Matthew's Mug Week 35

Not sure what everything is in the right picture (though I think I see a hand), but the left picture is our blinking baby's face! It was wild seeing him blink so much this morning. That was a first for me. Maybe he's taking time out from his drinking habit.

Matthew Missive

Baby update time!

Went to the doc this morning, and little Matthew is doing great. He's up to 2,739 g (6.04 pounds). Growing big and strong!

I even saw him blink! And I got to see his bladder, which looks bigger than his mama's is now!

(I just can't help using exclamation marks in this post! I'm so excited about our boy!)

He is still breech, though, so the doc wants to do a scheduled c-section on March 11. I will have one more checkup on the 6th, and then check in to the hospital on the 10th. They will of course check him again on that day, and if he hasn't turned, will do the c-section on the 11th. We're still praying he turns, but whatever way I deliver him, I feel a lot of peace about it now.

Just have to get the crib and dresser put together, and my mommy suitcase packed.

We became members of the "local" (1 hour away, but there was loads of traffic due to construction and an accident) Costco on Saturday, so we're all set with tons of wet wipes. That's probably one of the most important purchases we've made so far!

(Speaking of Costco, Stephen and I both had some major culture shock there. American store, American product sizes, even had the American pizza and hot dogs at the food court in front that Costco always has, whichever one you go to, but no American faces! They've got the gigantic traditional Costco muffins as well, but I told Stephen that Japanese people probably divide each one into at least 10 pieces! We bought a package of Dreft laundry detergent ("recommended by pediatricians to be nice to babies' skin") and I could hardly lift it! I forgot about American sizes. Look at the picture above and guess which is the Costco detergent! It's not that hard to figure it out.)

I'm Eggstatic

I just had to blog these cute eggies in their plastic nest. They're each wearing their own best-before date sticker. Must be a Nishinomiya thing.

There's a first time for everything...

I've really been enjoying (maybe one of the few times I'll ever completely enjoy) doing baby clothes laundry! It's been so fun to take new clothes out of their little packages, and to look at the secondhand ones we've been given as well. Some of them won't fit for a while, but I'm in the mood to have everything ready and waiting for little Matthew's upcoming entry into the world. It's hard to imagine a person so tiny.

Pig Out

Here are our cozy new neighbors: wild boars. Aren't they cute? They're actually about a 10-minute drive from us, on the mountain where Stephen's company is. We landed this shot driving home Friday evening down the mountain. The critters were very keen to come to our car. Unfortunately for their tummies, we were fresh out of nibbles.

Ironic Week 35

I know you've all been waiting breathlessly for your next Fushigi News baby installment. Go ahead, breathe again. Deep, cleansing breaths. I hope you haven't passed out after missing week 34.

Stephen and I had an exciting trip to the doc and midwife this morning at 3 a.m. No worries, Matthew is grand and drinking lots of amniotic fluid, his cocktail of choice. His parents are a bit tired today, though, after all the hullabaloo. The pain I had is apparently normal for someone in her 35th week of pregnancy, though it kept me up several hours and I thought I would pass out. Ha. Must be a major pain wimp.

So I got up this morning, and read I Corinthians 15:58--"Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord" (italics mine). It just happened to be the reading for the day. Superb irony hey!

Anyway, Matthew's visit to Dr. Mori last week provided a whole new experience for us: We could actually see his hair on the ultrasound! Dr. Mori pointed it out to us. And he weighed 2,415 g (5.32 pounds). He's getting to be a big boy!

Unfortunately, he still hasn't turned properly and we're praying for a miracle. Otherwise, Dr. Mori is consulting with the anesthesiologist, and they want to do a scheduled c-section sometime between March 7 and 11. Doc doesn't want me going into labor, so he thinks earlier is better. Not sure I agree with him completely, but it is a relatively small clinic and the anesthesiologist only comes in on certain days. Doc could do the anesthetizing and the surgery, but it would be easier for him if he didn't have to.

We are really impressed with Doc Mori so far (except when I ignored his advice about "dieting," since I've only gained the lower limit of the Western acceptable range): He's kind (even at 3 a.m.), has a long list of qualifications, and chose a great midwife (Takahashi san) to work with him. She's completely chirpy, smiley, and energetic, even in the middle of the night. Unbelievable. Stephen and I looked like the cat had dragged us in.

