And then there were 4...

And then there were 4...

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Newest Additions

Driving for me is a bit of a change.  In America you drive on the right side of the road (pun intended), you can read all the street signs, streets are actually named, motorcyclists obey traffic laws (and if they don't it's their fault), and people don't just stop on a moments notice simply because something caught their attention.  Well lucky for me...none of those things apply here in Okinawa, Japan.

TJ and I passed our drivers license test about a week ago and have since purchased two new cars.  The first is a Mazda MPV mini-van baby!  However, it's not just simply a's a low rider mini-van with a spoiler on the back!!  Way cooler than just a mini-van!  It's a 2004 and is really cool.  It has a custom navigation system (unfortunately it's all in Japanese and therefore of no use to me), 22 inch rims, and has automatic doors on both sides.  I definitely feel like hot stuff strutting down the road in it :)

TJ's new car is a Nissan Cube 3.  It seats 6 people and looks like a box on wheels.  However, if you are 6' 5", don't knock it until you sit in it.  He has more head room in that car, than any other car he has ever sat in...and he looks pretty good sitting in it, if I don't say so myself :)  He seems to like it too, which is all that matters!

So now that we have the wheels, it's just a matter of learning how to drive them.  The wipers and blinkers are on the opposite side of what I'm used to and I look simply ridiculous driving down the road in 90 degree weather with my wipers going.  I also am not used to being in a low rider and after a mere 5 minute drive have already cracked the bumper (TJ wasn't too pleased).  There is definitely a leaning curve, with anything in a new country.  I am optimistic (and am told by numerous people) that driving gets easier with time!!!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

House Hunters International

When I first found out we were moving to Japan I was so excited at the prospect of qualifying for the show House Hunters International.  For all of you HGTV junkies like me out there, I absolutely love this show.  Just being able to see what kind of homes are available all over the world is just so exciting.  So, I e-mailed the show, and this is what I got back:

Thank you for emailing House Hunters International. My name is Kassidy and I am a member of the casting team here at House Hunters International. I wanted to follow up with you and see if you have found a home yet in your new country?
I look forward to hearing from you!
 When I got this e-mail back, I was so excited!!!  Then to rain on my parade, TJ and I were informed that due to the sequestration, on base housing had to filled to 95% occupancy before anyone would be allowed to live off base.  This translates to "no House Hunters" :(  Sad day for me!!! fate would have it...on base housing is actually filled to 99% occupancy, and TJ and I were granted permission to live off base.  So in an attempt to make myself feel better about not being able to live on base, I thought I would do a bit of House Hunters International: Okinawa, Japan all by myself!!
So here goes nothing:
House 1:  "New Construction"
This house was great.  It was three bedrooms, 2 1/2 bathrooms and a cute little walkout patio with a perfect little yard for Roxy.  It had a one car garage and plenty of room for storage.  Everything about this house was American and Modern. 
Upsides: Centrally located in between Kadena AFB and Camp Courtney...where all the action goes down.  Located within the boundaries of a great LDS branch, plenty of room for our growing family, all the other families in the neighborhood are American military and have kids. 
Downsides: 35-30 minute drive to work for TJ, not enough room for our hammock, parking is really tight for two cars, no view, not enough space inside for a table w/chairs, and a couch w/TV. 
House 2: Power Plant

