Saturday, November 21, 2009

If They Were Smart...

Lately Sister has been a pill.  I think she is just plain sick and tired of me and wants her Dad.  I don't blame her.  Tonight she was in an exceptionally good mood- I enjoyed every minute of it.  She did her cheer thing this morning and got to have a picnic with her very best friend this afternoon.  I was kid free for a few hours today- it was delightful.
Sister came home at dinner time.  While we waited for dinner to finish cooking- Sister entertained me with her book of songs she kept from the first grade.  I even joined in on the Christmas songs and "She'll Be Coming Aroung the Mountain..."  Afterwards we got in to a discussion about Santa Claus...

Sister: "Does Santa go all over the world to deliver presents?"
Me: "Yes, to all of those who celebrate Christmas."
Sister: "They don't really celebrate Christmas in Japan do they?"
Me: "Not for the most part- but some do."
Sister: "Well- if they were SMART they would!"

I almost wanted to correct her and say that not all people have the same beliefs and customs and that doesn't mean they are wrong- yadda yadda yadda.  But then I realized- she was thinking about Santa- its all about the presents right?  (to a 7 year old it DEFINITELY is!) 

Presents... and snuggles and new PJs.  Life is good.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Just a few thoughts and observations on a cold fall day...

Today I received in the mail a very official looking letter.  On the outside it says "Business Mail-Penalty for Tampering"  at the bottom it warns of a $2000 fine, 5 years imprisonment- yadda yadda yadda- to anyone who "interferes or obstructs delivery of this letter".  It is one of those presorted first class US postage paid letters.  I know it is most likely junk mail.  But just in case- I open it to see...
Important Notice--Please read
Regarding your property located at:
*insert my military post office box number*
Hmmm, my property?  I didn't realize people could own a home on a military base in JAPAN.  Obviously these people send out so many letters they don't check silly things like referring to my home as located at a post office box.  It was good for a laugh anyway!

I swear moving to a foreign country has really messed up a lot of things for us.  For instance- the city we lived in and where we are renting our home- continued to charge us for garbage and sewer.  This is after confirming at least twice and the new tenants calling to confirm their move in day- the day they would take over that bill.  Obviously the billing department was not paying attention.  They mailed out the bill the month before the tenants moved in and the bill was returned by the post office.  Yesterday I received a happy letter saying I was 90 days past due.  Excuse me?  I had to refer them to the lady that is managing my property to confirm the new tenant's move in date.  So now the city has obsolved me of any charges- but I think they plan on billing the tenants for 90 days of service.  I hope the tenants raise hell personally.  That is not the first time the city has pulled a boneheaded move like that. hmmph

Right after we moved- my insurance agent up and quit the business.  I had no idea and tried and tried to contact him to suspend the insurance on our truck we left behind.  Finally I had to contact Allstate directly- they had no idea what happened to my insurance agent.  But I did find out this insurance agent added the landlord policy to our home- but did not cancel the homeowner's policy.  So we were double insured and double billed.  Today I received a happy little refund check that I was not expecting.  Its always nice to get money when your not expecting it, don't you think?

Citibank is almost back on my good list.  I won't explain why as it would be TMI for the general public.  But the nice lady I spoke to on the phone tonight thanked my husband for his service in the military.  That doesn't happen everyday (except from my own friends)- so it was nice to hear from a stranger.

I bought a can of Mocha Roca today. That stuff is THE BOMB. It is like Almond Roca but instead of the amonds there are espresso beans inside. So yummy. Who cares if all the Almond/Mocha Roca candies look like cat turds scooped out of the litter box?  I just have to slow down before I devour the whole can.

I have had one million and one tasks/chores/errands to do since we arrived here in Japan.  I think I almost done.  I need to submit the pictures to moving company to prove all the damages they caused to our stuff they moved.  I have been putting it off, I need to get on that if I expect any money from them (I am not holding my breath.)  Part of it is that I just get so mad when I think of how the movers treated our stuff!  I worked so hard to make it easier for them, I was nice to them, bought them donuts and soda.  Bastards!!  At least I know that the efficient and conscientious JAPANESE movers will treat our belongings with kid gloves when they pack our things for when we move from here.

I still don't have a No-Fee Passport.  And those bastards at the special issuance office in DC still have my original documents I sent them (if they haven't lost them ALL by now.)  I don't see what is so "special" about that office.

I gotta get rid of my Dell.  I want a MAC!  Dear Santa...

