30 April, 2009

Ladies retreat

I'm off to our mission's ladies retreat tomorrow for a night. I'm looking forward to some time without children, time with other like-minded women and time with God. Time away from the computer(s) will be good for me too! See you when I get back!

Juggling

I know that every mum juggles. Indeed most people do. It just seems that I am juggling more than the usual amount at present. Seems a good time for one of my favourite things - a list! I am juggling:
  • Homeschooling
  • Care of three lively boys and one husband (he's pretty easy)
  • Writing our personal prayer/newsletter letter
  • Editing/desk top publishing a mission letter
  • Switching computers and operating systems (read PC to Mac)
  • Keeping up with email in the meantime
  • Preparing for a two day retreat, including choosing five songs and practising them.
  • Organising the care of fore mentioned children during the day tomorrow.
  • Preparation for home assignment (flying in 8 weeks)
Is that enough? It is for me! Actually I am very thankful for the retreat at this point. It seems like an intrusion, but it will probably be very refreshing to my spirit and just might give me the boost I need to get over the hump of the next eight weeks. I am incredibly thankful for the two friends who are covering the care of our two youngest boys from 8.30 till 3.45 tomorrow!

29 April, 2009

Four-year-old's Birthday

Despite the headache I had all day, we managed to give our boy a memorable birthday. He walked around all day muttering comments like, "I'm so glad it's my birthday." and "I've got two spidermen, one Lego car, a firemans' hat and coat and something else I can't remember..." To top it all off we had a family plus one party. Of course the highlight of the party was this much anticipated cake. He chose it months ago and has been drooling over the picture in the cookbook ever since. The only indication that it might not have lived up to expectations was that he didn't actually finish his slice of cake - the tip of the sword, of course. But I can kind of understand. By the time we'd eaten the food he'd selected for his birthday tea: sausages, sausages-in-bread and chips (I slipped in some salad for our artery's sake), we'd all overdosed on salt and fat. Then the cake was about 60% cake and 40% icing (and about 80% of the icing was butter), actually the tip of the cake was only about 25% cake. However, it is much easier to shape icing than sunken cake, so I don't apologise for the ratios! Nevertheless, he went to bed a happy boy. And us, tired, but happy parents.

28 April, 2009

The beauty of a simple worm

This morning has been a bit more chaotic than usual in our house. Our 3 y.o. turns 4 today, so the morning began with presents before breakfast, as is our custom. We managed to get them calm enough to eat breakfast and then after our eldest reluctantly went to school with his Dad, the other two played with Lego, Spiderman and the new Fireman costume. Needless to say, they were difficult to pin down for homeschooling this morning. I think it took our 6 y.o. about 45 minutes to copy three sentences we made yesterday with a silly sentence game. Concentration - closer to none! After persevering a while, I decided that outside was the key, but the catch - our middle son didn't want to go but the birthday boy did. Not a problem if you have a backyard, but here, unless you play in the 1.2 m strip at the back of our house or on the (quiet) road, you have to walk to a park and I wasn't about to leave a 6 y.0. home alone, so the backyard strip was IT. Thankfully birthday boys loves to dig holes, so we pulled out the big spade and he dug some holes while (amazingly) our 6 y.o. did another workbook page for homeschooling, while I supervised from the otherside of the fly screen door. Until birthday boy found a worm! Mentioned that wriggly creature out loud and our 6 y.o. was suddenly finished all his inside work and play and heading outside to play with worms :-) and mud. Hopefully I won't have to bath them when they return (this is a presently ongoing scene). Also amazingly, the worm they found has managed to disappear. It must have moved fast. I can do with some down-time. Up late last night to finish the sword cake, all the excitement of the morning and still a party and a guest (adult) this afternoon/evening. I wonder if I'll get to go to the gym? Depends. If I don't I'll only get there twice this week. Tomorrow is a public holiday and I am away Friday/Saturday at a retreat. I also have a prayer/newsletter to write. So much to do...

