30 August, 2013

Potpourri of news from Japan

A samurai statue in Hokkaido. Reminder of the violent
past of Japan.
I've had people in Australia ask about violence in Japan. On the surface it appears to be a very low-violence country, which is a big change from what happened in the Pacific War. 
This article shows that violence lives on, though there appears to be mixed opinions about it, it does seem, from the article, to be an ingrained part of the culture, and not just in sport. From our own limited experience in Japanese sports and schools, this isn't across the board, but it is worth knowing about, especially if you pray for this country.

As much as I hate to bring it up, there has apparently been radioactive water leaking at Fukushima. I've tended to ignore the news, because it is hard to know the real truth. Japanese authorities tend to suppress it and journalists tend to hyperbolise it. Nonetheless, here is an article about it.

The ageing population is an ongoing story. This particular article, however, talks about some people who are doing something to address the suffering of the aged and lonely.

In a bizarre law suit, a 71 year old Japanese man is suing NHK, the national broadcaster in Japan, because he says they use too many non-Japanese loanwords.

Subway hero helps Tokyo citizens. This one's been going around Facebook.

29 August, 2013

Starting school again

School started again on Tuesday for us. It's been a long 11 weeks, though going away for a month really helped. It would have been easier if I'd been able to be 100% on holidays with the boys, but the last five weeks I've been trying to work part-time too. I feel, though, like I've been treading water. Now school's in again, I can take some bigger strokes and make better progress.
CAJ's field.

Starting school, however, has gone very smoothly. Probably due to the unprecedented occurrence of all three boys entering the same school for the fourth year running. None of them have ever done that before. Our eldest has moved up into the high school section of the school, but thus far that hasn't been too big a change. Compared to my change from  a 250 student private primary school to a 1000+ student state high school, it's barely a blip on the graph.

I'm enjoying the space; it gives me the energy to deal with them for the time that they are at home, but it also gives me room to pay attention to the non-parenting jobs I have. But we're all enjoying the return of schedule.

Starting school has brought with it the reminder that this time next year we won't be here. From June next year we're headed back to Australia for our regular 12-month Home Assignment. I can already tell that this year will be a year to focus on:
"Casting your cares on him" 
(paraphrase from Ps 55:22 and 1 Peter 5:7)
"Do not let your hearts be troubled" 
(from John 14:1 & 27)

Our high schooler is facing the challenge of thinking about what subjects to choose for the rest of his high school "diploma". This year wasn't too hard—there wasn't a lot of choice. But then he's changing schools and systems, landing in the middle of grade 10 in Australia, six months before the end of the two year Junior courses. Not the best, but difficult to avoid.

So this morning I sent off an enquiry to the school where they attended last time we were in Australia, informing them of our intention to return next June, but also asking for some guidance about joining the school half-way through grade 10. We await their answer.

That is just one detail in a myriad of details that we'll be working through in the coming 12 months. Is there any wonder that I need to keep my eyes focused back on those Biblical promises and commands?

28 August, 2013

Our Hokkaido Adventure Days 21 & 22

Monday 15th July
Sapporo to the ferry

We camped at A, drove to B to meet with friends, and
C was the ferry terminal.
For the last time this trip, we packed up our camp, and headed to northern Sapporo to meet up with another OMF family. This family is one of the few in Hokkaido (with our mission) who have children similar ages to our kids (most of the families up there have very young children). 

I regret that I forgot to take my camera out at anytime that day with our friends, so we have no photos whatsoever of our time with them.

It was a public holiday, so their children, who are in Japanese public school, were home. Being a hot day, we decided to go to a small water park on the west of the city. But of course, the rest of the city was also feeling hot and having a day off, so it seemed as though half of Sapporo was there (which, of course, couldn’t have been the case as there are 2 million people in the city). It was crowded, just like it would be in Tokyo, but we’ve apparently gotten used to that kind of crowdedness, unlike our English-New Zealand Sapporo-dwelling colleagues. I guess that is something of a comfort.

There was a smallish wave pool that only ran for ten minutes every half hour. To watch it was to see a sea of black heads rise up and down. Over the top of the crowded joy, there were four or five lifeguards frantically blowing their whistles and shouting directions into their megaphones. They were somewhat distressed because few people were taking notice of them!

