Sunday, December 23, 2012


Awaiting our flight in the funky Peach airlines waiting area

Gazing out the window of the airplane at the snow-capped mountains below, I spotted the peak of Mt. Fuji rising from the clouds in the distance!

We are always surprised by the things you can buy from vending machines in Japan.

Kiroro Resort

Plants vs Zombies was the favorite hotel room activity

The kid's new thermals make great ninja suits.

 There was A LOT of snow.  Three meters according to some reports.

It was also very cold.  Cold enough that I was worried about exposed skin being susceptible to frostbite.  So, we left no skin exposed.

Handsome boy.

Two handsome boys.

Three handsome boys!
(You'll just have to take my word about the one in the middle.)

 I was so impressed with our little Beaver.  He could really ski this year!

Mike's head got cut off a bit, but he and Bear are showing the great powder they found on the backside of the mountain.

Warming up at a grill-your-own meal restaurant.

I was feeling all sorts of anxiety leading up to our trip to Hokkaido.  I always feel anxious before ski trips, though I'm not sure why, and I guess I just had a lot of time to think about this one before it actually happened.  We really had a great time, though.  The resort was fairly small, but it was about perfect for us - with several wide, cruiser runs (so, perfect for me!) - and a nice, family-friendly feeling to it.  And the snow was great.  I was worried about the cold, but as long as we stayed covered up, it was fine.  Beaver loves hotels.  He often tells us that he doesn't want to live in our house anymore and he wants to live in a hotel.  Whenever we go on a trip, he will say that he wants to go back there and live in our hotel again.  So, he's been saying recently that he wants to go back to Hong Kong.  I suppose now it will be back to Hokkiado.  He was so sad when we packed up to check out of the hotel.  He will point out high-rise buildings to me and say, "I want to live in that hotel."  I thought for awhile that he would like to live in a high-rise apartment, so yesterday I asked him if he wanted to live in a tall building in an apartment with lots of rooms like our house, or if he likes hotels because we all stay in the same room.  He said he wants us to all be in the same room.  That would get pretty cozy before too long!

Happy days in Hokkaido!

More Christmas Festivities

We hosted our branch Christmas party at our house.  I roasted my first turkey, which turned out pretty well, and I think that everyone enjoyed the evening.  I was having more fun than it looks like in this picture, and Bear was not actually asleep at the table.

Beaver with our senior missionary elder - one of his favorite people.  He generally refers to him either as "Garth Vader" or "the other Superman" - names that have come of his pretend sword and light saber battles with Elder Dalling after church every Sunday.

And with his other two favorite people - two of the three youth in our branch.  Beaver and Bear were both having a fabulous time wrestling and playing chase with them.  They were the only kids at the party, so they had the teenagers all to themselves.

Bear at his school Christmas production.

Singing "War is Over" with his class.  He looks like such a big kid up there.  Sniff.

Beaver's Preschool Christmas party.  Perhaps you can tell by his expression that he was not very excited to be dressed up as a snowman.  He refused to put on his carrot nose.

But he was pretty happy to get a present!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Tis the Season

Merry Christmas!

We had our community Christmas party at the clubhouse last Saturday.  Santa Claus was there to pass out a Christmas gift to each of the children.

Bear got the card game for which he has been asking for months. 

Beaver had been very nervous because he knew Santa would be there and he did not want to have to visit with him.  We assured him that he didn't have to sit on Santa's lap, but Santa was calling them up one by one to get their gifts.  We thought he would be okay if Mike took him, but he was rather terrified and crying. Then, after all the trauma of getting the present, he opened it and said in disappointment, "This is not what I asked for!"  He got a card game, too, but he had written a letter to Santa asking for a toy knight and dragon.  I had to remind him that this was just a small, early Christmas present and he still has a chance of getting the knight and dragon on Christmas.

