Sunday, July 27, 2008
(She's) not that pumpkin.
Media Down Under have been abuzz over a girl dubbed Pumpkin due to the brand of clothing she was wearing, "Pumpkin Patch". The 3 year-old girl was found abandoned at a large train station in Australia. Her father is thought to have fled to the US. A body of a young woman thought to be her mother has been found in the trunk of her father's company car.
1. The Pumpkin Princess has been dubbed this because I started calling her this in utero, circa summer of 2005. Americans call cute kids "pumpkin", and she is royalty. At least, she seems to think she is, judging from the way she demands plain yogurt with Frosted Flakes on any given hour of the day, including five in the morning.
2. The Pumpkin Princess owns no Pumpkin Patch brand clothing. She wears mostly Uniqlo, but does own a couple Hanna Andersson and LL Bean items and one Ralph Lauren cotton cardigan that the Pumpkin Daddy bought for her with his own pocket money against my wishes.
3. The Pumpkin Daddy is the sweetest, most loving husband and father in the world. The only domestic violence that has ever gone on in this household was when the then in-utero Pumpkin Princess kept kicking my bladder when I was trying to concentrate at work.
4. I am alive and well here blogging and drinking my umeshu (plum liquer) and soda.
I shall protect you.
I am selectively bitten my mosquitos. When I was in university, my crew (I was a coxswain for a coxed four) finished the first outing of the summer with a couple bites each while I was bitten five times on each ankle and ended up looking like I had the legs of an elephant (I quickly went to wearing long pants with knee-high socks after that occasion).
Then I married someone whom the mosquitos like better than me. I haven't been bitten more than a couple times each summer since, while the Pumpkin Daddy endss up with no fewer than ten bites each time he sets up the lawn sprinklers/ washes the car/ weeds the garden/ takes the Pumpkin Princess to the park. The mosquitos like him better than they do the Pumpkin Princess. It would seem that she would have the higher metabolism and the fresher, nicotine and alcohol-free blood, but the mosquitos apparently prefer the Pumpkin Daddy's blood to hers.
So in a way, the Pumpkin Daddy protects us from mosquito bites and...I don't know, Japanese encephalitis perhaps? Though with global warming what it is, I expect soon it will be malaria that we're trying to get away from in Japan...
(or hot, or handsome, or awesome)
The Pumpkin Princess's new word, used to refer to the button the Pumpkin Granny stiched on her trousers so that she could tell which way was front. The button has a picture of a ladybug on it and I believe it used to be on a red cardigan I wore when I was in 3rd grade or therabouts. The cardigan was knit on a loom by a distant aunt and I think it either had tulips or giraffes knit into it.
What a fever!
No, no one, especially not the Pumpkin Princess, has a fever. It's just that temps have been hitting record highs the past couple of days. Yesterday, not too far from here, temps topped 40 degrees. Local temps were over 38 degrees. If the Pumpkin Princess had a fever of 38 degrees, I'd get a call from day care to come pick her up. If she were 40 degrees, I would drive to the pediatrician in the middle of the night. OK, the second part isn't 100% true. If she looked all right, I would give her something for the fever and coax her to drink some more water or juice.
I know that temps get higher in other parts of the world. It's just that this particular part of the world usually isn't this hot, and it's doing damage to crops and human lives. More climate change, I guess...
Let's wash our feet.
"Ashi wo arau" (to wash one's feet) means what it means literally but also to quit something or to cut ties with a group. For example, I could say I would wash my feet from anime fandom. Not that I ever was into anime fandom. Nope, not me. I've never been to Comic Market in Tokyo at the end of the year. Never into costuming, either. Not ever (whistles innocently as possible while breaking into a cold sweat).
Anyway, we washed the Pumpkin Princess's feet before lunch. We put her in a kiddie pool in our yard, but she wanted to walk around on the lawn and climb into the folding lawn chair, then go back into the house for lunch.
She doesn't have a bathing suit, so we just put cloth panties on her. She has yet to be potty trained, so the panties only go on when she gets into the kiddie pool at home and at day care.
Let's freeze it.
Chicken Teriyaki for the Working Person (I'd dub it Chicken Teriyaki for the Working Girl, but I know there are those of us out there who are male and cook for themselves.)
2 chicken thighs with skin but no bones
4T sake (Japanese rice wine)
3T soy sauce
1t grated ginger
salt and pepper
(T=1 tablespoon = 15ml, t=1 teaspoon =5 ml)
On a weekend, score skin side of chicken thighs. Combine rest of ingredients in a ziplock freezer bag. Add chicken, close bag while removing as much air as possible, and work the marinade into the chicken. Place in freezer.
The night before you want to have the chicken for dinner, move the chicken from the freezer to the refrigerator to defrost.
Cook thawed chicken skin side down over medium heat. When browned, turn over, turn heat down slightly, pour any marinade remaining in bag over the chicken, place a lid on frying pan and cook until done. Turn over a couple of times to work the pan drippings into the chicken. Serve with or over plain white rice. I also stir fry greens like spinach in the unwashed pan and let the pan drippings act as seasoning for the spinach.
I would suggest slicing on a cutting board before serving so you can make sure the chicken has been throughly cooked (and yes, I have sent sliced chicken back to the frying pan. More than once, in fact).
(my) Foot hurts.
The Pumpkin Princess got hand-foot-mouth disease from daycare. For the non-parent readers, this means that a virus she caught gave her itchy red spots which eventually turned into blisters on her hands, feet and mouth. The disease itself is considered mild, but the oral blisters develop inside the child's mouth as well, and this sometimes keeps the child from wanting to eat or drink. I didn't catch the red spots when I dropped her off at day care on Wednesday, but apparently the teacher noticed the moment I dropped her off and actually chased me a bit as I drove off. Am I a bad mommy or what? :P The teacher was a seasoned pro and reasoned if the Pumpkin Princess was eating and drinking (check) and not too crabby (check), she would be all right and kept her for the rest of the day until the Pumpkin Granny came to pick her up.
So the Pumpkin Princess stayed at the Pumpkin Granny's Thursday and Friday. She would point to her feet and say "foot hurt" (in Japanese of course). Her first sentence! Yay!
It's o.k. as long as it's just a little.
Anyone else feel that quake we had this morning? No? I didn't think so, just making sure. The quake's epicenter was quite a ways from us, but I was at home when it hit and felt it. The chandelier in the kitchen was swaying quite hard. The Pumpkin Princess was busy drawing with her crayons. I don't think she noticed.
Today's a holiday in Japan, but the Pumpkin Daddy had to go to work, so it's just the Pumpkin Princess and me. I did laundry and hung it out to dry while the Pumpkin Princess watched her favorite TV shows, "Inai-inai Baa" (Peek-a-boo, it features a 180 cm dog with green ears and a strange creature with baby rattles for ears and a personality reminiscent of Elmo from Sesame Street) and "Okaasan to Issho" (With Mother, not a very politically correct title in this day and age, but the show has been around for about two decades now, a Romper Room-esque featuring singing and dancing by a 20-something male and female duo. The woman is frighteningly thin and I keep waiting for the news that she's been hospitalized from complications due to anorexia nervosa, not a very good role model for the little girls). Then we drew some more and read picture books and played with lego blocks, and then went to the farmers' market where I bought two basil plants and some peaches. Lunch was somen noodles, cheese, and the purchased peaches. After lunch I put the Pumpkin Princess to bed and fired up the dishwasher, cleaned the bathtub, cut up veggies for the veggie and scallop stir fry and made the ratatouille for tonight's dinner.
The Pumpkin Princess is still napping, so I took the time to blog. I'm undecided what to do when she wakes. Maybe we'll check out the shopping mall for a couple of hours, I'm not sure. I'm going to go fold and put away the laundry while she is napping, which will give me more options.
I can do this stay at home mom thing, if it's only for a short while. The general concensus among my friends (none of them stay at home full time) is that full time stay at home moms are an amazing breed. It takes a very special person with a lot of patience and tolerance to be able to devote all their time to their home and family. I am much too selfish to be able to pull that off.
Wow, two entries in three days!
We've known each other a long time.
