Thursday, December 27, 2012

Our merry little Japanese Christmas

KFC and a Christmas cake

On the 23rd we needed to make a quick trip to Nitori.  Driving home I spotted a bakery (Petits Fours on the 85 near Makeman) that had a bunch of Christmas cakes on display.  We decided to go all out with our Christmas in Japan and pick up some KFC.  The cake took a bit of toddler damage but it was still delicious.

Definitely a fun way to celebrate!

Sanders Claus

Friday, December 21, 2012

Christmas Okinawan style

Isaac celebrating island style

Although I took these pics on our weird beach trip, the weather's been amazing!  Last weekend the highs were in the 70s.  We even got a little sun burn at the Christmas party!

Sharing Christmas cheer with our Okinawan friends

Monday, December 10, 2012

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Little differences: Power lines

Power lines in Japan are mostly above ground.  I've heard this is because of earthquake damage (easier to see where the break is rather than digging cables up) but others say that creates the problem of fallen poles and wires blocking roads after a disaster.  I've also heard overhead is cheaper than buried lines.  Either way, definitely makes for a different view.

Friday, November 30, 2012


Jenn from Maybe If You Just Relax totally nailed NaBloMoPo for me!  The exciting parts of my Friday was buying holiday soap at the commissary and taking the boys to their check ups.

(Although to be fair, these soaps smell ah-mazing!  I want to eat my hands after using the gingerbread one.)

(And bonus points to Hubby for noticing the new soaps when he got home from work.)

The boys are doing great.  They're a little on the chubby side (especially Owen who's 91st percentile for weight and only 15th for height) so we'll be cutting back on the juice and milk.  But they're cruising through their milestones and are perfectly healthy little troublemakers.

Isaac carb-loading for a long day of ornament snatching

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Christmas tree!


We put the tree up on Black Friday (for my non-American readers, Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving when Americans supposedly go apeshit over shopping for Christmas gifts - lining up for sales that start at midnight, pulling guns on people who cut in line, punching grandmothers in the face for the last Wii, whatevers).  Although I miss going out and cutting our own tree down, having it ready to go in a box has it's advantages too.

Note how there isn't decorations on the lower 3 feet of the tree and the topper is askew.  The boys haven't stopped "helping" with the decorations long enough for me to take a picture.  And they knocked the tree completely over today. At least it's plastic, all the ornaments are plastic, and no shoji screens were damaged in the process.

I'll try to get better pics when I finally get around to putting up the removed ornaments (so, maybe Christmas Eve?? Also, NaBloPoMo should really be in a month like April when there ain't jack going on.)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Our genkan

Welcome to our house!

Looking into our genkan

We have a Japanese style home, so the first room after the front door is called the genkan (玄関).  The genkan is an entryway where the transition from the unclean outside to the clean inside takes place.  Shoes are removed before entering the rest of the home and there's also a place for umbrellas, bags and jackets.  (I'm always surprised at how fast and elegantly Japanese people can remove their shoes!  Even people like the movers or handy men just seem to pop right out of their work shoes and right into the house.)

Getting used to taking shoes off at the front door was a little strange at first.  But after seeing how much cleaner our floors are, I'm definitely a fan of leaving our shoes and dirt in the genkan.  Now wearing shoes inside seems as weird as wearing them in bed.

Our 下駄箱 (getabako - shoe closet)
We aren't super strict about the genkan.  If a guest feels more comfortable wearing shoes, that's cool.  We don't usually wear slippers or socks in the house either (I can barely get my 3 year old to keep his pants on, I'm not going to fight him over socks).  And sometimes I'll cheat (there's no way I'm going to try putting my high heels on after getting into Spanx, bustier, and ball gown!)  But we generally try to stick with the tradition as much as possible and never allow shoes or slippers in the tatami room.

Definitely another part of Japanese life that I'll miss when we have to move.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Shaking off the turkey coma

We had a great holiday celebrating with friends!

