Tuesday, September 30, 2008

blah... blah... blog

Well, I took off my last rant, but then put it back on thanks to my friend, Peevish. I looked at it in the 5 am light, with the rain falling softly outside and Natsumi chewing quietly on my pajama leg, and thought nah...it's too snarky and negative. I had some coffee and started surfing around the net, finding all kinds of cute, positive and cheerful blogs. I remembered how I deleted one from my favorites that was all bitter and nasty about the Navy - the one that had nothing nice to say, ever, ever.
I like to always be positive but I guess that isn't genuine. So I won't fake it here.
I will have a rant from time to time if I see an injustice. I guess I'm not as "go with the flow" as my husband. I will get upset from time to time, and if I can't change the situation it just adds to my heartburn, or some mysterious rash that will crop up.
In general I think we have a good life here in Japan. I love the Japanese culture, and the land is beautiful. I have some wonderful friends here. But sometimes it gets gets old having Jose gone doing his medical humanitarian stuff. I try to be cheerful most of the time on the phone with him, so that he doesn't stress out about me on the other side of the globe. I do the same things with the boys, cook the meals, take care of the pups and clean the house. But sometimes I get a bit down, dwell on situations and politics and take it out on the white linoleum with a good mop.
Ahhh, enough about me.....
Hope everyone is having a better day!

Monday, September 29, 2008

That's Bull Ship

Well, I'm angry with this command. I read on another blog that someone was feeling slighted a bit by the over-the-top preferential treatment of the arriving George Washington folks.
It is nothing against the families, they are leaving their homes and settling into a foreign place, and fast becoming our new friends.

But my friend was reading the latest Seahawk and snorting. Apparently no one welcomed them when the Shiloh first came to the base...no fanfare...no super cool sponsor...no special sale at the NEX...no free food and festivities for the kiddies...no huge banners...and nope, they never got to sign up for a house and not to leave their last command until there was a place open.

Nope, after reading articles in the Seahawk, it sounds like the rest of us are all nothing but a pile of chopped liver over here!

A few bullet points:

We got here and did not have any housing. That is how housing works for most of us here. We were told that the wait list was about 12 months or so. We were not important enough to warrant a house immediately. We were also not allowed to put our name on the wait list until we were personally here, and also, attended a certain informational housing meeting that met once a week at 8am. Then, we could put our name on a waiting list. Why? Because that was the rule. And rules are rules.

We moved out in town for several months before we were offered our first place on base. Like everyone else. Don't get me started on how I was treated when I went to the housing office to ask to get back on the list, when my husband became an IA. Don't. Sure the woman was a bit nasty, but she had to tell me what the RULES were, and said a few times, how other people would be upset if after living in town for almost two years we were given an unfair preference by moving to the top of the housing wait list.

Oooh, I got myself started....Sorry.....

Oh, and I forgot how many lines I stood in, fighting jet lag and wishing I had brought a book. Why?? Because I had a regular sponsor from the hospital, not the kind who is allowed to register your children in school for you, sign for you at self help and have your house furnished for you when you arrive.

It galls me that rules seem so arbitrary and fleeting, and preferences are so obvious, and it appears that the concept of a rule or policy is as flitting as a summer dragonfly. It is not that I feel rules should be set in stone, but honestly, can people not help all of us families with what we need when we get here? And while we are here??? The nest time a cynical, uncaring robot behind a desk denies my family something because it is a "rule" or "policy", I will surely be forced to climb over the top and give them a supersonic snuggy. And a hard twisty snakebite. And a wet willy. Twin wet willies.

Ooooh, I get so mad. I hope the Navy is not so screwball back in the states. I don't plan to have anything to do with the base back home, unless I have to. Uuuuugh.


Saturday, September 27, 2008

Aww....Cricket is going to be so jealous...

Little neighbor girls make Dotty the Chihuahua their new baby girl. Dotty plots her escape.

family cruise on the Shiloh

Oh, man, Frankie is taller than his Mom!?!

Can you guess who the pint size firefighter is?

These guys might be a bad influence.....I think they were having alot of fun....check out the tats!

Nate impresses everyone with his wit and wisdom.

Later, back in the wardroom....

