Thursday, March 16, 2017

Branden's Junior High School graduation...

Last Thursday, March 9th Branden graduated Junior High School. He took his final walk into the gymnasium one last time. The 9th graders were split in 2 classes. There were 58 ninth graders total for both classes. But the 58 were divided in half all 3 years. Class A and class B. Branden was in class A and the teacher for class A... stood beautifully in her Kimono as her class A students filed into the gymnasium one final time. Music was playing. And every parent in the room was video taping and taking pictures. I took video and also snapped pictures in between. 

Then walked in class B after class A walked in first and their teacher stood as his class filed in one last time too. And then they waited for their name to be called. Before walking onto the stage. My American sized son, next to his classmate from class A.

Beautiful colorful flowers and a bonsai tree. He stood here until they called out his name one final time and he shouted proudly...hai! And then went and collected his diploma! I did not shed 1 tear. I was not sad. I was simply enjoying watching my great big tall beautiful son! Graduate with his class! I was so happy for him and oh...so proud! My heart was simply bursting!

These 4 were the very best of friends. Always together. Always talking. Always hanging out at each others houses. Always joking with one another. Growing up together since they were wee little... pika pika ichinensei, these 4! And now they're great big 9th graders. They will never again attend the same school together. These 4 are going to 4 different schools. Kento-kun was as you can tell  was crying. And I could feel and understand why. This was their final day together. Final day together as classmates. The class A kids were asked to each get up in front of the class A kids and parents and their teacher and say any parting words, this was done privately in their classroom, which I video taped. Branden said, he hopes to see everyone on Adult Day/Coming of Age Day when they're all age 20. And he kept his speech short and sweet. But so many were really feeling their hearts that day and were in tears. And it was at that point that I almost burst out in tears myself. But...I held it together. And deeply breathed in and out. Yes...I could totally understand why some were crying. And it was such a wonderful day. But also such a bittersweet day too. Best friends forever and ever!!! : )

Branden's sensei. She was the best teacher Branden has ever *ever* had! I liked her so much because she was an exchange student in Los Angeles California back in her day. And to me that matters so much because...if you have lived in another country or culture not your own. Your mind expands and you learn that the way you grew up...is perhaps not the way the rest of the world does things. Believe me...I learned that too... with living in Japan. And so...this gave his sensei such an open mind...and open outlook on life... especially when being a teacher to Branden. She also speaks wonderful amazing English. And she was just a wonderfully open minded teacher. Wonderful kind person. And she never made my son feel like a weirdo for speaking English at home. She never made my son feel like a strange-o for being half Japanese and half American. Granted she gave him no special treatment either... and that's the way we prefer it! But...she *always* had an open mind with him And a kind heart with Branden and the rest of her class too. So...yes...we adored this teacher for the 2 years she was Branden's teacher. Best teacher ever! We love you sensei!!! I hope you will be Noah's teacher when the time comes! : )

After graduation ended around 12:30pm considering we all snapped a ton of pics outside. We went home and we had lunch here at home. And we waited for Noah to get out of school. As soon as Noah was out of school, and he came home and dropped off his randoseru and stuff. We all went out to dinner. We went to Jolly Pasta, the place Branden picked. And we ordered pizza and pasta and we had a drink bar. And we just enjoyed about 75 minutes of eating and talking and laughing. It was such a good graduation you guys... and delicious graduation dinner too. : )

We even drizzled some of that amazing chili oil over our pizza and pasta. And just...enjoyed our time together. It was a nice quiet little celebration just us 4. Anyway...Branden now has zero school until high school entrance ceremony in April. Onwards and upwards. : ) 

Monday, March 13, 2017

Tokyo Disneyland...

Saturday, March 4th Branden and his fellow 9th grade classmates went to Tokyo Disneyland together. Their last trip together as a class!!! Forever and ever. No teachers went. No school officials went. Just about 3 mom's who organized this trip and they went to and from via a big limousine bus. They left our town... super early that morning. And they would meet back up at 7pm to catch the bus back to town. But as soon as they arrived at Disneyland the kids broke off and split off in groups of...whoever was their best friends. Branden of course spent his day with his best friend since yochien (Genki-kun) Pictured in the fedora hat. And their also really good friend Kento-kun. So these 3 besties were inseparable all day long while at Disney. And I did ask Branden's permission to share these. : )
The 3 besties went and had curry at the Country Bear Curry house. The curry there is so delicious! And yes, that is 1 of the drinks that I packed for Branden. The day before, I bought him 3 drinks. One mugicha, 1 yuzu drink and 1 soda. I froze the yuzu drink and mugi tea. And just kept the soda in the fridge and I packed them up in a plastic bag and tossed them into his backpack. He also took Mr. Potato Head as his popcorn bucket. And I packed a pack of peach gum and a pack of grape Mentos. : ) Just in case he needed something to chew on...while in line. : ) 
See this crowd? Yep, that's exactly why I always say...please don't go on a weekend if you can avoid it. Go on a weekday. There's almost no crowds on weekdays and a gazillion people on weekends. But...the date was picked by the powers that be, so....it was fine. : ) The kids enjoyed it anyway. : )

Hello R2-D2...
Kento and Branden. 