I've had the same hairdresser for the entire millenium. This means that she was cutting my hair before I was dating my boyfriend before my husband, and that I have known her longer than I have known my husband! Today she spent four hours perming, coloring and cutting my hair. The result is quite nice. The fashion magazine I bought the other day calls this style "Tokyo-maki" or Tokyo curls. It's slightly long hair in very loose curls. It looks nice, but styled nicely the way it is now, I feel like I have to wear more makeup.
Of course, I hardly ever style it the way she styled it today. I usually wear it tied back in a low ponytail.
It's like buying trash.
Every woman has a favorite mascara. Mine is Deja-vu Fiber Wig (I don't know if you can get it outside Japan, but it's remarkably clump-resistant and waterproof, and it washes off with hot water). Today I bought another tube, because you are supposed to replace mascara once every three months and I've had mine going for more like nine. I brought it home and I realized it was in a plastic case much larger than the tube itself. I understand that there has to be some kind of tamper-resistant mechanism so that the crazed evil psychopath can't slip goodness-knows-what in it rendering me blind or (more likely) some junior high school girl isn't opening a tube she hasn't paid for to primp up for her hot date. Still, wouldn't a simple tamper-preventing seal do just as well and be more environmentally friendly?
Friday, July 25, 2008
It's rather ordinary.
This past Friday, I took the Pumpkin Princess for her 18 month checkup. I took the entire day off, took the Pumpkin Princess to day care, did laundry, cleaned a bit, went to the farmer's market for some vegetables, had lunch (instant ramen noodles and a homemade banana milkshake), went to pick up the Pumpkin Princess, and headed for the City Health Center.
The exam started with an interview with nurses (I'm not quite sure what the English term for them is, they put in an extra year after nursing school and become certified to do things like public health care and managing home health care). Pumpkin City is known for being very strict about this interview. If a child doesn't do the things she's supposed to be doing at 18 months, like have a speaking vocabulary of four or more words or play with the building blocks on the table in front of her or show interest in the pictures of a car and a lion and a rabbit and a cat and an apple, they're required to follow up with a pediatrician. The Pumpkin Princess, as posted previously, boasts a hefty vocabulary that's more like 40 words than four words, but she wouldn't play with the blocks. She plays with them all the time at home, and there was no point in going to the pediatrician for a problem she didn't have, so I got sneaky and casually put one on top of another while discussing her eating habits with the nurse. When she saw what she was supposed to be doing, she did the same until all six cube-shaped blocks were on top of another. She then proceeded to topple her handiwork.
The rest of the exam was very ordinary. A quick height and weight and head circumference check, a very quick exam by a pediatrician, a dental exam, and dental hygene counseling (I hadn't known that 18 month-olds were supposed to use dental floss).
What was even more ordinary was that on the way home, we went to the grocery store for some additional shopping, got home, and watched TV together for a bit. The I let the Pumpkin Princess watch some more by herself while I cooked dinner and fed her. The Pumpkin Daddy got home at around 6:30, took a bath with her, and the two of us had dinner together and were finished before eight. Having dinner waiting for him on a weekday seemed, well, so normal and so ordinary. It was nice, but with the lifestyle I have chosen, it's not happening on a regular basis, so we enjoyed it when we had it.
Which song do you want to sing?
The Pumpkin Princess likes for me to sing to her on our way to day care. She always knows exactly which song she wants me to sing. The trouble is, she does not have a large enough vocabulary to tell me exactly which song she is in the mood for. So I'll sing a few bars until she goes "iyaiyaiyaiya" (nononono) and then sing a few more bars of another song until she goes "iyaiyaiyaiya" and so on until I find the correct song that she will wave her arms happily to.
She knows quite a few baby talk words now. She'll say "wa-wa" for dogs (wan wan is how dogs in Japan bark, the way English speaking dogs will bark bow wow. And can you believe I just typed that? "English speaking dogs." Hee!). Trouble is, foxes and even cats are "wan wan". She'll point to the butterflies in her picture books and say "toto" (She wants to say "cho-cho", which is Japanese for butterfly). Of course, bees and other miscelaneous insects are also "to-to". "Pan-pan" is when she wants bread (pan is bread, I understand it's a variation of the French word for bread, pain), or donuts or the Pumpkin Granny's homemade chiffon cake. "A-pa" is her pronunciation of "Anpan-man", a Japanese cartoon hero. Actually, she calls all the characters in that cartoon "A-pa".
She's starting to differentiate between Winnie the Pooh and Anpan-man, though. Which is a good thing, because one is a bear and the other is a bread with a sweet bean paste filling. I'll explain later, as the Pumpkin Daddy is out of the bathtub and it's my turn to wash off the day's worth of grime.
I'm going away.
Last Sunday, the Pumpkin Princess quite abruptly decided she was going to start her "I must always have either the Pumpkin Mommy or the Pumpkin Granny near me or I will cry" phase. She walked into the bathroom where the Pumpkin Daddy was waiting for her with a smile on her face, but started screaming the moment I closed the door. Not even the blue surfing hippo or the wind-up Anpanman submarine could console her. The Pumpkin Daddy just grit his teeth and washed her as best he could.
The next day, the same thing happened to the Pumpkin Grandpa. The Pumpkin Princess happily walked into the bathroom where the Pumpkin Grandpa was waiting, and screamed as soon as she lost sight of the Pumpkin Granny.
The Pumpkin Grandpa was upset to the point of angry at this. The Pumpkin Daddy was not so angry as he was unhappy, and announced to the Pumpkin Princess that he was going far away, to which the Princess replied "baah" and waved.
Of course, on Wednesday, the Pumpkin Princess wrapped herself around the Pumpkin Daddy's leg while laughing, and all was forgiven. One phase down, 456 billion to go...
A net addiction is dangerous.
The Pumpkin Princess hasn't been in day care for the past two days because (TMI alert!) she's had diarrhea (I'm talking a maximum of four diaper changes in an hour). Interestingly enough, she's been happy and playful and running around the entire time. It doesn't seem right to take a 17 month-old to the doctor when she's singing and dancing in front of the television, but it didn't seem fair to have the day care provider changing four diapers an hour when she's got four other babies to look after, so I took her to the Pumpkin Granny. Poor Pumpkin Granny had made plans for a lunch with her friends, but there was nowhere else to turn on such short notice. The Pumpkin Daddy and I are very very sorry that we had to ask her to cancel, and plan to get takeout sushi this weekend and serve it to her in the Pumpkin Palace so that she has no cooking or dishwashing to do that evening.
Regarding the phrase of the day, I consider myself an internet junkie. It's probably a comparatively harmless addiction compared to alcohol or illicit drugs, particularly when kept in check. Which I try to do. It's just that with so many interesting things to read (including but not limited to blogs of people I know and people I don't know), and only so much time to myself, I can easily eat up time that was meant to be doing something more productive. Like sleeping. The other day, I spent over an hour browsing online catalogs and Yahoo! Japan Auctions (the largest internet auction site in Japan is not eBay) looking for some summer clothes for the Pumpkin Princess. I ended up going to bed after the date had changed, and the next day I nodded off at work. Eeep!
So it's past 11pm here. I'm off to bed.
(I) don't need it.
A list of things the Pumpkin Princess does not need when leaving for day care (but tried to take with her anyway and threw herself on the floor screaming when the Pumpkin Mommy tried to take them away from her) in no particular order:
1. Kuma-san, the pink teddy bear
2. Kumako-chan, the stuffed koala. (Please don't ask why on earth the Pumpkin Granny decided to name a stuffed koala Kuma (bear), or how this will influence the Pumpkin Princess's take on zoology and nomenclature.)
3. The yellow balloon she got from the Aflac booth last weekend at the shopping mall.
4. The TV remote.
5. The spare key to the Pumpkin Prius.
6. The bucket the Pumpkin Clan uses for hand washing laundry.
7. A recent ATM receipt, potentially revealing to the entire day care staff the financial status of the Pumpkin Clan.
8. The Pumpkin Daddy's old mobile phone.
9. The Pumpkin Daddy's new mobile phone.
10. The Pumpkin Mommy's only mobile phone.
After a couple of minutes, I calmed down and felt really really guilty. I came back to a still crying Pumpkin Princess and a Pumpkin Daddy who had a "why are you so angry" look.
So for Mother's Day, I had three Pumpkin-free hours to myself, courtesy of the Pumpkin Daddy. I went grocery shopping, prepared dinner, did a bit of cleaning, and took and hour-long nap. It's not expensive jewelry. Heck, it was better than jewelry.