The boys and I went to the neighbor's family cruise aboard the Shiloh. For the day on Fri, we cruised around Tokyo Bay. We got a look at all of the other ships including a Japanese research vessel used to break ice in the Antarctic. There were lots of planes flying overhead, and helicopters flew around us to wave hello. We saw a refueling island, a car manufacturing plant, the Toyko Bay Bridge, and Disney Sea we could see from the boat also. We got a great tour of the inside of the ship and had fun and lots of good food. The sky was overcast and not as hot as usual, so it was perfect. Windy! A great day to play hooky!
Jose would be so jealous! But don't worry honey, I got you a Shiloh sweatshirt. At least, I think I'll give it to you....


Hey! Don't you grin at me when I'm scolding you!!

Cool Beans

Last week we went to Yoko's house (a friend of Tea Box Sensei) and learned how to make bean treats with sticky rice. Frankie came with and learned along with me. Only later did I find out that he secretly doesn't like the azuki bean paste - he was polite, thank goodness.
Yoko taught us, then led us to a low table in her tatami room where we sat on pillows and enjoyed a dinner: a diakon(radish) salad with crab, a couple kinds of pickles, delicious azuki treats wrapped around sticky rice, a platter of huge dark purple grapes, homemade pickled plums and a garlic miso paste to try with fresh iced cucumbers. While we were sitting there, she brought out a platter of steamed sweet potatoes.
After dinner she showed us her craft: intricate beaded necklaces. Frankie has very interested and has already gotten me to order him a beading loom on line.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Quick, open the door!!!

Last night I was sewing at one neighbor's house complaining about not know what to have for dinner , when another neighbor announced that she was in the mood to cook Thai food. Soon, after that I was distracted by a wet little fellow who I'll call "Taters" jumping around in the rain complaining of hunger pains, peeking through her sliding glass door. I went home and was watching the boys eat their delectable sloppy joes and frozen corn, when there was a knock at the door: Rebecca, the Middle School teacher. Ms. Don't You Dare Cry in My Classroom! We saw Mama Mia together and at that point I realized that she is quite fun and caring person.
She bakes the most wonderful peach pies and her japapeno corn bread is to die for. Last weekend she made smoke brisket and homemade buns, and forced the whole courtyard to eat dinner at her place. It was awful :))).
Anyway, when I opened the door here was:
coconut beef curry over rice
thai beef salad
homemade lumpia (Filipino egg roll)
So good! I'll never ignore a knock at the door again.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Tropical Storm Sinlaku

It's been raining most of the week and the kids have been getting restless. This doesn't stop them from running around outside and tracking in mud all over the white floors, though. Here is sweet little Ethan coming over to see Natsumi. She adores kids, especially tiny ones. The problem is that she tries to jump on them and play-wrestle. Ethan keeps coming back for more abuse though - he thinks its funny!
Yesterday we were gearing up for a good typhoon - tropical storm Sinlaku -but it seems to have passed us by for the most part. I think. When we woke up this morning, there was an impressive puddle in the center of the courtyard but that was about it.
Well, we were just hunkered down. One thing I love to do and maybe this is a Minnesota phrase, hunker down. We went to the base mini-mart for a movie and two pizzas to share with Yuri's daughter. I found one mindless magazine which makes a frumpy middle aged mom feel inadequate both in fashion sense and makeup application, and one magazine which makes same gal feel the need to buy scads of new furniture, draperies and accessories for the home. It was fun.
Alas, the boys and I spent the evening together and had a peaceful night of sleep, and woke up to a grey sky and steaming quiet puddles in the grass. Yes, and quietly steaming puddles in the white linoleum.

craft purse, or crafty purse...

Alas, I was forced to go to another sale at Swany's, the fabric store in Kamakura. this is the number one thing to do in Japan while the kids are at school, I think. It was my turn to drive, so we piled into the car and I took off cautiously down the road. When we got their, Swany's was packed and the parking lot was full, so I stayed in the road with a number of local ladies who also had their blinkers on. People who cling to the cultural stereotype of Japanese women as shy and submissive have never been to a sale at Swany's, or to the parking lot for that matter.

Anyway it was a blast, I love a good crowd sometimes. The cute little pieces of material I found were irresistible. Yuri announced that we would all be making "craft bags" to hold our stuff later. I have learned to go with the flow when it comes to my neighbors, and usually end up having a good time. What the heck, it has been raining all week and the kids have been in school.

Pam has the gift of being able to look at a thing like a jacket or purse, turn it inside out, and replicate her own pattern. We each made bags somewhat like this one. Mine has poodles and polka dots.

All afternoon we were doing this, until our kids were watching cartoons, having multiple snacks from multiple cupboards and tracking mud back and forth between eachother's houses.

