Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Merry Christmas 2010

Hello to our wonderful family and friends!
We’re finishing up our second year here in Misawa and are having a blast! We started 2010 by sending John off to a 5-month deployment in Qatar. Angela and Annelise went back to the States for February and March to see family, they spent time in both Texas and Indiana, and they were even able to meet up with John in San Angelo for a week! The Air Force sent him there for a little while to help rewrite an Intelligence course, so Angela and Annelise picked him up from the DFW airport and extended their trip to spend some time with him. It was a nice break for all of us in the middle of the deployment.
Not long after John got home, we all left Japan on another trip. John went to Las Vegas for work and then met Angela and Annelise in Ennis for a wedding. Angela’s baby sister got married and all three of us were in the wedding, Annelise was an adorable flower girl! We took a quick trip up to Oklahoma City for an air show on Father’s Day and got to see some of our friends fly with the Thunderbirds. While we were in Texas, we also made a day trip down to College Station so we could show Annelise around and buy her some new Aggie clothes. We had a lot of fun in Indiana this summer, too, we took Annelise to see the wolves and she learned to howl and then we took her to two different zoos! She also went to her first water park and we introduced her to the wonderful world of Barbie at the Indianapolis Children’s Museum.
The best part of our trips was seeing Annelise interact with her cousins. Annelise had a great time with Angela’s little cousins in Texas, she followed Carleigh and Carsyn around like a puppy, and she loved having older cousins in Indiana to play with. John’s cousin Claire even pulled Annelise in a wagon in a Fourth of July parade! We are so blessed to be able to spend time with our families and to see them on Skype.
In July, John and Angela tried to climb Mount Fuji while Annelise stayed in Misawa with her Auntie Kim and Uncle Ron. Due to bad weather, we didn’t end up climbing the mountain, but we enjoyed the time together and are going to try again next year. John spent August in Alaska and Guam on work trips and then got home just in time for the Air Force Ball and a great air show. Annelise loves airplanes and John was so proud the first time she said ‘airplane’ back in July.
In October, we made a short trip to South Korea for some shopping while John was there for work, and we also helped out with the annual Far East Bazaar that the Officers’ Spouses’ Club puts on. John missed Halloween because he was on his way to Alabama, but Annelise and Angela braved the wind and rain to Trick or Treat on base. Annelise was an adorable cat, and had fun as long as we were inside. She was not a fan of the scary costumes, especially a little boy dressed as a wolf.
John spent November and part of December in Alabama for Squadron Officer School and will have just gotten home as we mail this out. He had to miss Annelise’s birthday, but was able to visit his family in Indiana for Thanksgiving and Angela’s family in Texas for a weekend. Angela and Annelise went back to swim lessons at the base pool in October and November and spent Thanksgiving with friends. Annelise had a wonderful second birthday on the day after Thanksgiving and is growing more every day.
Annelise has grown and changed so much over the last year. She’s still very friendly, but has become a little more shy lately. Her vocabulary grows every day and we have to watch what we say around her. She loves to watch Dora the Explorer, Go Diego Go and Handy Manny. Cookie Monster is still her favorite toy, but I think she’d give it all up to be able to play on the playground every day.
Our plans for the next year are to explore Japan as much as possible (and hopefully South Korea) and then make a trip back to the States at the end of the summer to meet our new nieces/nephews. Both of Angela’s sisters are pregnant and we are really looking forward to having new babies to spoil. We hope this letter finds you all in happiness and good health and we miss you very much!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
John, Angela and Annelise

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Playing Catch-Up

Sorry it's been so long since I last posted, we 've been staying busy! John went to Alaska and Guam in August, he got to see some of our friends from Clovis while he was in Guam and was able to see Mt Denali while he was in Alaska.

While John was travelling, Annelise and I went to the Nebuta Festival in Aomori, the capital of our prefecture. We were able to see a really cool parade with amazing floats, lots of taiko drumming (GIANT drums!!), and dancers wearing the traditional haneto costume. Annelise loved the parade and we had a great time, even though it was REALLY hot that day.

Misawa actually got pretty hot this summer, it was hotter in Misawa than it was on Okinawa, which is hundreds of miles to the South. Thankfully, it only lasted a few weeks and then we ushered in a short, but beautiful, Fall season. John and I went to the Air Force Ball again this year and had fun, and we also took a short trip to South Korea.

John had to go to Osan Air Base in Korea for a week for some work stuff, so Annelise and I hopped a military flight out there and spent about 20 hours in a new country! We were able to eat at Chili's (yes, I thought of Clovis), we went to dinner with one of John's friends and ate traditional Korean food (I did not try the kimchi), and I even got some shopping done! We want to go back for a week in the Spring, Annelise and I didn't really see any of Korea other than the base and the area immediately outside the gate, and I want to shop some more!

Annelise loved having her Daddy home for the entire month of October, we went to the park a lot and also explored some more of the Misawa area. We went to a beautiful temple in Nanbu, Apple Hill in Namioka (Mom and Dad, it's where we stopped on the way to Hirosaki), and I showed him around Aomori.

Annelise is growing and changing, she has so many words now! There's still a lot I don't understand, but she's learning more and more every day. Right now we're working on counting (she can say her numbers in the right order but doesn't really count things yet) and colors. She's growing taller and taller, but not any bigger around. She still fits into some of her 18 months clothes, but the pants are definitely too short. Annelise also loves to sing, we started swimming lessons again this month and she really enjoys singing along with us during the classes.

John is in the middle of another class for his Master's degree, he's got about a year left. He's doing well so far, but it's tough to get all of the reading/papers done and still make time to spend with us. We can't fly by the seat of our pants anymore when it comes to weekend plans, we have to make sure to figure things out during the week so we can have fun as a family and have time for John to study.