Last year I made everything by hand, which was very stressful and frustrating (I was able to find a turkey small enough to fit in my tiny oven and our friends brought over a larger bird).  So this year to avoid all the fuss we ordered the small ham package from Tengan Castle.  The ham was good, but the side dishes (yams, stuffing, potatoes, ect) were disappointing.  Very bland.  For Christmas, I'll probably pick up a ham and turkey then make the side dishes and desserts at home.

This year we also had an early dinner at a friend's house and went to a dinner buffet at Camp Foster's Ocean Breeze club.  Although we had to wait about 20 minutes for a table and then stand in a long line for food, we'd definitely go back.  I was surprised how good everything was!  The glazed carrots, herb stuffing and turkey were delicious.

Best of all, I still managed to lose a pound this week (only 7 more until I work off my summer vacation indulgences). Ug.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Beautiful day at the beach

More pictures from our weird but beautiful day at the beach...

The boys playing by a "cave"
Hermit crab tracks

Loving the gorgeous weather!  Although I miss snow and going skiing, getting a tan in November is pretty awesome too.

Weird day at the beach

Not to sound like Cloverfield viral marketing, but there was some odd stuff at the beach today.

Started off just like any other trip to down to the beach.  Owen said there was a boat when we were parking. I thought he was referring to some of the small fishing boats out on the horizon we usually see.  But when I got out of the car I looked towards the ocean and woah! giant boat!!

We made our way down to the beach and this is what was waiting for us in the surf:

I'm thinking octopus or squid.  Could be a kraken or montauk monster or whatever the heck this thing is, though.  Pretty sure it was dead but I didn't get close enough to find out.

As the boys were playing, I noticed a vertebrae in the sand.  And then I found another, and then some sort of beak, and maybe a pelvis??

Vertebrae and beak?

Hmmmm, let's see.  First we see a boat off the coast when I haven't seen one before (maybe boats this size are out there all the time and we just happened to miss them).  Then the thing in the water (again, maybe sea animals of that size wash up all the time and we've just haven't seen it before).  And then bleached bones (maybe someone just ordered Chili's baby back ribs and had a lovely picnic on the beach).  That could all be simply one big coincident.  Or maybe all that Daiichi radiation caused a mutated creature with a taste for human flesh, the boat woke it up and it's lurking below the ocean surface preparing to attack.

If we do become monster fodder, I promise to film the entire ordeal (while shaking the camera as much as possible, of course).

Monday, November 19, 2012

Week 2: Remind me why am I doing this?

Sunday's long run was no bueno.  I was dehydrated (maybe finishing that bottle of wine Saturday night was a bad idea), I foolishly started my run at noon, and the last mile was a sweaty, profanity-laced slog.

But, as Chris so helpfully pointed out, it was only 4 miles not 10 or 16 or 20, the kids weren't screaming, I wasn't attacked by hornets, my legs weren't numb with pain, it wasn't snowing, it wasn't 100 degrees and 100% humidity, no screaming shins or angry ITBs, I didn't throw up or poop my pants, no bloody blisters, no chaffed ass crack, and not even close to an epically awful bonk.

So cheer up - it can always get worse!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Go Ducks!

The Ducks lost (I honestly thought it would be the Beavers to bring them down this year), but haters always gotta hate.

This is the Oregon "O":

This is vagina in ASL:


So yeah, I guess if you're making the "O" upside down, in a diamond instead of circle, with only your thumbs and index fingers instead of your whole hands, then yes - we are totally signing vagina!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Celebrating Shichi-go-san

Futenma Shrine

Imagine wanting to put up a Christmas tree and attend a holiday mass but you've never celebrated Christmas before, know basically nothing about Christianity, have a less-than-conversational level of English, and no native friends.  That's basically how I felt about Shichi-san-go (七三五, celebrating when children turn 3, 5 and 7 years old).

