Monday, November 26, 2012

Giving Thanks for the Past Week

Aogu is in Tokyo, and though we miss him, we are thankful that he has work to do!







Our new, kind, God-sent friends the B Family invited us to a bowling and pizza party. The opportunity for the kids to bowl up a storm and eat exceeding amounts of pizza (OK, I did too...) was the perfect Sunday afternoon diversion. Thank you so much, B Family!



This a Japanese style toilet seat cover. The purpose is not sanitation, but rather a warm bottom. Which some may consider as--or even more?!--important than sanitation during a Chicago winter. Even with the blessing of a nicely heated home, that stone cold toilet seat can be a shock to the behind! We are asking Aogu to please purchase a couple of these and bring them back to increase our toilet-sitting comfort.



Here the girls are spending a little time Thanksgiving Day with their aforementioned new "BF," (see the bowing party point above) Mr. C (of the previously mentioned B Family, got that?) at another friends' house. We stopped in for a couple of hours of playing and appetizers.



Koji and Z challenged one another to a few rounds of UNO dice and then headed outside for a quick game of soccer. We had to leave for the next party we were invited to, so we may never know what the White Castle Slider Stuffing tasted like!



Boys Table at the Feast. For better or worse, Koji taught them to spread cranberry sauce on white rolls. I'm pretty sure that much nutritional intake was hindered as a direct result. And I'm pretty sure there was no way around this thought process for Koji when he saw that veritable vat of cranberry sauce: "LOOK AT THAT GIGANTIC DISH OF JAM! MUST SPREAD ON BREAD NOW!"....



Our lovely friend J and her boys, so so kind to include us in their family festivities!



Girl Power!



Our sweet and gracious hostess, Mrs. R, who rarely sat down (until this photo was taken late late in the evening). Misaki, ready to combat you in dress up boots (see below). Mrs. R's daughter, C; it was so fun to get to know her a bit, and a family friend, B.



Don't mess with the wearer of the BOOTS!



Alas, I failed to get photographic evidence of our Friday morning trip to Chuck E. Cheese, but I did mention it in the previous entry, so I think you have the idea. After that, not a great photo, but I do enjoy the view of the Chicago skyline when driving toward it (and then mistakenly into it....someday I'll figure out how to maneuver around here?!) on 94.



Spent some time with our friends the C Family, first at their house, then at Jump Zone and Chipotle. When I explained to Misaki that this sign meant she was the only member of our family allowed in this bouncy house, she was enamoured and we could hardly drag her out. Thankfully, toward the end of our stay there, we did drag her out for several family trips down the Batman slide, which made us laugh hysterically. Now, are you noting that we went to Chuck E.'s AND Jump Zone all in the same day?! My main Energizer Bunny, Koji, actually fell asleep in the car on the way home! And I somehow carried his 65 pound dead weight in the house and into his bed without injuring either of us, only to have him wake up three minutes later saying he needed to use the restroom....



Yesterday morning we spent some time at home. I was NOT feeling energetic but the kids were, so it was very difficult to get them to let me read a magazine (insert less than stellar parenting moment....) but they did eventually. Thanks, kids! In the early afternoon, we were off to make origami ornaments with the L Family for their daughters' memorial tree.



It was amusing, though not genetically surprising, that Koji and Izumi were considered the resident experts of all paper folding. I'm not sure they deserved the amount of adulation they got, but they certainly enjoyed it. I enjoyed the opportunity to disprove a long, firmly held belief: that I am not good at origami. Turns out, I'm not as expert as the kids, but I can hold my own when I'm not trying to do 17 other things at the same time (hm, could this concept perhaps have a more universal application?).



After that, we were off to spend time with another C Family, who had invited us for pizza at their house. They had just set up their Christmas tree, and it smelled so...Christmasy!.... Here the kids are, showing their friend A their new iPad game, Angry Birds Star Wars.

As for today, I can't post it but I got a fine picture of Misaki, dead asleep in her birthday suit after her bath. We went to church, were visited by the B Family (who ate instant ramen with us and didn't complain, they are turning out to be true friends), then the M Family (who treated Koji to a viewing of the Life of Pi in the theatre) and then all the kids took turns in the shower. I told her to put her pajamas on, went off to do something else and then started to wonder why she wasn't coming out of her room. Well, the lure of her Kiki (that's her blankie's name) and her room--note I didn't say bed, she fell asleep right on the floor--was too much and she ended up going to bed for the night, without eating dinner or brushing her teeth, at 5:30 pm.

