Monday, November 28, 2011

day of thanks #28

OK - So I probably already was thankful about this a few times so far (and I am thankful everyday)...but I am thankful for my husband today! It is his thirty-somethingth birthday and constantly amazes me with how awesome he is! Even though he had a very full day of clinic - he still made time for me to swing by at lunch to bring some cheesecake to share with his staff, he left work at exactly 6pm so he could make it for family dinner (at Chili's), he let the kids have his chocolate shake AND help open his presents, he talked to his mom (who doesn't love a man that has a good relationship with his mom?), and he read to the kids before bed...ALL while still in his blues uniform :-) I love him and appreciate him more and more every day!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Day of thanks #27

Today I am grateful for all of the amazing friends I made while living in Ohio. Growing up in Pennsylvania, going to high school and college there, getting my first and second real jobs there, getting married there, having my first baby there, having ALL of my family and friends still made it difficult to move to a different state when Patrick was offered his residency spot there. And let's face it...Ohio? It didn't sound very exciting. But boy was I very wrong!!!

We moved into a great neighborhood (with great neighbors) and within the first 2 weeks I ran into a friend from elementary school who lived around the corner from me now again in Hilliard, OH. What were the odds? My best buddy from birth to 6 years old lived one town over (our moms are still friends too) with his family. I started going to the Wive's club for all of the resident's spouses. And I met some lifelong friends. And some I only knew for a few months - but were a huge impact on me! We created traditions, girls nights, midnight Twilight movie going, Thursday night meetings, holiday parties, playgroups, ZooKids, etc. We babysat for each other so we could go out with our hubby (and not have to pay for a sitter because we were all so broke). We carpooled, brought each other food when we had babies, held each others hands during struggles, and understood one another. Here is a little blurb I wrote one time about it (I just ran across this story on my computer which made me think of it - but I am grateful EVERY DAY for the women I met there)...

My New Life as an Attending’s Wife. By: Kelly Bull

There is an old French proverb we have all heard before; “The more things change, the more they stay the same”. Broken down, it means change is constant and the nature of it makes it permanent. I wish I had contemplated this statement a lot more in the past 5 years.
I am not sure if I was expecting the seas to part and the stars to align after my husband finished his residency. I remember as he was entering his internship year that 5 years seemed so distant. And yet I sit here today remembering it like it was yesterday. I clearly remember being nervous for him, anxious about our family life (and the effects living in Ohio and being in residency would have on it), worried about our finances for the next few years, and sad for myself since I just moved 400 miles away from all the friends and family I had ever known.
I started dating my husband about 6 months before he started medical school so I was never involved with any of the spouse support groups (aka SAA). When we did get married (just before residency started) I promised I would get involved with the hospital’s local Advocate organization. I figured if anyone else were to understand all of my thoughts, concerns and joys – it would be people going through the same situation.
I started out slow at first. A meeting here. A meeting there. Never fully committed because I knew I was only going to be living in Columbus, Ohio for 5 years. I would use the group to help me get through some of the transitions, but not truly invest myself in it. But slowly and surely I found myself making friends. Real friends. People I liked regardless of the fact that we were bonded initially based on our husbands’ careers. I spent less and less time planning trips back to Pennsylvania (my home state) and more time planning play dates and Grey’s Anatomy nights (since it is dreadful to watch that show with a physician husband pointing out the inaccuracies every other minute).
I remember in the early years of residency that my husband and I would get a little nervous when we would go to a ‘senior resident’s’ house for dinner. We didn’t want to do or say anything that would be stupid or jeopardize his work relationships. And we would certainly be on best behavior if we ever got invited to an Attending’s house! Things eased up a bit as the years went on and my husband was the senior resident, but there was still a bit of intimidation when in the presence of an Attending outside of work.
By those later years I was heavily committed to our Advocate Group. I was in charge of organizing the events calendar and for helping raise funds that we would donate to non-profits needing our help. I was working alongside a lot of Attending’s wives and realized that they have been in my shoes before. Their husbands went through residency too. Some many years ago and some just got finished. It gave me my first insight on the fact that life really does come full circle.
But, even more than that, I was realizing that I was heavily committed to the women involved in our group. I cared so deeply for each person involved. These were my friends, my neighbors, my war buddies. We supported each other through block nights, trauma rotations and “80 hour work weeks” (haha). But more than that we supported each other through new babies, lost babies, divorces, parents’ deaths, first days of school, bad haircuts, disabilities, infertility and lackadaisical husbands. We had our normal Advocate events such as game nights, Marriage enrichment and holiday parties. But we also had events outside of the group such as bridal showers, children’s’ birthday parties and girls weekend in the mountains.
These friends would go on week-long vacations with me and my kids since our husbands were working so much they were never home. These friends would make me dinners for weeks/months after I had a baby since I couldn’t even take time to get a shower some days. These friends looked forward to my monthly scrapbooking night I made up just as an excuse to get together one more time with each other. These friends watched my children when I was sick and also when I just needed to go get a pedicure. These friends introduced me to new religions (the beliefs) and True Religions (the jeans). And most importantly, these friends helped me get through the trenches of womanhood when I thought I was a total failure as a wife and a mother.
And then, in the blink of an eye, these friends could be gone. Not literally, but physically. And new friends can come along. A friend a year ahead of me moved to Cincinnati for her husband’s dream fellowship while I still had another year left. I met a friend who started coming to the group because she noticed I was wearing designer jeans. My friend I went on vacations with moved to Illinois when her husband transferred to a different residency program. An Attending’s wife who is younger than me (only be a few months!!!) becomes one of my closest friends. My best friend through all five years builds and moves into her dream house in South Carolina. I met a new woman at playgroup and realized she just moved across the street and will spend countless hours sitting on my deck and talking. I found 2 ladies who I know would take over the playgroup and Advocate’s scheduling and events (from said best friend and me) with as much love and attention as it deserves. And as for myself, well, I move to Japan because my husband is paying back his time with the Air Force, leaving all of my ‘junior’ friends behind.
So, as much as things have changed in my life, I am sitting here in a very familiar situation. My husband and I both get jittery (again) when we are asked to a General’s house or when we have to talk to a Colonel's wife. I am nervous for my husband as he starts his practice on his own, without an Attending to fall back on and with the added stress of being in the military now. I am anxious about our family life and how our kids will adjust to living in Japan, how I will adjust to him being on-call for weeks at a time, and what will happen if he gets deployed. And I also feel a little sad for myself again. 7000 miles IS a lot farther than 400. I can’t just pack the kids in the car and drive when I miss my friends and family or to even attend my own Grandfather’s funeral.
But like as I adjusted and thrived in residency life, I know I will in Attending life too. My status quo will be happiness. Nothing has changed because everything has. I will slowly and surely start being more involved with the Officer’s Spouse Club. I will make friends that will be neighbors, friends that will work with my husband, and friends who have children that my kids are friends with. I will begin to look forward to going to the Air Force Ball instead of thinking ahead 4 months to when I will be in the States again. I will organize golf fundraisers and feel a sense of accomplishment that I did something that was a positive influence here.
And, although so many of the feelings and situations I find myself in today are the exact same as they were 5 years ago, there is still one major thing that is different…
The salary ☺

