By Any Measure

The door frame in the living room is marked with lines, some in pencil, some in ink (one I think is actually a booger,) measuring the children’s growth. When I walk by it, I can see how big they have gotten, compared to how small they used to be.

Physical growth is easy to measure. It sneaks up on you when shoes no longer fit and pants are too short, but that is easily remedied. You can google growth charts and weight charts and height/weight charts and even height prediction charts if you want to make sure your child’s physical growth is on par with his peers.

But spiritual growth and mental growth are more difficult to measure. There’s no scale in the bathroom or marks on the wall. I suppose we could count holes in the wall, but anyway….

Today was just one of those days when Me First surprised me.

Today was the last day of third grade. Halle-freakin’-lujah, we finally get a vacation with no homework! I was going through his backpack, the endless worksheets and tests and standardized test assessment (that he really should have given me when he brought it home instead of stuffing it inside a “robot-can” box,) and I found a letter from his teacher.

I won’t quote it here, but the gist was the teacher felt guilty about not being able to help Me First more when things with the other boys weren’t going well. (Which is, basically, like all the time.) Teach went on to say that in spite of that, and in spite of how hard it must have been, Me First was always kind to his classmates. And that shows strength of spirit, and that impressed him very much.

I don’t think I could get up every day and do what Me First has had to do. I just hope it gets better.

This evening, both kids had a karate test. For Me Too, it isn’t such a huge deal (she doesn’t goof off in class, unlike a certain someone else,) but Me First is at a higher level and to pass, he has to work hard. And he has worked hard. We have worked hard. Two of his friends from babyhood are in the same karate school, and it was almost surreal today to see the three of them, now at the higher level of the school, moving through their kata and kumite so confidently. I mean, this is the same boy who peed on the floor at the first karate class; that is the same boy who puked from nerves at the first test.

Afterward, we all went out to dinner. My friend, N, was saying it was so nice to see the kids just relaxing, laughing, and having a good time. And it WAS nice. Then Me First turns around, and asks his friend’s mom how things are going at work…. It was just such a grown-up thing to say, like an adult conversation, that we all started to laugh.

Of course, I’m the only one who knew he really wanted to ask her about the giant meat locker (she works at the grocery store.)

But by any measure, he’s grown a lot. If I had a doorframe in my heart, I’d make a mark there today.

But I would use a pen, not a booger.

Friendly

Me First has a knack for making friends wherever he goes, but even he was surprised when he made friends with this dolphin.

He’s always loved sea mammals, so I guess it’s good that the feeling is mutual.

This little guy kept swimming back, coming nose-to-nose with Me First, and nodding his head until the kids started nodding, too.

Kind of makes you wonder which creature is on display…

He started whistling something, and the children started squealing back, but they couldn’t keep the high pitch up very long, and in a few short minutes it sounded kind of like the munchkin zombie apocalypse.

Fun times.

When the bully is a mom

Something has been going on in my life, and I haven’t been writing about it. I don’t think I realized what it was, or maybe I didn’t want to acknowledge it.

But I’ll say it now.

Another mom at my kids’ school is a bully, and I am one of her targets.

I’m as surprised at that as you. I mean, as HRH says, I am just way too obvious a target. It’s almost anticlimactic to bully the lone gaijin mom. (By the way, when I become a superhero that will be my name, The Lone Gaijin.)

It’s been going on for three or four months now, I guess. It started with the planning of the Wakarekai(graduation party, but the pain-in-the-ass factor is akin a sweet sixteen for a New Orleans debutante,) for Me Too’s preschool. All of the moms get divided into committees. The committees have a leader. But our leader was no match for the Alpha Mom B!tch Corps.

I should have seen it coming from the way they acted at the first meeting, wasting everyone else’s time, shooting down other people’s ideas, talking badly about teachers, etc. It was pretty shocking at the time. I butted heads with them, very politely, for though I may be made of steel, I am not the It Girl of Confrontation. And they shot me down. No one stood with me, so it was a both-engines-on-fire, smoke-streaming, Too Gun kind of shootdown.

And then somehow, I ended up bring assigned to the same subcommittee as The Alpha Moms. Slowly, and before I realized it, they were asking me to do A LOT. A lot more than anyone else. I noticed the other day how Alpha Mom A viciously snapped at one of her minions when she put glue in the wrong place.

Like, yikes.

But while they were just making my life hard, I could live with it. When they told me I would have to go decorate a room and leave Me Too alone in the auditorium during lunch, while every. other. kid. would eat with their mom, I said “No.” And somehow, they made me feel like I was being unreasonable.

