47 more minutes in 2008...

Just wanted to give you all a last laugh for the year! From our timely vantage point, it looks like 2009 is all set to be a great one.


Here's to a joyful new season in life! May you be blessed with laughter coming out the wazoo...and may you have a dry, un-drooled-on sock for each foot.

(Note: No babies were harmed whatsoever in the making of this film. Phew.)

Mochitsuki Mochi Do

We realized today how little we have been in Japan over the New Year period, despite all the years we have been here, when we went to our very first mochitsuki party. Making mochi (rice cakes) by pounding the rice with a mallet is (for some reason) associated with the New Year's festivities here. Everyone had a bash, including Matthew and me, as you can see below.

Washing the usu to get it ready for the next batch.

The steaming pile of rice arrives.

A couple of amateur rice-smooshers have a go: Up...

... and down!

Now it's time to let the real pro pound it.

The completed mochi blob is carried through the admiring crowds...

... and made into individual bite-size rice cakes.


Our thanks to Richard and the Mackies for opening their house to us, and to Abigail for making tortilla wraps with salsa for those of us (like Richard and me) who are not that keen on mochi.

Cutting Comment

I got back this afternoon from my first haircut in over nine months and Matthew stared and stared and stared. She had taken 10 cm off so it was quite a difference.

Matthew even touched my remaining hair (he must've wondered where the rest had gone), and when he stared some more, I asked him if he liked my haircut.

"No, no, no, no, no" was his answer.

(Incidentally, Stephen took Matthew to get a haircut this morning, and I like it, whatever his opinion of mine.)

Toddler To-Do

If you're with your toddler this holiday season and wondering about a good way to keep him/her happy, look no further than jacksonpollock.org (OK, yes, I admit, it's fun for adults, too). Just move your cursor and to change colors just left click. (See one of Matthew's creations below.)

We've also been enjoying the Fisher Price site and all the online games they have available there for free. Matthew is a cool hand at the animal sounds game and gets almost all of them correct. (Except when the giraffe pops up with another animal. It's NEVER the giraffe but because he likes them, he wants it to be the giraffe at least sometimes.)

Fast Forward

Joel pulled himself to standing at the sofa last night for the first time ever... and then proceeded to do it another nine times in a row after that. This cannot be a fluke.

Our lives are flashing before our eyes.

Here's the Beansprout on his sixth practice run:


Christmas PJ Brigade

Thanks, Aunt Holly, for the comfy and darn cute evening attire! As you can see, the pj's are getting a workout.

Play Ball!

I love it.

In Matthew-language, children are "baby people."

Reading My Mind

It's been quite the week here in our little corner of Japan and I was even contemplating a chocolate-chip cookie for breakfast (thanks again for the yummy buttery dough, Sarah!). Yes, I know, very healthy. My usual oatmeal with milk, honey, and dried cranberries just wasn't sounding like it would cut the stress-mustard.

So I turned to our toddler-bean, knowing I'd get a reality check, and asked him what he'd like. Expecting to hear "eatmore" (oatmeal) or "lelly bread" (toast with jelly/jam) or "Marmite toast" or "bee-ah budder toast" (peanut-butter toast), I was shocked to hear Matthew's response.


My sentiments exactly.

Just a Spoonful of Sugar

Let me backtrack a bit: Matthew's had a cold/cough for over a week now, so I finally broke down and took him to the pediatrician on Wednesday. I was dreading it.

When we got there, just as I expected, everybody was hacking and coughing (including the poor mamas) and snot was flying everywhere. I really didn't want Matthew to touch the toys there, but we had to wait over an hour, so it was inevitable, really. Anyway, Oriyama Sensei prescribed some cough medicine and a 3-day antibiotic, which we got filled at the little pharmacy next door. (The ladies there were beyond thrilled to finally meet Joel, as the last time I was in there I was pregnant with him.) Matthew got his prescription and some car stickers, two of his favorite things, and we were good to go.

So yesterday during the day sometime I asked Matthew what he would like to drink - water or juice. His answer?


Don't You Think?

I was thinking of blogging about how excited I was that Joel doesn't seem to throw up/spit up like he used to, and lo and behold, he just did a big one on the carpet.

Isn't it ironic!

