Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Sweet Moment in Time

Today we picked up Hubby from the air terminal.  Brother knew we were driving to pick up Dad, but we kept it a secret from Sissy.  Lucky for us, she was clueless and lost in her own thoughts in the back seat as we drove (2+ hours) to pick up Hubby.  Brother accidentally mentioned picking up Dad several times, but Sissy never caught on.

Her face was too precious when she saw her Dad finally.  I wanted to get a better picture of her expression, but she moved faster than I had anticipated!

 I just had to share- doesn't it make you smile?

I had her play in the kids' room while we were waiting. 
She thought I had a meeting and we were just taking a break there.
So here she is running to her Daddy when she saw him walk into the room.

SO happy!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Call me!

I have to tell you I am dreading, DREADING what my cell phone bill will amount to next month.  Trying to to get a hold of Hubby while he is stateside was a nightmare- and we had to use our cell phones.  That means international roaming, meaning beau coup bucks!  We have Softbank, a Japanese cell phone carrier.  They bill in Yen of course.  Have you seen the exchange rate lately?  Yuck- it is bad all around.  I guess I should be grateful that his phone WORKS in the States.  Weird because our Stateside phones don't work here.

I am adding calling, using the telephone, cell phone, etc- as one of the challenges to living in Japan.  We didn't sign up for a DSN phone because I figured we could save $30- we have our cells after all.  But.

You can't call a DSN number from your cell phone.  You have to use a different prefix.  That is just fine if you know what that prefix is!!  The bases here all have different prefixes, some more confusing than the others.  and unfortunately- many times places on base will only give their DSN numbers- and do not tell you what the prefix is if you calling from off base or your cell.  Let me you tell you folks that is mighty frustrating!!

Oftentimes you can look up the number on the Internet, and they will give the DSN number and the commercial overseas number- that doesn't work from my cell phone.  Thank goodness for Facebook.  I will just ask my local friends- what is the prefix for....  Someone usually has it written down somewhere.

Then one tries to call Navy Fed.  Hmm, I tried the local bank in Yokosuka, but the machine says to call the toll free number.  Again- that number only works from a DSN line.  So I got online and searched Navy Federal's telephone directory.  There are several (read like 8) different toll free numbers to call in Japan- it depends who your land line or cell phone carrier is!  How crazy is that?  So after a couple of tried I finally found the number that works.  (When is doesn't work I get a recording of a woman's voice admonishing me in Japanese.)

You would think there would be a telephone directory they give all of us stationed here.  You would think...

I think I am going to go sign up for that DSN line now.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Time warp

Just an update- Hubby made it back to his parents', but missed his grandma's service by an hour.  He travelled for three days, only one of the nights did he actually stay in a hotel.  I was a nervous wreck for him!  And in the end, we just couldn't find a flight that would get into the town he is from- any earlier.  It is a case of a small airport due to being located in a small valley surrounded by flat top (mesa) mountains.  At one point he said he would get a rental car and drive.  I am so glad I talked him out of it.  Not only would he probably still miss the funeral, but there was a high probability his exhausted self could fall asleep at the wheel!  I have to say, when he puts his mind to something- he drives straight ahead!


Let me tell you one of the big issues with living overseas is the time difference!  I was trying to get tickets for Hubby stateside- but since we are 14 hours ahead, I couldn't get the internet sites (Expedia for example), to let me buy a ticket for the previous day!  FRUSTRATING.  Soon, Hubby, my MIL, and myself had a call triangle going on.  I called her via Skype, but had to call him via our cell phones.  My MIL ended up buying the ticket for Hubby.  On a side note- I am Very scared to see what our cell phone bill is going to look like with international roaming charges, ugg!!


I have had to stay up late every night just so I can call my MIL.  That equates to staying up until midnight for me.  While I tend to be a night owl- lately I have been so tired I just want to go to bed early.


All this trying to buy tickets for the day before and staying up late to talk to family early in the morning got me singing the Time Warp song from the Rocky Horror Picture Show.  We actually did this dance in 7th grade for our "Future Fair" we put together.  Now I need to find this movie on DVD...



Enjoy- now that I got to talk to the Hubby, I am going to bed!!

Monday, September 20, 2010

One of the benefits of living in Japan...

