Tuesday, December 30, 2008

My last post of the year! And Happy New Year, from our family in Chiba, Japan!!! : )

Since Christmas has finished, things have really gotten even more relaxed around here and laid back, even more so then usual. :D I think because all the quote, unquote big meal planning, holiday shopping and basically all the stuff had been done and over and things just got to regular around here. So anyway, what has our family been up to lately? Well, Noboru, Branden and Noah have been spending a great deal of time in the backyard with Branden's remote control helicopter. That smile on Branden's face is this pic! Aww. He's so happy! Branden hasn't been at Kumon, since the Monday before Christmas and he probably won't return until well after New year's, so he's getting a real break (about a 12 day break). It's good for him! The day after Christmas, hubby took down all the lights that he hung on the house. And I meanwhile took down the tree and got rid of every sign that Christmas was here. : ( But time to get things cleaned up and orderly for the upcoming New year's holiday. So no worries! : )

Just simple backyard days for us! And I like that! : )
The only thing we've had on our plate was the 5 day compressed swimming course. It's now over. It ended on Sunday. However, these pics were taken on Sunday. The last day and the test day for the compressed course. Class started at 9am. Ended at 10:15 am. By 8:45 am usually all the seats were gone. And we always made a point to arrive at 8:35 am, to ensure we'd get a seat. We have always gotten a seat. Since it was Sunday and the actual test day, we arrived earlier then usual. Only because we know already, having completed these compressed course a few times. The last day is always the busiest. Usually all dad's and mom's show up and also we've seen uncles and grandparents show too, so not uncommon at all. And that's the day when a few actually bring camcorders and you know what I mean. So, yeah, we left our house on Sunday at 7:45am. Drove to Mc Donald's. And at 8am, we headed towards the swim school. We entered the swimming school at 8:08 am or something like that, they barely opened the doors at 8am. We went upstairs and the pool, as is pictured, is even covered! We bought 3 sausage McMuffin, combo's, and a regular egg McMuffin (with ham) for me. Nobody was there but us and the coaches downstairs. The boy's and hubby quickly ate. We didn't want to show our fellow parents we were eating there, though it would been no biggie anyway, lot'sof parents and kids snack there. But Branden got lot's of fuel and energy. He ate his sausage mcMuffin and hash brown, drank his apple juice. And had a 45 or so minute of sitting and that was good so the food went down a bit (so no cramping or anything, lol : )
Noah just about finished with his and then I threw all the wrappers in the trash can.
I even drank my last drop of Mc D's coffee and then threw all wrappers away and all evidence from Micky D's was gone. LOL.

Only 8:15 am and we had all finished. B went downstairs at 8:50 am. And that's when you can hear the kids from downstairs shouting their exercises. They do a warm up before hitting the pool.

By the way, I forgot to mention, guess who else took this compressed swim course? Branden's teachers' son. Yup, Branden has the nicest first grade teacher in the world. She's so nice and truly loves being a teacher. Besides being a first grade teacher, she actually has a son who just entered the first grade back in April. So she actually has a kid, same grade as Branden. And she has a daughter, who's just about to turn 4. So, we got to see his teacher, every day for 5 days in the mornings. It's been great to see her and talk with her outside of school. :D

Anyway so back to the topic at hand. Sunday's swim test day! All the kids had the chance to warm up in the pool and the coach gave pointer's to each kid. Like, you are doing such and such wrong, or to get this technique you need to do this. That's what the coach was doing with B, in this pic. How to improve his dive.
Everyone got warmed up. They cleared the pool, like they do every test day!
Each kid has a folder and a paper of their current level and stats. Like, B's said, he mastered xy and z. Yet, he still needed to master such and such. We knew that and everyday in their parent teacher note, going back and forth. Either yes he's getting it, or ehhhh, he still needs help with such and such. All week during this compressed course kids have been working on their own goal or what they needed to master before passing. For Branden, his rhythm was off regarding his hand stroke to his leg strokes. He tweaked this all week until he had it and it was flawless. The day before B tested, coach wrote us, "I think he's ready" And so the day of the test, we wondered and hoped but never made assumptions. :D Just crossed fingers and hoped for the best! : ) How does Branden handle the big test days? Honestly, he's oddly as calm as a cucumber. When he woke up that morning, he said, "yay I get to do my test today". Me, I would have been a pile of nerves and butterflies. LOL. But nothing really rattles him at all. And I guess that's good.
The last 3 to go, little girl in front of B now has her goggles on. Because she is next. And the boy with the blue swim cap who is the same level as B, that is sitting on the left of him, looks nervous and in deep thinking mode. Branden meanwhile looks calm, sorta relaxed but ready. Meanwhile all the other lanes are testing too. "Gambare" was heard from many parents upstairs. I was just quiet, silent.

