Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Tanabata revisited

Em pointed out that I left off one of the best photos.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Tanabata Festibal

No I didn't misspell Festival. That's how the signs around Misawa spelled it in Engrish.
What is a Tanabata? It is a celebration they have every July. Here is my quick synopsis (i.e. Wikipedia version):
Tanabata (七夕 tanabata, meaning "Evening of the seventh") is a Japanese star festival.

Tanabata was inspired by the famous Chinese folklore, The Princess and the Cowherd.

Orihime (織姫 Weaving Princess), daughter of the Tentei (天帝 Sky King, or the universe itself), wove beautiful clothes by the bank of the Amanogawa (天の川 Milky Way, lit. "heavenly river"). Her father loved the cloth that she wove and so she worked very hard every day to weave it. However, Orihime was sad that because of her hard work she could never meet and fall in love with anyone. Concerned about his daughter, Tentei arranged for her to meet Hikoboshi (彦星 Cow Herder Star) who lived and worked on the other side of the Amanogawa. When the two met, they fell instantly in love with each other and married shortly thereafter. However, once married, Orihime no longer would weave cloth for Tentei and Hikoboshi allowed his cows to stray all over Heaven. In anger, Tentei separated the two lovers across the Amanogawa and forbade them to meet. Orihime became despondent at the loss of her husband and asked her father to let them meet again. Tentei was moved by his daughter’s tears and allowed the two to meet on the 7th day of the 7th month if Orihime worked hard and finished her weaving. The first time they tried to meet, however, they found that they could not cross the river because there was no bridge. Orihime cried so much that a flock of magpies came and promised to make a bridge with their wings so that she could cross the river. It is said that if it rains on Tanabata, the magpies cannot come and the two lovers must wait until another year to meet.

So there you have it, (I'm not sure why it isn't celebrated on the 7th). Although we do have a lot of crows around here, I didn't see any magpies. It did rain a bit so I guess these lovers will have to wait again until next year. It didn't stop us from having a good time though, besides my lover came back from across the Pacific this week. She may have used up all the magpies on her bumpy flight. Sorry Hikobaski, better luck next year!

This festival, like most Japanese festivals, is composed of cool decorations and lots of booths hawking different and food kitsch. In fact 5 minutes into our walk,while watching Sam on the "bumpy cars," Em asked, "Where's Max?" We turn around and he is walking back towards us with the biggest snow cone known to man. "IT was only 300 Yen!" (That's about $3.50, not too bad but definitely not a bargain.)
We had a pretty good time and even went back at night to see the cool lanterns they hang up, through which the boys loved walking/running. They also had different performances: singers, baton twirlers, hip hop dancers, orchestra, etc. Stay tuned for reports from the upcoming Nebuta festival in Aomori. Its supposed to be much grander!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Adorama Review

Living overseas posses a few complications in life. No I'm not talking about being 3 plane rides and 24 hours of travel away from family. In this instance I am referring to the difficulty in buying things on line! It is always nerve wracking when I go to purchase things on line when I click on the shopping cart to see if my items indeed can/will be shipped to our location. Why are people APO haters! Its just like shipping anything else. Any why would Amazon not ship the same item that Target will even though I can sign into the same Target order with my Amazon account!? (That was the juicer.)

So today I had a wonderful customer service experience that warranted me staying up a little longer to accolade them. The company was Adorama, a highly recommended camera company. I believe they are based in NY since their voice prompts have New Yark accents. I am trying to buy a new macro lens for my camera and I keep getting thwarted by people, Amazon, not shipping to APOs. Adorama, however, was willing to put their neck on the line and ship through the United States Postal Service. But when I went to the checkout online, through Paypal (I love that feature), it didn't show the free shipping that was advertised. Well, I could have become upset, but I think the fact that they were shipping it allayed my anger. So I called them and they were very kind. It was easy and quick to get to customer service. Lea, at ext 2219, was very kind and said that unfortunately APO don't have the free shipping but to call her back after ordering and she would adjust it. So I did so. Again I easily reached her and she took $22 off the shipping! What a kind lady.

Thank you Lea and the unnamed Empire States Building attendant who let us skip the long line with our two kids! Both of you give NY a great name!

Friday, July 17, 2009


After getting home from work a bit early I informed the boys of our plans for the day. Homemade pizza, earning a big YEAH from Sam, walk to the store for mushrooms and food for the trip to Lake Towada for the Firework festival, and then home for the pizza and movie night.

Anyway, the main purpose of this blog is to illustrate why it isn't lazy to drive the car 4 blocks to the store instead of walking. Sure its a nice day, we have a wagon for kids to ride in and/or to pull groceries, and lots of PEP. Then half way down the first street the 2 year old decides he doesn't want to ride and starts to screech and gesticulate for the only adult to let go and let him pull the 5 year( - 1 week) old brother. And no letting him run it into the grass and not being able to pull it any further doesn't trigger the logic mechanism telling him, "Hey, Dad is right. I can't pull this all the way to the store by myself. Maybe I should do it WITH him instead." Rather the 2 year old without a nap this day decides to keep trying while sobbing and crying in the grass. Then once this obstacle is overcome one might think we are home free. Nope, the 2 year old is now happy as we leave the store and doesn't care too much about the wagon, but sure likes the decorative rocks outside the commissary. No there is nothing wrong with this perse, but staying in them for 10 minutes does cause a little delay in the pizza plans. Eventually he decides to meander away from there and saunters over to the crosswalk where the rest of the family is waiting. Meanwhile biggest brother is 50 yards ahead waiting to cross the busiest street on the base. (I am very glad middle boy was content the whole time and even relished the task of pulling the wagon and groceries.) No Mr. 2 year old doesn't want his hand held, but he does want to sit down on the storm drain in the grass on the side of the road. (Don't worry I did take a few pauses on the trip to soak up how cute he was actually being and was very proud of how well the 7 year old did stopping at each intersection and being very safe and responsible despite being 200 yards ahead at this point.) Luckily too the little 2 year old didn't cry when he hit his face on the orange cone as he ran back and forth between them in the school parking lot and he was sure cute as he giggle uncontrollably as he purposely choose to go straight instead of turning and had me follow him. The gutter/mote was also fun for him and Sam to strattle and try to walk over. But alas as we was picked up and taken across the street to home he decided to start crying again and call for him mom across the street. Apparently he thinks his mother is in a gutter across the street. Go figure.

