Miki and Kikue Visit

Abigail and I were pleasantly surprised to receive an email from my former colleague, Miki Inokuchi, the other day asking whether they could come to stay with us for a couple of nights during the Golden Week vacation period we are in now. Of course, we were happy to have them come and had a great time over the last few days. Matthew in particular enjoyed the attention, and it was fun also to reminisce about the time we worked together at Seiryo High School about ten years ago now.

Just A Thought

You know, I think one of the best inventions of our time is undergarments that have the info actually printed on the material (without those yucky itchy tags they used to have). Way cool.

God Is So Cool AND Fushigi

We've just had some friends from Kanazawa (where Stephen lived before we met face-to-face) staying with us for a few days, and as I was planning meals for their visit, I thought I'd make my traditional spaghetti and meatballs. But for some reason, I changed my mind at the last minute and decided to put together a really good Nigella recipe that we love. If I can find couscous and chickpeas (both precious commodities in Japan), I like to whip up her lemony chicken.

Anyway, I didn't know if Miki and Kikue would enjoy it or not but decided to go for it.

Well, one of the first things Kikue mentioned was that she has an interest in everything Moroccan, and they went there a couple of years ago for a holiday to fulfill her dream.

As I was making the Moroccan-style meal last night, I realized that the couscous package even had "Made In Morocco" written on it. How fushigi is that!

This morning I was getting breakfast together in the kitchen and had a few moments by myself to reflect on that amazing "coincidence." God reminded me that He cares about every little thing in our lives, and that was another example of His goodness to add to my ever-growing long list of blessings.

Marlow: Fushigier Than We Thought

Stephen's parents live in Marlow, Buckinghamshire, a quiet hamlet and an absolutely beautiful town on the Thames. The other day Stephen's dad e-mailed us an interesting story showing us the dark side of this seemingly serene village.

When I was in the front [cutting the lawn], a lady stopped and asked me the way to the Royal Oak Pub in Bovingdon Green. She explained that she had been brought up in Marlow and was on a nostalgic visit to places she played in as a child. She told me that she used to cross the fields where our house now stands to go over to Happy Valley and now with the houses built she was lost.

She told me that as a child with her friends she used to go climbing trees in the field alongside Borlase School which was owned by Mr (I have forgotten the name) and he used to shoot at them to scare them off. On one occasion, she said, she had been shot and showed me the scar in her shoulder!

Marlow was a wild place 60 years ago!

I directed her to the Royal Oak.

Birthday BBQ

Yesterday was our friend (and Stephen's boss ) Jon's birthday, so there was a birthday BBQ bash at the company. It was nice getting together with everyone there, and Matthew had a blast on the trampoline with Jessica, Jon's oldest daughter. Chikara had fun giving Jon his birthday takoyaki as well.

Fushigi Friendship

As most of you know, Stephen and I have been in Japan together since 2001. Time flies! It's hard to believe it's been that long, but at the same time, as a married couple, we don't know any other way of life. We got hitched, we came here.

I'm so grateful for all the Japanese friends God has brought into my life. They're the reason we came here in the first place! I've had a strong interest in everything Japanese since middle school, and being here is a dream come true.

But you know what, sometimes I get homesick (though on occasion I'm not sure what my "true" culture is anymore, and maybe that's a good thing - my horizons are ever expanding...). I've been praying to meet a friend who's close by and can understand a bit of what I'm going through as a foreigner in Japan, and voila!

One of Stephen's Japanese coworkers is married to a cool Canadian/American named Sarah. We didn't actually meet till recently, and it's great to be getting to know her a bit better. They live an hour away, but hey, that's not too far in the grand scheme of things.

A hilarious thing happened this past week. I'd been debating about whether to ask her if she and her family wanted to get together with the Munday clan for Thanksgiving. I was thinking it's pretty early, seeing as Thanksgiving's not till November! Anyway, I mentioned it to her, thinking she might think I'm a bit wacky (no comments from the peanut gallery, please), but lo and behold, she'd been wanting to ask me the same thing! Cool, hey! Here's to you, Sarah...

The Sheep That (Didn't) Bark

Unfortunately, my sense of right and wrong prevents me from getting filthy rich (for a time) by exploiting helpless Japanese people, but for some of their fellow countrymen, these scruples do not seem to apply.

Read more about the strange case of the sheep that (didn't) bark here.

Milk for Thought

Check out this interesting post on The Lactivist entitled "A Christian Perspective on Nursing in Public". She quotes another blogger (a man, by the way): " 'Breasts have been so "pornified" that we can fall into thinking that even their proper use is shameful.' "

I think hungry babies around the world would agree that filling our stomachs is not something we need to be bashful about.

