Friday, February 29, 2008

The Friday Feast...plus a little extra on the side

It's Friday once again....and do you realize that it's March 1?!?!?
The month of February is....gone!!! Oh my!! That also means that the "Blog Februarie" is finished!! Wow!! That went by incredibly fast!!

I want to say a big "ARRIGATO" to Gina for asking us to join her in this challenge! I don't know about anyone else, but it really gave me the "kick in the pants" I needed to start taking this blogging a bit more seriously...but in a fun way!! (of course!!)

I started this blog to help family and friends in the States keep more in touch with us and aware of what was going on. I have had people send me e-mails telling me that this has been great and checking this blog is one of their daily things to do! Thank you so much for that!!!

What I didn't expect out of all this is the list of new friends I have made through this endeavor! Though my "blog reading" takes some time...if I'm gonna read, I'm probably also gonna comment....I look forward to my "personal time" here at my computer at the end of a day, reading what everyone has written, more often than not laughing~~~sometimes out loud~~at things!!! I hope that these "friendships" continue....it helps keep me in touch with what's going on back "home". I love my life here, don't get me wrong, it's just that sometimes being a foreigner here is just waaaayyy stressful...and having all of you here, helps me "keep it real"!!!

So...with that said...here's this week's feast: "Itadakimasu" (What we say here before we eat!!)


Appetizer
Who was the last person you hugged?
As for just hugging...it was a big banana pillow my friend Leah was looking at to buy AND I also hugged a really soft and smooshy bear pillow!!!

As for hugging a person...hmmmmm.....Koji about 10 minutes ago as he was going to bed (got a big 'ole smooch too!!!)

Soup
Share a beauty or grooming trick or tip with us.
(Seriously, if anyone could see me right now, NO ONE would be reading that answer! I'm soooo purdy!!!)

I'm going to repeat something I mentioned in a post a few weeks ago....if you have dry and yucky heels, elbows, knees...pretty much you can put this on any part of your body you want....mix olive oil and sugar...1:1 and massage into whichever area and then wash off! I do my heels and hands and I usually use 2 tablespoons of each. It really is great!!!

Salad
What does the color yellow make you think of?
Sunshine and VW Beetles ('cause the color I want of one!!)


Main Course
If you were to make your living as a photographer, what subject would your pictures revolve around?
Children


Dessert
What was the longest book you ever read?

Because of my schedule I haven't read any really long books lately....other than The Divinci Code...I can't think of anything....I read Light in August in high school...don't know if that one was really long or just seemed that way!!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

"These are a few of my favorite things....."

When I first made this blog, back in May, 2006, I wasn't really very sure as to what it was that I was supposed to do. So...I posted a couple of times and then....waited...until October and started again. It took me awhile, but, I finally got the hang of things and especially, in the last 6 or 7 months, have been posting quite regularly.

Not only have I been writing my stuff...but, I have "met" a whole slew of new friends from reading their blogs and commenting. Sometimes, I will find myself on a new blog and really, have no freakin' clue as to how I got there. But, the reading is usually good, so I usually stay and have added many a site to my "bookmarks".

One of those people(and I do know how I got to her blog) is Karen Meg and she has tagged me with a "Favorite Posts" meme.
Here are the rules to this particular meme:

Rules: Go back through your archives and post the links to your five favorite blog posts that you’ve written.

Link one must be about family
Link two must be about friends
Link three must be about yourself
Link four must be about something you love
Link five can be about anything you choose

Post your five links and then tag five other people. At least two of the people you tag must be newer acquaintances so that you get to know each other better.

Okay...so here we go: (Click on the links if you want to read the post.)
1) As in most of the blogs I read, I, too, seem to post more about my family than anything. As I was going through my posts (seriously hadn't realized there would be so many!!!) I found one particular one that I really do like. Ever since the K-man and I started dating, going for drives and hikes has been something we do...a lot. Now that the boys are older, we can pretty much make a day of it. This particular day, we climbed a mountain here in Nagasaki. It was a great day.....and just a quick note...the shirt that the K-man is wearing in the pictures was one that my late father gave him...Daddy was a "Texas-kind-of cowboy" and when the K-man wears that shirt, it really just makes me smile and remember....

2) I have made some incredibly wonderful friends in the last 17 years. Sadly, most of them have moved back to their respective home-countries. But, there are 2 people here that, even though we don't see each other nearly as often as we should, remain two of my dearest friends. When we get together, it's always fun and we make up for the time between getting together.

3)I tried to find a post about me that was 're-post-worthy'....this one was just something I did one night when there was nothing else to write about!!

4) It would be obvious to find a post about my family, as they are who I love the most...but, to learn more about me, I thought that this montage, of sorts, would be best. There are people and things I love and some other important stuff thrown in.

5) I added this one just 'cause when I think of it, it just makes me smile!!!

As for the tagging of others....I think I will leave that option up to you....if you want to do this, then I encourage you to do it (it was kind of fun going through the older posts to see what crap I had actually posted!!!)!!! But...you have to let me know...so I can make sure to read what you have chosen!!

**Please ignore any/all spelling and/or grammar and/or any other mistakes...I took some cold medicine and I'm starting to feel a little "hoojie"...they should include "you should not undertake any major internet writing" along with not "operating large machinery" on the label...and no, you won't find hoojie in any dictionary...it's an original word...or at least, that's what I tell people. :-D

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Oh...but to find the perfect present...

The Japanese people are known for their gift-giving abilities. They give summer and winter "special" gift boxes (of soap, oils, ham, fruit, beer and juice to name a few of the selections) to those people they want to say a special "thank you" or "I appreciate your kindness" or "you're a great teacher/boss, please accept this present as a total suck up to you".
When you move into a house or apartment, you are expected to give small gifts to your neighbors to introduce yourself and say "yoroshiku"...which is kind of like saying "please, be nice to me".

Weddings, births of babies and funerals are all situations where we give money...no flowers or presents...but cold cash....and in a week or two, there will be a "thank you" present delivered.

Even among my neighbors, I almost want to say "stop the madness!! Just take the damn cookies...I don't want anything in return!!!" But sure as anything, in a day or two, the container which contained the cookies I made and delivered, will be delivered back to me full of something...chocolates, candies, etc.

