Wednesday, August 31, 2005

3+4=7 which is a good number

Happy Birthday to You
Happy Birthday to You
Happy Birthday Dear Aogu
Happy Birthday to You!

Aogu was born 34 years ago today near Kumamoto, Kyushu, Japan. His life has been a wonderful blessing to all those he has touched (especially those pictured). May Jesus shine through him even more powerfully in this coming year!

Son of Bugs Bunny

When I was a young, and then an older and older thumb-sucking girl, I used to regularly hear, "Watch out! When you grow up, your teeth will stick out like Bugs Bunny if you don't stop that!".
Unfortunately, that line of thinking wasn't motivating. By God's mercy, I don't think I look like Bugs now (comment if you disagree!), though I have a space between my top and bottom teeth when I bite down that renders me unable to eat a sandwich gracefully.
My parents tried other things like NASTY-tasting medicine on my thumb, etc. None of these methods worked.
In fact, I wasn't finally and truly done with sucking my thumb until around the alarmingly old double-digit age of 12.
Now, can anyone tell me where that Bible verse is that says something like "the sins of the father (mother) are visited on the sons down to the third and fourth generation"? I checked Bible Gateway but couldn't figure it out. I didn't try that hard, I was too anxious to get here and start ranting about the fact that

ARGH! *sounds of hair tearing and things breaking*

Um, and yes, though many things about his birth and the months thereafter are already becoming fuzzy in my memory, I clearly recall being happy when he started sucking his thumb. Ha! No pacifiers to keep track of! Not much crying when he's upset or going to sleep because he can comfort himself! Ha!
Now the laugh's on me?!
Recently I read on Babycenter that I shouldn't worry about it much unless he turns three and is still doing it. Furthermore, I shouldn't tell him not to do it, I should engage him in creative play and distract him so that his hands are busy and not available for engagement in his mouth.
These methods are ideal for a perfect mother. I do not fit the category. Of course I play with Koji; not as often as I think I should, but I do. However, the times he's busy with his thumb are usually times when it would be difficult to engage him in play for other reasons--for example, he's watching a video, or he's sitting in his stroller and we're on the train.
He's relatively verbal and understands a lot, so I've been telling him for awhile that "shaburu no ha neru toki dake (sucking your thumb is only for sleep-time)". I know he understands, because when I tell him...hundreds of times stop, he sometimes asks, "neru toki dake? (only when I'm sleeping?)".

The distance between head and heart--thumb--is long. I know this well, and for the days I didn't listen to my parents on this subject, I repent! Now Lord, please please please let these 1000s of times per day that I am cajoling, urging, commanding, begging Koji to stop sucking his thumb come to fruition soon. No more Bugs in this family!

Friday, August 26, 2005

Perhaps It's Not Exactly a Word from the Lord

As far as I know, we're still on track for going back to Chicagoland (why is it "Chicagoland" anyway? Who makes these things up? I remember as a child visiting my grandparents in Southern CA wondering where the heck the "Inland Empire" was, because after all, we don't have "empires" in the US, right?) at the end of October. But darn my itchy feet, I can't stop myself from thinking about where we'll move to next (beloved friends in Chicagoland, I apologize; this has nothing to do with a lack of desire to be with you. It's not you, it's me!). How can I think this way, married as I am to the man who should be sub-titled "Least Likely to Move Unless Compelled by Large Sums of Money"?
Answer: I don't know. I'm nuts. I'm a TCK. I lack intellectual challenge. I want to live closer to my parents.
So after I took the following silly internet test, I confirmed our *destiny*, which is definitely for sure, oh, except on the days that I want to move back here to Tokyo, or London, or hey, just skip it all and go straight to Heaven?
I'm on my way to Seattle, baby!