Brother told me I should go back to work (as in full time).  I thought about it for two seconds.  The money would be nice- but it is hell working and taking care of the kids when Hubby is deployed.  Last March I used two years worth of sick leave because the kids kept getting sick and I had no one to help me.  Sea Duty is for me to play the Stay at Home Mom.  I am ok with that.  Staying at home is hard too, but at least this way I have a little time to myself- and more time to blog.

*In my best Martha voice*... "And that is a GOOD thing!"

Monday, November 16, 2009

Early Thanksgiving Special (A Tribute to my Grandma)

I've been having my own little pity party lately- as you will probably notice from my recent posts.  I could go on with the FML moments, but I thought I would change it up a bit.  Thanksgiving is next week- it is the time to think about what we are thankful for, right?

Whenever I think of Thanksgiving I immediately think of my sweet grandma.  Growing up we always had her over for Thanksgiving.  We also shared our birthday celebrations together.  Her birthday is the day after mine, and every so many years one of our birthdays will fall on Thanksgiving.
I can't lie, many times I resented her being there at every birthday party.  She always liked to watch my friends and myself- see what we were up to.  As she got older her watching turned into open mouth gaping.  Oh Grandma!  Of course I miss all of that now.  She loved me most of all out of all of her grandchildren.  (I hope my cousins don't read my blog.)  It is a fact, we spent the most time together.  She taught me to sew and crochet.  She taught me how to iron and how to make biscuits. 

That's me with my Grandma and Grandpa in 1975.  I have a dirty look on my face because I hated that dog- Jo-Jo.  He was the meanest ball of teeth and fur that walked the Earth.  He tortured me until I was about 10 when he finally died of old age (he was like 17 years old I think.)  I remember that little guitar in my hands fondly.  Maybe I should have whacked the dog with it- show him who was boss!

Grandma made the best chicken and dumplings on the planet.  And iced tea, oatmeal, Cream of Wheat, bread.. I could go on.  Her pride and joy was her Thanksgiving dressing.  She started on it the night before.  It wasn't anything fancy- homemade cornbread and Stove Top Stuffing mix.  But it was out of this world- I think it was all the love she baked into it.  Did I mention her pies?  My mouth is watering, thinking back to those pies.  I know I have pictures of some our Thanksgiving feasts- my mom always took a picture of the table before we all dug in.  I need to find them, they have so much more meaning to me now.

Next week will be her 97th birthday on Thanksgiving Day.  She was born in 1912- I wish I could see history through her eyes.  This may very well be her last birthday.  I am sad we will not be able to spend it together like old times.  I will try calling her, but honestly I don't think she will know who I am.  She was one of 7 children and the only one left.  She nursed two of her brothers and her only sister on their deathbeds.  After her last sibling passed- about 4 years ago- she started to let go.  I really think she made it that far- just so she could take care of them.  Now she lives with my mom and is in hospice care.  My mom said she talks to her father all of the time and thinks I am still a baby.  She gets confused when my mom tries to explain that I am all grown up now- so when asked "where is the baby"- mom just tells her I am sleeping.

She is a tough lady.  She told my mom that she wants to make it to 100 so the guy on the Today show will announce her birthday.  I wouldn't be surprised if she does.  The doctors will probably say no, but we are not sure what to expect.  She survived breast cancer and a masectomy at 75.  She laughed about getting her "boob" cut off.  We were all just amazed. 

San Diego- going to lunch at Mission Beach 1993

Not only did she pass on her love of sewing to me, but she gave me her thumbs as well.  I have the same squat fat thumbs as she has.  Kids used to tease me, ask if I sucked my thumbs.  That never bothered me- I was proud to have my grandma's thumbs (no one else in the family inherited them.)  My children didn't get them, but maybe some day I'll have a grandchild that will get them.

To sum it up I am grateful to have known such a wonderful woman and to have known her endless love.  I am grateful to remember catching her snooping in my shopping bags to find her birthday present I bought her.  I am grateful she dragged me to church in my great aunt's Charger with the vinyl seats in the 115 degree weather- and go eat at Bob's Big Boy afterwards.  I am grateful she taught me what it means to take pride in one's work.  I am grateful she always took my side when my mom got mad at me- no matter if I was wrong or not.  I am grateful I took my children to see her and spend time with her (Sister referred to her as "my old grandma who lives in the desert.")  I am grateful I have her thumbs so I will always have them to remind me of her.

I hope one day I can be as great a Grandmother as she is.  Happy Birthday Grandma! I love you!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Why I Locked Myself in the Bathroom (or Why Too Many Days off from School and Video Games are Bad)

Dude! I need a break. The kids have only been to school for 4.5 days in these past two weeks. Nearly 2/3 of these students have single parents at home because their other parent is deployed. Are they trying to kill us? The summer is one thing- but when the weather is cold and they need to stay indoors because of the torrential downpour- well- that makes for children climbing walls and their mothers pulling out their own hair.

