Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Our Japanese New Year

I did the unthinkable.  we went out and about to explore and I FORGOT MY CAMERA!  ahhhhhhhhh.

I don't know what happened.  momentary insanity. ugh. so we went adventuring all I have are cell phone pictures.  

we were going to go to the Tama zoo- but we arrived to find it closed! ahh.  everybody was royally disappointed so we were driving around looking for another fun option when I spotted a beautiful giant shrine and temple.  Perfect activity for the new year.  The Japanese visit shrines and temples at the new year so they've got booths and all sorts of cool stuff going on!  usually they visit new years day- so it wasn't terribly crowded- but all of the fun stuff was being set up and we could take part!

Mack had a great day hanging out in the baby bjorn and people watching.  he now wants to be outward facing so he can see people.  he's growing up.

There was so much to see. It was especially disappointing without my camera because everything was so colorful and festive.  The colors on my phone are a little wonky because of lighting- but you can get the idea!

the MOST popular food at the street booths were octopus balls. they are so terribly disgusting.  this pic is octo ball prep.  those are giant frozen balls of spare octopus parts and pieces.  ew, yuck,

we did a fun hike where you pass 88 of these miniature shrines. 

 you are supposed to stop- clap twice- and bow to each.  this was metta the ENTIRE hike.  she whined and screamed and cried and wanted to be held.  ugh.  she's definitely hit the terrible twos- just in time to turn three.  let's hope they magically disappear on her third birthday.

you also rub each little head.  they all have hats and bibs ,   Most of their deities are adorned in red to expel illness and demons.

we threw yen in the shrines and did our bowing and clapping- so we should be set for the new year!

this was one of the most colorful shrine and temple grounds we've been to.  I loved it.
we cleansed our hands, too.  we are so lucky the japanese are so welcoming and mild mannered.  I love that it's okay for us to take pictures and take part in their traditions even if they aren't our beliefs.
after our visit- we wandered Tama's main street and ate lunch at a fun little restaurant where we sat on mats and had to remove our shoes.  and we ordered our food from a ticket machine!

 the ticket machines are just a bunch of japanese kanji that we can't read entirely so it can be really tough to eat here!  luckily almost every nice restaurant in Japan has food displays in their windows.   so we took a picture of the food items we wanted and then asked for help ordering from the ticket machine!

the food displays are plastic foods that are terribly expensive to make!  there's an area of tokyo that specializes in making them!  each dish can cost 100+ dollars to create!!  but they are SUPER realistic looking and incredibly helpful for foreigners who want to know what they are going to be eating!!

Zeb got curry.

kent and I shared some udon noodles and katsu pork with eggs and rice.  it's considered very polite TO SLURP your noodles!  metta loves it.

before finding the restaurant we considered having hot lunch from the vending machines.  The corn chowder looks delish,

a man roasting chestnut son the street.

after our day of exploring- we headed home and had our traditonal 2014 awards ceremony!  we even got to open a few packages that arrived late from family in the states!  it was like Christmas all over again!

Ike got the 'excellence in reading and running award'.  he's been a champion reader in kindergarten and has shown vast improvement from the beginning of the year! I am so impressed with how much he loves to read now!  He and I weren't making progress before he started school- but now he's loving it and reading every word in site!!  and he has been quite the little runner with his six miler last month! he also learned to ride a bike in once day when we got here.  he's quite the athlete considering who his parents are :)

Zeb received 'excellence in big brothering and engineering'.  When I got really sick after mack was born- he really stepped up and basically took care of ike for me.  He walked/biked him to his classroom every morning and piked him up after school-and then made sure they didn't bother me once they got home everyday.   His engineering award came from school where they do a ton of STEM projects.  He's  really great at building and designing and problem solving.

metta won the 'big girl award' for her mastery of toilet training and quitting the binky.  binky detox and rehab were tough- but she's been binky free for over a month now!

everybody needs a good grumpy face picture.

afterwards we made cookies and played some games. and I watched a few episodes of the Duggar marathon on AFN (american forces network)  and then we all crashed.  none of us made it to midnight this year!  the more kids I get- the earlier I go to bed!  is that the true sign of becoming an adult???