I'll miss these guys when they move. Yuri is moving early November and Jenny is moving then also.....Navy life...

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Mom, I can see!

Ok, now the little fellow has glasses. He lost that $50 bet with Dad (if he doesn't need glasses by 6th grade, he wins $50 from Daddy, if he needs them, well, that's ok...he gets a new pair of glasses). One of my Japanese pals translated for us at the store so he could complete an eye test, then they had the glasses ready by the next day!

Mom, I can see!

Wow, Mom, I can see that sign...

Hey, Mom, I can't believe all the things I can see now...

Uhhh, Mom, my head hurts a little...

I like the frames he picked out. I'm not to sure about the shaggy looking hair he has going on, but I did promise him that he could grow it out if he did his best in school last year. So there it is. My little individual. It has grown on me a bit, but I am always brushing the bangs out of his eyes.

Monday, September 15, 2008

adventures of eye care

Beware, its going to be a rant....

Well, my short one needs glasses pretty badly. He brought this to my attention a few days ago, and in the meantime I got a call from his teacher about how he was squinting at the board. That will make all four of us with glasses. I called the hospital to try to get Nate an appointment with the eye clinic and was told that they were not taking appointments and in fact had a waiting list! WTH???

Well, can't you just book it out a bit?

Sorry Ma'am. They are booked solid through the end of November and are not taking any appointments.

Well, is there any alternative? I mean, he can't see the board, its really distressing him.

Hmm...would you like to put your name on the waiting list for the next available appointment?

Wait a minute, there has to be a priority for a kid in school who can't see and has never had glasses, versus someone who just wants their annual routine exam, isn't there? I mean, is there an alternative here?


I mean, is there something else we could do or somewhere else I could take him? He can't just wait until Christmas! He used to ace the spelling bee and now he can't even see the words...

Maybe I should explain again. They are not taking appointments right now, but you can put his name on a waiting list. Would you like to put his name on the waiting list?

Well I guess so but is there another place I can take him and have tricare cover it? A place where they speak English??

I wouldn't know about that Ma'am. What is the child's first name?

Well, after that lovely exchange I started to heat up a bit. Sure, I put his name on a list. Then I emailed his primary MD who he has not actually seen in the last two years. I did not hear back, but who knows, maybe on leave a bit, or the Navy has deployed him somewhere else???

I makes me angry that there is not sufficient resources to serve the people we have here properly, and yet we have a hugemonguluos ship coming with lots of sailors and that is going to make things even worse. I hear that active duty have priority, and in some ways I understand that. But our children have no choice but to live here with their parents and they deserve health care as much as anyone else. We don't want to live in crisis triage mode all of our lives, for every little appointment.
If this is the way it is going to be, then I can't wait to get back to the States where there are more consumer back doors, rather than dependent on a huge organization that just doesn't seem to care as much about me and the kids.
Then I decided to take him to the Japanese glasses store in the mall and pay myself, the ole consumer back door.

ear watch

Yesterday they were both floppy. Today they are like this... :)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Frankie's Teabox

Ok, so yesterday I went to the Yokosuka base and took the teabox class again, so I could make this medium/small size box for Frankie. It might be hard to see, but the trim is a twisted linen cord. My plan is to make this smaller size and one larger size trunk for each boy to put his treasures in, and have them be stacked in their rooms. Frankie was pretty happy with this material, so I'll make the bigger one in this as well.
Nate's fabric which I got in Yokohama on a trip with the neighbors, is a navy blue with linen colored dragons curled up on it. So, I will need to take at least three more tea box classes.
Yesterday was a day of drama with the neighbors. It was P's birthday, so M wanted to make her a coconut cake from Paula Deen's recipe which I had saved from a magazine. However, he had to work and so Y was supposed to make the frosting. Y was intimidated by this 7 minute frosting recipe so I agreed to make it, and we rigged up a double boiler in her kitchen. I had only one small request in payment for this tremendous chore.....the cake was delicious!
In the meantime, Ms. Busybody approached me on my way back from walking the pups and informed me that she had done some reading on line, and that I'll have a hard time getting homeowners insurance because Miss Natsumi is an Akita, one of the most dangerous, vicious, blah blah blah on the bad list of dogs. Like the ferocious pit bull, doberman, etc. Just call me Mrs. Deployed Michael Vick.
She asked if I had a trainer for her, and that me thinking I could try to train her at home wasn't going to work. In fact, there is a dog trainer that comes to the base and volunteers, from Zushi. I tried to give Natsumi a signal to bite her, but she just grinned at me and chewed on my flip flop a bit.
Later it was about the length of my younger son's hair - isn't their a rule against such hair? Doesn't the school have a dress code for hair? Isn't there a base policy??
We live in a small tight community here. Everyone knows everyone's business, and since most of us don't work, its easy to get enmeshed in eachother's lives and lose your sense of privacy. In some ways, we also support eachother when our husbands are deployed or away at sea. We can rely on eachother for a shoulder or that egg we need or that plop of sour cream we just have to have on our taco!
People have trouble confronting the negative. However, the peace is only one sided - the person on the receiving end is not feeling the peace! Later I thought about how sad life would be I sat in the courtyard insulting people all day and worrying about their business. I enjoyed a glass of wine with my kind neighbors and had the cake, hugged my boys and dogs and thanked God for them, shaggy hair and all.

