Health Update

I went for this month's blood test and to get my next prescription for Nolvadex-D. As I had experienced no side effects, I was given a 28 day prescription instead of 2 weeks worth. I'll be going on January 17th for a bone scan. The Japanese word was the Chinese letter for bone and phonetic characters SHIN and CHI, which apparently come from scinti, as in scintigraphy, which took me a while to figure out. I had the general idea that isotopes would be injected in the morning and images would be taken that afternoon but that "shinchy" word didn't have any equivalents in the on-line dictionaries. A quick search on Google for isotopes, bone and test brought me lots of pages with the necessary vocabulary to mire my way through the release which must be signed before the test.

The Nolvadex-D is about $1.35 per pill after the 70% National Health Care discount. Unfortunately, generic drugs have not reached Japan. I'm thinking of forgoing the NHI coverage of the drug and ordering at my own cost from a reliable online pharmacy in Australia for about 42 cents a pill including shipping as the generic version is so much cheaper. I will, of course, continue to make use of NHI for my monthly doctor visits.


Stocking stuffer bubble bath is put to use immediately after breakfast. Posted by Hello

No more pink rain boots! Posted by Hello

Thank you Grandma and Grandpa! Posted by Hello

Christmas Eve Chez Nous Posted by Hello


Oh the suspense!

I had no place to hide Santa's presents this year, with closets at full capacity, so they're all under a pile of clean laundry for now. There is very little danger of anyone accidentally finding the presents as the children know that even touching the pile will result in an invitation to fold clothes, so they stay away.


It's Beginning to Feel a Little Like Christmas...

I acquired one of the two 1,700 gram (less than 5 lbs) frozen French turkeys in the local store this morning and it is thawing in the refrigerator as I write. Now I have to figure out what else to serve for Christmas (Eve) dinner tomorrow evening.
With such a small bird, I won't have to start too early; instructions to roast at 200 deg. C (about 390 deg F?) for 30 to 40 minutes were included.


The Great Pretender

Almost 6 years ago, a soon to become good friend called, wanting to set up a local playgroup for children and moms to play in English once a week so our kids could experience English outside their homes. I had a few kids at the right age for such a group and another on the way and was glad to join. M, N and L enjoyed songs, games and stories with a nice group of people from around the world before they were immersed in the Japanese education system. The founder's children have also graduated the group, but members with younger children are keeping the group running so successfully that there continues to be a waiting list to join(Too many babies and toddlers in the small meeting space detracts from the fun.).

Thursday afternoon was the annual Christmas party at a small cafe/restaraunt a few stations away from here. I've taken all four children a long time ago, but have missed a few parties because of work and other scheduling problems. I was told alumnae were welcome and I didn't have any classes on Thursday, so I RSVPed for L, N and myself (a room full of babies isn't so exciting for M and J so they opted out.) The organizer called to confirm and ask if I might be able to play Santa for them this year. I happened to have a full Santa suit with a beard and a hat from the local equivalent of the Dollar Shop (Hundred Yen Shop) and I knew that we'd be arriving late so I agreed.

The Santa suit was just big enough to fit over my own clothes and my coat covered most of it so N and L weren't too embarassed as I rode them through the dark, late afternoon back streets to the party on my bicycle. I sent N inside first so the organizer could come outside with the presents she had prepared for all of the children. After a minute or two, I made a big production of peering in the window, looking for kids, and waving in big, slow motion moves when I found a cafe full of them. The children were all young enough to look wonderfully amazed and shyly happy to accept their presents. Some of the older ones even said "Thank you Santa." A few older siblings knew who I was from our playgroup days and were happy to be in on the secret and play along. After about 5 minutes, Santa exited, dramatically waving and excusing himself to get ready for his Christmas Eve gig.

