Saturday, November 21, 2015

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Holding on to Memories

Well the other day I sat down to write a little post all about Joshua and what he's been up to, but just a  few minutes before I was about to finish, I ended up losing everything I wrote...and I was too tired and frustrated to write it all over again that day so now I'm going to attempt to recall everything I wanted to write!

I've been so terrible about keeping a record of things Joshua's been doing and milestones he's reached. I think we've got all the 'major' ones, but there's a lot of little details that I've unfortunately already forgotten!

But, with Joshua's 15 month birthday approaching, I want to sit down and get some things recorded for memorie's sake!

(One of his favorite places to hang out!)

Joshua is like a little sponge these days, learning so much so quickly and he understands SO much of what's going on around him! I absolutely love watching him grow and's fascinating! I've been trying to teach him some sign language and it's really fun! He catches on very quickly and it's given us a glimpse of just how much he understands in spite of being in able to communicate! 

The other day when I was feeding him, it was quiet but the birds were chirping. While he was eating he looked at me and signed bird, all on his own without me prompting! It was the first time he had signed it by himself after I had been teaching him for a few weeks. It blew my mind and really opened my eyes to how much he understands!

When I worked at day care, I knew I wanted to try using sign language with my kids because it was so cool! And now it's really fun to watch him learn and communicate! I bought a Baby Einstein DVD way back then and Joshua is currently enjoying it now :) We haven't done a lot yet, as I still have some more learning to do (YouTube is so great!) but some of the ones he knows are:

Daddy (he's holding out on Mommy both in sign language and words!)
Milk (that was his first one...I'd been doing it for weeks every time he nursed and finally one morning when we got him up, he furiously signed milk with both hands...and has ever since! Guess he was hungry!)
Sleep (his version cracks me up...I should take a video!)
And he has his own sign for his Papa D that he does every time we say his name or talk on FaceTime!

We're working on:
Please (he does it, but doesn't quite understand when to use it yet...'more' takes precedence!)
Drink ( I don't think he understands thirst yet so he hasn't really been doing that one yet)
Eat (he says "Mum! Mum! Mum! every time we sign/say eat or when he gets his eyes on a snack but doesn't sign it)
Thank You (he usually nods his head Japanese style and blows out his nose as he nods when we ask him to say thank you in both English and Japanese) 
All Done (he takes his bib off instead of signing all done!)

(I love seeing him 'get into' his books these days, flipping pages and chattering away)

We often listen to a Christian kid's praise music station and the 'Zacheus' song is a favorite of mine because I do a few actions with J. A couple months ago that song came on and before the words even started, he looked at me and started 'wagging' his finger like I do for the part that says 'Zacheus, you come down from there!' Once again, my mind was blown!

He's also recently started clapping when he hears the word clap in songs without prompting!

He has a favorite Japanese TV show called "Inai, Inai, Baa!" (Peek-a-boo). He loves one song in particular and knows some of the actions to that one too and will do them right before the characters do!

The channel that this show is on is unfortunately kind of unreliable and will often cut out. The other day it cut out in the middle of his show and he picked up the DVD remote that he plays with and very intentionally started pressing buttons and looking up at the screen, trying to fix it! I guess he was imitating me and how I always try to change the channel and try to get it back on when it cuts off!

He's recently started playing peek-a-boo by himself and says a hearty 'baaa!' when he "appears". He usually knows where his eyes, ears, nose, mouth and toes are when we ask him. He holds up one finger when we ask him in Japanese how old he is, and he raises his hand when we "take roll", calling his name. 

He also loves to play in the water and loves bath time and pool time.

He has really turned a corner in his eating these last couple of days. I still have to mix everything with yoghurt for his main meal, but he's recently been more open to trying almost everything we eat. Even if he spits something out the first try, he will often take a second bite and decide it's not so bad. Our most recent victory has been bananas! For the longest time, he would dramatically gag anytime we offered him banana or put banana in anything, but now he actually likes it! We're thankful because bananas are cheap here, unlike all other fruits! I'm so thankful for this answer to prayers and have officially stopped crying and worrying about his eating habits! ;)

He's gotten past the inability to stay awake for more than 2 hours at a time (finally!!) and has been on a really good schedule the last couple weeks getting in some good, long naps! 

He is just so much fun these days and he brings us so much joy!