So, the upshot is that Matthew could arrive in TWO WEEKS from now. Bonkers. Still haven't gotten my head around being pregnant in the first place! Stephen and I are excited, though, and can't wait to meet the little fella. We're not ready, but who can ever be completely ready for a life-changing event of this kind??? He's already got a huge place in our hearts, and is taking up quite a large part of my body as well. Roll on, B-Day! (And I thought a neighbor would have to roll me up the hill after my little grocery shopping excursion yesterday. Think I'll drive next time.)

How Long Does It Take To Get Internet Set Up?

Well, today the Bay Communications Cable TV internet people came, and it took three of them 5 hours to get it up and running. Apparently this was because our computer was slower than usual in starting up and shutting down. So that explains 30 minutes, but what about the other 4.5 hours?

Anyway, we are back now and are excited to be in touch with the rest of the world again. More news later - including exciting piccies of cute local wildlife.

Testing, Testing...

Is this mike on...??

Well, we are not quite back on line at home yet (that is tomorrow), but almost normal service is resumed as I can get on the internet here at work.

So, what has been happening recently? Well, the moving was tiring, and there was more to do than we had initially thought would be the case. But at least with me having a week between jobs, we were able to get all the admin stuff done (like changing the addresses on our drivers licenses) as well as doing the little odd jobs round the apartment (such as getting the light fittings changed.) Anyway, all of that is pretty much done, and we are feeling a bit more settled now.

Yesterday, we decided to take the day off and go to Himeji, the site of the largest remaining original castle in Japan. It got cloudy as we were driving there, but we still enjoyed it - even if climbing to the top of the keep was a bit much for Abigail. Oh well, we know where it is now for when we have visitors who need entertaining. (And for whom Matthew is not a big enough attraction in himself!) Pictures will come soon, I'm sure, along with other pictures of the move - including a movie of the moving guy running with our stuff.

Moving Part 2

Still no home internet (until Tuesday 21st), but here we are at the new company using their computers to email and blog.

Quick update: Moving complete. Both tired - but well. (The super-easy plan was not as super-easy as the moving company would like you to think.) Everything pretty much sorted, and I am excited about starting the new job on Monday. The people here seem very nice and there is a real mixture of nationalities. So here I am working in another atypical Japanese firm.

Anyway, I must finish my email checking now, so will post more later - probably from Tuesday.

Moving Part 1

Moving Status: Okazaki cleaned up and cleaned out. Moving in in Nishinomiya today.

Ethan Douglass Patrick Kuiper

Welcome to the world, Ethan Douglass Patrick Kuiper! Yes, Matthew has a new cousin in Wisconsin. He was scheduled to arrive on Friday but, as Abigail and Mom predicted, was having nothing of that and decided it was his time on Sunday morning. He was born at 09:30 WT (Wisconsin Time) weighing 7lbs 1oz and was 20 inches long. So, congratulations, Sharon, Doug and Elise, and we look forward to being able to meet the new Kuiper on the block soon(ish).

Sayonara Party At Nishio Church

It seems that it was only just the other day that we started attending Nishio Church, but in fact two years have already gone by, and here we were today saying goodbye to them. They really out did themselves with a fancy lunch, that included in-flight choral entertainment, followed by eulogies and gift-giving. All in all, it feels like we have received far more than we have given.

Check out the 360 degree video here (5Mb Flash file) of the view during lunch.

Baby Shower At The Banksons

Yes, as promised earlier today, the baby shower pics from the Banksons last night are here.

****Parental Advisory****

If you are a parent already, you might find some of these photos bring back unwelcome olfactory flashbacks. And if you are not a parent? Well, they might just put you off the idea of becoming one...


You have been warned! Now, let's roll those pics!

Yes, first up are the pictures of the stomach-churning diaper game. It's a very simple recipe: Add a mini-chocolate bar of your choice to a diaper and microwave for a few seconds until the chocolate has melted. (Being particularly careful with Twixes, which seem more prone to combusting.) Repeat with a selection of chocolate-related confectionary until you have a grim selection, and present them to your guests, who have to figure out which choco-poop is which. Let's just put it this way, you can get some disturbingly realistic effects! Not for the faint of stomach at all...

After this mess, there was still time for another game before the grand awarding of prizes, so we segued into the Guess Just How Large Abigail Has Become Game. Now, being smart, and knowing full well on which side my bread is buttered, I decided to play it safe by being conservative with my estimate, and surprisingly managed to win. I think Andrea and Emiko got in trouble, though!

