31 January, 2014

Unusual roll call

A few weeks ago I encountered a type of roll call I've never heard before. We were at the US Navy Base south of Yokohama, on the school bus with the whole high school wrestling team, about to head for home. One of the coaches checked all the wrestlers were on the bus, not by counting or calling names, but by calling out weight classes. 

They go like this:
115lb (we have no one in the bottom two classes, 101 and 108)
122
129
One of the two at-home duals in December.
135
141
148
158
168
180
215
275*

The number represents the top weight of the bracket. You have to be below that number to wrestle that bracket. But you don't have to be above the next lowest number to wrestle. For example our son is about 127lb, but filled in for a sick wrestler in the 135lb weight class.

It was an interesting, but effective way to check if everyone was on the bus, seeing as the coaches (and team) all know how heavy everyone is! You kind-of forget that in normal society it isn't usual to ask someone how heavy they are, but for a wrestler, it is a natural part of life. I forgot last year while at a basketball match and asked a dad how heavy his (largish) son was. He gave me a funny look and said, "Less than he was." Oops, a wrestling mum's mistake.

I am glad that tomorrow I probably won't hear roll call like this, though. Tomorrow the tournament is at CAJ, 300m from home! No travel! Yay. I'm even happier now because I've come down with a cold and staying close to home sounds likes very good idea. Even so, the tournament could go for eight hours!

Thus far this season our son has wrestled 13 times with 11 wins, 9 of those by pins. It's been a great season, better than we expected. The way a tournament works (you wrestle until you lose or win the weight class), we'll certainly see him defeated at least once tomorrow. But hopefully some good wins too.

And it will be great to have the team wrestling at home where a lot more people who know our kids can come and support them. For most of this season there haven't been many supporters come and see them. But that's pretty common for away matches seeing as "away" generally means a long way away. 

But now, I'm off to help prepare the Hospitality Room, the room the hosting school provides for the coaches and refs. And of course, it needs food and drink put into it. It's my first opportunity to help out with this, so we'll see how that goes.

*Sorry it is all in pounds, they use the US collegiate system for weight classes, probably because half the schools in the league are Base schools. 

30 January, 2014

Enjoying the Little Things

A missionary friend who is currently on home assignment wrote a short blogpost this week about the enjoyment she's getting at the "little things" about being "home" like the bread aisle at the shops.

I would agree, though shopping while we're in Australia brings mixed emotions, including terror at having to face so many choices, relief at being able to read the labels, joy at all the easily available products we miss in Japan, and sadness that we can't take some of it back with us.

Nonetheless, I'm enjoying a little thing here in Japan this week. I found dates at Costco last week and have turned some of them into a Sticky Chocolate Date Pudding. I made it for my husband, knowing his penchant to a hot pudding (by the way, this is different to a US pudding, in Australia the word goes usually with a cake-dessert, see here).

I'm not a big fan of pudding and don't usually bake it. I prefer cheesecake, pie, stewed fruit, or ice-cream for dessert. But this is divine!

Here's the recipe, if you want to try it out:

Sticky Chocolate Date Pudding

2 cups chopped pitted dates*
125g butter, chopped
½ cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons golden syrup
⅔ cup milk
½ teaspoon bi-carb soda
2 eggs, lightly beaten
½ cup self raising flour
½ cup plain flour
⅓ cup cocoa

Syrup
⅓ cup firmly packed brown sugar
⅓ cup water 
Combine brown sugar and water with boiling water.

  1. Grease a deep 20cm square cake tin (I used a round cake tin because my square one was already in use), line base with baking paper.
  2. Combine dates, butter, sugar, syrup, milk and soda in a medium saucepan. 
  3. Bring to the boil, stirring, remove from heat.
  4. Cover, cool for 30 minutes.
  5. Stir eggs and dry ingredients into date mixture.
  6. Spoon mixture into prepared pan. Bake in moderately slow oven (about 160˚C) for about an hour.
  7. Stand five minutes before turning out onto a wire rack.
  8. Turn right way up, stand pudding on rack over a tray. Pout hot syrup evenly over hot cake until all syrup is absorbed.
  9. Stand 30 minutes.