27 April, 2009

Laws of Parenting

I know my Dad is fond of the Good, Clean Funnies website, and in search of a short 'funny' for a newsletter I'm writing, I stumbled upon it again. I found these parenting gems: Laws of Parenting
1. The later you stay up, the earlier your child will wake up the next morning. 2. For a child to become clean, something else must become dirty. 3. Toys multiply to fill any space available. 4. The longer it takes you to make a meal, the less your child will like it. 5. Yours is always the only child who doesn't behave. 6. If the shoe fits...it's expensive. 7. The surest way to get something done is to tell a child not to do it. 8. The gooier the food, the more likely it is to end up on the carpet. 9. Backing the car out of the driveway causes your child to have to go to the bathroom. 10. The more challenging the child, the more rewarding it is to be a parent...sometimes

No self-pity party

I haven't mentioned on this blog that my husband has been away since Thursday. He's been at a conference in Hong Kong...learning I don't know what. But thankfully he's on his way back home today. Some people may choose to be sole parents (many don't, I know), but not me. It is horrible. We've had good moments and yesterday was mostly good, but I'd rather share the stress of raising three strong-willed, spirited boys (in a foreign land) with a partner. I've been spared the joy of throwing a self-pity party by a friend on Facebook who shared the other day that not only had she just given birth to her third child in three years (in her mid 30s), but her military husband was about to go away for six months! How can one happily throw a self-pity party with knowledge like that in one's possession? My mind boggles. She assures me that she has heaps of help, but I, for one, don't believe that any amount of help will replace the one who loves you. Especially if that one person is willing to help in the middle of the night when you have one child to feed, another to take to the toilet and a third to calm back to sleep. I'm past that stage, most nights anyway. But I sure could have used some help in those awful hours of 5.30-7.30pm, especially with baths. I hate supervising baths/showers. Don't know why, but I do and the ugly me usually comes out. I guess I am tired anxious to get them in bed so I can finish everything and take a bit of recreation time myself (or get more work done). In any case, my husband does bath-time with so much more grace than I. We really miss him when he is gone. On a more positive front, my nights recently have been taken up with preparation for a birthday. Yes, our three y.o. turns, you guessed it, four tomorrow! In line with the good Aussie tradition, he has chosen a cake from the AWW cake book (apart from our Bible, the most read book in the house) and I am trying to replicate the "sword" cake. It hasn't gone quite as planned, but hopefully I'll have a decent enough photo to post on Wednesday! Back to work, now...

25 April, 2009

How flexible are you?

The other night at Curves (my gym) one of the trainers was giving out slips of paper detailing some changes during the next month in opening times. Just a simple slip of white paper, covered in black type, all in Japanese. They are very kind to me at the gym and knowing my reading isn't so good, so she attempted to convey to me verbally the essence of the message, to be sure that I understood it. She then apologised for any inconvenience, but I replied trying to say that my schedule is a bit flexible. Unfortunately I couldn't remember the word for "flexible". So I did what any foreigner with a bit of Japanese knowledge will do, and I Japanized the English word. To understand this you have to know that Japanese is a syllabic language. That means that they don't construct words with single letters like in English, they construct words with syllables. This works fine, it really does, until they try to import foreign words. Just like when we try to read Welsh words which have not enough vowels, the Japanese panic a little when they see two consonants together. Then they insert vowels in the middle and on the end in most cases! So McDonalds becomes an unweildy "Macudonarudo". An easier example would be "beetle" becomes "beetoru". They also have only five vowel sounds and some English consonants don't have an equivalent (for example "r" and "l" come out the same). However, once you put a word through this filter, they can actually pronounce it and remember it. Many, many English (and other language) words appear in Japanese and make foreigners' lives easier. They are even so kind as to use a different alphabet to distinguish between Japanese words and foreign-originated words. The problem comes when you cannot remember which words have been adopted and which have not. Occasionally you get a surprise when you use the Japanese word and they come out with an English-type equivalent. A long explanation, I'm sorry. I guess this story is not so easy to understand, after all! Anyway, they didn't know what "furekishiburu" was - and neither would you, unless you read the above or have a knowledge of Japanese. After some explanation and gestures, they figured out what I meant and someone immediately said, "ahh, furekishiburu taimu". Can you translate? Yes - "flexible time". They had a phrase including the word, but not the adjective itself! Ah, the fun time we have living in a non-English speaking country. It sure makes you "furekishiburu"!

