Archive for July, 2009

Caught Up – Fun Times

In : General, Posted by on Jul.07, 2009

Happy couples!

We did a lot of things without the kids when the family was here.

  1. Tex-Mex food in Osaka and then walking through Dotonbori.
  2. Beer Garden on the roof of a department store.
  3. Visiting the Miho Museum.
  4. Eating out a lot: Yakitori and Kobe Beef as the highlights.

Here are few kidless photos.

I am officially caught up with all of the photos and news from this summer.  We are having a great summer here, but we are looking forward to next summer in Houston for the wedding!

Catching Up – Kachoen

In : General, Posted by on Jul.07, 2009

Feeding the toucans

Kachoen is a bird and flower park that allows you to get up close and personal with beautiful flowers and animals.

I love it because the girls actually get to feed the animals, and that is why Riley loves it, too.  Tess is decided anti-feeding except when she is safe in Daddy’s arms.

We headed out there again while Tony and Lindsay were here,  and here are the photos.

Are all 2 year olds as bizarre as mine?

In : General, Posted by on Jul.07, 2009

So Tess is kind of adamant.  She really knows her mind, and she doesn’t like it when people (namely her mother and father) attempt to change her mind.

There are temper tantrums, which I know are typical for this age.

But Tess does something that I have never seen, she demands that things are right when they clearly aren’t.

  1. When we were reading the book, Eating the Alphabet, there was a picture of dates, and I said, “D, date”, and her response was, “No, D, donut.”  The picture was not of a donut.  It didn’t even resemble a donut.
  2. We were reading another book, one of the Eye Spy series, and there was a starfish, and I said, “I spy with my little eye a starfish.”  Tess responds with, “No, that’s a star.”
  3. I was getting her ready to go swimming, and I put on her bottoms.  I said, “Here are your bottoms, Tess.”   She answers, “No, they are bumpers.”
  4. Todd was walking with the girls to check our mail at school, and on the way home Tess starts holding her foot and screaming, “Spooky!”  They get home, and he takes off the shoe, and there is a blister.  I say to Tess that she has a blister.  She repeats, “blister” twice, and then says, “No that’s a spooky.”

I think she just enjoys disagreeing with me.

Catching Up – Miyajima (with a little Hiroshima) with Family

In : General, Posted by on Jul.07, 2009


Back in April I went with the 9th grade class and a wonderful group of teachers to Miyajima and Hiroshima.  I loved the experience so much that I was planning my next trip there before I’d even left.

The only difference between the class trip and the family trip I was planning was that we would spend the night on Miyajima and then go into Hiroshima to visit the museum.  I looked into several hotels, but everything wasn’t going to work because we needed three rooms, and we also need two to be adjoining so we could put the girls down, and we would still be able to socialize.  Also, Japanese hotels are not cheap, and they charge per night per person – even kids pay 70-100% of the rate.

Here it is!

I was searching a site that a friend emailed, and I found a three room house for rent on Miyajima with a kitchen.  It was a great price, so I booked it.  It worked out fabulously.  We took the Shinkansen to Hiroshima (a first for the girls), and then train to the ferry, and then a taxi to the house.  After climbing a huge staircase, we ended up at a cute house in the woods.  We’d brought a cooler on wheels to fill the kitchen, but we need more food! So Todd, Lindsay, Tony, Vicky, and Dan headed out to find a grocery store, while I stayed in the house with the girls and unpacked a bit.

Tess was not happy about being in a different place.  Also, their are wild and overly-friendly deer on Miyajima, and I think they have permanently scarred Tess.  So hung out together until the crew returned with food and bad news.  Because of the rain, most everything was closed.  It was getting close to dinner time, and we didn’t have a great amount of food in the house to feed 8 hungry people, so we headed down to the shopping and restaurant row.  There was one restaurant that was open, so we piled inside for something to eat.

There were other shops open along the way, so I bought a really cool purse for Lindsay (for her birthday) and myself.  I also bought the girls and myself a yukata.

Then we headed back to the house, so the kids could get to sleep at a decent hour after such a big day. After the kids were in bed, we all sat around, drank, talked, and played cards.  Tony said a horrible word in American English, which is not such a bad word in British English, and I remembered (poorly) a card game that my family used to play.  Eventually, we were all exhausted and stumbled to our bedrooms (well, we were in Lindsay and Tony’s bedroom, so they just stayed there and moved the tables).


The next day Lindsay and Tony went wandering in the mountains and Vicky, Dan, Todd, Riley, Tess, and I ended up at the beach near the Tori gate.  The girls loved “swimming” in the ocean.  We then headed back to shopping and restaurant row to eat some okonomiyaki, which the girls inhaled.

Then it was back on the ferry and back to Hiroshima.  Once we were there, we hailed two taxis and eventually got to the Peace Memorial Museum, which is about the Atomic bombing.

As the girls are not old enough for this, I took them to the park just outside the museum, and they played with their big bubble sticks that Vicky and Dan bought them, they played pirates searching for treasure, and they colored up a storm.  Two hours later the girls were still playing pirates when everyone came out of the museum, and we headed back the train station to catch our shinkansen back to Kobe.