Serve the cake with butterscotch sauce (see below) and a dollop of cream if you want (though it tastes great without the cream).

Butterscotch Sauce
1 cup brown sugar
150ml thickened cream
60g butter
vanilla

Combine in a saucepan and bring to the boil over a low heat, cook until sauce thickens slightly.


Beware: it is more-ish!


*Please note that this is written in Australian! 
1 cup = 250 ml. 
1 tablespoon = 20 ml. 
Self raising flour is ordinary cake flour with baking powder added, at the ration of 1 teaspoon baking powder per 1 cup of flour.





29 January, 2014

Where are you from?

Great blog post here about a question we often get asked: "Where are you from?" 

But the post doesn't really answer the question, probably for a very good reason: there is no good, quick answer to this question for people like us who've lived in different countries. 
There's lots of Australian in us, but we
don't identify as 100% Australian anymore.


It's a lot easier for us parents who went overseas after living our whole lives in the same state, but still . . . my house and therefore my home is here in Japan. This is where we lived most of the last 13 years and where we've brought up our family. We have a very settled life here.

But my home is also in Australia. I strongly identify as an Australian and that is how other non-Aussies see me. 

It gets more complex when people want to know, "Where in Australia are you from?" David and I have the places we grew up in, where our families largely still are, but that isn't where we relocate to when we return to Australia to live for a bit. We both identify Brisbane as the place where we've belonged as adults.

TCKs and home
But when you start asking our kids this question, it gets even worse. They identify with both Australia and Japan. There are huge gaps of missing knowledge about both these places, yet this is their life.

Here is a thought provoking and encouraging blogpost about raising Third Culture Kids. (A newer term is "Cross Cultural Kids: a person who has lived in–or meaningfully interacted with–two or more cultural environments for a significant period of time during developmental years." www.tcklife.com/en/disclaimer-topmenu-52.html)

This is a video (9 minutes) that's been around for a while, but you may not have seen it. It is a well edited set of interviews with TCKs (Third Culture Kids) talking about "Where is Home?" This is a topic that most people we meet in Australia misunderstand. They ask our kids,

"So, is it good to be home?"
"What do you most like about Japan?"

Here is an interesting post about our boys' perspective on where home was, which I wrote 3 1/2 years ago when we were living in Australia on our last home assignment.

How are they feeling?
So, people at this end who have their own TCKs are asking us at the moment, "How are the boys feeling about going back to Australia for a year?" And my answer is mixed. In some ways they are very focused on the present. They have a lot going on in their lives that claims a lot of their attention, but every now and then something comes up and someone comments on something they'll miss while in Australia. 

I do remind them that, while it is pretty obvious the things they'll miss (like for one, the Electricity Unit in Grade 4), they don't know what they'll gain. One of them pondered how people would react to his fairly American accent. 

In any case. If you ever meet my kids, don't ask them questions like "Where's home?" or "Do you like Australia or Japan best?" because they really won't know how to answer them.

28 January, 2014

Ghost Boy

I had trouble putting this non-fiction book down as I read it over the weekend. Written in first person, it is the story of a young man, Martin, who was once a normal boy, but at the age of 12 his mind and body shut down, so that he was still alive, but physically and mentally unable to interact with the world. 

Several years later he became aware of the world again, but was still trapped in an unresponsive body with no voice. No one could tell Martin had become aware again and he was stuck in this terrifying, helpless state for several years before one carer took an interest in him and eventually had him assessed by experts in AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication, check out this link).

As a result of that assessment and a huge amount of hard work by the author and his parents, he became linked with the world again. He taught himself how to read and write, and gained regular employment. I won't spoil the end of the book for you, but it held me right to the last page!