It just never stops. And I have found myself almost brain washed to behave the same...last week a bag of oranges were brought to the house by the lady next door and I sent the boys over later with some apples we had received....as a sort of payback!!! (I'm turning Japanese, oh yes, I'm turning Japanese, I really think so!" sing with me now!!!)

So, now...another gift giving situation is soon upon me...and one that , I may not like the whole situation, but I don't mind participating in. The "sayonara" gift.

Three very good friends are now in the process of moving back to the States. Though the three of them are all much younger than myself, and our lives are completely different...I have found myself drawn to them in a very fun and crazy way!! I have known one for a few years now...the other two are relatively new....but, I will miss them all oh so very much and am in total denial about accepting their inevitable departure.

Any time a friend leaves, I like to give them something that will help them to remember me and their time in Japan and to remember me!! :-D Over the years, I have picked out pieces of handmade pottery....or old kimonos....an obi or two (the belt for the kimono)...it really depends on the person.

Today...the boys and I went to one of our favorite shopping establishments (Mr. Max does a very good impersonation of a Wal-Mart or Target!!). As I was shopping around, I was drawn to something that I immediately recognized as THE PERFECT GIFT for the girls.....it was a bit whimsical so maybe it will keep me in their memory....AND it captures the whole Japanese "spirit" of life....on just one...simple....t-shirt....





"Dreaming of the last hurrah."

Isn't this perfect!?!?!? I remember about 15 years ago, some friends and I had a contest to find the most stupid best Japanese-English t-shirts. This one would have placed in the top 5!!!

I'm going back in a day or two to check sizes...the color selection was awesome!!! I think they are going to love having one!!!


Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Tired Tuesday.....

Mondays and Tuesdays are the days that kick my butt exhaust me the most....but, it's a good kind of exhaustion! Each of these days, I have 3 classes...and each of those classes are such high energy that I find myself really drained on Tuesday nights! I've had my bath (it was lovely!!)...a couple of beers...and now for a quick blog...and then, I am going to bed.
How are YOU feeling this morning/afternoon/evening?
This is me......or, not me really, but how I'm feeling!!
(I love this...I have it on our fridge with a "frame" to put on the "feeling" so everyone will know the climate of the kitchen!!)

I could use some of these again.....

But...tomorrow I get to go and do this....so I will feel "re-energized" and ready for the rest of the week!!!


What do YOU do when you need to get some energy?!?!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Random Questions + Interesting Concept = Youza! That's a bit close, don't ya think??!?!

When I have the time, I like doing some of the quizzes you can find on people's blogs and other different sites....answer a few seemingly random questions and "they" will decide, just from your answers, what kind of person you are.

I used to go into those quizzes with a big 'ole block grain of salt....but, I started realizing that they. were. hitting. just. a. little. too. close. How the hell can "they" figure stuff out about me just by my answers to questions about what I do in my free time or what kind of condiment I use on my sandwich or how I eat an Oreo cookie!!

I got this one from Grandy....this one is "What's your power color?"
Mine....was GOLD!!!
(such a pretty, shiny color!!)


Your Power Color Is Gold
At Your Highest:

You are engrossed in passions that mentally stimulate you.

At Your Lowest:

You seek thrills and neglect what's important in your life.

In Love:

You see dating as adventure and approach it with an open attitude.

How You're Attractive:

You passion for life makes others passionate about you.

Your Eternal Question:

"Am I Having Fun?"

Okay.....so....let's see...."highest point"~~~maybe....."lowest point"~~it's really a good thing I'm not "low" very often, that one is kind of scary.....
I see "dating as an adventure and approach it with an open attitude"....yeah...well...that works for pretty much everything for me!! Life in general is best when faced like that, don't you think? ~~~"attractive point"....isn't that all a part of what being the best teacher you can be is all about?~~~
"Am I having fun?".....I want this on my gravestone when I finally pass on!!! This is much of what my philosophy of life is all about.....
..........If I ever get to a point in a situation where I can no longer see the fun in things, then, my friends, it's time for some kind of change in that situation!!!
Or maybe....this is all just a load of crap and I've wasted 20 minutes going through it?!?!?!
You take the test....tell me what YOU think!!!
I'm going to bed.....oyasumi nasai.....good night!! Sweet dreams!!!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Sunday, 2/24....Part Dos!!

Did you ever have one of "those days" where the night before, you went to sleep with the idea that, even though the next day was going to be busy, it was okay, because there was enough time to get everything done? And then, in one phone call, it all goes to 'hell in a hand basket'?
That was today. I woke up around 9:00....and after getting the coffee started, breakfast for the boys done and actually read the paper, I was ready to start my day. Then....the phone call at about 10:30 that changed everything!
The owner of our house was here in Nagasaki and wanted to take a look at the repairs that were done a couple of weeks ago....and she would be here at 1:30.
My mind started racing....there was a cake to decorate, a "Mt. Fuji" of laundry to be done, the entrance-way resembled a war zone and there were piles of stuff that needed to be hidden organized into other parts of the house.
Must. make. more. coffee.

Then I needed to get over being angry....she lives in Osaka (which is an almost 2 hour plane ride to get here!) so she didn't just wake up this morning and say "Gosh, maybe I'll go to Nagasaki and check out the house." A little bit more than 3 hours warning would have been really nice!!!

Okay....Oh...and did I mention that there were about 8 or 10 little boys coming to the house to play and have cake at 1:00?!?!?! MORE COFFEE....WHERE'S THE WHISKEY?? :-D

Because I work very well under pressure....the laundry got done (without whiskey, thank you very much!!)...the cake got decorated (not as well as what I had planned, but the boys loved it!!!)...and the stuff that was in piles got put into various closets around the house...and the genkan (entrance-way) was as good as it gets with 10 extra pairs of shoes all around!!

So before I show you the cake....

Some flowers for me....'cause I deserve them!!!



Okay....the cake....Issei is very much into his Nintendo DS and Dragon Quest. (Click on that and you can learn all you would ever need to know thanks to Wikipedia!!) In the Dragon Quest game, there is a character called suraimu or Slime, that Issei and his friends really, really like!
There are many variations on the Slime character...as seen above. But the one that Issei requested for his cake was this guy.....
And here is how it turned out.....

