Friday, August 25, 2017

First 2 Weeks in Okinawa

Two Fridays ago we stepped off the plane at Kadena Air Base dazed, disoriented and dependent on our sponsors to drive us to our hotel, show us around and tell us what to do. Today we walked out of our house on base, piled into the huge van which we are the proud owners of, and drove to school for a meet and greet with our kids' teachers.  All the days in between have been a whirlwind, but I have to say it has gone way, way better than I thought it would. I think expectation management was key to preparing for this move, and my expectations were way, way, way low.

Our plane landed around 5 p.m., and we had a whole entourage meet us at baggage claim, making us feel like VIPs. Tim's boss was there pushing a cart full of our luggage, and our sponsors too (they weren't actually our assigned sponsors, but people Tim will be working with who were helping out in our sponsor's stead since he was away at the time.) They drove us to our hotel in two carloads, waited while we got checked in, helped us get our six suitcases and six backpacks inside, chatted with us for a bit, and then left, telling us they'd be back the next morning at 10.

Tim reconfigured the furniture (we had adjoining rooms with a door between) to our liking and then I got Joey to bed. Tim and the other kids continued to buzz around but I was so tired I could barely keep my eyes open. I changed, got into bed, pulled the covers up to my chin and told them, "I'm ignoring all of you and going to sleep now."  Tim said, "Seriously?" I said, "Yep. Goodnight." Once I did that, the rest of them settled down soon after to bed. That was about 8 p.m.

We were up for the day at 3:30. Breakfast didn't start until 8, and we were waiting at the door at 7:55. So much coffee was consumed by Tim and me that morning. Breakfast at the restaurant next door was included with our stay at the Westpac Lodge on Camp Foster, and we were really happy for that.
Waking up at 3:30 was acceptable for the first morning, but not for the second. Every time Joey woke up in the wee hours I'd tell him it was still nighttime, he had to lie back down. He was very sad. At 6 a.m. I opened the shade and took him out of his crib over to the window so he could watch the sunrise. I hoped this would help reset his little clock.
One of the people who had picked us up the day before, had us over to his house out in town. We met his wife and kids and walked to the seawall and ate dinner at a pizza place. I did not go all the way to Japan to eat pizza, but it was delicious. And now I know where to go if I'm ever in the mood for pizza. People were scuba diving right off of these rocks while we were there. It is a scuba and snorkeling paradise from what we hear, and that (the snorkeling at least) is something I'd love to try.
Tim went to the housing brief that Monday, and within a day secured us a house on base in a great location convenient for his work and where friends of ours lived. I was ecstatic. We went out for sushi with those friends and their two kids soon after. There was a lot more food there than we expected to get. We tried valiantly, but we could not finish it all. Delaney could not believe the size of her rainbow roll, but she ate every last bit.
I took the kids to the pool on base one day, I forget which. I told you it was a blur. The rule at this pool was that you couldn't be out of arm's reach of a parent if you hadn't passed the swim test. Delaney and Timmy were ordered out of the pool because I wasn't in with them. The girls were not keen on taking the swim test here even though they had passed it on Parris Island (I made sure to mention that they had passed the test at a Marine Corps Community Services -- MCCS -- pool. That didn't help.). Timmy eagerly volunteered to take the test even though he had failed at PI, and once they saw him pass, the girls took theirs too. Triumph!
Tim and I passed our SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement) driving tests on that first Tuesday and Wednesday. We bought a Nissan El Grande from someone on Facebook, and Tim christened it "Rank", for Rachael's Tank. He says we are definitely getting a Suburban after this. I keep telling him it's not anywhere as long or wide as a Suburban. It's really just tall. I wouldn't want to take a turn too fast in this thing, although as slow as traffic moves around here, that would probably never happen.
Last weekend we were invited to a birthday party in our neighborhood-to-be, and it was fun to meet more of our neighbors.
So many people recommended Coco's Curry House that I decided we had to try it a few nights ago. When we drove up we were surprised to see that it was a fast food place, basically. Tim and I are kind of food snobs who avoid fast food, but it was Japanese fast food at least. The curry was alright; I've heard it's an acquired taste. But for as short of a time as we're going to be here, as seldom as we go out to eat once we're in our normal routines, and as many different places as there are to try, I don't see us making our way back there. If we get curry again, we want it to be at a local place that looks like a complete dive. Oh, and is full of Japanese people, not Americans.