After a hot start, the day didn’t get much over 22 degrees and, sitting in the shade, I didn’t feel hot enough to have a swim. I’ve grown to be like my Mum—only interested in swimming when it’s really hot. So I mostly just talked with our friends.

In the mid-afternoon clouds came over and a breeze whipped up, the crowds started to thin and we gathered up our family too, for we had a boat to catch. We were to board the ferry at 5.30 in Tomokomai, about an hour or so away. So we said farewell and took off for the final leg of our Hokkaido Adventure.

On the way to the ferry we were looking for some take-away dinner to eat after we’d boarded (saving an expensive dining-room meal). We discovered an Aeon Mall (the closest Japan seems to get to Western-style malls) with a Subway, so we dashed in an bought some take-away Subs.

Strolling on the ferry's upper deck.
This ferry was even more luxurious than the one we’d traveled on three weeks earlier, as it was newer. This time, though, we shared a room with others. However, the way it was designed, we rarely saw the others. The room had a central aisle with aisles off each side, each aisle containing two bunks, either at floor level, or up a few stairs and above the bunk in the neighbouring aisle. Each bunk had a pull-down blind that made you invisible to outsiders. Very cosy!

My youngest son kindly demonstrating the bunk's privacy blind.
After settling in, we ate our take away dinner and went off to experience the Japanese-style baths. Then I read the second last chapter of The Hobbit to the boys before we all crashed in bed; it had been a big couple of days!
The cabin on the ferry with one of its
aisles. Two of my boys slept here.

Tuesday, 16th July
Ferry to the beach in Sendai.


Everyone slept in the next morning: we were all quite relaxed by this stage in our journey. We eventually made it to the buffet breakfast in the restaurant at about 8am. After breakfast we played games in our cabin for a bit and then it was time to pack up again and disembark.

Arrival in Honshu didn’t prove to be a heat blast as we had expected, the temperature being very similar to Sapporo the day before. We were headed to an old OMF cabin at the seashore, not too far from the ferry terminal, but stopped at another Aeon Mall to pick up some groceries before we got there.

It was odd to be buying food to go into a refrigerator! Additionally the store had self-checkout, the first time I’ve seen that in Japan. So I tried it out with my helpful youngest son. It got a bit messy because the computer was very precise and we didn’t have quite the right amount of bags, so it was hard to pack as we went, but we made it through, hopefully without ripping off the store or being ripped off ourselves.
The cabin we stayed in. It's over 100 years old.
The cabin, after we'd cleaned (lots of spiders, and
and their poop).

We’ve never stayed in the OMF cabins at Sendai, so we weren’t sure what to expect, but we were a bit shocked with what we found. It was hard to look past the dirt and insects, the spiders and their webs. I spent ages vacuuming and cleaning. Upstairs in the bedrooms it felt worse because the mattresses were dirty. After travelling around in our clean tent, and being self-sufficient with all our kitchen implements that we knew were clean (and worked), it wasn’t that fun. An hour or so after arriving we adjourned for lunch and the boys weren’t happy about staying. But we persuaded them we would manage, at least for one night.

The view. We struck mostly rainy days.

The beach. Not much to boast of by Queensland
standards, but the two younger boys loved it. Our
eldest didn't go near the beach. He hates the sand.

27 August, 2013

Some interesting photos

I collected the following photos over the holidays. Thought you might be interested.
I found this novelty iPhone case. Really,
can you imagine actually using this?
It is about three times the size of an iPhone.
Can you buy cans this size in Australia? You can here. That OJ is 1L, for comparison.
You've got to love the creative English spelling Japanese people get up to,
but here we have some creative capitalisation. This was in a train station.
Found this on the side of an apartment building in a nearby
suburb. Japanese name their apartment complexes. I can't imagine
how a missionary living there could give out their address!
Inner Bottom? Really?
I really don't understand the numbering system on the roads here.
I mean really, which road do you want, 299 or 299?
Our turtle trying to escape after his active time with friends
while we were in Hokkaido.

