Monday, May 29, 2006


A couple days ago, one of the cables on Lilia's cochlear implant broke and I didn't have a spare. This happened on the weekend, so although I faxed an order to the Cochlear Company in Tokyo yesterday, it probably won't get here till the day after tomorrow. Anyway, Lilia went to school with just a hearing aid in one ear. Her teacher complained that, without the cochlear implant, Lilia just spaced out all day. Hey, it's a deaf school! Aren't they supposed to know how to teach kids who can't hear????!

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Geek Boy

Last night (Friday night), my soon-to-be-seven-year-old son started crying because he wanted to do his homework, but his dad made him go to bed. Unbelievable. I guess we don't have to worry about that one.

Recently, he's often found with his nose in a book. Usually he's reading manga, but at least he's literate and takes pleasure in reading. And maybe manga isn't all that bad. Anyway, sometimes he doesn't want to go bed because he wants to keep reading, which pleases me immensely.

But not to worry. He is very active and likes sports. When I go pick him up at school, he runs around like a dog just let off its leash.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Manual Labor

Today I'm a little sore from helping to clean the pool at my son's school yesterday. I thought the other mothers and I would be putting in a token effort, but it was seriously hard work - three hours of scrubbing. I have blisters from wielding a broom. I was already a little bit sore from participating in tug-of-war during my daughter's sports festival the day before, and from helping to put up tents for the festival the day before that. I had no idea that being a parent of an elementary school student in Japan involved so much manual labor.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Lilia's Legs

Lilia can stand long enough to brush her teeth or wash her hands with a little support, and she did when she was in kindergarten. I was dismayed, however, to discover yesterday that her current teachers wheel her over to the sink in a chair on casters. It's easier for the teachers, I'm sure, and easier for Lilia, but I said many times that I think it's important for Lilia to use her legs. Her physical therapist said that she thinks Lilia will be able to stand soon, but it seems like her deaf school teachers don't have any hope for her. Maybe I'm reading too much into this, being too nitpicky. After all, she has an extra session of physical therapy at school now, as well as P.E. class.

Meanwhile, Yoshi stayed up late reading up on a relatively new surgery developed by a Dr. Matsuo Takahashi in Tokyo that has enabled chiildren with cerebral palsy to walk. It involves cutting muscles. It sounds a little bit scary. I still like the idea of going to Lourdes.

corpse art

The novella I'm working on involves an artist who creates controversial sculptures of the human body, so I found an article in today's Japan Times of special interest. Eric Prideaux proves once again that truth is stranger than fiction:

"It's not every day that you walk into a room to find yourself standing face-to-face with a skinned cadaver. It's the kind of thing that can change your whole day . . . or your whole life."

Read more here.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Child Safety

I read today that Britney Spears got into trouble for driving while holding her baby and also for driving with a car seat facing forward instead of back. Hey, I see that kind of thing in Japan all the time!

Thursday, May 18, 2006


Last week I wondered out loud to Yoshi if Lilia might benefit more from a different kind of therapy, like hippotherapy, or something else that isn't offered in Japan. The grass is always greener, y'know? So today Yoshi told met that his New Age friend in Tokyo, the guy who was heavily into channeling last time I saw him, knows someone who can "cure" Lilia. At first I thought this guy was a doctor or a therapist, but no, he's a "spiritual." I guess that means he's some kind of faith healer. Yoshi asked me what I thought about taking Lilia to see this guy. He didn't have a lot of information about the guy. Apparently, Lilia, or all of us, would have to eat natural foods. That's part of the cure. Anyway, I said, sure, why not? As long as it doesn't cost money and the guy doesn't do anything to Lilia (except maybe "cure" her). I could write about it! I also mentioned that we might consider taking Lilia to Lourdes, although I didn't mention my ulterior motive of doing research for my novella.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

"Wife is a Foreigner"

Tonight I just had to check out the new reality TV show, "Okusan wa Gaikokujin" ("The Wife is a Foreigner"). Of course it was superficial, but it turned out to be much more subdued than I expected. The wives on tonight's segments were Kate, a British woman, and Irina, from Uzbekistan. The commentators made much of the fact that Kate doesn't allow her kids and husband to slurp noodles, because she doesn't want them to make noise while eating ramen when they visit England. They kept going on about that, but c'mon, wasn't there anything more interesting about the couple? It felt like the show's producers were desperately fishing for cultural differences to highlight. There were scenes of men cooking, and even taking care of children, but I find it difficult to believe that modern Japanese viewers would find men in the kitchen all that unusual.

