Sunday, June 24, 2012

Don't Think Me Crazy...

Don't think me crazy...  but...

I just entered a random photo contest on a blog (  It must have your kid(s) in it.  I was looking for birthday party ideas for Stefan and came across this.  And I happen to have a photo that I love of him.  So, I entered it.  There are pictures in there that are taken by people with some real talent - I am not one of them!  But I still love this picture, mostly because it says so much about my kid.  Just sailing away...

Friday, June 22, 2012

For All The Tea In China...

The last couple of posts have ended up in the Great Internet in the Sky.  Sigh...   I tried to post them - I really did!  For all the tea in China...

But, as it turns out, there is NO TEA IN CHINA!!!

Having just returned from China (more on this soon!) - I now know this firsthand!  If I drank Coke or Sprite, I would have been in business as they were very widely available.  When ordering tea at a restaurant, it was quite often Chrysanthemum Tea, drunk with crystalline sugar.  It was decent.

Then there was the more traditional Jasmine Tea.  It tastes like soap.  If I got lucky, they might serve Green Tea.

The last night we were in Beijing, some of our comrades were in need of some Western Food.  This is not to say that the food in China is inferior - quite the opposite!  It was fabulous.  But, more on that later...

We went to Grandma's Kitchen ( and got ourselves a HUGE burger, french fries and a milkshake.

And an iced tea.  Unsweetened.  With lemon.  It was heavenly!

During my week's stay in China, I craved iced tea.  I ordered oolong tea at one restaurant and was told they had none.

For all the tea in China... I got the best tea in a western restaurant.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Season Ending - Pure Genius!

Last Saturday brought us the last baseball game for Stefan and the last T-ball game for Dougie.  Both boys have really loved playing and we pray this passion for fun continues.  We have been very blessed in their coaches - both kids had coaches that were interested in helping the kids learn how to play, increase their skills and to have fun.  In spite of the fact that scores were not kept, the kids in Stefan's age group all seemed to know "who won" and how many runs came in.

Last year, Eric missed Stefan's entire first season of T-ball due to being here in Yokosuka while we were back in Washington for the evac.  This year, I missed most of Stefan's games due to scheduling conflicts!  I am so thankful that our kids had at least one parent at each game!  Once Ian is in the mix too, we will have to rely more on other parents and do our best to be three places at one time.

Stefan is coming along as a good little ball player.  He can throw pretty far, but not necessarily accurately (hmmm - sounds a lot like his mummy...).   He makes contact with the pitches on a regular basis and does not swing at everything that comes his way.  He is becoming more confident in catching and fielding the ball. More than anything, he just really likes to play.  I would say it was a successful season!

Dougie is happy to be out there.  Sometimes, he is just really "out there"

Dougie can throw the ball straight, he just can't get it in the air...  He may become a great at the shot put! His swing is coming along.

But the ball does not always go, well, far...

Notice the ball is now behind the bat?!?

Go Mighty Dragons!!!

The Mighty Dragons!

Jaye, a friend of mine and mom of Ellie, Dougie's partner in crime/shoe inspection above, passed the game ball around for the kids to sign.  Dougie did not miss a beat, and signed his name mirror-imaged backwards.  Jaye turned to me and asked, "Have you thought about this kid being a genius?!?"  Like DaVinci?  More likely just a contrarian!  Pure Genius!

Awards were given out:

Dougie won the award for "Most Improved Swing"

Coach Stoner won the game ball!

The kids all won movie tickets!  Woo-Hoo!

Thank you for a great season, Coach Stoner!!!

Eric did not get any pictures of Stefan's last game since he was in charge of the batting line-up, third base coach AND watching Ian.  Simultaneously.  The memories and experience were a far better trade-off for Eric.  Having only seen Stefan play in pictures and video last year, he really got to enjoy the season this year.  He happily stepped in at practices and games and filled the position of assistant.  I think next year, I will just sign him up!

Coach Armstrong had more on his plate than he could manage alone with this team.  Any team of 7-9 year olds, really!  He did a fantastic job keeping his cool, encouraging the kids and maintaining a great sense of sportsmanship.

Go Diamondbacks!  Thank you, Coach Armstrong, for a great season!!!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

A REAL Japanese Experience

I had the privilege of having one last Japanese experience with my friend, Carol, before she and her family PCS'd.

We went to Enospa,, a Mediterranean-style spa on Enoshima Island.  The experience was just beginning!  We were thinking we were sooooo blessed, lucky, all-that-and-more when traffic was very light all the way through Kamakura.  It was a very nice Saturday and you can usually move faster on this stretch of waterfront road by walking.  But, it was smooth travels!  Until...

