Thursday, November 29, 2012

Baby Brother

  It seems harder to find time to do pretty much anything with a newborn.  That's why I'm only now blogging about our baby brother Ian.
  I was induced Friday September 28.  They started the pitocin at 7:30 and Ian was born at 12:48 pm with only about a half hour of intense pain - probably my best delivery yet.
  Things went so fast at the end that the dr and nurses weren't ready for him.  But I sure wasn't going to try to keep him in so they could get things set up.

  Here's the proud papi

  And the tired, yet happy mami

 Brad brought the girls over a couple hours later and we asked the nurses to come take a picture of our family.  Well, I guess this nurse thought after helping deliver the baby that she was now part of the family.

  She was a nice nurse so we couldn't turn her away.

  Here's our sweet baby boy. 8 lbs 12 oz, 20 in.

  His fingers are almost as long as Brad's "short" pinky.

  This was my first time delivering at a military hospital - adequate, but not the happy place the other hospitals were.  It may have been that because I was there over the weekend the food was not good at all (just reheated leftovers I think).  The nurses were just ok.  They discharged me after 24 hrs, but didn't leave me with any medication.  So, the next 24 hrs that I had to stay with the baby were a little hard (they won't release the baby before 48 hrs).  I was so ready to go home!

Taking Ian home from the hospital.  He has lots of hair, but no traces of red like his sisters.

  The girls LOVE their brother!

They're always wanting to hold him.

  When Ian was 10 days old he got a fever.  When it didn't go away, I took him to urgent care.  I thought they'd tell me to keep a cold rag on his head or something.  But no, a documented fever in a baby this young is an automatic 48 hrs in the hospital.  They had to do lots of tests on him to make sure he didn't have a serious bacterial infection.  Then they had to give him antibiotics thru an IV.  Our poor little guy was miserable.  But, I got a lot of cuddle time over the 2 1/2 days we were there.
  They had to wrap his whole arm up so he wouldn't pull the IV out (it took them over an hour to put it in)

  Luckily all the cultures came back negative.  The pediatrician's guess is that he got roseola, which is virus where you have a spike in temperature for 1-2 days and then a rash.  They said it's very rare for a newborn to get it, more common in 6-8 month olds.
  It was a little scary, but everything turned out well.  And again, we were excited to get out of there.  Although the food was WAY better this time (probably because we were there during the week).

  More pics with his sisters.

  A sister in the Spanish branch in Mt Home made Ian this sweater, but by the time I put it on him (at 6 wks) he was too big for it.
  This little kid can sure eat!

  And now he can smile.  It makes me happy!  This smile was at taken at 7 weeks.

  We finally got a passport photo that worked (at 7 wks).  We had to put him in a straight jacket to keep his hands out of his face. :)

  And here he is at 2 months.  I took him in today and he weighs 14 lbs 6 oz!  We sure do love our chubby buddy!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Grammy in Japan

My mom came to stay with us after Ian was born.  We loved having her here.  She was here for 3 full weeks.  I was scrolling thru the pics on my phone, and I realized that we did a ton with "Grammy" but we've documented/publicized none of it.  So, to remedy that unfortunate failure, I'll share some of the fun we had.

First, we took her to see Mt Fuji.  We drove down there her first weekend here.  She was still a bit jet-lagged, but she agreed to the trip.  We packed a lunch and drove down to Lake Motosuko, one of the famed Five Lakes of Fuji.  Lake Motosuko has the added distinction of being "the place where they took the picture of Mt Fuji for the 1000 yen bill."

So, naturally, we had to get our own pic from that very spot (I'd also like to get a picture with the guy on the front.  Great hair).  The clouds thinned just enough for Fuji-san to peek (or peak) over the top.  I like this picture.

On the same trip, we also visited a traditional japanese village named Iyashi no Sato.  One of the websites I saw on this village described it as a "mixture between an open air museum and a craft village."  The houses are ancient-styled houses that were destroyed during a typhoon in the 60s and have since been rebuilt.  Each house serves a different purpose.  There was a paper making house, an armor house, a pottery house, etc.  I also got this video at the aptly-named relaxing house.

The village also boasted of an amazing view of Mt Fuji, but what was just as impressive was the camera power brought by the Japanese tourists.  (I'm sorry, I had to take this picture.)

Oh and I couldn't pass up a pose with the mountain flowers.  Don't judge me.  You would've done the same.

