Bursting with Butterflies

Rainbow colors fluttering through the air, feathery antennas brushing our skin, the scent of juicy nectar and pungent flowers — these are the sights, sounds, and aromas that filled our senses when the kids and I visited Igashira Park’s  butterfly house last month.  The butterfly house was one section of a bird, flower, and butterfly exhibit on the grounds of the huge park.  We all entered the butterfly sanctuary expecting to immediately be pounced upon by friendly creatures who wanted to land on our heads, hands, and feet, but we soon discovered that getting to that experience would take quite a bit of patience and a little bit of creativity.

Austin seemed to be the most attractive to the insects flapping their wings all around us, but soon the rest of us were able to get some of them to stop and spend a few seconds resting on our fingers.  We found that staying super still, putting drops of nectar from the butterfly feeders on our hands, and even (oddly enough) carrying a coke bottle made us more attractive to the colorful creatures.

In addition to butterflies, the exhibit housed a couple of toucans, a few other small birds, some turtles, and a plethora of plants, including a tropical banana tree, which was our favorite.

All that communing with nature left us hungry, so we popped over to the cafeteria next door and feasted on some delicious ice cream cones before heading home for the day.

Igashira Park is in Moka City, about 40 minutes from our house, so we don’t go there super often, but with bicycles to rent, a “10,000 person sized pool”, an obstacle course, and other attractions it’s a fun place to spend a pleasant afternoon as a family.  We will definitely be back!

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Katie’s last year of Single Digits

This month Katie turned 9 years old!  In the past we have invited a big group of friends to celebrate with us, but this time Katie decided just to have a small group over.  The theme she chose for her party was Adventure in Odyssey (an American kids’ radio show of which she is an avid fan).  Since Adventures in Odyssey would be hard to explain to Japanese friends who have never heard of it, Katie just invited two American families to join the party this year.  She worked hard with the friends she invited to create a “pin the mustache on Mr. Whittaker” game and a cute table cloth with Adventures in Odyssey designs on it.  She also prepared weeks ahead by printing out and building mini 3D models of various characters from the show and used them for decorations. Katie had strong opinions about the party menu as well.  She only wanted items that made appearances in episodes of the radio show so we ended up eating chili with corn chips, brownies with walnuts, and “Wod Fam Choc Sod” (an abbreviation for World Famous Chocolate Soda that appears on the menu at Whit’s End, the  ice cream shop that is central to many of the Adventures in Odyssey episodes).

The party took place at dinner time, so during the day we went with two other moms and their kids to Igashira Park in Moka city, about 45 minutes away from our house.  The kids had a ball tackling a huge obstacle course with thirty different stations.  Some of the stations were quite challenging, but everyone persevered to the end and had a lot of fun.

We are so thankful for the wonderful friends God has blessed us with in Japan and are thankful that we could celebrate Katie’s day with some of our best buddies.

Here are some photos from our obstacle course adventures:

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Rosie was a trooper on the obstacle course.

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Jin joined the kids on the obstacle course.

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Scaling the castle!

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Pre-birthday party ice cream

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Tunnel of ropes

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Even the drive was fun!

 

And here are some highlights from Katie’s party. (Click on the thumbnails to see them more closely).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ethan Turns 12!

A few days ago, my wonderful second son turned a whopping twelve years old!  It’s hard to believe that next year we will have two teenagers in the house!  We celebrated just as a family a few days early with dinner at home, cake and ice cream and (for Ethan, best of all) opening gifts.  Several sweet family members sent Ethan some money and Bryan and I gave him two games: Ticket to Ride and Pit.  I remember playing pit with my grandmother as a child so I thought our kids might enjoy it and I was right!  They love being able to yell out numbers as they play and everyone gets excited about ringing the bell at the end when they have made a full set. After we played the first time, I came up with the idea of using ear plugs and then I enjoyed the rest of the rounds even more!  Ticket to Ride has also been really fun to play (though less noisy!) Katie even spent her own money to buy Ethan a super hero Lego, so we all felt the sibling love!

On the actual day of Ethan’s birthday, four of his best guy friends came over for food, cake, and hours of Nerf dart gun battles (topped off with a few rounds of Wii).  This was his first time to have an all guys birthday party and everyone seemed to enjoy the freedom to get the downstairs messy and shoot at each other.  Bryan and I just hung back and let them enjoy themselves.

It has been neat to see Ethan growing and maturing over the years.  He has a great sense of humor, is good at relating to people of all ages, and is very fun to be around.  He is also really interested in science and nature and is great at noticing things that no one else does.  I am excited to see him keep maturing!  It will be fun to see how God directs his life in the future.  Happy Birthday, Ethan!

Crazy couch jumping photos

Our family is a little bit weird. One of our kids’ favorite pastimes is taking photos of each other jumping on our couch. It’s weird (and hard on the couch!) but it gives us a chance to laugh together and what family doesn’t need that?! Here are a few of the kids’ best shots so far…

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A Disney Birthday — Ethan Turns 10!

Our family usually celebrates the kids’ birthdays by inviting sweet friends to our house for a party. This year for Ethan’s 10th birthday, however, we decided to try something a little different. Since none of our children had ever been to Disneyland and Bryan and I hadn’t been in over 11 years, we decided to pile into the family van and take everyone to Tokyo Disneyland.  We made the trip with our good friend Yoshie (a die-hard Disney fan and genuine expert on the ins and outs of how to ride all the best rides at her favorite theme park) and also met the wonderful VanZante family at the front gate so we could spend the day together.

Our kids were so excited they barely ate anything all day (and just focused on getting to the next ride!)  I have to admit that I was really excited too (though I somehow managed to eat a huge Mickey Mouse shaped cheeseburger and several other snacks while we were there). 🙂

I grew up in Southern California, so I had my share of visits to Disneyland as a kid and teen, but this time I couldn’t wait to introduce my own kids to “The Happiest Place on Earth.”  As a child, riding Space Mountain and the other fast roller coasters always seemed so scary, but this time I had a giant smile on my face as I conquered those gut-wrenching dips and curves (well, in between screams, that is!) because I was getting to ride them with my very own kids!  I felt like I had come full circle.

Everyone in our group had a super fantastic time and our family is still reliving the memories together. The only downside to our little adventure is that now every few days I have to turn down requests from my kiddos to go again next week. 🙂  It is awfully tempting, though…

Here are a few pics of our trip.

A Grassy Oasis!

Now that we have a nice lawn in our yard, we have been doing our best to enjoy it.  Picnicking with friends, spontaneously munching veggies off the vine, beating the heat through water play, observing nature, and just rolling around on the soft, mossy surface have been a  few of our favorite yard activities this summer.  Most recently, some of Katie’s preschool friends came over for lunch and then cooled off together by crowding into the baby pool.  Here is a little slide show of some of the fun we’ve had in our grassy oasis.

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Ethan Turns Nine

Last month, Ethan reached the milestone age of nine years old!  We celebrated by inviting friends to our house for a pirate-themed birthday party with delicious cake, tasty snacks, water balloon fights, and whatever else the kids thought up to do together.  The weather was beautiful so it was a great chance for everyone to play at the park next door and drench their friends with  water balloons.  Ethan is a wonderful little boy with a great sense of humor, endless energy, and lots of creative ideas.  We are so thankful to have him in our family!  Here are a few scenes from the festivities.