Saturday, November 26, 2011

day of thanks #26

Today I am thankful for the spirit that my children bring to others! We have very sweet neighbors who the kids adore. Their children are older (and have children of their own) so it is just the 2 of them. They basically adopted Patrick while I was evacuated with the kids, and he golfs golfing with them basically every weekend. Well, last night we came home from our fun family day at Mt Takao and found that they had one of those huge blow-up snow globes (the inflatable kind) in their front yard and were starting to decorate the trees also. The kids were so excited (we hadn't started decorating our house yet) so they rang their doorbell and told them how much they loved the decorations!!! Well, it turns out that Hermie and Rose decided to start decorating for Christmas again as they hadn't for a while. But they loved knowing our kids would love it - so they did it again! Well, it jumped us into the Christmas spirit and we are spending today decking our halls, and our neighbors too! Kids are pretty amazing, especially with the spirit they can bring!!!

Friday, November 25, 2011

day of thanks #25

Today I am so thankful for 'family days' we get to spend together. The military gives a certain number of extra days off for families to spend time together. They usually occur around another holiday to let you have extra long weekend. The day after Thanksgiving is always one, and we spent it wisely! We knew it was going to be a beautiful day and we had to take advantage of going somewhere that is usually crowded on the weekends - but not during the week. So we headed out to Mt Takao (again) and this time added the trick art museum to the list also! It was so fun, and going with our friends, the Webbs made it even more fun! Patrick was able to relax and enjoy his time off (because he went in until midnight 3 nights in a row to get his work done) and we really had a great family adventure. After the museum we headed to the mountain and took the chair lift up the mountain. The kids love this - and of course we had to buy the cheesy photos they take of you! We had a gorgeous hike and loved spending time together! Thank you Military for Family Days!!!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

day of thanks #24

Today I am thankful for an amazing Thanksgiving Day. Although the holidays get tough being so far away from family, it is nice to know that your military family will step in and help you get through. Even thrive through. Today was an absolutely perfect fall weather day....sunny, cool, smells of baking and cooking from every kitchen. The kids woke me up at 7:45 (which is sleeping in for me - so I was thankful) and I got to work in the kitchen. We were invited to a friend's house (along with a lot of the other med group docs) so I didn't have to do the hard make the turkey and clean the house! But I did make a lot of other things. Pumpkin gooey butter cake, apple pie (with real crust), homemade applesauce, candied yams, sweet potatoes and apple bake, coleslaw, cranberry sauce, corn bread muffins, stuffing, gravy and dinner rolls. I was baking pretty much all morning/day and was actually a little late to get there (oops). But luckily we made it in time for the feast and prayers and had an amazing dinner. There were 2 or 3 kinds of turkey (smoked, fried, roasted), ham, brisket and chicken. There were a bazillion sides and desserts. PLUS, I knew 2 other friends in the same housing unit that were having parties so I popped in each one to sample their foods as well! It is an amazing experience to be amongst other military families during Thanksgiving - as they TRULY are grateful for the things they have. They know sacrifice. They know grace. They know giving. I am proud to be a part of this family (even though I really, really, really miss my family back in the states too).

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Day of thanks #23

Today I am grateful that I had 2 loving parents growing up (and that both are still loving to me now) and a nice house to grow up in as a child.

