Thursday, September 7, 2017

U.S. Olympic Gymnasts Visit Yokosuka!

A couple months ago the base MWR office put out a message that they would hold a lottery for 40 kids to win spots in a gymnastics clinic with Nastia Luikin, Laurie Hernandez and Desiree Sanchez!! I immediately entered both kids' names into the pot!!  

Three weeks later...I got an email that Mackenzie got a spot!!  We jumped up and down and squealed for a bit!  The next day I got an email for Garytt!!  I jumped up and down....he looked at me with fear in his eyes and said he didn't want to do it.  

What?!

I told him that if he still didn't want to do it in a few days that I would call the office and offer his spot to the next person in line.  Well, a few days later he said, "Mom, I really don't want to compete against Olympic gymnasts because I'm not that good on balance beam yet."  Ooooohhhh..... I see now!  I calmed his fears by letting him know that he wouldn't be competing against them, but would be taking a class from them.  Again... oooooohhhhh ... with that straightened out he was ALL IN!!!

So, the day before the clinic I went to MWR to get two t-shirts and two arm bands for the kids!  

Clinic day and we arrived at the gym to wait in the lobby with 40 other winners and their parents.  When the doors opened just before 5 we all rushed in to the camp!  

After a quick introduction from the three gymnasts they all ran to the center of the gym to start their warm ups.

Lots of running in circles.
Boy in black behind Laurie Hernandez, Mackenzie in red T right next to her.


Next came stretching
Boy made sure he was right up front :)

Kenzie stretching

Garytt with Laurie Hernandez

Next, they all lined up on one side of the mat and worked on kicks 


After the kicks, they all split up into three (not so even) groups.  Mackenzie's first clinic was with Desiree Sanchez on the vaulting blocks.



She also learned how to stick her landings and received a cheering "yay" for her first try.

"Good job!"
Garytt was on the beam with Laurie Hernandez


Next up for the Boy was the vaulting blocks.  This is his favorite part of his gymnastics classes every Friday!  He was a little disappointed that they wouldn't let him run and vault over the blocks.

Learning how to stick the landing....looks more like a chicken dance



Kenzie getting a high five from Laurie Hernandez after her perfect beam work!


What a fun experience!  Mackenzie was so excited to see Laurie Hernandez after we watched her in the Olympics!  The Boy went to bed and declared it was the best day of his life so far!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The Havens family in Okinawa!!

With Kris making a work trip to Okinawa for a few days, and we've discussed a trip to Okinawa several times since we moved here...we decided to finally go ahead and book a trip to close out Kris' work week.  So, we waited at PSD to see if we were going to make it onto the bus for Narita!  Our names were numbers 8, 9 and 10, so we hopped on the bus and started our trip!! 

Lunch at Narita domestic terminal (our first time in this section)
waiting for our fight's check in to begin.

 The flight to Okinawa was a BuMpY one!  Wow!  With us skirting around a tropical depression we had to fly through some pretty turbulent air.  We had amazing views of the clouds outside though!  Since we grabbed the cheapest ticket we could find, it meant a no-frills-flight.  So...no onboard entertainment....which meant, about one hour of iPad or Kindle before both kids passed out on their tray tables.  Doesn't look very comfortable.  Our arrival in  Okinawa was quite exciting!!  The large fish tank could have held Garytt's attention for hours!  Then, he said, "What am I doing?!  We are going to the biggest fish tank EVER in a few days!  Let's go, Mom!"

So, we ended up arriving during rainy season.  I thought, no big deal, we can manage finding things to do if it rains a few of the ten days we were here.  Well....it was a bit more involved than that!  Rain is especially annoying when you want to sit on the beach all day, every day.  :(  Oh well...we made the absolute best of what we were given.  Our kids are now probably some of the smartest card sharks you've ever seen!  Go Fish, Old Maid, Hearts, Spades, War (didn't go over very well), Solitaire (ya know...cuz I didn't want to play cards allllllllll day) and Rummy.  We perfected our games on this vacation, for sure!



The kids couldn't quite understand why in the world I was so excited to eat at an Arby's for lunch.  Come on kids....Arby's!  Kids: 😕 Welp, two kids who have never eaten at Arby's weren't all that impressed with the roast beefy goodness!  I was in a food coma for the rest of the day!

A new manhole cover to add to my collection


After a lot of rain the first couple of days, the kids and I made our way one block to the beach to see what we could find.  So so so so much cool stuff!!!  The kids declared it a Homeschool Science day and went off exploring.  They found a lot of things we later had to look up on the internet so we knew what it was...and if it was dangerous...

Tidepool fun!

Those darn thunderstorms are never far away


Sunabe Baba Beach


We enjoyed an amazing dinner at Sam's at the Beach.  The kids were given bibs to keep themselves clean...Garytt wasn't a fan of this practice.  


 The drinks were yummy, but the cups were the best part.  I mean, who can beat drinking ginger ale from a monkey's head?! And, the curry soup....oh my....I could have had a vat of that!  I was a little afraid of the cranberry bread, but it was delightful. 


