Thursday, January 31, 2008


While we were out on our trip to Lake Geneva, we stopped at that outlet mall in Kenosha. I wasn't surprised that Aogu went to the Sony outlet with Koji while Izumi and I were at Old Navy. But I was definitely surprised when Aogu came out with a present for me, which was a Sony Reader. Thanks, sweetheart, I really like it!

The first book we bought was the Bible, and I'm glad we did because subsequently, we've both identified with portions of Ecclesiastes. Aogu was struck by 11:5, which reads

As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed [a] in a mother's womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things.

My interpretation of this is not that Ai's death was the work of God; rather, that whatever good may come out of it is beyond my comprehension for now. In fact, I feel pretty bleak. A friend asked me today about depression and sadness. No to the former and a resounding yes to the latter. After all, getting out of bed in the morning still makes sense to me, bleak as I may feel. But not knowing how to feel the truth of this
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. (Hebrews 11:1)

is shattering me. I hope for Heaven and I am certain that Jesus' dying on a hunk of wood 2000 years ago and then living again three days later is the reason I will be admitted. But I'm not sure that if I dare to get pregnant again that baby will survive to join our family. Does that mean I don't have faith?

Monday, January 28, 2008


More recent pictures, S.A.D. (Since Ai Died):
Here are the sympathy flowers that graced our windowsill for several days last week. The furthest to the left is a potted cyclamen. It's very pretty; I don't know if I can keep it alive but I'm going to do my best. And to think that I spent even a moment lingering over that part of the Skokie Park District catalog that says "garden plots, 20x20, come and grow whatever you like...". HA! Baby steps, Jamie. First try to not kill the houseplant!
A further disappointment, beyond Ai's death, was that thanks to the timing of it all, we had to indefinitely postpone a much-anticipated trip to Tokyo. We were to leave on the 18th and stay for two weeks. Perhaps I would have been able to get on the plane and get myself over there, maybe. But I wasn't up for all the preparations, and I didn't want to go unprepared. Plus, I didn't think it would be much of a holiday if I was going to spend a large part of it crying.
But, it did seem like a shame to not leave the house at all for Aogu's carefully cleared two weeks of time off. So we chose a much closer destination; we spent two nights and parts of three days last week at Timber Ridge Lodge in Lake Geneva. Having a change of scenery and a little waterpark right there for the kids was really great. And it was so close, just like the song the website plays! I would be up for going there again. So here we are, ready to be off to the pool.
Koji's time-outs have become fewer and further between lately. I don't know if that means he's become such a well behaved boy, or perhaps our standards are sliding. Or maybe it's because time-outs just don't mean as much when Izumi runs over to join in and they get each other giggling. What does this look like to you: a punishment or a pajama party? I'd say the latter!
Thanks to Grandpa Craig's training during our trip to the timeshare on the Oregon coast in November (good grief! I've just realized that I haven't posted ANY of the 200+ pictures I have from that trip...I'll have to see what I can do about that!), Koji and Izumi now know well that those carts in the hotel lobby are for giving kids rides. Suitcases are allowed only if they fit behind said kids.
Taking after Aogu's mom, Izumi likes bags. She can often be found carrying one or more around, and it's even better if she can pick up and haul a few bonus items. Here's exhibit A.
In general I'm NOWHERE near as organized as I would like to be; having said that, I have established exactly one organized habit that I'm very proud of. That is, every single night, before the kids go to bed, I pick out their clothes for the next day and lay them out in their room. Koji so far isn't so terribly concerned with what he wears and he can dress himself. Therefore, if the clothes are there, he can get ready without much attention from me. Sometimes this can backfire though: see picture above. I know it's hard to tell, but his shirt is buttoned cockeyed and his pants are rolled up, one nice cuff on each side, nearly to his knees. I was absolutely forbidden to make any adjustments to either of these issues all day long. Oh well, it just so happened we didn't leave the house....

Friday, January 25, 2008

Happy Days B.A.D.

Here are some pictures of fun things we did BAD (Before Ai-chan Died):

