Friday, November 28, 2014

Gobble gobble gobble, Happy Thanksgiving from our family here in Chiba, Japan!

Happy Thanksgiving my fellow Americans, no matter where you live or where you are reading this from! : )  I hope you had a wonderful day surrounded by family and much love! We had a really nice quiet Thanksgiving here at the house. I like tradition and know how important it is especially when raising kids so... for both Branden and Noah, we always do Thanksgiving here every single year no matter what. So they understand just how important and just how special today is for us! : ) We have the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving DVD and enjoyed it a few times this November! They know as everyone knows... we will go round the table from person to person... about what we are each grateful for. And that's probably my favorite thing going from person to person and it changes from year to year, so it's always interesting to see what each person felt what they were most thankful for this year. Branden's this year was...he was most thankful his *huge* test was over with and now he can relax for December... of course regular homework and stuff he will still have, but no huge test will be looming. : ) So yep that's what Bran was most grateful about, as of last evening. : )  Here is our table, and it just has regular traditional American Thanksgiving food. Turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, black olives, green beans, huge mixed salad, croutons next to the pilgrim girl on the table. Hot dinner rolls with melted butter, cranberries on the left of the pilgrim boy on the table. : ) We had soda and  2 homemade from scratch pumpkin pies. We still have 1 whole one and about 2 slices of the first one in the fridge. : ) That's Kraft Thousand Island dressing next to the salad. 

Some people eat their turkey feast on fine China and I think that's super okay! But that's just not how we roll here at my house! Do you have any idea how many dishes it takes to make a Thanksgiving feast? A ton! Luckily I have a huge normal sized American dishwasher. But I do 2 loads on this day! So, I find cute paper plates for us...a perfect match!!! They're cute and useful, no extra added dishes and can toss after use! Perfect for us! No added dishes!

Mashed potatoes, stuffing and turkey all drizzled with gravy and green beans and some black olives. I also had a dinner roll and some cranberries. And I had a slice of pumpkin pie with whipped cream for dessert. 

Again, I know some folks dress up and if ya do, that's totally fine. Again, it's just not how we roll around here! It's a gratitude..being thankful type a holiday, being with family and also...yes it's a stuffing your face holiday too. : ) Thank goodness for my daily morning walks and weekly exercise and stuff, so this is a day not to feel guilt... it's a day to just enjoy! And I find I can eat a lot more food and feel a whole lot more comfortable wearing comfy yoga pants then constricting skinny jeans. For me it's just a no brainer. The boys were wearing sweatpants too. My dad was wearing a nice sweater and slacks. : ) But he's switched to sweatpants too after dinner. The kids and I smartly switched before dinner hahaha. : )  Also, sadly Noboru had to work yesterday evening, so he missed eating with us. He could have requested and got off yesterday. But he requested another day off instead...Noah marathon day in December. Also Noboru is leaving Japan in less than a week for a couple days training somewhere in the US. I won't say where just yet. But yep...he couldn't be here on Thanksgiving because he had work, but that's okay, he can feast today. : ) 

Best part about Thanksgiving is the leftovers! Especially the sammys. And with a sandwich goes chips! 3 bags of Lay's potato chips will ensure enough chips for the sandwiches. : )

I went to 2 different bakeries. I *really* like both. I bought 2 loaves from 1 place and 1 loaf from the other bakery. On Saturday/tomorrow after we take my dad to the airport I'll be sure to buy some more bread, because I'm sure we'll run out by then. : )  Which makes me happy because I want people to eat! Have another sandwich...have another slice of pie..put some olives on your fingers and munch on those funfunfun...would you like some more mashed potatoes? How about a bit more gravy? I am the...stuffer! You come here...I will surely stuff you! : ) Hahaha. : )  See and that's why you'd need to bring your sweatpants or yoga pants. We dress for comfort around here..no need for airs around here. Slap your hair in a pony tail and dig right in! Hahaha, I'm smiling... : ) 