(First trip to the hot springs with Dad!) funny story about that...Bobby was super nervous that J would decide to pee or poo in the water, but thankfully as far as he could tell, he didn't! But, that night when he came home and we gave J a bath, he pooped in the tub for the first time!! B said if that had of happened before his trip to the hot springs, he probably never would have taken him! ;)

But, we do have our moments of frustration when he can't communicate what he wants...or doesn't get what he wants. I feel like no one ever really talks about how much frustration thee is in this stage of development...both for parents and the child. I'm thankful that signing is helping with that, but it only goes so far! Discipline feels like a hairy subject because I know he understands a lot, but I can't seem to figure out just how much he understands in the area of discipline so I fear being too hard on him, beyond what he can, I'm praying for wisdom in that area!!

(All dressed up for the Hirao festival!)

He's still not walking yet...but loves to cruise on the furniture or with the help of someone's fingers. He's only stood by himself once for about 10 seconds a few weeks back, but hasn't tried since! He's getting braver with only holding on by one hand and sometimes uses his belly for support against the furniture instead of his hands so I have a feeling one of these days he's just going to take off and hit the ground running...and my life will never be the same! ;)

His "lovey" is his sleep sack! I tried giving him a lighter blanket for the sake of it being easier to transport and wash, etc, but for whatever reason, he holds on to his sleep sack every time he gets sleepy! He also has a stuffed monkey named "Squishy" from his cousins and aunt and uncle in Canada  that he sleeps with and plays with in his crib. When we ask him where Squishy is, he always looks around and finds him!

He recently started giving us hugs when we ask for them...we say "hugs!" In a big exadurated voice and stretch out our arms and he'll stretch out his arms and lean forward. I love that and can't wait for him to start being more affectionate! He has for a while now been giving us 'smoochies' when we ask for them...aka big wide open mouth slobbery kisses!

He's currently cutting one, maybe two molars, but seems to be handling it pretty good...better than I would anyway! He's had 4 on top and 4 on the bottom for quite a while now.

He loves pinwheels! (The rainbow things on a stick that twirl in the wind) Our neighbor had some in his garden for a long time but put them away when a typhoon was coming but never put them back out for some reason. Every time we went outside, J would point and twirl his finger to get us to take him to see the pinwheels! Finally the other day Bobby broke down and bought one for him and it was worth every yen for the smiles he gives us while he plays with it! He bought a cheap one for him to play with and a "nicer one" for our garden for him to look at.

He knows our routine pretty well...after eating dinner he signs 'bath' and when we sit down to eat he puts his hands together to pray (but only for a second!). At bedtime after Bobby reads the Bible story, J will usually put his hands together to pray then too. And after that he points to our "goodnight board" where we have pictures of our families and say goodnight to everyone. 

I think that's all for now. I'm sure there's more I'm forgetting, but oh well! Hope you enjoyed the update and pictures...sorry once again for being such a terrible blogger! I still intend to write a post on his first birthday...that was 3 months ago!!

(Oh, and as a random side note, I just discovered that the draft of my last blog got saved after all...after I finished typing this one out!! Oh was good to see what I forgot and add that in!)

Friday, July 24, 2015

Thailand February 2015

Well, it's about time, but here comes the long awaited Thailand trip post!!

This February, we were required to attend a training for Christar in Thailand. In spite of Christar often having conferences and meetings in Thailand, and Bobby having been with Christar for about 9 years (I think), we had never been to Thailand! We'd heard plenty a story from our co-workers about their adventures in Thailand, so to be honest, we went into this with much reservation! Every person we talked to that had been to Thailand ended up getting sick while they were there, so having to deal with that while taking care of a 9 month old was not too exciting! (Plus having to try to make sure he didn't get sick either!) Neither of us really enjoys travel, and even though you'd probably never guess it from the career we've chosen, we are not very adventurous!! 

We survived the trip ok...let's just say I hope I don't ever have to fly with a 9 month old ever again!! It was very different from his 5 month trip where he slept so much and was a lot les mobile! He did ok, but it was a long trip for both of us. We chose to do an overnight flight that was about 5 hours I think (plus two one hour flights on each end) hoping that with it being night time, Joshua would sleep better. We didn't get a whole lot of sleep, but like I said, we survived! (But arrived pretty exhausted!) J really enjoyed interacting with people in the airports, and as usual, he attracted a lot of attention! 