Aunt Holly's Blankie

Did I ever show you the blankie that my college friend Holly made for Matthew? I posted the other day about the one she made for Joel, but that got me to thinking that maybe I never took a picture of this one! I have to say it's very cute (I love the airplanes!) and very well loved. Until pretty recently it was slept on, but now it's slept under (finally).

Tickling Taken Too Far

I was just tickling Matthew's feet with mine while we were both sitting on the floor, he was giggling hysterically, and then I guess he wanted to share the fun because he slid his red London double-decker bus over to me and said "tickle".

Weaving a Christmas Tradition

Check out these gorgeous stockings that Stephen's mum made for Matthew and Joel! Isn't her weaving amazing? (And I'm not sucking up to my MIL. I don't have to--she's nice to me anyway. Nice and a genius!)

Shaking Italian Mama

I clearly have my dad's Shaking-The-Italian-Salad-Dressing-Bottle-While-The-Lid-Is-Off Gene.

Who Framed Tessa Turkey?

Find out here.

Not Something You Hear Every Day

Me to Matthew:

Oh, no! OK, come here, let's tape Jesus' face back on.

Our Little Polyglot

Probably most kids, when they see letters from the Roman alphabet, would say "alphabet" or "letters" or "A, B, C".

Not Matthew. He says "English".

Another World

Usually I'm in Diaper World, or Tickle World, or Preventing-Accidents World, or Stopping-the-Books-Being-Chewed World, or Some-Such-Similar World.

Just now, though, as I was going about the daily business of Whatever-It-Was-I-Was-Doing World, I sniffed the air.

And then I sniffed again.

A heavenly scent wafted from a neighbor's apartment, or so I thought. Wow, somebody's made an awesome lunch, I ruminated. Wish I could join them.

Then I went in my own kitchen and the smell got stronger for some strange reason. The light went on and it hit me that it was the beef stew I chucked in the crock-pot this morning.

I've been trying to play the Glad Game recently, and lemme tell ya, I'm darn glad that it was the smell of food for me floating on the breeze.

Our neighbors must be really good cooks.

Sock It to Me

My dreams are always wacky, and last night's was no exception: I was putting Joel's socks back on, over and over and over. (Not an activity limited to dreams, by the way.)

When I woke up, one of my own socks was half off.

And when Stephen went in to get Joel this morning, the Beansprout had somehow managed to take off both his socks, one of which was still in bed with him, and the other was a few feet away, on the floor, and wet.

Somebody had been undressing, chewing, and throwing. I wonder who that was.

Christmas Beans

Banks, Auto Industry - Who's Next?

In breaking business news, it seems that other industry groups are following in the automaker's footsteps going cap in hand to Washington:

  • The Bra Makers Association is looking for a boost to their hidden assets.
  • The Shipping Industry is asking for a bail out before they go under.
  • The Irrigation Equipment Suppliers want more money pumped in as their accounts have been drained.
  • The Coffee Producers Association is requesting an infusion of cash.
  • The Medical Supply Industry says it needs an emergency injection of liquidity.
  • The Construction Industry is asking for a bridging loan.
  • The Association of Port Authorities says the are basically OK but just need something to tide them over.
  • The Plastic Surgeons Guild says their members need something to boost their bottom line and to smooth out the wrinkles in the economic cycle.
  • The Battery Producers Group need their reserves energized so that they can keep going and going.
  • And finally... and most controversially: Pfizer, the makers of Viagra, are asking for a major stimulus package to help firm up drooping sales results.

Hamster on the Piano

OK, I know this has probably been blogged about a gazillion times already, but I just couldn't resist.

Meaningful Gift

Still thinking about your Christmas shopping? Want to help someone trapped in slavery or trafficking, or a child who's already been rescued and needs after-care? International Justice Mission does just that, and they are always in need of funds for their work.

Second Harvest Japan

Food-banking has been going on for many decades in the US, but it's a recent development here in Japan. Second Harvest Japan, started in 2000, is the first food bank in Japan (can you believe that!). Eight years later, it is still only one of three, in spite of over 650,000 people in this country who lack food security (mostly elderly folks), and this doesn't even include migrant workers or low-income families.

If you're looking to give this Christmas (or any time), you can donate to their work here.

Won't You Be My Neighbor?

Hi, neighbor!