I thought I would be nice and let them play video games (they are very limited on their playing time these days). That only makes things worse. Video games makes crazy kids, I am not kidding. Actually if I did some research I am sure I could find studies to back up my claim.

I'll spare you any more details except to say that after dinner I ended up running upstairs- into my bedroom- locked my door- into the bathroom- closed the door- into the comode/shower room- closed the door- put the toilet lid down and sat down with my head in my hands and let the tears come.

That helped a little.  Right now Sister and Brother are upstairs jumping and screaming- it sounds like they breaking down the walls. Granted-everything sounds much worse from downstairs. Still- it is NOT helping my headache.

I love my children and can't imagine life without them. I feel bad about complaining and venting- I am grateful they are happy and healthy and I know things could always be worse. But...

I can't wait until bed time.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Happy Veterans Day

First and foremost I want to wish a Happy Veterans Day to all those who have served our country and those who are currently serving.  I am so grateful!  And I think us military spouses deserve a big pat on the back because, well- We Rock!

I feel fortunate that while Hubby is sailing out there on some ocean- at least I know he is somewhat safer than those in Iraq and Afghanistan.  He has only been to Afghanistan once for a short time, and only after he came home did I find out they were fired upon (everyone was ok.)  That was scary enough.  I can't imagine what is like for those in imminent danger on a daily basis, and what it is like for their loved ones back home.  Every phone call, every knock on the door would send me into a panic.  My prayers go out to all of them- for a safe return home and happy reunions. 

Reunions are the best- I know that much.  I get choked up just thinking about it.  I can't wait for my sailor to come back home!!  Happy Veterans Day Honey, I love you and I am so proud!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Rhea Rhea of the Mouth

My dear dear friend used to tell me that I had "diarrhea of the mouth" whenever I started babbling too much (which was quite often).  Eventually diarrhea was shortened to "rhea rhea"- which just sounds better and not as disgusting. She wasn't the only one to tell me that I talk too much of course- but at least she said it in a sort of affectionate way.  My old roommate just told me that I talked too much and would go in her room and shut the door in my face.  Whenever I find myself talking someone's ear off, I realize that I am having a case of rhea rhea of the mouth again.  Poor Hubby has been subjected to this condition of mine many times.  When he is super quiet and stops responding I realize I have overdone it again.  Maybe that is what draws me to blogging- I don't have to corner my victim to get him or her to listen to my ramblings.  Here you can take it or leave it and I don't have to know.  Of course I could always get a rude comment or two- but I am not too worried.

Speaking of ramblings...

One of  my neighbors keeps grilling really delicious smelling food every night, or every other night.  It really makes me miss our big stainless steel grill we left in storage.  We thought we wouldn't have room- turns out we do of course.  I didn't think I would start missing American food this soon.  But I do miss Red Robins.  We went there at least 3 times a month.   They have the best fries. Yummm...

I took the kids to Yuzawaya (the big craft store I raved about previously).  They loved it as well, I had no doubt they would.  It turns out there was a big festival going on right outside the train station.  So we meandered on over to find all kinds of booths- food, crafts and the typical businesses handing out promotional stuff- similar to what you would see at an American street fair.  We got to see a tea ceremony and even took part.  The nice ladies from the Yamato Tea School (I may have that name wrong)- some of which were American- presented us with a "sweet" and tea.  The sweet was some sort of white dumpling with a purple center- it was very pretty and very sweet- and different.  Brother DID NOT care for it.  He didn't like the tea either.  He was making faces while trying to drink it.  I looked up and saw an older Japanese couple totally enjoying his expressions and they were laughing.  I didn't tell Brother- I knew he would not appreciate that.  I asked where to buy the green tea powder.  The use it in the restaurants and it is so yummy.  I did find a sort of green tea latte powder.  It actually crackles when I pour hot water on it.  It is very good, but I am sure it is not as healthy as it is sweetened.  After the tea we bought some yakisoba and "meat on a stick"- there is a name for it but it is not coming to me right now.  It looks like chicken sate you get at Thai restaurants,  except this was a bigger stick with big pieces of pork.  Brother loved it.  Afterwards I bought the kids chocolate covered bananas.  I wanted to try the sugared sweet potato fries, but I was too full.  One thing I don't think I will try is the "fish on a stick".  I am sad I didn't get a picture- next time.  It was literally a whole fish- head and all- on a stick.  If it was frozen we could call it a "fishcicle".