American Cities That Best Fit You:

80% Seattle

70% Denver

65% Austin

65% Portland

60% Las Vegas

Thursday, August 25, 2005

You Didn't Ask But I'm Telling You Anyway

As far as I can recall, I've never put up one of those posts advertising what I'm reading or listening to. Not that I think that's a bad idea; I've actually been inspired by posts like that to (perhaps some day!) read or listen to something that would never otherwise have crossed my path. Rather, sadly, I haven't been reading and listening much lately, and therefore didn't have anything to say. However, thanks to unexpected rainy days this week and corresponding time indoors, I've begun to make up for lost time!
So *drumroll* I know you can't wait to find out what I've read (it seems "cool" to post what you are reading while you are still reading it; sorry, I get too engrossed in the book to be bothered to get on here and tell you about it until it is over!!)

the day before yesterday and

today. This book in particular was amazingly good. Best birthday present this year, thanks CL!! Makes me feel more urgent about wanting to read this.

As far as listening, the other day it was this, which I think I'm just getting started with and which is also thanks to CL.

Today, Koji and I were jumping up and down to this. Good times here in the room, you should come by.

Even More From Two Weeks Ago...

Question for self and any readers who care to give feedback: is it better to load up pictures "oldest" first so those are at the bottom? Do you scroll to the bottom of the entry and then look from there up, or the reverse? I haven't bothered to track my "system" or lack thereof, but I think I should make up my mind...someone is YELLING, "Mama, computer minai yo!" (Mama, don't look at the computer) so that's all for now, folks!

Strong man!
posted by jcm

At Shinagawa Prince Hotel

where there was a special event going on for the last few weeks, "Miffy World". I don't know whether to feel flattered or embarrassed, but my former English student (in Chicago), Sakai-san, remembered our (my?) fondness for Miffy and invited us. It was great to see her, if a little out of context. We had only been used to spending time together in the dining room of her Hoffman Estates townhome! First we met at Shinagawa station, then went to the Prince Hotel for lunch at a Chinese buffet. It was pretty good food, although the thing I remember most is that for some reason Koji loved the fish and only wanted to eat that...and ice cream! Should I sigh or laugh? Every day, I'm not quite sure!

P.S. "san" after a name is the English equivalent of "Mr.""Mrs." or "Ms.". It is a gender-less but required addition to the name of anyone you want to--or should--show respect. I'm sure you've got it already, but in the above example, "Sakai-san" means "Mrs. Sakai".

This is a nice display, but where's "Miffy World"?!
posted by jcm

Koji and his new friend!
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Uh, someone's head is cut off...
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He does love Miffy! All that indoctrination since birth is now coming to fruition, heh heh.
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Or rather he relishes the opportunity, afforded by Miffy, to play in a ball pit?
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A private joke with Sakai-san
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Finally, I got my turn on this swing, and let me tell you, it's worth the wait.
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This Has Nothing to Do with Miffy

Aogu and one of his friends from OCS days, Marky. They had a little "reunion" over dinner with a couple of other friends. But I can't tell any stories about it, as I wasn't there. The report is that they had a good time!
posted by jcm

Monday, August 22, 2005

Room, Sweet Room

If I were to give this past weekend a title, perhaps I would choose "Rude Awakening."
You see, summer--especially August--in Tokyo is hotter than you-know-what. The temperature wouldn't necessarily tip you off; most days, it's mid-80s or low-90s (to speak in Fahrenheit; for those who speak Celcius, what I mean is low to mid 30s). But the humidity! Ack! It's disgusting! Nevertheless, lately I've been telling myself that Summer in Tokyo Isn't So Bad, and I'm Stronger Than I Thought 'Cause I Can Take This Heat.
There's the back story, and here's what happened: on Saturday night, there was a Dream Church function out in HK right next to Aogu's parents' place. So we cleverly planned to attend the function and then spend the night at their place, thus putting ourselves where we needed to be Sunday morning without all the train time.
Around 10, Koji was beside himself with exhaustion, so we checked out of the party and made our way to the parents'. With one thing and another, we finally made it to bed around 11. Aogu was still watching TV but Koji and I shut ourselves into the room with a fan. Then we started to heat up.
We simmered for awhile, until Koji finally went to sleep around midnight. I think I was almost somewhere near slumber at that point, but then Aogu came in and I had to start the process over. I couldn't decide if it was better to have the fan blowing on my head (and thus blasting my hair into my face, who knows what planet I was on when I left the safety of my home with nary a band to restrain my locks?!) or on my ankles. But I tried both positions, just in case.
So I was still wide awake at 3 a.m. when things came to a full boil. That's when Koji realized exactly how bleeping HOT it was in the oven we had created for ourselves and woke up screaming for milk. By the time we were able to process his "request," everyone in the place was awake. Matters were slightly improved by the opening of a couple of doors and the addition of one extra fan. But not much. I was honestly as sweaty--or more--than I would be after working out.
Friends, this is when I had to face the music. I am most certainly NOT "Stronger Than I Thought 'Cause I Can Take This Heat". No. Rather, I have become pleasantly used to living in this room where frigid air gushes out of the vent overhead at our whim, and we aren't charged extra no matter how much we rachet down the temp. We've got our own separate biosphere going here in the room, except it's much more artificial.
The conclusion of the epiphany was this: must get back to The Room ASAP! That's how 6 a.m. found Koji (who never did go back to sleep after imbibing his fill at the 3 a.m. Fountain of Moo Juice) and me: en route to HERE, riding our way back with all the speed of an early morning stops-at-every-station train.
It's good to be back. Maybe I won't leave again until mid-September? Let me know when the sauna's turned off, you know where to find me!