I've been 'hardly working' lately but am transitioning into 'working hard'. I've got a ton of craft projects to complete before the holidays, plus decorating the house and making Christmas candy for our deployed friends. Between Officers' Spouses Club meetings, squadron spouses meetings, being a Key Spouse, and taking care of Annelise, I've had to send her to a sitter for a couple of hours a day just to have enough time to exercise and run errands. Because of John's erratic schedule (he will be gone for a total of 8 months this year), I can't depend on him being home for me to exercise in the early mornings or evenings, so I've been hitting the gym in the middle of the day. Annelise loves going to the sitter to play with her friends and I like having some time to myself. I will admit to dropping her off a few times in order to come back home and nap, but those are usually on days that she's kept us up at night or something.

Although I'm looking forward to the holidays, I'm not looking forward to Winter. The Japanese almanacs are predicting a very harsh winter, so I'm just glad that John is boing to be home to shovel every morning! I've got my Christmas shopping about done, I just need to shop for John and my dad/brothers. Boys are so difficult to shop for and I really hate giving gift cards!

Since it's Halloween, we're going Trick or Treating tonight, so I guess I'd better get ready! I'll try to be better about updating, but there will definitely be a post for Annelise's second birthday.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

National Lampoon's Fuji Vacation

I'm typing this from the library at Camp Fuji, as John is on a train going back to Misawa and Annelise plays with Auntie Kim and Uncle Ron. This whole experience has been a little surreal, so I'm sorry if the story is a little garbled...

A few months ago my good friend Vanessa asked if John and I wanted to travel with her family to climb Mt Fuji over the summer. Of course I said yes and we started planning. John and I would climb one night while they watched Annelise and Vanessa and Marty would climb one night while we watched their boys. It sounded like a pretty good arrangement and we made reservations at Camp Fuji, a Marine base that is fairly close to the mountain. The original plans were for a trip from July 28 to August 2.

Then we found out that John had some work stuff going on and shortened our trip to come home on July 31. It was still 4 days and I thought we could have a lot of fun in that amount of time, climbing a mountain and going to a safari park nearby. I started 'training', working my way up to an hour on the treadmill at a good incline and pace, then also working up to half an hour or so at a higher incline and slower pace. I bought new hiking boots while we were in Indiana and ordered some pants online, plus I borrowed a hiking pack from my friend Laura.

Then some stuff happened at work and it turned out that we couldn't leave as early as we would have liked on the 28th and John would have to be back in Misawa on the 31st. My vacation was shortened again and I was getting upset. We decided to leave Annelise in Misawa with Kim and Ron, all of the travel required plus climbing a mountain started overwhelming me and I knew it would be better for all of us if she stayed behind; plus John and I haven't gone anywhere without her for more than a few hours since she was born and Momma needed a break from Baby.

So we finally left Misawa at 5:30 pm, after getting work stuff sorted out and buying a ton of energy drinks and protein bars and fighting with the computer to load more music on my iPod and being nervous about leaving my baby behind. What if she cried the whole time? What if she didn't cry at all?

We got to Tokyo Station just fine, we've made that trip several times and it's pretty easy. I had written down a bunch of info on exactly what trains I wanted to take from there to Camp Fuji, but Tokyo Station is pretty busy and trying to dodge Japanese people while looking for the line you want to take and then finding the board for your line to figure out what track you need takes some work. We found the line, read a board, and located our track, but then a train pulled up about 15 minutes before the one we wanted and just sat there. We went back and forth, 'Is this our train?' 'I don't know, I guess if it's still here a couple of minutes before we're supposed to leave then it is.' The trains that we've been on before all have electronic boards inside and out telling you what train it is and where the next stop is, in both Kanji and Romanji (Romanji being everything spelled out using our alphabet instead of using traditional Japanese symbols), but this one didn't have anything in Romanji and of course I didn't print out any Kanji to look for (oh look, a lesson!). We tried asking a station employee, but many Japanese people do not read Romanji and he couldn't help us. We finally decided that it was the correct train and hopped on, searching for two seats together.

Since I had done a little bit of my homework, I had written down every station that the train would stop at before we needed to change trains, that definitely helped a lot. I didn't, however, do that for our final train so we relied on the timetable that I had copied down to guage how much longer we had until our stop. We got to Gotemba Station at around 11:30pm and caught a cab, thankful that Marty and Vanessa had driven in earlier in the evening and checked us in, opened our room for us, and turned on the fans. We got to catch an awesome glimpse of Mount Fuji at night with lights going up the sides, a combination of lighting from the huts and stations and the headlamps of the climbers. We were so excited and too tired to be nervous.

The next morning was pretty gloomy, it was very cloudy and was raining. We putzed around our room until 11, then made our way across base to eat lunch and buy water and other supplies. This was when we realized that my coat was not waterproof (Oh, another lesson). Water-resistant, yes, waterproof, no. So we also bought some waterproofing spray and went back to the room. Marty and Vanessa showed up and invited us to go to the local outlet mall and fun was had. We bought Annelise her first Lego set and even got some ice cream from Coldstone Creamery! Of course, walking around for a couple of hours right before climbing a mountain probably wasn't the smartest idea ever... (yeah, there's another lesson)

We got back to the room and got everything loaded up, then Vanessa drove us to the train/bus station where we realized that we left all of our pamphlets/info in the room (wait, ANOTHER lesson!). We got ahold of Vanessa and she checked their info to tell us what bus stop we were looking for (really, I remember the most random, useless things but I couldn't remember Kawaguchiko Station??) and just then a bus pulled up that was going to the right place.

At this point I want to tell everyone how much I live in Japan. Not only is it beautiful and just amazing, the people are so friendly. When the bus driver realized that we didn't really know where we were going he called me up to the front and we had a broken conversation where I told him where we were going and he told me what time we'd get there. Would that really happen in other countries? Can't you see some annoyed Frenchman telling me to piss off and find my own way? (not that I have anything against France, but really I can't say Englishman since we've got one in the family now) Japanese people are just so friendly and I'm really going to miss that when we leave.