Speaking of food, I went grocery shopping at the local grocery store- Maruetsu.  It is an adventure in itself.  There are so many things to discover and boggle about- *what the heck is that??*  I have to say the fish section is beautiful- the fish looks like it was just caught an hour ago it is that fresh.  Makes the nasty commissary fish look even worse (if that is even possible.)  The cool thing I have noticed about these grocery stores is that if you go upstairs you can find a 100 yen store and all sorts of other goodies.  I think it is the Japanese version of a Super Wal-Mart in a way.

I had a thought about some of the food I have purchased at the commissary.  I bought some Chuka Soba noodles.  It was made in Thailand to be sold in the US.  So does that mean I just bought something that was shipped from this area only to come back?  That seems very silly.  It is definitely not very "green".  I am going to try to avoid that from now on.  Hopefully it was shipped directly to Japan in the first place and never to the US, but I doubt it. 

Friday, November 6, 2009

No School Today

So I've been a bad girl- was posting regularly and then dropped out for a week.  I just couldn't think of what to write about.  Would you call that a blogger's block?  I know that is corny. 

It's Friday and the kids have been out of school since yesterday.  They return on Monday only to get out early on Tuesday and then do not go back until the following week.  The teachers are still there- I see their cars lined up outside.  I know Brother's teachers are busy recording all of his Fs on his report card.  Maybe not all Fs, but there are way too many.  One F is too many in my book (and I am sure in most everyone else's).   It is beyond frustrating.  I know Brother has to be the one to do it- I can't go to school for him.  But I really feel that the teachers are not doing their job.  They have all of the 5th and 6th graders combined.  All of them.  They also have a strict policy of no late homework.  If it is not turned in on time, they get a 0.  No ifs, ands or buts.  I understand they are trying to prepare the students for junior high and that is great.  However, in my eye they are setting up the children for failure.  I know for a fact my son is not the only one to miss homework assignments.  What does that mean for the child who doesn't understand the assignment and is too frustrated to complete it?  No homework?  You lose!  We were up until 10pm the other night finishing Brother's homework- mainly his math homework.  I checked his work and helped him with the problems he did not get right.  He received a 10 (as in 10 points out of 100).  WTF??  I thought homework was supposed to be practice, not a test?  Hubby doesn't understand why I don't agree with grading homework.  I think he should get credit for completing it.  If it is obvious he just guessed at the answers then of course he shouldn't get credit for it.

So I emailed his math teacher and asked if she would be there at Brother's parent-teacher conference.  When she replied she asked if I wanted to have Brother tested so he can get into the math assistance program.  What??  I just talked to her two weeks prior asking if there was any kind of tutoring available for him and she said she didn't know of anything.  I forwarded the email to Hubby- I was fuming.  I will cut her some slack as she was not here at the beginning of the year (she was on maternity leave)- and the substitute did not follow her teaching plan at all.  However, if I tell her from day one that Brother is having problems she should have found out then what could be done.  She gave him an A- for science at least- I should be grateful for that.

Brother does not like school.  Aren't teachers supposed to inspire the children?  Are they too caught up in trying to just get the kids all the be quiet and do their work that they forgot that they are supposed to provide encouragement?  Why does it feel like it is an "us against them" (eg. teachers against students) kind of war?

I am emotionally drained from all of this.  How do I help him?  He is so totally lost still.  And I realize I am repeating myself over and over on this topic.  I do know that if things do not get better, I am seriously considering home-schooling.  I know of one parent that has pulled her daughter out of school already because of the curriculum.  And she was a teacher back in the states.
I scouted the Amazon website to find books on how to help Brother with school.  I stumbled upon some books about boys in particular and how we are failing them.  In the past two decades we have been so focused on girls that the scales have tipped and now girls are making great strides while the boys have been left behind.  It is a big controversy I know.  There are many women out there who fought so hard for equal rights and Lord knows I am grateful for that.  I also think as a society we develop tunnel vision, and we forget to look at the whole picture.  The book I am reading right now is called The Trouble With Boys, by Peg Tyre.  It is very interesting so far and she seems intent at looking at things from both sides of the spectrum.  I plan on posting my first book review when I am done.

Once someone told me, after I said I was praying for patience (with my children), that I should pray instead for understanding.  If we understand, then the patience will follow.  I take that to heart as I also think that understanding can also lead to solutions.  What I am trying to say is that by understanding where my son is coming from- I hope to come up with solutions to help him succeed.  It is an uphill battle and I am putting on my battlegear!