Who Needs Toys 'R' Us?

Ah, the simple things in life. Blue summer skies, cold watermelon, empty plastic diaper bags.

This afternoon, I discovered Matthew's new favorite toy. No, I did not give him a plastic bag to play with. I just threw one at him.

Matthew didn't pay much attention to me as I restocked his shelf with new diapers (he gets through them so quickly), and started to throw the empty Pampers bag away. I quickly changed my mind as I saw him lying there, looking a bit bored. Why not?

So I wadded up the bag and threw it in his direction. I'm not a super shot, but I did manage to get him. He laughed harder at that than I've ever seen him laugh! Belly laughs (and he's got an expansive jelly belly, for sure).

It became a process: I'd slowly and deliberately make lots of noise and faces as I squished the bag, letting him know it was coming soon. Pulling back my arm, I'd either throw it obviously at him, or do a twist shot from behind my back and around the side.

He loved every minute of it. Major giggles.

Of course, he is only 4.5 months old, and his little attention span is just that, little.

But we'll do it again tomorrow. Or maybe Stephen can try it out tonight when he gets home. I've saved the bag.

Waste not, want not toys.

Yet Another Grace Gem

When God Pardons

(William S. Plumer, "Sinners Saved by Unmerited Kindness")

One unpardoned sin would destroy a soul forever.

Many words in Scripture point towards forgiveness, such as:
grace,
mercy,
peace with God,
not imputing iniquity,
taking away sin,
bearing sin,
making an end of transgression,
covering sin,
forgetting sin,
not remembering iniquity,
washing, cleansing and removing sin,
casting it into the sea, or behind the back,
scattering it like a cloud,
burying it,
blotting it out,
pardoning it.

The forgiveness of sins is free. It is "without money and
without price." We can do nothing to merit it, or prepare
ourselves for it. When God pardons, He pardons:
all sins,
original sin and actual sin,
sins of omission and of commission,
secret and open sins,
sins of thought, word and deed.

To those who believe in Jesus, all is freely forgiven.
Full pardon, or none at all, is what God gives. Nor is
this gift ever revoked by God. When He forgives, He
forgives forever!

"Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven,
whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin
the Lord does not count against him." Psalm 32:1-2

Rokken-cho Matsuri

We have just come back from a great evening at the local festival (matsuri) at the little park at the bottom of the hill here... and Matthew is zonked!

Getting ready - Matthew in his jinbei

Taiko Japanese drums - see more and hear them on the videos

Matthew makes some new friends - Yuta (left) and Chiaki (right)

Zonked after all the excitement




Taiko at the Matsuri - feel the ground shake!




Follow Abigail and Matthew through the matsuri crowds

And Now... The Beer Report

A useful addition to the summer weather forecast from Yahoo Japan... the beer report.

Simple concept, aptly explained by the text in the bottom right corner: "The perfect weather conditions for drinking beer displayed as ten levels." I'm not quite sure what these "perfect weather conditions" are, but comparing this chart with the weather chart, it seems that sun has a lot to do with it.

But that if that is the case, how do you explain the beer consumption in Ireland? Any of it.

Why Do I Do That?

We have our first appointment with our new dentist today and it got me wondering. Of course, some of this wondering is about whether he is going to be able to clean my teeth in one go, or whether (like some dubious dentists we have been to) he will tell us that he is done for the day after 15 minutes, but that we should come back next week for more work - nicely increasing the amount of money he will make off us and the government. But anyway, as I said this is only part of the wondering.

The wondering I want to talk about is wondering why I make extra special effort to clean my teeth super-duper shiny just before I go to the dentist. Why do I do that? That would be like getting my hair all just-so before going to the barbers. Or cleaning and polishing my shoes before going to the store to get new ones. (Although maybe that analogy is not as close - I don't want new teeth!) What is my point? Why am I so keen to impress the dentist? Isn't it his job to get them clean? Why am I worried about doing his work for him? I am paying him, after all.

Just another fushigi thought of a Saturday morning....

Fighting Hands

Matthew has this fushigi way of keeping himself busy.

His hands seem to have their own personalities, which sometimes clash, leading to a hand civil war on occasion.

Seems to entertain the little bloke, anyway. And it keeps us laughing!

New Friends

Today's Grace Gem

Your gracious keeping

(John MacDuff, "The Gates of Prayer")

Anew I commend myself to Your gracious keeping this day.
Guide me by Your counsel--guard me from temptation--lead
me in the everlasting way. May every unloving thought--every
unworthy aim and aspiration--give place to what is pure and
unselfish and kind. May every idol that would usurp Your place
be overthrown. May no corrupt thought pollute my heart--no
unworthy utterance defile my tongue--no unholy action stain
my life. Preserve me from the world's insinuating, seductive
power--and from the treachery and deceitfulness of my own
evil heart.

Whatever is my dominant sin--
ease or pleasure;
pride or passion;
covetousness or ambition;
enable me by the promised help of Your Spirit,
to subdue it--nailing it to the Redeemer's cross.

