Our dessert, which we are about to indulge ourselves in, now that Matthew is down for the night, describes itself as follows:
"The ice of the pumpkin taste was wrapped in the white chocolate containing the seed of the broken pumpkin, and cornflakes."
Jidai brought his parents with him for a visit a couple of weeks ago, and recently they kindly sent us this photo of the two boys from that night. Aren't they sweet? (By the way, it was completely unstaged. You can ask the boys!)
Just before I was due to come home today, part of our system went down at work. Now, we are pretty much reliant on all things computorial for our business, and we are also currently basically without tech support, so this was not a Good Thing.
Anyway, in the end we got it sorted out through revelation and the power of Google to bring up lots of pages that tell you what to do in the event of different errors. So, we live to die another day (Mr. Bond). But that is not what I wanted to tell you about.
What all this is leading up to is a little story (we shall call it a vignette - a kind of sports car) nestled like a Russian doll inside this overarching narrative: When we were in the middle of said crisis, one of the other members of staff, whom I shall call Ms. N to grant her a wafer-thin cloak of anonymity, noticed our stern crisis-mode demeanors and - or so it appeared to me - dived under her desk at the mere mention of the system breakdown. Now, I know that in Japan at the first trembling beginnings of an earthquake, Japanese people do what instinct and years of education have taught them, that is to seek shelter under the nearest piece of sturdy furniture. However, on seeing Ms. N perform the same maneuver in response to our server crisis, I wondered whether this disaster-response reflex had broader application.
Or at least, I did until I saw her emerge with a file in her hand a few moments later. Well, I must admit that I was a little disappointed. I did think that having a software failure with no IT backup is an eminently sensible reason for seeking refuge. Anyway, she certainly had me going for a minute.
"No. 1 Constitutional Amendment Article III, Section 19: State Planning and Budget Process
Proposing amendments to the State Constitution to limit the amount of nonrecurring general revenue which may be appropriated for recurring purposes in any fiscal year to 3 percent of the total general revenue funds estimated to be available, unless otherwise approved by a three-fifths vote of the Legislature; to establish a Joint Legislative Budget Commission, which shall issue long-range financial outlooks; to provide for limited adjustments in the state budget without the concurrence of the full Legislature, as provided by general law; to reduce the number of times trust funds are automatically terminated; to require the preparation and biennial revision of a long-range state planning document; and to establish a Government Efficiency Task Force and specify its duties."
Yes or no?
I vote for the formation of a Government Efficiency Task Force on the Number of Words and Syllables Allowed To Be Used on Ballots.
Whether on TV, on the Net, or wherever!
I'm whiling away a Matthew nap time by scanning through multitudes of nebulous Web sites, searching for what these politicians actually think, believe in, do, work for. I've been sent an absentee ballot for the upcoming November 7 general election, and as a Responsible Floridian Who Just Happens To Reside Overseas, I had it in my mind that it would be good for me to get this thing sent back in on time, or at least sent back in, period.
Trawling though these sites, though, has got me thinking. Maybe I'm jaded from living in a foreign land (or, perhaps, as I choose to think, gifted with the blessing of a Global Citizen's Perspective), but what a turn off! Do I really care whether a politician has golf and tennis as her hobbies?
Please, I just want to read about the issues, and what that person thinks.
Do I need to see their latest TV ad? Does that tell me anything? Other than how bad the other candidate is, almost nothing at all.
Anyway, whether it will make any difference or not, I'm going through with it. I'm going to get this ballot in. A round of applause, please! And I'm patting myself on the back, as well, which is rather difficult while typing. I'm Every Woman.
Not so sure that the people who made the "God Made Animals" DVD that Matthew is watching now have really thought through the irony of juxtaposing music from "There Shall Be Showers of Blessing" with the story of Noah and the Ark. Not so much "showers of blessing", as "downpour of death" for all the people who were not in the Ark.
It's like ultrasound - only higher. These are the frequencies that Matthew has been exploring with his voice. It's amazing how high a human voice can go. And it's amazing that the local dogs don't all start howling as well.
We had trouble not laughing when we recorded this. Enjoy!
For those of you without eagle eyes, you might want to know that the poodles have been updated to show his latest official weight reading. At that time, he was almost exactly 8kg, or 17 pounds.
