IMG_6501_editSix years ago I wandered into a bar in Kuki, Japan. I was giving Aya some alone time with her parents so I decided to set out on my own. Feeling a little overconfident and wanting a sense of independence and adventure, I hit the streets loaded with about ten Japanese words in my vocabulary and a digital translator dictionary that I had no idea how to work.

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IMG_5397_editI think Japan has a thing for towers. There is the Tokyo Tower in the Minato district of Tokyo, the new Tokyo Sky Tree Tower in Sumida, and I here Yokohama even has a tower too. Something just makes perfect sense about building really tall towers in a country super prone to earthquakes. There is just something magical about a really tall tower. Add in some color changing lights and it’s even better.

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IMG_5787_editOne very popular winter fruit in Japan is a clementine, or they call them, mikan (mē-con). Are they the exact same fruit? Honestly, I have no idea, but I can tell you they are pretty darn close. Back home in Michigan, I love to get a box of Cuties and eat them three at time. Here, you can do the same thing, except you can do a lot more than just eat them plain. There is mikan juice, mikan flavored yogurt, jam, cookies, dressing, and cakes, just to name a few. They are even used as part of the traditional New Year’s decorations. They are so common this time of year you can see them growing on tress throughout the neighborhood. Mikans are definitely a sign of the winter just as apples are to fall in Michigan. And just how we can go apple picking in Michigan, we went mikan picking here in Japan!

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IMG_5655_editOne neat thing about the hot springs hotel we stayed at was they had, for a lack of a better term, a vintage game room. This hotel called this room tsuruya amakaze yokocho. It doesn’t translate to anything because it’s just the name of the room, not what it is. But essentially it was an old fashioned room in the stylings of the Showa period, focusing on the 1950s-60s I assume, where you can play simple games, have snacks, listen to music from the period and drink.

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IMG_5727_edit3This is my 8th visit to Japan. Each time I visit I’m much more comfortable, I question the food less, the customs less, and I go with the flow as much as possible. There is one place though that always remains a mystery to me; the Japanese hot springs, or onsen as they are called in Japan.

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2015Christmas-Card-animate640We’ve been grateful to spend the holidays with Aya’s family in Japan again this year. Last year we spent half the time being sick. This year has been much healthier and we are enjoying spending the time with family.

Merry Christmas to you and yours!!!

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IMG_5878_editChristmas Eve is the bigger day in Japan instead of Christmas Day. Couples go out on fancy dinner dates and families have roasted chicken and eat Christmas cake. Last year I had the Japanese KFC “Kentucky Christmas” experience. This year we just opted for plain ol’ “regular” sushi. And we all loved it!

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IMG_5098_editTensions were running a little high one evening. The kids were tired, a bit cranky, and not very enthused about the dinner I had made. To perk their moods up a bit I thought I’d ask some questions about Santa.

“Hey, are you guys excited about Santa this year?!” I asked with a wide-eyed smile.

“Yeah!” was their joyous response.

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IMG_5513_editI grew up watching Star Wars just like any child of the 80s did. My brother and I had the action figures complete with the Darth Vader carrying case. I had Star Wars sheets, Star Wars pajamas, and even Star Wars underwear. You could say the Force was strong in our house. But as we got older, our interest in Star Wars was just pure nostalgia. And after the complete disappointment that was Episodes I, II, and III, my interest fell to almost zero.

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BOYFRIEND_editEllie is really flourishing and learning in kindergarten. Her vocabulary has tripled, and some of the phrases she says, she’s five going on fifteen. While I’m embracing the change, there is one word I was not expecting to hear for a while; boyfriend.

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Thanksgiving Party_editI got to kick-off my Thanksgiving celebration a little early this year. I was one of the parent volunteers for Ellie’s kindergarten Thanksgiving party. I always enjoy the chance to get a glimpse inside the classroom where Ellie spends seven hours of her day. I had to bring plates, veggies, and a pumpkin pie. Pumpkin pie happens to be my specialty so I was happy to sign up for that one.

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IMG_20151109_0001copyIt was just a typical Halloween at our house. The sound of the October breeze was gently blowing through the trees in the backyard while my mom stood tending to two pots on the stove. One of our traditional family Halloween chili dinner, the other of boiling blood. While the smells of chili and blood wafted past the half-eaten box donut holes and a jar of brains, Ellie and Chloe started to assemble their Halloween costumes and prep their trick-or-treating buckets. My brother, Dad, and I were doing our final checks. Mics, speakers, cameras, blood, smoke, it was all ready. The Shining Theme song could be heard outside. Like a wolf howl’s to the moon, this was a call to the neighborhood that Halloween was about to begin. At the first sight of trick-or-treaters on the streets, my dad put the headphones on, stepped up to the mic and flipped a switch marked “Melvin.” The wizard was in place behind the curtain  ready to give it life. The blue glow of the light indicated the mic was live, Halloween had started. “Hey kid, come on up and talk to Melvin.”