Bear stayed home from school yesterday because he tripped and twisted his ankle as he was leaving school on Tuesday.  It was still hurting and he was having a hard time walking.  I felt very bad, because I have not been going to pick him up from the bus stop lately.  It has been getting cold and it is easier to just let him walk home with his friend rather than get Beaver bundled up and go to the bus.  So, he had to walk home with his injured foot and then when he got here the door was locked because I had forgotten to unlock it for him.  Poor Bear!  I think his foot will be alright.  He's still limping a bit, but it didn't stop him from avatar-style battling with Beaver and leaping off of our bed last night, so I figured he was okay to go back to school today.  I let Beaver stay home from preschool yesterday since his brother was home, and they played Pokemon so nicely together for much of the day.  I was quite happy with them, especially Bear, since how well they play largely depends on him simply because he is the oldest.  He doesn't always relish that responsibility, but he did very well with it yesterday.

We are hosting our branch Christmas party at our house on Saturday.  We asked people to RSVP since it is at our house so that we would know how many to plan for.  It didn't make much difference.  We have about 6 yeses and 13 maybes, so we still don't know how many to plan for.

I went to the store where I always buy shortening today for the sole purpose of buying shortening only to find that they no longer carry shortening.  I feel betrayed.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Winter is a comin'

Last night we booked a hotel and plane tickets to Hokkaido for a few days before Christmas.  Hokkaido is the northern-most island in Japan and is the ski destination of choice for most of the eastern hemisphere.  Some of the greatest powder on earth, say the Hokkaido enthusiasts.

Today, Mike got the kid's skis and boots out for them to try on and make sure they still fit.  Someone is excited to go skiing!  I'll give you a hint.  It's not necessarily the kiddos.

Ikea sells little live Christmas trees here.  We happened to be there last week, so we picked one up and decorated it last Sunday.  Monday morning, Beaver woke up early because he thought it was Christmas.  So sad!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Never mind.

Beaver is asleep upstairs this morning, ill with a fever and nasty cough.  Last night around 6:30, he asked me to come snuggle with him on the couch.  I willingly obliged, and soon realized that his little body was unnaturally hot.  Mike got home soon after, and Beaver was so happy to see him and remarkably cheerful as he lay on the couch under a blanket, in spite of his temperature of 102F.  I hate it when my kids are ill, and it got me thinking - who cares if he won't eat half the food I cook?  Is that really so important?  I'm sure it's just a bug that will pass, but whenever they are sick, I am reminded of how fiercely I love my boys, and the little things don't matter.

Although I must share a funny anecdote from last night.  Beaver loves applesauce, but you can't buy it in Japan.  I had a whole lot of not-very-good, mealy apples in the fridge, so last night I peeled them and cut them up to make them into applesauce, thinking it would make Beaver happy.  But, of course, he doesn't like things that look different than he expects.  I guess he has never seen me make applesauce before.

"I don't think I like that applesauce." he said warily.
"Sure you do!  You love applesauce!"  I responded.
"But I don't like applesauce that is made of apples!"

So, I'll continue to cook what I want, because I think it's a good example for him, and if he doesn't like it he can have bread and fruit.  But not breadfruit, because I'm sure that would make him cry.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Could someone please explain to me how two people like me (I can hardly even think of a food that I don't like) and Mike (who is willing to eat anything, even if he doesn't love it) ended up with a child like Beaver?

Tonight I made sloppy joes.  Beaver has never had them before and tears immediately began streaming down his cheeks when he saw his dinner plate.  I didn't feel up to battling him tonight, so I told him he didn't have to eat it.  Guess what he ate instead?  Leftover meatballs with ketchup.  Duh.

That child is going to drive me insane.  I know I talk about it all the time, but it makes me crazy.  Should I just give up?  It isn't so much that he won't eat healthy food.  He likes most fruits, a few veggies, bread, rice, and most dairy.  He certainly isn't malnourished.  I just like to try new things, and I get so frustrated when he freaks out about it.  I refuse to fix two meals every night.  Should I just give up my culinary interests until he is older?  What would you do if he was your kid?

So, Beaver ate meatballs with ketchup and a mandarin orange for dinner.  One of his orange sections dropped into his ketchup.  He got quite upset because he didn't want to eat it with ketchup.  I'm glad he draws the line somewhere.

I don't like natto.  There's one.

