Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Life phases...

So much has happened in the past, nearly 2 weeks since I last posted, so I'll try to capture some snapshots of what's been happening...

I'm still recovering from bronchitis & resting whenever I have a couple of moments. The nice thing is that, no matter how rotten I've felt, I managed to to what needed to be done & have some fun as well :)

Brendan & I have finished reading "The Dharma of Star Wars" as bed-time reading- I think it took us about 3 weeks to get through it. Brendan's ability to cope with the OCD, tics, & frustration have changed remarkably in these 3 weeks, & we're noticing the changes at home as well as at school. At school, Brendan's not being triggered as much by OCD thoughts, & when he is he can think about what to do about it much more easily than before. He's using his box only when necessary & he's told me that he's been practising his breathing when he's in there. What's really remarkable about all of this is that this is Brendan's most stressful time of year. Last year we had him seeing his psychologist twice monthly (rather than the usual once monthly) to forestall coping difficulties, since the two previous years, just at this time of year, he tried to "zap" himself at school (by putting things in electrical sockets) because he was in so much emotional pain. It's also possible that getting ready to go to Japan is channeling some of the end-of-school transition issues into thinking about our next adventure. But it's certain that the mindfulness practise is helping, too. At home. the biggest change is that we've been able to get rid of his evening dose of klonapin, which he used to need to help buffer him from overwhelming OCD thoughts at bed time. Now what we do, if the thoughts start getting to him, is set a "kekkai" (japanese for "barrier") using "ki" (life-force energy). I start setting it around his head & Brendan uses his own ki to meet it. I can feel when he's pushing at my part of the kekkai- it's pretty amazing. Brendan immediately becomes calm again when we do this & we're finding it helpful to do during the day as well, when the thoughts overwhelm him. I still can barely believe that we've been able to move to this technique & back off on the medicine. It really bodes well for the future :) The other nice thing about the mindfulness practise is that we've been egging each other on, which has been a nice way for Brendan to find himself on an equal footing with me. I'm still "the mom", but he can remind me to breathe, say when traffic's really hairy, & it's helpful to me. He's coaching me just as I've been coaching him for most of his life. I know he gets a kick out of that... & I'm definitely benefitting from the practise as well.

We said goodbye to Nobuko-san, our japanese teacher's mother, yesterday. She flies back to Japan tomorrow, but we'll see her in a few weeks when we go to stay with her in Japan. Brendan finally found the courage to say a few things to her in japanese & it delighted both of them. She seemed really fond of him & also charmed :) I became quite comfortable with her & really enjoyed sharing everything from dyeing with indigo to visiting a quilting shop (they don't have anything like it in Japan) to showing her my wedding dress, which I designed & crocheted all of the lace for (a blast from the past :). She has promised to teach me a type of tea ceremony that's performed at the table (rather than sitting on tatami mats on the floor) &, much to Tomoko's chagrin, happily showed me a very elegant way to pick up & put down my hashi (chopsticks) during a meal (this while eating lunch together at our favourite japanese restaurant). I was so happy that she wanted to teach me, & I can't wait to learn the tea ceremony!! Tomoko also let us know that the plans for visiting her nephews' school are solid, & that we'll be participating in an english class, plus observing another subject, & then staying for lunch if we like. Lunch in a japanese elementary school is supposed to be amazing- the kids serve it all themselves- so I think we'll take them up on it. Brendan & I have picked out the photos we want to use for a picture-book of his life here in the US, so all we have to do is set it up with english & japanese text & print it out. We plan to give it as a gift to the schoolkids we'll be visiting, to help them learn english & about life in the US.

