Painted toenails will emerge
What's a meme, you ask? Click on the link and read all about it!
Here's one (the Expat 54321 Meme) that I heard about via a friend's blog. Thought I'd have a go.
5) Name five things you love in your new country:
- Most people do a lot of walking, and you can have some fun chats with neighbors and friends who are out for a stroll with their dog, grandchild, or pet lizard (OK, I've yet to come across that last one, but in the summer the kids run around with huge beetles in clear plastic boxes, and they feed them jello).
- Everything is close in our neighborhood, so I can walk with Matthew to the supermarket, post office, bank, etc. I save the driving for big trips to Costco so I can carry a boat-load home.
- The way people go to great lengths to make your visit a nice one if you are in their home. They put slippers out for you, bring you tea in lovely cups and saucers, and generally treat you as if you are royalty.
- Mommies and babies get into a routine, and you can see the same people at the park at the same time every day. One of Stephen's colleagues even told me that they have a phrase in Japanese for the baby's first day at the park (koen debyu [park debut]).
- The health care system is great. You might have to wait a while (OK, I waited 3.5 hours on Monday for an orthopedic guy to check out my knee), but the costs are much lower here than in America, and I've found the care to be excellent.
- The little mom-and-pop stores. (OK, technically that's six things, but I had to add that.)
- My mommy and daddy. My sister and her hubby. My niece and nephew. My grandparents. My friendsies. I miss my England rellies and friends, too, though technically that is not my native land.
- How lots of people have pools, and you can have a dip anytime without actually having to own one yourself.
- Andrea's. This is a cheesecake shop/deli owned by a very cool Italian family near my parents' house, and their cheesecake is superb. (They know my mom well, and always ask after her when I go in. When she had braces when I was a kid, she was in there every time those suckers got tightened and she couldn't eat anything solid.)
- Florida amenities: white sandy beaches, manatees, the salty sea air on my face, rivers for canoeing and slow meandering inner-tubing, cold springs for diving into.
- Restaurants that have a "non-smoking" section where the smokers sit at the next table, and this doesn't seem to bother people.
- That men in general do not hold the door open for women, and in fact will let it close behind them as you are about to go through, even if you've got a baby in a stroller.
- I think people tend to dress up here (and they really do look nice), even to go to the grocery store, so when I wear my jeans and comfy shoes everywhere, I feel like a bit of a slob. I just want to relax and not feel like an American sticking out from the crowd!
- There is a restaurant actually called Bikkuri [Surprise] Donkey.
- You can pay your bills at the convenience stores or post office.
- A lot of gas stations will pump your gas for you (a total luxury!) and clean your windows, too.
- When you move into a new place, you're expected to take gifts around to the neighbors for the "trouble" you will cause them, and when you move out, you should take gifts around again for causing that trouble while you lived there.
- Feeling safe when I'm walking around, being able to carry cash, and being able to leave my windows open.
Matthew is still pretty darn cute and still growing well. We got a new computer recently with a Japanese operating system and sporting the new Vista look, so I haven't taken the time to figure out how to download the camera yet. Sorry, no Matthew piccies lately. Watch this space.
Delicious warm wafting breeze
Sun shines from within
You know, I've heard a few sermons on "righteous anger"/"righteous indignation" based on Matthew 21 and the story of Jesus throwing the loan sharks and merchants out of the Temple. But not once have I ever heard a preacher tell the rest of the story.
Have you ever noticed the next verse? I hadn't paid much attention to it, until today. It says, "Now there was room for the blind and the crippled to get in. They came to Jesus and he healed them." The chapter goes on to describe children running through the Temple and shouting "'Hosanna to David's son!'" The religious leaders were ticked off; Jesus was rooting for the underdogs.
If I've ever had doubts about my beliefs (and I think you'd be lying if you said you never had) , I don't now. I want to be on the side of the One who cares for every outcast and tossed-aside who ever lived. Aren't we all beggars-turned-royalty in his kingdom? This Jesus has my loyalty, and my heart.
