31 December, 2015

Looking back briefly at our 2015

'Tis the season to look back at the year past. This year I didn't do my usual "looking forward to the new year" post, so I've nothing to compare to today. I'll have to trust my memory.

We knew this year held another international move, including some significant travel in July. Despite being able to move back into the house that we'd left last year, it turned out to be a stressful move. I found it really hard to leave Australia and ended up with an only-just-now resolving stress-related problem in my oesophagus.

Aside from that mid-year stress we all readjusted back to Japan well. Our boys have loved being back in Japan and at their school.

Probably the biggest surprise I can't write much about, but it concerns our eldest son's struggle with adjusting to the higher standards required of Yr 11 students (second last year of school). It's something that's caused a lot of stress for the whole family, but through hard work and perseverance (and some changes in goals) we can see a little light at the end of the tunnel.

We also had my parents visit us here in Tokyo and were able to show them around our little corner of the world a little.

We began the year with one "numerical" teenager, end the year with two. I can say with certainty that our household is more "teenager-like" this year than last.

Our youngest also hit double digits this year. I got "progressive" glasses this year (so I can read and see distance with my glasses on).

This year we saw our eldest son win the Australian National Championships for his weight in the Cadet category of wrestling (16 and 17 year olds). That wasn't something we could have predicted.

We also saw our youngest son be crowned the school athletics champion for his age group and take up trumpet as his new instrument.

Our middle son started high school in February and then middle school in August. He ran for the school in cross country here and also got braces this year. He doesn't like me talking or writing about him, so to avoid putting my foot in my mouth, I'll quit here.

From February to June David was a university-level lecturer. That was definitely unexpected.


  • had a number of camping adventures, in Australia and Japan, with friends, family and on our own
  • went to Canberra (some of us twice)
  • did more driving around Queensland
  • said a temporary goodbye to new and old friends (some quite painfully)
  • said hello to old and new friends
  • went to Thailand for the first time (for four of us)
  • I learnt how to make bread rolls and stuffed bread rolls
  • we bought a shipping container and moved our Australian stuff into that for storage 
  • we were attacked by a dog twice and survived
  • I completed a large cross-stitch project for my parents
  • I went to a 25th reunion for my high school class
  • I'm now the second shortest in the family, and close to the second lightest

Last year we celebrated New Year's eve with friends from the late '80s and early to mid '90s. This year we'll celebrate with friends we met in August! Different, but both good.

We've hit a fairly stable part of our lives, yet we're thinking about the near future when our "birdies" will start to fly from the coup. 2017 is when our eldest graduates from high school, tomorrow that will be next year! 

It's only 2 ½ years till we fly back to Australia for another 12 month stint. This is a little earlier than usual, primarily due to educational reasons. I'm thinking about maybe starting some study during that time...we'll see. But we'll also be working with our eldest to ease him into tertiary studies and life on his own in Australia.

I think that's enough for a "brief" look back! As for looking forward to 2016, I'll blog about that in the next couple of days (remind me if I don't).

29 December, 2015

Photos from the previous 10 days

I posted a number of photos on Facebook over the last 10 days. Here are some that show you something of what we've been up to.

The view from our living/dining area of the holiday house. So great to see space and distance!

We encountered an international curling competition and got to watch a little. So much attention to detail!

I found these plastic eyes (and a number of other variations) for putting in food. We "played" with our food a bit! This is our youngest son's creation.

This is the volcano that we were living at the base of. Mt Asama. There was a pretty constant stream of steam coming from the crater. It's the most active volcano on our island, Honshu. It is 2,568m above sea level. We were staying at about 1,000m above sea level. 

We enjoyed an all-you-can-eat restaurant one day (and ate practically nothing else that day). It included unlimited meat that you cooked at your table in this recessed BBQ.

Christmas was a quiet day at home. We were pretty pleased with the simple table decorations that we'd gathered (runner bought just before we left Australia for less than $5).

A new board game has been enjoyed: Pandemic. This one is different in that it is everyone working together to beat the diseases.

Today I got out of the house and rode to the park on my own. The serenity was delicious. The weather was brilliant, except that it was about 10˚C.

