Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Bits and pieces...

This picture should have gone on here, probably 3 posts ago, hahaha. Noboru LINE messaged me this picture the day it happened and instead of putting this picture on my computer, I forgot about this picture until last night. The day after Branden's over night trip with his fellow 8th graders. The 8th graders had the day off of school, on the day after...which was a Tuesday. Since Branden was home and Noboru would be home they made a father & son fishing date. So that's exactly what they did, after Noah had went to school, the 2 of them ate a quick breakfast here and they headed out to spend the morning and early afternoon together fishing. Branden caught this fish, and then released it right back into the canal. They both came back around lunch time. Both looked like they had a blast spending time together. : ) 
Saturdays comfort food night. Fried chicken, mashed potatoes and broccoli. We also had gravy.

It was nice that the 4 of us, just sat and enjoyed our dinner. All 4 of us pitched in afterwards to get the kitchen back to normal after cooking. Noah packed away the leftovers. Branden wiped the stove down. Noboru loaded the dishwasher. And since I cooked, I helped here and there, but they did the brunt of the clean up on Saturday. Which was nice.  : ) 

Chicken teriyaki night. Some black pepper and garlic salt, on 1 side only. Noboru had a thigh. 

This was so good. Chicken teriyaki, rice, mushrooms, 3 fries and some broccoli. Family dinners with lots of talk, chatter and stories from the kids and hubby. : )

Obento for Branden and Noah, on Monday. From quite a while back, I started packing them lunch daily. I know what you're thinking...holy crap...say whatttt? @_@ Hahaha. Believe me, in America you can bring a lunch or eat school lunch, you can have lunch anyway you want, however in Japan. At least as far as our school went all these 8 years. It was lunch from school only. It is now no longer like that. Are you shocked? Yes so was I.  Which now...it probably makes sense all the lunch meat buying and whatnot. I don't know where this officially started, but I can only tell you what I know. A boy named D, in Branden's class has had pretty serious allergies with food. Poor D. Since the first grade, D has brought obento about twice a week. Because in Japan you get a monthly lunch menu and so...whenever D's family or mom sees the bad thing, he's allergic to, she'll pack him a lunch, which is very smart. Then when Bran was in the 4th grade or was it the 3rd grade, a boy switched to our school, but in Bran's grade. He's also suffering allergies. And kids in other grades too, not by the hundreds just about 8 kids in the whole school type a number,  so not like a school wide epidemic, I assure you. : ) Hahaha. Noah has 1 kiddo (a girl) in his class, with food allergies as well. And when Bran entered JHS, there was 1 kid from the other school too (a kid we call the professor because he's so super smart, all the kids also call him the professor : ). Isn't this just wild? I don't think any kid, when I was growing up...ever had any food allergies.. At least I don't remember *ever* hearing anything like this before ever. Then there's 2 kids in Noah's class who just plain don't eat the lunch at all. Remember how I mentioned months ago, how many times lunch was being canceled (pack your own lunch day). Well, they finally came up with...you can decide if you'd like to eat the school lunch or bring a packed lunch. However you have to decide by the semester. You can't switch it daily or weekly or monthly. That would drive the lunch ladies crazy. Our town is really super small population wise. And our school population is small too. So what the school board decided was...you will fill out a form every semester, "yes my kid will have school lunch" or "no he or she will bring a packed lunch." Why did I decide to go for the packed lunch? Well, when Branden was in his last year in yochien we asked some friends of ours, Noboru's coworker who lives in our same housing community has 2 older kids. we asked them about the school lunches. Granted they're both from bigger cities originally, the parents. But they both laughed and said...for even them these parents...they'd personally dislike the lunches for our town. Because they are foods (her exact words, she was an exchange student in Florida the mom, so she speaks English) " the lunches are what, most old people would like and love, but not younger kids." Lots of natto. Lots of fish, and I do mean lots of fish. Oden in winter. It's very Japanese taste. And unfortunately, my kids have very western tastebuds. As do I. However I wish they had more flexible taste buds. But for whatever reason they have been ganbatte-ing and trying their best with the school lunch. Many times they will only drink the milk or just eat the white rice. So, I have to make sure I make a huge breakfast for them Mon-Fri. Undokai season worries me most...because they are outside in the hot sun for hours marching and when you have not eaten since breakfast and your stomach's all rumbly, yeah...I worried my kids would faint or something especially skinny Noah. However...I would never mention it to the school. I often picked the boys up...with after school snack in the car. And they'd devour it. : ) So...with the allergy thing happening. And the 2 kids in Noah's class refusing to eat their lunch at all, Noah was not refusing but trying to eat...pick some things but really trying. Like for 3-4 years straight. Poor kids. From what I hear from my friends in Japan living in bigger cities... their school lunches are fantastic and the kids love them. Here it's pickled root vegetables...fish, fish and more fish. How can two 100% Japanese kids (meaning Noah's 2 classmates) hate fish? I have zero idea, different strokes for different folks I suppose. It just goes to show/prove, not all Japanese folks like fish and that's okay. I'm sure not all Americans like cheeseburgers either hahaha. : )  But...maybe because our particular school makes such old fashioned Japanese food, versus what you'd find in a more modern city in Japan....or perhaps kids taste buds are changing or? I really can't explain. However....apparently it was all school wide...not just for my 2 boys classes. This was causing a problem in all grades and all classes. Kids not eating. And on top of that... the kids with allergies bringing lunches (which they had a real medical reason for needing a lunch, I fully agree and think so). Which then snowballed and caused the kids who can't eat/having difficulties eating...their parents then wanted to bring them a lunch too? And apparently this thing snowballed. To an even bigger snowball. @_@ I could hear some buzz, but as I wasn't involved. All we know...is... we all got the note. And I thought about. This is Bran and Noah's chance as well, I guess. Nobody at our school knew...that our kids were also struggling with the lunch. Is it going to be more work for me in the morning? Ummm yeah. But...no worries, though I am tough. I handled making Branden's lunch at yochien for 3 and a half years straight and same for Noah 3 and a half years straight too. And yochien was an option too...we could have had school lunch, if we chose. How did this thing come to be? Apparently because so many kiddos had allergies. The kids who had no allergies had a full reason... but then the kids who were hungry because they didn't eat lunch.... their angry parents then questioned the powers that be...why can't they too bring their kid a lunch? The school officials checked the official rules and what they found was...there was *no* written rule anywhere, that said you must eat the school lunch. It only said...every one has a *right* to lunch. So basically everyone has a right to eat. But since many were not eating (by their own choosing yes, not talking about the allergy kiddos) but...since they did have that right to eat...and since they were not eating the school lunch, that yes you could bring your lunch. But they don't want to be wishy washy.. to the lunch ladies either. Do they make enough school lunch for 100 kids or 200 kids, ykwim. So they came up with...you decide by the semester. My thoughts on this? In America this would be normal...pack a lunch or buy a lunch, your choice, nobody cares, lol. But here...I am really glad our school has come up with the rule of...they just want you to eat. So we signed the forms as did the rest of the 3 schools in our town. And now Bran and Noah bring a lunch from home daily. They say they look forward to lunch time now. They don't have any trouble concentrating in class. They get full tummy's and can concentrate better. And so...good thing for all the kids in our town. Noah says the 2 boys who didn't eat lunch the last 4 years are now eating their mom's packed lunch happily daily. Also, because this is sorta private the kid in question will be nameless...but a bigger plus sized boy, sweetheart of a kid, in Noah's class, his mom was worried the school lunch wasn't enough (quantity wise) for her child, this I heard from the actual mom herself, while at the pick up at the plaza a month or two back, a couple of us mom's were chatting and shooting the breeze, while waiting for our kids and the subject of the lunch issues, was brought up and when she mentioned her worries, I could feel her sense of worry, she's a mother and loves her son, just like we all love our kids. She was the one who introduced herself at the meeting years back to everyone "I am the mother whose kid eats the school lunch, the fastest" Aww, and she's a wonderful lady by the way, really nice : ) Hey, at least she has a sense of humor. And so now... she can pack him a nice bigger lunch, for him and so they're both really happy too, he now bring a home packed lunch to school daily. Who knew...so many folks had their own personal reasons for wanting to pack their own lunch, right. @_@ Hahaha.  Weirdest school ever in Japan? Yes, could be! Hahaha. But also...most open minded school in Japan too. But...interesting and the kids...the kids all get to eat...what they want (sandwich, a handful of their mom's onigiri, salad) and how much they want. Bran says over half of his grade now brings a packed lunch. And Noah says the same, about half his class now bring a lunch from home too. Basically, if your kid has no allergies, and loves the school lunch fantastic. But, if your kid has allergies or just plain dislikes the schools lunch, or if the amount isn't enough...or for whatever reason...fine too. Anyone is more than welcome to bring their own lunch too. Sometimes, I pack up something we had the night before. Sometimes it's sandwich and some fruit on the side. I don't make fabulous glorious lunches, but I pack lunches I know my boys will eat. I no longer have to make a big huge breakfast Mon-Fri...just a light breakfast is fine because I know they'll eat a nice filling lunch from home too. So no more worries. : )