Is that my daughter gets the opportunity to model- something not accessible (and frankly- not desirable), in the States.  My daughter has the blonde hair/blue eye European look to her- and that is something the Japanese love (or like).  The modeling agencies actually come to the different bases (to a 'modeling fair') so one can sign themselves and/or their children up.  Last year we attended one of those modeling fairs.  We handed out Sissy's info (name, height, weight, etc), and the agencies took her picture.

So now we get calls and/or emails for different auditions and jobs coming up.  We have gone to 4 auditions- with no luck at any of them.  However, she did get three jobs just from picture selections (no need to audition).  She probably would have had more jobs by now, but often times the auditions and jobs are at the same time as school events and/or sports that Sissy is involved with. 

I have taken her out of school a couple of times and have picked her up early.  I anguished over it at first.  But a friend told me something that I think is very true- "don't let school get in the way of your children's education".  Now- don't think I am saying that MODELING is a replacement for school!  But, the times I have taken her out of school have always involved seeing new parts of Tokyo and Japan.  I take the time to look up the area and we find unique and new things we haven't seen before.  And frankly- we would never have been to some of these places if it hadn't been for a job or audition.

I made it sound worse than it actually is- I have only taken her out early or for the day 6 out of those 7 trips.  She is also a good student, so I am not worried about her falling behind.  (In other words- Brother wouldn't be a candidate for modeling- EVEN in he wanted to.)

Sissy has had a great time at the three jobs she had.  I know I have blogged about it before, so I will stop there.  I have, however, decided, after the last audition, to stop going to auditions.  If she happens to get a picture selection, that is great, but we don't have time for all of the auditions.  If we were closer to Tokyo, it would be easier.

That said- her last audition was for a famous American clothes company.  To give you a hint- they told us not to have her wear Ralph Lauren, because [insert designers name here] hates Ralph Lauren.  That cracked me up.  She didn't get picked- too bad- it was good money and I am sure the pictures would have been awesome.  Speaking of which- that is my favorite part.  For your viewing pleasure here the pictures she did for a jewelry designer at the beginning of the year.  They were shown at an exhibit- I wish I could have been there!






This was on the postcard invites to the exhibit

If anything- she will have some great stories to tell of her 'modeling days' in Japan!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

A Red Cross Message

Perusing Facebook on my iPhone yesterday at the Food Court while enjoying my iced vanilla latte, I stumbled upon sad news. Hubby's step-grandmother died the day before. Since we are in Japan and with the time difference, his mother hadn't been able to contact us yet. So from his brother and sister's status updates on Facebook, I found out about Grandma's death. Finding out those things in a Food Court, a busy crowded Food Court, is not a good thing. I threw on my sunglasses and left as quickly as I could without bursting into tears for all to see.



This is where living overseas really just sucks (sorry that is the most suitable word). I can't just hop on a plane, fly a couple of hours and then be there to support our family. I don't think they warn you about these things when you move overseas. While you might be able to get home, it is a huge ordeal. Brother asked if we were going home for the funeral. I feel terrible. I know our family understands, but I feel so helpless here. This is the same as I when my grandmother died last year.


My first response was to call my in-laws. Well- it was 1 am back home. I waited up until midnight here, 9am there. They were on their way to the mortuary. My father in law sounded so sad, so torn up, it broke my heart. I absolutely love that man. He is Hubby's step-father, but he has never treated my children like step-grandkids, and my kids don't know the difference. My own father and step-father passed away about 5 years ago, so I am grateful for my father in law.


The other reason I called was to get the specifics on where Grandma passed away (name of the hospital for example). My next call was to the Red Cross.

Many people might not know this (or maybe everyone knows this), but the Red Cross will send a message to your service member to notify him and his command/unit, etc, of a family member's death. What they will do is verify the information and then get the message out to wherever the service member may be. They do not send emails, but will relay all information by phone. This is important if a service member is deployed and needs a legitimate reason to go home.




To initiate a Red Cross message, you can call the stateside toll-free number: 877-272-7337. You are going to need your service member’s name, social security number, rank, address, unit's address and name, and any other information such as they are deployed to Iraq, or they are on a ship, etc. Whatever information you have to help them locate your service member is helpful.