On the way home, in front of us there was a little 2 or 3 year old boy traveling with his mom and he got sick at least 3 times (including a few times all over his poor mom!) and in spite of his screaming each time he got sick, J slept right through it. I felt SO bad for that poor Mom and was praying for her the whole time!! It was a good reminder to me that things could always be worse!!

We arrived two days before the training started so it was nice to have that adjustment time. At first we were a bit surprised by the place we were staying (it was less luxurious than we had pictured...or what the website pictured I should say!) I feel guilty saying that though because it really was a beautiful place to stay. By the end of our stay it had really grown on us.

Anyway, in the first two days, we managed to get in on a chance to ride an elephant!! We had a good time, and it's now something I can cross off my bucket list, but we probably won't ever do it again. I won't go into details as to why though. Joshua seemed to really enjoy the rough rocking motion and slept in the carrier most of the ride!

We had a really great time getting to interact with so many other families in the same stage of life as us and share our struggles and joys together! We got to reconnect with some of the people we did our (my) initial training with back in the States before and after I joined Christar so it was especially fun catching up with them. The training itself was pretty was refreshing to hear English teaching from the Word and worship in English (although I missed out on a lot of that because of J's schedule). 

There was childcare provided and there was a great couple looking after the little ones! That was a real blessing to me and J seemed to really enjoy it at first. Toward the end of the week though, he was pretty ready to spend more time with Mommy and Daddy! (And I'm pretty sure the couple looking after the babies were more than ready for their break too!!) There was a boy about 6 weeks older than J, a girl about a month younger than J and a 1 year old boy so J got plenty of playtime! He was the only one who couldn't crawl though so sometimes he got a little overwhelmed when they all decided to come over and play where he was playing (and climb on top of him!) it was really fun for me to see him play with other babies his age because we don't get a lot of opportunities to do that here.

J had his first swim in a pool and LOVED it!! Even though the water was pretty cold, he didn't seem to mind at all! As a side note, I have to say that experiencing a baby's "firsts" is one of my favorite parts of being a parent! Watching a baby discover new things and explore the world around them is really fun and it really stirs up a lot of thankfulness in my heart!

After the training, we had a week of family vacation, staying at the same place we were at for the training. (again, neither of us wanted to venture out to a new place, especially since J had adjusted so well to where we were!) it was really refreshing to have that down time and process things we had taken in the previous week, and just enjoy hanging out together! We didn't really venture far from the resort and didn't do much sightseeing but we did spend a day at the zoo/aquarium because it was SO amazing! We had gone with everyone as an "outing" in the middle of the week to break up the training, but it was so big that we just had to go back!

Some would probably call us crazy for the lack of exploring we did, but for both of us, our idea of vacation is staying put, with no agenda! I'm so thankful we are the same that way because we were both able to get the refreshment we needed and we were both happy!

I think that's pretty much it, so now I'll just let pictures do the talking...

Where we stayed

We were so thankful J slept so well while we were there!

J's second elephant ride! ;)

Petting a giraffe was also crossed off my bucket list!!

Daddy even got to go to Pizza Hut!!

Bobby doing some serious negotiating with the taxi driver on the way home from the zoo ;) This guy gave us the option to pay him extra and sit in the air conditioned cab with him instead of the open back seat!

J LOVED the staff at the hotel restaurant...and they loved him! On one of our first nights there, the waiter held J and walked around the pool/ restaurant with him so we could have a quiet dinner together!! That meant so much to me and I was so thankful! We got spoiled with quite a bit of babysitting time while we were there and even got to go "out" on a date one night while our supervisor sat in the room with J while he slept! We just went to the restaurant at the hotel and had milkshakes, but we also played a fun conversation game that got both of us talking a lot (not usual for us!) and it was really fun!

So this laying by the pool dream I had before we got there was just a little different than I pictured...somehow I forgot to factor in that we'd have a 9 month old baby to entertain while we were there! ;) but, it was still a relaxing treat for just a few minutes here and there!

And to close, here's some glimpses to the beauty we were surrounded by...

We won't be rushing back to Thailand anytime soon, but in spite of our fears going into this trip, we ended up having a really good time and none of the three of us got sick!! I'm really thankful we were able to do this. It was a much needed rest for our family and we made a lot of special memories!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Why is keeping a blog updated so hard for me?!

Sigh, alas, another ridiculous amount of time has passed since my last post! What is wrong with me?! I used to love blogging, and I really love having a record of what we've been up to, but for some reason, it's just not high on the priority list these days! Sorry far away family and friends!

