Saturday, 27 February 2010

Oyomesan duties...

Stimulating Saturday night.

Had 5 classes at work today and a pile of student diaries to read, so finally got out just before 6 pm and did a quick spin round the supermarket to buy sushi, veggies and tofu.
Took a taxi home with all the shopping and the diaries. And I think I saw Okaasan scurrying along as she does - heading to the Seiyu and Macdonalds...a favorite haunt of hers recently.
But that was 6.10 pm, so I knew she wouldn't be home for ages.

So I got back - started the pork and veggies soup, made the salads, fed the kittens, played with the kittens, made the bed, picked up a few tissue paper balls from the living from carpet....checked the soup and put on the heater in Okaasan's room....and found the window of her tatami room WIDE open to the street. 
I just hope no burglar ever thinks this house is worth coming Japan they actually have a whole sub-species of Women's Underwear Thieves (I've lost mine twice from a balcony clothes line and a coin-laundry) - so maybe some WUT would like to come on in and rummage thru Okaasan's collection.

Anyway. By 7.20 pm Okaasan wasn't home. So I ate dinner alone in the kitchen with a beer and the newspaper. I called Yujiro at the ski area to check his phone GPS and locate Okaasan. She was in one of the local supermarkets near the station.
I continued eating. Finished. Washed plates and came upstairs.
She rocked home just before 8 pm.
I fed her and chatted a bit. Then gave her the "got to call someone" line and escaped to MY Saturday night finally.
Oyomesan  duties done.

And that's my life....

*  Yesterday I made a mistake in Okaasan's chat-along. She was wombling on as usual about how her mother's family had once lived just by the bridge over the Toyohira River on the road between Sapporo and Otaru.
"Ahh yes, you went with a taxi driver once didn't you and he helped you look for the place didn't he?" I prompted.
"I did? Me? A taxi driver?" she looked across at me bemused, until I gave her another prompt about how far it was in those days between Hokkaido and Kawagoe...and then she was off again on the usual storyline about Kawagoe and the bus to Omiya.
But it was a funny moment.
Of course I've heard the Toyohira Bridge story so many times and how she once came to Sapporo and got a taxi driver to take her looking for it etc.
But - for some reason - last night THAT part of the story wasn't in her mind and when I supplied that part of the puzzle she was momentarily thrown because it wasn't in her memory at all - and of course she believed she was telling me this story for the first time ever!

So, so strange.
I read about this in my dementia book - and there it was - a clear example of it, it's ok to give the prompts which lead a person with dementia off into another story, but you can't give away the fact that you've heard it all before.

The brain is a wierd and wonderful thing.

.....and my curtains are rapidy becoming wierd and wonderful too...the kittens are into climbing mode this week. I can see daylight thru the claw marks. I think I'll have to ask Santa for new curtains next Xmas.

Bugger it...

He came...he slept...and he went...
Bugger it!
I have a weekend with his mother ahead of me.
Oh joy.

That's kitten feet typing.

He got home at 11.30 pm from the party and smelling of beer. fell into bed. I switched out the light and in the dark he said:"and the ski school called me and I have 2 days work at Kiroro..." and let THAT news hang in the dark of the bedroom.


And so at 6.30 am today he got up, got the ski stuff together, had a shower, packed the car and left for the mountains. He'll be back Sunday night.
And I am here with kittens, work and Okaasan.

Joy. Pure joy.
I am going to buy meself a nice bottle of wine for tonight and plan a trip to the Hot Woodchip Sauna tomorrow.

Friday, 26 February 2010

A day of duty...

Skater Mao Asada got silver in Vancouver - and I worked, cleared snow and had dinner with my boyfriend's mother....

Another crazy warm day, so 9 cm of snow melted and at lunchtime when I was back home for 2 hours to watch the skating (thanks Tokiko for changing lesson time!) a delivery truck got stuck in the snow outside the house.
It was JUST as the Japanese skaters came on, and could see Okaasan thru the window giving the driver our shovel and standing outside watching him - so I stayed upstairs and left them to it. She doesn't have much apart from TV in her day, so it gave her a bit of entertainment!

