Goldenlicks, for lack of a better title

Today, I had my last elementary classes of the year, yay. It feels like a big accomplishment, and I’ve learned a lot along the way. (Mainly that 45 children is far too many for a foreign language class.)
We closed out the year by selecting and performing fairytale-type stories in groups. The children chose their own groups, and chose between one of five story adoptations, authored by yours truly of course. They practiced for a couple of lessons, and today was the performance (complete with simple props.)
I give you this background because I was surprised when a fight broke out in one of the groups over who would play Mama Bear from Goldilocks (whin co-worker kept referring to the play as Goldenlicks…) I mean, they could have chosen a play without gender specific roles (like The Three Billy Goats Gruff) or one I had done two versions of (The King’s/Queen’s New Clothes,) or they could have revised it to Papa Bear and Uncle Bear; it shouldn’t have been an issue.  But for whatever reason, these boys chose this particular play,  practiced it for a month, and starting crying over it TODAY.
Dealing with the boys and their fragile ego issues consumed me at the time, but now I’m more bothered by something else. 
What about all the girls in that class, who saw two boys literally come to blows and then dissolve into pouty tears for twenty minutes over having to play a fictional female role? This same role that they are born into.  Two teachers jumped in to talk to the boys, but what about the girls? What message does it send to them? Are we giving them any counter-messages to celebrate womanhood?

And what about me? Or you? We, who grew up at a time when people  threw around with abandon terms that equate being a woman with being fickle or silly or nonsensical or weak? How has that effected us? Are we damaged? Or has it, to the contrary, made us strong?


One post at a time

Apparently some of you are still reading… wondering if I am around. I am here. Just not sure if I have a voice that anyone wants to hear.

Society seems very interested in women when we are young and not “spoken for.” Or when we are beginning our roles as mothers and wives, but after you’ve been at it for a while? The antics of babies and toddlers are cute. They distract us from our troubles. Older kids? Not so much. Their troubles remind us too much of our own. Turns out life is a lot like middle school, after all. What about teenagers? I guess we are interested in their stories, not their mothers’.

Or maybe women get too busy with the details of life.

Here’s a good example- I am home sick with the flu this week (thus the blog update.) My husband valiantly and with much fanfare announces that he will make breakfast and get the kids ready for school. He puts out bread (that his mom brought over,) then washes the dishes and yells at the kids to get ready. He hangs up the laundry, with much hemming and hawing about how hard that is to do in the morning before going to work. (Um, I, like do that every day? So I, like, know that already and stuff?) He gets himself ready and then goes to work.

Now, it’s not like yelling at the kids a general edict one time is gonna get things moving. So, I have to haul my phlegmtastic ass out of bed to search for “color pen” (this is some Japanese term that none of the the English speakers in this house understand,) sign papers, find socks, all that. Finally the kids go to school. I sit down to rest-

and then I see it.

The used cups and silverware and, as-God-is-my-witness, that milk carton, are still on the table.

(This is while I am still blissfully unaware that he has done only his own laundry and no one else’s.)

I’m not knocking my husband in particular. He tried, as in put in the minimum effort he could get away with and still feel entitled  to get his feelings hurt and accuse me of being “picky” when I complain about it, then sulk and refuse to help for months. Tried and true recipe of men and children everywhere. (Sorry, mom!)

So many women are washing up the cups and silverware after all the other people in society all the time, that they don’t have the time or energy to get to the marrow of life. But it’s not like you can just leave it. Because no one else will do it and when child protection services comes, who are they gonna blame? You know it.

But anyway. I’ll try to carve out some little sliver of time. All of our voices and stories are important, but too many women are very effectively silenced by this…inertia of society around us. So let’s shake things up, one post at a time.

The Mysterious Case of the Invisible Milk Carton

Every morning, I get up before everyone else. Though I suppose it is more accurate to say that no one can be bothered to get up before I wake them.

