The Simpson Journey

Four Simpsons on a journey through life and locations

Caleb’s knee surgery

The following is an edited version of information Caleb had shared with our family over the last couple months.  We wanted to update you all too.

Some of you may remember that I injured my right knee skiing in February. It was the same trip that Jenny injured her thumb  I continued to work out and it was getting slowly better as a 2 steps forward and one step back but was still painful and range of motion was not great. Last Monday (5/29) I was lifting and felt it hurt sharply again. Later that day and the next it was more painful and causing me to limp so I went to a specialist and got an MRI.

Yesterday (6/7) I had my MRI consult and the orthopedic specialist confirmed a tear in my lateral posterior meniscus (internal knee cartilage).

He gave me 2 options
1- Laparoscopic surgery to suture the tear back together. This would require 6 weeks on crutches and 3 months total until I could run or resume any training.

2- Physical therapy with restrictions. No running, jumping, squatting or leg work for three months after there is no more pain. No weight lifting for 6 months after no pain. Additionally, this might not fix the problem and I could need surgery anyways.

Needless to say this is devastating news for me. Working out is one of the only things keeping me in a semi-healthy mental state and something Jenny and I use to connect daily.

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During the following month I  had 3 visits to 3 different hospitals and scheduled knee surgery for July 27 . My main orthopedic specialist called me back into his office to tell me some new ways that my knee was messed up. Turns out my knee has two “free bodies” floating around in it in addition to my meniscus tear. After checking my range of motion and pain the doctor was much less concerned with the minor tear but the free bodies would not heal or reabsorb. They went as far as to say the tear might be a false positive but the free bodies would be in the way and prevent my sports and range of motion. So now surgery is basically required but if they don’t need to repair the meniscus, I would not need any crutches and would walk away from the surgery same day.

This is usually a 2-night stay at the hospital for Japanese but they are making an exception and allowing me to leave the same day. I got a second opinion from another top knee clinic and they wanted me to stay at the hospital for a week and get a hotel nearby for 2 more full weeks. So I am going to my main clinic. Once we scheduled the surgery, they suggested I do the pre-op work since I was already at the clinic so i agreed. The proceeded to to do the following:
* 6 vials of blood for testing
* Urine sample
* 9-lead ECG (heartbeat analysis)
* Lung capacity test
* Chest x-ray
* Knee x-ray (again)

All with almost 0 English and everything needed paid for in cash that day. Miraculously, the total came out to only $500. Whew!

So I’ll be having surgery next week. They will assess the cartilage and suture it if necessary. If they do that, I will be on crutches for 6 weeks. Otherwise I will not need any crutches. The surgery will be under general anesthesia I will start physical therapy the next day.

I’m feeling a little better about the whole deal and just want to get better. Insurance should cover about 100% of everything so now it’s just about getting the best care and recovery plan.


by Jenny

On Thursday July 28th we left the house around 7 am to catch a train and a bus to the hospital. Since I cannot drive in Japan we knew we would need to rely on public transportation.  It took us a little over an hour to get to the hospital.   After a little difficulty we got checked in.  We were a little worried because we couldn’t find this hospital identification card, and everyone spoke only a little  English.  After a little bit they took us upstairs to the surgery room where we met a couple nurses, they spoke a little English and told us that Caleb would go to the surgery area and I would need to follow another person to a waiting area.  So then all I had was to wait, and pray.
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After about an hour a nurse came to the waiting room and told me that the surgery was over and went well, she took me upstairs to speak with the doctor.  Luckily he speaks great English and told me that the surgery went well.  He handed me a small jar, and a photo with some images on it.  He then told me the little jar contained a pea sized piece of cartilage that had been floating around in his knee and causing pain.  The images showed 3 things: 1.  his meniscus which was healing on its own and he did not need sutures here. (VERY GOOD NEWS)   2. an area behind the kneecap where cartilage was badly damaged and needed microfracture 3.  Another area of cartilage that they smoothed  down.
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I could not visit him see him right away but needed to wait another 2 hours while he was recovering, I got sent back to the waiting room. After about 30 more minutes I got a message from caleb saying that he finally convinced them to let him use his phone!  I was so happy to hear from him.  He was in good spirits and so relieved that hey did not need to stitch the meniscus.  He would be able to walk the same day!  We continued to chat a bit and tell me some funny stories of the whole process and procedure.  It was funny how he had to ask 4 times for his phone, and 3 times for a drink of water.  After a little bit a nurse came to me and told me that he wanted a drink of water, and asked me if i had water for him,  I confusedly looked through my bag and handed her my plastic water bottle.  She then took it and brought it to Caleb.  We still have no idea why they couldn’t just have given him a cup of water. We were happy they were finally letting him drink something though.  After about another hour they brought Caleb to me in a wheel chair.  He was to sit with me and have some lunch to make sure he his stomach wouldn’t be upset after the anesthesia.  Luckily I had brought some crackers. We were never really told I should pack him a lunch. He enjoyed the crackers and was cleared to leave after they took his IV out. I think the tape removal from the IV area hurt more than his knee at this point with all the hair on his arm.
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We were cleared to leave and he was able to walk  down the hall to the elevator and go to the reception area where we needed to pay .  Another weird thing is that we needed to pay 100% of his surgery that day,  Japan has national insurance, and since we have private insurance through Cigna we pay for all expenses then are reimbursed  later.  At this point Caleb also realized he had the hospital ID card after all.  The receptionist was happy to have it.