 The next day for lunch we went down town to a local joint Kris and his buddies all chow down when they visit.  Mickey's was oh so yummy!  Garytt had curry, Kris had ramen, Mackenzie had chicken and fries and I had shrimp fried rice.  



Our last day at Seaside by the Beach and we explored the tide pools in the rain (surprise!).  We spent quite a while watching the planes fly overhead as they were landing nearby.  Then, on our wet walk back to the hotel the kids had a blast swinging on these swings in the middle of a little lake.  


Saturday morning we were up and at 'em so we could check out of one hotel, and make our way to White Beach (Naval rec area) for one night.  On our way to White Beach, we decided to stop and check out Shuri Castle.  Unfortunately, it was one of the worst weather days on our trip!  Not only was it raining hard, but it was really windy.  We ended up having to buy ponchos (this is in addition to the long pants and long sleeve shirts we had to buy because rainy weather isn't as warm as beach weather).  Garytt wasn't impressed with either the weather or the new rain gear.

Shureimon Gate ~ built in the mid 1500s.  
On top it says, "The Ryukyu Kingdom is a country that values courtesy."


It was so windy!  The poor ponchos on the kids kept whipping around them and tugging them in different directions.  They weren't happy.  I have to admit that I giggled a lot at our circumstances!  What else could we do?  We tried our best to make light of the storm around us. :)  Because of the rain and wind, we weren't able to take our time and read the brochure as we went through everything. It was more of a sprint through the outside of the castle, and then try to dry off a little as we walked through the inside of the castle.  


Kankaimon ~ This is the front gate of the castle.  
and
Zuisenmon Gate



This is Suimui Utaki, it is a place of worship and is considered a sacred place created by gods.

Taking a break from the rain while inside the castle.  It's a little weird to have most of my pictures of the outside buildings around the castle grounds be from under cover INSIDE of the castle.  


I don't have a picture of the front of this magnificent castle because they are resurfacing the lacquer on the castle front.  

This is the Hokuden ~ main building for political affairs.
and 
Houshinmon Gate ~ there are three entrances through the gate; the center was for kings and nobles.


Everything was so red!  Dragon decorations and the throne.



Since I couldn't get an actual picture....here's a little model. :)

I like the dragon on top of the buildings.

"MORE RAAAAIIINNNNNNN AND WINNNNNNNDDDDDD!!!!!"

This was an awesome little gate on our way to the protection in the parking garage.

After enjoying a little refreshment....some kind of lime and cream type of Fanta, called shikuwasa.  I'm not a huge fan of sodas, only drink them rarely, I grabbed one out of every vending machine we passed while on the island!  Okay...so, we made it over to White Beach and as we were pulling into the parking lot we noticed that there were orange cones everywhere.  So, look up the mountain, beyond the cones...mudslide!  


Our lodging for the night.  All the cabins were closed because of the mudslide and so a few of the campers actually had families in them.  


I can't remember how many campers there were, but I think it was four or five rows of maybe 8 campers.  There were a couple different sized campers.  It was really quiet out here...probably because everyone was hiding from the rain.


Kris and the kids ran down to the water to enjoy some beach time while the rain was slacking off.  I followed a little later until it started raining again and we all made our way back to the camper. 


The Boy wasn't feeling well.  So, while Kris and Mackenzie splashed around in the water, the Boy and I relaxed in the camper.  After a quick dinner at Wings, we made our way back to the camper, watched a movie and then Kris and I played cards for the rest of the night.  I managed to find a pineapple chu hi that was so very tasty!


The next morning the sun actually came out!!!  We were so excited that we ran out to the beach right away!  We had a little drive ahead of us to make it to our next base, Okuma, and just hoped the sun would stay out for the rest of the day so we could enjoy just one itty bitty day in the sun!

On the way to Okuma, we decided to take a little time and explore Katsuren Castle Ruins.  This was a free little side hike for us.  Not really a hike, but a little exploration.  We all had a good time climbing the castle ruins and looking at the surrounding view.



The Boy spent some time climbing the grass hill and then rolling down....over and over and over again.




After a couple hours of driving, we made it to Okuma (Air Force Rec Area).  There is actual, real, white sand on this beach!!!!!  We immediately took off our shoes and walked around!


Since we had a mostly rain free day, we spent it on the beach!  The water was very calm, so the kids were able to go out and swim around on their own.  They both made friends and quickly entertained themselves for the afternoon swimming, looking at shells, and having a blast!

For dinner we drove off base and found a little courtyard with different food stalls.  We tried the famous taco rice and it was delicious!!!  Also, shave ice!  Yum!