Ok, so we get to Kawaguchiko Sta and accidentally find the bus to Station 5 of the trail we wanted to hike. There are a number of trails up the mountain and they all start and end in different locations, but they all start with Station 5 and the summit is Station 10; we chose the Fujiyoshida trail because it is the one that John hiked last year and is considered the easiest and most popular trail. We got on the bus and as we started up the mountain I couldn't help but notice how much wind and rain there was.

At this point I had already had several minor freakouts about climbing, I'm not an athletic or outdoorsy person but I really wanted to do this. I went from one extreme of KNOWING that I wouldn't make it up the mountain and would embarass myself by having to tell everyone that I wussed out to the other extreme of KNOWING without a doubt that I could do anything I put my mind to, especially if John was along to support me. One of my freakouts occurred not long before we left the hotel room and John looked me in the eye and promised me that as long as I tried my best he'd get me up the mountaint, that we would take it one step at a time and every step would be together.

I've got this idiotic penchant for caring what people think about me and wanting to be seen as a very strong person who can do anything when I'm actually very nervous about trying new things and fitting in with new groups of people. I wanted to climb Mt Fuji to prove to myself that I could do it, but also because at that point I had told everyone I know that I was climbing it and didn't want to return to facebook with my tail between my legs. I put on all of my gear and was fully prepared to climb that damn mountain as we stepped off the bus. We went inside Station 5 to buy a hiking stick for me (which can also be used as a bowstaff, I'm just saying) and a rain slicker for each of us when we heard an announcement over the PA that we all had to leave the station because they were closing. We overheard one of the station workers tell a group of hikers that all of the other stations and huts were closed and it was too dangerous for us to climb right then. The announcer said that the last bus back down the mountain was outside and we had better get going. We put everything back where we found it and hopped on the bus that brought us up the mountain, prepared to go back to Kawaguchiko Station.

As more and more people squeezed onto the bus, it soon became apparent that we didn't have enough space for everyone and the bus driver tried calling for an extra bus, then tried calling the hotel at Station 5 to see if there were any vacancies, then called back demanding that another bus be sent because we were out of options. By that time the Station had closed up and there were about 15 people huddled outside our bus that wouldn't fit; they had to wait about an hour before their bus finally arrived. It took us a long time to get down the mountain, there was a lot of rain and the fog was pretty dense in places, but our bus driver just took his time and played it safe.

We all knew that there would be no buses or trains out of Kawaguchiko this late at night, but it was a big station and I was sure that we could make it work. Oh wait, the bus/train station was closed and we ended up huddled under one covered portion with 50 of our closest hiking buddies, including one odd guy wearing shorts, a t-shirt, and a fedora with Chuck Taylors and no pack or supplies of any kind. Including a group of 15 high school and college kids on a mission trip. Including people from about 6 other countries. And the bathrooms were closed so we had to trek a few blocks to a 24-hour 7-11 if we needed to pee. I'll admit to allowing myself to become a little dehydrated in order to not have to put on our packs and walk to the convenience store. They're kept pretty clean in Japan, but we had somehow claimed the one bench and I wasn't giving it up. I slept on and off for a few hours from 12:30 to about 4:30 while John kept watch so that no one tried to swipe anything, but the sleep I got was fitful and I was definitely not comfortable.

One upside to this train station adventure was that I met a sweet girl named Brooke, who is a very proud member of the Fightin' Texas Aggie Class of 2014. That's right, I managed to find an Aggie at Mount Fuji, it's really the whole reason I wore my Aggie hat on this trip. It made me a little sad that the fish this year are 10 years younger than we are, but it was also really cool to see her excitement over attending A&M. Brooke was a part of the mission trip group and told us that they made it up to Station 6 before they were told they should turn around, that the conditions sucked and that someone had died of hypothermia that evening.

So we rested, watched the other hikers with amusement, and wished for some liquor. They sell liquor at convenience stores here, but again we didn't feel like leaving our uncomfy little bench. Our dinner and breakfast consisted of power bars and crackers, snacks we had planned on eating on our hike. The station started coming alive around 5am, with locals showing up for a train and everyone starting to gather their things together. A worker finally opened up the doors to the rest of the station and many of us moved inside, where there were more benches and we wouldn't be in the way of the commuters. And yes, I was very grateful that I could finally use the restroom.

We were lucky enough to be able to leave pretty early, the first bus going back to Gotemba left around 7:10 and we were pretty tired of the train station by then. The clouds would clear up for a little while and then crowd back in, but the rain was gone and it had warmed up, it looked like the conditions for climbing the mountain were pretty good but John had to get back to Misawa so we said 'matane' to Mount Fuji, which means 'see you later' in Japanese.

The trip back to Gotemba was uneventful, I had a nice conversation with a Brit while we were on the bus and then we hopped a cab back to base; at that point we didn't feel like figuring out another bus schedule and $20 for a cab was well worth getting back to our room quickly. Just as we pulled up to base, the clouds moved away from Fuji and we had the most amazing view of the mountain. John had actually never seen the mountain, it was surrounded with clouds when he climbed last year, but I've seen it once from a plane. It was an amazing, and bittersweet, sight to see.

So we rested up and John caught a ride to the train station from Marty and Vanessa. I slept for a little longer and now I need lunch after spending so much time typing, but now it's time for the lessons we learned...

~Next time we travel, print out copies of the important interchanges and locations in actual Japanese instead of just Romanji.
~Always check everything to make sure it functions properly. Why did I assume that my winter coat was waterproof? Why didn't we bring any of John's Gore-Tex jackets (of which he has 3)?
~Rest before a big trip, that one's so obvious it makes me sad that we overlooked it.
~Check and double check that we have everything we need before we leave the room.
~God is in control. Always, everywhere. We get to make our own choices, but really everything is going to turn out according to God's plan no matter what. I believe that we were never meant to climb Fuji this year, that God gave us plenty of 'outs' but also plenty of chances to test ourselves. He wasn't testing me, I was testing my own resolve and abilities.
~Prayer really does help. The whole way through I kept praying for the strength of body, mind, and spirit to make it to the top. Then I added in that if we weren't meant to climb, I would need a definitive sign; all of the huts closing and the guy at the 5th Station warning us was sign enough for me and I'm very thankful for that.