Saturday, August 20, 2005

More Stuff from a Couple of Weeks Ago

Lately you might wonder if I'm still here or if I've rather set up some kind of automatic program that posts pictures from two weeks ago at regular--if two weeks later--intervals. I'm still here, and I still would like to share stories and thoughts but lately I've been so overwhelmed with stories and thoughts that I don't know where to start so I'm wimping out and putting up a lot of pictures instead. According to the old equation which tells us how many words a picture is worth, I supposed I've actually said quite a lot lately? I promise I'll get back into the groove soon.

Kimura family...our new friends from Jesus LifeHouse, shown in full celebratory attire at the third anniversary service on August 7
posted by jcm

Koji can look at the camera or smile, but not usually both at the same time, so apparently he's chosen the former option for this shot
posted by jcm

Sleep away, Koji...the camera's flash hides the fact that Aogu's actually watching TV in the pitch dark, and in absolute silence, thanks to this headphone trick. Who knows why it took us five months to think of it? Or why we can't get headphones that are a tad longer?!
posted by jcm

We love MOS Burger...but we might love it more if we go to a different branch that's not quite so tiny and crowded...
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Nekkid in public...or as Koji loves to say, "suppopon!"
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I like my spaghetti one noodle at a time, thanks!
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Friday, August 19, 2005

Sunshine City

On Tuesday, August 2nd we met Ken and Aya at Sunshine City in Ikebukuro. We had lunch at El Torito, which was nice because we celebrated Ken's birthday, but not actually very good food...then we went on to the Sunshine International Aquarium. As I've mentioned before, Koji is a big aquarium fan and this visit was no exception. This time, he was particularly enamored of the penguins, and this one in particular. It was swimming wildly up and down next to the glass, and Koji was running up and down as wildly on the other side, shouting "PENGUIN! PENGUIN!". It was pretty funny, and I even got a video, so if you want to watch it let me know and I'll email it to you!
posted by jcm

I managed to take kind of a cool picture (which I don't often do though I wish I could) of Koji and Aya reflected in the glass of one of the aquarium tanks.
posted by jcm

After we finished at the aquarium, we decided to check out Namjatown, which is a kind of amusement area in Sunshine City. These foot massager rocks were in the "Relaxology" section. There was also an ice cream area, a gyoza (potsticker) area, a haunted area and a game area. So here's Koji, who went all the way to the end of the foot massager pathway in spite of the sign warning him "if you come this far, the (foot) stimulation is strong!".
posted by jcm

Ken, Aya and Koji taking a break at Namjatown. Right after this Aya and I went in for a mini spa treatment. We sat in chairs with little tubs of hot water in the arms and at the bottoms. Supposedly the water had some kind of special mineral in it that would give us the effects of exercising for two hours, if we soaked our hands and feet for 20 minutes. But we were too cheap and went for the 10 minute course. So we got wrinkly hands and feet. And 10 minutes of relaxation, which was well worth the price!
posted by jcm

The other day, inspired by Jodie, I bought Koji this little "shopping trolley (that's what my Australian friends called it when they came by)" for about four dollars. It's been well worth it, he's been toodling around the room shouting, "kaimono!" (shopping!) and pretending to eat his plastic food ever since. Now if I can get him to pretend to cook...
posted by jcm

Monday, August 15, 2005

All Over the Web, Happy Birthday to Me!