This book reminds me of the non-fiction book, Annie's Coming Out by Rosemary Crossley and Anne McDonald, that was compulsory reading in my Occupational Therapy degree. It's been a while since I read it, but a similar story of an intelligent person who can't connect with the world because they can't communicate in anyway, until someone sees past the outward physical disability and finds a way to communicate with them. The big difference is that "Ghost Boy" was normal in every way until this unusual (and still undiagnosed) illness hit him. Interestingly it was something that seemed to erase all his former memories, like someone hit the delete button on his brain! To this day he can't remember anything of his childhood.


A very inspiring book that is worth a read.

Disclaimer: A complimentary electronic copy of this book was provided to me for review by Thomas Nelson Books http://BookSneeze.com. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

27 January, 2014

Musk Lifesavers and Cross-Culture Fun

I had an intriguing coffee date with a couple of American friends who are almost the same age as me. It all came about because I wrote this on Facebook the other day:
I usually edit my words according to who I'm talking to, but recently some Australian phrases came out: "tough bickies" and "he's going to shout us coffee" (granted the second one was to an Australian, but "he" was an American). Maybe I'm just getting ready to go back to Australia in June?
They wanted to know what "to shout" meant and I explained that the person who's "shouting" pays for the food/drink purchases. One of them offered to shout us a coffee, so the three of us met this morning. (It's the first time I've ever gotten a free coffee because of something I've written!)

As we were using an Australian word for the reason for getting together, and it was the day after Australia Day, I volunteered to bring along some Australian fare. I would have loved to bake something, but it was quite a full weekend, so I limited myself to bringing some special chocolate and lollies that have been sent to us by friends in Australia.

The chocolate Freddo Frogs were consumed happily, but the Musk Lifesavers were much more of a culture shock. I've had this reaction before when I tried to share this favourite Australia treat with a Japanese friend. She couldn't eat them, they reminded her of the perfume of personal products, like deodorant! Interestingly, the Americans had the same reaction (although they did persevere and finished their Lifesavers). It turns out that this is a distinctly Australian-New Zealand sweets flavouring!

What got even more of a reaction was when I Googled "Musk" after they wondered where this perfume/flavouring comes from. Wikipedia has some interesting things to say. Let's just say we were hoping that the flavour used in Lifesavers is synthetic! Here's a blogpost that gives more details, possibly that you want to know!

Cross-cultural living is so fun at times!


26 January, 2014

You know you're Australian if...

I found this list on someone's Facebook page and I thought it was perfect to celebrate Australia Day here on my blog. I've edited it a little — of course! (Mostly to make it cleaner.)*

