Friday, December 30, 2011

Christmas 2011

It is hard to believe it is December 31st here in Tokyo. I have a post I want to dedicate to recapping the year, but for now, let's talk about Christmas. Boy, is it fun with little ones! Last year Miyako was not to into Christmas. She only opened a couple of gifts and was done for the day. What a difference a year makes! The girl opened EVERYONE's presents! We let her because, well, it was cute and she was having fun, and isn't that what it is all about? I am sure next year though we will have to do some prep work as the K Man might be interested in his gifts as well. We had a lazy morning with a big breakfast. As soon as Miyako was excused from the table, she RAN to her stocking and dove right in, never looking back. Sheer joy and delight. So fun. We bought the K Man an exersaucer. Yes, it is big and takes up WAY too much space, but I was so tired of him just being plopped on the ground and rolling his body half way under the couch or TV stand. And I feel for him, knowing all of the fun goodies Miyako had has a baby and he does not have near like she did. Not that she really remembers, but I sure do. So, I wanted him to have something fun to do, to help him sit upright and see all that is going on. As you can see from the pictures, he likes it. Sure, he gets bored in it after awhile, but it is fun entertainment for him for a little bit and he has a different view and can see what all is going on. Miyako's BIG gift was her piano. It is not a "big girl piano" but it looks like Schroeder's piano. You should see her - she puts her head down like Schroeder when she plays and she wants me to lean up against it like Lucy does in the Charlie Brown videos. Hilarious. After opening presents and talking to family back home, we headed to church for a beautiful Christmas service. They sang lots of traditional Christmas hymns and had the translation posted in English, which made my day. We came home to plenty of turkey leftovers and concluded Christmas 2011.

Kan is now off work for the New Year holiday. We are trying to make the most of his time off, going to fun parks or indoor play areas that are a bit hard to do for mama by herself. Yesterday we went to the 100 yen park before going to friends' for dinner. Miyako loved taking daddy there. Right now they are on a lunch date and I cleaned out her clothes while she was gone. The girl keeps wearing summer pjs or clothes that are too small because they are her favorites. Now they are in a storage bag. In Japan you are supposed to clean during the New Year, so that is what I am trying to do. Before Kan has to go back to work, our big storage closet will be organized, so help me. It is driving me nuts. We plan to ring in the New Year eating soba noodles and preparing for some traditional Japanese New Year's Day foods tomorrow. More holiday posts to come along with some thoughts on 2011. For now, I will treasure the peace in our home and read a bit before the K Man wakes up and Miyako barges back in.

Christmas Eve Dinner

We celebrated Christmas Eve dinner with two other families from church. I was preparing the turkey, some traditional southern side dishes, and my new Christmas Crack dessert, passed to me by a friend. Christmas Eve with my American in-laws is one of my favorite times of the year. We always go to the candlelight Christmas Eve service, come home to a small dinner like soup or a crock pot meal, and then enjoy reading from Luke together and singing Christmas songs. Inevitably one of our nieces or newphews is taking piano lessons and they play the piano with songs they know. I love how we sing "Deck the Halls" and everyone teases my husband for saying "Fararararara" instead of "Falalalalalala." It is really one of Kan and I's favorite nights of the year and I am not sure if they know how much we love it. Last year when we were away at Christmas, we said "Never again." We committed to going back to the US for Christmas this year. But circumstances change and God reminds us His plans are better than our plans, and we found ourselves in Tokyo again this Christmas. We decided to continue the Maulden/Fox Advent tradition and bring it to Tokyo. After a large turkey dinner and great fellowship with friends, we sat around and read from Luke 2 and sang Christmas carols together. It was much better singing with other families than just Kan and myself last year. It did not replace our family back home, but it was a sweet time with our family away from home. I cannot even begin to tell you how grateful we are to have such good friends here in Tokyo and have the community we have in our church. God is so good to us. Without these folks, we may not have lasted 6 months here! They are precious people and truly are like family to us here in Tokyo.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas "Illumination"