Our next outing was to a local gyoza restaurant.  Gyoza are like pot-stickers, but the first time I compared  them to pot-stickers one of the attorneys from my office assured me gyoza are way better than pot-stickers.  He was right.

We heard about this place named Gyoza Ten-Go-Ku (Gyoza Heaven), affectionately referred to by the Amerikajins here as "Communist Gyoza."  The name derives from the famed Seinfeld episode about the soup nazi (it's only 7 and a half minutes, you owe it to yourself to click on that hyperlink), because of the rules involved when eating there.

We reviewed "the rules"with mom on our way there (hoping to avoid an international costanza incident).  The first two rules make sense from a business owner's perspective: 1) Everyone over 7 has to have their own order of gyoza, no share-sies.  2) Everyone over 7 has to order a drink.  These two rules guarantee the owner about 1000 yen ($12-13) for each patron over 7.   The third rule, however, doesn't make as much sense, but rules is rules: 3) After the initial order, you can order more drinks but no more food.  (You read that correctly).

The rules may be strange, but you can't argue with the results.  Here's one order:

Each gyoza is about the size of a fist, so there was really no problem with rule #3, because we were struggling just to finish what they brought us.  I took this picture after I'd polished off one of the gyoza.  So, yeah, five fist-sized gyoza was plenty.  I'm a huge fan of communist gyoza, so if you come visit us, you know we'll take you there.

A day or so later, we went with Grammy to an aquarium.  Grammy had "go to an aquarium" on the short list of things she wanted to do while here.  So, we obliged (that's what we do).  We also took the opportunity to get to know the train system here.  It turned out great.  The train system is pretty slick, once you get the maps figured out.
The aquarium had everything you'd want in an aquarium.  A dolphin show, a seal show, a shark tank, some electric eels (creepy and fascinating), jelly fish, a ginormous bronze whale tail (wait, wha?).

Here's Grammy posing with the shark.

I wish I could've gotten a video of this, because my mom was getting anxious about having the shark lurking behind her with "only" a sheet of glass between it and her.  She was cracking me up.  I took a bunch of pictures as he was moseying by, then I lied to my mom and told her that none of them turned out so I could see her get nervous again while I took more pictures when he came around the next time.  Was that wrong??

The aquarium was built on the edge of this impressive park near Tokyo Bay.  After we'd seen all the mer-things we could see, we walked around the park.  There was a running path with workout stations.  Cailin and Alexa had to try each work out station.  They got in a pretty good workout, but they weren't too tired to strike a pose (they never are).

Here Alexa's shouting "Go Aggies!" (We didn't bother to find out if the Japanese had any cultural/social issues with a 4-yr-old using public space to cheer for the best university in the state of Utah.  We went on the assumption that they'd appreciate and even encourage such behavior.)

The last thing I'll mention is our very abbreviated trip to see the Imperial Palace.  My mom had to get to the airport by 1pm on 1 Nov.  We swung by the Imperial Palace before sending her off.  Unfortunately, it took longer to get there than we anticipated so we didn't even have time to walk around the East Garden which is the only portion open to the public.  Here are a few of the pictures we captured.  It would be fun to go back and spend a day there.

If you know my mom, you'll know understand that this was the beginning of a very teary goodbye.

From the Imperial Palace we hustled back to the train station, bought a ticket, got some directions to the right track, and hustled down to get her on her way to catch her flight.  We thought about sending her the wrong way so that she could stay a few more days with us, but we did the right thing.  Actually, I did end up getting her a ticket to get off the train at the wrong terminal, but she figured out where to go and made her flight on time.  That was totally an accident.  Totally.

Thanks for coming, Grammy.  Y'all come back now, ya hear! And bring Papa.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Family Babymoon

Since Brad had 4 days off for Labor Day, we decided to take a little family vacation before the baby came. 

We drove a couple hours to a Navy base called Yokosuka.  It's only about 50 miles from here, but when there's a stoplight at every corner it takes a little while to get there.

We parked on the base and walked to a park where we caught a ferry that took us about 10 minutes offshore to a little island called Monkey Island.  Unfortunately, I don't think monkeys actually live there so we didn't get to see any.

It had a beach though (not a great one, but a beach nonetheless).  The girls loved swimming in the ocean!  It was the first time Alexa said she loved Japan and didn't want to go home except to visit. :)

There were lots of seashells to collect.

We had a fun day on the beach at Monkey Island.

We stayed overnight in a hotel close to the base.  The thing I'll remember most about it is that for breakfast, besides the normal western-style food, they had choices of green and pasta salads.  Do people really eat salad for breakfast?

