Friends and Farewells

We were lucky in August to have a visit from our dear friends Julia and Jon from the US. Their visit flew by, but we were glad to show them St Andrews at its sunny gorgeous best (a rare sight this summer!).  Here we were perched on the famous pier.

It was Edinburgh Fringe Festival time – so we took the train to Edinburgh for the day and dragged them along to an adaptation of Julia Donaldson’s The Snail and the Whale.  It was a total hit with the wee one – and brought a tear to my eye as it was laced with a charming narrative about a girl whose Dad (forces) was away more than at home.  Something that seemed to be the case in our house this year.  [Though I exaggerate wildly here.]

Sure enough though, it seemed that the very next day we were savouring our fleeting memories of our dear friends’ visit whilst trying to quickly slot in some lasting memories of our own Dada before he hopped on the plane for a month in Oz.  Farewell!!

Summer Visitors

A Scottish summer…

The temperatures have not soared above 20degC very often, in fact they hover around the 15degC mark or below most days.  The Haar has rolled in from the sea on many an afternoon, obliterating any view of the surrounding area from the house.  The growing season is slow and in our experimental first-Fife-foray into gardening, several things have failed rather spectacularly.  The optimistic summer wardrobe of t-shirts and shorts that were necessary for about six months of the year in the Lou have barely made it out of the cupboard.  We have not swum in the sea…or indeed anywhere for that matter.

However, it has been a summer to remember.  We have had some great outings and enjoyed the company of some lovely visitors.  In the midst of busy working weeks, the weekends have been full of adventures and we have been very lucky.  In July Grandma, Grandpa and Kenji came to stay.

In early August we were joined by our friends Nate and Denise who currently live in Toronto.  It was wonderful to spend some time with them and Denise very kindly stuck around whilst the menfolk went to a conference in York…and kept Kazuo and I company – I took a week off, and though things didn’t go exactly to plan, we had a lovely time together. 

We also had a fantastic repeat visit from the delightful Tomandclaire.  We are so glad to be within manageable driving distance from these dear friends.

We discovered the joys of tearing up and down sand dunes with Kaz in tow…

…had long happy afternoons at Allanhill Strawberry farm which involved loads of scaling the strawbales, eating decadent strawberry gateau, some sandpit play and feeding the farmyard animals…

…delightfully messy, sandy, castle-y afternoons on the beach, complete with birds and boules…

…frequented cafes and restaurants and enjoyed the variety and abundance of this coastal food paradise.

Though the cool weather does leave a little to be desired at times, I am not really missing the excessive heat and humidity of the midwest all that much.  Being able to spend time with family and lovely friends outdoors exploring the beaches and rural havens that are a feature of our new locale has given us many happy memories to treasure.


On the weekend we had our friends Tom and Claire, who live in Manchester, come and stay.  The December weather was an initial deterrent to their pre-Christmas visit plans, so it was wonderful that they could finally join us.  Though of course we would love them to be able to pop in every weekend!  However, it did give us a chance to try out some long awaited treats, and to explore some now familiar haunts with friends.  And Kazuo had a lovely time with his new friends Tomandclaire.  By the end of the weekend he seemed to be able to tell them apart…though it was a little touch and go at times.

Saturday we took to the sands and tried out the new stunt kite Nana had sent Dada for Christmas.  Thank goodness for Tom.  Mama and Dada would never have gotten it off the ground alone and kept Kaz amused/alive.  It is a two-hand challenge and I think might take a long while for us to master it…but lots of laughs – and plenty of friendly competition – were derived from this chilly morning’s escapades.

For lunch we tried out Nahm Jim (famous for making it through several contests set by Gordon Ramsay.) The curries we tried were very tasty…and the service pretty slick and accommodating.

Kaz and I retired for the afternoon nap period and the others ventured out to Crail for a spot of fossil-fossicking and rock-clambering.  Seems it was a pretty happy outing…

…followed up by Anstruther Fish Bar tea, and our introduction to Carcassonne – the board game, not the town. I think it might just have to be on my latest wishlist, we got hooked!

We woke to ANOTHER dumping of snow and the fields were just right for a little morning trek.

We were back to this again for a while…

…but Tomandclaire managed to depart after lunch and got out of our frosty wonderland safely. It was wonderful to have such great company and one of the delights of being back in the UK.  You are all welcome any time!

This Moment

{this moment} – A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.

Check out SouleMama for the inspiration.

Home Alone

It has taken me a good week to get enough perspective on this event to be able to muse about it publicly.

With the winter weather well and truly set in for the duration (it was -11C last week and -7C today, with ice on the INSIDE of our feeble windows both mornings), we have permanently weather sealed our front door that opens directly onto the living room.  This means we are coming and going through the side door, using the internal door to the basement as our main access.  Last Wednesday was the first day we had a visitor who came and went in this alternative manner.  Ironically, it was Kathy from Parents As Teachers…

Unfortunately, as our guest left, she pushed the button in on the lower doorknob – something we never do.  And since it was freezing in the stairwell, I pulled the door behind me to stop Kazuo from following us as he was still getting over a cold.  But it was not until I heard the door click that I realised the unthinkable had happened – I had locked the baby in the apartment ALONE!  I suddenly realised our lack of foresight in not secreting a key away in the basement or outside somewhere.

Of course, it was a day when I had driven Akira to work, so I couldn’t just summon him quickly on his bike with magic spare keys… but thankfully our kind upstairs neighbour, Laura, was home.  She did an immediate mercy dash to the University to collect Akira’s keys.  I stayed in her apartment to look after her two year old while she was gone.