Today, Gavin's school welcomed the local Aijino Ie orphanage. I have recently found out that Japanese orphanages are actually very well hidden. Since it is a country that does not welcome 'shame', they do not advertise children that are 'different'. But this orphanage comes to Yokota every year and enjoys a feast/celebration, canned food drive and Christmas adopt-a-child type gift giving. Gavin's eyes filled with tears when he thought of the possibility of not having a mother or father or house of your own. We discussed how we should be very thankful that he and Evelyn DO have parents and a nice house (relatively speaking :-), and that I was fortunate as well as a child. He awoke eagerly this morning to take presents to the orphan that would be visiting his class. He wanted to get him a summer outfit, winter outfit, coloring book, reading book, game and lego set. So we did! I was so proud of Gavin to learn compassion and also appreciation of the nice things we have. When we got home from school, he asked if he could clean his room...Of course I agreed - but totally thought he was up to something. But he just said, "I know I am lucky to have a nice room and nice toys and I want to take care of them since I am so lucky."

And I agree. We are very lucky. Lucky for being able to provide our children with a loving home, safe environment and nice clothes and toys. I am lucky that Patrick works so hard for us to be able to do that! And Gavin and Evelyn are lucky that they will not have to grow up without these basic comforts in life. I am very, very grateful for that.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Day of thanks #22

Today I am grateful for the things we've handed down (PS - One of my favorite Marc Cohn songs). Things like clothes (like Evelyn wearing the old Penn State sweatshirt that used to be Gavin's), or genetics (like the fact that my kids both got blonde hair from Patrick as a kid). But I am specifically thankful for recipes that get handed down between friends and generations.

Tonight, I made the most delicious beef stew....a recipe from Patrick's mom. There are a few recipes that Patrick made it very clear that I need to learn...and this was one of them. So tonight, I used some file mignon steaks (screw that crappy beef stew meat), fresh local veggies and a yummy bottle of wine to make this stew. And it was fab-u-lous!!! And the rest of the wine went perfectly with it. Too bad Patrick had to go back into work - but at least he left with a huge tupperware container of it (but I took one for the team and drank his wine too).

Monday, November 21, 2011

Day of thanks #21

Today I am grateful for a little girl named Leah. Leah is one of my good friend's daughter and Leah has Down Syndrome.

I am grateful to her in so many ways, it is impossible to even start. You know when someone or something just touches your heart and your life and you are forever changed for the better because of it?!?! That is Leah. I had never had much interaction with any person with DS before she was born. I remember walking into visit my friend Mary (who delivered prematurely) and meeting Leah for the first time. She was less than 4 pounds of amazing. I heard Mary say the words that she had Down Syndrome - but it never mattered...I knew Leah was going to be great and do great things.

I watched Mary struggle with many of the obstacles that come along with having a child with DS. Milestones that come easily and early for others were a struggle for Leah...drinking from a bottle, walking, going potty on the toilet...all came at different times - but were celebrated with so much more joy than most. Mary and Eric (and big brother Greg) were absolutely put on this Earth to be part of Leah's family! They ALL love her unconditionally and support her 100%. Every year Mary puts together a "Buddy Walk" team to raise money for the DS Association of the Columbus, OH area. And in all the years I have known her - they get in the top ranking teams for number of participants and amount of money raised! She teaches love and giving with every minute of the day to her children!!! I remember her son Greg was saving pennies (for the Buddy Walk that year) and he donated them to Gavin to give to the Red Cross for the people of Japan. It was so touching to see that love and caring in a little boy, especially since I knew how much that money he raised meant to him. We kept the pennies in the bag and gave it to the Red Cross just like that.

Now, anyone that knows Mary knows she does not want to ever hurt someone's feelings. Anyone that knows me, knows I will set you straight on an issue if it hurts your feelings or not. I lay it out there if it is something I am passionate about. One day, Mary casually put a link up on her blog. Help eliminate the use of the R-word in everyday speech. SPREAD THE WORD TO END THE WORD! I was very interested in what this meant. Once I clicked on asked me to make a pledge..."I pledge and support the elimination of the derogatory use of the r-word from everyday speech and promote the acceptance and inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities." What a wonderful concept!!! I talked a bit with Mary about this and found out how hurt and upset she gets when people use the word 'retarded' or 'retard'. It is as derogatory as saying the 'n' word. But, most of us grew up saying things like "That is so retarded" or "Stop being a retard". I never really thought about these phrases until this moment in speaking with her. So from that day forward I made a pledge to ban that word from my vocabulary and to educate others on how it sounds and makes people feel.

In some situations, I just walk away from the conversation. I know not everyone will agree or feel the same about this. But in most cases, if you are my friend, I will tell you straight up that you sound ignorant. Ignorant to the fact that the word is hurtful. Ignorant to the fact that the word is meaningless. And ignorant to the fact that you just sound like a plain old bad person when you say it, Sometimes I am a little rough when I tell people about it - and I apologize. I may have even made people cry about it (sorry :-). But please know, it is only because you are my friend that I say something to you about. Please know it is because I care deeply about this mission to try to end saying that word. And please know I am doing this for Little Leah and her family. Most of my Columbus friends have heard me say this many times..."We DO NOT say that word!"...but I haven't said it as much as I should here in Japan. I did mention it to a college friend on facebook the other day (and he responded with great care and consideration and thanked me for showing him the link). But last night I heard it said a few times, in a room of people I consider friends and I should have said something...done more. So Yokota friends...please know I will probably be saying something to you next time I hear you say the words. So that is why I am thanking Leah now....for making me think about it again and stand up and say something. Teach people it is hurtful.

I am grateful for Leah in giving me passion about this topic (among many other things she has done for me). Here is a little blurb from Mary's blog that I love reading....

c1987 by Emily Perl Kingsley. All rights reserved

I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability - to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It's like this......