Anyway, the evening played out well. Gabe went to bed early after a good dinner of pizza and cantaloupe. (they didn't even know I pureed spinach and zucchini and squash into the pizza sauce! and used half whole wheat flour in the dough!) Then Sam got really frightened of the human version of Cruella de Vil in 102 Dalmations, so we went up and had a nice long cuddle while Max continued the movie. Then I let Max stay up late with me and he played some random computer game he learned about at school.

Well, I waited long enough for the time zones to align. I'm going to call my wife now. Good night y'all. Domo!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Hump Day!

For most people hump day is Wednesday. But for us stay at home Dads with wives gone for 11 days Day 6 has come and gone! We all desperately miss her, except for Max who claims he has forgotten his mother. Ha Ha! Report to date has us at current tally of children still at 3, laundry done and 4/5 put away, house is clean, kids in bed (my bed tonight, they really wanted (and supposedly according the the pathologic liar Max, his mother said he could one night). (FYI don't give promises to kids if you are leaving or talking over Skype from another country it might make it hard for the other parent!)

Anyway, today, after piano, we went bowling! They have been wanting to go since She left. (Max has a mental check list of all activities ever suggested in preperation for Her departure. Bowling with those guys is so funny. M does a nice pinball approach along the bumpers. S runs and throughs it two handed into the air with the ball landing with a load clunk. This is followed by him laying on the floor and doing a reverse inchworm back to the chairs. G- rolls the ball from the ball return, another 2 minutes to the balls slow decent down to the pins. I swear at least 5 times I thought the computer wasn't recording their score, only to look down and see the ball still hadn't made it the full length.

Back to Sam's backward slide after his catapult. It caused a great yet sad sequence. Sam had completed his turn so Gabe went and picked up his ball and took a step backward and tripped on the Sammy inchworm. G falls back drops the ball onto S's back and hit his head on the ground. S gets up dazed and tries to help G up. Then G stand back up with the ball and hitting his head into S's chin, again dropping the ball, luckily it didn't hit anyone. I in the mean time just sat there and laughed at the comedy of it all. Then I took pitty on the napless 2 year old and helped him bowl his turn.

The boys have been great and we are having a great time, but need Em back!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Pretzel Time

Max has taken a strong liking to cooking shows. AFN shows them every morning so most mornings I'll come downstairs to see him wrapped in a blanket watching the Take Home Chef, or Good Eats. It was one of these mornings where he was watching Good Eats with Alton Brown. (This is my favorite cooking show. I used to think he was a nut, but now I really like him. And I still think he is a nut, but entertaining in a corny way.) Sam was watching too. He was expounding on the secrets of how to make Homemade Soft Pretzels. Sam thought they were awesome and asked: "Can we make those daddy? Can we? Can we?" I told him probably, (my standard noncommittal answer), and that we could look for the recipe sometime. I had to leave for work before I got to see his trick for getting the nice golden brown crisp coating on them and have felt a little unfulfilled since then. (Though I suspected it was an egg wash and I was right). So tonight I found the recipe and got Sam to help me with the dough and then after dinner M and S both helped me roll them out. It turns out it was a pretty easy recipe. We/they didn't make the perfect shape, but they sure tasted great. Just as good as at a ball game with my Dad in Oakland! I ate two despite having a stomach ache.

Monday, July 13, 2009

4th of July... 10 days later

I expected Em to post about our camping trip, but all we got was potty talk. So I'll give a run down of our 4th. It started for me on the 2nd when our dental squadron went down to Nango and spent the afternoon racing go carts. It was a blast and they were fast! My team won of course. One of the guys let us ride in his car while he did some drifting. Wow was that a ride!

Then Friday morning we went down to the Tanasashi Seaside south of Hachinohe (not that many of you know where that is). There we set up camp on a strip of grass right on the beach. Then we headed up the coast a half mile to an awesome climbing spot.(That is Max climbing up there). There were about 5 different routes of varying skill and a sandy beach area and a little tide pool for the little tots to tot around in. It was awesome. The climbing was followed by Em's magical dutch oven cooking and smores and a nice bonfire! It got really big as my friend Wes and I placed three palates on the flames!

The morning unfortunately found us cooking a dutch oven breakfast and packing up in a steady drizzle. (Gabe was not a happy camper this morning he kept stomping his foot at me as I took the picture.)
We headed home, recovered from the exhaustion, began the week long repacking of the camp gear (is it worth it to do so much work for one night? No! But yes it is!), then we headed up to the top of hill and watched some pretty awesome fireworks, complete with water bombs (Fireworks they set off in the water, quite spectacular!)

Monday we headed up to shipwreck beach. This is a cool beach with, yes, three or four wooden skeleton of boats. This is where we have become quite addicted to sea glass. You know you are addicted to Sea Glass hunting when your two year old can't say his brother's name, but can say sea glass! This beach is on the southeast part of Mutsu bay, which is on the northern tip of mainland (or would it be mainisland) Japan, inside the hatchet looking part.

It was a blast of a weekend!