Came home tonight and heated up curry from the freezer, shop-bought salad on plates, rice, soup...and pickles.
Okaasan came home about 7.20 pm and got her sitting down by 7.30 pm.
I thought she might have gone to see the hairsalon, but she said she had left late because of the delivery truck she hadn't got downtown yet.
Talked about the stuck delivery truck, the ice skating, Korea, Koreans in Japan, her Korean schoolfriend who stopped coming to school the day Japan lost the war, Okaasan's father from Sapporo, Kawagoe, the war, food shortages, how the Americans didn't bomb Kawagoe....round and round a few times.
When she chats in these endless loops she forgets to eat and despite promptings about the salad and the soup - she was still chatting on by gone-8 pm...I'd cleared some plates from the table, so finally I said: "So sorry Okaasan, I have to telephone step-mum is out of hospital and now it's mid-morning in England, so I should call"...and she happily waved me off and I left her to finish eating and do the dishes. 
It seems to work - this "I must call England" white lie.
It's something I learned from the Contented Dementia book, find some good, acceptable reason why someone is away or someone has to go - and once you've said the magic words the sufferer is happy to let you go.
With Yujiro"he's working/skiing/shopping" seems to work...with me "working/telephoning England/meeting a friend" seems to be ok too.

So. Duty done. It IS getting easier, I guess. 
It's still duty. But I can do it.
Just hope Yujiro doesn't decide he really needs to go and spend a second evening with the tax office temp staff tomorrow....I think I might fake a night out with a friend...

Duty done I came upstairs and watched the last two episodes of Sex and the City, which I've been rewatching recently. Carrie goes to Paris and Big comes to get her. Ahhhhh....wonderful stuff.
Cried again watching it all.
The whole final Miranda and Steve storyline gets me now. Steve's mother has a stroke and loses her marbles...Miranda has to go looking for her in Brooklyn and after finding her eating old pizza from the garbage, takes her home to give her a bath....Magda the housekeeper says:"Now you love" and kisses Miranda.
Cried buckets all over the kittens....

Next week is March 3. Doll's Festival. I came to Japan in 1992? 93? on March 3. Every year it's  day of a little reflection about how life took a funny turn when I took a plane to Narita.

Operation Hair Salon

Operation Hair Salon is in motion.

Yesterday after NHK work I walked along in front of Mitsukoshi looking for a hair salon "in front of Mitsukoshi". Nothing. Zilch.
Of course Okaasan may have mixed up/forgotten what the woman in the Hula dance class had said.
It might be Marui Imai, it might by might be Lafila...or anywhere else in a city center of department stores.

Then I hit pay dirt. Opposite Mitsukoshi is....PARCO! (which once brought joy to English speakers in the city by having a "Golden Shower!!" sales campaign plastered all over the side of the building in building-sized letters). 
But I digress.
On the 3rd floor of PARCO I found...a hair salon! Looked nice enough...although a bit "young", I'm not sure this is the kind of place Okaasan will like to go.
But I grabbed lots of leaflets and headed out.

At  dinner last night I presented Okaasan with the leaflets and told her, repeatedly, where it is. She was pleased and thanked me etc...and we all discussed it several times. Yujiro gave her money for the salon and she is probably going to go and look today....maybe....

Of course. The logical thing to do would be to take the leaflets next Monday to Hula class and say to the woman: "is this the place you mean?"...but I'm not sure Okaasan has the organisation and memory capabilities to plan and execute that strategy.
Hence me trying to help her a bit.

I am such a wonderful Oyomesan. I amaze myself.

Have to cook dinner tonight though and eat it a-deux. Yujiro's off at a tax office job end party...and there's a danger he might be out tomorrow night too at ANOTHER tax office job end party....I wasn't too happy to hear I may have two dinners-a-deux in a row....hmmmm....

Wednesday, 24 February 2010


Okaasan asked to borrow money again today.
Usually Yujiro makes sure she has a few thousand yen in her purse for magazines, snacks, underwear and things because he says if she has big money she starts buying all sorts of stuff we already have or don't need. And she has so many purses and bags that she would leave bits of money all over the place.
(In her Saitama house he found large amounts of money laying around the house amid the trash and clothes.)
I've always been surprised how easily she accepts this: getting a cash handout from her son. But it seems to work. Like the cooking, it seems to be something in life she is accepting about giving up responsibility for.

