Saturday, July 25, 2009

Welcome to the neighborhood!

So here's the set up: on the base, the housing is mostly divided into what we call "courts". Each court consists of 2 buildings, each with four 2-storied housing units, A - D, they're kind of like townhouses. So that's 8 units/families in each court. All the units in our court have 4 bedrooms. We share a parking lot with 2 assigned spaces each, and a communal garbage/recycle bin area.

When we moved in almost 2 years ago, there were 3 families in our building (A-C, we're unit D) but only 1 family in our neighbor building. Within about 6 mths, families A and B moved out of our building, so it was just 3 families sharing a space meant for 8, for over a year. It was sooooo nice! 16 parking spaces shared by only 6 cars! 8 backyards for only 3 families of kids! It was really quiet on our end of the street, and we were all very happy.

In the last 6 months, our court has filled to capacity. We now have the full 8 families, with a grand total of..........22 kids! Yeah, not so quiet anymore! Yesterday, there was a strange guy walking through our backyards with a video camera. Neighbor B went out to ask him what he was doing, and he replies "We're making a typhoon preparedness commercial and we needed a "what your yard should not look like when preparing for a typhooon" example!" I think our backyard has every outside toy ever invented, and it attracts kids from blocks away. We've got 2 trampolines, a large swing set, a pirate ship climber, a toddler roller coaster, a playhouse, 5 different sets of patio furniture, a gazebo, a motorized Barbie car, 3-wheeler and monster truck, 2 wagons, a toddler picnic table, more bikes and trikes than I can count and at the moment, 3 different blow-up pools and 2 slip n' slides. Whew! And still, we hear "Mom, I'm bored! There's nothing to do!"
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video

Ethan taking a spin on the toddler roller coaster.

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I think we've gotten really lucky, so far all the new neighbors seem really nice. We're planning an end of summer block party, and we regularly sit out front chatting, and lately, sharing some of our favorite cocktails in the evenings.

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Of the 22 kids in our court, there are 14 boys, 12 of them are 6 yrs old or younger. Pure heaven for Ethan! He loves playing with his "buddies" and will stay outside for hours everyday, hunting beetles, riding bikes and playing Transformers. Gabi is super excited because the newest neighbors (Unit A in our building) have 2 girls, one her age who's also starting 10th grade, and the other is only a year behind Meg. There are two other 11 year old girls in our court, and the last 2 girls are both only 18 mths old.

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With my B and C neighbors, we've started a clothing swap. Neighbor B has 2 boys, ages 6 and almost 5. Even though the 4 year old is only a few months older than E, he's nearly 3 sizes bigger! She sends her boys' hand-me-downs to Ethan. Neighbor C has 3 boys, ages 10, 7 and 2. I give E's h-m-d's to her youngest, and she sends her bigger boys' h-m-d's to Neighbor B. Ethan's now has more clothes for the next year then I think he'll ever wear! Very nice indeed!

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Just a pretty little something

This is so awesome! I really like both of these songs seperately, and love both the piano and cello, and Gabi plays the cello (anybody know a cello teacher in the Kanto area that speaks English?), so we both really liked this "mish/mash". Jon Schmidt is so talented! I love everything he's ever done! Enjoy!
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Monday, July 20, 2009

My amazing daughter

Conversation between me and my 15 year old daughter:

Me: Sometimes I wish I could be 15 again.

G: Geez, WHY?!?!?!?!

Me: You've got your whole life stretched out in front of you. There are so many things I wish I could do over again, *sigh* I made so many mistakes and stupid decisions, if I could go back, I'd live my life so differently.

G: Well, how about if I live a really, really good life, then you can have some of it?
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Saturday, July 18, 2009

Though the mountains divide.....

....and the ocean is wide.....

Several months ago, I found out that a fellow Tokyo blogger that I follow, Tokyo 5, actually grew up near the same small Florida town we lived in before coming to Japan! What a small world!

So I guess I shouldn't have been surprised by what happened tonight:

When Otis headed off to the States, we forgot to pack the prezzies we'd gotten for him to take to the kids, so I figured I'd just mail them to him at the hotel he'll be staying at in Florida. I mailed the package last Friday, and today I planned to call the hotel and let them know it was on it's way, so that they'd be expecting it and could put a note on his reservation (he doesn't get to FL until Monday afternoon).

