Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year 2013!!! Year of the Snake! Heading to Osaka tomorrow

Happy New Year! These are the New Year's cards we sent out this year. I'm sure everyone here in Japan and my dad in Guam and family in the states have received them all by now. So, I can share the cards here now.  The main thing that happened last year, was that Noah started the first grade which is a pretty huge deal in Japan. So that's why the main pic is from Noah's entrance day.  The upper picture, of Branden wearing the aqua blue shirt and Noah in green is from March 2012 at the Ala Moana shopping mall holding that coconut ice cream they had after Noah's graduated yochien and we took a family trip, to Honolulu back in March 2012. And the pic on the right of that, was the pic when we went to Disney Sea in October 2012 for some pre Halloween cheer and were on our way to dinner at Kua Aina Burger. The next pic where they were both in orange that pic on the bottom row is when we were in Guam and the boys were on the balcony. The mid bottom pic is of the boys playing water guns in our backyard. And the other pic is when Noah went trick or treating this year in Guam. So this kind of just gives a lot of our extended family and friends a sneak peek/a glimpse of what we were up to last year.  I sent some of these cards to my yochien mom friends, that are my good friends still and will be forever, I'm sure. I made sure Noah sent them to his former yochien friends, who he swims with still. And to a few of Noah's new classmates. A few to Branden's friends and classmates, such as Genki-kun. All of Noboru's family in Osaka and to uncle Jun/my BIL Jun in Narita City. And so on.
Otoshidama fukuro. Money envelops that kids in Japan receive at New Year's from family members. These are the envelops I picked out to give to our family members here in Japan for this year. I thought The Very Hungry Caterpillar ones are super cute!
Little gold stars or circles to close the envelops.
Happily gave our first one a few days ago. This one went to my niece Mia, in Narita city.
She's such a cutie pie, I made sure she got the gold star! Hahaha. : )
Likewise, Branden and Noah received money envelops in return from uncle Jun. 
Anyway, here's the plan. Tonight our family of 4 is going to have our first pizza of the new year. I'm baking homemade pizza for dinner here at home.  We will enjoy our January 1st today and evening. However tomorrow, January 2nd we will be driving to Osaka to spend time with Noboru's family.  Noboru has a pretty big extended family. And they get together once all of them around New Year's and they go out and eat a meal together! Noboru's cousin is flying in from Okinawa (her and her husband moved there a few years ago) and we're coming in from Chiba. People are coming from all over for this one big huge family meal and some needed family time (they do get together other times of the year, but this is by far the biggest event of the year and everyone tries to attend, we haven't been in ages for New Year's so we're excited). This year everyone is getting together January 2nd for yakiniku at some restaurant. The meet up time is 5pm, January 2nd. So, we will leave Chiba here some time early tomorrow morning. At first Noboru said he wanted to leave at 6am and now today he says according to some news online traffic prediction thing, he now thinks we should leave the house now at 4am. @_@ Goodness that sounds early. Either way though, I'm up for it! So, long story short, tomorrow super early, time still undecided, but we will be driving to Osaka. Noboru put brand new tires on the MPV last week and he cleaned the car 2 days ago so we're pretty much ready already.  We have the otoshidama envelops already to pass out and the boys will more then likely get way too many otoshidama envelops then needed. But most important of all, they'll be happy getting to see and spend time with all their cousins and 2nd cousins and auntie K, and grandma M with all her brothers and sisters and great grandma and all the extended family to spend time with. I'm making an obento early tomorrow morning so we can eat along the way, if we get hungry. And I have drinks in the freezer for tomorrow already. We're staying at a hotel January 2nd night (that's always exciting and fun). And we will be driving back to Chiba the very next day, January 3rd. Is that not the shortest trip ever or what! Hahaha. Oh well, it's for a good reason, Noboru didn't get any extra days off and he really wants to see his family. And I totally understand how important family is, so we need to go even if it's just for a short time.  And uncle Jun can't come to Osaka this year. He has to work. : ( But we're getting together with them January 7th for dinner in Narita city somewhere, we haven't decided where yet. But we know we're getting together though. : )  Anyway just wanted to catch up with you guys! Wishing you all a happy and wonderful New Year!!!