So, yesterday we celebrated the emperor's birthday by checking out some Christmas "Illumination" in Midtown and Roppongi Hills. I still find it crazy that Kan gets a holiday for the emperor's birthday, but if Christmas was on Monday he would have to take a vacation day. Anyways, I LOVE looking at Christmas lights. In the US, we lived in a fabulous neighborhood that really outdid themselves for Christmas lights - houses were given ribbons for best door, best lawn, etc. We always put in the Charlie Brown Christmas CD (yes, we liked it before we had Miyako) and would drive around and look at lights. Now that Miyako is a bit older and enjoying Christmas, we decided to help her enjoy Christmas lights as well, even though we are missing a car and neighborhood. We thought we would venture to Midtown and see the lights then enjoy dinner out since I had been in the kitchen all day preparing for a large Christmas Eve dinner with friends. We got to Midtown and discovered the rest of Tokyo decided to do the same thing. There were loads of people, walking in organized fashion, only as they do in Japan, to look at the lights. Rather than following the line like we were supposed to, I played the gaijin card and went the back way. We saw the lights for about 30 seconds and Miyako said she wanted to go inside because she was cold. Joke was completely on me. Note to self - next year check out the "Illumination" in the beginning of December. We ventured to dinner at Outback Steakhouse, very kid friendly, and enjoyed a Blooming Onion and steak salads. While at dinner, Kei dropped his spoon. The waiter saw it and offered to wash it for me! Would that ever happen in the US? And he does not get a tip mind you. We were talking a lot last night simply about the differences here in Japan. Some things drive you crazy, like the line to see the lights and how they would not let me go a different way, but I did anyways. Yet, this large city runs so smoothly and systematically you have to love it as well. And they offered to wash my kids' spoon! Sometimes I have a love/hate relationship with this country!

It is Christmas Eve here. We are a bit sad to not be in the US with our families, but we are making up for it with a large turkey dinner tonight with dear friends from church. And I tried a new recipe for dessert called "Christmas Crack" from a friend of mine. Let me tell you, there is a reason she calls it "crack." Let me know if you want the recipe. But do not hate me once you get it, eat it, and become addicted to it. Miyako is enjoying a date out with daddy right now. We tried to get her Nutcracker tickets but they were sold out (mental note #2 - get those earlier next year). They are currently at a LARGE indoor play area, having lunch, and buying a Christmas gift for Kei and her friend who is coming over tonight. When I told her she needed to buy Kei a gift, her response was, "But Kei already has something." :) We are working on this love relationship with her brother. Speaking of the K Man, I decided last night to give up the dream feed and see how he does. The little man slept from 8PM-7AM. God has blessed me with good sleepers. I was really proud of him.

Well, I need to go straighten up before the company comes. Pics of Christmas Eve and Christmas to come! Merry Christmas to all. May the Lord bless you during this time of celebrating his birth.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

More Christmas Fun - Tokyo Disney and Gingerbread Houses

Yesterday daddy took a half day off work and we ventured to Tokyo Disney to enjoy Christmas festivities, lights, parades, food and people! It was 50 degrees and sunny, a bit windy and chilly, but we bundled up and had a magical day. I LOVE being 30 minutes from Disney. I contemplated getting season passes but decided against it. I think we would use them, but I like keeping it somewhat of a novelty even though we live so close. I have been to Disneyland 4 times now and Disney Sea twice. I never leave disappointed, and yesterday was no exception.

We woke up and told Miyako at breakfast we were going to Disneyland for the afternoon and evening. Her response was, "Well, I have not been there in awhile." (Hence, trying to keep it a novelty and avoiding spending 10,000 yen every week at Disney!) Because we live so close and can go anytime, I do not feel this pressure to spend morning to night there and get my money's worth. I can go according to my kids' needs and what is best for them. It was perfect for us getting there at 1PM. We had lunch at home and Kei got his morning nap. We walked in just in time for the regular Jubilation parade. Right after the parade, Mickey was in the front entrance getting pictures, so we stood in line and got a family portrait (the one we paid for was much better as it did not have my hair in my face). Miyako chased down the 20 year old Japanese girls hogging Daisy Duck and finally, after about 20 minutes, got a picture with Daisy. Only in Japan would a 3 year old have to compete with 15 twenty-something girls dressed like Minnie Mouse for a picture with Daisy. But we got it! From there, we went riding...