The blue was much prettier in "real life"....the picture makes it look kind of gray, but, it was actually a very pretty blue. I didn't let them see it until it was time to eat and they were all very excited!!! The look on Issei's face when he saw it was one of almost disbelief....like he wasn't sure what I was going to do, even though he told me what he wanted and he was very happy with the way it turned out!!!
Here is 1/2 of the group that was here....and Issei and Koji (on the left). Three of the mothers called me earlier this evening to thank them for the cake and to ask why we didn't say it was a birthday party....I explained that it wasn't a "party", per se...just cake and playing!! One mom jokingly said something on the lines of me making the same cake for her son's birthday coming up in April....hmmmm....this might turn into a little business venture!!!
Anyway....it turned out to be an okay day after all...but now...I'm knackered exhausted and it's almost my turn in the bath. I really need to soak my tired 'ole bones tonight.

Have a great Sunday!!

You know you're from a small town when.....

First of all....thanks everyone for the great comments on my hometown post!! I do admit that I got a bit homesick...not for "home" exactly, but for my family and friends!!! It was great to go through all those pictures!!

As I was writing that post, I kept thinking of an e-mail that I got a few months ago that had a list of criteria to see if you had lived in what would qualify as a "small town".
Today...in the cleaning out of the "in-box", I found the message and thought that I would share with you!!
It's a little long....but a quick read!!

Those of you from my hometown or from any small town will read these, shake your head, do a little reminiscing, and probably laugh a bit.

SMALL TOWNS...aren't they wonderful...
1) You can name everyone you graduated with. All 44 of them.
2) You know what 4-H means. Head, Hands, Heart, Health
3) You went to parties at a pasture, barn, gravel pit, or in the middle of a dirt road. On Monday you could always tell who was at the party because of the scratches on their legs from running through the woods when the party was busted. (See #7.) No woods, but corn/wheat fields.
4) You used to 'drag' Main !!!!!!!!!!!!
5) You scheduled parties around the schedules of different police officers,because you knew which ones would bust you and which ones wouldn't. Benson was the coolest!!
6) You could never buy cigarettes because all the store clerks knew how old you were (and if you were old enough, they'd tell your parents anyhow.) Besides, where would you get the money?
7) When you did find somebody old enough and brave enough to buy cigarettes, you still had to go out into the country and drive on back road sto smoke them. No..never did this..uh-uh.
8) You knew which section of the ditch you would find the beer your buyer dropped off.
9) It was cool to date somebody from the neighboring town. Those Mustangs and Eagles...man some of those guys were hawt!!!
10) The whole school went to the same party after graduation. Klipfels house.
11) You didn't give directions by street names but rather by references. Turn by Nelson's house, go 2 blocks to Anderson's, and it's four houses left of the track field.
12) The golf course had only 9 holes. Rattlesnake Open!!
13) You couldn't help but date a friend's ex-boyfriend/girlfriend.
14) Your car stayed filthy because of the dirt roads, and you will never own a dark vehicle for this reason.
15) The town next to you was considered 'trashy' or 'snooty,' but was actually just like your town.
16) You referred to anyone with a house newer then 1955 as the 'rich' people.
17) The people in the 'big city' dressed funny, and then you picked up the trend 2 years later.
18) Anyone you wanted could be found at the local gas station or the dairy bar. Bowling Alley, Napa parking lot, or the grocery store parking lot
19) You saw at least one friend a week driving a tractor through town or one of your friends driving a grain truck to school occasionally.
20) The gym teacher suggested you haul hay for the summer to get stronger. Not me...but my brothers!!!
21) Directions were given using the stop light as a reference. No stop lights...places on Main Street were used...but everyone pretty much new where everyone lived anyway!
22) When you decided to walk somewhere for exercise, 5 people would pull over and ask if you wanted a ride
23) Your teachers called you by your older siblings' names.
24) Your teachers remembered when they taught your parents.
25) You could charge at any local store or write checks without any ID.
26) There was no McDonalds. But we did have a Taco John's!!
27) The closest mall was over an hour away.Try 3 1/2, if you drove fast and didn't get stopped!
28) It was normal to see an old man riding through town on a riding lawn mower. Or bicycle!!
29) You've peed in a cornfield. or wheat field, someone's garden, side of a dirt road....
30) Most people went by a nickname. "Hutch" (my whole family will answer to this name!!)

There were very few that I didn't say "yes" to!!!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Some Feasting on a Saturday

For the past few weeks, the weekly "Friday Feast" was not up....and now it's back. But it's Saturday (so sue me!)....and I completely changed took some liberties with a couple of the questions...I just did a little mixing of the questions from another week!!

Appetizer
Name one thing that is unique about you.
Maybe my ability to remember people's faces. I can't remember names for crap, but a face...I never forget!! I run into old students all the time and I know I know them, I just can't tell you from where I know them, when I knew them or their name! I'm also really good at covering that I have no idea who the hell they are!!! :-D

Soup
What kind of lotion or cream do you use to keep your hands from getting too dry?
Pretty much anywhere you are in my house, there is some kind of lotion or cream within your dry, scaly reach!! Right now, on my desk is a container of Victoria's Secret Amber Romance Body Butter and one of Zum Rub from Indigo Wild (the tea-citrus scent....absolutely awesome stuff!!)

Salad
What do your salt and pepper shakers look like?
Our salt shaker is just a glass one with a red lid and the pepper is a "pepper mix" with garlic and other stuff so we just use the container it came in. But..but...but...my favorite set of shakers, which I don't use, are sitting on the shelf in my window...they are ceramic, pink flamingos!!! Love 'em!!

Main Course
Who do you talk to most often on the phone?
Oh...puh-lease....My mom!!! Even though its international calling, I can sometimes talk to my mom 2 or 3 times a week!!!

Dessert
What level of responsibility do you have in your job?
Honey, I have ALL the responsibility in my job!! I work basically as a "free lance"
English Language Consultant . I answer to no one but ME!! :-D

Friday, February 22, 2008

Where I come from...

Today's post is in response to our fearless leader's Gina's request in our challenge to post something to our blogs everyday in the month of February. In previous posts those of us involved in this endeavor, have posted about whatever tickled our fancies, so to speak. But...this week...Gina gave us an "assignment":



"This week I want to do something a little different. I would like to encourage you to share more about where you are from... where you are living now or, if that really doesn't excite you, then perhaps something about where you grew up. We are a diverse group from all over the world and I think this will be a fascinating assignment."