People in the street were a little surprised to see Santa emerge from the small shop and peel his suit, beard and hat off to reveal a tall, blue eyed brunette woman, almost as rare as Santa in that neighborhood. With a wink and a smile I waved, deposited the costume in a paper bag in my bicycle basket and re-entered the shop with a flustered "Hello! Am I late?" to which a few of the older kids replied that I had missed Santa's visit. "Aw man! I've been trying to meet that guy for years now!" They showed me the bags full of goodies Santa had given them and I sat down to enjoy a pleasant dinner of genmai (brown rice) sushi salad, fried chicken, spaghetti with several types of Japanese mushrooms in cream sauce, salad and finally cheesecake and coffee. N and L had a good time with their friends too.


Lab Results

My surgeon showed me page of cross sections of the removed tissue and tumor and told me that he is confidant that he got it all and radiation isn't necessary. He also confirmed that as no cancer was detected in the 4 lymph nodes he had removed, I won't need chemotherapy either. He did say that if I felt more comfortable, I could have the follow up radiation for peace of mind, but that he didn't feel it was necessary.

The tumor was estrogen receptive, so he prescribed Nolvadex-D (30.4mg of Tamoxifen Citrate which is equivalent to 20mg of Tamofixen) daily for the next 5 years as a preventative measure. Japanese National Health Insurance (NHI) will only permit 2 weeks of medicine at a time, so I'll go back in two weeks to get my next 2 week prescription and a blood test, just before the New Year's holidays.

After another visit in mid January, I'll begin seeing the doctor at a smaller, not-so-far-away clinic where he arranges appointments two days a month as a visiting specialist. He said to expect monthly check-up exams for five years, and that he will arrange to have other doctors at the smaller clinic to write prescriptions to be filled between exams. The smaller clinic is about 15 minutes by bike, instead of the 40 minutes it took me today with L on the bike up a big hill to the university hospital.

Speaking of NHI, I found out that if my 30% (NHI covers the other 70%) of the bill at a single medical institution exceeds about 700 dollars in a calendar month, the excess will be refunded to our bank account in two months. S didn't believe me and had me take my receipts from November to city hall to learn more. He was very relieved that we'll be getting about 1,300 dollars back in February.


Belated photos

The friends who went to the local university festival with S and the children last month while I was in the hospital e-mailed some photos today. I just had to share them.

Hey! What is S doing in MY Reebocks? And what is N watching?  Posted by Hello

L learns he has to hold on tight or let his father tie the balloon around his wrist. His Donald Duck shirt was a girl magnet at the local university festival. Posted by Hello


The tree looks a lot smaller now that the smallest child is so much bigger. Posted by Hello

Carrot Cake Posted by Hello


Lunch Out

Well, I've had a rather busy week. On my birthday, a friend met me near our house and treated me to lunch, bringing flowers, fruit, herb tea and other treats to celebrate my release from the hospital and my birthday. It was a very pleasant way to celebrate. Then, after school, the kids wanted cake, so I baked a small carrot cake to have our own little party. Another friend stopped by with a souvenir tee shirt from Hawaii. She had returned the day before and wanted to see if there was anything she could help out with. She also brought some NIKU JAGA (previously described meat and potato dish, Japanese home cooking) which was good in the kids' lunch boxes the next day.

I had a check-up at the hospital on Nov. 30, and was a little disappointed that my lab test results weren't back yet. The doctor promised that they would be for my next visit, on Dec. 14th. It will be good to know what to expect.

Last Friday the doorbell rang and it was the postman with a package which was too big for our box downstairs. I accepted it, racking my brains to remember if I'd ordered anything from Amazaon-dotcom. Inside was a shipping notice with Elizabeth's name and a very informative book about breast cancer. I have to get her phone number from Mom and Dad to call and thank her personally. It was very reassuring to read and learn that my interpretations of the doctor's explanations were accurate and comforting to have so much information at my disposal anytime now.

I saw a few friends yesterday at a Christmas cookie exchange. Not having time to bake anything, I brought a large bag of chocolates and was forgiven. Was it Roosevelt who said "Speak softly and carry a big bag of chocolate."?

