I guess that's the nature of a) a house with b) people in it who c) grow all the time. The latest incarnation of this never ending plan is buying a new loft bed for Amy, with desk items beneath it for her. Then I take over her desk, and Erica gets this small desk, and the bookshelf and DVD case go in the alcove and the cat toilets in the cupboard and half the toys chucked out, some kept in the living room closet, some upstairs. Sounds so simple now I've written it down!

So the big thing today was taking apart the bunkbed, which finally fell to bits, luckily not while any child was in it. We knew it was getting dodgy, and we switched Amy to the bottom and Lena to the top, then when Amy noticed the gap getting wider Lena switched to a futon on the floor. I thought I might keep it like that, just with no one sleeping on it, maybe put the stuffed toys up there, but then on Saturday night the frame finally wiggled out that last millimeter and the board slipped down. Slipped is the right word, it wasn't the catastrophic smash I was imagining! So now we have two beds side by side instead.

On the bright side, lasagna for dinner, yum! Now we're watching The Help and I'm hoping no one gets peckish and eats the leftovers so I can have it for lunch tomorrow.

Tomorrow! My only two lessons this week and more household reorganization and cleaning. Gas man coming to check the cooker 'some time between 1 and 3'. Charming.

Problem of the day: March 22 - Lena's birthday. Amy's Graduation Ceremony from 9am to 11:30am. Erica's Graduation ceremony 11am to 12pm. I really hope I can work this one out!

Sunday, February 03, 2013

A Night Out

So, K. came over to do some work. Only by the time the kids got back home, and I got them sorted and delivered to Baachan, and got back, and went back again to bring the stuff they forgot, and unblocked the toilet and cleaned up the resulting mess...

...I didn't exactly feel like working anymore, so we just drank up the champagne and started our letter to a friend. Champagne got emptied awfully quick though!

Tummies rumbling, it was time to go look for a place to eat! Having a hundred bars and fifty restaurants in the next block is a mixed blessing - there's never a shortage of places to go, and you don't need a taxi, but it's so hard to choose sometimes you end up wandering around aimlessly!

The first goal was absinthe at my new favorite cocktail bar. Kanji called me just as we walked out of the house - he'd left to go eat a little earlier, and was just calling to see where we were. We decided to meet at the cocktail bar. He got there first and found it shut - 7pm is too early for a bar like that!

Next stop Barn, where I often end up, and this is where the Sex on the Beach photo ended up on face book... Tequila sunrise for Kristin, and 'that one James Bond has' for Kanji. They also had cheese! Yay! ONE goal of the night met.

We left Barn after that one cocktail, Kanji to go home to watch a movie, and K. and I to meet Goal No. 3, yakitori. I decided to try the new modern izakaya in the same street that has the world's best fried cheese, but once again, it was booked out. I must remember to call them first! I must remember the place's name before that...

We briefly considered the Italian place down an alleyway, but we'd met the cheese goal already, so decided against it. Walking back towards town, we passed Again again, having passed it once before on the way to Barn. On a whim, I asked K. if she would mind popping in for a drink... well Nagano and Wada were there, my old students from my party class so many years ago, so we were promptly sat down and plied with beer and food. What can you do? Stewed vegetables, hijiki (a kind of seaweed), stuffed squid and chicken sashimi followed, washed down with lashings of beer. 

We stumbled out of there an hour or two later, hoping to meet Goal No.1 again, the absinthe. This time the bar was open. It was much quieter than I remembered, almost awkward, though we'd had enough champagne, cocktails and beer by that time to not care. But they were out of absinthe!!! The barman promised to make us something similar with Pernod. They were nice cocktails.

Next stop, karaoke! Of course. K. and I cannot go out without hitting the mics at some point. A two-hour sesh was enough to purge us of our impulse to sing out loud, and we hit the streets again in a further attempt at Goal No. 3. Only we had kind of neglected to check the time, and it was nearly 3 in the morning. I dragged the poor girl up a few alleys in desperation, but the restaurants were all shut. The only option now was...

Joyfull! So that's why we were to be found, devouring coke and chips at 3am. No yakitori, no absinthe, only half a glass of wine, but hey, I got some cheese!