love em

We love your tea boxes. Love 'em!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Monday, September 8, 2008

latest sewing project

I am trying to potty train this new puppy and whenever she does pee outside, I want to give her a treat. So I made this "treat bag" with fabric samples from Kamakura. It is hanging by the sliding door to the backyard where I like to think the dogs will be going pee at some point. The back has poodles; the front is a cream colored linen that I embroidered these little pictures from a pattern. The grommet punch thing came from my neighbor, who has now convinced me that I need one. Japanese embroidery books really take the cake with how sweet the little pictures are. I am starting a small collection of Japanese embroidery and cross stitch books.

Sunday, September 7, 2008


Well, I couldn't resist going back to Swany's, the fabric store in Kamakura, about 10 minutes away. First of all, they were having a big sale and they had many small samples of fabric on sale for 100 yen apiece. Look at all of this cute little boy stuff. Some of it has been in the closet for months, and I just didn't know what to do with it. But I have two sweet little nephews. Hmm...More that later...

Awww, the precious food!

Sometimes the food in Japan is just so cute I have to take a picture of it. It is very common for these huge peaches to be packaged like this. At sometimes $3 apiece, you might want that kind of packaging. Each peach is sooo delicious, it really makes a dessert. You want to savor each one. After all, you paid through the nose for it. Here in Japan, we find ourselves eating the food we buy. Yes, it is more expensive to buy fresh produce sometimes, however, it is fresh and good. Back home I used to buy a bag of peaches and later, end up tossing the ones that rotted in the refrigerator. That goes for all kinds of cheap, flavorless veggies that would end up in the back of the fridge.
I couldn't resist taking a picture of this Hello Kitty bun, before we brought it to the neighbor girl. Some things are just so cute I have to get them, even though the boys refused to eat them.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Woke up this morning...

I woke up this morning and my ears were just like this....Ever have one of those mornings??

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Potato Mows the Lawn

Tonight, Naters did the job of mowing the lawns. When I say he did it, I mean Nate checked the mowers in the self help shed for gas and oil and found one that had the most gas in it. Then, I pushed it up the hill to our yard, and we tried to start it, unsuccessfully. Then we pushed it back and found another one that looked as if it has a whiff of gas left in it. Pushing it back was a bit painful because we had to explain things to Miss Peabody who sits in a chair out in the courtyard. Why is this dishevelled woman pushing mowers back and forth and grumbling at the preteen son? And why does this boy have such long shaggy hair?
Anywhoo, "we" got it started, but it died soon thereafter: not enough gas! I drove to the minimart as the sun was setting and bought their one remaining gas can, filled it up and returned home, pausing only long enough to explain to Miss Peabody who was now quite demanding to know what we were up to. :)
After this, Nate was in business. He had learned the important parts of mowing from a wonderful neighbor of ours who was home resting this summer following major surgery, and was restless and helpful with our boys. It was very sweet of him to take Nate and his buddy under his wing and teach them the basics of mowing a lawn: just when they were missing their own Daddies. :)
So, Nate mowed our lawn, Yuri's lawn, and another neighbor who faced a sunnier area and had more actual grass than the rest of us. But, less mystery clumps.
In return for my sweat and angst, Yuri fed us some of her delicious chicken paprikash.
If you look carefully, you can see Natsumi's little face peeking out from behind the sliding door. Cricket is there too, but he is harder to see, being mostly black.
The last picture is the view from our backyard, of the thick wall of forest facing our house. It is here that stray cats roam, snakes slither, and mysterious humming and clicking beetles rule the night.
Here's to a little less mystery in our backyard. Thanks Taters!