When you're going to have a baby, it's like planning a fabulous vacation trip - to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It's all very exciting.

After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, "Welcome to Holland."

"Holland?!?" you say. "What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I'm supposed to be in Italy. All my life I've dreamed of going to Italy."

But there's been a change in the flight plan. They've landed in Holland and there you must stay.

The important thing is that they haven't taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It's just a different place.

So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.

It's just a different place. It's slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you've been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around.... and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills....and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.

But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy... and they're all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say "Yes, that's where I was supposed to go. That's what I had planned."

And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away... because the loss of that dream is a very very significant loss.

But... if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn't get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things ... about Holland.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

day of thanks #20

Today I am thankful for weekends. Sleeping in (or at least the ability to sleep in), made-from-scratch breakfast, coffee with Patrick, and kids playing. Weekends really are the best inventions!!!

day of thanks #19

Today I am forcing myself to be grateful for rainy lazy days. Because of said rainy day...I am pretty grumpy. That is why I am forcing myself to be grateful. Because it is rainy, I let Evelyn skip cheerleading so we ended up going to the bakery (always grateful for that). Also because of the rain, Patrick did not go to play golf so he was able to stay home with us and help around the house (again, always grateful). Then I took a nap. A long nap! And Patrick played nerf wars, wii, and board games with the kids. Then we hung out with some friends for a bit and are now back home. Lazy, rainy day - I am grateful for you....even though I may seem like a big B**** today because of you.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Day of thanks #18

Today I am thankful for make-your-own-pizza night at the E Club! We go just about every Friday night. And so do half of our friends! They have flat bread dough/crust that you can add marinara, alfredo, or BBQ sauce to. Then cheese. Then toppings of your choice. From shrimp to corn to pineapple and everything in between. Gavin gets just the crust and cheese or anything! He usually eats 2 whole pizzas of that himself! Evelyn always gets corn and sometimes pineapple and pepperoni. Patrick and I like to switch it up - but I always get at least half like a hawaiian pizza. We get drinks and sometimes I just get the salad bar (like today when I had a lot of pizza for lunch and couldn't think of taking another bite of it). The kids get ice cream and sometimes (like tonight) I get a slice of cheesecake :-). Grand total for tonight's dinner = $12. SERIOUSLY!!! was so low because the kids are basically free ($1 for ice cream each) and I only got salad bar ($3). It was my cheesecake that cost a little bit and then a tip. And the kids think it is so cool that they can get whatever they want!!! And make it themselves!!! Cheap, fun, family outing...definitely something to be grateful for!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Day of thanks #17

Today I am thankful that I am an independent woman. This is something that I had to learn to do (even thought i had a great role model in my mother). I believe I used to be very co-dependent, especially with Patrick. When you love someone, it is easy to wrap yourself up in that relationship and lose your own independence. BUT, I knew Patrick fell in love with the independent Kelly so I really searched hard to find her again (this was all back while dating).

It has been great ever since! Especially once I had kids! And especially since Patrick is in a job that required him to be gone a lot during residency and to be on-call (not allowed to leave a certain radius) a lot. Of course I wish Patrick were able to do all the fun things that I get to do with the kids. But, I am also strong enough to do things without him if needed. I saw many friends struggle with this during residency...some even resulting in divorce. I think it gave Patrick a breath of relief knowing that if I wanted to go somewhere - and he couldn't - I would still go. I didn't stop living my life if he was busy.

As I said before, I would love it if Patrick was there with us all the time. But days like yesterday when it was the perfect chance to go to Disneyland but he couldn't go...I wasn't going to let it stop the kids and I from going. Some people don't always get this...they want to share every single moment with their spouse (and I do too - but I know it is impossible with his job). It works for us, and I am so grateful for it.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Day of thanks #16

Today I am thankful for a perfect day at Tokyo Disneyland. Can't write tired. More tomorrow!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Day of thanks #15

Today I am grateful for The New Sanno hotel. It is a 5 star in Tokyo for military personnel and family. It is awesome in every way with an amazing indoor pool and hot tub area (will post pics when I get home). It also has great restaurants, shopping and wine store. It is only an hour away and is so close to everything in Tokyo. Even Disneyland!!! Which is where we will be tomorrow!

Monday, November 14, 2011

day of thanks #14

Today I am thankful for Amazon Prime. It is so worth it while living overseas to become a member! Free 2 day shipping (although it doesn't always get here that quickly - it still is pretty darn quick)! And it is so great to order something for friends and family online and be able to ship to them for free too! Yesterday was my niece's birthday (Happy Birthday Abby) and today is my little sister Kaitlin's (miss you girl - hope you have a great day)! It was so nice to be able to know what I wanted to get for them, have it available online at Amazon and then shipped for free! When we mail things from here - it can cost just as much to mail it than the cost of the present!!! So I am thankful (especially with the holidays coming up) that we have a good option for gift buying!!!
AND - It also has free book sharing for your Kindle, tons of free movies and tv shows, or cheap movie rentals (and you don't have to return them to the store 5 days late :-) Amazon rocks (and I am not getting paid to say so!!)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