We made our way to the bus and then on to the train.  I was very impressed with how Caleb was able to walk only a little slower than usual.  We made it home safely and he was able to work from home the next day and to rest his leg a bit.  He went to physiotherapy the next day and given some exercised to do to build strength and flexibility.
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We are very happy his surgery went so well.  We were worried he would be on crutches or be in pain while we were on our vacation to Malaysia.  More on our  AWESOME vacation soon….

 

Trying to catch up…. another back post

Wow, what a cool experience for our kids, skiing in the mountains of Japan with your school friends. International schools ROCK!! The kids got to take a 4 day ski trip with their school.  They stayed in a hotel and the school had 3 entire floors full of kids from their school.  Caleb and I took advantage of the kids being gone and took our own ski trip.  It was a great opportunity to get away together, something we have not been able to do much of since moving here.

We stayed in an awesome Japanese style room and had our own private onsen (Hotspring hot tub) on our patio, and had an awesome mountain view!  We also ate a traditional 10 course Japanese dinner.  I have to say I was also nervous  about this.  When we arrived at our hotel we noticed people walking around the hotel in their Yukata (traditional Japanese robes made of cotton)  With the help of google we found information on how and when to wear a yukata. http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2029_dress.html  Caleb convinced me that we should wear our Yukata to dinner.  So we did.  As we sat down the table was carefully set and the server quickly began bringing out our food.  I have to say I have never eaten out of so many dishes in one setting and eaten so many mysterious foods.  Overall the foods were okay and the experience was cool.  Caleb once described Japanese foods as having a “flavor range of 0-3 and a texture range of -10 to +10”  To our western palate it is challenging to have so many textures.  I think the most surprising thing was the Awabi (abalone).   Here is more information from this site

 Awabi (abalone)

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Images: WikipediaWikipedia

“Although it looks like a clam, an abalone is actually a sea snail and is considered a delicacy in Japan for its chewy texture and crisp taste. Abalones are eaten raw as sashimi but are also grilled. A popular way to prepare abalones is to grill it live, right out of the water”

Here is a video of our Abalone cooking:

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I think we have a long way to go before we can say we love Japanese food, but it was a cool experience.

Pictures of our dinner experience:

Japanese Dinner

 

We also got to do some more skiing.  We were staying in a great little town with 3 resorts the all joined!  The weather conditions varied drastically from day to day, we did some skiing with sunny beautiful skies, heavy wind and snow whiteout conditions and pouring rain.  We tried to make the best of the cards we were given and continued to practice.  When we weren’t skiing we drank sake (rice wine) from vending machines,  went to  a cork gun “shooting range” and enjoyed our time alone.

Here are some more pictures:  (with less crazy food)

Yuzawa

In reality the cards we dealt sucked and we BOTH ended up also getting injured. On day 2 I fell and landed on my thumb.  After a trip to the first aid office they told me they believed it was not broken.  They gave me a bag to put ice in and we took a rest for about an hour.  One of the ski shops had medical tape and we looked up on google how to tape a sprained thumb.  I managed to ski at least a couple more rounds and we headed back to the hotel and out for dinner.  We opted out of the fancy hotel dinner and ate somewhere else.  On day 3 Caleb fell and twisted his knee.   He was able to get up and ski a little more but this injury ended up being the real reason why he needed  knee surgery on July 27th.  More info on this coming soon.

Our first visitors and a job update

I know it has been a while since my last post I’ll try to give you a rundown of what we have been up to.

In March we had our first visitors!!!! We were so happy that Caleb’s parents were able to come and visit.  We had fun showing them this big city and sharing our home.  Here are some pictures of our time together.  The kids were also on spring break so they got some good time with Grandma and Grandpa too.  The game of the week was “ticket to ride”  We took an open air tour bus, enjoyed hanami (cherry blossom viewing), tasted sake (rice wine), played games, worked on quilting, visited Tokyo tower and parks and more.

Here are some pictures of their time here. (click arrows on side of pictures to scroll)

Loren and Colleen visit Tokyo

 

Caleb’s job has gotten a bit busier now since the  spring.  He is regularly visiting physicians throughout the region.  Sometimes these are overnight trips and sometimes just for a day or evening.  Because of the geography of Japan he often flies or takes a shinkansen (bullet train).  I was explaining this to someone recently, as another way our lives in Japan are different. When we lived in the US we drove a lot.  We would drive an hour or 8 hours.  Taking a flight to another location in the midwest was not something we did often.  He also has a new title as EP Business Director and has a team directly reporting to him!  In many ways he is just now getting the position and leadership he came here for.  We are both hoping that he is able to better lead and make change to to organization in this new role.  