We left Yokosuka and drove along the coast for about 45 min to get to Enoshima where we checked out the aquarium.

Our favorite parts were the dolphin shows

 and petting sharks.

My kids are way braver than I am.  I didn't put my hand in.

This dolphin show had singing, dancing girls.  Alexa and Cailin were mesmerized by it.  And again, I can't upload the video for some reason. 

Anyway, we had a great time on our little family get away.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Watermelon Juice

Brad: What's that?
Cailin: Um, watewmelon juice.
Brad: What does it taste like?
Cailin: Um, it taste like kiwi. (Pause)
Um, it taste like stwawbewwies.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Good Times

Sunday night, my friend brought me a bag of her favorite Japanese things.  In the bag we found this nylon game.  You can't really read it too well, but it says "A funny tags of war."

It's basically 2 knee high nylons sewn together.  I guess whoever pulls the nylon off the other's head wins.

We tried it for our FHE activity last night.

I couldn't get the video to upload, so here are some pictures.  They don't really do justice to the fun we had though.

It was awesome!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Mt Fuji, Mountain Fuji, or Fuji-san

I dedicate this post and this hike to my dad, who, in 1996, after leading me and a small group of scouts to the summit of Mt Borah (Idaho's highest peak), coined the following maxim:  "Life is uphill; Choose the right peak!"

Some folks in my office organized a trip to hike the formidable Mt Fuji (or as Lexi insists on calling it: "Mountain Fuji") last Saturday.  It was quite the trek and made for a long day.  Our itinerary had us leaving base at 3 am.  There were 16 of us in all; we traveled south from the base in 2 cars and a mini-van.  We parked around 4:20 at the very base of the mountain, then waited 45 for the first shuttle going up to the "5th Station."  This is where we started hiking.  Not sure why it's called the 5th Station, but there's probably a sensible explanation somewhere on the internet.  The 5th station has some restaurants and a few little shops where we got our souvenir hiking sticks (more on these later) and any other last minute items we thought we might need.  We finally started our hike around 6:20.

Here's a view of Fuji-san from the 5th Station:

 As you can see here, the hiking trail begins in the middle of a forest.  It's a very pretty area, but the green gives way to red and black volcanic rock after just a few hours of hiking.  Here's a picture looking down the mountain from about the tree line.

Along the way there were several places where you can rest, buy more water (if you're willing to mortgage your house for it), use the restroom, and buy a stamp for your hiking stick.

Let's talk about these stamps.  Almost every rest stop had a brand, some electric, others heated by flame, that they would burn into your walking stick.  Each stamp cost about 200 yen each.  100 yen coins are about the size of a quarter, so it feels like you're only coughing up 50 cents per stamp.  But, when you do a little math in your head, you realize that 200 yen is actually closer to $3.  But even when you know it's $3 per stamp, it still only two coins, so you keep buying the stamps.  (I've said a couple times since we got here "I know the value of a dollar, but not the value of 78 yen.")  The stick was about $12, and there were about 14-15 stamps, so this turned into about a $50 souvenir by the time I got to the top.  The stamp merchants kept a straight face while we were there, but I'm pretty sure they laughed all the way to the bank after we left.  Looking on the bright side, now I can prove I walked all the way to the top.  No one can claim I was dropped on top by a helicopter.  No holes in that story.  It's air tight.

The hike was a good physical and mental challenge for me.  On the way up, you can't really see the summit, so you never have a really good idea of how far you are from the top.  That's what made it a mental challenge.  I never felt physically overwhelmed, but it was difficult.  Took me and a couple of my co-workers about 5 1/2 hours to get to the summit.  We had beautiful weather on our way up, but after being on top for a couple hours it started raining.  I guess that's Fuji's way of saying we overstayed our welcome.  This pic is of the torii gate at the summit.

We ended up waiting four hours at the top hoping to get a photo op with all of us from the office.  Around 4 pm there were still five of our coworkers who hadn't made it up.  We started thinking if we didn't descend soon, we'd be doing so in the dark.  We hadn't come prepared for night hiking, So down we went in the rain around 4 pm.  A few of us got down in about 2 hours 15 mins and were off the mountain by around 6:15 pm.  As with the way up, others took more time than we did.  The others ended up finishing in the dark, and we were on our way home around 9:15.

We got home, exhausted, around 10:45.  By the time I kicked off my dirty hiking boots, I'd been up for nearly 21 hrs, and I'd been wet for nearly 8 hours.  It was a great day, but it felt great to be home.