So why do it? I've been interested in Japanese language and culture since I was in grade school - the mix of cutting edge technology and ancient traditions is completely fascinating.  Plus, I feel like there isn't as much dressing up and celebrating with boys as there is with girls.  It seems like stores are overflowing with clothes and shoes for girls and the boys section is relegated to a small corner. Generally, girls get to go overboard with prom, sweet 16 parties, and their wedding day while boys are pointed in the direction of the closest tux rental and told to not wear sneakers.  Every year for Birthday Ball I pick out a dress and shoes and hair and makeup and jewelry, and all Chris has to do is get the same hair cut he always gets and dust off his dress blues.  So I try to take every opportunity to dress the boys up or celebrate their special moments, like flying koi for Boy's Day.

To get Owen dressed, I first had to find where to buy a kimono and get all the pieces he'd need (if anyone is curious, this website breaks down all the pieces to a Japanese man's formal attire). Then I needed to watch this video and read two websites (this one in English and this one in Japanese) before I finally got the obi (wide sash) and hakama (pants) tied properly (I think).  (One major thing that was messing me up was not using a himo (a thin sash) to hold the kimono in place before putting the obi on.  I only have my yukata's himo, so I used the white sash from my robe instead of putting the boy in something girly.  But seeing him dressed like a little samurai was definitely worth it!

As I was getting him dressed this morning, I told Owen he was wearing fancy clothes to celebrate that he's a big boy now (Dad fed him lunch and kept him entertained with Sesame Street while I fussed with the kimono).  Maybe when he turns 5 he'll understand more about Japanese culture or at least get excited to dress up.

We decided the best thing to do was get Owen into just his kimono for the car ride.  Then I put on his hakama and haori (jacket) when we arrived at the shrine.  Not sure if that was the most couth thing to do but I didn't see another way of getting him in his car seat without messing up his pants.  (The hakama is almost like a long skirt with very specific pleats and the buckle of his car seat needs to go between his legs.)

Owen being silly in the car
At the Futenma shrine, the blessing ceremony appeared to take place several times during the day.  We arrived around 1pm when one blessing was ending and not too long afterwards another one started.  There was a small room to the left of the shrine where we were told we would need to fill out some sort of form and donate 3000 yen to be allowed into the ceremony.  Chris decided to pass.  Unfortunately for Owen, the packages of chitose ama (longevity candies) were only handed out at the end of the ceremony and he left without his treat.

The rain put a damper on pictures.  I also feel weird taking pictures of other people's kids without asking.  So even though the little girls in kimonos and kanzashi (hair ornaments) were beyond adorable, I didn't want to intrude on another family's moment.  Owen was having trouble walking in his sandals and needed to be carried around.  After a few pictures we decided to take the boys home.

I had fun experiencing another aspect of Japanese culture and Owen has another special memory of growing up in Okinawa ^_^

Friday, November 16, 2012

Getting ready

Well, I'm still trying to get the obi tied properly.  (My toddler is no where near as patient as this kid.)

Pretty sure the previous owner folded the hakama wrong, making the top pleat go in the wrong direction.

Owen refuses to wear his tabi/zori.

Have no idea how I'm going to get a toddler wearing hakama into a 5 point seat belt.*

And I'm not even sure if there's festivities at Futenma tomorrow.

But we'll head down to the shrine in the morning and hope for the best.  If nothing else, I'll play the 馬鹿外人 (stupid foreigner) card and take pictures like a tourist ;)

* Japanese laws do not require any type of child restraints  So I'm sure the Okinawan families just hold their kimono'ed child in their lap or, at best, put them in a regular seat belt.  But #1, that's not legal for us (SOFA status are held to the same car seat requirements as the rest of America) and #2, it's not worth the risk.  I'd rather deal with a wrinkled kimono than Owen getting hurt in an accident.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Week 1: Back in the saddle

Well, I thought that the Nago half and Oki 10k were in March.