And his name is Matthew!
Abigail was talking to someone on Skype via our computer the other day with Matthew playing at her feet in the dining room. He seemed to be playing with the chair leg, but didn't really appreciate the extent of his activities until after she hung up and had a closer look:
A little longer and there would have been a felled chair leg lying on the floor.
I'm just amazed that those two little teeth are still around and haven't been ground down into little stumps yet.
Do you remember this scene from a certain well-known movie?
The claw is our master.
The claw chooses who will go and
who will stay.
This is ludicrous.
Woody GASPS at the recognition of Sid's voice. He turns to
see Sid heading straight for the crane game.
Oh, no! Sid!!!
Woody leaps off the partition and tackles Buzz, pushing the
two of them deep into the pile of aliens.
Sid approaches the crane game and fishes quarters out of his
What's gotten into you, Sheriff? I
YOU are the one that decided to
climb into this --
Sh-h-h-h-h-h. The claw. It moves.
It moves into position and hovers directly above the area
where Woody and Buzz are hiding.
The crane drops and grabs hold of the alien toy that is
right on top of Buzz.
I have been chosen!!
Positioned with his back to Sid, the alien is lifted up by
Farewell, my friends! I go on to a
Well, you should see Matthew The Human Claw in action: When faced with an Intergalactic Emergency (such as a toy running out of Matthew-pleasing power), Matthew The Human Claw flies up into the sky, from whence he dangles down over his toy basket before clutching his next victim, whisking it away to drool-soaked doom.
(Taken from Grace Gems, a daily e-mail I receive.)
(Arthur Pink, "God's Jewels")
"And they shall be Mine, says the Lord Almighty, in
that day when I make up My jewels." Malachi 3:17
It almost surprises one to learn that the great and self-sufficient God has 'jewels,' but our surprise increases to astonishment when we learn that these 'jewels' are living creatures. And astonishment gives place to overwhelming amazement when we discover that these living creatures are fallen and depraved sinners redeemed from among men! Truly, nothing but Divine grace would ever liken such wretched worms of the dust, unto precious jewels! Yet that is the very thing which we find God doing in our text. It is not the unfallen angels, nor the holy seraphim and exalted cherubim who are spoken of as Jehovah's valued treasure--but lost and ruined sinners saved by amazing grace!
The Lord has likened His people to 'jewels' because of their inestimable value in His sight. This is an exceedingly hard thing for the Christian to really grasp, for he feels such a wretched and worthless creature in himself. That the Lord of Glory should deem him of great worth, is difficult to conceive. Yet so it is!
From the earliest times, men have thought much of precious gems, and fabulous prices have been paid for them. With great ardor and toil, do men hunt after gold; but with even greater eagerness and labor will they seek the diamond. Hundreds of men will labor for a whole year in one of the diamond mines of Africa, and the entire result of their efforts may be held in the palm of your hand. Princes have been known to barter their estates in order to obtain some gem of peculiar brilliance and rare excellence.
Yet more desirable still, are His saints in the esteem of the Lord Jesus. The value of a thing in the eyes of its possessor, may be gauged by the price he was willing to pay for it. So valuable was the Church unto Christ that He gave Himself for it, and shed His precious blood to purchase it for Himself. Thus, the saints are likened unto 'jewels' because of the great value which the Lord places upon them.
"You will be a glorious crown in the Lord’s hand, and a royal diadem in the palm of your God." (Isaiah 62:3) What marvelous words are these for faith and hope to lay hold of! Our feeble intellects cannot grasp them! Wondrous is it to think of rough stones, which first look like small pebbles, being found in the mud and mire of earth; then cut and polished until they scintillate with a brilliancy surpassing any earthly object, and being given an honored place in the diadem of a monarch. But infinitely more wonderful is it, that poor lost sinners, saved by sovereign grace, should be among the crown-jewels of the Son of God!
Recently in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, the Amish community was devastated by the killing of five girls, and the injuring of five others, by a local milk delivery man. He entered an Amish school, killed and injured the girls, then shot himself.
The Amish have told Mrs. Roberts (whose husband killed the children) that they forgive Mr. Roberts, and have even started a bank account to help her family. In return, Mrs. Roberts has issued a statement thanking the Amish community for their forgiveness, and has said, "...We will continue to put our hope and trust in the God of all comfort, as we all seek to rebuild our lives."