So "all over" is a bit of an exaggeration, but it was very thoughtful of my sister to commemorate my birthday in her blog yesterday...yes, that really is a picture of me when I was four or so? I guess I'll have to rethink my idea that Koji's round cheeks come straight from Aogu and I have absolutely nothing to do with them! Hey, while you're on Ollie Lane, scroll down a bit to the entry that says "37 days," and learn about my little in-utero nephew's heart condition, the better to pray for him, my dear!

Out and About in Tokyo with a Friend

Hiromi kindly gave Koji this Buzzy Bee pull toy and he loved it so much that he had to take it along the next day when we went out to Aogu's colleague's house. Here are several views of Koji and Buzzy on the way to Tameike-sanno station:

Thumb, Koji and Buzzy out for a walk on Roppongi-dori.
posted by jcm

"Buzzy, are you still coming?"
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"Please don't ask if I like Thomas or Buzzy better. That's way too much pressure."
posted by jcm

Third Convening of "Ladies Night"

Perhaps I've mentioned before that once a month I'm "in charge" of "Ladies Night (LN)," which is a gathering of folks from Dream Church. Note I didn't say it's a gathering of ladies, because it's not. It started out that way, but then other people who weren't ladies wanted to join the fun. So being ladies, and being generous and inclusive, we allowed these other people to join LN. It might more properly be called something like "People's Night" now, but that sounds dumb. Here are a few photos from the most recent LN, which was held here in the room on July 29th (yes I am two weeks behind...!).

The point of the picture is the vapor rising from the toilet: it was nothing foul as you might imagine, rather, it was a convenient place for Koji and Ken to play with dry ice!
posted by jcm

The theme of LN this time was "Christmas in July," which sort of explains the antlers on Aya's head; oh, and Koji wants you know that he is two, which you probably already calculated by the number of fingers he has raised.
posted by jcm

Dale, Hiromi, me, Reiko, Tomoko-san, Aya
posted by jcm

The upside-down plum cake turned out pretty well, and thankfully, that positioning allowed me to hide the hint of overdone-ness on the right-side up portion.
posted by jcm

Manami-san and Otsuka-san came later but still in time to polish off most of the rest of the dinner. Phew! Leftovers don't go over well around here so I was thankful~ not to mention that it was great to have them join the party!
posted by jcm

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Harvest Hall

Same day, different part of Tokyo...we had to cut the Chicago reunion short so we could head to the July meeting of Mamas and Babies. May these ladies and their families come to know that Jesus loves them so!
posted by jcm

Shinjuku Takashimaya Restaurant Floor

Satomi-san and Yasuko-san in front of the restaurant we chose for lunch. It was Italian, and we chose it for the "soup curry" that was pictured in front and is supposedly some kind of trendy menu for this summer? Shows how much I know about trendy, I had no idea! And then, none of us ordered it...but we had a great time together anyway!
posted by jcm

Last week we had lunch with Japanese friends we met in Chicago. It was wonderful and weird to see them here in Tokyo, out of context! Here's Koji with Motoshi and Aya-chan.
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Bubble Boy

Clever Koji wasn't content with blowing bubbles out of one bubble pipe, so he stuck two together and produced this fine specimen.
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June 27th

I managed to cut my own head off here, but the picture is still worth publishing because it documents our time with Kumi-chan and Toshiko-chan, and because Koji is actually looking at the camera and smiling!
posted by jcm