Defend me from every snare and danger
which may beset my path. Be . . .
my Shield in prosperity;
my Refuge in adversity;
my Comforter in sorrow;
my Light in darkness;
my Hope in death;
my Defender and Vindicator in judgment;
my Joy and Portion through all eternity!



Sinead O'Mygosh

Just the other day a pregnant friend, who's doing lots of reading and worrying about birth and after, was asking me if my hair had started falling out yet. At the time, I thought I was just shedding a few extra hairs because it's summer. I laughed it off and answered, "Oh, it probably doesn't happen to everyone. I must be one of those few lucky ones."

A few extra hairs no more. It's now more like locks. Matthew is eating hair, getting it entwined in his fingers and toes, trapping hair in between his neck rolls*, and I found a strand on the cutting board today as I was dicing some chicken, even though my hair was pulled back.


*Did you know that the stuff you find trapped between the folds in your neck is called granny beans? Thanks to a Florida-girl-but-Mississippian-at-heart friend, I am now cultured enough to know that special fact.

Polies Join The Rolies

For a while now, Matthew has proved to be a real expert in flipping onto his stomach from his back: His legs go up in the air and then gravity and momentum take over, carrying him onto his front.

The problem then has always been getting back again: He has been fine for a while with his head bobbing around and his legs wiggling around in the air, but gradually his batteries have run out of power and his face dropped with inevitability towards the playmat - which always got a good licking in return. At that point frustration has usually meant that someone has had to come and rescue him.

But not anymore: From today, the rolies have been joined by polies as he has been able to flip himself back again, much to our relief. Of course, now we have a different problem: A little roller-bean travelling around the house on his own. Where will we find him next?

Baby

In case Matthew forgets who he is.

(Thanks, M and E!)

When Babies Dream

A Picture's Worth a Thousand Words

But I'm not going to post one today. Sorry, folks. I don't know if it would capture what Stephen and I observed this morning: Matthew's face actually looks more mature today than it did yesterday! How is that possible? He's more of a little boy and less a baby.

Tummy Blues

This wasn't exactly how I'd planned to lose that extra bit of leftover pregnancy weight!

When you're pregnant or breastfeeding, you realize how invaluable medicine really is, and the lack of it is a pain! I'm home today with tummy troubles (Matthew and I skipped our kids' club this morning), and am not allowed any store-bought meds. Anyway, my grandma sent me a little booklet of home remedies for different ailments, and I'm trying pretty much all of them related to my little bout of troubles.

Ever had a Chinese concoction of crushed garlic cloves, brown sugar and boiled water? Surprisingly, it's not that bad!

We don't have any white bread, white rice, or applesauce in the house, so I'm depleting our banana supplies pretty quickly. I've also just made up a batch of homemade sports drink to replenish my electrolytes.

I'll keep you posted about this home remedy thing. Could be on to something here. In the meantime, Matthew's going to have a funkily flavored afternoon meal.

Where the Elderly Folks Roam

Have you ever felt like Jonah before, running away from something you felt compelled to do? Well, I played the wimp for many weeks, trying to work up the courage to visit the nursing home down the road. It's literally about a thirty-second walk from our place.

I know it probably doesn't sound like a big deal to most of you, but I knew I would have trouble understanding elderly people's Japanese, and I figured they probably wouldn't be able to understand or even hear me!

All those fears turned out to be true, but Matthew and I had a good time anyway. We visited on Tuesday, and they absolutely loved having a baby to hang out with! I can't believe we never went before. Now I can't wait to go back next time.

Okamoto san is my favorite, a 91-year-old man who wrote his name in perfect cursive English for me. When Matthew and I were walking back from the grocery store yesterday, one of the nurses who was driving Okamoto san down the hill stopped and said hello. Okamoto san was in the passenger seat smiling away, not hearing much of anything I said, but happy to see us.

When we were there on Tuesday, one of the workers sat between Okamoto san and me, "interpreting" my low-volume Japanese into blaring-volume Japanese for my favorite patient. Matthew just looked on curiously as one of the elderly ladies held him on the opposite sofa.

I'm sure he was wondering what in the world was going on, but he's an easygoing boy, and the little wheels in his brain were turning. He's a soaker, taking everything in in large baby-brain-gulps.

When he meets his own great-grandparents, he'll probably wonder why they're speaking in that strange language!

Something I Betcha Didn't Know About Me

I once owned a pair of earrings that had been Tammy Faye Bakker's. It's a long story, but parents of a friend in high school were friends with Tammy Faye, and my friend hung out with her son.

The earrings were bright neon green, plastic, and pretty chunky. I never did wear them.

Tammy Faye's life seems pretty sad and almost unbelievable, and I hope that wherever she is and whatever she's doing now, she's blessed.

Maybe she's wondering whatever happened to those green earrings.

Playing The Baby Card

"Maybe if we bring the baby in they will take pity on us."

- Abigail, suggesting that by bringing Matthew into the hardware store with us, we would be more likely to be successful in getting our money back on a new toaster oven she bought that fell apart as she tried to take it out of its box.