Where Tony and Lindsay got engaged.

We were all exhausted, and we ended up with tickets for the right time on the wrong day, but we all got home to Kobe in one piece.  It wasn’t until after the kids were in bed that night that Tony and Lindsay told us that he had asked her to marry him when they went off into the mountains.  We are so happy for the both of them, and we look forward to many years of fun with them.

Here are the photos – all 116 of them.

Can you spot the pink raincoat with strawberries?  I believe that she wore it both days we were in Miyajima – granted the first day it was raining.

Catching Up – Arashiyama with Family

In : General, Posted by on Jul.07, 2009


First, a confession: not all of the photos that I am uploading, and therefore taking credit for, are photos taken by Todd or I.  I have hijacked many photos from Dan, Vicky, Lindsay and Tony to put on the blog.  With two kids to maintain, I don’t often have a free hand to take photos.  While Todd usually wears the camera and takes great photos, he is often busy, too!

So our first outing with the entire crew was to Arashiyama, which is one of our favorite places.  They have beautiful temples, a great boat ride, and a monkey park when we are feeling adventurous.  There is also great food and shopping.

So we arrived and head to eat first off as we were all starving.  Okonomiyaki is tricky with kids because it placed on a sizzling hot griddle in front of you.  The kids have been eating at okonomiyaki places for over a year, and so far we have no injuries, but we always remind them.  Okonomiyaki actually means “things you like – fried”, which is pretty much that and cabbage, and I happen to love cabbage so it works.


After stuffing ourselves senseless, we headed to the boat ride up the river, which was lovely.  As we pulled out from the dock, we saw a boat of fishermen with birds swimming through the water with ropes tied around their necks.  I have never seen anything like it.  They were fishing with the cormorant birds.  The birds dive for and catch fish, but the rope stops them from swallowing them, and then the fisherman take the fish from the birds.  Bizarre, but it was really cool to see.  It look like the birds were pulling the boat.

Then we went to do some shopping at the store that makes everything from kimonos.  I love that store.  I ended up buying a pair of shoes made from kimono (but I bought those at a little store and THE store).  I got Riley a little mirror with a drawer made from kimono and a mirror for my purse made from kimono at THE store.  Then we trekked through the bamboo forest, which is must creepier that I thought possible.  You cannot actually walk in the forest because of a huge thatched fence.

Then we were all exhausted and headed back home.  Here are the photos.  In the photos you can see evidence of Tess’s obsession with her pink raincoat with strawberries.  She insists on wearing it and refuses to take it off when it isn’t raining.  She is a unique child.


In : General, Posted by on Jul.07, 2009

At the beginning of the summer, I couldn’t decide if I was going to put the girls in any sort of summer school program.  I finally decided no because we had family, and I wanted to spend time with them.

After the family left, I looked at Todd and said, “Yes, I think a week at summer school is just the thing I need!”  I went to Peter Pan, the program that Tess was in during last school year (and next school year if she won’t pee and poo in the pot).   They have a different topic each week.  This week is dinosaurs, and the girls are so excited.

They both were up early and eager to go.  It was raining, so we walked with our umbrellas there, and everything was great.  Then when we got there, a little boy was crying, which led to both of our girls crying!  Then Teacher Brian came out, which changed everything.  The girls both love him.  Once Tessy saw all of her old teachers, she was happy as a clam and jumping up and down.  Riley was (and usually is) a little more shy.  She knows the teachers, but not as well as Tessy.  Riley and I read some books together, and then we did her notebook where she circles the month and the weather.  Both girls were happy when I left and gave me hugs and kisses with no tears!

So what am I going to do this week?  Right now I am blogging!  But here are the rest of my plans:

  1. Todd and I are off to IKEA to add new cabinets to our kitchen today.
  2. I am going to a farmers’ market tomorrow.
  3. Wednesday I am going to stumble around aimlessly in Sannomiya (downtown) and have lunch with Todd.
  4. Thursday I have to take my drivers’ test again!
  5. Friday I am hoping to catch up with a friend for sushi!

Fun-filled week for all of the girls, I think.  Todd is in his last week at Language School.  His test is Thursday, so he might not have as much fun as us this week.

I have two catch up posts left to do.  I will hopefully get to those by the end of the week.

Catching Up – Sake Tasting

In : General, Posted by on Jul.07, 2009

We ended up getting home about 3:00pm from the Aquarium, and I, of course, had made plans for us.  I thought long and hard about what we should do during Tony’s first night, so it wasn’t all of us sitting around the dining table staring at Tony and saying, “So tell us about yourself.”

So I decided that we should have alcohol and experience that would be worth talking about to take some pressure off of Tony.  What better experience to do both of those than sake tasting.  Unfortunately, it was pouring down rain, and we had a long walk from the train station, but we finally made (late), but they cut the video they usually show us, and we went straight into the sake tasting.

Todd trying to decipher Japanese.