The autumn colours have disappeared from the trees, but the sky was blue and a tinge of green remains in some of the grass. Additionally, the gardeners have planted some decorative plants/flowers. I don't really know what to call these colourful cauliflower-like plants, but you see them around the place at this time of year. They really do look exotic.

28 December, 2015

Satisfying Traditions

The loft in our holiday apartment. The boys enjoyed playing
Risk, Lego and other games up there. I even retreated
there to read one evening.
We've found our boys enjoying and wanting to experience familiar memories these last six months.
I think it's because we've been away for a year and possibly because that year away was devoid of familiar traditions. 

Some small things, others larger. Things like:

  • Convenience store lunches
  • Familiar Japanese foods
  • Thanksgiving camping trip
  • Thrift Shop
  • Melon soda
  • ¥100 shopping
  • ¥100 Christmas shopping
  • Udon and ramen for Sunday lunch at home
  • Cross country season
  • Wrestling season
  • Concessions stand dinners (temporary kiosk with food at inter school sports games at school)
  • The skating rink. The building I stood in to take the photo
    was new, and a delightful change for those of us who didn't
    skate: we could wait inside where it was warm.
  • Christmas video (Colin Buchanan)
My blog has been silent because last week we went away on holidays to a place we've been to almost yearly since we first came to Tokyo in 2005. The list of "traditions" the boys wanted to do included:

  • All-you-can eat restaurant 
  • Christmas lights and giant cookie (at a Christian conference centre coffee shop)
  • Ice skating
  • Playing Risk
  • Making chocolate balls
  • Visiting the Lego shop
There's also been plenty of stories told. One about the all-you-can eat restaurant that got dredged up was the time one of our boys enthusiastically made his own fairy floss (yes there is such a machine there) and fairy-flossed his arm as well as the stick. He didn't think it was funny at the time but we sure laughed. And the legend about the boy who sat on a campfire was, ironically, started here despite us not camping at the time.

Admittedly David and I've enjoyed doing these things too! But the boys seem to have clung to them more. Maybe because there's been so much change in their lives?

20 December, 2015

Imagining what it is like on the other side of the equator

I found an interesting post I wrote this time of year five years ago about how difficult it is to
Christmas last year outside. Difficult for most northern-
hemisphere folk to imagine.
imagine what the conditions are like in the other hemisphere (I write this wearing long johns and ugg boots, while many of you are in shorts and thongs), even if you've lived there and experienced it many times. It's no wonder we have trouble with racism and sexism and all sorts of other prejudice—we have so much trouble imagining a life that isn't our own.

Isn't it interesting that we are so influenced by our current experience that we find it hard to imagine someone else feels different? When it comes down to it, we are all profoundly self-focused and unimaginative. (From the post above)
Here's another quote from that post:
We're going to go and do what we can to enjoy the season where we are. We learned early on in this journey in the northern hemisphere that enjoying where you are, rather than being paralysed by what you cannot have and where you aren't, is the key to overcoming homesickness. 

18 December, 2015

Context matters

My eldest son and I have been exchanging books for some time now. Typically I give him crime fiction that I've enjoyed (but he doesn't give me the science fiction/fantasy that he enjoys). But a couple of months ago we enjoyed some common non-fiction reading.

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell was recommended to him by his 11th grade English teacher. Our son enjoyed it so much that he went looking for other books by the same author in the library. This author is a Canadian journalist whose five books have all made it onto The New  York Times Best Seller list. It isn't easy to describe what he writes, but I would suggest: "sociology and psychology for the layman." Wikipedia says this:
Gladwell's books and articles often deal with the unexpected implications of research in the social sciences and make frequent and extended use of academic work, particularly in the areas of sociologypsychology, and social psychology

His popularity comes from an easy-to-read style that uses engaging story writing. He intertwines stories and research. Gladwell simplifies complex matters and applies them to our daily lives. It fascinated both me and my son.

The latest one I finished was: The Tipping Point. One of the topics addressed in this book is that context is a powerful influence on behaviour. Far more powerful than we are keen to admit. We've been told everyone has certain personality preferences and most of us know that those are fairly loose definitions. But people are far too complex to fit them neatly into boxes. 

I know that I am more extroverted in some situations than others, for example. Observe me in the context of my family and you might never guess I'm very quiet when confronted with a bunch of strangers. Spend time with me at a party and you might not see how I could be detail focused enough to sit for hours writing and editing.