Random But Not Very Fushigi

We visit Stephen's office once a week to have lunch together, and here's Matthew yesterday holding Pikachu and being held by Reiko san.
Beautiful flowers at the office.
Rei came to visit today and the kids had fun reading together.

More Than Meets The Eye

"There's far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can't see now will last forever."
(2 Corinthians 4:18)

Matthew used to look at one spot in our living room, just an ordinary corner behind one of the sofas, and laugh and talk like his best friend was standing there. His whole face lit up. Matthew hasn't done this recently, but his friend Rei came to visit last week and did the same thing! She looked at the exact same spot, and there's nothing there that I can see that would awaken any interest.

Our friends' son, Toby, walks into their living room and says hello to an angel that nobody else notices.

I really believe these children see what we adults may not be able to, or may not want to!

" 'Unless you accept God's kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you'll never get in.' "
(Mark 10:15)

Ode to Wet Wipes

A parent's best friend, woo-hoo!
Kids always need wiping down:
Sweet face covered in food,
Apple juice the bib about to drown.

There's also the inevitable scum
To clean from the cute baby bum.
But more than just refreshing the little one:
These wipes, oh my word, are great for mum.

Red sauce on your light sweater?
No problem, I say!
Wet wipes are the answer.
Need to clean the carpet? Wipes! Way-hey!

Feeling nasty? Feeling grimed?
Table crumb-covered? Baby slimed?
Snotty nose? Neighbors dined?
Wipes'll fix it, every time.

Nasty Smokeses

I know that smoking is more addictive than heroin (as my respiratory-therapist parents have told me). And I don't mind people smoking (it's up to them what they want to do with their own health), as long as it is away from my baby and his lungs and his fingers.

As I was walking back from somewhere last week, Matthew was happily riding in his stroller, looking forward to his upcoming nap. A grandpa walked by, going the opposite direction, and as he passed by us I realized he was holding a lit cigarette down at stroller level. As nothing seemed to have happened, I kept going, angry as heck at Grandpa but relieved Matthew was OK.

Later I realized one of Matthew's fingers (on the hand that had been closest to Smoker Grandpa) was badly burned, even had a bubble raised up already. He had been a bit fussy going up our hill, but I thought it was because he was so tired.

All those ads by Japan Tobacco (government sponsored) for using your cigs in a "mannerly" way sure are bunk.

Grandpa is one lucky dude. If I'd gotten a good look at his face, next time I saw him he'd have gotten decked.

Sazae san

Abigail and Matthew watching Sazae san today.

Free At Last

Today was the day Japanese voters went to the polls, so fortunately we will be released from seeing these massive signs with politicians' posters. This light-ball one was my favorite.

Video taken from our balcony as a noisy politician drove by a few blocks away with a loudspeaker. They wave wearing white gloves as they drive by in little trucks. Don't ever wave back, as this just encourages them to shout thank-you even louder.

Two Creepy Crawlers

Nishinomiya Harborland

You Know You're a Parent When...

...you look under the furniture for anything that's missing.

Recent Fushiginess

Check out that spiffy haircut! I wonder who did such a superb job?
Rei and Matthew in their own little worlds.
My friend Sawako and two of her three.
Matthew with some little buddies.

It's been a busy week here in Nihon Land. Stephen took Monday off to relax (he hardly ever takes days off so I was really happy to have him home on a weekday), and we got some errands done that needed doing (and also got naps)! Lovely! Tuesday Rei chan came here for her mommy to have some time to herself, Wednesday Matthew and I visited a friend's apartment and met some other new mommies and babies (there were four little ones all born in March last year), Thursday was catching up with some things around the house, and today I got a chickenpox vaccination (the clinic conveniently happened to be across the street from one of our favorite bakeries and they just happen to have little creme brulee cups - heavenly - or as they say in Japanese, "poison for my eyes"). That poison somehow mysteriously ended up in a bag to take home. Hmmm. Dangerous.

Well, about that chickenpox vaccine. I called the doc's office over a week ago to make an appointment, and they told me to call at 8:30 in the morning of the day I wanted to come. I thought maybe they were joking, so I called again yesterday to ask about today. The same answer. Call at 8:30 am on the day you want to come in. OK. So I asked them what time they open in the morning, thinking I'd like to arrive as early as possible so I wouldn't have to wait too long. Same answer. Call at 8:30. So I asked if that means they open at 8:30? Same answer. Call at 8:30. I got the picture.

