Monday, May 21, 2018

Mother's Day in Tokyo

We spent a night in Tokyo at the New Sanno for Mother's Day. It's easy. We opted for the shuttle bus that carries us from Yokota down into the belly of the beast because I hate driving in Tokyo. We figured New Sanno would be jammed because of their Mother's Day buffet and it might make parking an issue. We assumed correctly as I've never seen the place so crowded. 

We had almost canceled our reservation as we had a beach trip planned for the latter half of the week. "Nah," I reasoned. It's a good chance to get away and it's not that much money." Little did I know...

We didn't do much. We dined at my favorite burger joint, a short walk from the hotel with a Starbucks conveniently located on the route back. I finally tried the cherry burger and it totally lived up to the hype. We beat the lunch rush by just a few minutes and the place filled up around us. I'm glad to say we were able to entertain quite a few patrons just by giving them something to look at. The boys earned mega bonus points by being charming, polite, and agreeable throughout the entire meal. 

I always love to hear, "Ichi, ni, san..." I'm like, it's YON, people. Yon. No need to count them individually, out loud. Take a good look, they aren't multiplying. And then they spy with a, "Oooooh!" that I'm pregnant and I have to tell my thoughts to pipe down; there's no room for my arguments in their observations. 

After grabbing a coffee, we decided to people watch and wait for our room to be ready. I people watched, the men folk car watched. 

Once we got all checked in, all the kids wanted to do was go swimming. Have I mentioned that we have a pool on base? That's free? It worked well with my agenda to do nothing. Sean took them to the pool and I took a nap. As we were in Tokyo, I assumed a nice dinner would follow. The boys wanted Lawson(non Japan residents, that's basically gas station food that's awesome-you really can't know unless you know). Of course. No worries, I had a reason for room service. Room service at New Sanno is still more thrifty than any Tokyo restaurants, so it was a win in my book. 

After dinner, Sean offered to go find me chocolate. He came back to the room with a huge bag. "You know how they package things. Can you believe they wrapped chocolate in this big of a bag?"

He got me a purse from the gift shop/Navy Exchange. It was about then that I started making jokes about the cost of this "cheap" getaway. Again...little did I know. But, awwwwwww. He even knew to get me a crossbody bag. I love it!! 

I decided to hop into the other room and make sure no blood had been shed. The kiddos were happy as clams in their man cave. The room smelled of fart and testosterone, yet I lingered for a picture(or 20). 

To think I almost deleted this one! This is real life. Fighting over a rubber pile of goo from the gift shop that they talked one of their sucker parents into(hint: it wasn't me). 

It was hilarious, though. We had to wait in the lobby of the hotel for a bit longer after lunch as the room still wasn't ready for us. Titus spotted it, "It's only $3! Please?!" If you know Titus, you know his earnest campaign for the $3 goo did not end there. "Don't cave," I warned the soft one. "I mean it. It'll be broken or covered in hair within 5 minutes of purchase." 

He persisted. Even silently, I could hear the words seeping from his skull. I stood firm. Sean got up to "go check out the gift shop." I gave him one more mom look. He wouldn't meet my eye. "Sean. DO. NOT." He assured me with a "hmphrty hmph," got three steps away and turned back with a smile, "Ok, but under what circumstances could I buy it for him?"

Titus got the goo. Anyone care to guess how long it lasted? I'll give you one guess:

It's a good thing they're cute.

The next morning we woke up to near tragedy. Our "cheap" getaway rounded out the feeling of yen being play money with a $400 cab ride from New Sanno back to Yokota. To put it in perspective, the hotel is 25 miles from the hospital here on base. 25 miles x 2 taxi cabs=$400. Ooph. My taxi driver gave me a small thanks-for-not-having-a-baby-in-my-cab discount, but Sean's charged him for an extra toll, was a wash. Either way, worth the peace of mind of having my doctor check me out. And worth not having to take an ambulance to a Tokyo hospital where Sean wouldn't have been allowed in my room. 

This may go down as my most memorable Mother's Day in 15 years. 

Saturday, May 19, 2018

17 years

17 years ago today we said, "I do," in a gazebo in the Battery in Charleston, SC. 