Our lodging for the week.  All the nicer rooms were taken for the week when we made reservations, so we ended up in an absolutely no frills cabin.  We were actually excited to get back to our pre-Japan type of vacation....no tv, no electronics....all family time!!!  Only thing was...the windows didn't open up on that little cabin, and the ac wasn't pushing out much cold air (when it actually did turn on for a few minutes).  So, there was absolutely no air flow.  None of us slept well that night.  So, first thing the next morning...just before the sky fell out and it POURED rain....Kris went to the office to see if, by any chance, a room had opened up.  Score!!!  We ended up with a room!!!  

After we moved all of our stuff to the new room, we got ourselves together and made our way to the aquarium.  What better way to spend the day, than inside the aquarium?!  (We weren't the only ones thinking that though...oh my, the crowds!!!)

Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium


Starting the day with touching a starfish is definitely the way to go!!


For the most part, this aquarium is like any other.  Gigantic crab, colorful fish, weird looking fish....fun for kids for hours!

And, then we came around the corner and saw this beast gracefully float on by....


A whale shark!

This was the largest aquarium in the world until the Georgia Aquarium opened in 2005.


The whale shark and the actual sharks were Garytt's favorites.  He could have stood in front of the shark tank ALL day!

The Girl inside the shark!

We spent a lot of time in front of this glass container!!  Watching the whale sharks go around and around and around again was mesmerizing!


Kris finally managed to drag us all away from the window in search of lunch.  We had a bit of an issue here since all the food offered is very Japanese.....aka....not Mackenzie acceptable.  She refused to make any decision on what to eat, so we just ordered for her...taco rice.  Kris and I shared these delightful little balls of awesomeness....taco balls....fried taco meat inside a little fried shell.  Oymyyumminess!!!!  Even through all of Kenzie's tears, we managed to enjoy ourselves sitting with one of the coolest lunch views ever!




In the jaws of a whale shark and then in the shadow of the humpback whale tail.

When it was time for us to enjoy the outside activities it was still raining.  So, we made the executive decision to tell the kids that the shows were rained out, and we made our way back to the car.  It's exhausting to constantly be wet.  And...flip flops don't make the best shoes for exploring in the rain.

It's a beautiful facility.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch.... so much rain!  I decided to make a teru teru bozu (meaning shine shine monk).  Japanese people make these dolls of white cloth or tissue and hang them by the window to bring sunshine.  After a couple hours, it seemed to work....


...because the sun was a-shining!


The water was really choppy today, so Kris spent most of the time in the water with the kids.  We managed to get about 75% of the day filled with sunshine!!!  


We were curious all day whether or not those clouds would drift half a mile to the right and then we'd be back in the rain.  But, thanks to my little teru teru bozu, the clouds stayed away!



This is what you have to do to keep your towel in one place when the winds are blowing like crazy!

We rented a boogie board and were given a boogie board by another beach-goer who was leaving.  The kids had a lot of fun sailing into the beach on it.




After we were sure we had enough sun for the day, we showered and took a few rounds at the mini golf course.  Mackenzie was the only one with a hole-in-one!  She was so excited!  Garytt, on the other hand was quite annoyed that his bull-headed full-on-attack sport mentality was not efficient at getting those little balls around the course and into the hole.  So, during round two he only made it one or two holes before he decided to go off on his own.


We decided to rent a golf cart while we were there.  The place isn't gigantic, but...come on...it's a golf cart!!!  How could we say no?!  We spent a good portion of the day just driving laps around the base.


That evening we used firewood we bought out in town to make a little bonfire and roast marshmallows!  This was probably one of the highlights for all of us! 

Japanese firewood




I can't tell you how much Mackenzie and I laughed at this!  He kept leaving his marshmallows in the fire for too long and they would become flaming sugar torches.  On our way home from the cabin we found a pretty big crab on the pathway.



Our final day at the beach was beautiful for a couple hours.  It drizzled rain on and off on us, but wasn't too bad.  We were all pretty beat from the sun the day before, so the kids weren't too keen on spending the whole day in the water anyway.  Once the rain hit we drove down to the restaurant on base and had lunch outside while there was a torrential downpour!  After lunch we packed our things and made our way back to White Beach for the night.  

Blue Seal ice cream:  Born in America, Raised in Okinawa

Oh was it yummy!!!  



We're back where we started!  And, there's the mudslide.  The cabins are open though, and we were happy because that's where we were staying for the night.  What we didn't know....just beyond those little trees at the top of the mudslide was our cabin!  Eeek!


Mackenzie was desperate to head back to the beach for a little bit before we went to dinner.  Garytt wasn't too excited, but he came with us anyway.  He was super cranky and very whiney....turns out the Boy was getting sick.  After dinner he showered, took some tylenol for fever and ear pain, and hopped right in bed before 7.

The views from the cabins are quite beautiful!


Another chu hi find for me that was delightful...kiwi!


And, before we knew it, our travels were done!  It was a very wet week, but we had so much fun hanging out together!  It wasn't a trip filled with running shrine to shrine, museum to museum, castle to castle....it was a trip filled with card games galore, relaxed tide pool explorations, fun in the sun, and so so so many laughs!!!