Thursday, December 29, 2005

Christmas Kids

My Gifts From Tim - Yes, I'm Bragging!

Presents, Presents, Presents!

Last Televised Bills Game

Can you tell what team we root for in this house? ;) (Jocelyn puked on my jersey b4 we got pics)

Year In Review

Well, it's the end of yet another year. So here's our obligatory end-of-the-year newsletter:

2005 just flew by, and I can hardly believe everything that's happened for us in such a short period of time. Of course, Tim and I got married, combining our three children, and then added a fourth. Can you believe I am now the mom of four!! Of course, Tommy and Vanessa don't live with us full-time, but we are hopeful that they will get to spend most of the summer with us this next year. We have been enjoying our time in northern Japan. We've spent a lot of time traveling around the area and down to Tokyo. When my mom came in August, she and I also headed down to Kyoto for a visit, and we have a family trip planned in February to attend the ice festival in Sapporo. In April we will be leaving the area for good and moving to Maryland.

Caitlyn has had an excellent year. She started first grade in the fall and really loves school. She is excelling both academically and socially, and we hope to get her involved with more group activities, like sports, when we return to the States. She is also enjoying her new status as older sister to three new siblings. I worried that this would be a difficult transition for her, but she really surprised me with her excitement and enthusiasm. She loved having Tommy and Vanessa around (I really think she hated being an only child--very boring!), and she never mises an opporunity to show off Jocelyn (it's a little embarressing, actually, since she often demands that strangers admire her sister!). Caitlyn's 7th birthday is tomorrow, though her actual party will be the week after she returns to school since all her friends are on vacation right now, and she is very excited about getting older and being able to do more things on her own (she really, really wants to be able to hold Jocelyn by herself!)

Jocelyn came to us a little early this year, but she is as round and chubby as any baby should be! She has filled out so much you would never be able to tell what a scare she gave us when she first came into the world. Now she's reaching and grabbing for things, and the ever-present drooling has starting up (teething is just around the corner!). I can hardly believe how big she's gotten already. She loves to make sing-song noises and smiles all the time. We used to think she was such a sour puss baby, but now I think she was just really pissed about leaving the womb early. Now she's adjusted to the world and seems to like it :) It helps that she goes to a great childcare worker, and the other kids seem to adore her. It is so cute to see them all trying to make her smile, she absolutely loves it!!

Tommy and Vanessa also came into our lives this year -- well, into mine and Caitlyn's anyway! We got to spend several weeks with them over the summer (though Tim has gone by himself to visit them a few other times) and had an absolute blast! We were lucky enough to get to spend Tommy's fifth birthday with him over the summer (Chuck-E-Cheese is still cool ;) and he also started kindergarten this year. If you have any 4-5 year olds in your life, get the Pigeon books (like Pigeon Drives the Bus), they are sooo cute and Tommy just loves them. Vanessa is two and her birthday is just 8 days after Caitlyn's. She is learning to talk and emulate her idol, Dora the Explorer :) Everything is Dora the Explorer with this kid, and she looks just like her, too, which makes it even cuter! It reminds me of Caitlyn's obsession with Scooby Doo. Both Tommy and Vanessa live with their mom in Texas, but we are looking forward to having them as a big part of our lives when we get back to the States and it's easier to travel down there! We will definately have them over the summer and hopefully for their winter break next year, as well.

Surprisingly, though we live so damn far away, we made quite a few trips this last year. Over the summer we went to Texas to see the kids and to Minnesota for my family reunion. We also met up with Tim's mom in Minnesota where she proceeded to spoil Caitlyn rotten! We are so excited to be moving to east coast (his family is up in Buffalo, NY), so we can see a lot more of her. Then my mom came here to Misawa to visit for three weeks in August. I had really hoped she would be here for the birth, but Jocelyn was having none of that! Even so, we gathered our courage and forayed off to Kyoto when Jocelyn was just 3 weeks old. It wasn't the easiest trip, but it was well worth it to see such a beautiful place! Then in November, Tim traveled back to Texas to spend some time with the kids and he also stopped off in Chicago to spend a very brief time with Stef, John, and Yelena. This next year promises to be even busier as far as traveling. I'm currently planning a very quick trip to Seattle at the end of February for my girlfriend Susanne's wedding (I'm a bridesmaid :). We are then moving in April, though Tim and Caitlyn will probably leave a couple of weeks early and take the dog to his mom's house in Buffalo, then I will meet them there and we will head off to Colorado for my girlfriend Laura's wedding (another bridesmaid :) Hopefully we will also be able to visit my parents in Albuquerque during that same trip.