There are some days I just know I am not cut out for this mommy stuff, and last Saturday was one of them.
Busy and tired is not a good combination. I am not quite sure if I want to write this, but a net friend of mine posted an honest account of herself so I think perhaps I should do the same. However, I think she handled things with much more grace than I could ever pretend to...
So like I posted before, Saturday was the Department Barbecue for the Pumpkin Daddy's work. It was about an hour's drive to the park. The barbecue itself was fun enough. The Pumpkin Princess had a wonderful time chasing soap bubbles, sharing baby-friendly snacks with other babies, and generally just running around. This is probably where the trouble started. I wore myself out quite a bit chasing the Pumpkin Princess. I think we were there for a total of perhaps four or five hours. I probably spent about three of those hours either chasing or carrying the Pumpkin Princess. To be fair, the Pumpkin Daddy did quite a bit of chasing as well, but he also got to down about six cans of beer.
It would have been smart to just stop there, but for some reason I decided it would be smart to look for a coffee mill at the shopping mall located just off the way home. The Pumpkin Daddy announced that he was hungry and thirsty, so I bought him takoyaki (non-Japanese people, it will suffice for now to say that it's an interesting junk food popular in Japan.) The Pumpkin Princess fussed, and I realized I had left her sippy cup in the car and the straw attachment I had brought with me did not fit the plastic bottle of water I had just purchased. So I made a mad dash in the quasi-summer heat to the parking lot to fetch the sippy cup, filled it, handed it to the Princess, who promptly threw it on the ground. The Pumpkin Daddy ate his takoyaki in a drunken stupor while I was doing all this. The Princess was crying by now, and I suggested that perhaps we should go home, but the Daddy said that it would be OK. So, against my judgement,we went into the store, but I didn't like the single coffee mill they had. We could have checked other stores, but tired and in an awfully sour mood by then, I felt that I needed to go home NOW. I shoved a reluctant Daddy and a bawling Princess into the car. The Daddy fell into a drunken nap, and thankfully, so did the Princess.
The Princess woke up the moment I unsnapped her infant seat, so I had to deal with a crying and clingy Pumpkin while trying to cook dinner. The Daddy tried to intervene, but the Princess was beyond reason, and just cried and cried.
OK, I have a Pumpkin Princess to tend to. Perhaps I will post the rest of the story later this weekend.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
Perhaps it is another sign of global climate change, but the past few days were unseasonably warm. The Pumpkin Princess has outgrown most of her summer clothes from last year and I was at a loss what to do until the weekend (until we could go shopping), but the Pumpkin Granny discovered that a lot of her short sleeved dresses still fit. They were short, but paired with pants, we could say that they were tunic tops. She'll be wearing a "tunic top" to the Pumpkin Daddy's company barbecue tomorrow.
(She) can't play outside.
The Pumpkin Daycare asked us to send our Pumpkins to daycare with shoes. So I did. I'd been sending her in stocking feet, and she would wear shoes that were kept at day care. I figured they would send her "day care" shoes home with her if she went with her "at home" shoes on.
She didn't. The Pumpkin Granny went to pick her up without specifics on the shoe situation, and brought her home just the way the daycare providers had handed the Pumpkin Princess to her, which was barefoot. The Pumpkin Princess now has no shoes at home. If she doesn't get them back tomorrow, she will not be able to go to the park and play on the slide and swing on the swings with the Pumpkin Daddy.
We will have one very unhappy Pumpkin Princess (major understatement).
So, send home the shoes, Pumpkin Daycare!
(The baby) is sleepy.
The Pumpkin mommy and daddy screwed up today. We went to the mall (yes, again) for lunch and some shopping. While we were pushing the Pumpkin Princess's stroller, she fell asleep in it. That was her nap. After the mall, we went to the housing center nextdoor, where they were showing homes that were unrealistically large and lavish (we were hoping for decorating ideas). Then we went grocery shopping for tonight's dinner. The grocery has carts that have seats with steering wheels for little children, and the Pumpkin Princess enjoyed sitting in a Doraemon cart. In fact, she enjoyed it so much, when we unstrapped her to leave the store, she threw a temper tantrum. I've never seen her get so attached to a toy that wasn't hers. We didn't get home until 6:10 pm (usually when the Pumpkin Princess has dinner) and by the time she'd had her bath and finished dinner, it was 8:30. Oh well.
We got the "packing without unpacking" package for our move. That is, the movers packed everything like the china and the books and whatnot, hauled everything to the new house, and left after putting all the furniture where it belonged and unloading all the boxes. I think we've opened (but not quite unpacked) about 1/3 of the boxes, which is not too shabby. We'll have Golden Week to deal with the rest.
The house is very, very large and seems to have too many doors, but I expect I'll get used to it eventually. The Pumpkin Princess's new favorite pastime is running around in circles through the hall and the living room.
Yes, the girl runs now. We are very, very afraid.
Just what time do you think it is?
Today, just as I had activated the home security system, slung the Pumpkin Princess's Day Care Bag (containing five diapers, a change of clothes, a plastic bib and a folder for any notices she might bring home) and my work bag (severely battered 8 year-old black leather bag...hey, it has character and it has been a part of my life longer than both the Pumpkin Daddy and the Pumpkin Princess, combined) over my shoulder, convinced the Pumpkin Princess that she didn't need a bucket (used for mopping and laundry) to go to day care, and coaxed her to walk down the hall to the door, the bell rang. It was my landlady. She wanted me to sign a petition to...(this is where you insert the sound Charlie Brown's teacher makes when she's speaking to the students, I think she mentioned something about a traffic light somewhere in our neighborhood).
I signed the petition. It seemed the quickest way to get her out of my hair, and it's not like she was trying to get me to sign for a constitutional amendment making gay relationships criminal or a new nuclear power plant 2 miles from our apartment or anything. At least I don't think so.
But why, oh why, did she feel the need to come to my door at 8:15 in the morning??? Do people who don't work full time (she lives on disability and the rent we pay) not have a sense of what mornings are like for people who do? Especially those who have a Pumpkin Princess who needs to get to day care??
When I had finished signing and she had left, the Pumpkin Princess had the bucket in her hands again. I gave up on convincing her a second time, and I strapped her in the car seat, bucket and all. She dropped it sometime during the car trip. We made it to day care and work on time, no thanks to the landlady.
(You've) changed a bit.
We went to the funeral yesterday. There was a picture of Grandmother at the alter which must have been at least 10 years old, around when (at 82 years old) she was making a 4 km walk to the park wice a week to fulfill her obligations as Honorary President-for-Life of her Tai Chi club. There was a thin frail wrinkled little old lady in a casket which looked a little bit like the lovely woman in the picture, but I had serious trouble making a connection between the two. My aunt, who had lived with my grandmother all her life, probably felt the two were one and the same. She was crying as we covered Grandmother with white chrystanthemums and pink orchids and lay her favorite scarf, her comb, her chopsticks, and the bag she took her towel and wallet in to the Tai Chi club meetings in the casket to be cremated with her.
Today's phrase, however, isn't about Grandmother. It's about something that happened at work.
Our department has a "face sheet" which has all our pictures and names and cell phone numbers. Our secretary made the face sheet just a couple of months ago and we pinned them up on corkboards all over the workplace. The sheet is quite popular as it helps people put names with our faces, and is a handy reference when someone needs to get hold of one of us.
The other day, our secretary pointed a camera at me while I was doing paperwork. I asked her what the picture was for, and she replied it was for the new face sheet. And then she whispered, "I can't just re-take one picture, can I?"
I told her I had no idea what she meant, and she looked at me funny. "Are you sure?"
I was sure.
The secretary pointed at a picture on the old face sheet. "Don't you notice a difference?"
My boss had less hair three months ago than he does now.
Well, the fact that I hadn't noticed until I'd had it pointed out to me means that it's high-quality work, doesn't it?
(I) used to live in Shanghai long ago.