All white meat is sliced and put on this plate and in the fridge and we have another plate with all dark meat sliced. I made a sandwich for a family member last night while we were all watching TV. : )  Anyway, to those of you who celebrate it...I hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving. : )  Today here is Friday. I will be enjoying my last day and evening with my dad. The kids are at school but today is Friday so the weekend will be starting for them as soon as they get out of school. 3 guesses what we'll be eating for tonight's dinner and tomorrow nights dinner. : ) Turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing and gravy dinner or sandwich and chips. You can go either way. : ) 

Side note, I did find the perfect Christmas gift for Saturday/tomorrow night's mothers' Christmas party for the 3rd grade class mom's only. Remember everyone must buy/bring a gift 500 yen or under. I found one for 500 yen, plus tax...a really cool one, at a really nice shop, ladies shop at the local mall yesterday morning while I was out buying bakery bread. I walked buy hoping to find something. It has bath bombs, bath gels and nice stuff in a snowman package, very Christmasy! And I also paid an extra 200 yen for them to wrap the gift and they wrapped the gift so nice! It's a really pretty package and it has actually really nice stuff inside. Not Daiso or cheap type stuff. Just really nice ladies stuff and the box has the name of the shop, which everyone around our area knows that shop. So...I think whoever gets my gift, will totally enjoy it! I am happy about it, because I was worried, if I could find a good gift or not and I did. So....phew! No worries for me about that now. : ) 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

The pumpkin pies are done...

The pumpkin pies were baked from scratch yesterday! With a a delicious real butter crust! Pie crusts made with sweet cream butter! Whole house smelled like pumpkin pies all day and night last night. : )  The boys are both at school right now. Today is Branden's huge end of term test! It's the BIG one today!!! @_@  As soon as I publish this, I am going to put the turkey in the oven and prep and decorate the dinner table and in a bit, I'll run to the bakery to get some fresh baked bread for left over turkey sammys. After we have our big meal first of course. : )  Noah gets out of school at 3pm today and Branden around the same time too, since he'll get out early because of it being huge test day...and we will let them, miss swimming school tonight because of Thanksgiving.

Tomorrow Noah needs to bring a lunch to school. I knew in advance 2 weeks ago, so he'll be taking turkey sandwich, and mashed potatoes and stuffing and whatnot tomorrow. : )

Saturday, my dad leaves. : (  And Saturday evening is my Christmas party for all 3rd grade mom's. It's going to be at an okonomiyaki restaurant. And we all need to bring a gift...wrapped and it can't cost more than 500 yen. So, I'll go and shop for that Friday. : ) And Monday morning is my morning...greeting of all shogakko/elementary kids in the morning. Hahaha. Me with huge yellow flag standing in the freezing cold saying "good morning" or "ohayo"...many many times over for me! : ) And December 13th is when I will be hosting the kids club Christmas party and I'll dress up like a reindeer. After that though...I am done for this year...hahaha. Oh I do have a fun lunch date next Wednesday...December 3rd with two of my really good friends from yochien (our kids went to the same yochien), we will go to an Indian restaurant that day, I can't wait! : ) 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

My dad’s arrival to Japan on Sunday...

Christmas decorations at the International Arrivals at Narita Airport! I especially liked the 2 trees with Christmas ornaments on each side. : ) 
So happy you guys! : ) My dad arrived safely Sunday, November 23rd around 6pm-ish. We were all waiting and excited. The kids kept looking..."is the next person going to be grandpa???"...you know...meaning the next person coming out of the arrival doors. And there he came, with great big happy smile and his hand is a bit blurry in this picture, but that's only because he was waving at both Branden and Noah! : ) I luckily prepped dinner beforehand. Dinner that night was to be chicken parmesan and pasta. A very filling and hearty dinner. I did skillet fry the chicken breasts beforehand and so when we got home, all I had to do was, place in a baking dish on top of some sauce for about 30 minutes, boil some pasta and dinner was served! : ) Plus it gave a few of us time to shower while it baked. : ) My dad has brought goodies for us and my Bath and Body Works order. And so far we have just been visiting and enjoying every one's company.

Yesterday was yet another holiday here in Japan and so the boys were off school. Yesterday around 2pm-ish I made curry for supper, turned off the stove after it was made. I even bought 2 baguettes from the bakery, sliced them and buttered them to go as a side with curry since my dad's here and eating bread with a meal is pretty standard. : ) So, I did all that. And then the boys took the swimming bus last evening to swim school. But they knew we were going to show up and Noboru and my dad and I showed up and watched them swim upstairs, I took pics and then the 5 of us drove back to our town. And we then ate our curry dinner after swimming.