Also- find out the name and number of the hospital where the family member passed away, or the name of the doctor and his number- an official person who the Red Cross can contact. I didn't have the number to the mortuary and nursing home, only the names. But as I talked with the Red Cross rep on the phone (via Skype may I add), we both Googled the names to find the phone numbers.


They will ask you if the service member is aware of the death, so they know to specifically state on the message to NOTIFY the member, not just request them to come home. Once they have obtained all the pertinent information, they will give you a case number. Write it down so you can check on the status later on if need be.


Red Cross more than likely has a local office if you are stationed overseas- you can also call them. Since it was midnight, the people here would have to be called in to the office to send a message. Since I have Skype, I figured it was just as easy to call the 24 hour stateside number. If the family member that passed is in a foreign country, for example The Philippines, sometimes you would need to contact their Red Cross people. That is not always the case, but I am sure your local office would tell you if need be.


I hope someone finds this information useful if need be.

Rest in peace Grandma, you are loved and we will miss you dearly.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Tired of being the "bad guy"

I want my mommy!  I want my husband!  I want a spa day! 

I think the third one I might be able to do- at least a pedicure? 

I have had an amazing/exhausting/frustrating week.  I am surprised I am still able to sit upright and type.  Why you ask?...

Amazing- I got to meet and work with some awesome Navy wives through Compass this week.  While I did do some teaching and feel like the participants learned something from me- I learned so much from them and the other Compass Mentors.  If you are a Navy wife and haven't done the course yet- DO IT!!  (and I say this in hopes you have a Compass team at your duty station.)

Exhausting- Compass, school, errands, Compass, school, errands, kids, kids, kids, kids (get it?)

Frustrating- I hate being the bad guy all of the time.  I feel like I am still at the same place with Brother.  I thought there was an improvement way back when with school.  It feels like 2 steps forward and 1.999 steps back.  We still have the same issues with school, only now he is pre-pubescent.  And as you can imagine [insert sarcastic tone here]- that is just a whole lot of FUN! 

He IS a good kid.  He doesn't get into trouble at school, doesn't fight, doesn't swear in front of adults (as I have seen other kids his age do.)  He is generally is a good and respectful child.  But getting him to care just a little about doing his work, completing his work, and the quality of his work- that is like trying to push a Mac Truck up a hill in San Fransisco.  He pushes back when I push him- and he pushes hard (not literally, mind you.)

I feel for him, he has a lot going on.  His hormones are starting to act up, he is growing like crazy (so he is having growing pains), and his dad is deployed.  It is an emotional rollercoaster- one that I am not handling so well. 

The other frustrating part is that I can't share this with Hubby.  He is deployed and needs to be able to focus on his job.  If he knew how frustrated Brother and I are right now- he would then be worried over something he can't do anything about right now.  And if he is worried about home, then he can't have that focus he needs.

I have seen other milspouses discuss what should and shouldn't be shared when our service member is deployed.  It is really hard when your spouse is the one you usually share everything with.  I do share certain things- and he knows these are things that I can handle (and I usually can.)  But the whole getting homework done and helping with studying for the spelling test.  Well- he can't do that where he is at. 

Back to the topic- I am just tired of being the bad guy.  I am so ready for Hubsie to come home and take over!  Well- the control freak in me doesn't really want him to completely take over.  But you know what I mean!

Thanks for listening, I feel better now...

Monday, September 13, 2010

I took my monkeys to the monkey park

One thing they have in Asia that you don't see in North America (the zoo doesn't count), are monkeys!  In Japan the Macaque monkeys are the ones you will find by the hot springs (onsen).  They call them "onsen monkeys" in the summer, and "snow monkeys" in the winter. 

We didn't make it out to see the snow monkeys last winter as planned.  When MWR offered a tour to see the onsen monkeys this summer I decided to jump on the opportunity. 

We left at 5:30 AM, and headed for Nagano.  I have to to admit to you what a dork I am.  First of all- all I knew is that we were going to the monkey park, but didn't take the time to research excatly where it was that we were going.  So after several hours on the bus fast asleep- I was really surprised to see the sign for Nagano.  Nagano, Nagano,... why does that sound familiar?  Duh!  1998 Winter Olympics, perhaps?

