Sunday, May 26, 2013

New Routines in our New Life in Japan

So if you knew me just a few short months ago, you would know that on any given day, as we are leaving our house for work/school in the morning, someone was likely to be missing a shoe, bookbag, jacket, or homework assignment.  My have things have changed for me since we are now getting settled in to our new home and routines here in Japan. I had to share this whole morning lunch packing process as a great example. Since Connor is attending Fuji Yochien ( - It, of course, is in Japanese, but if you click on the dates in the pink box on the right column you can see their montly newletters. You need to first look for the class in the red hats and then for the little tiny pale face with blonde hair...and that will be Connor!!), I am now packing his lunch in true bento style. Mind you, I am still a total bento amatuer, but I am getting a little better and better each week.

So here is the skinny on how the bento box came into my life....I was absolutely unaware when we registered Connor for school that I couldn't/shouldn't just pack him a PB&J, bag of grapes, and juice box in a cute little Power Ranger lunch box and send him off to school. While at a fun play date with a new friend and fellow Fuji School mom, she asked me if I had been shopping yet for the things I will need to pack Connor's lunch. "Things I need like Ziplock bags and maybe a thermos," I ask. She gives me this curious look like she knew my life was about to change, and said, "Lets run up to the mall and I will show you!" Off we went and holy moly was I in the a shocker. We picked up all the basics and she told me other places to go for rice presses, decorative foil, fun toothpicks for friut kakobs, silicone cups, and a million other things that I didn't even know exsisted. I came home and did exactly what anyone else in this situation would do...googled bento box! I am, in no way, creating rice balls that look like the entire cast of Sesame Street like you will see online, but I am making some progess. I decided if I was going to have to do this over the top lunch preparations for one child...I might as well do it for all three! The best part of all is that everyone is coming home with empty bento boxes everyday!

That is just a quick story of the preparations, the packing is a whole different story! I think I finally have it down!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

These Are a the Days We Will Remember

Well, here I am up at 4:00 am on Saturday, January 26, 2013. Any other Saturday, being up this early would be a crime, and for most everyone else in the world this is just another day, but not for me! Today is the day that I start living my dream. I'm not sure the exact time or circumstance when this dream was planted in my heart, but it's been a part of me for as long as I can remember. In about an hour, I get to wake my family up and start a brand new chapter. A chapter and an adventure that will change our
lives forever.

Aiden asked me so sweetly yesterday why I wanted to go to Japan. I told him that it had always been my dream to be able to travel and see different parts of the world. Then he asked the most perfect question with such curiosity and sincerity, he said, "Well how did you get your dream to come true?" I suddenly felt like the luckiest person in the whole world. There I was getting to have a conversation with my child about how I have been able to live my dream. This is a conversation that I never had with my mom, and I am sure she didn't have with hers. I chose my words carefully because somehow I felt like what I was about to share with him could be the seeds that plant a dream in his own heart.

I told him all the people that have helped me along my journey, the people that God gave me at just the right moment. I wanted him to know that I have been blessed with people who have seen possibility and potential in me, even when I couldn't see it in myself. These are the people who invested themselves in me, shared their gifts and passion, and inspired me to become better and stronger.

I told him that I had to work hard, and that I made a lot of hard choices and sacrifices. I wanted him to know that though I had people who believed in me, most importantly, I had to believe in myself. I had to know that all the choices that I was making were the right ones for me.

Finally, I told him about the two people that taught me that life is far too short not to dream big dreams. I told him how proud his Nanny and Pop would be of all of us. I know that they would be so proud of me for not only being offered this opportunity, but having the courage to accept it. I told him that they will be so proud of his dad for the sacrifices he is making so that we can all have this experience together, and that they would be so proud of him for his excitement and eagerness to try something new.

Oh, what I would give to know that they know what we are doing today! I couldn't have made it here without them.

To say that I am humbled by this opportunity is the understatement of the century. I honestly can't believe that someone believes that I have enough talent to share that is worth moving me and my family around the world to share it!

So, here I go living my dream!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

We Have Entered The Lame Duck Phase

It's crazy to think that at right this moment in 3 more weeks we will be checked in at the airport ready to begin our trip to Japan! This last week has gone by so quickly. I went back to work on Wednesday and enjoyed a quiet few days to wrap up several projects. Most everyone on my team was still on leave so I had lots of time (free of meetings) to clean out my cubicle (see picture below) and work on my transition plan. We have 21 days total, and hopefully I only have 9 work days left (if the leave I requested gets approved).