The little girl is about to go now. And the boy next to B still looks, so nervous and deep in thought (If I was swimming that is exactly how I'd look too, deep in thought, I hear ya blue cap boy!!! : ) . Branden is meanwhile itching his nose (hello, how can he remain so calm? LOL, if it were me, I'd be fainting about right then). Upstairs is quiet, except for the "gambare's", like I said. The regular daily grind chit chat has ceased now that there's testing. And I am still quiet. Yuka-sensei's son is in the pool. He's a #14 and was hoping to be a 13. He made it by the way. Congratulations to him and we did congratulate him too. He's a sweet kid. : )
As the girl exited the pool, the coach shouted..."Branden-kun!" And that was indeed his turn. He got up and did a perfect dive into the water and immediately started to swim! You know that old saying, "take my breath away?" It's sorta like you almost stop breathing for that brief minute or two they are testing. Though I am sure I am breathing but it feels like it. I just stood from behind the glass and looked on. I took no other pictures, except for the dive and the 1 below of him in the water Because I wanted to see it with my eyes and remember this forever. How did he do? It was flawless, honest to goodness it was excellent!

So many coaches walking the pool back and forth with stop watches and marking papers. Like 5 guy coaches on that side, not all got pictured and like 3 girl coaches on the other side.
And then it was over.....whatever happens, happens. The boy with the blue cap was in the water at this point. Noboru had told me, "Branden did it, I know he passed" I whispered, I think he did too, but let's just wait and see. All of the kids from Branden's lane passed except 1. I won't say who because that isn't nice. But I will tell you, it wasn't the boy behind Branden, he passed and I was so thrilled for him! The cute little girl in front of B passed too. I think all of these kids try so hard, I wanted them all to pass. Good thing I'm not the coach because, I would have passed them all! : )

After all the testing had been finished, the kids got to play and splish splash in the pool for about 10-15 minutes. Just to play until 10:15 am basically.
Branden and 2 guys who are the same level. They relaxed and played it up!!! I was happy because now that the compressed course had finished we truly have nothing to do except relax until the winter holiday ends. No Kumon, no swim school, not a thing to do! And boy will I be enjoying these next 8 days or so to the fullest!!!! Which pretty much is why I haven't been online much lately! : ) Enjoying myself. Taking a much needed break from my daily grind! : ) Staying up late and sleeping in the mornings.

Yes, he made it! : ) I am rightfully so proud, you guys! Branden really worked his butt off, to get this new number! He worked so hard to pass to another level! So, introducing (drum roll please) our new #7!!!!! Ha ha ha! : )

Number 7! Now I got a bit more sewing to do! But I will happily do this! : )
Sunday night, I made sweet and sour chicken! : ) Just the feeling of having utterly nothing to do. Amazing! We are loving this winter break very much! : )
Monday, I did the last of my oosoji for New Near's. In Japan, before New year's all the women in Japan do a really big house clean up! Husband's also pitch in (all the dad's on our street have been washing the family cars. Grandpa to "boy next door" I saw him vacuuming the living room, everyone pitches in for the year end clean up, for the most part. I really enjoy this with my family and I do this every year for getting ready for New Year's too. I usually have 3 big yearly clean ups, and then my usual weekly clean up anyways. I do a before New Year's clean up (should be finished by December 31st or on the 31st is fine too, how all my neighbors do, is how I do too, I always finish mine on December 30th and do last minute tidbits on the 31st) And then I do a big Spring clean up like most westerners I know do. And then I also do a big one when summer ends and Fall starts, I usually do mine at late September or first week of October around there someplace. And then of course my weekly cleaning. So, I am pretty good with that anyways, so no real big concerns regarding the ol' big New year's clean up, lol. And all the guys usually wash their cars before New year's too, like I said. Ha ha ha. Noboru did our car washing on Monday morning! So our cars are ready! : ) I was cleaning the fridge from top to bottom. I orange cleaned and soap and hot sudsy watered the whole fridge.
Starting to put things back in place. : ) Started with the condiments. : )

All fresh and clean. Phew now the whole house is truly ready to ring in the New year! : ) Also, I donated a humongous box of shoes last week as well. And I feel really good about that. : )

Noboru took apart the fridge and vacuumed the compressor and fan area of that. I meanwhile wiped behind the fridge, got that spic and span.