Winter fun: Sapporo Snow festival and our first time on skis

In another list of accomplishments we have all learned to downhill ski.  While we were in Seattle visiting family in December Caleb went with is siblings to Steven’s Pass.  Caleb had good teachers (his siblings)  and has natural athletic ability and was confidently skiing down new trails.   He had such a wonderful experience he was very quick to try to convince our family that WE HAVE TO TRY SKIING once we get back to Japan.

Here he is with his 2 brothers, sister!

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Visiting Sapporo Snow Festival and skiing are two things that are very popular winter activities in Japan. So made plans to enjoy the winter with these activities.  We were able to snag a decent (small) apartment in Sapporo and get flights to this city in the northern island in Japan in February.  It wasn’t necessarily a budget friendly trip since we booked so late but since we are trying to embrace this time in Japan we decided to go for it.  It was a quick flight (a little over an hour)

We spent our 4 day 3 night trip enjoying ice sculptures, huge snow sculptures (some with light show projections), eating tasty ramen, and skiing.

Here are pictures from the snow festival and fun things we ate: ( hover over picture and click arrows to scroll through the pictures)
Sapporo: snow festival and food

While in Sapporo we could take a quick 30 minute bus or taxi ride to a small ski resort.  We got private lessons for our family since this was the first time skiing for 3 of us.  It was nice to have an instructor help us with our learning.  The kids were quick learners and quite fearless.  I on the other hand was quite terrified, fell over A LOT and squealed “I CANNOT STOP”  on at least one instance.  But through all the falls I continued to learn and was feeling much better by the second day.  I am so glad we decided to do this together.   Stay tuned to hear about the kids ski trip with school and Caleb and my get away!

Skiing pictures: ( hover over picture and click arrows to scroll through the pictures)
Sapporo Skiing

A Japanese birthday

On March 11 I celebrated my 35th birthday!  Typically we love to have all of our friends over and celebrate birthdays with a big party.  Since we know so few people her and I don’t think our neighbors in the apartment would appreciate a Simpson style dance party we spent the day a bit differently.  We were super blessed by some friends of ours who invited us into their home for a homemade pizza party on Friday.  Our first time being invited over to someone’s home.  We felt so loved, but also missed our Minnesota friends.

It was great that we had good weather and that my birthday landed on a Saturday this year.  No one enjoys having their birthday on a weekday, it’s just such a bummer.  We started the day out with some coffee and heading to the gym to do our Crossfit open workout 17.3 .  It’s a fun and exciting time at the gym for everyone.  The Open is a set of 5 weekly workouts happening on consecutive weeks in which athletes from all over the world compete to get the best scores at their local gyms.  Workouts are judged and scores are posted on crossfit.com leaderboard.  Top qualifiers from the area will go to a regional competition, the top qualifiers will go to the Crossfit Games (which you may have seen on TV) You can read more about the crossfit games workouts here  It was great to do something I love (crossfit) with someone I love (Caleb) and have the kids join in the excitement by attending the event!  Caleb is doing all the workouts RX, as prescribed,  I am doing a scaled version of the workout, which basically means it’s lower weights.  I’m hoping to be strong and healthy enough next year to do RX!  On a side note I sprained my thumb while we were skiing in February.  I was a little bit concerned that it would not allow me to compete in the open at all. But luckily Caleb was able to tape me up and working out hasn’t seemed to make it any worse as long as I am careful.

Overall the workout went pretty well for me.  I am still not super confident doing squat snatches at increasing weight for more than a couple in a row. So doing scaled version allowed me to do power snatch followed by the overhead squat, which worked well for me.    Caleb felt a bit off during the workout on Saturday and ended up repeating the workout on Monday and was able to get at least 10 more reps the second time.   He felt better about his second score. Way to go Caleb!

Here are some of our pictures from the workout: I love this first one!  (move mouse onto picture and click on right/ left arrows to see the album)

Crossfit open 17.3

After we got home I got to open my presents.  Caleb did such a good job shopping for special Japanese gifts.  I got a beautiful yukata (japanese robe) a musical jewelry box, and a  tea set that matches our sake set. I love everything!  So many pretty things that I will treasure forever!

So nice to get a good workout done in the morning so we could celebrate and EAT later. We went to an amazing steak lunch as a family.   The food was delicious and I was soooooo full but managed to eat (and share) my fun birthday dessert!  YUM! YUM YUM!

Caleb also surprised me by telling me he wanted to take me to a home improvement store to by some big house plants.  It’s funny the thing we miss. I never thought I would be so excited to go to a home improvement store on my birthday.  We were so impressed with the selection of things at this store it is totally like a Menards, Loews, or Home Depot in the US!  We drove the the store and parked in the parking garage.  It was awesome to walk around and look at the plants.  We used google translate and other websites to make sure we were getting good plants for our apartment.  We ended up getting 5 large plants and proceeded to try to fit them into our Prius.  I was doubtful, but of course the engineer was determined AND made them fit in the car.  If it wasn’t funny enough driving in the jungle car when we got home we loaded them all into our small elevator in our apartment.  As we were on our way up the elevator stopped to let some other people on.  To our neighbor’s surprise there we were peeking out from plants. I still laugh thinking about this.   We all decided it may be best if they waited for us to go up and unload the plants before they rode the elevator up.  Definitely a memorable and fun birthday! I even got 2 packages sent in the mail filled with goodies.  Thanks Mom and Dad for the fun quilting stuff! Thanks Amy for the US snacks and treats!!! I feel so loved!