day of thanks #13

Today I am thankful that I live in Japan. Mainly because Japan is not filled with ambulance-chasing, lawsuit-happy, sue-mongrels. I certainly have my distaste for these types of people...but I am so happy to live in a land that is much more honorable than that (ok - I am done my rant)!
Given that fact, I am grateful for the Obstacle Course park. This awesome place is only about 10-15 minutes from us and is an outdoor playground for the kids (and us)...but you would never find anything like it in the states without signing waivers, etc. The kids LOVE going here and we always have a great time. Today was Sunday, and it was a beautiful fall day, so it was packed - but orderly. We even ran into some little girlfriends of Evie's from her school!!! And we explored some new areas which were beautiful and made us remember to expand our comfort zone sometimes and try new things - even if it is in old places!!!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

day of thanks #12

Today I am thankful for beautiful fall weather. Nothing feels/smells better than fall. A warm, crisp, clear fall day is amazing. This morning I woke up to one of the most amazing views to date of Mt Fuji and it's snow capped top. The air was totally clear and the mountain looked as if it were in my backyard. It almost caused me to get into an accident as I drove to Evelyn's cheerleading and Gavin's football. Which is another great part of fall! I love seeing my kids be active outdoors and have fun on team sports.
After they were done, we went for bike rides, cleaned out the back yard and storage areas, went to the par 3 on base and just enjoyed time together as a family! Thank you fall!!!!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Day of thanks #11 11/11/11

Even though it is Veteran's Day and I usually reserve this day to recognize all the amazing men and women in the military.... Today I want to recognize and appreciate JoJo. My dear friend, Joanne. Joanne has impacted my life on so many levels it is frightening! She hired me for my first 'real' job. She helped guide my career path to get my MBA in Healthcare Administration and eventually take over her position as Director of Athletic Training Services for NovaCare Rehabilitation. But most importantly, she introduced me (and blatantly NUDGED me) to Patrick. I specifically remember the very first day that Patrick and I met....

I was helping JoJo get ready for a Quarterly meeting with all the ATCs in the area. She had me create and hand out some ice breaker questions. I remember meeting Patrick and totally thinking he was cute - but after the meeting she said "You are going to marry that guy. I just know it. You will be Mrs. Patrick Bull one day." I thought she was crazy...mainly because I had a boyfriend at the time and had no interest in anyone else. But as that relationship changed and dwindled...JoJo would set Patrick and I up together for work functions and put us on assignments together. One day, Patrick won Wings tickets (Philly's professional lacrosse team) and JoJo nonchalantly told Patrick that I love lacrosse. This was just after I had broken up with my old boyfriend and Joanne had a plan!!! The rest, as you would say, is history.

JoJo has also been an amazing inspiration and spiritual guidance for me also. And I came to realize that the number 11 was very special to her. She believes that The symbol 11 shows us that we are all a reflection of one another, a reminder that we maintain balance in life by serving others. She has taught me to love life, to help others, and to always be at peace. Every email or phone conversation ends with Namaste.

So on this special day (that most of us will only experience once in our lifetime) I have been thinking of her and her contributions to my life all day. Please check out her site - which helps people help others...

Miss you JoJo and love you! Namaste!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Day of thanks #10

Today I am grateful for the amazing men and women who serve in the .5%. The .5% of Americans who serve in the US military. The 1/2% of the nation who have courageously risked life, who have run toward the danger instead of away from it, who have rescued others, freed others, removed genuinely bad people from this Earth, those who have sat in a foxhole, or been shot at, or who hid in a jungle or drove along a city street, waiting for the inevitable explosion that would maim him, or her, or a friend. The ones who fought for this country, do what they are told and understood their place on the team. To all of you, thank you. Thank you for volunteering, for committing, for fighting, for getting our country closer to where it is, and to where it can/needs to be.

I am grateful for you and for your families. I had NO clue...NONE - of what it was really like to have a husband or wife, mother or father, leave for war. To see a half packed bag in the corner as the d-day slowly approaches. To try to pretend you will be totally fine for 6 months while your partner is half a world away. To feel the sadness of seeing your baby crawl for the first time and have to explain it over skype on your next weekly call. To feel the utter romance as your man in uniform (that you haven't seen in 6 months) gets off that plane and whirls you around as if in a dream. To truly be proud EVERY TIME you hear the national anthem playing.

It is easy to take liberty for granted when you have never had it taken from you. Now, I have seen first hand. I have seen the young men and women VOLUNTEER to do this. They GIVE. They UNDERSTAND that more powerful than the will to win is the courage to begin and that freedom is never free.

I still tear up everytime I see a family reunited. I get proud (and a little selfishly annoyed sometimes) when I see bases performing "exercises' to practice real-life situations to make sure they are the best they can be. I see military kids that are stronger than almost all of the people I know. I still get excited every time I see a C130 take off and especially when an F 15 lands on base. I love that I can tell the difference of the planes now by their sounds and my kids know which base they came from by the call signs on the tails. I get chills every time I go to the movies on base and the whole theater stands at attention and salutes while the anthem is played.