I do laundry. I make breakfast. (Today was pink pancakes and avocado salad.) I get out the milk and syrup or butter or whatever condiment is appropriate. I eat in a reasonable time frame, and then usually go to the sink to wash the dishes or start hanging laundry because some people take fo-freakin’-evah to eat. It’s like, weird. Any snack within smelling distance gets absorbed almost immediately, but put it on a plate, then stick that plate on the table? Like slugs to a salt bath.

Anyway, at some point after futons have been put away and little people are dressed and brushed and ribboned and packed for the day, I go back to the kitchen, and it’s always there:

The milk on the table.

More often than not, dishes have made it to the general sink vicinity and unwanted food has been disposed of, but what’s up with the milk? It must be invisible. The last person to eat, no matter who that person may be, is unable to see this perishable item that requires returning to it’s cold, frosty home.

And it isn’t just milk, people. This same strange occurance also effects salad dressing and mayonnaise. It’s like there is a blind spot exactly the same size as the expectation that the woman of the house will do everything. This in spite of the fact that all four of us has to leave at the same time in the morning. 

It’s just mind boggling that I even need to point this out to other people. If you use it, then put it away. If it’s full, take it out! Life will go much more smoothly on many fronts of you follow these simple rules, I promise.

Build a robot to do it, I don’t care. But please, milk, make it back to the fridge without my direct involvement.

What the grumpy pants?

Me Too came home with her grumpy pants on today. I’m not exactly sure what happened. She wasn’t feeling terrific this morning after her flu shot yesterday afternoon (and her arm ballooning up soon afterward, eek! Luckily it seemed okay when she woke up.) But she was so happy when she left for school this morning that I was caught completely off guard.
The second grade at the local school cordons off a section of the school ground for growing sweet potatoes. Then every year, they harvest them and cook them in the school kitchen. This year, apparently some evil mutant vegetable-loving mice got into the potato patch and there were much fewer potatoes than usual. 
Nevertheless, tradition is tradition, the show must go on and all that;  Me Too very proudly took her ruffley blue apron to school today. She was so happy when she left; she has been looking forward to this day all year. And yet she was so downtrodden when she came home. 
Apparently her potatoes were rotten on the inside and she couldn’t eat them. This coupled with her being assigned washing duty (the horror!) instead of slicing duty was more than she could bear and resulted  in a crying, screaming fit immediately upon returning to the house.
That doesn’t sound right to me, either.
 I’m not exactly sure what happened. Maybe she’s coming down with something? Maybe there is more to the story of how she ended up washing rotten potatoes? 
She isn’t very good at handling girl drama. She takes things to heart that she would be better off ignoring. I worry about how she will deal with that. It only gets worse with age. Maybe I was lucky. Having both a brother and sister I had ample chances to practice all kinds of conflict management (that means we fought all.the.time.) I went into the world with a lot more experience under my belt, and even then it was hard. Hell, it’s still hard. 
All in all, it ended up being a traumatic afternoon. I finally managed to convince her to go for a walk, which always helps. Both of us. But I won’t be able to convince her to do that forever. She’ll have to manage on her own devices, and I’m not sure I’ve equipped her with what she needs.

Real Christmas

So my kids have never done a “Real Christmas.” I’ve had the freedom to pick and choose what traditions we follow (stockings!) and what we don’t (basically anything I find stressful.)
 This year, we are going to the US for the first time during holiday season, and I’m finding all the shopping and stuff to be a bit overwhelming. I mean, apparently special Christmas pajamas at a thing?? I think someone else is taking care of that.

Most of the year end Japan stuff is just not going to happen. I mean, that giant year end cleaning thing? That doesn’t get proper attention on a good year, much less this one. HRH made up nengajo the other day, then casually declares that yours truly need to write a poem to go in them.
Um, what??
I did do this one year. I should have known that no good deed goes without having a mile taken. My engineer right-brained husband has little understanding (or appreciation for) the creative process. It just doesn’t happen like that. It’s not like solving an equation, you know?
But anyway:
Here’s my poem

Sorry it’s crass

I wrote it cause

Hubby’s an ass.