And so....I give you a bit of my hometown along with some pictures to help the story along. Come on...let's take a look.....



My hometown is a very small town on the prairies of Colorado. I'm not sure exactly how many people live there, (my friend Susan, the County Treasurer could help with that!!) but...if I were to take a guess, then... maybe no more than 2,000...maybe.


It's kind of funny, not in a "hahaha" kind of way, but more in a "hmmmm" way of thinking that, when I was 18, many of the things about my hometown that I didn't like and wanted to "escape" are now the things that draw me back home as often as I can get there.



Take any road out of the town in any direction....and this is what you will see.



It is flat. There are few trees. Very few cars are on the road with you, but when you meet someone, that driver will give you a wave...doesn't matter that you if know them or not ...that's just what you do.



This is looking up Main Street. There are no traffic lights. There is really only one main road of shopping....and this is it. When I was in high school, every Friday and Saturday night was spent "dragging Main". Oh, the miles I put on my VW...or my friends cars!! We would spend the whole night just going up....and then...down...up...and down....honking at people as we met them...sometimes stopping at the Napa parking lot or the grocery store parking lot to get out and talk to friends, sometimes just parking our cars and then getting in with others to go riding around.






Every August, there is the county Fair and Rodeo. On the Saturday of this event, there is always a parade. It used to be down Main Street, but since there is so much traffic going through, they decided to move it a couple of streets over. We are a patriotic town...and always leading the parade, on horses, will be the Colorado State flag and the US Flag.



As my Mom's house is on the street of the parade, her front yard is a gathering place for family and friends.(She's the one in the yellow t-shirt, by the way.) We set up saw horses so people can't park in front (that would make it so we can't see!!) and bring out the lawn chairs. There is always cold tea and if you're lucky...a cold beer!! (As it does get incredibly hot and is oh so very dry here, a cold beer is just what you need on a day like this!!!)






Again with that blue sky.....and flatness. I used to dream of being in the mountains or just somewhere that had buildings or something on the horizon!! Now....I dream about sitting on my Grandad's old swing on the farm, just listening to the wind (always wind a 'blowin'!) and sometimes catching the singing of a bird or two...the wind blowing through the grass or, even better...blowing through the wheat is a sound this is just pretty close of Heaven.





Whenever I go "home", I know I will spend the majority of time, not only with the many, many family members I have...but also...the friends. Some of my best friends, ever, are here. Seeing them again is always so refreshing. They help me remember who "Debbie" really is!!

I also know that every 5 years, those of us who graduated together will meet for a reunion (as do all classes from my high school....I think that the Class of '45 might have been the oldest group the year we had ours!!) It is tradition for the class members who are there to jump on the back of a truck or whatever and join the parade. The last reunion, someone got the crazy idea to have water guns....I think they were "outlawed" by the parade "police" after that!!! (I'm in the sun visor, waving my hand and water gun!!)








Being "home" means having "patio time"....my Mom's patio is perfect for this. Whether it's a small group or a large one, you can count on it always being fun. Whenever I think about the times with family and friends, out on that patio, protected from the the outside world, so to speak, by the fence and trees...I think of laughter...and talking....and more laughter. These are the times that are most special to me. Sometimes, in the morning, my Mom and I will sit out here in our pajamas, drinking coffee and just talking. These are the moments I treasure the most.






My hometown is a place where a father and his 4 sons can build a fort in the backyard...together. It may take a while, but that doesn't matter...it takes time to do something right. Here is a place where, sure, people are busy, but...family is important...building that fort will be something they remember forever. In my hometown, relationships between family and friends are strong...bonds are made that are very rarely broken.


My hometown is also a place where little boys (and girls!) can run around Grandma's yard without a shirt, or even pants, for that matter....where being barefoot is a given.


It's a place for memories....


It's a good place.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The birthday cake....that actually wasn't a cake...

Okay...so as far as cakes go...this was NOT one of my best. But....in my defense: I had very little time to do anything, let alone come home and make and decorate a cake. Being the "quick on my feet" kind of Mom that I consider myself to be....I remembered something that I had read somewhere and tried to duplicate that.

I give you......the "Mr. Donut Birthday Tower"!!!


In the book, they used many, many more Krispy Kreme doughnuts (oh, my...just pause here for a moment and think about those delicious...sinfully rich...deep-fried pieces of heaven, shall we??.................................) whoa! Where was I? Oh yeah...so "those" doughnuts....Anyway....the idea is to build a tower of doughnuts and then drizzle chocolate sauce over the whole thing.
As there are only 4 of us in the family, I couldn't see buying 2 dozen doughnuts...okay, I could see myself buying that many doughnuts, I just couldn't actually do it!

If I ever do this again...and I probably will as all the boys thought it was a good idea...I will buy more than 8 doughnuts. Though it was fine, the tower wasn't really a tower. It was more like a "creative doughnut pile"!!

And....I used some canned icing (that has a nozzle and you squirt) that I got from an American friend and even though that stuff is really convenient...next time I will just use some of my own. When I put the canned icing on things, I don't really have the control that I would have with the homemade stuff.

Aaaannnnndddd.....I would add some whipped cream!! Koji thought ice cream, but the "birthday boy" and Dad both said whipped cream would be the best!!

Next time, I'll do that. But...last night's cake was still pretty gosh darn good!!! On Sunday, I will make the "official" cake...the one that Issei requested...I've done some planning and I have to admit that I'm feeling pretty good about it. We'll see on Sunday how it all turns out!!!




**Oh...and by the way....a couple of you have asked about how to pronounce Issei's name....it is /ee-say/. His full name is Issei Alexander!! It's kind of a mouthful, but...it works!! :-D

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Happy Birthday, My Bigger One!!

Today, is Issei's 10th birthday.
When he was born, Mommy was 35, Daddy was 41 and they had absolutely no idea as to how their lives were going to change. Oh...we knew things would be different, but...yeah...we were pretty much clueless!!!

I could get very deep and say that I felt as if I had waited my whole life for him. That, when he came into our lives, I...we...were complete. Those first weeks were so crazy...I was (am!!) a capable and smart human being and yet, this little creature turned me into an insecure, WTF-am-I-doing-??-kind of person. And then....at along about 3 weeks, Issei decided to have colic and our lives were no longer our own. But...we survived...it wasn't easy.