Ha ha, nope.

They're in February.  That basically means I need to start the half marathon plan now and hope for the best (I'm buying myself a little wiggle room by making my longest run 10 miles and using the extra few weeks to build up to the base).  Yeah, I'll probably end up injured.  What can I say, shit happens when you party naked.

Week 1 was fairly successful.  I took election "night" off to drink (the results came in just after 1pm here) and needed to continue the next day.  I'll let y'all guess if I was drinking because my country is effed in the a or if I was partying like the Bush years never happened.

Anyways, one week and 6 miles down.  Gotta start somewhere, right?

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Forward thinking

Christmas and holiday decorations aren't the only thing I'm shopping for early.  I've already ordered my gowns for next year's Birthday Ball.

I know buying this early seems a bit excessive, but I don't want to be stuck wearing that same effing dress for four balls in a row!  (I know some wives think that since the Marine wears the same outfit every year they should be able to too, but I get bored with the same thing over and over again.) Ordering early will give me plenty of time to get them fitted and altered.  And they're on clearance, so $50 for a dress that is normally $150 ain't too shabby.

I'll probably wear the more formal first dress to the Division's ball and the more fun second dress to the unit's ball.

Dress #1

Dress #2

If they don't fit or don't look good on me, I'll sell them.  (I meant to sell 3 of my old dresses this year but I spaced off putting ad on Oki Yard Sales.)

Although I had a request to rock my Leia buns at the ball, I'm thinking of trying to do something simple on my own.  I'm terrible at applying make up and doing my own hair.  Last year I had to practice over and over again for a few weeks to finally get the hang of liquid liner.  I'll probably just straighten my hair and wear it down with the second dress.  Then maybe try something like this braided up do for the first dress.

Now I just need to find a purse big enough to sneak my flask in....

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Christmas time is almost here

New decorations!

Seems wrong to already be thinking about Christmas shopping.  I just took down the Halloween stuff a week ago and haven't even hung up some Thanksgiving decor.

Usually I'm the person complaining about stores putting out Halloween supplies in August and Christmas stuff before the end of October.  But last year we waited until the proper time in December to buy new holiday decorations and they were already sold out.  I learned my lesson that if you see something you want, you'd better buy it!

Last year we also bought a fake, pre-lit, white and iridescent tree because I didn't think we could get the real thing here.  And the only unbreakable, toddler-proof ornaments we had were glitter-covered white and silver.  White and sparkly on top of white and sparkly basically made the tree look like Edward Cullen.  By the time I realized how pathetic our tree looked, there was nothing left on base on change up the look.

So this year when ornaments hit the shelf in October, I bought!!

We're doing traditional green and red for the first time (we usually have a silver and blue theme).  I kept the price tag as low as possible with one big-ass tub of plastic bobbles and I'm hoping to find some cheap stockings and garland for the rest of the house.  I'll probably end up ordering those decorations from Target.

Speaking of shopping online, I'll also be ordering all the gifts after payday on the 15th.  I don't want to wait too long and not have the presents delivered in time.  I've heard the generally rule is to have everything in the mail by December 1st.

Can't wait to see the new ornaments hung up!  Having a fake tree just sitting in a closet and the Christmas channel on Pandora radio makes decorating early very tempting.

Thursday, November 8, 2012


Watching Dinosaur Train

Owen has entered into the dinosaur stage.  He loves the PBS show Dinosaur Train and constantly begs to watch it.

At first I thought he was just zoning out while watching the tv.  Then one day he surprised me by knowing the name of the Cretaceous Period.  Now he can name about 10 types of dinosaurs and what they eat.  I'm not sure how smart the average 3 year old is, but that certainly impresses me!  I know some adults that don't even know what a herbivore is.

One of the cutest parts of his dino obession: he pronounces brachiosaurus like "broccoli-osaurus".  Cracks me up every time!

