Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Gingko Tunnel

Autumn is upon us! A few days ago, I was itching to bolt for the hills in search of tinged maple leaves. All the websites I found said, "Wait." No reports of peak colors, just yet. I jumped the gun with Sakura blooms and was disappointed time and again. I promised myself I wouldn't do that with Fall colors. I held firm until my camera buddy texted with an invite to a local park.

I overlook Showa Park. It's local, how awesome can it be? Um, very awesome, actually. I don't know why I overlook it so. Perhaps it's the $8 to park, $8 to get in, $11 to rent bikes, $infinity kids seem to spend on food.

Anyway, Evelyn and I went yesterday and ran our little ones ragged. Today I decided to go back with all the boys+camera in tow. I found the Gingko Tunnel and went a lil nuts. It wasn't terribly crowded, so we found our spot and I clicked away.

There was arguing and shoving and throwing leaves in each others face. There was bribery and threats. There was a, "He made me swallow a rock!" and several, "No, I didn'ts," but these pictures were so worth it. Every time I peeked out from behind my camera, another Japanese photographer was taking pictures of my kids. I'm not sure if it's because they're adorable, American, or obnoxious but...

This kid...

 & this one looking especially dapper and grown up in his Isaac hand-me-down. 

The thing about gingko trees is that the leaves come with nasty little vomit bullets. They're squishy orange balls that seriously smell like vomit. They get all up in your shoes and leaf piles. Hence the cringing of Titus' face. 

 The older two weren't so much into picture time today. Bribery only goes so far...

After pictures, I made good on one portion of bribery, the giant marshmallow. I love it. These two drive each other absolutely insane. The bickering! Yet when given the chance to play with all of Southern Japan that was gathered at the marshmallow, they stick with each other. 

"Ma! Don't let anything happen to me!" He's a little hesitant on the ropes. 

 The yellow was so beautiful!

I asked for one more shot. Sometimes I push it one shot too far, but this time I'm glad I did. Not as gorgeous as the Gingko shots, but ones that let me see maybe they do like each other a little. 

 You can see Jude's wheels turning. He's thinking about how he can annoy three brothers at once. 

He somehow got Titus in on the action. 

Monday, October 30, 2017

Tiny Titus

I don't have the timehop app. My ticker can't take those jolts on a regular basis. Seeing the vision I have of my children shattered by their baby faces of yesteryear does nothing but induce guilt. Every once in a while, though, I purposely seek out the reminder that they are, in fact, growing up. Sometimes I'm all, "Praise the Lord, they're that much closer to moving out!" And sometimes I'm more along the lines of, "They're growing up way too fast. Lets have ten more babies."

Shutterfly, which I don't even use to print pictures anymore, sent me this reminder from FIVE YEARS AGO. A tiny, chubby cheeked, 3 1/3 year old Titus. I'm going to hunt down that sweater and see if I can bribe Jude to wear it. Rhonda, remember when we found this?! We hit a church yard sale where a lady was selling off her baby boy clothes for a dollar per item. *sigh* Gimme all the round faced, angel haired babies in old man sweaters. 

Friday, October 27, 2017

Misawa-The End

A friend who used to live in Misawa told me about this gelato shop and farm near the base. It was, hands down, the most amazing gelato ever. Cheap, fresh, delicious. The added bonus was the conviction my beloved laid upon me as I tried to rush the kids along to yet another destination. "Is this vacation about us or is this vacation about how many pictures you can take?" I didn't appreciate his remark at the exact moment he said it, but watching the kids run themselves stupid at the farm...it was worth missing any other check marks on the grand list. 

So we sat in rocking chairs next to a giant sunflower field while the little ones climbed on tractors and the big ones kicked a soccer ball. It was so very much like every American pumpkin patch that it made my heart ache a little. It felt so familiar and so Fall. 
They don't have actual pumpkin patches in Japan. Er, they do, but after the produce picking experience I am about to put into details, I am not one to find out how much they charge for gourds here. 

This farm did have a few pumpkins, but not for picking. They were beautiful. 

I have no idea where he gets his pretend road rage. It's certainly not me. I have never, not ever, yelled at a Tokyo driver. Especially not when they have put their arm up and pulled out in front of me as if the arm makes it okay. Especially not in the Costco parking garage. Especially, especially not on the cut through street to Starbucks that is not wide enough for two cars. Nope, no idea where he gets that face. Must be Sean.

After the gelato farm, we didn't have time for anything else, so we headed back to base. The first & only rain we saw during our entire trip produced this rainbow. We pulled a Japanese driving move that could possibly illicit some(but not me) to complain: threw on our flashers and stopped the flow of traffic. We were able to see both ends of both rainbows. As it turns out, there isn't pots of gold...it's fields of gold!

We decided to spend our last night near Misawa at Nanbu Town. There is a massive dragon tower to climb that I knew the kids would love. After we got a Japanese speaking coworker to call and make us reservations, after we told the kids all about it and got their hopes up about sleeping in a tree house and climbing a 100ft tall dragon, after we'd worked it all up into our plans...I found out the dragon tower was closed for repairs. Awesome. We went with it. This is the little tree house. The only amenity was indoor outdoor carpet and one lightbulb. 
No biggie, we had plans and wouldn't spend a ton of time in the tree house anyhow. Nanbu town is big on fruit. What does one do in Autumn but pick apples? Yeah...about that. Japanese orchards charge an entrance fee and it's all you can eat while you're there. To take produce with you, it's an extra charge. All in all, we ate 6 apples and took 6 with us: 3600 yen. The farmers market we passed not ten minutes later was a nice jab. Hopping out to find a ginormous box of apples for 1000 yen was the icing on the cake. 
We went for a drive after that. Up and up and up some mountain with amazing views. The massive cedar trees were gorgeous. 
Our last stop was this shrine. It is the most beautiful we've visited yet and we had the entire place to ourselves. There was a landscape crew there, but they didn't ask us to leave. 

The kids had been absolute turds leading up to this stop. I punished them by making them pose for a million and a half pictures. You can see the joy on Simon's face, no?
The temple was built between 1249 and 1256 AD. 

Grandfather Cedar was on the way out of the shrine. Starbucks--an hour away--was needed by the end of the day. Added to the subpar ramen we found, illness ensued. Feeling like crap and sleeping on indoor/outdoor carpet on the floor of a treehouse(I argued that it wasn't actually freezing) led to packing up the kiddos at midnight and heading home. I had to eat my words when Sean his the temperature gauge in the car...0 degrees Celsius. 
All in all, it was a great trip. We didn't get to see the rice art or Lake Towada with it's peak fall colors. I would've liked to see the spot where the Shinkansen goes underwater. The boys could've spent another few days finding new-to-them beaches. I wanted to peruse the small shops around the base more than we did. I really would've enjoyed a night in that tree house if we'd just had air mattresses. Honestly, I think we'll have to take another trip. Traveling with a gaggle of kids never goes entirely as hoped or planned for. Some adventures are so much more fun when they don't go according to plan. And some adventures I'm asking Sean to drive away when all the kids hop out of the car. Not forever, just a spin around the block to put a lil fear in their guts that they've finally pushed us too far. 

I had several moments when I was choking back tears I was so in love with my tribe. And then there was a moment that I legit googled, "Do redheads have a worse temper than...?" The short answer is yes. My people don't always want to follow my agenda, time schedule, destinations, or photo ops. They grow me and stretch me and bug the crap out of me, but man do we have fun. I can't wait for our next adventure!