Wednesday, June 30, 2004
People told me that there would be a day when I'd cut Maggie's finger instead of her fingernail, and she would bleed and she would cry and then I'd cry too. Today was that day - and all because I decided it would be OK to use the (baby) nail clippers instead of running downstairs for the scissors.
In revenge she decided to stay awake all morning and cry when I tried to eat my lunch.
My friend Sarah is back after a month at home so my credit card is no longer safe - she is definitely a Bad Influence. Lunch with her always involves a trip round the shops; today I thought she was going to march me down to the Prada shop and have me spend £200 on a pair of shoes I spotted in Vogue (at least then I could blame her, right?!) but we managed to distract ourselves in the French Connection sale so all was OK after all.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004
Here comes the thumb Posted by Hello

Ducks and whatnot
Sunday must have been a slack news day: BBC World (which, by the way, has a rubbish website without, as far as I can see, any searchable archives of news stories) were running one story about poppies and buttercups and another about ducks. Some Danish ecologist is campaigning to stop people feeding the ducks (cue outraged yet eloquent Danes talking about the simple pleasures in life). Only he wasn't, not really - he wanted people not to feed them white bread and to feed them on land rather than in the water; something to do with algae growth (and it seems he's not the only one with this idea). However, I think he rather lost his nature-loving kudos when he went on to suggest that students, old people and the poor should go out and get themselves a duck for the oven, thus revealing his true agenda as a duck-hater.
Every hour on the hour.
While searching for a link for this story I came across this instead; ducks quacking in regional accents! Fantastic.
Cameron and I still have colds, in fact he stayed home sick yesterday. Small babies seem to knock their parents' immune systems for six, probably by depriving them of sleep. On the ever-more-cute front, she has discovered that sucking her thumb is just as satisfying as getting the whole fist in there. Of course, it depends on the motivation - while the thumb is best for drowsy times, both hands at once is far better if you are intending to wipe slobbery digits up mummy's arms and over her clothes. When we came downstairs this morning I popped her down on her front as usual to practise her head-lifting while I made breakfast. Usually she is starting to wail in frustration as the toast pops but this morning all was quiet - when I went to investigate she was fast asleep with her little thumb in.

Sunday, June 27, 2004
Forgive me my typos
Lisa says: Do you know
Lisa says: I just ordered some new knockers
Lisa says: because mine are all stretched by pregnancy
Suzanne says: WHAT???
Lisa says: knickers!! I mean knickers!

3 months today
Happy 1/4 birthday, Maggie! And happy rather-more-than-that birthday to Mia-the-midwife; hope everybody recognised you at your fancy-dress party (Margot Leadbetter, everyone, now there's a challenge. I wonder if she had a pottery wheel as an accessory?). To mark the occasion (of Maggie turning 3 months, not Mia's 30th) I have finally got around to writing part 1 of our birth story, as requested by some of my odder readers. It's over at baby blue because it's quite long and to enable its avoidance by those of you who don't want to read it. Part 2 (in which she is actually born) will follow as and when. For those of you who sensibly aren't interested in childbirth, I offer the couple I saw yesterday walking along the road and obeying the traffic signals. Which reminded me of walking back to the clinic from the hospital, the day before I was released, with So-san the midwife. OK we were walking in the road, there being no pavements, but stopping at red lights when on foot is a bit strange isn't it? Am I the only one to think so?
We all have colds here so are feeling a bit miserable. Cameron played football yesterday and Maggie and I walked into Shimokitazawa, a 'cool' part of town (all asian furniture, flipflops and tie-dyed clothing). Spotted some shelves I really liked, just have to think of a use so I can justify their purchase; popped to lush for bath stuff and bought a new bag. No jeans though, and no cup of tea as there wasn't a cafe to be found that wasn't full of smoke or too teeny for a pushchair. Shimokitazawa's Starbucks has only one chair, what use is that?!
A friend of mine here is getting somewhat nervous, being at the centre of a one-woman crime wave. She missed a shooting at Shibuya station by 5 minutes last week (a shooting! Actually what I love about that article is "Subway operations were not disrupted." Of course they weren't.) then there was a mugging at her local station; her son spotted two men being chased up the street past her house (apparently two of the pursuers - the man from the barbers and the man from the dry cleaners - found time to stop and wave cheerily to him) and a policeman shot one of the robbers in the leg and back after he entered a vacant house 500 yards from the station and grabbed a kitchen knife. I had no idea the police here were armed; shows what I know! Of course, the attackers are believed to be foreign, as are all criminals here in Japan. One of Cameron's friends was carted off to the police station once because there had been crimes committed by foreigners locally; the fact that he, as a Western foreigner, was hardly likely to resemble the Korean criminals is neither here nor there: foreigners had committed the crime so foreigners must be examined.