And so, that was our blessed, full, busy, wonderful four days of Thanksgiving for 2012. To all the friends mentioned, and those who prayed, we are deeply grateful for your care for us. Thank you, God!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Black Friday 2012, minus shopping

Every once in awhile on a no-school morning, for years now, my friend J and I have been taking our combined six kids on outings to Chuck Ee Cheese (spelling that wrong on purpose). We've got the routine down pretty well now. Using e-mail coupons and math on a napkin, we can wring two hours of fun, a couple slices of pizza per kid and a couple rounds of basketball shooting out of twenty bucks each.
The adventure we had today was pretty standard, with these twists:

N wasn't interested in prizes and therefore didn't collect tickets at all

M was terrified of ChuckE

The by-the-book, slim, bespectacled Asian girl working at SBux inside of Barnes and N Books had to know exactly how many ounces of coffee J's travel mug might hold. 16, which is a grande

and finally--
after J and crew (not to be confused with JCrew) left for home, we stayed and played for a few minutes. I was pleasantly surprised that the kids were interested in token-less play. And less surprised when, just as we were about to leave, M expressed an (intense--do I need to say this? all of her feelings are this way, she's three and a half....) desire to be photographed while riding in ChuckE's car. I didn't have, well didn't THINK I had, any more tokens. Later I found three in my pockets. At that moment, though, I was sure I didn't have any. A women happened to see M's longing and kindly gave us three tickets. When we were done photographing and traveling to nowhere in a plastic vehicle, we gave our kind patron all the tickets we have. She was thrilled and said something like, "This is a great trade! We should really blog about this!"

Ha ha! I said back, doing that thing I sometimes do where I pretend I know what you mean but really I'm pretending.

But I couldn't stop thinking about the moment all day, so here I am, blogging and telling you about it.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

That Big Day at the End of October

This year, Halloween--make that HOWLEEN if you are Misaki--fell on a Wednesday. Therefore, all the events that might have been spread over a few days were jammed into one.
  1. We spent the morning at St. Matthew's. I don't want to incriminate any of my friends, so I'll refrain from posting photos. If you think my turkey costume (I borrowed it from a friend) is funny, well, take a look at this.  Yes, one of my friends wore it.  After much mutual admiration all around, and requisite photo shoot, we embarked on the annual scavenger hunt.  See below for a photo of the winning team.  Finally, we went trick or treating round to some stations the teachers had set up on school property with the kids.  
  2. Next stop was Koji's school.  Things were eventful there; while the English teachers were carefully administering the Halloween quiz they had prepared (did you know that candy corn is the best selling Halloween candy? eewww....), suddenly the fire alarm went off!  Apparently one of the smoke machines went haywire...?  Even after waiting for the fire department to come and declare everything safe, the kids still had enough time for making rounds inside the school.  
  3. One of Koji's friends invited us to his birthday party.  Which was kind of a brilliant move on that mom's part; she didn't have to plan any activities 'cause the kids were all out trick or treating most of the time.  She did choose to provide a shrimp tray and some other savories to help us balance our blood sugar, for which I was deeply grateful.  
  4. As our final activity for the day, we went to the Pumpkin Patch at Cornerstone Evangelical Free Church.  You'll see below that the professional face painter was just that!
  5. The next evening we had our annual housegroup costume party and it was GREAT--thanks to everyone for being good sports, and giving us a lot of laughs!
  6. One task remains undone.  We must sell our candy--at the low, but much better than nothing rate of $1/pound--to the kids' dentist.  And we must do this soon because having chocolate in the house isn't working out well for me....I may outgrow the "one size fits most" turkey costume....

Seventh annual Halloween Party at St. Matthew's

As ever, the school principal prepared a scavenger hunt to challenge us costumed mothers.
This year, my team won!

At Koji's school in the afternoon for our second Halloween bash.  

Stealth ninja dude with his friends

That evening, we went to Cornerstone Church for their annual Pumpkin Patch.
They hired a professional face painter.  

After spending the day as a crocodile and penguin, my girls apparently didn't think to ask for flowers.
Way to buck the trend, ladies!

The next evening, we had a costume party with our church small group.
 I still don't think I should have been allowed to win my own contest (conflict of interest and all that) but somehow I did...

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Social

We had an old friend over tonight, one of the oldest friends we have. She's still young, a mere 28 in terms of how she feels (I feel that way too).  Truth is, we met when we were all in junior high school together.
Anyway, she brought her little guy with her. He's 15 months and pictured here, with Izumi. All my kids were so great with him, I was nearly tempted to have another baby. I said nearly. If you, dear reader out there somewhere, think having another baby is a great idea for us, you may be right. Or you may be crazy. Yes, I am now quoting Billy Joel and utterly giving away the fact that I'm nowhere near 28.
Wow. I am way off track. My point is this: I enjoy having friends here for dinner but it seems the only time we do it is when someone is visiting from out of town. What about our in town friends? Just as we don't invite them over often enough, so have I been neglecting this little writer's outlet of mine.  I'd like to change that this month.
Please stay tuned!