So that's our year in review. I know you probably know most of it, but I always feel obligated to re-hash everything in a condensed version for your perusing pleasure. Enjoy the pics!!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Tim in Chicago

I forgot to post these earlier. When Tim went back to the States last month he made a quick trip to Chicago to visit Stef, John, & Yelena (we mixed sigs with Lexi, so he missed out on seeing her). So, here's some really cute pics from that trip. I love the peek-a-boo one! Doesn't Yelena look exactly like Stef did as a baby?!

My Daughter is a Genius

I had to brag a little. Caitlyn may not be the most well behaved of children (she has this tendency to never stop talking is class...not sure where she gets that from ;) But, she is definately one of the smartest. Her first term in the first grade and she's already won the Principal's Scholarship Award. She was sooo proud to show her Mommy and Daddy when she got home. How cute is that!!

Sleepy Frog

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Friday, November 18, 2005

Family Controversy

So, for years my family has been embroiled in deep controversy over a very serious issue. We battle back and forth in our divided camps - my father and I on one side, my sisters staunchly on the other, with my mother settling comfortably in the middle - each side firmly convinced of the righteousness and merit of their decision. My faith that we may one day convert them never waivers. Every year without fail I continue to ask, beg and even threaten to no avail. My sister absolutely refuses to make a Christmas list.

Now, she has always maintained that this is because lists are impersonal. As devoted family members we should automatically be able to read her mind and "know" what she wants. Which is all nice and sweet, but if you, like me, are one of those whose mind-reading skills have either never developed or simply haven't emerged yet (holding on hope for that one yet), then you are totally screwed. My father and I maintain that lists are helpful, and they guarantee that you will actually get something you want under the tree instead of having to force that fake smile on your face when you receive your fifth "Bubba" the singing fish.

This conflict goes back so far into our family history that I can't even remember when it began. Over the years, though, I have become accustomed to the stubbornness of the opposite side and have slid into the simplistic pattern of buying the ultimate gift for the list-less, the gift certificate. But, this year, well, this year, my friends, is quite different. You see, in times past I could forgive my sister's recalcitrance and chalk it up as one of her charming idiosyncracies. Now, however, she has dragged my adorable and oh so innocent little niece into the dark and sinister land of the list-impaired. My poor innocent and beautiful niece (she's the angry chicken from the self-titled post below :) who has done nothing wrong execpt have the misfortune to be born into a family which worships list-lessness. I can't give an 8-month old a gift certificate! Can you imagine her little face on Christmas morning, eagerly ripping the wrapping paper into tiny, little edible shreds, stuffing those shreds eagerly into her little mouth, then having said shreds forcibley removed from her mouth by her poor parents (who have probably begun to realize that and 8-month old has little interest in opening presents for any reason other than to stick the paper in her mouth), then she finaly gets to the actual present only to realize that she's accidentally eaten it!!?? Poor, poor, Yelena! And, kids don't outgrow the wrapping paper eating habit for years. Can you imagine the number of gifts she'll consume!!?? All the while thinking, "My aunt Lisa is a real jerk! Can't she buy something I'm not interested in chewing up into spitwads?"

I write this narrative not just to inform, but also as a plea to all of you list-defectives in the audience. For the love of all that is holy, spare your loved ones the pain, agony and inevitable paper cuts, give them a freakin' list!