I cannot tick every box, but certainly a majority. And a disclaimer, I do love my Kiwi and American friends, please don't take the below personally! A lot of this is "said" with a good deal of "tongue in cheek".
You know you're Australian if ...
* You believe that stubbies can be either drunk or worn.
* You're liable to burst out laughing whenever you hear of Americans "rooting" for something.
* You pronounce Melbourne as 'Mel-bin'.
* You believe the 'L' in the word 'Australia' is optional.
* You can translate: 'Dazza and Shazza played Acca Dacca on the way to Maccas.'
* You believe it makes perfect sense for a nation to decorate its highways with large fibreglass bananas, prawns and sheep.
* You think 'Woolloomooloo' is a perfectly reasonable name for a place.
* You're secretly proud of our killer wildlife.
* You believe it makes sense for a country to have a $1 coin that's twice as big as its $2 coin.
* You understand that 'Wagga Wagga' can be abbreviated to 'Wagga' but 'Woy Woy' can't be called 'Woy'.
* You believe that cooked-down axle grease makes a good breakfast spread. You've also squeezed it through Vita Wheats to make little Vegemite worms.
* You believe all famous Kiwis are actually Australian, until they stuff up, at which point they again become Kiwis.
* Beetroot with your Hamburger... Of course.
* You believe that the confectionery known as the Wagon Wheel has become smaller with every passing year. 
* You wear ugg boots outside the house.
* You believe that every important discovery in the world was made by an Australian but then sold off to the Yanks for a pittance.
* You believe that the more you shorten someone's name the more you like them.
* Whatever your linguistic skills, you find yourself able to order takeaway fluently in every Asian language
* You understand that 'excuse me' can sound rude, While 'scuse me' is always polite.
* You know what it's like to swallow a fly, on occasion via your nose.
* You know it's not summer until the steering wheel is too hot to handle and a seat belt buckle becomes a pretty good branding iron.
* Your biggest family argument over the summer concerned the rules for beach cricket.
* You shake your head in horror when companies try to market what they call 'Anzac cookies'.
* You still think of Kylie as 'that girl off Neighbours'.
* When working on a bar, you understand male customers will feel the need to offer an excuse whenever they order low-alcohol beer.
* You know how to abbreviate every word, all of which usually end in -o: arvo, combo, garbo, kero, metho, milko, muso, rego, servo, smoko, speedo, righto, goodo etc.
* You know that there is a universal place called "woop woop" located in the middle of nowhere...no matter where you actually are.
* You have some time in your life slept with Aeroguard on in the summer. Maybe even as perfume.
* You know that the barbecue is a political arena; the person holding the tongs is always the boss and usually a man. And the women make the Salad
* You say 'no worries' quite often, whether you realise it or not.
* You've drank your tea/coffee/milo through a Tim Tam
* You own a Bond's chesty. In several different colours.
* You know that roo meat tastes pretty good, But not as good as barra. Or a meat pie.
* You know that some people pronounce Australia like "Straya" and that's ok.
* And you will forward this list to other Australians, here and overseas, realising that only they will understand.

*This is a repost from 2012.

25 January, 2014

Fun Weekend

This weekend's been crazy, but high on the fun levels. It started for most of us on Thursday because Friday was a student free day. 

Thursday night
We went to our nearest International School for two wrestling duals. Our son had two wrestles and won both. 

Most notably, the school's top wrestler in the weight category above our son's was out sick, so our ninth grader wrestled as a Varsity Wrestler for the first time. The other wrestler could have been up to 9.5lb (4.3kg) heavier, so we felt a bit apprehensive. However our son pinned his opponent and the victory felt very sweet. 

Friday 
David went to work as usual, but we didn't wake the boys, so I ended up with an unheard of solo breakfast, during which I indulged in reading a good book. In fact everyone ate alone except our 11 y.o. who read in bed till 12 and then had breakfast just before we ate lunch. His porridge smelt disgusting at that time of day!

We spent time preparing for Saturday's bedroom swap, including sorting through a lot of the toys and junk that accumulates in children's cupboards and shelves. 

I baked some yummy goodies in the afternoon (including a rare Sticky Date Pudding). 

In the evening we had a hilarious time at the annual Senior Talent Show. 

One of the memorable performances was a clarinet duet with a difference. They played the old Mario theme and one of our best wrestlers played Mario, down to the moustache. So funny! Very therapeutic to laugh that hard. The program was well put together, there weren't many dull spots. The MCs were hilarious.

On of the joys for me was knowing some of the year 12s. Six of them are wrestlers, with whom we've been sharing some time recently! It made the show even more enjoyable. After the show, as is the custom at CAJ, the performers lined the stairs at the exit of the auditorium. All the audience therefore walks past them. This can be awkward when you don't know any of the performers, but with all the travelling with the high school wrestling team that we've been doing, I'm getting to know a few, and them me. It was very fun when someone called out, "Thanks Mrs Marshall". I also high-fived a few of them on my way out.

Saturday
Early this morning our weary 14 y.o. came home. He'd been at a Freshman Lock-In at school. I'd never heard of these before coming here, but it's basically a sleepover at school, except that not everyone sleeps. So our son had done his first all-nighter. He was planning to go to an optional training session at another school (about an 1 ½ hr away), leaving at 7.30, but reluctantly decided it would a bit too much. Another lesson learned: sleep is important for wrestling too!