Frozen Fantasy. Looks like it was a fun day. The kids all had a blast. And I am so thankful for the mom's who arranged this trip. The kids loved going! : ) 
Since we all purchased the tickets in January as a group. We did also make sure to give Branden ichiman yen to spend. About US$100! That way if he wanted to purchase any food or souvenirs, he could. : )  He brought back his leftover honey popcorn. He and Noah shared it as soon as Branden got home. Noah and I went to pick up Bran at the plaza around 8:30pm. And we and the other parents were happily waiting. And then we saw the great big bus pull in and all the kids got off the bus so happy. : ) 

The only thing Branden bought for himself was the Star Wars drink thermos. He's such a thoughtful boy/teen. He brought back some chocolate crunch, think along the lines of...Nestle Crunch bars. In the Disney Donald and Daisy tin. And the Darth box with cool clip that is now on our fridge were delicious chocolate cookies. And we shared both the chocolates and the cookies. On different days of course. But yum. Very thoughtful. And the Mr. Potato Head mask he bought for Noah. They are very close as far as brothers go. Very close. And he said...many were buying masks and he said..."I'm too old for one...but I knew Noah would like one." Noah was so happy receiving this. I'm just glad I have such kind considerate kids who think of each other like this. : )

He also dated one girl in the 5th and 6th grade in elementary school. Then he broke up with her because he started JHS. And he started dating another girl. The most gorgeous girl of the whole school. They dated for all of the 7th grade and a few months of 8th grade. However...when Branden and his girlfriend were in the start of the 8th grade. His ex-girlfriend from elementary school started JHS too. She's just 1 year/grade younger And she's just so nice to Branden. She always uses the most polite words. When he posted a picture of our Christmas ham a few years back. She was the first to comment and like his picture. And she said..."what a gorgeous Christmas dinner" Again...she's just always so..kind and polite. And well...she got Branden back. Anyway...so before Branden went to Disneyland he asked me...do you think I should buy her something? I said..."oh honey...absolutely!!!" And he was like...okay. And smiling. And this is what he found for her. The tin with Mickey and Minnie holding hands. And it had macaroons inside. : ) Awww. Cute teenage puppy love. And I must point out. In Japan...kids are much more innocent than in the US. They have never held hands or kissed. So it's very G rated puppy love. : ) 

He asked for a special bag. And he passed this to her...as they did their final walk outside at the JHS after graduation. She passed him a love letter. And he passed her this. And all the girls around her were like..."wow Branden gave you something" So all the girls were oohing and ahhing. And I thought that was so cute. : )

Anyway...that was Branden's final class trip to Tokyo Disneyland. And the souvenirs he brought back. : )

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Today...

Today my son will be graduating from Junior High School. I am so proud and happy for him! Graduation today starts at 9am. I am dressed already and ready to go. Both kids are at their schools. I am ready for a day of happy tears. Clapping. Cheering. And of...one chapter ending. And another about to begin! I am so proud of you Branden! We will be going to a celebration dinner tonight just us 4. I love you BrannyMcB!!! To the moon and back kid! To the moon and back! Love mom. : )

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Noah's Observation Day last week...

This picture was taken on March 2nd, on Noah's Observation Day. Watching Noah's class in action was nice. The class was broken up into groups of 4 and they were making a mock newspaper article. : ) It was really cute to watch. There is only 1 fifth grade class in our school. This is the one and only. And they've been going to school together... since the first grade... so all these kids know each other really well. And they're going to be 6th graders this coming April/start of the new Japanese school year! I wonder who Noah's 6th grade teacher will be? This teacher in this pic is very nice and he's been Noah's teacher for the past 2 years...so I really doubt he'll be his teacher 3 years in a row, ykwim. Wish he could, but I doubt it.  
The kids at my son's school sew a lot! Like a whole lot! This is the most recent project Noah made! It's a bag and the design is sharks! I think Mr. Gorgeous did a fantastic job on his latest sewing project! Noah and his classmates also cook and bake a lot at his school too! Good school...good school. : )

Anyway what happened with the whole tons of meetings after Noah's observation day? And what happened regarding the PTA? Well here's the deal. In America you have the option to join the PTA or not. It's your own personal choice. However here in Japan. You do not get a choice or option. You are in the PTA whether you like it or not. Whether you are a hard working mom... working full time! It also...doesn't matter if you have kids at different schools (one in JHS or yochien) and that all on it's own....is a juggling fiasco all on it's own, if you have more than 1 kiddo here in Japan and deal with PTA stuff. Nope...they're not interested in your excuses. You're just...in the PTA whether you like it or not. So...now that you know the rules. @_@ Here's more. Again this is for our town. Not sure what other areas do for theirs. Just know how ours... does ours.

