I knew it would be heart-wrenching for me to finish breastfeeding Matthew, and I hoped it would be OK for him, emotionally.

But I guess I'm a bit disappointed at just how easy it was for Matthew.

He was down to just having milk before bed, and tonight I decided that instead of sitting in the rocking chair in his room and offering it to him, we would do all of our regular bedtime routine, except for that. I didn't offer him any milk, and he didn't clamor for it.

I think I have Polar Puppy partly to thank for this. PP distracted Matthew to such an extent he didn't seem to notice anything was amiss.

Stephen sat in the rocking chair and held Matthew while I did his teeth, I gave him some extra water, we prayed, and all the while Matthew was holding PP.

He was his usual bouncy self as we put him into bed, smiling broadly as we counted down from 5 to 1 before turning off his lamp.

Matthew's fine; Mommy had a good cry. It's been sixteen months of wonderful bonding and great health for Matthew (which will continue because he loves veggies and fruit).

When I was pregnant I prayed I would have plenty of milk for Matthew, and that breastfeeding would be a great experience for us. I did and it was. Thank you for such a wonderful blessing, Papa.

Let's Do Lunch

Elephant planter guarding the cafe where we ate today (of course Matthew went bonkers for it).

My yummy lunch: rice, pork with ginger, sauteed broccoli, fried fish with homemade tartar sauce, the best deep-fried eggplant I've ever had (hiding behind the fish), salad, and potato salad hanging out behind the cucumbers.

Matthew and Yuka (a friend from church). We'd intended to eat inside, but two groups of worker guys at tables around us all lit up their cigarettes at the same time, so we headed outside for a nice al fresco lunch, and I actually think it was much more fun (no such thing as a no-smoking section or a high chair there). (Clever photography, because behind Matthew was the parking lot!)

Who's Showering Matthew Tonight?

Abigail: Matthew, who're you going to have a shower with?
Maffa: Daddo!

Well, better go now as he is clawing at the door of the living room to head off to the shower!

Privacy Policies

Thanks to Dr. Higgins (prof from Milligan, my alma mater), I'm always thinking of everything with my cultural anthropology goggles on.

Take the issue of privacy, for instance. Who decides what needs to be private, and how is that carried out in societies around the world?

It always interests me when I realize (again) that there are no locks on any of the bedroom doors in our apartment, but there are locks on the toilet door and the bathroom door. How did Japanese culture evolve into needing locks for rooms where you sit on a commode but not where you sleep (and do other private things)?

Why do Japanese public toilet stalls have walls and doors that go all the way to the floor, and little noise boxes on the wall to make splashy sounds so nobody else can hear you do your business?

And yet American stalls have cracks in between the doors and walls and your feet show out the bottom, and everybody can hear you go, which appalls Japanese people I've talked to about it.

But why do Americans have locks on all their bedroom doors? Hmmm.

And what about the issue of breast exposure (leaving Janet Jackson out of it)? I hardly ever see women over here breastfeeding in public, yet every convenience store has porn magazines sitting out in the front for everybody and their uncle to stand and read as you walk by to get a drink from the fridge at the back or take a loo break.

It seems much more acceptable to breastfeed in public in the States, but porn mags are wrapped in plastic behind the counter.

I wonder why this is?

I think the answers to all these questions must be private, because I certainly can't figure them out.

Ranting and Raving

OK, I'm in a bit of a blogging mood today and I just thought of one more thing I want everybody to know about before I hit the hay: I am NOT happy about the lack of facilities for baby strollers/wheelchairs in Japan. I did not have a child before we came to this country, so maybe this problem is worldwide, but let me tell you, it's not fun to have to physically hold your heavy squirming child while you use a toilet because the stall door is not wide enough to let in a stroller, there's no disabled toilet, and there's no little baby seat in the corner to strap your child in (there are a few of those around, but a very few). Maybe this is TMI for some people, but you know what? It was a pain in the *%#.

Oh, speaking of pains, that reminds me of having to carry Matthew up about eight stairs in his stroller yesterday because the parking garage is not level with the actual store entrance. And that boy is gaining weight by the minute.

