Saturday, October 27, 2007

Welcome, Fall!

Yes, I have finally decided to get back in the swing of things here in blog world. I finally recovered from my hideous GI "bug" that put me out of commission for a whole week. I returned to work this past Monday and am almost back to par and finally eating foods that are not only white in color!

I feel like the last two weeks I have been held captive by the four walls of my house or an operating room! Jim is working 24 hours in Birmingham today--at his second job on the LifeSaver helicopter--so today I have been a single mom. After spending so much time inside lately, we decided to do something different today. After a little bit of house cleaning and a trip to Target, we left the TV off and spent most of the day in the great outdoors!

The weather is just beautiful....the sun so bright, the air with a slight crisp to it and the wind blowing! The kids and I picked up the sticks in the yard, raked a few leaves and refilled the bird feeder. We then took a quick trip to Home Depot where Caleb and Madison each picked out a mum to go along with our pumpkins sitting on our front porch. Caleb picked orange/yellow and Madison, of course, picked purple. We also got a few pansies for our planter. Once we got things situated on the porch, we just spent some time riding bikes, talking and the kids played some new version of front yard golf--of which I am happy to report no windows were broken and no one was injured during play.

It was a good day for some much needed sunshine therapy and just for us to welcome the wonderful season of Fall!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Montezuma's Revenge

Or as it might be called in Japan....Hirohito's Revenge. And if you don't know what I am indirectly talking about just search it on Google.

Well, I wanted my last blog about my trip to Japan to be witty and fun, but right now I am recovering from an intestinal bug straight from the depths of Hades! So, right now all the fun had on my trip has been overshadowed by the last 48+ hours! After a trip to the doctor this morning, the "bug" was officially identified and the correct antibiotics have been obtained. I pray I'm on the road to recovery.

Anyway, our last night in Japan we finally had the meal that I went to Japan for, a big bowl of noodles! My brother and sister-in-law took us to this little "hole in the wall" noodle place where we each enjoyed a bowl of noodles as big as our heads! They were delicious and the fun part was eating them with chopsticks and slurping them--which is customary in Japan. So, when in Japan.....sluuurrrrpppp.

The highlight of our flight home began in the Tokyo Airport. While checking in the computer screen asked us if we wanted to catch a earlier flight in Houston to get to Birmingham. Well, duh, we've been away from home for the last 10 days.....anyway, we hit yes. After confirming that we would pay an extra $50 for our tickets to be changed we suddenly heard the Hallelujah Chorus and spotlights lit our face. By the grace of God we had been upgraded to FIRST CLASS for fifty bucks on a full flight!!! Praise the Lord.

We got to spend the 2 hours waiting for our flight to leave in the airline "Lounge" with free food and iMac computers everywhere--- how funny. I just kept laughing asking Jim, "are you sure this is not a mistake." It was real, the food was great, the flight was only 10 hours ( I LOVE the tailwind) and we got back in Houston before we left Tokyo!

I'd just like to say I did enjoy my trip to Japan and hope you enjoyed reading about it. But I am so thankful that I am back here in the good ol' USA. The Japanese are the nicest and most polite people you will ever meet, and I will definitely miss that. But home is home and there is NO other place that I would rather be---sitting right here in my chair, typing on my blog, while watching TV in English!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Fear Factor....Tokyo Style

When thinking of the TV show "Fear Factor", I think of a show involving contestants who participated in various mental and physical challenges. They were people who volunteered to participate in a battle of wills resulting in one ultimate survivor. One who survived all the challenges and received a great reward.

Well, over the last 4 days I have felt like I have been on Fear Factor for a few reasons:

Physical Challenges
We have walked miles upon miles all over the city of Tokyo. We have been up and down multiple escalators and stairs. Yesterday we traipsed all over the USS Kitty Hawk and the Naval base. We have walked in the rain and in the humidity. We have crossed the street at one of the busiest intersections in the world and walked through beautiful parks. At the end of each day I have felt like I have been training for the triathlon!

Mental Challenges
I'm sure most of you have traveled with family before, so you know what I am talking about when I discuss this section. We've had our high points and our low points. You can imagine the stress of being in a foreign country where you know near nothing and each day involves traveling on a series of trains/subways to get anywhere! And remember we are traveling with 35 million of our best friends. So, needless to say we've all had our share of frustrations with one another and situations.

Mental and Physical Challenges
And for my last challenge I have had to face in Japan has been the least favored challenge on the TV show "Fear Factor"---the yucky food challenge!! Well, I came into the "competition" with an open mind and have actually fared very well in this phase of the contest. I don't think I can compile a complete list of what I actually ate, but here's what I remember: octopus, raw tuna, liver sushi, cow tongue and horse sushi. Yep, give me a high five people......I win in the food competition!

Despite all the tough challenges and frustrations, I think all seven of us are the winners. We all volunteered to come here, the physical and mental challenges we faced are nothing in the grand scheme of things. We spent a wonderful week with our "new" family" halfway around the world. And the petty instances will be forgotten but our family's love will continue forever. Fear was NOT a factor for us!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

The Wedding Day

Our Sunday morning was filled with busyness preparing for the wedding ceremony at the Tsurugaoka Hachiman Shrine (say that three times). Constantine and Akiko decided to have a traditional Japanese wedding at the shrine. The biggest surprise of the day was my mother finding out she was going to wear a traditional Japanese kimono for the wedding ceremony. Aki's sister came to the hotel and "dressed" my mom, which took about an hour to get on all the layers of beautiful fabric.

