More Catch Up, with Feelings

I’m basically having a major meltdown over here. Now that everyone has left and I’m finally able to look around me and see what needs to be done before we leave the country in 35 DAYS I’m freaking out. While I’m typing this, I’m on hold for now 30 minutes with JAL because I cannot for the life of me find the right size, airline approved carrier in store or online! Everything is either too large, or not airline approved. And Baxter goes home in 14 days. And we’re gone for 7 of those 14 days. And somewhere in there we have the movers come survey the house for our shipment. And, and, and, AND!

So it’s been a bit wild here! First, the B family was here WAAAYY back at the beginning of April which seems like basically forever ago.

I took them on the Shinkansen to a couple of places, as well as some fun local train tours! They took themselves around Kyoto and Hakone, and all in all, we had a blast! I wish I had more pictures, but I mostly rely on Nathaniel’s photos these days!

As they were going, Auntie M and Uncle Wes were arriving! I spent a hilarious day shirking my responsibility and hanging out with them at an Aviary! This may have been one of my most favorite Japan days EVER. The B family was in Hakone and due back to Nagoya in the afternoon. I was tasked to pick up M and W at their airport, help them buy JR Rail Passes, and send them on their Shinkansen on their way. However, once we were on the move, we realized that I had nothing that I *HAD* to be doing, and I could go with them. SO even though I wasn’t dressed for walking, or carrying the proper bag or any of that, I just, on a whim, hopped on a bullet train for an hour each way! HOW COOL IS THAT?!?!? (Also how I will adjust to real life in 35 days?!?!)

And then, because I was ill prepared, here is all my crap on the way back.

The next couple of days were more blur, with the B family leaving and M and W coming back to Nagoya. SO MUCH LAUNDRY to flip the house in a day! But we did it! It has been really great to show everyone how much we love Japan.

On Monday, April 9 GM and GPa arrived!

We had a blast having them here, especially as we were all together for Roslyn’s NINTH birthday!

SERIOUSLY. NINE?!?!?!? eeegads! She’s so cool! I’m lucky to be here Mama!

I took the people (without Nathaniel) to the knife place.

Then I took them to Yamachan!

Some of us danced.

Then we Shinkansened away to the Himeji Castle and grounds.

Wes and I slipped away to Kobe for some Steak, but unfortunately those pictures are on his phone. But I assure you, it was WICKED Tasty!

We met Nathaniel and my newly minted 9 year old and (then) 10 year old and off we went to Nara the next day.

Look at 3 Generations of Madura Mavens!

That night, we said goodbye to Maya and Wes and they headed back to Nagoya and off to North Carolina. Apparently Wes almost wasn’t allowed to enter the US and that would have been a bummer because I don’t think Japan wanted him back. (I kid! We had a blast!)

Our next stop was Koyasan which was absolutely beautiful. It involved a long train ride, with a wonderful train nap, and then a cable car up the mountain! So worth it!

The next morning Nathaniel, Rosie, GM and GPa headed off to Kyoto, but Isaac and I wanted to get a few more capybara snuggles in before we move home. IN THIRTY FIVE DAYS.

We joined up in the afternoon and did some Kyotoing.

Monday the 16 was Isaac’s ELEVENTH BIRTHDAY. HOW?!?! How is it possible that my tiny peanut is ELEVEN??? Did you know he was only 6lbs. 11oz????? AND NOW HE’S ELEVEN.

Anyway, we did more Kyoto before we came home and collapsed with exhaustion.

I gotta take a break. I’ll have to finish the Madura-Altmann tour recap at a later date, when I’m less exhausted. I finally got through to JAL and they need a specific sized crate for Baxter that I SWEAR does not EXSIST. SERIOUSLY PEOPLE. So tomorrow after my (maybe last) baking class, I’ll be on the hunt again. (I EVEN CHECKED THE TERRIBLE AMAZON TODAY)

I am glad I sat down and told you all of this. I really enjoy writing this blog, I just sometimes struggle finding the time to do so. But there is more to come, TRUST ME!

Playing Catch Up

It’s just been a whirlwind of visitors, laundry, flowers, food and fun over the past couple of weeks. With all of that going on I’ve had limited time to sit down and write a post or 10. Coupled with some travel and server issues, I’m just behind!

So what did you miss? Sakura Season! The B family was lucky enough to visit at exactly the right moment and be able to enjoy Sakura.

We saw lots of amazing, fun things and had an absolute blast with our friends here!