Any other bits to add? Today is Noah's observation day and also... the emergency drill starting at 2:30-3:30pm wow that's going to be a long drill. Hahaha. I will go to his school around 1pm-ish. To observe Noah's class.

Tomorrow, all 8th graders and their parents must be at the school at 1:30pm and do yard cleanup at the local JHS. Noboru's off work tomorrow, and I have a house to clean... so he will go and cut the grass. I don't have to do that tomorrow, since Noboru's going. Phew, plus I can tackle the house while he takes his weed whacker to the school.  Meanwhile Thursday is my hair cut and color day at the hair salon.

I placed an Amazon US order a few days ago. I picked up quite a few DVD's. Mostly older DVD's from the 80's. But movies that I really love and would like to own. The only new one, I picked up was Fifty Shades of Grey. Hubba hubba, I'm kidding, I'm kidding. What else, I picked up, Blood Vows, the Story of a Mafia Wife, this was a made for TV movie with Joe Penny and Melissa Gilbert. And I remember really liking this movie and it was never for sale. Meaning they didn't make it on DVD. Now they do, so I ordered that. I also ordered, Corrina Corrina with Whoopi Goldberg. Mr. Baseball, Gung Ho (these 2, I owned on VHS and not only do we not have a VHS anymore, lol... I love these 2 movies but I fear someday they will stop making the DVD for these, so I am glad I had the chance to get Mr. Baseball and Gung Ho on DVD.) We own the Giving Tree. And if you've read it...don't you feel sorry for that poor tree. That boy is just awful to the tree! Rotten kid in the Giving Tree book, hahaha. So, I ordered the Taking Tree. I can't wait for it to get here...I hope the tree does better in this version. : ) Hahaha.

It's 75 degrees F outside right now. Branden rode his bike today. For dinner tonight, we're having that chicken broccoli fettuccine meal with some bread and butter on the side. : )  Alrighty, I better motor. I have to start getting myself ready for Noah's observation day today. : )  Have a great day you guys. : ) 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Lunch date with the hubster and trying to get our summer vacation plans sorted out...

Yesterday, Noboru and I had a lunch date. We went and had Indian food for lunch, at our favorite restaurant, in the small city, nearest our town. I had the kobocha curry (of course, my fave) it was a combo/set. Noboru picked the pork keema curry set. It was a very nice lunch. And we got to chit chat, enjoy each others company. And try to figure... this vacation stuff out. : )

What else have I done this week, went for my walks....cleaned the shower/tub area. Scrubbed the toilets, vacuumed upstairs, and dusted upstairs. Washed the kids bedding. Just regular ol' boring things. : ) I also went and picked up a weeks worth of groceries. Let me grab my menu real quick and fill you all in, brb (be right back) Tonight/Thursday, we are having, ginger pork, yep we had it last Saturday, was it Saturday?...I know it was within the last week though, but we love it and so we will have it tonight, with salad and veggies and stuff and rice of course too, Friday/tomorrow, we will be having yakisoba (already have the cabbage and bean sprouts). Saturday....will be comfort food city for us....we're having southern fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy and broccoli on the side (yumm) And the last 3 meals we are having and which I already have the meat and ingredients for....is chicken teriyaki, chicken paremsan and that chicken fettuccine alfredo dish with broccoli, do you know which one I mean...I use those packets I brought back from Guam, it's really super good and fairly easy to make. The last 3 meals I am unsure which days or order we will have those.