Anyway, Thanksgiving update. The turkey has been in the fridge thawing since Sunday night. I am flipping him over once a day to make sure he is thawing evenly. Today my dad and I are going to go and buy 5kg of potatoes for mashed potatoes. Don't think I'll make all 5kg worth of course, but it is nice to know we'll have extra or plenty if we need to. I have a few shops we will be cruising to today. You know me...I'm a little cruiser. : )  Just hop in the car and I'm off, hahaha. : )

Weather-wise. It's chilly today. And this afternoon rain is expected and it is expected to rain all day long tomorrow. So rides to and from... for both the boys today and tomorrow. Good thing I have my eyes on the weather every morning. : )

Anything else to add? (thinking thinking thinking) Nagano seems to be having some earthquakes lately. Be safe ladies living in Nagano. Please you guys. : ) Yes, I'm worrying. : ) Of course. : )

Also, that whole Bill Cosby thing in the news? Sigh! You know what...I think it's hard on a lot of us Americans. His character on the Cosby Show...such a beloved character. He was like "everyone's TV dad somehow" Do you know what I mean? A trusted character, a trusted guy. And those Jello commercials. It's like saying Mister Rogers did this or Leave It To Beaver's dad! It's just like unthinkable...unfathomable. Shocking. Do, I believe it? Sadly...yes I do! I could see it if it was just 1 or 2 people coming out of the woodwork (I still could believe it but it would be more of a he said, she said). But my gosh...Janice Dickinson. And the lady from Law and Order SVU...and so many others. They said they just didn't want to say anything bad about the guy because they knew they wouldn't be believed. But they all seem to say...blue pill and blacking out. It's probably his M. O. Just super sad...all of it. And now that man has come out (Ex-NBC employee) and said he helped pay off a lot of the women for Cosby. @.@ I don't know...it's just like the story is getting worse and worse by the day. Anyway...that's enough for me for now. I just wanted to touch bases with you all real quick. And I better go get some jeans on and go and put my makeup on, so I can go and run my errands and prep for gobble gobble gobble...turkey day! : ) 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Noah's observation day at the local elementary school...

Thursday, October 30th, was Noah's observation day! This was a...open all day type of observation day, meaning you could go anytime you wanted. However the note said for 3rd grade parents you were needed for the last 2 classes of the day, because the activity would be dancing and dodgeball, parents with kids. And of course you don't want your kid dancing alone with no partner, so...that's why they asked for us all to be there... the last 2 classes, meanwhile the rest of the school could be at the school anytime. Anyway, I arrived about 15 minutes early and given Noboru's work schedule that day, he could also attend Noah's observation day. Sometimes his work schedule works out so he can attend and sometimes it doesn't. Lucky for us this time...he could enjoy watching Branden's the day before and Noah's that day. : ) So anyway Noboru and I arrived 15 minutes early and we watched the kids all playing outside during recess. There's short recess and long recess, this was a long recess and kids play with their grade and teacher. I spotted Noah and his class way way in the back near the colorful tires. 

Being a really western looking hafu means that I can spot Noah superly easy! I spotted him immediately with red hat way in the back on that big tube looking thing, he was standing way at the back. Also the downside of being the lone western mom means, that I am really *noticeable* very obvious...so Noah noticed me, immediately. I wanted to watch without anyone knowing. Oh well. : ) 

The kids were taking turns jumping over the colored tires. Doing a rock paper scissors in the middle of the game... and if you won you got to pass and if not, you had to start again. I really enjoyed watching Noah play with his friends and classmates. Noah was doing rock paper scissors in this picture. 

Then the 3rd grade teacher took the 3rd graders to the swing area and they did that until the bell rang. All of the grades went to their classes, except for the 3rd graders...they went to the gym. 

The entire 3rd grade population in our school. Biggest class of the whole school. The teacher told the kids run to your parents and Noah ran to the both of us! 

Every parent there sitting with their child. 