This was the longest 20mins of my life so far.  I was relieved that we had done most of the baby proofing of the apartment in recent weeks.  But there were still a few trouble spots. Doors were open for little fingers to get jammed, spices still within reach, computer cables were covered, but still accessible… So of course I sat upstairs (running up and down every 5mins at first when I could not hear him… then he moved into the living room) and listened to my little poppet crying whilst trying to entertain the two year old and not think of all the horrid things that could be happening.

I was so amazingly grateful to Laura for her swift trip – and so relieved to see her drive back up the street.  I was also still shaking when I managed to gain access to the house and find Kazuo in a teary mess in the doorway.  Poor little guy was exhausted and needed some long hugs and some long sleeps that day.  Incredibly, all he had done in my absence was go into our bedroom and pull all Akira’s underwear out of the drawer.  So he was intact, and hopefully not scarred for life.  Up until then, the longest he had ever been alone and awake was a few minutes when trying to settle to sleep.  So that time felt like an eternity to both of us I am sure.

Here he is guarding that same door in his new-found wall cruising mode.  I think he is much more inclined to make sure we don’t slip out now without taking him too – nipping down to turn on the dryer involves a whole new degree of speed and stealth.  The next day I made a trip to the locksmith and we have spare and secret keys galore – and I walked around with them in my pocket for days.  I really do hope this is my worst parenting memory…

Of Water, the Web and Wimbledon…

This has been a week of wonderful outings and much much cooler weather, so better for all of us to bear.  Having had a very harrassed afternoon at the university pool last Friday, where Kazuo did manage to have his first swim, but also seemed ready to expire from the heat… I was keen to try him out in the water in more reasonable temperatures, and in a slightly more conducive environment.  The chance came last Sunday, a mild but sunny day.  Akira and I packed up all the pool paraphenalia, and drove to the local community pool.  I was pleased to have acquired a crab pool float for Kazuo that had a canopy to keep him shaded from the dreaded sun.  There are not too many things that really get me concerned with Kazuo, he is happy and healthy and there is not much to be wary of right now, but coming from a country under an enormous hole in the ozone layer, the sun really gets me going… and with him still being a little young for sunblock… well, I covered him up as much as was reasonable, but was extra glad for Crabby’s cover.  Here is our serious little guy in Crabby, just checking out the water and all the kids playing around him:Swimming in Crabby

A wonderful successful swimming trip… seems like the water is a hit with Kaz, so you can imagine my consternation when I received a recall email yesterday for the pool float.  Sigh… what to do?  It seems that some of these toys rip at the leghole and babies can fall into the water.  Apparently there have been 31 instances of this across the board of all their pool float toys, no incidents that were injurious or caused a drowning, but  they are still recalling all 40 million toys sold between 2002-2009!!  In my mind this seems excessive… and I am in love with Crabby, he solves my sun neuroses… so I don’t want to part with him, esp since there are no alternatives on the market, this company has it cornered… and I am never going to leave Kaz swimming alone in Crabby, so could catch him should a tear occur… so silly, so extreme, I am assuming that they would not replace him with a better model, this smacks of a going out of business kinda operation.  I guess if I do hold onto him, I am just forfeiting my right to sue if something does happen… weird.

This last week we also had our lovely friend Caroline, from Leeds, come stay.  She bonded with Kazuo over his bottles and was very kind and chatty with him.  We have had a few visitors since Kaz arrived and it is nice to share our slower pace of life with our very understanding guests.  Caroline managed to arrive in time for the opening of the marvellous new City Garden in the downtown area.  St Louis is odd in that the CBD was abandoned in favour of the Clayton area in the 70s and it seems that regeneration of what was once a vibrant city (the 1904 Olympics and 1905 World’s Fair were here!) is a slow-going dream.  But this marvellous space may just help that effort along… a wonderful couple of blocks with art, gardens and fantastic interactive water features that are a hit with the children in a hot summer.  It particularly liked this sculpture by Mimmo Paladino on a little rise at the entrance to the garden:

Art at City Garden

More water was in store for Kazuo.  We explored the water jets in the water play area, and Kazuo was rather bemused.  I take his placid and serious approach to new experiences to be at least approval, since I am sure he would cry if he disliked/was frightened by whatever we were exposing him to.  But cheerful smiles and chuckles of delight are still a way off I guess. Here he is stripped off to his nappy and checking out a middle-sized spray of water… well, I thought it was fun, he will get there I suppose:

City Garden

Having disposed of the cable box, and hopefully this week, the television, we acquired a PC to watch sports on and to speed up life online, since we had been relying on my ancient and slow laptop.  We managed to watch the Federer/Roddick final this morning (a very boring morning for Kazuo as his parents obsessed over every stroke…) and were both on the edge of our seats as the match went into 30 games in the fifth set… as wonderful as it would have been to see underdog Roddick win his first title (we have a preference for the underdog in this house), it was an amazing relief to see Federer make tennis history with his 15th Grand Slam… and with such graceful, elegant tennis.  A great morning.  The computer has also provided an opportunity for Kazuo to have a little foray into cyberspace… I know it won’t happen too often, and is not really the kind of thing we will be encouraging, but Akira has found a cheerful little program called Baby Smash that converts the keyboard into a random letters/geometric pattern generator, and it is really Kaz friendly.  Here he is with Dada, getting ready for some Baby Smash action:

Baby Smash