Part of the end-of-school scene, always, is Brendan's yearly CSE. This year the special ed. co-ordinator at school requested to have all of the city students' CSE's at school, rather than downtown at central office, & they actually agreed! It makes things so much easier on the teachers & the school, since they can just hire a couple of subs to rotate through the classrooms as the teachers attend the CSE's. It always seems a lot friendlier to have it at school (previously only one of Brendan's has been at school & it was far & above the most productive), & this one was truly friendly... it was almost embarassingly so... Brendan's meeting was scheduled last, at 1:15, since the school folks thought we could use a full hour for his meeting (the rest were 45 minutes). Charlie had cleared his schedule to attend & both his speech & OT therapists had multiple kids at school who had meetings that day, so they spent most of the day there at meetings. In all there were 8 of us at his meeting, the chairperson & Team Brendan :) We all had the proposed IEP in front of us (thank-you, IEP Direct!- & Cherie, Brendan's consultant teacher :) & the only change being proposed was to provide him with a laptop with Dragon, voice-activated software, at the beginning of the year (& to withdraw the request for the alphasmart keyboard, since there are computers at school he can use if he wants to type something). Brendan's classroom teacher, Jen, has a lovely way of beginning with the positives- perhaps not the best thing to do when you are trying to make a case for services, but psychologically much more civilised. She was very clear that Brendan has some pretty impressive difficulties with functioning in the classroom & at school, but that he's also a delight to be with, that he's bright, witty, interesting, &- when functioning optimally- a very positive influence on his class & schoolmates. It's so wonderful to hear such nice things about your kid... Brendan's challenges were stated, too, but I have to say that his sense of humour permeated the whole meeting (even though he wasn't physically there), which was punctuated by explosive laughter at times. The CSE Chair was very pleasant & very impressed by the examples of Brendan's work using Dragon (part of the trial to see if it should be added to his IEP). She was also very encouraging to Charlie & me, & impressed by the work everyone at school has been doing with him. Needless to say, the request for Dragon was approved & there were no challenges to any of his existing services. We officially requested that Brendan have the same OT & speech providers next year, too, since they have been stellar, so... fingers crossed... After the meeting, as Brendan & I were leaving school, we popped back into the meeting room to see if the CSE Chair was still there, because I really wanted her to meet Brendan. She was there, & seemed quite delighted to meet him. Brendan was his charming self :) So- another CSE done & on to 6th grade! Even Brendan has decided that next year is going to be a better year... don't you just love it?

The other interesting thing that's happened over the past week is that Brendan has become a fisherman... He had a taste of fishing when his class went on their camping trip a few of weeks ago, & then had another opportunity this past Saturday when we hosted a school fundraiser at our sailing club. It was a sailing/picnic day & one of the families that signed up was that of one of Brendan's classmates, an avid fisherman, with an avid fisherman dad. Brendan spent the whole afternoon fishing & they even caught a fish that they couldn't identify (these folks are serious...) so they all hopped in the car & took fishie to the local tackle shop, where they had to put a call into authorities in order to figure out what it was (turned out to be a very rare bowfish- Charlie googled it & it was a very interesting read). On Sunday Brendan mentioned in Sunday School that he'd fallen in love with fishing & was invited to spend the afternoon fishing a local canal for carp with one of his classmates, whose dad is one of their teachers. He was in heaven :) It was a very odd afternoon for us, since we were strangely kidless... This is not something that happens to us very often, since there aren't very many folks who are comfortable enough with Brendan (& vice-versa) to blithely spirit him away on a fishing trip... We've known this family for quite a few years & the dad has been their Sunday School teacher for about 4 years, so it went very well. By Monday morning, Memorial Day, it was obvious that Brendan needed his own fishing tackle, so Charlie took him off to the tackle shop, conveniently open, & then directly to the club for an afternoon of fishing. As soon as the first fish was caught & needed to be thrown back (we aren't eating these guys- nobody wants to clean them!) they realised that they had no pliers to remove the hook, but a friend who was down for a sail came to the rescue & taught Charlie & Brendan a bit more about fishing. I think it's utterly cool that Charlie, who has never had any interest in fishing, is right there with Brendan, dealing with untoward bait situations & hanging on to wriggly, muscular critters like a pro... They ended up going twice on Monday (once after dinner, too)- true dedication :) Today they planned to go after school & pick up a net on the way, since there is always the possibility of catching a big one. They were gone for about 3 hours & got home just before dinner time. When I saw the net they'd bought I went into in hysterics- the thing could land a shark, I swear. Charlie insisted that it was the smallest one they had... Brendan got contact giggles from me, but defended his dad to the end. We are delighted by Brendan's new hobby- it brings him so many new skills, quite a few of them social, but also dexterity ones & definitely patience & coping with frustration ones. It will be very interesting to see where this goes...