Friday, November 11, 2005

Working Moms

*sigh* I've been having to leave the kids with a childcare provider full-time for the last couple of weeks since Tim is in the States (wah! Come home soon!!), and it has become increasingly hard to drop off my precious little babies with someone else. Don't get me wrong, I really love our provider. I spend a lot of time over there since I usually stop by for my lunch hour to feed Jocelyn, and she is a really great lady. In fact, she started her own day care specifically so she could stay home with her kids, so she can sympathize with my feelings. I never expected to feel this strongly about it. Of course, part of it might be that I really detest my job right no, get absolutely zero satisfaction out of it, and my boss is a big jerk-face, all of which just adds to the immense feelings of guilt and jealousy at having to leave my baby with someone else who then gets to experience all her little smiles and coos. But, I also just saw this piece on the news about working moms who take a few years off to stay home with their kids. Mainly it was about a study which showed that out of 100+ Wharton MBA women who took time off after haing kids, every single one of those who returned to the workforce had lower paying, non-managerial jobs that were less prestigious than their old jobs. They also found it harder to get promoted once they were hired by a company. That is so depressing! I would really like to take a break from working for a while and stay home, especially when we have another baby, but I don't want to completely de-rail all of my professional dreams. Why does it have to be this hard!!??

Monday, November 07, 2005

Children & Halloween

Some recent comments have inspired me to write this short and sweet guide to children and Halloween. 1st, my big sis is absolutely correct, you can never spend too much money on a costume that will only be worn once for approximately 20 minutes and be the recipient of so much baby urp that you will never be able to resell it on Ebay to recoup your money. Why? Well, just look at the below pictures. Just one of those photos is worth any amount of cajoling, pleading and bribing necessary to get your child to wear whatever ridiculous costume you've picked out. 2nd, I am particularly lucky this year because my oldest is six, which, as it turns out, is the best age at which to manipulate your child into wearing the costume you picked out by telling them that Little Bo Peep is, in fact, a very famous "singing star." Okay, so she didn't actually believe that, but she did really like the idea of having her sister and Britney (our dog) as her sheep. Unfortunately, it appears as though the booming doggie costume business (and that is not a joke) have neglected the lucrative farm animal corner of the market, and so I was unable to turn Britney into a sheep (since I clearly lack the creative gene my mom possesses, making such a costume was out of the question). Still, it was easy to console Caitlyn with the knowledge that Britney was actually a sheepherding dog, though she very much attempted to be a small children-herding dog since she was completely overwhelmed by the multitude of trick-or-treaters on the streets. 3rd, three months is the absolute best time to get an infant to wear a costume (so plan to have your children in late July or August) since they are just old enough to fit the costume, yet completely oblivious to anything going on around them. And so they will sit quietly since they are not yet old enough to complain or be embarressed by your obsessive mommy-ing, while you take the previously mentioned pictures of cuteness. And that, my friends, is what I've learned so far about children and Halloween. I understand from my friends with older children, a species far different from the smaller versions, that it gets successively more difficult as time goes on and you have to worry about your pre-teen wanting to go out as something "sexy" or co-ed parties, etc. I hope to God both of my children are as geeky as I was during my middle school years so I don't have to deal with that!

Yelena the Angry Chicken

Such a cute little chicky!

Doesn't Yelena look exactly like Stef when she was a baby? I'm so jealous!! My kids don't look anything like me. How did I turn out two such fair-haired children??!!

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Okay Now I Really, Really Hate My Boss - Edited Version

Okay, so on the very wise advice of my mom and sister, I've decided to delete this post so my big mouth doesn't get me into any trouble ... but, I still think my boss is a poopy-pants :(

Monday, October 24, 2005

I Hate My Boss

We have a new DO who is now my boss. My boss is a jerk. My boss actually yelled at me last week the same way that I sometimes yell at my dog when she poo's on the carpet. My boss is a jerk, and he is mean to people. He is also fake, and I hate it when he pretends to be nice to me because all I can think about is what a fake jerk he is. I really hate my boss. I used to love my job, and now I dread going to work. All because I hate my boss. Did I mention I hate my boss?

