Visiting Malvern

We're back! To all you regular blog-checkers - thank you for being patient while we have been away from keyboards and out in the "real" world visiting my brother Paul and his wife Alison, who live in Malvern.

Let's start with a video, as videos are always fun. Here we are enjoying a sumptuous meal in a local pub. I have to say that this "pub" was much more like a restaurant than most pubs I remember. Has England gone all gourmet on me while I have been away?

Anyway, that was amazing food!

Not only was the food great, but the company has been quite good, too:

Paul and Alison's home cooking.

Paul with Matthew.

Matthew has a go at driving Paul's S2000.

We have also been enjoying seeing some beautiful views in the English countryside. Here are a few in the Malvern area:

View from the Malverns with headless hikers (Full-size picture here)

Hampton Court (Full-size picture here)

Well, Matthew wants his nap now, so I had better evacuate the computer room!

The Wine Tour

Well, that is what dad calls the tour of villages around Marlow, that happens to include a trip to a local vineyard. The dessert wine samples we tried tasted great until it was pointed out that the main part of the process used to bring out their sweetness involves letting them catch a "disease". I almost spat mine back out....

We also visited local villages including Turville.

(Click for a larger version or get the full-size one here)

The windmill overlooking Turville village.

A herd of deer were feeding in a nearby meadow.

Matthew's New Girlfriend

Yes - another one! This time she is an English rose, which makes a change from the usual Japanese sumo-babes. Her name is Jemima and she lives with parents Mark and Emma in Coventry - the second stop on our round-Britain tour after visiting Mel.

We knew they were made for each other when they were both hanging out on the playmat and we discovered that their voices were so similar that we couldn't tell them apart very easily.

Visting Mel

We visited our good friend Mel Hook's home yesterday and hung out with her for a while. I think she really enjoyed having Matthew sit on her lap, but I think she was getting frustrated with us as our efforts in helping her spell out words ended in anagram-like messes after a couple of hours.

The Moment...

... Matthew met Great-Grandma Munday.

Great-Grandma Munday Visits

The Three Mrs. Mundays

Christmas in August

We've Arrived

It has been a while since we were last in the UK, so of course the first thing we did this morning after getting a (pretty good) nights sleep was to get a full-fat, full-tummy English breakfast.

(As you can see, I haev used Google Video for this video. Until a week ago, you had to have your video reviewed before it was available on Google, but now you upload it and it is ready very quickly. I think the quality is better than YouTube, so I think I will use this one from now on.)

Check In Baggage

Now Matthew knows how babies under two can travel at such discount prices:

(Of course, this is a joke. Everybody knows that children under two can be conveniently stored in the overhead luggage bins for the duration of the flight.)

Wisconsin Man and the Chocolate Factory

This actually sounds like a problem I'd enjoy having: A man in the U.S. state of Wisconsin was trapped waist-deep in a vat of gooey dark chocolate. No joke. I guess too much of a good thing could spoil it, but still...come is chocolate!

I'm craving chocolate now. It's 10:30 Saturday morning, Stephen's at work, Matthew's down for a nap, I'm just finishing an intermittent breakfast (but Matthew woke me up at 5:15ish this morning, right on schedule, though we were out at friends' till after 11:00), I should be packing, the house is messy and I don't want to return from England to that. I definitely shouldn't be wasting time blogging, but maybe I'm in procrastination mode.

I want chocolate. Lots of it.

Good thing we're going tomorrow to a land full of it. And full of people who eat the most of it in the world. Sounds like a plan to me.

Wrong Number - Or Dial "H" For Hot

It is now 2:15pm. I have already been up for over 12 hours and worked a full day's work, so you will just have to trust me when I tell you that this did really happen and is not just a product of a sleepy imagination.

There we were - Jon (my boss), Richard (computer person) and me - in the office at the dead of night doing Important and Secretive things involving major changes for the company, and a story that is much too long to go into detail about here. Anyway - to cut through the jungle of waffle and get to the chase - we needed call a support line in the US for some assistance, but instead of reading it off the website of the company concerned, Richard rashly opted to get their phone number from an email I had sent. The conversation went something like this:

Richard: Hello. Is that [name of company removed by censor]?
Mr. Other End Of The Line: Hello? Hello? I can't talk right now. I'm in Iraq and people are shooting at me!*

Which, strangely enough, put me in mind of another conversation Jon had had when calling using the same mistyped number the previous day:

Jon: Hello. Is that [name of company removed by censor]?
Mr. Other End Of The Line: Hello? I think you have the wrong number. Hey, you have a cute accent [Jon is from New Zealand]. You're hot!*

At which point Jon decided it was a good idea to cut the line and we all breathed a sigh of relief that, being in Japan, we are unlikely to ever meet the unfortunate victim of our misdialling.