Gladwell writes about an interesting study where seminary students were given the task to give a lecture, some about the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Then they were sent across campus to give it. Along the way they met a person in need, greatly resembling the parable. The researchers varied many things including the topic of the talk, but the only one that made a significant difference to whether they stopped to help or not was time. If the student was told they were running late, they didn't stop to help.

There are lots more concepts that I could write about here:

Here's just one more:

Snap decisions or another way to say it, thin slicing. This is something we're able to do (some better than others) and we don't understand why we've felt that way. For example, I had several encounters with an Allied Health professional earlier this year. I  had negative feelings about him (and his staff) very early on. Later my bad feelings were confirmed, unfortunately. Early on, though it would have been hard for me to accurately tell you why I came to that quick conclusion. We do this about lots of things, it can be a very helpful thing, or it can be not so helpful.

17 December, 2015

It's a complicated life

Yesterday I witnessed and signed some papers for some friends. They're returning to their home country for an unspecified period of time from next June. They've sold their little "starter" house back home and bought something bigger in order to accommodate their older (and larger) family. The papers I signed were related to that.

Our post office.
They've done this remotely. Choosing a rental is difficult enough at a distance, I can't imagine what buying a house would be like. After I'd signed my name a few times they explained how even though this was a hard way to buy a house, waiting till they got home would have been harder. It would have meant, in the midst of adjusting to being in their passport culture again, moving into their little house, and trying to sell that while living there. Then trying to find a new place, perhaps having to rent in the meantime. Doing it now means they can move straight into their new place when they get back. Much less fuss.

It was a reminder that many things in life become more complicated by our lifestyle as expats. My friend apologised for inconveniencing me (he wasn't really) and thanked me several times. I countered with that it really wasn't a big deal, not like trying to do something like fill out a form in Japanese or go to an unknown Japanese hospital.

Small things become complicated, like: Which one is the low fat milk? Or, Where do I buy nutmeg? Thankfully some of those things get sorted out early. But other things that seem small, like visiting a new doctor or filling out a form, still aren't as easy as they might be in Australia.

Education is another example. There's no doubt that education is more complicated when you're living outside your home country. It's complicated enough when you live in rural or remote areas in Australia, but in another country all together, that's messy. We're thankful that we've had the benefit of a nearby affordable school (courtesy of David being a teacher there). 

Tertiary education is another level of complicated altogether when you don't live in the country where your child is expecting to go to university!

I wrote earlier this year about tentative plans for our eldest son after high school (prompted by many, many questions throughout our home assignment). That proposed plan is complicated and fraught with difficulties and potential difficulties. I'm thankful that just this week we've been talking about it again and come up with a couple of significant ways to make it less difficult. I'm feeling less concerned than I was, about how we and our son were going to manage that huge transition.

But there are some things that are simpler, just a few. One is what I'm about to do now: go and ask for our mail to be stopped for the next week. Even though I'm doing this in Japanese, I love the system here—it costs nothing and then they'll deliver it all to us when we get back! And I don't even need to pay for any petrol to get there, I'm going to ride my bike for free. I'll be back in only a few minutes too. Simple.

16 December, 2015

Overstretched rubber band

I've got a new phrase: 
My rubber band just won't stretch that far. (It comes from here)
I tried out a variation today when talking with someone about catching up over coffee in January. I said January was looking busy and she was surprised, 
"You're all booked up already?" 
I pulled out my new phrase and said, "No, I just have to be careful how far I stretch the rubber band."

She totally got it straight away. She understood that I needed to leave some space in my schedule, and I wasn't yet sure how much space I'd need. This phrase is going into my regular vocabulary!

Phew, I sure feel like an overstretched rubber band right now. It's been a big year. 
A bit of this would be good right now!