Noah and Lily! They get along like peas and carrots! Or peas in a pod! Noah told me the other day..."Lily-chan always goes into my desk!" I asked, "why... for what?" : ) Noah said..."because she goes into my desk and cleans out my desk, rearranges everything PLUS she sharpens all my pencils mama!!!!" I told Noah...what a good little girl Lily-chan is! "You are so lucky she is your best friend Noah!!!"...lol. I thought that was so cute when I heard that. Sounds like she takes very good care of Noah, while he's at school! Hahaha. Sharpens all his pencils for him! Probably the funniest thing, that I have heard all month! Totally cracks me up, just thinking about it! LOL! : )

I love this picture of Noah, such a good picture!

Such a happy child! : )  The first thing we did was we danced. We were all in a line, but it wasn't an old song or a typical square dance...it was a new-ish song and dance. I did the dancing...so I danced with Noah! We did really good! The mom in plaid or checkered shirt to the right of Noah is K's mom, the one who has 2 sons who are same age/grade as my 2 sons. : ) So we know each other really well and we exchange New Year's cards every year so... we both danced next to each other while dancing with Noah and K. We had a great time and Noah and K are great friends. Remember they went "trick or treating" the next day together. : )  Next was dodge ball. I'm sorry but I really hate/dislike dodgeball. I have disliked dodgeball ever since I was a kid myself. So, I let Noboru take over and be Noah's partner for that! I stood along the sidelines and chatted with 2 mom's who also didn't want any part of the dodgeball part. : ) 

This round was mixed with parents and kids mixed together. The last game was kids versus their parents! See the lady nearest my camera with blue long shirt, long hair and black and white checkered leggings. She is so funny and so nice! During this round...she...don't ask me how it is possible but she...jumped away from the ball trying to avoid being hit and she fell and I mean she fell freakin' hard! She laid on the floor for 1 minute which sounds short... but in reality it was really long...she was still smiling so she seemed okay or not badly injured. The next round...parents versus kids...same mom..she accidentally kicked her own son super hard...again it was on accident...she was just really moving and jumping around (like the matrix!!!)... her son was out of the game standing along the sidelines since he was hit with the ball already. Anyway she kicked him so hard he started crying...everyone knew it was totally an accident, she apologized and he cried for most of the game. And he really was kick super hard so I am sure he was genuinely in pain. Her best friend was laughing at her so hard...telling her..."you have been so hurt/damaged today and now your son!" She was laughing. By the time we left she/the mom was limping down the hill. K's mom was sweating and had to take a break on the sidelines. This game was wild...those balls were a flying all over the place. People were jumping and leaping, trying to dodge the ball... everywhere. It was so funny to watch. And everyone was in such good spirits. The little boy eventually stopped crying. and he rejoined the game. Oh and this is the funniest or worst part, you will not believe this @_@...Noboru likes to throw...psyche balls at people. Meaning he looks like he's throwing the ball forward but he instead throws it right or to the left. Therefore hitting someone who wasn't expecting the ball. So anyway...there was 1 mom. She has a daughter in Branden's grade and a son in Noah's grade. Again so we know that family doubly well. Anyway..so Noboru throws one of his...psyche balls...and on total accident he hits that mom and she's out! Hitting her and making her out is part of the game...so that's not the bad part....the bad part is Noboru accidentally hit her right dead center in the freaking face with the ball. OMG, you guys my mouth was on the floor! I was like...@_@ Holy freakin' crap...please don't say you just hit H's mom... right square in the face. @_@ Given her expression..(eeek)  I don't think she was all too happy about Noboru for that day! I told Noboru...please go over there and apologize. He said..."No, it's just a game and it was an accident."... (okay I would have apologized, but then that's just me personally) Noboru thinks I'm a worry wart...which yes I am but...omg, you guys! Anyway...it was a great day...minus the mom kicking her son (on 100% accident) and Noboru hitting Branden and Noah's classmate's mom dead square in the face (also 100% accident) @_@ It was right in the middle of the game...so I couldn't just jump in the middle of an active game either and say sorry....and I was then going to say something afterwards...however when we all left, we were not in the genkan area at the gym at the same time...or I would have apologized.  And now so much time has elapsed...it would be creepy weird to even mention it now. So...sigh. yes I do worry too much! Now we know where Noah gets his worry wart tendencies from. : )

However, all us 3rd grade mom's are planning to have an end of the year party, get together. Just for us 3rd grade mom's. I think it's going to be a blast! : ) 

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Branden's observation day at the local JHS...