24 April, 2009

I killed the whinge with kindness

Yesterday afternoon my 9 y.o. came home with this note in his homework book: "Please have your son redo the cursive handwriting sheet. He refused to correct it in class." Hmmm. So, "Come and do your homework. You have this cursive handwriting to do." I barked as I started dinner preparation. "Oh, Muuuuuummmm. No fair. I don't want to." He shoved it onto the floor and grudgingly started his maths homework instead. "You have no choice. This is what your teacher requires you do it. No TV until you do." I stabbed the carrot with the knife, slicing it into rounds. "But it is so unimportant. Whyyyyyy?" "I'm not discussing this with you. We've talked about handwriting before. Do it." "Humf. (mumble, mumble)" "If you don't get it done before tea. You will not have reading time until it is done." I ordered. I wonder what consequence I can think up that will break the resistance? Chop, chop, chop. "Humf, humf..." came from the kitchen table. "Here are some carrots to give you some energy." I commented to my grumbler as I headed to give the rest to his brothers who were watching TV. (I frequently give raw vegetables to my boys during my meal preparation, it cuts down on grumbling and is healthy too. They love raw vegetables even more than cooked.) He made no comment, but continued to scribble his homework down. A little while later I cut open a packet of frozen beans to add to the vegetables already cooking, and knowing how much my oldest loves frozen beans, I handed him a couple, despite the continued grumbling. He immediately replied, "I don't know why you are being so kind to me." He then went on to complete all his homework without further complaints and indeed had a great attitude for the majority of the remaining three hours of his day! All of my consequence construction had not achieved was achieved by kindness. It was a very interesting response. Even more so when I reflected later on the similarities to comments by Martin Luther King Jr that I only read that morning as I re-read Yancey's "Soul Survivor". "A big danger for us is the temptation to follow the people we are opposing. They call us names, so we call them names..." p106 Of course the context is very different, but it made me wonder how often, in an effort to control my children, I end up using the same tactics as them. Ending up in the argument that they wanted me to have or I start mumbling and complaining, just like them. In yesterday's case, I'd set the limits, but continued to show love and kindness and it won the day. Something for me to ponder. I'll let you know if it works again!

23 April, 2009

10 more positive things about me

Okay, take a deep breath, here I go: 1. I love to cross stitch and have made a baby sampler for each new niece or nephew who has been born (except the two who were well past babyhood before we were married). 2. I love to read. Realistic fiction, historical fiction, biographies/autobiographies, Christian non-fiction. This is a positive list so I won't mention the genres which I cannot stand, but are so popular... 3. Cooking is something I love to do, especially baking. I take pride in providing healthy evening meals for my family. I enjoy baking with my boys too. 4. I am a morning person, I won't mention what it is like at the other end of the day. Except to say that these days I often get a second wind about 9pm, but have to go to bed soon afterwards anyway, otherwise I won't even be a nice morning person the next day! 5. I like to iron while watching TV. 6. Which reminds me of cricket. I am a cricket fan although I've never been to a live match. We follow cricket as best we can while we live in Japan. Summer to me is the sound of cricket commentary in the background. (I'm severely messed up in Japan, summer without cricket...) 7. I like to exercise, but preferably in a social environment. When I was younger :) I loved rebound volleyball - volleyball played in a squash court where the ball remains live when it bounces off walls. This is not good for your knees or wrists. Now I go to Curves three times a week and enjoy the break from our crazy household as well as the increased energy it gives me. 8. I am an extrovert who thought I was an introvert for many years until we had a psychology assessment for our application to come to Japan. It turns out I am an extrovert with a strong introvert shadow - no wonder I was confused. No one around me has ever thought I was an introvert, however (not that I know of, anyway). 9. I love to communicate - in spoken and written form. I guess that is why blogging and Facebook appeal so much. Nothing I love more than to go to a Ladies' retreat and talk and talk and talk. Can you guess what sort of a student I was? Yes - couldn't apply herself, talked too much etc. Until I got sent outside the headmaster's office in grade 5. I began to reform myself after that and became a (mostly) very conscientious student. 10. I love Jesus. Everyday I thank Him for His love for me. When I'm down I go to the Bible and remind myself of His love and care for me. I try everyday to live as one who is loved. I wish everyone knew Him, especially those I love most.