Nagano is absolutely beautiful and green.  We stopped several times at various fruit markets.  They are famous for apples, but also have delicious peaches and plums.  Oh- and grapes- GIANT purple grapes.  I really should have taken pictures of the fruit.

No pictures of the fruit market- but here are some apple(?) trees that lined the roads.

We headed for Jigokudani Yaenkoen- the Jigokudani Monkey Park.  Jigokudani translates to Hell's Valley.  It is called that because of the steep cliffs and the hot springs coming out of the ground- it resembled hell.  But actually people and monkeys alike enjoy the onsen.  Generally people stay out of the monkeys' onsen- though the monkeys have been known to invite themselves over to the "people side".  It sounds pretty funny to me since many people "take onsen" in the buff.  Now add a monkey to the mix... get the picture?

We thoroughly enjoyed the monkey park.  Now, before we went in (read- hiked 20 minutes to the top), we were warned not to bring food, and never "eyeball" the monkeys- they see that as an aggressive act.  They also warned us that while the monkeys LOOK cute and cuddly- they in fact can be quite dangerous.

So we walked in and I expected to see a few here and there.  But instead, there were monkeys walking everywhere, even in between our legs!  One had to be careful where they stepped because little baby monkeys were walking underfoot.

I LOVE baby monkeys.  Brother and I discussed how one of them would fit in his backpack.  Both of the kids really dug the monkeys.  We were a little nervous at first, being in such close proximity.  After a while we relaxed and laughed at the monkeys antics.

A few pictures for you to enjoy:

There was a park employee (Monkey Ranger), that was cutting fruit and feeding the monkeys- here is one of the smaller ones enjoying his snack.
LOVE LOVE LOVE baby monkeys!!
The hot springs water (onsen)
Monkey Ranger man throwing nuts or seeds to the monkey.  I think they had done this before, the monkey never missed...

just in case you aren't sure where to go...
They said no dogs or cats allowed- but it's ok to bring your own monkeys...
Cheers!

-Nancy

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Singapore!

Hello lovely readers.  Finally!  I have pictures for you from my most awesome trip to Singapore.  I flew out a month ago to meet my sweetie in the most awesome (excuse my redundance) country of Singapore.  Honestly, Singapore was never on my so to speak "bucket list", but it should have been!  I had the opportunity to meet Hubby during a port call and my most awesome friend Jaime agreed to watch the kidlets.  Because of that, Hubby and I enjoyed a true "second honeymoon." AWESOME AWESOME AWESOME!!  Did I say how awesome it was?

Singapore is about a 6 hour flight from Tokyo.  To be honest, I didn't realize how close it is to Australia.  For people coming from the States, Singapore is one long trip!  I sat next to a kid from Louisiana, he had already travelled 14 hours just to get to Tokyo.  He and his mother were so tired looking travellers.

I arrived in Singapore about midnightish.  Getting through immigration and customs was a breeze, and not scary like I thought it would be.  After all- Singapore has some strict laws.  I was scared to bring gum- for goodness sake!  A side note to my SOFA sponsored family members in Japan.  Be sure you have your military ID and a valid SOFA stamp in your passport (No-Fee OR Tourist passport) before you travel out of the country.  I know a few people who have had a hard time getting back to Japan because they didn't have their SOFA stamp.

I hopped in a taxi- and weee!!  I was cruising through Singapore to my hotel room.  I felt like such a grown-up, taking a taxi all by my lonesome in a foreign country to stay in a hotel room all by myself.  I arrived a day before my honey so I was on my own.  He laughed at me when I told him later how I felt like the big "world traveller".  I know there are people out there that have done more travelling before they hit 21, but just let me have my moment, ok?

Travel mistake number 1- booking a "cheap" hotel the first night because Hubby won't be there and it doesn't seem necessary to have a really nice room for the first night.  Wrong!  First of all- I was BY MYSELF.  Therefore staying in a nice hotel would be better just for the sake of feeling secure.  That hotel I stayed at had people walking up and down the hallways at all hours!  There was no shower stall- just a shower head mounted on the wall by the toilet.  Gross!  There was still water on the floor from who knows when, and sooner or later the ceiling will fall down as the giant ring of mold is surely going to win eventually.  The pillows smelled like cigarette smoke and cheap cologne.  I truly thought I was in one of those "hourly" hotels.  The next morning there were families in the lobby, however.  I felt a LITTLE better at that point.  Lesson learned- not only was it a bad experience- but I had to pay extra cab fare to get to the new hotel and spend the extra time checking out and then checking in to the new hotel.  Silly me!
The picture looks nicer than it is, what you don't see is the giant black circle of mold directly above. ewwwww!