Branden's JHS had observation day for 2 days. A 2 day observation day? This was a first for me, to ever have something like that (2 days in a row) : ) Apparently that is because in case some parents couldn't come on, one of the days the other day was available too. The days were right before Halloween, October 29th and October 30th. However, Noah had observation day at his school October 30th. And for us 3rd grade parents there was a specific activity at the last 2 classes, so we had to be there for that. Plus I was making pizza for our special Halloween supper, remember that? : ) So, I knew on one of those 2 days, I absolutely also had to swing myself to Costco Chiba New Town. So, I decided I would attend Branden's observation day on October 29th plus, go to Costco that day. Knock 2 of my things off the list for that day, plus get home and make dinner and prepare for the kids swimming later that evening. So October 29th was a super busy day for me. And since Noah's observation day was the next day only...I had to go to that of course (which is totally fine). Plus prep for dinner later that night, clean house, do laundry.. all that normal stuff. You know what I mean, I hope. : ) So yep that was the plan. So, I decided to attend Branden's English class, on October 29th. His English teacher is that *lovely* Japanese teacher who is the 7th grade teacher for the other class. She helped us set up our spot for undokai, remember. : ) Anyway...so I was at the JHS, that morning, here is the spot where all the kids who ride their bikes park their bikes.  A few scatterings of houses and on the left of that house in the background is a rice field. You won't see anything higher than a 3 story building in our town...we honestly just don't have anything like that. Again it is a town actually smaller than Mayberry on the Andy Griffith Show, population wise. Our town is a tad under 5,000 folks. It is a *very* small town. Our town is not merged with any neighboring cities. It is just simply a town with about 5,000 nice folks in it.  Interesting fact, about half of Branden's classmates parents grew up in our town. Truly true...many of Branden's classmate mom's were actual classmates of each other, back in the day, hahaha. : ) I think you see a 2 or 3 story apartment building way in the background but that's really about it.  

I'm giving you a little peek of our town via the view from Bran's school. : ) Okay to the right forward but background is rice field and then to the left...you see a 2 or 3 story building, could be the biggest building of the whole town. But shrimpy compared to bigger cities, but that is our "big" clinic for our town. That is where Branden went for the x-ray on his foot after his undokai. The wait is very long, you could wait all day... because so many older folks find going to the clinic... as social...a social gathering with their senior friends... meaning a lot of their friends are there. So the wait could be eons before actually being seen. However they are good, the wait is just forever. Which is why 98% of the time, we choose to go to the tiny clinic 1 minute from our house. : ) 

This is the new-ish main street behind Bran's school. Mostly just houses. Farm equipment showrooms/stores. And we can even... boast that we have one 7-11 (should we do a group...ohhh and ahhh, hahaha) : ) We used to have a grocery store! I tell ya we were rocking! With 1 grocery store! Modern eh? However sadly... it went out of business last year and just my opinion is... because their prices were insanely expensive. So for the past year our town has been utterly and quite literally grocery store-less. However...there has been a huge sign where the old store used to be for the last 4 months that a new store would be there in November. This month! The whole towns talking about it! And it is under construction now and it's not finished yet...but I think when it finally does open that it will be on the monthly news bulletin...front page even!!! :  )  Our town also boasts 1 Mini Stop (ohhhh ahhhh) (think along the lines of sorta like a Circle K, another convenience store) : ) And all the kids seem to hang there if you are a kid. : ) No Mc D's or any fast food for our town. It is a nice town. Just a very rural town. Like very VERY rural town. : ) Again while Tokyo has fancy stores like...Prada and Gucci...the only stores our town has with big huge show room type windows are ones... showing their product is...a new tractor...and the likes. 

Yep, there are truly no buildings taller than a 3 story building for our town. And that's okay. We wanted to live in a small town like this. It's so wonderful for the boys to grow up here. 

Anyway enough town talk... back to the observation day...Noboru and I walking towards the school. 

