Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Christmas and Other Celebrations

We've had a very good week, so let us tell you about it.  Santa Clause found his way here, and apparently had a surplus of Hello Kitty stuff that he had to unload here.  Alexa's been pretty excited about Hello Kitty since we got here, and it's only recently that Cailin has caught on to the greatness that is Hello Kitty.  So, it was at the top, bottom, and middle of both of their Christmas Wishlists.  But before we get to the gifts, let's talk about Christmas.

We've tried to ask the girls often why we celebrate Christmas.  As we got closer to Christmas, they started giving us the answer we were looking for: Because Jesus was born in the stable.  We sang a lot of "Away in a Manger" over the last 3 wks, usually because one or the other of the girls wanted to sing it.  And it paid off in a big way the week before Christmas at church when the closing hymn was "Away in a Manger."  These little girls out sang everyone.  It's not a contest, I know, but it was still impressive to see and hear them belting out, nearly in tune, "...The little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay. (!!!)"  We knew they both had a solid handle on the 1st verse, but even we were surprised when they finished the second verse just as strong as the first.  Everyone around us were turning to see where the sound was coming from, then after the meeting people who were sitting on the other side of the church came up to tell us they could hear Alexa and Cailin singing.  It was great.  These girls love to sing.

On the Sunday right before Christmas, Alexa somehow got it into her head that she wanted to draw a picture for the front of the ward program.   Neither of us know how she came up with this idea. Anyway she started drawing the nativity, but then didn't know how to draw a manger.  I gave her a very rough idea, because I'm the world's least talented artist, and she took it from there.  After church we told her who was in charge of the weekly programs, and Alexa, by herself, found that sister  and delivered her drawing. Well, we showed up this week surprised as anyone that Alexa's artwork was on the front of the program.  Alexa was a little embarrassed by the attention she received, but deep down I think she liked it.

On Christmas Eve, our next door neighbors had us over for a Christmas Eve dinner with games and a live nativity, in which our children played significant roles.  Cailin was the angel bringing "glad tidings of great joy" to the shepherds "keeping watch over their flock by night."  Alexa was Mary, and Ian was a very healthy baby Jesus.  Good parents would have taken pictures to share with all our many readers spanning the globe, but on this night we weren't good parents.  Luckily for all of us, there were good parents present that sent us these:

On Christmas morning, the girls woke up around 6:30 as usual.  And as usual, we made them play in their room until 7.  That's how we roll, even on Christmas.  Then we sang some Christmas songs and then let them come down to see if Santa had been here (Sorry the video's a little fuzzy, I reduced the file size a little too much).

I was very excited to get a new pair of hiking boots.  We'll see how many times they get to the summit of Fuji... Cassi also got new kicks (that's what us cool kids call them), but hers were for running.  The girls were very excited to get Hello Kitty socks, Hello Kitty clothes, a Hello Kitty alarm clock, Hello Kitty toothbrushes, and Hello Kitty coloring books.  Oh, and Cassi just reminded me that they also got Hello Kitty dolls.  Oh, and she just came back to remind me about the set of Hello Kitty bath toys.  I'd say we've got Hello Kitty covered, but it's obvious who's covering whom.

A week or so before Christmas, Cassi took the girls to the thrift store to let them pick a gift for each of us in the family.  They got me a bag of long golf tees (perfect, because I don't use the short ones).  They gave Cassi some star-shaped wooden clips that she'll have to find a purpose for.  And I loved what they picked for baby Ian:

Anytime the topic of Christmas came up over the past few months, Alexa was very excited to announce to anyone/everyone that her birthday is just two days after Christmas.  So, once Christmas came to a close, it was time to focus on the birthday girl.  The presents started anew, mostly from kind neighbors and her thoughtful grandmas.  One gift that was not Hello Kitty was from Alexa's friends, Gabe and Genna.  It's a game called Headbanz in which you put a card containing a Disney character on your forehead w/o looking at it, and ask yes-or-no questions about your card until you can identify what or who's on your card.  It comes with some outstanding hats.

This little cheater looks at the card, slaps it into her hat, then fakes like she doesn't know who's on her card for a few questions.  So for this one, she said "Is I'm Snow White?" No.  "Is I'm a horse?" No.  "Is I'm a Dwarf?"

On Alexa's birthday, partly for our anniversary and partly for Alexa's birthday, we went into Tokyo to spend the night.  The military owns a sweet MWR resort there in downtown, called the New Sanno.  It's great for us because it is just down the street from the temple, and it's great for the kids because it has a pool.  Our plan was for one of us to go to the temple while the other watched the kids, then switch.  But, our Bishop, who is also our neighbor and awesome, found out about our plan and offered an improvement to our plan:  They could go with us and their 14-yr-old daughter, Hikari, watch the kids while we all went to the temple (you may remember Hikari from when we watched her hamster, Honey, a few months back).   Hard to say no to that deal, and it worked out great.  We got to go to the temple together, the girls got to play with Hikari (they LOVE Hikari) and Ian did what Ian does (chilled/slept the whole time).

After going to the temple, we all went with Bishop Skabelund's family to an awesome ramen restaurant, and then we set out to see some Christmas lights in a ritzy part of Tokyo called Roppongi.  On our way, Bishop picked up Cailin (w/o telling her in advance) and set her on his  shoulders.  She was grinning ear-to-ear.

The only lights we were able to see were the city lights, pictured below, and the lights on the small trees in that picture of Cailin's teeth.
Roppongi, with the famous Tokyo Skytree, at night
The lights we hoped to see had been turned off after Christmas was over.  Japan is big into energy conservation these days, so that may be why they were so eager to pull the plug.  Oh well.  We found a TV station in that area (I'm not sure who's idea it was or who knew to go there) where they had what seemed like a kid's play place with characters from the cartoons the station broadcasts.

Here the girls and Hikari pose with a character called "Doraemon."  I'm sure he's awesome in every way. 

Cailin with a panda bear.  Don't know what this little bear goes by, but my guess is it starts with "V."
This little game was fun.  It was in Doraemon's section, in case you care.

And because I just can't help myself, I challenged Bishop to a Doraemon pump-off:

Sweet victory is mine!

After our fun with Doraemon and co., we said goodnight to the Skabelunds, and we headed back to the New Sanno for some fun in the pool.  It was kinda late (about 9 pm) so we told the girls they could choose if they wanted to go swimming that night or in the morning, but not both.  They naturally chose swimming now over swimming later so we got about an hour of swimming in before the pool closed.  Cassi made a liar out of me later when she decided she hadn't had enough hot tub time.  So we surprised the girls in the morning with another hour or so of pool time.  And Cassi got her hot tub time.  It did not disappoint.

It's a little hard to pack so much celebration into one week, but this year it worked out.  We had a wonderful Christmas, even tho' we weren't able to be with our family.  And we had a great time in Tokyo celebrating Alexa's birthday and our 8th Anniversary.

Merry Christmas, friends, and Happy New Year!