(Dialog has been edited by my memory to be a representation of reality. If you want to know the exact words that were spoken, please ask the nice people here for a transcript.)

Another Anniversary

As of August 14, we have lived in our Nishinomiya pad for six months! I'm telling you, time flies.

Tie a String on Your Finger

But don't cut off the circulation! I just wanted you to remember that I have a blog with links to positive news stories that you can check out anytime. Just click here. I haven't posted a ton lately, but go ahead and have a look!

Tidbits for the Matthew Fan Club

What's new this week in Matthew Land? Well, here's the latest!

  • He's doing more and more rolls from his front to his back. (He's been frustrated for weeks that he's been able to roll from his back to his front, but hasn't been able to get back by himself.) Now he makes it from one end of his playmat to the other in no time at all.
  • One of those front-to-back rolls this week involved his own hand pushing his head, thereby causing the aforementioned roll. He looked totally surprised when he landed on his back!
  • He cried all day yesterday for no apparent reason. I was pooped out after that! I prayed he'd feel better today, and...
  • He's a happy, smiley boy today. Phew!
  • I discovered that he absolutely loves my wiggling fingers coming towards his belly, while I say, "Here come the fingers, here come the fingers, here come the fingers!" He laughs before I even get anywhere near him. He laughs even harder when my wiggling fingers tickle his hands before diving in for the belly!
  • He enjoys the crackling plastic of his wipes bag.
  • He's got two big mosquito bites on his head, one on each side. And because he's only got a wee bit of hair, they show up really well.
  • He's learning how to drink water from a sippy cup. The more he does it, the less drips out the side of his mouth. It's 36 degrees here today (about 97 F), so he needs some extra refreshment. And I want him to be well hydrated on the plane on Sunday. Don't worry, I won't take water with us onto the plane!
  • He's having fun spending time with me in the guest room while I pack our suitcases a bit at a time. He doesn't usually go in there, so it's a whole new environment for him to check out. He loves being in a new place, even if it's only a door away from his living-room stomping grounds.
  • I call him my little tree frog because of the way his legs bend when I hold him.
  • His feet are holding much more fascination for him than they used to.
  • His drool is as copious as ever.

Five Years...

Can you believe how time flies when you're having fun in another land? Today marks the five-year anniversary of our arrival at Nagoya International Airport (which is now a "self-defense forces" airbase, apparently). Our friends John and Sheena were there to pick us up, and I remember the heat wave that hit us as we stepped outside to get into the car. As we drove to Chiryu, our sight was inundated with a concrete jungle. I wondered what in the world we'd gotten ourselves into!

Five years later, sometimes I still wonder, but I know the One who brought us here. I trust He has good plans for us. We've had a big taste of His goodness the last five years.

And I love all the greenery in Nishinomiya! What a blessing to live here. It's so different than Aichi prefecture where we lived before. Aichi has tons of tanbo (rice fields), and the area we're in now has mountains and a narrow stretch of plains before hitting the sea. I miss the nightly froggy chorus of the rice paddies, but I love our hilltop apartment here. And I don't miss the sound of the trains we had right next to our apartments in Chiryu and Okazaki! We're in such a quiet neighborhood here, with only the summer insect sounds, the neighbor's windchime, and the occasional summer-holiday kids' voices.

I am looking forward to a cool break in the UK starting next week. Lately, just the effort of blinking makes me sweat!

Pit to Pit

I realized something fushigi today. When I reach to tickle Matthew in both armpits with my thumb and pinky fingers, his chest is narrower than an octave on the piano!

Happy as Larry

When Stephen referred to Matthew this morning using this phrase, I wanted to know who in the world Larry was!

Anyway, you can read about Larry here. This site also mentions a few other phrases that I found really interesting.

I hope you're as happy as a boxing kangaroo in fog time. We are!

Erratic Spelling

Q: How do you spell erratically?

A: Sometimes erratikally, sometimes eratically, sometimes eratikaly, sometimes eraticully, sometimes erratikaly....

Toy Overload

Weigh Funny

In case you haven't already heard, we're set to travel to the UK on August 20th for a couple of weeks of fun with family and friends, and hopefully heaps of Mum's rhubarb crumble ice cream (no pressure, though, Mum!).

Before all this hullabaloo at Heathrow airport began, my biggest concern was a baby bed for Matthew on the flights. Would there be one available? Could Stephen and I get seats together near the bed? Would Matthew be comfortable?