John and I are both disappointed that we didn't get to climb this year, we were so ready. Ok, maybe I'm not actually physically ready, but I would have done it. What I mean is that we really connected on this trip, John saw that determination and strength in me that I'm always working for and committed himself to helping me get up the mountain. I saw that he really believed in me and it strengthened my resolve. Even though we didn't get to climb Mt Fuji, I think our marriage is stronger because of this adventure.

Another amazing thing is that not only were we both praying the whole way through this, we were praying for the same things, to be strong, to support each other, and to trust in God's plan. I didn't get to sing 'Climb Every Mountain' from the Sound of Music at the top of Mount Fuji this year, but I've been singing 'Jesus Loves Me, Yes I Know' and 'God Is in Control' in my head for the last day or so.

So we're going to try again next year. I'll be in better physical shape and more prepared for the actual climbing, God will still be in control, and you can bet that if I make it to the top I'm going to sing 'Climb Every Mountain' at the top of my lungs, even if I do hate that song!!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Trip, Part 2

So we left the heat of Texas for the slightly-lesser heat of Indiana. We went to Lafayette first, after eating dinner with Danny in Indy and getting to see his office. One day I'll finally get Annelise into his apartment so she can make a mess...

We had a lot of fun in Lafayette, we got to see some of the Walsko family on Saturday to help celebrate Sandy's birthday and did lots of fun things. One day we went to the water park at Columbian Park, Annelise had an absolute blast! I would have been happy spending the whole day in the lazy river, but Annelise liked to walk around in the kiddie pool with her Daddy and Grandma. We only stayed a couple of hours, but that was long enough to tire the kiddo out, she slept through our lunch AT ARNI'S!!! OMG, that is delicious pizza!! Arni's is what Totino's Party Pizzas wish they were, with a thin, crispy crust and tiny pieces of pepperoni and just enough sauce. How have I known John for almost 7 years and this is the first time he's taken me to Arni's??

We went back to Columbian Park a few days later to go to the small zoo (the baby goats were SO cute) and play on the playground. Annelise loves being outside and was in heaven playing on the playground with Daddy. She also got to swim in a kiddie pool at Grandma's house, the kid loves the water.

I think my favorite part about our trip to Lafayette (besides the pizza, because it was amazing) was that Annelise became very comfortable around Sandy's dog, Molly. Annelise doesn't spend a lot of time around animals and gets scared around very energetic dogs, but Molly was on Benadryl after an ant attack and was very calm. She was perfectly happy to just sit around and let Annelise stare at her and now whenever Annelise sees a 'woof woof' she calls it Molly Moo.

The three of us rented a car for our time in Indy, which worked out really well because we had a lot of luggage. We stayed with the Brewers again, it's always so much fun in that house! Annelise loved playing with her older cousins and I'm pretty sure she made Austin's day when she called him Teddy Bear.

While we were in Indy, Dan took us and Claire to the Indianapolis Children's Museum because he loves me the mostest and is the best father-in-law ever. HELLO, there was a BARBIE exhibit there!! We had a lot of fun in the museum as a whole and I was very impressed byt how interactive it is and how every exhibit appealed to all ages of children. Annelise really liked the dinosaur exhibit, I liked the Barbie exhibit, and Claire loved the Rock Stars Cars & Guitars exhibit. I'm not sure what John liked the most, but I know we all had a blast. We even bought Annelise a toy dinosaur when we left and Dan got her a dinosaur puzzle that she loves.

The next day we went to the Indianapolis zoo, which was pretty darn cool. Annelise had fun looking at all of the animals and talking people into holding her and I had a strawberry lemon chill for the first time in forever, I love those things. By the end of the day, though, we were all pretty tired.

On Saturday we went to the neighborhood Independence Day celebration, complete with a kiddie parade and three-legged races and such. Claire pulled Annelise in the wagon and she looked so cute in her red, white and blue outfit. That evening we went to a block party in Northeastern Indy because Dan new the guys in the band and had a lot of fun. That neighboorhood throws a really nice party, complete with the most delicious pulled-pork sandwiches North of the Mason-Dixon.

On the actual Fourth of July, we went to the pool that the Brewers are members of and of course Annelise had lots of fun. She had a blast playing in the water and picking up Starburst that they threw in the pool (pretty much the only candy that won't instantly dissolve when you throw it in water). She was sad that I wouldn't let her eat any of the candy, but she got over it. We played for a while in the big pool, splashing and blowing bubbles and making new friends, and then went back to the house for a nap. That night we went into Zionsville for the amazing fireworks, capping off a wonderful Fourth.

We left for Japan the next day, which was probably John's favorite day of the whole trip. Not because he was ready to go home but because Annelise said 'airplane' for the first time that day. Now she can spot an airplane before anyone else (I think she has super-amazing hearing and can just hear them before I can) and says 'airplane' all the time. Her favorite book is an airplane book and she loves playing with the mini Thunderbird jet that we bought her at the air show.

So that ends our latest trip to the States. Next up, John and I will climb Mt Fuji at the end of the week and I'm planning a trip to Korea in September!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Our Latest Trip to the States

Wow, it's been a long time since I last updated!! Quick catch-up: On Memorial weekend, John came home from his 4 (almost 5) month deployment. Yes, that's why he wasn't mentioned in most of our posts this year, he was working his butt off in a small country that I only learned how to pronounce during college because there's an A&M satellite campus there. We spent a week or so together having fun at Shipwreck Beach and in Hirosaki before Annelise and I jetted off to Texas for Melisa and Trent's wedding with John following about a week later.

This is going to be kinda disjointed, there's just soooo much to type about...

We had a great time in Texas, my favorite and least favorite part of any wedding is decorating the hall. It's so much fun to hang out with the family and make the hall look beautiful, but it's a lot of work and was very hot. Kyle and my dad spent a lot of time up on the scaffolding and I spent a lot of time with various centerpieces and chopping onions (thank goodness for food processors!). Annelise had a great time playing with her cousins and even tasted her first sno cone!!