I cried in the bathroom for a little while. This may not be the most effective way of dealing with a problem, mind you, but don’t knock it until you try it.

Of course they had the upper hand. They were using their native language, “Japanese culture,” blah blah blah.

And then after this awful meeting, I went to the grocery store. And I saw that they were all having lunch, without me. I said hello to them, as those of us who are not inherently evil to the core are prone to do when seeing someone we know. Minion waved. The other two ignored me.

And it was like a breath of fresh air. Because suddenly, I could see that this wasn’t about me.

On the actual Wakare Kai day, as luck would have it, both kids got sick in the morning and puked all over me.

Score.

We didn’t go.

But in a weird way, I’m kind of glad it happened. Because when I saw those mean moms having lunch without me, I felt insignificant and worthless. In that same moment, I realized that all of these yucky feelings I was having were the same kinds of things Me First has been feeling at school. That unsureness that something was really happening, the dread to face them every day, the fear of making it worse by complaining.

I get it.

So I guess in a way, these mean moms gave me something really valuable.

They can still go eff themselves in hell, though.

There is now

We all have them, days that split our lives into the before and the after.

Some of them we can see coming: wedding days and due dates, graduations and entrance ceremonies. Some of them come swiftly, but with warning: the diagnosis that leads to a farewell before we are ready.

But others come at us so strong and so fast that before we realize it, we are lying on the floor struggling to find the breath that has been viciously knocked from us before we fully realize what has happened, that in an instant, everything has changed.

For me, I can think of three. The moment my roommate told me my boyfriend at the time had been sleeping with another friend and everyone knew except me. 9/11. (I think many of us share this one.) And March 11, 2011.

It was a day a lot like today. A hint of spring was in the air. I had sick kids at home. The afternoon stretched out, long and lazy like a fat tabby cat stretching her spine.

And then the world fell apart.

I didn’t even realize it then, the extent of the damage or the horror of the tsunami. I had my hands full with a sick preschooler, an absent husband, a toddler. But when I say the world fell apart, the actual physical damage isn’t what I mean.

Until that day, I would go places when Me First was at preschool. I mean, of course, that I would go places and not worry. That I was ever able to do that seems utterly irresponsible to me now, go off somewhere with a friend, not even checking various routes to get home, not mentally limiting myself to a distance I could walk if I had to.

There was a time when we would go to the beach, and not mentally note where the nearest high ground was and calculate how long it would take to get there.

There was a time when Me Too didn’t cry and panic when a message came across the TV screen.

And then there is this side of it, there is now.

I always temper what I say about the earthquake with something about how other people suffered so much more, continue to suffer, how we were so lucky. And all of that is true, and I feel it today more keenly than other days. The immensity of the lost whips around my face like a sharp winter wind, sticking to my teeth and stinging my eyes.

Maybe some people make it through their lives without moments that rip them apart unexpectedly. Maybe they are “lucky.” But in the aftermath, in retrospect, these are the moments when we find out what we are made of.

And I am strong as steel.

Seriously?

This is how my six year old spends her free time, designing shoes. Sometimes they are cute, like this:

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Other times, I get a bit worried:

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Seriously, where would she even wear those?

Real Bentos of Yokohama

Well, it’s official. Tomorrow, preschool goes to mornings only until the last day on Friday. So I am OFF daily bento duty. For the next three years, until Me First needs to take his lunch to junior high. I’m planning to let him make that himself, but I guess we shall see.

There will still be occasional bento for field trips, sports days, etc., but it won’t be a daily grind thing anymore.

Anyway, I took pictures of the last few days’ worth to share with you all what a real, everyday bento looks like. I know lots of people (including me,) tend to only share when they’ve done something special. But these are in chronological order, some better than others.

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So, this day I overslept. Oops. Me Too got some chahan(fried rice,) and whatever else I could find in the fridge.

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This day was a little better.

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Me Too was supposed to go one field trip this day, so she asked for a sandwich. The trip got cancelled due to rain, but at least she finished her lunch.

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I’m not one who is really into the whole cutesy bento thing, though it seems like lots of people are, but this one was for Girls Day. It was a surprise, and she said she enjoyed it.

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Girls Day leftovers (nothing raw in this chirashi zushi, don’t worry!) And the chicken nuggets that we can’t seem to get through.

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The black seaweed stuff is from the frozen section. One of Me Too’s favorites. I made the rabbit bunnies using a cookie cutter type thing for…making sausage bunnies. The rice is mixed with salmon flakes and spinach. Squeezing in veggies when I can!