You must join the school PTA once in all 6 years per kid. So if you have 3 kids, you will be in the elementary school PTA 3 times. It is a 1 year of service per kid. Okay...so that means... me...Gina has 2 kids. So I had to do PTA at the elementary school 2 times. Okay, got it? : )

Also...now here comes another ball you can try and juggle too. We have something called the Kodomokai (Kids Club) in our town. And you must give 1 year of service for this too but this is just once...no matter how many kids you have. So if you have 3 kids, 1 year of service is enough. So...if I say kids club PTA that is this.: )

For Branden...I raised my hand the very first semester when Branden was a first grader. Why? Because Noah was not in yochien yet. He was only a toddler. And I had the time. And I also heard from the grapevine... the one to apply for...try for...is the traffic safety PTA. And I got that! What was my job? Super easy! I just drove down my area and looked for any PTA signs that needed replacing or signs that needed tightening. It was so easy. I had Noah strapped in his baby car seat. Branden in a booster seat since he was 6. And I drove my white minivan...the Mazda MPV at the time...around my town checking the signage. And that was so easy and I would say... I knocked that out of the way in an hour! Best...most easiest job ever!!!! And my PTA duty for Bran was done...finito! Since his first year of elementary school!

I also did the Kids Club PTA too. Vice Prez!

Now for Noah's elementary school years. I raised my hand when Noah was a first grader. I badly wanted to get that same job...traffic sign patrol again! The problem is...5 other mothers also raised their hands too. @_@ And so...we rock paper scissored. And I could not get it. I tried again in Noah's 2nd grade year. And nope. many mom's wanted that job. And I was once again..out-rock paper scissored. Noah's 3rd grade year...I was Fukukaicho for the Kids Club that year...and rules state...I can't be PTA for both places same year. Noah's 4th grade year I was...frankly burned out...by the whole PTA thing having just completed a whole year as fukukaicho. And didn't raise my hand at all. Lucky for me...I wasn't picked. Noah's 5th grade year...I got my energy back and I once again...tried for the traffic sign PTA. And once again...I lost. Clearly I suck at rock paper scissors! Haha! : ) And this year...manner wise? I know...I have to raise my hand for something. And manner wise...I have to volunteer as tribute! LOL...Hunger Games reference. So....I knew. Considering.. everyone should take a turn and it's now our family's turn. And I have yet to do PTA for Noah, I have to do it this year. It's right we do something this year. Because we cannot escape the PTA. I know that.

However also please keep in mind. I do have 1 more kiddo. And I very well...might be elected in the PTA for Bran's high school. Everyone pretty much speaks English. So...yeah...it's pretty much...a possibility too.

But...do I want to be in the PTA at 2 different schools this year? elementary and high school? Honestly? Not really. 1 is fine. But 2? Ehhh. Not too crazy about juggling... the PTA for both schools. So, Noboru and I talked about the possibility. The night before Noah's observation day. And the morning of Noah's observation day. And Noboru said. You will never believe what he told me. He said..."You did the PTA for Branden. You did the Kids Club PTA too. We don't know how Branden's high school will handle the PTA or even if they have one. However thinking back on you doing the trash pick up with the other mothers. Hauling all those heavy newspapers and beer cans. You did more than your fair share. And they're my kids too. So, I should do something too. So, I will raise MY hand and I will do the PTA for Noah this year" .....my face.  was like. @_@ "Really?" He said, really. I said...Are you sure? He said reassuringly..... "I'm so sure, I've got this." What a guy! Talk about being happily surprised. So, I said...okay. Thanks. Truly thank you! I'm very glad...that my husband is very modern thinking. Sure living 16 years in America helped. I'm just glad that he doesn't just *expect* absolutely everything should fall to my shoulders. So for me...that's reassuring and helps me a great deal. : )


So, we drove 2 cars to the school for one, because we had talked about it at home beforehand. And we both went to Observation day. We then both sat at the class meeting. PTA was brought up almost immediately. 3 houses out of 39 kids have not done PTA yet. Noboru raised his hand and said...we are one of the families and that he would like to volunteer. He did immediately cover me pretty much from the get go... because he knows how to deal and speak with Japanese because he's Japanese. He said right away...."my wife did the PTA for our older son at this shoggako as many of you know. She was also fukukaicho for the Kids Club too, as many of you know. And our older son is going to an English high school starting this April...and we are thinking my wife has a strong chance of being picked for the PTA. So...to take the burden off my wife since she will more than likely be doing PTA this year also...but for our older son. I will take the PTA duty for Noah's final year this year."...by Noboru saying that immediately and right away! He nips anything in the bud ASAP! And everyone chimed in and said...oh yes you're wife is always helpful....yes she was in the PTA. And you see people shaking their heads. And one says...Branden is going to an English high school? How wonderful. Yes...I bet they will pick your wife for the PTA!" And heads were nodding. And they said...We agree. And they then said...how wonderful you are taking this on. And so...they asked Noboru...would you like to do the yearbook? Side note...yearbook duty meets every single week of your year. @_@ Newspaper duty...newspaper they meet every week too (parents of this write what the grade/class was up to and what they will be up to next). He also tried for PTA for the traffic signs. But nope. But he and 1 other person signed up for ...."undokai and weed cutting day"...the lady said she's done it before...it's super easy and she will raise her hand to be kaicho since she's a 6th grade parent and Noboru can be VP if he wants. But they do not meet once a week. They get together 1 day before undokai and stream up the flag banners. Help on the field. And help the day of undokai too And that's it. And as for grass weed day...just make sure everyone signs in. And then cut the weeds. That's it. He's very happy with this. And so...PTA duties are done. For our town. 