The weekend before the wedding we went up to Ft Worth for Melisa's last single night out and had a blast. Annelise came with us to the restaurant/bar for dinner and happy hour and then Mom and Dianna took her home while Lusa and I stayed with everyone else for the disco cover-band. Lots of fun was had, and I even made it all the way back to Dianna's house from downtown without getting lost!

John and his mom flew in on Thursday night and on Friday morning he and Kyle helped my dad on the ranch while the rest of us got our nails done. Sandy had never had a pedicure so she LOVED getting one for her birthday. Annelise liked getting her feet washed and lotioned, but didn't want Lily to come near her with the nail polish. Afterwards we went to lunch and then headed home to get ready for the rehearsal/dinner.

We woke up early on Saturday morning to get our hair done, a friend of Dianna's took care of me, Mom, Dianna, Erica and Mary and it was so nice to be able to sit around the house instead of a salon. Now I know why the celebrities have stylists come to their houses!! We got dressed at the church and started taking pictures, but of course Annelise fell asleep about an hour and a half before the wedding. We woke her up in plenty of time to get over the grouchies, but it didn't help much.

The wedding itself was beautiful, Melisa was a gorgeous bride and Dianna and I cried most of the way through. Annelise was very well-behaved, even if she did try to take every single tissue out of every single pack in the pews.

Once we got to the hall, it was party time!! Jackie did a wonderful job on the cakes and Mike and Larry outdid themselves on dinner, Sandy wanted to have them ship some of the klobase back to Indiana for her. :) We had a great time dancing and hanging out with the family, Annelise was having so much fun that she cried when Sandy took her back to the hotel. She fell asleep as soon as Sandy got her pjs on, she was that exhausted.

John and I got back to the hotel after 1 and then we all woke up the next morning in time to take Sandy to the airport and drive to Oklahoma City for an air show. We have several friends on the Thunderbirds, the Air Force demonstration team, so we were able to get VIP tickets for the show on Father's Day. Because we're a true military family, it was nothing to drive 4 hours the day after an awesome (and VERY tiring) wedding. John loved his Father's Day gift and really enjoyed getting to show the planes off to Annelise.

We drove about halfway back to Ennis that evening and then woke up the next morning and went boot shopping! John's brown boots didn't fit the way he likes and I've been looking for boots for ages, so he and I each left with something. The best part, however, was that we also bought a pair of boots for Annelise! And she LOVES THEM!! Given the chance, that kid would wear her boots every single day.

While we were in Texas, we also made the drive to College Station, I hadn't been there since Erin and Brinson's wedding and was amazed at how much has changed. We ate lunch at Wings n More with Shanna (aka Friend) and Kyle and it was so much fun to see her with her adorable twin belly.

Annelise also got to go swimming at Aunt Tina's house and in her very own kiddie pool at Babi and Grandaddy's.

After all the fun in Texas, we were a little tired and our trip was only halfway done! We flew up to Indy to see John's family and had even MORE fun!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

It's a Beautiful Day!

We had a couple of weeks of very icky weather here, it would turn cold at the drop of a hat or a rain shower would pop up out of nowhere, and I ended up with a cold to go along with my seasonal allergies. After a few days of fever/achiness and a few days of Annelise having a fever, she has fully recovered and I'm back to dealing with allergies with a little bit of a leftover cough. My new best friend is Tylenol Sinus Pain, it made me feel much better and I didn't have to worry about taking a sinus med AND a pain med. Between limitations due to me breastfeeding and limitations due to the small number of options at the BX, I was very glad to find something that worked!

The weather warmed up over the weekend and Annelise got to play outside with the new bouncy ball I bought for her. She has a blast and LOVES being outside! She has also learned her second Japanese word. She uses 'hi' for 'hello' as well as 'yes' and now she can say 'ohana', which means 'flower'. She doesn't say it often, but I was so excited to hear it yesterday!

We're gearing up for Melisa and Trent's wedding next month, I can't wait to get to Texas and start really helping out! I have a feeling I'll be spending a lot of time attaching candy to styrofoam balls and other small stuff like that. Annelise is very excited to get back to the States to play with her cousins, she loves playing with other kids.

Aside from the wedding and seeing everyone, I'm looking forward to picking up a few new books while I'm back home. Janet Evanovich and Catherine Coulter both have new books coming out in June and although I will be able to get them in Misawa eventually, I can definitely get a lower price at Hastings! We're not going to be doing a lot of shopping this trip, but we are planning a trip up to Tinker AFB for a Thunderbirds show and a trip to College Station so I can eat at Wings n More (and maybe see Friend and her baby belly?). When we get to Indiana, the families have so many things planned we may not get to sleep! And I finally get to eat at the real frozen custard stand in Lafayette, something my friend Mandy has been giving me hell about for a few years.

Well, I think the kid wants to go outside and enjoy our beautiful Monday, so I guess that's the end of this post! I'll be back in a couple of weeks!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day!

To all of the mothers that I know, especially my mom, John's mom, and our two grandmothers, Happy Mother's Day!! Annelise and I went to brunch today with my friend Vanessa and her two boys, we had such a great time. Annelise really enjoyed her plain waffle, scrambled eggs, and lots of grapes. She loves playing with the boys and I think we're going to have to spend some time at the park together this summer so she can chase them around.

I feel so very blessed to be a mom and want to thank all of you for showing me how it's done!!

Thursday, May 6, 2010


Ok, so I was really tired on Monday and then didn't feel well on Tuesday and that's why I didn't post when I was supposed to. I was tired on Monday because on Sunday we went to the Cherry Blossom Festival in Hirosaki!! I had a ton of fun hanging out with friends, seeing the beautiful cherry blossoms, and eating a potato on a stick. Annelise enjoyed being adored by all who saw her. This is par for the course in Japan and she will be very confused when we move back to the States in a few years.