On the Way Home After Lunch at Sunshine City

Here's a snapshot of the life of a mom in Japan. Erika has two so she's actually got more to deal with than me, but you can still imagine what I do almost daily by looking at this picture...remove Koji from stroller, attach him to the handrail of the staircase with many admonitions of "careful! hang on to that rail! you can do it!" and so on. run down (or up) stairs with stroller while trying not to crash into people and craning neck to check Koji's progress. run back to help, only to be held off with an outstretched "STOP" hand sign and shrieks of "jibun yaru" (Do myself) times for all!
posted by jcm

Should I go home and get my passport papers now or later?! Sorry Erika!
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With Mikko and Thomas in Ikebukuro.
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Becoming Independent

The idea of him dressing himself is one I'm in favor of.
posted by jcm

But Not Quite Independent Enough

Do I really want him to be able to put on his own diapers? I wish he was more interested in taking them off and using the toilet.
posted by jcm


The Saturday after we came back from Australia, we had an easy Saturday at home. That is, Aogu had an easy Saturday. I'm pretty sure I went out for some frantic shopping or something; but we all recovened in the evening for a trek down to the kaiten zushi (conveyor belt sushi) restaurant in the next building. Sushi tasted great after a week away, and Koji learned to shout his order. The young guy in the middle of the conveyor was taken off guard to hear a two-year-old shouting, "MOTTO KUDASAI! (more please!) at him. On our way back to the room we stopped into the bakery for some dessert. The pastry in Koji's hands is the one he chose, and as I predicted to myself, he picked out the cherries and left the rest of it, then tried to abscond with Aogu's peach tart as well!
posted by jcm

Monday, August 08, 2005

Quick Reflections on being 23, I mean 32

"Quick reflections" sounds like a bit of an oxymoron, right? Reflections are the conclusions that come from slowly and carefully gathering thoughts floating aimlessly at the edges of one's mind and forming them into a meaningful whole. One problem: how likely am I to go through this process? Not very, at least not without having those thoughts from the edge pass through my mouth first! Or in this case, the ends of my fingers...and with the further contstraint that I need to start making dinner in about 30 seconds.
So this doesn't seem like a great time for reflecting, but I know that if I say I'll do it later, I won't. And I think it's important for me to get a couple of things out there before I turn the dreaded 33 and enter a whole new world next Sunday. Maybe the change from 32 to 33 won't be as dramatic as I'm trying to make it, but hey, someone has to celebrate my birthday!
32 was a year that went in many directions other than what I would have predicted, had you asked me last August 14th what the next year held. I probably would have said that I would have another baby and maybe go on a couple of trips to Japan or Oregon, and that we would build a garage or remodel our house, and maybe I would finally be better at having my quiet time with Jesus.
Instead, we lost that baby ("Budo-chan"--means "Little Grape," that was the size of the baby when he/she went to heaven) in October. Going to the ER and confirming the suspicion that I was losing the baby was horrible, but I'm still so thankful that it was a weekend so Aogu was with me. And I'll also never forget that Megan took Koji with no questions asked at an unseemly hour of the morning.
I didn't feel strange at all about going to be with Jen when Clara was born a few weeks later. What a privelege! In fact, that experience, and watching Carol at work helping Jen become a mother made me think that I'd like to be a doula someday too.
It was wonderful to be with the fam in Oregon for Thanksgiving. Sometimes I wish I could "tesser" to them (see Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time or maybe it's one of her other books), that is, just fold up the U.S. (or make that Japan and the Pacific Ocean, now) so that where I am and where they are would be right next to each other, and I could step from where I am to where they are like I'm crossing the street in front of me. Is anyone following my sudden sci-fi thoughts?!
In November, I got pregnant again. Looking back, I wonder if it was a bad idea to try again so soon. But the doctor said it was OK. And then, right before Christmas we started hearing a rumor that Aogu's company might want to send us to Tokyo. That was strange and exciting to think about; you see, this offer came through as I was honestly starting to to feel that I loved being where I was. Ironic stuff, this life that God has given me.
We tried to sort out the offer without talking about it which was surely easier for Aogu than for me. Oh, but I had to tell Megan, Shanel and Tosha because I was meant to be planning and even speaking at a women's retreat with them in May... we decided we should go because it would be a chance to try out life as a family in Tokyo. It would mean having our second baby in Tokyo, but we figured we would be able to do that if we were meant to.
Except we weren't meant to because we lost that baby in early February. Good-bye for now, sweetie; I can't wait to meet you someday! I'm sorry that I couldn't even give you a nickname--it was too hard--but I know we'll know each other when we meet.
On March 7th we came to this room (what happened to the "quick" part of these reflections?). Five months to the day have passed, and it's been an experience that I can't sum up or understand yet. I feel like I'm on a roller coaster, one day thankful and excited to be here and the next desperate to be back with my community (I'm not desperate for that weather though; can't we all move to Hawaii together?). The more of life I live, the more I think it's question after question and not so many answers.
Now that I've skipped over five months with one paragraph and come to no conclusions, I'm going to go make dinner. Thanks for joining in my partial journey of The Year of 32. Maybe I'll try to do justice to the last few months another day when I'm not so hungry!