And that brings to mind another store where I do bento lunchbox shopping where they don't even have an elevator for customers and the shop is on the third floor! I eventually wheedled it out of one of the employees that there is a service elevator in the back, so I push them to let me use it every time I go there now. I don't think they're too happy about that, but I don't care. I'm buying stuff from their store, and they should thank me for that.

PLUS, tons of stores don't have automatic doors, so you have to wedge yourself in between the stroller and the door, hold it open very gingerly with a foot and jiggle the carriage inside while trying not to smush yourself and your baby.

Off to bed, but I had to get that off my chest.

Anybody else out there in Cyber Land who has stories of wheelchair/baby stroller woes? So much for "Barrier Free," hey.

Matthew, Rei, and Polar Puppy

Polar Puppy keeps Matthew company in Snooze Land.

Rei chan wears the "big" house shoes.

Matthew loves the vacuum! Endless fascination.

...you're eating dinner and hear a funny crackling sound, only to find the machine on the wall spewing dirty ice chunks into the living room and all over your child's stuffed animals.

Legal Again

Yep, my passport arrived today and I'm off to immigration in Kobe tomorrow to get my visa and re-entry permit transferred from my old one to my new one.

Phew. I'm legit once more.

Hopefully in 2017 I'll remember to renew my passport in time and not let it expire. Doh!

Semi Season

The semis are back, and louder than ever, so you know real summer has finally arrived. Matthew even pauses sometimes to look out the windows when they're singing (which is all the time now). I think he's wondering what's going on!

Check out the sound from outside our balcony -- it's still difficult to tell how noisy they really are, though.

Smelly Stuff

I am totally not a desperate housewife, but my friend in Osaka loaned me some family-type magazines, and one of them said to put some essential oil on a cotton ball and stick it in your vacuum bag to make your house smell nice after you vacuum. It worked! I used my tea tree/green tea essential oil that I usually use in a candle thingy, and the apartment smells wonderful. Try it, you'll like it.

Big Foot

I wear an 8.5 (US size) in sneakers, and wouldn't you know it, Nike only goes up to 8 here in Japan! I even had Sports Authority call Nike directly and ask them if they had any women's sneakers in 8.5 in the whole country! Nope. So I ordered a pair from Sports Authority in the US, and they are shipping it to my nice sister who has agreed to ship to me. (Thanks, Sharon!) And it's saving me a bunch of cashola, even doing it that indirect way.

Funny Bunny Bashing

From One Puppy to Another

Polar Puppy Power

Matthew fell in love with this squishy soft-toy animal pillow when we saw it in the store yesterday. He gave it a hug most of the morning and loves to roll with it and give it big sloppy kisses when he gets into his cot with it.

We couldn't decide whether it was supposed to be a polar bear or a dog, so we split the difference and called it Polar Puppy.

Temptation Motivation

It's amazing the lengths humans will go to do things that they shouldn't. On the other hand, sometimes this can be used as a motivational strategy. Or at least it can with Matthew.

Matthew knows he is not allowed to touch the phone, but sometimes the temptation is just too much. Of course, we hear the answerphone click off and on and know exactly what has happened - which immediately lands Matthew in the no fun zone. But today, there I was sitting on the couch talking with Richard, and Matthew was watching with a grin on his face because I think he thought I was talking with him. Anyway, as soon as I was done, I was holding the phone and spotted that Matthew had his beady eye on it. So I told him to come over and get it.

Ah, the power of temptation! He immediately realized this was his chance and started off toddling towards me across the room. As far as I can see, he can walk perfectly well. The reasons he doesn't walk all the time are twofold: He either can't be bothered as crawling is quicker, or just leaves him closer to the things he wants to check out on the floor (fuzz, hairs etc.) The other reason is that he thinks he can't do it.

Well, the draw of the phone overcame both of these. He did stop halfway for a brief moment, extending his arms out for extra balance and looking down at the floor as if pondering whether crawling would be a safer option, but as soon as I distracted him by waving the phone, he was focused on the goal and walked the rest of the way.

So he's getting there. One step at a time.