We haven't done a whole lot over the last couple of weeks, but it has been so nice to spend time with friends. Hopefully we'll get to go to the Mother's Day Brunch this weekend with some friends as well as go to Shimoda Mall for Pepper Lunch. I tried to go last weekend but Annelise fell asleep right before it was time to leave and one of the most important lessons I've learned from my friends and family is that you NEVER wake a sleeping baby. Especially when the kid only takes one nap a day.

I finally got Mother's Day gifts mailed, they'll arrive late but there's nothing I can do about it now. I bought them a while back, I just suck at getting everything together and to the post office on time. I also bought something for my Dad's birthday, that's coming up soon!

We booked our tickets for Melisa's wedding, I can't wait to see everyone! Annelise is going to be so adorable in her flower girl dress and I love my bridesmaid dress. My friend (and cousin) Alisha just had a baby so I also can't wait to meet little Easton and to see how much Quinn has grown.

Spring has finally sprung in Misawa with the blooming of the cherry blossoms and many beautiful flowers. There are daffodils everywhere and the tulips have popped up as well, now I'm looking forward to the hydrangeas. Japan is such a beautiful country and I love watching the seasons change and all of the little surprises that come with them.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

New Leaf

My sisters complain that I don't post enough, so my new goal is to post every other Monday. That gives us enough time to do interesting things worth writing about and doesn't put too much pressure on me.

Last week I turned over a new leaf and started exercising. I've been overweight for a long time and Melisa's impending wedding (and the GORGEOUS bridesmaid dress) is a perfect short-term goal. I don't really have a goal of how much I want to lose by then (ok, I do but I'm not telling anyone), but I do want to work out every week day of the two months we have left until the wedding. I've done pretty well so far, it helps that my friend Kim has agreed to be my workout buddy. The first day I went to the wrong gym, but I worked out anyway. And since then we've met every morning at 6:30 to exercise in the family room while Annelise watches Sesame Street.

Since we've been back in Misawa, we've spent a lot of time unpacking and cleaning up. My house is still a wreck, but I have received all of the stuff that I mailed from Tx/In and it's all been put away. We've been spending time with friends, sending some off to deployment and saying hi to others that we hadn't seen in a while. I went to Pepper Lunch (see Morioka post) last week with some friends, I love that place! In fact, I'm thinking about going back next week. I also tried a fish egg the week before last. We were over at a Japanese friend's house and she had sushi rice with shrimp and fish eggs on top. I was not a fan of the fish egg, but at least I tried it. While we were there, Annelise discovered a love for kiwi and showed everyone just how good she is at eating strawberries. This kid LOVES fruit, she would eat it at every meal, now I need to get better about preparing veggies for her too.

Last Friday I went to Shipwreck Beach with two of my friends while Annelise stayed with a sitter. It was nice to have a day to myself and I found some really cool sea glass too! I think I'll go back in a few weeks, once it warms up a little more. It wasn't very cold this time, but I did have to wear my coat until I walked enough to warm up.

And today we're going to our squadron picnic so I guess I should shut this down and make some corn flake treats! Annelise is growing smarter and smarter every day, now she says 'step' and 'ball', and one thing I forgot to write down last time is that she says 'good girl' when she does something good like say please or thank you. It's so adorable!!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Long Time, Crappy Internet Access

The last time I posted was right before we left for the States. My parents have really slow internet, as did the other locations we visited, so my internet time was limited to the important things like checking e-mail and catching up on facebook. I didn't even farm very much because it just took forever.

Our trip was wonderful, we spent lots of time with my family in Texas and even weathered a snowstorm that brought nine inches of snow to Ennis. The highlights of our time in Ennis include: a wonderful butterfly birthday party for Annelise that we held at Sherry's because of the icky weather, me learning to sew pillowcase dresses for Annelise (my friend Susannah made some for her daughter a few months back, check her blog on the side of this site), Melisa's bridal portraits and wedding shower, lots of yummy food, and plenty of time with friends and family.

Annelise's birthday party was so much fun, I made a cake and decorated it with butterflies, we decorated foam butterflies, ate lots of yummy food, and opened a ton of gifts. We left most of the toys at Babi and Grandaddy's house so she'll have something to play with when we go back in June, plus I didn't want to pay to mail it all home. The pillowcase dresses are awesome and adorable and I have lots of fabric to make more. I'm going to make some for Annelise, Carleigh, and Carsyn that all go together, different color solids with bands of the same polka dot fabric. I also have fabric to make some pillowcase tops for myself and one of those will coordinate with a dress I want to make for Annelise.

Melisa's bridal portraits were taken at the Fort Worth Botanical Gardens and were preceded by Trent's groomal portraits. Our cousin Penney is the photographer and does amazing work, plus Melisa and Trent are very photogenic. We brought Annelise's flower girl dress and she took some pictures with Melisa plus I took a couple of shots for her Easter pic. I'll be mailing those out soon, I just have to figure out where I put the cards that I bought... Dianna, Mom and I hosted Melisa's wedding shower in Ennis and everything went really well. I made a purple cake with daisies on it, there were supposed to be tulips instead but they are very difficult to make. She got a lot of really nice gifts and I know her favorites were from us. Dianna and I gave her a crystal pitcher, which is my usual wedding gift because I think it's something that everyone should have, and Annelise gave her some kitchen stuff in a hand-decorated gift bag. I couldn't find a gift bag at Target that worked so I bought a plain one and let Annelise color all over it while I baked the cake. Mom wrote a big T on it, for Tobola, and it looked adorable! At the shower, I finally got to meet Trent's family. Melisa and Trent have known each other since high school, but that was when I was in college and then living in New Mexico, so I was really excited to meet his mom, his sister, and his adorable nephew. Brekon will be the ring bearer and Annelise had fun playing with him.