Friday, November 9, 2012


We had our Halloween last Saturday.  A little late, but that's the nice thing about living in a neighborhood that celebrates Halloween in a country that doesn't.  You can have Halloween on a Saturday when it's more convenient for everyone involved.  We carved our pumpkin Friday night.

Bear has been reading the Heroes of Olympus book series, so we came up with a Jupiter/Zeus costume for him.

Beaver had a knight costume that we bought at ToysRUs.  He seemed perfectly excited to wear it.  His preschool had a Halloween party earlier in the week where all the kids dressed up, but I missed the memo and had no idea.  So, when I showed up at school to pick him up, he was the only one not dressed up and he asked my why I didn't come to the party and bring his costume.  I felt so bad, but I thought that at least he could still wear it on Saturday.  Saturday came and the kids were anxiously waiting all day for 4:00, when the trick-or-treating would start.  At about 3:45, something happened in Beaver's mind and he refused to put on his costume or leave the house.  I don't know what  his problem was.  He just kind of freaked out.  I felt pretty frustrated because he is so stubborn and you just can't change his mind when he gets something in his head, but I suppose I shouldn't have minded that he didn't want to go load up on more candy.   

Here is Beaver's Halloween night - in tears on the sofa because he doesn't want to go trick-or-treating.

Bear and his army buddy stopping by our house for candy.

After the trick-or-treating we had a neighborhood street party.  An enjoyable evening for all.

A few little tidbits that have nothing to do with anything:

Lately Beaver loves to eat canned mandarin oranges.  He call them the "juicy, drippy oranges."  A few months ago his favorite breakfast was toast and ketchup, but lately he has been into french toast.  It's french toast with maple syrup for breakfast every morning.  I ask Bear what he wants for breakfast every morning, and he hems and haws and then says "toast and hot chocolate."  Every single morning. Even all through the hot summer.  My kids aren't into variety.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hong Kong

Hong Kong was our fall break destination this year!

A few observations about the city:

It was so much more cosmopolitan than I expected.  There are plenty of foreigners in Japan, but natives are still the vast majority.  You stand out as a foreigner here.  Hong Kong is jam-packed with people from all around the world.  We didn't stand out at all.

I did not realize that Hong Kong is so mountainous!  The flora seems pretty similar to Japan, but the mountains are much taller than the ones in Kobe.

It was so busy and crowded.  It felt so much bigger and more crowded than Tokyo, even.  The trains were almost always packed full. 

The escalators in the train stations are really fast!

The trains are very nice and easy to navigate.  I think.  Mike did all the navigating, but he seemed to do it with ease.

Much of the city is connected by elevated walkways that go from skyscraper to skyscraper.  It was pretty cool to be able to get around without setting foot on the street.

Every tourist destination we went to, someone would take our picture and then try to get us to buy it.  We never did.

I didn't know a word of Cantonese when we arrived in Hong Kong, and I still don't.  It seemed like everyone speaks English.  Taxi drivers, cashiers in 7-Eleven, security guards, grocery store clerks, and every public service individual.  In Japan, it is definitely helpful to know some basic Japanese, but in Hong Kong we got around just fine in English.  There were even many groups of Asian people speaking English to each other.  

In the Hong Kong airport waiting for us to get money from an ATM and buy our train passes.  Bear recently earned enough money to buy Mike's old ipod touch from him.  He was kind of driving me crazy - pulling that thing out of his pocket every time we stopped moving.  Whereupon Beaver would promptly say to us, "Can I play a game on your phone?  Because Bear is playing a game!"

Ropeway tram with a see-through floor on Lantau Island.  We went here straight from the airport.  The ropeway takes you to Ngong Ping village and the Big Buddha near Po Ling Monastery.

"I'm falling!"

Handsome boys

This poor little boy fell first thing in the morning as we were getting on the ferry to the airport and got a bit of a fat lip.

Big Buddha in the distance.

Eating a vegetarian dinner at the monastery.  Mike and I enjoyed it.  Bear ate rice and one other thing that was good, but we don't know what it was.  It seemed like a sort of tofu or something and it was quite tasty.  Beaver ate nothing but rice.