My grandmother went to high school. This is very unusual for her age, and it shows that she was from a well-off family. Her father was friends with the Indian poet Tagor. After graduation, she married my grandfather in an arranged marriage (probably sounds familiar to the Asians among us). Grandfather's work took the family to Shanghai, which was occupied by Japan back then. She had a Chinese housekeeper who taught her to cook Chinese recipies. I make vegetable stir-fry quite frequently. I think it's all connected; I learned to cook from my mother, who learned to cook from my grandmother, who learned to cook Chinese from her housekeeper.
When Japan lost the war, the resident Japanese made a mad dash for the harbor so that they could board ships bound for Japan before (understandably) vengeful Chinese had something to say. My mother was all of seven months old at the time. Her survival of the journey back to Japan is something of a family legend.
They'd lost everything. I am not exactly sure how it came to be so when my grandfather was alive and well at the time, but my grandmother was the breadwinner for the family of six. At one time, she worked as a washwoman in one of the American bases in Tokyo. They were looking for someone younger and tuberculosis free (Streptomycin cured her tuberculosis, but left her deaf in one ear), but unlike any of the other applicants, she spoke English (she'd studied it in high school) so they took her. My mother was one of the only people in her class whose mother could help her with her English homework.
When my youngest sister was born in the US, she flew over to help my mother take care of me and my younger brother while she recovered. Again, she wrangled the local supermarkets and elementary school pick-ups with her English skills and her general savvy.
That's how we remember my grandmother. That beautiful woman has been gone for a while (the end stages of Alzheimer's left her staring at the ceiling. She had to be fed through a hole in her stomach), and we all miss her, but that's just the way nature works, I guess. So when she finally left us this past Tuesday, no one seemed that sad. And that doesn't make us bad people. It just means that the way she has been the past year or so is not the way we remember her. Which, I think, is how my grandmother would like it.
(Let's) save money.
To be honest, we've actually already found the perfect dining table. It's more a matter of finding a way to afford it.
(I don't know how to make a direct link, but look for "Domino Legno" in the tables section.)
At its standard size, it's exactly right for our kitchen, and when you extend it, the legs are still in the corners, unlike a lot of extending tables. However, it costs about three times as much as we had planned to spend on a dining table. I think I'll throw a 100 yen coin in a jam jar for every time I remember to take a bottle of water to work. We should be able to afford it in about 20 years.
The first thing to do is remove the battery.
If you ever get your cell phone wet, first remove the battery. Then dry well in a cool dark place. Do not, under any circumstances, put the battery back in or turn the power back on until you are absolutely sure the phone is completely dry.
That's what the Pumpkin Daddy says, anyway. He works in the industry, you should know. I didn't know this until he mentioned it while having dinner with my friends I and Y.
Several months later, Y accidentally dropped her cell phone in a cup of tea. She did exactly as the Pumpkin Daddy said, and saved her phone along with the phone numbers of all her friends and relatives. (It's not so much the phone itself that's important, it's the data inside. At least, for me, anyway. And most of the people I've talked to.)
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
"Let's see how things go for now."
In the soap opera that is hottie co-worker K and Secretary, apparently K went to Secretary's parents and said that he was very sorry but he could not marry Secretary. Secretary responded by having a nervous breakdown. Or so I have heard. Maybe I'm getting things mixed up with a daytime soap circa 1955.
Today's phrase is the concensus reached by all parties involved in the Pumpkin Palace AC Generator Noise Crisis. We left the AC running for 24 hours, and the neighbors decided it was a noise level that they could live with. They correctly pointed out that the noise level would likely go up during the summer months when the AC would run full throttle (the Pumpkin Clan would have brought that point up if they hadn't) but that they really couldn't say anything until summer actually came. So we're all good until around late June or early July. As my net friend Angie said, now for the fun stuff! The search for the perfect kitchen dining table, for example.
It can't be helped.
Our new house has central air. I haven't lived in a house that has central air since I was 14. They are not the norm in Japan, and ours is apparently the only one in the neighborhood that has it. We found this out the hard way last week when the housebuilders fired up the AC for a test run. The neighbors in the house behind us complained about the noise. They do have a point. The neighborhood is mostly people my parents' generation, and when school's out (local elementary school about a 1 minute walk from the house, major point of purchase in this day and age of missing and exploited children) the only sound you hear is birds chirping. And now, the generator for our AC.
However, it's a legal machine that we went (further) into debt to buy, and we are using it. They can't stop us. Neener, neener. Or something.
So for the first time in my life, I am in debt (I even bought my first new car with money I saved, but mostly because I knew I would not qualify for a loan when I bought it). The first mortgage payment is due this coming Monday. It's official, I'm a mortgage mom.
That is so over.
Several months ago, my friend O and I fixed up one of my co-workers with one of the secretaries in her department. The secretary had caught glimpses of my co-worker and had developed a crush on him and confided in O. I'd heard at the time that K used to have a girlfriend who was strangely clingy, insecure, and somewhat, um, unstable. O asked me if I had K's e-mail address, I forwarded the addy to O, and the next thing I knew O told me Secretary and K had met each others' parents.
That was several months ago. A couple days ago, I got a call from O saying that K had been pulling some seriously weird stuff on Secretary. Stuff like contacting his old girlfriend and then lying about it. Stuff like being very cold and cruel one day, warm and sweet the next, and then not returning calls for days on end. Stuff like saying he wanted to marry her, and then saying he couldn't marry her because his parents didn't approve, but that he still loved her so they didn't have to break up if she didn't want to. Secretary was so upset by all this, she got depression and went on medication.
If there ever was a sign that a relationship was over, having to go on antidepressants is probably one. (I don't mean to say that being on antidepressants disqualifies you from having a relationship. What I mean is that if the relationship makes you so unhappy that you end up needing antidepressants that you weren't on before, he/ she is probably not right for you.)
I used to have a boyfriend who described all his old girlfriends as "insecure psycho-women". Like K, he was good looking. And like K, he was one for mixed messages and infidelity and stringing along (Btw, another sign that the relationship is over: you are getting relationship tips from a book titled "Rules for being a Mistress"). After having had a very bad relationship with him, I see now that he turned his girlfriends (including me) into psycho-women.
My relationship with K is purely professional. Some co-workers I consider my friends and do stuff with them outside work. K is not one of them. K as a co-worker is easy enough to work with. He certainly is a hottie. I never would have guessed he was the sort to hurt someone by sending confusingly mixed messages, but I understand that what I am hearing is quite probably true. I understand that his old girlfriend might have been less clingy, less insecure, and more stable before she started seeing K.
So some people just do this, and K is not the only one. I don't know why they do the things they do. Maybe it's the only way they know how to keep drawing attention to themselves once the relationship has moved beyond physical beauty. Or something. I don't know. But they do, and it hurts, and it's all right to protect yourself from getting hurt.
One good thing about having survived a seriously dysfunctional relationship is knowing how nice it is to be in a functional relationship. So, thank you, psycho-women generating boyfriend, for driving home how lucky I am to have the Pumpkin Daddy (and the Pumpkin Princess, too!)
So sad for Secretary, though. Since she's depressed, part of the disease is that you can't bring yourself to make decisions, so she probably can't make the decision to end the relationship. It isn't my place to say anything to K because, well, I hardly know Secretary, not to mention their relationship is none of my business, and it isn't O's place to say anything to K because, well, see above (but replace first person personal pronous with "O", "Secretary" with "K", and conjugate verbs appropriately). If Secretary can't decide to get away from K because she is depressed, and he is going to string her along because that's just the way he is, what's going to become of her?
There is no accounting for taste.
Public concensus on certain figures varies betweeen here and the US. Here, apparently, Michael Jackson is still kind of cool. I can relate to a certain extent. I mean, seen videos from his "Thriller" era recently? The vocals and dance are incredible. Minor plastic surgery enhanced his already good looks. Now, of course, is a different story. And acting on pediophilic desires is a crime. Then again, I would not pay 400,000 yen to take a picture with him, now or then. What scared me was a TV interview of a woman about 20 or thereabouts, saying that since she met Michael Jackson in person, her lifetime dram has come true and she doesn't have anything to live for anymore. Um, you REALLY need to get out more.
Another person whose status seems to differ here is Robert Kiyosaki. Here, he's the brilliant enterpeneur. A quick search on Google for ロバート キヨサキ（for those of you who got a garbled mess, I typed Robert Kiyosaki in Japanese) turns up the Japanese version of his official website RichDad. com and a bunch of blogs raving about how absolutely fabulous he is. Try the same on Google for Robert Kiyosaki and one of the first sites that comes up is a somewhat obsessively detailed site debunking the things he has said that have made him (in)famous.
