Overwhelmed

I am, in general, a pretty good dealer of the shit. I can put up with a lot. Life in a foreign country, with a spouse who speaks a different language and lives life by a whole other set of values, has that effect on a girl. Not to mention the sheer fortitude of will required to get through a morning of PTA bullshit counting out “bell marks,” (proofs of purchase,) and pink work gloves that I-shit-you-not we will be using for Sports Day.

Will take pix, don’t worry.

And then there’s the picky eating and the post-tonsillectomy-ban on crunchy foods that apparently no other adult on planet earth can comprehend, add in the daughter’s birthday requests that MIL completely fucked up leading to a do-over today. I got all that, no problemo.

But a friend made some revelations that knocked the wind out of me, family is weird, and I’ve been plunged into that time of year when memories of my Dad are closing in and making it hard to function. I’m finding myself at my emotional limit, but it’s not like when you walk around with a cast or something. No one knows. No one can see.

I guess we’re all dealing with shit, all the time. Better to be nice to each other because it could get dangerous out there.

Quiet on the Homefront

Everyone is finally gone to school and work today. Well, at least for the morning. Me Too’s teacher had a minor freak-out when I told her over the phone yesterday that Me Too is not allowed to use straws yet (apparently sucking like that puts strain on the throat muscles,) and would need to pour her milk into a cup at lunch time.

Cue teeth sucking noise and saying she needs to see if that is okay.

I said actually I would prefer Me Too to come home at lunch time, what with having just been given the okay to eat regular foods yesterday, I’d like to keep an eye on her and make sure she is not in pain.

That seemed to be a relief to the teacher, who readily agreed that it was better not to overdo it.

So now I have to make lunch. Damn. But at least it can be regular food now, so things won’t be so labor intensive.

Feeding your child after a tonsillectomy

Me Too had her tonsils out 7 days ago. I’ve been sitting here, google-ing, trying to find something yummy to feed her (she is sick to death of ice cream and jell-o,) with no luck. So I’m writing this post, hoping it may help someone else or spark people to share some ideas.

In the hospital, (this is in Japan, mind you,) she was given rice porridge at basically every meal, and by day 3 she was good and tired of it. I can’t say I blame her, it wasn’t flavored with anything! They also had various kinds of tofu, which she doesn’t like much to start with, a salmon mousse (she loved that,) steamed fish (meh,) shrimp “meat balls,” which she also liked, and cabbage stuffed with ground beef in tomato sauce. (The sauce was too sour and hurt her throat, but she ate the parts with no sauce.)

The things she really liked, like the salmon mousse and the shrimp balls, I can’t make at home because our blender is broken. I really should have taken care of that before she went into the hospital…(Does anyone remember HRH insisting on a homemade pumpkin pie last year? It turned into a two day process, broken blender, and is still biting me in the ass now. This year I am absolutely just picking up a pie from Costco. If he suggests otherwise? Let’s just say I have been practicing The Look in the mirror, and I’m pretty it sure it can slay dragons now.)

The day we got back from the hospital (day 6 post surgery here, which I know is a lot later than in most other countries,) Me Too wanted scrambled eggs and bread. The doctor had told us bread was okay if it was moistened and without crusts. So I made fluffy scrambled eggs (a bit more milk than usual, and then stirred them in the frying pan with an upward stroking motion to encourage lots of air bubbles. Cooking chopsticks are great for this, btw.) I had some spinach soup pack things like Me Too likes, so I had her dip the bread in that. That went down well.

Dinner that night was a consome-base veggie soup with ground beef and mac-and-cheese. Boiled the noodles a bit longer than usual and cut them up small. She loved both of those!

The next morning was more soup and mushi pan, a kind of sweet steamed bread. This is great because it is soft but has lots of calories!

Lunch was French toast and mashed potatoes. I let the bread soak in the egg mix for a bit, and cooked it on low heat so it was kind of soft and soggy. The mashed potatoes may have gone over better if I hadn’t mixed in spinach. What can I say, I’m a mom! I have an innate need to mix veggies into everything.

For dinner, we had chicken and cheese risotto. I used ground chicken instead of the chunky stuff, sautéed that with some onions and peas, added rice and chicken stock, and let it boil it for what seems like ages until the rice was soupy. I used half brown and half white, which in retrospect may not have been a fantastic idea because brown takes longer to cook. But again, have mom, will mix. Before serving, mixed in some cream cheese which gave it a nice creamy texture.

Brekkie today was the leftover risotto, but she wouldn’t eat it this morning, even though/perhaps because she gobbled it up like a madwoman last night. I ended up giving her a boiled egg. She likes to dip them in sugar. Weird, I know, but she ate the whole thing.

I have some alphabet noodles in the cupboard, so I think I’ll attempt that with a veggie-rific meat sauce for lunch. I usually use canned tomatoes for this, but I don’t think that will go over well, so today I’ll just buy a spice mix.