I have a lot of words I’d really like to say, but again I’m so swamped having fun that I just can’t sit down and write it all down for you right now. I’ll keep working on getting you all the fun things I’m doing but I really appreciate your patience!

Mount Nachi and more!

I promised to share with you our Day 2 of adventure a few weekends ago! I apologize for the late delivery of all of this!

Did I mention that I went IN A PAGODA?!?!? That was on my Japan Bucket List!

Nathaniel is the best because he took us back for a second shot at it on Sunday because it had been closed on Saturday by the time we got there. Nathaniel is awesome at making sure that each person gets their special thing!

After that we made an impromptu stop at a Sea Turtle Sanctuary!

We could tell the beach was close, so we crossed the street and went down some sketchy little path and BOOOOOOMMMMMM: OCEAN!

Nathaniel showed these pictures to a coworker who told him that this beach is 24km long and unobstructed. You can’t see anything but OCEAN here. It’s pretty spectacular!!

We then ate AMAZING SUSHI in a tiny little cafe and headed off to see some castle Ruins.

Which turned into a 3 km each way hike. Basically up and down a mountain. We were EXHAUSTED and HOT by the end, but we all agreed that it was the best accidental hike we’ve ever taken. We sort of just. . . Kept going, because it was so spectacular.

The kids we’re TROOPERS and didn’t whine (much!) but none of us could really stop the hike. We saw lots of people turn back but it was too pretty to stop!

Our last stop was Ise which is one of the most famous temples in Japan. Unfortunately it was a little late so the pictures are limited but it was beautiful.

Feelings Friday (28)

I have so many things I want to share with you all, but I’m finding it harder and harder to slow down and sit down to write it all out. This week has been so good, and so bad all at the same time and I feel like I need to let you know where I’m at emotionally.

Also, I’m a communicator.

This past Saturday, Kri, Paul, Maggie and Ollie arrived from New Jersey to visit us and we’re having a blast. Even though we haven’t seen each other in years, and the kids don’t remember one another, it’s been like no time has passed in some ways. Everyone is getting along great, and it’s fun reminiscing and making new memories. I’m enjoying hearing all the kids talk about Japan and the US. The dynamic of children and families is something I find so interesting and I see many parallels (and many perpendiculars?!?!) in our families. It’s been my pleasure (all of ours’ really!) to have them here. They’ll appear in some future photos and blog posts and will, hopefully, also grace you with some guest blogs. (HINT HINT!)

However, this past week a Grade 12 student at NIS (the kids’ school) was tragically killed in a bike accident after leaving a school event. Our community has been shocked and saddened. Sho had been at NIS for 15 years, starting in our Early Learning Community when he was 3 years old, and was now weeks away from graduation. He was an amazing student, athlete, artist and person. Our school starts at age 3 and ends with a high school graduation after grade 12, but only has 500 students, so our community is pretty small and tight knit. I personally had met Sho a handful of times because he was the Social Chair for our Secondary School’s student council. He truly was a bright light in our community.

NIS has done an amazing job of supporting our staff, students and families during this week and they are continuing their support in upcoming weeks. It’s been crappy to say the least.

Another high this week was Maya and Wes (Nathaniel’s sister and brother in law) arriving. Because the B family is still here, they’re choosing to spend the weekend in Tokyo to stay out of our already packed house. However, I was lucky enough to meet up with them this morning and they invited me on adventure to see the aviary (I posted about this last May!) and I decided VERY LAST MINUTE that I would play Hooky from all my adulting today and join them!!! (The B family was in Hakone, so I wasn’t ignoring them I promise!) It felt so. . . Weird? To decide to take a train an hour away at the last minute and just hang out with family and birds when I probably should have been doing something else. I know once I’m back in Michigan I’ll have to go to work and be around people A LOT and I won’t be able to run off on a random Friday for an adventure. It makes me happy and sad to leave this all behind.

So that’s where I’m at. Our weather has turned to Spring and the cats have sung us the song of their people and started making baby cats. The Crows are out in full force. Flowers are blooming and our time here in Japan is coming to an end.

OH! Did I tell you we finally have tickets home on May 30?!?!?! So now we know. . .

Mount Nachi

First of all, we all should thank Nathaniel because he found a way for me to access his fancy photos on my iPad! He found some app thing that I can access our server with. It’s very fancy and appy and technical! YAY NATHANIEL!

