Pictures from Youchien (Preschool)

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We had such a great experience at Tachibana Youchien from April – July of this year! It was close to our home, the senseis were very nice and supportive, and Evangeline loved it and made lots of friends. But, in the end we decided that we needed to pull her out at the end of her summer break. One reason was that we learned in June that the children were praying to Buddha at least twice a day. Although we got permission for Evangeline to sit silently during that time, it was still something we didn’t necessarily want her to be exposed to and struggling with every day. There were other reasons as well, including the time that was needed for me as her mother to participate in the various events and make her special bento lunch twice a week…these would have been made easier if I had been more accepted into the inner circle of the youchien moms, but in Japanese culture that can be very difficult. It’s not always the case, but this time it was. Besides all that, we felt like Evangeline would do well learning at home with her Aunt Angel and we were right about that! She loves learning and is doing really well. She is also still able to meet and play with some of her youchien friends each week. Thank you for praying with us about this decision and continue to pray as we will likely face more decisions and situations like this in the future as we raise our children in this culture that we love and have struggles with as well.

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5 Months Until America!

Evangeline now knows that when she turns 4 on December 30th of this year, we’ll be just about to go to America!

“What happens when you turn 4, Evangeline?” “We go to AMERICA!”

That means there are just about 5 months left of this term in Tokyo. So I wanted write a little update for those interested about what exactly we’ve been up to, how long we’ll be in America, and our plans for returning to Japan.

When we came to Japan, we came with the International Mission Board, an entity of the Southern Baptist Convention. We LOVE working with them to spread the gospel to people who have never heard. Through Baptist churches across America, we receive our support and everything we need to live overseas, without having to do ‘support raising’ while we are in America. It’s an amazing privilege and blessing to work with them (and it’s something that we will not be able to do if giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and cooperative program do not continue…click here to learn more).

All that being said, we came to Japan in a category of missionary called “International Service Corp (ISC)”. Our original plan was to do part-time language study for 6 months, then full-time ministry for the rest of our term (a term is usually 2-5 years), and then possibly apply to return as “career” missionaries with the IMB. Through various events and policy changes that happened right as we arrived, we were instead given the opportunity to do full-time language learning and be a part of a newly forming team called the Tokyo Landing City Team. From the time that we arrived forward, all newly arriving missionaries to Japan would spend their first 2-4 years in Tokyo learning the language and culture, and then would move to their assigned city.

Since we were able to complete our language learning term (hopefully!!), we are also being given the opportunity to do a “quick turn-around”. We are now in the process of applying again with the IMB, but this time as career missionaries. When we return to the States, we will be on a “Stateside Assignment”/furlough just like other career missionaries. And then if everything goes through as we expect it to, we will be appointed by the IMB as career missionaries and return to Japan in the summer of next year.

Yes, it’s all quite confusing, even to someone in the midst of it! But the bottom line is this: At the beginning of January 2015, we will be in America! We will be there for approximately 6 months, and then head back to Japan to begin full-time ministry.

During our time in America, we will be in Florida for the first 3 months, and Pennsylvania the 2nd 3 months. We will definitely be doing some traveling during both of those times, so if you live in either of those places or anywhere in between, and would like to see us or have us speak at your church, small group, or Sunday School, please let us know! We would love to do that.

Thank you so much for all your support over the past two and a half years. Through language learning, culture learning, having two babies in a foreign country, we’ve been blessed to have so many people at home supporting us through prayer and encouragement. We’ve also been blessed by the many family and friends who have come to visit us! Please continue praying for us over the next 5 months as we prepare to say goodbye to the many friends we have made, and hello again to our friends and family in the States. “Reverse Culture Shock” is a thing! So begin praying now for us and our kids as we transition back to a country that two of our kids have never even stepped foot it.

Thanks again and please let me know if you have any questions.