Operation Bedroom Switching took up most of the day. Upstairs was quite a mess, but it's mostly all done now and they're in bed (or will be shortly). A bit more fiddling with exactly where certain things are stored, will happen, but the boys themselves can do that.

Lunch time today I had a date with our middle son. Another effort to give this strong introvert extra one-on-one time with his parents. We spent a couple of hours together and it was fun! 

I baked up a storm this afternoon again. We have lots of baked goodies for the weeks to come! The next two or three weekends are busy for me with wrestling, so I thought I ought to stock up.

Not over yet!
Now the weekend is not quite over yet. There's more fun to come. 

Tomorrow is Australia Day and in the evening we're having the 3rd annual gathering of some local Aussie friends. It should be great fun. 

24 January, 2014

Japan Answer #46


Karen guessed well:
1. Protection from falling rocks in an area where that occurs often.
But the piece of information I left out of this post was that this photo was taken in Hokkaido, where they measure their snowfall by the metre! My guess is that the roof is to keep snow from the steep mountainside from falling onto the road.


23 January, 2014

Unusual Udon

Last week, while drinking coffee with my Language Exchange partners, I asked them about a Japanese dish: Udon. I really love this thick Japanese noodle. They serve it like we serve spaghetti: with different toppings. But it comes in hot and cold varieties. My favourite is tempura-topped udon. 

But I struggle when confronted with a menu with other types. It is a relatively inexpensive Japanese "fast food" that you can easily buy at roadside stops on expressways, as we
My favourite: Tempura Udon.
often do when we're travelling.


My friends told me of several versions, including:

  • Racoon Udon (Tanuki Udon), which includes toppings of tempura batter (which look a lot like rice bubbles).
  • Fox Udon (Kitsune Udon), which has a slice of fried tofu on top.
  • Power Udon (Chikara Udon), which has omochi (chewy, pounded rice cake).
  • Curry Udon (Kare Udon), which has a curry sauce added.
  • Plain Udon (Kake Udon), with no topping.
All of the above come in a clear soy-based soup (made from bonito/fish flakes, soy, and mirin). 
  • Fried Udon (Yaki Udon), cooked like a stir-fry. (That is, no soup.)
This wikipedia page gives many more specialised varieties.


Our family loves noodles, and our Sunday lunch tradition in Japan is our own version of udon and ramen. I'm a little embarrassed to admit to Japanese people what we do to our udon at home! But my language exchange friends are good friends, so I told them.

We eat our noodles (at home) with little broth, and add our own "Western" toppings. Including, cheese, ham, corn, and (believe it or not) tomato sauce (US=ketchup). I don't do the latter, but at least two of my sons do!

One of our boys doesn't like udon, so he gets instant noodles (ramen) instead and another boys likes to mix his noodles! Ramen and Udon in the same bowl (see the photo). Ouch!

We eat all of this with chopsticks, by the way!

It is a much loved tradition, even if it is a bit odd. I reminded my Japanese friends that they do strange things to Western food, and they agreed. For example, they said, "Fish eggs on spaghetti."

We'll miss this in Australia. You can buy udon easily enough, but the broth to cook it in is harder to find (and very expensive). Or that was the case last time we were in Australia. And it just doesn't taste right without the slightly fishy-salty broth that we cook it in.





22 January, 2014

Waiting

I'm feeling a bit at sea again today. I think I'm in a bit of a trough between peaks of excitement. There's wrestling, of course, the next meet is tomorrow night. But also coming up is: 
  • the changing of bedrooms on the weekend (see yesterday's post), 
  • an entertaining night on Friday to look forward to (the Seniors put on their annual Talent Show fundraiser for their March trip to Thailand), 
  • and a fun Australia Day gathering on Sunday evening.
Plus I'm waiting. I've got someone interested in taking on the Managing Editor's position. Yay! But she and her husband are taking some time to consider it. I'm waiting.