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Travel is My Gift

Happy Fortieth Birthday to me today. Which actually sounds young compared to this rephrasal (perhaps not a word): "I am entering my fifth decade of life".

Forty or no, I spent this birthday in the exact same way as last year.

Last year: on August 13th, 2011, the kids and I went to Midway, intending to fly to Portland with a short layover in Denver. We were flying PioSpiritJetExpress, or something like that; not a major airline. Well, almost the moment my husband dropped us off and drove away from the airport, a huge thunderstorm blew over. The plane scheduled to take us to Denver was approaching, but had to turn tail and run back to Indy. By the time any plane was able to come pick us up, there was not enough time in the day for us to make our connection in Denver, so we were stuck there over night.
I may have said this last year (I'm too lazy to go back and check to see if I already posted this story) but it bears repeating today: having friends here, there and anywhere can be to one's advantage. My local Denver connection, G and her family, graciously hosted us for the night. Bonus: we got to catch up with them in person, which was a sweet surprise. The next day was my birthday. We flew without incident to Portland, and I was on time to my own birthday party.
I had no intention of making this an annual birthday tradition. I shouldn't be surprised, though: I love to travel, but find it hard to justify when I'm in the kid-raising trenches and I'm not being paid cash money to do it (if anyone knows of such an opportunity, please connect me. I'm mostly not kidding). My birthday is the one time of year when indulging traveling impulses feels justifiable, and I do want to see my parents, my sister/sister's family and Oregon herself at least once a year.

So, this year's birthday being the big FOUR OH, I was invited to please visit Oregon sans offspring. By the time I secured clearance for the endeavor, round trips from ORD to PDX were in the neighbourhood (now that I'm 40, I can use British spellings if I want) of $500. Not an appropriate price for in-the-first-year-of-starting-our-own-business us. A kind friend employed by United secured me stand-by pass, and I was off.
Going out to Portland was a cinch. There were two possible flights. The first was full, but thanks to rain delays in another part of the country, I got on the second easily. My mom did have to drive the hour from Salem to Portland at one a.m., but she didn't seem to mind. (thanks, Mom!)
Fast forward a few days, during which I spent a bit of long overdue time with my Grandma, Uncle and Aunt in Salem. I also played tourist in Portland, which is a story for another day.
Went back to the Portland airport quite early in the morning on Monday, so I'd have four chances through the day to get on a flight to Chicago.
Well, the first flight went without me and I didn't mind a bit, I was squeezing in a few extra hours with R who had kindly flown in from California for the occasion.
The second flight went without me and I was starting to understand that as a non-blood-related-to-an-employee-type-person, my status was right at the bottom of the totem pole. This realization caused me to freak out just a little, since I planned a tight schedule for us which involved me flying in Monday so I could pack us up to drive to our family vacation on Tuesday.
My prospects weren't great in Portland so my (kind and generous) friend at The Airline advised me to fly up to Seattle and try my luck there.
It's no one's fault but my own that when I arrived in Seattle, I wanted to eat something better than fast food. And that in searching for it, I accidentally went out to the curb. That's right, I got to go through security again.
No problem, I had five hours to kill before the three flights I was aiming at took off.
At 10:30 or so, people were starting to board. So I went to the gate, hoping I'd finally get some good news. Let's remember, I've now spent a 16 hour day in one or airport or another. Well, everyone and all their relatives and friend were all trying to get east at the same time. Not just one, or two, but all three of the flights were completely oversold. Oh, and I did I mention, the kind lady at the gate helpfully informed me that it was pretty much the same situation for the following morning.
This is where I pause and give thanks: first to God, then to my parents, my sister and brother in law, my grandma, my aunt and uncle, and R. You gave me this iPad for my birthday, and because I had it with me I was able to figure things out!
What I figured out was, flying to O'Hare with a ticket would set me back $1000.. Not an option, no matter how much I wanted to get home. That is how, at long last, I gave up on The Airline altogether and flew home on my own frequent flyer miles.
This time, my kind college friend drove more than a half hour each way to pick me up from SeaTac, let me take a much needed three hour nap at her house, then transported me back t the airport at 4 am. T, you're a hero!
Remember, it's now the day of my 40th birthday. My husband and my kids picked me up from the airport and we immediately started driving to our vacation in Missouri.
Aren't I blessed? Every year, from now until I should move on to a Better Place, I know what I'll be doing. Stay on your toes, if you live anywhere besides Chicago, then you may get a midnight call from me!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Confession Time

Yikes!  In the spring, in my Long Creative Project Group, I admitted to my friends the primary reason I don't post on this blog as often as I'd like: 

GOOGLE READER!!