Eliana’s Birth Story

True to form for a third child, Eliana’s birth story has to start with Evangeline and Malachi. They were 3 and 4 weeks early when they were born. Evangeline had bad jaundice and weight gain issues, and Malachi spent 3 days in NICU because of breathing and jaundice issues. Because of these experiences, I fully expected Eliana to be 1. early 2. have problems with breastfeeding and 3. terrible jaundice. I worried about it a lot, plus I worried about the fact that the longer I went to the small but nearby clinic I had chosen the less I liked it. Since Malachi and Evangeline had both been about 6 hour labors, I didn’t want to go somewhere farther away again. This place was 15 minutes by car, and my sweet Japanese friend was able to drive me there almost every time, since she was also pregnant and scheduled her appointments at the same time. She also helped translate for me when things got difficult to understand, since the doctors I saw spoke minimal English. There are several reasons why I started disliking the clinic, but mostly it was because the more questions I asked about the labor and delivery, the more I realized that they were very set in their ways…while it would be a “natural childbirth”, I wouldn’t be allowed to move around or choose the position to deliver in. That made me pretty nervous. On the plus side, the doctor was open to delayed cord clamping if there were no problems, which I did not expect at all! She ended up having her cord clamped after a couple minutes, which is better than nothing.

The weekend before Eliana was born, I started reading the book ‘Redeeming Childbirth’. What a huge blessing it was. I really believe that the reason Eliana was born when she was is because I read that book and was able to finally release my fears and worries to the Lord. The day before she was born, I also finally asked my friends on my team here in Tokyo to pray me through the last few days or weeks of pregnancy and the labor and delivery. Many midwives and “birth experts” will say that fear can actually stall labor, and I really believe that was the case with Eliana. I had had several experiences of false labor over the two weeks before she came and just felt like she was very ready, but I was not. At least, not until I went to bed on that Tuesday night with peace in my heart, knowing that she would come at the perfect time and that no matter what happened during the labor and delivery, I would be praising the Lord through it, since He is the one who created my body to do such an amazing thing and He is the one who knew and formed Eliana in my womb. 

On Wednesday morning, March 5th, I woke up at 4:30am after a pretty restless night. I was huge and uncomfortable at 38 weeks and 2 days pregnant, and had been having a lot of Braxton Hicks contractions. I had a Japanese lesson scheduled for that morning, but I texted my tutor when I woke up saying I was just too tired and thought we should cancel the lesson. About 20 minutes after that, I started having contractions that were more painful that what I’d experienced before. I started timing them around 5ish, and sure enough, there were about 10 minutes apart. I told Adam that this was it and I was going to take a shower and let Tony and Marsha (our neighbors, mentors, and drivers to the clinic!) know.

Once I started moving around, the contractions got closer fast. As I was taking a shower around 6:30, I got a call back from Marsha (good thing my phone is water proof!). At that point they were about 4-5 minutes apart, so I said we should meet at 7 and be on our way. I got out of the shower, woke Adam up again (he slept through the beginning of Evangeline’s labor too!), and started getting ready. The contractions became really painful at that point, and there were only a few minutes between them to do anything. Luckily I’d been preparing for weeks, so there wasn’t much to do! The kids got up and Adam got them breakfast while I packed the last few things and got dressed. I also called the clinic and managed between contractions to tell them in Japanese what was going on and that we were on the way.

Tony came in a few minutes before 7 to watch the kids and take them to daycare, and Adam and I said goodbye to them and headed down. I was too far into labor to be emotional about leaving them and they didn’t seem to mind at all that we were going.

Once we got in the van I had to really focus on breathing through the contractions. I had decided to keep the song “Blessed Be the Name” in my head (a suggestion from Redeeming Childbirth), which helped. Adam tried to ask me some questions, but I ignored him…Marsha said I was either mad at him for something or having a contraction. 🙂 

We finally got to the clinic, made it to the second floor, and were ushered into what can only be described as what looked like a large supply closet. I’m not kidding…this was where I had been checked when I came in for false labor, and I had just assumed this was the first room and then I’d be moved to a more comfortable, less cluttered, space if I was in true labor. Not so…I was told to lay on my back with feet up in stirrups while they checked me. I was very much in labor this time! They hooked me up to some monitors and an IV for after the labor, and I was told not to move. Adam tried many times to ask them if I could get up and move around. I gave birth to both Malachi and Evangeline on my hands and knees, and he knew this was how I was most comfortable. They would not agree to that, and I just had to reassure Adam that it was ok…”she’s coming now!”, I remember saying. It truly was a blessing that this labor was even faster than the others, because the room and the way I was required to lay on my back was pretty terrible. For this reason alone I would never recommend this clinic to anyone! But the Lord gave me such a peace during the labor. Looking back, I can’t believe I wasn’t screaming at the nurse and thrashing around to get off my back. 