Caitlyn's Room

I just realized that an inordinate amount of my blog is devoted to Jocelyn, so I thought I ought to dedicate this post to my other amazingly smart and adorable kid (you know, the one that came first). Caitlyn is such an awesome kid, and I am such a lucky mom. I am constantly amazed by how smart she is. She is reading 4th and 5th grade chapter books (she likes the Goosebumps series and anything Scooby Doo) when most kids her age can barely write a three word sentance. She's got this great group of friends at school where her favorite subjects are Math, Journal Writing, PE, and Culture (since we live in Japan, Mr. Yamagucji teaches the kids Japanese words, songs, dance, etc.). She also has some good friends in the neighborhood, particularly one little girl named Mika, despite the fact that neither of them speak the other's language.

Caitlyn is also a great big sister. She really loves Jocelyn and takes every opportunity to show her off to anyone and everyone we run into. And, she is so helpful. When I change Jocelyn's diaper, Caitlyn gets me everything I need and throws away the old one (no, she wants to do this!). She also likes to help me in the kitchen, although this can be very hard to do. We have a very tiny kitchen with almost no counter space, so it makes it very difficult to let her help without it being somewhat dangerous. She is also a very compassionate and empathetic little girl. This past weekend we watched Batman Begins as a family (great movie, btw!) and Caitlyn got very upset at the beginning part where Bruce Wayne's parents are killed.

She is just doing so well, leaps and bounds over where she was at this time last year, that I felt I had to brag a little about her too!

Sunday, October 23, 2005

I Have the World's Cutest Baby!

Maybe it's just because she's so darn tiny (she still weighs less then Caitlyn did at birth!), but Jocelyn may just be the cutest baby the world has ever seen (she clearly takes after her mama!). See below for some adorable pictures of her being fascinated by her Beatrix Potter mobile. Her favorite character is Mr. Jeremy Fisher, who is, of course, a frog!

Jocelyn Lovin' Her Mobile

Saturday, October 08, 2005

More Pics of the Pooky Frog

Wow, thanks for making me this awesome blankie, Grandma. I love to make myself cross-eyed looking at it!

Oooh, the flash makes a pretty light.

Yes, I always have this little mohawk. I think it makes me look punk ;)

Jocelyn at 2 Months

Jocelyn taking a nap on laundry day

Sitting up in her crib. Okay, she's propped up, but she's still enjoying the view!

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Back To Work

Sorry its been so long since my last post. What with going back to work (boo!), starting up my Master's program, and the new baby and all, I just don't have the free time I used to :) Jocelyn just hit the two-month mark, and she is doing soooo well! She had her check up on Friday and weighed in at a whopping 9lb 4oz, which is still about 5oz less than Caitlyn weighed when she was born! I won't post my weight (ha ha), but I've lost 3lb since my 6 week check up. It is frustrating because I only had a 15lb weight gain (I also lost muscle and gained fat), but it looks worse because I am so short. Plus, it all seems to have gathered in my belly, hips, and upper thighs. My arms are actually thinner then they were before I got pregnant (but I think that is also because I lost muscle). My friend Laura wrote in her blog about a dream she had that she'd had a baby and she was so happy because she finally had boobs...well, let me tell you that they are not all they are cut out to be! They get in the way of everything. They leak all the time (love those Advent nipple pads!). They no longer belong to you (or your husband ;), and you must hand them over every time the tiny tyrant who has invaded your home begins to scream for them. They make you look fatter than you are unless you wear very tight clothing, which then shows your new "mommy tummy." Plus, absolutely nothing fits. Even clothes that fits around my newly acquired stomach don't fit around my massive boobs!

Okay, enough about breasts for today! Going back to work was really tough. I remember it being difficult with Caitlyn, as well, but not as hard as it seems now. I feel like I'm missing out on so much, and all I want to do when I get home is wake her up from her nap and play with her (which neither she nor Tim is thrilled about, since he's been home with her all day). I used to love my job, but now so much of it seems like a big waste of time. I have never worked anywhere that has as many pointless meetings or gatherings. It's really ridiculous, and it takes up so much of my time. I'm now being seen as the "uninvolved" officer because I'd rather spend my lunchtime meeting my family at the gym then going on the weekly officer luncheon our new DO has installed. I also refuse to attend retarded awards luncheons and dinners for people I don't know and have never met, but I'm expected to go since I'm an officer. Quite honestly, I think it all looks phony. These people don't care if I'm there to support them. They don't even know me! Now we have this officer/SNCO day planned for this Friday. We're all going to get together and play flag football. Oh goody! A sport I don't understand and don't care to play with people I don't know or don't like, and did I mention I'm 8 weeks post-partum? Gee, I can't wait! I'm so glad I'm back at work. Force Shaping is looking more and more attractive!