22 April, 2009

10 random things

10 random things that even my friends might not know about me. 1. I am left-handed and proud of it. 2. I hate pink and almost never wear it. The only pink in my wardrobe is underwear and a thin stripe on exercise pants and some PJs which were gifts. Actually I don't mind other people wearing pink, it is just not me. Neither is lacy-type clothes. 3. My engagement ring has an emerald in it. My favourite precious stone. 4. I've had three caesareans. 5. I studied Occupational Therapy at university, but I haven't worked as one since our eldest son was born. 6. I started learning piano at 4 years of age and didn't stop until I left school. 7. When I was in Grade 4 I was trying to write a passage at school for entry into the local show's writing competition. However, I ended up giggling hysterically and couldn't complete the task. 8. I hate superficiality. In conversation with friends and family and in circular letters (read - prayer letters, Christmas letters etc). 9. I hate walking barefoot on wet concrete. A problem originating from an awful primary school swimming pool. The change room had a terrible slimy concrete floor. This makes going swimming and taking showers on tiled floors a challenge. I usually wear rubber thongs (flip-flops for non Aussies) at camps to avoid this if at all possible. 10. I dread boredom. Having no book to read, no project to do, no one to talk to. I hate sitting at the park with children for this reason. I usually take a book or a portable project to do. Wow, a lot of those are negative things. Maybe I'll think up some more positive things for tomorrow?

21 April, 2009

Makeup?

I've picked up the book, "Everybody's Normal Till You Get to Know Them" by John Ortberg. There are many good things in the book, including a call to authenticity amongst community, which is something that I find sadly lacking in the Australian church. But when I read the following, I wondered if, actually, we weren't as bad with authenticity as some other cultures: "One of the defining moments in any dating relationship is the first time the man sees the woman without makeup...You don't want to let a guy look at your actual, unadorned face." p76 My husband-to-be rarely saw me WITH makeup! I guess that should make me feel good about my actual, unadorned face. I personally would say that one of the defining moments in a dating relationship is when one becomes sick. Actually my husband and I went on a short-term mission trip to Indonesia a long time before we dated, so we both saw the other in less-than-perfect circumstances for several weeks. Certainly with unadorned faces. But once we were dating, I went to visit him while he was leading a beach mission and, during the night, came down with food poisoning. It wasn't anything either of us had cooked (although that happened during our dating time too). It was a situation, though, that put me on my back for a while and certainly didn't give my later-to-be-husband any illusions about what I looked like without my "presentable mask" on.

20 April, 2009

Energy deficit

We're praying for babysitters. With less than 10 weeks until we fly to Australia, we still have so much to do. Weekends are our free-est times, yet we're limping into them and barely coping with getting rest and looking after our children. This last weekend we found no energy left over for packing. There is not much we can cut from our schedule. My husband is required to work and I have children to look after and teach everyday. I have to still feed my family and keep the place reasonably clean (which is not very, compared to some standards). The only thing we can think of doing (aside from praying for energy that matches the task) is asking people to look after our children while we get some packing done. That is all I have energy for at present...now we're off to CAJ for much of the day and several errands too.

17 April, 2009

Thrift Shop at CAJ

Today was Thrift Shop at the Christian Academy in Japan. Doesn't mean a thing? Didn't to us when we first came here nearly four years ago. But everyone talked about it. Our first one was a real discovery tour. I'd anticipated it would be like the school fetes that we had as a child. But no, this was far more serious.

The Main event fills the entire gym. Over 2 1/2 days they turn the school gym into a massive garage sale. Then they sell for two days. Goods scrounged from most corners of every PTA member's house piled on tables, squeezed onto shelves and overflowing to every spare bit of a large cavernous place that was unbelievably once called a gym. 