Eliana was born less than 50 minutes after we arrived at the clinic, at 8:39am. I pushed for maybe 10 minutes…it’s hard to remember. Despite the position I was in, this was my easiest labor, probably because it only lasted a total of less than 4 hours. Unfortunately, it was also the most difficult recovery (possibly because of the position I was in, I tore worse than I have before), but that’s another story.

Eliana Grace Sharick was 8 lbs 7 oz (almost 3800 grams) and 20.5 inches (53 cm) long…my record breaker baby. She was healthy as can be, although the nurses insisted on giving her glucose water less than an hour after she was born. She was a great breast feeder from the beginning, which helped my milk come in faster than it ever had before. When I went back to the clinic for a weight check when she was 5 days old, the nurses were surprised that she had gained 100 grams in 1 day. 

My stay in the clinic is also another story, but let’s just say I was happy to not eat fish for a while after that. I also was glad to not be constantly asked by the nurses if they could give my baby a bottle! Breastfeeding support was less than ideal, so I’m glad I’d already done it twice before. But other than those two things, it was really not that bad. They let me come home on Saturday, which is 1 day earlier than originally suggested. I’m looking forward to returning this week for Eliana’s 1 month check up and giving the nurses a thank you note and picture of Eliana.

Even though I know that the Lord was with me and present at my other two births, I chose to include Him and recognize His presence so much more this time, which made the entire experience so much more meaningful and better. Praise Him for His grace and mercy at all times, and especially in childbirth!Image

Pictures from February and March, 2013

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Evangeline’s daycare class “graduation” program. She played the drums and did a little dance.

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A trip to the zoo with some friends. We got annual passes, so hopefully this will be a regular thing!

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Evangeline in her Sunday School class with her “church sensei”. We will miss them!

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The view of the sakura blooming outside our front door.

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Our sweet Sunday school group.

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Evangeline after her first dentist appointment. We went with some friends.

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More sakura at the park.

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Evangeline after a wet bike ride home from daycare.

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The line at the grocery store on a Sunday evening. So crowded!

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A rainy walk to daycare. And it’s not even rainy season yet!

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Bible study with Yu-chan.

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Avengers showing at our place with guys from church.

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The park was so crowded on this day, one of the first warmish days! Evangeline sure stands out with her blonde hair and pink jacket.

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Evangeline sat in between two random ladies at the park and started talking to them. Such a good little friend-maker.

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Blog on Sabbatical

In case it wasn’t obvious, just wanted to put it out there that this blog is on a bit of a sabbatical. We are unable to make it a priority at this time in our lives, but will continue to send our monthly newsletters out. Feel free to browse previous posts to find out more about where we are and how we got here. 🙂 Thanks for understanding!

Vacation

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Have you ever taken a vacation, and come back needing a vacation? That’s sort of how our trip to Thailand was, even though it was really fun and refreshing!

We left our house at 8pm on October 25th, took an overnight flight to Bangkok, got in a car and rode 3 hours and finally arrived at Juniper Tree in Dolphin Bay at 9am  (11am Tokyo time) on October 26th. At lunch that day, Evangeline almost fell asleep in her Thai food. We were so exhausted!

Evangeline slept a little bit on the plane. Luckily we got some of the empty seats around us, AND they put us in bulkhead seats, so Malachi slept in the bassinet a little bit.

Juniper Tree was beautiful! We ate all our meals there, had our laundry done every day for free, and basically spent our time between the pool, the beach, and watching a season of Leverage while the babies napped. Since using the air conditioning in our room cost a little extra per hour, we indulged in it only for those few hours during their nap time each day. It was like a siesta. I also got my nails done twice (once with Evangeline!), Adam and I both got a Thai massage, and I got my hair cut. And we ate HUGE bowls of ice cream and pizza several times! It was awesome, and just what we needed. If you didn’t see our pictures on facebook, here are a few.

The beach across from the guest house we stayed at

The view from our room. We loved the pool!

Evangeline was afraid of the ocean, but she liked to dip her finger in and taste/drink it. She called it ‘sauce’ and said it was ‘oishii’ (delicious!).

There were a lot of fishermen along the beach. It was mostly undeveloped.

We all enjoyed Thai food while we were there.

Evangeline was also afraid of going any farther away from the wall of the kiddie pool than she had to, although she enjoyed playing right there, but Malachi loved the water!

