Sunday, June 22, 2008

Pre Japan Pics

This is just a hodge podge of pics of the weeks leading up to our move to Japan. Posted mostly for grandparents and family, but feel free to take gander. Deck swimming, anniversary cake, garden party, baby dress up, joy school, strawberry picking, moveing out, Westin hotel, Tang visit & swimming, Evan's early 3rd birthday, Careese and Charlotte.

weeks before Japan


We tried so hard to sleep in on Saturday, but the kids just wouldn't have it. They're internal clocks are set perfectly on 5am. We ended up letting them run free in the playroom in the lobby and Mark took a 2 hour nap on the couch, while I got online. We're up so early, we don't usually get up before 8am, that the hours in the day seem to creep by. By the time 6pm rolls around, it feels like 9pm and we want to go home to sleep. There's nothing is open this early, on base or off base, that we're just hanging around in the hotel room for hours!

Evan passed out in Careese's stroller around 4:30pm, just as we were leaving base to go out to eat and shop. Every once in a while he'd wake up and look around, mumble something and lay down back asleep! He didn't wake up till 5am this morning! Its amazing how much noise and motion this kid can sleep through. He slept through the train ride, walking around the streets, shopping, eating out and all the way home again. I'm sure the mile run we made him run earlier that day had something to do with it.

Evan has become quite the runner since we got here. We walk everywhere on base and he wants to run ahead of us all the time. We wanted to go visit Lucy at the kennels but couldn't find a ride over there. So we walked. Remember how I said there's a golf course between us and the kennels? Yep we had to walk around the course. It was a good 40 min power walk, and Evan probably ran 2/3 of it. It's so funny that he'll be running and running, with his short little legs to keep ahead of our fast walk, and then he'll spot a flower or rock and pick it up. Then suddenly he's down to a mopey walk and then gets whiny for me to carry him. I tell him to throw whatever he's got in his hand away, and then he's back to his run ahead of me! I think he'll be a good distance runner when he gets older, but he definitely can't run any relays involving a baton.

The lady at the kennels said Lucy's not eating, and asked if it was a stressful move to Japan for her. I think being locked up all day surrounded by barking dogs all day is stressing her out. She doesn't usually eat unless we're in the kitchen while she's eating anyway. I bought a few bags of jerky for dogs from Trader Joes before we left DC, and I've just given her those to eat after we visit her because its the only thing she'll eat right away. So, I know she's getting something to eat if she's not touching her kibble and wet food.

We took the train to the next town over, Sagami-Ono, to shop and eat. Mark's favorite clothing store here is Uniqlo, and they're like the Gap in the US, they're everywhere. They've got everyday basic clothes for good prices. We went in to buy umbrellas cause it was raining on our way to the train station. And then we ended up with a bag load of clothes when we left the store! I got 4 shirts and a dress, Mark got 2 tshirts, a button up shirt, 2 pairs of shorts, pjs, set of socks, and 2 umbrellas, all under $100 USD. We're suckers for sales. ;)

The great thing about Japanese restaurants is those plastic fake food they display out front of the food they serve. Is there a fake plastic food store somewhere? Its good thing too cause they didn't have an English menu. We went to a restaurant called Ducky Duck. "Its so good they named it twice!" Its a chain that serves Italian food, but of course with a Japanese take to it. It was pretty good. I had herb noodles with chicken and spinach. Simple but quite tasty. Mark got shrimp omrice (eggs on rice). And dessert was chiffon cake with whipped cream. The cream could have used more sugar (lots of desserts in Japan look amazing but don't taste very sweet) but the cake was good. We will be going back there again.

Mark asked me if I had enough to eat. Well, I guess serving sizes is something to get used to. We've been accustomed to huge portions in the US. This is what we came up with why; because who wants to eat a huge meal and then have to walk home. And who wants to carry leftovers on the train? And with a country obsessed with freshness, why would they want to eat leftovers?

When we first left base, I realized my purse was not in my bag. Mark had taken it out to get a phone number and it didn't get back in my bag. It had my military ID as well as my license in it. So, it meant that I couldn't get back on base. We though I'd have to wait at the gate while Mark walked on base to the hotel to get my ID and they'd give me a lecture about keeping it with me at all times, and should just staple it to my hand. Well, thankfully they just needed me to fill out a form and they let me through. The only threat I'd pose was the nasty dirty full diaper Careese was wearing!