I used to wonder how the hell some women could hurt their children...especially babies and had no compassion for those mothers. And then....I saw, with my own eyes and heart, how that could happen. If you have a baby that cries...constantly...only stopping to nurse or sleep...for days...weeks on end...the thoughts are there....sometimes just slightly...But...the difference between those women who hurt their babies and me was that I could see what was happening. My mom, at one point in an international phone call, told me to put. the. phone. down...go out side for a minute and just breathe. I have never felt so scared in my life. The very thought I had that if I could just make him stop crying for a minute it would all be okay, scared me to death.

I look back on those times and thank God for my family in America and the friends I have here and there. Without those people, I'm not sure how I would have managed. So 10 years may be a bit long to wait to say "thank you", but....you know how I feel and how much you all mean to me.

So...now...back to better times...This morning, I was going through some old pictures to find one, or two, or three, to download (10 years ago, we just had a regular old camera!). I see these and just smile....he really was a pretty baby!!

This picture was taken on the day we went to the temple for his blessing. My mom was here and it was a beautiful day. Amazingly enough, on this day, he didn't cry...well...not so much anyway. When the priest started chanting and banging on his little drum, that kind of shook him up (and Grandma Linda!) a little, but the day passed very nicely!!!




This was Issei in the hospital, the day after he was born!! It's amazing how, between this picture and the one before, he lost all his really nice "baby hair"!!!
He was such a peanut!!!

And this is how Issei and Mommy spent 80% of the time for the first 3 weeks of his life!!! Sometimes we were on the sofa....sometimes on the futon...sometimes in the rocking chair. I think we were both surprised at how tired we made each other!!!


And now...Issei and Mommy 2008!! (We got over that being so tired!!...well...he did, anyway!!! I just handle it better now!!)


We will have 2 celebrations this year. Tonight was just us....with taco salad and a very "interesting" (as Daddy called it!!) cake. I will post pictures tomorrow....Issei is inviting some friends over on Sunday to have cake and play. The cake is a surprise...they think they are just coming to play!! (We tend to do things differently here at the Kuroiwa House!!) He has given me his request for a cake....and since my motto is "I'll try to make anything once...twice if it works out good!", I will do my best!! This won't be my biggest challenge, but it will be in the "top 5 most interesting cakes" list!!!

Happy Birthday, Issei. We love you!!!

(you knucklehead, you!!)

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

"The Adventures of the Cactus Brothers"

Tonight while I was slaving in the kitchen to get dinner on the table, the boys were spread out on said-table, both working very hard themselves drawing some very elaborate pictures....Bob Seger crooning in the background. It was very nice. (And yes, I will admit...I am stuck in the 'late-70's' when it comes to music some days!!)

Anyway...the 5-year-old's drawings were just....kind of...well...I'm not sure what they were. When I asked, he said they were kaiju ("monsters"). Okay.

4th grader was bent over a piece of paper...very diligently drawing something on his paper.

Me: Whatcha drawing? Monsters?
Him: .....*sigh*.......no.
Me: I ask again....whatcha drawing?
Him: There is a contest in this book (pointing to the latest edition of a manga or cartoon book.) They're having a contest to find new characters.
Me: So.....what have you got there?
Him: "The Cactus Brothers". There are three of them. Their names are Dash Needle, Hell Needle (yeah..that's what it translates to!!) and Flying Needle.

Me: So....what's with the Needle name?
Him:.....(rolling eyes and thinking "duh, Mom", yes, I read minds, too!!).....They are cactus...cactus have....needles.

He then proceeded to tell me that they each have different powers and abilities, even though they came from the same "mother cactus". Dash can run really, really fast. Hell is just really mean and nasty (but I'm sure with a very nice heart!). And Flying...does just that...he flies.

So, after dinner, he drew yet another picture of the Cactus Brothers on a postcard along with a short story about them to send to the magazine tomorrow. The deadline is sometime next week....so after we mail the postcard tomorrow....we wait.

Issei really wants to be an artist....or specifically, he wants to illustrate for magazines or work on computer games...at least that's what he said tonight!! His imagination is incredible, so I have no doubt that whatever he does, he will do a great job!

I did ask him about the mother of the Cactus Brothers. Wasn't he going to draw her? And when he did draw her, he should make her really, really pretty with long and soft, yet really strong needles...and she should be really, really nice.

Again with the eye rolling!!

:-D





There's something...about to happen....don't worry, you have time to prepare

In my 'almost' 17 years (*gasp*) here in Japan, I have become accustomed to "doing without" when it comes to certain items that most Americans pretty much take for granted. Or I have learned to make a "fake" product....my Ranch dressing has taken me a few years to perfect, but I have come pretty damn close to the real thing. I have also re-learned how to bake...all my cakes and other goodies are all....homemade. Betty Crocker does not come in a box here and when she does, you have to special order her and she's not cheap!! (Unless you have a connection to a military base, and even then, those connections are not forever!!)

Though I can't buy my favorite Reece's Peanut Butter Cups (I know!! Crazy, huh?!?!) I can get a Snickers or M&Ms. I can also get Pringles, Doritos, and various salsas and Mexican spices. What I can't get...again, I can try to imitate.

Except for one thing........Girl Scout Cookies!!
I'm not sure what they put in their cookies, but they cannot be copied. Oh...I can come up with a mean peanut butter cookie, but....it's just not the same!

It is the middle of February. The mad selling season is soon upon us. It's time to get ready for those demented little cookie fiends precious little scouts to come knocking on your door, pleading for you to buy those 35 boxes she needs to win a prize!!!


Yes, I know it's early. But, in the spirit of friendship, I would just like to let Mom, Lila, Susan, Cheryl, Dena, Trenda* someone know how much I really do miss those once-a-year cookies. (And as Cheryl proved a couple years ago...they do freeze quite nicely...even up to 5 months!!)


And just in case, so as to avoid any confusion, and if someone wanted to purchase a box or two...any of the following would not be purchased in vain.








