Isaac’s Birthday!

My guy, Isaac, is 14 today! 

He enjoyed a nice day out for dinner and a movie, with one of his friends, on Saturday. Today we went out for breakfast with Grandma at the Blue Moon Cafe. No tiny amounts of food at that place! The kids got a kick out of the giant plates. 

 

 

   

 

Our Dog Buddy, Luke

Our little buddy, Luke has already been deaf and with impaired vision from cataracts, but lately he has also started losing weight and his hips are not good. He has trouble doing stairs and sometimes his back legs want to give out.

Lotus and I took him to the vet today and we learned he has some kidney failure and heart issues. He now has a heart pill and some pain medication for the joints. He still eats great, gets excited to be with us and doesn’t have any trouble going outside to potty so we’ll do what we can for him. I forgot to ask if she thought there was a timeline we should expect with all of these things going on. We will sure be sad. He’s been part of the family since before kids and helped keep our dining room floor clean through all of the kid’s toddler years. Couldn’t have gotten through it without him!

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Happy Mother’s Day!

I had to work the whole weekend and was busy, busy, busy…but, the kids made me lovely cards and we went out to a Vietnamese restaurant for dinner. I ran some homemade bread over to my mama but she wasn’t home for the hug. That must be remedied soon!

Look at these four! Isaac passed me in height recently by a tiny bit. BEST LIFE EVER!!!!!

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Jason started up softball again. We’ve been coming to Jason’s games for 12 years and I can finally watch the game and not chase after a toddler. Can you tell I am really loving having big kids? It’s like another honeymoon period, appreciating this new lifestyle.

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Music Lessons

I never thought it would happen, but TWO kids have asked for music lessons! Xander asked for guitar lessons and was thrilled after his first lesson. Lesson two has him trying three finger chords and it has been a stumbling block already. Hopefully the teacher can help him work through it.

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Simon wants to learn piano. We bought a digital piano with the standard 88 keys. It does feel like a regular piano, sounds great and he can use headphones, record and play with sound effects. He hasn’t started lessons just yet but hopefully he enjoys them.

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Gardening

Lately I’ve been feeling the pull to do a little gardening, which is a new and foreign feeling. We started a couple 4×4 raised beds many years ago but didn’t continue it, aside from the no maintenance strawberries that keep coming every year.

Simon is a fantastic weeder! He and I have been clearing sections of the yard a little at a time. Next, we are trialling some ground cover plants and will fill in with bark.

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We started an herb box and two tomato plants on the deck. Next we’ll spruce up our old 4×4 raised beds with some greens and add to the dwindling strawberry plants. Hopefully things will go much better this time without the tree that shaded the entire yard or a new baby sucking my energy. The kids are getting bigger and I am loving this new phase of parenting! Gardening energy? Who knew!?

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Nesting and Cooking

Not wanting to go anywhere after our big trip and inspired by our recent food experiences, we’ve been getting creative in the kitchen.

Xander wanted to make donuts…
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I’ve been craving sushi! My first try and it tasted good but I didn’t roll it tight enough and it got smashed up with slicing…
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Jason tried a couple rolls with a couple improvements and they turned out great! I’ve bought some salmon roe and cucumbers for Gunkan Ikura, one of my favs while sampling during our trip.
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Today I took my first crack at the dutch baby and they turned out great! The kids loved it and the initial reaction out of the oven is fun.
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Sliced up and eaten right out of the pan. We’ll have to add strawberries and whipped cream next time.
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The weather is great and our bikes have already rolled out of the garage a couple times so I think we are fully recovered! Yay!

Japan Trip Final Thoughts and Traveling With Kids

This was our third big travel with four young kids and it went amazingly well! Tips we learned from previous travel:

Pack light and plan to do laundry.

I’ve mentioned before, we use the Mother Lode ebags. They are back pack style and exact measurements for carry-on luggage. Three people’s clothes and toiletries are carried in each bag. We were also able to keep papers, passports and tablets in them and still pass the 7kg weight limit for international travel. The best part is not having to check luggage. Between boarding, flight, and transportation, it just helps us move easier, quicker and less waiting for tired kids. Bonus, no chance of losing your luggage!

The two big guys carry smaller back packs for the camera, snacks, water bottle, etc.

Lotus carries a small bag filled with small toys.

Packing light and planning to do laundry translates out to about two pairs of pants and four shirts, 4 pairs of socks and underwear per person. We use a lot of quick-dry, light weight clothes.

What we learned from this trip:

Packing light and traveling to a colder climate presents a new challenge. The answer is layers. Long underwear doubled as a base layer and pajamas. The Columbia Mighty Light jacket with Omni-heat for everyone was a great choice. They are incredibly light, warm and stuffed into back packs easily when the weather warmed up.

