Friday, July 25, 2008

Happy anniversary, Father's Day, birthday, birthday!

Look how skinny and young I was! So long ago!

I just realized tonight that my first wedding anniversary came and went (June 11th) without any acknowledgement on this blog. As did Father's Day, my husband's 40th birthday (June 19th. Wow! I'm married to a 40-year-old!) and my own 37th birthday (July 14th)! None of these occasions were celebrated in real life either. Man, we suck!

In our defense, Otis was in the states for the first 3 celebrations, by himself in Denver. And my birthday was on a Monday and he was on call, not a whole lot of celebrating could be done. But we are planning a belated, combo celebration tomorrow night, just the two of us taking the train into Roppongi for dinner.

Ethan's gotta girlfriend!

This is Ethan's "girlfriend". She's 4 and goes to his school. Her mom and dad were both TDY, so she spent a night with us and Gabi is putting her on and off the bus for the rest of the month. Ethan adores her, he talks about her all the time. She's the first person outside of our family that he's ever shown any kind of interest in. He's very much a loner and is usually very stand-offish, preferring his own company to anyone else's (no, he's not shy, just weird and anti-social, which he totally gets from his father), so the fact that he not only talks about her, but also interacts with her and happily shares all his toys is a huge deal!

Like father, like son

Apparently my 3 year old son, like his father, is butt man. Ethan came up to me in the kitchen tonight, hugged my gludial megamaximus region and said "Mommy, I wuv your butt! I wuv, wuv, wuv your butt!", then he just walked away. (In the last few weeks, all his l's and r's have turned to w's)

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Fennigan Ray Blues Clues Chestnut

Fenni is without a doubt the best dog we have ever owned. Sadly, we've been through a lot of dogs and had become convinced that, as much as we love dogs, we just weren't "dog people". But I know now we were just waiting for Fen! He's so smart and friendly, he's great with the kids and they love him so much, he's a perfect fit for our family!

The Gabi

Look how tall she is! Closing in on 5'4"!

Today my baby girl made her very first deposit into her very first savings account. She's making a good bit of $$$$ babysitting and we've agreed she'll put 20% of everything she makes into the bank. I'm determined that my kids will be better money managers than me. She saved up on her own and bought an iPod for $130, now she's saving for a Flip video camera.

Big Whammy

We had a big earthquake last night, just before 1230a. It was the biggest one I've felt so far (as I've noted before, I say that every time we have an earthquake, but they are honestly stronger every time!) This one was a 6.8 and was centered in Hachinoe, near Misawa AB, which is way up in northern Japan. It was strong enough to wake me from a fully Ambien-ized, dead sleep, my door was shut but the frame rocked so much that the door came unlatched and the wooden frame of my bed was squeaking! The news is reported 43 injuries so far, but I don't think there are any fatalities.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Secret Squirrel

As everyone knows (I hope) the 2008 G8 Summit was held in Japan July 9 -11. During this time Yokota was home to one of George Dubbyah's secret squirrel Nightwatch backup planes.

Ethan very quickly dubbed it "My plane!" We have to cross the runway everytime we go to the other side of the base, so we were able to see it up close several times a day.
We headed out to the flight line just before it left; as they headed to the plane one of the crew members walked over and shook Ethan's hand and asked him if he was excited to watch the plane take off. He was completely awe-struck. We were able to get, what I thought, was much too close, but I changed my mind about that as the engines revved and 5 guys with M-16's at-the-ready-popped out from nowhere and surrounded the plane until it was ready to taxi.

And the Lost is Found

Okay, it wasn't really lost, it just wasn't where we wanted to be.

Last week the girls and I took the train to Shinjuku where I know for a fact there is a Shakey's. And it's the same Shakey's I ate at as a kid!

