Sunday, January 11, 2009

It's a year early but. . .

All I want for Christmas is MY OWN COMPUTER!

The kids are all over this one now. Reno uses it for homework assignments (researching things like the nutritional value of watermelons and the names of all the prefectures in Japan) and Saki knows her way around nearly every single game site--in English and Japanese.

Then, there's Masa who logs on for hours, working out of the home on the weekends.

When's a girl to blog?

Oh, and our DVD player broke,and since one can watch DVDs on this computer, that is exactly where Reno and Saki are watching them these days.

I may be forced to become an early riser, just to get a chance at the computer!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

And How I Actually Celebrated

Just to put everyone's mind at ease--there was no flaming bon fire with crazy woman dancing around it.

That was how I would have seen the year off in the second conditional world (the realm in which events and situations are unrealistic/imaginary/have little to no chance of ever occurring).

Like everyone else, I live in the real world, so I saw 2008 out the door in a real way. With Christmas behind us, I had all the American holiday traditions over with--the stockings, the Christmas tree and decorations, the Christmas Day phone calls to friends and family, the Turkey dinner. . .so as the 31st drew near it was time to switch modes: Japanese New Year.

This year we stayed up in Northern Japan. Masa's hometown is down in Kyushu, but we didn't travel home for the New Year holidays this year. We decided to stay and celebrate here. In Japan, New Years goes hand in hand with "Osoji" which is like American Spring Cleaning. Everyone scrubs, scours, declutters, organizes, shines and polishes in preparation for the coming of the New Year. Our house is full of toys, broken fans, radios, umbrellas, old pots and pans, bags of recyclables that never made it out on recycle collection days. . . my mother would probably run to a therapist's office desperate to find out "where she went wrong" in bringing me up is she saw the sty that we are currently residing in.

I thought a bit about calling it a "back lash" to being raised in a perfectly dusted, highly organized, model home environment . . . I mean, the whole "back lash" theory works successfully to explain my Freshman year at college. I entered University having never done. . . anything but study and go to Church and listen to my sage parents' advice. The spring I finished my Freshman year, I was on academic probation and nearly got expelled. But I was much more "experienced" than when I entered all clean and shiny that Fall.

While I mulled over the idea of unloading the state of my house on my parents' I had to admit that while I might have run wild when I was 18 for the first time in my life because I had no boundaries for the first time. . . I don't think it's an excuse that will float for failing to dust, declutter, organize, or regularly clean my abode. I toyed with the idea of throwing my hands up in the air and pleading the "I have small kids who are like hyperactive tornadoes and destroy any sense of order I try to create" line of defense. . . but then again, they are my kids. If they are messy it is not their fault. I obviously haven't modeled good habits for them and if they have far too many toys. . . well, who gave them all to them?

Plus, truth be told, I am a bit of a pack rat. I like to keep things, just in case. Of course, I never use them as I can never find them (maps, information packets, manuals, pictures, books I intend to read, things I think I might be able to recycle for various uses); more sinister is the fact that when I do re-discover them years later, I still look at them and think, "Oh! Here it is! It really is a useful/nice/interesting thing. Better keep it." and throw it back into the tumultuous heaving mass of ever moving, elusive "stuff" that covers and coats every inch of my house.

My youngest takes after me. Her favorite activity is to find a bag/back pack/suitcase/box and fill it with "treasures". Then she relocates the treasures to another area of the house. Recently I have discovered that she is stashing treasures (yards of twine, small picture books, photos, costume jewelry, coins, marbles, crayons) in my drawers and bookshelves. Right now her mind is still keen and sharp (not dulled by a Freshman year like the one I had) and she actually has high recall in remembering where she has tucked various valuables and prized possessions away. When ever we are looking for something, we all ask Saki. "Saki honey, have you seen Daddy's keys? Do you know where Mommy's cell phone is?"