Being ‘cool’ like daddy. 🙂

We weren’t huge fans of this elephant place. They overcharged us and then wanted tips for everything, and they poked the elephants to get them to obey. 😦 Also, Malachi screamed for the entire ride, so it wasn’t that fun for me. But we’re still glad we tried it. We’re thinking the places in Chiang Mai are probably better.

I didn’t eat both of these myself, don’t worry! But don’t they look delicious?

Tokyo did not give us a very pleasant welcome back. It was cold, and when we got to the train station where we were supposed to transfer and then arrive at our home station, we found out that the train line we needed was not running that day from that station. The station worker told us we needed to walk (with our two babies and all our luggage) to the next station, about 1/2 a kilometer away. When we got to ground level, we found it was pouring rain, and the one tiny umbrella was so deep in our luggage it wasn’t worth getting out. We got soaked on the walk/run! But we finally made it home around noon on November 6th.

One of the nice things about going away for a little while is realizing that you really love home. Even though we had a great time, it was GREAT to be home. Tokyo weather might not have welcomed us back like we would have, but we still love you, Tokyo!

Update on the Kiddos

I realized as I wrote in Malachi’s baby book that I haven’t done a proper update on the kids lately. And I know that half the reason most people come to this blog is to see pictures of my babies. 😉

Chilling in our cool double stroller. This was the first time I took them both on the train by myself, and they were so good!

So here’s a few pictures and some information about what’s going on with my sweet daughter and son.

Evangeline Zoe

Evangeline will be 21 months on the September 30th. It’s hard to believe she’ll be 2 at the end of this year! She is so smart and silly…and definitely testing her limits. The other day at the mall, she didn’t want to be in the stroller, but she wouldn’t stay near us. She’s entered the ‘running away stage’! Adam said she is like him in

Showing off her Anpanman shirt.

some ways. She gets super focused on certain things and doesn’t listen or hear us unless it’s about something she loves. The other day she was in her focused mode, and we tried saying her name, ‘icecream’, ‘cookies’, etc. She didn’t listen until we said ‘Evangeline…Elmo!’. She really loves Elmo, and also a Japanese animated character named Anpanman.

Evangeline goes to hoikuen with daddy on the back of his bike. She loves her helmet!

Evangeline goes to ‘hoikuen’ (daycare) 4 days a week while Adam and I study Japanese. It’s been rough, because she’s gotten sick so much.

But we think she really likes it, has made friends that she knows by name, and comes home with new Japanese words every day. They say kids her age can learn up to 10 new words a day. Even as I write this, Adam said ‘Malachi has so much slobber!’, and Evangeline started repeating the word ‘slobber’ over and over. 🙂

Evangeline crashed after a major meltdown on our way home from somewhere. It was a long day with no nap. 😦

Today we did a “test” to see what her English to Japanese word ratio is. We showed her a bunch of flashcards with pictures on them. Out of the 16 that she gave an answer for, 8 she answered first in Japanese and 8 she answered first in English, although we’re pretty sure she knew all of them in both languages. So, our conclusion is that she’s officially bilingual (or going to be…she’s far from fluent in either language yet.)!

Malachi Joshua

Malachi is almost 4 1/2 months, and since he turned 4 months old he’s been really busy!

Our running errands with mommy.

He’s dropped his swaddle and pacifier, moved into Evangeline’s room, started sleeping through the night (7pm-6am most nights!), and learned how to roll from his back to his tummy. He takes 3 naps a day and eats every 3-4 hours. He’s really sweet in between, although by the end of the day he’s definitely ready for bed!

We can’t help noticing how different he and Evangeline already are. He seems a bit more sensitive and clingy to me. He is also a lot more physical. He loves for us to help him stand up, and he’s very strong. He’s also loves to play with rattles and little toys, and like Adam said, he slobbers a lot and sucks on his thumb and fingers all the time.

Malachi after his bath. He loves bathtime!

Malachi has helped me make small talk and practice my Japanese with a lot of little Japanese ‘obaasans’ (grandmas). We don’t send him to daycare, so when I go out during the day he’s with me. His blonde hair and blue eyes make him stand out, and he’s quite friendly as long as I’m holding him. Yesterday he was smiling so big at a lady next to me on the bus. 🙂

I could probably keep writing about my kids forever, but I only know two people who would keep reading about them forever…Granna and Grandma! 🙂

A picture Adam’s mom took while we were skyping with her.

Please pray for us and for our babies as we learn how to teach and train them to follow Jesus. Even though they had no choice in coming to Japan with us, we also pray that one day they we see themselves as missionaries as well, and that they will have hearts that want to see the world come to know Jesus.