But recently she has asked me for's a little embarrassing for both of us of course. Like today, she came into the kitchen in between ice skating viewing (her and me) and said:"It's a little embarrassing to ask, but can I borrow some money because I bought something at the bookshop yesterday and didn't have enough money, I promised to go back today with the money".

I only had Y1,000 or Y5,000 in my purse, and she said she'd better have the Y5, I handed it over....and set her right about WHICH station the bookshop was probably near.

Came home tonight to find Yujiro puzzled about where she'd got extra money - because she'd bought 4 chocolate breads and an expensive box of chocolates for ME!

So. She gives me chocolates. And he gives me the Y5,000 back.

I LIKE this arrangement!

Back to shopping.

Okaasan is back on form - she really is physically very strong.
Yesterday was warm and she went out and walked around all the shops under Sapporo Station, came home and ate dinner with us and chatted about stuff - so that's ok.
My fish in a mushroom sauce dinner was acceptable - but I over-did the miso in the miso soup - too salty even for Okaasan! She commented about it several times and watered it down a bit in her bowl...this kind of stuff used to make me stroppy - now I just let the comments sail past me...
I'm not a Japanese woman with generations of miso soup making in my genes and sometimes it will be wrong. If she wants to cook it herself then she'd get perfect. But since she doesn't cook she has to accept my offering...

Good news from England - my step-mum is back home again after her pneumonia bout. Her voice sounds so much stronger and she was chatty about one of the neices' babies, so all is ok there again.

And now - it is getting near the time that the whole of Japan will sit down in front of the TV to watch the Japanese women figure skaters try to get medals...I am so lucky it's my day off!!!! This afternoon I am taking a friend to have her 6-monthly cancer check up at hospital, but for now I have empty time: kittens playing with balls of paper all over the apartment and skating on TV....

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

This and That

Quiet weekend...and into another week.
Okaasan is a bit under the weather, and thus under the kotatsu with a cough at the moment.

Yesterday was foul weather: windy and cold and wet.
But Okaasan went out to Hula dance class and came back about 6 p.m. - I only saw her briefly because I was just going out to pick up some students from the station.
They were coming to dinner - and of course to see kittens - but by the time I got back with them into the house Okaasan had retreated to the kotatsu and Yujiro said she wouldn't be joining us for dinner.

So we ate dinner, enjoyed kittens and watched the unlikely "sport" of ice dancing on TV.

Okaasan seems ok this morning, but I can hear her coughing. Generally she doesn't wear enough clothes when she goes out - because bundling up isn't what a stylish Saitama lady does - so it isn't too surprising that she gets chills. Hopefully she'll be upright on the carpet today.

I must think of some way to get her to a hairdresser. Recently she commented many times that she looks untidy when she sees herself in the mirror - and of course she does look bad with straggly gray hair all akimbo.
The Hula Dance friend doesn't seem to be taking her along physically to introduce her to the hair salon "opposite Mitsukoshi"...and I can't think of WHICH salon this sometime when Yujiro or I are downtown with Okaasan we must hunt around with her and get her booked into a salon.
I'm not a girly girl person at all, and my hair looks horrendous most of the time - but even I know that women feel better after the hair salon and Okaasan hasn't been for months.

I'll just add it to the: Must Do With/For Okaasan list.

* Meanwhile in England - my step-mum was in a big city hospital last week with pneumonia. Now she has transferred to the local hospital and will hopefully go home again this week.

* and the kittens? Super cute! Still. They discovered their reflections in the bedroom mirror this weekend...and have started climbing the curtains determinedly.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

What does Okaasan DO everyday?

Students keep asking me: What does Okaasan DO every day? Many of my students are older people and I think they really identify with Okaasan's here goes.

I usually say: watch TV. Because basically that is what she is doing. From the kitchen we can see through the glass doors into her living room...and there she is...hour upon hour...sitting on the floor with her back against the sofa, and her bottom half under the kotatsu (a kind of hot blanket over a table that is popular in Japan). In front of her is a low table piled high with stuff and she is watching TV.

But in more detail...and I'll TRY to keep my cynical Oyomesan tone in check.