This is what puts us in the "lame duck" status. We have made significant progress towards preparing for our new life in Japan, however, we are still living in our old life here. We are going to the same jobs, coming home to the same (although nearly empty) house, doing the same routines, but, all the while, knowing that nearly everything about our lives is about to change drastically. The "lame duck" phase is really bittersweet. We are so excited and thinking constantly about what our new life will be like, however, we have to keep living in our old one. I've also noticed how other people seem to view me as a "lame duck" as well. It feels like some people in my life have already begun to sort of separate themselves from me as if I'm already gone. I don't think it's ill intentioned, it's probably just a natural response to dealing with separation. It's just going to make these last 21 days a little more awkward with some people.

Here is the Maggie update....
Updating this part of my life is really what kept me from blogging all week. I decided, after adding up all the potential expense (possibly close to $2,000) that bringing Maggie was not going to be an option for us. We would be In a different situation if our house had rented or sold and if we just had a little more time. 45 days is not a lot to be making these serious life decisions. This was such a hard reality to except. I had to keep reminding myself that living in another country has been my dream for as long as I can remember and that I can't expect it to come without sacrifice. To keep the story short, God blessed me with a wonderful couple who was actually able to take Maggie and Max. I never even considered the possibility of them getting to stay together, so that was really a blessing. To try to ease the transition and pain on the kids, I treated them to a trip to Build-A-Bear Workshop. We told the man that was helping us why we were there, and he actually gave each of the kids a free bear! It was a really hard start to the new year for me, but I got through it and I know Maggie and Max are going to be better because of it. Their new mom offered to be my Facebook friend, so we will be able to keep and touch and see pictures of them and their new adventure.

Two other big events this week were getting our house officially on the market (in the "sign in the yard" sort of way) and the kids visiting Dr. Elam, their pediatrician, for the last time. Whew, what a week!

Here are the things that are hot on my to-do list at the moment:

- Find 10 suitcases (yes...10! We can each have 2, and what we take with us in the plane could be all we have for at least a month)! I'm going "Goodwill" hunting today with Sandy, so hopefully we will get lucky!
- Build a "travel" kit for the kids on the plane. I want to do a little more research on some ideas, but I'm thinking a DVD player, movies, cards, coloring books, etc.
- Get comfy clothes for everyone to travel in. 14 hours is a LONG time to be in the same clothes.
- Research the best ways to avoid Jet Lag!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

One Step Forward and Two Steps Back

Today was definitely a two steps back kind of a day. After traveling 11 hours home and getting in after midnight last night, I was up bright and early unpacking and doing laundry. Since the realtor comes in the morning to lot the house, I had TONS to do to get it more presentable. I chose to tackle our master closet first. I have been working on this plan in my head about how I should handle our clothes until we leave. You wouldn't believe that this would be such an issue, but planning for 5 people is pretty huge. I decided if I could get my closet totally emptied, I would have enough room to put in place this laundry basket system that I wanted to try. Basically everyone as 2 laundry baskets for clean clothes until we leave. One basket will contain school/work clothes and the other is for PJ's and "home" clothes. It worked out pretty well except Susanna and I ended up needing 4 baskets instead of 2, I was able to get a system set up and do tons of sorting of other clothes to be packed and sent to goodwill. I also started a color coded system for the movers. Green tags mean that the item(s) are going in the HHG shipment and yellow tags mean that the items are going in the UB (unaccompanied baggage) shipment. (See picture below) I feel pretty good about that accomplishment, but there still so much to do. Next stop....craft room!

Remember I mentioned how we had found a home for little Max? Well, here is my "two steps back" moment today. I guess the family that adopted him from us felt hat he was a little more responsibility than they had bargained for. I'm still really not sure about that, but nevertheless, Max is back with us tonight and I have to start all over again for a home for a home for him. The kids were pretty good about him coming back. Of course they were so happy to see him, but I took several opportunities to remind them that he is only ours again temporarily.

They have honestly been such good sports about this whole moving process. Their flexibility and willingness to accept change is really inspiring. I know they can't fathom how extreme of a move this really is, but they are still just taking everything in stride. I'm really so proud of them.

Hopefully tomorrow (actually today because I asleep writing this last night) will be a huge leap forward. We have some interest in the Camry and the realtor is coming list the house. I am praying that she has some leads on families that may be interested in it. Selling/renting the house and Camry will take a million pounds of pressure off of us and we may actually enjoy these last 28 days. Who am I kidding? No one says "move to a new country" and "enjoy" in the same sentence.