Quick recap: Gabi and I went to Shinjuku not too long after we moved here to check out the Tokyo Metropolitan Government buildings. We hiked around the city for hours, and were starving just as we were about to cross the street, heading for McD's, I saw the sign for Shakey's Pizza. I had absolutely no idea it was still there and hadn't even thought about Shakey's in YEARS! I still can't believe that out of the entire, sprawling metropolis that is Shinjuku (see below) we landed right on the door step of my favorite restaurant from 30 years ago! Weird.

This Shakey's is in the basement of a building on Shinjuku Dori, along with an Indian restaurant and another food place.

Yesterday, we headed back again, bringing Meg with us this time. Both girls are a little weirded out by Japanese pizza toppings, and really just wanted a pepperoni pizza with extra cheese, but they both found flavors they liked, including the chocolate, marshmallow dessert pizza.
On the menu (but not on my plate): shrimp and mayonaise pizza , cuttle fish and onion pizza, octopus pizza, corn pizza (very popular in Japan) and all-you-can-eat curry and rice.


(Check out the size of the coke!!! Without a doubt these were the biggest sodas I've ever seen in Japan, and sadly they're totally out-of-the-ordinary)

Sweet n' sour

(Yes, that's dirt smeared across his face)

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

In his zone

Ever since he was just a little guy, barely even sitting up, Ethan has loved to sprawl out on the floor to play with his cars. He lays on his side and rolls the cars all around. He'll do it anytime, anywhere: in waiting rooms, on the train, anytime he's in the same spot more than 10 minutes, chances are he'll end up laying the floor rolling his cars.

(Look at that curly hair! I miss my baby.)

Since moving to Japan we've discovered these very handy picnic mats, they're just plastic tarps that fold up really small and are great for using anytime you have to sit on the ground. They come in all kinds of colors and sizes and I've picked up several small ones at the 100Y store to carry around in my purse. I can whip one out for Ethan to lay on when we're out and about and he needs to have some car time. The one pictured below came with the kids' meal at KFC. They did a super cute beach theme with Pingu: one week was a little beach bag, then a beach bowl, the mat and then I think it was a towel.

He's getting so big :(

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Where for art thou Shakey's?

I read somewhere online that there was a Shakey's Pizza in Tokorozawa, about a 30 min drive from the base (that's really close as driving goes here!) so we loaded up the kids and headed out on July 4th, ready for a pizza buffet.

Shakey's is an American chain, but there are only about 60 locations in the U.S., their other 400 stores are all in Asia. We used to eat at the Shakey's pizza in Shinjuku when I was a kid (30 years ago!!!!) and I didn't find out until we moved back to Japan that it was actually an American restaurant, the only one I'd ever heard of was the one in Shinjuku.

Anyway, we found the neighborhood without any trouble, parked and started off down the street, confident Shakey's was just around the corner. - Let me inject here that it was the hottest day we've had all summer, easily 500 degrees! - The sun was scorching hot and I'd only eaten a tiny bit of breakfast in anticpation of pigging out on pizza. After covering about 10 blocks we finally gave up and decided maybe the Shakey's had closed (our guidebook is about 5 years old). The kids were beyond meltdown stage and I was very quickly approaching that stage where one of us probably wasn't going to make it back to the van alive.

We found a KFC, settled the kids in with their chicken fingers and happy meal toys and Otis and I headed next door to a little noodle joint. Otis loves the little, hole-in-the-wall ramen shops that you find on nearly every block in Japan. This one was super tiny, only a small kitchen and a counter with 8 stools.

As with a lot of quickie eateries in Japan, there was a ticket menu machine thingy at the front. You put in your money and push the button of the dish you want, a ticket pops out that you give to the person behind the counter. We also figured out that you can call ahead to the ticket machine to place your order. The bowls of ramen are really big and I loved, loved, loved the fried rice.

I was disappointed that we didn't find the Shakey's, but I'm glad that we were able to explore an area we'd never been to and it turned out to be an okay afternoon.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Takin' a dip

Ethan and Gabi at the Nat last summer

We have two nice pools on base, one indoor and one outdoor, both with diving boards and slides. The Natatorium, the indoor pool, is on the East side just a few blocks from our house and is open all year.