26 August, 2013

Our Hokkaido Adventure Day 20

Sunday 21st July
200 km journey back to Sapporo along the motorway.
It didn't take very long, compared to our more remote
driving at 60km/hr.
Naka Satsunai to Sapporo

It was a busy day. We packed up after breakfast and headed off to Sunday school and church, at the local civic centre, with our colleague. This church is just as small as the one we went to last week, but with a big difference. A larger church in the nearby regional centre has a pastor with a vision to plant seven churches in the region. This town is the place they began to work out their vision. Our OMF colleague has been here for five years with the support of the church and one local couple. They’ve seen no fruit for their labours.

More lovely flat fields. If only the spiritual work here
produced such harvests.
 If you didn’t know that, and walked in on this small church on the 21st of July, you would have thought the situation was quite different. At church that day there were 12 Australians (two missionary families of five, plus two visiting parents) and one German missionary, plus several Japanese Christians. There were almost no locals. Most of the Japanese people were "loaned" from the mother church.

Part of the Hidaka Mountain Range that separates
the Tokachi Plain from Sapporo.
We don’t know what will happen next with this church. The missionary goes on home assignment at the end of the year and next March the local Christian will move with her youngest son, after he graduates from high school, to Sapporo to help him find a job.

It rips your heart out to realise that all the work that has been put into this location hasn't
produced fruit. It is, unfortunately, the reality of church work in Japan. Much seed sowing, but little fruit. In the rural settings, it is even harder so this isn't an isolated incident.

The other Australian OMF missionaries there have just begun a work in another nearby town, the second town that the mother church has turned her eyes towards. 

Driving towards the Hidaka Range
We only saw part of their family at conference, because they’ve just had their third baby in three years and so mum stayed home with the younger two. So it was an unexpected bonus to see them all. The husband preached at the service. But we didn’t get a lot of time to talk with them because we had to race off afterwards to lunch.

Special Lunch
Lunch at the school summer festival.
We’d been invited by the local Christian family to the summer festival at their son’s local high school for lunch. We enjoyed some Japanese fast food: fried pork noodles (Yakisoba). Additionally some kebabs, local ice cream (including a tub of pumpkin ice cream), and drinking yoghurt. I especially enjoyed some rich coffee milk (equivalent to the the best coffee-flavoured milk you’d buy in Australia). But I drank too much and suffered with headaches in the next couple of days!

We also left lunch quickly as we had to get to Sapporo in time to set up camp before dark. We had access to an expressway for the first time in a couple of weeks and took advantage of it to get through the mountains separating us from the capital of the island.
This was our "fridge" for two weeks while camping.

Food while camping
On the way  to our campsite we had to find a grocery store to provide us food for our last two camping meals of our trip. One of the big differences for this camping trip was the necessity of buying food along the way. It was one thing that worried me, knowing what little rural shops can look like in Japan. 

Camp cooking was fun.
However, we found Hokkaido not to be as isolated and rural as we’d expected. If we’d been stopped for many days in a very isolated spot, it would have been a different story. But because we moved along regularly, each travel day we encountered towns of several thousand people, with more than adequate grocery stores.

Our last camping spot. It felt naked without our familiar
blue annex!
Lacking a fridge, it was a challenge to buy and cook just the right amount of food. Every day we bought ice and we didn't have any spoiled food, though the milk wasn’t always as cold as the guys would have liked (but they weren't allowed to drink as much of it anyway). The boys got used to the “no leftovers” policy for main meals and in our two weeks of camping we didn't have to throw out much food at all.

Couldn't see the sunset for we were surrounded by tall
trees, but the clouds were gorgeous.
So I’m really happy to say that the food aspect of our trip went really well. We had a good variety of meals, and a fairly balanced diet. I loved the challenge of it too. I've kept a list of all our meals, I'm wondering if anyone would be interested in a blog post about what specific meals we ate?


This was a familiar sight. A number of campsite in
Japan have these carts, especially if you can't park next
to your campsite. They are pretty crude home-made
boxes with bicycle tyres. Great for carting your gear.
Fantastic for getting the kids involved in carting gear,
they love manoeuvring these around.
That Sunday night we eventually found our campsite, which was just on the east-north-east edge of Sapporo. It was a picnic spot hidden in a forest. It had toilets and a shelter with sinks for washing up dishes, like most camping spots, but no showers, so for the third or fourth time in our trip, we skipped showers for the night. There were many campers (it was a long weekend), and for the first time since leaving Sapporo a fortnight earlier, we encountered young families camping. Mostly, on our journey, we’d met bikers and older couples/singles, because it wasn't yet holiday time for Japanese schools.