Today, two friends who had wanted to invite me out for my 40th arranged to meet me near our station and we went to a nice Italian pizza restaraunt between the station and our apartment. The woman who runs the restaraunt came out to speak with one of my friends, telling her that there were 18 adults and almost as many children. My friend looked a little flustered as I thought "Huh?!"

"Surprise!" Actually 17 of my friends, most from the English playgroup, and the parents of one of them who happened to be here from the States treated me to lunch, flowers and Maxim De Paris cookies. The tiny restaraunt was wall to wall friends, (well-behaved) preschoolers and babies. What a nice gushy warm feeling to have so many friends, some from quite far away now, get together to ease me into my forties!

Tonight the kids and I are going to see the new Studio Ghibli (Japanese animated) movie with friends who happened to have eight free tickets. The mom and two girls will come here for curry rice after the movie so I should probably get some rice rinsed and cooked and hide the mess.


I'm 40!

How did that happen?!


Hospital Visitors

S went with me to when I checked in to the hospital on the 12th so he could hear the surgeon's explanation and sign a few release forms. He seems to have a hospital phobia and looked rather ill until it was time to catch his bus back home to be here when the children came home from school. The hospital visiting hours were from 2 to 7 p.m. and children under 12 were discouraged from visiting, so S gave me 3,000 yen to take a taxi home with my luggage after discharge.

I spent the day (and the next two) resting up for my big day, Monday, and getting various tests to make sure I wouldn't have any allergic reactions to the ingredients in my anesthesia. People from the various teams of nurses and doctors who would be caring for me came by with more explanations and forms to sign. The woman in the bed across from mine in our quad had had a mastectomy the Wednesday before and was all bright and chipper about how relieved she was to have it behind her. The other two women were more serious cases, but they were pleasant and seemed happy get a new chat mate.

The nurse gave me a list of things I would need from the hospital shop; 2 tournequets, a velcro fastened "bust band" and a spiky rubber ball. Then she measured around my calf to see what sized elastic stockings I'd need for preventing blood clots while I was under anesthesia. My good friend from Maine and her husband and daughter came by with a banana bread muffin (She also dropped off some loaves to the kids at home.), some hugs and a nice prayer for me on Sunday evening, leaving at 7 p.m. The chipper lady from across the room told me "You'd better eat that right away because dinner is the last food you can have until the day after tomorrow, and remember not to drink anything after 9 p.m." I thanked her and enjoyed my last solid food for 36 hours, glad that it was banana bread and not soaked and simmered dried daikon radish and grilled mackerel.

Early Monday morning, the nurse came to prep me for surgery. After I'd been to the toilet, I stripped and put on a hospital surgery gown with velcro seams. I know that hospital gowns are not usually very modest, but I think they could have found a bigger one somewhere. Apparently most Japanese mastectomy candidates are shorter than I, and don't have very wide shoulders. Then I put on the lovely cream colored elastic stockings with light blue trim which came up to mid-thigh on my legs and had a "peek hole" on the top of each foot so the nurse could monitor any discoloration or swelling. She tapped the top of my feet in several places and wrote some X marks in a few places in magic marker. An IV was established on my right arm and I was told to lie down on the dolly the team of nurses from downstairs (the surgery theaters were in the basement) brought. Mondays and Wednesdays are regular surgery days, so there were a few dollies lined up in the hall. My team arrived a few minutes before the others and had to wait until 9 a.m. on the dot, when all the teams and their dollies advanced through the big doors into the surgery area and each to their own operating room. I was glad I didn't get the room with the big glass window and peanut gallery, not that I would have noticed after they removed my glasses anyway. (If I can't see them, they can't see me.)