I'm also waiting for a number of other things: people to get back to me on various questions related to the publication projects I'm working on, and waiting for the next round of submissions to come in for the magazine (due next Friday).

Then there's longer-term waiting to 
  • begin packing up,
  • know what will happen with this house, and our car,
  • find out where we'll be living in Australia and what car we'll be driving, 
  • find out how our boys fit into life there, and
  • know what this next phase of our lives will look like.
I tend to thrive a little on excitement and the adrenaline of wrestling is clearly messing with my brain, but obviously our upcoming transition is beginning to work havoc as well.

There are things I could be or should be working on, but I'm really having trouble working up the enthusiasm to do so. Grrr. It's time to head to the gym and have lunch. Perhaps after that I'll feel more motivated.

21 January, 2014

Parenting isn't for wimps

I often say the above as I sigh at the end of the putting-them-to-bed rigmarole and drop into my "relaxing" chair. 

It occurs to me that to compare being a parent to having a job is nonsense. Having a child in your life is no more a job than taking care of your own personal needs is a job. You can outsource it, if you wish, but you can't easily quit it and move onto another, more savoury job. Parenting is a way more personal and emotional role than a job can ever be. These kids are an extension of me and there's no getting away from the fact that we're all flawed humans, trying (or not trying, as the case may be) to live a life together.


One boy
We've been trying to address a particular boy's needs and difficult behaviour with three different strategies over the last few months. For the most part it seems to be improving the situation, but every now and then we have another rotten moment (or ten). 

Had one this morning. Man it brought out the ugliness in me! I've been trying so hard to help our son, that it felt like a slap in the face from him and that all the care and extra stuff I've (we've) been doing seemed wasted. 

Thankfully we both took some time-out and he settled down before he left for school and was even able to hug me goodbye! I hate conflict so much, and I especially hate it when my child is rude and disobedient when all I'm trying to do is get him to school on time or teach him an important life skills, or protect his brother from being picked on or... (And yes, this is an opening for anyone who wishes to criticise my parenting, but I'd rather you didn't. Parenting has enough pain without those who don't have all the information to try to advise.)

Shifting Rooms
One of the things we're doing, I wrote about in this post two and a half weeks ago. We switched one boy into his other brother's room. This has worked well, with only one hitch, the room with two boys now in it is reasonably small, so the younger brother is kept awake by the light while his bigger brother does homework. So, the next move is to totally switch rooms. We'll put the youngest boy in the smaller bedroom on his own and the two older ones in the larger room, enabling us to position the desk and its light further from the bed. 

It's been an interesting process getting the boys to think about the furniture and where it will go. They wanted just to shift it all and try it out, but my instincts were to do a floor plan and measurements to at least get the larger furniture positioned theoretically. Maybe it was my upbringing in an Electrical Contractor's house (who had his own Plans Desk and always seemed to have a tape measure attached to his belt when he was working), that brings on my desire to pull out the big metal tape measure!

Thankfully we have a "long" weekend (for the students only) coming up with no wrestling to watch (except on Thursday night). So we'll have time to pack up the rooms and move the furniture. Which means dismantling the beds! I'm hoping that in the process we can go through all the toys and other junk that's accumulated in their rooms and do some pre-moving throwing out and setting aside to sell at Thrift Shop. On our minds is that when we come back next year from home assignment, our youngest will already be 10! That means he'll have outgrown a lot of the younger boy toys that we've gathered over the years.

Longer term hope
But I'm also hoping that going to all this trouble, only six months before we move out, will be worth it in create more peace in the longer-term in our family. I think that is one of the biggest challenges of parenting: living in the moment, yet keeping your eye on the longer-term.

20 January, 2014

Japan Photo #46

Here's a photo we took last year while on the road. What do you suppose is the reason for this structure over the road?


19 January, 2014

Wrestling Mums Club

There's a photo I wish someone had taken yesterday while we were at another wrestling event.