Some doctors won't let you have an appointment; it's just first come, first served. At other places you can make an appointment for an exact time. I understand both those scenarios. But after calling around to a bunch of places (even trying with no luck to persuade Matthew's pediatrician to do it), this was the only place I could find that would do chickenpox vaccines for an adult. So I was stuck with them, but I was already feeling annoyed at their "call at 8:30" system.

I was pleasantly surprised, though, when I called at 8:30 and asked them if 10:30 was OK. Sure, they said. I ended up having to wake Matthew from a nap (I hate doing that to him), rushing his morning milk snack, and got him to Rei chan's (he cried as I left and he almost never does that, and Nobue told me he wanted to be held a lot while I was gone - very unusual for Mr. Independent).

Anyway, I was in and out of the doc's office in ten minutes, even with filling in one of those long forms that every place asks for, like do you have allergies and have you ever had any major illnesses? Can't docs consolidate and share that info somehow? It's even more annoying for me because it's all in Japanese and I have to get a receptionist to help me with it. (Matthew's pediatrician's office asks me to fill in the exact same form every time I take him. Can't they just make a copy and then ask me if there have been any changes lately?)

But anyhoo, I liked Orita Sensei, maybe because he's one of the youngest docs in Japan (about mid-40's) and didn't treat me like I was a complete nincompoop (what is it with old doctors here? - if we ever move to an English-speaking country in the future I am going to make a point of treating every foreigner as if they are a rocket scientist - just because you're not completely fluent in a language doesn't mean you don't have a brain - OK, enough of my rant). His office was new and sparkly, and the funky orange chairs in the lobby were fun. The nurse who jabbed me was nice, too, though in my usual manner I didn't look as the needle went in.

I had driven Matthew to Nobue's, driven home, and walked from there to the clinic because they don't have parking. After the appointment I walked home, dropped off a few groceries I had picked up en route, and grabbed Matthew's stroller. I heaved my backpack into the seat (because obviously Matthew wasn't using it), and walked back to Nobue's with my store-bought obento (click the link and read about it - this part gets me: " While bento are readily available at convenience stores and bento shops (弁当屋, bentō-ya) throughout Japan, it is still considered an essential skill of a Japanese housewife to be able to prepare an appealing boxed lunch" - Japanese people probably think the sandwich obento I make are pretty lame -theirs are really gorgeous).

Hee hee! I got tons of funny looks as I walked my backpack in the stroller to pick up Matthew. I so wished I had had a video camera going as one grandpa rode by on his bicycle, looked back at me, checked out the babyless but backpack-toting stroller, and almost fell off his seat! Priceless!

Names and Faces

Yesterday, a new guy joined the office crew at Provide Cars. Although he is Japanese, in conversation (in English and Japanese) he has always been known to me as "Alex". Now, I know that when Japanese and other Asian people whose names seem to be somehow difficult for English speakers to pronounce sometimes like to choose an English name for those situations. But it still felt strange to me to be talking to someone in Japanese and yet break the Japanese flow by throwing in his English name every so often.

Anyway, last week, before Alex joined, the Japanese staff were asking me what his Japanese name was, but I didn't know. So we (or should that be "I"?) decided that the only thing to be done was to give all the Japanese staff English names.

Junko became "June". Akamatsu san became "Andrew", although that created a problem for Seiji, who was already getting the names Alex and Andrew mixed up in his head. Reiko became "Caroline", because I thought she looked like one, but then she told me she hated that name. So that wasn't good. Seiji cheated, because he had already taken a Portuguese name when he was working in Mozambique. Translating this again into English and he became "Joseph", although I can't really see him as a Joseph myself.

Then, of course, there was the problem of what to do with the non-Japanese staff. Well, of course, they should have Japanese names. Easy! In Japanese, the suffix "~taro" is a classic male name ending. Add this to the Japanese for the countries each person is from and you get:

Me ~ Eitaro (英太郎)
Eugene (from Russia) ~ Rotaro (露太郎)
Jeff (from the USA) ~ Beitaro (米太郎)
Sami (from Finland) ~ Futaro (芬太郎)

Ridiculous - but fun.

Another traditional way of doling out names to your sons in Japan is to number them. So, applying this to our present problem: Jon, the owner of the company, would be Ichitaro (一太郎), Eugene would be Nitaro (二太郎), Jeff from America would be Santaro (三太郎) etc.