We're all doing pretty well these days...Bobby's a little extra busy this month because our co-workers are in the States for a month. That means he is preaching, leading the prayer meeting every other week as well as his regular Bible time teaching for the English classes our short termers are teaching. 

Joshua and I are in a pretty good groove these days...he's still sleeping through the night like a champ and naps at least an hour once in the morning and once in the afternoon, sometimes twice, depending on how the other two naps go. For the most part, I am enjoying being at home with him. He brings us a lot of joy and it's a true delight watching him learn and grow. We have our days...where we seem to get "tired of each other" but thankfully, those days only come now and then...but boy am I ready for bed time on those days!! I am continually reminded of how blessed I am to be able to be a stay at home mom...even though some days I'm ready to throw in the towel, I can't imagine having to go back to work and miss out on so much fun and making special memories with Joshua. We are truly blessed!!

He loves being outside, so if things get rough, I stick him in the stroller and go for a looooong walk and we're both feeling better before we know it ;) The other day rainy season started here so unfortunately we aren't able to get out as much these days. He got a pool from our co workers for his birthday and he's been enjoying that :)

I would say he's growing like a weed, but that might be an exaduration...when we had him weighed and measured at his 1 year shots appointment, he hadn't gained any weight or height since his 6 month check up!! It's kind of funny because he feels like he's growing, but apparently he's not! I'm trying not to be concerned...I think a lot has to do with the way he's not really eating solids. That's been a reeeeeeal struggle for me.

He has been eating basically nothing but baby yoghurt for the last several months (up until a couple weeks ago) and he has a real problem with textures! I've been trying more things recently with a few successes here and there, but it's still really testing my patience! I wasn't really too adventurous in what I was offering him because I think I was overly paranoid about what's ok and what's not ok for babies under a year, but now that he's a year, there's not too much I'm not open to offering him because I'm so desperate to find things he will eat!! He's slowly improving on chewing and swallowing, but for the most part, a lot of things get spit out. He likes to bite things, but then he doesn't know how to chew and swallow.

The other day he suddenly mastered drinking from a straw which had me so thrilled there was tears in my eyes! He never took a bottle and after unsuccessfully trying a wide variety of sippy cups, I was pretty sure he would never get it...but then one day he just did! Last night I offered him my water bottle which has a super long straw in it, thinking he would never be able to get anything out of it, and he shocked us both by taking a huge slurp of water on his first try!

He's gotten a lot more mobile since I last wrote...he finally started actually crawling on my birthday! He had been getting around where he wanted to get but it wasn't by crawling...but he's finally got it now. He doesn't move around super fast yet, unless he's going toward something he's not supposed to get! ;) That's been another patience tester for me! Right now his favorite spot is under the table where I keep my spices...

Anyway, even though that was just the basics, I think that's all I've got in me for now! (that boy wears me out!!) Will write more about our big move and his first birthday sometime soon!

We love him so much and are so thankful for our little gift from God!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

At last...

Today was a pretty special day for me as a language learner/missionary...I was able to share the Gospel in Japanese by myself for the very first time!!

I'm so humbled that God allowed me to do this, and it's incredibly encouraging to realize that I can indeed do it!! 

Let me do a little backtracking...

Over the last few weeks, in order to help me fulfill some of the requirements for me to move on to the next level of Christar language learning requirements, my teacher has been getting me to practice "mini speeches", practicing talking on a given subject for a couple of minutes. She knows me well enough that I tend to "panic" (aka go blank!) when I have to talk on the spot so she gives me a heads up at the end of class what next week's "topic" will be. She always tells me not to worry, not to over-prepare or worry about it being exactly two minutes, (assuming she hopes for me to get more natural with this, not needing a heads up) but, in general I do try to prepare in my mind somewhat what I'll say.

Well last week she told me my topic would be "Easter". The more I thought about it, I realized that this was going to be a perfect opportunity to just share the Gospel with her! I was excited about this open door, but also slightly nervous as I've never done that before in Japanese...and religious language is quite difficult compared to the everyday Japanese I'm used to using. So, I prepared a little 'speech' and went over it with Bobby to make sure it was ok. I tried really hard to memorize it so I wouldn't forget any of the important parts, but also had to try and sound casual at the same time.