Sorry, no new pics today.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Ohio goes a mass ;)

We've made it! What a hectic two weeks. We had movers come to pack and move stuff to storage and another set of movers pack and ship stuff to Japan. What a nightmare it would have been if we didn't go through the house and put colored post-it notes on everything before they came. And in the middle of it all we had tornado warnings and crazy thunderstorms and power outages and extreme heat and humidity! Great timing. I felt bad for our movers that had to pack and move our stuff in the 90 degree heat. I think when we first moved into our house it was just as hot too. We've got the moving-curse.

After we moved out, our renters moved in the next day. We were cleaning and patching holes in walls and caulking right up till our renters came. I think if we had to do it again, I'd give ourselves a few days in between. It was a hectic day, with so many people moving things in and out of our house and everybody's kids were everywhere. I'm glad my sister-in-law was there to help watch Careese and Evan. And I'm so glad we had friends and family help out with cleaning and getting the place ready last minute. THANK YOU!

I really hope this experience of renting our home out goes well. I really want it to go well, since we'll be halfway around the world! We know our renters, and they're good people, I just hope the house and the appliances in it don't go wrong while we're away.

We moved into the Westin closer to DC, while Mark did his in processing for the new job. We were in the hotel and on the Man's dime for 10 days. It was nice to call and order a nice hot breakfast every morning while in your pjs. We liked eating out at the restaurants we always wanted to try, but you do miss having a kitchen for make food. The Westin was a dog friendly hotel, and Lucy got first class treatment. Westin is known for their Heavenly bed, but who knew they had Heavenly dog beds too! I think Careese even had the Heavenly crib, but I don't think Evan's pull out bed was all that heavenly. We were spoiled with all the space that comes with the suite, that now we're in military lodging and it feels tiny. At least we have a kitchenette here in lodging.

The 14 hour flight was ok. The first leg, from DC to Chicago was tough. Our plane got out to the runway and stopped because there was too much air traffic and the weather was bad. After an eternity with two bored kids in a small space, an hour and a half later we were given the ok to take off. I'm glad we trained Lucy weeks in advance to be ok with being in her dog bag for hours at a time, because she hardly made a squeak! We were supposed to have a 2 hour layover in Chicago, but since we took so long to take off, we had to run from one terminal to another to catch our flight to Narita. We were the last to board, but thankfully they still gave us our upgrade to business class. Such a relief that we could upgrade, cause with two kids and a dog it made a huge difference. We could put a blanket down and let the kids play on the ground. The only tough part was that Careese didn't sleep for very long at a time. She just doesn't sleep well when she doesn't have quiet and her own bed. Glad Evan can sleep anywhere and he was so comfortable spread out on his huge chair. He loved the positionable light that's attached to the seat. He thought it was so fun to blind us with it.

We arrived with no trouble going through customs. All the trouble we went through in the last few months to get Lucy's paperwork and shots and microchip in order paid off. There was so much to do that Japan required for importing animals, we even had to go as far as driving 2 hours to Richmond to the USDA office just to get her papers stamped and signed no more than 5 days before our flight. Good thing we could visit Andrew and Liew and Andersen one last time, that made the 4 hour drive worth it.

From Narita to the military base is still a 2 and a half hour bus ride. It took us through downtown Tokyo, but at that point we were too tired to really enjoy the scenery. The base isn't that aesthetically pleasing. Seems things were built just to serve it's purpose and that's it. The greenery and the mountains make up for it.

Eat a taco mouse!

We've went into town everyday since we got here. We see so many things to eat and do, and it's weird to not think, "if we buy that, can we fit it in our suitcase?" or "we have to eat and do as much as we can right now cause we only have a few days left." We have to keep reminding ourselves we can take our time, we've got 3 years to fill up! And I'm trying to pace myself with the food, cause I know I'll get tired of it. As far as on base food. Its pretty limited to fast food or cafeteria food. So, it will be nice to cook for ourselves again.

Poor Lucy has to stay in the kennels on base cause she's under quarantine. If the Japanese govt only knew how Lucy doesn't got out that often, she doesn't come in contact with other dogs/animals, and just sleeps pretty much all day. She's probably a stress case cause there are 20 other dogs there barking at all hours. She is next door to another yorkie that's just her size and age named Cisco. Funny, I knew another yorkie also named Cisco years ago. We're allowed to go visit her during office hours to walk her, give her snacks, and love. I don't know if they give her baths and brush her daily, so I do it. We tried walking there from lodging, but I didn't realize there was a golf course right in between us the the kennels.

