Saturday, January 28, 2012

I am blessed

Yeah mom, I know what I am doing.

The sweet little boy that I find every now and then.

Miranda is growing into a beautiful young lady.  So proud of all she is and who she is becoming.

Aaron always provides a smile when I need it the most.  I am blessed.

Our official signature

After two months of walking to get everywhere, we have finally broken down and admitted that we need a car.  You won't find too many Americans trying to go without a car here and with three children, it just doesn't make much sense not to get one.  Of course, buying a car in Japan is not going to be easy.  Forget the days of going down to the lemon lot on base and finding something.  Of course it is going to be a whole lot more complicated then wouldn't be Japan if it wasn't.

After venturing out on a car adventure last week on Thursday evening only to find the lot had been closed over a year ago (and the dealers website never updated) we decided we really would have to put effort into this venture.  Once again, Tom's language capabilities led us to a lot outside of Yokohama that had a vast selection for us to choose from.  We narrowed it down to a Nissan Sunny (equivalent to a Honda Civic or a Honda Odyssey)  Although I did not want a large van, the Odysseys here are very small and economical.  We decided we should not kid ourselves into thinking a family of 5 can fit into a small car and opted for the van.  It is very nice and was VERY inexpensive (290,000 yen equal to about $4500.00.)  The Japanese navigation system might prove to need some brain power to figure out, but we can always purchase an English one at Cost-Co if need be. really is not that easy....

The dealer let us know that we cannot purchase a car in Japan without an official signature stamp.  No, not our signature, with us both there, but a stamp.  Go figure.  You can't purchase these little round stamps, you have to get them made.  So, off we went to find a place to make this stamp.  We also have to get paperwork verifying we have a parking spot we can utilize, take the paperwork to the police station and have them come out and verify the parking spot and measure it to make sure the vehicle will fit comfortably.  Can you imagine someone wanting to buy a suburban going through all this.

Tom and I left  the dealer with a week of work to do.  We stopped by Yokohama on the way home and found a place that would make us a signature stamp (for about $72.00) and had it done in an hour.  We were then instructed that we need to take said stamp to our city hall office and have it registered to us.  So, here is a picture of this very valuable stamp.  I cannot show the actual stamp itself for our name because it is basically our identity here and enables us to actually be able to sign most things now.  So much for our official signatures! 

All of this will be worth it in the long run and I'll be able to drive by my hated hill and give it a few gestures as I drive by in my car!!!  Looking forward to that day. 

Chinese New Year

It has been so cold here that we haven't been out to do much in the last few weeks.  We finally received our household goods and I have been busy trying to make our apartment as homey as possible.  I am just about out of "where do I put this" and so that is good news as I have run out of room.  I can't believe we got rid of so much before we left the states and I still have too much.  How do I possibly need dinner service for 10 people.  Guess I better get busy finding friends to share with.

We did find this weekend a little warmer and Chinese New Years is in full swing.  We headed down to Chinatown and ventured around a little.  My Chinese is about as good as my Japanese and unfortunately, my translation that there was a big parade resulted in no parade at all.  There were still lots of fun things to see and many Chinese treats to indulge in.  The kids decided the grilled ducks hanging in the windows were not on their "to try" lists so we enjoyed a traditional Chinese lunch which is very different then the Chinese food we are used to in the states.  No fortune cookie at the end of the meal with a quirky message inside.  Darn, I was hoping for a real look into my near future.

Chinatown is filled with shrines decorated for the New Year.  There is a display of the Dragon that commemorates this year, but the line to see it was VERY long and Evan wasn't in the mood.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

New Uniforms

Evan wanting to get in on the scene

New lessons

The end result, way to go Aaron!!

Aaron has to wear a tie with is school uniform.  Not a clip on tie, but a real tie that needs to be tied.  So, it is time for one of those life long lessons.  It was so fun to watch Tom show Aaron how it is done.  I can't say Aaron has untied his tie for over a week now, but at some point this lesson will become very valuable. 