Her sister on the other hand, has lousy recall and absolutely no design behind where she leaves things. My theory is that she has inherited the "put it in the most convenient spot" gene from her father. Which doesn't mean, the most logical spot, or the place where you would make it a habit to stow a certain item. It means, drop the object in the closest proximity to wherever you are at the moment so that you don't have to move out of your way to put it away. It still pains me whenever I hear, "Mom, have you seen my nano-pod?" I've had a special basket on the counter for the nano-pod since the day she got it. I find that nano-pod in various places throughout the house and deposit it in that basket. She never even checks the basket--she never puts it in there, so why would it be there?

But today--we have all tackled this heap we call home. Masa and Reno have been working on the upstairs rooms--Reno's and Saki's. Tomorrow I will tackle the bedroom where we all sleep. Saki uses it as a play room when her friends are over, due to the fact that her and Reno's room have been unendurable for months now. Reno sat on the clear storage bin that I use for my clothing and splintered the plastic lid into a zillion pieces. Saki's toys and old phones and faxes that she and her friends use when they play "house" or "school" are scattered all over. I'm guilty too. There are about 20 ear plugs scattered on the floor near the futons. The first day I used ear plugs at night was the first night I slept for longer than one hour uninterrupted. My kids talk, laugh, scream and shriek in their sleep. Masa comes home and stays up late watching Japanese T.V. programs, on which people tend to talk, laugh, scream and shriek. The earplugs get me a few hours of sleep every night, but I really have to come up with a better system than scattering them around the futon. . .

I'm home, off of work now, till April so I will be confronting different household chores and tasks every day. I intend to even clean the windows, inside and out. Reorganize the kitchen, scrub the exhaust fan, de-mold the washing machine, clean all the drains, wax the wood floors, tame the heaps of bills/statements and other paper menace that teeters in piles on the kitchen counter. I also intend to ruthlessly throw out anything I have not used in over 6 months. Mostly.

So, osoji, we have a handle on.

The other parts of New Years here is the T.V. fest on New Year's Eve. We watched a little of NHK's Red and White program--a music program where two teams compete (I think it is men vs. women?). But we centered in on a program where 5 comedians try to make it through a day without laughing. When they laugh guys in black body suits come running out and paddle them on the behind. It is a lot of physical slap stick humor, but I have to admit to liking it. Very typical Japanese humor. Like putting a big cup of hot coffee on someones back when they are laying down and then watching them try to get up without spilling it--and laughing hysterically when they scald themselves. The comic wrestling show before this one was also classic. A guy and a girl (I think she was a professional wrestler, he was just a comedian) swinging watermelons on ropes around and smashing each other in the head with them. I kept waiting for the guy to get seriously injured.

Just before midnight I brought out some champagne for Masa and I and filled the girls champagne flutes with ginger ale. Saki excelled at clinking glasses together. Masa coached both girls on how to offer the appropriate New Year's greetings in Japanese and then we greeted each other, formally bowing to one another. (This is a good example of one of those moments when I find myself floating out of body, looking down in a perplexed manner saying, "no really. Really? This is my life?" Never imagined my family would be bowing at one another at 12:00 a.m. on New Years Day!)

This morning we all woke up late and while Masa and I were still upstairs I heard Reno and Saki arguing downstairs about what to watch on T.V. My heart grew three sizes when I heard Reno say, "Okay. Then let's try to find a program that we BOTH want to watch." (I've been despairing that they ever listen to me at all recently, and she was modeling my daily suggestion that I make a million times when they are home on vacation together.)

When Masa and I came downstairs, I started making this year's ozoni (a clear soy sauce dashi broth soup with chicken, carrots, shiitake, diakon, spinach and mochi in it). Once that was ready we all sat down together to welcome in 2009 over a traditional Japanese New Year's breakfast--the ozoni. Then Masa called his mother and we all bowed over the phone as we offered New Years Greetings to aunts, uncles, cousins, mother-in-law, sisters-in-law, brothers-in-laws, nephews and nieces.

So. I did burn a batch of mochi later in the morning, when I got side tracked doing something outside of the kitchen and forgot that I had three mochis grilling on the stove. But that's it. I swear. Nothing else went up in flames.

Happy New Year! May 2009 be filled with good fortune, good friends, family and laughter.