I discussed these and other issues over several phone calls with our travel agent here in Osaka. In one memorable conversation, he told me that Matthew would have to be weighed before he'd be allowed to have one of the fold-down beds. Jokingly, I asked him if they'd plop him down on the luggage conveyor belt in order to achieve this. In complete seriousness, Shogo san informed me that Matthew is a human, and that of course they have a different kind of scale for babies.

Phew, what a relief. Whatever happens, though, I think Matthew will just think it's all part of the adventure. He'd probably smile all the way down the conveyor belt. It would certainly be conducive to roly-polies.

Happy Birthday!

To our blog (August 4, 2004) and to Matthew (March 11, 2006). One is two years old now, and the other five months! Matthew's definitely growing faster than the blog, though.

A Bit of Wind

No, Stephen's feeling fine!

I had a phone call last night from one of my co-op grocery delivery guys. Apparently my order form, which they picked up on Tuesday as they dropped off my groceries, was "blown away by the wind," and "the police have been notified, though it hasn't been found yet."

It has my name, address, and phone number on it, but I'm not too worried. Hopefully the police aren't, either.

Matthew the Wonder People-Magnet

Having a baby attracts so many new people into our lives. We met Rikuto and his mom at the post office a couple of weeks ago, and they came over to play yesterday. Lots o' fun! And I think it's the first time Matthew experienced delayed gratification in the toy department. Usually that rattle ball is in his own mouth in a matter of nanoseconds.

Foot Fight!

Brake! Accelerator! Brake!

It's Just Not Cricket

It must have been a long, hot summer in the BBC Sport offices:

Cool Map Tool

You have probably used Google Maps, well now there is a really easy way to put maps on your blog or website: Simply go to, under the red "Wikimapia" heading select "Map on you page" and then pull the frame that appears to the location, size and shape of map you want. Finally, copy the code produced and put it in the html of your blog post- et voila!

Mt. Fuji

Don't Jump!

My colleague, Eugene, and I were looking forward to a nice 4m jump into a local lake up in the hills here after work, only to find that it had been drained of about 80% of the water when we got there.

The only reason we could think of as to why this lake was drained and the (green, scummy ones) next to it were full, is that they were expecting the typhoon to hit and wanted to free up storage capacity.

Good job we didn't jump!

Another Festival Friend

Matthew and his new friend had a grand time yesterday. Chiaki and her family live in an apartment building right next to our local grocery store, at the bottom of our hill. So fun times are only a five-minute walk away!

Granny Get Your Gun

I've been having a good laugh just now. Stephen's family has sent us some links to Grandma Wright's 94th birthday party videos, and of course, once you get into YouTube, it's pretty hard to get out without watching some other ones. Have a look for yourself! Hilarious!

This dancing grandma has some really good rhythm!

And this one is an only-in-America feisty NRA granny.

As far as I can tell, Grandma Wright's videos are marked as private, so only a privileged few are able to watch her as she makes her funny faces for the camera. What a card! And sans the machine gun, too, fortunately.

New Friend Yuta

Remember our festival photos from last week? Here's one of the babies we met there. Yuta and his mom came over for banana bread and iced coffee on Friday. Actually, only the mommies were lucky enough for those treats. Yuta brought his own little snacky, and Matthew joined in and had some yummy mummy milk.

Summer Pool Time

Fun day yesterday with Matthew's friend, Rei, and her mom. Stephen did his seminar thing, and we did our playtime thing. Gosh, it was a hot day. Look at my red face! If the pool had been a bit bigger, I'd have jumped in, too.

Happy Birthday

A big, resonant "Happy Birthday!" to Grandma Wright in England. 94 today and still going strong.

You Know Summer's Here When...

... Gifu records a record high of 38.6 degrees - and the shopping channel on TV is selling fast-warming heaters and $8,000 fur coats.


Getting weirder...

...and fushigier.

I know a lot of our family and friends think we're pretty bonkers. A Brit, married to a Yank, in Japan. Not because we like Japanese culture (although we do). Not because we just like Japanese people (but yes, we do like them). Not because we had a hankering to learn one of the hardest languages in the world (though I think Stephen gets a kick out of the ol' studying). Not because we want Matthew to be a three-culture kid (though he will be if we stay long enough). Not because we didn't like our own families, friends, or cultures (we do--we totally miss them). We're here because there were too many God-"coincidences" that pointed us to this country. Stephen and I were led here individually and as a couple, and you can't fight God! (Well, you could, but who wants to be eaten by a whale and then barfed up, or to get your hip put out of joint?)

To add to all of this weirdness, we don't have any property. We don't have any plans to "go back to one of our countries," as people are always asking us. (Of course we are open to the Holy Spirit's leading, and if He says go "back," we will.)

Folks, on top of all that, things are heating up. And it ain't just the Japanese summer, either.