So, just a week & a half left of school, with Music Night this Friday (I believe his class will be singing the parody song Brendan & I wrote a couple months ago at his music teacher's request :). Exactly 2 weeks from today we will fly to Japan. Charlie bought the Japan Rail tickets today, after consulting Tomoko about the best way to go about it all. We plan to take the Nozomi, the very fastest train ever, after our week in Tokyo, down to Kyushu to stay with Tomoko & her family. The pile of omiyage gifts to take to Japan is becoming truly impressive- & frightening, when we consider packing it all. We also ordered some japanese "en" (money) which will arrive by mail in a few days. I have researched & discovered that I won't need a special power converter for the computer while we're there, but I did discover that my present purse/shoulder bag is too small to carry the laptop in, so I'm off tomorrow to find a new one, plus an insulating envelope to protect the laptop. Charlie told me today that he thinks that the most difficult transition will be moving from getting-ready mode to "doing" mode. I am counting on the mindfulness practise to get me through... not long till all happens!

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Friday, May 18, 2007

Getting ready for Japan, pt. 2...

Time has definitely begun to break the laws of physics. I looked & it's been a week since I last updated the blog, but it really doesn't seem like a week's gone by...

To pick up the camping trip story, Brendan had a really good first day of camping. He didn't enjoy most of the ropes-course activities, except for one that required a lot of problem-solving, which is right up his alley, but the course leaders were clued-in ahead of time by the teachers that some of the kids would find the activities very difficult, so they were allowed to sit out if they wanted to. Brendan decided to forego the craft activities afterward, in the late afternoon, & rested in the cabin instead (& I'd been worried that he wouldn't get sufficient down-time :). When Charlie arrived at around 6:45 pm, Brendan was happily playing a post-dinner game of soccer. There was a campfire & s'mores before bedtime & Charlie said that the boys were all asleep by midnight (the girls were up until 2:00 am!). The coolest thing about the day was that it was completely tic-free! On Friday morning Brendan tried fishing for the second time in his life. The first time, at age 7-ish, resulted in hysterics when he actually caught the fish. He was afraid of killing it... This time, once he discovered that they were tossing them back after catching them, he was very excited to do it. He wasn't as excited about putting worms or maggots (!) in the hook, but other kids & parents helped him out. He had a great time for a while, but Charlie noticed that it was taking on an obsessive quality after about an hour or so. By the time they broke for lunch it was nearly impossible for him to stop, & by the time he got to the dining hall he was in full, screaming tic mode :( Charlie managed to get him to the car & gave him Rufus, then he explained to the teachers that he would take Brendan home early (the rest of the group left around 2:00). They stopped for fries on the way home, & Brendan was calmer in the car, but the miniute he got home he was very unsettled. We talked about how tough transitions can be, tried to get him to eat some more, but finally he went into a major meltdown & we just had to ride it out... After he recovered, we watched Miyazaki's "Nausicaa" in japanese & had a belated lunch. The rest of the day- in fact, the rest of the weekend, happily, went very well.