* She is awake on and off through the night. Usually the Tv is on. Sometimes she is wandering around washing dishes in the kitchen or washing underwear in the bathroom.
* She sleeps on the carpet under the kotatsu. We put a futon in the other room. But she has never used it. That room is just a clothes keeping place.
* AM - Sit and Watch TV. Open up the window to let in fresh air. Sometimes stand up and come to the kitchen to say "Good Morning!" to Oyomesan or Yujiro. Go to the toilet. Get the newspaper and sit and read it.
* Around 11 am. Lunchbox delivery company brings lunch. Go to the entrance hall to get the box, take it back to the kotatsu to eat.
* Watch TV - take notes of cooking show recipes, look at magazines about cooking and health and makeup and fashion.
* Look at the many pieces of paper that are on the table. Pick them up and put them down...reread them. Supermarket flyers...old shop recipes...
* Snack on yogurts, rice crackers, bits of fruit, cups of tea....

* PM - About 3 pm start thinking about going out for a walk.
* PM - About 4 pm finally get everything together to GO out.
* Walk to the supermarket, MacDonalds for a coffee, the soba restaurant for tea.
* Come back about 7 pm for dinner with the young people.
* Drink green tea after dinner. Rinse or wash dinner plates.
* Watch TV. Read bits of paper again. Snack on yogurts.
* Sleep in front of the TV.

I think that is a fairly standard day. Mondays she goes out on foot and by subway to the Hula Dance class, and often eats some food downtown after class. The lunchbox delivery is Tuesday to Saturday - but will finish next month because she wants to walk out and get something to eat.
She used to do stretching exercises in the living room...but I haven't seen her do any recently.

For 79 years old - pretty good life I think.

Yujiro gives her little bits of money. We do all the food/house shopping and cooking. She handwashes her own underwear. We occasionally get into her room to vacumn and take out old papers and trash.

That's what Okaasan does everyday.

THERE! I managed to write that without any Oyomesan snide comments didn't I?!

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Thankyou - Okaasan.

Trying to find things to say "Thankyou" to Okaasan about is hard.
The dementia-advice doctor we saw last year...and the book I read...both said carers need to make dementia sufferers feel needed and appreciated - and to praise what they can do successfully.

It's kind of hard. Because Okaasan doesn't actually DO anything to help my life.
She sits and watches TV all day. She goes to the toilet. She washes underwear and leaves it around. She goes out walking and comes home beyond dinner time. She offers to wash up - but often forgets to do it.

But I have finally found something: asking her to be the refuge for the house plants - away from kitten-attacks!

Her living room is usually warm (apart from when she throws open the windows every morning for fresh air...and forgets to close them for 20 minutes)...and it is sunny. If she doesn't over-water the plants...they have a better chance than in MY living room on the second floor.

*  And in other positive news - Okaasan actually LIKED my cooking last night. I made a couscous pilaf with lots of fish and vegetables and she ate 4 portions of it....

* And in not so good step-mum has been admitted to hospital with pneumonia. She didn't want to go there, but the doctor insisted. So there she is again. Hopefully not for long...

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Who will play me in the movie?

Kittens ok - maybe ate green pepper leaves. Now bouncy again. Currently sleeping.
Okaasan ok - chatty about the Olympics, hairdressers, food...even GAVE me chocolate!
Yujiro ok - gone to tax office job.

Oyomesan....time to idly wonder....WHO will play me in the movie when this blog leaps from the computer screen to the cinema screen?

A popular cartoon book called "My Darling is a Foreigner" is about to become a movie.
Artist Saori Oguri's 2002 hit book about life with American, journalist husband Tony Laszlo tapped into that endless Japanese fascination with international relationships and managed to hold up the mirror to Japanese life at the same time.

I picked up a flyer for the movie the other day: of course macho hairy Tony Laszlo (who incidently writes about multi-culturalisation in Japan) is played by a gentler, less-macho, less-hairy actor called Jonathan Sherr.
The book and the movie are aimed at Japanese women - and the dream foreign man is a boyish, gentle person...not the opinionated, loud gaijin of reality.

So. When Okaasan and Me becomes a movie. Who will play me?
Hmmm...Ingrid Bergman is dead. So I'll go for Julia Ormond...she was in the remake of Sabrina with Harrison Ford, and in Legends of the Fall with Brad Pitt.
In my dreams I look like THIS!