Are you ever tempted to think negatively about someone? I am, quite often, and I've been known to give in and harbor thoughts of envy, anger, and bitterness, repeating conversations in my mind that I've had with people, even years ago, and getting upset all over again.
I just realized this morning (I know, it takes me a while sometimes), though, that if God thinks positively about everyone (and He creatively and beautifully made all of us, so of course He looks at us as good and desirable), why shouldn't I think about them like He does? I guess that's what having the mind of Christ is all about.
Simple truths. Gorgeous.
Stephen and I could relate to this article because it reminded us of when we're in America. Of course Stephen is adorable, and the fact that Americans (including moi!) find his accent enchanting as well doesn't surprise me. It seems like most people in America are just genuinely interested in foreign accents, and British ones in particular. Many of the comments below the article mentioned that Brits in America get special treatment because of the way they sound, but I don't think Stephen's ever gotten free coffee out of it. We'll have to milk this the next time we visit.
It also made me reflect on when Stephen and I were engaged, and I was teaching tenth graders in Florida. My students asked me about my fiance, and when I told them he was from England, they asked me if he spoke English (to my chagrin).
(Happy 1,000th post, Fushigi News!)
Today is a national holiday (don't ask me which one because I'm too tired to look it up - I was just happy to have Stephen home on a Wednesday) so after hubby finished up a bit of work, we hightailed it for the nearest train to Oji Zoo in Kobe (where "Caressing cute animals will surely become your cherished memory"). So did 50,000,000 other folks because admission just happened to be free today at aforementioned zoo. We didn't have a chance to caress any animules, but we sure did have a good time.
Matthew seemed a bit dazed throughout, looking more at the people than the critters behind bars and windows, but in between dodging stray strollers and ankle-biters, Stephen and I did get a peek at some flamingos, penguins, polar bears, pandas, elephants, hippos, gorillas, and giraffes.
(And thanks, Paul and Alison, for Matthew's cute vest that matches the one I wear all the time! Probably our blog readers get sick of seeing me in it, but it's so warm and comfy. It sure keeps Matthew happy when he sees a feather to pull out and play with.)
Poor old April! She comes to Japan for a hectic week running around different churches with the Bethel team, and when she is still jet-lagged and fresh off the plane, we offer her natto for breakfast. Watch to see her reaction.
And no, I don't mean those tiny white flowers they use to soften the look of bouquets.
I was just saying to April the other day that I thought it was odd that babies never seem to have bad breath.
You know as soon as you say something like that that someone will prove you wrong.
That someone was Matthew, I have to say, and it was after he was given shrimp-flavored rice crackers (senbei). He liked them a lot. A little too much. And everybody around him knew it, even hours later.
(And Matthew, if you're reading this in the future, I'm not blaming you one bit for having had bad breath. Poor baby. It was a combination of factors, really: The grandma gave it to me, I gave it to you, and you chowed down.)
Yesterday I was wondering why Matthew was a bit grizzly, occasionally looking at the guest-room door in our apartment, and just generally fussy about everything. He's not usually like that.
Then I remembered that our week-long guest, April, left on Sunday evening.
Ah-ha. That was it.
April is a student at the Bethel School of Ministry in Redding, California, and came with a group of fifteen or so last week to hang out in our area and pray for and encourage people.
We didn't see her as much as we would've liked because the team was so busy, but Matthew fell in love! (Sorry, Catherine, Rei, and Jemima, you have some more competition!) April's a great girl, and we all did wish she could stay longer, though I do think she'll be back in Japan at some point. Come again soon, April!
Wow. It was short and fast, but what a week it was! The team saw loads of people healed (one lady in the hospital who had been paralyzed actually got up out of her wheelchair and walked around!!!). I was able to go to a few of the meetings, and was really blasted with God's love and power.