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Day Seven: Last but Not Least

Someone I managed to lose what I originally wrote here. Darn it. So now of course I don't feel like recreating it, but I will grudgingly explain for the second time (first for you, but second for me!) that we went for picnic at Lake Moogerah. It was a 20-30 minute drive from Boonah, and it was beautiful with mountains and hills all around. The resemblance to Oregon was striking.

Lake Moogerah can be seen very
very faintly over Rebecca's shoulder
posted by jcm

Swingin' side by side
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I might be the older one, but I'm still a little nervous without a seatbelt
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First time to pretend on camera: the ice cream shop
posted by jcm
That day, Michael was working the 4 p.m. to midnight shift, so when we got home from the picnic to give the kids naps, he was there. His project for the day was to get Zachy's room ready to paint. Whoa. In case I didn't know before that Aogu and I are NOT the remodeling types, my suspicions were confirmed when I saw Michael up on that ladder scraping away at the wall and ceiling. To my uneducated eye, he was doing a great job at whatever he was doing. But I never would have wanted to trade places with him! Especially considering that Rebecca and I tossed the kids into their beds and took off with Joel for a quick walk down to bustling downtown Boonah. We topped it off with a duck into the fancy cafe at the end of the street for a coffee, pictured below (aha! that reminds of what I wanted to say about Australian English, which is that many actions are done by "having," for example, "have a shower" "have a coffee" etc. no point really; something I observed and wanted to preserve, why not here?!). It was on that walk, as we were rushing to get back to the house to tag Michael so he could get off to work, that I realized our visit was too short. On paper we had stayed for a week, but we spent some of those days driving back and forth to the Gold Coast and/or not with Rebecca and fam. So were I to do it again, I would have put Aogu's visit on the beginning or end of our time, and then made said time a little longer. Travel and learn!

Oz style coffee, who'd have though there was a such a fancy cafe in Boonah? Most excellent way to end an excellent visit!
posted by jcm

Friday, August 05, 2005

Day Six: I'm on a Roll!

Can you believe I'm reporting on two days all at once? This is getting exciting! Actually, day six was a little sad; it was the day we had to say good-bye to Courtyard, Surfer's Paradise, Gold Coast and Aogu, in that order. We spent the morning packing up, taking a last quick walk around SP and down to the beach. Then we headed out to spend a few hours in Brisbane before taking Aogu to the airport. Per Rebecca's advice we went to South Bank. Our initial plan was to go for a ride on the City Cat, Brisbane's high-speed river ferry. But funny Aogu, once he realized that the City Cat is an actual transportation system and not some kind of boat trip for tourists, he didn't want to ride anymore. OK. So, we walked around South Bank, bought a sandwich and ate it by the beach (heh heh, you thought we were at a river, right? See picture below). Then we found a playground and played there for awhile. Then we read some magazines in a bookstore. Then, we went to the airport. And last but not least, Koji and I drove back to Boonah. I'm getting to be downright succinct with these reports, if I do say so myself!

Can you see us there under the sign on the right side?
posted by jcm

Who needs pants when you've got Bob the Builder protecting your upper half?
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Father, son and ocean
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Fam at Surfer's Paradise
posted by jcm