On Sunday we went o a park and played badminton!  Pretty silly little game, but we had fun!

Here are some pictures from the rest of our weekend!

(move mouse onto picture and click on right/ left arrows to see the album)
Jenny's Birthday

A quilt inspired post

If you know me very well you know that I am somewhat crafty, and also somewhat impatient.  Over the years I have done some sewing, quilting, and various pinterest inspired crafts.  I enjoy being creative but often lack discipline.

I had worked 3 years on my last quilt.  I had a love hate relationship with it.  Just when I thought we were getting along, it would laugh in my face and wouldn’t lay flat or I’d sew the wrong pieces together.   When we were packing up to move to Japan I had finished the quilt top, but found it was much smaller than I wanted, and it WOULD NOT LAY FLAT!  I was about to chop the thing up and make pillow shams out of it.  Luckily my mother in law was visiting and rescued the poor quilt.  She had a couple suggestions and agreed to take it, add a border or two, then take it to a quilt shop to have it quilted.  I said good bye to the headache and hoped it would cooperate for her.  Well guess what?! We saw my in-laws at christmas time, and she had my quilt finished!  It is so beautiful!  I’m so happy that she was able to help get it finished, we both put lots of work into it and it makes me smile every time I walk past it. Thanks so much Colleen!!!!
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When I heard that there was an interest meeting for a Quilting Circle happening at Tokyo American Club (TAC) I emailed the leader and started to get more excited about getting back into quilting and sewing.   I left my sewing machine in storage in Minnesota, however as part of our expat package they gave me a “Spousal Allowance” for self development, education or to seek employment”.  I think of it as a bribe to try and keep me happy because “if mamma ain’t happy, no body’s happy!” So I began to research sewing machines. The voltage in Japan is 100V and in America it is 120 V.  which means not all appliances from America will work in Japan, and vice versa.  I spent hours and hours trying to figure out what type of machine I wanted I did internet research, asked the quilt group leader and multiple forums for foreigners. Did I want  something that was computerized? did embroidery? allowed free motion quilting? Should I buy an American machine then use a transformer?  Should I get a Japanese machine, then try to translate and entire manual? Or find an English manual? Do I try to buy in Japan? Buy in US and have shipped? Amazon.com? Amazon.jp? ebay? SO MANY CHOICES!

After much nervous research I decided to order a Brother HC1850  (click to read a review) off of of ebay.  It is American.  I decided, and Caleb encouraged me that it would be better to risk that the machine may not work optimally with a transformer than be frustrated from day 1 with NOT being able to read anything about the machine.  Plus if I like it, I can take it back with us to the US.   The machine is coming from the US and is not here yet but I am so excited to get it!  actually came today.!!! I unboxed it and watched the instructional cd, plugged into a step up/ step down transformer and it seems to be working just fine, at least for the couple lines of sewing i did! YayI  I am so happy for my new toy.

 

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Another task was trying to buy fabric.  with a little internet research (again- what did people do before the internet)  I discovered there is a whole area in Tokyo called Nippori fabric town.  It with filled with craft and fabric stores!

Check this out! It’s one (of many) articles I read about shopping for fabric.  I planned my trip, made myself a cheat sheet of possible words in Japanese I may need,  wore my walking shoes, and hopped on the train when the kids left for school.  In about 45 minutes, and 2 different subway lines I was there.  The Fabric Street was easy to find since it is a bit of a Tourist attraction, here were even arrows on the sidewalk.  Once I got to the right area I was a bit overwhelmed, there were so many little shops  that mostly looked the same. There was one bigger store I had heard about called “Tomato”  I followed google maps and made it to the Tomato Store.  It was 2 floors and had fabric in big rolls.  My quilt teacher told me I was supposed to buy Yukata fabric.  I had done some research but really didn’t know what I was looking for.  I was a bit confused because I hear this store was supposed to be really big and have 5 floors, yet the store I was in was only 2 floors and didn’t seem all the large.  After looking around a bit I finally figured out how to read a label on the fabric to find the section of cotton fabrics. I knew these would work for my quilt even if they were not a Yukata fabric.  I set to work choosing my 9 fabrics that would coordinate to make my “around the world quilt”  I decided to go with a blue, tan and pink color scheme.  Picking out fabrics for a quilt take quite a long time, and to add to the difficulty they were on long rolls as opposed to shorter bolts that I have been used to in American stores.  I probably spent an hour and a half in the Tomato store and finally made my selections.   I went to the counter and asked the store clerk to give me 2 meters of each of my fabrics. I mostly just held up two fingers and said 2 meters please.   I wanted to try one more chain fabric store so I hopped on a train and found some solid fabrics I liked at the second store.  This store seemed much more like a JoAnn’s Fabrics in the US.  The fabric was on smaller bolts, they had sewing machines, craft supplies, and accessories.  I was pretty exhausted but think I would have done just fine if I want to this store in the first place. Here are some pics from my little adventure, and the last one is from my quilting group. (click the arrows to scroll through pics)

Nippori Fabric Town

The next day I got some updated information about the supplies I needed for my quilting group. I found out I got wayyyyyy  too much fabric.  I should have been more persistent in looking for yukata fabric, or actually asked someone for help.  Yukata fabric is only 14 inches wide, and my fabric was over 40 inches wide.  I only needed 1 meter and I bought 2 meters. OOOPS!

