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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Christmas Traditions

My husband worked Thanksgiving and the Friday after it, so we had our Thanksgiving festivities (a small meal for the three of us) on the Wednesday of that week. It was uneventful except for Coryn once again proving her appetite by asking for seconds of everything except green beans and thirds of stuffing and then still wanting to dive into the pie immediately. She ate more than I did, and I'm supposed to be eating for two.

I guess she just has a lot of growing body to feed. I finally decided I was curious about how big she really was (people are always expressing disbelief when they find out she isn't even four yet; she's changed clothing sizes three times already this year, and she's the biggest of all her little friends.), so I measured and weighed her and popped the results into an online calculator to see what her "percentile" was. At 44lbs and 43 inches, my daughter is 95% in weight and 97% in height, meaning that she is going to continue to be the tallest kid in her play circle for awhile to come.

But back to the subject of holidays. Since it was just the two of us on Thanksgiving, I decided to make the day more festive by putting out all of our decorations. Coryn really got into it. I had to change a few things around after she turned her back because she likes to cram all the decorations into one small space (like on top of my desk or on the tv stand), but it was nice to get her involved. We even decorated our tiny tree. The presents have already overwhelmed the poor little guy and we don't even have all the presents from the grandparents and relatives under it yet (though I've wrapped up everything I got Coryn and am resisting buying anything more for her, anything I find that I really think she would like can wait until her birthday in January).

Non-breakable decorations are the best, especially if the item has any imaginable play value (and most do). Coryn is obsessed with our manager scene and I have wished so many times that it was wooden rather than porcelain. So far she hasn't broken anything, but the clink clink clink when she makes the figurines "hug" or just move around together is unnerving. Still I want this to be accessible. When we set it up I took the opportunity to read a really nice nativity book I'd found at the library called The Stable Where Jesus Was Born by Rhonda Gowler Greene. It's a "this is the house that Jack built" style rhyme involving the events of the first Christmas. The illustrations are beautiful and it is a wonderful easy way to introduce the story to kids who may not be quite ready for the full out King James Version of events.

I'm trying to find nice Christmas traditions to make the most of every day of this season. I bought presents for some of her little friends and we're going to have a party soon to let her give them out. We've been invited to a cookie decorating party, and I've got my Christmas play list set up. Also I occasionally like to turn off the lights except for the tree lights and have her sit with me for some pre-bed caroling. We usually sing "Away in the Manger" and then she asks for "Jesus Loves Me" or something random. . .I think one time we did "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" just because it is one of the few songs she knows all the words too and she really wanted to add it to the evening's program. I have been trying to introduce her to more carols, but it is hard to get her to give up old favorites in favor of new songs. She does like me to play her the youtube video of the "Celtic Women" singing "Carol of the Bells." It's fun to dance to.

Anyway, what else has gone on so far this season. . .I've been busy making hats for special orders with my crochet business. I found some time to make an ornament for the Mothers of Preschoolers ornament exchange. It's a gingerbread man, if you couldn't tell. Isn't he cute?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A Few Random Food Thoughts

I love eggplant. Living in Japan, I usually end up using the smaller "Japanese eggplants" but the taste and texture is nearly identical. I learned one time when making Eggplant Parmesan that Coryn also likes eggplant. She kept taking the chopped, raw eggplant I had sitting, waiting to be breaded and fried. Now if I find some on sale or I have some around I want to use up, I just slice it and give it to her on a plate and she'll devour it.

Personally I prefer mine cooked. I had some awesome tempura eggplant (At least I think that's what you'd call it. It was obviously in tempura batter, but it also had a layer of something that tasted like the meat filling for gyoza/potstickers.) yesterday at a Japanese grocery store. We'd picked out a bunch of stuff from a deli section, chicken on a stick, some California roll style sushi (I prefer the sashimi style or at least tuna sushi, but I've temporarily cut raw fish out of my diet while I wait for daughter number two), the fore mentioned eggplant item, and a Japanese sausage roll. I've never actually tasted one of these rolls. Coryn grabbed it, assumed it was an all you can eat buffet and by the time I'd noticed had devoured half of it. I guess she was hungry. Basically what these are is a long, flat roll with a sausage and some other toppings (I think some sort of mustard or cheese) baked into the top. I tried to get her to stop snacking while I went up to the cashier at the end of the line of food who was supposed to package and bar code the food for us. It took a little bit of pointing and motioning (I know four or five Japanese words, including please and thank you) to get her to understand, but the attendant managed to add Coryn's 97 yen lunch onto the bar code she made for my other items, which was a good thing, because while I was distracted trying to make sure we paid for everything, Coryn finished off the last few bites.