Monday, September 1, 2008

more etsy lurve

Ok, I should stop going on etsy.co, since every time I do, I fall in love with something else. Mincing Mockingbird painted these adorable birdies. I have a thing for birds. Anyway, the largest one is the one I had to have, for the kitchen. I'm sure Jose would agree, if we were reading my blog, which he probably isn't. Love ya honey!

recycle shop findings

So I posed a few of the things I got while thrift shopping with some Oakleaf friends. Artful, no? No? Oh, well.
Darlene, Clement (a stay at home navy Dad spouse) and Jen and I went to Tanemura Antique shop in Yokosuka, another small recycle shop I don't know the name of, and a place called Hard Off, which I looove.
Everyone found something, and we had fun, and had lunch as well. the watercolors here were 20 yen apiece, or roughly a quarter. I found the kimono purse for around $3 at Hard Off, and the blue scarf also. Things we really needed, which life would not be complete without, of course.

Alright, whooo chewed up the paper?

Here is yet another picture of big girl and Cricket. I love Natsumi's sweet little face - it looks like a heart shape, with a stem on top. She is now taller than Cricket and weighs about the same. she can whup his A%$ at tug of war and steal his food when he is not looking. He has become a bit food protective, and I'm sure he'd prefer to be an only dog. But you know, I would have liked to be an only child and I ended up with 5 siblings. Boo hoo!


Well, yesterday we went to a pool party that the base had at the Ikego swimming pool. They had food and drinks there, so I was all over the idea of getting the kids out for some fun and at the same time, eliminating my need to cook. Because when I cook, there are always dishes.

Anyway, while we were there Frankie got the courage up to try the "swim test". The swim test is for kids who would like to go to the pool without the supervision of their parents, only the several young lifeguards who are always there. You must swim 50 yards and then tread water for one minute. Frankie has been thinking about this all summer, and gearing up for it. Yesterday he had several buddies at the pool and wanted to get that special green wristband just like the rest of them. Well, he passed! Whooo! He was grinning and sitting with a table of buddies when Nate and I left him.

Nate didn't take the test and was a bit jealous and moody. But like I told him, swimming lessons have done him a world of good this summer. this was a young fellow who was afraid to put his head under, who is now doing cannonballs and having a blast with his little buddies. He doesn't tread water and he doesn't really float well, but he does alot of other things in the water and really is coming along.

Later we went home and played with the dogs, worked on video games (ha) and cross stitch. My buddy Yuri was out back on her patio smoking when I let the dogs out and said, "What's for supper?" Actually our houses are connected and we are often outside in our backyards at the same time. Because of our magnificent canna lilies, often the only clue she is outside as well would be the wafting second hand smoke that follows her. :) Anyway, I had put some carrot soup in the crock pot, but not in the mood to eat it. I am the only one who likes my carrot soup. Jose, love him, does not really like it either.

Carrot soup:
2 cups carrots
one onion, diced
2 cups chicken broth
1 tsp curry
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper
1 potato, diced
1 splash of hot sauce

Put all of the above in the crock pot and when you get home, the house will smell like curry. When the veggies are good and soft, blend them up and add:

1/2 cup milk and 1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 tbsp peanut butter

You are done.

But anyway, I am the only one who likes it.

So last night the boys and I and Yuri, her husband, their daughter and Pam went to a great Indian place in Kamakura. That place has the most awesome truly wonderful Indian food ever. Ever! I ordered a huge piece of naan bread and the chicken curry in mild gravy. The chicken curry is soooo good it will bring a tear to your eye. The naan, they make behind a window so you can watch. It is truly food porn.
This place faces the ocean and we were able to sit outside and soak up the view, in the setting sun. Frankie ordered this seafood curry with a green coconut sauce and prawns, scallop, some things with shells, some crab claws, and one thing inside of a shell edged in bright blue that was actually sort of pretty. He go the mango lassi which he likes, a sweet yogurt drink. Nate ordered the naan and a coke, like he did last time we were there.

This place is very easy to get to from where we live, I'm afraid. Too easy. To get there, we get on to 134 and its right off of there, through 2 tunnels. On the way we past the Cantina which is a great Italian place which the boys would love. And a buffet place which I have also promised to take them to.

If I play my cards right I may not have to cook all year.