Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Gymnastics update

Since starting at Yellow Jackets in October-ish Madison and Jackson have both improved incredibly.
They were both in 1.5 hour class once a week and they actually look like budding gymnasts now!  The last session ended in June and I planned on taking the summer off so we could have an open schedule to do fun stuff.  I was also looking forward to a financial break.  Then their instructors asked if they would stay on and do a "team prep" session for the summer.  I said OK because they both said they wanted to continue with class.  Then I found out the class was TWO days a week.  I said yes again and even though my bank account is not happy about it it's been such a great thing.
For Jackson, he has gotten so incredibly strong over the last year that he is capable of so much more now.  I didn't want him to lose any momentum by taking time off.
For Madison, this team prep class focuses so much more on technic.  She eats it up!  She adores following directions and takes it very seriously.
Plus the classes are very small so they are getting a lot of attention.  In fact today and this Thursday Jackson will have a private lesson because the other two boys are on vacation.

Here is Jackson on the rings:
 Jackson learning the pommel horse:

This is Madison doing a pullover which I thought she would never be able to do because it looks so hard:

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Japan and Los Angeles (links to photos)

After a pretty big scare I settled into my 10 hour flight to LAX.  I think I mostly listened to the hunger games, ate some food and tried to get some sleep.  Now since I had left Japan on Monday afternoon and my flight was 10 hours I told my cousin, Maria (actually my father's cousin who is closer to my age) that I would be arriving on Tuesday morning (I knew I was going to have a 24 hour layover in LA so she agreed to pick me up and hang out with me and let me stay at her place and bring me back to the airport!).  As we landed in LA the pilot said "Welcome to Los Angeles on this beautiful Monday morning".  My jaw dropped.  Remember that day I lost when I went to Japan?  Yeah, I found it on my way back.  I frantically called my cousin who asked me if I was just leaving Japan and I said "NOOOO!!!  I'm in LA!!!"  Thank god she was around that day and was able to come straight to the airport to get me.  By the time I got my suitcase and got to the curb she was right there waiting for me!  She was such a trooper for not being prepared for me.  She took me back to her house in Long Beach so I could freshen up then she took me to lunch at a mexican restaurant on the water.  It was so nice to have a margarita and catch up with my cousin.  We walked around the area a little bit then drove south to Huntington Beach where I got to put my feet in the Pacific Ocean for the first time!  We walked out to the end of the pier then had dinner at Duke's where we met up with Maria's brother, his wife and two little boys, another cousin and her husband, and my grandmother's brother.  It's wild to spend time with him (I've only seen him once since I've been an adult) because he looks just like her and they have the same Spanish accent.  They are so cute!  On our way out of the restaurant we ended up seeing the bassist for Van Halen.
After that I really wanted to see Hollywood so Maria was nice enough to drive me there and show me the main tourist stops.  Outside of Grauman's Chinese Theater I saw Darth Vader, Iron Man, and Spider Man.  I just hopped out of the car to get my picture taken with them.  I felt like a goof but it was fun.  We got back to her house around 12:30 and chatted for a while more.  Plus I didn't want to go to bed because I knew we had to wake up at 4:30 to get ready for the airport and that meant saying goodbye to her FOUR dogs that I was in love with!
The flight from LA to Boston was great.  I got in around 5pm and Chris picked me up.  Since we all thought I was coming in on WEDNESDAY, we decided to surprise the kids.  They had been with Nana that day since Chris was at work so he picked me up and brought me there.  I was SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO excited to see them.  I kept day dreaming of what our reunion was going to be like.  It didn't disappoint.  It turns out Chris didn't tell anybody I was coming home that day so it was a surprise for everyone including my parents who happened to be visiting the kids at Chris's parents' house when I got there.
When I hugged Jackson he was on fire!  He had just come down with a fever/cold that day so lucky me got sick the next day followed by Madison.  We were all miserable for a week.  Although it stunk that we were sick it couldn't have come at a better time because we were leaving for Disney World in less than two weeks!