Of course in reality...slumping around in my dressing gown, whch smells suspiciously of kitten food...

Monday, 15 February 2010

Kitten drama.

Our kittens are sick and we don't know why.
It's been a horrible evening.

I got home about 5.15 pm and found Chichi sparked out with heaving sides. Little bits of sick were all over the living room carpet. Popo seemed ok - but stressed about his brother. He ate a bit - then he threw up too.

I hunted around - was it the stuffing from the mouse toy? was it the feathers from the mouse toy? Was it the plant soil bits?
This morning they were fine.
Cancelled my evening lesson - and rushed off withe them in the car to the vets.
Chichi had a temperature of 42. Popo is 39.7. Cats should be 38 degrees.
Not good. The vet said if they'd eaten something they should be ok after being sick a bit.
He wonders if it's a delayed reaction to the vaccines last week....or something else, a virus or something.

Came home with them and put them floppily on the blanket by the fire.
Had quiet dinner with Okaasan.
We saw watching TV..every so often one kitten gets up and yowls and retches.

It's awful. I can't do all of this again after Bob-cat.
Yujiro is sleeping on the sofa in the living room.
I'm going to try and sleep in the bedroom.
The kittens are on the electric blanket by the fire.
They are so small. This retching is awful to see.

We have the telephone number of the night emergency vets on standby. Our vets opens at 9 am.
Yujiro has to go to work at 8 am. I have a class at 10.30 am.

Last night the two kittens were hurtling round and round the living room chasing eachother merrily....what on earth is wrong?

Weekend with Okaasan....

Okaasan and Oyomesan - alone for the weekend.

It went ok. No big dramas. But it felt like responsibility and work.
Saturday afternoon I got home from work - she asked to borrow some money because she claimed to have none. I think Yujiro had given her some...but I gently and politely gave her more anyway. She wrote the amount on the kitchen notice board so she could remember it!
It's interesting that she seems to accept not going to banks/post offices and getting her own money. Yujiro gives her small amounts. I gave her Y1,000.

Of course that meant that she went out shopping at 5 pm.
At 7 pm she wasn't home.
At 7.10 pm I started eating dinner alone. (secretly happy of course!)
At 7.25 I called Yujiro at the ski area and asked him to use the GPS to track her.
He found that she was heading home from the supermarket.
I finished my dinner.
At 7.45 pm she arrived back.
I served her dinner and chatted for 5 minutes.
Then I faked a "the phone upstairs in ringing, it might be England" and disappeared.
10 minutes later I got down to the kitchen again and pointed out that the Olympics Opening Ceremony was on TV.
Got her settled by her TV.
Started MY evening....

Sunday I cooked lunch for her and served it.
She asked to borrow more money. I gave her Y2,000.
Told her Yujiro would be home later...we chatted about rich HongKongers and ski lessons.
Then I went to meet a friend for a scary movie - Paranomal Activity....very very good.
We came back to play with the kittens....and just as I was serving dinner Yujiro arrived back.
The 4 of us ate together.

It was all ok. But caring for this lady feels like work. I actually feel closer and get more personal interaction from my students...

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Couple Time. The Sequel.

Cooked dinner for Okaasan.
Sat and chatted with her for about an hour - fish, her father bought crab somewhere and brought it home, didn't eat fish wartime, crab, her father's truck driving job, the Kawagoe to Omiya bus route....lots of good old familiar stories. It's fairly easy to get her on these Hamster Wheel stories.

I used to stress about doing these dinners.
It's ok now.
I just think of it as one more Conversation I have to do in a working day - so yesterday I did 3 classes of English - and then came home and do one more - in Japanese.

It's quite hard to FINISH the dinners. Okaasan is waffling on about stuff and forgetting to eat. It is rude (even for me!) to actually stand up and start clearing plates while she is still eating. So I faked a trip to the toilet, and went to the utility room to wash my hands, and got a clean dish cloth - and finally used the "My step-mum in England isn't so good this week, I have to phone her now" excuse.

And got out of the kitchen. Kitten chaos awaited upstairs.