Last day of the year! New Year’s Eve taco night

Today is New Year's eve. Last day of 2012! Today the boys and I baked an apple crisp/crumble.  But other then that, we did nothing but rest. Watch TV. And rest some more. It was nice. Anyway, this evening, Noboru has to work. He'll leave work at midnight tonight and should be home around 12:30am. I'll stay up and wait for my sweets! ; ) But, since we knew he wasn't going to be home.  I made one of the boys favorite meals instead. You know, the whole create your own tradition or celebrate the holidays in our own special type way. Type thing. And since Noboru's family is all the way in Osaka. And with it just being Branden, Noah and I for dinner. Why not. So yesterday when I was at the store getting last minute items, I made sure to grab a half head of lettuce for tacos. And 2 bags of apples so we can make an apple crisp. Which is in the silver tin in this picture. And you know...just celebrate our last meal of the year at home just us 3, since Noboru has to be at work.
Chicken tacos and beef tacos. Lettuce, sour cream, cheese and salsa. I toasted the shells in the toaster oven for a little extra crunch.  And if you see some apple crisp is missing. That's because, when it first came out of the oven hot and fresh around 3pm-ish, the boys and I had a small bowl of it each, to enjoy. We only had a bit before dinner because no one else was around ,since it's just us 3 tonight, otherwise we would have waited until after dinner to try it. ; )  Anyway just wanted to say, I hope everyone is enjoying the last day of the year. And hope everyone is ready for the year of the snake 2013!!!! : )

Tonight's plan? The boys are in the shower now and should be coming down soon. I think I'm going to go take a fast shower now as soon as they come out. And then come down and we'll watch The Hunger Games with a big bowl of popcorn and some Reese's peanut butter cups, the boys and I.  At midnight, I plan to soak in a nice hot bath, since I am waiting up for Noboru anyway and I know the boys will be fast asleep in their rooms. So a nice hot shea butter bath soak is what I will be doing when the clock strikes 12 here. Anyway, Happy New Year everyone!!! : )

Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Great Big End of the Year Clean Up! Pre New Year’s Oosoji finished!

From December 26th-December 30th (today) we had been working hard getting our "great big end of the year clean up" done and finished! Happy to say we're done, totally and really really done! Phew! : )  Every year around this time, I make a similar post.  In Japan, it's tradition to have a "great big house clean up" before the new year begins. Sort of an "out with the old (dirty) and in with the new (clean)" if you will, type thing. I know....I know, I'm weird because I actually love this tradition! I look forward to it. And I admit, I keep up with the housework pretty much year round and I really dislike clutter. So, the "great big end of the year clean up," isn't too terribly bad at our house. But yes, it always needs and greatly benefits from this pre new year oosoji. What's pictured. Let me look. I bought a big pack of wash rags for 100 yen. Great big stack from Besia/Cainz. The 2 pack of dishwasher powder was on special a 2 for 1, so I jumped on that deal, lol. Some shower cleaner, basic cleaner and some bleach spray. The rest of the cleansers and things I already had at home.
I like this basic store brand of bleach spray from Cainz/Besia, it's cheap and it works so good. I use this a lot in my kitchen and on my counter tops and on my cutting boards. I go through this a lot.
I spray this on the grout area in the shower room and it looks like new, just always has.....I spray this in the day time, when nobody but me is home.  And as for regular washings of the tub and shower area, I often wash my shower room right before I shower in there at night with the yellow bottle stuff in the top pic.  Kind of kills 2 birds with 1 stone. At the end of the day, I'm dirty, I jump in, scrub the shower area down really good and then I wash my body afterwards. Might sound weird, but it works for me. : )
I washed their comforter covers early December 26th. Took no more then an hour from wash to dry. Then because of the white blanket inside, I popped it outside to get fat from the winter sun. Whacked it with the futon stick throughout the day.
Started the great big clean up in Noah's room first, December 26th. Wiped down Noah's cubbys in his desk/study area.
Branden fell in love with these Kaiketsu Zorori books when he was in the first grade and he read every single one our town library had (good thing they have many) Even still, Branden will read some of these books. And sure enough, Noah loves these Kaiketsu Zorori books too. Noah had to pick out 1 book for winter reading. He picked 2 Kaiketsu Zorori books of course, since he thinks these are so funny. Thanks to Zorori, Noah read an entire book his first day he started winter break.  So, I've since taken Noah back and he's now checked out about 4 of these books. Good thing our library has plenty of these books.
Good grief! I looked inside Noah's desk and look at this disaster area going on here!!!! Good thing I put that anti skid and protector for the bottom of his desk drawers.