Vacation. Where to go, what to decide. Here's the nitty gritty. And again..I often wonder. Should I keep this stuff private or should I share this. But in any case, here you go. Of course only read this if you're interested or curious if not, no worries.

If I lived in my home country. Our vacations would...I would hope they would be...of us going to far off places. Exotic countries. Having new experiences. And whatnot. You know what I mean, I hope. However...since I am living in a foreign country. And I live in a far off land. And while I am busy all year long doing...mommy stuff...life stuff. I do get homesick every once in a while. I do miss being in my home country. I miss walking in a Target or shopping mall. And hear English everywhere. To walk into a Chik-fil-A and appreciate how good those are. Or go to a movie without wondering...is this movie available in English. It is those tiny minute details. That I miss. For example...When you are standing in line at a Target and can have a conversation no matter how brief with the person checking out in front of you or the cashier. In your native language. So...while I do pretty good in Japan. Often it's just easier for us to go to the US during our summer vacation. It's familiar. It's comfortable. I "get" the people. They get me.  It's just like a huge exhale type of..... Phew! So...in that respect... we don't venture to too many far off places. Because it's that 1 time of year we can just all let our hair down to speak. And not worry. Omg... did they understand me fully and completely. We are also water people and beach people. So for us it seems Hawaii is most comfortable. and we go there for the most part... every single summer. In fact we can go this year if we decide in the end too. However...here's the new updated thoughts, we have been debating.

We have been wanting to go to California since last year. Do you remember how we originally last year... wanted to go to Universal Studios Hollywood. That was our #1 goal of last years summer vacation but...since I was a VP of the yakuin last year... I had ZERO flexibility in my schedule so...the only available days for me...was a very small window of days and so we tried for those days and we didn't get on the flight and the long drive back from Haneda airport. The huge disappointment and last minute hotel booking and the very next day we zipped off to Hawaii. Hawaii has never let us down. Hahaha. Oahu is the best. : ) However...we want to try getting to Universal Studios in California again this year.  that is one of our hopeful places. But let me tell you all the positives for us going and all the negatives. #1, I have gone to Universal Studios when I was a child. Younger than Branden is now, but I think a year older than Noah is right now. I was maybe in the 5th or 6th grade maybe. @_@ So, I went to Universal Studios about a billion years ago, I know it has changed a ton. Hello...I saw KITT from Knight Rider there, lol. Noboru meanwhile went once about a million years ago too. Noboru and I have never been to Universal Studios Hollywood together before. We have gone to USJ twice, once with only Branden (pre-Noah being born) and once when Noah was super duper little. Neither son has any memory of USJ at all. But, both have seen pictures. : ) If we go to California. The positive is we go to my home country. Noboru lived there for 12-13 years so he's comfortable in America too. We 4 are all very comfortable in California. We have In N Out Burger. We have El Pollo Loco. Popeye's Chicken and Biscuits. They have China Town, Olvera Street (I blogged about that street before)...Target, Walmart. Shopping malls. Factory Outlet malls. Beaches are sorta ugly compared to Hawaii, so am not sure if we'd go. We could go to movies. On top of that, we'd hit Universal Studios. So, we'd have a very fantastic vacation in California. Another plus is the 9 hour or so flight...do you know how many free movies we can watch on the airplane, in that amount of time back and forth, to and from, tons. Plus that hot fudge or strawberry sundae dessert cart they roll around. Amazing. Okay get ready for the cons.

Will the lines be super long at Universal Studios? It will be summer in America too. And if the lines are super long... we might have to spring for those expensive front of the line passes which pretty much doubles your entrance fee. Which we really do not want to pay double. So the long lines are a huge worry. Also crime. Noboru feels Japan is very safe. He feels pretty safe-ish in Hawaii too. He also feels totally safe in Guam. However...don't ask me why. Whenever we go to California Noboru is on super extreme high alert. He feels or worries... we will be robbed...killed. Shot in a drive by. @_@ Lock the doors, lock the doors. I mean this guy...though wonderful... is on super level red... level 10 out of 10...type alert when we go to California (he doesn't worry in Denver and didn't worry when we went to Oregon either). When in California...he is constantly telling me to keep my bag in the front of my body, lol. Another thing...the US dollar and Japanese yen exchange rate at the moment, is terrible. Not good! Perfect time for Americans to come to Japan. Horrendous time for us from Japan, to go to the US. Granted, we can most definitely go, we wait all year for this trip, we're ready. It's just not the best time for the yen. Exchange rate wise. However, we would be staying at a crew hotel in a very nice suburb area. So that would probably ease Noboru's worry of crime. OMG, lol. @_@ : )  We'd fly Delta, so it's obviously for us...going to be a pretty much free flight for us 4, round trip. And since we'd be staying at an amazing hotel...meaning high rating via Trip Advisor and Expedia, the regular rate is $100 US a night... but with our airline discount it would be like $60 a night. Very affordable for us. And we like affordable! : ) So flight and hotel costs... for us would be super cheap even considering the exchange rate. So this trip is still very easily doable. And with us taking our own airline versus taking an OA (other airline) it means we can find out if the flight is full, switch flights and whatnot. Plus there's like 2 flights via Narita and 1 flight via Haneda. So us getting there... would be easy with so many flights daily and with me not being yakuin this year... we are super flexible schedule wise.

So would the kids love Universal Studios...heck yes. However will we be in huge hours upon hours long lines, per each ride. Biggest worry for me. Gosh, I really hope not. And that's 1 thing, the lines...wait times for each ride... that's really worrying us. So we have been watching videos of families on vacation there in July. We look for on videos...are they in long crowds??? Is it like a huge long wait time??? So those are some of our thoughts on California.