To be fair. There is one papa, in Noah's class. He has been in the PTA every year. He loves being in the PTA. He also has a JHS daughter. So the dad's in our town do volunteer. Volunteering for dad's in our town at least...is not that uncommon. Good dad's...good dad's. : )

After the class meeting. I found Noah and we also met up with Branden and the 3 of us went home. I popped the enchiladas in the oven and made the spanish rice. Got dinner all ready to go. And Noboru went to the school wide meeting. He went to the district meeting. Then he came home. To a nice hot piping dinner. So a win win for everyone. : ) 

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Throwback Thursday...

Happy Thursday everyone! Dinners done and in the fridge. No, I'm not a superwoman or anything...it's just ya'll know... I have Noah's observation later today at 1:50pm and about a bazillion meetings after that. So unless we'd all like to starve to death....dinner had to happen in the AM today! Lucky for my family...I'm freaking good with time management. I'm very organized.. so no problems. I even have time to get this TBT done. Today's TBT has to be short and sweet and right to the point. One pic of each of  my kiddos. This picture is of Branden in March 2008 at swimming school. He started swimming at age 4. Noah started at age 3. Both my kids absolutely *love* to swim! Here is Bran just gliding through the water! : )
And this throwback pic... of this little cuddle bunny... is from March 2009! Noah and I were just about to make a batch of chocolate chip pecan cookies together and share some time together. Noah and I have *exactly* the same color hair by the way. : )

Anyway...I have a packed schedule today. So, I have to motor. Have an awesome Thursday wherever you are! Oh yes...the weather today where we live? Cold, gray and rainy. Alrighty, I have to run! Check in with you all...whenever I can. : )  

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Costco with friends yesterday. Tomorrow, Noah’s Observation Day. A trip to Tokyo Disneyland coming up soon. And this month we will either be going to Singapore or to Guam, we’re hoping for Singapore...

Sorry you guys, I usually always take a cart pic while at Costco. But, I actually met up with 2 of my American mom friends who also live in Chiba at Costco yesterday. So, we were so busy chatting our brains out... at Costco. That, I forgot to take a picture at Costco. Sorry. : ) I guess...I was just so in the moment...enjoying some good conversation. And I forgot the cart pic. But...if it helps... this is what I bought yesterday. Nothing all too wonderful. But...ehhh...it's what we needed. It's just regular food ingredients type stuff. I'm making cheeseburger night at home this Saturday. And so bought 2 packs of hamburger buns. They're like 230 yen or around there... a package, so super cheap for the amount you get. I made Italian last night. Baked Ziti. So the mozzarella 2 pack (I'm also making homemade pizza later this week) and the ricotta was for the baked Ziti last night. Ham for sandwiches. Eggs for baking or breakfasts. Chips for our dip for movie night, Noboru and Noah eat chips and salsa... like it's going outta style! LOL. And a cheesecake. This cheesecake is so bomb. I usually will buy one... every few months. It's been a few months...so I picked one up for the fam-bam. and they loved it! We still have 3/4 of it in the fridge. So...dessert for tonight...is in the bag! I also bought a pack of chicken breasts too. 

This cheesecake is too good. Sooo good. And the price for the huge amount you get. Amazing.

Dinner last night. We also had simple salads and a buttered baguette fresh from the bakery. Dinner was super simple last night and really good. : )

Now for the good stuff! The informative stuff. Today is March 1st. Because you know...Branden is graduating JHS and also starting a new school in April. That means we are dealing with 3 schools right now. Meaning Noah's elementary school. Bran's JHS. And Bran's future high school. And so we have like 3 balls in the air right now...so to speak regarding that. Besides the regular daily living type stuff. Such as cleaning the house.. grocery shopping. Running to Costco every week or every other week. So March is going to be fun. Yes super fun. Nothing bad or terrible. But March is also going to be...hella busy. And as parents of a graduating Junior High Schooler...we are pretty darn busy. : ) Again though..not a terrible bad...blech type busy. But busy. But...such is life. And onwards and upwards and so...all positive. Let's update each of us... in paragraphs.

Noah. Noah has a parent observation day tomorrow. So, Noboru and I will be going to that. Also last Sunday or the Sunday before. There was a meeting for the kodomokai yakuin (which means the kids club PTA) all future 6th grade parents need to go. And you might be picked for PTA duties. Went to that meeting. And wasn't picked because I was fukukaicho (Vice prez) a few years back. Remember? So...they had to pick 5 other members. Yep, me and Little K's mom could not be picked because we had done the job. We were so happy. We were practically giddy! Hahaha. However...the meeting tomorrow? After Noah's observation day. Is the day we will pick PTA for the elementary school. Which is different from the kids club PTA. And so...I could still get hit with the PTA bullet at shogakko tomorrow. Hoping to dodge that bullet. But...you never know. : ) Crosses fingers. : ) Anyway so...tomorrow. Observation day for Noah and the longest meetings at elementary school of the entire year. You have a class meeting...then you have a school wide meeting... then a meeting by where you live. A district meeting. I mean..it's meetings times a million tomorrow. So...looking forward to seeing my little guy... in observation day. Yes, for that! Not looking forward to the 100 zillion meetings afterwards. : ) The observation day isn't until 1:50pm. So, I will be making dinner tomorrow morning. I know...crazy me! But to be fair. I am making enchiladas. And I can make them in under an hour around 7:45am tomorrow morning. Boil up 1 chicken breast. For 30 minutes. Meanwhile skillet fry corn tortillas and blot with napkins. To de-oil them. Shred the chicken breast put seasonings in the chicken to flavor the chicken. And then roll with chicken and cheese. Wrap in tin foil and whack in my fridge! The spanish rice I can make when I get home from meeting hell. And we can will have a salad on the side. And a soda with ice...I will deserve that soda with ice...yes, yes yes because I don't drink alcohol but...the soda with ice will be my reward for surviving all those meetings. Hahaha. : ) Anything else to say for Noah? Noah's last day of school is March 24th. So after that... Noah goes on Spring break. And won't go back until April 5th or 6th or whatever. and when he comes back. He'll be a 6th grader. : ) So other than tomorrow's observation day. Noah's March will be quiet. And nice. He's still playing with his friends who live in our area. In fact Naoki-kun came to ride bikes yesterday. And "twin boy" came to play tennis with Noah a few days before that. He's been playing with friends. Helping around the house. He's such a good boy! And that's about it about Noah. : )