Friday, June 25, 2004
Three things I've learnt since having a baby
(The first in an occasional series)
1. From my house to the supermarket, walking at a reasonable pace with a baby in a sling, takes one whole rendition of green grow the rushes-o plus four verses of my ship sailed from China. This is equivalent to one if you're happy and you know it, one Old MacDonald and a moderate selection of songs from the shows.
2. Babies all cry differently. Before, I thought they all just went 'waa waa' in an unpleasant ear-piercing manner; now I know that each baby has a unique (unpleasant, ear-piercing) sound.
3. Old ladies like to click their tongues at babies. They make the same sound that pre-teen girls make at ponies. Also, old ladies in the supermarket can't tell the difference between girl babies and boy babies, even if said baby is dressed head to toe in pink complete with frills, ruffles and hearts-and-flowers motifs.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Woke up this morning with all sorts of good intentions; I was going to go to Shinjuku and up to the Metropolitan Government Building tower observatory (because the air is always clear after a typhoon so the views are spectacular), buy a water filter, and - Maggie depending - maybe get some new jeans and a pair of shoes. However, it's 34 degrees out there so we decided to stay indoors with the aircon on. At some point I am going to have to brave the heat with Maggie; we can hardly stay indoors until September. And I do need new jeans. Which is always a trauma even in the UK, I haven't yet attempted it here (the last pair were purchased in New Zealand but I can hardly go back there just to shop) - the legs are always too long or too short and they are always tight where they shouldn't be and baggy where you don't want bag. I always need at least three shopping trips and a temper tantrum to get jeans. But I digress.
Bit perturbed by Yolly - the maid - patting my hip and telling me I'm sexy. Even more perturbed by her telling me that Maggie and I are sexy. Strange woman.
We did brave the heat after 4 (it should be cooling down by then, right? Phew, you wouldn't know it. Of course, corduroy trousers are probably not quite the thing: for some reason I am very slow to move to summer apparel this year.) Maggie had her first facing-out ride in the sling:
 Posted by Hello
It's great for her, she can see so much more than when she's facing in. And great for the old ladies who can see her face clearly and have easy access for their pokey fingers. Must learn how to say please don't prod my child in polite but firm Japanese. Not so great for me: I have to look at our reflection in car windows to see whether she is awake or asleep and the weight distribution is different so instead of just adding to my weight she pulls forward. Hard on the old back but I'm sure we will get used to it. She dropped asleep in the bank anyway so I turned her back round to face me; much cosier.

sweet! Posted by Hello

Monday, June 21, 2004
We're having a typhoon. Actually, I think it has officially been downgraded to a tropical storm (it started out as a super-typhoon, woohoo!) but it's still pretty wet and wild out there. And hot. And steamy. And generally a bit yuk. But never mind, it's Monday and everybody knows that Mondays are for Tidying and Laundry and Getting Back Into Routine and other boring stuff (and Lunch With A Friend, although that isn't strictly an approved Monday activity).
Cameron had his first Fathers' Day yesterday. Maggie cleverly bought him the new Badly Drawn Boy album, which he seemed to like. Of course he'd like anything that golden girl bought for him; when he got home from work today I had to very pointedly say HELLO in order to even get a glance (he said I'm looking at my baby!) Anyway, fathers' day was celebrated with a BBQ with some of the others from my playgroup: all the new dads showing off their baby-handling techniques while the mums seized the moment to guzzle a bottle of wine. Maggie snoozed in a swing.
I've just spotted that it's midsummer's day. 5.30 in the evening and already dark here; isn't it supposed to be about lovely balmy weather and tripping about the fields with daisies rather than getting drenched dashing to the supermarket?