Can you imagine forgiving someone for killing your child? Even in the midst of a dark and evil situation, God's light beams through, offering hope and healing. Now that's amazing grace.
(I got this post from my own blog, For Goodness' Sake. I couldn't help posting it twice--it's just so incredible.)
Jidai and Matthew were born in the same clinic in March, but Jidai is a little ahead of Matthew in the weight-gaining stakes. I think Matthew works off a lot of calories with his exploring.
The boys enjoyed watching a DVD together while we ate dinner and then we had fun provoking Jidai to deep belly-laughter after Matthew had gone down for his evening nap.
Abigail provides the after-dinner entertainment for the Manabes.
Just a little bit! No, actually, this article about the new Japanese prime minister's wife, Mrs. Abe (ah-beh) gives me more respect for Mr. Abe than I used to have. That a Japanese guy was considering adoption is a rare thing, apparently. Shows me that he has a really soft heart.
Now, if he'll just stay away from Yasukuni Shrine, that hotspot where some Japanese war criminals are buried. The former prime minister, Koizumi, just couldn't refrain from visiting, which caused quite an uproar in this part of the world, especially in China and South Korea.
As I was just sitting down to blog, Stephen and I were giggling as Matthew banged his head into the shoji, those paper doors in Japanese homes that I was writing about earlier this week. Of course it didn't hurt him (and he's not strong enough yet to hurt the paper), and he did it a few more times for good measure. As I came back up from checking on him, I smashed my head into the desk lamp. Hmmm. I guess Matthew comes by it honestly.
Now, what was I going to write about? Oh, yeah.
I wanted to add to my bullet points from yesterday:
- Matthew likes to raise his voice as we walk through our basement parking area. It echoes down there, and he really loves that.
- He waved bye-bye today to a little one-year-old friend in the neighborhood as we were out walking.
- We are often relieved that the farting noises he makes are usually with his mouth.
- He rubs his eyes and sucks his thumb when he's tired, and it's just so cute!
- You can get an unending amount of laughs from Matthew if you tickle his pits and ribs.
- It's really difficult to blog when you're holding a baby who likes to grab cords and poke keys.
No, just one for now, thank you! Anyway, Matthew is seven months old today, and he's up to some new things lately:
- Loves to attack the TV stand with his fist (maybe he likes the clear door on it - the window into DVD Land). I always firmly tell him no, and take him away to play with his toys instead. This morning he cheekily looked at me as he moved to the TV area, knew he was doing something wrong, kept going even when I said no, and when he got to his intended destination, glanced over his shoulder at me and unabashedly grinned. Oh boy. That's a first. The first of many tests to see if I'll be consistent.
- Yesterday Matthew had to get another vaccination at the pediatrician's office. There were about five other babies there, his age and older, and Matthew was the most energetic. Even though it was his nap time, he was going wild! I had him on my lap, facing outwards to see the other babies, and he was rocking back and forth, pushing up and down, and laughing and talking to the other kids. They all sat there placidly looking around, but the other moms and I got a kick out of it. I knew he was sociable, but that took the cake!
- He's officially outgrown his bouncer/rocker chair, as evidenced by the picture of him doing a Houdini escape move below.
- Matthew sat up today for quite a long time, all by himself. Usually he leans forward to grab a toy, and overbalances enough to eat playmat.
- He still loves walks, the outdoors, trees, the feeling of breezes on his face, dogs, babies, and anything that moves or makes noises.
- Matthew makes his own instruments. He uses whatever he can (his hand, his toy) to bang surfaces to create a racket. He's even used his head on the glass sliding door in the living room, but that was a bit of a mistake.
- Waved back at Stephen today, four times!
Got a mike? Then you can leave us an audio message with our (free, of course) MyChingo voicemail on the right side of the blog.
If you want to send a private message, just add a text message when you record your voicemail so that we know it is just for us and not for just anyone to listen to. Of course, if you have a general comment, we won't mind making it public for all to hear.
If you want to listen to one of those public messages, just double click the name of the person who left the message and you will hear it play through your speakers or headphones. You can also use the play, stop and pause buttons as you are playing back the selected message.
It's easy! Matthew's waiting to hear from you, so why don't you record a message for him now?