February was tough with a boy who wasn't coping so well with high school assignments, that continued to play out over the rest of the semester (until June). 
May and June were huge, as we downsized and packed up. Emotionally huge too as we said goodbyes for the second time in 13 months.
July was huge with travel, a conference in Thailand, visitors in Japan, resettling in Japan, and a camping trip too. 
August I predictably got sick and it took a long time to recover from because I'd overstretched my rubber band in the previous few months.
August was also the start of school and lots of hellos: to old friends and new.
September we started the month with a boy in hospital plus we had cross-country every Saturday. I had a distressing throat problem too. Then I worked hard to get up to scratch with the magazine again and put into motion a plan to get us back on track.
October, November, December I've been working hard particularly on the magazine, but also at times at night with a boy on assignment work.

Now it's been 17 weeks since our last school holidays and I'm pretty whacked. We all are.

Thankfully holidays begin at lunchtime on Friday. I'm hanging out for some down-time and a bit of slack for my rubber band!

15 December, 2015

My greenhouse

I have a little shelf half-way up our internal stairs. It is the only place inside the house where I can put plants in sun without them getting kicked over by people moving around. This is right next to where we clean our teeth and hang up the laundry (before shifting it outside on a good day). I don't have a green thumb, so we mostly have plants that are very hardy, but they're still pretty. It certainly improves the view!

I love standing here while doing those other mundane tasks and enjoying my little garden. 

14 December, 2015

15 years ago today

Today is the 15th anniversary of David and I (with our eldest son) arriving in Japan. I wrote a bit about what happened on that day five years ago on our 10th anniversary here

We can hardly believe it's been 15 years that God's sustained us here, but a lot of water has surely flown under the bridge. Take a look at this:
We arrived in Japan fifteen years ago today to this. Sapporo
in winter. Permanent snow was already on the ground.
We didn't get this car until a year later. Our first winter
we did everything on foot: grocery shopping, commuting
to language school and pretty much everywhere else.

  • December 14, 2000 We landed in Japan with our 19 month old very active toddler and set up house in Sapporo.
  • The next week we started language school.
  • 2001 we studied Japanese full-time as well as had full-time care of our son.
  • Dec 2001 I became pregnant with our second child, that resulted in my studies for the 2002 being less than full-time as my pregnancies were very tiring affairs.
  • September 2002 I spent most of the month in hospital and finally was released at the end of the month with another bouncing baby boy.
  • March 2003 we graduated from language school and moved to the south of Sapporo to join a church planting team.
  • August 2004 we returned to Brisbane, Australia for our first home assignment.
  • April 2005 our youngest son was born.
  • July 2005 we flew to Tokyo and set up house with our three boys (3mths, 2¾ yrs, 6yrs). David began work at CAJ.
  • April 2006 our eldest began at Japanese elementary school and our middle son began Japanese kindergarten.
  • August 2007 our eldest switched to CAJ.
  • June 2009 we flew back to Australia for our second home assignment.
  • June 2010 we returned to Tokyo and a different house/suburb. David had the same job, but my job changed radically as all the boys were at school at CAJ. I began work with the magazine, but also took up various other small roles in my "spare" time.
  • June 2014 when we flew back to Brisbane yet again for our third home assignment.
  • But in the spring of that first year I 
    discovered the amazing joy of tulips after 
    a long, bleak winter. Wow!
  • June 2015 we returned to Tokyo: same suburb, same house, same jobs. Boys aged 10, 12 ¾, 16!
We're amazed at reaching a 15 year mark. Every year we say goodbye to missionaries leaving the field permanently for various reasons ranging from health, to education issues, or simply feeling that God's calling them to a different ministry in their passport country. We still feel that God's calling us to be here. Contrary to common perception, a missionary call isn't a one-off bolt from God. It is a constant presence in our lives. 

Our first Christmas in Tokyo, 2005.
We came back this year from Australia knowing that God still has work for us to do here. This is especially evident in that he has provided all we need: we have the finances to do so, we have the educational (and all the other) needs of our children met, we have meaningful work that we're gifted to do, we have the health to do it all, and there is nothing else that we see God leading us to do anywhere else at this time. Praise God.

David and I realised we'd hit this anniversary as we started our daily Bible and prayer reading time before breakfast this morning. The set reading was Psalm 150. What better way to celebrate such an anniversary but to read and meditate on those wonderful verses, for it is only by God's great power that we are still here doing what we do:

Praise the Lord!
Praise God in his sanctuary;
    praise him in his mighty heavens!
 Praise him for his mighty deeds;
    praise him according to his excellent greatness!
 Praise him with trumpet sound;
    praise him with lute and harp!
Praise him with tambourine and dance;

    praise him with strings and pipe!
Praise him with sounding cymbals;

    praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!