As far as pictures go you can see my official blog post about the pre-wedding pictures I did with the bride and groom.  I haven't done the wedding day yet.

Maybe some day I will specifically post my favorite images from my trip but for now you can see my personal pictures in a flickr album

My LA pictures are in this flickr album

The pre-wedding pictures are in this flickr album

And the wedding pictures are in this flickr album

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Some firsts

I wanted to talk about some firsts for Madison and Jackson while they were fresh in my mind.

You know the monkey bars at the playground?  The ones that you hang from and move one hand to the next?  Yeah, up until today I thought I was going to have to hold them up until they were 10.  I just couldn't see how they would ever develop the strength it takes to do it.  Well, today (7/7/2012) Jackson decided to try by himself and he did it!!!  I was so proud of him!!

Then Madison decided that she could put her face in the water, hold her breath, and "swim" under water!  Again, something I thought they'd never figure out how to do.  Once she started she didn't want to stop!

I hope these videos work for you guys cause they sure as heck don't for me.  And they are terrible quality?  Am I missing something?

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Japan cont.

(This has been in draft since I was in Japan)

Since I had left my house on a Tuesday I was shocked to realize it was Thursday upon my next waking.  So weird to lose a day.  I woke up at 6:30 and facetimed with Chris and the kids.  I don't think they had a chance to miss me yet so it was a good chat.  I went down to the lobby for breakfast then decided to go for a walk alone.  I walked back to the train station then up another main road that took me to a massive covered fish market.  I've never seen anything like it.  Booth after booth of crazy looking fish stuff.  There were some produce booths mixed in but it was mostly fish.  Kanazawa is a very large city and is a very famous tourist city, but only for other Japanese people.  I don't think I ran into anyone that spoke english.  After the fish market I decided to wing it and just started walking back to the hotel through little neighborhoods.  I had no idea where I was going.  I couldn't find wifi anywhere but my hotel so I just kept walking back a different way than I came.  Eventually I looked around a corner and saw my hotel.  I was walking through small alley ways which is where all of the residences were.  Everything was impressively clean everywhere I went.  I went back to my room for a bit and was able to message Dave to see what was going on.  He suggested I try to get to his place since I hadn't seen it yet.  He gave me directions so off I went.  I did what I thought he said but clearly I misunderstood his directions.  I ended up back at the fish market.  I tried to find wifi at starbucks but there wasn't any!  No one spoke english so they couldn't help.  He said he lived across from a 7-11 so I asked where that was.  They were able to tell me where that was.  I walked for a while more and didn't find it!  Finally I asked for a pay phone (translated on an app I had) so off I went to find that.  I somehow managed to get the pay phone to work and Dave met me back at starbucks rather than trying to give me directions again!  We ended up getting lunch at an American restaurant called Blue Moon.  We met another American there and chatted with him while we were there.  When we were done we  walked to a car rental place and met Miho.  They rented the car and we drove back to their apartment which turned out to be about 5 buildings away from my hotel on the same street!  How we messed that up I have no idea!  Their apartment was on the 8th floor and had a stunning view of the city and the massive mountain range that surrounds the city.  I was even to see from the roads below that I had walked right by their building earlier in the day and didn't realize it!  I waited for them to get dressed up all fancy for a pre-wedding photo shoot.  We drove to Kanazawa Castle and I was in awe at the beauty.  The grounds were surrounded by cherry trees all in full bloom.  It really was breath taking.  We did a bunch of pictures there then we got back in the car and drove up into the mountains and took more pictures up there.  The view of Kanazawa and the Sea of Japan in the distance was so beautiful!  They dropped me off at my room.  I tried to look at the pictures but absolutely couldn't keep my eyes open. I   fell asleep.  We had dinner plans so I had to wake up to go get indian food in the katamachi section of Kanazawa.  We went with the same large group I had gone to dinner with the night before.  I kid you not the Indian food was the best I've EVER had.  It was a tiny hole in the wall in an alley.  We never would have found it if they hadn't brought us there.  When you walk in there was room for two tables that fit 4 people then a counter with 6 stools that faced the tiny kitchen.  In the back was a room with a table that we had to sit on the floor for.  I always get chicken makhani and I would have been perfectly happy to eat this dish every day for the rest of my life.  It was unbelievably good.  Everyone else seemed happy too.  I was so happy to get back to the hotel and go to sleep!!!