Headed up the steps to the Big Buddha.

Buddha looking beneficent.

I snapped this picture before I noticed the sign asking visitors to please not take pictures before buying a hat.  I  liked the hats and wouldn't have minded buying one, but we packed light and tight and didn't have room to take one back with us.

There were cows wandering around everywhere.  If you asked me, I would have said that is a Hindu thing, not Buddhist, but apparently I don't know.  I think they were planted here purposely, though.  Ngong Ping is a pretty big tourist trap.

Our hotel room.  It was a new, very modern building and Bear thought it was so cool.  "This hotel is awesome!  This has got to be the most modern building in Hong Kong!" he gushed.  I guess he is into modern design.  We thought it was so funny that there is a clear glass wall between the bathroom and the rest of the room.  What?!  There was a curtain that you could close, but still - kind of odd.

There was a world championship Sumo wrestling tournament going on over the weekend, and the wrestlers were apparently all staying in our hotel.  We met a world champion sumo wrestler from Mongolia - now living in LA - in the elevator.  It was 8:00 am and he and his friends were very drunk.  Maybe they had been out all night.  He was trying to get Beaver to give him a high five, but Beaver wouldn't do it.

A street near our hotel.  We got our breakfast Friday morning at the bakery the boys are walking toward.

Then we went back to our room and Beaver ate his pastry sitting on the windowsill and admiring the view.

Guess where we went next!

Live action shot on the Mad Hatter's Teacups.

Toy Story Village just opened this year.

I always think it must be so fun to be a designer for Disney theme parks.  Honestly, just let your imagination run wild!  Fences made from K'Nex, light posts from Tinker Toys, signs made with Scrabble letters, buildings of Lincoln Logs.

And popsicle stick benches painted as though some child has just finished off the popsicle!  I loved Toy Story Land.  It was adorable.  

All tuckered out after a fun-filled, busy day!  We took the train a couple of stops and then got a taxi back to our hotel.  Best decision we ever made.  It was so much quicker, we were dropped off right at the hotel doors, and it was way less expensive than we expected!
We slept in and took it easy on Saturday morning after our late night at Disneyland.  This was our day to explore the city, but we only had a few things on our itinerary.

The 55th floor of the International Finance Center.  It had a big display on the history of money in Hong Kong which Mike would have loved to stay and read all about.  They only allow people up there until 12:40, though, and it was about 12:30 by the time we got there, so we didn't stay long.

There is a whole escalator system that takes you up the side of the mountain through the city.

Once we got to the top of the escalator, we attempted to walk over to the Victoria Peak cable car station.  It was too long a walk for the kids, and we took a wrong turn (I should have listened to Mike!), but we ended up walking into the zoological and botanical gardens, which was a nice place to take a break.  The kids were cracking up at the antics of some amusing gibbons.  At first we thought they were monkeys, but then we noticed that they didn't have tails.  Maybe my kids haven't internalized all the moral lessons taught in Veggietales, but at least they have learned that if it doesn't have a tail it's not a monkey, if it doesn't have a tail it's not a monkey it's an ape!

It was pretty crowded, but we didn't have to wait too long to take the cable car up the mountain to Victoria's Peak.  It was a nice view from the top.

Then we came down the mountain and caught an open-top double decker bus to take us back to the waterfront to have dinner.  We all enjoyed the bus ride, and I have decided that a bus tour is a great way to see a city - especially an open top double decker bus in Hong Kong.  I always think that I don't want to take an organized bus tour because I want to be actually in the city walking around and exploring, but my kids hate that and it is tiring for them.  Next big city I go to, I'll look for a tour bus.

After dinner at an Italian restaurant, we walked along Avenue of the Stars and enjoyed the skyline - the #1 skyline in the world according to a Yahoo article I read, so it must be true.

Sunday we went to church.  This is the church building in central Hong Kong.  Quite unusual for a church building, but super nice.  The English branch is huge.  Plenty big enough to be a ward, but it is in a district, not a stake, so it remains a branch.