I took a second trip to Nippori Fabric town a couple days later in search of a rotary cutter, mat and quilting ruler in inches.  Of course you cannot find a ruler in inches here.  I settled on getting the mat and rotary cutter.  AND found out that just a couple stores down and across the street was the bigger Tomato store.  I guess I was so focused on my google map, and looking at what was directly in front of me I didn’t consider that there was possibly something bigger and better just ahead.  I went to the bigger Tomato store. They had a huge selection and some discounted fabrics.  I also recognized the yukata fabrics that I was originally supposed to buy.  Oh well, my fabrics till work just fine. and I will be able to make more of a bed quilt instead of a wall hanging.

I had my first quilting group meeting and we discussed color theory( the way you want the colors of your quilt to be arranged) how to measure and cut with a rotary cutter.  I have used a rotary cutter before but found out that I probably rushed through it, and didn’t take the time to make sure that I was being precise.  This is probably one of the many reasons my last quilt was such a headache! There are 4 other ladies in the group, 2 have been quilting for quite some time, and 2 that are newer to quilting.  everyone seems nice and we ate lunch together in the cafe at TAC before leaving.   We won’t meet again for a couple more weeks but I have homework to get my fabric cut into strips and sewn together.  So far I have been trying to take my time and have patience as I cut the stips.  I got them all cut yesterday so soon I will get to use my new sewing machine to put them together.

Well congratulations if you made it all the way through this very crafty post.  I’m hoping to post about our trip to Sapporo, skiing, and snow festival next.

 

6 months in Tokyo

So it’s official, we have survived 6 months as an expat family in Japan.  I know we have some amazing stories to tell, and have been on some amazing journeys, seen new parts of the world and learned so much already but to be honest it has been really hard.

We took our home leave trip over Christmas break and we were so happy to see so many people we love.  We choose to fly” economy comfort”, instead of the “business class” we were allotted.    By sacrificing the lay down flat seats and other special privileges we were able to pay for multiple legs of our trip to see ALL OUR FAMILY  and seeing some friends in MN and STILL have some budget to spare for 2017!!

We made quite the journey we traveled from Tokyo, Japan to Minneapolis, Minnesota, where we stayed 3 days and had a tight schedule to maximize time with our friends.  From Minneapolis we flew to Chicago, Illinois.  My parents picked us up at the airport and we got to spend a week in the wide open spaces of the country. From Illinois we then flew to Seattle, Washington, where all of Caleb’s family flew, or drove in.  We spent a week at an Air B&B home.  From Seattle we made the last leg of travel back to Tokyo.  It was hard to leave each destination, not knowing when we would be back again.  I believe it was most emotional for us to leave Seattle possibly because it was our return flight to Japan but possibly because it is still our desire to some day live in Seattle.  Even with the winter chill the landscape, mountains, and nature were wonderful to take in.  Who knows what the future holds!

It was amazing to see SO many people we love and that love us.  I think what struck me the most is that in Japan, while we are so far away, it is easy to feel isolated, and lonely.  We walk around most of the time feeling like a “nobody” to everyone. Our entire Facebook feed fills up while we are sleeping, yet is unchanged while we are awake. There aren’t many people that will laugh at our jokes, or seem happy to see us, we don’t get hugs from people at church, and very few people in our time zone seem to want to develop a deeper friendship with us.  (I will say there are a couple  exceptions and for you we are very grateful) While we were were in Minnesota, Illinois and Washington we were surrounded by people who actually care about us.  People who took time out of their schedules to hang out with us, welcome us into their homes and show us kindness.  I made a joke on and off during the trip that I was “gathering hugs”  Thank you for being our friends and family! Thanks for all the hugs! 

Here are some photos from our trip!

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I recently posted on facebook regarding one of our favorite children’s books, “Fredrick” by Leo Lionni.  It is a wonderful story of a family of mice.  In the story all of the  mice except for one  are constantly working and preparing for the future.  Fredrick is the outsider, he spends his time gathering  sun rays, colors and words.  I won’t spoil the story completely…. But Caleb has referred to me as our family’s Fredrick lately.  I am not used to not working….. I have always had some sort of job since high school and have felt happy about contributing to our family income in some way but now I am not “working” yet to work I do is valuable.  I  take naps, spend time outdoors, gather hugs, read books, blog (not as often as I’d like) , and take classes on photography, flower arranging and Japanese because I know that my family needs me to be alive, engaged and happy this is how I gather the sun rays.  I need to be their Fredrick,  I WANT to be their Fredrick. I want to work out with my husband every day at 6:15 am because I love spending time with him and love the challenges of Crossfit.  I want to be available and alert when my kids get home from school and need help navigating homework, friends, and teachers in a new school in a new country.  I want to be engaged and loving towards my husband after my kids are in bed, dinner is made and we settle in for the night.

