Always something, eh?

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The last month and a bit since the boys have come home has just flown by. It seems like they’ve been with us forever. I had planned for my next blog post to be about what’s happened during this month and the differences I’ve noticed so far between the boys and my own feelings and how I’m dealing with them, but alas, something has happened to overshadow all that.

Yesterday we were out with friends that we met for the first time. A foreign wife and her husband and their gorgeous 9-month old daughter, who live about an hour or so from here. Akinori got a phone call from his sister and was talking for ages while I was talking with the other couple. When he finally hangs up he tells me is father has been taken to the hospital by ambulance. He was having severe chest pains and they’re running tests now. We wouldn’t be able to see him even if we went to the hospital so the best thing to do is wait for the next phone call. So we do.

His mom calls to say he is being taken to Nisseki in Nagano, which is nearer to us than the hospital near his parents house, so good in that respect, but really bad in that it means his situation is critical. He suffered a coronary artery dissection. He was extremely lucky in that he was at a work meeting and someone called an ambulance for him right away. We were told if he had been alone there is no way he would be with us today. I tear up every time I think about what might have happened. I adore my FIL as do my kids and I hate to think of my boys growing up without ever getting to know their “oyakata” grandfather. My FIL lives for his grandchildren and to them he is a superhero.

MIL went with FIL in the ambulance as the meeting wasn’t far from their house, but she went by car to the meeting location and left her car parked on the street. So Akinori took the girls and went home, drove to the hospital, got MIL’s car key, drove to the next city over where her car was, drove it back to his parents’ house, came home and dropped the girls off and went back to the hospital. While he was gone I picked up something from 7-11 to feed the girls for dinner as trying to figure something out to cook with what little we have in the house, especially after not cooking for nearly 6 months was too overwhelming a thought for me.

Akinori told the girls not to give me any grief before he left, but of course right away I had both boys screaming and Sara refusing to eat what I put in front of her because she wanted the purple spoon, not the pink one, and Amelie was using the purple one. So Amelie happily switched, but Sara was still not satisfied, which resulted in me having a breakdown and stunning the boys and Amelie into silence. It is so hard getting through to a 4 year-old that the world does not revolve around them, or is just my 4 year-old? I don’t know if I was right in my approach but I asked her what was the most important thing at that moment, using the spoon that she wanted, or her grandfather’s health? She answered “the spoon” and I nearly smacked her. I  told her I was really disappointed in how selfish she was being, and that I didn’t understand how I had raised someone to think a spoon was more important than her grandfather. I don’t know if she even understood what I was saying, but really all that was going through my mind was “where did I go wrong?”  Eventually she did come around. I had to leave her alone for a bit, but she managed to do a 180 in attitude. She finished her dinner and the girls got popsicles as rewards, and then popped them into the shower. Akinori came home just as they finished getting dressed for bed.

Luckily his dad won’t need surgery as the place where the artery separated wasn’t too close to his heart. But he needs to stay in the ICU until his artery repairs itself. He can’t eat and visiting hours are twice a day for 30 minute stretches each. When Sara found out she couldn’t visit she was not happy at all. I could tell that Akinori had been crying a bit.

Once the girls were asleep we had a big talk about the changes we would need to make starting with me driving the girls to kindy in the morning and picking them up in the afternoon. This I can do. It won’t be easy, and Sara will need to be dressed before Akinori leaves the house because we fight every single day about what she wants to wear versus what is appropriate for her to wear to kindy. And 100% of the time it ends with Sara in tears and me totally stressed. For now our new plan of attack is to choose clothes the night before. If we have to argue at least it will happen when we have plenty of time to do it. Not when we are trying to get out of the house. I also packed the girls’ kindy bags with the appropriate towels and whatnot last night. Akinori has said he will get up early and make Sara’s bento tomorrow. Tomorrow is trash day too, so we’ll have to get that done tonight before bed.

The hardest thing for me will be preparing dinner. First of all, our kitchen is disgusting. When I was released from the hospital without the boys, I was able to at least wash the dishes most of the time, so there wasn’t a mountain in the sink. But when I was first released I was still quite anemic and my body was still in lots of pain, so standing for long periods at a time was still quite difficult. My friend H came to stay and help for a few days at the end of May, which was a godsend, and the kitchen was in a useable state then, but that was a month ago, and Akinori doesn’t know how to clean. I do bits and pieces when I can, but it’s never enough. Part of it is due to the fact that this house is old and it was pretty dirty and gross when we moved in. Knowing that and that we won’t live here forever isn’t the best motivator to get the house sparkling clean. I hate working in a dirty kitchen though.

I suppose how clean the kitchen is doesn’t really matter when you have mouths to feed. The hardest thing about preparing dinner, and this has always been a huge hurdle for me, is that the living room, where we spend most of our time and all of the girls’ toys are, is at the opposite end of the house from the kitchen, and you can’t see anything that goes on. If it was just the girls I could do it, with the knowledge that they were destroying the living room while I was cooking, but most likely not getting injured, and if they were, one of them could come and get me. Or they could sit at the table with play-doh while I cooked. But with the boys, if I am not watching them constantly, Sara is constantly trying to pick one of them up, and Amelie is constantly sticking her fingers in their eyes, noses, mouths, squeezing their cheeks. It doesn’t matter how many times I tell the girls not to touch the boys’ heads or faces, they cannot stop themselves from doing it.