We started our real Japanese Experience!

Well, we made up for the lack of traffic by getting to check out the paint chips in the bumper of the car in front of us for quite some time!  By the time we got to Enoshima, it had been two hours.  To put it into perspective,  my house is at point A and Enospa is at point B.  We took the toll road, making it faster, but
purple line route is about 25 km.  That is 15 miles.  TOTAL.  Two hours.  It is just part of a real Japanese Experience.  What we lost in time, we more than made up for in conversation and laughs!

The parking was crazy.  Lining up to get into a parking lot would seem even crazier.  But we did it!  See the line of cars going up the street to the left?  Each car has to wait for someone to leave the lot...
 As the one leaves, the gate opens for one to enter...
Part of the Japanese Experience!

Found a spot!  We are waaaaay down the way.  Part of the Japanese Experience! If you have good eyes, I have the red Subaru Forester with a big, black cargo box on top (eighth car if counting from right - white Toyota being 1).
We parked across the causeway, on the mainland.  Part of a real Japanese Experience!We had a great view of Enoshima & Enospa!
A real Japanese pose for a real Japansese Experience!
The dragon statue in front of Enospa spews huge flames - not sure why they were off today...  Just part of a real Japanese Experience...

Enospa has three levels of pools - a traditional onsen (i.e.: divided/no suit) and two levels of co-ed, swimsuit, pools.  All overlook the bay; the swimsuit areas have open air pools.  The ground level has a waterfall you pass through to get from inside the cave to outside.  As we stood outside, we kept getting  hit with the smell of lavender.  We never figured out where it was coming from, but it was definitely ethereal!  Definitely a real Japanese Experience!

On the way back, we stopped to get an ice-cream.  Japanese ice-cream, although soft-serve, is like none other!  OISHII!!!!!  We got our Sweet Potato ice-cream (a real Japanese Experience!) and saluted the sunset:
As we walked across the causeway, Fuji-san came into view - look to the left of the sun...  a dim triangle on the horizon...
What a day!  Carol and I both left with sore mid-sections just from laughing about how REAL our Japanese Experience was.  We were both sad that we had not done this sooner, but happy that we did it at all.  As all of our lives here in Japan are somewhat nomadic in nature, you have to get used to the comings and goings of friends.  You also have to make choices in whom you will be deliberate about staying in contact with.  Carol and I reveled in the fact that our husband's spent the day at the beach with all the boys while we drove forever to not get very far - just so we could enjoy our Japanese Experience.  Brad and Eric were never lacking in conversation (nor entertainment!).  It is not often that you find another family in which your family meshes with.  We really believe our friendship that blossomed with the Emerson's is a true gift from God.  With that gift, we have chosen to be deliberate.  Deliberate about staying in touch and intentionally finding each other.  And I am deliberately thanking the Lord for their gift of friendship.

It has truly been a real Japanese Experience!!!

Love to you and safe travels, Emerson Clan!

And So It Begins...

The Seika bus drops the Cohn kids off first - they live just down the street.  Today, I saw much hand waving and explanations being given.  Both Gavin and Ian go on Tuesdays.  Recipe for probable disaster...

I texted Gina to ask what was up.

Then the bus came to my house...  The text was moot.

Not only did I get the hand waving and explanations, I had the ring leader.  Dougie, whom tends to not listen and definitely fails to respond, was off the hook...  this time.  Ian, on the other hand...  He has that "catch me if you can" mentality.

Well, the sensei did catch him.

The class had come in from being outside and were putting their regular clothes back on.  Except for Ian.  He made a beeline right back out the door.  And Gavin followed...

They both got a paddling.  I know for sure that at least on the Anthony front, his was well-deserved...

And so it begins...

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Imperial Palace Field Trip

Our friends, Carol & Brad (parent's of Dougie's Best FrEnemy, Kent), just PCS'd (Permanent Change of Station - i.e.: moving...) out of Yokosuka.  My heart has been very heavy with their leaving.  Our lives have truly been enriched by having their friendship and I look forward to being deliberate about maintaining that friendship.  God truly knew what he was doing when our paths crossed!

We have had the fortunate experience of getting to spend time with Kent so that Carol and Brad could do any/all number of things to complete their PCS.  Dougie has been thrilled beyond belief to get to have a friend over for the night and get to stay ALL DAY!!!