Dinner will be meatloaf and mashed potatoes. I’ll leave the spinach out this time, but only because meatloaf is a great hider of all sorts of healthy stuff. Luckily, my kids think meatloaf is a treat. We don’t get it much here in J-land.

Breakfast, breakfast…. Any ideas? Was thinking about a rice porridge mixed with salmon flakes and veggies, but she is sooo sick of rice porridge that I’m afraid it may end up on my head. She doesn’t like oatmeal, and I don’t think they have cream of wheat here. I tried to give her some applesauce, but she’s never had it before and wouldn’t lower herself to try it.

All in all, we’re lucky we had the mac-and-cheese and short noodles in the cabinet. I didn’t realize it would be several weeks before she could eat regular food, just like I didn’t realize I would be basically chained to her hospital bed the entire week she was there.

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Great find in the baby section: microwave “donuts.” Soft and sweet!

Recovery

I’m too tired to go into much detail, but Me Too had her surgery without any major problems today.

I got there, after last night’s trauma, to find her giggling and carrying on with the girl across the aisle. So I guess my rush to leave the house by 6:30am this morning wasn’t in actuality necessary.

The other girl was also having the same surgery, and she went first. It was supposed to take two hours. Three hours later, she still wasn’t back. A nurse comes to explain that the surgery is over, but she hasn’t come out from the anesthesia. Three and a half hours later, two nurses come back and say the same thing. The other mother starts pacing the room. I hear her go to the bathroom. She splashes her face with water. She paces the hallway, but stops abruptly at the glass door dividing the children’s ward from the maternity ward (her daughter was born there.) She paces some more.

They ask me to take Me Too to the play room. Lunch is coming around, and she can’t have any. Not to mention that the lump in my throat is growing with every footstep that echoes on the dingy linoleum. A few minutes later, they call us to go to the OR. The nurses are overly cheerful. I am, somehow, barely holding it together. Me Too waves bravely to us as the automatic doors close between us.

HRH and I return to the children’s ward, where a few minutes later the mother of the other girl carries her into the room. (It’s been four hours at this point.) I couldn’t hold it in anymore and started to cry, big ugly snotty sobs that come out all the louder from trying to hold them back.

Me Too was finished more or less on schedule, though by now I have mentally prepared myself for a longer wait. She came out of surgery and we went with her upstairs. She was very upset and adamant that she must have some water NOW. The IV bothered her. Her throat hurt. Her nose was bleeding.

I’m usually very good in a crisis, basically because I have to be. But as I was standing there trying to comfort her, on three hours sleep, having had pie for dinner the night before (long story) and not much yet that day, and feeling incredibly guilty that we had out her through this, I started to hear a sound like a waterfall in my head, broke out in a cold sweat, and was suddenly surrounded by nurses shouting and telling me to sit down.

It’s not like my corset was too tight or anything. But there I was having a spell like a good ole Southern Belle, without my handkerchief when I needed one a la Scarlet O’Hara.

So after last night’s crying fit leaving Me Too and today’s festivities, I think I may be the resident loon. Oh well, I guess I won’t have to worry too much about my own behavior for the rest of her stay.

Behind the Homework

I’ve been looking at the kids’ homework; neither child is finished. Me First is only about a third of the way through. Me Too is has about a third left to go.

It’s a bit of a crisis. Me Too goes into the hospital on Tuesday to have her tonsils and adenoids out. She’ll be there for a week, and school starts the day after she gets home. I’ll be hither and hither and yon like the proverbial headless chicken next week, and that’s the best case scenario if all goes well. Watching over homework, I will not be. I also will not be lugging books to the hospital or scolding Me First (who is not allowed to visit so will be at home under the questionable “care” I’ve patched together between summer school care and my in-laws) via teléfono. Ain’t gonna happen.

I doubt even Japanese educators will lecture the child whose spent her summer back and forth to the hospital. If they do, well I have a very heartfelt fuck you for them. The other child is not finished, purely due to his own laziness. I have provided a time and place every.single.day for homework. He’s chosen to spend a lot of that time sharpening his pencils. Or playing with his sister. Or, right now, Rainbow Looming with his dad.

And I, perhaps singularly, do not think his choices are wrong.

(Except for maybe the pencil sharpening bullshit.)

I kind of feel like I did what I could do, giving them time and space to complete it. I’m not canceling plans or letting it ruin MY summer.

I don’t think we’ve wasted it. We went to the science museum, and a dinosaur exhibit. We went to a sand art exhibit where the kids got to give it a try with their own sweaty little hands. We spent a lot of time in the pool. (Both children have learned to swim this summer, though it is of the underwater frog type variety and apparently doesn’t “count” to the Japanese way of thinking, since it isn’t a well formed crawl.) We made ice cream floats for the first time. We played tennis and badminton for the first time. Then we invented some game combining the aspects of both with baseball and rain. That is hardly wasted time. We took the kids to a musical and to rakugo. So Me Too got dreadfully bored at both, and actually left the rakugo early, but it still counts, right? We played with friends. We made pizza and cookies and huge messes, the scope of which may very well require the development of new formulaic equations to explain.

