Patrick typed this up for his parents - so I thought I would steal it for an update here :-)
We are in JAPAN!!!
The trip was actually very easy!! Can you believe it?! Cosmic-blondes I guess. The Chicago trip was no problem and we got to our connecting flight with ease. The Seattle flight was easy too. Our only issue is that Evelyn is afraid to pee in the plane bathroom. She held it just fine though. No accidents! When we got to Seattle, we found the USO (an area specifically for military members) but we ended up booking a hotel room and just took all of our bags with us there. I was able to get all of our bags (except the golf bag) onto two of those airport carts. I could quite easily navigate one of the carts with one hand while I held the golf bag with my other hand. Kelly pushed the other cart and the kids walked in between us. We had to hit alot of elevators, but all-in-all, it went very well. At the USO, they told us we would be better off taking our bags to the Hotel. He gave us a very detailed explanation of our flight check-in procedure. Thus was a huge relief because I was very uncertain as to how that was going to work. He said that because we arrived to Seattle so early, our bags would wind up getting buried in the baggage storage room by all of the travellers arriving later. It was good advice because the hotel shuttle was big and the drivers were great about helping with all of the bags. I tipped them generously. We got to our room and settled in. The kids jumped on the beds to let out some energy and Kelly went out and got burgers (from a super shady joint - but the food was great). We ate, gave the kids a bath and went to bed.
We only slept about 5 hours before getting up. We got all of our gear back down to the lobby and caught the shuttle back to the airport by 11:45pm. Surprisingly, the kids were all fired up and wide awake?! We got right to the military counter with ease since I was able to get my hands on two of those carts again. Luckily, the desk was empty when we arrived so all of the staff took great care of us. I filled out some papers and we were about 300 pounds lighter! As we walked to the gate, we found a kids play-area, so Gavin and Evelyn blew off steam for about 30 minutes. That was so clutch! We got to the gate just in time to get some seats and we had about 2 hours to go until the flight. The kids were great. We occasionally went out into the terminal, which was otherwise completely empty, and ran around. Gavin loved running down the huge empty walkways. We met so many other military personnel who had done the process before. They were all very helpful and encouraging. G and E made friends with some kids that were on their way to Okinawa and colored coloring books for 45 minuted quietly on the floor. We sure do have it rough, huh?
The plane was packed full! It had pairs of seats on the sides with 3 seats in the middle row. Kelly and Evelyn took the window/aisle row and Gavin and I sat in the center row. Gavin didn't mind the center seat and the guy on his other side was a young/small active duty member who slept the who flight. We got the kids buckled in and they were asleep even before the plane took off the ground. The kids slept for 4 hours to start the flight. The new Nintendo DS and the laptop movies helped alot. They played movies constantly on the airplane TV's too. The 10 hours went by pretty painlessly... except Evelyn still wouldn't pee! Half way through she said she had to - but refused. Again, she was a trooper and just held it.
Once we got off the plane, the humidity hit us in the face like a round-house kick. It was a beautiful morning. You can see the mountains off in the distance! We sat in customs for a little bit then we were on our way. The office staff as well as Dr Pike (the guy I am replacing) were all there to greet us! Michele, my partners wife, was also there. She was amazing! She had everything planned out for our morning. We got so much accomplished that we are now waaaayyyyy ahead of the game.
One of the most useful things she did was drive around and find houses in the area we want that were vacant. She calculated the distances to places (school, hospital, their house) and luckily - the top choice was 2 houses down from them. We went to the housing office with our wish list in hand - and we ended up getting the house we want!!! It is a process that takes hours normally - and we did it in about 30 mins. We will be moving in on Monday!! It is in the elementary school's back yard (lots of playgrounds and fun equiptment) and I can easily walk to work (2 short blocks). Our new house was just renovated so everything is brand new and extremely clean. Our yard is already fenced in so I dont have to shell out the cash for that (saves us over $1000!!!). I got over to the hospital and got a quick whirlwind tour with Dr Pike. I met absolutely everyone! - the office staff (who by the way lugged all of our bags up to our hotel room while we were off running errands!!! AWESOME!) the physical therapy staff, the OR and PACU staff, the administrators, and even my commander Col Taylor. Everyone is on happy juice out here! I have yet to meet anyone who isn't so nice and loving this place. I checked out my future office and examined the clinic. I finally got home around 2 pm Japan time and had to crash. Kelly and the kids were already there and asleep. Unfortunately, we didn't wake up around 4pm as planned and we slept until 9pm. Now we are up like its morning. Oh well, we know it is going to be tough to move 13 hours into the future. All I have next week are a couple meetings, so we have loads of time to get acclimated.
We set up skype on our laptop and talked to Kelly's best friend Eileen (on her cell phone that has a skype application), to Ashli (our first video chat) as well as Tishymom (Kelly's mom) and her sister. It felt so nice to actually see their faces while talking - it's like we were right in the room with them. It was even funnier to see Kelly's mom try to figure out how to end the call. Hopefully more and more people will skype us so feel free to Skype us anytime. Just remember to do the time conversion. Our screen name is the4bulls. Kelly has also been facebooking (of course) so we feel connected again.
This morning we will probably go and sign up for a home phone (american phone number) as well as a japanese cell phone. We will also probably get some used cars too. There are so many awesome cars - but we will probably just get some cheapy ones - since driving on base is easy - and we won't be going off base too much (roads are too tight and scary for Kelly)!
That's it for now...we have to try to take a nap (it is 2am - so we want to sleep until 6 am and try to get on a more normal schedule). Pics to come later!!!!