We got to spend plenty of time with our family and friends, between Annelise's birthday party, spending time at Grandad's and Granny & Papa's, and seeing people in the church nursery. We also spent one day with KristenSue (see The Asker's QotD? on the side) and Annan drove to Ennis one evening for dinner. I didn't get to track down any of my air force friends, but we'll try to make up for that in June. Most importantly, we met my cousin Quinn who was born in December and Savannah's fiance Chris. Quinn is this adorable little man and we all love holding him and loving on him. Annelise loved playing with all of her cousins and accidentally sat on Quinn's arm and then kicked him in the head. She also got kicked by one of my cousins, but no worries she kicked him right back! I'm pretty sure she thought it was a game and didn't realize he was being mean... Savannah's fiance, Chris, is from England so everyone in the family had met him but me and the logistics of us both being in Ennis at the same time were a little crazy. Chris is this adorable little man (hehe!) with a hilarious accent who says things like 'whilst' and obviously loves Savannah very much. I can't wait to go to their wedding on New Year's Eve of 2011.

We also went to Indiana to see John's side of the family, man was that fun! Annelise had a blast with her Minear cousins and made cookies with her Grandma. We got to see Becky with her adorable baby belly just days before our sweet new cousin Liv arrived and can't wait to meet Liv in June! It still amazes me how much Annelise loves everyone, she ate lunch with Uncle Paul and would have spent all day playing with Grandma Walsko if everyone else hadn't wanted her attention. When we were in Indy, Annelise took turns sharing her affections with Blake, Austin, and Claire, but her favorite is still her Uncle Danny. I cried a little when she said 'Bye Danny' the night before we went back to Texas, she just adores him.

We ended up extending our stay in Texas by a couple of weeks because John came to San Angelo for work. We rented a car and drove to San Angelo to spend about 10 days hanging out together. Annelise had so much fun playing with him and John was amazed by how much she had changed in just the six weeks that we had been away from Japan. We went on a picnic one day and to the park on another, Annelise LOVES being outside. She loves to run around in the sunshine and pick up stuff off of the ground and get chased by anyone. We had to be careful at my parents' house, if she saw that the back door was open she'd be outside before we knew it.

Because Easter Sunday disappeared in the crazy time change of flying back to Japan, we went to Dianna and Kyle's house on Friday night for an Easter egg hunt. It was pretty funny to watch, Dianna doesn't have a lot of patience and was putting candy into Annelise's basket until she finally got the hang of it. Once she figured things out, she had lots of fun picking up candy, hard-boiled eggs, and plastic Elmo eggs.

While we were gone, Annelise changed so much. She's a champ at climbing stairs (aack!), got 4 new teeth (her first dentist appointment is in May), and has picked up so many new words. Annelise now says please, thank you, no, Annelise, Elmo, cheese, baby, and lots of other things. She loves singing 'Itsy Bitsy Spider' and is pretty good at the ABCs. I can't wait to see what she'll have learned by the time we go back to Texas and Indiana in June!!

Saturday, January 30, 2010


We went to Morioka last weekend on a base-organized trip and had a lot of fun. Morioka is about two hours from Misawa and there is a Handi-Works Square there that is a kind of artists' co-op. There is a large central store, exhibition hall, and classroom and then there are smaller workshops around the central area. Each shop features a traditional Japanese craft or food and has space not only for the making of the wares but for the teaching of the craft. Annelise and I went on this trip with Kim, Vanessa, and Vanessa's two boys. A is 7 and E is 4 (?). We went into the main classroom and were taught how to weave bamboo pen holders. The wooden bases had already been cut and drilled and the upright bamboo pieces had been secured to the base, plus a few rounds of weaving had been done. We were shown how to weave our bamboo in and how to start new pieces when the others ran out and were instructed to weave until our pen holder was 10cm tall. Then the ladies showed us how to weave in the ends of the upright pieces to finish off the top. My pen holder doesn't go straight up, I was pulling too tightly and it narrows a little at the top, but it's really cool. Thank goodness for Kim, Annelise got fussy halfway through the project so I played with her while Kim wove and then we switched off.

After we finished with our pen holders, we were free to explore the shops and of course buy souvenirs. We watched sembei being made, they're traditional rice crackers with a variety of flavorings. I bought some honey-peanut sembei and also liked the cheese-flavored ones. (who'd have guessed that I liked the cheese ones, right?) The best part was being able to buy fresh sembei that were still warm, they were very very delicious.

We went into a toy workshop where I bought a rolling toy for Annelise. It's a rat because she was born in the year of the rat. I also bought myself a necklace from the ceramic workshop with a beautifully painted ceramic fragment pendant. After we explored the workshops, we went back to the central area and I bought a kokeshi, of course! Vanessa bought a couple of Mutsu apples, those are my favorite. They are huge and expensive, but she got a good price at the market. Mutsu apples are a little tart and just between American green and red apples in the texture department. I don't like red apples in the US, they're too mealy for me, but I love basically all Japanese apples. Actually, writing about the apples was making me hungry so I took a small break to slice up a Fuji.

After we left the Handi-Works Square, the bus took us to the mall so we could grab lunch and do some more shopping. We ate at Pepper Lunch, it was my first time to try that restaurant, and the food was delicious! In the truly Japanese way of doing things, you put your money in a vending machine and choose what you want to order, then hand the tickets that the vending machine spits out to the lady at the counter. I followed Vanessa's lead and got a dish of beef, rice, corn, green onions, and of course pepper. The rice and corn are already cooked, but they load all of your food (including raw meat) onto a very hot cast-iron dish and then you can cook your meat as much or as little as you want. I didn't realize just how hot the food was until I fed Annelise some of the rice and she screamed and spit it out. Best Mommy Ever! She forgave me when I gave her a fruit twist and then went on to eat plenty of rice and LOTS of corn. I've gotten ok with chopsticks, but I still can't eat corn with them and had to resort to the spoon provided. Well, I can pick up the corn one by one, but I didn't want to deal with that.

We walked around and shopped a bit, I didn't buy anything but I oohed and ahhed over the adorable matching rain boots/jacket/umbrella sets in every color of the rainbow that they had in the kids' store. Have I mentioned lately that I love Japan?? Just before it was time to get back on the bus, we stopped by Mr. Donut to get dessert for the road. I love Mr. Donut and it's a good thing that we don't have one in Misawa because it's addictive.