Aside from that most of the rest of the day is a little understated. The soon-to-be seniors are working to sell goodies to fund their senior ministry trip, aromatic cinnamon rolls in the cafeteria, a blood drive and, if the weather permits, a short outdoor concert from the concert band. These are the usual fare.

Oh, and the popular Korean BBQ, with lines almost clear across the campus. But it all fades into the background when you consider most people are there to buy more stuff, very cheap stuff.

You can get amazing bargains at Thrift Shop. Clothes are an especially good bargain for a family with boys who are not only growing fast, but working hard to wear their clothes out faster that I can mend. The video/DVD and book corners are a great source of entertainment. And of course our boys' favourite department - the toys. This is where they head. We allow them to choose one toy to buy (about 100-200 yen, or AU$1.40- $2.80). It is like a open policy Christmas to them. Hard to choose - but look at all the exciting possibilities.

Today our 3 yo chose a Buzz Lightyear gun. Actually it looks more like a handle with an oversized soft ice cream attached to the end. But it makes an appropriate (but not too loud) sound and if you turn the lights out it makes an impressive light display under the 'ice-cream' end. He's had a lot of fun with it today. Many people would no longer be here if it were real, probably me too.

 Actually I don't usually buy guns. Not that that stops them playing with guns. Just a couple of days ago they made impressive rifles out of Duplo. Then after my 6 yo got tired of that, he remodelled his into a semi automatic! I applaud their creativity, even if I don't like the game. Understand boys? Not this mum!

The other thing about Thrift Shop that I didn't understand when we first came was that it is a social event. Even if you are not planning to buy much, you come to catch up with people. The campus doesn't have the space to accomodate whole-school events, so Thrift Shop is almost the only time everyone gets together.

Today I chatted with a number of my friends as we passed by in the controlled frenzy of Friday Thrift Shop. (I'll tell you about Saturday Thrift Shop another day, same place, same goods, but totally different atmosphere.)

15 April, 2009

3 year old's comments

Kids do say great things, pity we're mostly too busy to write them down for later, but here are a couple from this week: 6 yo ruffles the hair of our 3 yo who cries out, "Mum, he's messed up my hair." Trouble is that his hair is about 1 inch long all over! During the to-bed-routine one night I insisted our 3 yo lay back down on his bed after putting a tissue in the bin. He whined, "But I'm too tired." I told him, "That's the worst excuse I've ever heard for not going to bed." But the irony was lost on him.

We're missionaries???

The other night as we were doing our nightly "time with God" with the boys, we discovered that our 6 yo didn't realise that our family is categorised as "missionaries". Bit tricky that one. The usual "missionaries are people who go overseas to tell people about Jesus" doesn't work so well for our kids. Firstly, they've spent more time in Japan than Australia so the word "overseas" doesn't have quite the same meaning. Our 6 yo was even born in Japan. They consider themselves Australian, but as you should realise from yesterday's post ("Steak") they are not totally Australian either! Secondly we are not the evangelists that most people imagine missionaries to be! Surprised? Yes, we do talk about Jesus. David teaches Bible at the Christian Academy in Japan (CAJ) and many of his students are not yet Christians. He also teaches Sunday School. I have made friends with several Japanese ladies during the last four years and try not to miss an opportunity to talk about Jesus, without being disrespectful or pushy. But you could not categorise us as evangelists. More or less, we are support workers, supporting those who are evangelists and church planters. Many of the parents at CAJ are missionaries and would struggle to remain in Japan if CAJ didn't exist. Much like the Olympic team would have struggled in Beijing if they hadn't taken their doctors, physios, trainers, dieticians etc., with them. So, that brings me back to trying to explain to my son in the minutes before he falls asleep, that yes, we are missionaries. It is a bit like famous people trying to explain to their kids that they are famous, when the kids just laugh and say, "But you are just Mum and Dad." I don't think I convinced him. Probably he'll pick it up as time goes on. Our oldest son has.