In the New Year, making mochi is a Japanese tradition. This is how it's made: put a bunch of especially sticky rice in a wooden barrel and then hammer it with a wooden mallet until it turns into a sticky blob. Divide the sticky blob and dust the pieces with a little (rice?) flour. Garnish with soy sauce or sweet beans and then go to it, unless you're me. I dislike mochi very much! So this mochi-making party at Koji's school on January 5th was not my favorite function. But Koji was a model mochi manufacturer!
One of the highlights of the evening was this koto performance by one of Koji's teachers, Masako-sensei, and her friend.
So the kids are shaping their own mochi, I think? It's so hard for me to take interest in mochi...
January 6th, at home: Izumi's so versatile, though she loves her Christmas stroller and giving her "babies" a ride, she doesn't mind helping out a Power Ranger either.
Here's the gingerbread house that I made out of a kit I bought, thinking it would be a fun, Christmas tradition thing to do with Koji and eventually with both kids when Izumi's older. We'll see about that. I couldn't overcome my perfectionism (not that I have much of it, but the little I do seems to come out on these kind of projects) and let Koji stick the candy on haphazardly, so he soon lost interest, especially when I wouldn't let him eat it. Not to mention, he found it boring that we had to wait at least 30 minutes to let the icing that held it together dry before we could actually decorate it. Frankly, I got bored with it too, and that's why I finished things up real quick by writing the kids' names on the roof! We'll just see if this "tradition" is around next year or not...
Obviously, this side of the house was dedicated to Izumi, though I couldn't quite get her to pose.
January 7th was a crazy, fluke, 50 something degree day so the kids and I played outside in the yard at Koji's school. After that, I took him to the doctor and found out he had strep throat. Oops!
On January 12th, some friends joined us with their kids for an outing to the new Veggie Tales movie, "Pirates Who Don't Do Any*thing". It was cute, and I think the kids liked it, although I'm sure that many of the parts that were hilarious to me went right over their heads!
Mari and Izumi settled right into their theatre booster seats like they go to the movies all the time. And as I experienced when I took Koji and Izumi to see "Alvin and the Chipmunks" on Christmas Eve, Izumi was a model movie watcher as long as she had a constant supply of popcorn. Note how she's got her eye on Mari's stash in this photo...
January 13th: the night before I went to my fateful doctor appointment, we enjoyed a blissful evening of celebration; Joelle's fourth birthday party. One of the main activities was painting birdhouses. Yes, Jon and MJ (Joelle's parents) are very brave! Koji loved it, for a few days he couldn't stop asking me when we were going to put some birdseed in the birdhouse and hang it on the tree in the back yard. Oh yeah, I guess I still need to work on that.
Izumi's best mean face: admit it, you're intimidated.
Not having Ai join our family after all is heart wrenching for me, of course, but almost more so when I think of what Izumi will be missing. She LOVES babies: it was her idea to "hold" our little friend Amelia at the birthday party, and she didn't want to put her down.
It's no accident that Koji is right next to the birthday girl, Joelle; after all, she's right next to the cupcakes!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Almost Perfect

After I checked in to the hospital last night, I was given some medicine to get labor started and then was told that the process might take 24 to 36 hours. Furthermore, Aogu and I both tested positive for strep throat. Unbelievable.

Thankfully, a faithful friend came to the hospital and had a sleep-over with me while I was waiting for something to happen. Though it was the very last occasion I would have chosen, we were still able to enjoy a rare conversation that meandered here and there to any topic we liked without any interruption. I hope we can do that again some time just because we want to, not as a result of any Baby's death or other medical crisis.

This morning, my friend had to go home to her kids. Aogu came in and it wasn't too long after that I started to feel pain. I promptly called for drugs. I've been theoretically against drugs in labor in the past, but that was always because I wasn't sure how they would affect the baby (and I'm not so virtuous as I sound; I got the epidural anyway, with Izumi!). Since this baby was beyond experiencing adverse effects, I was eager to not feel any more than I had to.

Meanwhile, the nurses kept asking us if we wanted to see and hold the baby after birth. We had never considered that as a possibility, but after being told several times that it would help us with closure, we started to consider it more. We also considered giving the baby a name, since that would also help us remember him/her better.

So it was that our daughter, Ai Matsuoka, was born at 10:55 am today. She weighed eight ounces. We held her and touched her and cried and prayed over her. She was beautiful; though she was a mere 18 weeks old, her fingers, toes and face were already perfectly formed and only lacked a beating heart and a few more months in the womb to make her whole.

We are so thankful for the advice of our nurse; though the loss of Ai-chan is a deep, grave wound that is terrible to bear, it is made ever so slightly less painful by the knowledge that she looked like Koji and Izumi. When we meet Ai-chan in heaven, we will know her immediately, and we will make up for the lifetime that we have lost with her.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Worst Fear Realized

For a couple of weeks now, I had been worried that I somehow wasn't feeling our third baby moving around as much as I had in the weeks previous. But I was still at 18 and 19 weeks so I just told myself that the baby was still small and I couldn't distinguish his/her movements from other internal workings.

This morning I went for a monthly check-up which was to be followed by an ultrasound where we would find out if Baby was a boy or girl. Instead, we found that baby's heart wasn't beating. In fact, it hadn't been since 17 weeks and 5 days, which was approximately two weeks ago and right around the time that I started to worry.

So tonight I will go the hospital for labor and delivery. The thought of going through the process and then coming home without the third child that we've been so anxious to welcome is unbearable.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Busy Day

So in theory, I like to keep our Saturdays somewhat low key. If I were only considering myself, my natural tendency would be to commit to at least three events and then collapse. However, since Aogu and the kids can't keep up with that pace (though Koji would like to think he's always, "mama, where are we going next?!" and if the answer is "home" then I inevitably get a huge groan), we usually try to have one event, or maybe at the most, two.