We've been blogged.
We may not be very adventurous in our exploring, but we do sometimes take the opportunity to visit new areas around us, and today being a national holiday (tai iku no hi - Sports Day), we decided to make the most of it by heading off to Rokko Island to explore in general and plunder FBC in particular.
Now, Rokko Island is a little different from your average island. To be specific, it does not have a lot of history. In fact, its geology is not measured in aeons, but in decades. Apparently, some construction companies got together in the late 60s / early 70s and figured out this great wheeze to guarantee their profits for a generation: They proposed creating an island in the Kobe bay area for housing, businesses and shops. Now, in most countries, fiscal realities would have kicked in and such a gigantic undertaking ruled out, but since this is Japan, it is more likely that it was the kickbacks that kicked in and this huge undertaking was given the green light. So there we were today, sampling this project that started in 1973 and only saw the land itself completed as recently as 1992, with construction on that land seemingly ongoing.
I have to say that for me it was a very strange twighlight world. First of all, the atmosphere there is about as Japanese as I am. In large part this is a result of the liberal quantities of obviously expat foreigners ordering their Subway sandwiches in English. When 75% of the people in a restaurant in Japan are white, you start to feel weird. (And you grasp your wallet tighter - after all, you've got to watch out for these dangerous foreigners, as our Aichi friends would helpfully inform us.)
I think the other thing that really got me is that the place has no soul. It's so artificial: the towering concrete structures, the lack of bustle, the largely vacant parking area, and the general absence of everything you would normally expect to see in Japan - high school kids, scooters, granny bikes, wires hanging over the streets, pachinko parlors, tiny grandma and grandpa stores.
It seemed to me that Rokko Island is a modern day version of Deshima, the trading island constructed to house the Dutch and to keep them from interaction with the locals in Nagasaki after the Shimbara Rebellion of 1637. Although the locals are now allowed to live with and interact with the expat community, Rokko Island still does a very good job of keeping the gajin in their western bubble and away from experiencing what most Japanese would recognize as the real Japan.
When your country is making noises about staging a nuclear test and is generally renowned for making all its neighbors nervous, you and your friends should probably not decide to go on a little fishing jaunt into the DMZ No Man's Land.
I know wars have started for stupid reasons, but I think this would have really taken the biscuit.
BBC: Shots fired amid Korean tension
Visited Inna and Eugene yesterday, and little Anastasia (born last Sunday) was a perfect angel. So precious! Matthew looked massive in comparison. (Matthew, if you're reading this in the future, don't worry - I think you're (sorry Anastasia) the sweetest baby in the whole world!)
Didn't think I'd be teaching again so soon, but our pastor's wife twisted my arm to do a special presentation on American culture for her daughter's third-grade class last week. They were all good kids, and it was (unexpectedly) a lot of fun! Matthew and I are going back in November for them to teach us about Japanese culture. It's a bit ironic, because I've probably worn more kimonos and been to more sumo matches than all those kids put together. Anyway, they loved Matthew, of course, and he was so comfortable with them that he even managed a nap in the classroom. Hopefully that's not saying anything about my presentation.
Yesterday, as I was hanging over the (extremely low) kitchen sink doing the dishes, I was feeling stressed and sad for a good friend who just found out she's very sick. I was crying, and asking God the question so many ask, "Why?"
I just blogged the other day about the peace that God gives to His children. But I wasn't feeling it as I was doing housework yesterday. Worry for my friend was clouding my heart.
Then God's still, small voice asked me if I trusted Him. He said that I should practice what I say. As I said, "I trust You," an amazing thing happened. I realized that no matter what happens to those I love, or to me, I really do trust Him. I had been fearful in the past, wondering if I would ever lose my faith in the One I love.
Emmanuel. He's with us.
It cleared up this afternoon, though there were still strong winds from the typhoon, which my neighbor told me has moved to Tokyo. The sun was strong, the clouds moving along at a clip, and Matthew and I hit the road in his stroller and my sneakers.
As we were passing a tatami shop, the lovely smell of the freshly made mats drew me in. I asked the friendly grandpa if we could watch him make them, and he was so happy we were there. He asked all about Matthew and showed him the machines they use. Matthew was enthralled.
