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 carrier...you 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 :)

Friday, February 6, 2015

Blog? What's that?!

Oh my...I can't believe it's been almost 5 months since I last wrote! So much for preserving memories and keeping people up to date!! I have a feeling I will really regret not having kept better record of these last few months with Joshua! Thankfully, we have been pretty diligent about taking pictures, so we at least have those!

our little dual-citizen :)
Family day trip this summer :)

So, what's been going on over the last 5 months?? Well, aside from Joshua growing like a weed, I've gotten back to language study (with a goal of 10 hours per week), we flew back to America and Canada for 3 weeks to introduce Joshua to our families, Joshua started solids, he got three teeth, we had a wonderful Christmas, Bobby's been busy getting ready for the two short term missionaries we're hosting for a year starting in March, I had gallbladder surgery, and we're getting ready to head to Thailand in two weeks!!


playing with our neighbor friend :)
Wow, so life's been a little more eventful than I realized when I sat down to start this blog!! Now I'm not sure where to begin! I have a feeling I'm just going to end up posting pictures and let them do the talking! ;)



We had a great time with both our families in Canada and the States! Three weeks was too short, but time with family is never long enough! Joshua did super good on all our flights...just required a few walks up and down the aisle! (Ok, more than a few!) we ended up not getting a bassinet for either of our long flights...but I'm not even going to go there because it's apparently still a sensitive issue for me! Let's just say there was a lot of drama, a lot of seat switching and ok, a few tears!

We ran into problems when bedtime hit the night we arrived in Canada though...jet lag hit Joshua hard!! He was sleeping through the night no problem, but after the flights, he was super mixed up. He cried ALL NIGHT LONG. He was a wreck! My mom graciously stayed up with him until we finally gave up on trying to get some sleep ourselves and we took over around 4am. We were not ready for that surprise! It got better every night though and I think he ended up sleeping through the night about 3 or 4 nights. And then he got messed up again when we flew to Maryland! I think out of the two weeks we were there, he only slept through the night once maybe twice! It made us realize how blessed we are that he's been such a good sleeper!! I do not miss those night wakings!


one happy Canadian girl.. reunited with Tim's!
We got family pictures done by a friend of my sister and loved them all! check her out if you're in the Regina area!
Actually this past week, he's gotten into a new habit of sleeping 12 hours! Either he would wake himself or we would wake him to eat around 10pm before, but the other day he flipped onto his belly when we were putting him to bed and it helped him stay asleep past the normal feeding time and he didn't wake up until 7:30 the next morning! Needless to say, I decided that we were going to try and make that a habit and so far the last four nights if we flip him onto his belly when we put him to bed, he has slept till morning! I feel sort of bad about putting him to sleep on his tummy because they say back is best now...but he knows how to roll over if he needs to, and he sleeps a lot more soundly on his belly.....


Anyway, we got to celebrate Canadian a Thanksgiving with my family which was super special! It was fun actually getting turkey for Thanksgiving this year! (We can't readily get turkey here and since I'm the only Canadian here, turkey dinner doesn't happen in October. (But we do get one courtesy of our teammates in November for American Thanksgiving!) 
American turkey
Canadian turkey
 Bobby also enjoyed introducing Joshua to "milk and cookies" on his parent's front steps like his Dad did when he was little! It was also great to be there in time for some beautiful fall colors!!




Joshua had a lot of "sink baths" over the course of our travels!


Nay Nay loved taking naps with her baby!

A trip to the Baden farm wouldn't be complete without a tractor ride with G-Daddy!
Joshua even got to meet his great Grammie!
Melissa and I with our "babies"
 His cousins on both sides absolutely adore him. B kept saying "hug! hug! hug!" anytime she was near Joshua! And little D kept saying "He's so cute! I just love baby Joshua!"


(this is what her hugs looked like!)
this one's also taken by Rachel
We did an English dedication service at our home church in Maryland
Enjoying his cousin's toy!

When we got back we started Joshua on solids! We started with okayu which is basically watered down smooshed up rice. He did not like it and wasn't "getting" it at all! I was pretty discouraged! After several weeks of trying, we gave up and finally tried some sweet potatoes and apples, and both of them were a hit! He finally caught on to swallowing and he started to like eating! But, he seems to be pretty particular because after trying out bananas and carrots and another type of sweet potato, he doesn't like them!! I haven't been too ambitious in making new food for him yet, so we have yet to try things like green peas, beans and avocado. Hopefully he'll expand his pallet beyond apples and sweet potatoes soon! Our neighbor who is just two days younger than Joshua is eating pretty much anything and everything now and it's hard not to be jealous! 


She's also a whole lot more mobile than Joshua...He's not really showing signs of crawling yet...even though he loves to sleep on his tummy, he hates to play on his tummy! A few times he's leaned forward too far while sitting up and ends up on his tummy and I've tried leaving him that way to let him explore his options, but he just gets mad and cries until I sit him up again! He enjoys standing up, but he can't pull himself up on things yet. I really am grateful for this extended time of "immobility" though...I know my life will get a lot busier when he's on the move!! We sometimes wonder if he'll just end up skipping crawling and just go straight to walking :)

play date a few months ago :)

We had a great Christmas... enjoyed a quiet day at home, Skyping with family...



Joshua truly is a delight! He makes us laugh all the time and his smile can brighten my darkest day! We are so blessed! Every time we're out people are always commenting on how cute he is...how he looks like a doll! I'm sure he will get tired of hearing that when he's old enough to understand. He is a great conversation starter though and we love it! :)



Nana made me lots of fun hats!
Around November, I started having gallbladder attacks again (they mysteriously went away when I was about 6 or 7 months pregnant) and when life got a little slower in January, we went to the hospital to get things checked out. They weren't as severe as they were when I was pregnant, but still painful, and caused me to lose a lot of sleep as they were happening at least twice a week in the middle of the night! It was such a blessing to already know what the pain was, and be able to get help so quickly.

this smile is the best medicine!
We ended up getting a great doctor who spoke a fair amount of English which was really nice. We got referred to a surgeon after confirming by ultrasound that there were indeed several stones present (when I had an ultrasound in the States, the technician said it was just several small stones or even just a "sludge" but this time, there were several large stones that could be seen). It was a incredible to be seen mid-January and find out I could have surgery later that month!!

Joshua waiting with Daddy while I had my MRI done
I had laparoscopic surgery on the 27th and all went well. Everything was normal, and now, 10 days after surgery, I'm feeling almost good as new. One of the incisions was in my belly button so that's still a bit sensitive. Overall, I'm doing really well though, and SO happy to have this behind us! I wouldn't wish a gallbladder attack on my worst enemy! We have such good medical care here in Japan and we're so thankful. We also have incredible insurance, and we actually make money for every night we stay in the hospital! We are blessed!!

pre-surgery cuddles (cuddles are a rare treat from him!)

Next up, we're off to Thailand on Feb 19th! (Joshua will have been in four countries before he's even a year old!) We have training for Christar for a week, and then we'll stay at the same place and take a week off. I'm looking forward to it, but travelling to a foreign country with a 9 month old is not exactly exciting. Especially when you have to worry about not drinking the water, and food making you sick!

Boy, I need to get better at writing more often...this turned out to be quite a novel! Kudos to you if you actually read all of that!! (So much for letting the pictures do the talking!) :)

Well, I think I'll finish off with posting all his "monthly" photos to show how much he's growing! Enjoy!








These stickers are not getting used for the next baby! (he ate this one and ripped it in half!)