Here is a link to a youtube version of the story book:

Funny things:

-While in the US I found myself eavesdropping all the time.  I guess I was just happy to hear people speaking english and also realizing I often listen in on Japanese conversations hoping I can maybe pick up a word or two and validate my Japanese lessons.  But truth be told,  I am a very slow learner when it comes to foreign languages.  

-Target is glorious! And Kohls.  We had such a fun time shopping at American stores. The Target in Seattle even had a escalator for carts! So cool!  If you know us very well you know that neither Caleb or I are huge into brand names or feel we need to spend top dollar on our clothing.  But let’s be honest we like what is familiar we like to have clothes that fit in styles we like.  Months before travelling to the US we created a shared shopping list using the “AnyList” app (is you haven’t heard of it, it’s great).  Here are some items on our list:  workout clothes, insulated mugs, Aunt Jemima syrup, grape jelly, crystal light, dental floss, deodorant, dress shirts, kids socks and underwear, ibuprofen, benadryl and sudafed. I am happy to say we managed to get most of the things off our list.

-We still remember how to drive on the right side of the road.  We just recently got a car in Tokyo  It was a long process but Caleb fought to get us our Prius. We have taken a couple weekend trips to go to an aquarium, shopping or other errands.  Before moving we both got our International driving permit.  It’s actually really easy.  All you have to do is go in to AAA and apply. It allows you to drive in almost any country for up to a year before getting your license in that country.  I have not quite yet braved the driving in Tokyo but Caleb has done a great job learning to drive on the left and navigate the signs in Japanese.  While in the US for our home leave trip we were happy either rent a vehicle or use our own van, that has been in storage! And we remembered how to drive!!!

 

A little more Seoul

Thanks for reading everyone! Here are some more updates about our Trip to Seoul South Korea from our little blogger!

Day 3: Wednesday 12th of September 2016

My dad had his first day of work in South Korea today. We got lunch at Mcdonald’s. I got a Mcchicken sandwich with a large fri and slushie and the flavor was strawberry lemonade. Today we caught up on up on our sleep and we went downstairs to this shopping mall that’s HUGE. Then after shopping we just stayed home and relaxed at home for about 10 minutes. Then my dad came home from work. After he got ready we went to go.

He announced that we would going to a traditional Korean restaurant for diner. So we got in a taxi and went down the street to the restaurant. We ordered two orders of chicken, and one order of boneless lamb and two Sprites for Zeke (my brother) and me. Apparently you get to cook it for yourself!! There are people that come around, but you mostly cook it yourself. My highlight today was going to the restaurant because you get to cook it yourself!! I didn’t really have a low light today.   

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Day 4: Thursday 13th of September 2016

Today we went to the War Memorial Of Korea. This is a place where you get to see ships and planes that use to  fight in wars.

When you walk into the War Memorial you  see this HUGE statue of thirty eight people and soldiers. This statue is split into two parts one part on one side and the other part one the other side. In the middle of the people and soldiers there is this HUGE and when I say HUGE I mean REALLY, REALLY, REALLY HUGE spear like thing, it looked really cool. Then if you walk a little more into the park you see flags, the flags of the WORLD. Then you look up and you  see this HUMONGOUS building it looked like the White House. If you walk over to the left then you see “The Statue Of The Brothers” this pamphlet that I have beside me it states “This statue depicts a real-life story  of two brothers who fought in the Korean War on opposite sides and were accidentally reunited on the battlefield ,and symbolizes the Koreans’ wish for national peace, reconciliation, and reunification.”. But if you walked to the right of the “White House” you saw this BIG, BIG ship this is a ship that is a replica of the actual vessel that was attacked during the second Yeonpyeong Naval Battle. If you keep on going right then you see an outdoor exhibit full of planes, aircraft, missiles, machine guns, helicopters, tanks, and ships.

Today we also went to this Design Lab. This is a place where you walk around and see these AMAZING buildings! For diner we went down the stairs and went up to our favorite restaurant and they said “Sorry we are closing”. Then we went up to our second favorite restaurant and we noticed that half of their chairs were up. So we went back up to the hotel and ordered room service. My highlight today was going to The War Memorial Of Korea. My low light today was the diner thing. I Liked everything we did this Thursday so I don’t have a low light.

Jenny: Walking through this museum was really informational.  I am sure somewhere in a world history class some time I learned about the relationships between Korea, South Korea and Japan but I had never understood the magnitude of the wars.  I know we just scratched the surface of understanding.  We were happy to see lots of US military vehicles and aircraft at the museum too!

(Click arrows for a slideshow of day 4)

War Memorial, Design Lab

 

Day  5: Friday 14th of September 2016

Today I went to to this REALLY cool aquarium. There were all sorts of creatures. There are 14 sections in the aquarium. The first section is called “Rainbow Lounge”. This is a place where you check in,get tickets, and put your things in lockers.      

That’s all I have time to write for now. 

Jenny:  Annabelle did such a great job keeping track of our adventures.  She wanted to use my computer whenever we were back at the room.  So fun for her, but we are rethinking leaving one of our computers back in the states.  With both kids using computers for homework and gaming we may need to purchase another one in the near future.