I just called the hotel and spoke with Valerie, the very friendly, chatty front desk clerk. I told her when I mailed the package and that I expected it to take 7 - 10 days coming from Japan. Imagine my surprise when she tells me that her son is stationed here in Japan, at the Navy base in Atsugi! The city Otis will be visiting in FL isn't very big, I'd never even heard of it before we moved to Tampa, and the hotel isn't that big of a deal either, so what are the odds that the desk clerk's son would be living 30 miles away from me, in JAPAN?!?!?! And I've been to NAF Atsugi several times.


It's a small, small world!
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Thursday, July 16, 2009

And so it begins.....

....my soul's tormented journey into the agonizing, black abyss of heartbreak, sorrow and misery. Also known as: time to start making plans for our move back to the States.

O got his official notification that he is within 1 year of the end of his tour, and it's time to start the process of making plans for whatever it is we want to do, i.e. extend our tour in Japan one more year (what I want more than anything!), request another full, 3 year tour in Japan, transfer to another overseas base, head back to the U.S. ........ He'll need to contact his "Detailer", the person who will, well, work out the details of our move, and let them know what he wants to do.

I've got my eye on Langely AFB, in Virginia Beach. If we HAVE to go back to the States (I'm going kicking and screaming, my overwhelming preference is to stay overseas) Langley is my first choice. While Otis doesn't have absolute power over where he gets transferred to, Uncle Sam makes the ultimate decision, he does get to have some say in the plans, and can probably work it out in our favor.

I've been dreading this time since before we even left Florida, knowing the day would come, waaaay too soon, that I'd have to leave Japan again. It's been hanging over my heart like a grumpy, little, black rain cloud since the day I stepped of the plane at Narita. I knew I'd only get 3 years here, and have really tried to make the absolute most of every second, but everything has been tinged with a little hint of bittersweet sadness, knowing my time was so limited. My heart is literally breaking thinking about my last day in Japan.

I love Japan so much, it honestly feels like home to me. This is where I spent my childhood, and when we got here in August 2007, I really felt like I was home at last. I was immediately comfortable and relaxed, there was no culture shock, no homesickness for the States, nothing but pure joy and a sense of contentment that I hadn't felt is such a long time. And those feelings have stayed with me every second that we've been here. But, I knew it wasn't forever. I knew this day would come. And I know that going back to the States is what's best Otis, the kids need their dad, they miss him so much and we all miss them, it's best for Meg too, she really misses her dad and bonus mom. Not to mention the grandparents and other assorted family members. I know it's not fair to ask anyone to sacrifice anymore. *Sigh*
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And so it begins............
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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

My sweetie hub.....

....totally made my b-day! He managed to send me flowers from half-way around the world, on my birthday! And he couldn't do it online either, only via phone, so he had to work with the 13 hr time difference, plus the florist's business hours, plus having no idea what time we'd be home from Tokyo! But they were delivered right on time, and they're so pretty! Thank you baby! I love you!


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Survivor!

Our family loves fish. Not just the kind you eat, although we love that too. Otis is an avid fisherman, obsessed really. And we've always had lots of fish tanks. Back in Florida, we have a massive tank, maybe 100 gallons? It's about 5 feet long. In addition to that one, all 4 bedrooms had a tank, and there was a big one in the kitchen, and even one in the kids' bathroom! We scaled down a bit when we moved to Japan. We had to leave the mega-tank in storage, so we just have the semi-big one now, plus 3 tanks in the bedrooms. Fish make great pets, so easy to take care of, and there's nothing more relaxing than watching the fish as they swim and swish around.


So we're all big fish lovers, but the tanks are really Otis' thing. He's always had a big tank, he chooses the decor carefully, wanting it to look as natural as possible, no sunken, bubbling pirate ships or rainbow castles in his tanks! He's very knowledgeable about fish, knowing which ones live best together, which fish you need for a balanced tank, he know all about pH and chemical levels for the water. For a while he even had a "sick" tank where he would keep fish that weren't doing so well, and nurse them back to health! He's the fish-meister around here, and is responsible for caring for all the fish and tanks, mainly because he loves it.

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*Sigh* then there's me. Since coming to Japan, Otis has gone back to the States several times for various training, etc, which is something new for us. We've never been apart like this before. More importantly, I've never had to be responsible for the fish.......you can probably guess where this post is going.