14 April, 2009

Steaks

Every now and then I realise how different our lives are from many Australians. I just found out that the only reason our 6 yo knows what a steak is, is because he's watched Madagascar!

13 April, 2009

Thoughts on packing up to go...9 weeks out.

We have only nine weeks until we move out of our house. Nine weeks is an uncomfortable number, however. There is so much we cannot pack yet...think, sheets, dishes, cooking utensils, videos, toys...so what do I do? I am tense with anticipation, worry that I'll start too late, but starting too early will also be an error. Weeks of "oh, I've already pack that" would be a nightmare. So, when is the Right Time? We've done most of the sorting, especially of things that we no longer want or need. This week is the Christian Academy in Japan's giant biannual garage sale, also known as Thrift Shop. Our small bedroom is piled with boxes of clothes, toys and other miscellaneous items destined for Thrift Shop. Each one tagged with our PTA number and price. Usually you can get many good bargains at Thrift Shop, but this week we'll try to limit our purchases to immediate boys clothing needs. So perhaps this week I'll relax a little, knowing that at least I've done my best for Thrift Shop (in terms of donation). The other concern I have is that we live on the edge of exhaustion much of the time (three spirited boys in a foreign culture will do that for you) and over the next ten and a half weeks, packing up and leaving will be competing for rest time. How will we get to the end? What sort of state will we be in when we land in Australia? Hopefully Queensland, but that is another blog post :-) My husband and I are trying to repeat frequently to each other - it is just a whole lot of small jobs, just a whole lot of little jobs... and "Keep your eyes on Him...on Him who had the power to rise from the dead, He can give you power to make it through."

11 April, 2009

Warm weather puts me on the edge of ordinary

Well, actually it accentuates my 'different-ness' here in Japan.

Summer means, as any good Aussie knows, that you wear shorts and sunnies. Not here in Japan, although more and more shorts have appeared here in the eight years since we arrived.

Actually, though, we usually see more shorts in winter than summer. They wear them with tights and boots. Has that fashion statement reached overseas yet?

In summer, most people cover up, especially the ladies. Not because they're avoiding skin cancer, but because they WANT white skin. Ladies wearing gloves and carrying umbrellas is a very common sight. No wonder when I bear my almost luminescent skin, I get stares. 

Yesterday I got suited up to ride to the gym - put on my helmet and sunnies - both unusual here and worthy of a few good looks. Then I got to the gym and put on shorts. Being almost the youngest person on the circuit, the only foreigner in the room and in shorts, definitely put me on the edge of what is ordinary here in Japan. Good thing they didn't see me in my sunnies and helmet too :)

 Funny thing is that it is our hats that put us on the edge of ordinary at the Christian Academy in Japan (CAJ). There we are known as "The Australian Marshalls who all wear hats." It seems that Americans don't? The school is full of people with Asian or part Asian skin, so I guess we do stand out. However there are enough white-skinned folk around who just don't wear hats that our boys notice and ask why they have to!

 So you see, no matter where we go, we don't fit. I wonder whether we'll fit into Australia?

09 April, 2009

Ignorance is bliss?

I am pondering our 3 yo's question: "Will we eat in Australia?" I don't even know how to start to expand this bright child's understanding of the massive move that we are about to make. We'll be in Australia for a year, but ignorance is bliss?

How do homeschooling mums do errands?