Table-Napkin Art

Yesterday our good friend Masano came for lunchies, and Matthew-shark circled the table (he finished before we did and got down from his special Matthew chair). Before I knew it my table napkin was gone from my lap, and though I don't usually go for this kind of thing, let the artist in Matthew come out while he shredded the napkin to smithereens. He enjoyed it, but was soon on to bigger and better things (like pushing his wheeled high chair around).

(Zoom in on Matthew's outfit and you'll see how appropriate it is.)

Marmite Madness Continues

This time I made Marmite garlic bread, and oh my word, I could've eaten the whole thing by myself (forget the spaghetti and salad). I'm continuing the Marmite cooking madness that started with our UK Mum and Dad sending a Marmite cookbook to us, little knowing what a Marmite monster they were creating.

All you do for the garlic bread is buy a French loaf, slice it (but not all the way through to the bottom), mash some softened real butter, loads of garlic, dried Italian herbs, and Marmite together, and smush it into the cracks. Bake in foil, uncover the last five minutes, and voila, Marmite heaven!

Curry Confusion

Not that I watch much TV, but when I do, I've noticed that there are ads for curry products that proclaim it as a summer food. I've heard that before in Japan, and was just wondering if a Japanese friend could enlighten me on this one? Why is summer considered curry season? If it was up to me, I wouldn't enter the kitchen from June to September, much less eat hot food (heat-wise and spice-wise) during those summer months.

Boogie Down

Enter the Mosaic

Today is Umi no Hi (or Marine Day) so, being very appropriate people, we headed to Mosaic down at the waterfront in the Kobe port area. Now, observant regular readers will recall that this is one of the places we (all three - although Matthew did not have a great view at that time) visited when we came down here from Aichi in early 2006 to explore a job change for me and a move for all of us.

That time, it was freezing cold and dark, but as you can see, today was a bit warmer and it was surely a lot brighter. You may recall that we were supposed to be hit by a typhoon, but in the end it just dumped a lot of rain on us but the winds did not get up very much at all. (Not all of Japan got off so lightly, though.) Anyway, not everything is bad about typhoons. One thing I love is the way everything is so clear and cleansed immediately afterwards: The pollution and humidity is blown away, leaving refreshing cooler air and beautiful bright sunshine. Today was just such a day, although the sun was so bright it actually gave me a minor headache after a few minutes. The view from the big wheel was great, though. Of course, it was helped by the fact that we booked one of the completely transparent cars for our ride. Watch the video and hear Matthew talk about it. Abigail was a bit more nervous, but Matthew does not have much of a concept of gravity yet, and will try to dive straight out of your arms and onto the floor.

Matsuri Modeling

Here's the Little Bean showing off his new summer festival jinbei. It's got tombo (dragonflies) hovering all over it, a certain sign that summer is in full swing.

Weekend Visitor

Typhoon on its way! Now that could be major laundry stress.

Going, Going, Gone...

...my childhood home...

I think I'm gonna cry.


Our UK Mum and Dad sent us the really nifty Marmite Cookbook recently, and the pork / red pepper / bean sprout wraps I made the other night were my first attempts at plumbing the depths of Marmite richness in cooking (though I have added it to beef stew before). The recipe called for "Chinese pancakes" and all I could find here in the ethnic aisle at the supermarket was rice paper, so I tried that. I wasn't sure if it was the same thing or not, and I'd never worked with rice paper before. What an amazing substance. I think they could use it on a space shuttle or something. Straight out of the package it's so hard you can knock on it to see who's there, and then when you put it in water like the directions say, it turns into a cobwebby mess that tears really easily.

The food was good, and I'll be trying more recipes from that book soon. I just have one question, though. Does anybody know what a Chinese pancake is?

Fun with Friends

Visited some friends today we haven't seen in quite a while, and met their two-month-old for the first time! He was absolutely adorable, and Matthew liked hanging out with him and his older sister (who's three months older than Matthew), but the highlight of the day for the Little Bean was helping Mommy eat a chocolate chip cookie while we were there.

Religion Games

It's a total farce, I know, but Line for Heaven (a site promoting "religious tolerance" by encouraging users to earn karma points) makes a point in my book. If you join the group, you can get ahead by doing good deeds, donating money to the site, or you can play the blessing game, and site administrators will decide if you've earned enough to get to heaven.