We didn’t have any Couchsurfing options this trip so we opted for an Airbnb rental. Hotels in Tokyo are extremely small and expensive. With Airbnb we got a decent sized apartment, great prices and a personable host who helped us out on occasion.

I usually plan very few activities. Taking it easy and paying attention to what the kids are able to handle makes for a smooth trip. Even though I only planned three things for the entire two week vacation, we ended up doing a ton of things! Splitting up and doing different activities worked out well for us too. The big guys were able to enjoy the long trip to see the monkeys with mom, while the little guys enjoyed something closer to the apartment with dad. Then Dad enjoys a relaxing day with his oldest son the next day.

Jet lag: Going West was a lot easier than going home. In fact, I was worried the kids would be wired from the plane trip and make too much noise in the apartment. Instead, they went to sleep at 5pm and woke up at 3-4am each night for the first 5 days. They were awake at 3am but stayed quiet in their beds until 6am, at which point most residents are getting up for work. Not bad at all!

Coming home has been tough! we couldn’t sleep most of the night, then sleeping until afternoon. Lotus had been sleeping in her own bed before the trip and we even bought ourselves a new queen bed (threw out the old, worn out king bed). After sleeping with me on vacation she spent the next many nights wanting to sleep with me but I don’t have good bed options. That means not getting any sleep while I try and get her to sleep.

After a full week of exhaustion and nesting at home we finally recovered. Whew!

Kid quotes:

Isaac: “It was the best!” favorite activity: Snow monkeys.
Xander: “Out of all of the trips we have taken, this was the best.” Favorite activity: going to visit friends (Mari, Toshiyuki and Hikaru)
Simon: “It was awesome!” Favorite activity: Robot restaurant and fighting the robot.
Lotus: “All of the ice cream!!” Favorite activity: The bike ride!

Japan trip, chronological posts:

 

Japan Trip Days 16 and 17

Day 16, Jason enjoyed a relaxing day out with just Isaac at Akihibara, in a giant electronic goods store Yodibashi Akiba. I took the three littles to see the view at the top of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building.

Tokyo Skytree is another way to see the city but lines are long, crowds are big and tickets are expensive. The 45th floor of each of the two towers of the government building is free and set up just for tourists to enjoy 360 degrees of views.

An underground passage way provides a rain and wind free walk to the government building from Shinjuku station…

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On a clear day you can see Mt. Fuji, but not today. The rain at ground level was actually flurries of snow at this level.
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Gift shops set up for us tourists…
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Art in Shinjiku station…
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Lotus is getting tired of her Japanese food choices…
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She and Simon supplement with McDonalds, which they detest at home but somehow it was a welcome choice on this day.
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Day 17 we travel back home! Feeling goofy, tired and excited…
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The kids are ready…
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Bags packed and ready to roll out…
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I am in love with all of the bikes! This one has two kid seats, matching rain flies and electric assist. I would love to try it out.
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More bikes out front of the shopping center…
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I saw a grandma cruising on one of these trikes. I love how narrow it is.
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Food displays in the food court where we had lunch…
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The final flight into Portland and all four kids are asleep…
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HOME!
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Japan days 14-15

Day 14 was shopping and testing out many Japanese snacks and candies. Let’s move on to my favorite day ever…day 15!

SNOW MONKEY PARK!

I have watched the PBS documentary on the snow monkeys many times and it wasn’t until our trip was planned that I learned it was filmed in Japan. I had to go! It involved three hours and multiple train transfers to get there from Tokyo but it was worth it! Jason wasn’t as excited about it as I was and we knew it would be tough (read: nightmare) with the younger two, so it was decided just me and the big guys would go and it was the most relaxing, fun travel day!

We started early in the morning with a subway ride, a (slow) train ride and then grabbed junk food and drinks from a convenient store for an hour bullet train ride…
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Then we had one final train ride to the mountain town where the monkey park is. We sat in the back for a full window view of the countryside as we went…
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A taxi ride to the park and here we are, ready for the short hike to the monkey (and human) hot spring…
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I seriously could not contain my excitement and as we got closer and closer I was nearly bursting!
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Following the signs and Isaac points out monkey poop…
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The hot springs create a steam throughout the mountains, giving it its name: Jigokudani, meaning Hell’s Valley.
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Up the steep steps…
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Bam! First macaques up close! With a baby too.
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The kids had to drag me away! I wanted to stay, it was so incredible. My hands were freezing and we stopped at the gift shop to warm up by the heater before catching a taxi back to the train station.
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More junk food on the train with our favorite gummy candies…
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