The outdoor Sakana pool is on the West side and is open during the summer. I took the kids there for a few hours last week. Gabi and Meg have been before, they ride the shuttle bus there and back, but it was the first visit for Ethan and me.

Meg loves the high dive and has pretty decent form (this was a cannonball). She and Gabi took diving lessons when we first moved to Tampa, Meg was only 6 at the time but was routinely jumping from the 10m platform, she's always been so fearless, I was always so impressed.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Are pigs flying?

Are people wearing ear muffs in hell? A certain biological father actually paid child support this month! A whopping $115.38 !!! A less than microscopic dent in the nearly $16,000 he still owes, but hey, mama needs a new pair of shoes!!

I'm kidding, of course, it went straight into the college fund. We've actually managed just fine without if for nearly 6 years. Thanks anyway.

Chatereise' Summer Yummies

There's a great little dessert shop about 2 blocks from the base, out the gate near our house, called Chatereise. It's the first place we went to off base when we moved to Japan. Along with assorted cakes, breads, tarts, etc. they sell lots of yummy ice cream treats. We like to walk down in the evening after dinner for a lil' bit o' sweetness.

Trampoline Fun

One major headache that can accompany life in the military is the PCS (Permanent Change of Station), which is what the military calls moving.

Coming to Japan, military families have weight restrictions placed on our household goods shipments. Granted most people who move to a foreign country aren't able to bring even a 1/4 of their belongings, so we're fortunate in that regard, but the restrictions mean we have to be selective about what we pack out. Combine that with the fact that you don't know what kind of housing you'll get on base, if you even get to live on base (tower apartments have no yards) and the majority of people choose to leave most of their outdoor items, i.e. grills, lawnmowers, patio furniture, behind when coming here.

Summer is peak PCS season, so there are lots of families leaving Yokota. The moving companies are really strict about packing and shipping outdoor items; anything you want to pack out has to be immaculate, a difficult thing to achieve for stuff that has been laying around the yard for 3 - 4 years. As a result, people usually "junk" the majority of their outdoor stuff when the PCS from here. On base we have a recycling service that picks up anything and everything that you leave on the curb, from cinder blocks to couches, so this is typically what people do with their outdoor junk when it's time to go. However, those of us who are new to Yokota are usually all too happy to grab that "junk" off the curb. So far we've picked up a set of patio furniture with an outdoor fireplace, a propane grill, a lawnmower, and now.........a trampoline!

(A family in the building behind us is leaving next week, I've got my eye on their canopy porch swing!)

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Himawari Kumi (Sunflower Class)

Ethan's class photo. You can tell the kids in the front row were instructed to put their hands on their knees, I couldn't say if Ethan didn't understand or was just being his usual obstinate self. And I'm sure that's the way it's going to be for quite a while.
Sorry for the quality, it's a picture of a picture.
A hard copy is on the way to Momo and Grandma Rett.

Could I Be Any Cuter? Starring Denzel Washington Jr.

How weird that Ethan found these glasses on the sidewalk today?!?!
(Check out how light his hair looks in the sun!)


Tanabata , or star festival, is a huge festival that takes place on July 7th all over Japan (although some regions celebrate on August 7). As part of the Tanabata celebrations, people adorn bamboo trees with paper decorations. You're also supposed to write a wish on a piece of paper and hang it from the bamboo. There are special bamboo trees put up everywhere, in malls and train stations, all over the place, for people to hang their wishes on. In preparation for Tanabata, Ethan has been making decorations for several weeks at school.

On the far left of Ethan's bamboo are Orihime and Hikoboshi, the "stars" (pun intended) of Tanabata. According to the legend, they were lovers who were seperated by the Milky Way but are allowed to meet once a year on July 7.

On the far right is his wish: "When I grow up, I want to become a movie star." Seriously. He's been saying that for several months. We have no idea where or how he came up with it, but he says it all the time, much to Papi's chagrin.