My kid will eat anything. She's gleefully devoured octopus, snacks on vegetables, and has eaten raw onions when they were left unattended on the cutting board. I'm a picky eater, so I'm glad she didn't inherit that particular trait, though a lot of it has to do with Matt being a lot firmer about kids cleaning their plates than either myself or my parents (my mom would make myself and my siblings separate meals if we didn't like what she'd made for herself and my dad) and Coryn's Burke metabolism. I can't remember a time that I was hungry enough that "well you can't have anything else until that is finished" was a decent threat. Coryn seems to always be hungry, and if I am taking too long making her dinner, she'll just eat whatever is in reach, even if it happens to be broccoli. So far the only two things she absolutely won't eat are raw tomatoes (tomato sauces generally she'll eat) and (and I thought this one was weird) ranch dressing.

Of course, sometimes I feel I'm always in the kitchen because of this. If she goes an hour without asking for a snack, it is very possible that she is ill. Today, for instance, I had some friends over after morning workout/play date for coffee and hadn't had time for my shower because of this until almost 11:30, about when Coryn usually wants her lunch. I told Coryn I'd feed her in ten minutes and got into the tub. I heard her playing for a bit and then . . . quiet. Uh oh. Any mom of a toddler will tell you that as much as you long for quiet, it isn't always a good thing. So I wrapped my towel around myself and poked my nose out into our living/dining room area. She was sitting at the table with a fork and an open container of left over noodles she'd grabbed straight out of the fridge. That's another thing. Coryn doesn't mind cold food. She's eaten cold pizza, cold steamed veggies. . . all sorts of things. . .just because she's unwilling to wait for me to reheat it. I need to just start leaving containers with some sort of healthy snack available at all times so when she complains about being hungry I can just point to these. I started doing that with water. I keep her favorite water bottle filled and in the fridge at all times so that if she gets thirsty she now just goes and takes it out. That water bottle was an awesome purchase, except since it's pink with ballerinas, some of her girlfriends are jealous of it, and I've had to rescue it when it was borrowed by a toddler who assumes that the ballerina bottle obviously has better water than the plain bottle. Can you blame them? Look at the picture. This thing is adorable.

Oh, two tips for spending the holidays as a military family in Japan: Daisos have the best stocking stuffers and with everything under two dollars (I think the current exchange rate is 70 yen to the US Dollar, but I have a hard time keeping up with that. . .either way everything is 100 yen which comes to over a dollar but under two.), it's an awesome place to fill up the stocking with cheap items your kids will treasure, like a dollar store back in the states, but a little more exotic and I've found over all the quality is better than usual dollar store fare (though it is all stuff that will break after a few days of hard play, but there is a certain advantage to "disposable" toys. They only take up toy box space for a week or so and by the time the kid has decided to find out if they can be used as a hammer or can handle being jumped on, the kid is probably sick of them anyway). I got Coryn (who is make up obsessed) a little jeweled case of "solid perfume," some fancy hair accessories, and some of her favorite party poppers (where you pull the string and the fire cracker makes a loud pop). I will probably try to go back once Christmas is closer and we actually have the stocking up, but I'm trying not to over due it just yet.

It's also a good place to find some small Japanese trinkets (fans, knickknacks, origami paper, etc) to impress the family back home.

My second piece of advice is order/buy early then "keep it secret, keep it safe." . .and yes, I may have included this tip just so I could have an excuse to say that. I need to stop typing and get going. I'd like to include a detailed list of everything Coryn is getting for Christmas and the details about our park workouts (which are coming to a close as the weather gets colder), but I'll save that for another post.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Crafty Times

This time of year, I do a lot of crafting. . .mainly because it is starting to get cold and making something keeps Coryn away from the television when I don't want to brave the park. Also, I don't like throwing things away. Everything has so much potential, and I have a little bit of hoarder in me. . .for instance, I recently caught myself saving the paper wrappers my Stash tea bags come in because they were such pretty colors. . .I did actually use one or two of them for gift tags.

Coryn is also a collector. Our big craft lately has been using washable paint and glitter glue to decorate the pine cones she picks up on our walks around base. My idea is to make Christmas ornaments out of them. The picture doesn't do them justice, I promise.

We also don't send home a package unless we've decorated the box first. Generally this just means setting Coryn loose on it with markers or water colors. . .but the other night she was asleep, I had some free time, and I used her water colors to draw poinsettias all over a package I'm sending home to my grandparents.

Coryn likes to paint too. . .and to suck on her paint brush and turn her teeth weird colors.

Oh, and today I was trying to organize her craft supplies and found her crayon box wouldn't even close for all the loose crayons rolling around in it. So I fished out all the broken ones, unwrapped them, placed them in paper cups, and microwaved them. . .this took awhile. Crayons are really melt resistant. I was kind of surprised. It actually took longer to melt them than it did to freeze them back into a solid. I made Coryn four round, multi-colored crayons which she seems to enjoy. . .unfortunately in the wrong way. I had to confiscate one a bit ago because I caught her munching on it like a cookie. I guess it was my fault for making them cookie shaped. . .