The only slight drawback of this system would come if someone new joined the company and disrupted our name series. I don't know if Ni(a)taro (二a太郎), Ni(b)taro (二b太郎) would really work. And Natsua's idea of renumbering everyone each time this happened would certainly be a recipe for confusion....

You know, I think we will all just stick with our own names and let Alex be Alex. Or Takayoshi. Whichever one he decides to be. But I will leave Eitaro on the shelf for the moment.

Man Proposes After Four Minutes

A little bit faster than us - but not much!

Check out the whirlwind romance here.

Mr. Squeaky Bottom

Matthew's New Trick

Matthew is really good at climbing down off things now, although I think that he always expects the ground to be under his feet - however high he is lowering himself from.

Baby Bananas

The perfect size for Matthew's little hands. His little mouth likes them, too.


Matthew Bauer: "Tell me where your bunny friends are planning on detonating the nuclear Easter egg!"

Oldies But Goodies

Dad, Sharon, and Abigail
Abigail, Cousin Krissie, and Sharon in 1980
Sharon and Abigail in 1977

Thanks, Aunt Tina, for sending the pics!

Thirteen Months

  • Matthew loves looking at lights - smiles every time I say, "One, two, three, on!" and switch the lamps or overhead light on.
  • Likes the sound when he runs his fingers along the slats on the metal closet doors.
  • Has oatmeal with plain natural yogurt, unsweetened applesauce, and wheat germ (and sometimes cinnamon when Mommy's feeling gourmet, but this hardly happens at 6 in the morning) almost every morning, and hoovers it up.
  • Loves it when we show him pictures of himself on the camera screen - he bounces and laughs.
  • His favorite band seems to be Third Day (thanks, M and A, for the CDs!) - rocks out but I can't ever catch him doing this on video.
  • It's starting to warm up more now, but even earlier this month when we got in the shower, Matthew would hold onto the side of the tub and stand on one foot so that both feet wouldn't have to be cold at the same time on the tile while we got the water going.
  • Claps and bounces in time to music. The boy's got rhythm! (Must take after his Great-Uncle Tim.)
  • Loves Eskimo kisses.
  • Likes pizza topped with garlic slices, organic wheat germ and flax crackers, and lentil stew (I have to say here that he also loves Japanese baby food, but it's full of butter, sugar, and salt, so I don't let him have it very often).
  • Is learning how to take off his own clothes: has the socks and trousers down pat.
  • Chews meat verrrrrrrry slowly like his mommy does.
  • Turns his head over to one side to view the world in a different way sometimes.
  • We sing one little, two little, three little Matthews for him, to the tune of "One Little Indian".
  • Likes pat-a-cake and itsy bitsy spider.
  • When we're walking around and he's in his stroller, I ask him if he's a happy boy, and he starts bouncing in reply!
  • When we pull out a DVD or CD for him, we move it back and forth in the light so he can see it flashing, and he gets a kick out of that.
  • Loves to sneeze when his mouth is full of food, and it ends up everywhere.
  • Another of our favorite songs: "Matthew Munday is a special bean, is a special bean, is a special bean; Matthew Munday is a special bean, he's a special, special, special, special bean."
  • Says "eh-oh" with intonation like "uh-oh".
  • Smiles when I whistle.
  • Sometimes moves his jaw up and down with no sound coming out.
  • Has the nickname "Mini Kong".
  • Likes when I push buttons on the phone because they make an electronic sound.
  • I'm trying to teach him eyes, nose, and mouth, and move his hand over my face as I say each one. Lately, though, he's been sticking his finger up my nose with his sharp little fingernails, so we're taking a break from this exercise for a while.
  • We call him "Wigglesquirm," for obvious reasons.
  • Had his first big haircut the other day at Mommy Salon while he was watching a baby DVD. It's not exactly professional-quality style, but it'll do, and hey, he can't see the back so he isn't complaining.
  • Climbs onto and off of the sofa, and just tonight started climbing off our high bed very expertly (video to come later).


No, Matthew's not from New Zealand, but he does love his kiwi fruit. Check out the slimed hair (maybe a persuasive marketing idea for a new hair gel) and the beauty-mark seeds on his cheek.

Personal Pan Pizza

Stephen thinks this is a really gross picture with the pizza in the harsh flash like that, but I had to post it anyway! It's not often you buy food at the grocery store with your own personal initial made by the cheese. Can you see the "A"?

Can't Get Enough Sakura!

Sakura in the sun.

Pink snow.

Sakura hanging next to a bridge that's just been built (leading to a new housing development). (The red and white banner is to announce a grand opening.)