And today in class, I did it! I managed to remember almost everything I wanted to say (enough that it made sense thankfully!) and even though she knew I had really prepared, she said it was really easy to understand (one of the advantages of limited language I suppose!). She half jokingly said "oh wow! Now you can preach...or maybe teach at a kid's party at your church!" And although that's far from reality, I took it as a compliment and it's really encouraged me to know that I CAN share the Gospel in Japanese!

It's hard to convey the joy I feel without sounding proud...I know that it's not by my own efforts that I'm able to do this now and all the glory belongs to God! I am NOT a gifted language learner and I don't really enjoy studying Japanese at all. Communication is not easy for me and it's frustrating to generally understand things without being able to reply. I still feel like I struggle with the basics of stringing two sentences together! Any ability I have to speak Japanese is a gift from God because I am so weak and undisciplined. Japanese is a life-long learning language and there's never an end point where you can say you're totally fluent even after years and years of study so it's a long and discouraging road I'm on. 

But for that very reason, it's the little moments like the one I had today that need to be celebrated! 

My language teacher has heard the Gospel several times before over the years, but still hasn't believed. I'm truly humbled that God has allowed me to be a part of the seeds planted in her heart. I pray that some day they'll be watered and she truly will realize the depth of the love God has for her.

Thank you Lord for this newfound ability! Help me to use it as often as possible, for Your glory, that more Japanese might come to know of Your desire to be in intimate relationship with them!!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Ideas for building a baby registry... Joshua's (and Mama's) favorites

When we first went to "build our registry", I couldn't have been more excited! But, as soon as we had the "gun" in our hands and were left to wander the store and scan away, I felt like I was in a little over my head! There were just SO many options, and SO many gadgets and toys and products that I had no idea if we needed or not. 

The odds were also stacked against us in that we didn't know the gender of our baby, and we also didn't even know what country he or she would be born in (We at least had it narrowed down to the US or Japan though!) and had to think about how we would get things back to Japan after we bought/received them.

I also found it hard to not only think about immediate things we'd use for baby, but also items for when the baby was a little older too. 

But, we did our best for the sake of the wonderful women of our home church who were throwing us a shower and scanned away! (Making several additions and taking things off via the website throughout the pregnancy!)

I thought it'd be a fun idea for me to make a list of all the things I actually found really useful, and based on what Joshua's liked, also include some ideas for toys for as baby grows too! I'm sure I'll forget things, but this idea has been swirling around in my mind for a while now! Of course this is not an exclusive, all-inclusive list, but I was thinking this would be a helpful guide for expecting moms who are building a registry, and also helpful for those wanting to buy baby gifts for friends of family!

First of all, I think pretty much since the day we brought Joshua home up to this day, we have been using a white noise machine. Our favorite is the ocean waves sound and Joshua falls asleep to that all the time. We've taken it with us anytime we're away from home overnight and it really makes a difference in how he sleeps. We were actually given this as a gift, and hadn't put one on our registry, but boy am I ever thankful for the sweet woman who bought us the one we have! It also includes a wall/ceiling projection option with a few sets of different slides (under the sea, animals, planets, etc) which is a neat feature, but we've rarely used it. (Unfortunately I don't know the name or brand of the one we got, and Joshua's currently sleeping so I'm not going to go look...there's oodles of them on the market though, so finding one shouldn't be a problem.) 

I knew from before Joshua was born that I wanted to "be a swaddler" and my sister introduced me to these wonderful swaddling blankets made of Muslin. It's a soft, light and airy fabric...very breathable, and great for non-winter babies as you get the comfort of a blanket minus the heat! We used them for swaddling some (before Joshua showed us his Houdini escape artist skills) and also used them for the car seat and I always had one in the diaper bag outings too. One of Joshua's favorite games over the last few months has been peek-a-boo with these blankets and we have gotten some of our best laughs from him by draping them over his head waiting for him to pull them off! 

Bobby's mom also gave us these "ready to go" velcro swaddlers and I highly recommend them too! They have a really strong velcro and are a lot simpler than swaddling with a blanket. Joshua stayed swaddled in these ones a lot better than ones we wrapped ourselves. We called them his "pocket" and it makes me smile remembering Bobby making a silly song up about "pocket time" being sleepy time for Joshua :)

It's fairly common knowledge these days that babies aren't supposed to sleep with blankets so I was grateful for yet another introduction from my sister to Sleep Sacks. These are great for adding extra warmth for baby without using a blanket (or dressing baby in lots of layers). The zipper is upside down to prevent "escapes". We use a fleece one for Joshua now in the winter, but I also see now they make Muslin ones which would be great for spring and fall!