A slightly strange photo. After two weeks
of living outside, I found my arms were
as brown as they ever get.
Because we were only there for one night (the only time in our journey we did a one-nighter), we didn’t put up our annex, which sped up the set-up and pull-down the next day. It did, however, mean that we had dew over everything the next morning.

25 August, 2013

CAJ Staff Wife Part 2

After I finished my post yesterday, I realised there were a few more things about being a Staff Wife that I'd forgotten to tell you.

Unknown people come up to me and thank me for my husband!

I'm happy that my husband is appreciated by the parents of his students, but how they imagine that I know who they are is beyond me. Most of the time I don't even know who my husband's students are.

We don't get the same holidays that students get

There are numerous occasions on the school calendar that are student-free days, but staff work days. Many families take those days off and do things as families. We can't do that, because David's still at school. Same thing at the start and finish of the school year: we can't "take off" as soon as school's out or stay away until just before school begins.

But David does get more holidays from school than many others get in ministry, so it really isn't something to complain about, and I don't.

I always have to sit alone at graduation

It does seem a pity to dress up for graduation and then sit on my own. Thankfully I've had my eldest son come with me the last couple of years, otherwise it is a bit sad. David has to sit with the other teachers and these last two years has helped the high-heeled senior girls down from the platform also.

Other parents expect that I know more than them

And sometimes I do. So they come to me for advice or information.

At other times I'm as clueless as them. Believe it or not, my husband doesn't tell me everything (even if he was allowed to) about what happens at school. Many times he also expects that I know more than I do. An example was last week when he read an email I'd written to my mum that revealed my ignorance about exactly how many hours he'd be working last week (full-time from Wednesday).

I bring a different perspective to prayer meetings.

I can often bring a staff's perspective to a meeting. Parents at a school don't often think about things from the teachers' perspectives. They don't know about all the things that go on behind the scenes (like recruitment and administration, for example).

I know teachers better than many parents

I also tend to know more of the teachers than many parents do, especially the parents in the younger grades. I don't know if this is a good thing or a bad thing. We do find ourselves socialising with my husband's colleagues. I'm on first name basis with a lot of the teachers, that's interesting when talking with other parents.

This can be awkward. Again, like I mentioned at the end of my last post, having relationships with the same people on a variety of personal and professional levels can be challenging.

Last night we had a new staff family over for dinner. The husband had just realised that he'd be teaching teacher's kids, and especially that he'd be teaching our son. He didn't expect it, we're used to it. In fact our son was keen to be here last night so that he could meet his teacher.

All, in all, I'm happy to be a staff-wife. Many staff have their partner also working at CAJ part-time or full-time. I have no such ambitions. I'm really happy to be the maverick on the side, who has her own distinct ministry, keeping my staff-wife hat quietly in the shadows.

24 August, 2013

CAJ Staff Wife Part 1

CAJ field.
Yesterday we went to an event that has become special to me: the CAJ staff and family start of year BBQ. There are only three times a year when I'm welcomed into this staff family and this is the only time my kids are embraced too. The other times are the Staff and Board Christmas Party and the End of Year Dinner. That's not to say that we are treated badly other times, it's just to say that we aren't treated in any special way at other times.

In fact, eight years ago, as a new staff family without children at the school we sat in a weird situation. We were a part of the CAJ community but I just teetered on the edge.

That was underlined when I went on campus. I had to go to the office to sign in as a visitor. Those who were "really" a part of the community could just pull out the name tag that they already had and walk on without any hassle. And it was a hassle, because I had two or three boys under seven (sometimes the eldest was at school) who I had "dragged" around with me at all times back then. But that's another story.

David and I at one of the Staff and Board
End of Year dinners we've attended. Guess the theme?
Now the reason why this is hard to write about is, how do I explain that I wanted to be welcome at my husband's workplace? That seems odd. However, CAJ is more than just a workplace. It is more like an extended family. More like the feeling of belonging you can have at a church or club. This feeling you get as the parent of a child at the school, but even more so as a staff family.

You might ask, why did I want to go on campus at all? Well they had an English library, for example, which, as a staff wife I was eligible to use. We were also members of the home schooler's branch of the school, because I was homeschooling my kids part-time while they were in the Japanese system. So we came over for periodic events that that branch of the school ran. We also came over for Thrift Shop, of course!