One of the things Charlie & I realised last week was that Brendan has been having a lot more difficulty with OCD & tics over the last weeks, both at school & at home. When he saw the pediatrician for his check-up last week we also noticed that he'd gained enough weight that he'd probably outgrown the previous dose. So a week ago Wednesday we decided to up his seroquel dosage slightly. Now, a week & a half later, we & his teachers are noticing an amazing change in his ability to cope with the OCD. Perhaps not co-incidentally, I have also been reading to Brendan at bedtime from one of my favourite books, Matthew Bortolin's "The Dharma of Star Wars", & his budding understanding of buddhist philosophy seems to be giving him a positive framework for looking at the OCD & resulting emotional turmoil. Bortolin was trained as a buddhist monk by Thich Nhat Hahn, who is one of my favourite resources for buddhist spirituality, & explaining buddhism from the Jedi perspective is not only charming to us Star Wars fans, but keeps our interest :) I had been waiting on sharing this book with him until I thought Brendan had matured enough to really think about what we're reading, & now seems to be the right time. We've been able to talk about the suffering the OCD thoughts cause him & brainstorm ways to deal with them in a mindful way (described in the book as Qui Gon's "Living Force Mindfulness" :). Brendan has been actively engaging me during the day in discussion of ways to manage the tics with mindfulness practise (concentrating on breathing & what he's doing in the here & now & letting the thoughts pass naturally out of his mind without being critical of them). I particularly like the non-critical message, since Brendan often has a lot of after-meltdown distress from feeling bad about having the meltdown thoughts in the first place. The calm acceptance message is a very healing one. So between getting some relief by increasing the seroquel & finding new ways to imagine & deal with the OCD, Brendan has had one of his calmest & most enjoyable weeks at school this year. His teachers are so happy to have so much positive interaction from him :) Brendan most definitely has a positive effect on the group dynamics at school- we've gotten this feedback many times- when he's in a good place & not using his energy to just keep himself together. The unexpected side-effect of the buddhist discussion has been that I have gotten back in the habit of my own on-again, off-again mindfulness practise, & it's helping me a lot!

This past week has been unimaginably busy... Last Saturday we met Tomoko's mom, Nobuko-san, for the first time. They came to tea on Saturday afternoon, so I made scones & english tea ("ko-cha", as I learned from them). I'm trying to keep it in mind to do "american" things for Nobuko-san, to make it more fun for her. (Hey, when I'm in Japan, I want to do "japanese" things!) Nobuko-san speaks no english, so it was our first real challenge of speaking functional japanese :) Brendan was nervous, too, & mine was compounded by being sick with that virus. I felt as though all my 2 years of lessons ran right out my ears as soon as they came through the door, but Tomoko was there to translate, & I was able to say in japanese that I'd been a bit sick lately, which helped. Charlie was home from working Saturday morning, so we were all able to sit down to a nice tea after Nobuko-san gave us "omiyage" gifts from Japan. Brendan was very excited- she had brought him a "Kamen Rider Den-O" (our very favourite japanese tv series right now) action figure & a Jyuken Geki Ranger (the latest in the Super Sentai- aka Power Rangers- series, which we've also been watching online) mecha to put together. She said that Brendan's just like her older grandson, Shin-kun, the way he loves to put things together, which was lovely news because we're bring lots of legos for him as omiyage when we go to Japan :) My thinking is that Brendan will lose his shyness about speaking japanese while helping Shin-kun (who is 8) put the legos together. The good news about our first meeting with the very kind lady who we'll be spending a week of our trip to Japan with, is that I understood at least half of what she said, even if I did struggle to respond. I've seen her twice since then & my understanding has increased each time, so I think it bodes well... :)

Monday, Brendan had 2 doctor's appointments, & then we had a last-minute visit to my doctor as well... Charlie told me before he left for work Monday morning that my breathing sounded worse overnight & that I might want to have my doctor listen to my lungs, & I was smart enough to listen to him so I called. My doctor very kindly got me in at the end of the day (she has picked up a few too many of my asthma-related train wrecks to ignore this sort of info...) &, indeed, I had bronchitis. But- we'd caught it before I needed steroids- hooray! Brendan was pretty darned good about being hauled all over the universe (after the doctor, we had to stop & get antibiotics & also pick up some dinner, since there was no time to cook- Charlie actually beat us home). I got a couple of sushi packs for dinner, with the idea of making ramen for Brendan, & it's a sign of just how serious Charlie is about getting ready for Japan that he turned down the offer of a bowl of tomato soup with the sushi- sushi's not his favourite- but ate just that instead. I got a veggie pack (neither of us does raw fish...) & Brendan decided he wanted to try some, & didn't he just like the avocado ones! Go fig... So I guess we all qualify as a sushi-eating family now :)