Warning: This is not a post for those who know that those with less than perfect children are definitely bad parents. It is not written by a bad parent, just one who has spirited, imperfect, self-centred children. I neglected to mention the behaviour of my children on yesterday's trip to the city hall. I have been accused of having low expectations of my children, but I like to think that I have realistic expectations. Nevertheless, no one could have accused me of much except having awful, rowdy, unyielding, disobedient kids yesterday! My Japanese friend kindly offered to help me (with the bureaucracy, not the kids) and so we went together, with my two youngest boys, 6 and 3. First problem - we arrived 10 minutes before opening and they complained there was no playground to use (as if it were a right)! The toilet issue was quickly solved by a dash inside and then we were directed to another building across the road - a temporary office. Inside the office four 'counsellors' were ready to assist with enquiries. Each equipped with two chairs for the enquirers. So, second problem - there were four of us, including children. He motioned for us adults to sit and promptly the two boys tried to sit on the same spare corner of my chair. I think I am thankful I am not a large person and at least had a corner-of-a-chair to offer, but you can imagine what happened next, can't you? Pushing and shoving...while I was trying to follow the official Japanese conversation happening on my behalf. I eventually had to drag the boys out of the room so that everyone else could get on with their business. Good news - the waiting area was lined with about a dozen chairs. But by this time they couldn't stand the sight of each other and kept shoving chairs at each other. Getting louder and louder...an official looking man eventually came and tried to intervene. This is always a problem when dealing with our kids as our youngest doesn't understand Japanese. Thankfully our oldest wasn't present. As it escalated I shoveled the boys outside the building (all the while, MY business is being dealt with by my friend and someone I've only just met) and thankfully it was all over soon after that and I could return to the privacy of my own home and rotten kids. I am so relieved that my friend is a good friend and doesn't mind helping. Also that Japanese are fairly lenient with young children (and foreigners). It was pretty embarrassing, though. But frankly, I wonder how homeschooling mums do all those things that other mums do when their kids are at school, especially those with multiple, multiple kids. I mean, do you load up all 6, 8 or 10 of your kids to go to the bank? I know you can go grocery shopping at night when they are in bed, but to renew your licence? I'm sure internet banking has been a boon for those people, but I'm wondering about other things, like birthday shopping...

08 April, 2009

Friendly Japansese bureaucracy

Both Japanese and Australian governments are currently giving out money to stimulate the economy. While I could delve into the wisdom of this, I am about as far from an economics major as you can get, so I'll keep my ill informed opinions to myself. But I can tell you about what it is like to apply for the money. Amazingly the government here has left it up to individual cities to design their own ways of making their residents apply for the money. We ourselves received 6 different envelopes, one for each member of the family, plus one extra. Our Japanese neighbours only received 2. Each envelope had about 3 sheets of paper in them...with over 120 million people in Japan, start to think about the cost. Lots of extra printing jobs for the printers! I didn't fill them out (that is my husband's 'job'), but a lot of stuff was written five times over. Then more people have been employed to answer questions and process the applications. After hearing that our colleagues in the north of Honshu had serious difficulties (they had to set up bank accounts in each of their names in order to receive the money, even the name of their baby), we decided to go to the city hall itself just to check that we'd done all the right things right, so to speak. We found a new temporary office set up at the city hall, just to deal with enquiries over these applications. It turns out that we had done everything correctly. And the money in our city is being handed to the head of the household, so no extra bank accounts are necessary. We do feel sorry for our friends in the north and hope that most other city/area governments are more sensible! Unfortunately, our youngest son is 28 days too young to receive one of the payments. But, really, the money is just a bonus, over and above the sufficient we already have, so we are grateful. Thankful for the abundance that we have, way and above what most people in this world survive on.

07 April, 2009

Mother's law of Murphy

I saw a book recently when browsing the English shelf of a down-town bookshop. Murphy's law and variants of it was the topic. I'm thinking I should have bought it because I reckon I might be able to add some from a mother's point of view. This kind of thing begins from the very beginning: During pregnancy: If I lie down to rest, the baby will kick. Newborn: If I lie down to rest, the baby will wake up. If I change a nappy (daiper), then the baby will poo again straight away. If I think the toddler is safe enough with the crayons, the moment I turn away he will draw on the vertical blinds (true story). If I think it is finally safe to step into the little room for some relief, there will certainly be an emergency. If I wait to step into the little room to complete some important task, then certainly there will be someone using it when I am free. In a quiet moment, I run the water to wash up dishes. As soon as the water fills the sink, the phone will ring or the children will start a fight that degenerates into dangerous territory. If I forget to take water bottles on a short journey, someone will certainly fake dying from thirst during the journey. If my Mum rings (from overseas), the boys will instantly require my full and undivided attention. In a variation of the above, the children will start fighting and the door bell will ring. Within a day of thinking, "Everyone has been so well recently", someone will be sick. If I sat here longer, I'm sure I could find many more, but the children need my attention...feel free to share some of your own "Murphy's Laws".