All of these pleasures I am thankful for. And they are all graciously provided to me by the US military. So on Friday, please take a moment to thank and appreciate what these people have done for you.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Day of thanks #9

Today I am thankful for Pinterest. My friend Shelby got my hooked onto it and it has been a huge hit in my house! This site is a virtual pinboard where you can keep all of your favorite ideas organized into one place. It also acts like Facebook in the fact that you can 'follow' your friends favorite items also. Anytime you are online and you see something you like, you can 'pin' it to your page. It has recipes, craft ideas, ideas for the home, funny quotes, party ideas, gift ideas, holiday ideas, - ANYTHING!!! This week it gave me an idea to take a picture of Evelyn in my wedding dress to give to her on her wedding day. I am meeting with a local photog on base to do this. I also made many of the recipes which were a hit with the family! AND I can make super easy crafty things in no time! It even gave me an idea for Patrick's b-day gift (a GPS watch with all the golf courses loaded on it so he will always know the distance to the next pin). It has given me my Christmas card idea, my mom's Christmas gift idea, and Christmas decorating ideas. It has given me a cleaning schedule, work out schedule and other organizational ideas. It has been great and I am very thankful for it!!!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Day of thanks #8

Today I am thankful for my mom. There are a million reasons why everyone should be thankful for their mom....heck - there are a million reason why everyone should be thankful for MY mom. Tishymom is a legend among many of my friends and my sisters' friends. She is open and caring and kind. She is someone who dreams great dreams for you, but then she lets you chase the dreams you have for yourself and loves you just the same. She is there to pick you up when you fall, hold you up until you can stand on your own again, and cheer you on when you are on your way. She is someone, who when she sees a pie with only three slices left, will say she never like pie anyway - so my sisters and I could each get a piece. She always makes us feel loved.

It wasn't until I had children of my own did I fully appreciate my mother. I remember looking at my children, love bursting at the seams, and finally understanding how my mother could love so much. She is an amazing Grandmother. She is an amazing friend. She is an amazing human being.

I hate being so far away from her right now - and I truly an thankful that we are as close (relationship speaking) as we are. I have always had a close bond to her and I hope I have many many many more decades to grow with her.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Day of thanks #7

Today I am thankful for my family being healthy. Another generic comment - but I am an extra proud momma today as my kids went to their annual dental exams this morning and neither one had any cavities! I know a lot has to do with strong teeth and good genetics - but they do brush their teeth twice a day, they don't drink soda, and they water down juice (ok - I brush their teeth twice a day, don't let them have soda and only give them watered down juice....but whatevs). I grew up with no cavities - but saw my middle sister, Anna, have to fight the teeth battle her whole life...and it does not look fun! Luckily, we have great access to dental care here on base and some of the best dentists and hygienists I have ever met! And even more lucky is that we don't need them usually for more than just a check up!!! Thanks Yokota Dental team!!!

PS - Lynnie...tell your hubby we will be coming his way soon. Even though my kids have great teeth - they are too great and have too many teeth. Gotta pull and shift :-)

PPS - This pic is from a long time ago - it was the only one I could find showing off teeth!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Day of thanks #6

Today I am grateful for my husband and children. I know that sounds trite, but today I have special reasons. #1. My husband has been away for a week and I finally get him back!!! I realize how much he helps out around the house (well, I always knew he did - but when he is gone...the trash gets backed up, the dishes stay in the sink a little longer and the laundry doesn't walk itself upstairs like it usually does). Patrick is an amazing partner in life! He does so many little things that I tend to take for granted. After dinner he always cleans up, does the dishes and vacuums the whole downstairs. He empties the dishwasher in the morning before I wake up and makes sure the newspaper is out for me to read. He is so thoughtful - in ways he may not even know. He is an amazing father also. He has taught Gavin to ride his bike, he helps Evelyn learn English words (since she learns mostly Japanese at school), and he reads to the kids every night. So when he goes away...I really notice how much he does.
I also am so grateful that I have great kids. I mean, really great! They have been awesome all week without daddy and have helped chip in around the house also. They rarely fight (an occasional bicker - but that is normal, right?), they entertain each other, and they are just fun to be around! Last night we went to the bowling alley for some bowling, games and dinner - and it was like I was hanging out with friends.
I am grateful for these three blessings in my life and I truly thank God every day for them! But I figured I better blog it also - or karma might get her revenge on me!!!

Day of thanks #5

Today I am super grateful for activities on our base. There are always a ton of options to do on base - some weekly, like Make your Own pizza night every friday night - or some are annual, like the Oktoberfest celebration that was held today. Even though it was quite hectic (and I had to do it all without Patrick here)...I took the kids to football/cheerleading games, ballet practice and then to the Oktoberfest...all before noon! I love that they have special (free) events that make you feel valued and appreciated. There were a ton of games and activities for the kids, free food, Yokota Idol finals, live band...all within a 2 minute walk of my house! I love that the base truly makes an effort to give people a reason to get together and be crazy!!!!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Day of thanks #4

Today I am grateful for random days off with my kids. Except that I totally thought Evelyn had off of school but she really didn't. Her school called me to make sure she was ok....oops! I guess subconsciously I needed a random day with my two kiddos. I am the mom that hates when summer ends and I have to give my kids away for most of the day. So I always get grateful for silly days off for teacher training, or some testing, or conferences, etc. But since the kids go to separate schools - they have separate schedules and rarely are both home together. I love spending days doing nothing, everything and anything with my little ones. They are my best friends forever :-)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Day of thanks #3

Today I am thankful for skype. I know last year I used this same one - but it's true. Living 7000 miles away from friends and family is tough - but having skype makes it a lot better! This week alone we have talked to both parents, friends, and other relatives! I love that I can see someone sign on and within seconds I can see their face and talk to them! And today (as in almost every week) I got to talk to one of my besties, Ashli, and watch gLee together. Talking on the phone is great - but seeing my loved ones faces is even better. I don't know what I would do without it!!!

PS - This picture is of me on the computer in front of Ashli's tv watching gLee).