Tuesday was almost as crazy with doctor's appointments (getting it all in before we go), but I did get some down-time during the day, to try to get over the bronchitis. Wednesday felt nearly impossible when I first got up. The plan was to run an indigo vat, to finish dyeing omiyage gifts & also teacher end-of-year-gifts (plus a few new ones for Brendan, who has outgrown all of his indigo-dyed shirts), plus Tomoko & Nobuko-san were coming over to "experience" the indigo dyeing, too ("aizome" in japanese). I was planning to make a simple "american" lunch of tuna & egg salad sandwiches, pickles, & tea... Plus there were the usual Wednesday chores, like changing the beds, running the dishwasher, taking out the trash... dealing with bronchitis... luckily, also on the list was a visit to the chirpracter & somehow her working on my very achy back (from coughing & tie-dyeing, I think) & concentrating on my mindfulness practise whenever I felt overwhelmed, put me in the right frame of mind to do everything that needed to be done. I had a great time! I was much more relaxed & the japanese came to mind more easily. Tomoko & her mom had bought t-shits to dip in the indigo, so they tied them in pretty patterns & really seemed to enjoy the process of dyeing. Charlie took Brendan to & from school, which is one of the things that made everything possible, & they stopped at a local children's museum on the way home from school & picked up some more fun gifts for the kids in Japan.

Yesterday I grocery shopped & had a meeting at church for which I made an "onigiri" (rice balls) lunch, but again, staying present & not getting fussed about still feeling under the weather made it a really enjoyable day. Brendan played outside for about 2 hours, & instead of coming in all over-stimulated, he was in a pretty good place when he came in right before dinner. The only untoward incident was that he ate something from the garden that he'd thought was lemon balm, but wasn't, & his tongue started to tingle. He brought in a sprig of whatever it was (a weed- nothing I recognised) & hyper-ventilated a bit when he realised that he'd might have gotten into something poisonous... but I kept the admonitions on the light-side. He was obviously not getting sick & hadn't swallowed anything (he spit it right out when it tasted funny), so I made him drink something & then promise not to eat anything from the garden until we've had a refresher on what's edible & what generally isn't. Fortunately, I removed anything not safe for kids from the garden when Brendan was a baby...

Tonight is Tomoko's graduation dinner, which Charlie & I are also going to. She & her mom are wearing kimonos! I'm really psyched to see them & give chatting in japanese yet another try. Brendan's happily staying home with our goddaughter, so it's a win-win. We're looking at a busy-ish weekend, with one of our last japanese lessons with Tomoko on Saturday morning, a church meeting for me (which I'll leave early for japanese), & then a school event in the afternoon. Sunday will be choir & church, then maybe actually resting in the afternoon :) Next week there's less appointment-action, thank goodness! All of the shirts for Japan will be dyed & ready to pack, all of the teacher end-of-year gifts will be done. Only 3 more weeks of school & then... we're on our way!!

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Friday, May 11, 2007

Home alone... for real!

First of all, I will apologise in advance for any fuzziness in this post. It is virally-induced fuzziness & is temporary :)

Also, I finally have a reason to thank the autofill function on this site, since it made me realise that I'd already made a "Home alone..." post :) That one was after the first day of school last September, so I guess it sort of counts, but little did I know then what it really means to be home alone...

Or maybe, "little did I remember...", since, approximately a year ago yesterday, I had a premonition of what it would be like. The 5-6 grade classes at Brendan's school have a tradition of going to a nearby retreat centre/summer camp for an overnight before the end of the school year. Last year, as they & their gear all assembled in the parking lot to be distributed into cars, I realised that Brendan would be in this group in the coming year. I remember wondering what it would be like, or if he'd even go... He's not the overnight sort of guy. He's been to 2 sleepovers in his life- last year at the neighbour's birthday party & a couple years before at his best friend's house. OK, actually 3 of you count the night he spent at Grammie's when Charlie & I went to a B&B for our 10th anniversary, but he was only 2 1/2 & doesn't remember (Grammie does, though :).