Our Little Prayer Warrior

For about 3 or 4 months now, Evangeline has known that when we say it’s time to pray, we hold hands. And then when we say ‘In Jesus’ name we pray…’, it’s time to say ‘Amen!’. (That sounded more like ‘maymem’ when she first started saying it)

She might not really know what we’re doing, but she knows something about it has to do with praying for people. Every time we pray lately, she asks to pray for her 5 year old friend Kota. As soon as we say ‘time to pray’ now, she says ‘Kota, Kota, Kota’, until we pray for Kota. Sometimes she also asks to pray for Kota’s twin sister, Ai.

Sometimes, as Christians, it’s hard to pray for the same thing or person over and over. But it’s so important! We’re thankful for our little reminder to pray for Kota and Ai and their mom and dad (their mom is my good friend and tutor) every day.

And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 18:3

Day of Rest

We’ll be honest…there are some weeks when it feels like we have more days of rest than of work. But there are weeks, sometimes two or three in a row, where it feels like we never get a chance to relax! Our friends and mentors Tony and Marsha told us early on not to feel guilty about slow times, because more often than not we’ll be in a busy time.

The thing about Japan is that our work is totally relational. Even now as our main job is to study and learn Japanese, a major part of doing that involves talking to Japanese people. Japan is not like some third world countries, where as a missionary you could go and do humanitarian work and really feel like you accomplished something that day, whether or not you saw someone come to Christ. Here, again, it is relational. We study Japanese, live our lives, and meet with our friends.

But it’s not easy! We still need our days of rest, especially because Adam and I both have pretty introverted personalities. We need quiet and alone time to recharge. This week, we used our ‘day off’ to go to Tokyo LegoLand with the babies. I got Adam tickets to go there for his Father’s Day gift. Here’s a picture of him with Evangeline:

Unfortunately, it didn’t feel like much of a day off! It took about 1 1/2 hours to get there. With a double stroller, we had to take elevators at all THREE train transfers. We counted, and at one transfer, we had to take 5 elevators just to get to the next train! Hahaha. Needless to say, we were pretty exhausted just from getting there. We stayed about 2 hours (it was fun, but not so much for babies), and then made our way back home. At the end of the day, we both said ‘never again will we use our day off like that!’. We’re more about chilling at home in our PJs all day, making smoothies and watching movies. 🙂 That’s just our introverted selves getting recharged. Here’s a picture of a REAL day off:

Speaking of days off, I just bought our tickets to Thailand! We’ll be vacationing there at the end of October/beginning of November. And I have to say, I can’t wait to spend 10 days relaxing on the beach! Now that’s a day off.

6 Months in Japan on July 4th

On July 4th we had been in Japan for 6 months. Kind of ironic!

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To celebrate the occasion, here is a special blog post. By occasion, I mean July 4th, and the fact that most people say that 6 months into living in a different culture is when you feel the most homesick. Although I miss home every day, I also feel like this is a new home and really love it. But anyways, here are the top things that I miss about America (in case you can’t tell, this is Hannah’s list…not Adam’s!):

1. Half a gallon of ice-cream for $2.50 (as opposed to a tiny serving for more than $1).

2. Doctors who speak my language fluently (although not having them has given me some great opportinities that I appreciate) and the ability to buy good over-the-counter medicine. I’ve also come to appreciate private health care.

3. Olive Garden, Chili’s, Sonic (slushes!), Burger King, and Boston Coffee.

4. Chocolate chips, icing on cake, and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.

5. A car and not having to walk everywhere.

6. Water. We’ve asked them–Japanese people literally do not drink water unless they’re taking medicine!

7. Being able to buy clothes and shoes that fit us and don’t cost a fortune.

8. The three weddings we’ll be missing over the course of a year.

9. Kasey Jones and Kaylea Mattern, among other friends.

10. Our amazing families…our parents, and our 9 sisters and sisters-in-law and our  7 brothers and brothers-in-law (still waiting for some nieces and nephews to miss!), along with all the free babysitting we’d be getting if we were there!

 I love Japan and plan to live here for a long time if the Lord allows. But living somewhere else sure makes you realize the good things about where you used to live. 🙂 I can already think of a few things I’ll miss when we’re back in the States (like Calpis…come to Japan and try it. It’s my new favorite drink)!