2nd destination thought. South Korea. #1 you have to know how HUGELY popular Korea is right now. If you are in the US, Just a walk into your closest Neiman Marcus or Nordies and you'll notice the famous brand....Sulwhasoo being sold there. For those of you who do not know. Think of Sulwhasoo as Korea's Chanel for skincare and cosmetics. It's owned by Amore Pacific. They sell many many brands. From high end brands, like Amore and Sulwhasoo and Hera (those are Amore Pacific's top 3 high end brands). The mid brands like Laneige (you may recognize that brand being sold in the US at Target.) They also sell Aritaum, mid range brand Innisfree too.... all the way down to the more affordable Etude House which yes..is also owned by Amorepacific. They own Iope (the first brand to come out with the cushion foundation. Anyway...what I want to say is Korea is huge right now. Hella huge! Popular. Walk into a Sephora and spot all the Korean brands now being sold there. Anyway here's the pros for us going to Korea. Noboru and I, took the kids to Korea when Noah was about 1 or under 1. I know it was in like November. I know I blogged about it. Noah was super tiny. Branden was like 3 or 4 years old. Neither of the kids obviously have any memory of going there. Also at the time I went, I was not into skincare or cosmetics really at all. Doh me!!! I walked right passed all those great shops that now...I can just kick myself for not going into. Hahaha. : ) The biggest pro..for me is...remember how that 1 time we went to Bangkok Thailand? The kids clearly remember going there.. for what it's worth hahaha. However, I'm not from Bangkok neither is Noboru, obviously...and for us going to a 3rd country (neither of our home country's)...was so exciting and fun for us as a family. A country none of us speak the language. Were... we daring enough to go and order this or that? I tell ya...our trip was very fun going to Bangkok. We couldn't read the signs. At the supermarket while most stuff was clear what it was...some stuff was a guess and that was fun! If we went to Korea...we would have that same excitement....the whole...neither of us speaks Korean or is from Korea. But it's so exciting...who is going to order our breakfast today...should I try? Should we send Noboru to go and order some food? Should we put Branden to the test and let him try ordering in Korea? I do have a Korean phrase book from our last trip. Which we left the phrasebook at home. LOL. But it is that whole...going to a 3rd country (neither his nor mine)...that excitement and fun, vibe you get. Where you REALLY REALLY feel like...wow... we are so totally on vacation here. Also South Korea is very safe. It's about as safe as Japan. So again...no fear of being robbed or shot in a drive by there. @_@ You know what I mean. Of course as always, we will always...be careful. Also the exchange rate between Korea and Japan is pretty much... dollar for dollar. Yen for won. So we wouldn't lose 20 cents to each dollar. That sort of thing. Also...they have amusement parks. We would like very much to go to Everland. They also have the world's biggest indoor amusement park called Lotte World. However we would like to go to Everland. Also I think the lines would probably be less than...Universal Studios hahaha. though, I could be wrong about the lines. All those fabulous skincare and cosmetic shops. Innisfree, Nature Republic, Aritaum, Skinfood, Missha, The Saem, Banila Co, Sulwhasoo, Clio, It's Skin. Plus...all those one of a kind shops that sell cool purses and bags. And accessories and whatnot. Plus, since this is vacation...we could walk all over the food markets. We could ride the subways and trains and sight see. And eat street food (vendors selling food at stalls all over)...the whole buzz and vibe of being in a 3rd country, is very cool. Having absolute zero familiarity there. Making mistakes. Did we...just order the wrong thing? What a laugh we'd get! It would flat out feel like...a very fun vacation. We'd be there for a full week. I'd probably only use 1 day to shop for cool skincare and cosmetics...I shop quick... so the rest of our days would be...just really cool. Just bumming around and eating new foods...taking tons of pics. Going to a new to us, amusement park.

The cons for going to Korea. We would not be using Delta. However we would use our miles and we'd use the mileage and on top of that...we would only pay around 10,000 yen ($100 US...that would be the extra cash our mileage would not cover, so again cheap for us) however they would be confirmed seats. Granted crappy economy seats, but at least we'd get there, so no worries. And...the flight is very short. So that would be fine. No time for tons of movies in flight, bummer. Hotels are slightly higher in cost in Korea because...in Asia...most hotel rooms have twin beds. In America it is common to get a room with 2 double beds or sometimes even 2 queen beds. But in Korea and even Japan too. It is common to see rooms with only 2 twin beds,  You can't fit Noboru, me, Bran and Noah in 2 tiny twin beds 
you want to move around in bed and stretch too, ykwim. And so we have to get a larger room with an extra bed and so the cost is about 10,000-12,000 yen a night. So higher yes...but nothing you can do... really about it... since rooms with 2 double beds are uncommon. Also...we worry..what if Everland is a lame amusement park. Though it doesn't look too terribly lame by the videos we've seen. So again...we crank up YouTube.....any videos. And we look and see. No real cons really about going to Korea. Except bed issues... so the hotels are slightly more expensive. And again we want a clean place/hotel with great reviews off Trip Advisor and Expedia, and we have so far 2 hotels we'd like to pick from. And they have 3 twin beds in each room and the kids would share 1 twin bed, which would be acceptable. Wish we could fly Delta. But other than that... no real huge...blinking reason not to go. Again we went to Bangkok and didn't go to *any* amusement park and we didn't care...we also didn't hit the beach but you know what...we had a BLAST being in Bangkok, and I sorta think no matter what...we'd have a blast in Korea too.

