Bone Scan

I saw my skeleton from various perspectives and was told that no breast cancer cells were detected in it. Nice news. Last month's blood tests were OK too.

I will be seeing my doctor at a smaller local clinic one Friday a month from now on, except for semi-annual exams at the university hospital. He said I'd get a "visual" exam (ooh, gotta buy some new bras...) and a blood test at the monthly visits and mammograms at the semi annual visits. He didn't give me any trouble about importing my own supply of tamoxifen citrate after I showed him the package and explained about the price difference. He even said that the monthly visits could be once every 6 or 8 weeks if I preferred, as he had planned on giving me a new prescription each month. We agreed to keep to the monthly exams for now, as there are a few more tests he'd like to do at the clinic and I'd feel more secure knowing that he's keeping an eye on me.


TV Spot

Town Life

The Rice Cake festival on the first day of school last week was taped and about five minutes of it were broadcast on the local cable TV station. We don't subscribe to cable, but the guide channel, where they're showing the program with other local news, is available for free as our apartment building is wired in to the cable system.

International students from the nearby national university were invited to experience the tradition and share in the hard work of pounding sticky rice in the big wooden "mortars" with heavy wooden hammers until it became a single, smooth, sticky and hot mass of MOCHI (rice cake). There were seven "pounding" stations in order to make enough to feed all the elementary school students quickly. This year's coordinator asked me to be there to chat with the international students. They, another foreign mom (from China) and I were asked to make short speeches about New Year's customs from our own countries.

The cable TV program shows the pounding process, a mini concert by the university brass ensemble over the din of 550 kids enjoying their rice cakes and me (and my chins) on stage making them all say "Happy New Year!" in English.

All three girls are shown with their respective classes and there's a nice close up of N while the narrator explains that "some children returned for second and third helpings..."


Town Life

Town Life

Just a quick update. My bone scan went smoothly on Tuesday, results will be available next Tuesday. J's art has again been selected for the city-wide elementary school art display. The children and I walked over to the gallery to check it out before dinner yesterday. She has also been asked to go to her city science club half an hour early next week because one of the teachers was impressed with her report on the qualities of water and would like to interview her. I expect they'll ask her to give a 5 to 7 minute presentation at the closing ceremony in February. They called twice to arrange the appointment. It sure is nice when someone calls with nice things to say about the kids.


Already Friday

Monday was the last day of winter break for the children but they're already looking forward to the weekend after only 4 days of school. They got too used to the relaxed holiday schedule. L is home today with gastroenteritis (no fever) and, fortunately, has learned to use a bucket adeptly. More vigilance in hand washing may contain the situation.


Karaoke Klub

Friends came over for a TAKOYAKI party yesterday. After tanking up on slightly burned balls of batter filled with pieces octopus and other ingredients, slathered with a rich, sweet and savory sauce and AONORI seaweed sprinkles, we all decided to go to a local KARAOKE entertainment center. The center has several floors of small rooms, each with its own large screen TV and song receiver/player. We rented a room for 3 hours for about $3.00 per adult as it was the weekday pre-6p.m. special rate. Kids are free (but must be accompanied by an adult) so our group of 3 adults and 6 kids was a deal.

S was surprised to see other people we know on our way in and out. He had assumed that only gangsters and other "bad" people went and here were several classmates of J's and M's and a few families with children who study English at his school (he must not have screened them well enough!). This was our first time as a family to go out for KARAOKE, if you hadn't guessed.

He now knows that it's a good place to let the kids go ahead and be noisy. It was cozy and warm and they all had a great time. When we go again, we have to take an extra microphone for N, as she latched on the the microphone every time a song she knew came on, regardless of whether she requested the song or not and her sisters missed out on a few turns to sing. Even L did well.

Today, the children set up their own KARAOKE room by arranging chairs in a rectangle and taking turns singing songs. The poor neighbors.


Happy New Year

Well, there were good things and bad things in 2004. Unfortunately, the end of the year was filled with overwhelmingly sad news. A Foreign Wife friend who used to live in our neighborhood was in Phuket with her Japanese husband, two sons and baby daughter for the Christmas holidays. A very large earthquake resulted in a disasterous tsunami killing thousands of people and my friend and her family were swept away. On December 31, I learned that her sister had been flown in from the Philippines to identify her body and that the rest of her family still hadn't been found. She had carefully documented her family's recent life on her website and there was an eloquently written passage about how the travel bug hits them every so often as well as hundreds of photos of various trips and events.

Now my face is all puffy and I look like Aunt Vi without the pink hair.

I cheered up considerably when, upon opening Mom's and Dad's Christmas card which arrived in yesterday's mail, I discovered that Finn is going to have a younger sibling sometime in late January. This wonderful news is a perfect way to begin the New Year.

We all stayed up watching a traditional TV show with 2004's most popular musicians and guest Olympic gold medalists and eating buckwheat noodles for longevity (another tradition). After midnight, we went for a short walk to the shrine at the corner to toss a few coins in the alter, ring a bell and pray or wish for a healthy and prosperous 2005. I distinctively heard L making a specific request for a magic flying carpet as he bowed his head and clasped his hands. We were given cups of hot AMAZAKE, a sweet creamy drink made by culturing cooked whole rice grains, using traditional methods, so that their starches turn into natural sugars. It isn't alcoholic, despite the literal translation "sweet SAKE" and S and I also got small paper cups of real SAKE as we exited the shrine.

Returning home, S handed each child a decorated envelop with a little money and an age appropriate book as a New Year's treat. He never had Christmas presents as a child and New Year's was the holiday he most eagerly anticipated. Our children get a little of each holiday, in moderation.

When everybody wakes up, we'll have grilled MOCHI rice cakes served dumpling style with pressed fish cakes, taro potatoes, carrots, a spinach-like vegetable called KOMATSUNA, soaked and simmered dried SHIITAKE mushrooms and a few bits of chicken in a bonito broth. The soup is ready as is the box of other New Year's foods. I couldn't fit all the items in the three tiered box, so we'll use a few platters as well. I sure hope that the family will accept the same menu for lunch and dinner, as it took all day yesterday to cook it all.

Happy New Year to all.