(Read a bit more about April's trip on my personal blog, For Goodness' Sake.)
Check out one of my all-time favorite blog posts! Toby, our friends' two-year-old (here in Japan), apparently took the family camera on an expedition, and this is what he came up with.
- Weighed 9.5 kg (21 lbs.) and was 75.2 cm long (about 30 inches) a few weeks ago (there's no telling how much he weighs now!).
- Now faces front in his car seat, and it took him a while to get used to the new view! He seemed a bit dazed for a few days after we turned him around.
- I put him at the bottom of a flight of stairs to see what he would do, and he climbed all ten or so stairs, crawling onto each one slowly, then standing, then crawling onto the next one. He made it to the top!
- Now does one-handed cool-guy standing, where he holds onto something and uses his other arm for other things like playing or picking up whatever he's dropped.
- Picks out CDs to listen to.
- For some strange reason, his crib rail has been down two mornings recently. I know we put it up and latched it the nights before, but somehow, when we go in to pick him up in the morning, the rail has mysteriously been down. What's going on? He's been in his crib, though, and hasn't escaped. Whew.
- Claps all the time! He's so joyful!
- Loves when I turn on the electric toothbrush and loves watching me brush my teeth for some odd reason.
- Interested in everything, and waves his arms and kicks his legs in his stroller when he's excited.
- We offer him choices for some things, and we thought that he was considering carefully before making his decision, but lately we've realized he always takes whatever is closest to his right hand. He does use his left hand for some things, though.
- Turns book pages for me when we're reading.
- Loves to dance and bounce, and to be held up high near the speakers when we have music playing.
- Thinks it's fascinating when I put lotion on my hands and rub them together.
- Looks really cute when just his head, eyes, and fingers show over the top of his playard (he's gotten so tall!).
- When we undress or dress him, and he's holding a toy, he passes it to the unencumbered hand while we pull his other arm through, then passes it back again. So adorable!
- Likes to stick his tongue out and grab it, especially if there's food on it. Strange.
- Cleans the TV screen for me with his sock.
- Thought the smoke from his one birthday candle was the best (albeit elusive) toy he'd ever seen.
Yes, strange though it may seem, Matthew is one year old today! I can't believe that this time one year ago, Matthew was launched kicking and screaming into the world. Three times bigger, with more hair and a lot more personality, he has grown in so many ways in the last year.
Here is a quick photo and video roundup of the day's events:
(Matthew was not really as close to the candle as he looks to be in this picture. It was just a clever use of perspective by the photographer.)
Down the road from us is a hardware store that has a little pet section at the back. Behind the glass there are little fish and small dogs (not in the same cubicles), and Matthew just loves going in there to look at them. So when we were trying to decide where to go for his first ever birthday, we decided to go somewhere similar in style - although much larger in size - the Osaka Aquarium.
(Go over to this Wikipedia page about the aquarium to read interesting engineering facts about it.)
We were joined on this expedition by my colleague, Eugene, his wife, Inna, and their daughter Anastasia. Rei-chan was supposed to come along too, but then she had some excuse about washing her hair, or something. Oh no, actually her dad was working. That was it.
Anyway, the aquarium has a number of large tanks that are several meters deep, so by going through different floors of the building, you can see the inmates at different levels which can really change the way you experience them: The seals floating on the surface asleep look cute and goofy, whereas when you see them underwater they are incredibly graceful doing pirouettes.
As expected, Matthew loved seeing all these different kinds of animals. He was able to stand at the glass for most of the tanks, laughing and smiling as various aquatic life-forms shot past his field of view. He was so stimulated that he talked more than we have ever heard him talk before. Lots of "dah, dah, dah", and "geh, geh." You can see how much he enjoyed his birthday trip from these videos and photos:
We have a power-saving feature on our air conditioner / heater in our bedroom: When we press the button on the remote control, it goes into "green" mode, and indicates this by lighting up a green light on the unit... thereby expending more energy. Ironic.