We now know why the first-century Christians were accused of being drunk (see Acts 2). For the past week or so, every time Stephen has prayed before a meal, he's been asking the Holy Spirit to wash over us. And He does. If Stephen says the words "Holy Spirit," or even if I just sing or write those words, I've been getting totally hit with power surges! I've never stuck my finger in an electrical socket, but I think this must be like that, x 1000. I'm not kidding. I called a friend just now to tell her about it, and all I could do was say, "Oh, my word! Oh, my word! Oh, my word!"

A little while ago, I was just humming a Japanese song, which translated says, "The outpouring of the oil [i.e. the Holy Spirit], continue to burn in our hearts..." And once again, I got struck.

You know the movie "Back to the Future"? To return to the future, the DeLorean had to have a power surge at just the right moment. In the process of getting ready to go back, lightning struck the car, and the power was just what it needed to get where it was supposed to go.

It's like that for me lately. And it's not figurative. Not just an energy in my life giving me a boost.

This afternoon, I literally got knocked off my feet! Stephen had just prayed, and a wave of the Spirit swept by him, hitting me and making me jump. I had to sit down on the couch after that. I couldn't even stand up for a while.

And this morning. Wow. What a morning. We were in church, and I took Matthew out in the hall for a little walk around. When I came back in, there was Stephen, praying for everybody individually (our church isn't that big, mind you). I got hit by the Spirit and started crying, and meanwhile, other folks were getting impacted, too! I held out my hands and felt an almost palpable Presence. The air was thick with glory. God's glory. I don't think any of us were the same people when we left after the service.

With all of this Holy-Spirit-power comes amazing joy. I haven't been able to stop smiling all day long.

You know, Stephen and I are so, so human. Flawed. Messed up in some ways. Unforgiving. Needing healing. Angry sometimes. We gossip. Haven't always honored our parents. The list goes on.

We're just the sort of people who need a touch from the Holy Spirit. Boy, are we getting it. And not just a touch. A wave, a lightning strike, a fierce hug, a big old I-love-you from the One who made us from nothing.

This is real. Real exciting, too.

As you read this, may you be blessed beyond expectation and hope. May you rise up on eagles' wings. May you receive a sweet, powerful kiss from the Maker of the universe. He loves you.

Healing Seminar

On Friday and Saturday, there was the first Healing Seminars at the new Nishinomiya Healing Rooms just opposite where I work up on the hill.... and it was a powerful time!

I had already seen Abigail healed on a number of occasions when I had prayed for her, and another big step was when I prayed for a girl from our old church in the parking lot at Costco when they came to visit, and her ear that had been deaf and in pain was completely healed. So anyway, I was excited about the seminar and made sure I was one of the first to sign up to both learn more and receive the power.

Exciting times we live in!

Podcast Fame

I haven't had a chance to listen to the finished version yet, but Ruby on Rails podcast host and friend Geoff Grosenbach tells me that his latest episode, featuring my translation of his interview with a Japanese developer is ready and available online here. So, if you are excited about web 2.0-type development in general, Ruby in particular, or you just find listening to my voice soothing, download the MP3 and enjoy.


Because my friend Jeanine has kindly given me blanket permission to use her family's blog, I just have to post her three-year-old son's quote from yesterday:

"Mommy, I just open my mouth and close it so God could come in and fix it. And he did! My mouth doesn't hurt anymore! And now, I will drink my milk."

- Luke with a boo-boo in his mouth

More New Friends

Matthew and I met Ishibashi san and her one-year-old daughter, Mei, at the Co-op a few weeks ago. They came over to visit yesterday, and we had a great time. Matthew loves other babies!

Saturday Night Fever

We spent Saturday evening with Mr. and Mrs. Manabe and their son, Jidai. Their baby is five days younger than Matthew, but much rounder! The boys wore their traditional summer jinbei, although we didn't end up going to their neighborhood festival as planned. We did all have dessert next door at our pastor's house, though! The Manabe family and the Yoshino family share a wall. I met Manabe san when she and I were both in the hospital having our babies, and found out later that they live in the same townhouse complex as the Yoshinos! Fushigi!

Cool-Hand Matthew

Matthew, caught in the act of trying to turn on the telly, and looking surprised that he could actually climb all the way to the top of the bookshelf.

First Steps

Ha ha! I bet I got you with that title.

Well, at 4.5 months old, I can tell you that it is not Matthew's first steps that we are talking about, but you have to see this great video that Beau Teague put together of his son Silas's first steps. As one of the commenters on their blog put it:

Thank you for allowing us to share in the thrill of Silas' first steps. This video could definitely win an award! A masterpiece!!! You captured everything---the struggle, the unsteady beginnings, the triumph, the love of brothers.
It's great - enjoy!


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