So...do we stick with familiar and go to California. Or do we spice things up and take a leap of faith and head to South Korea. Both places have many pros and many cons. Also, you may not enter Korea without having at least 6 months left on your passport (expiration), meaning if your passport expires within 6 months while entering Korea, you may not enter. So...we know the boys do not have 6 months left on their passports, which is why we need to run to the US Embassy. Going to America, on the other hand, with an American passport, that will expire at the end of summer, would not matter for the boys, because they are American citizens, and are most welcome anytime, regardless, when their passport expires, whether it be, in 1 month, 1 week. And same for them entering Japan, because they are citizens of both. However...the kids entering Korea with less than 6 months on their passports, since they are just visitors, would cause major problems. So...the passports have to get done. Even though we are unsure of which country right now...it's best either way... to get their passports done now.  Sigh. This is a really hard decision you guys. Some days we go...we're going to California. All the delicious food, the familiarity, Universal Studios, movies etc. And then 2 days later we'll be like...screw it...let's go to Korea and see what we think...I mean...we haven't been there in like 10 years. And what do the kids think? Noah wants to go to Korea. Branden prefers California. But both really honestly don't care...one way or the other...they're just glad to be going someplace. Before we went to Bangkok 2 years ago, the kids were like..."meh Bangkok." Not to make them sound ungrateful or anything, because they're not. They appreciate how lucky they are. But the reason I mention it is... after leaving Bangkok, they were like..."Bangkok is so cool!!!" They learned *so* much from that trip and saw so much. Even now 2 years later, they still sometimes will bring up Bangkok. So...I imagine...they'd learn new stuff....too, if we went to Korea. Well... as for right now...we have not decided which place to go. When would we be going...First, 2nd or at the latest the 3rd week of July. We will go before school lets out in Japan. Because...all Noboru's coworkers battle it out...for those vacation weeks when school is on break here in Japan. but nobody requests days off... before school lets out. This way....if we can avoid...battling and vying for vacation days with his coworkers... fantastic and all the better for us.  Last year...I was only available after the summer festival was over and after school was on summer break. Which really boxed in our days. Now we can go any day. Huge difference since last year. : )  Should we go to California and hit Universal Studios. The Transformers ride, Despicable Me ride, The Simpsons ride, etc, hit Sephora and Target, etc etc. Or go to a new and exciting country. And see many many new things, have many new experiences, try many new and delicious foods. Noboru and I have never taken this long to decide before...like ever. We're always really good at deciding and moving on. The problem this time...both places sound so freaking good, we can't really decide which place to try. There's also always plan C....and we can say forget both places and just go to Honolulu. LOL. Anyways...we are having 1 heck of a hard time trying to get this all figured out, you guys.

Anything else left to add...I have an appointment next Thursday, for a haircut and color. : ) 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Mother's Day and other good bits thrown in...

Happy (belated) Mother's Day, to all of you. My Mother's Day was excellent! Granted, I was minus one of my children on Mother's Day. : ) Since he was on his over night trip. But this is how my Mother's Day went in a nut shell real quick. : ) I woke up freakishly early Sunday on Mother's Day to make Branden, his breakfast and drive him to the plaza because that morning was his over night trip. After dropping him off, I drove home. Had myself my 2nd and final cup of coffee. I did some online stuff. Read online news, checked emails. I went upstairs, washed my face and whatnot and went in Noah's bedroom for a 5 minute snuggle buggle. : ) I love my kids, I flat out adore them. Noah woke up after a bit. Went downstairs. We had some breakfast together. Noboru finally woke up and had some breakfast and coffee. Noboru left to work. He would be gone until 8pm-ish. So it was just Noah and I on Mother's Day. And that's okay. What I received for Mother's Day this year was a pair of really cute purple Panasonic headphones with extra bass (no treble, lol). And some essence by Missha. After breakfast, a few hours after, maybe around 11am-ish that day, Noah's friend came to ask him if he'd like to play? So Noah asked me..."my friend's here, should I send him away since it's Mother's Day today?" I said..."Oh honey, of course not, if someone you like asks you to go and ride bikes, and it's a nice day, by all means go and play." And so Noah smiled widely and he got on his bike and he rode bikes with 2 boys from his class. : ) They rode around and around all over. Noah came home really happy and very thirsty around 3pm. Could have been closer to 2:50pm actually. He was a sweaty mess, so I sent him to shower and get soapy clean. I meanwhile threw one of those frozen Costco cheese pizza, ykwim, in the oven and I split 1 bag of salad (it's for 2 people) into 2 bowls. I got out the vinaigrette and when Noah came down, we enjoyed a fast, quick and easy dinner. I appreciated not having to cook on Mother's Day. After that, we quickly tossed all the dishes into the dishwasher. And we started to have a movie marathon. It might have been Mother's Day, but I let Noah pick the movies. : ) We watched, Big Hero 6 and the Terminator 2 (because this is Noah's favorite Terminator movie. : ) And then Noah fell asleep, completely zonked to the world. I carried my boy upstairs to his bed, covered him with his blanket and kissed his forehead, while he happily slept. I meanwhile jumped in the shower. I missed Branden a little bit of course, but I know how important it is for him to grow as a person to be on trips like this. So, I was happy for Bran. I watched TV in my nightgown/sleep tee. And Noboru came home and took a shower. A very low key Mother's Day and that's okay, totally cool. : ) 

This is a cushion bag for electronics and I bought it at the Daiso. I really like this bag and I keep my headphones in here. I might go back and get a few more of these bags, for the kids for when we travel this summer. Nice to have a place to keep all your electronic type stuff in 1 bag. And I really like that it's cushioned inside. And they had different color bags of this too. : )
The night Branden came home from his trip, we had baked ravioli, salad and garlic bread. 
What else, have I been doing? Cleaning house during the weekday, running to the grocery store, laundry, blanket washing. Same ol' same ol' But it always needs to be done. This day, I cleaned the living room, all the dusting, dusting the TV stand, coffee table, dusting the ceiling fans, book shelf. Windex-ed the windows. Just all the little bits that need attention, you know what I mean. : ) 

Upstairs and downstairs had to get a major window sil cleaning. Gosh they get so gross... so they really needed it. : ) 

