30 January, 2010

Back but still in packing mode

We're back home again, two days before our boys start back at school. I was gratefully unpacking our bags this afternoon, but as I unpacked a niggly thought wriggled into conscious thought:
"Shouldn't you leave some of this stuff in the suitcase? After all you are going to pack again next Saturday and the Saturday after that too."
Yes, it is true. Our lives are quite mobile at present. This probably won't settle down until we go back to Japan, I suspect. However, we won't have a period quite as unsettled as what we've just had until we move out of this house in early July. Since the 17th of December, we've only spent nine days at "home". We've only been home twice - six nights on the first occasion and three on the second. In that entire six and a half week period we've not slept in any one bed for longer than seven days. There are good reasons we did what we did. Only having one in five Christmases in the same country as our family calls for extraordinary effort. We spent about a week with each of our families (or located close to parents, anyway). We also spent five nights at a Scripture Union camp, which was valuable time spent. Two weeks in two separate locations were our personal holiday time. The coming year is going to be busy and stressful, so we're glad we've made good use of our boys' long summer holiday to take some time-out. Now it is back to work. The next two Sundays we have out-of-town engagements, hence we'll have to pack again (not very much, though, for overnight stays). After that we may be able to string together three weeks "at home". For now, though, I'm glad to have a place we call home and to be able to return here frequently.

28 January, 2010

Holiday books

For as long as I can remember I've read copious amounts of books on holidays. My first holiday reading memory is of reading Heidi in Primary school - the longest book I'd ever read up to that point. One of my biggest frustrations when our children were very little was that I had little time to sit (or lie) idle and read. Thankfully this is a gradually abating problem. These holidays I brought a number of books as usual, but unusually have been unwilling to finish two of them. It is rare for me to put a book down in the middle, but these were just too bad. The first was an Australian historical fiction novel set in 1899. Main character is a single lady in her 30s who was in business and deeply involved in the women's suffrage cause (the vote for women). Some romance, some intrigue, some mental illness, some drunkenness, some homosexuality, some other weirdnesses. Somehow I just couldn't put up with it any longer. All but two of the characters were not real people anyway. Seems like historical fiction is a broad genre. The other book is a collection of three (which I didn't realise until I got it home from the library, if I'd realised I would never have brought it home). All based around a Scrapbooker and her Scrapbooking shop in New Orleans. Contrasting the lovely and sweet world of scrapbooking is a nasty murder in each of the books. Our lovely and hard-done-by Scrapbooker also turns into an ameteur sleuth, armed with lots of scrapbooking buddies who are always around to offer support and encouragement. The plots are somewhat similar and lots of things that you learn in the first book are repeated in each book (like some of the details of the Scrapbooker's failed but not yet annulled marriage), which is where my boredom began with the second story and caused my inability to finish the third. Lots of words, presumably southern US words and concepts that I don't know didn't help my interest level. In contrast are the books we're reading as a family. To try to institute some family time around the table at dinner I've read a number of more lengthy books to our children over the last year or two. Books they can all enjoy like; "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory", "Nim's Island", "Magic Tree House", a couple of Selby books etc. These holidays we've been reading a short story collection about Paddington and now "The BFG". In fact our 10 y.o. has been begging to read this book (he's read it several times himself). He identified it as a book his brothers could enjoy and has been plugging it regularly for several weeks. Considering he was one of the reason we began this custom - to keep him at the table after he'd rapidly plowed through his entire meal before his brothers could finish their veggies - it is a significant thing that he wants to do this (he's done most of the reading so far too).

Holidays nearly over

Our kids start back at school on Monday (or Tuesday for our new Preppie). The holidays are almost over. We're ready for the end of holidays, not sure if we're ready for the beginning of school. Not in material sense (books, uniforms etc.) but in a mental sense. We're more than tired of daily coming up with an entertainment plan and the boys are fairly tired of each other, especially our youngest. He's had it with big brothers who don't always include him or listen to him or many other unvoiced complaints that he has. The B word is not often used in our house, but their actions show that they are fairly bored. Golly, this morning they even tidied their rooms and folded their PJs. Actions of bored children if I every saw them. Work is starting to encroach upon our brains. We're starting to think about the projects that we have to get to work on as soon as possible once the boys are back at school. The fact that we are tired of being away, yet have to leave Brisbane three times in the first two weeks of being home is registering. But I guess, at least we've had a good holiday. The worst kind of holiday is one that is over before you can take advantage of the relaxation that you gain from being away. Also why I tend to prefer stay-in-one-place holidays with little organised. The absolute opposite of the holidays that Japanese and Koreans (and other Asians, I'm not sure) tend to take. Well, I'd better get back to finishing the castle jigsaw puzzle and then feeding the troops (who are watching Monsters Inc.).