Fuji-san's hiking season is limited to the months of July and August.  I guess before and after that you can't hike to the top because of the snow.  So, plan your trip accordingly if you want to hike Mountain Fuji.  Visitors definitely welcome.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Cailin's Ages

Since we've been over here, we've felt a lot more desire to blog.  While in Mtn Home, it felt like we were in close enough contact with everyone that blogging about our activities and experiences was redundant.  Now, however, this feels like the most natural way to share the share-worthy experiences.  Here's one involving Cailin that's moderate-to-high on the shareworthometer.

The stage: It's dinner-time, and Cassi had just left for an activity at the church.  I was asking the girls what they had done that day.  Alexa was telling me about a new friend (a boy) she had played with, and Cailin was eager to point out that Lexa's friend had a little sister Cailin's age.  Cailin struggled, but kept at it.

So here's Cailin (make sure to pronounce the "r"s like "w"s):

She four like me.  Um.  She two like me. (pause)
I four (holding up one-and-a-half-almost-two, fingers).  Um.  I two (getting two fingers all the way up).  (pause)
Just like her is four.  Um.  Just like her is two.

Here's my take:  It was so funny.  She struggled to assign the right age to her new friend, then herself, then to her new friend again.  She obviously was oblivious to how comical it was, so I had to mask my chuckling to avoid drawing her attention to it.  I went to the kitchen real quick so she wouldn't see me laughing and to find something write it down with.  Little kids are funniest when they don't know their being funny.  And Cailin is sensitive enough that my laughing may have hurt her feelings.

That leads me to point two of my take: This 15-second snippet tells you a lot about Cailin.  Cailin's stubborn and determined.  I wouldn't call her a perfectionist at this point, but she has a healthy desire to do things right.

Take one, point three:   She's observant.  She pays attention to what's happening around her and picks up on even subtle things.  Saying the wrong age of herself and her friend isn't exactly subtle, but I think it shows she was definitely paying attention to what was falling from her lips.  Sometimes I'll try to slip in incorrect or inaccurate details just to see her reaction.  Like saying "I love bananas," when we're eating cooked carrots.  She picks up on it instantly, even if it didn't look like she was paying attention.  Sometimes it's unintentional and she still gets it.  Like the other day I said "time for lunch" when it was time for dinner.  Cailin immediately says "Noooooooo, not luuuuunch!"

So, there's a little more for you to know about this sensitive, stubborn, determined, and observant two year-old.

Sunday, August 12, 2012


I made a new friend named Brooke.  She has 2 little girls and is due with her 3rd just after I am.  She's been great to invite me to a couple different swimming pools off base with her.  And best of all, she drives so I don't have to!
Last week we went to Showa Park, which is a huge park that has a big water park inside it.  The normal price to get in the water park is $28(2200 yen), but if you're pregnant it's only $6.50(500 yen).  Ok, that's a pretty good discount.  
We got to ride a shuttle from the park gate to the swimming pool.  Cailin LOVES buses because she doesn't have to sit in her car seat.

We started at the splash pad.  There were about 5 different kiddie pools with slides and everything!  The girls were in heaven.

I got reprimanded for taking these pictures while standing in 2 inches of water, so it deterred me from taking more of the rest of the pools.

We had a blast!  I think we'll need to go a lot more within the next 7 weeks.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Lost in Tokyo (but not in Translation)


We ventured out into Tokyo this past weekend.  We thought about taking the train, but the train’s for the unadventurous.  And we are not unadventurous.  We are the opposite of unadventurous, whatever that is.   So, we drove.  We wanted to keep it simple, so we decided we’d drive to see the Tokyo Temple, walk around a little bit, get some food, and come home.  Simple, but not unadventurous.

We had written directions to get to the temple, and we borrowed our neighbors’ GPS that we planned on using to get home.  Also, you should know we had the Japanese GPS that came with our van and a map of the Tokyo metropolitan area.  (That’s called ‘foreshadowing.’  Learned that from my 8th grade English teacher, Mrs. Klein.)  

So we went.  Left our house about 10:55 Saturday morning.  We took Route 16 south to the Chuo Expressway.  Chuo to the Shuto Expressway.  Pretty easy actually getting to downtown Tokyo.  Once downtown, we missed two of the streets we were supposed to take, so we had to turn around twice to get to the temple.  But other than that it was smooth sailing to get to point B.  (U-turns are prohibited, so in order to actually turn around you’ve got to go to the next street and hope it can lead you back to street you were on.) 