Praise the Lord! (NIV)

13 December, 2015

Quick report on yesterday's wrestling marathon

Yesterday we left at 6.30am (the wrestlers left at 5.15) to go to a full day of wrestling. David drove the team and I went with friends and our two younger boys. 

Weigh-in was no problem, thankfully, and wrestling got under way some time after 9.30. 
This was one of the best scenes of the day. Our team quietly
huddling in the corner praying, at the conclusion of the event.
Then the day went past pretty quickly. About eight hours of wrestling. Ten teams, three mats, something like 100+ wrestlers! 

The format was duals between schools. So two teams would wrestle off against one another starting generally in the lower weight classes and progressing through to the biggest wrestlers. 

Just before his second pin of the day. These two will see each other again,
this guy in red will be one of our son's toughest competitors this season,
I think. His school also won the competition overall yesterday. Next
time they meet we'll be in his home territory.
Each dual took somewhere about an hour, depending on how many weight classes the teams could fill (I don't think any team had someone on all the weight classes, very often the lowest (101 & 108 pounds or ?) and highest weight classes (215 & 275 pounds or ) were empty. 

After each team wrestled each of the other four teams in their pool the officials determined what order the schools were in and then the teams wrestled off with the team in the other pool at the same ranking for 1&2, 3&4 etc. 

Another one of the pins, I can't remember which one...
Our school got 7th overall as a team. Our son wrestled well and won each of his five bouts with pins. Very exciting to watch, even the heart-stopping one that went for 5 min 55 sec (five sec short of the final whistle). He was also named the Outstanding Wrester of the meet. Not something we expected at a meet with so many wrestlers!

We got home after 7.30pm. 
Phew: long, but fun day. I felt well and energized all day, something else I didn't expect with the exhaustion and headache I had the day before. I think it was probably the adrenaline. I'm a bit tired today but not too bad (though I have had a quiet afternoon). Maybe tomorrow it will hit?

11 December, 2015

Made-in-Japan English

I have a nasty headache this afternoon, probably a combination of causes. On top of being tired, I've had an extra busy, stressful week. Muscle tension is almost always a contributing factor to my headaches and my neck has tensed up this afternoon. Additionally I'm wondering if a sudden increase in the temperature this afternoon contributed to the bad mix: today was more than seven degrees warmer [see here] than yesterday.

Anyway, I've been saving a photo of some Japanese-English to show you.

We found this display of tyres at an expressway way-side stop in an area where it snows. It shows the different types of tyres you can use in the snow. Left is obviously chains. Then one of those two middle ones is sutaduresu (I can't read the labels, and it's been a long time since I took this photo)

This is an example of English transferred into Japanese and the Japanese people assuming that English speakers will be familiar with it. I was confronted by this one at language school. The teacher assured me that it was English, but after failing to guess what the word meant the teacher explained and I assured him it wasn't English where I came from!

Another one I came across the other day was peersu. It means "earrings". I was complimented on my peers. It was obvious from the context what was meant, but it could have been thoroughly confusing.

This article has some other confusing Japanese words that have been borrowed and modified by Japan.

10 December, 2015

Suspense over

It took David just under 2 hrs to drive the team there and 1 ½ hrs to
drive home. I'm glad I didn't go, I'm tired enough with all the anticipation
as it is. But I did get to see a video of his bout.
The month-long suspense of whether our son would make the weigh-in for his first meet ended last night (see Tuesday's post for more explanation). He made it in, with two pounds to spare. Not without some drastic non-eating over the last 24 hours, but he made it. Then he nailed his bout too, with a fast pin.

To our relief he was in such a good mood all day yesterday, despite the lack of food. The meet wasn't until 6.30 that night, and he had to attend school until 2.30. 

We're hoping that now he's officially down to that weight it will be easier to maintain it without such drastic measures. The next meet is an all-day duals tournament on Saturday and weigh-in is in the morning, so it should be easier to maintain the right weight without fasting, just a late breakfast.