Friday, December 28, 2012

We are going to Japan!!

I've struggled getting started telling our story about our journey to Japan because I really couldn't decide if I wanted to create a new blog to chronicle our adventure or if I wanted stick with the blog that I already started. I decided that since this move is going to take over just about everything about life as I know it, one less "new" thing to manage was probably the best idea. So here we go.....

We are on day 24 of our 56 day countdown until we arrive at Yokota Air Base near Tokyo, Japan. My plan is to catch up on the highlights of the last 24 days, and then keep as much of a daily report as possible. I have really enjoyed following the blogs of those who have already made this journey, so I hope someone may find our story helpful too!

Day 1 (December 3rd) - I am going to count day one as the day that I received the job offer, but perhaps day one was really the day that I interviewed for the position in Yokota. Even though it was only one week earlier, the 7 days that I waited to find out if I was going to be offered the job seemed like about about 7 years! I interviewed on a Monday evening, and knew by Friday afternoon that I was down to the final two for the selection. I felt like I had a decent chance at that point, but actually landing the job seemed WAY too good to be true. It has been my dream to travel and live overseas for as long as I can remember, so being so close to seeing that dream realized was almost more than I could imagine. Steven and I have played out possible scenarios about how we may eventually be able to make it happen, but getting the job with DoDEA really opened up our possibilities. So back to day 1, I was working on my computer at home while Steven, the kids, and I were all watching The Voice when the email offer come in. After the fog clears and we got a hold of our excitement, I signed the offer and sent a thank you email for my selection to my new bosses! They each quickly returned an email letting me know that they were happy that I accepted and they were looking forward to my arrival in Japan. Let me say that again, " MY arrival in Japan!". It still hasn't really all soaked in. This was a moment that I will always remember though. I knew right then that the course of my life had changed. Whatever path I had been on was going to different. I looked at my kids and Steven and felt completely filled with excitement, anxiety, joy, and fear all at the same time. I knew that just as my future was about to change, so was theirs.

Days 2-14 were filled with what felt like us making 100 decisions a day and realizing that EVERYTHING was waiting in my orders to be official. The crazy part was that each time we made a choice on something it seemed to only create 5 more questions to be answered or choices to be made. Here are some of the things we were having to make choices about: (Note: We are on day 24 still don't have final answers on everything.)
• Do we sell or rent the house?
• Do we take or leave the dogs?
• Does Steven come with the kids and I or delay his travel?
• When do we sell the cars?
• What furniture do we take?

In addition to our choices on this side, we were also having to learn at a rapid pace what our new life was going to be like in Japan. Thankfully my new coworkers reached out and started emailing me and sending lots of very helpful information about housing, transportation, travel, and the pet policies. The tough part at this point was the time difference between us and Japan to get information. If I had a question at 9am, I had to wait until 6pm for an answer. As I am writing this, I realize that that really isn't am unreasonable amount of time and wondering how int he works people made these moves 20 years ago when there was no email? At any rate, it seemed like a long time at the moment probably because of the domino effect that each piece of new information had. For example, when we found out the size of our housing there, we then had to consider all the furniture that we have here and decide what we store, ship, and sell. All of this while we are still managing 3 kids, full time jobs, dance rehearsals, Girl Scout meetings, and Tae Know Do practices.....oh, and not to forget Christmas shopping, Christmas parties, and preparing for the trip that we had already planned to spend Christmas in Louisville.

Day 15- My ORDERS CAME! Now it is official. Although we had already started selling some of our furniture in preparation, and EVERY conversation that I was having at home or work involved our move to Japan, somehow I didn't really believe it was going to happen until it came in black and white! I didn't even want anyone to know beyond my close friends and family....just in case they decided to take it back. I really couldn't (and still struggle to) believe that I have been blessed with this amazing opportunity. An opportunity that so many others will still only dream about. But now I have the paperwork to prove that I did it...I got the job in Japan. They liked me enough to take the chance to fly me, my 3 kids, my husband, and (hopefully) even our dog (more on that story later) to live and work in Japan. As a friend of mine said so perfectly days after I accepted the job, "You have just been given the keys to a new life!"

I got my orders about 2 hours before my Christmas Party with my Girl Scout troop, so I figured now was as good as time as any to break the news to the 12 girls and their families in my troop. They were all very excited for us, and two moms even stepped up to serve as the leaders of the troop after I leave. That was a huge relief! I was worried about leaving my sweet co-leader with ll the responsibility half way through the year...and the month before cookie season.