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Last but not least, heart shaped rice balls, more of those damn chicken nuggets, and some veg. The “candy cheese” is great for filling in those awkward corners.

Mt. Awful

Have I blogged this sign yet? Wrestling the iPad away from the sick child to check is just SO not worth it… Y’all can read this again.

Yesterday was just the pinnacle of awfulness, the Mount of Olympus of it. Awful like the southern accent-three-syllable-kind. Today, thus far, has yet to be awful. Me Too and I are ex effing zausted. She isn’t throwing up. I haven’t tried to feed her anything she hasn’t asked for.

I need to pause and give thanks to iHerb.com for delivering (cheap!)to Japan all of the canned foods, instant oatmeal (not to mention German cardboard bread) that I have been subsisting on.

Me Too is clingy at the best of times. When she’s sick, she has to have one hand on me at all times. Serious tears when I cleaned the toilet yesterday. Boys, you got to get this pee-into-the-bowl thing together already. If you dribble, wipe it up! Take it from the other half of the human race that wiping after you pee is not that big a nuisance, ‘kay?

Really. Instead of telling people not to smoke all over the toilet, we should be admonishing them not to pee all over it.

But I digress. Iherb-big love. Till I get my credit card bill anyway.

And cool print yoga pants. Pain in the sit bones to get them here, BUT. They make me happy.

Om, y’all.

All over

Wow, been a long time and it’s not like I’ve been doing anything.

Last week, Me Too had her school play. HRH came (first one evah) so I promptly put him on video duty. But he screwed up. As in took pictures instead of video, then blamed it on the camera.

Now that excuse may fly if, like me, you are only partially literate in the country in which you live and are thus constantly effing up electronic stuff, but for him?

Eh, well, he needs a reminder every now and then that he isn’t perfect. Actually, he is constantly forgetting that, so prime example of imperfection.

That afternoon, I went to the doctor for myself because I have had a numb index finger for about a week. Doesn’t hurt really, just that I kind of prefer to have some sort of feeling in my extremities. Which is extravagant of me, I know. I was expecting the usual x-ray, rest, and stretch number, and in all fairness, did get the x-ray. Always fun when the “professionals” run out of the room and duck for cover when they turn the big guns on.

But then I got a bunch of stuff I wasn’t expecting about carpal tunnels and nerve damage and surgery.

So.

That wasn’t fun. I’ve got two weeks of meds to turn my stomach reduce inflammation, and then we’ll see, I guess.

I really should have asked the doctor to put my arm in a cast or something, though, because

No one understands me, man.

(Oh wait, go back and read that again, but sound like Marlin Brando in your head. Cause that’s how it sounds in my head, but there’s not a font for that.)

HRH is trying, sort of, in his own generally unhelpful way, to help around the house so I can rest my hand, but he hasn’t actually read any of the literature I brought back with me. So he like,put away the futons, which sounds strenuous, but it is actually the hanging up laundry and constant cooking and cleaning up and nose wiping and brushing everyone’s teeth (I have dreams where I’m a dentist, but not a creepy dentist like Jennifer Aniston in that weird movie whose name I have totally blocked out,) that are difficult and make the numbness worse. And I admit that my hand hurts occasionally, though usually it is when I have something to do I would rather avoid or when I think about some doctor who MAY be as creepy as Jennifer Aniston, DDS, cutting my hand open so it might be in my head.

But all of that jazz was completely forgotten by Monday morning because Me Too has the flu.

She was just feverish and coughy and phlegmy and gross the past few days, but today she started throwing up.

And then right on cue, Brother started being an ass. Usually on Wednesdays, I take him to Jusco where he can do one game at the game center while Sister is in dance class. Today, Sis has 103F fever. Jusco ain’t happening. No amount of crying or locking oneself in our only commode or calling one’s mother a promise-breaker is gonna change it. And, dude, I totally told you this morning that we wouldn’t be able to go, so get over it!

Meanwhile, DD pukes on our new rug (turns out it fits in the washer, though admittedly that could have been an unsuccessful experiment,) and while I’m cleaning this mess up Brother goes and eats that snack she’s left on the table.

Left so she could go puke in the living room. Cause that’s what you do? I don’t know.

Okay, this post is all over the place, so I’m gonna stop now. I’m not supposed to be driving or using heavy machinery while I’m on this medicine, perhaps I should avoid the Internet as well.