We had lots of family members supporting the team. One reason is because we were at the closest international school to CAJ, less than an hour's drive. Another reason is that the school (American School in Japan) was hosting a number of other sports events yesterday, including a middle school wrestling tournament, which meant there were a number of other CAJ supporters around who mightn't have come if it was just high school wrestling.

It was particularly exciting to have the company of a number of other wrestling mums. The photo I would have liked was of about half a dozen of us mums lined up on the bleachers (what do Australians call seating at a sporting event?) cheering for the team. I believe we made so much noise at one point that one of the usually unflappable referees turned to look at us in a break in the action! There usually aren't many women around these events. I've been getting around in rather a man's world, so it was great to have some feminine companionship. 

One of the new middle wrestlers was supported by his mum and two of his three big sisters and one of their friends (that's a total of four women!). The family is Filipino and none of them has ever seen much wrestling before this year, so they were a bit wide-eyed. Another mum and I spent some time helping his mum understand the rules (as I wrote back here it is very difficult to follow if you don't understand some of what's going on). I asked his sisters what their early impressions were and they said, "The gym is smelly!" She didn't understand why they got all sweaty. As my husband said, "She's obviously got no idea how hard it is to flip someone over on their back who doesn't want to be flipped over!"

But I was impressed by this new member of the "Wrestling Mums Club". The middle school wrestling was first up (we didn't arrive with the high schoolers until after 10am), followed by several hours of high school wrestling. She stayed, with her kids, at watched the high schoolers until 3pm, wanting to learn more about this sport her son is enjoying.

Gritty screen shot from a video from
yesterday.
The joy just kept coming with this informal "club meeting". A mum of one of the Senior wrestlers raved on and on to me about how good our son is and how she loves to watch him wrestling, "He's so entertaining!" It was a bit overwhelming and certainly something a man wouldn't do, but was wonderful for my happy mother's soul! 

Yesterday he had three bouts and won them all, two pins and one in a "technical fall" which is when the points between two wrestlers is greater than seven points, which ends the match. That means he's had 11 bouts so far this season and won 9 of them, 8 of them by pins. That is way beyond what I expected for this, his first high school season. We expected the level of wrestling would go up, and it has, but he's matching it fairly well. It does help to remember that most of the time he's not wrestling the top wrestler from a school, but rather the second or third best a school has in his weight category, because he happens to be in the same weight category as our school's best wrestler. But still, we're not unhappy. It's been a good "apprenticeship" year, a year to ease into high school wrestling, getting more experience, without being devastated by vastly superior wrestlers.

Yesterday's meet was a complicated one. All six international schools in the league were there, but they didn't all wrestle each other, it was a collection of nine duals, each school only faced off against three other schools. A dual is where one school wrestles against another. The dual concept is pretty simple, really, they run through the weight classes, with the representative from each school wrestling their opposite number. Our son's bouts weren't a part of that, they were extras tacked on the end to give the wrestlers who aren't the best in their weight class at their school a chance to "have a go".

Here's a list of the schools we wrestle against (and most of the other inter school activities happen with these schools too, as well as a girl's schools and some other international schools like Yokohama International):

American School in Japan (ASIJ)
St Mary's (Catholic boy's school)
Yokoda High School (US Airforce base school)
Nile C Kinnick High School (US Navy base school)
Zama High School (US Army base school)

In wrestling this year, St Mary's and Kinnick are the best schools, and it was very exciting to watch them dual yesterday. The St Mary's coach is usually very mild mannered and calm, but yesterday he was yelling and jumping and quite dynamic! And we had front-row seats: it was directly in front of where we happened to be seated. Lots of fun!

But you know, I could go and on. But I think it is probably time to call it quits. After all this isn't a meeting of the Wrestling Mum's Club!