After having had a conversation with a friend recently about her anger (and mine) at the "church" and the constant plea for money (yes, of course give money if God tells you to, but not because some preacher on the TV is threatening you), the demand to fit in with man-made rituals, and the lack of support and even downright negativity if you don't conform to the "rules", Line for Heaven made me laugh and think.

The church is not a building! The Church (capital "C") is the followers of Jesus, and if you think any amount of money you donate, any good deeds you do, or any rules you follow are going to get you into heaven (or any amount of karma points you earn on a Web site), you're wrong.

It's all about relationship with Jesus. Maybe some of you will totally disagree with me (and don't worry if you do, I'll still think you're great), but it all hinges on Him, His love for us, and our love for Him and for each other. That's it. Period.

Don't go jumping through any hoops, you'll just get tired (I've been there and still am to some extent). Hang out with Jesus (everywhere). Hang out with other people who hang out with Jesus (wherever that may be). Hang out with people who don't hang out with Jesus (wherever you are).

That's where it's at. Easier than a mouse click on a donate button.

Laundry Stress?

I heard a radio show yesterday with a woman describing ways to combat "Laundry Stress" during the rainy season. We're at the tail end of this dampness, but evidently it really bothers some people. I admit I don't like the smell of our laundry when it hasn't dried completely and we never feel totally damp free, but I love the sound of the pelting drops outside and am grateful for this prelude to the intense heat of real summer coming up.

What stressed me out yesterday was discovering my passport expired in January of this year! I rushed to the photo studio, tried to make myself presentable for this picture that will be shown to numerous harried officials in airports over the next ten years, filled out the paperwork, and am sending my documents off today (with a pile of money) to the U.S. consulate in Osaka. They say they'll have my new one within two weeks...watch this space.

In the meantime, I'm not going anywhere.

Where's the Beef?

Stores here used to sell beef bouillon cubes, but I haven't been able to find them in yonks. Bummer, hey! I use it in cooking all the time, and it just doesn't taste the same when I use veggie stock cubes instead.

I found it on the Foreign Buyers Club website, but it's very expensive, not delivered till September, and only comes in a huge case. (I did just order some applesauce for Matthew from there, though.) Anyway, I emailed my friend Sarah over in Osaka to see if she wanted to split a case with me, but she doesn't really use the stuff.

But I got a surprising email from her last night:

Today when I went to our church to teach English, our church administrator said there was some food left over that a team who had been staying at the church hadn't eaten so feel free to take whatever I wanted. There was a big jar of beef bouillon cubes in with all the stuff which is so crazy because I rarely see beef bouillon anywhere. So I will send it with Chikara [her husband who works with Stephen] tomorrow.

Isn't that amazing? God is even looking out for your cooking!!!!!

Maybe my cooking needs looking after (no comments from the peanut gallery!) but I'm constantly amazed at how God is in every detail of my life. Wow. Cool beans (I mean, beef).

Sixteen Months!

  • Mattew really hugs properly now, good tight squeezes. Awwwwww...
  • Enjoys bebopping to The Chieftains.
  • Ditto for Abba.
  • Loves looking at himself in his mirror in his playard. What a cute guy!
  • Likes the packages better than the contents when stuff arrives for us.
  • Really fights now with his friends over toys he wants.
  • We think he's getting two more molars because he's been waking up crying at night recently sometimes and not really wanting to eat a lot. (And since I wrote that sentence a couple of days ago he got one more molar in and his gums are really puffy where the 12th tooth is coming in now.)
  • Still crawling really fast and walking holding onto our fingers or furniture, whatever he can find. He's taken a few steps but seems content for now with other modes of movement.
  • Unknowingly, but very appropriately, Matthew's godmother, Holly, sent Matthew a onesie with a shark on the front. We call him our same-kun, little shark, when he's circling the table while we're eating (if he's eaten at a different time). He wants to touch everything.
  • When Matthew gets really excited, he climbs up onto the couch, just to be higher, I guess.
  • He's starting to realize that his wooden puzzle is actually puzzling, and not just something to chew on. The other day he tried to fit the pieces in properly (he's not there yet, but on his way).

(Sorry, folks, no pictures because we've already posted all the ones we've taken this month!)