And some days we sat around, too hot and bothered and humid to do much of anything but board games. The kids made up some board games and I tried very hard to stay awake.

And it will all be over, far too soon, and everyone will be a bit bigger and bit more attitudinal next year. (Perhaps am I being overly optimistic by having for just a bit more in the attitude department?)

So what if the homework isn’t done? We’ve learned a lot and fought a lot and cried a lot and laughed a lot. That’s a lot of lot-ness, to paraphrase the Mad Hatter. And I think it’s enough.

Stick It

I usually get along with my MIL, but that doesn’t make for very interesting blogging, so let me just enlighten the world in regards to a weird thing she said the other day. I’m still trying to figure it out.

For the past month or so, both of my children have been absolutely obsessed with Lego Hero Factory. I have no opinion on this matter, apart from being thankful that they are fighting less over the TV, and getting sick of hearing millions of tiny little tidbits abut the various heroes for hours and hours every day.

In true Tiger Mom fashion, I bought the children several books about the heroes. The chapter books are actually pretty interesting, though they are a little too difficult for the kids so I have to go back and summarize everything that happened. Multiple times. When I really wish they would just go to sleep already.

I also bought them a sticker book. It’s one of those kinds where the pages of silhouettes of the item and you find the correct sticker and add it on. This is, of course, quite easy for Me First, who is nine, and not difficult for Me Too, either. Me First has been filling in the stickers, and then going back and reading the descriptions. These are well written, with vivid descriptions and full of vocabulary he doesn’t usually come across. It’s been a great exercise for him (and a good reminder to me to try to use different kinds of words to give my kids more exposure to the richness of the English language beyond “clean your room” and “because I said so, that’s why.”)

He took this obsession book with him when we went to the in-laws over the weekend, and MIL just went on and on about how it was too easy for him, and why would I waste money on something like that, isn’t it boring, etc.

I just cannot fathom why she would say those things. The sticker bit may have been easy, but she had no way of knowing how difficult the reading was, being unable to read English herself. And he was obviously enjoying himself, rearranging the stickers and making up stories as he went along. He was even more or less quiet, which is always a plus.

I just don’t get it.

She (and HRH) have made several comments in the past when one of the children did something they thought was “too childish.” So what? If it’s fun, and not bothering anyone, why does it matter? What’s with the push to do things they deem age-appropriate? And who gave them the power to decide that, anyway?

Recently, Me Too doesn’t want to go to the park with HRH because he makes her play baseball, or soccer, or some other organized game when she just really wants to collect acorns and then perhaps roll in the mud.

We went to the beach last week to dig clams, and HRH insisted they go straight to the water and get to work when both children were more interested in trying to run across the sand and throwing seaweed at each other. Why battle with them over that?

The funniest part of the beach adventure was that, after about an hour of clam digging, he said they could each take three clams home. How arbitrary is that? Why three? And then he thought I was actually going to prepare them for consumption. 24 hours of soaking and sand spitting, then steaming them, all for six clams total?

“This is Houston. Come back to Earth.”

Locked Out

When we finally found Me Too, I went to unlock the door and realized that in desperation she had crammed a bamboo stick into the keyhole. Of course, it had broken off and got stuck.

Great.

I did eventually manage to use the pokey end of Me First’s compass to pry it out, but it took awhile. We didn’t get into the house until the wrong side of 4:30.

Me Too was exhausted by this time, and I could feel a migraine coming on. So she skipped karate class. Me First would have skipped, too, if HRH hadn’t shown up just as things were calming down.

Of course he thought Me Too should have been forced to go to karate anyway. Of course he thought I was over reacting. Waiting on your door step for 2 freaking hours and then being locked out for another? No big deal, he says. Of course I wonder, again, how it is that I am married to such a man and living in such a country where things like this are “no big deal.”

I’d had a weird encounter earlier in the day at Costco. I got to talking to one of the people who worked there. He told me he was from Senegal, and then went into a diatribe about how screwed up Japanese society is.

“These people have everything, so much stuff. But they don’t have kids. What is life without kids?” he said to me. It was an other-side-of-the-looking glass moment. I’d grown up hearing about the poor kids in Africa who don’t have anything, and here was one of them feeling sorry for me because I only have two children.

This surreal conversation with HRH brought the other conversation fresh to my mind. Our priorities just seem to be drifting further apart. The way we experience the world around us is totally different. I’ve been around a bit more so I can understand the denial, the defensiveness he feels when I tell him that the school is wrong to leave little children wandering about like that. I want HIM to be the one who takes these concerns to the school because he will be listened to. I’ll be dismissed out of hand as an outsider with crazy ideas. I’ll get the “this is Japan” line. I can deal with that bullshit outside of my home, but I can’t have my concerns minimized and made light of inside and still hold things together.

But this post is all over the place…Happy reading, I’m sure.

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