Gotta Go Back In Time...

... to the 20th Century, apparently. According to Yahoo BB, who we have used for our DSL connection for the last four years, the absence of a metal line at our apartment in Nishinomiya means that we may have to go back to -- shock horror -- dial-up!

We are really hoping that this does not happen, and there is a possibility that if Yahoo can't do DSL for us, we may be able to use another provider's fiber optic connection. Although with Yahoo we get the cheap phone and TV channels into the bargain, so we would really prefer to stay with them.

In any case, we will probably be without a connection at home for at least a week. We will try to blog and pick our emails up from other places, but if there is a bit of a time-lag in responding don't worry. And you can always call us, anyway :).

New Life, New Job, New...

...watchstrap. Thought it was time (ha ha) that my watch rejoined my wrist to keep me up to date (ha ha) with the latest goings on in the temporal world.

(Why did I blog this? Well, you are reading Fushigi News, are you not?)

It's Shower Time

Yes, I should get one before I greet the world this morning, but I was actually referring to the baby shower that the Banksons put on for us last night - including the stomach-churning diaper game. Pictures may come - if they send us some and if we think you can handle it....

Check out the blog about the Banksons written by their dog, Roxy, to find out more about them.

Another Grace Gem

Our best Friend

(Anne Dutton's Letters on Spiritual Subjects)

Our best Friend, our sympathizing Friend in
heaven, has an inexpressible fellow-feeling with
us in all our miseries of soul and body.

What wondrous grace is this!

It is a bright display . . .
of the Savior's goodness,
of His tender mercy,
of His love which passes knowledge!

We have in the love of Christ . . . .
a sweet soft bosom to rest our weary heads,
an open ear to all our requests,
a flowing heart to relieve us in difficulties,
and an almighty hand to supply all our needs.

No indulgent father--no compassionate mother
--nor countless numbers of them, were all their
affections united in one person--has or could have
a thousandth part of that sympathy to a beloved
sick child--which Jesus has with us, His sick children.

Yes, with us! though we are rebellious children!

For we are dear unto Him--ineffably dear children
from the infinity of His tender mercy; from His
all-endearing love, that has in it neither bottom,
nor bound, nor end!

Veggie Tales

Check out this story about the race to revive a radish here in Japan.

Week 33

I turned Matthew's scan from today sideways, so he's looking right at you in this glamor shot! Doc said (in English), "Medium baby." He's now 2230 grams and growing...and still breech. This morning his head was directly above my bellybutton, and his legs were on my right side. Sometimes I feel his head making my stomach really hard in one place as he's pushing outwards. It's such an amazing feeling. I also love it when he has hiccups (though maybe he's not so comfortable). It feels like my entire abdomen is twitching. Cracks me up!

Here's what's happening at 33 weeks:

"You can now probably distinguish the baby's knee from and elbow, even though the movements are smaller. You may also notice small bumps that appear to be rhythmic in your uterus. This is probably caused by the baby having hiccoughs and isn't cause for alarm. Continue learning all you can about labor, birth, postpartum, and newborns!

Your baby has surfactant, which helps baby breathe after birth, coating the alveoli in the lungs. After this week, if your baby is born, you have less of a chance of apnea of prematurity. S/he weighs about four pounds (1.8 kilograms).

There are almost 2 pints of amniotic fluid in your uterus. You may have been told that you have polyhyrdamnios, or too much amniotic fluid. The opposite of which would be oligohydramnios, often associated with Intrauterine Growth Retardation (IUGR). However, it is important to keep in mind that everyone has varying amounts of amniotic fluid and that simply having too much or too little doesn't not generally indicate a problem."

The doctor in Nishinomiya did tell me two weeks ago that I have a less than average amount of amniotic fluid, but he didn't say it was a problem.

As March draws near, I have lots of mixed emotions: excitement, fear, you name it. Lots of people have asked me if I'm nervous about the delivery, but I think I'm way more anxious about actually raising him! Stephen and I continue to ask for God for His wisdom, and we know He'll freely give it to us.

Pregnant Woman Paranoia

"Are my eyes getting fat?" - Abigail

Nishinomiya, Here We Come - In A Week

One more week to go before the movers arrive and pack us up here! I can't believe it, but there you go - it has come round fast. I took Friday off and spent a lot of it on the phone to the utilities companies at both ends getting things ready to be turned off here and turned on there. It didn't help that the name of our apartment building is extremely long and requires a detailed explanation. I would have just done it on the web, but I have had one too many problems with these companies' online forms, so I gave up pretty much immediately to save me the stress!