Let me see...oh, I forgot an important one. Tom Cruise. He's still hot here. You hardly hear anything about Scientology over here. In fact, hardly anyone here has ever even heard of Scientology, period.
It's graduation season here in Japan. For some strange reason, they're asking me for proof of high school graduation at work. Um, my PhD isn't good enough for you? (It's not actually a PhD, but it's something you get after four years in school AFTER four years of undergrad.)
This past Sunday, the Pumpkin Daddy took a somewhat cranky Pumpkin Princess outside while I got dinner ready. A pregnant mother came out of the adjacent apartment building with a cute baby girl about 2 years old, and said she was so glad that there were other babies in the apartment complex, she was staying with her parents to have her second baby and were there any parks in the neighborhood? The Pumpkin Daddy said he didn't really know, and the mother said, "oh, of course, she's not made her park debut yet!"
Ah, yes, the park debut (Koen debyu). The first time a new mother takes the baby, a year old or so, in the pram, to the nearby park. There are other mothers with babies there, but they already have their own cliques. It takes a lot of savvy diplomacy and a sense of humor and an engaging personality to enter the social world of weekday parks. Some mothers, unable to break in, become park nomads in search of a society that will accept them...
Darned if I'll ever go there. I finished with cliques my 2nd year of university. It's weekend picnics at the local forest preserve for this Pumpkin Clan.
"(They've) thought about the target customers.
OK, it's official. The Pumpkin Clan are mall junkies. We went to the mall again yesterday, which makes three trips in two months, and would have gone again today if we didn't get such a late start after breakfast. Yesterday we discovered the handicapped accessible toilets, which are also intended for diaper changes. The Pumpkin Daddy and I just wheeled the Pumpkin Princess's stroller into the large booth, closed and locked the automatic door, pulled her pants down, strapped her to the changing table, changed her diaper, tossed the diaper into the designated diaper bin, unstrapped her, pulled her pants back up, strapped her back into her stroller, unlocked and opened the door, and wheeled her back out. We also discovered the "Family Corner", which had a microwave for heating baby food and water for formula and a "mommies only" area for breast feeding (in Japan, you don't reserve the right to breast feed in a public place).
The Pumpkin Daddy went to a massage parlor and got his shoulders done. We had lunch at the food court (which was clean had a wide selection of food and an ample supply of high chairs, what more does a family need?), bought some clothes for the Pumpkin Princess, and some Lush bath bombs, one of which found its way into the bath water last night. So, yaaay!
(Gosh, which do I sound more like, a soccer mom or a mortgage mom?)
"I cannot do that."
Yesterday I took the Pumpkin Princess to the pediatrician for her measles/ rubella vaccination. We ran into a girl born at the same clinic on the same day as the Pumpkin Princess, and her mom. Mom said that she was going to start day care in April in the next town. Now, if I recall correctly, Mom was living in a distant large metropolis with her husband and was having her baby in that clinic because it was near her parents' who lived in the next town. So now she's living near her parents' (or with them perhaps?) and is no longer wearing a wedding ring. I was afraid to ask...
Anyway, the mom asked me about day care and one of the things we talked about was diapers. Even though I am a semi-environmentalist, I cannot bring myself to use cloth diapers. If there were a local diaper service, I might consider, but there isn't one for babies, and the Pumpkin Day Care asks that you put 5 disposable diapers in the kid's bag every day, so Pampers (or whatever Japanese analog that is on sale that week) it is. The mom said that her nephews' day care insisted you write the kid's name on each diaper with a Magic Marker, and since there were two nephews, her brother and s-i-l wrote names on 10 diapers every evening.
So is it such a big deal if you send a baby with 5 Pampers and he comes home in Huggies? Or am I missing something?
It isn't environmentally friendly.
Al Gore was in Japan a while back, promoting his film. I'm not 100% sure that things are as drastic as he says, but he does have a point. As a wanabee diver, I want Maldives and Yap and Galapagos to be around when I get back into things, and I want to be able to see them with the Pumpkin Princess. Current trends in climate change do make me a bit uncertain that this will happen.
Here are some things I do for the environment, in the order they pop into my head. I don't think all of these things are for everyone, but they work for me.
1. Drive a hybrid.
Hybrid cars are more expensive than their conventional counterparts. The point of a hybrid isn't that you're saving money on gas. From a money point of view, you'll probably break even at best. The point is that if you can afford to, you should drive a car that uses less gas as a sign of your affluence and intelligence and emotional security. Or something.
2. Use recycled paper products.
Stationery. Oh, and toilet tissuse made from recycled paper. The other day, I found Kleenex and paper towels made from recycled paper. I'm wary about using the paper towels for cooking, but for wiping a greasy stove or a microwave, they are more than good enough.
3. Sort the trash the way the city likes it.
Burnable trash, recycleable glass bottles, metal cans, recycleable plastic packaging. Takes up room in the kitchen, but it's kind of inevitable. I also make it a point to squeeze the excess water out of anything caught in the sink strainer. Less water means less energy for combustion (the city burns its burnable trash).
Gross? I figure that's what rubber gloves are for.
4. Limit my consumption of plastic bottle beverages.
In Japan, they don't reuse plastic beverage bottles. They recycle them into clothing. I've tried wearing a recycled PET jacket. It was stiff and scratchy.
I like sodas, so I know I will drink them. I try to remember to take a bottle of home brewed tea with me to drink at work, so I don't have to buy anything. Saves money, too.
5. Turn off the water heater when not using hot water.
Our apartment has a water heater that heats water on demand, so it only needs to be on when you actually need hot water.
I can go on, but maybe on another day.
It was more fun than expected!
The Pumpkin Princess, the Pumpkin Daddy and I went to the new large suburban shopping mall about half an hour away from our apartment. It was the Pumpkin Daddy's idea. I wasn't too keen on it because I'd been hearing horror stories about the crowds and the parking space (or rather lack thereof) from people at work, but he suggested that if the parking looked too awful we could turn back and go check out housebuilder's showrooms for decorating ideas.
Parking was all right, but we ended up in the lot across the street from the mall building itself. There were about 10 parking attendants (about 7 too many) and they wouldn't let us jaywalk, and they wouldn't let us push the Pumpkin Princess's stroller up the walkway. We had to take her out, fold the stroller, and carry both it and her up the stairs. The Pumpkin Daddy was most annoyed (rightfully so, he carried the Pumpkin Princess and the stroller up the stairs) and later told me at that particlar time he thought he never wanted to come here again.
Some of the Pumpkin Daddy's co-workers had been to the mall and said that it was large and spacious and there were supposedly lots of stores that hadn't had shops in this area until now, but they'd never heard of any of them so they weren't all that impressed. The moment I got in I was squealing "Oooh, Lush (British natural cosmetics)! Oooh, Franc Franc (Japanese furniture and household items store)! Can we have Kihachi (Japanese pastry shop known for their soft serve ice cream)???" So I guess I'm more up to the newly popular stores than the Pumpkin Daddy's co-workers are. Inside the mall was...a standard issue American shopping mall. Which isn't something you see very often in this part of the country. They had a lot of cool restaurants which I would love to check out if we weren't on a tight budget right now. We are definitely going there again, probably to buy china at Franc Franc.
I'll pay if you say I must...
It'll be tax time in a month or so. The Pumpkin Daddy gets his taxes automatically deducted from his pay, but since I have such a wild paycheck (long story) I have to do my own taxes every year. I have to enter by hand who paid me what and stuff I bought that I might be able to write off, and print everything out and mail it to the tax office. The alternative is connecting a magnetized card reader to my computer and letting it read an ID card and taking it from there. It would circumvent the printing out and mailing process, but it would involve 1) purchasing a magnetized card reader 2) applying for an ID card at the city office. It doesn't make sense to have to buy a card reader for the benifit of the tax department, especially since it doesn't even seem to be tax deductable!
I'm trying to think what things I have bought that might be tax deductable, and I'm not coming up with anything. I envy my dive instructor friend, who can write off every bit of dive gear he buys. Heck, I envy him because he gets to dive. I haven't been underwater since February 2005.