I had to change Joey before we left, and the single stall bathroom had a nice changing table that even had a cushion for his head. The toilet had so many buttons you'd need a pilot's license to use it. 
Um.. I think I'll wait till I get home.
I have no words.
We moved into our house this past Wednesday, after giving the housing people a chance to fix the air conditioning, clean it up and fill it with government loaner furnishings. Our express shipment arrived first thing in the morning which was wonderful, given that the window they gave us was between 8 and 5. Tim took the boys to the commissary while Delaney, Annie and I unpacked and put everything away. It is so nice to have a home again, if only for a few months!
Tacos.. and coffee? Tim says they'd better have good bathrooms there. It's right down the street, maybe we should try it.
Sign at the beach across the highway from our neighborhood. Swimming prohibited during swimming hours -- got it!
The kids start school Monday, Tim's first real day of work is on Monday, and he'll be traveling a lot in the coming weeks. I'm hoping to find a good routine myself, and get more comfortable with driving around. Driving on the left side of the road is still weird and some of the lights are not what I'm used to at all. But it's going to be no fun if I stay at home all the time. So wish me luck.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Joey: 20 Months

Six months ago I was filled with worry and dread about going through an overseas move with this little man who seemed to unravel every time we took him from his routines and familiar surroundings. No, the word I used was "horror" to describe how I felt at the thought of us being "displaced for weeks and living out of suitcases." I wonder, was all the angst about how he would cope with it or how I would? By the grace of God, we're both doing perfectly fine.
There were some difficult times of course. There was the dark plane ride from Seattle to Yokota Air Base in Tokyo. I'd been advised beforehand to do the bulk of my sleeping on this leg of the trip, as soon as breakfast was over. The lights were off, shades were drawn and movies played continuously. Everyone slept on that plane -- that is, everyone but me and Joey who fussed off and on the whole way and slept maybe 15 minutes out of the whole 9 hours. So that stunk. Fortunately for the rest of the passengers, the engine noise was loud enough to muffle any crying that happened and let anyone sleep who wanted to. I guess because I had built this day up in my mind to be such a horrible ordeal, it was really not that bad on the whole. He gagged on a pretzel and threw up some of his breakfast at one point, but I had a change of clothes ready to go. The second night at our hotel here did not go so well, with him being up several times, but that was the worst of it. For the most part he's been his cheerful and decently sleeping self since we arrived. For the most part.
As I explained to some new friends the other day, I think that somewhere along the way he realized that even if he's somewhere new and has to sleep in a different room or a different bed, if he has us he has all he needs. And maybe a little Elmo too. I introduced him to Elmo after the other kids went to Massachusetts and now he can't get enough of him. Very helpful at times to put some Elmo on the Kindle. He says, "Memo!" All of our kids have gone through an Elmo stage and I have a soft spot in my heart for that red furry monster.
So, month 20 has been a lot less rocky than I expected. There have been major changes to our circumstances, but none to Joey. He's a happy and affectionate little guy. He ate up all the extra attention we got from family while we were staying at Tim's parents'. One thing I've noted is an increase in the roughhousing between him and Timmy. He will wrap his arms around Timmy's legs, tackle him to the floor, and climb on him. Timmy is super physical too, and I worry that he'll get carried away and hurt Joey, but that hasn't happened yet. Then there was that nasty patch of rug burn on Joe's belly, now that I think of it..
He's at such a fun stage right now -- part sweet baby and part hilarious and headstrong toddler. I want to keep him this way forever with his adorable baby hands and feet, that chirpy little voice calling out "Car!" or "Know?" or "No!" His newest command is "Way!" (Go away) I don't encourage that, though.
Annie always shares with Joey. Here, he kept saying "Bite," and she ended up giving him half her ice cream cone.
He still wakes up unhappy every time. He's the only one of the four who doesn't talk to himself and play in the crib for a while before he needs me to get him. He wakes up angry that someone didn't already get him 10 minutes ago. I cuddle him for awhile and give him lots of TLC after he wakes up, but he doesn't perk up until he's had a change of scenery. So it's best to get out and do something after his nap.
He still nurses twice a day, before nap and before bed. He goes to bed around 7:30 and wakes up at 6 typically. He still wears size 4 diapers and both 12-18 and 18-24 month clothing depending on the type of clothing and the brand. In pants he's still smaller. The 12-18 cargo shorts that have been a staple of his wardrobe for months now, seem to be getting looser around the waist. 18-24 month tops usually fit OK. His feet are tiny just like his siblings'. He's in size 6 sneakers right now, and they have a little room.