And done! Put things in order. Didn't take very long and now it's better!
Noah keeps his math cards in here because he likes doing the math cards so he brings them home almost every night. He also has bead crafts that he made at school or that his friends have given/made to/for him. The Narita passport is for free parking at Narita airport for kids who go to elementary school near here. Noah has one and so does Branden. The orange thing is something his brother made for him. An ice cream scratch pad. And his stranger danger alarm Noah usually keeps on his randoseru.
Next drawer... crayons and markers, extra school cleaning rags with his name already on them and his Spiderman bag he got as one of his stocking stuffers.
Bottom drawer, 1 blank sketch pad and 1 Transformers coloring book. Because gee he is a kiddo and he loves Transformers. And some extra beading stuff, if he should feel the urge to craft.
Packed these away. However, on Noah's desk from March up until now, we've had Noah's yochien diploma in the case displayed, Noah's umbrella (graduation gift) and the calendar he also got as a graduation gift from the yochien. I purposely left those on Noah's desk.....
You know, Noah went to school with those kids from age 3 up until age 6. And then with the exception of Sera. He isn't going to elementary school with any of them. And yes he does see many of them at swimming. But, I left the picture/calendar up so Noah could see his friends and remember their faces while he is doing his homework. And it really made him comfortable in April and May after Noah switched school. He was making new friends at our local school quickly and fast. But, I knew and could tell he missed his old friends too. So this helped. Noah could see his friends faces anytime he wanted. On his desk. : ) And now with 2013 coming up...and given the fact Noah's 100% transitioned to shogakko life. He's done so well. Marathon and all. And he does have tons of friends. That I.....well I thought it was time to pack up the calendar and umbrella keep sake and diploma safely in case and we then packed them away in his yochien memories plastic box up in the attic. It was time. So, Noah helped me pack his important things safely away. He actually waved at the calender and said..."bye!!!! Hope to see all of you some day" and we packed them away. Onwards and upwards.
Noah's cubby's! Top area is for his pianica (in lego bag) and seat cover (green zousan/elephant). randoseru (backpack) the yellow cover flap means Noah is a first grader and to be careful since he's a newbie. : ) His gym bag and his English study materials are near his handmade Mario gym bag. 2nd row, his school books on the left and homemade school bags on the right. Shoe bag etc. And below bottom cubby are Noah's paints for school and his Spiderman memory game. Noah loves playing memory especially if Spiderman is involved. ; ) And his Kumon bag on his actual desk handle also in this pic.
Files and shitajiki a plenty, far left in the cubby,  next is school books and then notebooks and finally Noah's 4 library books.
With music playing in Noah's room and some serious cleaning going on in there. I took a 2 minute break, ran outside whacked the futons with the futon stick pictured on the poles and flipped the blankets inside out. Whacked the blankets. And by now they were getting fatter/thicker, the blankets. lol.  Ran back inside and right back to cleaning.
Wiped down each and every plastic box in Noah's room.
Noboru vacuumed the edging near the door.
Noboru wiping down walls and Noah's bedroom door. We all dug right in and cleaned. Wiped down walls. Vacuumed every nook and cranny.
Moved the toy box and vacuumed under there.
Vacuumed the ceiling fan in Noah's room. That's Noah's central heating duct in his room. It gets super toasty in there. Almost too hot. We have those up in every room, some rooms even have multiple ones per room depending on room size.
Noboru vacuuming the window areas and blinds.
Me, working on Noah's 2nd and side window. View of rice fields and inaka countryside back there.
Moved Noah's cubby's so we could vacuum under there! I'm telling ya! Everything got vacuumed!
I cleaned all the windows. More rice field and countryside view and the view of the backyard from Noah's back window. Almost out of window and glass cleaner.
Picked up a refill of window/glass cleaner. And some antibacterial hand wash and the refill for it. One for the sink area upstairs and 1 for the kitchen area.
When Noboru goes to the store with me. He throws this type of stuff in the cart! Hahaha. : )
Except, I threw this in the cart. It said 11 herbs and spices and it reminded me of KFC. Wondered, hmm, what does it taste like? Is this a KFC knock off, yadayadayada. So, you know...maybe I'll try it at the end of January, who knows. : ) At least it's in the pantry though.

Noboru saw this curry it said mega and super hot on it, so he wants to try it for a fast quick lunch type thing. And the pasta. I like having a pack or two in the pantry always.