26 January, 2010

Australia Day - my perspective

Today we had a quiet day, though the neighbours didn't. Loud music pounded in our windows until after 9pm and they were drinking from at least early in the afternoon. The beach and shopping centre held many in patriotic colours. Many more than I saw growing up or even in my early twenties. This is only the second Australia Day we've spent here in ten years. Patriotism has definitely taken a step up in that time. I'm not sure why. Maybe because of the Bali bombing and the war on terror? Perhaps those of you who've spent more time here in the noughties can tell me. One Australian Christian (pastor) has taken a stand on his blog about patriotism. I'm not sure I totally agree with him. Yes, extreme patriotism is bad. See where it led Japan earlier last century. However, saying that being happy to be a certain nationality is bad is akin to the extremism that the church has taken in the past - saying that going to the Movies is wrong or that dancing is evil. I have many friends from other cultures. I pray for dear friends who are from other nations and who don't know the Lord. I cheer Australia on in the cricket and at the Olympics. I ache for nations, like Haiti, who are suffering. I'm spending my life for the Japanese. Yet I'm *proud* to be an Aussie. Not *chauvinistic*, yet I'm a loyal citizen of this country. Well aware of and indeed longing for the visa to take up our citizenship in heaven with lots of other citizens from every nation in the world. A balance, people, that is what we need.

25 January, 2010

Got stung yesterday

After the country holiday, we're having some days on the coast. First day at the beach and I got stung by something, presumably a jellyfish. I didn't see it, but it shocked me enough to knock me off my feet in below waist-height water. I hustled myself up to the first aid spot with the lifesavers and put ice on it for a while. I don't remember ever being stung before. It was nasty, but not as bad as a green ant bite and it faded within an hour or two, thankfully. Today we went to Australia Zoo. If you can swallow the overwhelming personality of Steve Irwin, which pervades much of the place, it is a wonderful zoo. Much better than either of the two we've seen in Japan. But maybe not quite up to Singapore Zoo...not sure. My legs are tired now, though. My head too. Keeping a track of the three boys all the time wasn't always easy. Especially when their paces differed. Our 10 y.o. tends to approach zoos (and many other things) at full pace and considers slowing down to others' pace a terrible hardship. I did get some cute shots of our boys with kangaroos and koalas, though. Nice, for part-time Aussie kids. Tomorrow? Australia Day. Not sure what we'll do. Watching cricket at least. Maybe try out some aircon at the local large shopping centre. Not sure how keen I am to hop back in the surf. The beaches will also be crowded for the public holiday. We try hard to avoid crowds (hard at times in Tokyo).

24 January, 2010

A week in the bush on our own

We've just spent a delightful week in the bush. As I mentioned in this earlier post, a couple let us house sit their property. For the second time in a month we couldn't see another house from our place of residence. Golly, we couldn't even see the road. Heaps of fun
  • teaching the boys to row a little boat
  • playing around on the dam (not IN the dam) and the island in the middle
  • 4 wheel driving
  • banging around in the bush
  • bush walking in a national park (including rock scrambling)
  • adopting a dog and chooks for the week
  • picking pears and plums from the trees themselves
  • find a python in the chook pen
  • doing a jigsaw puzzle
  • watching the cricket
  • no internet access to pull us away from relaxing
  • outdoor dining on the generous verandah
  • plenty of birds to observe
  • cool weather
Enough already? Possibly the best thing, though, was the sheer peace and lack of pressure we felt. Our mission recommends taking holidays at either end of our home assignment time. I can kind of understand that, but I do think that this middle-of-the-HA-year holidays we are not in transition and therefore much less exhausted and much more able to enjoy and relax.

16 January, 2010

I love this quote

Just found this: "Hope is not a granted wish or a favor performed; no, it is far greater than that. It is a zany, unpredictable dependence on a God who loves to surprise us out of our socks." Max Lucado We are about to go on holidays curtesy of people who love a God who loves to surprise us. The first are supporters who have an unused granny flat and who happen to be away at the moment and live near a national park. They've given us use of their house and property, for nothing. They're thrilled that we can look after their dog and the chooks. Cautioned us not to drown in the dam! The second are supporters who have a holiday unit up the coast, one street from the beach, and have invited us to use it, free of charge, for a week. Praise be to our heavenly Father who has drenched us with blessings this month.

15 January, 2010

A new blog for gluten and egg free recipes

Announcing a new blog for those of you who need to eat gluten and egg free food (feel free to spread the word).