Also, anyone see outside those super tiny red bugs. They come out before rainy season. They're so tiny, like smaller than the tip of a pen. You'd almost miss them, if you didn't look closely. They come every spring before rainy season. I really hate them. They don't come into the house. They seem to like outside, but they'll sometimes crawl on my laundry pole. On the back patio floor. Sidewalks outside. I wipe my pole down every time I use it, however in this season, I spray my laundry pole legs down with this bug spray (not the laundry poles themselves, that hold the clothes just the base/legs and it keeps them from climbing higher, go figure). It keeps them from climbing my pole, so this spray is peace of mind for me. Those tiny red bugs hate this bug spray. And I also spray every window sil down in the house every 3 days, just lightly to make sure...they don't come around. Anyway, just wondering if those super tiny red bugs are driving anyone else bonkers. : ) 
Almond milk, it's available here everywhere now. Where we live, and we live in the countryside. The kids really enjoy it. : ) 
If you're American, you'll know everyone was talking about this fight! Boxing of course and this was a highly anticipated fight. The Floyd Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquio fight. Floyd won, however afterwards everyone was upset because apparently Manny did not report he was injured before the fight. To me, if someone lost, just say they lost and turn the page. You know what I mean. But anyway...I saw this picture online and it cracked me up! That's so Kanye! LOL. : ) 
Saturday, May 16th, I decided to give the kitchen a hard thorough cleaning. Washed up the table cloth and moved all the chairs to the living room. The boys wiped the baseboards down, with those Kirkland wipes. I vacuumed and then I prepared to mop. 

The boys both antibacterial wiped the trash cans. I have 2 very helpful boys.

I then got crack-a-lackin' on the mopping. Mopped with that thick small squeeze bottle of Mr Clean in Gain scent twice and then rinsed twice. Turned the ceiling fan on and opened the kitchen windows and let the floors dry. They dried super quick with the breeze and then I put everything back in it's spot. We had ginger pork for dinner with salads and veggies and rice and whatnot that night. 

Next day, Sunday May 17th, I baked a delicious yellow cake from a box. And let it cool and then frosted the cake with some chocolate frosting. I also prepped dinner. Fried chicken (karaage) for supper. Yum, every one's favorite in our house. 

Karaage, rice and veggies. We all 4 ate and enjoyed a nice family Sunday dinner and we all had cake and ice cream for dessert too. Sunday dinners are the best. : ) 

Cake and ice cream. Dessert Sunday evening. : )  Anyway those are some of the things we have been up to lately.

Any other bits to add before I send this off? Hmm. Branden has a big test this Thursday. He's been studying like crazy for it lately. Meanwhile next week, I have to go to Noah's school for an emergency drill. On top of that, it is a free observation day...meaning you can go any time of day for that day. But the last class, you need to be there for, the last class and then wait for them to have the emergency disaster drill afterwards. : ) So that's next week. Anything else to add? We have an appointment at the US Embassy in Tokyo to renew the boys passports, early June. If they're under 18 or 16 or whatever you can't mail it in, like I can mail mine in. For kids you need to get yourself all the way to Tokyo and apply in person. Noah's expires, end of August, Branden's expires end of September, however getting down to Tokyo is a pain in the batooty...so we will do both of theirs at the same time and save us a trip to Tokyo. Also...considering we will more than likely, be traveling twice this summer overseas...once when we 4 go on our big family vacation...hoping for July and the 2nd trip will more than likely be just the kids and I, either... in August or July... more than likely the kids and I will hop over to Guam, enjoy a few movies and the tropical beach and spend some time with grandpa/my dad.Whenever they don't have school and the flight is open. So easier for us to do this passport stuff...before we travel. Also some countries will not let you enter, if you have less than a few months on your passport left, granted going to America would be no problem or to Japan would be no problem... but we are also considering a 3rd country for travel. So for us getting it done earlier is best. I have since already made 2 appointments with the American Embassy...because both kids need an appointment. So Bran has an appointment set and Noah's is after Branden's, but same day. Just like a 20 minute time difference. 

Vacation. We like to take 1 big one, a year as a family. You know...we all work hard. The kids hit the books hard and go to school. Noboru works hard. I also work hard at home. We like knowing we have some sort of reward for the whole year. That 1 trip a year, to really look forward to. Do you know what I mean. However, we can't decided where to go. We have it widdled down to 2 destinations. We already have the hotels picked for both destinations. After reading reviews off Trip Advisor and Expedia, for weeks and weeks, hahaha. One place is in America and the other place is in Asia. I'm not trying to be all....secret squirrel about it either. I will totally fill you all in soon. It's just...trying to decide...which place. We have been watching Youtube videos of families at both destinations, having a blast. Meanwhile, Noboru and I are like stuck...50% wanting to go to place A and 50% wanting to go to place B. One day we'll both be in agreement and we'll say...we are going to place A. And the next day..we'll both sheepishly say..hmm saw a good video on YouTube about place B. Then next thing you know...we'll be all gung ho for place B. We literally are like 50/50 stuck. Hahaha.  So...is it the end of the world type of a problem? Not even. However it has been taking up a lot of our free time lately. Preoccupying my time. if I get a free moment. Instead of updating this blog, if I get a chance...I prefer research place A or place B. @_@ So, for now...we are still undecided. Anyway as Homer Simpson used to say...Doh! : ) 

Friday, May 15, 2015

Branden's 8th grade, overnight class trip...