It really is a joy to watch this little guy grow.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

MA visit part 3: last few days in the US

Hello from the other side! After an intense 24 + hours of travel that began at 1 a.m. in Seattle😱, we arrived in Okinawa at 5 p.m. Friday. We are now 13 hours ahead of the east coast. We did manage to get about 7 hours of sleep last night, but we are still very jet-lagged. I don't know what time my body even thinks it is -- it is just continuously recalculating. I keep looking at my phone to remind myself what day and time it is. Tim suggested I blog in order to avoid conking out during the hour before our sponsors come to take us out for new phones and lunch. I have to save the nap for when we get back (although I could probably take one now and later.) There is not enough coffee in the world sometimes.

Tim's parents had all our family and friends who could make it for a farewell cookout. Carolyn made enough of her yummy meatballs and sauce to feed an army and crafty Karen did a beautiful job with the decorations. Once mostly everyone had arrived, we had a promotion ceremony for Tim. It was a way to mark the occasion of his promotion, and more for the benefit of me and the rest of the family than for him. As Tim says, it's about us, not him. We wanted a ceremony, and there wasn't going to be the traditional one at his place of work since he was between duty stations. His best friend Derek, a Marine veteran, read the warrant. Carolyn and I pinned on his silver oak leaves. I think it meant a lot to the family to get to watch. Then we took lots and lots of pictures and everyone ate.
Monday was tough. We loaded up our six suitcases and backpacks, and took our car and Tim Sr's car to the hotel at Logan Airport. After a couple hours we waved goodbye as Karen and Carolyn drove away in our car. That really made it real for me. It was so hard seeing them go and not knowing when we'd see each other next. Thanks to the Marine Corps keeping us in suspense as they are wont to do, we didn't know yet whether we'd be in Japan for a year or three or four. The minute we got off the plane here, his new boss told him congratulations on getting command in Cherry Point, NC. The change of command is in May. It's a crazy life we have. 

Tim Sr stayed with us and flew the next morning to Seattle, where we all stayed two nights and had a day to explore and see the sights. Then we tried to get a few hours of rest before we all headed to the airport again and he saw us off before flying back to Boston. 
Tim cashed in all his points and got us the nicest suite at the Hilton at Logan Airport. The kids were beside themselves with excitement when they saw the views we had.

I want a do-over of Seattle. It was so smoky from wildfires in Canada, and we couldn't see all that much from the top of the Space Needle either. Tim Sr said the view was amazing last time he went. They could see Mt. Rainier even.
How I felt about being in a long, narrow passageway with hordes of people. That is what Pike Place Market is, not an open air farmer's market like I'd imagined. I couldn't get out of there fast enough, and I know I missed out on some yummy local food. Next time I will stay outside and I will ask Tim to go get me something good to eat. No one ended up getting anything to eat there, just walking through and out. We got hungry and ate Subway a little while later. So dumb.
It's been a whole day since I started this post. I think I'm adjusted to the time difference. Now if we could just get Joey sorted out.. This morning I made a big deal of opening the shade and letting him see the sunrise and acting cheerful because it's "morning!" even though I was so exhausted from being up with him half the night.