I was able to slide over from my dolly to the operating table on my own with 8 pairs of hands around guarding my trip. They explained what they were doing as they went along and I heard everything up to "You'll be unconscious in about 10 seconds." and was barely able to reply with a smile and a good night." They were all quite busy after that inserting tubes for the artificial respirator, a catheter and applying EKG monitor nodes in a few places, but the next thing I remember is eight people calling out "Sugio san, we're finished." and waking me up. They didn't ask me to do any sliding back to the dolly and they didn't grimace under my weight as they did the transfer there. There was a little bit of heave-hoeing from the dolly to my hospital bed but nobody herniated any discs.

All day Monday they monitored my recovery from the anesthesia, leaving the bloodpressure band on, the IV dripping away, the chest EKG nodes on, the catheter in and an oxygen mask on. I also had a drain from the incision (which is about 7 inches long) and the sexy hospital gown and stockings on. With all the wires and tubes across me, I couldn't even scratch my nose. I was in an out of sleep all day, waking when the nurses came by to take my blood pressure or check my oxygen levels with a finger clamp type machine. The principal of L's kindergarten decided to drop by with flowers about then, and must have been a little overwhelmed by the bandages and wires visible because the velcro wouldn't stay closed over my wide shoulders (so dignified!). I don't really know though, I slept through her visit and woke up to a huge floral arrangement from all the teachers on the table beside me. I guess I can sit back through a few PTA meetings now.

Monday evening, the head surgeon and another doctor stopped by with a stainless steel kidney shaped dish to show me what they had removed. Apparently they usually show the family member who sits and waits for the duration of the surgery (probably to make sure that a third party can verify that nothing unnecessary was accidentally removed), but I'd warned them that I wouldn't have anyone around then and asked if they'd be taking any pictures so I could see. They seemed surprised that I'd want to see for myself but happy to comply and again surprised when I didn't acted grossed out by the contents of their dish. They removed a wedge (about an eighth) of my left breast and 4 lymph nodes, stretched the edges of unremoved breast together and stitched me closed from the back of my armpit to about 2 inches from my nipple. The tumor was very conspicuous, about an inch long dense and grey mass against the back drop of milk glands, ducts and fat.

Tuesday morning, the nurse came to remove all of my trappings but the bandage, drain and IV needle. The IV needle, she promised, could be removed after I proved that I could eat all of my breakfast. I was happy to be back in my own pajamas (bought while talking to brother F on my cell phone a few weeks ago.) The rice porridge (gruel seems like a more appropriate word here) was tasteless, so the chipper lady from across the room gave me a bag of soy simmered dried bonito flakes with sesame seeds she'd asked he husband to pick up for me the day before. She said it made the porridge easier to eat. I thanked her and diplomatically mixed a little in, secretly thinking a few raisins, brown sugar, cinnamon and heavy cream would be more comforting but sacrilegious (to my Japanese friends) additions.

The nurse congratulated me and removed the IV needle and I was free to sit up and read magazines and books all day, punctuated with visits from doctors and nurses to check on me or dab iodine on my stitches (once a day for the iodine.) I was shown a few things to do with the spiky rubber ball to keep my arm and shoulder from getting too stiff and, on Thursday, encouraged to practice reaching for the left hand drawn on a piece of paper and taped to the wall where I'd reached on the previous Friday soon after check in. The nurse had had to stand on a chair to tape it there, as she was about 8 inches shorter than I, and all visiting staff marveled at the high goal I'd set.

A few friends stopped by with more treats, one of them (originally from Pennsylvania) with beer and cigarettes, knowing that I'd appreciate the humor. I enjoyed my (Dad's Root) beer and (chocolate) cigarettes and the Nescafe Cafe Latte packets she'd brought with a beautiful floral patterned Noritake cup in addition to other treats for me to bring home for the kids. The coffee was much appreciated after so many days of green tea after every meal. I did find a coffee machine near the hospital store, but wasn't able to go there mornings, when I most wanted to. Hot water was availble down the hall, so the coffee was perfect.