And speaking of sleep...we found these amazing Scripture Lullaby albums on iTunes and we ourselves have been falling asleep to them every night since just a few months into my pregnancy. Joshua doesn't go to sleep to them all the time, but occasionally if he's having trouble going down for a nap if we play this music for him he almost always immediately calms down and goes to sleep. I love that they are taken from Scripture and God has used them to encourage and touch my heart through them countless times over the last year. In searching for the link to the album, I just discovered there's now a volume 3!!

One of the things I really wanted to have was a glider. They are super hard to find here in Japan, (you can get them, but they are ridiculously over-priced) and I really didn't think I was going to get one, but God cares so much about the little desires of our hearts and He provided one for us for a very reasonable price via a connection to the military base nearby us. I strongly recommend getting one of these (or some kind of very comfortable chair for your nursery) because you will spend countless hours in it with your little bundle of joy!!

(this is the glider we bought, but this is a pic of it in the original owner's nursery)
Since space is limited for us, we really didn't want to get a high chair. My sister and several other friends recommended this type of booster seat that sits on a regular dining chair. They have the feature of being easy to carry with you and they also adjust according to age (starting with infants, and can be used as a booster seat for toddlers too!). We were able to find this one on sale here in Japan! It even came with a toy attachment on top of the tray which we've found really helpful...Joshua was able to join us at the table before he started eating, and stayed busy while we ate! I really like the one we have, but again, there's oodles of them on the market and I'm sure all of them are just as great.

We were also given one of these "clip on baby chairs" that we keep in the trunk to use while we're eating out or when we have a meal at church. Most restaurants here don't really have baby friendly seats so this has come in handy a few times. Joshua loves being part of the group and feeling like a "big boy" sitting at the table with everyone. It comes with a tray that we sometimes use if he's eating and sometimes just to help keep his toys from falling in the floor (although they still do!) ;) Truthfully I probably wouldn't have gotten one of these as I prefer the booster seat type, but it was given to us as a gift and it really is convenient!

I knew long before I got pregnant that I wanted to be a "baby-wearer" so I knew I needed to invest in a good carrier. I found a company called Boba that I've heard nothing but good things about and I'm really glad I went with them. I have used my baby carrier so much! I often use it to get Joshua to fall asleep during church (although recently he hasn't been doing that!) and it's been great for shopping! I sometimes wish that it could be used forward facing, but I have read a lot about forward facing carriers being not so good for babies so overall I'm satisfied with my choice to go with Boba. After Joshua was born, we were with some friends who have a baby that's a little older than Joshua and the mom was putting the baby in her carrier and I couldn't help but note that she needed help to get her in. I felt proud that with my Boba, I could get Joshua in and out without help! Not that I'm bashing other brands, because I think they all have their own merits, but I was just really thankful that I could get him in and out on my own because I knew Bobby wasn't always going to be with me when I used it.

Yes, it's expensive, but yes, it's totally worth it!! Boba has great customer service and I highly recommend them! :) actually as I was working on this post, the blogger that I first heard about Boba from wrote a great post about what to know about selecting a baby can find it here

Next is a play mat! I wanted one of these pretty bad, because I knew how useful they are for having a place to put baby down, and keep them entertained and stimulated before they can sit up. Unfortunately they're not the easiest thing to fit in a suitcase (although I'm sure we could have found one that would have if we tried hard enough) and they're just plain expensive here in Japan! However, we ended up getting a Toys R Us gift card from a friend and were delighted to find out play mats were "on sale" the day we went shopping! I also wanted to find one that could be used for as long as possible (had a sitting up option) and I think we found the perfect one! This is the one we chose and I highly recommend it!! He's almost 9 months old now and he still regularly plays with it, both on his back and sitting up (he never really cared for the "tummy time" setting because he hates playing on his belly).

Now for the toys...I have to confess it's a little embarrassing to write this part as it makes me realize how many toys Joshua has! A lot of them were gifts though, and the ones I'm including in this list, he plays with all the time and loves them so I thought it'd be helpful for those looking for a good gift! 