Thursday, June 17, 2004
Baby massage, taiko, lunch out, bookshop and doctor all in one day, phew! Maggie loved the taiko - I just took her along to watch the last 15 minutes of the lesson, interested to see how she'd react, whether she'd be scared or not. No point having children if you're not prepared to do experiments with them. Of course, I didn't have a control baby who hadn't listened to taiko in utero; maybe all babies love the sound of the drums. And they were playing a piece she was familiar with, one I used to play. Either way, she smiled and cooed and bounced along (ok the bouncing was my knee) so I think I'll be able to have lessons again next term, parking her in the corner of the room. Hoorah!
Jabs were OK. Well, she cried of course, who can blame her - nasty doctor sticking nasty needles in. But she seems fine (sleepy) now. And she weighs a whopping 5.6 kg!
Have you seen this? Gave us a giggle; I hope somebody bids.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Amazing. Sorry to keep harping on about boring baby stuff but she is just learning new stuff every day now! Yesterday she grabbed Cameron's tie; today she has mastered bringing both hands together and when I put her down on her ladybird mat (to see it, click toys/playmats and it's bottom middle) and went to make a sandwich, I was brought back into the living room by the sound of scrunching - she'd managed to grab the flower in the middle and was playing with it and smiling! Cool. meanwhile, her experimentation with sleep patterns continues with, today, the no-sleep-at-all technique. She's had a grand total of about 25 minutes' sleep from waking up until 5 pm. 6 pm now and she's still out for the count. Probably exhausted, poor little mite.
Our only other news is increased frustration with the housing agents. I can't remember whether I mentioned it before, but they've let our house for 12 months despite being clearly and firmly told not to let it beyond this September...not only that, they haven't replied to my dad, who emailed them last Wednesday. Then somebody else from the office contacted me to ask whether the tenants could redecorate - so, presumably, the tenants are not aware of the situation. Gah!

Tuesday, June 15, 2004
Funny sort of rainy season this is. Blue skies and sunshine. Maybe it's compensation for last year's 3-month rainy season? It is so hot the roads look like mirrors, the cats lie listlessly in the shade until the evening lizard-hunting time and the plants need to be watered twice a day (this, of course, doesn't happen - it takes all my time and energy just keeping Maggie and myself fed and watered, so the plants stand all limp-leaved until I feel guilty and half-drown them). I had to wear a hat and shoes just to hang out the washing. Still, humidity is lurking around a compfortable 50% so it is actually rather pleasant and holidayish.
Strange things afoot with my computer - who knows about computers? It potters along just fine until I try to use the CD drive (to, for example, back up my photos), when it shuts down and restarts itself. Do I have to get a man in or a new CD drive or is it easily fixable?
Lastly, congratulations to Kavitha, who's had a baby boy.

One nice thing about living abroad is getting parcels! People send us things and I buy stuff online and it's all very exciting...we got three this weekend: a T-shirt for Maggie from Cameron's Aunty (also Margaret), some new nappy wraps I'd ordered - they have whales on and are very sweet - and a special mosquito-repellent thingy. It apparently makes a noise like a dragonfly, which scares the mossies off. I can only hope that Japanese mosquitoes recognise the sound of a dragonfly and know to be afraid of it; I am a little disconcerted by the disclaimer on the back that suggests it might not work in every case. Will my magical mosquito-attracting ability overpower the sound of a dragonfly, I wonder?
Maggie has decided that sleeping in the evenings is for wusses and won't go to bed until we do - though now she can play with some toys she doesn't feel she has to cry, so that's OK. I can turn her chair around or prop her on my lap so she can't see the television if we're watching something unsuitable.

Sunday, June 13, 2004
Playing with toys
Look what Maggie's learnt to do!

Friday, June 11, 2004
Excuse me if I seem a little incoherent, I had all of about 4 hours' sleep last night. I wouldn't mind, but there was absolutely no reason for it - Maggie was fast asleep from 7 last night until 9 this morning, just waking up 3 times to feed (she did have one litle cry, 2 wails'-worth, but that was entirely my fault as I inadvertantly elbowed her in the face). I lay there, wide awake, thinking about how I really must get some sleep else I'd be rubbish today. And I was right, I am. Oh and I have a cold too (what is the matter with my immune system at the moment?) - feeling very sorry for myself.
I keep hoping she'll have a wee snooze so I can retire to bed, for once heeding the advice to sleep while your baby sleeps. Is sleeping while your baby doesn't sleep acceptable? I must put a new battery in her magic chair...when I bought the bouncy chair I thought the vibrate function was silly and pointless; who wants to sit in a vibrating chair? But hey, it was secondhand so I wasn't going to complain. In a fit of desperation one screamy evening, Cameron turned it on and lo and behold a quiet, sleepy baby. Magic.
Otherwise, there's nothing going on here. Rainy season has started rather half-heartedly with days of drizzly grey, and people are enthusiastically viewing both irises and hydrangeas, it being the season for both.
I've been reading Maggie some of the Beatrix Potter books - until my amazon parcel arrives with something more age-appropriate they are the only children's books I've got (previously I had read her excerpts from my Ian Rankin, reasoning that it was just about sounds at this stage; but even so, I felt a bit strange reading to a 2-month-old baby about grisly glaswegian gangland murders). They are weird! I don't remember that from when I was a child. Actually I don't remember much about them at all except for the charming pictures and they, at least, remain charming. Firstly, the language - when Peter Rabbit gets stuck in the gooseberry net, the sparrows implore him to exert himself. I know the books are very old but surely even Victorian children would have been happier if they'd asked him to try? Squirrel Nutkin is absolutely bonkers and was frankly lucky to get away with only losing his tail. And Mr Jeremy Fisher's friend, Mr Alderman Ptolemy Tortoise, eats salad instead of butterfly sandwiches. Mrs Tiggy-Winkle is lined up for tonight; I remember that being my favourite so I hope it won't be too peculiar.
Lastly, we are worrying about a friend back home who has been hositalised with DVT after her holiday. Don't know anything about it but I presume she will be OK? Any spare good vibes you can send her way would be appreciated.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004
She's a Japanese girl...