Sunday, May 10th, was Branden's over night trip. They were going somewhere near Mt Fuji. Now because Hakone (you know, the place we love to onsen) anyway they have been getting many earthquakes lately and the volcano (remember Hakone is an active volcano) has been steaming and simmering lately and they evacuated actual Hakone. And although Branden's trip is/was semi near-ish there...we wondered if their class trip would be canceled. However...where they were staying wasn't even near the mountain area of Hakone. So we all breathed a huge sign of relief, that #1 our kids won't be in any danger...and #2 our kids trip won't be canceled. : ) About 10 days before all the kids brought home a list of "stuff" needed for their trip. Including what you may NOT bring. @_@ Apparently someones camera got broke last year on their...7th grade class day excursion to the zoo in Chiba last year and so there was a "no camera" rule in effect for this 8th grade trip. No colorful raincoats, only clear (they need to see the uniform). You could bring a sweatshirt for the campfire BUT...it could have now words...such as GAP or Old Navy. No words allowed on said sweatshirts. @_@ Geeze Louise. So, Branden just took his school accepted/approved school uniform sweater. @_@  The list of what to bring and what not to bring was in Japanese, so Noboru quickly typed and emailed me this list of what Branden needed pictured here. Aww, what a sweetie. That way...I could make sure Branden is/was all packed up and ready to go. : )  So this is the note/list of what Noboru wrote for me. : )  Don't forget to catch...they want the snacks *not* go to over 700 yen. @_@ My kids have never gone over the set $ amount of snacks. But, from what I heard about last years zoo excursion...some kid (a boy from the other class) brought like a huge gigantic amount and the teacher took half of it and gave it back after the trip, with a call to the parents about him having too many snacks. @_@ LOL. So, I was very mindful about the 700 yen limit. About $7 US. 
Just to make sure, I packed the receipt in Branden's ziploc bags of snacks. That way if anyone said anything...he could go.. blammo and whip out the receipt (they didn't even question it though). : ) Hahaha. : ) And for what it's worth, his total was even cheaper because 2 of the snacks, we bought for Noah, since we was with us when we bought the snacks for Bran and he was watching us put all this amount of stuff in the cart for Branden, , he didn't even ask to have anything...which is so Noah...so at the end of shopping, I said "Noah go ahead and put 2 items in this cart" and he was very excited and he wasn't even going to ask, but I know he was wanting something. : ) So even though Bran's total was 640 plus tax, it was really a tad less. : ) But...no worries, still under the 700 yen mark. I buy my snacks from the cheap old school Japanese snack shop, that sells like 5 yen candy or 10 yen this or 10 yen that. : ) 30 yen mini pack of donuts. 

I bought many doubles... because I wanted Branden to have snacks going to his destination and the day they left and were heading home too. Also, Branden's final 6th grade trip...their bus was so delayed in traffic, like almost 1 and a half hours late. The kids were so hungry on the bus, that about 80% of the kids ate their omiyage. Branden did not though. Souvenir snacks for their parents. Many and I do mean... many parents called complaining, I heard all details when I picked up the kids at the plaza, lol. We did not complain obviously, but...it made me remember that and so...this time...I made sure Branden had some snacks for the way home too. 

One Ziploc for the way there.
And one Ziploc for the way home.

All nicely packed up. 

And put into this 1 random bag. 

Hand wipes...

Earplugs, because 1 of the boys Branden was sharing a room with, is the same boy Bran shared a room with in the 6th grade and while he is a lovely kid, he is a snore-er. Big time snore boy. You can apparently hear him snoring down the corridor of the hotel. : ) Hahaha. Sweetest funniest kid...good good friend of Bran's, but snore and snores as loud as you could ever imagine. He also apparently goes #2 for the longest time. Branden came home from the trip this time and he told me..."mom, I timed it, he didn't get out of the bathroom for 42 minutes!!!" "And the sounds mom...the sounds"...I told Bran..."TMI Branden, TMI." Hahaha. : ) So, this is why Branden needs the earplugs (snore sounds.) Branden however doesn't snore at all. Noah snores but it's so quiet, it's honestly like a kitten purring, I'm not kidding hahaha. : ) 

Moisturizer (by Korres) and Korres Shea Butter lip balm, this stuff is divine, this lip balm. They come in the Delta bags when you travel like... to the US from Japan, long overseas type trips in first class. Korres is really good. I figured, if B should get chapped lips, I really doubt it, but just in case, he'd have it. : )

Travel toothbrush, Crest & Scope toothpaste and some dental floss. : ) 

Tissues. We have character tissues, but he picked these plain ones. 

The 2 antibacterial hand wipes, just in case he gets sticky hands on the bus or touches something weird. Face wash on the left...

Body wash far left, shampoo, two kinds of shampoo and some face wash. 
Ear plus, we already know why those are needed. Also, do they turn off the lights on these over night trips? In case someone in his room, needed the light on, I packed Bran an eye mask. Again it's like 6 or 8 boys per room, so different personalities, ykwim. This way...eye mask...if you need it fine..if you don't...fine too. : ) 

Many things, but small travel size things, so double checked the list and packed them up. 

In here, not an attractive bag... but it was free from Delta on one of our trips, we received these, we get these each time we travel. Every time we go back to the US, we get 4 new ones of these, different colors each time though. : ) 

I highly doubt it...but you never know if someone said.."hey this is mine" This way you can go..."nonono, see, right here, here's my name"  I highly doubt that would ever happen, kids are so honest here as a whole, but you never know...it's just best for me to write B's name down. That way he's covered either way. 

Everything got a name written on it. 

I am not sure why Branden needed 4 chisai towels? 1 or 2, yes I can understand that. But 4? @_@ Lucky for us, we get heaps of these every "town undokai" so we have stacks of these and so I just made sure to pull out 4, jot his name down real quick, and so 4 chisai towels as was requested by the note sent home. Leisure sheet, check! And clear raincoat, check check! : ) 
The Friday before his trip, Branden said, "our teacher told us that since we were meeting up *so* early, if we want to bring a breakfast and eat it on the bus, we could." The meet up time was at 6am-6:10am. Roll call, head count. Getting settled on the bus and whatnot. The bus was LEAVING and driving away at 6:30am. as in...you do not want to be the 1 lone kid... where your mom is driving 90MPH because you're late and the bus has to screech their tires and everyone swivels their head and looks at you like..."shame shame shame, everyone knows your name!!!" Hahaha. LOL Anyone remember that old saying. Cracks me up! : ) So, knowing all that. I made sure I set my alarm at 5am. However, knowing how critical this day was for Branden and how I was packing him a breakfast that morning. I woke up...naturally on my own at 4:30am. I did wake up Branden. Noah was fast asleep in his room, Noboru was fast asleep in our room. Branden got dressed. I meanwhile had his 2 bags sitting in the genkan/entryway. I had the thermos right out near the hot water pot...so when I was making my coffee, I would see it and not forget Branden's thermos. I swear I live in fear of forgetting something, lol. : ) Which is why I sat the bags in the genkan. I had the thermos in a spot that I would see it for sure. And I had my hot coffee, meanwhile I filled Branden's thermos with tons of ice and some tea. And sat said thermos in the genkan. That way I would not forget. And I sliced, open 2 croissants. Pull out 2 slices of sliced American cheese. I meanwhile, fried up 2 slices of ham in a skillet. Set it aside, then I made a 3 egg omelet. Cut that in half.... half of the omelet went in each sandwich. Branden took 2 ham, egg and cheese croissant sandwiches for the bus ride near Mt Fuji. I got Branden all packed up. I double read the list again that morning, 2 extra times. And then Branden and I left, the house while the rest of the family slept.  I made sure he brought his wallet with 4,000 yen. The limit of what they could bring. And he had everything on the list. Phew. We left the house at 5:50am. I figured, I'll drive slow and we'll get there at 6am. We arrived around 5:58am. And there were a bunch of kids outside already.  