I'm exhausted today, of course, even though I didn't go to the meet itself. Part of me wishes I didn't get so emotionally invested in things like this. But I think that that intense part of me is something that isn't going to change, it's pretty integral to who I am.

The other thing I'm really happy about is that he stuck to the goal of losing weight and pushed through to success with great resolve towards the end. It's an important life skill some kids find harder to learn than others: to be able to have a goal and do hard things to get to that. I hope as he has success at this that he will see it is possible to have success in other hard things in life also.

09 December, 2015

Driving fun in Tokyo

I drive in Tokyo. That surprises some people, mostly non-Australians. I don't drive a lot, because we don't use the car as our everyday transport. We're close to all the things we do regularly: school, shops, and church. So our usual transport is walking or bikes. We're also close to the train station. So, for example, on Monday when I went to the OMF prayer meeting across town, I just walked to the train station (about 6 minutes) and caught trains.

But sometimes we use the car. For example for going camping or on holidays it is very useful. It's also great for grocery shopping on wet days and for a day like today when I bought bulk groceries at Costco (about an hour drive). We also use it to ferry other people to things like school events (sports, camps etc.) and out-of-town missionary gatherings. It's also good for getting large or heavy things around, like cans of kerosene to heat our house in winter.

Basically, if we're going a fair distance towards or through the centre of Tokyo (east) it is generally a bad idea to take the car. But if we're going south, or west or north the car is quite a viable option.

But there are challenges. Like getting lost or stuck!

The other day I drove our middle son to the orthodontist. We can take the bus, but I find driving this route less stressful than the bus along exactly the same route, even though it involves about 30 sets of traffic lights.

I have memorised a route, but there was one little bit where I thought I could knock off some time by taking a back route. Bad idea without a navigator! Oh, and a bad idea when you're already running late.

Looking at the map, you can see the red route. The easy, "big" route. That's what I have been taking (destination on the left at the end of the red line).

On Friday I deviated and drove the green route. My limitation with navigation while I'm driving is that I can't keep too many steps in my head at once. And the roads are so small, there's no verge to pull over and check your map, so I was driving by instinct rather than clear directions.  

I got to the red asterisk and knew I my destination was close, but probably one street over, I just couldn't find a connecting road (the bigger road further north of the asterisk is a one way road going the wrong way). At that asterisk there were two construction vehicles with guys working on something on the corner. There was one small and one large truck blocking the way into the street that I thought I wanted to go down. As is the custom in Japan, the workers noticed me and took action to allow me into the street. They shifted the large truck and helped me squeeze around the small van. 

About 50 m down the road I realised I'd made a big mistake. There was no way out of this road. The tiny "road" marked on the map is just a bike path. 

So I had a small panic, for a moment I wondered if we'd ever get out. We could almost touch the orthodontist's building and we were about 20 minutes late! But now I was stuck pointing the wrong way down a dead end. I uttered a hurried prayer and swallowed my pride.

Getting out of there was no small feat. I backed back until I found an empty carport under a house, quietly apologised to any one who might be home, and backed into the space. The road was so narrow that it took me about 15-point turn to get in and out again, pointing the right way.

Then I smiled and waved at the construction workers and squeezed back past the van. There was only a couple of centimetres on each side of my side mirrors, thankfully I didn't have to retract them to get through.

It was a miracle that I didn't hit anything. Took me a while to recover, though!

Entertaining traffic controllers
Today I was driving on a larger road (large enough to have a dotted line down the middle) and encountered some road work, one lane was closed and they were directing traffic around it.

Japanese traffic controllers can be very entertaining. They usually use an orange-red "light sabre" or two flags, one red and one white. Some of them can get quite animated with their waving. 

But today the older gentleman directing traffic got me a bit confused. He held his light sabre vertically and was waggling it. I wasn't sure if he was calling me to stop, or to move over into the opposite lane to pass the road work. I slowed from the 30km/hr I was doing and then moved over.

That had an astounding effect. He started jumping up and down, and moved his light sabre to horizontal, which clearly meant stop, so I pulled back into my lane. I've never made one of these guys jump up and down before!

Driving in Tokyo is never boring. Often tedious, but there's lots to keep you on your toes.

08 December, 2015

Weight and other issues

There's a bit of stuff going on here at the moment! Grab a coffee and have a read.

