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

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Day Before

The day before the BIG day, which has two graduations and a birthday and me running around trying to make sure each child gets her fair share of praise and attention on 'her' important day, balancing out the two events with cooking a birthday feast and fitting four hair appointments in there somewhere.

I do NOT need these extra complications:

- Graduation suit a bit tight. I'm already planning what to do if the zipper busts (walk around with husband behind me).
- Doing the speech for the kindy grad, in Japanese and English. Well I shall follow my own advice and keep it very short!
- Erica getting really sick. She's had a high fever and tummy ache since last night, and the hospital couldn't really figure out what was wrong with her so they gave us a bit of everything - antibiotics, anti-nausea medication, some other tummy med, plus fever meds and our usual asthma meds. Just hoping all these will at least render her fit enough stand tomorrow!

Friday, March 15, 2013

March Madness

Drive Erica to her after-kindy kindy for extra English lessons, then take Lena to dance class. Drop her off, and drive straight back to kindy to pick Erica up, drive her to karate, drop her off, turn around and drive back to Nakatsu to pick Lena up from her dance lesson. Drive back to karate to pick up Erica.

This, people, is soccer-momdom.

And this was before I foolishly added a class that starts right when Lena's dance lesson finishes. I am on the phone today attempting to remedy that situation, and shift the class to a Monday.

Plus more karate on Monday, more English on Tuesday, swimming and piano on Wednesday, Amy's junior high school club (probably several nights a week for 1-2 hours after school), and maybe cram school classes for Lena and Amy!

Oh, and literally one week after K and I decided I would need to go back on his insurance (you can share the cost if one partner earns under a certain amount) I was offered FIVE new jobs in the space of a few weeks. Madness. That includes extra hours at my present school, a new private lesson, a kindy lesson which I could not accept, a lesson in the next town over that I used to teach before Erica was born, and taking over from a friend at a business, also in the next town over.

The March Madness is trying to make it all fit, mesh it with K's schedule, slot in the 2 graduation and entrance ceremonies, and wonder if I'll banging my head against a wall with the madness of it all in 3 months' time.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

March Attack

"Matsuri! (festival!)" said Erica the other day when she spotted a Cherry tree blooming. She had got the  name wrong, but I still liked the implication - Cherry blossom parties are coming up soon!! If I can survive the great outdoors that is (more on that later).

I taught her the words for cherry blossom/sakura and then:

"Spring has sprung!" she said, making me laugh and forget about parties. I haven't been saying this, so she must have picked it up at kindy. It's cute when they come out with unexpected stuff from kindy. It's cute when they come out with exact copies of your own words too, but it's actually quite rare for us if the kids come up with something from school - when you're raising a bilingual kid in a foreign land, often you're the only source of their language. You can't say 'they learned that at school!' for cute, OR naughty words!

But spring has not so much sprung as launched an all-out assault on my face.

Sunday was the worst it's been yet. Itchy and runny nose, check, that's almost normal now. Sneezing so much I get dizzy, check (and having to wear a panty shield because of the sneezing six times in a row: I can do one-three sneezes, but more than that, no go. If you have no idea what I am talking about, good for you!!). Itchy throat, check. Itchy eyes, check. And the headache that results from all of this put together, check.

It was the eyes that did me in. I've aged ten years overnight with swollen red bags under my eyes. It itches, I endure, I can't endure, I rub, the irritant goes from my skin into my eyes and it gets worse, I attack my eyes, carefully scratch the rims, bath my eyes in a damp towel, and cry. Rinse and repeat. Lena asked if I was okay, and I said no! She asked what it was like and I said it was like having shampoo in your eyes. All. Day. Long.

It's a bad year for it. Everyone is suffering. People who have hayfever are in agony. People like me who usually sneeze a bit and get over it, no meds, are caving and begging for drugs. People confidently announce they 'don't have hayfever' but wonder about this strange cold they have that won't go away. I wonder if it's actually worse because of the dust storms from China, and the killer pollution they have over there, a little bit of which wafts its way over here. I don't check the weather forecast - I monitor the pollen forecast, track the dust storm and check the daily air quality levels. And, despite this perfect, glorious weather, stay resolutely indoors.

I suppose it didn't help at the weekend that the kids were home and had friends over both days, so they were in and out all day, bringing it all in. On Saturday I walked twice to the supermarket. All weekend, I was pottering around, shifting piles of stuff from one part of the house to another, in the vague hope of settling on a more logical arrangement, an activity I call spring cleaning, though it rarely involves actual cleaning. It is an activity that involves a lot of dust though.

All of it together had me in a shivering heap of misery by the end of Sunday, and I practically leaped on Kanji when he arrived home, to steal his meds. I was at the doctor's office by 8:30am the next morning, and now with my eye drops, nasal spray and two types of allergy meds, I hope to spend this week feeling, if not perfect, then at least back to the more tolerable version of hayfever I'm used to!