Two weekends ago we traveled with our friends Shenny and Jane (AHAHAHAH I crack myself up!) to Mount Nachi. Despite autocorrect thinking we were going to Mount Nacho, there was not a cheese fondue fall. . . But it was still spectacularly gorgeous!! Which was good, because it was a 3.5 hour drive that took us almost 7 thanks to traffic. OMG, SERIOUSLY people, MOVE OUT OF MY WAY.

Mount Nachi has a number of world heritage sites, as well as important Shinto Shrines that draw visitors from all over the world for prayer. The area is almost famous for the 133 meter tall waterfall.

We sat on the side of a mountain and drank amazing matcha and wonderful mochi. I’m not usually a mochi fan, but this was spectacular. It was smooth as opposed to chewy and the sweet bean paste was really complimented by the strong matcha tea.

And the view didn’t suck either.

Unfortunately because we arrived so late in the afternoon due to traffic we didn’t get to spend a lot of time but we managed to really enjoy it anyway!

We also stopped and saw 800 year old camphor “married” trees!

Rosie took our photo!

That night after a less than note worthy dinner, we went to the ruins of a castle and saw Sakura that was just beginning to blossom. It was quite a big walk up a lot of stairs but it was SO WORTH IT!!

We saw more sights the next day, but you’ll just have to wait and see what we did!! (It was a surprise for all of us, Nathaniel included!)

But I’ll leave you with this picture of my new car.

More Promises

I promise we will definitely update more shortly, but now it involves getting to the computer for the photos, it’s a lot harder!

A Soggy Spring Break

Last week was Spring Break for the kiddos at NIS and unfortunately, it was wet. It rained basically all week, which did not help in my laundry struggles or mood.

Kate left Monday, so I was pretty down, but Tuesday excitement struck. Jenny, the knower of all, volunteered to drive all of us to Osaka! I wanted to visit some capybaras I had read about there. It took some extensive research and googling to figure out exactly what the giant rodent situation was, but I persevered! Originally I thought the capybaras were at the Osaka Zoo but further investigation revealed they were housed in a mall. IN A MALL. So with some sketchy directions and good faith, we headed out, in the rain, 2 adults, 4 kids and a LOT of coffee.

When we arrived, we discovered that the petting zoo is not only in a mall, it’s on the third floor of a mall. And it’s like. . .a mall. With a food court, and department stores and all sorts of mall-ish things. AND A PETTING ZOO.

The Zoo itself is separated into 3 rooms. The outer most room is for bunnies, Guinea Pigs and tortoises. The middle rooms has cats, dogs and by the end of our trip, a pig. The back room is where the fun is at. There you meet an alpaca who won’t let you into the room without petting him, 2 capybaras, a handful of wallabies and kangaroos, some more tortoises and some other weird furry thing that Isaac claims is a giant mouse. . . ,which he means in a good way.

Without further adieu, here are the amazing pictures of the amazing time!

You can feed all of the animals and pet them. You are not permitted to sit down with your back to the Kangaroos because apparently they’re Assholes from Down Under.

Do I have something in my teeth?!?!

Rosie was most afraid of the Alpaca, which I’m pretty sure was the least dangerous animal in that room. . .but whatevs. Some of the older reviews of this place said that the animals seemed scared, but newer reviews and our experience seem to indicate otherwise. The animals were excited to see people (and food, which was leaves and pellets, so healthy!) It was a blast. OH! And it was 600Yen for adults and 300Yen for kids, so CHEAP!!! AND I GOT TO SNUGGLE CAPYBARAS!

Also, Kangaroos are soft. Also, It was so fun! I need to go one more time before I leave!

Special Thanks to Jenny for taking us and putting up with my love of giant smelly rodents.

Then Jenny took us to a little out of the way shrine that was SUPER cool!

And then, cause we’re classy, we got dinner.

After another quick stop at a really cool shrine, we headed out.

So now I can add Capybara Kisses to my Giraffe Kisses.

Kate: The Last 2.5 Days

Well, that title sounded darker than I meant to do. Rest assured, Kate is safe back in Michigan. Well as safe as one can be in the US in the current political climate. . . .I digress.


Saturday we took a train trip to a nearby town of Okazaki.  Kate and I barely managed to stay awake on the train, but we made it and it was worth it.  OH YEAH! AND IT WAS KATE’S BIRTHDAY!!! She is also 29, weird right?!?!??!?!?!