Lab results will be back next week and I'll learn more about whether I'll need hormones, radiation or chemo (or none of the above) on my next check up on Nov. 30. when I also have to pay my bill, as the business offices were closed when I checked out on Sunday. The kids all fared well but were happy to see me and very helpful when I asked for assistance in getting the futons out at bedtime. L was a little clingy, requesting my company on every trip to the toilet and sitting on my lap a lot but he cheerfully went to kindergarten this morning. The vice principal was driving the bus this morning and looked surprised to see me up and around after what he probably heard from the headmistress about my dire condition.


Great Day at School

J's teacher heard that I wouldn't be able to attend the big drama festival this Saturday and told J that it would be fine if I slipped in and watched on Friday, when the kids perform for each other. J admitted that I'd be going into the hospital on Friday morning and that I'd have to miss the event after all.

The teacher called me this morning just before I left to take L to nursery school for his big trip to the Tama Zoo. She said that the girls would be so disappointed if I couldn't see the results of their hard work and that I could go today to watch the dress rehearsal, if I felt up to it. She was so concerned about how sad it would be it would be to miss J's last drama event of her elementary school career and even told me when M and N would be rehearsing.

M's and N's teachers must have overheard the conversation or perhaps joined in on the decision to invite me, because they told M and N that I'd be there today. I sat on a single chair in the center of the back of the gym and had my own personal drama festival today. A few other moms were there, walking around taking photos for the school newspaper. The kids did a great job and enjoyed watching their audience (me) wipe away the tears of laughter (at the appropriate funny parts) and awe at how they've all grown up (all 550 or so of the kids). I guess I should write nice things in the post festival questionnaire.

The teachers all looked concerned and wished me the best for a full recovery (I don't know if they know why I'm going to the hospital, they were too polite to say anything or ask.)


Out of Touch

This morning's visit resulted in a firm schedule for my hospital stay. I'll go in on Friday morning and have surgery before lunch on Monday. I expected the doctor to explain all about the surgery to S today so he could sign the informed consent forms, but all he did, after keeping us waiting for more than two hours, was give S a very compassionate look and tell him "Your wife has breast cancer." Duh! like I'd have dragged him to the hospital for wart removal. Now S has to go again on Friday morning to hear all the dangers of surgery and sign the form. I guess old maids with no living relatives just have to forgo surgery.

I expect it will be difficult to call and impossible to e-mail, so I'll probably be out of touch for a while, possibly until the 24th, catching up on my reading while S takes care of the kids. Mrs. Y may visit (hopefully with chocolate) and I can give her a note to e-mail Mom and Dad with news.


Reorganizing the Kitchen

With the prospect of a 10 day hospital stay, I decided to reorganize the kitchen so the kids can cook (with Papa's help). I no longer have two year olds who like to use the rice bin as their own personal sandbox substitute, so that item has been taken down from the top of the kitchen "sideboard" cabinet and placed neatly in the lower left of the same cabinet next to bottles of soy sauce, cooking sakes (sweet and dry) and steepable bags of barley tea. It all fits like the cabinet was designed for this use, although S used to use it as his bookcase when he was a student.

The refrigerator and freezer have been emptied in one big surprise 20 course (or so) dinner. The kids enjoyed so many different morsels in one meal and I was able to re-stock with a few microwaveable dinner type foods and ziplock bags of sauteed meat and onions as a curry starter for chef J (who is excited about cooking, so far, and was glad to saute while I chopped, chopped and chopped). We even got a soup stock frozen for J to heat and add the parboiled and chopped Chinese spinach-like greens I froze and taped to the soup stock package and a beaten egg or two to go with the mini steamed meat-filled buns that L loves. She can steam the buns right over the soup before adding the greens and egg thanks to the AllClad pot Mom and Dad carried halfway around the world last time they visited. The freezer looks like one of the store display refrigerators with all the packages so neatly lined up on every shelf.