As the campout plans filled the air, over the past few weeks, Brendan was definitely tentative about the whole thing. We wanted him to participate, of course, so Charlie tipped the scales by rearranging his scedule so that he could be one of the desperately-needed dad chaperones. The original plan had me going out for the day & leading some craft projects in the afternoon, & then Charlie & I switching after he got out of work. As time got closer Brendan really started looking forward to it, & even got into the buzz about who was doing what while there were there... As I mentioned in my previous post, he got sick over the weekend, so we kept him home from school on Monday & I picked him up at noon on Tuesday, all so that he would be healthy enough to go camping on Thursday. And he was :) What we did not foresee was my catching his virus & waking up Wednesday morning with a roaring sore throat... the cough soon followed. Brendan was slightly taken aback by the news that I wouldn't be driving him to camp, nor would I be there during the day, but being the sweetie that he is, he was more concerned about my health. When we assured him that dad would be there for the night, he was pretty close to ok with things. I let his teachers know on Wednesday that I was sick & received kind sympathy :) There were plenty of drivers & I managed to get the warp for a scarf on the school loom so that the kids could weave as a craft project (I taught Cherie how to weave a couple summers ago, so she could supervise). By the time Brendan got to school yesterday he was so caught up in the excitement that he lost all of his lingering worries & was good to go. Whew!

It was very, very weird to leave him, though. After leaving school I did my usual weekly shopping, & when I got home I realised that I didn't need to leave the house again for... days! I closed both garage doors after unloading the groceries. Weird. I kept remembering what Brendan's psychologist has been telling us about the necessary process of disconnecting, & really understood how difficult it's going to be for me. I guess it's really a good thing that I'm sick :) I was so tired by the morning actgivities that I went right to bed & slept for nearly 3 hours. I'd picked up some sushi for lunch & ate it at 2:30... normally Brendan & I would have just gotten home from school about then. I found the energy to do some more tie-dyeing (it's been pretty much an endless process lately, with boxes of dyes & clothing blanks arriving & being sucked into the 3-day process of applying the colours) & then rested for a bit by watching anime on veoh. Charlie called me right before he left work to go to camp. We both agreed that I'd have heard something if Brendan wasn't doing well- every adult there was packing a cell phone :) I imagined Charlie & his car-load arriving at camp & Brendan greeting him happily. (We found out on Tuesday that Brendan had volunteered Charlie to cook breakfast, tee hee, claiming that dad could make the best pancakes... Charlie was rather taken aback, not having made a pancake in some years, but decided to rise to the challenge. So after consulting with those who had gone last year, he loaded our griddle, potholders, & extra cooking oil into a big box & added it to his gear. What a guy! :)

I probably don't need to say how quiet the house seemed last night, how I got spooked by noises while I was in the shower, how I thought of my guys & wondered if Brendan had gotten the necessary down time in the afternoon so that he could make it through till campfire time... I had a nice, if quiet, evening. My favourite online puzzles, at the Conceptis site, always go up sometime Thursday evening so I did some puzzles. I watched some clips at TV in Japan, tidied up a bit... It turned out to be a good night to be alone, actually. Nobody woke up when I had coughing fits & Charlie wasn't disturbed when I got up a few times in the night. Since I wasn't worrying about bothering anyone, I probably slept better than I would have. I didn't get up until after 8:00 am... when I'd usually be at the door at school greeting everyone. Totally weird.

Charlie & Brendan will get home sometime bewteen 2:30 & 3:00... I can't wait to hear the stories :) I have more tie-dyeing to do, & more tidying up (Tomoko's mom is coming to visit tomorrow!!!). Oh, yeah, & I have to get well, too! I'll let you know how the camping went :)

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Monday, May 07, 2007

Getting ready for Japan, pt. 1...

Last week, while at an apartment-warming for my mom (aka Grammie), friends & family asked me what I'm doing to get ready for our trip to Japan, now approximately 5 week away... I answered, "Well, I'm doing a lot of tie-dyeing..." There was a moment of silence, then the room exploded with laughter. Well... what would you do to get ready for such a voyage?