Chairs sat under the sun on the patio, while I mopped the kitchen floors Monday morning one last time.

I can't reach the fan blades since I'm a shortie, so Noboru wiped the blades clean for me! Thanks hubby! : )

Window cleaning. I love how my windows can fold inwards, to easily clean the outside from inside. : ) Every window got cleaned with Windex, Monday afternoon. : )

This is wallpaper, and wall cleaner. I spot cleaned any spots on the walls.

Trash cans got Mr. Cleaned and a good soaking. Meanwhile after hubby and I lugged the big coffee table outside, I sprayed some Orange Glo, and had the boy's help out and lend a hand. They made the living room coffee table so shiny! : ) And we took all the bedding to the laundry mat and got everything all washed and dried. And then that was that! Our New year's oosoji has indeed been complete! Yay! And everybody helped out and lent a hand! So yeah, anyway we got the New Year's, year end cleaning done! Woohoo, now we really have nothing to do but relax! : )

Monday, 5 little country boy's playing in the wilderness behind our house. : ) From left to right, we have, Branden, Genki, "boy next door", Kouiki, and boy's whose name I forgot, ha ha ha. Sorry kiddo. : ) Branden asked me earlier, "mommy can we go and explore behind our house?" And I said, yeah sure! And so they went treking down there, grabbing branches jumping over puddles. Enjoying nature and fresh air! Just being regular good kids basically!
Discovering something and chit chatting about it! Oh those boy's, we could hear them talking, a mile a minute. And then they all started singing a few Japanese songs! Noboru was taken aback because he said..."I used to sing that same song when I was a little boy"
Noah's too little to be allowed down there! In fact even Kouiki fell and got wet, and he's 7! Ha ha ha. He didn't mind though, he ran home, changed and came back! : ) Noah just watched from the fence! It's about a 20 foot drop back there. The wild buffer and then the endless rice field after that.

Now, all the kids went home, except Genki. So Branden and Noah and Branden's best friend since yochien, Genki-kun all played! They played a great chase game called "kori oni"! That's one of the kids in our area's favorite game! : ) Noboru was the...oni!!! Oh man, Noboru chased, Branden and Genki all through the yard! They ran for their lives back there!!!! Ha ha ha! Noah just watched from the playground. All perched up like that. : )

After 4:30 pm it got too cold to play outside, so I called all 3 boy's in the house. Branden, Genki and Noah! They all played in the living room. And at 5pm, Genki had to go home. : ( We ran and went to the DVD rental real quick! We rented, 1 movie my choice and 1 movie, the hubster's choice. I picked that new movie called Juno. She's a quirky teenager in Minnesota, gets pregnant and gives the baby to an adoptive family. It was a really good movie. Noboru picked Mother Teresa, at first, I admit I was like...do I really wanna watch that? But you know, it was a really excellent movie. I am so glad to have seen both movies. The boy's meanwhile watched movies on the mini DVD player.

Can't forget what we ate, right? : ) Monday night, we had tacos! And after the tacos, we all quickly showered and then we got to the movie Juno, meanwhile the boy's watched, "When Horton Hears a Who" again on the mini DVD player. We all had a good night in the living room, ate snacks, hung out. Basically we've just been enjoying things around here! And now that all that yucky house cleaning is out of the way, we can relax.

Got my New 2009 calender ready to go! And every time I go to the fridge, since it hangs on my fridge. I can see a picture of my hometown. Being a Denver native, it helps. Whenever I get to missing my hometown, a walk to the fridge, will be in order! : ) Happy New Year, to each and everyone of you!!!!
PS, other random tidbits. My book order from Amazon has not gotten here yet. : (
PSS, I took advantage of both the after Christmas sales in the US and also the Japanese yen for being so much stronger then the US dollar right now and I placed an enormous order for the boys at Gap.com. Remember the $200 gift cards the boy's got from my mom for Old Navy for xmas, which can also be used for Gap, and Piperline, Banana Republic, whatever, right? Well, The total was $350.00 US. And 200 of it was credited from their gift cards and so $150 was what we needed to pay the difference, but again since the yen is strong right now, it was like 13,000 yen only or so! Anyway, I was really happy! I usually only order online from Gap or Old Navy about twice a year or so. And we got a whole bunch of stuff. Branden for example, got 2 cool pair of rugby big bold stripe pajamas (2 piece, like long johns) in size 8, these are for next year. I got him a fuzzy thick rugby sweater in a size 8 for next year. 2 junk food t shirts, (1 is The Beatles and the other is the Super Friends), he got more stuff but I forget what. Noah got so many tops, 1 pair of PJ's. 2 pairs of shorts. They both did very well for themselves regarding getting some good after Christmas sale stuff in the US online.
They will come via ExpatExpress, so should be here in a week or two. Yay! : )
Still have been watching the Ghost Whisperer, ever so faithfully. : )
Anyway I better end this now! And get this puppy published! :) Happy Holiday's everyone!!! Happy New Year's, everybody!!! Bring on 2009!!!! Ha ha ha! : )