18 January, 2014

Younger Siblings as Supporters

As we prepare to go to another wrestling meet today (leaving at a much more civil time, might I add, 9.15am), I'm encouraged by this comment from Joan on a post from last year:
This is our youngest son, helping with recording the video of
his brother's match.
 I wouldn't worry about the younger ones getting dragged to older brother's sports . . . I had two older brothers and always got dragged to their baseball games, and track and cross-country meets, and never felt less loved because of it. Bored plenty of times but not less loved! I think it helps show kids that family is important, and they're a family who roots for each other and rejoices together and encourages each other.
We were surprised last week when our middle son, in the exhausting aftermath of last Saturday's wrestling meet sighed contentedly and said, "Ah, finally a normal wrestling meet."

We hadn't realised that he'd been missing the familiarity of the format of the wrestling meets we went to over the last two years. Those meets were all early starts and mid-to-late afternoon returns. We certainly weren't expecting such a positive response as that to last Saturday's marathon. So, I'm encouraged. 

We don't have little boys anymore (8 & 11), but I do sometimes wonder about dragging them around to their brother's sporting events. I do remind them that I'm looking forward to going to their sporting events, when they get into middle and high school. That usually brings a smile to their faces. There's no doubt about it: we're a sporting family!

17 January, 2014

Refreshment: social and spiritual

Yesterday I went to an inter-mission women's prayer and fellowship day. That doesn't sound very enticing, just blandly put like that, does it?

I've gone to this meeting in January every year for the last four years and I never fail to come away from it blessed and refreshed. The organisation who runs it is called the Japan Evangelical Missionary Association (JEMA). 

This is the group who publish the magazine I manage. They are a voluntary gathering of various missionaries and mission organisations who work in Japan. Not all the missionaries in Japan are part of JEMA, but the major missions are. It is an unusual grouping of people. I wonder how many other countries have such a group? Can any of you tell us of some?

In any case, I've become more involved in the group as my boys have gone off to school and I've been editing Japan Harvest magazine. They hold several women's gatherings in the year, the biggest being the retreat I go to each year in early March.

It was on my calendar, so I went yesterday. But later I realised that there were two good reasons to be there:


1. To connect with friends from this network who I never see at other times. 


My job is fairly solitary, so I need to take the time to connect with like-minded others when I can. Yesterday was a great place to do that.

2. To refocus on the bigger purposes in my life. More specifically, to get a closer-to-God-sized perspective on what's going on for me. 

Regular daily life for us is pretty crazy busy and it isn't easy to step out of that to see the bigger perspective beyond the busyness. 

I was particularly encouraged by a focus on Psalm 23 and time to meditate on that and other Scripture. What's on my mind particularly is the LESS THAN six months until we're leaving for Australia. But in reading Psalm 23, my attention was drawn to one word, "Prepare". In this Psalm we read that God prepares a table for us.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows (vs 5).
That lead me on to other verses about God preparing things for us:

John 14:3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.

1 Corinthians 2:9However, as it is written: ‘What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived’ – the things God has prepared for those who love him.

Ephesians 2:10
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Jeremiah 29:11
11 For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

And later on an old favourite passage that reminds me of how huge God is, and that He hasn't and won't forget me, nor will He leave me powerless to do the things that come my way, including moving my family internationally.

Isaiah 40
26 Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens:
    who created all these?
He who brings out the starry host one by one
    and calls forth each of them by name.
Because of his great power and mighty strength,
    not one of them is missing.
27 Why do you complain, Jacob?
    Why do you say, Israel,
‘My way is hidden from the Lord;
    my cause is disregarded by my God’?
28 Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
    and his understanding no one can fathom.
29 He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.
So, I came away, refreshed in my soul. I was reminded again that God goes before me. He's not surprised. In fact He's preparing good things for me. And even the bad things that will come my way, He's right there with me, as we're reminded back in Psalm 23.

16 January, 2014

Dark Underside of Great Japanese Service

In Japan we receive amazing customer service, something we miss when we're in other countries. 

But there is a dark underside to this. Here's a great post about it by someone who'll be an OMF missionary in Japan soon, quoting one who already is.