Okaasan usually clears the table and rinses dishes. Sometimes she washes them. But usually she just rinses and forgets to do it "later". We do it the next morning.
There is some Japanese saying about: Even if your parents have died, don't rush away from the table after eating. Or something. Okaasan is always quoting this to us as we try to escape after a meal with her! Brash young modern people that we are: we eat and go.

And kittens??? Cute and into everything.
Just 10 minutes ago there was a Goldfish/Plant/Kittens Disaster as I came upstairs and found Chichi's leg suspiciously WET! The golfish tank lid, the plant on top of it - all crashed into the tank. The goldfish fluttering nervously under his weed surrounded by bobbing bits of plant soil. Ok for Amazon piranias maybe, probably bad for a fish who likes his filtered water.

So. He's gone down to the kitchen for the moment, while I think what to do next.
Maybe goldfish and kittens need time away from eachother. I have been spraying the kittens with water whenever they climbed onto the tank - but....didn't work enough.

And the guy of the house? He's away in glorious Niseko with the sunshine teaching young HongKongese the joys of skiing. Lucky bugger.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Couple time...before....

Cheese! Cheese! Meat! Chocolate!

Diet? What diet?

Yesterday was Japan's Founding Day or something, so the second of a rare 2 days off. I'd spent Day 1 doing all sorts of essentials. Day 2 was for Pure Pleasure.
We slipped downdown to the Hotel Mercure and had coupletime with a vast, French buffet lunch - help yourself to as much cheese, olives, salami, peppered beef, bread, salads etc etc...topped off with chocolate fondue and a bottle of wine.
Brought back memories of a simpler time when he had enough money to go skiing in Europe for a month and I'd fly out for a week's holiday - when we could ski and eat cheese/olives/salami. It was good to sit across a table from eachother and talk.
Anyway. Nice lunch. We reeled home about 2 pm and went to bed with kittens bouncing on and off the futons.

Had to sit with Okaasan in the evening at dinner though, we managed to push a few bits of nabe stew round our plates while she ate a proper dinner. She didn't notice that we weren't actually eating anything.

She's already forgotten that we enjoyed the HongKongese singing group in the Snow Festival, she said several times that she's gone to look for singers on stage in the festival. But when we talked about the HK group she looked blank...sad...because we stood there for about 15 minutes with her enjoying the singing and talking about it.
On the hand - she DID remember that Nishikata-san had come to dinner and that she'd come to Sapporo with her mother.

Okaasan's memory is patchy. I guess the HK singers were a passive experience - just some people at a distance singing. Nichikata-san was here in the kitchen talking directly about her mother.

Anyway. Back to normality today. Yujiro's gone off to the tax job today and then tonight he drives to Niseko to work for two days with HongKongese skiers who are here for Chinese New Year.
Okaasan and Oyomesan...and kittens...will be Home for the Weekend Together.

Cue random Cute Kitten Picture!

Thursday, 11 February 2010

CATch up.

Quiet time at the computer after a busy few days.
Yujiro's out shopping. The kittens are almost asleep under the desk lamp.
Okaasan is almost asleep under the table heater. .

Been a hectic few days.
We did another family Duty Day on Sunday and took Okaasan to the Sapporo Snow Festival. 
She walked about 10 blocks of Odori Park, holding Yujiro's hand in case she slipped and we made sure to stop off along the way for hot wine, hot/sweet sake, snacks, toilets.
She seemed to enjoy it all...chatting to us and looking at the snow statues. Looking at all the people etc. We even found some Hong Kongese students singing on the Mickey Mouse stage.

It was a long day - we went for lunch first in a noodle restaurant near our local station where Okaasan often goes. Then the Snow Festival. Then Mitsukoshi department store for a new hat for Okaasan. My leg was tired...Okaasan seemed fine!

One funny incident: while Yujiro went off to another shop Okaasan and I sat in the department store entrance area and we got approached by a slightly strange old man - he actually came and put out his hand for the toasted almonds I was giving Okaasan!
Anyway he sat and chatted to nice it was to have a foreign Oyomesan etc etc and about travel...but he WAS a bit strange and Okaasan and I locked eyes in agreement about HOW strange he was.

It was a rare moment of she and I bonding on an experience.