All the pots and pans, mixing bowls and colanders the kids may need have been stacked on the middle shelf of the plastic kitchen cart where they can be reached easily by people who are shorter than I am (everyone in this family, at this time...). Dried ingredients for foods they can make are lined up in the lower cabinet under the rice cooker with some other instant miso soup and corn soup packets and J has been practicing cooking the rice and making the barley tea.

The kitchen looks so clean it's a shame to use it. I wonder if we can order out for a week or so until I go in to the hospital...sushi, soba or udon noodles, pizza, Korean BBQ fried rice, ramen...oh the possibilities.



Now that the comments about how good we looked in our family portrait in the photo studio ad for shichi-go-san (which we discovered had been distributed in several million newspapers around Tokyo this summer) are slowing down, the building superintendent gave us a copy of the fall issue of the city fire department fire prevention pamphlet with a picture of L, N, me and part of M putting out imaginary fires with extinguishers in the park south of the station at last year's fire safety fair. Just when I thought it was safe to lose the sunglasses and hat!


Mmm, it was good soup. Posted by Hello

We made pumpkin soup and served it in real pumpkin bowls. Posted by Hello

Look what they gave us at the Halloween party! Posted by Hello

Pumpkin and pirate Posted by Hello


Sniffles All Around

L has been home from kindergarten all week with a cold and now the girls are sniffling as well. The girls are all getting ready for the school drama festival which will be held in November. Mom and Dad attended J's festival four years ago. This year the first graders are doing a Japanese folk tale and N will be kappa no. 17 of 23 kappas, fictional turtle-like almost human prankster creatures. M's grade will do a story about elephants in pre and post war Japan. She'll be a circus acrobat with no solo lines. J will be in the music pit for their production of the Wizard of Oz. The teacher asked the children with the book at home to bring it to school so they could share and read to get a good idea of the entire story. Nobody wanted to share with J because we only had a nice reproduction of the original book in English but J was glad to have such a nice copy.


J plays a game Posted by Hello

Fishing for kiddies (with marshmallow bait) Posted by Hello

L and friend Posted by Hello

M, N and friend at a Halloween event Posted by Hello


Earthquakes - We're OK

There was a series of big earthquakes on the other side of Japan this evening and even our place in Tokyo was shaking for a few minutes several times. The kids all scrambled under the table right away for the first three quakes but didn't seem to notice any of the smaller, later tremors.

A special news bulletin has replaced the show the kids wanted to watch, and it looks like there has been some damage from loose (from all the rain we had last week and this) soil on hills avalanching and a single car was buried. Two deaths from fallen ceilings and 30 injuries have been reported. There is apparently no threat of tidal wave damage. One of the high speed bullet trains was lightly derailed but none of the passengers were injured.

The cameras in Tokyo showed swaying horizontal motion, but the Niigata cameras were jumping up and down. I am glad the damage is as small as it is, the quakes are similar in magnitude to the Kobe quakes which killed 6,400 people early one winter morning 9 years ago. At dinner time today, more people were awake and ready to follow their emergency plans.


A Busy Weekend

Our nephew and his wife and children decided they'd like to stop by on Sunday and were kind enough to call on Saturday and confirm that we'd be around. I told them that we'd be out in the morning supervising security at the annual kindergarten bazaar until at least 2 p.m. and that S would be gone all day, administering the autumn Standardized Tests of English Proficiency at our classroom. We decided that 3 p.m. would be OK and L and I baked a pumpkin cheesecake to cool and chill overnight.

Fritz called Saturday night with the news that he'd have some time Sunday afternoon after all and I gave him instructions to get the trains to our station. Then I went shopping to get some pork and vegetables to make a big pot of miso pork soup, like the soup we served at the "Welcome to Japan F&J Judo Rice Cake Drum Concert Jubilee" in case the nephew and his family decided to stay for dinner. S came home after the kids' judo lesson and asked me to press a white dress shirt for Sunday as the university judo club had asked him to referee at an inter collegiate judo meet after the English tests. I found a fairly fresh permanent press white shirt hanging in the closet and eliminated the ironing task from my list of things to do (like washing the big glass doors to the balcony and folding the pile of laundry that had accumulated after 6 rainy days).