AnPanMan Museum

I took the kids to the AnPanMan museum last two weeks ago, this time we actually paid to go into the museum.  If you are reading this and are contemplating this museum, don't.  It has to be one of the worst "children's" museums we have ever visited.  It is not very child friendly.  AnPanMan is a little action hero made of dough.  He has about 50 other friends but truthfully, I'm not sure what they really all do. 

It cost 1,000 yen per entry.  When the check in lady asked if I had three children and an adult, I thought "great, I actually get a discount for Miranda, who is now almost taller then me, as a child."  Actually, it is 1,000 yen for everyone to enter, including Evan.  The difference is you get a little tambourine with a child's entry.  Evan now has 3 tambourines, that maybe cost a buck for all three.

The gist of the museum:
1.  A gallery of kid height, colorful characters that are not to touch, just stand next to and take pictures.

2.  A little town where they teach children the importance of turning the knobs on a make believe stove where a realistic looking flame comes on to boil a pan of ramen (see pictures).  This exhibit struck as a very odd play area for toddlers.  So, when they learn to turn a knob on a make believe stove and try the same thing on a real stove, they might get a different result as a real flame, with heat and fire, comes on and burns them.  Not sure this would pass health and safety in the states, but the parents and the kids at the museum thought it was great!!!

3.  The museum is aimed toward younger minds but having two year olds stand in line for every little thing is something that doesn't jive with this family.

4.  The very small slides at the end of the museum are reserved for ages 3 and up.  Evan was very strictly told no when he wanted to go down them.  Instead, they have a small area that they directed us to (see pictures).  Evan graduated from these little slides at about 3 months old.  

5.  Shoes on, Shoes off just about did me in by the end of our two hour visit (how we squeaked out two hours out of this place, I have no idea)  So, every time we now go to an outdoor park, Evan is trying to take his shoes off.  Poor kid is very confused.

Evan rolling dough for an anpanman dough man.

Flame Fun

Shoes on, Shoes off play area.  This was Evan's favorite area, it was just a pain to keep taking his shoes on/off so he could move to different mats to play.

Pre-painful museum

The dangerous slides reserved for 3 year olds and over.  Really!!!

Evans age appropriate slides.  I think he actually picked one up at one point and tried to move it to a different part of the museum.

6.  The cost of 4,000 yen (roughly $44.00) seems like a waste but now we have definitely scratched AnPanMan off our list of places to do and have no desire to even buy an AnPanMan souvenir nor watch the cartoon.  It is good to narrow down choices every now and then.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year 2012-Year of the Dragon

 A 1200 yen apple (roughly $14.50 US dollars)  They put stencils on the apples while they ripen to have the stenciled picture on the apple when it is ready to sell.
 These beautiful arrangements adorn entrances into banks, shopping malls, etc. during the New Year.  Tom thought they probably cost thousands to buy. 
 Made of bamboo and pine.  Beautiful representation of Japanese art.

 Year of the Dragon
 Evan eating his Anpanman bread creation on New Years Eve.  We enjoyed the traditional stew they make.  Tom informed us that years ago tradition was not to eat rice the first few days of the New Year. 
 Evan and Tom in the Yokohama Train station.  One of Evan's happier moments.
This is the train station at 5pm New Years Eve.  Earlier in the day or on the Friday prior, you would never have seen the ground.  Most Japanese people leave the city to visit family in the mountains and countryside.  We have never seen the train station so empty and the sidewalks visible without masses of people.  It is actually a good day to be out.


The little action figure made of bread has his own museum.  By the time we made it to the museum on 31 December, they were closing early for the New Year and paying the entrance fee really did not give us much time in the museum.  Evan didn't care though, he had a great time playing in the little city surrounding the museum.  They had a barber shop (Tom should have gotten an Anpanman haircut but he missed out), a bakery (see decorated breads), a craft store, a photo studio and a store with a ton of Anpanman toys at Amusement park prices.  Another fun excursion in Yokohama!!

These are all baked items.  They must take forever to decorate.

Evan had a great time playing with all the toys.  I think our favorite was the Anpanman that is made of wood and has velcro separating his body and head.  They give you a little plastic knife to cut the two in half. 

Miranda's look of pure boredom!!  I see this look often when she is forced to watch Evans cartoons!

Evan enjoying an Anpanman bakery item