Speaking of dive instructor friends, I'm getting more hits to this blog than can be explained by people I know. So, if you just came across me by accident or Google search for "Japanese phrases" or somesuch, drop me a line!
If you duck, your head won't get hit.
Too much television is bad for you, especially if you are under the age of two. Or so I've heard.
I am not sure how much television the Pumpkin Princess watches. Before you all start branding me A Bad Parent, let me explain. The Pumpkin Princess goes to day care from 9 to 3. The Pumpkin Granny then picks her up, takes her home with her, and watches her until I finish work (6 or 7 in the evening). The two hours between the moment she wakes up and the moment she gets to day care, and the two hours between the time I get to the Pumpkin Granny's to pick her up and the time she goes to bed are the only periods I know and have control of how much television she watches. I know that she watches DVDs at day care (mostly educational DVDs in the form of taped children's programming from NHK, think Sesame Street type shows), and I know that she watches the children's programs on NHK with the Pumpkin Granny, but to be honest, I'm not sure exactly how much.
I do know that she likes a show that features the canine equivalent of Barney (except Wan-wan the dog is not purple, he's white with floppy brown ears). I, however, have a different favorite. If you have a lot of time, go to YouTube and run a search on "Pythagoras Switch". It's a kids' show like no other. The Pumpkin Princess loves the "Algorithm Exercise" song.
That's just the way it is.
I went to high school and university in Japan. I did not attend preschool, elementary school, or most of junior high school here. High school was pretty lax and big on letting people do their own thing, as long as it did not go against the (comparatively lax) school rules.
University was a whole different story. I won't elaborate when and where and what I studied on this blog (although if you don't know me but really set your heart on stalking me, you probably could figure it out), but I'll just say that it was immensely speicalized and that people in the field are known to be somewhat conservative.
Japanese society has a lot of injustices. One of them is gender inequality. We are ranked lowest among industrialized nations for gender equality, and are ranked lower than some developing countries. I was kind of sheltered from this because my high school was all girls. University was 2/3 men.
Another injustice is seniority. No matter how moronic and downright annoying someone is, if he is older than you, he commands your respect. End of discussion, full stop, concluding statement, all that good stuff.
University is where I had this stuff shoved down my throat.
It's no secret I didn't enjoy it. But I appreciate that it was shoved down my throat, because if it didn't happen during university, it would have had to happen when I started working, and that would have been disasterous.
I'm not saying that I accept the situation as it is. What I mean is that the environment needs to be acknowleged, in a know your enemy kind of way, and then you can choose what to do with it. You can accept it, you can try to wiggle your way through it, you can work around it, or you can face it head on. I think I've adopted a wiggling and going-around approach to it, garnished with the occasional battles (I wish I could say that they were carefully picked battles, but the sad truth is that they are usually result of a flared temper).
You'll regret it later!
The soon-to-be Pumpkin Palace, three blocks from where the Pumpkin Granny lives, has got its shape. It's got a roof, all its doors and windows, and most of its walls. This past Saturday, the Pumpkin Daddy and I went on the final check for plumbing, electricity and gas pipes. I wasn't really sure why they needed us there until the kitchen people asked me if I wanted a granite pattern counter around the sink (I'd asked for white). At the last minute we decided to ask for additional power outlets in the family area, kitchen, and outside. That probably means more safety hazards that the Pumpkin Princess can stick a fork in, but it will make for easier vacuuming. I guess we'll just have to buy a lot of outlet covers.
The Pumpkin Palace will be a lovely place to live. Now all we have to do is pay for it all.
I've turned into a mortgage mom...
Happy New Year!
Erratum: "Yoi otoshi wo" means "I hope you have a happy new year." And, I truly hope you have a happy new year.
I've got a new calendar up beside this computer. So a new year begins, this one being the last year in this apartment. It's a decent apartment, just the right size for the three of us, but it was a bit exciting, and you don't really want an apartment to have excitement. Hopefully I'll find the time to post about that another day.
I spent the New Year Holiday doing, well, nothing, besides trying to train the Pumpkin Princess into sleeping through the night. It's working o.k. so far, but we'll see...
As for work, I spent the final days of the year writing English. That's not the job description, but I write English better than anyone at work, and there was English that needed writing. It was kind of funny because my boss told me what he would like me to write in Japanese, and I said I wasn't quite sure what he meant so could he please rephrase it or something. His reply was that I wasn't supposed to be sure because what he was saying didn't quite make sense, and that he wanted me to BS.
So I did. I like to think the end result was something that might have come from prizewinning Jerseys fed entirely on organic grain and alfalfa.
Wasn't it fun to watch?
I forgot to mention a very important event. The Pumpkin Princess made her stage debut two Saturdays ago. The Pumpkin Day Care held its annual Christmas performance. Every child got on the stage and had a part in it. The Pumpkin Princess's class danced shook homemade shakers (small plastic bottles containing beads and sequins and decorated with ribbons, but not before being sealed very very tightly) to Christmas music. At least, that was the plan. No one expected things to go as planned (can you still call it a plan if no one, including the planners, expect it to go through?) as we are talking about babies aged 4 to 16 months. A couple of the older babies shook their shakers and danced off beat. One baby found her mommy in the audience and pointed to her excitedly while smiling and shaking her shaker, to the delight of the entire hall, which was packed to capacity. The older kids sang Christmas songs and danced and pantomimed to pre-recorded voice acting and music. The oldest kids (5 and 6 years old) performed a Christmas Pagent.
Every time I see a Christmas Pagent, I am reminded of the childrens' book "The Best Christmas Pagent Ever" (I think that was the title). However, the Pumpkin Day Care's Pagent involved no ham, and a single clan did not dominate the entire main cast.
My favorite performance was by the boys in the oldest class. Clad in happi jackets with their names calligraphied on the back, they danced, boyband style, to pop music. I've never been a fan of preschool kids dancing in unison, but that dance looked fun to be a part of, even for little boys. There were two boys who were obviously better than the rest, and I wondered if they took dance lessons or something.
Enjoy the rest of the year.
I hope the people who celebrate it had a Merry Christmas. I hope those who don't had (or will have) a pleasant winter holiday of their choice. Personally, I think the hype and commercialism of Christmas is quite overdone in Japan, especially since New Years is so very commercial as well. I think one overly commercial holiday a season is quite enough, thank you very much.
The Pumpkin Princess turned a year old a couple weeks ago. She got two toys from the Pumpkin Mommy and the Pumpkin Daddy, and a stuffed cat and some clothes from her Pumpkin Granny, and (get this) 10,000 yen from her other Granny. The most faithful Pumpkin Subjects were quite horrified, and are considering putting this money in the Princess's "going to university" bank account. For Christmas, she didn't get anything from her mommy and daddy because these mean, lazy people figured they will be meticulous about celebrating both her birthday and Christmas properly when she is old enough to complain when it is otherwise, but that they will take full advantage of the fact that she has no such intellectual capacity at this point. The Pumpkin Granny had no such malicious tendencies and got the Pumpkin Princess two picture books, a puzzle, a teddy bear, building blocks, and stuffed toys (made by the Pumpkin Granny herself) in a tiny tote bag (also made by the Pumpkin Granny).
Work is a lot of the same, but I suppose since I consider my work to be more interesting than the usual corperate cubicle, I should not complain. I was helping my friend put her thesis together, but we suffered a big setback yesterday (on Christmas day, of all days! Poor woman has got to be devastated) and are trying to regroup and find a different tactic to make the January 23rd deadline.
It's the first long trip, ever.
The Pumpkin Princess and her two most faithful subjects went on a long drive to visit the Pumpkin Cousins. We all had fun. We're hoping the Pumpkin Cousins can come visit us in about six months or so. Right now, the apartment is too small for four additional people.
(I, He, She) have (has) become a boring person.
The other day, I received a Christmas photo card from an old friend. It was a picture of her beautiful 2 year-old boy. She had also enclosed a generic "Christmas letter".
Now, I've absolutely nothing against generic Christmas letters. I like them. They're an efficient way to fill people in on what is going on in your life. I send them myself sometimes.
However, my friend's letter was about three paragraphs long, and two of the paragraphs detailed the various infectuous diseases her toddler had caught during the past year.