More Matthew and Rei

Rei looks a little pensive here, while Matthew was sporting a cheeky grin!
Sweet Rei.

Last Thursday was another babysitting day for Rei, and let me tell you, Matthew adores her! It's fun for me, too, to have two little munchkins keeping each other entertained. I enjoy observing how different they are as well.

My original plan for these baby-sharing days was to head to Starbucks for a little R & R, but errands and appointments have kept me away from my goal thus far. I'll get there soon, though, and when I do, I'm heading for the biggest warming delectable caffeine-free thing they've got and the comfiest chair in the house.

(Nobue, Rei's mommy, had wanted to play her piano to her heart's content while Rei was with us last week, but ended up cleaning her house instead. The best laid plans, hey.)

Underneath the Spreading Sakura Trees

If you are an avid Fushigi News reader with a long memory, you will recall that one of Matthew's first outings last year was a walk under the cherry blossoms along the Shukugawa river. Well, another season has rolled around and we are back in the cherry blossom season again.

We have had three picnics out under the blossoms so far (two during the day and one in the evening), and today we were out at the dam above my workplace for a picnic lunch. Check out last year's family picture and compare it with the photos from today to see just how much Matthew has grown.

Last year, all you could see was a little baby leg, but this year...

... there's a big Matthew boy!

Matthew goes crawler-exploring

Matthew points out the sakura on the other side of the lake.

Matthew made a new friend, Takero, but seemed more interested in his toys.

He posed well with Abigail...

... but wasn't interested in posing with daddy.

He Is Risen!


Stephen and I have entered Easter Day before most of you, and we've already listened to Keith Green's "Easter Song," which I think is going to become a special tradition. Here are the lyrics:

"Hear the bells ringing
They're singing that you can be born again
Hear the bells ringing
They're singing Christ is risen from the dead

The angel up on the tombstone
Said he has risen, just as he said
Quickly now, go tell his disciples
That Jesus Christ is no longer dead

Joy to the word, he has risen, hallelujah
He's risen, hallelujah
He's risen, hallelujah

Hear the bells ringing
They're singing that you can be healed right now
Hear the bells ringing, they're singing
Christ, he will reveal it now

The angels, they all surround us
And they are ministering Jesus' power
Quickly now, reach out and receive it
For this could be your glorious hour

Joy to the world, he has risen, hallelujah
He's risen, hallelujah
He's risen, hallelujah, hallelujah

The angel up on the tombstone
Said he has risen, just as he said
Quickly now, go tell his disciples
That Jesus Christ is no longer dead

Joy to the world, he has risen, hallelujah
He's risen, hallelujah
He's risen, hallelujah

Happy Resurrection Day, everybody!

True Love

Jesus loves us so outrageously that he willingly endured the most horrible death you can imagine.

That's Love with a capital "L".

It's a Good Friday.

Sakura Etc.

Matthew loves this stand-up boy whose main purpose is to warn oncoming traffic that children might dash into the street at any moment. Or they might wheel by in their strollers.
Unbelievable! I pulled out my old friend Judith the monkey and Stephen's boyhood pal, Tedward, and Matthew likes them better than any of his other toys. (Judith used to have a pink ribbon around her neck that has long-since disappeared, but I guess that would've been inappropriate for a strapping young lad anyway.)
The sakura near our supermarket are ablaze with pink glory.
Our son admires the bloomin' trees.

Pepper Your Throat

Here's the link to the cayenne pepper throat remedy I mentioned in a previous post.

Helpful hint: Don't breathe in as you bring the glass near to your face. Just gulp and gargle. Easy does it.

Yellow Sand

I was wondering why my throat hurt suddenly yesterday and today, but with no other symptoms of a cold or anything sinister. I've even been gargling with warm water and cayenne pepper, which is supposed to banish any throatal nasties, but nothing has seemed to help.

Today I was out and about with Matthew, and the air was yellow. Not as bad as the brown smog when you're flying into LAX, but pretty mucky anyway.

I should've remembered what happens every year in Japan in the spring (and why you shouldn't bother washing your car for a while): Yellow sand from Mongolia swarms over the Korean/Japan Sea (depending on whether you're Korean or Japanese) and settles everywhere.

Better than orange snow, I guess.

New Look

From today we have a new look at Fushigi News. The morphing heads have had their day, and now we are entering the era of the clean and simple look.

(If you like the fonts used in the header image, they are the delightfully named Gutter Vomit and Ransom Note. Both are free and can be downloaded and installed very easily.)

Google TiSP

Flush with cash, Google is offering home users free broadband through their local sewage system. Check it out here.


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