Needless to say, this was not our first sake tasting at the Shushinkan Sake Brewery.  They first time we went we had a lovely young girl translate for us and serve us, last time we had the assistant manager of the brewery do our tasting, and this time another lovely girl helped us out.  Every time that we have been to this brewery we also talk to the very old master brewer that speaks a little English and loves to talk to foreigners.  There is a photo of him in the picture gallery.  Talk is desperately trying to translate between the brewer and Dan.

They serve us all different kinds of sake in little plastic cups, and they will keep serving sake until we have to leave.  And the only we leave is because they are closing.  The tasting area closes at 6:00pm as it is right next to the gift shop.  We then stumble our way to the restaurant, which is right through the courtyard, and it is still raining!


They take us to our table, which is located in a private room.  I don’t know if this is because we have been so many times in just a short span of time, or if it is just because we had 6 people.  Either way it was nice to have a room to ourselves.  There offered three different sets.  Between the six of us, we order all three sets.  Pretty much each course came around, and we all inspected our food, tried to guess what it was, and then ate it.  There were about 10 courses, and we were stuffed and a quite a bit drunk by the end of the evening.

Tony had mentioned that he didn’t like sake the last time he had tried it, but he did say that he was keen to try it again.  After one taste he was sold.  He also doesn’t eat fish, but after a couple of fish courses, he changed his mind about fish too.  He still isn’t sure about shellfish, but we have years ahead of us to work on that.

It was pouring rain still when we left, and we practically swam back to the train, and, unfortunately, I dropped on of the sake bottles that we bought.  Despite the rain and the broken sake bottle, the night went very well, with all of us trying something new.

Here are photos from the night.

Catching Up – The Aquarium with the Family

In : General, Posted by on Jul.07, 2009

The Welbi and Tarpey clans on the train.

Lindsay and Tony quit their jobs and are off on a year long travel adventure.  Their first stop was to see us in Japan.  In order to save money for the rest of the year, they took a boat from Shanghai to Osaka, so the family woke up ridiculously early and traveled for 2 hours to get to the international ferry terminal on time.  We would have been been very early if we hadn’t got lost in and ended up on a wrong train right at the end of the trip, but we still arrived with a few minutes to spare.

The international ferry terminal in Osaka is not impressive.  It was just one room with two exits.  As people and their luggaged exited out the girls got into the habit of yelling, “NOOOO!” because it wasn’t Lindsay and Tony.  I felt bad for the people coming out, but it was more hilarious than anything.


Soon Tony and Lindsay appeared with 2 enormous backpacks and 2 normal sized backpacks.  The girls were ecstatic to see them, and since it was just 10am in the morning, and we were just one stop from the Aquarium, we decided to make a day of it.  We dropped off the backpacks in several enormous coin lockers (one of my favorite things about Japan), and then we were off.  I suspected that they would all like the aquarium – it being awesome, but the fact that Tony is a biology teacher, kind of sealed the deal.

So here are the pictures from our Aquarium trip as well as some shots of us on the train and of the enormous backpacks.

Catching Up – Swimming

In : General, Posted by on Jul.07, 2009

Double Jump!

Growing up in the Hill Country in Texas was a great experience for me.  We had a ton of undeveloped land for me to explore.  There was a lake that we would boat on occasionally, but everyday I remember putting on my black with multi-colored polka dot bikini and heading to the swimming pool. My skin became a honey brown, and my hair turned green from the chlorine, and I loved every second of it.

Now I am experiencing this with my own girls.  All they want to do everyday, all day is swim.  Because we are lovely parents, we oblige them as often as possible.  We have several options to choose from:

  1. The river, which is free, fairly shallow,  and very close
  2. The water park, which costs money, can be stressful for me because it is so big, and it is also very close
  3. The swimming pool at the Kobe Club, which is free, but then we eat and drink there and that is not free, the baby pool is great and shaded, but we have to accompany them in the big pool,  and it is 2 trains and a cab ride away.

If it is just me, I will often just pop on down to the river.  I think the girls love the water park and the Kobe Club more, but those have become special occassion outings.

To help give them more swim time, we even signed Riley up for swimming lessons.  Tess is too young, but she can start as soon as she turns 3, which is in 6 weeks!

Here are photos of the girls (and adults) having fun swimming.

Catching Up – Family Time!

In : General, Posted by on Jul.07, 2009

Tony and the girls watch a little Dora together.

We usually stay in Kobe for the summer.  Summer in Houston is not pleasant, and there is a free, clean river just steps from our front door in Japan!  Also, Todd takes Japanese language classes in the morning, which means the girls and I get some quality time, and hopefully Todd can help us communicate better with the world around us.

Last summer my mom and Maurizio came and visited, and this year we doubled the number of visitors.  Dan and Vicky came for just over two weeks, and Lindsay and Tony came and overlapped for a week, and stayed for another week and a half.   The girls were very happy to have more people to play with (and order around).

Here are some photos of fun times with family.   We also went on some great trips, and I will upload those photos soon.