I would have liked to hear more about the new shop she was building with her husband, or the church stuff she was doing, or...well, anything, really, since she'd told me enough about gastroenteritis and ear infections.
I thought about what a letter I wrote would look like.
The Pumpkin Princess started day care and is thriving, but also gets the standard issue infections
I went back to work and am enjoying it immensely
My mom is cool because she picks up the Pumpkin Princess at day care and looks after her until I'm done
We planned, and are currently having built, our first house (putting me in debt for the first time, well, ever)
Well, it looks a lot like my friend's letter, but I won't list all the infectuous diseases. I promise.
There's still a month until Chrismas.
My mother still speaks fondly of the Christmas decorations at the local mall, a half-hour drive from where we used to live. This was over two decades ago, and the commercialism and saccharine of the holiday season wasn't as, well, downright scary as it is in the present day US.
Unfortunately, Japan is catching up. And fast. I have already been hearing Chrismas songs on the radio for at least two weeks. At least in the US, you have Thanksgiving as a barrier for the Christmas craziness. Here, all we have is Halloween, if that. I can understand how Japan would not be celebrating the anniversary of a non-harvest non-feast (three grains of parched corn?? And the locals brought you food, and you show them thanks by systematically killing their prey animals, taking away their land, marching them across the continent so that the majority of them die from exhaustion and cold, and force them on reservations. Um, way to show gratitude, Pilgrims?) in a then-non-country on a different continent, but could we please at least wait until the month of December?
And could we go easy on the commercialism here? Or, if you are going to do the commercial thing, could we please have a Christmas tax, for every lit-up shrub and hair salon door, you pay a tax that goes to a legitimate Christian church in Japan, or perhaps the Japanese Salvation Army, that helps people in need?
Isn't that wrong?
I like to think that my writing skills are above average in both English and Japanese. Since I'm the in-house authority of all things English (as in language) at the workplace, I am the proofreader (read: re-writer) of most of the English literature generated from our department. This can be anything from a scientific paper to a quiz question directed at visiting students from Mongolia to an e-mail asking confirmation of hotel reservation status. I try to do my best to be clear, consice, and gramatically correct (and that's the order of importance I place on anything I write). Sometimes it's difficult to get a message across without losing anything in the translation, and the latter two (i.e. consice and gramatically correct) may suffer.
Any time I feel badly about the quality of the English I produce, I read a random blog.
I know, I am so petty and evil.
It's one thing to have bad spelling, punctuation and usage. These things happen. However, when someone becomes rightious and calls those who ask for proper spelling, punctuation and usage "uptight" or "perfectionists", that's quite another. And when said person is TEACHING English?
Monday, July 21, 2008
One-party dictatorship government
So it's election time on the other side of the pond. Sometimes I wonder if there were any way for us ordinary citizens in other countries to affect US elections, as what happens politically in the US so very heavily influences what happens to, well, the entire planet. However, since there's no way that's going to happen, my opinion is not important. I will say this, though, to Americans screaming about the prospect of continuous one-party rule.
That's what Japan has pretty much had for the past 50 years.
It's messed up, yes, and it should change, yes, but we do respect that our country is not the disaster area it might be without regular elections.
Just a little.
On her 7 month checkup, the Pumpkin Princess was told she was anemic. The pediatrician said it was probably because her mommy is constantly dieting (I don't) and drinks too much coffee (I have about two cups a day) and is anemic herself (the blood test I had the month before this incident and 2 months after it showed normal values across the board). Then she shouted "next!" and the next mommy in line came in with her baby.
I was like, um, whatever (in her defense, the pediatrician probably examined and counseled well over 50 babies and their parent(s) that afternoon). I took another look at her results. Her hemoglobin was 10.8 mg/ dl, and the cutoff value was 11.0. I was like, um, whatever, the Pumpkin Princess is a healthy Pumpkin Princess, and I will take her for a re-test at a proper pediatrician's when I get the time.
Fast forward three months. I get a message on my answering machine from the city department of health telling me that they've not heard from my pediatrician regarding the Pumpkin Princess's anemia, and that I should feel free to call them with any questions.
I should probably go to the pediatrician's before the next call comes from the department of children and family services, shouldn't I?
Bullying is bad.
Well, of course it is.
(This is one of my "let's show the 2-person readership that the Pumpkin Mommy has things on her mind other than the Pumpkin Princess" posts, so be warned!)
The past couple of weeks, the Japanese news has been filled with reports of teenage suicide associated with bullying. The media attacks the school system, the school system tries to protect itself (and the bullies), the media (and the victim's parents) attack some more, and then you get TV footage of the schoolteachers and the school board officials bowing their heads or on their hands and knees in apology.
I suppose the schools are partly to blame, and the bullies (and their parents) are to blame, but I also think that Japanese society and culture are to blame as well. (Plus, don't the media attacks qualify as a form of bullying??)
1. Japanese tend to follow strong leaders. Likely every culture has the same percentage of potential bullies (borderlike personalities/ sadists/ kids with abusive parents who don't know any different). But an American kid who sees a bully doing his/ her stuff will at best put a stop to it, and even at worst probably be like "um, whatever". At worst, a Japanese kid will join the bully (who is a strong leader in his/ her own way). And at worst happens more often than it would in another culture.
2. Japanese tend to take subtle hints. Overt words are frowned upon, and when they are used, they are seen as a very strong message. So if someone tells you to your face you are "gross", you naturally assume you are pretty darned gross to have actually earned the remark. Plus, insignificant remarks and gestures tend to make more marks than they would in other cultures.
So I'm beginning to wonder, what the bullying environment is like in cultures that share these characteristics? I'm thinking China and Korea share the above aspects, more than the Americas or the western European cultures do. so I'm interested in what the bullying culture (?) is like there.
I hope your house turns out to be a nice one.
So today my husband and I took the day (or half day in my case) off from work to take part in a pre-house building ceremony. We bought property near my parents' house that was for sale and have spent the past six months planning and discussing with an architect. We will have central air (yay!) and a large bathtub (yay, says my 183 cm husband) and a full kitchen (including a dishwasher but not including an oven).
In Japan, you are obliged to perform a ceremony called jichinsai before you start building something. Translated, I suppose it means something like "ceremony to quiet the earth". In theory you could skip this, but we decided to go with tradition. Just in case.
The carpenters had built a little alter with offerings of fruit, fish, rice, salt and sake. I was amused to find pineapple and banana among the fruit offerings. I suppose the gods aren't particularly nationalistic or protectionist these days...(or maybe it was an Okinawa pineapple?) The priest, clad in a purple robe, chanted and waved paper streamers and poured sake on what would become the four corners of our house in about six months or so.
We then marched around the neighborhood with the carpenters and the architect and the sales rep from the house building company and said hello, we're the Pumpkin Clan and we'll be building a house and your usually quiet neighborhood will be very loud and you will have lots of large trucks and machines going in and out of your road and disturbing you so here is a towel as a token of our sincere regret for the trouble this will cause you.
Nearly all the neighbors were our parents' age. I'm eying them to see if I will have any potential emergency babysitters for the Pumpkin Princess.
How much does that cost?
After work, it took three tries to find an open pastry shop (my favorite one, closest to our home, was closed, another one had gone out of business, must be the local economy or lack thereof). My husband brough home a small bottle of champagne (actual champagne, not sparkling wine). The occasion? Our second wedding anniversary. Two years ago, we got married. The day before the wedding, there was a big earthquake. The trains got stopped and my out-of town friends and relatives got stranded in various locations including but not limited to train stations, elevators, and unprepared homes of fellow relatives. I'm still getting comments about how my marriage was an earth shaking event.
On our first anniversary, we re-created our wedding banquet. For the first time, I actually got to taste what we'd served our wedding guests. It was good (just as it should be for what we we'd paid for it!), but not the sort of thing that we could pull off with the Pumpkin Princess in tow (at the time she expressed her pleasure at the lobster by turning somersaults inside me :P) so we opted for the more simple celebration.
When did this happen?
I expect most of the hits to this blog are from people I know in one way or another, so drop me a line if you're checking up on me. For those of you who don't know who I am or where I live, it will suffice to say I live in Japan. If this were the US, I would be living in an eternal red state if the Republican party were to be equated with the Liberal Democratic party, which is probably a rather apt comparison as the Japanese Liberal Democratic party is neither very liberal and is becoming less and less democratic. To offer proof for this observation, I need to look no further than our new Prime Minister. His grandfather was a prime minister (and I think he was tried as a war criminal, I need to check up on my Japanese history) and his father was also considered a PM candidate until he died of cancer about a decade or so ago.