Now, I expected loads of people, but it actually was not too crowded yet. We did Small World, or "the boat ride" first as this is Miyako's favorite and we walked on in about 15 minutes. From there, we rode a merry-go-round and the tea cups (this was done with Daddy and Miyako because Mama does not like going in fast circles). Then we ventured back to our bench for the Christmas parade and a snack. After the Christmas parade, we did more rides - new ones? No, the same three we did previously. I really wanted to take Miyako on Peter Pan, Pinnochio, and Mickey's Philharmagic, as the longest line was only 30 minutes for Peter Pan, but she insisted on riding her favorites. And really, it is about her enjoying her day at Disney. We had supper at The Queen of Hearts. By this time, it was 6:45 when we finished eating. The Electrical Light Parade was at 7:30. We debated staying, but decided to go on and leave before everyone else and avoided screaming children and the crowded train. Again, this is where my selfish desire to see the parade verses the "what is best for my kids" personality did a little battle, but it was better to not push our limits. Today I am paying for just the afternoon at Disney with a tired cranky toddler, and I am sure it would have only been worse if we had stayed for the parade. Living in Tokyo, there will be more days at Disney and when my kids are a bit older, more electrical parades. For Miyako, and the rest of us, it was a perfect day. We had a fantastic time as a family and forgot about the stresses of life for 6 hours in the park.

Today we have relaxed at home. Miyako's best little friend came over to make gingerbread houses. I forgot to get a picture of them together with their houses, but here is Miyako and her little house. It was a fun little Christmas activity.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas Fun

We had some Christmas fun on Saturday. It was a really fabulous day. Kan stayed home with the K Man most of the day and Miyako-chan and I came in and out to feed him. We started with our church's Christmas party for kids. Miyako's best little friend came with us to the party. From there, we came home for a quick lunch and some singing with starfall (Mel, you should see these two sing to Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes and the color "red"). After feeding the K Man, the ladies headed back out to a puppet show at our local play area and a snack at our favorite bakery. We came back home and Mama went for a 40 minute run along the river and then got ready for our December Girls Night Out. We went to a really cool area of town known as the French Quarter. It was really nice with cobblestone streets. Our meal was fabulous (for those of you local here in Tokyo, check out the review at this site - and the atmosphere was perfect. We were in our own private little room and sat on these comfy couches, low to the ground. The food was delicious - we tried a bit of everything from sashimi, to minced pork, grilled fish and a very smooth sake. After dinner, we enjoyed some wine and cheese at a small little wine bar, one of many in this part of town. Not only were we celebrating Christmas, but also my friend's birthday (see picture). E has become a dear friend of mine here in Tokyo. Our families get along fabulously (except for when her little boy is trying to hug Miyako and she does not want to be TOUCHED!) and I am so grateful for her friendship. We both moved here around the same time and met at a local park, hitting it off from the beginning. It is nice to have friends you can be at home with and I so enjoyed helping her celebrate her birthday. Not a bad Saturday at all huh?

We are gearing up for Christmas - did the online shopping last night at We plan to have a low key holiday with a nice Christmas Eve dinner with friends here at the apartment and church on Sunday after the festivities of a big family breakfast, singing Happy Birthday to Jesus with birthday muffins, and opening presents. Miyako is really into Christmas this year and LOVES the decorations. Hopefully this year she will actually open her gifts - last year she opened like two and we were still using some as potty training toys in November of this year! Work for the hubby slows down a bit at Christmas so it will be nice to have him home after the holiday for a staycation.

Monday, December 12, 2011


I am a day late for my scrapbook day, but better late than never. December 11th was Sunday and we had our normal routine - lazy morning in our pjs and then church in the afternoon. I have been trying to be better about preparing dinner before we go to church as we always get home and are hungry, tired, and it is dinner time. Normally we just pick up bentos at the grocery on the way home, but I felt like I need to be more productive in the morning so we can have a good meal when we get home. Yesterday I fancied a new recipe from a book my American sister-in-law gave me from her square dancing network. It was a chicken and rice casserole and turned out really well. I tweaked it a bit and added broccoli to try to get some veggies in it. Low and behold, Miyako ate two servings and did not complain one time about the broccoli. Here is my version of the recipe -

First, sit out a few pieces of bread to dry.
Boil two chicken breasts and shred
Steam broccoli
Combine above chicken and broccoli with 3/4 cups mayo, 1 can cream of chicken soup, 2 c. cooked rice and 1/4 c water in a large mixing bowl.
Spread in baking dish.
Top with dried out pieces of bread for topping.
Bake on 375 F, 190 C, for 30 minutes.