The main reason for tie-dyeing is to make "American" gifts to bring with us, for Tomoko's family whom we'll be spending a week with in the middle of the trip. These folks are taking us to an onsen (hot springs resort) & a ryokan (traditional japanese inn) & we've already realised that it's going to be hard to be allowed to pay for anything... so we're coming armed with gifts :) Lots of them. Tomoko really liked the idea of tie-dyed shirts because they seem so typically american & because they're hand-made. I've also been beading cell phone straps (a very popular thing in Japan these days) & we're bringing lots of legos & stuff like that for her nephews, plus some nicer things for the grown-ups.

Another way in which we're getting ready is that I'm making sure we all have properly-fitting clothes & shoes. Hmmm... Brendan will need new sandals (add 'em to the list), but I've already gotten him new shorts & some of the tie-dyed shirts are for him, to add to his collection of InuYasha shirts :) Come to think of it, we'll probably buy him shirts there, so I don't have to bring very many... I have been looking at my summer wardrobe & shoring that up, too, & on the list is a new duffel bag for Brendan, since his clothes are too big for the small one he used to use. Charlie realised that he needs to get some new shorts, too, since he hasn't bought new ones in a while & even the nicer ones are looking disreputable.

Running over, under, & through all of our preparations is language study, study, study... We've moved into high-gear, verbs-wise. Tomoko quizzed Brendan last weekend & was pleasantly surprised by his facility with conjugating some of our usuals, like come, go, eat, & drink. She's been working with me on the conditional form, & I actually figured out how to say "I can't eat meat" all on my own (we agreed that this will be a very useful phrase... :). Brendan & I are working on our adjectives together & watch as much anime & other tv in japanese as we can these days. Brendan's starting to show signs of the jitters- he wanted to know, half-jokingly, if we'd be able to have a translator while we're there. We have friends who visited Tokyo last summer & who don't speak a word of japanese, so we invoke them at these moments, as evidence that we'll manage just fine no matter what.

The true test of our linguistic abilites arrives this week, though :) Tomoko's mother is coming for 3 weeks & we're going to spend as much time as we can with her. I'm really glad to have the chance to have her to our house, since we'll be staying at her house for the middle week of our trip to Japan. It will be really neat to know her already when we get there. She speaks no english, so I've been going over phrases in my mind, of things I want to be able to say to her, looking up terms, & quizzing Tomoko for more verbs. Tomoko will be with us for the first couple of our visits with her mom (Nobuko-san), but I will also be spending time with her when Tomoko's busy with graduation stuff, so I really want to do my best. We'll be doing some indigo dyeing (aizome) together a week from Wednesday (Tomoko will be there, too) & I'm really psyched to share this with them. I will, of course, be running the indigo vat to make more gifts to take to Japan :) (But also to make end-of-year teacher gifts.)

In other news, Brendan had his 11-year-old check-up this morning. He's half an inch shy of 5 feet tall!! He was in very good form, considering that he'd been up since 3:00 am coughing... He'd started over the weekend & we thought it was seasonal allergies, but things really ramped-up overnight. We gave him cough medicine & riccolas to suck (they actually seem to work better, especially since he's finally able to suck them rather than immediately crunch them), but he never fell back to sleep. His pediatrician told him she thought it was very efficient of him to save getting sick for his already-scheduled appointment. He was his usual charming self, if a bit self-conscious to be sitting around in his boxers for the exam (they were nice, tie-dyed ones, though :). His pediatrician is great, just the right mix of matter-of-factness & humour. He did need 2 injections, though (pertussis & tetanus) which we weren't expecting. They really hurt & he was briefly upset, but calmed down really fast. I felt rotten about it, but he told me he understood- the doctor had done a great job of explaining to him why he needed them (for his health & that of other kids) & we spent some time on the way home discussing vectors & such. Instead of taking him to school, as originally planned, we came home to give him a rest & a chance to get rid of his bug. His class at school is going on an overnight Thurday to Friday & we really want him well enough to go. We sat around & watched japanese tv shows on the internet, & while Tomoko came over to give me an extra japanese lesson, he watched old Disney channel shows that Grammie taped for him. He was in bed & asleep by 7:30 (after a nice, warm shower), which was nearly 2 hours earlier than usual. We'll decide on school tomorrow based on how much sleep his cough gives him...

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