I parked a little away form the buses because it's just easier for my car to get out. I took one last look at my son. My first born. And I said very happily, "I love you...I want you to have fun and learn many many things. And don't forget I packed you a phone card too." : ) Phones are not allowed. : ( 

And off he went. Everything for his over night trip, toothbrush and chisai towels, extra clothes and socks, bath towels etc went into the Black Adidas bag. Only his day excursion stuff, I packed in his green backpack, "wallet with money, phone card, his name and address and phone number inside his wallet, lol, yes I worry"... his snacks, his thermos also in the green backpack. Leisure sheet also in the green backpack, because I was unsure if they were going to have lunch outside someplace, which is why I put it in the green backpack. I watched my baby...my big boy, my 13 year old...walk away and go in the crowd of kids right away. He's *very* popular. Superly popular. I knew he was going to be okay. I trust my son. He's got great judgement and has a fantastic head on his shoulders. : ) Would I miss him? Yes, of course...tons actually! : ). But it's only for an over night trip. It's not for a really long time. : ) I was feeling...more excited for him. Happy for him. : ) Remember when Branden went on his over night trip... his last year of yochien, remember that... I cried the whole night. Hahaha. Now I feel foolish. But...he's growing, I'm growing too. Learning to let go, bit by bit....as the years go by. Still hard. But getting a little easier too. : ) 

Bye 2 buses, take good care of our country kids now! : ) Come back safely all of you!!! : ) I love you Branden *so* much!
Monday at 5:30pm was the set time they would arrive. However we got an email saying they were ahead of schedule and they just made the last stop in Makuhari to all go to the restroom and now were back on the bus and the new estimated time to get home was 4:50pm. Woohoo! I was doing my happy dance. I already had Noah home with me, I picked him up earlier already. I arrived to the plaza to pick up Branden at 4:30pm. I just brought my magazine and waited. Noah used his tablet in the backseat. I was the first parent to arrive, however more cars trickled in...and soon enough we had MANY parents all waiting in parked cars. And then...1 bus pulled in. Excitement. It parked and the bus driver was pulling luggage out from the bus storage area. Then the 2nd bus pulled up. Super excitement. All the kids were now off the 2 buses. But they all had to stand in lines, have a long talk by each teacher, this took a total of about 10 minutes. I spotted 1 head from the back in particular and I just *knew*...that head belonged to my son! That was Branden's...the back of his head. Glee. I locked onto that back of his head and watched from the distance of where my car was parked. After the 10 minutes Branden came to my car and we drove home. He had so many stories to tell me. His lightning the camp fire... was great he said. He had no problems. They danced around the fire...he did a comedy skit, which is why Branden took one of my dresses, his sunglasses and the colorful rainbow wig he wore last year for..."the haunted elementary school walk through and fireworks", think along the lines of a rainbow afro. Branden danced with a bunch of kids, they had the dance already memorized....the dance group was...2 boys total and 3 girls, they were all supposed to be parody of a Japanese girl AKB type band, all comedy of course. And apparently they were so funny and the 2 classes and teachers and even the principal thought it was hilarious. : ) He said also during another part of their trip, they walked half way up Mt Fuji. I asked him....what were your best favorite parts of the trip? Branden said...the soaking in the onsen with his classmates and good friends, joking, laughing and talking in there. The over night at the hotel...Branden said their room stayed up until 2am (ghost stories, talking about girls, teasing the boy who was in the bathroom for 42 minutes, hahaha etc etc). @_@ He said the buffets were so good. He apparently ate a very large lunch Monday and was so stuffed when he got home. Branden also brought home 1000 yen. I told him, "honey you should have spent it" he said, "I didn't need anything else, and didn't want to waste it, since I didn't need anything, so I brought it back" Aww, he is a very good kid, you guys. : ) Branden brought back coconut cookies. Mt Fuji cookies. Strawberry cheesecake Kit Kats. Some charms.  

These were the best cookies. : ) 

Branden, also made this all by himself. Each kid got to choose/pick an activity to do. They had glass blowing, wood work. Making something from clay. All sorts of choices. Branden wanted to make something with clay. He was given just a lump of clay and he made everything on his own. He also put his initials on here. B...C...and then our last name initial... which I blacked out the initial of our last name. But the B...C, is for Branden Christopher. : ) Anway, that is the long and short of Branden's 8th grade over night trip. In 7th grade (last year) they just went to the zoo. In 8th grade (this year) it's this 1 over night trip. And we hear the 9th grade trip for next year will be a 2 night trip to Kyoto. : )  

Anyway it's Friday, have a lovely weekend you guys. TGIF. So glad the weekend will be here as soon as the boys get home from school today. Almost time now. They both get out at 3:45pm today, so both will get a ride home, Bran rode his bike yesterday. Tonight's supper will be buffalo wings baked in the oven, with a side of ranch for dipping the wings in. I bought some really big potatoes yesterday, so we will each have a big baked potato with melted colby jack cheese and butter, salt and pepper, and some steamed broccoli. And we will have some garlic bread to go with as well. And, I have a Fanta orange 1.5 liter in the freezer getting super cold right now : ) Noboru just got home from work, he's about to go pick up the boys for me, since I am here watching the oven and stove with our dinner stuff cooking and whatnot right now. Have a lovely weekend everyone. : )  Our weekend plan for this weekend? Not much, just staying close to home. : )