As a side note, I caution anyone who's buying a gift for a baby to stick to what's on a registry, or even ask the parents if it'd be ok to get the baby a toy. Some parents really don't like clutter and it might be better to stay away from toys! I highly recommend books as a gift idea...I feel like you can never have too many kids books, but that's just my opinion! Maybe next I'll make a list of our favorite kids books :)

While shopping for Christmas gifts this year, I came across these stacking cups and even though they are marked as geared for age 1 and up, Joshua's playing with them now and absolutely loves them! He of course can't really do much with them by himself yet, but he claps them together and also holds them in his hands and sometimes "drinks" from them like bowls! He loves crashing our towers too! I love how many different ways they can be played with...they can teach colors and counting, and you can also play "hide and seek" games with the Anpan man toy that comes with it. Again, there's probably a lot of variety in stacking cups out there, but these are the ones we found here in Japan.


Along the same note, we were given a few hand me down toys from some missionaries we know in Hiroshima and these amazing balls were in the pile! I think I actually enjoy these more than Joshua!! I think the design of them is genius! They are nesting balls, and they can be put together in more than one way (not sure how to explain that). Bobby also recently discovered that the halves can be stacked too to make a tower! (Funny thing is when I googled them, the first image that comes up on their Fisher Price website is them stacked up like that but we have had them for a few months now and only just the other day discovered this feature!) We are missing the smiley face ball and the number 8 half, but we still get plenty of play time out of these!

Joshua absolutely loves balls, of any kind, so with some Christmas money from Uncle Randy, we got him one of these "O-balls". They are on the expensive side, so we probably wouldn't have gotten one if it wasn't a gift. He loves being able to hold on to it and chew it and it's just a fun ball!

And speaking of chewing...this list wouldn't be complete if Sophie wasn't on it!! I'll start off with the disclaimer that I think this toy is ridiculously over priced and just like the O-ball, if we hadn't of been given it as a gift, we probably wouldn't have one! (So I say Mama, go ahead and put that Sophie on your registry...people love to spoil pregnant women and when buying for someone else, it seems like people don't mind spending a ridiculous amount of money on something for a new baby!) And for even more honesty, I had my doubts that Sophie was all she was cracked up to be! Little did I know, she'd prove herself worth every penny in our home! Joshua adores his Sophie! When I first introduced her to him I think around 2 or 3 months, he didn't really take to her, but when I re-introduced her when he was a little older (4 months??) he couldn't get enough of her!! He would chew on her and be chattering away as happy as a lark! It was really fun to see him interact so well with a toy!

When we went home in the fall to introduce Joshua to our families Bobby's amazing sister in law threw a party/shower for Joshua and someone gave him a Taggies stuffed puppy. I had never heard of them before, but basically it's a line of toys with extra tags on the, because babies love tags for some reason! (My Mom caught onto this before though and made Joshua a square of soft fabric with ribbon tags on it...but maybe the person who taught her how to make them had seen these before??) It's such a neat idea and Joshua seems to adore "Spot" and all his tags! ;) 

These links were a "filler" addition to our registry...I saw them and thought, "oh! Every baby has links right?! These ones look good!" and zapped them with the zapper! So someone purchased them for us and I seriously couldn't be happier! We've had them hanging from his car seat since he was about a month old. I was pretty amazed at how well he could "play" with them so early on. This particular brand has such fun colors and great textures and I like them more than any other kind of links I've seen. Joshua still plays with them now at almost 9 months! We can get them here in Japan and they are a "go-to" part of baby gifts we give now!

Speaking of "go-to" baby gifts, a couple that we know who just had their third baby shared this gem with us, explaining it's part of their go-to baby gifts now! It's a Baby Einstein radio that plays a few classical songs and has a few lights on it. It has seriously been a life saver in the car (and airplane!) countless times! Joshua would be freaking out for whatever reason and as soon as we'd push the button, he'd stop! With the excessive amount of time we spend in the car, it's a precious gift that we treasure!! In fact, last week when I was in the hospital, it also worked wonders for Bobby trying to keep Joshua content! :)

Another side note... as much as Joshua loves these toys, I have to point out that he has several simple "toys" (aka things around the house like a silicone funnel from the dollar store) that he loves just as much as these wonderful products. I am by no means saying these toys are essential for a baby's happiness, just wanting to highlight a few great products out there!

That's about all I can think of at the moment.. I'm sure after I post this I'll think of more, but for now this is it! Hope it's helpful :)