Branden. Between now and March 10th, Branden will be going to Disneyland with his JHS class as a celebration... this is a woohoo "we graduated JHS trip!" This trip is optional, not mandatory. In Branden's class 2 are not going. In the other 9th grade class, I think 3 are not going. So it is optional.  It costs ichiman yen. 10,000 yen $90 US. The entrance fee plus the limousine bus ride from our town to Disney and back. Parents and family could go if they wanted. But...almost no parents are going. 2 parents in Branden's class of 25 are going. Only 2 parents. And 3 parents from the other class are going. We chose NOT to go because...Branden will be off with his friends. It will be their last time together. Hanging. As a class. So...it's sorta lame...if we go and like... follow him around. Ykwim. And we're not lame parents! We're cool parents! And yet...good parents. And we respect that he wants to enjoy his last time too. So Branden is REALLY looking forward to going to Disneyland with his fellow 9th graders. Their last trip together. I'm so happy for Branden. And he is now deciding if he will bring which popcorn bucket...the R2D2 or Mr. Potato Head popcorn bucket. Hahaha. So Bran is looking forward to that. These kids deserve this trip! They accomplished so much! I told him I will freeze him 1 mugicha and 1 will half freeze another mugicha (slushy consistency) because by the time he gets there... it will be melted and perfect. That way he can have 2 drinks while at Disney. And we have been there enough times to know...drinks are allowed to bring in. : ) He can carry them in his Jansport backpack. : )

We have Branden's graduation at the local one and only JHS. March 9th. Branden growing up in a tiny town of 5,000 people. Means he grew up very rural. Very "Country Kid" And there are so many pros of that. He got to go to school with these kids from the 1st grade all the way to the 9th grade. These kids know Branden. Branden knows them. And with a 9th grade class of 45 kids total (and this was 2 elementary schools combined) these kids are like sisters and brothers. They know each other super well. They're safe. There's a comfort of living in a rural town. and going to the same school with the folks you grew up with for 9 long years. They will be graduating. They will be flying away from our town so to speak. There is no high school in our town. So all... will go elsewhere. And many will not be together anymore. Branden for example. Not one of his classmates will be entering the English program at his high school. And while that can be exciting. That comfort...that safety of growing up in a town of 5,000 will not be there regarding school anymore. He'll now be in a big huge bustling city. Where nobody will know BrannyMcB. And that's scary for him and scary for us... as parents too. So yep...graduation will be very emotional for us all...come March 8th. And...of course Japanese school graduations also mean. parents need to wear "ceremony outfits" and they're expensive. Like 20,000-30,000 yen. $200-300US. And so you hope your outfit still fits. Mine does. And you make sure you have a bright corsage type flower. And your nylons are good. And Noboru took his suit and my dress and blazer to get dry cleaned. So...yeah preparation for Branden's graduation. Yes...there is a mild busy-ness regarding that. Not huge busy-ness though. Since we didn't really need to buy anything new. We just dry cleaned our stuff to be fresh. We will also have to dress up in April for Branden's entrance ceremony at the high school.