It was just a normal day at the shrine and a holiday weekend, so the areas surrounding the shrine were filled with thousands of people milling around during the ceremony. Most of you know how short my attention span is, so I have NO idea what went on during the ceremony! We all sat there in "sock feet" and in our Sunday's finest clothes. The picture below shows the traditional ceremonial dress that Constantine and Aki wore:

Once the ceremony was completed and the pictures were taken, we went to the reception site that overlooked the Pacific Ocean. There we enjoyed a delicious 7 course French meal and had time to spend with our new Japanese side of the family. Despite the language barrier, we spent 3 hours talking and laughing with Aki's family. They started the day in traditional Japanese wedding attire and halfway through the reception they changed into their American wedding dress.

This is what we came 7,700 miles for.....the marriage of my little brother. Seems like yesterday my sisters and I were dressing him up....but now we are all grown up....sorta! :-)

Monday, October 8, 2007


On Saturday we spent the day touring around the city of Kamakura. Our first stop-- Starbucks, of course. Strangely, none of the local stores or shops open until 9:30am.

We later toured the Great Kannon shrine to Buddha. As a Christian, it was very different to see the local people bowing in front of the great statue, and in other locations there were bottles of water placed in front of the statues....for some reason?! They also had places where they write their prayers on a piece of paper and tie it to a string for Buddha.

Next was lunch at the Kua 'Aina hamburger restaurant. Yes, I came all the way to Japan to eat a hamburger, but it was very good. They only have locations in Hawaii and oddly, Japan.

Finally, to end our day we took a train (without the assistance of my brother, who had to leave for work) to a nearby small island Enoshima. The train ride alone was quite amusing...imagine 7 Americans who know how to say "hi" and "thank you" in the local language traveling to a tourist attraction.

Once we got to the island, we took a series of 4 escalators to the top of the island. Then we went to the top of a tower that overlooks the whole area and waited for the sun to set. The view was spectacular and we even got to see Mount Fuji.

Note to the kiddies (and everyone)

Hey kids! Just wanted to put a place where you can click and look at the photos mom and dad have been taking! We miss you very much and will be home very soon. Be good for grandma and pet Bailey on the head for us! We love you.

Now click this line to go see our pictures!!

Click here to see more!!


That means "hey y'all" in Japanese....see I am learning the language fast!

Well, greetings from Japan. We had a very long day of travel last Thursday, but finally arrived at Narita Airport around 3pm on Friday. Somewhere during our 14 hour flight we lost a day and have yet to find it! My brother and friend picked us up at the airport and we made our way to our hotel in Kamakura.

The hotel was right in the middle of the city and the owner of the hotel was a friend of my brother's so we got a great rate on our rooms. The TV stations were Japanese only and no such thing as the internet.

No complaints, but to describe the hotel....Brady Bunch house! Girls if you had the bedspread below raise your hand....oh yes, and those ARE twin beds that are about 16" off the ground. Whatever!

After getting a few things unpacked at the hotel, our bleary eyed group had dinner at a Japanese restaurant. We even took our shoes off and sat on the I almost forgot to tell you about the highlight of our evening--we all, except Jim (who would sleep through a train coming through our room), were awakened by an earthquake at about 3am. For those of you who know me, NO I did not panic....I was too tired to panic.

The wedding was not until Sunday so we spent Saturday touring around the city of Kamakura. I will do another blog for that day and upload some pictures with a link for you to see more photos.

Tonight (Monday) we have finally arrived back in civilization......the BIG city of Tokyo. We are staying at the New Sanno Hotel for military personnel and their families. I am SO excited about watching TV in English and having an internet connection! WOO-HOO. What in the world did we do before all this?!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Westward Bound

I must squeeze in one more post before we leave for Tokyo in the morning. Yes, you all heard me right....Tokyo, as in JAPAN. You might be wondering why someone who can barely stand to get on a plane for a couple of hours would be so inclined to get on one for a 14 hour flight! Well, I am still wondering....

No, seriously, my little brother Constantine (remember I am Greek) is in the Navy and has been stationed in Japan for the last seven years. Somewhere along the line he met a wonderful Japanese girl named Aki, with whom he fell in love with and wanted to marry. This summer in June we gathered in Mobile, AL for a traditional "Big Fat Greek Wedding". Twenty of Aki's family and closest friends came and had a warm Southern welcome and great time. Now it's time for us to reciprocate. Me, my husband Jim, both of my sisters, my father, and my mom and step-dad are leaving tomorrow for the "Land of the Rising Sun"--Japan.

The shopping is done and the bags are finally packed; I even got a pedicure today for those unexpected taking your shoes off moments! The hardest part so far was telling my kids "goodbye". This will be the longest period of time in their short lives that we have been away from them!

Now, tomorrow the hardest part will be getting on that plane in Houston for the 14 hour flight. So please keep your anxiety ridden friend and her family in your prayers as we travel. Hopefully, my next post will be from somewhere in the country of Japan! Goodnight.