Now, I'm all about patriotism and being proud of being Japanese and supporting the troops (they are the Self Defense Forces, I know, but they're here or out there or wherever they need to be because their country asked them to be and so the country is obliged to give them support), but when PM Abe (that's Ah-beh for those of you not familiar with Japanese names) talks about "the Beautiful Country Japan", I start thinking about the pre-WWII era and quiet, restrained women serving their fathers-in-law and husbands and sons, and I want to tear out my hair.
Those of you ranting about red states and blue states, those of you who would like to see a Democrat in the White House again, consider yourselves lucky. At least you guys have a fighting chance to get what you want. Japan has been led by a PM from the LDP for essentially its entire post-WWII era. I hope to see a non-LDP PM at least once more before I die (it happened once, sort of, I think it was when I was in university or maybe high school), but I ain't holding my breath.
"I can't stop coughing."
I'm still battling the virus the Pumpkin Princess brought home from day care. It's getting annoying. I don't feel too badly off, nor do I have a fever, but coughing fits can wear a person down. I'm wary of anything stronger than Tylenol and Sudafed though, as I am nursing.
"What's little and cute and reaaaaallllyyyy stinky?"
The answer to the above query, of course, is "a smiling, poopy, Pumpkin Princess."
Yesterday was Field Day at the Pumpkin Princess's day care. At nine months old, her event consisted of me holding her and running with three other mothers in a "race" to grab a paper basket containing wafers and biscuts.
Watching the other, older kids in their events was actually quite interesting. It was a study in child development. You really couldn't call what the 3 year olds were doing "running", it was more like "toddling very very fast". The older the kids got, the more it got like actual running, and the oldest kids were most definitely competing to be the first across the finish line.
Same with the dancing. The younger kids pretty much kind of stood randomly waving their arms around to the music, and a couple pretty much just cried until their teachers came to hug them. The older kids were definitely dancing to the music, and a few of the older kids showed a definite musicality. Maybe I was watching a future Lausanne Scholar!
(note: this blog entry is not intened to be read for persons consuming food or drink, or those generally squeamish.)
The Pumpkin Princess and I were driving to day care. I heard a sneeze, and whining which lasted for about three seconds.
Then I heard slurping sounds.
I did what any parent driving down a busy street with a baby in the backseat suspected of slurping what she'd sneezed would do. I continued driving as safely as I knew.
When we got to day care and I unbuckled her, she had dried ickiness around her lips. I tried not to think about what that suggested.
Aren't you worried?
My mom (the Pumpkin Granny) bought a doll that can say 150 different words and phrases. It's called "Naouru-kun" which I guess translates to something like "will get better" or something, although "Naoru" in itself sounds like a semi-reasonably sane name for a Japanese boy. The doll will say stuff like "Hi" "ouch" "cough cough" and you give it a plastic toy candy or touch it with a plastic toy syringe. These plastic toys actually contain an IC which will activate sensor(s) in the doll, altering what the doll says accordingly.
So today, Naoru-kun was saying "cough cough" but the Pumpkin Princess and I were playing with building blocks and didn't do anything to Naoru-kun (I think what we were supposed to do was stick him with the toy syringe). Naoru-kun then said "fix me!" so I gave him a pat on the head.
"Fix me somewhere else!"
(hey, you, there, mind out of the gutter...)
"Aren't you worried?"
The person who designed this doll is obviously quite clever and has a sense of humor.
Please take plenty of fluids.
The entire Pumpkin clan, including the Pumpkin Grandma, has caught a cold. We suspect the Pumpkin Princess brought it home with her from day care.
Oh well, at least it isn't the chicken pox, which is going around in a different class. Then again, since the classrooms are next to each other, I wouldn't be surprised if she caught that, too. At nine months, she's too young to get the vaccine.
You're early today!
I have the hottest dishwasher in the world. The hottest dishwasher in the world can also do laundry, including sorting and folding and putting away.
My husband is the hottest dishwasher in the world.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
Once upon a time, there was a Pumpkin Princess.
Once upon a time, there was a Pumpkin Princess and she lived in a Pumpkin Palace with her Pumpkin Mommy and her Pumpkin Daddy. And every day she would take a ride in the Pumkin Prius to the Pumpkin Day Care. Then she would come home and take a Pumpkin Bath and wear the most beautiful Pumpkin Dresses and drink the finest breast milk.
One day, she took an extra special Pumkin Bath and put on her extra special Pumpkin Dress and went to the Royal Pumkin Ball. There, she met the handsome Pumpkin Prince. The Pumpkin Prince took one look at the Pumpkin Princess and fell madly in love with her. He said to her, "Pumpkin Princess, will you marry me? You will live with me in my Pumpkin Palace with my Pumpkin Subjects. Your wish will be their command! You will wear the most beautiful Pumpkin Dresses, and we shall take a ride in my Pumpkin Porche and go to Disneyland together."
And the Pumpkin Princess replied, "I am an independent woman of the 21st century, so I prefer to do everything for myself, so I have absolutely no use for Pumpkin Subjects. I already live in a Pumpkin Palace and wear the most beautiful Pumkin Dresses. A Pumpkin Porche isn't very fuel efficient, plus it has a high CO2 emission rate, plus, what ever happened to supporting domestic industry? I don't need to marry you!"
So the Pumpkin Prince went home alone. And the Pumpkin Princess went home and said to her Pumpkin Mommy, "You know, if he'd said something about how I could use my beauty and intelligence to help international understanding and science and industry and health care and welfare, he might have got somewhere."
And the Pumpkin Princess thought for a moment and said, "you know, that's what the Crown Prince of Japan said to Princess Masako, and look where that's got her..."
So the Pumpkin Princess did not marry the Pumpkin Prince. Instead, she went to the Pumpkin Day Care and the Pumpkin Elementary School and the Pumpkin Middle School and the Pumpkin High School and the Pumpkin University and the Pumpkin Graduate School and used her beauty and intelligence to help world peace and science and industry and health care and welfare, and the Pumpkin Mommy and the Pumpkin Daddy paid off the mortgage to the Pumpkin Palace, and everyone lived happily ever after.
So the baby that may become the Emperor of Japan one of these days is a year younger than the Pumpkin Princess. I was kind of hoping the baby would be a girl, so that the discussion about a female Emperor would continue and to off on a tangent on the social status (or lack thereof) of women in Japan or something. Now, you just know that the discussion is going to wane and the crown will eventually go to this new prince.
You tried really hard, didn't you?
That's what the babysitter said to the Pumpkin Princess when I went to pick her up. The Pumpkin Princess hasn't seen the babysitter since around June, when her short-term memory was just starting to develop. She couldn't differentiate between people she knew and people she didn't. Anyone who would cuddle her would qualify as a nice person. Not anymore! She cried the entire hour and a half she was there.
Cool to see the intellectual development, but probably really rough on the babysitter! Bless her heart, though, the woman said "we'll try again next time, won't we?"
Yes, we will! And Pumpkin Princess will see, S is really a sweet person.
When is the next vaccination?
I took the day off to take the Pumpkin Princess to get her DTP vaccine (that's diptheria-tetanus-whooping cough for those who don't know but care). Of course I took her to day care (will go pick her up just before the appointment) so that I can have the morning to do laundry and clean and grocery shop.
Yes, I know, I am pathetic.
Don't you have any of these in English?
Living in Japan and being fluent in Japanese, I kind of take for granted having everyone understand what I am saying and being able to understand, in turn, what they are saying to me. I have been to places where I could not understand or be undersood (and also places like Bali where the local people understand what you are saying only when it is financially convenient for them to do so :P), and I can imagine living somewhere where there is a language barrier would be very frustrating.
What did you just say?
The baby is in her babbly phase, babbling things that sound like they are going to make sense but don't. It's cuter than anything. She also is in her almost going to crawl phase. She makes crawling motions but instead of moving forward in the direction of her toy/ hanky/ mom/ dad like she wants, she ends up going backward, and gets this look on her face that says "I wanted to go that way, not this way!"