Hubby and I stayed at The Swissotel Merchant Court, located on Clarke Quay (pronounced "key").  I LOVE The Swissotel!  It is right across the street from the MRT (train) station, so convenient.  And Clarke Quay is chock full of yummy restaurants and great night life.  We spent one evening at the Crazy Elephant and enjoyed the live house band.  Hubby saw them last year when he was in Singapore and was excited to see the band again with me.  I was so touched.
Swissotel Merchant Court- I HIGHLY recommend it!
video
The video is from the house band at the Crazy Elephant Bar.  Check out "Osh-Kosh" in the front.  He was the band's biggest fan- but he was the smallest guy.  With his striped polo shirt he looked like a kid wearing Osh Kosh B'Gosh.  He provided us with endless entertainment.
We visited Little India, Arab Street, Marina Bay, Universal Studios (Sentosa Island), and went to the Night Safari.  We actually hit the same restaurant in Little India twice.  They had the most delicious curry!  I am STILL full from all that food!    Universal Studios was a slight disappointment.  I think it is still fairly new and so not all of the rides were open yet.  I think the kids would have enjoyed it though.  If we take the kids to Singapore next year- we will most likely hit up Universal Studios again.
Universal Studios- the Shrek 3D movie was a hoot!

I love Arab Street- it is chock-full of fabric stores!  Plus hearing the call to prayer from the Mosque was mighty cool too.
Foot eating fish, or is it fish eating feet?  (Jaime?)  Whatever way you want to put it- I just call it TICKLISH!!  I was laughing so hard I had the girl who worked there asking me if I was ok.  This was at the Night Safari, by the way.

The hardest part of the trip was when Hubby had to go back.  I cried all the way on the train ride back to the hotel.  Lucky for me, I found a couple of other girls who's hubbies just left as well- in the hotel lounge where I went to get a glass of wine.  So we spent the night chatting and enjoying some cocktails.  We also met for breakfast and dinner the next day.

Singapore felt so different once the sailors were gone!  It was really quite lonely, to tell you the truth.  My last night I stayed near the airport in Changi.  I stayed at the Changi Village Hotel.  The name doesn't sound like much, but I HEART that hotel!  My room was awesome- totally fung shui.  The pool on top (8th floor)- was just gorgeous.  I enjoyed happy hour in the lobby while perusing Facebook on my iPhone using their Wi-Fi (I had to catch up you know.)  Also I was able to email my Hubby as he was back underway.  Happy Hour's special was 'buy one get one'.  So I had two lovely glasses of red wine on an empty stomach (I couldn't decide where I wanted to eat.)  I was quite buzzed and felt so silly!  I decided to go Italian and ate at the restuarant upstairs by the pool.  I sat outside and it was absolutely lovely.  After dinner I enjoyed another dip in the pool.  Did I mention how awesome the pool is?

My camera lens fogged up everytime I went outside- it was on the humid side.  Isn't it beautiful though?  Those are plumeria trees, or something close to it- so pretty and serene!  On a side note- all the jacuzzis in Singapore do not have hot water- same temp as the pool, only with bubbles.  Weird!

You know you enjoyed happy hour a little too much when...  I loved that room though...
I was happy to go home, I missed my kiddos.  They missed me too!  I think maybe Brownie, our dog, may have missed me the most.  She was so darn cute!

A month later and it all seems like a dream.  Hubby says the same.  We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.  No schedule, we did what we wanted, stayed out late and slept in every morning.  ( We missed breakfast every single day because we slept in.)  This was his 4th time in Singapore- he was just happy to show me where he had been before.  I can't wait to go back.  I can't wait to see him again even more.  I miss my honey!!

Before I sign off- here are some more pics for ya...

view from the Swissotel


The first Youth Olympics were being held while we were in Singapore.  Here I am with the mascots- Leo and Merly!

Cheers!

-Nancy