Sunday morning I prepared a batch of rice, chicken and vegetables to cook in my rice cooker in a light broth of dried bonito and soy sauce, a little sake, salt and a dash of sugar so we'd have something to eat with our soup for dinner. After breakfast, S went to the classroom for the testing and the kids and I rode our bikes to the kindergarten to hang around from 9:30 to 1:30 shopping, playing games, eating and making sure there were no problems with kids climbing where they shouldn't, shoplifters or armed robbery (the tin box full of change would be a little noisy during an escape).

On our way to our bikes after the bazaar, the bazaar committee announced that the unsold items were available for the taking and N and L rushed over and grabbed a box each of Christmas decorations. J didn't appreciate the big boxes of Santa and a musical duo which looked like Barbie and Ken with instruments strapped on the back of her bike on the way home. I did find a few good costumes for Halloween for L & N; Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. J & M got lots of yarn for their cardboard box knitting project and also a bag full of Hello Kitty stuffed dolls (just like the grungy ones I threw out a few weeks ago, but in brand new condition).

We rushed home in time to vacuum and answer the phone to find that Fritz was on his way. I asked him to call from a closer station so I could meet him at our station and continued to rush, putting all the stuff that the kids brought home from the bazaar away before their cousin and his family arrived. When Fritz called, I told the kids to stay home and wait for the cousin while I went to the station. I met the cousin on my way out to the street and explained where I was off to and that I'd be back soon.

The kids were all playing happily with their cousins (once removed) when I got back with Fritz and some fried chicken and wakame (seaweed) and octopus salad we bought at the deli (thanks, Fritz) to compliment the soup and rice. Nobody noticed the large clear bag full of Christmas presents from Grandma and Grandpa which were carried to the back room and hidden in the closet with all of the laundry that I hadn't been able to fold on Saturday. I worry about the durability of the paper door holding all of these things behind it.

We decided to eat the cheesecake first in case Fritz had to leave before dessert to get back to the base. 3 o'clock is snacktime anyway, so the inlaws, who had brought some snacks as a housegift, didn't think anything of starting with dessert. With 10 people crowded around the table, I couldn't maneuver very well so I asked Fritz to cut and serve for me. The kids all had a good time "garnishing" their pieces with whipped cream from a squeeze tube and J had 3 pieces. With more than a pound of cream cheese, I knew the recipe would be good.

In spite of the rich snack at 3, the soup and rice sold well at an early dinner and S even came home for about 90 seconds to drop some things off and say hello before returning to the judo meet and his usual evening classes. I left the kids with the inlaws and walked Fritz back to the station a little after 6 so he could get back to the base a little after 7. The inlaws stayed until 8:30 and carried a big bag full of Hello Kitty dolls home with them on the train (Hurray!). S came home at 9 and seemed surprised but perhaps relieved that everyone had left.

Fritz had plans to fly on Monday, but had to stay put while a mechanical problem was repaired, postponing his flight to Tuesday. We made tentative plans to get together on Wednesday or Thursday.

Typhoon number 23 was working its way through Japan on Wednesday, necessitating Fritz and his crew to fly to another part of Japan late Wednesday afternoon. It looks like we won't see him again this trip. We really enjoyed having him here on Sunday and the inlaws were quite happy to meet him.

L was home Monday with no school after the big bazaar on Sunday.

Uncle Fritz! Posted by Hello


The rain stopped long enough for L and his classmates to go on a picnic today. Posted by Hello

New Bicycle for M

I mentioned to a friend that M had outgrown her bicycle and 3 days later another friend called wanting to know if we'd like the bike her 5th grade daughter had outgrown. They had been ready to call the city trash disposal division to register to have it carted away for 600 yen when they (Oh, oh, oh) heard it through the grapevine that we might appreciate a hand-me-down bike. They called to drop it off today and M was ecstatic about not having to ride the tiny pink toddler bike she'd been using for the past 6 years. I'll bake brownies tomorrow to thank them.