When we got home free the party, Steven and I decided to post identical Facebook announcements simultaneously. We spent the next hour so enjoying the surprised and congratulatory comments from our friends and family near and far.

Day 16- With my orders in hand, my next order of business was scheduling our travel (ugghhh...another 40 questions) and the packing and shipping of our household goods (a.k.a. what the military calls EVERYTHING you own).

Day 17- Official Government Passport Day for Steven and the kids! i met Steven and the kids at the travel office on Fort Stewart for their appointment. After talking with the lady that requests the passports from the State Department, we found out that their is a very slim chance that they will get them back in time for my report date. We decided at that point to delay our flight ( which caused another whole domino effect) until the last possible day before my report date to give them more time to arrive. The lesson I learned here is that they could have requested their official passports with only my offer letter...they didn't have to have my orders. Had we had that information, we could have made the appointment a whole week sooner. So now, we have all 50 of our fingers crossed that they come in time for us to travel together. She submitted our travel itinerary and odors with my report date so hopefully that is enough to get them moved closer to the top of the pile.

Once we changed out travel date, we then had to change the three different dates that I had scheduled to have our HHG (house hold goods) packed and picked up. A short stop in another office and 45 minutes later, we had it fixed. Now we have pack out dates and a tentative travel itinerary (which includes a 14 hour and 15 minute flight from Atlanta to Tokyo...can you say hell on Earth with 3 kids under 10?) Its time to get serious and accept that we are leaving the country....right after Christmas of course!

Days 18-19 were spent trying to accomplish things 8 things in 48 hours: (1) sort and organize the kids clothes, (2) clean out the kids closets and prepare their rooms to be packed, (3) list all items from the kids rooms on the Richmond Hill Facebook virtual yard sale page that I thought would sell quickly, (4) clean out the downstairs coat/everything else that can get crammed in that no one wants to put away closet, (5) pack for trip to Louisville, (6) get boys' hair cut, (7) visit Santa at the mall, (8) shop for and wrap Christmas gifts for Steven, (9) pack the car so all we have to do is hop in and drive 10 hours when Steven gets home. Somehow I managed to get it all done and get a few hours of sleep before we left for Louisville.

Days 20-24 were a really nice break from all the madness of working, packing, planning, and stressing about moving. We had a perfect Christmas with Steven's side of the family and were even able to meet up with some friends of ours that were stationed at Fort Stewart several years ago. I was almost able to forget that we are on the verge of relocating to the other side of the planet....almost! We did take the opportunity, with our heads a little less cluttered, to ,ale more lists of things that we have to do and even apply for some jobs for Steven.

Riding home now, it is ever more clear that our time in the good 'ol USA is coming to an end. Our upmost priority in the coming days is to prepare our car and house to be sold. The house being the biggest pebble in our shoe at the moment. We DO NOT want to go to Japan with the burden of having to continue to make the house payment as Steven will not be working right away. There are so many moving pieces in the puzzle right now that I just have to give it over to God and have faith that the right family will come along and need our house as much as we need to get rid of it.

Well, there you have it. That is the last 24 days in a very big nutshell...probably like the nut off of one of those big Redwood trees in California!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

My "Pin"worthy Idea!

Between dance, Girl Scouts, and Boy Scouts, it seems like the kids are constantly peddling popcorn, candles, cookie dough or gift wrap to our friends and neighbors to support their fundraisers. Don't get me wrong, I am all in on fundraisers as it usually means less money that I have to fork over for trips, uniforms, or entry fees. during this round of fall fundraisers, I came up with (what I think was) a (brilliant) ideation keep up with the cash and checks that they collect from their customers. I taped a ziplock bag to the inside of the folder that holds the catalogs! So it not going to ignite world peace, but it certainly made the process much nicer for me! Hope it helps you too!

Happy Pinning!

A year ago I had no idea what "Happy Pinning" meant. I didn't realize how this new verb "pin" could help me be such a better cook, crafter, and home decorator! I have been off work for a few weeks recovering from surgery (blog to follow on that topic) so I have been buuusssssyyyy pinning away making tons of fall themed crafts and goodies! My new favorite things are those layered hurricane glass creations, so I have made two of those. One with Halloween candy (that someone keeps stealing the candy corn off the top) and one with beans and popcorn! I am so sad about going back to work tomorrow. It has a way of totally sucking away all of my creative time. It does pay the bills though so I guess I can't complain. So until I have another break, I'll just keep on Pinning!