Apart from Snow Festival it's been busy - Couch Surfing guests, kittens being so so so CUTE/DEMANDING OF TIME...and work....
I took the kittens to the vets for their vaccinations. Lots of mewling in the car and sheer terror once we got there because a dog was barking and a rough-looking couple burst into the clinic waving a dog calender picture and demanding that their poodle be trimmed in the same style.

I decided to change vets - slightly closer and it is a local vets and not as busy as the popular, high-tech place we visited for years with Bob. He needed their special care and the Head Vet spoke English...but for general care I hope Chichi and Popo don't need a specialist. One of my students recommnded her local vet and he seemed a gentle, kind man.

Last night Yujiro brought home an old friend for dinner. She was in Sapporo for the festival. A woman he used to work with. We had family dinner with her here and I cooked up a Hokkaido spread of salmon, potato, asparagas...she came last year too and at the time I was pretty suspicious as to WHO she was....partially cos Yujiro suddenly announced that she was in-town and would come for dinner.
But actually she is not a female-threat ( I think...) - a cheerful woman in her 40s who used to work in the same department store as Yujiro years ago.
It was good to have someone else to chat at dinner and break up our usual 3-some pattern - and Okaasan enjoyed the woman's chat about the department store and news from Saitama. But she did ask me several times: "WHO is this woman?!!" I noticed recently that Okaasan seems more accepting of her memory loss and even asks me to confirm outside information - it may be  a good sign that she is putting me in her Circle of Trust.

But...I did think a little - THIS woman is the kind of person Yujiro should be with probably...she would be so much better with Okaasan than me. She was a warm, friendly lady and was even in Sapporo with HER 79-year old mum (who stayed behind in the hotel onsen and didn't come for dinner)...I wonder why she and Yujiro never got together?

*  News from England. My step-mum is having a bad week - water on the lungs? Infection? She is in bed a lot and sounds tired and confused. But she is determined not to go back to hospital....I hope she will be ok. It is a sign of how precarious her general health-condition is.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Happy and exhausted...

Sapporo Snow Festival...kittens....Couch Surfing guests and

Too much activity...but all good.

Sapporo's in the middle of a weekend blizzard and the big Snow Festival, a million visitors are downtown enjoying snow sculptures, we were down there last night in Susukino with Sebastien, the young German guy who is Couch Surfing with us this weekend. Couch Surfing hosts and guests from all over the Sapporo area all got together to have an izakiya dinner, and then enjoy the ice sculptures...and finally karaoke till midnight. I LOVE Couch Surfing. Have met some great people through it. Tonight an American woman is coming to stay 2 nights. They don't actually stay with us anymore of course (too much a shock for Okaasan to find random foreigners in the kitchen or bathroom!!) - they stay at my English school...but we try to hang out a bit with people and show them our city.

And kittens. so sweet and entertaining, and funny, and amazed by everything. And needy. And noisy.
Yujiro's cat climbing jungle gym arrived. It's huge and blue and white with fur...NOT the kind of thing I would choose to have in my living room. But he's sweet for getting it. And Chichi and Popo (these terrible names are sticking) love it of course.

Okaasan knows about the kittens. She was in the hallway  when the cat gym arrived in a large box.
"What's this?" she said to Yujiro.
"A cat climbing toy" he said.
"Cat? Who has a cat? We don't have a cat!"
"Yes we do, Amanda and I have TWO cats upstairs now..."

(Interestingly she does remember that we don't have a cat anymore....)

Sometime we'll introduce Okaasan and the kittens. But no rush. They aren't meant to have much contact. Okaasan doesn't dislike cats, but she finds the unpredictable movements etc all a bit much and we hope to keep them apart. Yujiro has done a wonderful job in blocking off the gaps n the baby gate which is at the top of the stairs - we hope it'll keep Chichi and Popo and Okaasan apart.

Meanwhile...random kittens pictures...

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Bad luck OUT! Good luck (kittens) IN!

Well - we are surviving. 
They are surviving. We are surviving.
Okaasan hasn't asked why there are strange bumps and running sounds and cries from her living room ...yet. This could push her over the edge!

"They" have names too. I was thinking Mame and Maki - which celebrates the Bean Throwing festival yesterday - but Yujiro somehow thought of Chichi and Popo - these were wolf brothers in a famous cartoon when he was a child (so long ago the You Tube clips he showed me are in black and white!)