**What happened to the names? "Samoas"...."Do-Si-Dos"??? Those names sound a bit more yummy, don't you think?!?!

(Oh My Goodness!!! I just realized the possiblity of something.....LAUREN!!! Is Aida a Scout?!?!?! :-D)

So...dear friends....no pressure...I'm just following "The Secret" ideas...you know...I want something...so I put it "out there".....let see what happens.

I hope I'm happy with how things turn out!!!

**Images borrowed from Indexed and The Girl Scouts of America.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Sunday...Sunday...naaa na na na na na....

Today started out to be such an incredibly relaxing day....and then I got out of my futon!!! (Granted, I did get to sleep until about 9:30, which was great!!!). After I stumbled into the kitchen to get the coffee started, the boys started in on "Can we play our DS?" and "Can we go out now?" and, my personal favorite "Wow! You slept a long time....can we have some breakfast?"
Oooookaaaaaayyyy....so that's how today is going to be, huh?
(I can see this as being a 2 or 3-pot of coffee kind of day already.)








(I have this sitting in my kitchen and some Japanese friends came over the other day and when they read it...I could see them really thinking about it....three......two.....one.....hahahahah..
and...they got it!!! I know that humor in another language is probably the most difficult to understand, but "mother humor" is sometimes universal!!!!



Probably one of the highlights of the day came when the doorbell rang as I was on my way out to hang out my third load of laundry....when I opened the door, there stood...maybe...10 little boys of varying ages and heights, asking for Issei and Koji to go and play.
In that group, is one of my favorite of Issei's friends....except, he is a bit of an Eddie Haskell. (Remember on Leave it to Beaver, Wally's friend that was such a suck up!!)
Anyway....Tsubasa (Issei's Eddie) was in the group and as I was making my way through the obstacle course of little bodies to get outside, here is the conversation he and I had:

**And please, keep in mind that this was all in Japanese, so I'm translating the best I can.**

Tsubasa: Good afternoon, Mrs. Kuroiwa. How are you?

Me: I'm fine, Tsubasa. How are you? It's cold today...I'm glad to see you wearing a coat.

Tsubasa: I'm feeling good and yes, my mother told me to wear the coat today...I'm a little warm, but......

Me: You are a good boy.

Tsubasa. Yes, I am. Are you doing laundry?

Me: (Really fighting the urge to say "Duh" as I have a basket of clothes in my hand.) Yes, I am.

Tsubasa: It's a really good day for laundry...I don't think it will rain. By the way.....I have a watch today.

Me: (??) Good for you.....

Tsubasa: Yes, so please tell me what time you want Issei back and I'll tell him when it's time. You got angry last time when he came back late.

Me: Why thank you, Tsubasa. That's very nice of you.

Tsubasa: Yes, it is.

Yes...another thing that is universal....the one friend that sucks up to Mom...gotta love it!!!

After the boys and their entourage left to parts unknown around the neighborhood, I decided that I would try to make some curtains for our bathroom. Our broken dryer is no longer with us, which leaves us with a window that you can now see very well and we needed something...just looks too bare.
So...I got out the sewing machine (yes, I have one!! AND I know how to use it!!! Ican hear people I went to high school with just snickering!!!) and proceeded to make something....not good enough to actually be called curtains, so let's just say "window coverings".

They aren't the best I could possibly do, but since I used what I had and just sort of threw them together, they will do until I can get to the fabric store and get some good material.

The picture is kind of fuzzy, but...you can get the drift!!!

And that, my friends is a new (to us) but actually not so new washing machine. We got it from some friends who are leaving Japan soon and really needed to get rid of theirs.
It is bigger than our older one...this one will wash 10 kilos...yeah, yeah, yeah....I know....it's small...but for here, it's actually one of the bigger ones!!!
Plus....it's really...really....quiet.....and it has some things on it, I'm still not sure what it does.

It's kind of an adventure whenever I throw something in there to wash!!! :-D



So.....now that I slept so long last night....I'm probably not going to sleep anytime soon...but, I should probably get some work done for tomorrow!!!

I hope you all had a great weekend. My Sunday is over here...but you all have a good one!!!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

For want of a better post...just a post......


As days go, today was a really good day. But, tonight, as I was in the bath, there was an incredible sssssiiiiiiggggghhhhhh that was released from my body.
"What the heck was that for?", I thought to myself. Sure, I'm usually pretty tired at the end of each and every day, but....this...was more than usual.

I'm a person that is more often than not, "up"...or naturally "genki", as the Japanese would say...energetic. I explained to my husband a few years ago, that our jobs were so completely different. A teacher's job, on an emotional level, is different from most others.

Let me explain....I am an English conversation teacher. I do not work in one particular school. I am what they call over here an "achi-kochi sensei"....(a here and there teacher). I work in community centers, I go to houses for private and small group lessons, I have a couple of classes that are actually in language schools, and one or two classes come to my home. Whenever I walk into a classroom, whether there are 4 students or 25, I am expected to be "genki". And I am.
But....after a day like Monday, for example (3 classes--2--2 hours, 1--90 minutes...every minute "genki"!!!), and this in an average day, I'm pretty tired. I do my classes in during the day.......THEN...I go grocery shopping, pick up "littlest one" at the daycare, drive to pick up "oldest one" at the after school program, go home and cook dinner, clean up kitchen while boys are taking bath, get the boys ready for bed, THEN I can get my bath and after that it is MY time to do computer and Internet and get ready for the next day....to start all over again.

I'm okay with this for a while, but after about 3 or 4 weeks or so....my body and my psyche say..."Enough!!" And I sleep. In an average night, I sleep about 4 or 5 hours....on a night like tonight...I will probably sleep about 10, if the boys let me I'm lucky. I only need one night, and then I am ready to "seize the day" again with the best of 'em.

Today, I spent the morning doing laundry and trying to get the house ready for some students that were coming this afternoon for a lesson. It's a "mama/baby" class, so there are some little ones and I like to make sure that the floor is picked up enough that no one will see something really cool and want to eat that thing, thus taking choking out of the day's scenario. So, I try to clean the house really well.
Then, for some reason, I thought that, well....a pineapple-upside-down cake would be really good to have with our tea this afternoon. So I made one. (It was delicious, by the way!!!)
After the class left, about 4:30.....I still had to make dinner and all that other stuff mentioned before.