Graduation dinner. March 9th.  Same day as Branden's graduation. Noboru gave me the wrong date beforehand but lucky for me... he read my blog and told me the dinner and graduation is in fact on the same day. We are not attending the dinner. We were originally given a form asking us if we would go to Disney and the dinner back in September... was the first time they asked. And they sent another letter at the end of November askign for the final time. We said.. Bran will go to Disney. And we would not attend the dinner. The school was *so* shocked about us not attending the dinner... the teacher actually pulled Branden aside in September asking...are you serious you guys aren't going to go to the graduation dinner? Keep in mind the teachers don't even attend the elementary or JHS dinners anyway. They did at yochien but not for the older grades. We could be the first people in history to ever do that! Here's the deal! Branden's yochien graduation dinner. We attended. We felt we HAD to attend. And it is expensive. It's was like $60 a person. So $60 times 3. For Noboru, Bran and I (Noah had to go to a baby sitter for the first and last time ever because siblings were not allowed). Now you know my mind is open- minded... but my tastebuds are NOT. I have very western tastebuds and I'm sorry but that's obviously never going to change.  I hated Branden's graduation yochien meal. It was gross and I didn't eat any of it. Branden didn't eat his either. Noboru munched 3 meals that day. Noah's graduation. Same thing. Horrible meal... we paid 6,000 yen each for Noboru, Noah and myself (Bran was at elementary school that day) because we felt we HAD to. But....I enjoyed my friends and the teachers. But the meal...terrible. And then Branden's 6th grade graduation meal. It was.... 6,000 per person but 1,000 yen or 2,000 yen for the limousine bus... so around 7,000 or 8,000 yen per person. That was $70 bucks times 4. Noah came too. It was at a big fancy hotel in Narita. And the food was horrible. They had curry which was bad. Iced cold fries. And most other dishes...we couldn't eat. Like dark meat fatty karaage. Iced cold spaghetti with wieners in it. It was like. WTF? Now before you start thinking...we're picky...ummm no....Coco Ichiban curry. Which is a chain makes delicious curry. Even Disneyland makes a delicious curry. How many buffets in Japan have we been to? We liked them all! You know that. However the curry at this buffet for Bran's 6th grade graduation was horrible. The meat...was gray! Was it beef? Was it lamb? OMG! What was it? And why was the meat gray, was it old?!!! What did we get for $70 bucks a person? And btw, sodas were not even offered. They had apple juice or mugicha! Do you realize we paid $280 US...for the 4 of us to eat...gray meat curry. Iced cold fries. Cheap tasting spaghetti (not even Saizeriya quality) with wieners in it? And not even a cup of coffee. Or a soda. $280 dollars is a lot of money for 1 meal, do you agree. Do you realize our family could have taken... Branden to Red freaking Lobster 3 times for that amount? Our family could have taken Branden to the Outback Steakhouse 3 times for that amount? We could have went to Coco Ichiban curry and enjoyed our meal better! We frankly..would have enjoyed our meal better if we went to Saizeriya! At least they have a solid drink bar, for crying out loud! I mean...seriously. Think about it logically! Would you...spend $280 again? After doing that in the 6th grade? Again the teachers will not be there. It's not mandatory. We started talking about...if we should go to the graduation dinner this summer. We all remember how Branden and Noah were starving after Branden's 6th grade graduation supper. And how I fixed us all something to eat at home after we spent $280 for the graduation dinner. So yes...live and learn. And we debated all this past summer? And by the way. For the record...this graduation dinner for the 9th grade is going to be at the EXACT SAME place we had the 6th grade dinner too. Same place. Bottom line is...whoever planned this graduation dinner...is picking this place because...it's their personal favorite place! Okay. fine. If you love this buffet. Great. But...to be fair...it doesn't mean...we should be subjected to going there. Why should we attend the buffet of YOUR choosing? Again...we're not mad. We're not sad. We're not feeling anything. We're sorry... we're not going. But not $280 dollars sorry!!! Meaning not enough to attend. But ...no...none of us want to go and eat that horrible food. And so... we're going to go to a place...Branden is going to pick the restaurant! Besides it's HIS graduation! He's deciding if we will go to Kua"Aina Hawaiian delicious place...Jolly Pasta (he loves that place) or if he wants to go to that Italian buffet place. Again...he should get to pick. Since it's he's graduation. Oh and FWIW, for what it's worth...every time we go to Kua"Aina burger our family of 4 spends 6,000 for all of us and we're full/stuffed when we walk out the door. About US$55, for all 4 of us combined. And we actually love that food! Versus paying 7,000 yen a person for a place...we hate. It's sorta a no brainer. And the Jolly Pasta we only spend about 6000 yen sometimes 5,400 yen (about $50US). And that's for all 4 of us too. Again...it's not to make our fellow graduating parents upset. It's just....why should 1 person who loves that hideous buffet... get to choose for us ALL? It just makes zero sense to me. And it always has made no sense to me at all. It makes zero sense to Noboru too. Noboru graduated high school in Denver and his parents and host parents they all went out to a restaurant they picked. And that was the same how I grew up too. And when Noboru and I were in uni together, we went with both our families...and we went to have Italian for our graduation meal together. Again though...it was a restaurant *we* chose. And so...no...we will not be paying $280 damn dollars for a restaurant we don't even like. When we could go to Kua'Aina and eat and each get a meal each...a drink...or go to a pasta place we like. So anyways...word has been going around... #towngossip...all Fall and Winter...that Branden and his family won't be attending the graduation dinner. And....I guess...maybe a lot of people were feeling the same. Because when the list came of... who is going...therefore who is not going too. Genki's family is NOT going...so that whole family is not going. And about 3 other families are not either. And a bunch of parents are not attending either... when...they originally were attending. So just some kids going alone. But...yeah...my friend joked with me..."you started something" now others are admitting they didn't want to eat there either. That surprised me. Because...I felt... it was JUST us? But...apparently not. And again...it's no disrespect to the planners of this graduation dinner. But really...what if a family prefer go to Cappriaciosa for dinner to have a nice quiet low key thing. Why can't they? Why do we all have to be borgs...or sheep and blindly follow and pay threw the nose for a place we don't want to go to... in the first place. And no...we will NOT be attending Noah's graduation dinner... next year either. See...the longer we live here. While we're still deeply respectful of the culture and whatnot. We also...understand we have our own...brains and our own places we want to eat. And we're not going to just follow blindly. And I'm sorry but spending $280 on a place for 1 meal... all 4 of us hate. Is nuts! And I am so proud of my family and myself... for being strong and saying. No. Thank you for asking...but no thank you. We will not be attending. And in some small way...I think us saying no first. Let people...think about it all Fall and Winter. And it did give the handful of those the courage to say...I decline also. 


