Bryan’s Amazing Yard Improvements

Rocks, cement blocks, huge tree stumps, pesky moles, and lots of weeds.  These are some of the challenges that Bryan has faced in trying to improve our yard over the past two years since we moved here.  In Japan, it’s very common to have no yard or a very small one.  At our old house we had a tiny strip of gravel to call our yard, but at our new place we have a much larger plot of land around our house (though it is still a very small yard by American standards).  However, just as the house has needed quite a few improvements, the yard has been a bit of a fixer-upper as well.  According to neighbors, before we moved here the yard was a total jungle.  In order to make the place more attractive to renters, lots of the foliage and jungle-like aspects of the yard were removed, but it was still just a weed patch with moles when we moved in.  My wonderful do-it-yourself husband has turned the weed patch into a nice lawn, created a small vegetable garden space, built an outdoor storage shed, and created a lighted pathway with stepping stones.  We still have some rubble left to remove (which is not simple in Japan because you can’t just throw it away), but the yard has improved tremendously since Bryan started working on it.  The kids love having their own patch of grass to lie down on or play around on and they have become very enthusiastic gardeners and weed pullers.  Here are a few before and after photos of our outdoor living space.

Loft Beds!!

While Katie and I were getting some much needed R & R in San Diego, Bryan stayed home to hold down the fort and take care of Austin and Ethan.  He and the boys also spent three days working on a couple of cool building projects.  First, they converted the boys’ old bunkbed into a loft bed for Katie and moved it into her room.  Then, they built a new double-wide loft bed for the boys from scratch!  Austin and Ethan each got to use Daddy’s power drill to screw the screws into their own side of the loft bed and they had a hand in other parts of the project as well.  They were VERY happy with their new loft bed and all the extra space they now have under their bed to play and build Lego creations.  Katie was super happy to come home and find her new “big girl” bed!  We later used cute decals to decorate the bed and windows in Katie’s room.  It’s great to be married to a handy man!! 🙂

Here are some photos showing the process of building the boys’ loft bed and also a couple of photos of Katie in her new and improved room.

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Katie turns the Big 4 and Bryan turns the Big 4-0

This month was a special milestone for our family when Katie turned 4 and Bryan turned ten times her senior!!  When Katie found out she was finally four (something she’d been waiting for ever since she’d turned three!) she was ecstatic and then said, “Next, I’m five mommy!!”  Another year of eagerly awaiting an increase in her age has already started!!  (If only I were so eager to get older each year!!) 

Katie celebrated her bday with a fun party at our house that was attended by family, friends, classmates, and her preschool teacher.  She was blessed by lots of wonderful presents from sweet people in America and Japan who mean a lot to her. 

Bryan and I celebrated his birthday by having an overnight date in Odaiba, our favorite spot in Tokyo.  Our dear friends Megan and Jason (see my recent post about their super bowl party) came to our house and stayed with the kids so we could get a rare getaway together.  We had a great time and felt very refreshed when we got back.  I also gave Bryan a collection of birthday emails from family and friends that he really liked. 

Now that Katie is four she…

can eat a whole vitamin instead of just a half

unfortunately isn’t free to museums in Japan anymore

is too tall to ride her tricycle and is eagerly awaiting Ethan’s hand-me-down bike

considers herself a genuine “big girl” who is WAY more mature than a measly three year old! 🙂

Now that Bryan is 40 he…

can probably consider himself a real adult

can now look forward to lots of interesting physical ailments that are sure to follow 🙂

is heading into the next wonderful 40 years of his life

I am super thankful for both Bryan and Katie.  I feel extremely thankful that we are family!!

Here are some photos of Katie’s party and of Katie with gifts she received for her birthday.

No Longer the Oda Family

It’s been a year since we moved to our new house, and little by little we’ve been getting ourselves settled in and making improvements here and there.  One improvement Bryan and the boys recently made was to put up a name plate on the outside wall of our house.  The name plate used to read “Oda”, the name of our landlords, so when sales people would come to call at our door they were extra shocked to find that a foreigner (who looked nothing like a Mr. or Mrs. Oda) had answered the door! 🙂

Thanks to Bryan and the boys, who made a super cool new katakana name plate for us, that is no longer a problem and we get slightly less shocked looks on people when we answer their knock on our door! 🙂

Here are some super cute photos of their project.

Austin’s Big Adventure

Earlier this month, Austin got to have the adventure of a lifetime — a week-long trip just with Daddy to America to visit Bryan’s parents.  Bryan tries to go back once a year to visit his parents by himself and this time he decided to take Austin with him.  It was a great chance for the two of them to get lots of “male bonding” time and also for Austin to visit Grandma and Grandpa and his Aunt Lisa in Virginia for the first time in several years.  Among other fun activities, Austin got to go fishing, ride in a canoe, visit a shooting range, and trap an oppossom and a couple of squirrels in a live animal trap (which they let  go a few minutes later).  He thoroughly enjoyed eating lots of American food, including several visits to Grandma and Grandpa’s favorite restaurant, the K&W Cafeteria.  And, he learned how to hit a wiffle ball.  What more could an 8 year old boy ask for??  Ethan definitely missed his bosom buddy while he was gone, but he is looking forward to getting his turn to visit Virginia with Daddy NEXT year.  Here are a few photos of Bryan and Austin’s trip.

Sports and Games Day at UICS

Every year our kids’ school (Utsunomiya International Christian School — UICS) has a sports and games day for the kids and their parents.  Since UICS is a K-12 school, the teachers have to be creative in planning races and games that kids of all ages can enjoy.  This year the day mostly involved races of all different kinds, from standard relay races to a three-legged race, a ball-carrying race, and a race that involved all kinds of crazy stuff like standing up and turning around five times with your forehead touching the end of a baseball bat (to make you dizzy), sticking your face in flour to grab a piece of candy with your mouth, and pulling a snack package off of a clothes pin using only your teeth.

The kindergarten teacher planned to have the kids and parents dance and sing to a couple of the songs I use in my kindergarten English class, but due to technical difficulties the CD player didn’t work.  She asked me if I could sing the songs in place of the CD.  I REALLY didn’t want to since I hate to sing in front of people by myself, but I got Katie to join me and we did it in a little duet.  We didn’t sound TOO bad, I guess, and Katie LOVED it.  She wanted to sing more and had a little temper tantrum when we told her it was all done. 🙂

Needless to say, all three kids had a BLAST and they each even won a race.  We are definitely looking forward to next year’s event (though hopefully this was the last time I will have to sing)!

Here are some photos for your enjoyment:

IBF Picnic

The church we go to in Utsunomiya is called IBF (International Bible Fellowship).  Our church had a barbeque at the Kinugawa River near our home yesterday, which was a lot of fun.  The kids especially enjoyed totally soaking one another with their water guns (which later were replaced by buckets and bottles of water that they just dumped on each other when the water guns didn’t seem like enough) 🙂 .  After the delicious food was all eaten, Bryan had the privilege of helping to baptize Yoichi, a good friend of ours and graduate of Utsunomiya BEST Club.  Yoichi recently went on staff with the Navigators and will be working in the Tokyo office.  Another member of IBF, Mabike, an international student from Africa, also got baptized in the river that day at the same time as Yoichi, so it was neat to be able to be part of seeing both of them take that step of faith.  Bryan finished up the event by giving short motorcycle rides to our kids and friend Kazushi.

Here are some photos from the day.