With the first meet of the season tomorrow night this remains high on our awareness list and frequently occupies our conversations.

Particularly because many of our conversations happen over the dinner table and the dinner table, in fact the kitchen, has become a point of friction. Our eldest son is trying to lose just a little bit of weight. 
The wrestling uniform, called a "singlet".

A weighty issue
This is not because he's overweight but because the school can only enter one competitor per weight-class. Weight classes are determined by the league and start at a width of about 3kg and move up to much broader categories in the higher weights (for example, a 82kg wrestler could take on an  96kg wrestler, but a 45kg wrestler can't take on a 49kg wrestler). Ideally, of course, the wrestlers want to be at the top of the weight class (provided that weight isn't blown out by fat). 

Our son and another member of the team started the training season at almost the same weight. They are two of the best and most experienced members of the team (actually our son has more experience than anyone else in the team).

Under the rules only one of them could wrestle for the school if they remained in the same weight class. Additionally there is no one in the weight class below them. So if another school has someone in that weight class and we don't, we automatically forfeit that weight class and lose significant points.

Believe it or not taking weight off is easier than gaining it in this sport (gaining weight, you want to be gaining muscle not fat). And it seemed that our son was the best candidate, even though he was already fairly lean.

This isn't easy to understand, I know, I tried to explain it to someone else from Downunder yesterday and didn't get a tremendous amount of sympathy. I've avoided writing about it till now because I know that it can also be a bit controversial. This "weight cutting" as it's called, can be very dramatic and badly done. It is one of the not-nice things of sports like wrestling, where rules are in place try to even the playing field using weight. However we've tried to do this over a month in a gradual, safe manner. He really only had to lose about three kilos.

It would have been easier if we'd normally had a very unhealthy diet: cut out all the soda, fast food, and junk food. But the truth is we eat little of that. And cutting out what "very bad stuff" he does eat hasn't made a big difference.

I'll spare you the details, except to say that making these changes has been hard for him and for me. I've struggled with knowing where my boundaries are in all this (how much do I change what we do as a family, how much do I nag him) and he's struggled with not being able to eat whenever he felt hungry, not feeling full at the end of a meal. Take food away from a hungry, physically active teenager and you're asking for trouble, even a nice, even tempered teenager like we've got. And even though it was his decision and he has a strong desire to achieve the goal, it's been hard. But it's been a good lesson in doing hard things in order to achieve a goal, though, I think.

By the way, we're still not sure if he'll "make weight" tomorrow evening. He's close, though. All wrestlers have to make weight (meaning coming in under the upper limit of their weight class) before the start of every wrestling meet. Bizarrely enough they can then eat and drink freely. So I predict tonight and tomorrow will be a bit grizzly as he eats relatively little. 

Another wrestler in the family
The other wrestling news is that we've now got our youngest wrestling again. He's not old enough to join the team (wrestling is only for middle and high schoolers in this competition, he'll be won't be in middle school until next year). However the school only has one middle school wrestler and he's been struggling without a training partner. Our son is a bit heavier, but shorter, and has a year of wrestling experience, though not much match experience. He's keen too. So yesterday our son was formally invited to be a training partner for three hours a week to help out. Phew!

Over the weekend the magazine team and I did final adjustments to the Autumn issue of the magazine and it was sent to the printer in the early hours of Monday morning. We met our deadline, but the jury is still out on whether it will be in people's hands before the end of 2015. This is something we have little control over, though. But regardless, I'm still impressed: with the speed that we've been able to get this done (having three designers makes a big difference) and that the quality has continued to go up despite the speed.

Meanwhile I'm back to editing articles for the Winter issue, which we are planning to have actually come out in Autumn! Something that hasn't happened for a while.

I'm looking forward to some holidays. We had a quiet weekend, but Monday came too soon and it was back to work. Next Friday (18th) we'll take off to the mountains for six night, get back Christmas Eve and have another week and a half of holidaying at home. Can't wait!

Other stuff
There's other stuff going on that's making life interesting, challenging, or just sad at times. I wish I could tell you about it all, but it wouldn't be fair to you or to others involved, so I'll keep those things to myself (just in case you think I really do share everything with you). I'm sure you have things like that too.