And so...that brings me to the bath and the "sigh"....(see, we were coming back to that...were you worried?!) I'm going to bed now....it's still kind of early for me....not quite midnight, but....me thinks I will sleep well tonight....and a rejuvenating slumber is what I need.
So....good night to you all.....
oh....and I will leave with one more "George".......the man just has so many faces, doesn't he?
And though the others are all 'zexy' and stuff, I think this one is in my "top 5 pictures of George"....There's just something about him........ya gotta love a man in flannel!!!




Good night everyone....sweet, yummy dreams.




**Wow...I just re-read what I typed and I think I mights have rambled a bit...oh well...I type like a talk!! :-D And sometimes, a little "rambling" just happens!!! See you tomorrow!!







Friday, February 15, 2008

Again already with the "Friday Feast" substitutions....


Well, well, well...it's time again to try and find something to use for the weekly feast-a-rama!! And since the "Friday Feast" is still not functioning...or at least it isn't right now....I guess I need to go out and find a set of questions to steal borrow from someone!

Thanks goodness my new good friend Grandy over at http://functionalshmunctional.blogspot.com/ had a list of questions in a meme that she even gave permission for anyone to use.....and I am now "anyone"!!! (Thanks Grandy!!!)

(and if "anyone", not me this time, can explain how to get a link included without having the whole address right there but instead something like "Grandy's"....please tell me and I would be forever grateful!!)

So....on with this evening's entertainment....a Meme from Grandy:

Name something you do everyday: Laugh!! I read somewhere that laughter was really good for your diet and in helping you lose weight..........HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! Puh-lease!! If that were true, I would look like this: l

Name 2 things you wish you could learn:
(1.) Kanji...the Chinese characters that are only one part of the 3-part-writing system here in Japan. I try so hard, then....*poof*...it's gone. I can survive here without it, but it would make life much, much easier.
(2.) to crochet. One of my students has made some of the most interesting things using macrame jute and other fun yarns and she has tried to teach me....but...I can't. I did teach her the phrase "I'm all thumbs." I'll try again in a few months!!!


Name 3 things that remind you of your childhood:
(1.) riding bicycles. In the summer, we would ride all over the county...having adventures along the way. It was great.
(2.) Kool-Aid. When we were kids, we got one of those Kool-Aid pitchers that looked like the Kool-Aid guy (remember the big smile). I love grape and strawberry....though some of the new flavors are really good, too!! I just love a kid with a Kool-Aid mustache!!
(3.) "It's the story....of a lovely lady..." The Brady Bunch!!! A while back, on one of the stations here, they were running episodes of the show....they were great!!! Anytime I see pictures of the actors who played the kids or anyone else from the show, it's like "Aaaaah...I remember that!!!"



4 things you love to eat but rarely do:
(1.) Really good Mexican food. I can get (or even make) some do-able stuff, but....it just doesn't measure up to what I can get in the States....or better yet, in Mexico!!
(2.) Steak. It's hard to justify the cost here and since we don't eat really good steak here very often, my system doesn't handle the beef very well anymore.
(3.) Oreo Cookies. I can get them here, but...I have no control when it comes to an Oreo....kind of like that potato chip commercial...."can't eat just one".
(4.) Crab legs. And I'm talking Alaskan King Crab....not baby ones...but really nice ones that when you pull them out of the shell, you can almost hear the meat *sigh* as the fork gently tugs on it.....oh...and melted butter....lot's of melted butter!!! (Oh! My kingdom for a Joe's CrabShack right now!!!)



Name 5 things/people that make you feel good:
(1.) The people around me. I'm just putting everyone in one group....my family, friends, and especially my students. I'm very lucky to be surrounded by such an incredible group of people!!
(2.) A really good, full-body hug. My friend, Beth's husband Vito is this really tall Brazilian guy, with really long arms and he gives THE best hugs. Sometimes, I just have to borrow him to get a fix!! Thanks, Beth..:-D You are a great bud to share your husband, like that!!! I'm teaching the boys the importance of a good hug!!!
(3.) Seeing certain people's name on an e-mail. I get some really great e-mail messages from some wonderful friends, but there are a few that, when I see who they are from, I just smile. It's a great feeling!
(4.) Dancing hula. I have to admit that even though I only take a class two or three times a month, I pretty much practice almost every night! I love the music, the words, the rhythm...and the movements. I put on my pau skirt, turn the music on and I am transported to "somewhere" else. It's also pretty sexy....when it's done right...and that feels really good!!
(5.) My flannel pajama pants and really old sweatshirt (worn inside out!) that I wear to bed.

Whew! That ended up being longer than I planned...sorry about that!!! Hope it wasnt' too painful to read!!

Have a good Friday....someone go to Chili's or TGIFridays and have a margarita and some Ultimate Nachos for me, please!!! Thanks so much!!!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

My secret Valentine....

**Or...."My Secret Boyfriend #2"

A long time ago, in a world far, far, away....there was a TV show called "The Facts of Life". It was a goofy show...with silly girls...with some pretty good problems that usually got solved.
When they went to college, they employed a handyman (heh heh heh)...and from the moment he came on the screen, I, my friends, was smitten.
Yes, the hair was....reflective of the era...it gave the "mullet" a whole new definition. But he was...in my mind...dreamy.




And then there was this.....

...and he was! (and he was sharing the cover with McDreamy!!! sigh)


I have always had a soft spot in my heart for a man in uniform...and this...well....

gosh darn it but he looks good!!


Sssshhhhhh.....no words....just loooooooooook.......


Even in one of my favorite movies, with greasy hair and cheezy 'stache and all, he still pulls it off very nicely!!!

Not only is the man "drop dead gorgeous", but he's a hell of a humanitarian as well! He's got a wonderful sense of humor. And the people he usually travels with aren't too shabby either (Brad, Matt, Mark.....). So now, as I am about to turn off the computer, I will have "visions of George" in my head this Valentine's night.

(Which rates up there with flowers and chocolates. But not jewelry...that's usually #1)

I wish you all a wonderful Valentine's Day...

much love to you all!!!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Now THIS festival would be one to go and see....



Bring on the (semi) naked men!!!


The K-man was telling me about a very interesting festival here in Japan...actually, there are many of these particular "get-togethers"....they are called Hadaka Matsuri, or "the naked men festival".