CAJ campus in cherry blossom season.
Two years after David began work at the school, I was glad to have our eldest become a student at CAJ, because that seemed like an improvement in my status. No longer just a staff wife, I was a school parent (with my own name tag). But I still didn't get to know many people at school, because we still lived far enough away that I didn't go there very often and I never took my son to school (he rode with his dad).

Last year someone asked me what kind of help new staff members (and their families) get when they join CAJ. We didn't get much, probably because we'd already been in Japan for 3.5 yrs when we came to the school (though none of that was in Tokyo). We already had visas and knew about and were able to independently register at the local city office, organise health insurance etc. OMF helped us organise our accommodation and we had furniture. We also had enough Japanese to get by.

Having our middle schooler involved in
sports has meant I've met more staff
and other parents. Here our son is
receiving instructions from his coach
during a wrestling meet.
So the school provided nothing in the way of assistance with any of this. But for newbies, or at least direct hire staff, I'm pretty sure they do.

Then there was the unofficial assistance given. I can't actually remember much except on older couple who befriended us and took us to Costco for the first time a few months after school started. I wonder if we'd received more help if we'd lived closer to the school. As it was we were tucked away in a convoluted pocket of Tokyo about 20min (or about 6km) from school. I was stuck at home with a 6, and 3 year olds and a little baby.

Perhaps that's why I felt so lost when it came to CAJ. I didn't have a set ministry outside the school, except that I was a SAHM (stay at home mum). If you think being a SAHM can be challenging in your home country, try doing it in a foreign land. Wow, that is lonely work. We were pretty disconnected from OMF at that point too, in that neither of us were able to go to many mid-year meetings. We made it to the annual conference, but not much else. My main weekly face-to-face adult connections were kindy-mums. A few Japanese ladies who had the generosity to include this strange foreigner in their conversations and little groups.
Here I am with our only other "down under" staff member
Pam, in black. She's a Kiwi. The lady in red is a
valued former teacher of my eldest, she believed in our
 son during a particularly difficult time in his life.

So, we were in Japan as OMF missionaries, though I didn't feel much like a missionary, just a mum living in a foreign land. I was so happy to see my husband fulfilled in his work. He loved working at CAJ and still does. It was a real joy to me. But it did leave me wondering where I fitted into this whole missionary gig. But that leads to another story altogether, part of which I've written about in Finding my Sweet Spot and in the journey God's taken me on to become a writer and editor.

This has turned into quite a long post. Suffice to say that I now feel more at home in the CAJ "family". Over the years I've grown to know and love many of the staff members and it is a joy to be here (most of the time). It's gotten more complicated over time too, as I now have three boys at the school, so friends have become my kids' teachers and we've occasionally had some of those not-so-fun meetings. Additionally I'm periodically a volunteer Occupational Therapy consultant at the school too. Ah, the fun of an international life. It is a little bit like life in a small town!

23 August, 2013

Our Hokkaido Adventure Days 19 & 20

Friday 12th July
About 260 km. It was a pretty journey, as almost
all the journeys around Hokkaido were.
Odaito to Naka Satsunai via Kushiro

During the night we were surprised to find a fog had rolled in and everything got wet again, even those things under the annex. Thankfully we had sun later and were able to dry everything off before we packed up once more to move on.

Here ended our 14 days straight under canvas. The longest any of us have ever done that. I have to say I was a little regretful, I could have continued another week at least! I’ve found camping addicting!

We're always on the look-out for good parks. We found
some good ones on these two days.
We drove via Kushiro, quite a large city with 180,000 people. We stopped at a large park there for a leisurely lunch, play, and another chapter of The Hobbit (we’re getting near the end of the book now). It was chilly, even in the midday sun. We Tokyo-ites felt it, anyway. There were many children in the park enjoying their 'nice warm weather.' Many were playing in the artificial stream and the younger ones were very often running around in their wet underwear (in the absence of swimmers, I presume). I shivered inside as I watched them. I forget what the temperature was, but today as I type, Kushiro is 22℃ while we in western Tokyo sit at just over 30℃. Yes, it's generally cooler in Hokkaido!