We've had a big day today: old folks' home in the morning, and Mei-chan's (not Rei) in the afternoon, with lunch squeezed in the middle at home. Matthew's had a lot of sensory input today, with lots of laughter and talking and crawling around. He loves his great-grandmas at the home, and they talk his ear off, poor thing (I don't get much of what they say, actually)! And when we went to Mei's to play, two other sets of friends (mommies and daughters) that we know showed up as well. So Matthew has been surrounded by estrogen in various levels and loads of nattering all day! He handled it well, though, I'll give him that. He's a tough cookie (and now soundly snoozing).
Yesterday as I was babysitting Rei-chan, I started noticing that she perked up and paid more attention when I said something in Japanese rather than English. Interesting.
We've been wondering how much Matthew understands, but I think he probably gets a lot more than we give him credit for. Time to be on our toes and watch what we say!
One of Matthew's dearest and oldest friends, Rei, came over today so her mom could have a wee bit of a break. We've decided to trade off every week, so Nobue (Rei's mommy) and I can each have a break every other week. I think Starbucks and either a book or my Marlow cross-stitch will be on my agenda (at that rate, I'll have the cross-stitch finished by the time I'm seventy-nine - watch this space).
We had all sorts of fun today. Rei is three weeks older than Matthew, so I don't know if it's the huge age gap, or a deeper sort of gender difference, but Rei was very good at daintily putting toys away in the box, while Matthew was working just as fast at immediately taking each one out.
At a different juncture in the play date, Matthew yanked a toy out of Rei's hand; I firmly said no, took it away from him, and gave it back to Rei. He started wailing, but little Rei kindly offered it back to him! The suddenly quiet Matthew gratefully took it.
On the whole, Matthew was ecstatic to have a little friend to play with, and the three of us had a wonderful time. Contrary to what Nobue had thought might happen, Rei didn't cry a bit, though she sat in my lap the first few minutes to size up the situation before diving into playtime.
Next week Matthew heads off to Rei's house, and I'm sure Nobue will have stories to tell.
"For you will go out with joy and be led forth with peace; the mountains and the hills will break forth into shouts of joy before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands (Isaiah 55:12)."
I was reminded of this verse today when I opened our lace curtains for Matthew to look out at the wild windy weather we were having. The two trees outside our living-room window were dancing and reveling in the gale, and Matthew - the joyful boy he is - started clapping along with nature.
(By the way, these trees are not the ones outside our apartment, but I found this shot on the Internet and was inspired by the greenness and the beautiful light.)
(Don't worry, dad. The grandson in question is not Matthew!)
I don't know why I always get riled about stuff like this. After all, Japanese politicians are always trying to play down wartime atrocities. It just gets me mad every time.
What is interesting this time, it that the politician trying to do the covering up is everybody's uncle, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, whose grandfather on his mother's side was a Class A war criminal, who only escaped punishment (and not only that, but went on to serve as Prime Minister himself just 12 years after the end of the war) thanks to a reversal of the US policy of purging former Imperial regime members and filling the jails instead with the new troublemakers - Communist Party members.
We know Matthew is Stephen's son because
- Matthew's a little comedian.
- He's got a huge mouth and a wonderful smile.
- His eyes crinkle and twinkle when he's laughing.
- He looks amazingly like Stephen's baby photos.
- He eats large quantities of food.
- Everyone says he's tall and has big hands for his age.
- He's got long eyelashes like his daddy.
- When he's excited or interested in something, his eyebrows go so high they touch the roof.
- His dimples are just so cute!
We know Matthew is Abigail's son because
- He likes scrambled eggs with avocado, tomato, and cheese.
- He loves plain natural yogurt, in all its sour glory.
- He likes his feet the way God intended them: unsocked, unshoed, and unhindered.
- He picks up Mommy's hairs off the carpet and furniture, just like she does (but she doesn't eat them).
- He enjoys going to hundred-yen shops.