Just call me Mrs. Rogers. I've got two kids two and under, so don't blame me if I take off my good jeans and white down vest when I get home so I can change them in favor of my old soft zippered sheep-like vest and my frayed jeans with white patches on the knees (and maybe some other places, too).

All in the name of comfort (and fear of puke-age, which in light of this past week's happenings, is not too far-fetched a worry).

Clearly, It's a Big Issue

Check out this picture from the BBC (#4 in the series) to see how Amnesty International is making the widespread problem of human trafficking known.

A Burst Bubble

OK, so apparently an orange doggy puppet on one of Matthew's DVDs is also "Mama".

Suddenly I don't feel so queen like after all.


Our friend Andy left a brochure on the UK (in Japanese) for Matthew to thumb through (Andy had recently represented England and manned some kind of booth), and this morning as Matthew looked through it for the first time, he suddenly got all animated and shouted, "Color DD, wow!" He had recognized a Van Gogh painting in the brochure from his Baby Van Gogh (Baby Einstein) DVD and wanted us to understand the connection as well.
Update: Just as I showed Matthew this post, he said, "Great painting!"

Nice, Nice, Baby

We've told Matthew so often how "nice" it is to give toys to Joel to play with that now when he gives his little bro something to chew on (i.e. a toy) he says "Nice!" as he hands it over.

Count 'Em

I wrote THREE Christmas cards tonight and I'm giving myself a huge pat on the back. (I have an attention span the size of a gnat these days. So sue me. I'm actually going to go get myself a snack to celebrate.)

Thanksgiving '08

Remember the Imashioya family from our Thanksgiving last year? This year was our turn and it turned out well...keep checking Mamatouille for food details...comin' yer way soon...

We celebrated this past Saturday (Dec. 6).

Misaki made some friends while she was here...
And Emi played some sports...
Matthew sure did love having them here (as we all did!) and when he woke up from his nap the next day, the first thing he did was go looking for Natsuki, their youngest daughter, and calling her real name. And then the next day after that he woke up asking for "Nattchan" (Natsuki's nickname).

Joel and His Blankie

Joel's blankie that Aunt Holly made and sent to him is so soft and cuddly...

I couldn't decide which piccie I liked best, so here you are!

Joel and His Godfather

Joel loves Uncle Richard!

Just Now Fall!

I love the area we live in, and just 25 minutes away, at Auntie Nobue's house, she's got this amazing view from her condo! Rei and Matthew enjoyed digging in the dirt in their little garden allotment last week...

Their condo is on the third floor, but down at basement level (the building is on the side of a hill) they raise herbs, carrots, potatoes, and tomatoes.

My Three Boys

My Christmas Message for You

Remember I said only this morning that I'd have a Christmas message for all of you soon? Well, I thought long and hard and wanted to really inspire you and infuse your hearts with the real meaning of the season, so here it is:

Sun-Maid Mama

Matthew points to the Sun-Maid girl on his little raisin box, looks at me, looks back at the box, and says, "Mama!"

She's a Mediterranean-queen-like knockout, so I'll take that as a compliment. Now I just need to get me one of those cool red bonnets.

Palling Around

Well, I finally got back in touch with my middle/high-school Japanese pen pal! She grew up in Osaka and I wrote to her (in English) shortly after we arrived in 2001, but apparently she never received that letter.

I've been meaning to write her again for ages (in Japanese) and did so about a week ago. Her parents passed the letter on to her where she now lives with her hubby and three children (she had the third one two months ago), and she wrote back right away, really surprised that I'm in Japan and that I can write in Japanese! We're emailing now and trying to figure out a way to meet (she lives about 1.5 hours away by car). I want her to be well rested and caught up with everything after the birth before we try to arrange a get-together (they have a word for that in Japanese - ochitsuitekara), so it might be a little while before we actually meet face to face, but in the meantime, it's fun catching up with her news and realizing how close we are to each other!

I don't believe in chance meetings so I'm sure Papa-God has something special in store for our friendship. How exciting is that!


Do you think if I go to the p.o. and buy some stamps for the few Christmas postcards I bought the other day, I could also buy some time to write them? Do you think it could work that way?

(And by the way, if you don't get a Christmas postcard from us this year, please don't be hurt. You'll just be part of the 99.99% of our friends and family who also won't be receiving them. Come back to the blog, though! I'll be sure and put up a Christmas message. 'Tis the season for messages, and also for procrastinating with the decorations.)

