Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Christmas Letter, 2009

Dear Family and Friends,
Merry Christmas from Misawa, Japan! We’ve certainly been busy since our last Christmas letter! The Minear Family packed up and moved to Misawa Air Base at the end of January, courtesy of the Air Force. We moved to a small farming community in Northern Japan and love our new life here. We live off-base in a very interesting house, our kitchen and bathrooms are very different from what we were used to. We also purchased two used cars and John finally got a TV of his own, instead of the hand-me-downs we had in New Mexico. We are enjoying getting to know our Japanese neighbors, Annelise and I walked to the air show with them in October and had a lot of fun.
This year has been filled with a lot of travel, John has to leave town every month or so for work and we took a family vacation to Guam in July. We had a wonderful week there and Annelise LOVES the beach! We also made a trip to Florida this fall; John was already there for work so Annelise and I took a military flight to Seattle and then made our way to the Southeast. I had a lot of fun shopping and buying things as simple as Pepto-Bismol tablets that you don’t have to chew and my favorite scent of deodorant. We have everything we need available on base, but there are times when you want a specific brand or color or scent and you have to make do. Of course, I also bought plenty of clothes and Christmas gifts while I was in Florida as well! The best part about our trip to Florida was visiting Disney World. My parents, sisters, and brothers-in-law and John’s mom, aunt and uncle met us there and we had a blast. Annelise enjoyed all of the attention and John and I enjoyed spending time with family and not having to carry her everywhere. My parents were just here for a week over Thanksgiving and I think they really enjoyed their trip. They tried several new foods and we showed them our favorite spots around Misawa.
In between the big trips, we’ve also made several small trips around the Aomori Prefecture (our region of Japan). We went cherry picking, to a baseball game, and to a number of festivals. Our favorite festivals are the Cherry Blossom Festival in the Spring and the Misawa City Festival in the Summer. John was able to climb Mount Fuji this summer after going to Tokyo for a work trip; he was able to see the sun rise from the summit. Our favorite place in Japan, however, is Shipwreck Beach. There are five or six wooden ships there, partially buried in the sand right on Mutsu Bay. We love going to Shipwreck for picnics and to search for sea glass and other treasures. I’ve got a bunch of sea glass just waiting to be made into jewelry and other crafts, if only I had the time.
We have made many new friends here in Misawa. I learned from living in Clovis that you have to get out and get involved in order to meet people, so within our first month here I took a pottery class and got involved in the squadron and the Misawa Officers’ Spouses’ Club. We’re lucky to be in another great squadron, I was definitely worried that I had been spoiled by the Wizards and Fireballs at Cannon but was pleasantly surprised by how involved people are here. It really is true that you band together when you’re overseas and so far from family. I am now on the board for MOSC and am still wondering how I got roped into it. John really likes the people that he works with and some of them are even married! So we’ve been lucky enough to make friends in the squadron, through my adventures, and even some ‘hand-me-down friends’ that I met through one of my old friends from Clovis. We are truly blessed by this and my parents said that leaving here was a little easier knowing that we have such a great group of people who care so much about us.
My favorite thing about living in Misawa is how beautiful and colorful everything is. From the flowers that start in the spring and last well into the fall to the amazing foliage all around, Japan is such a beautiful country. John’s favorite thing about living in Misawa is exploring the country. Between ski trips in the winter and all of the festivals, we have been able to see quite a bit of this part of Japan. Annelise’s favorite thing about Japan is definitely how friendly the people are. She loves waving and saying Hi to everyone, and all of the Japanese people adore her.
Speaking of our beautiful little girl, Annelise just turned one! As I said, my parents were here for Thanksgiving and her birthday (which was on Thanksgiving Day this year) and I tried my hand at making her cake. She had lots of fun eating the cake and playing with her new toys. She is growing and changing so much, she picks up new tricks every time I turn around! Annelise and I have been going to Water Babies, a swim class on base. The class is almost over but she has had a lot of fun and is no longer scared of going under water, now we just have to keep up with taking her to the pool so she doesn’t forget what she learned. She can’t swim yet, but we’re hoping to take the class again next fall. Annelise has been walking for a little while now and we’ve had to put up baby gates to keep her off of the stairs and away from the Christmas tree. She loves Elmo and would watch Sesame Street all day long if I would let her; she was very excited to get Elmo pajamas and books for her birthday. Our sweet girl is so very friendly; she has never met a stranger. She took to our families right away when we were in Florida, even though we hadn’t seen them since January, and even waves at people when we’re driving down the street! If you are on Skype, look us up because Annelise loves talking to people on the ‘TV’.
We are planning a trip to the States in a couple of months and again for my sister’s wedding this summer. Hopefully we’ll get to see most of you while we’re out there, we certainly miss our friends and family. Please continue to check ajminear.blogspot.com and ajminear.shutterfly.com for updates and photos of our adventures and leave us comments to let us know what you think!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!
The Minears
John, Angela & Annelise

Saturday, December 5, 2009

One Year Old

I've been putting this post off because it's bittersweet. Annelise turned one year old on Thanksgiving and I can't believe our sweet, sweet baby is now a toddler. My parents were here for the week before her birthday and we had lots of fun showing them around. They taught her some fun new sounds, she now makes a high-pitched noise to try to whistle. We went to the doctor this week and although Annelise hasn't gained much weight since her last appointment, she's met all of the milestones for her age. She has been slow to gain weight because of all of the walking she's doing, along with her swim class. We only have 3 classes left and I hope that she starts packing on the pounds once we're done.