Sean stole my youth, obviously.

We have moved(seriously had to go digging to find the actual number)...

3 times in SC. From our first tiny townhouse on Rainbow Drive, to a slightly less nasty apartment, to our first house on Crickintree Lane.
7 times with travel nursing. We zig zagged around Phoenix. Went up to Seattle for a contract. Back to Phoenix. Across the country to Charlotte, where Sean joined the military.
6 times in the military. Texas, I'm totally counting the short stint the boys and I packed up and moved temporarily to South Carolina because it was the military's doing. Maryland. Ohio. Virginia. Japan.

16 moves. Dear Lord, I am thankful our marriage has survived based on that fact alone. Moving is stressful. 

It is my daily goal to make this man laugh. If I can get him to crack, I consider my day a success. I love nothing more than to be responsible for him smiling just like he is in the picture. We climbed up to this stupid torii gate having left our shoes way, way down the beach. The rocks felt like shards of glass. It brought forth a string of profanity that would make Richard Pryor blush. The Bataan Death March and Purgatory were mentioned. We laugh a lot. Being funny has saved our marriage on many occasions. 

I think about how young we were when we got married more often now that we have a kid within striking distance of the same age. I was 18 and Sean was 21. I understand why our families were both a little hesitant to shower us with praise over our decision to get hitched. Having lived through the battle of marriage, they knew what we didn't; marriage is hard.

Thankfully, the fundamentals of who we are now were in place at 18 and 21. We were both just as stubborn and resilient then. We were both focused on the same goal(s). We were both each others biggest fans. We had character. We had a willingness to see things through. Sure, life beat some of the shininess out of our ideology along the way, but our marriage wouldn't be better in any way if we'd waited five years to commit. People blame divorce on getting married young, but I see the statistics and don't think age plays that big-a part. Maybe I'm wrong, but I've met some pretty stupid people headed for the altar at much older ages than 18 and 21. It's not about age so much as it is about just freaking making it work. 

Kids make marriage hard. Losing a baby made marriage hard. Moving all the time makes marriage hard. The military makes marriage hard. Outside influence. INSIDE influence. Our own rotten human nature; selfish, sinful, spiteful, people that we are, we make marriage hard. I'd like to blame it on him and he'd like to blame it on me, but dang can we fight. We fight clean, for the most part. Every once in a while, we hit below the belt with venomous words, but we've learned over the years to bite our tongues. Sometimes I have to all but bite my tongue OFF because I am just so very right. All the time. It's phenomenal, really.

We were just talking about what makes our marriage work. Despite all the biting of tongues, we do really well to communicate. Sean is nevereverever on his cell phone. He doesn't do Facebook more than twice a year or any other forms of social media. I wish I could say the same for myself. I have learned(/am still learning) not to be disrespectful and distracted with phone usage. I would never stare at my phone while a stranger is talking to me, I certainly shouldn't stare at my phone when the one who pledged their life to me is speaking. We talk a lot. When we can't get a word in edgewise, we leave the children to fend for themselves and go elsewhere. Even if it's sitting in the car in the driveway. We get brutally honest. Sometimes to the point of breaking each other's hearts with our honesty. Isn't there a country song about being broken, together? I assume that means it's a good thing. It's proven to be in our case. Being broken, but putting in the work to put the pieces back together. It's worth it. We've watched a few marriages collapse and it's heartbreaking. It's worse than death. At least with death there is closure. Watching a marriage end, especially with kids doesn't really end. The bitterness is still there. The shuffling of children, broken relationships and lingering hatred, it's not something I ever want to experience. 

Another thing, we put our family first. Sean is better about that than me. He has always protected our family and I've learned how to do the same from him over the years. I learned year one(probably day one) that my humor had no place in our marriage if it came at his expense. It's hard, because I'm hilarious. If I can't throw out public zingers about the person I know best, it can cause indigestion. I'm thankful that he squashed that very early on in our marriage. When I see a wife insulting her husband(and vice versa), even in jest, it puts a bad taste in my mouth. It makes me cringe. 