The man's younger counterpart was a few feet away, handmaking shoji, the paper doors you can see in the same picture in the tatami link above.
Walking back up the hill, we saw an elderly man up a ladder trimming a perfectly sculpted pine tree, using tiny clippers and cutting one or two needles at a time.
We really live in Japan. Sometimes it hits me again.
There's nothing like an out-of-date cake mix to give you a life-lesson.
It all started this morning when I found a box of yellow cake mix in the cabinet. I had bought it in the States during our visit in 2004, and planned to make a rum cake with it. Only trouble is, liquor is so darned expensive here (maybe that's a good thing). So I waited (and waited) to see what else I could do with it. If the truth be told, I forgot about it until today.
I pulled it out this morning and decided to use it for a pineapple-upside-down cake. I did check the date, which said February 2006. But this sort of thing doesn't bother me. I figure there are so many preservatives in that kind of mix that it could last another twenty years, no problem. My only mistake was leaving it on the counter where Stephen could spot it. Typically, he went straight for the best-before-date, and then promptly said there's no way we should eat that. So I guess I'll burn my idea and start from scratch.
It got me thinking, though. How many gifts and talents do I have, lying dormant in the cabinet of my heart, waiting to be used and savored? What has God given me to share with others that I'm hiding away, waiting for a "better" day? Like the cost of rum in Japan, it's expensive to open your life to others. What could happen?
If you let a child help you in the kitchen, things could get messy. So it is with opening your life and mouth and sharing the love of Christ. Some people get offended. It's hard to be transparent and humble.
But there's a great deal of joy that goes with all this as well (like letting the child smear your nose with cake batter, or even better, getting the child with it!). The satisfaction of being where God wants you. Smiles. Laughter. Getting to eat the cake.
There is a best-before-date on life, however. None of us lives forever in our human bodies as we now know them. I have the peace that goes beyond all understanding because I know that my name is written in the Lamb's Book of Life in heaven. But not everybody has that certainty. And my heart hurts for those friends who are scared of living, scared of death.
Lord Jesus, I pray that you would help me to live in Your surety and peace, and prod me into action to show that to others. As Keith Green said, "Lord, break my heart with the things that break Yours."
I love my family, I love my life, I love where we live and our friends. I love flowers, and sunshine, and breathing deep breaths of sea air. Life really is beautiful. But you know what? Heaven is even better. I'm not being morbid to be thinking these things, but the day I go there I will see Jesus.
That's a best-after-date.
There's a typhoon on its merry way here, so it's been a rainy week. Just as Matthew and I went out yesterday afternoon for a walk, it started pouring. So we had an F1 race in the basement parking lot of our building.
I put him in his stroller, and I did the commentating as we (very safely) careened around concrete posts and went for the finish line (innumerable times). Matthew definitely takes after his big brother, Michael. He likes speed, and lots of it.
After half an hour of that, I had had a good workout, and so had Matthew's arms and legs. They didn't stop waving around the whole time!
After Michael's (alleged) retirement this year, who knows what could happen? Bit of nepotism, anyone? Here comes baby bro...
Another birthday spent with my beautiful wife. Extra beautiful today after her special haircut at the gas station hair salon*.(You may notice my modest hair trimming as well.)
*If you look back at the May blog post about the gas station, you'll see that there was a discussion about gas prices. It is now up to 145 or more yen per liter.
Matthew, my friend Nobue and her baby Rei, and I visited our Russian friends, Inna and Eugene and their new baby, Anastasia, today in the hospital. Anastasia was born yesterday! (I wasn't, though, just in case you were wondering.)
Matthew and Rei had fun reminiscing (they were born at the same clinic as Anastasia) and trying out the boxes they used to sleep in. They're a bit bigger now than seven months ago!
"Do you like natto?" is the question I get most often as a foreigner in Japan.
Matthew is exploring the outer limits of fluid dynamics with his new brand of super-gloopy natto drool.
September has come and gone, and I neglected to mention two very noteworthy wedding anniversaries from that month.
First of all, Stephen's brother Paul, and his wife Alison, celebrated two years of marriage! Congratulations!
And amazingly enough, my dad's parents, Mommee Melt and Pa, have been married for sixty-eight years! Wow! They're now ninety and eighty-nine, and still going strong, the spring chickens that they are.