20180317-DSCF7836.jpgOur first stop (Was NOT Starbucks because Nathaniel insisted we had to leave RIGHT NOW, which meant no coffee for the weary.) was a Miso Paste factory where they are making Miso the same way now as they were 400 years ago! It was REALLY neat!!!



Please excuse the dark photos. Nathaniel hasn’t had a chance to edit these photos, so I’m converting them myself without editing. (Thanks Molly for teaching me how to convert photos!)  It was pretty dark in there though! You can click on the flow chart at the top to see how it’s made, but as Isaac told Kate, “If it’s in Japanese you can just look at it and keep going”   (Also because they aren’t edited, please don’t judge Nathaniel’s skills!)


Onward we went to take Kate to a castle for her birthday. It was a small Castle. BUT there were warriors who were happy to celebrate with us!




Kate particularly20180317-DSCF7846.jpg enjoyed some of our funny signs!


Okazaki is the birthplace of Tokugawa who was a Shogun in Japan in the early 1600s. The castle (is little and not original!) sits in a beautiful park next to the water which used to be used as a port for goods.



It was a really lovely day and we enjoyed just hanging at the park! Which is good, because the castle was sort of lacking in excitement!




After that we went to a Chicago Style Pizza place! It had amazing beer and food! The owner is from Chicago, DUH! and was super nice! It’s called Izakaya Ja Nai, which means basically “It’s not a Japanese bar!” and is super fun and family friendly. Be prepared that Chicago style pizza takes a while, so get some beers and apps and enjoy your time!


Sunday I took Kate to Osu Kannon, which by now you should recall is the best shopping in the area. We were really lucky that was the flea market and we were able to buy all sorts of things I didn’t need! We had a blast shopping and eating, and shopping. . . and eating.  Sunday night Nathaniel made us Curry and we watched a movie. The kids were SOOO Happy that Auntie Kate was here!


Monday we checked out another vegetarian place and then we had to take Kate to the airport.  It was REALLY hard to say goodbye. Rosie sobbed for most of the day, which in turn meant I sobbed for most of the day.  I’m so glad Kate was able to be with us for a whole week and we’re all looking forward to getting together back in Michigan. (Especially Isaac who was promised Board Games and maybe even Dungeons and Dragons!)


I’m super behind in catching y’all up because the kids were off all week and I was momming really hard.

Just kidding I was napping.

Also Nathaniel has been taking awesome photos on his camera in RAW format which means once he edits them they’re on the server which means I have to go into the other room and use the actual computer to get them.

I promise Monday I’ll finish telling you about Kate’s visit, how I made a rodent my boyfriend, our 7 hour car trip and more!

She Came, We Saw, She Left.


And I *think* it was magical!

On Tuesday we went on a whirlwind trip to Kyoto. We just had a day there, complete with Shinkansen trip on each side, plus birthday dinner for me in Nagoya, so we ran through a lot of super cool things, and had a blast!

I didn’t lose Kate at the train either, so this trip was better than the last (Sorry Mom and Dad!) We ate a ton of delicious food and bought a few (all) things!

Wednesday we did a quick tour of Nagoya.

Kate is vegetarian, so it was nice to have her to “try out” some of the eating things that we’ll do when Nathaniel parents (who are also vegetarian come). Kate is a GREAT sport and tried all sorts of amazing and fun things

The Ume (plums) were in bloom and we met two nice Japanese ladies who wanted to tell us all about it and take our photos. It was so nice!

Thursday we revisited the Honen Festival, you know the PENIS festival!

This year we saw the parade which was AMAZING and fun. Kate also experienced a squatter Porta-Potty. She’s brave and didn’t even come crashing down!

Up to this point we had AMAZING weather. It was mid 60s to 70s (which is something totally different in Celsius) and sunny. But Friday it started raining, so we decided to take it easy. We headed to a ceramics and tiles museum that was SUPER cool!

It even had a DIY area where we made preschooler art. Ok, other people were probably able to make REALLY pretty art, but we had so much fun just making our own thing. And it was CHEAP, I would definitely go again and see the potties.

That night we had our ladies’ night out to celebrate Kate being here in Japan and our birthdays. I’ll spare you all of the videos, but suffice it to say we had a BLAST!

There are 2.5 more days of Kate’s adventures, and I promise to get them loaded to y’all soon! But currently the kiddos are on Spring Break which is crappy because it’s cold and rainy. So I’m going to spend some time hanging out with them and then I’ll keep updating you!