This was a great house that was located right next to Camp Hansen (the base that TJ is stationed at).  It is also 3 bedroom 2 1/2 baths and is 1400 square feet.  The bedrooms are huge and they each have a walk-in closet.  The garage is a one car garage, but the drive way could easily fit 3-4 cars. The backyard has a large patio with plenty of yard space for the hammock, and Roxy to run around. 
Upsides: TJ would be so close to work that he could come home for lunch everyday (and help with the kiddo's).  There is plenty of space inside and out for our family to grow.  There is beach access about 1/2 mile down the road that we could go to.  Lots of storage room for our stuff to go.  This house is also an American Modern townhome and is a brand new construction.
Downsides: We are so far north that for me to go grocery shopping/shopping in general would take at least 30 minutes.  Camp Hansen is a unaccompanied, enlisted the chance of being by other families is fairly slim.  Literally right outside of our door is a giant power plant tower...So not only do we have no view, we have a giant ugly grey tower obstructing any trees that we could be potentially looking at. While this home is a new construction, it seems like any care/finesse went out the window and they just wanted to "get er' done. " It just seems like it was thrown together.
House 3: House with a View
This was the last house we looked at, and it actually passed inspection (to be a military home) right before we went and looked at it.  The Duplex (shares a wall on one side) sits right on the bay and has a BEAUTIFUL view of the ocean.  It is 2 bedrooms and an office, and 2 bathrooms with the bedrooms and 1 bath being on the first floor, and everything else on the top floor.  There is a giant walk out balcony on the second floor that overlooks some trees with the bay directly behind.  Beach access is only steps outside the front door, and the house sits on a dead-end street.  The home is located in between Camp Hansen and Camp Courtney in a town called Yaka.
Upsides: We literally could not be closer to the ocean.  While the house only has 2 1/2 bedrooms, the bedrooms are huge, and the house is still 1400 square feet.  TJ is only 10 minutes from work (he can still come home for lunch and help with the kids), and I am only 20 minutes from a base with activities for kids and grocery shopping/general shopping.  The house has a garage and a large empty lot next door for extra parking.
Downsides: I am still pretty far away from fun family activities for Dominik and I.  The house only has 2 bedrooms and an additional office for guests.  The master bedroom has the smallest closet in the house (it's small), and the kids bedroom door is only inches from the front door.  The kitchen and living room are all upstairs which means carrying kids, groceries...etc. up the stairs for unloading. 
So...those are our three feasible options - notice I say "feasible" :)  we were shown a few more Japanese style homes, but TJ and I decided American Modern was more our style.  For one thing, Japanese style homes are built for shorter people...with TJ being 6' 5", ducking into every door way was not a good way to live.  They also did not have dishwashers.  Dominik is just not old enough to was dishes, and there is no way that I'm washing every dish by hand (man I sound pretty bratty).  They were also all located in farming districts, and while I do love our little furry farm friends, I can't handle the smell that they bring with them. 
After reading about all three home...which one would you choose? 
House 1:  "New Construction"
House 2: Power Plant
House 3: House with a View
Each house has its upsides and its downsides. It basically all came down to which house had it all.  The house that was in a reasonable location for both TJ and I, the one that had the most "comfortable" living situation, and one we could see ourselves growing into... drumroll please!!
We chose...House 3: House with a View!!!!
We get to move in on August 8th (9 more days in a hotel!!), so I will get pictures posted as soon as we move in.  We are so stinking excited to be out of this hotel and be living in one heck of a great house.  Give us a few weeks and we will be ready for visitors!!!!!

Culture Shock

Moving to Japan was always something that seemed to be an adventure in our future.  Only when my mom and dad dropped us off at the airport did it become a reality; a reality that would be taking us away from anything familiar for 3 whole years.  Even then, as I sat on the plane I was excited for what the next three years would hold in story for my sweet little family.  I have never been out of the country before (with the minor exception of Canada and a brief stint in Tijuana) and therefore did not know what to expect.  All I knew what that I was going to eat some amazing sushi, and obtain on killer tan :)

When we arrived, it was dark and I was deliriously tired.  TJ's sponsor Todd picked us up, we hoped in his mini-van, and he took us straight to the hotel.  We woke up in the morning to the sight of the beautiful ocean, and a lot of beige buildings and palm trees.  Still, I was optimistic about our adventure here.  It wasn't until I drove down the street (on the wrong side of the road mind you), couldn't read one sign, and was still so jet lagged I wasn't sure if I was asleep or awake, that I began to realize that the culture shock was going to be a bit more difficult to overcome that I first anticipated. 

Fortunately for me, the Japanese people are a WONDERFUL people.  I have learned a few simple phrases (konichiwa - hello, arigato gozaimasu - thank you, gomen nasai - excuse me) and they just seem to understand that I'm new and need a little extra help.  They also drive incredibly slow, and no one minds when someone stops abruptly (which I do...a lot).

Our form of entertainment while in the hotels is getting to go play on the luggage racks :)

Look familiar?

There was a fire in the hotel our first week here and the whole hotel was evacuated.  Cause of the fire: burnt toast.  Needless to say, we are going to be eating our meals out :)
In our short one week here we have gotten our drivers license, bought two new cars (one of which is a mini-van...the other is a box on to come), found a house, made new friends, tried Japanese ice cream, driven on the left side of the road, and explored quite a bit of the island.  I am still optimistic that our time here will only get better and better, and I look to the future in great anticipation of all the amazing adventures that we will have!!!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Last Leg

I feel like I was on vacation forever!  I'm not complaining, I just don't want the casual onlooker to think that I'm a loaf who mooches off others entertainment, food, and living quarters :)  Well enough about me and my "mooch" like tendencies...

The last leg of our 5 week vacation ended in Portland...and it definitely ended with a bang!!!  Unfortunately Tyson and Brandi were on the trek being Ma and Pa's so our family was without them for the week :(  On a bright side though, Curtis and Courtney were up for the week visiting and we had a TON on the agenda!  At one point TJ told Courtney, "you are going to think our family is way cooler that we actually are...we don't typically do this much" :)  He does have a point!  I think the fact we did so much was largely attributed to the fact that TJ did most of the planning, preparation, and take I love that guy!!!

