1. Happy New Year! -- I can't believe it's already 2006! We rang in the New Year in a quiet way -- at home in our warm house with homemade eggnog and brownie sundaes. Who knows? Maybe this will become a family tradition.
2. Scrapbooking Marathon -- We spent four days of our second week of vacation working on our scrapbooks. Rusty finished his Pacific Rim 1997 scrapbook (except for the hard part -- journaling), and I continued plugging away on Japan (The First Tour). I am almost ready to begin "scrapping" the pictures of Rusty's family's visit to Japan in December, 2001. Okay, okay, so I'm a little behind!
3. Beach Walk -- We went for a walk along Kujihama Beach near our house one sunny and very cold morning. Can you believe we live within a 5-minute walk of all this beauty? It really is a lovely beach. I look forward to spending more time there this summer.
4. I Got Wheels! -- More like an international driver's license, that is. So, now I am driving. In Japan. On the left side of the road. At least the car I am driving is not a stick shift like the Camry I had in Mississippi. It was a little nerve-wracking being behind the wheel the first few times, but I have to admit it is great to be mobile again and not have to rely on Rusty and the public transportation system (reliable as they both may be) to get me where I need to go.
5. Precious Cargo -- The McLains returned from America on January 6th, bearing gifts from my family. A new digital camera, which my dad admitted was a gift given with an ulterior motive -- Nyanya and Babu want to see lots of pictures of their grandson! The children's book "Good Night Moon" for Baby Campbell, from his Uncle Josh, Aunt Julie, and Cousin Michaela (this book also happens to have been one of my favorites when I was a child). And, best of all, from my ever-thoughtful mom, two tins packed full of a variety of her homemade Christmas cookies. Savoring every bite of old favorites like Lemon Bars, Pecan Dainties, and Jamborees (just to name a few -- my amazing mother will sometimes bake up to 15 different kinds of cookies for Christmas) was the closest I think I felt to being "home for Christmas." Thanks, Mom -- you're the best!
6. Pizza and "Horsie" -- The McLains invited us over to their gorgeous new American-style house last Sunday evening. We made homemade pizza (yummy!) and discussed and prayed over possible options for our Sunday evening English Bible Classes (see #10, below). Rusty entertained the two youngest McLain girls, Erika and Kiara with a horse-back ride while we were waiting for the pizza to bake. (The next week, he went to visit the chiropractor!)
7. Ohisashiburi! (Long Time, No See!) -- This young lady, Yukako, was a student of mine when we taught English at the junior high schools in Mito. In the summer of 2004, while we were living in Mississippi, she came to visit us for three weeks. She is now living in Nagoya, but came home to Mito to visit her family and attend her "Coming-of-Age" ceremony (a city-wide ceremony held every January for all the young people who turned 20 years old at some point during that year). We met her for lunch last week and enjoyed catching up and hearing all about her life.
8. Youth Retreat -- We hosted a mini-retreat for the Christian youth in area churches at our house on Saturday night. The kids started the afternoon with 2 hours of karaoke. Then, they came to our house for a spaghetti supper, devotional, and games and other activities. Pictured is Crimsen (missionary from Sendai) teaching everyone how to do the Electric Slide (a country line-dance). Most of the kids stayed the night (some got more sleep than others), and the next morning, after a pancake breakfast, we all went to church in Taga together.
9. O-mochi Potluck -- Mochi is rice that has been pounded and then molded into balls. It is a traditional New Year's food in Japan. Taga church always has a special "O-mochi Potluck" in January. We all help make the mochi, and then we enjoy eating it during our potluck lunch. It was my first time to see how mochi is made, but I did not ask for a turn with the mallet as it is quite large and heavy and I was fairly certain the Japanese would disapprove of an 8-months pregnant woman swinging it around. How did I know this? I can't even move a chair or carry a bag of groceries to the car without some well-meaning Japanese person telling me to odaijini "take care of my health."
10. Home Bible Study Groups -- The decision was made to move our Sunday night English Bible classes out of the church building and into private homes, thus turning the program into more of a "home group" program with an evangelistic focus. We are excited about where this may lead. For now, we will have just one group and will rotate the meeting place each month. (Rusty and I are scheduled to host for the month of February.)
11. Changing Jobs -- I have begun my last week of work for World English Center. Next week, I will begin my new "job" as a stay-at-home wife and mom. Although I may start teaching a few classes again after the baby is born, I will be working on a very limited and part-time basis. I always thought I would be excited when I could finally stop working and just be a mommy, but now that the time is almost upon me, I find I am facing it with a certain amount of trepidation. For the first time since Rusty and I have been married, I will not be contributing financially to our family! I never expected to feel insecure about that, but I do. Luckily, Rusty is more than supportive of my new role as a homemaker, and I have resolved to be such a good little housewife that he will never want me to go back to work full-time!
12. The Countdown Begins -- We are now down to single digits in counting the weeks until Baby Campbell's arrival. I am 32 weeks as of the pictures below, with 8 more to go, and starting to feel like I've swallowed a watermelon! Along with the newest member of our family, we are also looking forward to the arrival of my parents on March 1st for a 2-week visit. As my mom said, "That baby better be on time or early!"