I have my big yearly, once a year doctors appointment complete with barium drinking and the whole thing on March 13th. They give you a pap smear. Eye check. Blood pressure. Blood tests. Mammogram. You name it...they test for it. Cholesterol. They also check for stomach cancer. This is a huge test. So that's also in March. Oh yay...fun day for me. : ) hahaha. But necessary, I know! Good health should never be taken for granted. : )

High school orientation March 18th. The entire family will have to go. Because we're certainly not leaving Noah...only 11 years old at home all alone. We'll be gone for super long. What if we had an earthquake or some disaster. It's best we all go. And guess what. My Japanese girl friends told me, they're angels and so wise... they help me so much. You know how...in elementary school and JHS your kid gets text books for free right? Well in Japan high school is NOT mandatory. So text books for high school you have to buy them! And they're around 25,000-30,000 yen for a year of text books for Branden. So if you have a future high schooler in Japan. Just keep that fact at the back of your mind. So you don't die of shock when they ask you for $250-300 US for text books! Also the uniform we already bought for Branden. Branden is going to a very *very* fancy high school. And his uniform is an actual classy name brand... high school uniform versus a brand X one. His high school uniform is made by Benetton. And super expensive. We bought that at the uniform shop weeks ago. So we were smart to buy that. For our particular high school the uniforms are made to order. They're near heart attack expensive, that's how pricey they are! However the gym uniform will have to be bought on high school orientation day, which is on March 18th, it must be bought at the actual high school. And we have to buy Branden's inside shoes then too. My mama friends who have daughters older than Bran...their daughters high school allows them to wear slippers. Such as Uniqlo slippers or Gap slippers, Hello Kitty slippers. Ykwim/ You know what I mean. But...Branden and his fancy shmancy school...slippers are not allowed for inside shoes.@_@  They are "special" ahem absurdly pricey inside shoes. Curse you fancy school!!! Hahaha. : ) That must be bought at the actual high school during orientation. And what do they look like? Like Noah's elementary school inside shoes/ballet shoes. Except each grade has different colors. @_@ We are guessing it will be hella expensive come...orientation day. But we expected this when we picked this school and Noboru's fine with it. But yep...so many things to buy. But...we are allowing Branden to go to this particular high school because it's almost like an international high school environment. If ykwim. English is placed with the *greatest* importance at this high school and we want that for Branden. Plus he will have so much fun going to this school. My kids are 100% bilingual, but they *strongly* prefer English (speaking, reading and writing). So this will be a wonderful environment for Branden to be in. 

Anything else to add? This post is already a mile long. A couple days AFTER high school orientation. We are going to Singapore. As a graduation trip to Branden for passing his entrance exam. Getting into high school which was his #1 high school pick is a pretty major accomplishment. So our family of 4 will be heading to Singapore for a few days in March. In Japan it is pretty usual/standard to go on a trip after your child "gets into" is accepted into high school here in Japan. All of my Japanese mom friends have taken their children on trips. Either to USJ, to Okinawa (gorgeous), Hokkaido (domestic in Japan trips, but fun trips). Also, Branden's one female classmate and her fam-bam are going to Guam this March for her graduation trip. So no...it is not uncommon at all. It's pretty standard. Because such importance is placed on getting into high school. Therefore reason to celebrate. We do have 1 of Branden's classmate who is not going on a trip this March however his family bought him a brand new IPhone of his choosing. So either gifts or trips are pretty common for kids graduating JHS. Because if you get into a good high school...you're pretty much set! A good life guaranteed if it's a good high school. We have our hotel reservation already. We are planning to go to Universal Studios Singapore. We were originally planning to go to Universal Studios in California a few years back. And then we got bumped and went to Hawaii instead. Remember? Anyway. We were thinking of going to Universal Studios Japan sometime this Spring. However...with Branden having no school for March after this Friday. We started to think about USJ again. The only downer is everything is in Japanese which sorta sucks. And March in Japan means JHS students who just graduated are off school....all 9th graders nationwide. 6th graders are off school too. And 12th graders are off too.So amusement parks in March in Japan, hahaha... might want to be avoided if you can avoid it. March and amusement parks means super busy. However at Universal Studios Singapore, we're still in Asia plus the best part is... everything is in English. Our family of 4 has been to Seoul, South Korea... amazing, safe, modern country delicious food!!! Bankok, Thailand, gorgeous country, delicious food, kind people. We have never been to Singapore before. But my impression is. Singapore is very safe, very clean. Very modern. English is one of their official languages. So communicating should be awesome. I know they have Sephora there! Hello gorgeous Singapore... you just swayed me with Sephora! Hahaha. They have many Korean beauty brands there too. Innisfree. Face Shop. Etude House. Their shopping is killer. My friend went there and she said...best shopping ever! Amazing experience. Though I am not going for shopping. Okay maybe I can shop for 1 hour, while my family gets an icecream. LOL. Oh yeah... I was watching a video on YouTube and they called Singapore a foodies paradise. So again...I have never been to Singapore. But, honestly...my impression is......what a dazzling country! They have street food. Food stands. Which we love. They also have shopping mall food courts too. They have American Chili's restaurant. And Popeye's fried chicken. They have Long John Silvers. They seem to have something to offer everyone. Again though...we have never been there. But..our main goal is Universal Studios. And looking around a bit and trying some foods around the city. We will stay 2 nights. And then...we will be back in Japan. So a short trip yes...but a trip! And a fantastic chance to see another country. To see and respect another culture and learn things first hand..in person. Versus reading about it in a book!!! Economy seats are full on our airline. And out of 35 seats or so first class... 30 seats are wide open. And we are hoping we can get on the flight, Now what happens if we can't get on the flight? Well then...we will fly to Guam. And spend 3 gorgeous glorious days/2 nights in tropical gorgeous Guam and swim along the beach. Oh by the way. We have 12 free stays at a hotel and they expire at the end of August 2017. So we will have to use those 12 days. Sometime. So like ....2 days here and maybe 5 days in June. or whatever. But...we will most definitely be using those 12 hotel stays for sure too. So, I see lots of travel for 2017 for us. Especially now that the Japanese JHS study your brains out.... tests tests and more tests is all over. Plus we still have our once a year big long vacation in summer too and I'm feeling sorta like Hawaii again. : ) So we are hoping for Singapore this March. But we are willing to accept Guam. Because...we are frankly grateful for any trip...period. : )  The seats are more available right now for Singapore. And we hope for that too. But again...either trip is good. And we'd be happy with either. Bottom line though. A trip happening this month. So good positive stuff happening. : ) 