Monday was spent with our family friends the Dickey's.  They are those awesome friends who have a boat and always invite you to come!  We docked just outside of Wilsonville in the Willamette River.  We were able to tube, wake surf, wakeboard, swim, and eat a ton of snacks (the favorite were definitely the High Chews!!  SOOO good).  In my attempt to be more of a "yes" mom, I even got on the wake surf!!  While my getting-up was only momentarily, I still did get up!!! Not bad for being my first time doing anything off the back of a boat in 13 years.  After we were done on the boat we headed to Sonic Drive-in and ordered $70 worth of chicken, burgers, shakes, and chili n' cheese tots.  The food was brought out by 5 employees on roller skates to round off our excellent day with a bang.  It was super cool to see the bags and bags of food that were brought out for just 10 people :)  Boating makes you hungry...



Tuesday was dad/grandpas birthday and the day was spent in preparation of the old mans special dinner.  By "the" day, I really mean my mom and I's day :)  The boys went golfing and the girls spent the late afternoon/evening preparing the dinner.  The dinner was amazing and consisted of Alice Springs chicken (just like Outback Steakhouse), blue cheese wedge salad, rice pilaf, and pretzel rolls.  For dessert we had an Oreo peanut butter pie and it was absolutely delicious!!!

Wednesday was a lazy day (well for the girls).  Boys played golf again and the girls did some shopping, cleaned the house up a bit and just spent some good quality time talking  and playing.  We also had Brooklyn spend the night on Tuesday, so Dominik had fun playmate to pal around with on our "lazy" day :)

Thursday was a day spent at the beach.  Since we were moving to a tropical island I wanted to make sure I acclimated myself appropriately.  What better than a 60 degree day, wet sand, and 12 mile an hour winds to make you really appreciate the white sandy beaches of Okinawa :)  I make the day sound bleak, but it was actually really fun.  We started off by going to Tillamook and hitting the Blue Heron Cheese Factory and farm and then the Tillamook Cheese Factory for some free cheese samples, lunch, and the 27 scoop "tour of the factory" ice cream extravaganza.  Granted there were 9 people sharing it...that it still a LOT of ice cream!!  After the cheese factories we went to say our condolences at Maddy's grave (Andy and Jana's dog) in Pacific City, and then off to the beach just outside of the Pelican Brew Pub in Pacific City.  While the day was pretty windy and a bit chilly we still made the most of it by climbing the sand dune, building a bon fire, making tin foil dinners, s'mores, and "woof-ums" (campfire ├ęclairs).  It was so fun to see everyone bundled up in their hoodies, gathered around the fire, and placing bets on when high-tide would come wash away our fire :)  I think TJ won with 60 minutes.

That's Dominik swaddled under all those blankets...he slept almost the entire evening :)

Friday was an adventurous day on the Sandy River.  We rented kayaks and rafts from a local rental company and put in the river just north of Oxbow park.  Andy told us that the first two rapids would be the worst and then it would be smooth sailing (or kayaking from there).  Dominik, TJ, and I were in a raft that TJ PROMISED me it would not tip.  In fact, I think he said it was impossible to tip.  So while on the second rapid when our boat was nearly vertical in the air I still said to myself "we are surly not tipping because TJ said it couldn't happen." It wasn't until I was submerged in water that I began to believe that the "impossible" was in reality, possible.  Luckily TJ had a hold of Dominik and we very roughly (there were a ton of large boulders) road the rapids to the calmer water.  Courtney also fell out on the same rapids.  In fact, everyone except Andy fell out either just before the rapids, or during the rapids.  Curtis even lost his paddle (recovered after the third search party) and my dad lost his glasses (not a good way to start off a trip; especially when you're blind without them).  The rest of the trip was really fun.  Minor rapids, and a lot of spectacular scenery and wildlife to enjoy.  What a great way to bid farewell to the great Northwest!!

On Saturday all the boys went up to Moses Lake for a golf tournament (Courtney too) and the girls ran errands, packed, and celebrated Leanne's 51st birthday party with some pizza cooked in their newly constructed patio brick oven.  Unfortunately for TJ and I...not too much packing commenced during the day and therefore did not get completed until around 1am on Sunday...long night!  Thankfully my mom and dad were up to the task and helped us gather our stuff, wash and fold our laundry, as well as pack some of our bags.  Thank goodness for family!!!

Sunday was a SAD day!!!  I know that I'm planning a trip in a mere 3 months back to Portland, but there is something about moving across the world for three years that can bring a pregnant lady to tears; lots and lots of tears!!  My dad says that we just love too deeply and I agree.  Saying goodbye would be so much easier if my family wasn't so awesome!!!  I love them so much and am so grateful for the knowledge I have of the eternal family!!!