In all, we had a lot of fun in Morioka and I'd like to go back with John, one day when he's not working his tail off!!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Things to Buy

I have a list of things I need to buy while we're in the States and I figured if I put it online, I'd be less likely to forget something...

Printer toner- Brother TN-330 or TN-360
Whole wheat pasta- shells, macaroni, etc
Pepto bismol tablets that you don't have to chew
Slippers for Annelise
Elmo DVDs, especially the three-pack that we're wearing out
BOOKS! J.D Robb's new one, The Holy Bullet, crappy romance novels, anything that catches my eye
Easter dress for Annelise
Quiet tape
Grill cover

I'll add to the list as I come up with more stuff...

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Random update

It didn't snow much in November and December here in Misawa. I had heard that measurable snowfalls started in November so I warned my parents to pack boots and such, which they didn't need at all. Well, they needed the coats, it was chilly. We got some snow right before Christmas, just enough to be pretty, not enough to be hazardous. And then 2010 arrived and brought with it all of the snow we hadn't received yet this year. We've had over 18 inches of snow in the last week. That's a crazy amount of snow for someone from Texas! There has been a lot of shovelling and a little bit of hibernating because I don't want to take Annelise out in the cold and drive on icky roads.

Annelise has 8 teeth now and she's growing like a weed. Well, she's taller anyway; she hasn't gained much weight lately even though she eats three meals a day, plus snacks, plus still nursing whenever she wants. Annelise rarely stops moving, she'll sit still for a little while if Elmo's on but moves even in her sleep. She also talks almost nonstop, she has entire conversations with people on the phone and Skype and sometimes with herself. I'm working on teaching her more words and a couple of new signs but it's hard to not try to keep her as my sweet little baby. She has this little grin that melts my heart, it's a cross between sweetness and looking for trouble and it makes me want to hug her close. Today she was super snuggly, which I cherished because she so often would rather run around and play. Annelise is also showing more of an interest in books. It's amazing that my child didn't have much love for books for such a long time, but now she brings them to me to read and it makes me so happy!

Well, I guess that's enough of an update to keep my sisters happy for now. We're getting ready for our trip to TX/IN, so I'm staying busy and will probably not post again for a while.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Christmas in Japan

I have been informed by my sister that I was supposed to make a Christmas post, so here goes. You'll have to wait a while for the pictures to be posted on Shutterfly though, we have a lot going on right now!

On Christmas Eve, we went to the children's Mass and then drove over to Derick and Lisa's house (there blog is listed under Los Gees on the right side of this page) and had lots of fun. Annelise was afraid of their dog Kona at first, it's been a while since we were at their house and Kona is a big dog, she's used to being around much smaller dogs. She got used to Kona by the end of the night, thank goodness. We had fun hanging out with our friends and meeting some of Lisa and Derick's friends, and the best part was playing Guitar Hero!! It was Derick's Christmas gift from Lisa and he got to open it early so we could all play. I don't know most of the songs on there, my childhood was filled with George Strait and this game is full of classic rock. I did sing along to Willie Nelson's 'On the Road Again', though, no one else really knew that one. John had lots of fun playing the drums and Annelise was our groupie, she stood in the center of the room and danced her little heart out.

The next morning we got up bright and early to open gifts. Our parents went a little overboard on the gift-buying this year so we spread out Annelise's gifts throughout the day. Santa brought her a wagon, a chair, some clothes, books, and a couple of other small toys. Annelise also received lots of adorable clothes from our families, some really cool toys, and her favorite gifts, a spoon and some socks. Why did we bother buying toys for her?

John received a Kindle from me this year, he's starting his Master's soon and since we're overseas it will make things much easier to be able to just download most of the books instead of having to wait for them to arrive in the mail. In general, our mail service is great, but there are always exceptions and those exceptions are always the things you actually NEED instead of stuff you just WANT. He also got a few new shirts and some other stuff, but he was most excited about the Kindle and plugged it in right away. He received several Amazon gift cards and I think has already spent them all on Kindle books!

I got some amazing gifts this year, Annelise gave me a gift certificate for TWO massages, I really needed them! John bought me some sewing accesories, like a tote full of thread and supplies and a case for the machine that I bought with my birthday money. He also bought me a hand-blown vase that was made not far from here, it's something I'll treasure for a long time. I also love the gift I received from John's brother. He actually bought me a very nice gift, but the part I was most excited about was a bar of soap that he got from his room in the Plaza Hotel in NYC. We were chatting when he was there a few months ago and Danny went on and on about how great the soap smelled so I told him to swipe me a bar. It turns out that it is Bulgari soap, and you Janet Evanovich readers know why I'm so excited! One of the main characters in her books is the mysterious, very handsome, very sexy bounty hunter named Ranger and he uses Bulgari Green shower gel and now I have soap that smells like him! I think I'm going to put it in my dresser so all of my clothes smell extra yummy.

On Christmas Day we were able to talk to our families and Annelise showed off her toys for the grandparents on Skype, but she really was most excited about the spoon and socks. We went to lunch at the dining hall on base with several people from John's office. The base leadership serves lunch and the dining hall is open to everyone instead of just the people who live in the dorms and we had fun helping one of the airmen win a bunch of gift cards.

Later that day we went over to Yazmin and Dave's house for even more fun. I made a brisket and yummy rolls and we enjoyed taking time to just relax and hang out with friends. We even played Guitar Hero again and I'm learning the words to more songs. We also had not-good margaritas and then I had a yummy amaretto sour and a delicious mudslide. I think they realized that I'm a better singer when I've had a few drinks in me...

Overall, we had a wonderful Christmas. We missed our families and this was the first year that we didn't celebrate any part of the holiday with any of our families, but our friends helped fill in that gap. We had a 'slightly white' Christmas where there was a little snow on the ground but the streets were clear. So our first Christmas in Japan was a success and we're looking forward to next year!