Cousins

I don't think I've posted a picture lately of our niece, Elise, and I think I was so caught up in Matthew's birth a month after our little nephew Ethan was born that I haven't ever put him on the blog!

Here they are, in all their cuteness. Sharon, my sister, told me that Elise talked the other day about how much she loves her little brother, and it's so apparent from this picture.

Rule Britannia!

Yes, Matthew has been caught up on a wave of patriotic fervour almost to the level you would expect to see at the Last Night Of The Proms. The occasion? The arrival of his spiffy new British Passport.

(You can't really see it very well in this picture, but his baby grow is a little England supporter's outfit. A little late for the World Cup, but for the diehard fan there is always the run up to the 2008 European Championships to cheer about.)

Lost in Translation

I took Matthew to his four-month checkup yesterday. The clinic is on the top floor of a big mall, and because it's a city-run event, there were about thirty other moms and babies there as well.

We had to leave our strollers near the elevator, lined up like racecars waiting for the checkered flag. That meant I had to carry Matthew around from station to station for an hour and a half. No small feat for me and my puny excuses for arm muscles.

And poor Matthew got really hungry half an hour into it, but they wouldn't let me feed him till the end. He gnawed on my shoulder so much, my shirt was wet halfway down my back by the time we finished.

Everything was going fine: his weight, height, circumference of his head and chest, his vision, etc.

I was getting by with my Japanese until one of the docs wanted to try out his medical-school English on me. As he was rotating Matthew's ankles, he smiled and said, "Loose."

Now, as a native English speaker hearing that word, I got a bit freaked out! The doctor's smile did nothing to alleviate my concern. What if he was a sicko who delighted in people having problems? Would Matthew's feet fall off if I accidentally but gently bumped his ankles against something?

So I reverted to Japanese and asked the doctor if this was a big problem. He smiled again and said it wasn't a problem at all, and that Matthew was completely healthy.

It was only later I realized that the doc probably meant flexible. Phew.

Rollin', Rollin', Rollin', Keep That Matthew Rollin'

He's up to 6,955 grams (15.33 pounds). He's long (64.9 cm, or 25.55 inches).

And he's on a roll.

Matthew impressed me all week with his valiant attempts at turning over by himself, and today he finally managed a proper back-to-front twirl on the playmat. He still gets an arm stuck sometimes, and yells for help, but what a guy.

This photo was taken right after he managed to do it right, with arms in the proper position on the dismount. He looks as surprised as I was!

Fushigi But Nice Grandma

Matthew and I took a stroll today to discover the whereabouts of our friend's apartment. We're going to visit her on Friday for a kids' club she has in her place once a week.

I printed off a Google map and we set off. It turns out it's only about a five-minute walk from here, via The Shortcut. Only one problem. This "road" on the map ended up being a testing ground for the durability of Matthew's stroller, as we dodged stones and mud pits. But I digress.

As we got to the end of the paved part, we walked past a house that I thought had been deserted. But no, Grandma was out and about in her driveway and wanting to chat. She cooed over Matthew, and I showed her my map and asked about the pathway that started where the road in front of her house ended. It looked pretty overgrown to me, and I asked her if there were any snakes.

This triggered her cultural buttons. She got a broom out and walked ahead of us on the path, beating the bushes on either side into submission. All she needed was a pith helmet to complete the picture. But we had only gone about thirty feet when I guess she got tired. Grandma emphatically pointed out the fact that there had been no slithery beasts so far, and then she went back home.

We were left to our own devices, and the stones and mud pits.

Turns out there were plenty of flying fiends in the form of mosquitoes, but we made it to the apartment complex, which was literally just on the other end of the path.

I think on Friday we'll go the long route up and down hills.

Google maps, hey. I didn't intend this post to be a commercial for them, but wow, how detailed can you get?

Happy Four Months!




Happy "Rebellion" Day

We Americans (and half-Americans) have to stick together on July 4th.

Thanks, friend-out-there (you know who you are), for the Matthew-outfit and the mommy-shirt.

Notice the baby-drool-mommy-wet-shoulder syndrome I've got going on.

(Stay tuned for English-Matthew and his new biometric passport coming soon from the British Embassy in Tokyo.)

At The Bird Place Thingy

OK. So someone said it was a "bird sanctuary", but since that implies a natural environment where birds lead sheltered lives, I don't think we can really say that the Kobe Kachoen is that. After all, it is on a man-made island for one thing. And all the birds are inside for another. But anyway, this is where we went yesterday as I decided that a week in Korea topped off with a fun-but-hectic visit from Andy Game and his side-kick Casper meant that it was high time to hang out with Abigail and Matthew.

We had heard that the Kachoen was a great place, and we were not disappointed. After all, where else can you pet big honking owls? (And I do not use the word "honking" advisedly - these owls honked. They could not muster a subtle whooo hoooh between them.) Then there were the penguins that were like little torpedoes bulleting through the water, and the toucans who flipped their food into their mouths with their beaks as if they were using chopsticks. Of course, we could not help but be amazed at the begonias and the water lillies. Not birds, I admit, but all part of the show.

Mesmerizing.....

Who are you looking at!


 

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