We've had to get rides from Mark's coworkers for everything. There's no shuttle between the bases or to and from town. So we bought cars yesterday. Even though we don't have our licenses yet. Mark's coworker had to test drive them for us. Used cars in Japan are cheap. I'm blown away that for our Honda Accord we sold in DC, we could affort to buy two cars here in Japan! It's cheap to buy domestic cars, and there isn't a huge demand for cars here, so the resale value of cars just falls quickly. We got a 2001 Honda Odyssey and 1997 Toyota Windom. Both run well and just need a good cleaning. The Odyssey's previous owner tricked it out and the Windom has TV and GPS installed in it! hahahah. We could have spent a little more to get newer cooler cars, but we are only here for 3 years and since the resale value won't be great, we just get what we need. There are a ton of old junky cars to buy from people on base, because people are here for such short tours. I was almost going to buy a 13 yr old station wagon type car for $800 USD. That's the price of a nice laptop! But with the older cars, you spend more $ to fix it too.

We're slowly getting adjusted to the time difference. The kids are grouchy almost all the time, and they pass out around 5pm and wake up ready to play around 3am. I manage to get them to sleep again for an hour or two and then they really want to get going around 5am. Mark and I are asleep around 8pm cause we can't stay awake anymore.

Last night the fire alarm in our lodging went off around 9pm, and we schlep ourselves outside with two sleeping babies, sat on the sidewalk, and fell asleep ourselves! We're still not sure why the alarm went off.

I'm lucky to have a husband/tour guide/translator by my side here. A lot of people on base say its easy to just stay on base all the time and never venture out. Everything you ever needed is here. And learning Japanese is not a necessity and you can even use US dollars to pay for things on base.
I took 3yrs of Japanese in high school but remember very little. Just a few words here and there. I've had to brush up on my katakana and hiragana just so I can read signs. I look like the locals, so people will talk to me in Japanese all the time. So, I just refer them to Mark. Then I just look like a snob that can't associate with them. :)

This is a mega post for us, because Internet access is limited to just the lobby of the building. lame. So I'll do my best to keep you up to date. I've been typing emails and stuff from our room, then going down to the lobby to connect online and upload stuff. Not the ideal process but we'll have to make due for a while. Not easy to spend time online when you have two kids to watch after in the lobby.

The nice thing about living on base is that we can send and receive mail at the same price it would cost in the US to send things to California. Our mail goes to California and then gets sent out here. So if there's anything you're looking for from Japan, just let us know! Sorry, mochi ice cream will be eaten before it gets to the post office.

Con knee chew a!

welcome to japan

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Counting down the days

T-minus 5 days till the movers arrive and we move into a hotel for a few days. I'm not counting down the days cause I'm excited... no can't think of that yet. Mark's on business while I'm packing up the fort along with the kiddies by myself. I come off as calm and collected, but really I'm going nuts! There's a hundred things in my head of things to do. I made a list, but looking at it makes me overwhelmed. Who knew we had so much stuff after just 5 yrs. And on top of that I've got to get the the house ready for renters. *sigh*

My biggest problem, which is of my own doing, is that I try to keep the house clean at the same time as I'm taking things out and separating them. Careese is crawling and pulling up now and I don't want her to get hurt or eat something she shouldn't. She's moving a lot sooner than I'm prepared.
Everytime I pull something out, Evan's right there asking me "what's that? can I see it?" "is that for me?!" "I want it!" arghh. I'm glad we have movers to pack for us, but it's still a pain to figure out what we'll need for the next 3 years and what to store.
I've been blessed to have great friends and some family nearby that can watch Evan while I hammer away at this huge task.
We did take a break yesterday to visit Abby and Da and go strawberry picking. Evan loved it. He'd pick one and put it in his bag then pick one and put it in his mouth. He was covered in strawberry juice and mud. A little dirt won't hurt, but at the rate he was eating strawberries, probably a good idea to stop him.

Evan had his last class of Joy School for the school year this last week too. It's like a pre-preschool that 6 of us moms put together and rotate teaching. They had a class picture and decorated picture frames. Evan loves his! He'll hold it and talk about his friends in the picture. "Its my friends!" He puts his frame on the top of the couch everytime I try to put it away. I'm glad he knows who he's friends are, but I wonder if he will miss them when we move?

Ok time to get back to work...