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IMG_4661_editI’ve always wanted to be a reader. Like a real reader. Not just short Mitch Albom books, but real grown up books. Books that are longer than 150 pages and don’t have pictures. I always imagine myself nurturing my brain and expanding my vocabulary. It’d be nice to start a sentence with “I read this book,” once in a while instead of “I saw this show the other day,” too. But no matter how much reading I manage to sneak in, I still feel like I’m a wannabe reader. So in hopes to change that, my friend and I started a book club. We alternate book picks to help us broaden our horizons in what we read. She is always on the search for the perfect love story (which she is failing miserably), and I usually pick depressing non-fiction (which I am winning at). It’s nice to be pushed out of our comfort zones.

The only rule we have is that we remain two members. She’s been in a book club before and didn’t like waiting so long for her pick. Because of this, she claims we are “book buddies.” I let her call us that, but I haven’t adopted that term myself. I think we are more like “literary losers.” If you continue reading you’ll see why.

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IMG_3855_edit“Daddy! Daddy! I have a loose tooth!”

There it is, the first of twenty. Our relationship, hopefully partnership, with the Tooth Fairy begins.

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IMG_4149_editDear Chloe,

Today you are three! You still think you are two, and you insist that five is after three, but only in regards to your age. You also insist that “Chloe” starts with an “E.” We’ll work on it. This is going to be your year. I can feel it.

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IMG_4000Woah, what!? Kindergarten!? What happened!? How did we get here!? My head is spinning!

I’m now a proud parent of a kindergartener. A KINDERGARTNER! While I’m very excited for Ellie and this major milestone, I’m completely caught off guard of with how unprepared I feel about this. Yes, I have all of her school supplies and I pack her lunch and all that, but emotionally, I’m a wreck.

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*photo by Ksenija Savic Photography

This week I celebrate five years as a stay-at-home dad. FIVE! While five years might not be that big of a deal to some people, I found it worthy of a celebration. If I was at a professional job for five years, I’d want to acknowledge it. Just a simple lunch with a few coworkers is all I’d want.

I went into this job energetic, excited, and a bit naive. At the time, my paying job wasn’t very fulfilling. The economy had tanked and so did our industry. My company was handing out pay decreases instead of raises, and instead of doing my job I was archiving in the basement. I knew the inevitable was most likely going to happen and I nervously welcomed it. I wanted control of my every day, and of my life. I knew staying home to take care of Ellie and manage the house wasn’t going to be easy, but I was excited for the challenge and was ready to go all-in.

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fishes_editThe moon nightlight shined brightly as the gentle piano sounds of George Winston calmed the room. Ellie was fast asleep excited for a sleepover at Grandma’s house the next day. Chloe was still awake but softly singing to her doll waiting for sleep to take her. I feigned a smile at Chloe, hoping it’d be soon that she drifted off for I had something else on my mind. The room was peaceful, and calm. The time was fairly early too. If this was happening on any other day I’d be preparing for a bedtime victory party with my open evening. But all I could picture was that motionless body quietly circling the tank with that blank stare looking out into nothing.

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Akemashite Omedetou Gozaimasu! (HAPPY NEW YEAR!)

IMG_3534_editWe started our New Year’s Celebration on New Year’s Eve with a soba noodle dinner. I’ve been told that it’s a tradition to have soba noodles on New Year’s Eve and udon noodles for New Year’s dinner. The long noodles represent longevity and a long prosperous year to come. Also, soba noodles easily break.  This can represent any misfortune you’ve experienced throughout the year, that it can now break and you can let it go.

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christmas card 2014_editMERRY CHRISTMAS FROM JAPAN!

This was our Christmas card this year. I think Godzilla ended being a metaphor for the plane ride and the first half of our trip. It’s a been a holiday to remember!

Merry Christmas to all of you!

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KFC CHRISTMAS! and sushi…

IMG_2776_editNothing says Merry Christmas like Kentucky Fried Chicken and tons of sushi.

When I was reading up on Japan before my first visit 12 years ago to meet Aya’s parents, I learned that having KFC for Christmas dinner was a thing. Really? KFC is a thing in Japan!? Yes, it is. Something about a wonderful marketing campaign from 1974, but I won’t bore you with the details here.

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Untitled_Panorama2_editWe started off the day with a nice breakfast out, juiced up on some coffee and were ready to go out on the town.

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IMG_2611_editThe clouds had parted and the sun was shining. Chloe’s flu quarantine had been lifted and we got the thumbs up to hit the streets. With it being a sunny and crisp 49 degrees, we figured the best place to start our day was to go out for breakfast.

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IMG_2545_editWith the plague of disease running through our family during our visit to Japan, it has been very disappointing to say the least. I mean, come on. We had to cancel our trip to Tokyo Disneyland and the trip to the hot springs in Izu. Essentially we flew half-way across the world so we could sit and cough on someone else’s couch. Well, actually, they only have a loveseat that sits two, so Aya and I have been coughing at the dining table instead. We came this far for this!? Other than getting a donut from Mister Donut (during our last trip I conquered Mister Donut), and many trips to the grocery store directly across the street, we haven’t done anything or been anywhere since we’ve arrived. Womp womp.

But when I stopped pouting and dropped the whoa-is-me attitude, I realized it really hasn’t been that bad.

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IMG_2492_editWe’ve been in Japan a week now, and because of illness and the weather, we’ve really only been to the grocery store directly across the street from Aya’s parent’s apartment. But there is one thing we can enjoy without leaving the apartment, and that is PIZZA NIGHT!

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