The men who take part in the festival wear a Japanese loincloth, or a "fundoshi", and some comfortable running wear. The festival is held in summer, but the ones in the winter are seemingly more popular.

Okay....so a bunch of men, in fundoshi, go to the temple to be purified by water....then the priests at the temple will throw out sticks, that symbolize the event, that the men will fight over....if you manage to catch a stick, then you will be extra lucky during the year.

One particular festival, in the northern part of Japanand scheduled for this weekend, has been going on for over 800 years!!!

Did I mention that there are sometimes hundreds of men doing this at any given place?!?!?

Before I go any further, let me also explain that in winter.....it's cold!!! Very cold!!! And the water?? Puh-lease!!! Can you say "icy"?!?!




Oh...and then....they may all run up a hill together with people who are clothes (pansies!!!)







And then, it's back to the temple...oops!!! Somebody lost something on the way!!! In one group of pictures there were a bunch of naked and semi-naked men climbing on ropes hanging from the temple roof. I asked the K-man what he thought they were doing....he just shook his head and went to bed!!!

If you want to see some "live action", go to YouTube and search "naked men festival"....it's actually quite amazing to watch....funnier than crap, but still amazing in its own right!!!


Now....as my mind is tired and I need sleep, this just came to me.....This country is just full of contradictions. A couple walking down the street is made to feel uncomfortable if they are holding hands. And kissing on the street or in public?!?!?! Oh My Goodness!!! No No NO!!! Not even a peck on the cheek or a quick one on the lips!!! *Gasp*
But....here we are....in a festival, with semi-naked, completely naked and I'm sure more than a little drunk men running around the town and in the rivers and...it's....okay.
But....I guess...if the temples were to start a "hand holding kiss the ones you love" festival, then it would be okay.
Shoot....they'd probably even make and sell special "good luck" charms to buy to commemorate the event!!!

And my motto over the last 16 plus years has been....."try to see the humor in this Debbie, try to see the humor"!!! If I can't laugh at it....it's time to leave!!!
And here is Debbie.....chuckling to herself as she hits the "Publish Post" button!!!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Tuesday, 2/12....a pretty good day...

Part 1. Okay....so I'm in a bit of better frame of mind to deal with the whole Valentine's Day thing here in Japan. If you really want to read about the whole holiday and how it came to be and yadda yadda yadda....just Google "Valentine's Day in Japan" and a whole slew of things will come up for you....more than what you ever thought you wanted to know!!!
But....simply put....on February 14, women give men chocolates and presents. Or they lovingly make cakes/cookies/fudge-like chocolaty gooeyness. Or they really show their love by knitting a sweater or scarf. Men.....do nothing. No flowers. No candy. No presents. Zip. Zilch. Nada.
There are a few different kinds of "choco" you can give: 1. obligational chocolate for co-workers and/or "just friends". 2. "real" choco for your true love or the one you want to be your true love and 3. (this is a new one) "tomochoco"...."friend choco", something sweet for your friend who is also a girl. (This one started just a few years ago.)
Young ladies who work in offices will spend a bunch of yen on the "giri-choco" for the guys that they see everyday and probably make tea or coffee for.
Then.....on March 14, "White Day", the men will return the favor and buy, yes, something white for the girl (again chocolate, or other white candy...but mainly white chocolate!!). This 'holiday' was started by the chocolate companies here who were smart enough to see that they could make a bundle on both days!!!

In the Kuroiwa house, we celebrate both days. My husband does pretty good on White Day, so I can usually cut him some slack....his... is a cultural thing, not a man-thing.
Now...the boys are different.
I have designated certain days in which "Mom gets flowers". Since they don't really have a lot of their own money, on those days (Valentine's Day, Mother's day and my birthday) I give them 2,000 yen (about $20), take them to the flower shop, I let them go in
by themselves and buy me a present. I have taken them to the same shop for the past few years so the guys who work there know what's going on. They are very good in helping pick out the right flowers....but, both Issei and Koji know that though Mom likes most flowers....yellow roses, sterling roses, daisies, and callas are among her favorites!!!
I can't change a whole culture, but I can influence the little "men in training" that live with me!!!

Part 2. WHAT WE SEE IN THE MORNINGS by Koji and Mommy
This morning, in the car, I had my keitai (cell phone) out and Koji wanted me to take a picture. So I did. He then ordered directed me to take other pictures. So...here you go:








Have a great Tuesday, everyone!!!

Monday, February 11, 2008

What I would like for Valentine's Day.....

I opened up the Internet tonight and was totally bombarded with Valentine ads, Valentine messages, "what to give" lists and what-not. Now....I'm in a pretty good mood tonight and have been most of the day. I spent some time with a couple of really good friends....got some great "kitchen" hand-me-downs, as they are leaving Japan soon and are getting their stuff packed up (it's like Christmas, I tell you!!!). On the way home, I caved to the little voice in my head that was saying "Snickers....sniiiiiiickers..." and stopped at the convenience store and bought one AND a coke!! Heaven....pure heaven.
When I got home, we had a surprise visit from the termite people....today was a holiday here in Japan, but since both the K-man and I work during the week, today was the only day they could come and spray (we don't have termites...it was preventative spraying!!). Their coming wasn't a particularly great thing, but......as I couldn't really do anything while they were here, that meant that I could spend the day doing something I don't do very often....read. Of course, I had a 5-year-old jumping on me, but, even that couldn't ruin the good day I had going.

Okay.....Back to the Valentine stuff and the whole basis of this post (sorry...I do tend to ramble sometimes...just part of my charm!!)
So as not to ruin this feel good feeling I've got....I'm not going to tell you about Valentine's Day here in Japan, because really, it is not as much fun as I remember it being in the States! Actually, it's the complete opposite of how it is celebrated there!!
Tomorrow I have classes all day and though I love my classes, I might be in a better (?) frame of mind to explain. I just want to continue with the "happy thoughts"!!! Soooo....I'm going to share with you some of the things I would like to get....IF this were a perfect world.

Okay....so....

A nice card....


...or two!
A piece of jewelry, maybe....i do love a good bracelet!
Flowers.....definitely flowers!!!
A day of some pampering would be great! Oh...I really could come up with more if I thought longer about it....but will stop before I get to the really pricey stuff!!!
What will your day be like? Are you expecting anything special??