E with a strong I shadow

Way back when we were applying to OMF International to go overseas, we had to see a Psychologist and have a personality profile, among other things, done. My Myers-Briggs came out as ENFP with strong I and J shadows. It amazed me at the time because I'd always thought myself to be an introvert - something that most people who knew me were amazed at, because they'd always pegged me as an extrovert. The 'shadow' thing is interesting. Today I've been feeling the I shadow. We've had lots of people over the last few weeks and I've been loving it. Just last night David had to drag me away from a party when it was getting too late for the boys. This afternoon, though, I've felt like I want to go and crawl into a shell for a little while. Good thing we now have a 'just us' holiday coming up. Well planned! You may not hear a lot from me in the next fortnight. But no fear, I'll be back, all refreshed and ready to go!

14 January, 2010

We're home

We're back in Brissie for a few short days. Physically, at least. We're pretty tired and wandering around in a little bit of a daze. In a few short days we'll finally head off on our "us only" holiday. A friend put it really well yesterday. She said, "You have such a people-intensive job, you need a people-less holiday." Yes, indeed. Before we go, we are meeting with various folk. Tonight we have a debrief over camp. So the people we've just spent five days with will get together with and hear the campers' feedback and, I guess, give our own feedback. Tomorrow and Saturday we have planned to spend time with friends/supporters - a meal each. Then off again. Sunday we'll kick off our "us only" holiday with afternoon tea with my family to celebrate my Mum's birthday. Getting a shopping list together to restock the pantry and fridge today was a challenge that my tired brain wasn't quite up to. I'm guessing I'll be back again before we leave. Now, the boys are all resting on their beds (it is just after lunch) in SQUIRT time - aka Special Quiet Individual Rest/Reading Time. They like the acronym. Sounds more fun than "rest time". Seeing as they're there, I should go and have a rest too!

12 January, 2010

From on-site at camp

We're at a Scripture Union summer camp. For grades 6 to 8. It's been over ten years since I last went on such a camp as a leader. Most of my overnighting-in-community experiences since then has been at adult focused events, like missions conferences and church camps. The kid-focused event is quite a different beast. 

Even though I haven't been a fully involved leader (having your young family on camp does that for you as a mum), I feel like I've been constantly on the go and constantly moving from one thing to another. I'm tired! Mid-summer and near the beach, we're spending a lot of time outside and at the beach. I am totally over putting sunscreen on myself and three reluctant boys. The boys are too! 

Apart from that, though, they are having a fantastic time. It is great to see them really involved. I'm glad that we made the effort to come. 

The things you get to do on camp you'd never get to do as a family - like the messy games afternoon. For a couple of hours the campers (and our boys, of course) played games that involved getting food all over them. Like Duck-Duck-Goose, except instead of merely tapping people on the head, you dripped some kind of food on their head - chocolate sauce and molasses, I do believe. 

 Last night we ran an international night. Lots of work, but fun too. Toilet sign game, rock-paper-scissor train, Spanish songs and lots of different food, games, drinks, and other experiences. Late night, though. We didn't get the boys to bed until after 10 and they're tired today. 

 This camping experience (we're not under canvas, by the way), is also such an Aussie experience too. It reminds me of many childhood, teenage and young adult experiences. Positive memories, to be sure. Memory building for our family too. We'll remember this Aussie experience for sometime. We cannot take a lot of luggage back to Japan, but we'll take our memories. 

 The other great thing about being here, is that it is service that is NOT about us. Deputation is full of us running around talking about Japan, our experiences and answering questions about us and Japan. 

Here it hardly matters here that we are missionaries and that we've lived most of the last decade in Japan. Yay! I love it. Well, it's smoko time (morning snack/coffee time) and a coffee might just hit the spot. See ya.

11 January, 2010

World evangelism: aim lower, think smaller...

Check out this video. It is worth the five minutes it takes.

07 January, 2010

Should I cringe or not?

There are a few things we are doing in Australia that are no-nos in Japan. Sometimes it makes me feel uncomfortable, then I have to remind myself that it is okay to:
  • Have shoes on seats - in Japan, no part of the shoe should touch the seat. Not much of a problem except if you have little kids who want to rest their feet on the waiting room seat or kneel up and look out the train window. As this is always a public issue (in private we don't have shoes on anyway), it is something I've had to be very vigilant about. I cringed slightly the other day when our 10 y.o. lay down on the seat in a waiting room.
  • Walking while eating - we're seeing this a little bit more now in Japan than we used to. Not something we do a lot of anyway, but it is sometimes pretty inconvenient to find somewhere to sit while eating when you're out.
  • Crossing my legs out wide - as in with my knee sticking out to the side rather than neatly tucked into my other knee. Actually Japanese seem to cross their legs way less than foreigners do anyway.
  • Cross my legs when sitting on the floor or stretching my legs out. These are masculine ways. Females are to tuck their legs underneath them or discretely to the side. Murder for any length of time!
  • Leave my shoes on inside - it just feels all wrong.