Now that all the boys are in Japanese schools, their holidays and Eric's do not match up.  Memorial Day was an exception.  Seika had a comp holiday due to Sumo Day, so we just pulled Stefan from school.  Carol & Brad needed to clean and check out of their house, so we took Kent for the day.  How much cleaning actually gets done with a five-year old in the mix?  Answer: a LOT!  But with little to show for it...  Having Kent along for the day was a win-win for all!

I was heading up to Tokyo for my second round with the Chinese Embassy, trying to secure a travel visa. Kent and Dougie, our ever-early risers, were up and ready to go first thing in the morning.  Stefan woke up about 20 minutes before I was leaving - he decided to come with as well.  Eric and Ian followed behind about an hour later.

The boys with their innocence still intact.  I love that they voluntarily "couple up" as we walk down the street!

Abbey Road: Stefan crosses Japanese-style...  they raise their hand (especially children and child-sized adults) to make them more readily visible.  
After leaving the Chinese Embassy, we headed to Hibiya Park (Hibiya Park) - easy to get to!  The boys played and got out a lot of their sillies.  We ate at a restaurant that seemed to be advertising German/Italian/European food.  The outdoor seating was lovely, food was great, definitely NOT european!  The boys all split the rice, omelet & tomato sauce (gussied up ketchup) dish.

Eric and I got the Spicy Thai Chicken.  It was really great!

We thought we would mosey through the Imperial Palace grounds (Japan Guide: Imperial PalaceImperial Palace, Wikipedia) on our way to the Japan Science Foundation's Science Museum (JSF).

Can you spot the differences?  The first picture is posed.  The second, a bit more realistic - and really more endearing!


On our way through the Palace park, we ran into Mr. Nix.  He is the NRRO rep I have been seemingly following all over the globe.  When I was working at the shipyard, he was the active NRRO rep on many of my projects.  He was the NRRO rep on many of my San Diego projects.  He had moved to be "permanent" in San Diego - Eric did a TDY project down there.  Mr. Nix moved to Japan to be the NRRO guy here.  Lo-and-behold...  Eric (and I) come to Japan...  Just can not get enough of Mr. Nix :)  This will only mean anything to those of you that understand NRROs job and my old job.  To the rest of you, I apologize for the vagaries and would love to tell you more over coffee :)  Suffice to say, I have a strange soft spot and definitely a LOT of memories of Mr. Nix.  So, it was very random and yet, so very fun, to have run into him in Tokyo.  We told him I was on a frustrating mission to get my Chinese Visa.  He asked Eric later that week if I got my visa.  He then followed up with, "I would hate to argue with her!" Ironic that he should say that... (BTW - I finally did secure my visa - another story for coffee...)

The Older Class at Seika will do a field trip in the fall (I believe) to the Imperial Palace.  Kent will have moved by then, so we dubbed this his Field Trip to the Imperial Palace.  Once there, the boys played leap frog on these giant stone barriers.  I did not get any pictures because I was too caught up enjoying their moment!
The Three Stooges?  The Three Amigos! 
We went to take a closer look at the palace (you only see part of the gate, really) while Eric took Ian to the bathroom.  A group of younger people from the Laos Embassy came through.  They thought the boys were a fabulous novelty and they ALL took pictures with them.  These kids were dirty, tired and sweaty.  For the most part, they were really good sports.  No kidding, you would have thought they were rock stars. They will definitely be in a large number of photo albums across SE Asia!

Just one of the MANY pictures the boys were featured in with the group from Laos
I did not even have to ask if they were still interested in the museum.  One of them piped up with, "can we go home now?" and the others chimed in with a unanimous chorus of "we're tired".  So home we went!

We saw a resident swan in one of the moats.  You would have thought we saw Bigfoot!  They boys excitedly asked - no, BEGGED, me to take it's picture.  OKIE-DOKIE!!!

We were packed like sardines in oil on our way up to Tokyo, but the boys enjoyed the front window, getting to look in on the driver and his control panel, all the way up.

All of us ultimately got seats on the ride home.  Ian was sleeping soundly in the stroller.  Stefan drew mazes.  Kent and Dougie could hardly stay awake... and this was in the first 6 minute ride to the main station!
You are getting very sleepy...
And then, they fell soundly asleep on the way back to Yokosuka.

These kids were tired.  And it showed.  The dark circles under Stefan's eyes; the drool stains on Kent's shoulders, the bright red side of Dougie's face from being face down in Eric's legs...

These kids earned their baths and bed that night!