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas from Chiba, Japan!!! : )

Merry Christmas to you all, I know for those of you in the US, you will be celebrating it tomorrow. And for us in Japan, we celebrated it today. Since we are a day ahead time wise. : ) So no worries, and no matter what day it is I just wanted to make sure, that those of you reading this, know we wish you all a very happy holiday from our family to you and yours!!! : ) Anyway, before I start in with our Christmas story for 2008. I wanted to tell my dad the Christmas package arrived here safely December 24th in the evening, around 6pm. Reason I'm mentioning it here is because while every other package arrived to us from the US to us here in Japan, my dad's gift didn't make it. We started to worry and then as each day passed, we started to get a bit more worried each day. : ( And so when the mailman on his little mail scooter did not bring the DVD's in the day time, December 24th, I had given up hope, they'd make it before Christmas. Also sorta worried if they got lost or stolen in the mail : ( Emailed my dad and he was very bummed, as well. : ( Yet, as luck would have it...at 6pm, I heard a vehicle pull up. A bit unusual, since we live way out in the country side and our street we live on, is the last row of houses, so I looked on the intercom and sure enough saw a red post delivery minivan!!! Talk about sure delight! I went right out and greeted the mailman!!! So anyway, now dad, you can see in this pic, the DVD's did indeed arrive here safely and we can all breath a big deep sigh of relief. Thanks dad, the kids LOVED all the movies. And thanks for getting me the Dark Knight!!! I loved it! : )

What the boys got from grandpa this year. The boy's received "Kung Fu Panda", that new Dr. Seuss movie, "Horton Hears a Who", "Wall-E", and he also got the boy's the Charlie brown deluxe holiday set of DVD's, with Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas and a bonus DVD on there too. This is cool and the kids can now enjoy and watch these every year! And the Christmas comedy pack, with the classic Christmas movies, A Christmas Story (remember that kid who wants that BB gun? This is probably one of my all time favorites! lol) Elf and Christmas Vacation! Christmas Vacation is Noboru's favorite Christmas movie of all time, by the way. : ) Such good movies for the boy's dad! Thanks dad! : ) And thanks for the Dark Knight!

Branden took one more look at the Christmas tree before going to sleep and drifting off to lala land! : )

After the boys went to sleep, I waited until I could hear snores coming from Noah's room and also snores coming from Branden's room. : ) I wrapped all of the DVD's from grandpa for the boy's. Got their Christmas stockings stuffed with small gifts from Santa (wink, wink) LOL. And I placed 1 gift next to each child's bed, it lay there on their night table/light stand near their beds. The 1 gift B got from Santa was a snow globe (courtesy of Tokyo Hands online 1500 yen/ about $15 US, so not too bad: ) And Noah's gift from Santa was a Thomas wallet (about 900 yen, but just knowing they each got a gift from the "big guy" himself made them so happy and thrilled). : ) Besides a few misc. bibbly bobs and treats in their stocking from Santa also.
Branden woke up at 6:30 am, and he woke us all up, saying Santa came, santa came! Noboru woke up immediately. I did too. Noah was in a seriously deep sleep but Branden managed to wake him and when he realized it was Christmas and Santa had came, he bolted out of bed! : ) Here is the first picture I snapped this morning! Messy total bed hair on both of the boys and PJ's too! But it was indeed right when they woke up. : )

Noah opened one present already and was in the middle of opening up some DVD's from grandpa! he said, "a Wall-e DVD'!!!!" They were so excited, the excitement and rush the kids felt was pure magic! Noboru and I both looked on and smiled. Hubby video taped it and I clicked a few pictures from my camera! A few for the scrapbook and a few to share on this blog for my family and friends to enjoy! : )

Noah unwrapping another present! : )