That's it for now. Have a great Sunday!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

MA Visit Part 2: excursions, pool days, and finally a good haircut for Joey

I didn't think I'd be back here so soon, but I'm in no hurry to go upstairs and start trying to go to sleep. Tomorrow's the first step of our journey -- we drive one hour to Boston to spend the night. It will be an easy day; the important thing is that we don't forget anything when we leave Tim's parents'! I know everything's replaceable, but it stinks to have to buy things we already have, the way we've been spending money lately.

We went to Kathy and Brett's for the afternoon, and celebrated Sofia's 13th birthday. 13, holy cow! I remember the first time Tim took me to their house for dinner, and this tiny girl who reminded me of Boo from Monsters, Inc. wanted to show us her room. I remember being amazed that someone that itty-bitty could walk up the stairs. The time sure flies.
Delaney learned how to dive. Annie's really close, but not quite there. I never did learn how myself, so they are way ahead of me.
Joey slipped face-first into the water while fooling around on the steps. Sam grabbed him right away and I told him, "You have to like Auntie Sam now since she just rescued you." He was still scared of her for some reason and it was kind of funny.
One morning I came downstairs after sleeping in a couple extra hours, and Joey came running to me as always. "Mama!" It was a minute or two before I said, "Wait a minute, you look different. You got a haircut!" It was about time; it had grown out so long. Isn't he so handsome? He's come a long way from Dumb and Dumber. The barber Tim took him to did such a great job, and I wish we could just take him there every time he needs a haircut (until he starts getting buzzed like Timmy). In my experience, it is really hit or miss who knows how to give a little boy a good haircut. And since my kids have not the slightest curl or wave to their hair, you can see literally every place the scissors have been and there can be no error. I definitely should not be trying it at home. I have learned my lesson. Although we both agreed the barber left some pieces a little too long in the front, so this morning I gave him a donut and tried to snip-snip the front pieces just a bit. I didn't ruin him!
We hiked Purgatory Chasm on one of our hotter days here. The kids started out excited, but got tired and lost their enthusiasm pretty quickly. I made fun of them for that, but then realized that they were choosing the more difficult ways to go while I was sticking to the spray painted path.
We forced them to pose for a couple more group photos after this one, which was kind of mean. Look at the way Timmy is lying face-down on that rock. But we made up for it afterward.
The next day while hanging around here, I grabbed my camera because of how much I loved seeing Annie share an ice cream cone with Joey. He kept saying, "Bite," and she'd give him more. We've been eating a lot of ice cream.
Friday was a 'make your own pizza' day.
We went kayaking and paddleboarding, and that was a lot of fun. Timmy and I shared one of the kayaks that Kathy brought. It was meant for one person but since Timmy's small, we both fit with no problem. We were kind of pressed for time with getting to all the islands we wanted to, and making sure everyone got enough time to paddle and to swim. But Timmy kept asking to paddle and I let him because I knew he wouldn't be happy until he'd completely worn himself out. He did a great job, even with how hard it must have been having my weight in the back. He really would like his own kayak next time, and I told him we'll see. He would have also liked to paddle board, but the rules at the park were you had to be 8.
At one of the islands I let him take the kayak for a spin by himself.
On Saturday we went to Mass with Tim's parents and then out to eat. On the way back we saw this beautiful rainbow, which I could not stop taking pictures of. 
♫Someday we'll find it, the rainbow connection..♫😁
Not pictured: Tim and I going running together every other day before lunch, and me not dying even though it was the middle of the day and there were hills. Actual hills! We'd walk for a while afterward  and talk too, and that was something I looked forward to. I don't know when we'll get another chance. We also went went out many times by ourselves, and although it was only to do mundane things like shop or get his new military I.D., it was nonetheless fun and felt like such freedom. Having family as babysitters -- there's nothing like it.