Just Dreamin'

I had the most amazing dream last night: Joel slept until 7 AM!

And then I woke up to my batteries-not-included baby-alarm--at 5:50.

Now, 4.5 hours later, I'm typing with one hand while J eats the neck of my turtleneck shirt, so I think I'd better go feed the little guy--for the third time today!

Something For You To Ponder on a Saturday

When I ask Matthew if he wants to go pee-pee on the toilet, he says, "No, no, no! Pee-pee on toiyo, no! Diaper, YES!"

Happy Thanksgiving! (What?)

Today we celebrated and gave thanks for Tessa the Turkey (story coming to Mamatouille soon - watch for it), among all our many other dessings. Our friends Chikara and Sarah and their four daughters came from Osaka and partied with us!

We had so much fun that we're too poopilated to upload pictures or write too many words tonight, so hang in there and the full story of THANKSGIVING '08 will be comin' to ya soon...from Nishinomiya FM...

Crawlin' Along

Yep, Joel is quickly moving out of his fast one-armed army-tummy slithering into a PROPER crawl, folks. Look out, Japan!

I've Gone and Done It!

You know those parents who talk and blog only about their kids? I used to pity them, and yes, because life is one big irony after another, I have become one of those people.

As one of my friends said yesterday when I ran into her, "Ouch!" (OK, just kidding.) She and I were talking about our kids (of course) and she said when hers were as young as mine are now, they were completely reliant on her. I know the feeling. Kid-raising is all consuming. Especially when one of them tries to escape from you every possible second and the other one is busy sharpening his two new teeth on electrical cords and house plants.

Wondering where the Abigail of yesteryear has gone? You know, the one who wrote about her own emotions and stuff she was personally up to? She's still here, buried in a mama-cocoon, multi-tasking, hiding precious son-moments in her heart, changing diapers and tickling little ribs.

As a matter of fact, I have to go rescue one of those little beans right now--from his chatter, screeches, and the sounds of his crib being shaken into wood dust, evidently no nap will be had today.

But I bet you a tummy will be tickled, and maybe by me.

Daddy, Phone Home!

Yesterday around midmorning Matthew looked at a picture of Stephen and with a mournful face quietly said, "Daddy, home!" And he sometimes asks me out of the blue, "Daddy, work?" like he wants Stephen here now.

We're going to Costco tonight, and we always pick Stephen up from work on our way there. I just told Matthew this and he got all jumpy and excited and shouted, "Daddy, YES!"

I think somebody loves his daddy.

Lil' Squeaker

Helping me fold laundry...

And doing lots of squeaking...


Not a question you often hear...

While Joel was looking around for a toy he lost control of, I asked him, "Did you drop your goat?"

The Godfather Returns

Our friends Andy (Matthew's godfather) and Dan came from Yokohama and Tokyo (respectively) this past weekend to hang out!

Dan helped Joel eat his oatmeal...

The Bean played peepo with Uncle Andy's flat cap...

Matthew showed his American genes by using Barry Bamboo and pretending to be the Statue of Liberty...

And Joel had a nice smiley reclining chair to sit on...
It was fun, guys!

Seven Months

  • I forgot to mention this in the six-months post, but Joel's already wearing some 12 and 18 months clothes!
  • Joel looks like a mini-movie star when he lies on his side, his head propped up on one elbow, and he gives us a smile as wide as the sky.
  • He does these amazing push-ups with his legs, lifting his whole body--this kid's got some major strength (more than his mama).
  • His favorite game is playing with our green polka dot beach ball--he lies on his back and I drop it on him, he laughs hysterically, and then I twirl it around and around over his tummy as he tries to capture it.
  • He loves tickles.
  • Stephen and I take off our glasses, make sure Joel's fingernails are cut, and let him play with our faces. He really gets a kick out of that!
  • Joel's getting more and more into exploring and he's keeping us on our toes!
  • The Beansprout is up to 9 kg (about 20 pounds), which is 5 pounds more than I weighed at one year! Wow. He's not really eating much baby food yet, so it's all down to mama's milk. (He sure does keep me busy.)

We really do dress him warmly! It just happened that in two of these photos we were in the process of changing him. Doesn't he have sweet little legs?


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