Really missing Virginia and the Smithsonian right now.  I wish we could just drive up to DC and show him the real deal at the Natural History Museum.  We've looked at some pictures together but it's just not the same.  

18 month old Owen is not impressed

Already have a new board started on Pinterest for a dino-rific 4th birthday party.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Birthday Ball 2012

Last night we went to the Birthday Ball.

I just wasn't really into it this year.  First, the dress I ordered from Target had a wonky zipper and I waited too late for alterations.  So I sent it back and I wore last year's gown.  Guess I'm really getting my money's worth out of it  lol  I didn't have a plan for my hair (I've found the hair dressers at Kadena's BX ignore your picture/request and do whatever they want to do anyway, so no point in picking out something specific).  Next year I really need to do my own hair.  If it's going to look disappointing, might as well save myself $50.

Then the day of the ball, Chris was running late and ended up forgetting his shoes at his office on Camp Schwab.  That meant we had to drive from Camp Courtney to Schwab then back down to the ball at Hansen, about an hour and a half of just driving.  And we arrived about 40 minutes into the cocktail hour, not enough time to relax, socialize and get some drinks before the ceremony began.  I felt rushed and never settled into a party attitude.

But one thing I was really excited about: new shoes!

They were so much fun to wear!

And when we got home after the ball, both the boys were already asleep!  Much better than last year when the sitter had to call us because Isaac wouldn't stop screaming (he's still got some separation anxiety but nothing like back then).

So happy birthday, Marine Corps.  And here's looking to next year's ball!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

No more years!

We've finally done it!  Isaac is finally weaned!!

I have spent the last four years pregnant and/or breastfeeding - and it feels so good to have my body back!

Well, kinda have my body back.  Still no where near my pre-preg fitness (won't be running a marathon or finishing a triathlon anytime soon).  I still have plenty of "baby weight" (although since Isaac is over 16 months old, I'm pretty sure the time limit on using pregnancy as an excuse has expired and it's just plain old lazy people fat now).  And I'm still trying to get my head out of this funk (not sure what's going on with me, but the last month or so has been especially tough).

But at least I'm no longer a milk machine!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Chinese fire drill?

Nope, Japanese earthquake drill!

Students during an emergency drill

The entire city of Uruma is connected via loudspeakers, which is a common practice across Japan.

Daily, the loudspeakers ring out with chimes at 7am, noon, and 6pm.  There's also a woman who makes an evening announcement at 5:30pm.  I can't completely understand what she's saying (all announcements are in distal-style Japanese), but I believe the general gist is "Everyone, thank you for your hard work today, it's time to go home".  I'll have to record it one of these days.  I don't mind too much and I know a lot of other cities play entire songs for their residences, so definitely could be worse than just a few musical notes and a recorded speech we hear everyday.

The loudspeaker also announces special neighborhood events, like voting and festivals, and is used after emergencies, like major earthquakes, tsunami warnings, and typhoon information.  This morning we woke up to the neighborhood announcement of an emergency drill for the local schools.  (And yes, the loudspeaker literally woke us up around 8am.)

I wonder if America were to adopt this loudspeaker system, what would it sound like?  What songs would we play?  Interesting to think about how different our communities are sometimes.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Date night at Goen

Last night, Chris and I were able to get away for a date night.  We went to Goen (五苑) for all-you-can-eat yakiniku (they also have an all-you-can-drink for an hour - the chu hi cocktails are so good!)  

Although we love yakiniku (grilled meat), the kids and a fire pit in the middle of the table aren't a great combination.  Definitely much more enjoyable with just the two of us.

Now that we've found a couple of good babysitters, hopefully we can start getting back into having a routine date night.  So excited!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Dropping out of Shouhashi

Although registered for the Shouhashi Half Marathon, I just wasn't ready for it.  I basically stopped running and training after Hood to Coast.