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Otis went to Texas at the begining of April, he was gone for just about 3 weeks. Between teaching, attending all my clubs and meetings, Gabi's track meets, taking care of 3 kids and the house, the fish just kind of.....slipped off my radar. I forgot to feed them. I forgot every single day. They didn't eat for 3 weeks. Well, technically it was only about 2 weeks, because one brave fishy-soul decided to sacrifice himself for the good of the tank. Eventually we got down to only one fish in the big tank. Then finally, he too swam off to that big koi pond in the sky.

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Since then, the tank has just been sitting, for nearly 3 months. The water has been evaporating and it was finally starting to smell just a bit, so today I decided to give it a good cleaning and get it back in shape, so O could enjoy himself re-stocking it when he gets home. I reached in to pull out a big rock, and nearly pee'd myself when a big fish darted out!!!! That last survivor, the one we thought had died weeks ago, was not only still alive, but thriving! We haven't put food or new water in that tank in almost 3 months!!!!!! But he's in great shape! What a surprise! He's one plucky guppy! (He's actually an African cichlid, O's fave)

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I went ahead with the cleaning, vacuumed the gravel, scrubbed the walls, put all the big rocks and wood out for a good sun bleaching, put in new filters and cleaned the filter system. Hopefully all that clean won't do him in!


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Tuesday, July 7, 2009

We're famous!

Okay, not really, really, but this is still pretty cool!
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I don't know if any of you are anime fans, I'm not a huge fan myself, but I like to watch every now and again. One show I like is called Shangri-la (it's in Japanese w/ English subtitles). It's got an interesting story line, and some of the characters are pretty funny; I like Momoko, a "sexy transexual" and Takehiko.
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Anyhoo, Yokota Air Base made a cameo appearance in a recent episode of Shangri-la (episode 13). How cool is that?
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(screenshot courtesy of ZOMGanime.com)
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Last summer, the US Navy put out their own manga (kind of a Japanese comic book, but waaaay better, manga are hugely popular and read by people of all ages and walks of life), "CVN 473" and gave out free copies to the residents of Yokosuka, in an effort to put a positive spin on the impending arrival of the USS George Washington, a nuclear-powered supercarrier, at the base in Yokosuka. Understandably, there were a lot of protests by the Japanese when it was announced that the GW would be based in Yokosuka. They gave out 30,000 copies of the manga, I'd really love to have one! You can download a free copy, in both Japanese and English, at the site linked above, but I'd still love to have a copy of the real book!
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Monday, July 6, 2009

No really, I ate it!!!!!!!!!!!!!

A salad. I. ate . a . salad. !!!!!!!! I ATE A SALAD! Did you hear me? I said "I ate a salad!" This is huge people! Monumental!

I've never eaten a salad in my life. Ever. Not one, single salad, in my entire life. 38 salad-free years. I'm not exaggerating. I make salads for O and the kids all the time, but I never touch them. I hate vegetables, all vegetables, with the exception of corn, and french-cut green beans. I don't eat vegetables, ever. But today, I ATE A SALAD! Granted, it was a small salad, and the only veggies it contained were a couple of different types of lettuce, and a bit of spinach. But it was still a salad. I added mandarin oranges, almond slivers and some grilled chicken breast, and topped it with a very small bit of fat-free raspberry-walnut vinaigrette.

And it wasn't horrible. I didn't gag even once. It wasn't great, I mean, it was certainly no bacon cheeseburger, but it wasn't bad, and something I could probably eat on a fairly regular basis. I didn't care for the dressing though, but seeing as I've never eaten a salad before, I know nothing about dressings (except for the ranch dressing I dip my chicken wings in LOL) but I think I'll go with something a little less sweet next time.




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Matsumoto-jo

Last Sunday E and I headed to Matsumoto with some friends to visit the castle. The weather was perfect and we had a really great day. E was the only kid that went, and he was so good all day, even during the 5 hour drive (!) home.

We toured the castle and grounds, visited the museum and had lunch at a Chinese restaurant right outside the castle. The construction of Matsumoto Castle started in 1504! That's just so amazing to me.

Then we poked around town for awhile, bought some souvenirs, then headed home. It was a fun day and my first time traveling to western Japan.




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