Blessing and curse, you are, GR.  
If you don't know what it is, but you are interested in blogs at all, come along and be addicted with me, won't you?!  Google Reader lets you subscribe to your favorite blogs.  When you open it, you see a list of the blogs you like; new posts are highlighted so you can quickly decide which and/or whether to read.  

It's my crack, everyone.  
I used to read magazines, but now, my magazines just sit in piles around the house gathering dust (so why even get magazines?  well, what else can you get with those last 2641 miles on that airline you never plan to fly again?!).  Magazines are not as portable as an iPhone with Google Reader loaded up.  

So why am I confessing this now?  For one thing, I have crossed an invisible line: I'm FORTY now.  It's time to come clean on some things.  Even if they aren't so life and death.  

And the real real reason is:
I just clicked on something in the sidebar of Google Reader that says "Trends" and I found the following fascinating (highly embarrassing?!) information about my reading habits: 


From your 212 subscriptions, over the last 30 days you read 1,057 itemsclicked 55 items,starred 5 items, and emailed 1 items.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Farewell 30s


Did not think of or plan to spend my last day of being 30 something sitting in various airports --Portland and Seattle-- standing by to try and get back to Chicago after spending a few days with my parents, my sister, my friends RC and CLC, my grandma, aunt and uncle.
We had a memorable time together and I plan to treasure these new memories at least until I'm 50. And maybe between now and then wifi will come more reliable so I can reflect more extensively and profoundly without being frustrated?
For now, the little things will do. Here you see the amazing chocolate cake my sister made for my birthday. Thanks, Laurs!
If you are over 40, please tell me how

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Some of What I Wore

Coming to you live from Salem, Oregon, where Aogu has kindly sent me for my last hurrah of my 30s.  Here, on Friday instead of Wednesday, are a few of the things I wore over the last few weeks.  The below is a visit to the pool.  And now I'm out of here 'cause I'm posting this from my uncle's iPad and I don't know what I'm doing!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

WIWWhen I Wasn't Playing Tennis

The high empire waist of this dress means it can look maternityish.
 I tried to reign it in with this cardigan, which made me entirely too sweaty. 

Unflattering, but necessary: capris

Handsewn by me shirt.  Too bad you can't really see it.
 No, I haven't switched to wearing exercise shoes all the time, though I've been thinking about it.
I was just getting ready to go out for a walk and I was too lazy to change my footwear?  I think?  

Another handsewn by me shirt.  Not the most figure defining silhouette but just the breeziness for a sweltering day.  Which is what we've been having lately.  And which I still prefer to winter!

Dear H and M, thanks for letting me borrow your mirror.
And thanks for selling sunglasses for 5.80 so that I don't feel guilty if   when I lost them.
Note, these are not lost.  Yet. 

I'm not clever enough to flip this photo so you can read my shirt,
but I'm sure you're clever enough to see that it says Pray.  Good idea.  

Handsewn by someone shirt.  Dabbling in seamstressishness (I also dabble in word invention) like I do,
I am partial to hand made creations when I find them in thrift stores.



pleated poppy

Sports Day

Koji's out of school for his summer break, as of this week.  As you may recall, he goes to a Japanese school, which runs on the standard Japanese educational (and business) calendar.  The new year starts in April and is sectioned into trimesters, the first of which runs through mid-July, as I mentioned.  Koji's summer break clocks in at close to exactly four weeks and is actually a bit shorter than many Japanese schools by a week or two.  The second trimester is September through December, followed by a couple of weeks off for New Year's (Christmas is not a big deal in Japan).  The third is shorter, January through mid-March, and is succeeded by a two or three--or in the case of Koji's school, four--week spring break.  And then the cycle starts again.
These are the shirts we wore to Koji's first Sports Day two years ago
One highlight of the first trimester of Japanese school every year is Sports Day.  It's held on a Sunday in early June and is always a whole school competition between the White Team and the Red Team.  This was Koji's third year to participate in Sports Day, but his first to be on the Red Team.  I have a rule that our whole family has to wear shirts in the color of his team, for solidarity.  So I was delighted, after two years of wearing white, which I abhor as a fashion choice, at the opportunity to wear a color that suits us (me?).  Koji was delighted that his team won!  In the aftermath, Aogu wasn't delighted to find himself thoroughly sunburned...
Ready to attack a bunch of balloons

Cheering squad--the cheer "competition" is very serious!

Celebrating with the victorious Red Team