2015 has started out in true Japanese fashion and we have included some of the Japanese new year traditions into our home.  Their major traditions are the first shrine visit and a big house cleaning to cleanse out spirits and make things fresh for the new year!  we've been cleaning all morning and we have our New Years decor up.  The Yellow lucky cat brings good relationships, the red daruma head is a talisman of good luck and perserverance, and the Kadomatsu is our 'gate pine' with it's three pilars of heaven, humanity, and earth that house ancestral spirits (kami) for the first seven days of the new year!

We also included a picture of the Savior- which is our family belief and faith  We hope and pray that his spirit will fill our home all year long!

 Happy New Year!!  Here's to a fabulous 2015 filled with love and adventure!!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

last batch

So- I've got the last batch of pics from when my parents were in town that need blogging!
we spent three days in tokyo exploring parts of town we hadn't seen before!  sometimes I get so anxious thinking about all of the things I need to see and do here.  There is SO MUCH.  ahhhhh!

Staying at the New Sanno (military hotel) is wonderful. so inexpensive and so easy!  plus they have the BEST pool and a great place to get souvenirs.

here's metta hanging out in the pool.

and mack hanging out poolside with gramps.  it was pretty fabulous having a 1:1 ratio of children to adults.  I need a nanny,
and everybody eating cereal in the coffee cups.
Our first day downtown- it rained and was cold!  we checked out Meiji Shrine and harajuku street and the Roppongi hills neighborhood,  I didn't get many pics because I was wearing mack most of the day and it was so wer!

Yoyogi park is like Central Park in NY.  It's a dense jungle in the middle of a crazy bustling city!  everything here was beautiful.

everything here also seemed to be very large!  these tori gates are the first I've seen in this natural wood.  Most are red.
a giant boat made of vegetables!? I think it may have been as a sacrifice/gift at the shrine?  there were all sorts of vegetable displays here.  they often leave food and drinks and money at the shrines,
the giant spider at roppongi.  metta HATED it.  she is afraid of things in such a sporadic fashion.  She held a giant cockroach at school the other day- but was terrified of this sculpture?  weirdo,

Our next day was dry and lovely.  we took the train out to Odaiba- a man made island in Tokyo Bay. There are museums and malls and Lego land!  the boys were super excited about lego land! and we lucked out to have the place almost emtirely to ourselves!  It's all indoors and has only 3 rides- but the kids were so so happy.

tokyo made out of legos is pretty amazing!  Here's Shibuya square!

and the skyline at night!

nothing better than a giant pit of legos.

the boys took a monkey making course with gramps.  all the instructions were in japanese- but they figured it out!
there was also a car building and test site.

more than anything the boys loved the ninjago training grounds!  they must have tried getting through the lasers a zillion times!

mack didn't like lego land AT ALL.  seriously- it was possibly the grumpiest he's EVER been.

eating some of the world's best food from the best french bakery near the hotel.

we also visited the Asakusa Shrine.  It's one of the largest and oldest in Japan. and it's ALWAYS crazy and crowded!!

I love the smell of burning incense,

metta is throwing in her yennies as an offering!

we try to take lots of dragon pictures for mack.  I feel bad that he's not going to remember any of this at all.

these japanese people LOVED metta.  they hugged her and took pictures and ooed and ahhed.
ike getting a 'no hands' piggy back ride from Nannie Annie!

this street is lined with souvenir shops and fabulous food!

after Asakusa- we ventured out to dinmer at the Hard Rock Cafe.  It was SO DELICIOUS.  Definitely my first high quality american food since we left the states.  and it was so good.  so so good.  our view walking back to the subway was pretty cool!  I LOVE big cities at night. the lights and chaos and sounds are pretty exciting.

our last day with nannie annie and gramps was sad news.  metta cried when they drove away on the shuttle!  I'm so glad they could come and visit! and I'm so happy they said they'll be back soon!