Now I have to see about finding someone with whom to exchange baked goods for a bigger bike for J so she can let N have her clunker. L still rides in the front or back seat of my bike and will probably be wanting a bike soon too. Too bad the old pink bike is too trashed to bother spray painting black not to mention even trying to give away to some little girl. I guess we'll have to accept the 300 yen fee for disposal of children's bikes to clean up the bike parking area downstairs.

It's a good thing that most of the women in our neighborhood don't bake much, even if they have ovens. It makes my brownies a valuable commodity.


L enjoyed his kindergarten sports day. Note the pile of handmade (to kindergarten spec) tote bags behind him. Posted by Hello

N and J drew a losing ticket at a summer festival, but they looked good in their yukatas (cotton summer kimonos) anyway. Cotton candy cures all. Posted by Hello

Korean BBQ

The weather failed to clear up after Saturday's typhoon, forcing us to stay home all 3 days of our long weekend. Trudging home after my Monday afternoon classes, I was delighted when S. gave me 7,000 yen and told me that I should take the kids out for dinner at the Korean BBQ place down the street. He had classes and couldn't join us, but the kids gorged on the spicy grilled slivers of meat and barely had room for ice cream from another shop on the way home.


Typhoon No. 22

A national holiday on Monday, Sports Day, means that the kids have a 3 day weekend. We're hoping to cycle to a large grassy park a few miles away for a picnic but it looks like rain tomorrow. In fact, there have been warnings that utility poles and the likes may be blown over in the impending typhoon. I guess I better bike over to the store in the rain tonight and get some milk and more squid (how could we already be out of squid?!).

If we can get N and L to play together, maybe the girls and I can actually play an entire game of Monopoly.


Here's the "after" shot. As usual, they spent more time with the thinning shears than they did with the shampoo, cut and styling all together. I think the girl got more practice than she was expecting. Posted by Hello

Okay, here's the "before" photo...about 6 weeks before but not so different than this morning (same shape, slightly smaller). Posted by Hello


Grand Openings and free haircuts

A new store of a national supermarket chain had it's Grand Opening today. Two years ago Walmart acquired the majority of stocks so they've been here in Japan reorganizing the franchise. The head honcho and a few high level ex-pats were there with a translator to welcome customers and greet the new staff. One of them admitted to me that Walmart still doesn't really have a grasp on the market here, but are pleased with how the chain has been adapting to the new logistics. I imagine that an entire wall dedicated to fresh seafood is new to Walmart. Squid were only 100 yen each so I bought a bunch to gut, skin and freeze for sashimi.

The guy said that his kids go to the American school near here. He seemed glad to have a chance to talk with a customer without a translator and a bunch of photographers. I was relieved about the lack of photographers in the frozen foods section as my hair is absolutely awful these days; no shape, too much volume (especially the 86 percent of my hair which constitutes my bangs), frizzy out of control...

Anyway, I noticed a sign at a local hair salon recruiting "cut models" and walked in to inquire if my medium short blob (alas, not bob...) could be of any service to their trainees. They said that as long as I agreed to let them cut at least an inch, that they would be glad to practice on me. I'm scheduled for shearing tomorrow at 7:10 p.m., after the store closes for the day. I guess I should take a before picture and an after picture, not that it will make a difference after I wash it at home a few days later. It'll just be an inch smaller all around.

A September bike ride to a neighborhood park. Posted by Hello


More kitchen help. (Mont Blanc cakes made to use the several pounds of chestnuts we picked up on the campus of a nearby university after judo practice) Posted by Hello

Clean up crew member

Cleanup Help '04 Posted by Hello