We started Annelise's twelfth month with a short jaunt from Ft. Walton Beach over to Pensacola to spend the day with Auntie Kim and Nana Peggy. We met them at the Navy base and watched the Blue Angels practice and then went inside the museum and got autographs! Afterwards, Mommy got to go back 'home' for the first time in monts, we went to Hobby Lobby. We had a lot of fun that day and then went back to our hotel to prepare for the big trip to Orlando.

On that Friday, we left for Orlando as soon as Daddy got home from work; the drive took over 7 hours but it was worth it to see the family and go to Disney World. We got to the hotel after midnight and you stayed up for a while playing with Babi, Grandaddy, Grandma, Nanna, Kyle, Lusa, Trent, and Uncle Greg and Aunt Karen. That's right, Grandma surprised us by bringing some relatives that we had never met! We had a blast the next day at the Magic Kingdom, riding rides and seeing the sights. Buzz Lightyear and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad were everyone's favorites and you loved being held by everyone and basking in the attention. Because it was Halloween, you were dressed in the adorable dress that Aunt Karen made and the whole park was decked out! That night we went to a restaurant that Mommy really liked but apparently some of the others weren't huge fans of. That's what they get for ordering the same old-same old, I was adventurous and lucked out!

The next day we took some family pictures and then packed up to go back to Ft. Walton Beach. It was a short weekend, but so worth it. We had so much fun with family and can't wait to go back to Disney World when you're older. We also want to make a trip to Tokyo Disney before we move.

The rest of our time in Florida was spent shopping and spending time with Daddy. We flew back to Seattle and ended up having to wait a day to get on the Patriot Express because of maintenance problems. The motel that Mommy picked was kind of shabby, but it was next to a Denny's, down the block from a convenience store, and had a free shuttle to/from the airport. That was all very important because the airport only had two restaurants outside of security and Mommy was tired of them. Plus they did not have Dr Pepper in the airport, while the convenience store did!

We made it safely back to Misawa and you did so well on all of the flights. Annelise, thank you so much for being such a good traveller, it makes life a lot easier. Once we got back to Misawa we cleaned the house and unpacked all of the stuff that we bought and mailed in Florida. Daddy came home a week later and then we started prepping for Babi and Grandaddy to visit!

When Babi and Grandaddy came to Misawa, we took them to Shimoda Mall, Hachinohe (the fish market and Niitori), the Pacific Ocean, and Hirosaki Castle. You and I took kimono pictures with Babi and we also had one-year-old pictures made of you. We had a great time and made lots of memories. But now for the real reason they flew thousands of miles: your birthday!!

We started the day with some rain. Then Mommy had to run to Yokomachi because we forgot to thaw the rolls. Then we got to eat Thanksgiving dinner! It was definitely better than last year's, Daddy makes a much tastier turkey than the hospital. Mommy decorated your cake with pink and purple icing and yellow and pink flowers. It was not as elaborate as I would have liked, but I keep reminding myself that all that mattered was that it tasted good. Your Tio David and Tia Yazmin came over to help celebrate and we sang Happy Birthday to you. I helped blow out your candle and then we let you dig in to your cake. You enjoyed rubbing icing on your face and in your hair while the grown-ups ate cupcakes, and then Babi took you upstairs and hosed you down in the bathtub.

Annelise, you are one blessed little girl. So many people who love you gave you birthday presents. You got lots of pretty clothes, winter gear (a coat, two hats, gloves, and some boots!), several books and puzzles, and lots of toys. My favorites are the Little People toys and your favorites are the push toy, Cookie Monster doll, and spoons and forks. You're not very good at eating with them yet, but you like to pretend they're drumsticks!

This month has been a busy month for you, little girl. Not only did we DO a lot of fun stuff, a lot of fun stuff HAPPENED! You got your sixth tooth not long after we got back to Misawa and I can tell that you're working on getting two more. You have different waves for Hello and Bye-bye and have started pointing at things. You say Grandaddy very well and also sing 'I Love You, Yeah Yeah Yeah', it's so cute! You can now climb stairs, we had to go to a Japanese store to find a baby gate wide enough to keep you off of our staircase. The craziest thing that happened was that you managed to turn on your Elmo DVD by yourself! The best we can figure, you were playing at the entertainment center and pushed the power button to the bluray player. Because of the way it had previously been turned off, it started the movie without you having to hit play. All I really know is that I was washing dishes and realized that you were watching Elmo, but I hadn't turned the movie on! You also got sick for the first time this month, you got a cold that lasted about 48 hours. The snotty sneezing was pretty gross, but I credit breastfeeding with the fact that you recovered so quickly. You also got some new shoes this month, they have squeakers in the soles and you love to toddle around making noise. Sadly, we have misplaced one of the shoes so you have been squeak-less for a week or so.

Annelise, you're so grown up now! You are very independent and love walking everywhere so I cherish the times that you're sleepy and want to snuggle. This last year has been so wonderful and I look forward to what the next year with you will bring!