Origin of the Sneezies

I forgot to blog about this with all the flu induced phlegmtasticness going on, sorry.

Two weeks ago, well actually like ten days ago, there was a PTA meeting at Me First’s school. For some reason that day, the classes were combined and the other teacher did ALL of the talking. Our class teacher, Y Sensei, just sat there, looking kind of pale.

The other third grade teacher is kind of….how can I put this nicely….dominant and overbearing. That may not have been exactly nice, but I have heard with my own ears this woman screaming at her class and calling them stupid. She calls the other class teacher by his first name. This is such a no-no in Japan, even if the other teacher does happen to be just out of college and gets mistaken for the local jr high school boys in the summer because his school biz black pants and short sleeves look a lot like their summer uniform. So her running the show like a bossy pants was not all that surprising.

You know me, I’m an underdog fan. I’m not a trained public school teacher, but I remember what it was like having my own preschool classes the first year. I imagine it must be at least a hundred times harder for him, having to deal with the school side of it and the parent side. In my limited, experience, the teaching itself is the easiest part of the job! I think Y Sensei got off to a bit of a rough start, what with announcing to the moms at the first parents’ meeting that this was the first one he had ever been to in his life. Didn’t exactly inspire confidence, if you know what I mean. He’s come a long way, though, and I won’t hear anything bad about him.

But then….
on the way home, I overheard two of the mothers in front of me saying that Y Sensei wasn’t looking so good; let’s hope it doesn’t spread it to the children. I asked them what they were talking about, and they said Y Sensei had come in late the day before with a 40C fever. He’d been to the doctor in the morning, had a flu test that came back negative, then gamaned the rest of the week at school.

Insert major eye roll

I won’t even begin to get into how the lack of dedicated sick days and the imagined burden on coworkers lead to this kind of behavior being a problem in Japan. I’ll let the numbers speak for themselves!

Friday: 2 students absent with flu
Monday: 3 students absent with flu
Wed: 5 students absent
the next Monday: 8 students absent
Tuesday-Thursday: 7 students absent (please note these are now all new cases.)
Friday: 8 students absent

And a phone call last night from a classmate whose son developed a high fever after school. So let’s see….9 kids sick on Friday alone, plus 5 from the week before, plus 2 from the week before that= 16 children out of a class of 24.

How many of these kids have babies or elderly relatives living with them? How many have underlying conditions, or live with people with underlying conditions?

When you are sick, STAY HOME. When people who work under you are sick, LET them stay home.

Y Sensei, I’m sure, will be having a hard time trying to get 2/3 of his class up to speed on their studies. I want to give him the benefit of the doubt and hope he was influenced by bad advice or lack of knowledge regarding flu tests (which aren’t 100% accurate and have poor accuracy if you have had a fever for less than 24 hours,) and of course it is possible that the origin of this is not the sick teacher who was all up in their faces for three days with a high fever, but that feels like a stretch.

The other moms will tear him apart, poor lad.

But he won’t make the same mistake again.

We interrupt this blog…

We interrupt this blog to bring you influenza! Brought to you by the boys at school.

Me First has been home since Sunday with the flu. Yes, he’d had his shots. No, I don’t get my money back.

All the sickness kinda put a damper on my blogging efforts, and well, all of my efforts come to think of it.

Wednesday was the worst because he was feeling well enough to want to play, but not well enough to take crap from his sister, who comes home before lunch on Wednesdays. I’d asked MIL the day before to take her out for a bit. But she called me the day of and said she was going out that afternoon, sorry.

All well and good for her, I suppose. It’s not like we live in this neighborhood on the edge of Yokohama far from all the foreigners and English speaking doctors, etc., just because the in-laws promised to help when I need it. Oh, hang on…

She could have called me in the morning so I could put Me Too into after care at preschool, but oh well. Just another reminder of who it is I can depend on (my damn self,) and who will be riding the pink bus to daycare for the elderly when the time comes.

What’s upset me is the where and why of the outing: a make-up scrapbooking class. MIL graciously agreed to the change in day because the other student’s kid was sick.

I couldn’t make this stuff up, could I?

Anyway. Where was I? Pink bus, check.

Me First is feeling tons better but can’t go back to school yet. School rules say a minimum of three full fever free days after the flu before you can go back. Last year was two. The year before that was one.

We’re on Day 3 now. I wouldn’t have sent him today, anyway. He needs to rebuild some strength. He slept 12 hours last night and has been eating non-stop for two days!

Now, back to your regularly scheduled programming…

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