On the other side

Once upon a time I was a practising Occupational Therapist who loved to treat injured hands. Today I get to take my 10 y.o. son to be the client of a Hand Therapist who will treat his hand. I'm sure he's going to hate it. He somehow fractured the his little finger in a very tiny way on his class breakup at Movie World a month ago. He doesn't know how. He didn't even tell us he had some pain until more than a week later! Now it seems the finger has healed with a tiny fragment out of place and the finger is swollen and bent slightly at the final joint. Also known as Mallet Finger. The treatment - a splint for 2-3 weeks to straighten it out. Just before we go to an SU camp at the beach! Here's hoping it is waterproof! We're racking up the bills, though, Orthopaedic surgeon, two x-rays, Hand Therapist...so much fun. At least I don't have to travel to the other side of Brisbane to see this lady, she's only 15 mins down the freeway. Sometime I'm going to have to pack too...

06 January, 2010

Contrary Mary or maybe Contrary Mudge

Just to show you how contrary they are (see my previous post about whether our boys call Australia home), our middle son developed a passionate interest in cricket today. He watched Australia do the impossible and come from a long way behind to win. After which he ran around putting up cricket posters and is waiting impatiently for the next match! As a passionate cricket fan I am, of course, very happy that he is developing this interest. So next time I shout, "Howzzattt!" he might stand a chance of understanding my outburst.

05 January, 2010

Are your boys more comfortable in Australia or Japan?

Another question we're often asked. Not unique to us, either. A missionary friend has recently blogged her boys' response to this.

We are "home" in Brisbane for a few days. A few minutes ago our 7 y.o. asked, in a fit of boredom (while his Dad watched Day 3 of a Test Cricket Match),
"When will we go home?" 
I don't think was exactly what he wanted to say, but the sentiment is still there. When questioned about it, he wouldn't elaborate, although he did ask which day exactly in July that we'd be flying back! His 10 y.o. brother echoed the sentiment. I played the devil's advocate by asking,
"Aren't you Australian?" He quickly replied, "We've spent too much time in Japan for it not to seem more like home." and 
"I like Japan just a little more than Australia." 
 This comes as a bit of a surprise to us. In Japan our eldest had often commented that he'd like to go back to Australia. Nevertheless, we did know that there are things about Japan that they miss. On the other hand, there are things about Australia that they will miss when we return too! What a mix-up.

 A term for this is "Third Culture Kid" (TCK) - meaning a child who's spent a significant period of their formative years in a culture that is not their passport culture. The term refers to the fact that these children don't totally identify with their passport culture nor the culture where they've grown up, but rather feel most comfortable when with other children who've grown up in cultures other than their own.

04 January, 2010

Speaking Japanese in Australia

Sometimes we're asked if we practise our Japanese in Australia. Regularly - no, but occasionally - yes. On Saturday evening we took a picnic and met some Japanese friends (in photo) in the park. They were here on a brief holiday to visit friends they'd made while studying a few years ago. We spoke in both Japanese and English, but Japanese particularly when their children were present as they don't really remember English very well. Then on Sunday evening at our home church we talked with an Australian friend and his Japanese wife. She was more comfortable speaking in Japanese than English. They are coming over for dinner in a couple of nights. When David was in Perth in November, he visited a Japanese church and Bible study - there he got to speak at length in Japanese as well as sit through a three hour Bible study in Japanese. I am in regular contact with my best Japanese friend too. Her English is also good, but I try to keep up a little bit of written Japanese by writing some Japanese sentences in my emails. So, just recently we've had quite a bit more Japanese practise than usual. Interestingly enough after eight years of living there, the language seems rather lodged in our brains. Bits fall off the edge when not used - like vocabulary, but by and large we still retain enough to communicate. Many of the bits which we've lost come back fairly quickly, thankfully.

03 January, 2010

Looking forward to 2010

There is much we don't know about the future, though we do try to fool ourselves by wishing everyone a "happy new year". Nevertheless, here are some things that the new year may hold for us and things I'd like it to contain:
  • More transition as we move back to Japan mid-year.
  • The above means more goodbyes, more packing, many more decisions about house, car etc.
  • I will be more involved in the production of Japan Harvest - the details are not clear yet, though.
  • I will continue to write articles and devotions.
  • I'll try to catch up a little in the Occupational Therapy field. Hopefully once we're settled in Japan will be able to help some of the younger kids at CAJ with handwriting etc.
  • My boys will continue to grow - this year they'll turn 5, 8 and 11!
  • The last year before David turns 40.
  • I want to continue to blog.
  • Moving back to Japan for our third term as missionaries puts us above the average for length of missionary service in Japan. A little scary, really. More and more, though, we know that is the right place for us to be, even if few understand that.