A box of my favorite yuzu mikan drink. Now I am ready for when most of our stores in the countryside close for the new years holidays.
Picked up our wreath that will be hanging on our front door. Yes that is a snake since this coming year, is the year of the snake.
New inside shoes for both Branden and Noah. I threw out their old pair on our last trash day, on Friday morning.
I go through laundry detergent like you wouldn't believe. Had to get another case. I am so ready for our stores to close around here. In the bigger cities many of the stores don't close now days. But around here in the countryside. Where things are more traditional and old school. Yep our stores do close for a few days.
December 27th. Was Branden's room clean up.  I took his mattress off and stood it up along his wall. And Branden vacuumed his edging area of his entire room, even under his bed.
Meanwhile, I vacuumed with our main vacuum, under his bed too. Branden's floors were nice and clean afterwards.
Dusting and wiping off Branden's bed.
Noah jumped right in to help with Branden's room. Noah wiped down Branden's window sills. Branden still doing his edging. Doing a great job at it.
I cleaned the windows.
Vacuumed the blind in Branden's room, same as I did in Noah's room.
Started to put the bed back together. Bottom of the bed in this pic if you look close is where Branden keeps his electric keyboard and music book for it.
Under his bed on this side is his 3 beyblade stadiums.
Fresh blankets and sheets and fleece blanket. Same for Noah's bed, meaning all nice and washed.
Brought Branden's denim blue (the color name) polka dot comforter in from outside on the laundry poles. It was nice and fluffy and fresh since I also washed it that morning.
Started wiping down all Branden's plastic boxes also.
Branden still vacuuming the edges of his room. I meanwhile vacuumed the rest.
Two brothers, one goal! To tackle Branden's bedroom! It feels really good to have a big family effort on it.
They wiped from the top of the walls to the baseboards.
I vacuumed and wiped down Branden's ceiling fan and lights.
Inaka/countryside outside Branden's side window.
And a scrubbing of his window.
This is a note/love letter from a girl in Branden's class. I did ask his permission to share it here. Yep, she drew Branden on the right and put hearts around Branden. lol. Puppy love.  A lot of girls seem to have crushes on Branden. The note said, "Branden let's not fight anymore" This note is from a little 5th grade girl who takes ballet and who takes English conversation classes. She lives in the housing community across form our housing community if that makes sense. And she loves cats. When I first saw her, I thought she was hafu. But she isn't, which doesn't matter either way, just trying to give you a visual. She's totally Japanese but she has warm brown hair, very pale light skin and big eyes.  Branden did like her. And she really liked him, even now she still likes him. And then he didn't like her anymore. He started liking a different girl instead. Or whatever. @_@, I know, I know...don't ask me!!! You know how kids are. Anyway... hence the "fighting" ....I also told Branden he is far too young to date. But also, I am glad he feels he can come to me and talk to me about all of this. To be able to talk with mama about anything. And I always leave the communication open with my boys.  And I must say, I love the way she drew Branden though, so cute! Hahaha. Anyway....
This says this is her favorite sticker.
Branden has many notes from girls in here and many notes from his pals/friends. His spare glasses/old glasses for emergency purposes and his important stuff basically.
One big plastic box has Branden's DS cards in there. Another little plastic box holds Branden's 3DS XL and his DS lite. And his extra cards in cases.
The boys have a big row in our book shelf downstairs so they can keep many of their books there but Branden keeps his books of the month in one of his plastic boxes. So he can grab one before bed and read one.  In his other boxes are beyblades, and some misc toys. He's still a kid, so yeah he still has toys.
Sitting on Noah's bed, I snapped this pic. Bright yellow zousan/elephant blanket on his bed, with yellow sheets and an orange fleece blanket inside. Night stand with lamp far left near his bed. Across is Noah's bright yellow and white desk and Noah's yellow Kumon bag. And his yellow and white cubby area. And his yellow chair.
Noah is younger so he has 98% toys in his plastic boxes still. Though his yellow plastic box has some electronics stuff in it top far left. And I am glad everything in Noah's room is easy to see, easy to use (meaning his randorseru has it's own cubby, his books have their own cubby and so on.) Easy access. It's in Noah's favorite color. And you can just tell, this is Noah's room the minute you see this. You know. : )  He loves being in his room or doing homework up in his room.
Noah's DS cards, by far way way less then his big brother has. But no matter if he needs to borrow something he can go right next door and borrow a card. : ) And also in the plastic box is Noah's DVD player. Again, it's very easy for Noah to find his stuff. Everything has a spot in his room. So things don't get too cluttery in there. Which is a good thing.