Rice Rice, Baby

Old meets new -- Matthew and I went rice-cooker shopping today 'cause our ancient one (remember that one, Mike and Andrea?) decided to kick the rice bucket last night when I had saffron rice cooking (or so I thought) and was drooling thinking about what a yummy pair it was going to be with black beans and ham. We substituted cheese bread on the side instead. Not quite the same.

But Matthew had a blast this afternoon in the electronics store, riding around and "steering" in his trolley-cum-kids'-car.

You should've seen some of the rice cookers they had for sale -- some of them upwards of US$550! To cook rice! Lands' sakes! (I bought the cheapest one they had, 'cause you know, we're gaijin, and we're not exactly rice connoisseurs anyway).

I'm happy that ours has a nifty rice paddle holder on the side, and it can hold 2.5 more cups than our last one (Stephen thinks it's like Tardis because it's much bigger on the inside than it looks on the outside). Handy when you've got guests. Who wants to come over for dinner?

But wait...first I have to figure out how this space-age thing works...

Back at Ye Olde Park

Cute kids, hey! We had a fun morning at the park down the road, with Matthew crawling all over creation and trying to catch ants.

His little friends included Ayaka-chan (top pic), Yuuta-kun (on bike in middle pic), and Chiaki-chan (bottom pic on the right).

Old Friends

It has been great to recently have contacts from two old friends from my University days via the blog. I don't know if there are any more of you lurking out there, but if there are I would encourage you to send me an email. My address is simply my first and last names at Gmail.com.

(And Anthony Bradbury: if you come back to the blog, please make sure you drop me a line as I would love to be back in contact with you again.)

Chuckle Monster

We took this video a while ago, but forgot to blog it. You can spot it is not completely new as The Beard was still around and The Hair was much shorter. It's a great video, though, with some major full-on laughing from The Maffa.

See if you can keep from chuckling as you watch it.

Water World

Next to one of our favorite parks is a water play area where loads of families were dipping their feet (and more) in an effort to chill out...

Matthew really wanted to get completely submerged, but maybe next time when we take his proper swimming suit. He did manage (with a little help from someone a bit taller) to really splash me, though. Cheeky. (Matthew, too.)


At the park at the bottom of our hill today -- Matthew with his friends Ryo and Jin and their mommy Ayumi (who used to live in Reading, UK, where some of Stephen's family is from). You can see from Matthew's face he really wanted that little car!

Matthew and Jin watching Ayumi with the Anpanman toy.

Floating Towards the Edge

Matthew is a sweet bean, and I'd never want to negatively influence him, so I just skate around the edge sometimes. Today at lunch as he ate his boat-shaped cheese cracker, I asked him if it tasted like ship. Hopefully he won't repeat that, because out of the mouths of babes, you never know what it will sound like.

Ramen Lunch-Out Video

Here is the promised video from the ramen restaurant we ate at on Sunday.

(The camera caught Matthew at an unflattering moment in this first frame! He actually likes the food there - honestly.)

Little Friend

I haven't posted a picture of Rei-chan lately, so here she is! So cute, getting bigger, and always clever. (Matthew likes her cup better than his own. The grass is always greener, hey.)

They're Back!

Our friends Inna and Anastasia are back from their extended visit to see family in Russia, and today Matthew and I went to hang out with them. What a change in little Anastasia in two months! She was lying on the floor before they left, and now she's sitting up, crawling, standing up, and is generally really bouncy. She and Matthew even fought over some toys and she can certainly hold her own.

Big Smile

Some buggy critters munched on both Matthew's feet Saturday night (though we never found them, sneaky gits), and Sunday morning he woke up with big red swollen tootsies (and as you can see in the post below, his face was also a bit puffy). The poor pickle scratched till he bled and was generally in a sour mood because of it. Yesterday, after the antihistamines finally kicked in (pun intended) and his feet were a bit less distended than they were on Sunday, Matthew started smiling again. And he loves the camera.

Ramen-Eating Munday Boys

At our favorite ramen restaurant on Sunday, the chef asked how many gyoza Matthew would eat this time! He remembered us from the last time when the little bean devoured those puppies. I had plenty of help with my ramen, too.


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