We will be sending out our new physical address and phone number by email soon, so if you don't get them, email us and we will send it to you. Don't worry:: Our email addresses are not changing.

Nishinomiya - How Do You Say It?

Well, I have been asked this question by several people concerning the city that we are moving to, so to save time and effort telling everyone individually, I thought I would check out what I could find online in the hope that there could be a nice little reference resource people could refer to when the need arose.

Well, The Free Dictionary is great in that it can be searched with a simple right-click using Firefox, so I headed there first. Sure enough, they had a nice little definition there, and whoopee - or so I thought - an audio file as well. Problem solved? Well it is a good job I checked this audio out for myself first, or all of you would now be going around saying, "Hey, did you hear Stephen and Abigail are moving to Nee SHUH noh mee yah?", instead of the correct "Nee shee noh mee yah".

So you can't believe everything you see (and hear) online after all. You heard it here first.

Honne and Tatemae

Honne and tatemae form a conceptual pair and are a classic part of Japanese culture. To put it simply, honne ("hon neh") refers to the real situation or one's real feelings, whereas tatemae literally means "the front" or "official rules". A great example of how these two ideas work is what happened last night at the Tonkatsu restaurant we ate dinner at.

Abigail has been clearing out a lot of stuff in preparation for our move, and had found that we had two full point cards, each entitling us to 500 Yen off our meals. The food was delicious, as usual, and then we came to pay. We were clearly together, and I produced both of the point cards as I handed over the check. "Sorry, sir. You can only use one of those. You will have to use the other one next time." Well, we only go to this restaurant about once every six months, and (although it is a part of a chain and I am sure they probably have similar restaurants in the Nishinomiya area) since we go so infrequently, the other card was sure to expire before we would have a chance to use it.

So this was the tatemae: one visit to the restaurant = get a discount with one point card. Anyway, I had already been thinking that something like this might come up, so I immediately countered by saying that we wanted to pay separately. The waiter was happy to oblige, so Abigail went first, profferred her card and paid for her meal. Then it was my turn. Well I didn't have nearly enough money to pay for my meal, so I handed over my point card, turned to Abigail and paid the waiter from the money she gave me from her wallet. And the waiter didn't blink. It was clear that we were both paying from the same money, that we were together and that, therefore, this should have been counted as a single visit eligible for a single discount. But that is where the honne kicked in. The tatemae had been satisfied by me going through the form of paying for my meal separately. It did not matter that the real situation (the honne) completely contradicted this, because in Japan the honne and tatemae can co-exist without any sense of tension at all. So he just smiled and obliged.

Perhaps the idea of this is to smooth over awkward social situations and to blunt otherwise harsh and intransigent rules, but it does get out of hand sometimes. Honne and tatemae are probably best not applied to accounting systems (see the amount of bad debt Japanese banks gradually admitted to during the 1990s) or safety issues (deadly Mitsubishi trucks). But in general, this is probably one of those things that allows an otherwise rigid society to actually function - and opens the door to the occasional (unwarranted) discount on a meal out into the bargain.

Our Just Desserts

Out on a dinner date tonight, Stephen and I were pleasantly surprised when the waiter offered us a free dessert: sherbet. We didn't quite catch what kind, but were happy to oblige. We figured any sherbet would be a good sherbet.

When it was brought to us, I asked the waiter again to tell us what kind it was. It was a brownish sort of color, but in a million years we never would have reckoned on black vinegar. I bravely ate one tiny taste, but Stephen adventurously had his and then saved me from the rest of mine.

No wonder it was free. A bitter ending to an otherwise happy date.

Nishinomiya Info

If you are interested in finding out more about Nishinomiya, where we are moving on February 13th / 14th, check out the Wikipedia entry here.

Toto "Invigorates" The "Sanitary Earthenware" Market

I had no idea that our nice, warm toilet seat was, in fact, an American invention, but now (following in the path of thousands of British inventions over the years) it seems that the Japanese are selling these things by the truckload back to their originating market.

(By the way, just be glad that I was able to pluck the word "invigorating" out of the text for the title of this post. Just think what you could have had if the circumstances had been different: A "saturated market", or even "the bottom falling out of the market." Not a pretty picture, either of these....)

Check out the BBC News story here, in case you are wondering what on earth(enware) I am going on about.


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