Anytime I start to worry, Sean is the one to calm me. It usually involves the phrase, "When have we ever done anything the easy way?" I wonder if he thought that as he proposed to me? I certainly have not made life easy for that man, bless'im. He can diffuse me. He can keep me from launching into the kids for being teenager-y. He brings me down in the best way possible. In conversation recently, I said something about being passive and non-confrontational. He laughed out loud, in my face. Rude. He asked how it's possible that I can be passive with everyone on the planet, but him. Because he's safe. He is the only person that truly knows me and still loves me despite my many flaws. I think that is awesome.

Sometimes I hate writing gushy stuff like this about him, because he's sure to piss me off in the near future. But even when I'm mad at him, I'm his biggest fan. When I had my emergency on Mother's Day with the baby, I realized I am the only one who has the power to frazzle the man. I am also the only person who can guilt him. Oh, the power! He's usually the coolest cucumber during emergencies, but he came a bit unraveled when I said the words I've been terrified to say over the last 26 weeks: "I'm bleeding." Once we were at the hospital, the nurse sent him to fetch me water and did the obligatory "Do you feel safe at home?" questions. I didn't let the words slip out in melodramatic fashion, but what I wanted to tell her is that he's the best thing that's ever happened to me. It's not all good, I ain't sugar coating. Marriage is not easy, but worth it. 100% worth it.

We're better after 17 years. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Sewing for baby

I've said it before, but let me reestablish that I don't really know what I'm doing. If enthusiasm and gusto count for anything, then I'm a master at this free motion quilting thing. 

With the rainbow quilt, I thought about quilting a simple design like clouds. My brain went from clouds to raindrops to a full blown: I shall declare the glory of the Heavens in THREAD. As it turns out, clouds probably would've been sufficient, but I wouldn't have loved this scrap a fabric as much as I do. The rainbow is jacked. up. I tried to trace a bowl, but my fabric pencil wouldn't show up on the material. I tried to create a protractor with a ruler and string and that contraption didn't even make it past the thinking phase.

In the end, I said, "Screw it," grabbed that sucker up and stuck it under the needle. All the while my gal pal was egging me on. Encouraging me for jumping in with both feet. I was super proud of my creation until I saw a properly quilted quilt on Instagram the next day. I'm not usually one to overly compare, but it was a rainbow themed quilt with proper rainbows sandwiching the fabrics perfectly. 

My gal pal reminded me that it cost said quilting hero a minimum of $140 to have it done for her. I jacked my quilt up all on my own for free. I call it "primitive," but even the hand quilters of yore stitched perfect arches by candlight. 

In addition to the rainbow, there is a pair of sparrows. These I traced onto press and seal, because Pinterest said I should. 

A sun...

& clouds. 

As always, I learned a lot on this quilt. 

 Once upon a time, I said, "If I ever have a girl, I'll learn to sew clothes." Ta-da. My encouraging gal pal talked me through the first one and corrected several mistakes. The second two I did on my own, fixing my own many errors. 

The second finished quilt. After my rainbows, I decided to quilt this one with simple straight lines. 

I am currently on a break from baby quilting as I have a massive project, which is actually five separate projects, underway. I would like to add: if you know how to sew, teach someone. I can't wait until my daughter is in her mama's very own Home-Ec class. The boys have shown zero interest, but I do plan to teach them to sew a straight seam, at the very least. Boys ought to know how to hem their own pants or make a pillow case, if nothing else. And my daughter, she will be taught all of her mother's tricks, to include doing things wholeheartedly in an attempt to learn along the way.

I can't wait to show her her quilts. :)

I have 3 more baby quilt tops(with more already planned in my head) finished and waiting to be basted, quilted, and bound. I do realize she will have quite a heap of linens, but what else am I to put in her overabundance of blanket baskets? 

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Jude's too-se

My baby boy is talking with more of a lisp than usual. 

 Imp. Going to frame this one. 