06 April, 2009

Cherry Blossom joy

Yesterday afternoon, after trying to get some rest, restless boys finally drove us outside. We needed our rest, but what we found when we got outside was restorative to our souls. The height of the cherry blossoms in our area, these sights are within five minutes bike ride of our house. The yellow flowers are Rape flowers - which they harvest Rape Seeds from for the oil. Photographers are out in force. Many people were taking photos with their mobile (cell) phones. I can't imagine why, unless their phones take much better photos than my phone! These photos were taken with our camera. What amazes me every year is not only their breathtaking beauty, but that it is so temporary. These blossoms will be gone within the week. I cannot wait until heaven, when breathtaking beauty will surround us continually AND we'll never tire of it. In the midst of the yellow flowers, can you see our 3 yo? By the way, I am not posting clear photos of our family on this blog, for security reasons. However, if you'd like to receive a photo email with a selection of family photos from the last month, let me know. I'll be sending one out (Lord willing) within the week.

03 April, 2009

Birthday contemplations

Today I'm doing something for the 30 something time. If you think about it, that is not so many times, is it? Not that I feel like making myself younger than I am, but only doing something 30 or so times doesn't necessarily make you feel like an expert. I certainly feel less than qualified to celebrate my own birthday. Especially in the presence of time-demanding children. Birthdays as a child were pretty predictable. Present, cake, food, the song, a party of some dimension or other and feeling spoiled for the day. As an adult, how you celebrate your birthday changes. Then some of us have kids and it changes again. As one of my Facebook friends put it "all a mother really wants is dinner to be made and children's behaviour to be above average so I hope that's true for you!" But my problem, is what if it is not? What if my children's behaviour is not above average? What if I'm unwell or the weather is awful? What do I do with all the good wishes and greetings? Do I feel sorry for myself? Do I make certain demands? Do I get to be selfish for the day? Where do I draw the line? As it turns out, I'm having a lovely day. The weather has really turned it on. After weeks of unseasonal cool, then mucky rain and wind over the last two days, today is about as perfect as you get in April in Japan! We lunched under Cherry Blossoms, the kids played happily at CAJ playground and I'm going out for dinner (I refused to cook dinner). Yes, the boys have fought. Not a perfect day by any means, but a very nice day. I did get this gorgeous Japanese-style card from my best Japanese friend. Japanese don't typically celebrate birthdays, particularly as adults, but my friend and I almost share a birthday. As I gave her a present and card she has, in good Japanese fashion, returned the favour.

02 April, 2009

Perspective on computer decisions

The hinge on my PC notebook is broken. But while I lie awake at night wondering whether to replace it with another notebook or a Mac (lying awake is not quite true), there are people who don't even have somewhere to sleep. Have a look here to see where some Tokyo-ites are sleeping these days!

01 April, 2009

Home-made clock woes on a rainy day

I hate it when brilliant ideas fall flat on their faces! Kids are particularly clever at causing such disappointments. Today for home schooling I decided to be creative in teaching clock-reading to our 6 yo. I found an old kickboard destined for the rubbish and a larger piece of cardboard. Figuring the boys could each make a clock. I felt optimistic even a tiny bit clever. The boys were excited, to start with. Somewhere in the process, though, my 3 yo decided that it wasn't at all to his liking and threw a tantrum. What exactly turned the tide for him, I don't know. But I do know that there are some things you can't undo - like the felt pen numbers on the foam board that he demanded be erased! I have never had the experience of home schooling with just one child under my care. I always marvelled at our eldest son's ability to learn things despite my divided attention and the attention seeking antics of his younger brothers. I cannot imagine what it might be like if a child had learning difficulties, nor if I had six children under my care (like one homeschooling mum I know). Juggling the needs of several different aged learners is just a little bit difficult, especially when one or more are under school age. Any mum who has managed it without going crazy, I salute! But it doesn't mean that I wish to join them for the long term. As for time, we've called "time out" for now and will get back to it later when tempers are a little less frayed.