An Unlikely Ally

I’ve found the most unlikely of allies in my morning struggle to get the kids fed (to HRH’s increasing ridiculous high standards) and out of the house on time without them killing each other in the process.  I leave most days at the same time, so this space-time anomaly that happens every time we move to the foyer has ceased being an incredible annoyance and become a down right pain in the ass and ever loving crisis.

My new friend is asa-ren, morning practice. Apparently, the fifth graders at our school and another school nearby will be battling it out on the basketball court and soccer field some time in February. Every child is required to join a team, and come to practice before school. This kind of heavy handedness would usually piss me off. I mean, what if your kid was a ballet genius who twisted their ankle right before a rehearsal because of stupid school-imposed basketball practice? Sounds like the plot of an after school special.

But for me, right now, this is an unexpected helpmeet. Me First has to leave the house at 7:15. He gets home from school around 4:00. Between snacks and homework and dinner and baths (a little play time if we’re lucky,) it’s a miracle if I get him to bed by 8:00. Sleeping earlier is not a real option, so neither is getting up any earlier. Therefore it follows that he doesn’t have time to struggle through a huge 5-star breakfast. Today was niku-man and salad. Easy enough!

He also doesn’t have time for lounging in front of the heater; Me Too knows she will have time to do her thing after he leaves so is happy enough to let him use the bathroom first, etc.

It reminds me a little bit of when Me Too was still in preschool. Brother would get ready and leave first, then we would have a little girl time to read or play games before she needed to go. Of course back then she didn’t leave the house before 9:00. Funny how our concept of what constitutes an early morning had changed!

Asa-ren is only twice a week. But I’ll take what I can get.

Seven Minutes in Hell

Every week at least once, I have to take a certain train line along the express route from Kamioka to Yokohama.

Aka seven minutes in hell.

The train is  full before it pulls into the station, but the foot soldiers of the Japanese economy dutifully plod their way forward, pushing and cramming and twisting their bodies every which way in order to board. The railway workers sometimes have to push people, and their belongings, in to force the doors shut.
Once the doors are closed, you are face to face (or face to chin, or face to chest, depending on your height advantage) with a sea of humanity you do not know and hope never to see again. The man who needs stronger deodorant. The woman smelling of face powder. The older man who had dried squid with his breakfast. The younger man who’s Parental Advisory required lyrics are blasting at you, a flagrant affront. 

The average commuter plugs in their earphones or simply closes their eyes and visits their happy place. Mine is a sunny porch near a beautiful garden I once saw in Kyoto. I can’t help wondering about those around me, though perhaps I won’t try too hard to imagine Mr. Profane Lyric’s.

When the trains pulls into the station, we jostle and push and otherwise wrangle ourselves into the (conparitively) sweet and cool air of the platform. Each going his own way, perhaps never to meet again, perhaps never to travel this way again.

Or we might see each other again tomorrow morning.

Did you miss me?

Long time no bloggy. There’s no particular reason for this. Perhaps my creative juices are flowing into other receptacles. Perhaps I assume the world has grown weary of the exploits of a chronically stressed thirty something mom in Yokohama. Do people still read non celebrity blogs? I dunno.

So let’s see…what is new. I took on a lot more work in April, and it feels like I’m just getting used to it now. The past few weeks have been a trial because the kids keep getting sick. And what am I supposed to do then? I’ve tried a number of things: take the day off (when possible,) reschedule when possible, send them to school iffy and hope for the best (this didn’t end well.) With no cooperative family nearby, how do you make this work?

 It seems like I work four shifts every day, starting with the morning shift. This one is shit and I shouldn’t have to do it alone. I think HRH was literally  hiding in the toilet this morning while the kids fought over who got to sit in front of the heater, 1 punched 2 who started to cry, meanwhile I was trying to make miso soup and hang laundry and maybe kinda get these  kids to school on time, at which point 1 throws up. After all of this bedlam finally calms down, HRH emerges from the porcelain throne room as if nothing is amiss. Coincidence? I doubt it.