Any news about me? My hair stylist is pregnant. She is having her second baby. And that is so amazing. She told me last time. I went in. That she will be on maternity leave for the next year. @_@ I'm happy and thrilled for her. But sad for me. Because I finally have the best best hair stylist. Our personalities just click so well. The past 2 years I have been going to her. And then I had a 2 year gap.. but before then... I saw her all through my kids yochien years too. So, many years for us. And the other hair stylists at that salon are good. They're kind. But I'm more like. Meh. About going there now. I liked the conversation and talk that her and I used to have about kids. About life. Ykwim when you have that perfect hair person and it's awesome. And then that person is just gone. And now I'm like...what should I do? And I mean... she should be home resting taking care of herself and her future baby, she deserves this time. She has a toddler little girl right now too. Anyway. I could frankly color my hair at home... every 2 weeks for 990 yen a box of dye every 2 weeks. My hair coloring is 5,000 yen once a month at the salon but it's a price I don't mind spending since she and I click and it's relaxing for me to be there and have her do my hair. But that's no longer an option so.... if I did it myself that would be cheaper. No sense in going there once a month for a color, if she isn't there. When I could do it at home cheaper and get it colored more often. I mean...if it was my regular stylist of course I'd prefer go to her. But...if she won't be there. I think I'll just color it myself at home every 2 weeks and it'll look fresher anyways. The cut and straightening... I will continue to get there. I guess. : )  So slight bump in the road about my hair...with my hair stylist going to be gone for a year. But...I'll pull through. And stick around or switch salons? I don't know. To be continued. It'll be a hair adventure this next year, I guess. Positive vibes though on the hair. And I do think it's even harder for me...as a foreigner/western woman. Because some salons treat you *so* super weird, ykwim. And to be fair not all do. But...to finally have a place. You're comfortable and they all know you. Sigh. : ) Anyways...

Anything else to add? Yes...I placed my first Sephora order today. I think...I mentioned 2 years ago that Sephora USA ships to Japan. Orders 10,000 yen or over...the shipping is just 1500 yen. I go to America every single summer. Either Honolulu or Denver, so I usually just do one huge haul every summer. But I have been on such an eyebrow kick lately. Remember? I have mentioned that before. Anyway, I ordered 3 things from Anastasia Beverly Hills (the Dipbrow Pomade in medium brown, the brow Wiz in medium brown and the brow pencil in medium brown.) Three guesses if you can figure out what color my hair is! LOL! I like these colors because of the tone... they're more cool and ashy brown than warm and reddish brown. My hair is a cooler ashy brown. And the 2 brow mascaras I bought in Japan are too warm. Like I mentioned before. I do like my Rimmel medium brown brow mascara and I do like my Anastasia brow mascara in the color brunette, but...I'd like to try these 3 brow products. I also bought an Anastasia brow brush. Oh and fwiw, it seems Sephora in Singapore does not carry this brand. : ( Oh and this is so funny and it just figures...so my order total this morning was 9500 yen and I was short 500 yen to get the cheaper 1500 yen shipping. And so... they were going to charge me 2500 yen in shipping. So...I smartly added a $5 pack of peppermint blotting papers to take my total...equaling and/or a few cents passed... the amount of ichiman yen and they only charged me 1500 yen on shipping. So...smartly adding those blotting papers by Boscia saved me money in shipping. I think the order said in 5-7 days. So by next Thursday my stuff should be here at my house. Right on. Anyways...sorry it's such a long post. I guess I just had a whole lot to say this time. : )