On Friday I woke up 8:30 and facetimed with Chris and the kids.  I believe this may have been the chat that Jackson cried during.  It was heartbreaking and I cried right along with him.  Then I went to the lobby for breakfast, edited for a bit.  Dave and Miho wanted to put some of the images we took onto digital frames as gifts for her parents and Dave's mom so I went to their apartment for a few hours.  I managed to finish editing and put their favorites on the frames.  We had a late lunch at a place next to the hotel with Miho, Dave and Dave's mom.  It reminded me of a Denny's.  We took taxi to the shrine to learn some things about the ceremony.  Dave and Miho and I walked to the restaurant where the reception was going to be to drop some things off.  We sat with Dave while he got something vegetarian to eat so the rest of the group could be free to go anywhere for dinner.  We met up with the rest of the group and went to a restaurant in a basement after walking around for a good hour trying to find a place that could fit us all.  Dave helped me order food which was absolutely delicious.  I think they were dumplings of some sort.  I was so tired I couldn't wait for everyone to be done so I got a cab back to the hotel at 8:30.  I was absolutely beat!

Saturday was the big day! Unfortunately I woke up at 4:30 couldn't get back to sleep :-(  I updated my blog (with the previous post) until it was time to get ready.  I also facetimed with the kids again and this time they were both HYSTERICAL.  It sounded like their limbs were being ripped off.  So I cried then too.  Then I had to get ready for the wedding!  I went to their apartment where Miho and Dave were getting ready.  Miho was getting her hair and makeup done.  I took some pictures there then we went to the kimono shop so they could get dressed in their outfits for the ceremony.  I thought it was interesting that they needed to be dressed by someone.  I never knew it wasn't something you could do yourself!  It was so awesome to watch the whole process.  It probably took about 45 minutes just for Miho to get in hers then Dave had to go.  Once they were dressed we got in a taxi and went to the shrine.  One thing I found interesting was how they stayed together until just before the ceremony started.  When we got to the shrine they went outside where someone from the shrine followed them around with a large red umbrella while all of the guests gathered outside and watched them.  Eventually they brought them back in to sign some documents and then separated them.  The guests were brought into the room and then the immediate family came in followed by Dave and Miho.  The ceremony was so interesting even though I didn't understand a word of it!  It was such a privilege to be included in it.  I will most likely never see anything like it again.
After the ceremony everyone filed outside once again and paraded up the hill next to the shrine to Kanazawa Castle, Dave and Miho under the red umbrella.  When we got up to the castle it was so crowded with tourists!!  We tried to get some photos on the bridge where I had done some of the pre wedding photos but it was so crowded I needed my wide angle lens because I couldn't get far enough away from them!  It was a little hectic at that point.  We went inside the castle walls where there was a festival going on and took a group shot of everyone. At that point there was a couple hour break before we needed to be back at the restaurant for the reception.  I ended up staying at the castle and waited there.  I took some crazy pictures of a hawk that was dive bombing peoples' food.  Then I was hungry so I went across to the tourist area where there were vendors set up.  I got some noodles.
During this time Dave and Hiho had gone home to change into a suite and white wedding gown then we all met up back at the Italian restaurant for dinner.  The wedding was small, around 40 people which made for a nice intimate gathering.  They had a large screen where they were showing a slideshow of pictures of each of them throughout their lives.  I was so happy to see myself in a couple of them :-)
After the festivities at the restaurant (around 8pm) a group of people were heading to a biker bar with karaoke.  As much fun as it sounded like my body just couldn't take it.  I don't know if it was jet lag or just all the walking I'd been doing but I just couldn't keep my eyes open.  I took a taxi back to the hotel.