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Christmas Prep

As I've mentioned earlier (or at least as I meant to mention earlier; I may never have gotten around to it. . .or just dreamed I mentioned it.) I don't like to start Christmas until after Thanksgiving. I'm trying to find exciting Thanksgiving preparations (though I recently found out my husband is going to be working on that particular holiday, thank you, Marine Corp. . .oh well, at least he'll be in the same country as me. It could be worse) and Coryn has been walking around saying, "Gobble, gobble, gobble," which is cute.

Living out here, though, there are certain things you just can't put off. Even though the Japanese people enjoy Christmas, they don't really have Christmas tree lots and the Christmas cards are expensive and in Japanese. So for all that stuff we're forced to buy on base (or online if it is something that can be shipped. This isn't an option for Christmas trees that I've found), and they never seem to stock enough of seasonal items, so it is best to buy sooner rather than later. Last year, for instance, I put off buying a Christmas tree because mine had been toasty dry by the time Christmas actually got here the year before. . .but two weeks before Christmas there were only a few needle-less twigs left in the Christmas tree lot on base (and they were still trying to sell them at full price) and so we ended up buying a small, fake tree (which solves that problem for this year). I also like to buy my Christmas cards for next year a few days after Christmas when theoretically they will be on sale, but two days after Christmas I looked all around and there wasn't a single card to be found. . .oh that reminds me, I need a copy of the Grinch . . . I can order those online, but I miss my after Christmas clearance option.

Christmas shopping is not something I save for after Thanksgiving. I'm normally completely finished with my shopping long before Black Friday and have all of Coryn's and Matt's gifts stashed away waiting for us to set out the tree so I can wrap and display them. I always end up back in the store for that one last gift or stocking stuffers, but it's easier to control my spending when I'm not caught up in the Christmas spirit. Plus my husband is ridiculously hard to shop for and it is sort of a year round process trying to find something he'll appreciate.

Anyway, I'm about to start on one of the projects I can't put off. This morning I dragged Matt outside and we took our family Christmas card picture. We're usually pretty casual, but for the last two years it has been the three of us sitting on a couch, and I wanted to take advantage of a nice day (possibly one of the last of the year) and get an out door photo. You'd think I was doing a fashion shoot or painting in oil on canvas for how much Matt whined about it, but we managed to get a couple of shots I liked using the timer on our camera . Now I have to order prints and to get the right amount of prints I need to know who I am sending a card to which means I need to make a Christmas card list.

Matt pointed out that anyone who really cares probably sees our pictures all the time on the facebook anyway, but it's a tradition I don't want to give up. For one thing I love mail and if I send I receive. . .some times. It is hard to know who I really want to send something to, and I hate it when I finally decide to cut someone who hasn't reciprocated a card for a few years in a row off my list. . . only to have that be the year they finally send me something. Anyway, as soon as I get off here, I'm going to buckle down, go through my address book, and make a list.

Other than that, I've been working on special orders for my crochet business and trying to decide what items to stock up on for the Craft Fair I'm doing in just under two weeks now. I need to make a decent amount of money to justify all the yarn I've bought over the last year. . . Take a look at my Christmas penguins!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Turkey Time

Coryn has been excited about the holidays since before Halloween. She is starting to remember things from year to year and the moment one holiday ends she is asking about the next. Sometimes I have to stop and think about what she means, like when she started asking just after Easter about going around our midrise to get candy (trick or treating). Other times she's pretty clear (she has been asking about her birthday consistently since her last birthday). Now we're onto the big block of Holidays. We got through Trick or Treating and the Christmas decorations are already flooding the stores.

I've noticed Thanksgiving is getting crowded out between the (I'm sure more profitable) Halloween and Christmas season. Halloween displays came down and were immediately replaced with Christmas displays . . . and Thanksgiving gets one small table in our local exchange with a couple of turkeys and some pumpkin scented candles. This may have something to do with being in Japan. None of the holidays listed are officially celebrated in Japan, but they've adapted Christmas quite well . . .and Halloween gets some attention because kids love dressing up and candy even if they don't quite understand why. Thanksgiving, though, is very very American. There really isn't anything to draw Japanese people to it. Still, the Exchange is here to serve American service members so you'd think they'd be aiming at that demographic. I'll have to see what it is like when we head back to the states (though I always remember there being a good deal of Thanksgiving decorations available even if they had to share some shelf space with Christmas stuff).

Anyway, so today I decided to combat this lack of Thanksgiving by letting Coryn watch the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving and then doing a simple craft. I asked her if she knew what turkeys were, to start things off.

"Turkeys are bad people?" she said, obviously unsure this was correct. I call her a turkey sometimes when she doesn't listen. I said no. "Turkeys are something to eat," she then decided. Technically, yeah, but I wanted her to know about real, live turkeys who gobble gobble gobble. So we google imaged them and then youtubed turkey calls. She thought listening to Turkeys was funny and we sat down and made several turkeys on paper plates, one of my hand and four of hers (three for the grandparents, one for our front door). She then asked to hear the turkey gobble gobble some more. . .afterwards she did laugh and say, "Cock a doodle doo" though, so I'm still not sure she totally gets it.