I baked mine before we went to church and warmed it when we got home for dinner and it was not dry at all. I think next time I will add carrots for an orange veggie and maybe some shredded cheddar cheese. Thanks Aunt Kim for the cookbook - everything I have tried from this book has been a success.

The pictures of the kids were taken today. We got some fun Christmas pjs in the mail from Grandma and the kids sure do look kawaii in them. They are growing up so fast. Kei kun is still the happiest baby on the block. We were at Starbuck's with friends the other day and I left him to order my coffee. He started crying and both of my girlfriends were shocked as they both said, "This is the first time we've heard him cry." We have introduced all kinds of solids - mushed up that is - sweet potatoes, carrots, broccoli, zuchinni, peas, apples, pears, bananas, avocado, and pumpkin. He eats it ALL! He is so cute when he sleeps and every now and then you find him sucking his middle and ring fingers. He is definitely a blessing and we are so in love with him. I just want to eat him up. I hope he keeps his easy going personality. Miyako is lively as can be. She finally watched a show other than Charlie Brown...she watched "Frosty the Snowman" and loves it! She likes to watch him ride the train over and over. Maybe that is because we ride trains nearly every day. She loves to sing and dance. The other day I heard her trying to play "Jingle Bells" by herself on her little piano and she played most of the song by herself. I was pretty impressed, and proud. She is starting to speak a little bit more Japanese. Today when our friends left she told them "Sayonara." She also loves to repeat my friend and her little girl when they speak Japanese. She still will not speak it at her sports class or music class, but I can see her understanding more and more. I was glad she spoke it on her own today.

Well, this mama is tired so enough for now. This scrapbook day post will help me to remember how lazy our Sundays are here in Tokyo and how much I like that.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

It's Been Awhile...

So, it has been awhile since I blogged...not sure why...just not much to say I guess. We have been busy and I have been tired at night and not much in the mood to sit at the computer. But this week I did something memorable. I went to see Aerosmith in concert. Yes, you read that correctly! I have the picture in front of Tokyo Dome to prove it. It is not that I am a head banging kind of girl, but I do have Aerosmith on my I-tunes and am a huge fan of Steven Tyler on American Idol. And let's face it...anyone who is 63 and has been performing for 41 years and still going strong is worth seeing.

Let me tell you, they were FANTASTIC! They can perform, that is for sure. My friend and I enjoyed watching the people bee bop to Aerosmith...lots of Japanese men in suits coming straight from work and then the random patches of foreigners, mostly American military men, around the arena. Kan and I love live music. We enjoy more smaller venues and performers like Keb Mo, Harry Connick Jr, or Diana Krall, but we do have a few big name bands we want to see in our lifetime that will only perform at a dome or arena like atmospheres. These bands include U2, Elton John, Black Eyed Peas (more me than Kan, HA!), and Aerosmith. Unfortunately Kan had to work from home, so he did not make it. But I gave him song updates via text while the concert was going on. It was loads of fun, something I will never forget. Now if Bono and Fergie can get the memo and come to Tokyo, I will check more things off my bucket list.

I realized I did not update about Thanksgiving. We celebrated with another Japanese/American family on the Wednesday before since it was a holiday here in Japan and the men were off work. We had all the traditional southern dishes - turkey, sweet potato casserole, broccoli and cheese casserole, stuffing, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, rice (not so Southern, but Kan loves his rice and gravy at Thanksgiving), rolls, and desserts. No pumpkin pie this year, but instead I did a pumpkin dump cake which was really delicious. My friend brought two fruit based tarts that were also tasty. We missed being with family but we enjoyed celebrating with new friends and family here in Tokyo that the Lord has richly blessed us with. Oh, and to top my weekend off (and I can say this because Kan does not read my blog:) - Kentucky FINALLY beat UT in football!! It has been a long 26 years, and they finally did it! Kan was not too happy about that, but I did a little jig when he was not looking.

Other than that, not much is going on...same old same old. We put our mini Christmas tree up. Miyako LOVES Christmas this year and wants her picture in front of every tree we see. It is fun seeing her excited about it. When we got our tree up, she said, "Mama, this tree is beautiful." I laughed to myself thinking "Sweetie, if you only knew how we decorated in the US." But isn't this how we should be in life? Simple...she is so happy with our little tree. Less is more is what she taught me - try to see the beauty in the little things and quit looking for more. Be content and satisfied with what you have right now. To have the mind of a child - sometimes, is a good thing. And I will leave you with that.