Thursday, December 31, 2015

so many holiday memories!!

I taught a lesson in my Sunday school class last Sunday on 'goals'. I am not the biggest fan of New Year's resolutions because they feel so cliche and forced.  With that being said- I recognize the importance in taking time regularly to figure out ways that I can better myself.  and why not use the beginning of a new year for one of those times?!
So- I'm making goals in 4 important categories (Luke 2:52): Knowledge, Spirituality, Social, and Physical.
Social goals cover a broad spectrum of areas (community, friends, etc.)- but I am choosing mine to be blogging.  I will blog more about the little things in life.  I used to be so much better at it!! and now most of my friends and family and loyal blog readers barely even know mack.  They only get to see him appear in pics on our family vacations :)   I'll still include all of our grand adventures- but I want to focus on our daily lives, too.

All the pics are from my cell- but they will have to do!!  
I'll start with Thanksgiving :)

We shared dinner was some fabulous friends here on base!  We all know each other in some weird ways (a combination of work/ohio/church) but we made for a fantastic thanksgiving dinner :)

After dinner we had a fun night devouring pie with our English students.  They really are just the best people. We really enjoy having them around!!  and I make some pretty awesome pies. If you need a new pie recipe- check out mine.  I found them both this Thanksgiving after years and years of searching for the perfect recipes.  Sour cream lemon and Jumbleberry custard with a pecan and brown sugar crumble on top.  They are SO GOOD.  I'll post the recipes after this blog post.  you really do want them, I promise.  They will be my go to pies forEVER.
We made our students eat so much!! they had raspberry jello pretzel salad, my two pies, a pumpkin cream pie, and cheeseball with crackers.  They couldn't believe that was just our appetizer and dessert :)
Ike made this really awesome angry bird disguised turkey for school.  He was pretty proud of himself. He's a pro with scissors ;)
We squeezed in our trip to Cambodia and Vietnam between the two big holidays! when we came home from vacation and found Christmas waiting at our box at the post office.  Amazon ships here in 5-7 days.  that's pretty fast for Japan :) and it's free shipping.   what did we all do before Amazon?!!?
we spend a lot of time at the post office during the holidays.  We are supposed to check our boxes every day since there isn't much room to store packages!  on this day- the Air Force Band had some members playing Christmas music in the entryway.
After our toasty southeast asia vacation- we needed some COLD to get us in the Christmas spirit!  Seibuen amusement park is our favorite Christmas tradition here in Japan. we went last year and this year was even better.  It was perfectly cold and the rides were so much fun. Plus- we brought our friend Keito along.
We've had several Japanese 'homestays' with us over the christmas break this year and we have really enjoyed them!   We get to make some extra money from Japanese kids and families who want an English immersion experience with us on base!!  it's fun and helps pay for our adventures :)

The japanese LOVE christmas lights.  Their displays usually last through February or even later.  and they are called 'illuminations'.

Last year mack was a little too young to enjoy the rides- but this year he was the perfect age :)  although he HATED his snow suit.  He tried to rip it off ALL night!!
the octopus is definitely the family favorite! 
My favorite two rides are the giant ferris wheel and the rotating observation deck that sits way above the park.  the views are spectacular and the rides are warm :)
there's kent and mack in the ferris wheel car beside ours!!
Keito and Ike and I - LOVED the big boat ride.  the one that sways back and forth and makes you feel like your stomach is going to fly out of your body!  I think we rode it 6 times.  Kent and Zeb opted out.  Metta sobbed because they would't let her on.

The hardest part about doing homestays is saying goodbye.  I think Metta has cried every time.
These two boys were pretty goofy.  Mizuke and Kotoro.  I took them to the gym with us- and even grocery shopping.  Then we went to get donuts at the sunrise bakery that sits along the runway on base.  It's our kids' favorite spot at yokota!  
Our favorite homestay over this break was Reina and her son Suisei.  Reina was wonderful, helpful, funny, easy to talk to, and just all around lovely.  She did the dishes and vacuumed and was great company.  When we dropped her off at the train station I almost cried. then I texted kent: " I miss Reina".  She says she will come back in the spring!!  and we are hoping to meet them again sometime soon for a picnic at Yoyogi park in tokyo.
We got to go see Star Wars on opening day here on base.  This is the only pic I got- but I love it.  The National Anthem plays at the beginning of every movie and Metta always salutes like the active duty members :)  I LOVED the new movie. so so so much.  Rey and Finn are the best characters.  the acting was phenomenal.  everything about it was even better than the other 6 movies.   
Parties at Christmastime are MY FAVORITE,  We missed a few while on vacation- so I was happy to make up for it by fitting in as many as possible once we got home.  I was on the committee for the hospital children's party and it was awesome.  
I don't think we've ever had a kid afraid of santa!  Mack LOVED him this year.  he giggled and begged to sit with him again.  When we asked Zeb to get in the picture- he responded: "He's a fake".  Ike was just completely uninterested.  they both still believe in Santa- but knew this guy was not the real deal.  This is my santa suit in the pic.  I bought one several years ago for a church party and we have used it SO many times since!! you should all buy a santa suit. I got it on Amazon.