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Day of thanks #2

Today I am grateful for the chance to learn about my host country's culture and language. I have been very blessed to be a part of 3 (yes, that's right...THREE) different culture groups to be able to learn about rituals, activities and food...but now I have started to try to learn their language!!! When we found out we were moving to Japan last year, my mother bought us Rosetta Stone. We have not be very diligent with it - but after having to use my 4 year old daughter as an interpreter, I decided it was time to really step up my game and learn parts of the language.

I am very lucky to have a friend who lives off base that participates in Japanese language classes. She lives across the street from a community center which offers the lessons for free. She has been going for over a year and has learned so much!!! So after she had invited me a few times - I decided to give it a go (and drag another friend with me!!!). I learned so much in the first lesson, and my brain actually hurt after the 2nd lesson. Today was the 3rd time I went and I am actually 'getting' it. I am hearing sounds and words that make sense and our teachers are so patient and fun! They really help us grasp why things sound a certain way - instead of just memorizing it. I actually held a conversation (basically consisting of "Good Morning. I am Kelly" - but's a start)!

I have started coming home and doing Rosetta Stone after my lessons and things make so much more sense!!! I am so happy and grateful I can at least make a valiant effort in leaning Japanese. Hopefully Evelyn won't be the only one who knows it by the end of this year!!!!

Monday, October 31, 2011

30 days of thanks....

I know I have a ton of things I need to post about - and maybe this will nudge me to be on my blog more and post in between thankful posts. But in The 4 Bulls tradition, I will post every day about something I am thankful for. Today is easy. I am thankful for little boys who love their momma!!! Patrick is away for training in Texas, so Gavin told me he would sleep in my bed to protect me and keep me safe! He also told me he would take out the trash, vacuum and do the dishes....I guess that is what he thinks the man on the house should do. (to Gavin's future wife...You are welcome).

Sunday, September 4, 2011


I can't believe the summer is over! It is Labor Day and I realized I haven't blogged since the beginning of July (the kimono picture of Evelyn was taken right before the going away party for Patrick's ortho partner and his family which was July 9)! It has been a whirlwind of fun and exciting adventures - all culminating to our much anticipated vacation to BALI!

We decided to take a trip to a tropical locale where deciding 'beach or pool' was our toughest activity of the day. A lot of people from Yokota go to Thailand - which we definitely want to do at some point - but I had this inner draw to go to Bali. I blame it on Eat, Pray, Love. Regardless, all of Indonesia used to be off-limits, but now some areas (including Bali) are ok. Everyone told us it would be easy....just 'hop' to Singapore (on free flights offered three times a week for us) and book super cheap airfare from there. I researched the best areas of Bali for families (Nusa Dua was the top choice by a lot), and then the best resort (kids club was a major factor for us). We ended up choosing the Nusa Dua Beach Hotel and Spa.

It was somewhat difficult to plan since Indonesia is such a poor country and even their best hotels lack in internet capability and ease of booking a hotel. It wasn't hard....but it was different. They had forms to print out and fill in and rescan to send back to them (What?!?!? No online bookings?). It was a little unnerving. Even the airlines were different than I am used to. Not very consumer friendly with TONS of options (like paying for baggage prior to boarding and guessing how much your suitcases will weigh - but not realizing you get the baggage for ALL in your party - not just the one you want to pay for, etc).

There were some other MAJOR factors that came into play also. Sometimes, the 'hop' breaks down, or doesn't fly out on the day it is supposed to. We needed to fly to Singapore on Thursday so we could fly from there to Bali on Friday morning. But if the hop was late or not running properly, then we will miss our flight from SIngapore to Bali. Also, the weekend after we were to leave was the Friendship Festival on base. Tens of thousands of Japanese locals are invited on base so the flightline was being prepared for that...which meant there was a good chance our flight wouldn't happen. Also, all medical staff were rumored to be on hand for emergencies. But luckily, Patrick had all the appropriate papers signed and done through the proper chains - so he was cleared to go. It all worked out fine in the end - but the stress getting ready for the vacation was the worst part!

When Thursday came, we grabbed our 2 suitcases, 1 backpack, and food bag and headed to the terminal on base. It actually went very smoothly and there were only 11 people on our flight! The plane is to take supplies to the Singapore base but has 32 seats they can use for passengers. It was like a regular flight with attendants, movies and meals! I slept the whole way and the kids played games and watched movies. They were perfect! It took about 6 hours to get there. We didn't know much about Singapore - or expect much - but it was one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. Our hotel was 5 star - the Intercontinental - with an amazing pool and breakfast buffet! We dropped off our bags and grabbed a bite to eat (McDonalds for Gavin) and headed to the night safari. This was something everyone had told us to do - and the kids really enjoyed it. I was spoiled by the Columbus zoo so I thought is was OK, at best. We crashed and slept like babies!

The next morning we ate, went swimming and headed to the airport. The ride to the airport was amazing - as every inch of space was landscaped and manicured! Even the airport was beautiful! We had a quick and smooth 2.5 hour flight to Bali where we were picked up by the hotel and taken there (about 20 mins). I didn't realize how poor of a country Bali is - definitely 3rd world. But all of a sudden, we came upon a HUGE gate with layers of security...the Nusa Dua area. They had cameras under the car, bombs sniffing dogs, metal detectors - the works. Past the gates we drove to the hotel and had another set of security. It was exactly as promised on the website and I knew we were in for a treat.