Yep, it was indeed October 29th. : ) 

She is a very nice lady, a very good teacher. Although, I definitely think I made her nervous, because Noboru even whispered in my ear...you're making her so nervous. : ( Even Branden mentioned that later that evening. @_@ : ( I really am unsure why, perhaps because I'm American. but seriously no worries, I think she's absolutely fantastic. I am a fan! In fact when I filled out the form what I thought about it...I wrote in English how fantastic she was and how she kept the kids interested and me too! : )  Branden said I was the *only parent* Noboru and I...who showed up on October 29th. @_@ And he said that only a handful showed up on the next day. : ( Not sure if many had to work..or if parents think their kids are getting too old to watch/observe. I'm not sure. But I always want to go. I want to see how Branden does in class. How he interacts. I want to check his inside shoes (do they need replacing? No they don't but at least I checked)...I just want peace of mind. I left feeling pretty good. Everything seems pretty good.

In JHS, at least at our JHS in Japan. You are ranked. At the end of each midterm or final or huge test. You will bring home how you ranked per each core subject you tested on. You are not told what # your classmates are, that is all private, as it should be. But you know *your* scores and your rank. Branden is ranked in English after all his mid terms finals and major tests in 1st place for his class and for his grade (combining both classes) he is again ranked #1. For his math he is ranked 3rd for his class and like 4th or 5th out of both classes combined. His Japanese/kanji is incredibly high he is ranked again like 3rd or 4th and like 6th out of both classes combined. Out of all his core subjects a person tests from... he is under 10 (which is fantastic really)...so he is doing incredibly well. I credit Kumon English and Japanese for a lot of it! Because though I am American, and I taught him to speak English fluently and read at home and write and stuff with workbooks.... he learned the translating and specific ways the Japanese like to *see* English translated and whatnot...he learned a ton at Kumon and for that...I can really see, the benefits now that he is in JHS. So for his English for example he has absolutely zero problem. The teacher wanted somebody to read this dialogue with her...she picked Branden to read it with her. This picture...he was reading it with, his sensei. He fluidly speaks like I do, and when he finished...the class clapped, and according to Noboru, a few of his classmates said...sugoi (wow!!!) lol. : ) He did really well. I stayed for the entire class. Filled out the what we thought of the class...the class form. And left. Remember we still had to run to Costco for mozzarella cheese for the pizza for our Halloween dinner. 

Brand new bathrooms/toilets. Because the airport is semi near-ish. Our town gets money from the Narita airport so although our town is small, the elementary school was rebuilt about 8 years ago (which is why...Noah's school is pretty new) and Branden's school gym was reformed at the local JHS. And they also got an additional toilet area for outside, right here. So both schools have nice stuff. Really nice stuff. And both schools have out of this world computer labs. Anyway so we hopped in the car and headed to Costco.

October 29th stuff bought from Costco. Mozzarella cheese for pizza for our fun Halloween meal. Kraft processed cheese slices... for the best grilled cheese (this will last us about 3-4 months easy)...big hunka blunka of Colby cheese (they have Tillamook but for 300-400 yen cheaper...I prefer buy the Kirkland store brand.) Provolone and sliced ham for ham sammys for the month of  November. So lunches for November can be grilled cheese or ham sammy. And of course I always keep instant noodle soups in stock at home too. But yep lunches are no worries now. And they had Classico pasta sauce...I totally prefer Prego...2nd choice would be Ragu. My last choice would be this...but still better than Japanese spaghetti sauce. To me, Japanese pasta sauce tastes so carrot-y. Plus remember I have all that Hunt's Four Cheese I brought back from Guam and that 1 Prego I brought back from Guam too, for a possible Christmas lasagna or ham (don't need the sauce for the ham...hmmm or I could do ham for Christmas and lasagna for New Year's...clearly still thinking about all that still). So pasta sauce wise, ehhh I am pretty stocked up until mid- January, or maybe end of January. 

We did have lunch there that day, we then rushed back to our tiny town. I got dinner underway. Packed both their swimming bags. And swung around and picked both Branden and Noah up quickly so they could eat a quick ham sammy, before catching the swim bus.  The next day was to be Noah's Fall observation day.  Yep, it was a busy week that week. Hahaha. : )