And what was underneath all that Christmas paper? Eve!!! Ha ha ha! :D

Branden stacking his remote control helicopter on top of his Wall-E, Christmas morning! Ha ha ha! : ) We try not to overdo the presents at our house too much. Just don't see the need, is why. When I was growing up, I always had tons of presents every year. More then I could ever need or play with, to be honest. And neither Noboru or myself want to over indulge the kids too much. Of course they need that special Christmas magic, but that magic doesn't necessarily need to be store bought you know what I mean? : ) What I want to make sure the kids (Branden and Noah) will mostly remember about their Christmas childhood memories is the big family meals we made, the tons of Christmas movies, we overloaded them on and the overdose of Christmas songs we played for them, ha ha ha!!!! Oh yeah and the Christmas lights and hanging the same ornaments year after year, that's what I want them to remember, the family time and magic of that, is what I mean. Do you know what I mean? LOL, anyways. So, Noboru and I bought the boys 2 gifts each child. Plus the 1 gift from *ahem* Santa. The rest came from all the grandparents (fwiw, my mom gave both the boys a $100 gift card to Old Navy each, 1 for Noah and 1 for B, same as last year, woohoo). So they have a nice simple conservative Christmas every year. And we like it this way. Heavy emphasis on the family time around here. Oh my god, we're like the Griswald's, ha ha ha! You know from Vacation! :D : )

Noah playing grocery store in the middle of unwrapping presents Christmas morning! : )

Noah ringing up some pretend box of curry!

Now Noah's playing with the Eve and Wall-E. They talk just like on the movie, same voices and everything!!! These are really cool!!! : )

Branden watching Wall-E and Eve interact and talk together! : ) Meanwhile hubby was in the background getting the helicopter all set up! : )

We all got dressed, washed all our faces, brushed all our teeth and headed to swimming. We stayed an hour. Debated about going to Coco's for breakfast and decided against it, in the end, and instead we hit the McDonald's drive through and brought home some breakfast. Egg McMuffin combo for me, and Sausage McMuffin combo's for the hubby and both kids. We went home, ate and watched the kids play their hearts out! For over an hour, the boy's played with Branden's remote control helicopter!

Right before take off! Ha ha ha. : )

What did I get from Santa this year? Well, for the most part... the stuff for myself, I am usually pretty quiet about it. But I will share and say, that I got 2 really cool nightgowns from the hubby. And I also got to place an order of books from Amazon for part of my Christmas present from the hubby too. I got a good assortment of books. And I will try to remember to take a pic of the books when they get to Japan, 3 of them shipped last week and 1 still has not shipped yet. So, it will probably take 3 weeks or so to get here if not longer, lol. Since I ordered standard shipping. Ha ha ha. I also got a pair of gorgeous earrings from my mom and some Bath and Body works goodies from mom as well. And the new batman movie called the Dark Knight from my dad, and finally last but not least, I got these headphones from Noboru. I had seen these headphones on Japanese regular TV (not satellite) one morning, about a month or 2 ago. They are supposed to be big buttons. I thought they were so cute! I was watching TV with the hubby at the time and I squealed because I liked them so much, and said how I wanted them. He checked online and they come in white, black, pink and brown. I debated between pink and brown for over a month. And last week, when we were in the mall, after seeing them in person and since I have brown hair anyway. I went for the really cute brown ones, and the button string is gold and they are so cool, I love them! : ) Hubby got a fishing pole and a few other things. Everyone in my family got gift cards from us. : ) And we sent Noboru's mom an assortment of crab, she will love that, she really will! : )

Christmas dinner 2008!!! Everyone had helped pitched in to make something. The boys helped stir the fruit salad and therefore got a bit messy, so they had to switch clothes before we sat down. But they helped and that's what counts, right? :D
Just a simple family Christmas at home! We listened to the Christmas music from the Ipod that played in the kitchen. Yup, I am officially tired of Christmas music. I need another 11 month's to regain my appreciation for it. Ha ha ha. So next year I will be ready again! : ) Pictured, a happy hubby, and 2 happy as can be, boy's!!! : )

From this side of the table you can see....hot buttered dinner rolls, a homemade from scratch apple pie, homemade au gratin potatoes (these were delicious) among other things.

A fresh crunchy salad, same hot piping au gratin potatoes, whole spiral sliced baked ham.

And finally from this side of the table you can see, fruit salad, green beans, black olives for sticking on your fingers, yay! And a homemade pumpkin pie! We just kept things simple for the most part.
I hope all of you have, had or will have a wonderful and very Merry Christmas! : ) Now that Christmas dinner has just finished, we will all be jumping in the shower and bath tub (hubs and the boys first, me last so I get to relax a bit : ). And we will be watching DVD's for the rest of the night. Have a good night everyone! And Merry Christmas again! : )