Guess that makes today a big oops, though I personally don't regret any of the things we did or want to take them back. First I went out to breakfast with two lovely friends, which was such a great time that it made me wish we could do that every Saturday. We went to the The Bagel Restaurant at Old Orchard. I haven't been there in quite awhile and never for breakfast, but I learned a couple of things: first, this isn't going to be a good place to take my Dad the next time he's in town. All the breakfast "combos" they offer come with bagels, not pancakes, and that wouldn't fly. Also, if/when I ever go there for breakfast and want an omelette, I must split it with someone. I feel reasonably confident that my eggs and Nova Lox had minimum SIX, yes, half a dozen, eggs in it. Yikes! The 1/5th of it I was able to eat was quite tasty though....

Next, our husbands came round to the mall with the kids and we went to watch The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything. I really like going to the movies but it's very difficult to make it a regular occurence. So I was pleased to be at the theatre today for the third time in about five weeks! And at the end of the movie, I had the same feeling I did after the last two movies I watched: "maybe that wasn't the best movie ever, but I still had a great time just because I actually watched it out here at the theatre!". The kids seemed to like it, although I know that most of it went over their heads. And one of Koji's little friends was unsure about some of the "scary" parts, but she made it through. Koji's favorite part was the the Rock Monster music video at the end. Izumi can sit through a movie pretty well if we have a good supply of snacks and drinks (a big thanks to our popcorn/lemonade supplier for today, the "Galley Chief"!) and if there's enough space around for her to go for a little stroll without bothering anyone. And Koji really likes "that big screen," so I kind of wish that more little kid-friendly movies were available!

Aogu realized that he needed a haircut before we take off for Tokyo next Friday, so we all trekked down to that Supercuts in Lakeview that he's been loyally patronizing for 10, 12, ?? years. Alma is the only person in the world who can cut his hair exactly right, so if she ever gets ambitious and decides to leave Supercuts, we'll have to follow her, I guess! A DVD kept Koji busy in the car (all "screen time" rules were completely out the window today) so that Izumi and I could take a nap while we were waiting for Aogu's transformation.

He came back looking very neat and clean, and we decided to hit Costco for some lunch. I wonder if that Costco in Lincoln Park is one of the busiest in the nation, seriously? We were tempted to leave but we stuck it out: where else were going to get a hot dog, a smoothie, a piece of pizza, a chicken bake and a churro for less than 10 bucks?! By the time we took a tour around the place just in case we might "need" anything and came home, it was almost time for dinner.

It was still a little too early though, so we came down to the basement to sharpen some Wii skills (see "screen time rules scrapped" reference above). Apparently Koji's huge hot dog and smoothie had already been expended, because out of the blue he said (remember to imagine his loud voice while you read this), "Mama, can you bring some snacks to down here? Because I'm SNACK-HUNGRY!". Aogu and I cracked up, and I totally knew what Koji was really trying to say, which was that he probably wouldn't be that into dinner if I made it, but if I brought down some chips and granola bars and cookies and clementine oranges (mikan to us) then he would show us just how snack-hungry he could be.

Nevertheless, I did make dinner, we did eat it, the kids did get a bath and go to bed and now Aogu is sacked out on the "rug" we picked up at Costco, which looks like it will really be his new nap mat.

Phew!! There you go, a day in the life...but thankfully, not quite an ordinary day. If every day was like this it might be too much even for me!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Akemashite Omedeto Gozaimasu

is Japanese for "Happy New Year," though literally translated it means something like "Congratulations on the Opening". That makes sense, I think, in the sense that a new year is an opening, a chance to turn a page and start fresh. Not that I'm trying to introduce a long list of my resolutions here, because I honestly don't have any. I know better by now.
So this is how we spent our New Year's Eve, at Jason and Kristen's place helping them break in their new sofa. Actually, it's so big it's more like a SOFA. I would have to say that Aogu made the best contribution to the breaking-in effort by taking a two hour plus nap on one side of SOFA (I suppose since that looks like an acronym, I should think of some words to make it so?), but he was kind enough to wake up at 11:57 or so to wish us all a happy new year and snap this photo.
After all the energy we expended seeing in the new year, we had nothing left to drag ourselves home with. Besides, we knew that Jason really wanted to sleep on his new couch, so we allowed ourselves to be persuaded to take over Jason and Kristen's bed for an impromptu sleepover. Too bad we woke Izumi up and she had to sleep with us the rest of the night, thus insuring that I wasn't sleeping....she must have been though, you can see here how perky she was the next day!
Koji and Ashleigh got out in the snow and played for at least an hour or so. Thanks to Kristen for rigging up snow clothes for him, as we hadn't brought any.

Our 24 hour visit to Jason and Kristen's was a low-key but still fabulous way to kick off 2008. Hmm. Now I've got myself thinking about resolutions, maybe I should make some after all...