Oh well.  There's always next year, I guess*.  I've signed up the 10k at the Okinawa Marathon and the Nago Half Marathon next spring.

Starting Couch to 5k this week.  Again.  Ug.

* Updated: Completed the 2013 half

Friday, November 2, 2012

Spooky decorations

As I said last post, we're pinching pennies to help rebuild our savings (although space a helped make the trip home affordable, it still took a good chunk out of bank account).  To help get the house into a festive mood, I made a couple of projects I found around the web.

First up, Martha Stewart's witch's curtain:

Decorations in the living room
I bought a box of black garbage bags then cut them up and stretched them out while watching TV on night.  I had so many from just the one box that we hung the curtains up around our living room.  Fun and totally cheap!

Another garbage bag craft is How About Orange's spider webs.  Although I didn't get around to it this year, definitely something to keep in mind for next Halloween.

We also skipped carving pumpkins this year.   Instead I snagged a couple of plastic jack-o-lanterns at the BX.  The real pumpkins quickly went bad last year, no one can really see our porch, and the boys don't know they're missing out on anything.

I moved an Ikea light from Owen's room into the living room and used some old purple party lights to add the final touches.  And voila!  An entire room decorated for under $20


Thursday, November 1, 2012

Halloween happenings

Because I wasn't sure which package was going to arrive in time for Halloween (and the selection at the stores on base was extremely limited), the boys ended up with three costumes.  I made sure the boys got out and had fun in each one.

Costumes round 1

The first set were from Grandma Linda.  She bought the boys Oshkosh overalls this summer.  Owen's overalls matched his hat from Busch Gardens perfectly, so the boys became Thomas and a conductor.  The boys had a great time at Camp Courtney's Spooky Storytime.  They especially loved the craft at the end.

Owen coloring a spider at the base library's Spooky Storytime

Those outfits were in a box I shipped home from Oregon instead of fighting with extra luggage.  I had my mom mail it after we left and I wasn't sure when the costumes were going to arrive in Oki.  So I also ordered...

Costumes round 2
Owen a cheap skeleton costume from Target.  Almost every shipment from Target gets here in two weeks or less and we already had a monster t-shirt and silly pj bottoms for Isaac, so these were my back up outfits.

We took the boys out to Kadena's Fall Fest the Saturday before Halloween.  Sorry to say we didn't have a good time and will definitely skip this event next year.

Trunk-or-Treat at the Fall Fest
But we still had the main event to look forward to: Trick or treating!  Owen understands the tradition now (even if he is too shy to actually say "trick or treat" most of the time).  And I was really excited for my top costume pick:

Although we originally agreed to cut out all unnecessary spending to build our savings back up, when I saw the baby Ewok outfit online I couldn't help myself!  I didn't want to wait until next year because Isaac is that perfect age with his chubby little cheeks and roly-poly tummy that begs to be an Ewok.  I already had a white dress to be Leia (plus some sock buns courtesy of Pinterest).  And Chris said that if we cut his hair at home for a few weeks, we'd save enough to offset the boys costumes.  I worried that the company wouldn't fulfill the order in time for Halloween, but all the costumes arrived with plenty of time to spare and everything fit!

The night of Halloween, we took the boys to McT to Trick-or-treat.  The weather was a little drizzly causing a lot of people to stay home.  Nothing like the crowds last year!  By the end I was carrying Owen's candy, hat, gloves and light saber and Chris was carrying a sleeping Isaac, but we had a lot of fun and I'm glad everything worked out so well.

And that's how we ended up with a triple Halloween treat!  (I just hope the boys don't expect three costumes every year!)

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Jiminy Crickets!

Just in time for Halloween, another creepy crawly!  This "little" guy started serenading me about 1am:

Some sort of cricket, maybe?  Definitely not a cicada and seemed too noisy to be just a grasshopper.

For some reference on the size:

My hand vs Superbug
Sometimes I can't wait to move out of the tropics.