We also had our annual 'festively dressed christmas extravaganza' with friends!  check out my sweatshirt.  I love it.  and check out the rad cat purse I won at the white elephant party.  It had ten bucks in it :)

Kent found this beauty at the "hard-off".  Hard off is an insane 2nd hand store here.  I could peruse the aisles for days and not get bored!!  a remote control toilet is just the tip of the iceberg at that place.  We bought all of the kiddos used nintendo DSes there for 800 yen.  that's 7 bucks.  anybody want one?!
Japan is white elephant heaven,  So much of the culture here would considered tacky or over the top in the states.  I LOVE it. 
I was really bummed that I didn't win the lady gaga toothbrush.  I need to listen to her while brushing my teeth.

On Christmas Eve morning I taught my traditional 12 days of Christmas workout! I finally started teaching fitness classes on base this year!  It's been so much fun.  I love to teach.  and I love to make people sore.  
and check this out!!!  My class ads play as commercials on base TV!!  I don't have to pay for the ads, either.  they play in all the houses and in all the bldgs on base :)  pretty cool, huh?? I'm famous at Yokota.
On Christmas Eve- we did what any true American would do. Hit the mall.  There's a brand new HUMONGOUS mall just a few miles away and we couldn't resist checking it out. It was perfect.  It made me so happy and so homesick all at the same time.   Christmas music blaring, so many people everywhere, and lots of great mall food :)
Oh- and some really funny stores.

the awesome store was pretty awesome.

American lover Freak's Store.

A giant headed fox lady.  Very Japanese.
this grocery store was called blooming bloomy.  The store names here are hysterical. I still can't figure out how they come up with them all.
I must be turning Japanese because these strawberries didn't look too expensive to me.  I actually though: "that's not too bad for those berries".  Almost $20 bucks. for ONE container. 15 berries.
we ate all sorts of deliciousness.  Auntie Anne's pretzels were my favorite part of the trip.  They tasted so much like home.  I also went and stood in the Gap and then Old navy just to listen to the Christmas music and look at the stacks of clothes.  Working Christmas Eve's at the Gap for so many years really made me love malls during the holidays :)
Mack is now our resident pro noodle slurper. He loves Ramen.

Ike quite the loves Japan's obsession with pancakes.  We can get them almost anywhere we go!!

The kiddie toilets in Japan are AMAZING.  Mini toilets.  mini everything.  even mini door stalls.  

When we came home and got ready for the evening- Zeb snuck this little note in with Quincy.  It's NEXT year's Christmas list.  I think he knew it was too late to add to this year's list so he figured he might as well give santa a head start on 2016.  He's such a pragmatic kid.

Christmas morning was perfect.   we scaled back this year because of our vacations- but the kids were still spoiled by aunts and uncles and grandparents.  and we did get one big present.  Back in June I found a Wii U on sale on a facebook sales website here on base.  It came with 12 games and was a steal of a deal. The kids were shocked and so happy!  I guess getting a wii U isn't scaling back much :)
and I found the absolute perfect metta present on a sales site here as well.  A robotic cat.  It is AMAZING. and apparently a big collector's item that isn't made anymore.  they are going on ebay for hundreds of dollars.  It really does look real.  It licks its paws and wiggles its ears, too.  If we don't turn it off at night- it really creeps us out. If you don't look too close- you'd swear she was real.
the only catastrophe of Christmas was our ridiculous wrapping paper. Somehow 4 rolls of our paper were completely indestructible,  This stuff was unbelievable.  I am actually lifting Ike up off the ground using the paper.  It would not tear in ANY direction. at all.
you know when you try to open a package taped with tape that won't rip?  the stuff that has no give? and leaves you feeling so aggravated, and hurts your fingers?  that was our wrapping paper!!!!    It was SOOOO frustrating!!!
we finally just had to start pulling off the tape and unwrapping the gifts.  or cutting them with scissors.  we can reuse the paper because it's all still in one piece.

For lunch we went out to Shabu-shabu.  It's kind of like fondu.  but all of the meat is thin and cooks in less than ten seconds.  I can't believe how many Japanese restaurants have you cook your own food at your table,  I also can't believe we haven't had any major catastrophes with our kids and raw meat, boiling water, and hot grills.  
mack is at the rotten age when he's nightmare at restaurants.  Right after he finished his food- we handed him a giant candy cane and let him go to town.  It kept him distracted so we could all eat!!   
the best part of shabu shabu is the cotton candy, snowcones, and soft serve for dessert!!

My favorite gift on Christmas was my smiling Buddha with five baby buddhas.  I've been on the hunt for a good buddha for quite some time. When I saw this one- I just knew I HAD to have it :)  Mack loves him, too.    Kent helped me haggle the price and we snatched it up! then he carried it home from Vietnam in his carry on bag. this thing is HEAVY!!!
mack was so easy on Christmas.  He got a carseat from us and Nannie Annie and gramps and that was it.  Christmas Eve I felt a little bad that we hadn't purchased him a SINGLE other item!!  So- my friend was selling some of her fabulous toys and I ran over and snatched this one up. he LOVES it.  plays with it NONSTOP still.   He likes his new carseat, too. 
His new favorite word is 'tree'.  This kid was a walking Christmas miracle. He never ransacked our tree.  He'd point and enjoy it- but he never grabbed ornaments or try to knock it over.  He is the happiest kid ever.  He's also the luckiest.  There is a sibling playing with him almost 100% of the time. He gets more attention and love than any of my other kids EVER got.  He's always laughing and loving life.
I think that's it for now!!!  I'll get to our vacation pictures pronto!  I have so many- it's a little overwhelming :)