So - I will be standing in the garden until I am 60 plus shouting "Chichi" and "Popo"...oh no....but I feel I should let him have some kind of input into the  arrival of these kittens in our life. So naming rights go to him.

Yesterday was my day off. I stayed home with the kittens, my accountant and a quick lunch visit out to see old students downtown. Then back to cook clam chowder and play with kittens again...and again.
They have huge bursts of energy, and then sleep. At the moment they are contained in our living room. But I think they are beginning to know there is ANOTHER worls beyond the door...and getting curious. And I'm not sure my houseplants will survive this encounter...or the goldfish! (see pic).

Bean Throwing Festival yesterday. Out with winter and In with spring long ago. But MINUS 14 here at 7 am....
I bought beans and sushi roll and at dinner I mock-presented the beans to Okaasan and we got her to lead us out into the hallway - I opened the front door quickly and she scattered the beans outside saying: "Demons out! Happiness in!"...of course in Japanese.

We all laughed and then hurried back into the kitchen to stand and eat the sushi rolls facing south-south-west...and then to sit down an eat more-warming chowder which was delicious.
Okaasan looked a bit wild and wooly in her pajamas for the second day, but she seemed happy enough. Far too cold for her to go out.

We had a lot of bad luck demons in this house last let's hope the good luck comes flowing in for 2010. Chichi and Popo have a BIG responsibility!

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Oh my....neko...neko...!!!

Here they are - running riot all over the living room this evening.
Never still long enough for me to get a cute picture!

I met Satomi in the Seicomart carpark - we stuffed crying kittens out of her pet carrier and into mine. She gave me some spray to encourage peeing in the right places, two cans of kitten food and some dried munchies.
And off the boys and I went home. They miaowed at me for most of the way , furious little white paws poking through the pet carrier bars.
And then we got home. I switched off the car engine and they went very very silent. Stayed silent all the way inside...but came out of the carrier cautiously 10 minutes after it was open. Flitted around the living room like little spirits and finally retreated to safety on the big cushion behind the sofa.
There  they stayed until Yujiro came home and at the sound of our voices they came out and played. Then slept again. Then came out to eat some food and find the toilet box. 
And explore!
They seem fine. I am a little tired and anxious. But they are fine. One has a white stripe on his back and he is braver. His brother has a white spot, and he is shyer.

What will happen tonight? Will they cry? Will Okaasan hear them downstairs and think the Setsubun monsters have arrived? She doesn't know anything about them yet. What happens upstairs in our apartment is another world.....

Oh wow. Two cats. I'm mad. But happy. I think!

It's gonna be twins!

We're gonna go for TWO cats.
Came home last night to discuss with Yujiro....while I ate a late bowl of dinner he made me wait to start chatting while he fiddled around on the computer.
Finally: "Ok! This will be your birthday present! I got it!"
"It" was a cat, climbing gym - a vast thing of towers and scratching posts!

He'd accepted the inevitable.
I called Satomi who sounded SO happy to get rid of two of them (what ARE they doing to her apartment I wonder??!!) and she said she'll meet me back outside the Seicomart this afternoon. And she'll bring the spray to stop them peeing everywhere. Oh no....
Oh my God. Two kittens!
I haven't had kittens actually since I was a teenager, when I guess my mother actually was in charge of their care and training.
Oh gosh. Two.

Ok? Names anyone? Tomorrow is Setsubun in Japan - a welcome-spring bean throwing festival...some students suggested "Mame" and "Bean", or "Azuki" and "Soy"....

I'm nervous. Have I bitten off more than I can chew? (more than THEY can chew?) I keep thinking ahead to my schedule this week of work and Snow Festival guests for Couch Surfing...they'll have to be some adjustments for 2 noisy babies.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Can't decide!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

OK? Which? Both? One? Neither?

AGHHHHHHH!!!! I can't decide.

I am just back from meeting these two brothers in a car park outside a Seicomart in the Sapporo suburbs.

Poor babies, they were cold and scared....


I think Yujiro will say "No" to both. But I think 2 would be happier together than one.

I told the woman I'd call her later tonight....and if I say "Yes" meet her again tomorow after work.....