I thought perhaps the grandmas and aunties would want be part of his first lost too-se. It's the little things. I don't believe I've taken this many pictures of such an occasion before,'s Jude. I should add for memory's sake, he was the bravest of all the boys when it came to the horrors of losing his "firth toose." There was a bit of "ow"-ing it up for a day or two before hand, but he woke me up with the crows at the crack of dawn one morning. Very matter-o-factly, "My toose came out." No blood, no tears, no need for string or slamming doors or any of the others solutions his big brothers' suggested.  I can't figure out how something as tiny as a 5 year old tooth can change a kid so drastically. His whole face looks different now. Growing up too fast, this one.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Big Trouble in Little Fussa

My friend, Jen, caused an international incident last night. At some point during the melee, she asked, "Are you going to blog about this?"

I honor the responsibility of memory keeping...for me, for you. If the story seems embellished, it absolutely is, but the reality was just as ridiculous as any of the details I may fudge a bit.

A group of us went for dinner last night in Kichijoji. It's the ultimate girls night out destination around these parts. We hoofed it to Fussa Station just in time to miss our train. Our evening started a bit off. It's not simply being late for a reservation, it's having to figure out how to call and communicate that we're going to be late for a reservation. Always a frustrating adventure. Anyways, we managed. And then we American ladies took it upon ourselves to break all the rules of etiquette and adjust the volume level of our train car (Up. We adjusted the volume up in case you were wondering).

After a lovely Thai dinner and lovely conversation of avoiding the landmines of most of the groups upcoming PCS', we hopped back on the jam packed train home. Again with the silence. We fixed it. I see it more as allowing a large crowd of Japanese the chance to practice their English. A chance to mentally jot down phrases like, "What does a 'fart in church' mean," among others, so they can look them up later on google translate.

Upon arriving at our destination station, I decided to catch a ride back to base with the one person who drove. That's when it happened. My friend accidentally, ever so slightly, barely tapped a car behind us. It was so light, in fact, that we weren't even sure she hit it. It was only the confirming, "oooooh" from an airman walking through the parking lot that let us know for sure.

"I have to do the right thing," she said.**

So she called the translator on base. They called the Japanese police. Twenty minutes later, three rolled up on bikes(bicycles, mind you, not motorcycles. Not even sporty bicycles, Japanese bicycles). Three police officers responded. Blink, blink. One of the three spoke very, very little English. Not long after the original 3 rolled up, 2 more responded in a car.

Our faces when cops number 5 and 6 arrived:

The thing about Japanese police cars is that they never turn their flashing lights off. It scares the pants off gaijin. You only know you're in trouble if they start talking over their loud speaker. Wouldn't you know it...they started talking over their loud speaker. By this point, we'd been sitting there well over an hour and they were trying to hunt down the driver of the other car.

Jen tried asking if they could send something in the mail. They didn't understand. She tried asking if we were done having given them every shred of identifying material we had. They didn't understand. When they started blasting over the loud speaker, it was our turn not to understand. Apparently the other driver couldn't be reached via phone, so they went to the horn and requested his presence.

Finally, the dude showed up. At a quick glance, and given the hilarity of the situation, I may have said to Jen, "Oh, he's cute." As it turns out, he was not cute, he was just very well dressed. But before we realized it, Jen applied lipstick and I have a picture to prove it. We could not contain ourselves. We were laughing so freaking hard. Even the victim of the tragic crime looked at the spot on his car that we thought she may have bumped and he laughed.

Still, they detained us. I truly feel the words, "We were under arrest," are warranted as they wouldn't allow us to leave the parking lot. Who knows? They may have read us our rights and we have no way of knowing. That is how the story will go henceforth: "Remember that time Jen and I caused an international incident and got arrested in Fussa a week before she moved?"

It was such a funny memory and I am so glad I opted to ride home with Jennifer. She is one of the kindest, sweetest people who have made Yokota home for me. She is a reminder of what this military life is all about. She is one of those people who gets a check in the "PROS" column on the grand list of pros versus cons. A relationship made that would've otherwise been missed. A dear fried whose story and mine overlapped for a brief time in this crazy little place.