I’ll add a little more about the aquarium since she didn’t have the chance.  It really was amazing.  To be honest, I thought it would be lame since it was in the basement of a mall.  It turns out I was wrong.  I was happy to have options of things to do while Caleb was working. I wish he would have been able to join us in the aquarium we enjoyed it so much.  They had lots of different exhibit areas some were almost like a petting zoo, the kids got to touch star fish.  In another area you could stick your finger tips into this tank and “doctor fish” would come and eat off the dead skin cells.  It was crazy.  I tried it and I couldn’t stop laughing!!!!!  There were areas with Freshwater fish of Korea and lots of huge tanks with sharks, rays, dolphins, seals and manatee.  Honestly I could have sat for house just watching them. So much fun!

(click arrows for slideshow of day 5)

Aquarium

Jenny: Seoul Overview

CONS:

Subway doors close much quicker and don’t open quickly if something is stuck in them.  On our first subway trip in Seoul we purchased tickets, studied the map and got ready to board the train to the place.  There was quite a crowd getting off the train at this location so we waited in line to board and began moving in when we were able. The kids were in line ahead of Caleb and I as we shuffled in the doors shut with Caleb stuck in them.  He really didn’t have much leverage to push them back open.   Since I was behind him I tried to pry them open.  After about 5 seconds or so (it seemed so long) they reopened and we were both able to board the train.  We were all a little shocked at the experience.  I feel like Caleb was like Hulk making sure the kids didn’t get sent off on the subway alone.  In case you are wondering we have had discussions with the kids about what to do if they somehow get separated from us on the subways or in stations.  I also now have noticed emergency stop buttons in the stations and subway trains.

The hotel was not really family friendly.  It was mostly for business men.  The swimming pool was for adults or children over the age of 12.  So we lied and told them the kids were 12 and 13 so we could swim one day.  It was mostly a lap swimming pool, so the kids couldn’t do cannon balls and goof around like they wanted to but the 3 of us swam laps a bit one day.

Caleb realized its hard to balance family time, vacation and work stuff on a business trip.  We had a couple days together as a family before the conference started, and we tried to fill in other things during times he could slip away the other days.  It was a good experience but a bit exhausting as well.

PROS:

We were pleasantly surprised with our visit to Seoul.  Most people were welcoming and often surprised to see Americans.  While we were at the palace grounds a group of young adults were so enamored by our children that they asked to take a selfie with them.  The kids liked feeling like movie stars!

We were often thanked by  strangers for visiting.  I am not sure if this is mostly because Seoul’s economy benefits greatly from tourism or because of the good standing relationship and alliance between America and South Korea.

When we were on the subway one time an older gentleman offered his seat to our children.  Our kids are not new to public transportation and know that they should give seating priority to elderly, or people with small children but this gentleman INSISTED they sit next to him.  During our 20 minute subway ride we found out he was absolutely intrigues by our children.  We found out he did not know much English, he didn’t hear well but from his hand gestures and smiles and some speaking he smiled and commented on how he thought it was funny that the kids were wearing shorts.  In South Korea they don’t wear shorts at this time of year.  He also mentioned that the kids had different shaped heads. LOL.  He was so happy to see American children he explaining to everyone on the train that our kids were sitting down because he asked them to. He was even offering his seat up to people so they could sit next to our kids.  It was quite humorous.

The weather was gorgeous!

Our family works well together with modified sleeping and eating arrangements.  I can’t believe all the new foods we are trying.  Although when we are at home I have found ways for us to eat mostly the same dies as we were when we were living in MN.

Over a great trip!  So happy for these travel experiences.

 

 

 

Our trip to Seoul, South Korea

October 9- 15 we spent time in Seoul,  South Korea!  Caleb had a work conference there so we decided to to take advantage of our time in Asia and see the sights of Seoul!  We even pulled the kids out of school!  You only live once!  We are so happy to be able to see this part of the world and learn about old rich cultures.  We contacted the kids’ teachers and asked how we could keep up with their studies and learning while traveling.  They worked on math practice and reading daily in addition to other tasks.  Annabelle’s teacher requested that she keep a daily diary to tell of our adventures…… minimum 3 sentences per day. She loved this task and did such a good job (writing much more than 3 sentences per day). I thought you would benefit from her tremendous record keeping and research from online sites and pamphlets so this 10 year old will be featured as a guest blogger in our Korea posts!   I hope you enjoy!

In other recent news I have begun to take photography classes. It has been a long term goal of mine to figure out how to use our DSLR camera.  So I have joined a group of 6 other women and we are taking workshop type classes with a professional photographer here in Tokyo!  Our first class met just before our trip to Korea so I used this a time good time to practice!  I shot so many photos and haven’t even begun to edit them but wanted to share our cool experiences with you!

So here you go……. a 10 year old guest blogger and lots of pictures.

We definitely learned something form our last trip to the airport.  We realized we do not know how to get to the airport from our house via subway in an easy stress-free manner! So this time we booked our tickets ahead of time on an Airport Limousine Bus and took a taxi to the hotel pick up spot in the morning.  It was a wonderful  experience.  We made it to the airport with enough time to eat ice cream before our flight!