At least the rest of the family is doing well. Caitlyn is really enjoying school. She still has an issue with talking too much and her lack of time management is really frustrating! I understand that she's only six, but it is really ridiculous! I don't understand how one little girl can take over an hour to get ready in the morning, and that doesn't even include the time she takes to eat breakfast. All she has to do is get dressed (we pick her clothes out the night before), brush her teeth and hair, and give the dog food and water (both dishes are located in our laundry room, so she doesn't even have to go outside any more). How can this possibly take an hour? I've tried everything I can think of to get her to do things faster, but nothing seems to work. So if anyone has suggestions, I'll take 'em!

Jocelyn is starting to become really engaged with the rest of the world. She's smiling now, and she loves to look at faces. She's got this huge, adorable double chin and super chubby legs. It's sooo cute. She looks just like Daddy ;) Speaking of Daddy, Tim is working very hard on his school stuff. He's got one class that he loves and another where the teacher is very demanding and nit-picky, which can be frustrating in an on-line environment since you can't just sit down and have a conversation with someone and e-mail can be misleading. He's also planning another trip to San Antonio in November to see Tommy and Vanessa. I'll stay here with the other two for this one since I don't have the leave to go as well.

I have lots of new pictures to post, and I promise to do that as soon as I get the chance. Right now we're going to watch Robots for our Sunday family activity. Gotta go make some popcorn!

Friday, September 09, 2005

Misawa Survives

Sorry I didn't post sooner. I forget that not everyone gets the news about Japanese weather :) Typhoon Nabi ended up completely passing us by, thank god. All we got was some wind and rain, which isn't exactly out of the ordinary for Misawa, as Mom can well attest to.

In other news, Tim and I are both back in school as of this week. I'm pursuing my Masters in Strategic Intelligence. To be honest, the classes are very easy and I expect to earn my degree fairly quickly since the classes are only 8-16 weeks long (depending on which ones you take). This is a total cookie-cutter degree, and I don't expect to get a whole heck of a lot out of it except my little slip of paper saying I've attained the level of Master. I can't wait for people to start calling me Master. I mean, isn't that why people get Ph.D's? To be called Doctor? ;)
In all seriousness, I expect to be done with this degree in about a year (depending on where we end up PCSing to next). After that I'll be back in the States and able to pursue my true love, the law. What's that you say? You had no idea I wanted to go to law school? As a matter of fact, neither did I. But, if I want to pursue a career in politics, more and more it seems like I don't have any other choice. Hopefully, my distinguished academic record and my military service (very trendy right now, you know) will help me weasel my way into a fairly good school so my resumes will look good. Not that I ever plan on actually practicing law, but it will sound nice when the media lauds my many accomplishments on my inaguration day :)

In other, other news, Caitlyn started school last week. I can't believe I have a child in grade school. When did this happen?! She is really doing well, both academically and socially. (Note: proud parent boasting ahead) We went to the school's Open House on Tuesday night, and her teacher told us that Caitlyn is far more academically advanced than most of her classmates. She is reading books that they give to 3rd and 4th graders! Of course I, being the ever humble parent, calmly accepted the compliment by saying, well she should be, after all she has my genes! ;) Caitlyn is also doing well socially. In fact, she is having a small problem with being too social, which I'm pleased with only because she had so much trouble socially last year. I think she has really adjusted and seemed to have no trouble making new friends in class. Granted she has a few friends from Kindergarten in her new class, but I'm really proud of how well she's doing. Now we just have to work on scaling it back to socializing during appropriate times.