The staff knew us by name instantly (and would remember though our whole stay) and gave us the royal treatment. They let the kids feed the fish, the carried the luggage to our rooms, helped us exchange money and a tour. Our room was a family suite with a king bed and a set of bunks and private bath and balcony overlooking the gardens in one direction and the pool/beach in the other. We got in around 4 pm - so we took a stroll on the beach and grabbed a bite to eat. We were still pretty tuckered out from all the traveling so we went to bed early and got about 11 hours of sleep!!! It was great!

Every morning we would wake up around 8 or 8:30, get dressed and head down to the breakfast buffet. We would sit next to the koi pond, reading the newspaper and enjoy each other's company. It was almost disgustingly picture perfect :-) The first day, we decided to stay close and just spend ALL day at the beach and pool. Perfect weather + well behaved kids = relaxing first day of vacation. Dinner at the hotel on the beach and early bedtime for all!

On Sunday, we split up a little! Patrick ended up taking surf lessons, I booked a 4 hand massage and facial, and the kids played at the kids club. We felt a little guilty about spending time individually - but it turned out to be great! The kids had sooooo much fun (kids club was their favorite part of the vacation), I was pampered for 3 hours, and Patrick officially caught his first tube wave (and can brag to his friends that he learned to surf in Bali). We met up at 2 and went on our first adventure off the resort. We took a glass bottom boat out to a coral reef (to see some fishies) and continued on to Turtle Island. This was kind of a creepy, dirty place - but still very cool (if that makes sense). Here we were able to hold all sorts of reptiles and animals - including turtles, bats and SNAKES! They threw a python around Evelyn's neck - but she was too little so Gavin had to help carry it! We got up close and personal with many creatures - but I was a little nervous about the safety, etc (no hand washing, animals getting out of cages, etc). But it turned out fine, the kids had a blast and we have pictures of them holding a 10 foot snake. Pretty cool. Not your average adventure! Sunday night we were able to enjoy a Balinese Ritual - the Kecak Dance. We had dinner which was a buffet of salads and appetizers followed by a plate of the most amazing seafood and meat dishes!

On Monday, I had booked a Dolphin experience. This was by far the best thing we did all vacation! The driver picked us up and we drove for about 20-30 mins to the Dolphin Lodge. This was much nicer accomodations - even though it was in a not so nice part of town :-). We waited for the whole group to get there, put on some safety jackets and took a tiny little boat out to an enclosure in the water. The 4 of us were assigned to Jasmine, one of the Mommy Dolphins they have. Jasmine is missing an eye but is otherwise very healthy. We climbed down into her cage and the instructor started her off with some simple tricks. We were able to pet her, feed her, call out commands, etc. She kissed us (on the cheeks), clapped her tailfin, jumped over sticks, pushed a ball around with her nose, sang, etc. It was really an amazing experience! She was so much softer than I envisioned (I was thinking sticky and rubbery). And one of her babies was next to us and also would do tricks for us in her cage! Evelyn was a little afraid to be in the water (because of the other fish swimming around) but warmed up and totally fell in love with dolphins. I think she has asked for us to buy her one every day since we have been back.

On Tuesday, we dropped the kids off at the kids club again and Patrick and I went golfing at the Bali Country Club. This was the one thing Patrick really wanted to do, so I was happy we were able to! It was only about 5 minutes from our resort so we were able to leave the kids and go. Upon arrival, we found out that part of the cost (very expensive cost if you ask me) was to each get a caddy too. This turned out to be great for us - because my caddy really ended up helping me and I shot 4 or 5 PARS!!! Patrick was so happy that I was doing well and having a good time. Unfortunately, he had a rough start - so he didn't shoot in the 70's like he wanted - but pulled it together and had a great back 9. There were holes that you could see out onto the ocean and the weather was again...PERFECT. We were gone for about 4.5 hours and when we got back to the resort, the kids didn't want to leave the kids club! So Patrick and I laid out by the pool together and grabbed some drinks KID-FREE! We finally rounded them up, played in the pool and ocean with them for 2 hours, then got showered and cleaned up for the evening. It ended up being Dinner and Movie night at the kids club, so we dropped them off AGAIN and we went off resort to dinner by ourselves! It was a great day :-)

Our last full day was Wednesday. We let the kids decide what to do - and they wanted to go to a water park. We were a little hesitant since we can go to a water park anytime...but we were so glad we went! We were the only ones there! Seriously - a brand new awesome water park all to ourselves! After about 2 hours a few more people came...but it was non-stop fun. We had a personal driver who took us, and on the way home we stopped at McDonalds for lunch and then he took us to find our "Cat Poop Coffee". We had heard about this special coffee (a special cat with an amazing sense of smell eats the perfectly ripe coffee beans, digests it and poops out the bean. It is supposedly the best coffee on earth since the bitterness is totally gone) and wanted to buy some while there. We ended up in the craziest back alley, shady neighborhood spot, where there was this nice little factory. The employees inside were literally cleaning beans in front of you and there were special tasting rooms. It was, again, one of the strangest experiences I have had! But - we got our coffee and then some!!!

Our flight on Thursday wasn't until later in the evening so we were able to get extended check out and enjoy lunch and more swimming. The flight back to Singapore was easy (except that Patrick ended up getting salmonella from the airline food - but that is another story) and we stayed at the Intercontinental again. Friday we had to get up early to check in for the hop home, but our friends the Currys were also on the flight - so it gave the kids some other people to play with. It was a bumpy flight - but we got home around 6pm on Friday night. We were happy to be home - but sad that our vacation was over. It truly was a trip of a lifetime!!!