Branden's room. Again, everything has a spot and space and special place. Branden's cards, games, books, toys his Nerf guns on the bottom of the toy boxes on the right. Branden's randorseru and pianica and recorder on top of his pianica. Branden's Kumon bag behind his new angry birds bag. Branden has a nice desk with 2 tiers. He's got a paddle board and a boogie board on one of the top tiers since he is a beach and swimming kiddo, so his study area reflects his personality too. And of course Branden's computer. We do have a parental guard/control on it. However he does use his personal computer for school projects. He was researching something about Japanese geography this Fall. Branden was lucky in that he could just go to his room and get the information he needed. Branden loves his room. And Noah loves his bedroom too. And now they are spic and span clean! Phew. ; )
Our bedroom got a really good deep down cleaning also. On this day we cleaned the windows vacuumed the blinds, vacuumed the carpets vacuumed under the bed. Cleaned out my big walk in closet (that was a disaster and a half!) And now it's all clean! Phew. Also, this day, we vacuumed the hallway upstairs, wiped the walls down in the hallway too. Scrubbed the toilet upstairs. And the laundry room and sink area and shower and bathroom area. Boy oh boy was the top of the dryer dusty! Just wiped it down 3 weeks ago. Oh well, it's shiny clean now. So no worries.
December 29th, we did the living room. And the downstairs toilet. And genkan area. Those areas were easy. The bookshelf in the living room was the biggest pain that day. And then finally today. The last room needing to be done was the kitchen. Look at Branden in this picture vacuuming the heck out of the kitchen floor. This kid is a good egg! I tell ya! He's very helpful.
And Noah! Such a super duper good egg. It was raining in this picture for crying out loud. I said, I'm going outside to clean the windows. Noah said, "no I'll go"...I was worried. Because it was bitter cold outside, plus light rain. But he popped outside wiped the windows as fast as he possibly could. I was so proud. What a great kid, I thought!
Wiping so hard! Really trying his best!
And Noah did the living room patio door too. By now the rain really picked up! Good thing Noah came in at that point and was finished anyway.
I was quickly vacuuming the kitchen blinds and window areas.
We had music going.
The coolest kids ever! I was busy filling up hot sudsy water and getting ready to mop the floors down. And they spot treated with wash rags any parts that needed any extra elbow grease. These 2 are going to be fantastic husbands in the future! They will definitely be helping their wives. ; )
I move the table way over to the right. And I wipe the green counter down before I start mopping. Then I notice and think...what's Noah doing on the floor. @_@ While he's inspecting his foot of course!
At this point, Noah tells me, "I'm pooped mama." I told Noah, "honey go and lay down take a load off. You earned it! Branden too!" So, they went and played their 3DS. And I got to work on the mopping of the floors.
Scrub scrub scrub.  I scrubbed the floors twice and rinsed them 3 times. And left the kitchen. Let them dry. Then moved the chairs and plant and stuff back into the kitchen.
Done, done done!!!
Two fresh loaves of bread from the bakery sit on the green counter, bought at the bakery today too. And I did run to get any last minute food items I might need from the grocery store (extra milk, eggs, potatoes, yogurt and meat etc). Since like I said, our stores around here are closed January 1,2 and 3. Sure if I had an emergency I could drive to Narita city and go to Aeon and pay more then I normally do at my usual country store. But, no, I am stocked up. And we have enough food until January 4th. So, we're okay. What am I going to be doing tomorrow? Nothing. Just relaxing. Same thing we've been doing every evening since we started winter break. We've been having movie night almost every night. Every one's been taking nightly soaks in the tub. After their showers. Starting tomorrow, I don't have a single thing to do except rest and watch TV. And after working so hard these past few days, I am looking forward to it. : )  See that tea cup/coffee cup on the green counter. I had a nice cup of hot tea in it. When I finally finished my cleaning, I wanted to drink something and rest for a bit, it was so cold out, that a cold drink didn't sound too appealing, so a nice hot cup of tea was my choice for this afternoon/early evening around 3:30pm-ish 4pm. With cup of tea in hand, I sat at the computer chair downstairs in the living room. I read and went through my email. Just trying to decompress, de-stress or whatever you wanna call it.... after finishing the last of my cleaning.  Anyway "the great big end of year clean up"...done at our house.