Blimey, Wednesday already. You'll be pleased to know things are much better now, I'm back into coping mode - though Maggie continues to experiment with different sleep patterns, staying awake and crying about it until 11.30 last night rather than falling asleep around 8. Not sure if it was due to me drinking green tea (extra caffeine), us missing the usual bathing slot, or just a funny mood.
Sunday, we went to the shrine. Takahashi-san, our Japanese teacher, came to the house to dress me up in a kimono. As it was raining we decided to use my wall-hanging one rather than her ferociously expensive silk one - besides, mine is apparently more modern and a better colour for me. I felt like Scarlet O'Hara as she pulled the obi (belt) tighter and tighter - only we never approached anything like 18 inches! Seven different things get tied around your middle, plus three layers of robe and various extra bits: separate collar, toe-divided tabi on your feet, a brooch on a string. When we were done I felt quite hot, very heavy, and somewhat like a sausage roll. Oh, and I unexpectedly found myself doing the pigeon-toed mince, the only way to move in a kimono and quite tiring on the legs.
A long photo-session later we decided to go to the shrine despite the rain. Maggie wasn't so keen and screamed all the way in the taxi but cheered up a bit when we got there. I hid my face under the brolly on the way up to the shrine but got over that once we were there. Well, it wasn't raining inside, I'd have looked even more silly. We did the throw money - clap - bow - ask the dead emperor to look after Maggie routine, took more photos (on film not the digital so not available yet), posed for some tourists to take pictures (this is a gaijin in a kimono...), then Takahashi-san dashed off and we came home. On the way back out of the shrine, three (possibly drunk or maybe just insane) old men called 'beautiful beautiful', which I chose to interpret as referring to me. (Because men call beautiful at me all the time, of course.) Of course, historically in Japan, women were considered to be beautiful if they wore a lovely dress. I could enjoy a culture like that. And the guard at the gate to the shrine also said beautiful - he was definitely referring to the oufit but I rather liked it anyway!
Photos to follow once a few technical hitches are fixed.

Friday, June 04, 2004
So on top of everything else, on top of if-you-put-me-down-for-2-minutes-I'll-cry Maggie and the full-to-bursting laundry bin, the looks-like-a-bomb-hit living room and nothing-for-dinner; the dishwasher, the waste disposal and the baby's bath, all of which need to be dealt with, on top of all this I'm supposed to make time to rescue a lizard from the cats?! Just call me Rolf.

4 pm
and all is not well. Maggie has two low points to her day - the second, around 8 pm, has abated lately and definitely depends on what we have done during the day - being worse when she is more tired. It manifests as inconsolable tears on having to get out of the bath, alternating with general whinginess, and only stops when she falls asleep for the night - doesn't usually take too long but on a bad day means we have to eat dinner in shifts, taking it in turns to do singing laps of the house. Cameron favours "twist and shout" (shake it up baby) while I like "daydream believer" (cheer up sleepy Maggie) or hey Micky (hey Maggie you're so fine, you're so fine you blow my mind hey Maggie ch-ch-ch-ch hey Maggie ch-ch-ch-ch). The 4 pm slump coincides with (or is a result of?) my energy levels sinking and me getting stressed about the fact that I haven't yet managed to do any laundry, empty the dishwasher or think about dinner. Plus the UK is waking up and I want to get online for a chat. Simultaneously, I run out of ideas for entertaining an infant. Trust me, it is only possible to muster the necessary levels of enthusiasm to perform Old MacDonald so many times a day. (Just what did he have besides cows and sheep anyway? Casting around for more ideas yesterday saw on his farm, he had a tree, which was quite difficult to make the noises for!) She is also experimenting with a new, super-high-pitched squeal; I haven't yet worked out what it means but all the neighbourhood dogs come running when she do you know if a baby is crying because it's bored or because it's overstimulated?
How do people who have less easy babies cope? I'm only talking half an hour or so, max (she's nearly always having a snooze by 5), yet the only way of getting through it that I've found so far is chocolate and plenty of it, with the result that I seem to be putting back on the weight that I lost when she was born.
And while we're on the subject of food, Neurotic Mum here is reading a book on allergies so I have decided to keep a food diary for a bit. If nothing else it might reduce my chocolate intake: I might stick to just one mini-mars at a time if I know it is going to be recorded.
Last complaint: I was awake for 3 hours last night (hmm, is this why I'm whingy?) trying to swat a mossie that was in our room. Eventually fell asleep and have a fine new crop of bites today. Ow.
Maggie was absolutely fascinated by a man on the train with a beard. Don't suppose she's seen one before - she just stared and stared! She is definitely starting to take more notice of the world around her - she wasn't sleepy so she wasn't happy being in her sling facing me; she whinged and whinged until I took her out and sat her on my knee, when she became really happy and smiled at all the other passengers. What a flirt she is.