Then we come to the problem of the boys getting grizzly around 5 every day. Every. day. without. fail. They both want to be held. So from 5 to 8 p.m. when they have their bath usually, I am constantly breastfeeding one or both of them. While the one who isn’t being held, if there is one, cries. They come off the boob, sleep for 5-10 minutes, wake up, cry, repeat. While this is going on, the girls are inevitably playing loudly, fighting, screaming and/or crying in a never ending cycle until they go to bed. They are semi-quiet while they eat dinner, and they eat in the kitchen with Akinori while I eat in the living room with the boys, bouncing them in their bouncers with my feet, while I scarf down my meal.  So we are going to have to figure out a new evening routine. It will probably involve me bathing all 4 kids, and then trying to get some kind of simple dinner ready. I’m thinking I may need to pull out my crock pot and find some really good, easy to prepare recipes and just prepare meals while the boys nap in the morning. This all sounds great here, but actually making it happen is a different story.

Luckily from Friday, the city is sending someone over twice a week for 2 hours at a time to help me around the house and with the boys. Considering this person will be Japanese, and I have very little knowledge of Japanese cooking, I’m hoping they can maybe teach me some easy recipes that I can throw together without too much fuss.

I think the biggest hurdle we have is that Akinori and I are not schedule people. We never have been, either of us. Dinner, baths, wake up, bedtime, they all happen at a different time every day. We need more order in our lives and I am going to have to be the one to implement it. If we had a schedule and stuck to it, I think everything would be a lot easier. I know where the problem is with this though. Akinori will not be bound by this schedule. It will just be me and the kids, and I hate that. He will continue to do what he does whenever he feels it appropriate. I guess I am going to have to get over my resentment of his freedom and man up for the sake of making this all work.

These changes are going to have to be permanent as even when FIL is discharged, he won’t be able to work in the same capacity. He’ll have to watch his blood pressure for the rest of his life, and he won’t be able to do the physical labor. I may need to go back to working full-time sooner than I was hoping, in which case we will REALLY need a hardcore schedule to stick to. This whole going back to work thing has also been weighing extremely heavily on my mind since the boys were born. Basically, if I don’t get a full-time job, I don’t think a bank will give us a loan to build a house, and now, more than ever, I really want to move forward with the whole plan to remodel the houses next to my in-laws house. Life would be so much easier for everyone involved if we were closer. I feel like it’s all my fault this happened to FIL in the first place. I needed Akinori’s help in the mornings and evenings, so he took the girls to and from kindy, and FIL picked up his slack at work so he could do that. My in-laws have been nothing but gracious and generous with all that they have, and we need to start paying them back and showing our appreciation. I wish we could have somehow prevented this particular situation though,

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About Brenda in Nagano

Originally from Chicago, I knew I was destined to spend the rest of my life in Japan the moment I set foot in the country at the tender age of 16. However, I was quite intent on spending that rest of my life in a major city with a full on career, until my Japanese Prince Charming came trotting down from the mountains of Nagano to sweep me off my feet and whisk me away, turning my whole life plan on its head. Two months after moving to Nagano I gave birth to our little Princess Charming, so now I am officially a SAHM and teach a little belly dance on the side.

3 responses »

  1. Oh, sweetie! Please don’t blame yourself! I’m so, so sorry to hear about your FIL. He seems to be such a wonderful person, I’m sure this must be so hard for all. Maybe when Sara gets to visit him, she will understand a bit more. I was in high school when my grandfather went seriously downhill with Alzheimer’s and even then for me it was hard to grasp! She’s taking out her frustration on the stupid purple spoon. It’s fantastic that you and Akinori had a good talk about everything. And your plan of attack sounds like it’s very well thought out. Don’t be surprised if Akinori resists at first, and then surprise, is suddenly totally and completely on board after you’ve nagged him about the schedule for the zillionth time. I never thought in a million years it would happen for us, but it did. Obviously, everyone is different, but sometimes men secretly actually want to have us keep them in line. ; ) Sending lots of love! You are a hero!

  2. First of all, so sorry to hear about your FIL, but glad he was with Someone at the time. Five in the evening is hell with children, isn’t it?! I didn’t use to be a schedule person either, but the dinner, bath and bedtime routine saved my sanity! Even if nothing else is routine, I found that marvellous.

    All the best with it and please try not to blame yourself about FIL. Nothing good can come of that. xx

  3. I think your in-laws would be very upset if they knew you were stressing thinking you may have caused f-in-l’s illness.
    No, no, no. You are a caring d-in-law and have given them four beautiful grandchildren. I am sure they love you for that. They would expect Akinori to spend time with you and the children particularly when the boys are so young.
    Good luck with the scheduling.

    Margaret M

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