For your viewing pleasure, here's another really cute picture of Jocelyn. She is getting sooo chubby! She finally looks like a normal baby. You can't even tell how small she was when she was born, and I couldn't be happier.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Typhoon Nabi

Maybe I'm just a little jumpy after watching the devestation Katrina has caused for the last week, but we've got a Category 4 Typhoon headed towards us. It was a Category 5, downgraded to a 3 and now back up to a 4. The weather forecasters expect it swing back out west to sea and go back up to a 5 before it slams into northern Japan. The epicenter is expected to go right over Hokkaido. Goody! It's just barely hitting southern Japan right now and we already have had overcast weather for the last 5 days. Earthquakes, typhoons, Godzilla attacks...we've been through just about everything in the Land of the Rising Sun.
Turns out our president had some words of wisdom for Prime Minister Koizumi just in case Typhoon 14 (as they call it here in Japan) pulls a can of whoop ass on the mainland:
...Bush has instructed Koizumi to wait for five days before he begins any rescue work."Worked for me" said the chipper Bush, briefly pausing from his morning-afternoon exercise regime. "Oh, and then make sure you blame the victims after. That is really important. If you gots some black people there in Japan make sure you say that they are to blame for everything."

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Had to Post This

I know this has absolutely nothing to do with my travels and the baby, but this link was on my friend Susanne's blog and I thought it was freakin hilarious. It reminds me of Lexi's MBA writings, only for lawyers. Enjoy!

Getting Back to Normal

Hope you all are enjoying my mucho pictores posts. What with my mom here and all, I haven't had much time to write. She just left this morning, wah! Back to life on our own. She was here for three weeks, so we kind of got used to having her around, but I think Dad would have been a little pissed if we'd kept her any longer. Although we spent a lot of time just sitting around the house (hey, I just had a baby, remember?!), we also did more site seeing than I've done the whole year and a half I've been here. We even took a trip to Kyoto (mom and I and the baby, anyway). Although I enjoyed seeing the sites of northern Japan, Kyoto was just awesome. We didn't even get to see half of everything there is to see there. We did get to hit most of the hot spots (although we missed seeing the Imperial Palace since it is evidently closed on the weekends), and we got to be part of a real tea ceremony where they taught us how to perform it as both guest and host (where I learned that powdered green tea tastes absolutely nothing like bagged green tea and is really quite vile). We also ate a lot of green tea ice cream (which is much tastier than the tea itself) and did a bunch of shopping.

We had a great time, but there were some downsides to our trip. It was unbearably hot, Minnesota hot, in Kyoto. I (stupidly) thought it would be too much of a hassle to bring Jocelyn's stroller (which is this big monsterous thing and we were taking 3 trains to get down there), so we brought this weird sling-like contraption someone bought me for my baby shower. This is not your normal baby sling. It sits over both shoulders (it's supposed to distribute the baby's weight more evenly) with a pouch in the front. However, I neglected to note that the overall color of the sling is black and the shape of the sling keeps the baby nestled into your warm body, thus making the opening like a small oven which bakes both mom and baby so that you nearly suffer from heatstroke before you decide it isn't safe to keep the baby in there when its so hot and spend the rest of the trip manually carrying around the baby until your arms fall off. Thank god Jocelyn wasn't as big as Caitlyn or there is no way we could have made it through the whole trip. In fact, we spent a good portion of the trip looking to buy a cheap stroller or another, safer sling. Unfortunately, there doesn't appear to be any such thing in the entire country of Japan. Even Sanwado's (the Japanese Wal-Mart) cheaped stroller was over $200. So, we suffered accordingly.

One interesting thing to note is that the Japanese appear to not bring small babies out into public. I noticed that here in Misawa, too. The youngest baby I've seen out and about had to be at least 6 months old. Everywhere we went, Jocelyn was popular than the actual attraction. People stopped us on the street to make a fuss over her. When we went to Ryonji Temple (a Zen Buddhist Temple famous for a particular type of zen rock garden), you are supposed to meditate on this rock garden and many Buddhist pilgrims go there to do just that. When we entered the garden with Jocelyn, nearly every single person gathered around us to coo over her and take her picture. It was like she was this mini-celebrity. It reminded me of when I took Caitlyn to China. She was a lot older, about 18 months, but most Chinese had never seen a white baby, not to mention the fact that Caitlyn is blond with blue eyes, so we got stopped all over the country so that people could just touch her or take her picture. So now there are multiple pictures of both my children floating around Asia!