This day's adventure took us through mountains and
then out onto the Tokachi Plain. This plain is like a
"bread basket". It provides food for about 3.5 million
people but only 350,000 live there.
This English-language website boasts of the enormity
of the plain. In reality it is only 10,000km² which is not
quite twice the size of Brisbane or about 2,000km²
less than the area of Sydney. It does, however, look
much more like Australia than most parts of Japan.
The wide open spaces filled with agriculture was a
wonderful sight for these Aussies.

After lunch we headed on to the village of Nakasatsunai (south of Obihiro),  about 4,000 people, where an OMF missionary is working. She is on her own there in a five-bedroom house. She welcomed us into her house for a couple of nights.

Playing games in "Aunty" Connie's living room.
She is a lover of games: board games, card games, dice games. And she has a large collection (though many had instructions in German, her native language). Our boys got into playing her games and then for dinner we walked a couple of blocks to a locally famous chicken restaurant. There we feasted on chicken baked over coals. Yum!

Our missionary friend had an English class from 7.30, so David joined them while I tried to put the boys to bed in a room. They were a bit skittish. We’ve been used to just going to bed all at the same time, with me reading The Hobbit to them. They didn’t settle easily when we changed the routine, but still I managed to get downstairs for the last few minutes of the English lesson and stay for the Japanese conversation time until 10pm. Needless to say it didn’t take me long to get to sleep after I went to bed.

Saturday 13th July

We gave ourselves over to being tourists again. Together with our hostess we played Park Golf at a beautiful nearby course and the boys enjoyed a large obstacle course there too.

Then she took us to a famous farm where they make cheese and caramel (and we watched this for a short while). We enjoyed some animals and watched a live show with the animals. The boys got to try milking a very patient jersey cow and I participated in a butter making competition (shaking a jar of milk for about a minute). We enjoyed cheesy pizzas and a fondue for lunch. After the show our afternoon tea was ice cream with caramel sauce. Mmmmm.
Enjoying park golf in a very green park. This town is
very close to the place where Park Golf was invented.

The area we were in has more cows than people, but evidently lots of chickens too! It was a little hard to remember that we were still in Japan. The paddocks are wide and flat and only when it is quite clear could you see the distant mountains that lie between us and Sapporo in the west (see the information under the photo above).

Later afternoon we returned with our colleague to her home and chilled out again with games (and me typing up our experiences).

The cheese factory.

Big horse. Little horse. We sat in some welcome shade
and watched a live presentation by the gentleman on
the big horse. Before the show we spent some time
giving the poor animals some fresh grass. It was odd,
the animals were in grassless pens, yet there were
large patches of grass nearby that needed mowing. Our
boys enjoyed feeding the animals with this free food.

More wide fields. Quite unusual in Japan.

22 August, 2013

Bits and pieces of the rough end of summer

We're at the rough end of 11 weeks of summer holidays. The first half of our holidays were fun, this second half has become tedious. But here are a few of the more interesting things we've been doing in the last week.

Bus licence
David's been working towards his medium sized bus/truck licence. Primarily because the school is buying a larger bus and needed staff to volunteer to learn to drive it. Secondarily, it is a dream he's had for a long time: to drive a large vehicle!

So, since we've been back from Hokkaido he's done a paper test (which was more like a visual perceptual test), several driving lessons, and a driving test. Last Tuesday he passed the final hurdle and this Tuesday we drove down with him to the licensing centre (yes, they do this, like many things, in large centres) to get his current Japanese licence stamped with an extra permission to drive medium sized trucks and buses.

The reason we drove down with him is that there are a couple of largish parks near the centre, and we needed to get the boys out of the house for at least one morning. A park seemed a good option (as did the car's air con for the one hour drive each way). It was a pretty low key outing (and humidly hot), but did serve to get us out.

Heat, humidity, and headaches
Late in the afternoon and the sun was still blazing.
The masses of concrete and bitumen retain the heat,
meaning that nights are almost as hot as the days.
Unfortunately it did give me a headache, earlier in the day than I've recently been getting them. It seems that I can't make it through one of these 33℃+ 70% humidity+ days without a headache.