Irina's family was a bit unusual because her Japanese husband was quite a bit older than her and unemployed, and Irina had a son from a previous marriage. I wondered if they agreed to be on the show because they were desperate for money. (He has a job now.) Hey, at the moment we are so broke that I'd be willing to do it! Then again, maybe not.

My good friend Wendy once appeared on Japanese TV with her husband and kids. She wrote about it in her essay, "Filming the Family." She had a few regrets.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Mother's Day

I always feel kind of grumpy on Western holidays, probably because I know they will never live up to my memories of them. Mother's Day in Japan is all about carnations, but what I wanted was breakfast in bed and not having to do any work. I have to say, though, that this was the best Mother's Day I've had so far. Both kids made cards for me at school, and Yoshi got some flowers for them to give to me. (Last year he remembered only his own mother.) Also, my husband, exhausted from the school trip to Tokyo Disneyland, etc, from which he returned last night, was home for half the day. He even made dinner. (But I had to clean up afterward.)

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Dig a Hole, Then Fill It Up Again

When I go to pick up my son from school, I walk past the baseball field where the senior high school players are already at practice. Today some of the players (the youngest ones, I assume) were out on the field with buckets and towels sopping up the puddles from yesterday's rain. I remember when I first came to Japan and was working at a high school, the kids had to do the same thing. It rained a couple of days before the sports festival, and there were still puddles on the field here and there, so the teachers made the kids go out with rags and buckets to blot up the water. At the time I thought it was a ridiculous waste of time and incredibly inefficient. I thought, wouldn't it have been better to postpone the sports festival another day if the water was such a big deal? All these years later, I realize that efficiency is not the point. After all, a week or so ago I saw those same baseball players out practicing in the pouring rain. On that day there wasn't a towel or bucket in sight.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Lilia on the Today Show!

Well, not exactly. But my essay about Lilia will be on "The Today Show" tomorrow morning (Tuesday) in a manner of speaking. Katie Couric will talk with Joyce Maynard, celebrity contributor to Andie Buchanan's latest anthology, It's a Girl. Presumably at some point, someone will hold up a copy of the book. My mother is hoping that Katie says my name or mentions my essay. It's unlikely, since I am about the least famous contributor, but you and I will both know that behind that cover with the little girl in the pink tutu, there are a few words about my daughter.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Terrorist Mother

In today's Japan Times there is a very interesting interview with May Shigenobu, daughter of Red Army founder Fusako Shigenobu. May's father was a Palestinian resistance fighter. Her mother's goal was to help the Palestinian cause. The notorious Red Army hi-jacked planes and launched a grenade attack on Israel's Lod Airport, killing 26 and injuring 78.

May spent most of her life guarding her parents' secrets and living on the lam, but she has only the highest praise for her mother. Now a cram school teacher here in Japan, May defends her mother's actions and says that she hopes she will be found innocent.

This article is timely for me, as I've just started reading Kim Jensen's beautifully written novel The Woman I Left Behind, a love story about a Palestinian exile and a young American woman. Like her heroine, Jensen is married to an exiled Palestinian and has been engaged in the fight for human rights for many years. However, while Shigenobu chose violence, Jensen and her husband employ eloquence and art.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Reading Time

Yesterday I had my students read picture books and talk about them. I brought in a wide variety and let them choose for themselves what they would read. As I was mindful that about half were into sports and several were studying to be special ed teachers, I brought in a book about a deaf boy and another about baseball. They pretty much made their decisions based on length (i.e. the shorter the better) rather than subject matter, however. Two boys - a baseball player and a mysterious, quiet fellow - teamed up to read Click Clack Moo. The baseball player said he liked it because the cows were cute. The quiet guy said that he didn't like it because it was absurd. Which is precisely why I find it hilarious.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Homework Blues

When I told my husband that I was thinking about giving my college students homework, he was aghast. "You won't be popular if you do that," he said. "And you'll lose your job." Well. So far I haven't assigned any homework, but here at home, I have to nag the six-year-olds to finish theirs. First graders have homework every day. Jio's pretty good about doing his, but then his homework is fun. Today he had to draw a picture of his family, something that he enjoyed. Lilia, on the other hand, has been doing homework for years now and the novelty wore off long ago. Over the past week when I tried to get her to do her homework, she punched me in the face, drew big Xes on her paper, and tore her homework prints in half. I didn't assign the homework, but I feel unpopular and ill-suited to the job.