Thursday, June 03, 2004
Mine, for a change. I'm either having a reaction to massage oil or my hay fever has reappeared - my eyes have been streaming all afternoon. Speaking of histamines, I acidentally ate an almond yesterday - it was hidden in a chocolate, what can you do?! - and all my mosquito bites started to itch, how strange.
So, Thursday is Massage Day. Maggie missed her baby massage class this morning in order that I could go and get a massage. She didn't mind. I was getting to the point where it hurt to pick her up, and now my arms and shoulders feel much better - and I hadn't realised before today that I actually had stiff sore feet and legs too!
We had a quick mooch round some shops too; if we are to leave Japan this year I have some serious shopping to fit in, before money seems like money again. I nearly bought myself a new old-bat hat but bought Maggie some new, larger socks instead.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004
Random things
1. Is there a support group out there for overenthusiastic editors? We are currently watching our way through series 1 of Blakes 7 and I am severely troubled by that missing apostrophe. Interestingly, it is there in the logo on the dvd box but not on the programmes themselves.
2. Oh, the laundry! People warned me when I got pregnant that there would be lots of washing but I naively thought they just meant a moderate amount of teeny baby clothes and the nappies (the latter being our choice, of course). Nobody said - would I have believed them if they had? - that we'd spend the first 6 weeks changing Maggie's entire outfit nearly every time we changed a nappy. That has ceased now she's in her big-girl nappies (no leaks!) but it is still not possible for me to wear a shirt for more than one day - I'mlucky if they last that long - and bottoms are usually worn for one day only also. Still, at least my entire wardrobe is getting used; no chance of wearing the same pair of jeans day in day out any more.
3. The return of vanity. Subconsciously I suppose I have been aware that people are only looking at Maggie, and that, if they do look at me, they look at me as the mother of a 2-month-old. I hadn't thought about it until I nipped down to the supermarket on my own and was suddenly desperate to explain myself. "5 first-class stamps please, and my hair is uncombed because I have a small baby at home". "I'd like the video for a week please, and I would have checked my shirt for patches of sick* if I wasn't such a new mum". "I'm sorry I have no change and am wearing hopelessly uncoordinated clothes - I just had a baby".
4. Do the postmen lurk around the corner waiting for me to go out? Surely the laws of probability should see them occasionally coming by when I'm in.
5. Just how late is it acceptable to leave it before writing thank-you letters?
6. Bloody, bloody mosquitoes.
7. Perhaps it was a mistake to buy a copy of What to expect the first year, especially given my dislike of their pregnancy book. But next-door was having a garage sale and it would have been rude not to buy anything. I think I'll put it away because I was happier not thinking about what Maggie is "supposed" to be doing - but one has to wonder why, even if she had the ability, she would want to pay attention to a raisin, which she is supposed to be learning to do at the moment. Should I be leaving raisins lying at strategic points around the house for her to pay attention to when the urge grabs her?
*Vomit, for Maxton who objects to me using baby words for baby excretions.

I've finally got around to adding Big in Tokyo to my blogroll - enjoy!

Tuesday, June 01, 2004
It doesn't matter how often it happens, it always makes me laugh. I just rang the post office to arrange delivery of a parcel they'd brought while I was out. I asked the girl who answered whether she spoke English (because, although I probably could do it in Japanese, it's always easier not to! Having survived 2 years here I no longer feel I have to put myself through that to prove anything.) She said, in heavily accented though othewise perfect English "No, sorry, I don't speak English. The number for the English-speaking line is 3560-1139. Goodbye."
Maggie news for the day: first jab received. DTP only so far, and so far she seems fine. The doctor was super-nice, I think he really likes babies, and he weighed and measured her too - we plotted her on a little graph and she's spot on the 50th centile. Miss Average.