Sunday was my last full day in Kanazawa.  I decided I wanted to explore alone!  I chatted with Chris and the kids, then breakfast they off I went to Kanazawa Station to catch a loop tour bus.  There are about 13 stops throughout the city and you can just get on and off all day long for 500 yen (roughly $5).  I rode the bus the entire loop first to see where I wanted to go.  The second time through I got off by the river in a quiet residential area.  I walked on a path along the river to a main road where the loop bus ended up.  I was trying to wait for one to come by so I could get on because my back was bothering me but the traffic was so bad I just didn't see one coming.  I decided I'd just walk to the next stop (which was the castle) since I knew where I was.  I sat for a while and watched people and did some shopping for things to bring back for the kids etc.  That whole area was so crowded it was hard even to just walk.  Thinking back to the first day I went there I was amazed at how few people were there then.  Once I said goodbye to the castle I went and waited for the bus.  At that point I didn't care how long it took to come, the next place I wanted to go was way too far to walk.  One eventually came and the next stop I got off at was again at the river in a residential area.  This area had a huge bank of grass all along the river where people were having picnics.  The cherry trees were lining the banks and on the other side of the river was the mountains.  The view was spectacular.  I sat there for a long time just soaking it all up.  At that point I knew I was close to the indian food restaurant that we ate at earlier in the week and I HAD to go back.  I sat at the stools in the front room where there was one other person.  I didn't want to leave it was so good!  I pried myself away and went back to the closest bus stop and rode it back to the station.  I was definitely exhausted.  I hung out in my room (which I loved by the way...it was tiny and perfect for me) for a while until a group of us were going to go to dinner at a tongan restaurant (and by restaurant I mean someone's house).  We ate at a coffee table in an upstairs bedroom.  That wasn't my favorite meal I ate while in Japan but I had a great time.  I went back to my room for my last night in Japan.  
In the morning I had my last breakfast in the lobby, checked out and walked to the train station.  I had some time to kill so I sat at starbucks and edited pictures while I waited for Dave and Miho to meet me. I wanted them to help make sure I got on the right bus to the airport!  We exchanged gifts which was so funny.  They wanted to thank me for doing this for them and I wanted to thank them for giving me this experience.  I was pretty emotional and cried as I said goodbye.  Once on the bus I was sobbing!  Since this bus ride was during the day I was able to see the amazing scenery I had missed on the way in.  We drove along a shore highway.  The Sea of Japan was on the right and the amazing massive snow covered mountain range was on the left.  I got to the airport, got off the bus, walked into the lobby, got in line to check in and realized I didn't have my suitcase!!!!!!!!  I left it in the under part of the bus!!  I ran back out and thank god the bus hadn't left yet!!  I made my way back in.  The check in process was a little confusing because my ultimate destination was Boston but my layover was in Tokyo and then LA.  So I kept saying Boston but they only cared about Tokyo.  It all worked out and I made my way to the gate (1 of 3 in the entire airport).  The view from the gate was the mountain range.  Komatsu is definitely the most beautiful airport I've ever seen.  The flight to Tokyo was really fast but it DID land late.  While I was still on the plane I decided to look at my boarding pass for my next flight.  Boarding started at the same time my current plane was landing!!!  I started to panic.  Luckily the lady sitting next to me spoke english and tried to keep me calm.  She kept saying they would wait for me but I didn't know if she really meant that or if she was just trying to make me feel better.  We had to get on a bus to the terminal then wait in line for immigration which was bad enough to have to wait for but when I was done with that I had to find the gate.  My back was killing me and my asthma had been bothering me while in Japan.  I kid you not the gate was a mile away.  I saw a sign for the gate number that pointed down the longest tunnel I've ever seen.  I literally couldn't see the other end.  Then I started crying.  I was the only one in the tunnel and I was running.  Even with the people movers I felt like I wasn't getting anywhere.  Seriously 10 minutes later I made my way up an escalator that brought me right to the gate where there was still a line!  I was so relieved!! 

I'm going to break here and write more later.  My wrist is killing me!!