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Our 2.5 hour flight to Korea went well.  The kids played games on their phones while us adults read books, napped and enjoyed the peace.    When we arrived in Seoul and stepped outside the first thing we noticed was the cool beautiful weather.  Such a nice reprieve from the humidity and rain we had been experiencing in Tokyo!

We were ready to say goodbye to rainy Tokyo and hello to sunny Seoul!

Seoul            Seoul

We had an hour drive in a Limo Bus from the airport and we we redirected to the partner hotel because they had switched our reservation for some reason.  It was a short taxi ride around the block. The two hotels were connected by a mall underground.  Then needed to switch rooms once we got to the hotel to get better sleeping arrangements for everyone.  We ended up getting a king suite room.  It worked wonderfully as the kids had their own sleeping space with a roll out bed and chase lounge and we could have time alone and a king bed after they went to bed.  Caleb and I chuckled remembering the days sleeping in the same room as our small children in hotels.  IIMG_1673 remember putting Anna to sleep in a pack and play and  then Caleb and I both diving on to the other side of the bed to hide on the floor until she fell asleep.  We weren’t very successful because we kept laughing!  We were all exhausted from travel and grabbed  food from the food court in the mall below our hotel.  We had some amazing spring rolls, chicken stir fry and spicy beef stir fry.  Zeke surprised us and LOVED the spicy beef.  He just kept eating it and said “Oh yeah my lips are burning” If you know anything about this child’s past relationship with food you would remember he was a very cautious eater as a small child.  We would reward the child with stickers and prizes for trying foods.  It was so hard to get him to eat anything besides peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  He is growing up and actually enjoying flavors of foods!  Way to go Zeke! After eating we headed to our room for sleep!

ANNABELLE: I really enjoyed my first day it South Korea!!!!!!! We went to three different places. The first one was Gyeongbokgung Palace. It is a place where we got toured around the palace grounds. I learned that the Kings and Queens were separated in different areas of the palace. The architecture looked like something out of a movie. When we walked through the front gate, I could imagine Korean warriors charging from either side of me!!!

J:  Check out this site to read about the huge palace grounds http://www.royalpalace.go.kr/html/eng/main/main.jsp

ANNABELLE: The second thing we did on our first day was going to the street market. This is a place where there are little shops in tents that sell all kinds of things. We saw things like, clothes, keychains, food, Halloween costumes, Halloween props, and other things. I bought a choker and sunglasses!!!

The last and most cool thing we did on our first day, we went up into Seoul Tower!!!!!!!!! First we had to walk up 649 stairs in this HUGE park! We didn’t know that there was a cable car! When we got up the 649 stairs we first saw the tower then walked in a little more and saw these locks locked to each other. So my dad looked it up on google and he read an article that said they were “Love Locks”. Caleb explained, couples that are really in love  would prove it and climb the 649 stairs for their love. Then when (or if) they got to the top they would “lock up” their love for them by putting a lock on another lock❤. My highlight today was going to Seoul Tower because I liked how much things to see and do.

J: Here is a slideshow of Day 1 Sightseeing in Seoul: (click the arrows on the left and right to scroll through the pictures!)

http://Palace, Market, Seoul Tower

 

ANNABELLE:

Today we went to Seolleung’s Royal Tomb. It is a place where two Korean Kings and one of their Queen were buried over 600 years ago. They are still in their original spots surrounded by statues that “guard” them. There are other sites to see. An example is the “Spirit Road” which is a road that leads to the tombs of the two Kings and one Queen. The Queen’s name was Jeonghyeon. One of the King’s name was Seolleung, he was the ninth ruler of Korea. The other ruler that was buried in that area was Jeongneung the eleventh ruler of Korea.

Today we also visited a temple called  Bongeunsa Temple. This is a temple that Korean people come to visit worship and meditate. There are multiple buildings. Some are for singing, and some are for being quiet and meditating. I could hear them singing this little song. It was in Korean of course, but it was still interesting. My highlight today was going to Bongeunsa Temple. I enjoyed all of the things we did today.

J: Here is a slideshow of our 2nd day sightseeing  in Seoul

http://Temple, Tomb, Food

 

Stay tuned there is more to come.

Another Weekend, Another Festival

This weekend we walked around 15 minutes from our apartment and attended the Belgium Beer Festival. With 113 different beers, live music, and food it was was a fun night for the whole family. This was held in the very trendy and popular Roppongi Hills shopping area and despite all the people there we randomly met up with two different expat families that we knew through our kids school! It was a lot of fun to hang out with some other expats and enjoy the event. Zeke was especially a free spirit, dancing like crazy. At one point he danced with a Japanese young person who thought he was a blast and then he lead the conga line that went around the whole venue during one of songs.

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So everyone had a great time and the kids loved the chocolate waffles that were made from something like brownie batter.  Yum!  I guess we should have at least taken a selfie.

It has been raining so much lately that we were very happy to get out of the house and enjoy the night. We have finally experienced a few cooler days but in general it still feels super hot to me.

-caleb

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