Outside the building after church.  Standing to the right of us in a friend of Mike's that he used to work with at CAT here in Japan.  He has since taken a job with another company and is working in Hong Kong, so we met up with him at church.  Then he invited us to have lunch with him and some of his coworkers at another member's house - a couple with six kids.  The wife is Japanese and the husband is from Hong Kong.  I felt a little funny about it, but they were super nice and welcoming and their kids were so cute and friendly.  They fed all of us a lovely lunch.  So nice.

Afterward we went to see the temple.  So pretty.  Mike says that as far as aesthetics, it is his favorite of all the temples he has seen.

Monday we went to Ocean Park.  It is an interesting combination zoo/aquarium/amusement park.  It was okay for Bear, but Beaver was too small for almost all of the rides.  He rode a total of two rides the entire day.  He did enjoy seeing the animals, so it wasn't a total bust, but we had a lot more fun at Disneyland.  To me, Disney somehow creates a magic that other theme parks just can't match. 

The giant panda exhibit.

Bear had to wrestle an alligator so that we could get inside.

Mom and Bear on the rapids ride.

This was a fun roller coaster.  Bear and Mike are on that train.  Right behind the tree.

Now you can see them!

We left Ocean Park at about 6:00.  That was a bit of a traumatic experience.  It was pretty windy.  Windy enough that they had closed one of the rides.  The park is really big and divided into a section at the bottom of a mountain and another section at the top and down the other side of the mountain.  You get to the other side either by a ropeway or a train.  We assumed that the ropeway would be closed because of the wind, so we opted for the train going down.  Along with pretty much everyone else in the park, it seemed.  It was really crowded and they were letting more people through the gates than could actually fit into the train.  We were toward the front of the "line" that wasn't really a line at all so much as a huge crowd of people trying to get to the front to get on the next train.  Mike was holding Beaver and Bear was standing beside me, looking grumpy because he didn't like being in such a crowd.  It seemed to be all adults, too, so he was a bit smothered.  When the train stopped and the doors opened, the whole crowd surged forward - pushing from behind.  I was holding Bear's hand as he got kind of smashed between people and he looked so small and scared as he got shoved forward.  I quickly pulled him in front of me, pushed backward and started shouting behind me, "Stop!  Stop pushing!  I've got my child here!"  We were rushed onto the train and took refuge on the other side of a  post and poor Bear kind of lost it.  He had gotten pretty scared by the crowd, and maybe by me yelling, and he burst into tears.  He said he hated crowds and he wanted to go back to America where there are no crowds.  I was pretty furious at all the pushy people myself, and couldn't help thinking, snobbishly, that such a thing would never happen in Japan.  I was pretty sick of the crowds, too, and ready to get back to my gentle Japan.  William commented once about how you don't feel crowded in Japan, in spite of the population density, and now I can see what he meant.  Looking back now, I believe that I could have handled the situation with more humor, but I guess my mama bear instincts kicked in, and I was ready to fight!

I was a little disgruntled at this point, and we were trying to decide whether to go the the night market on Temple Street or just go back to the hotel.  We have been trying to buy a Christmas ornament when we travel places lately, and we hadn't gotten one yet, and Bear wanted a souvenir, too, but he didn't want to be in another crowd.  We were going to have to get up early the next morning to fly back home, so I thought maybe we should just call it a night and go get dinner by our hotel, but we decided to go to the night market, and I'm glad we did.  It wasn't too crowded, and it restored all of our spirits.  We stopped at a bakery to get some food - yes, my kids ate hot dogs almost every day in the culinary hotspot of Hong Kong - and then went to the market where Bear bought a sparkly dragon and Beaver picked out a golden elephant and I bought something to hang on the Christmas tree and a jade bracelet that is certainly not real jade, but is green.  As we were walking back to the train station, we stopped at a little restaurant and got pork dumplings, which the kids wouldn't eat, but Mike and I didn't mind eating their share, too.  I had been feeling sad that I may leave without finding a Christmas ornament or eating real Chinese food, so at that point I was able to leave Hong Kong content. 

Tuesday morning - we've come full circle.  Back at the airport staring at electronic devices.

A great fall vacation!