Yes, it's been very hot over the last two weeks, humid heat that saps the energy out of you. To beat the heat without spending a fortune on air con, we:
  • use fans
  • eat ice in various forms: shaved ice with cordial on it, frozen soft drink, plain ice cubes, etc.
  • sleep on ice pillows or with ice packs
  • use air con when it gets too hard to bear. Nights aren't really making it below 30℃ in our house, (maybe 29, or 28.5 at 4am), so it can be difficult to sleep. I was managing it, but getting very tired. So the last couple of nights David and I have camped on our super duper air bed in the lounge room, which has air con.

Ice pillow, stays cold a long time.

David back at work
The urgency for getting David's licence stamped was that he started work full-time yesterday. That is 8-5. There's always lots to do and a certain feeling of pressure to do it all before school starts (next Tuesday). That, of course, means that I'm home alone with the boys again at the end of a very long holiday. At the same time the boys all have things that have to be done, either before school starts, or just need to be done.

So on Monday I wrote up a list:

It's a bit messy and confusing, but we understand. It produced interesting reactions. My orderly, strong-willed introvert thought it was a great idea, but has had trouble following through. My random, theatrical, extrovert rejected the idea of a list, but yesterday admitted happily that it was "giving him things to do so that I aren't bored".

Monday-Wednesday's big carrot was that when they'd all completed the compulsory parts of the list, they could have some screen time or TV time. Today and tomorrow, no screen time, but the younger two are booked into afternoons at the free childcare that the school provides for teacher's kids on these teacher work days. They're very happy about that, but . . . they have to get the list completed before they can go.

So the boys' exercise is taken care of now (childcare happens at the gym where they do a lot of running around). Our soon-to-be high schooler is doing some preseason cross country training with the coaches and a few other local team mates: at 6am! Best time for running, but he's feeling tired. He's still working out at the wrestling club twice a week, but that will probably drop down to once a week once school and five times a week after school cross country training begins. He's eligible to work out at the school gym, now that he'll be a high schooler, so I'm hoping he'll make time for that too in preparation for the wrestling season later in the year. High school wrestling is a whole level up from middle school. He'll need the conditioning.

And on that same front, he and I spent time in the doctor's surgery sorting out his entering-high-school medical.

I've also done some food creating. I've tried to stay away from baking in this heat, my ovens heat up the house too much. However I did make some yummy tomato chutney (like pickles) to have on our sandwiches. You can't buy chutney here and tomatoes are plentiful and cheap at the moment.

The other day I stumbled upon my Lemon Meringue Pie recipe and it tickled my fancy as a great summer dessert. So my 8 y.o. and I made that yesterday morning too. It only took 10 minutes in the oven, so it wasn't a big problem. And, oh my, it is delicious.

Someone wanted the recipe, so here it is:

Lemon Meringue Pie
150g plain biscuits
90-130g butter (I started with the lower amount, but it wasn't enough)
400g tin condensed milk
125ml lemon juice
3 eggs, separated
110g sugar

Crumb biscuits and mix with melted butter. Press into greased 23cm pie plate. Chill while making filling.

Combine condensed milk with lemon juice and lightly beaten egg yolks. Spoon mixture into pie crust.

Beat egg whites until soft peaks form and then gradually add sugar. Beat until stiff. Put over filling and bake in 180℃ oven until golden on the peaks. Approximately 10 minutes.

My editing/email/publishing projects/writing work
This is also supposed to be happening. I'm not managing a lot at this point due to all of the above! Email isn't too hard, but the rest is in slow-mo

I did manage to rewrite a post from here and submitted it to our home church denomination for their magazine (this post about non-language stressors that missionaries face). And of course I've been blogging here, which has taken quite some time. All those camping posts are great, but the photos take a while to organise. Still, I'm here because I enjoy it!

I've got a pile of articles on my desk to edit, but usually the time I'm more energetic and ready to work is the same time that someone desperately needs me to "find their Bible memory sheet", or "get him out of my room", or answer questions like "what do I have to do for my book report again?" or boot someone into action "hang the washing out" or "get the washing up done before lunch". By the time I've sorted all that out, I'm pretty flat exhausted. So, sorry any authors who have submitted articles, I'm not getting to your work as fast as I wanted to!

Ah, next Tuesday I won't know what to do with myself, the house will be quiet and I'll have all that time to myself. A little bit of me will miss them, but then I'll think back over these last few weeks and sit back and enjoy the space and freedom.