PCS season is gearing up to be a really, really rough one. There are so many people exiting stage left, for now. Their stories are taking them out of Japan and on to new duty stations. Their excitement is contagious until you realize it means driving past their empty house and watching strangers take their place. It's all well and good in the moment of laughing over Thai food until you remember they won't be at the next girl's night out or Starbucks run. I am so, so thankful God softened the blow of this season by leaving a good group behind. There's a ton leaving, but a good bit staying behind. We will do a "Who's Left" girl's night out come July.

We're tough, though, we military girls. We know to keep our whits about us and not let that first tear fall or the whole group will crumble. We know the drill. We've done it before and we'll do it again and again and again. And we know this part is worth it. It was worth investing in and serving with the people around us. It was worth putting ourselves out there and stepping out of our comfort zones in the name of connecting. It's worth saying good-bye to have had the privilege of the friendship at all.

**In hindsight, shoulda left a cantaloupe on his windshield and Thelma and Louised our way right outta that parking lot.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Tito Burrito at 9

My little Easter bunny. He was the easiest baby and has always had the most perfectly symmetrical head, if that counts for anything. 

He was born in Charlotte, NC and just three months later, Sean joined the Air Force. 

 He spent birthdays 1 & 2 in San Antonio, Texas. 

Birthday #3 was spent with Grandma and Grandpa and so many loved ones in Timmonsville, SC. We were in the process of moving from San Antonio to Rockville, Maryland and Uncle Sam canceled a deployment in the middle of our Plan A. So the boys and I moved in with my parents and Sean finished out his time in TX with a friend. 

Birthday 4 was spent in Rockville, MD and was a tad overshadowed by his little brother's birth just one month and one day prior. Before he could celebrate another year, we'd moved to Dayton, Ohio.

Birthday 5 was in Dayton where we lived long enough for him to break his leg. Coolest cast ever, though, right? That Dad of his is one fun guy.

Birthday #6 seemed to be the beginning of settling into birthdays spent in the same zipcode for a while. 

He got to spend Six and Seven in the same home before Uncle Sam stuck his thumb in our chili again. 

Year Eight he got to experience his first Chateraise birthday cake, among other Japanese delights, here in the 'burbs of Tokyo. I do hope he looks back on his time here with fond memories. So far, this has been his favorite place, despite the delinquents we seem to be surrounded by. He's had quite a few run ins with bullies, but Big Papa charging the playground and calling one particular fella out seems to have fixed things for now. This place has afforded him a level of freedom none of our other homes have. 

Seven homes in nine years. That's insane and yet somehow normal to us and our community. I don't know how these mili-kids do it. I wish we could peek into their future and see the long term benefits/harm this is doing to our little ones. We've reached the point that we just don't know if it's worth it anymore, if given the choice. 

He's grown a lot this year. He's still my most beautiful boy. His head is still perfectly shaped. He is still the most persistent child on earth. He has the straightest hair of all the boys and the worst cowlicks. He loves to beat his dad at card games (Last night he came downstairs to kiss me goodnight. "I beat dad three times in a row. He told me to go to bed.") He is sweet to the core(unless...brothers). He wants nothing more than to be included in all things. He makes me feel guilty more than the others. I always feel like I'm short changing this kid. He will certainly fulfill the middle child role well. He's a natural with math and his favorite lesson in history thus far has been the Salem Witch Trials. He'll read, begrudgingly, but he did ask for a certain set of books his big brother recently finished. He loves gyoza and never had to learn to use chopsticks; he's a natural. 

I tried not to recycle any pictures from his previous birthday posts. I went on a lovely walk down memory lane via my picture files. But, if you want a good cry...go watch his birth announcement.

I asked his brothers, "What could you say about Titus?" They smirked. I added, "That's nice." They gave me nothing to work with. I bet once they see his big birthday present, they'll be full of praise and accolades. Perhaps I stoked the fire by finding the one gift* that he can totally lord over his big brothers. Time will tell. 

*Sidenote for locals: y'all best be price matching Amazon at the BX. They are all about thanking us for our service while marking things up 150%. Today was worth the p.i.t.a. at the customer service desk, lemme tell ya. I honestly don't know who's worse, the commissary produce department or the BX toy department. 

Happy 9 to our Titus Grey. For all of you US readers, his birthday is on 4/12. The time difference still throws us all for a loop. :)