Driving was very exciting for me.  We’re driving on the “other side of the road” over here, so part of the reason we decided to not be unadventurous is because I wanted to try my hand at driving in the big city.  The driving went well, except for a minor hiccup when the traffic light turned yellow and, being a bit overly cautious, I stopped instead of motoring on thru.  I stopped before getting to the intersection, but we ended up right on top of the crosswalk.  I started praying that no one would need to cross.  At first the coast was clear, but after about 30 seconds an elderly Edokko (Tokyoan) came strolling up.  I mouthed the word sumimasen (excuse me), but all I got back was the stink eye.  A very intimidating stink eye. (And in case you’re wondering, the stink eye don’t need translation.  Message received.)  As he was passing in front of our car, very visibly annoyed, he exaggeratedly leaned over to get our license plate number.  He kind of made a motion like he was going to write down the number, but then must have realized that we could probably see that he had nothing to write on or with, and went disgruntledly on his way.  I was glad to have him gone.

We eventually made it to the temple.  We parked and walked around the temple for a bit.  

The temple takes up about a 3rd of the city block where it sits and shares the block with an LDS church and the parking lot for both.  Across the street from the temple is a beautiful park area.  The girls were more impressed with the park.  The park had ducks, and fish, and turtles.  

Oh, and bridges.  Apparently there was a library somewhere back on the other side of the park (a “famous” library, is what Sachi told us), but who needs books when you’ve got turtles and bridges.

After the park, we went searching for some food.  We resisted the urge to take the first restaurant we came to: Salsa Mexican Kitchen (true story).  We kept going down the street, but found ourselves intimidated by the kanji on all the shops.  We found one that had some tasty looking pictures, so I went in and asked the server if he had an eigo (English) menu.  I got the “hold on” finger (again, no translation needed), and instead of coming back with an English menu, he sent back a server who spoke pretty good English.  Even better. 

We learned that we had actually chosen a Korean restaurant. We selected a plate with “much vegetables and pork,' and a plate with spicy pork and kim chi. The food was brought out in scorching hot stone bowls (called dolsot) that we learned actually cook the food while it’s on your table.  It was great cuz our food was warm or hot the whole meal.  It was really good.

After lunch, we went back to our van and started for home.  We fired up our English GPS with high hopes that we’d be guided easily home.  We were skeptical of the English GPS from the get-go when it pointed to the opposite direction that we had come from.  Cassi even voiced the nutso idea that we should just retrace the path we had come.  I should have listened to her, but I thought the GPS had our back.  So, we went with the GPS, went a few miles, and then lost confidence in the GPS.  I turned around on a narrow street that turned out to be one-way street.  We almost got to the intersection, but then a taxi turned and started coming toward us.  He wouldn’t budge, just kept wagging his index finger until I got the message that I was going the wrong way (finger wag, got it).  So we had to back up until we could back into an alley way.  We went back to the GPS.  This time, we selected “home” hoping that would take us to our neighbors’ “home”, and we liked our chances of getting to our home from there. 

So, even though it felt like the GPS was taking us the wrong way, we kept at it.  I, like Kip, love technology, so I trusted technology to get us home.  But, when we found ourselves overlooking the majestic Tokyo Bay, we started to wonder if our neighbors’ “home” was a boathouse in the Pacific.  So we pulled the plug on English GPS. 

I had a hair-brained idea.  I plugged in our Japanese GPS (JGPS). There was an icon with a house on it, so I figured there was a chance that the owners who installed the Japanese GPS might have resided near Yokota Air Base.  We couldn’t understand the vocal commands the JGPS was spitting out, but the on-screen arrows were easy to follow.  We started going back toward where we had come from, so we gained confidence.  We got back to downtown, but then the JGPS took us past a turn off for the Chuo Expressway.  Remember, I love technology, so I wasn’t going to give up on JGPS just yet.  It was, after all, taking us away from the Pacific, so it was doing something right.  But as we got farther down the road, I started getting uneasy.  We were in kind of a traffic jam, so I had time to consult the map (remember the map we brought??).  And wouldn’t Rand and McNally be proud that it was the map that helped us get back on track.  The map disclosed that JGPS was taking us more south than we wanted to go.  The map also disclosed how to get back to Chuo Expressway.  So we turned around again, trusting the map and it turned out to be the right choice.  Within about twenty minutes we found the Chuo, which very predictably took us to Route 16, which brought us home.  And we were ready to be home.