Shift two is actual paid work. This part is okay because it’s paid. That’s nice.

Shift three involved getting small people from school and wrangling them wherever they may need to be in appropriate states of stress. Homework. Dinner. Cleaning. This shift is kind of crappy, too. Then baths and stories and cuddles, which is nice. Until bedtime when no one will sleep. HRH usually comes home around this point and either a) asks for dinner, which pisses me off, or b) sees the kids are a mess and says he has to “work.” Inevitably, this also pisses me off.

Then shift four is getting ready for the next shift one. Laundry. Picking up errant Lego before they can successfully attack my feet. Preparing my work stuff while I can concentrate on it without being called to look for things that are exactly where I told you to look on the first place, dammit. This shift is critical, but it doesn’t happen when I fall asleep mid shift three.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how my life compares to my husband. I mean, he works one (long) shift, and gets paid for it. Apparently this also allows him to lord it over the rest of us.

There is a lot on TV here about women in the workplace, blah blah, but I’m starting to think we are working it backwards. Just like charity, maybe equality needs to start at home. There is no equality in my home. I have no idea how to achieve it. I don’t even really want help with house stuff anymore, just for people to stop making more work for me and to not complain already. Will I eventually resign myself to an even lower standard than that? Scary.

Frustration of Forgetfulness

Frustration. At Me First, for never remembering anything and thinking nothing of having every woman in the family running after him all the time. I won’t have him turn out like that!

This morning I asked him several times to get ready. By several I mean, of course, close to a hundred. With varying levels of intensity.

The plan was pretty simple. He needed to load his backpack, go to school to water the flowers, meet Me Too and me en route to the station. Stop at Station A for my Japanese lesson, then on to Station B for the dentist. He had an orthodontist appointment at the same time Sister would be getting her teeth cleaned.

Except he didn’t put his retainer in his backpack, which defeats the entire purpose of this outing. Perhaps some would say I’m at fault for not physically checking his backpack before we left. That certainly would have avoided this whole situation, but I had my hands full dealing with breakfast and laundry and everyone’s crap, plus HRH’s man cold. I wasn’t on top of my game this morning. Then there is the principle at stake: I cannot physically manage to do everything, nor can I mentally keep track of it. The sooner everyone comes to grip with this glaring defect of female human existence and starts managing their own s.h.i.t. the better it will be for all involved.

We realized halfway there that the retainer was still at home. I changed Brother’s appointment to later in the day, but can’t change Sister’s, so the options are to a)run back and forth like mad or b)ask MIL to pick up the retainer and bring it to us while Sister is at the dentist.

The speed and ease with which he chose option B pissed me off, to be honest. No sense of remorse at having caused all this trouble; no embarrassment at asking others to cover for him. Again.

I was tempted to make him get the things himself, but I’m not confident he could manage two trains alone, much less remember to lock the door on the way out. Cancelling the appointment means wasting another precious day of summer vacation…. Screw the principle and go with convenience it is, then.

It just makes matters worse that his backpack is chock full of toys and comic books…

Twenty Questions

Me Too enjoys playing twenty questions when we are killing time on the train. She calls it twenty-five questions, which is a good indicator of both her understanding of the game and respect for rules in general.

Me:Is it a person?
Me:Is it a man?
MT: yes!
Me:Is it a real man, not from TV?
MT: I don’t know. He’s old.
Me:Older than mommy?
MT: I don’t know. He’s dead.
Me:Is he an American?
Me: George Washington?
MT: No. Maybe he’s French.
Me: Napoleon?
MT: No, he is not a killer.
Me: Can I have a hint?

MT: He likes the bonjour cheese!
Me:(bewildered) I give up.
MT: Leonardo da Vinci!


I have little hope of winning this game…

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